The Siege of Karak Azul

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The Siege of Karak Azul is one of the most famous battles in the Warhammer Old World, fought between the Dwarfs of Karak Azul led by King Kazador and the Orcs led by Gorfang Rotgut allied with Goblins led by Skarsnik. It has long been the source of the most deeply resented grudges of the long list in the Book of Grudges.

The History

During the period 2503-7 a new menace rose in the greenskin infested World's Edge Mountains under the leadership of the Orc Warlord Gorfang Rotgut, Warlord of Black Crag who laid siege to the ancient dwarfhold of Barak Varr, winning a short bloody war and occupying the hold.

Not satisfied with his successes, Gorfang and his tribe, The Orcs of Red Fang, formed an uneasy alliance with the Night Goblin Warlord Skarsnik, the self-styled Warlord of Karak Eight Peaks. Looking about them for more plunder the two were drawn into the orbit of Mornglum Necksnapper, a huge Black Orc Chieftain of bad disposition who had led his ladz out of the east and ruthlessly gathered all of the Orc and Goblin tribes with the intention of attacking the Dwarfs of Karak Azul.

We know from history that the Orcs and Goblins were briefly successful in occupying the hold before being driven back into the wilds by the Dwarf King Kazador. However, during the occupation, Gorfang and Skarsnik captured many of the kinsfolk of King Kazador performing many unspeakable and cruel deeds. The worst amongst them was the capture of Kazadrim, the Dwarf Lord's son. Legend (and Orcish boasting) tells us that the Dwarf Prince was shaved bald and a crude rune representing Gorfang was tattooed on his bald head before he was nailed to King Kazador's throne.

Designing the Game

Orcs & Goblins against a Dwarf Hold, a great siege battle! A wonderful chance to cover the table with greenskins and doughty Dwarfs! We've run these games before, using the Warmaster system with 28mm miniatures (see the Legends games section) and strongly feel that is by far the best system for such large battles, now how would it work with a siege?

There's only one way to find out, try it. The great thing about playtesting these games is that you can use the normal 10mm Warmaster miniatures for the first few tries and only scale up once you're good and ready. Of course you have to have to right armies and we didn't :( So out came the alternates, Empire and Undead. We got hold of castle walls and some 40mm bases complete with sticky labels to represent siege equipment and off we went. We were lucky enough to get a preview of David Simpsons siege rules that later appeared in Warmaster, so using those, the Warmaster rulebook and the old hardback Warhammer siege book we went to work. We played a few games using the straight rules and they work, only needing a couple of tweaks.

We ended up playing some very realistic siege games with the Empire engineering their way into a Necromancers castle, complete with earthworks and croosbows covered by mantlets creeping forward to clear the battlements. Not very greenskin though, far too deliberate. These games did determine some things that were important in the final game:
     1) Trebuchets, Mangonels and Bombards can't be set up at the beginning of the game and may have to be moved in the middle of the game. We created the siege engine engine movement rules to cover this.
     2) Trebuchets en masse are a bit too powerful for most castles, we settled on Mangonels, they're bad enough!.
     3) If the defenders spend the game inside the walls two things are certain: firstly they'll lose if the attackers have any Artillery and secondly the game is very boring. We decided therefore to begin some of the dwarf army outside the walls. It makes the action start faster, looks good and suits the black powder period feel of Dwarfs. Cannon belong in earthworks, not on battlements. This gave us the Kazriks Folly rule.
     4) The extended siege rules don't fit the expanded scale feel too well, being detailed in the wrong places. We reverted to using the basic rulebook with a few houserules covering obvious targets and counterbattery fire.
     5) We again decided to use our brigade movement and combat rules.
These are summarized in our House Rules.

Then along came the Squiggoth. Not mentioned in the writeup of the original battle by either side, but it was obviously there, right? We wanted a large piece or two to give the Orc & Goblin armies some focus. We saw the Squiggoth in the design phase at Lenton and had to have one. Of course the original is a 40k piece but a quick howdah switch and it should work, shouldn't it? Now to design the howdah and some rules, well it is a bigger Stegadon, with nastier crew, twin bolt throwers and a Shaman commanding it isn't? It should also be Orcy, not entirely under control, something like the Giant. Squiggoth rules. I'll do another write up on the conversion of the siege tower into a howdah another day.

Finally, what is a Goblin army without the stunt troops? (Stunt, not Stunty!) Squigs, Snotlings, Netters and Pumpwagons rules were thrown together and tested. We threw that draft out and went for something straightforward, they worked! Fanatics proved to be too complicated to represent in Warmaster and so were dropped. Orc & Goblin rules.

Finally the Dwarfs (actually they were done first, but why spoil a good story), Organ guns, just like Helblasters really. Dwarf Crossbows, Empire Crossbows in armour, Dwarf Elites, chaos warriors with beards. The Juggernaut? Cross of a Steam tank and well, you get the picture. Dwarf Rules.

All the rules were then hacked into Army Builder (thanks Rob) and the Dwarf and Orc rosters put together.

Warmaster with 28mm figures.

I said that I like big games, didnít I? When the game was released I tried playing the game using 28mm WHFB figures. To my pleasant surprise, it not only worked, it worked well.

We use the standard GW small movement tray (50x100mm) as the stand size. All the models have steel bases under the GW ones, so with a magnetic tray, itís easy to do. You just need a few hundred of them. I made a lot of them out of heavy card. I base 3 or 4 cavalry on a stand (like Warmaster), 8 25mm or 10 20mm square bases. I have found that itís often easier to put 1 less figure in the rear ranks of infantry stands, especially with spears or archers, and it doesnít spoil the appearance. Brettonian knights are arranged in ďlancesĒ, with 1 in front and 2 behind. I found that it makes them look right and stops the tails getting in the way! As all my Chariots and Artillery are on 60mm or 80mm frontage bases, for WHFB, they had to stay. The point is to ensure that all the stands in a unit are the same size and stats, so we use a WYSIWG rule, the stand size is the stand size, so we donít correct in game for oversized stands, but I have created a few custom unit profiles to compensate.

All Warmaster standard distances are doubled. We did originally try just using inches instead of centimeters, but that makes the table very small, very quickly. We play on the widest table that we can get (or the floor), and have found that 6ft is the most practical width, although 6.5 or 7 can be managed.

What do you miss from the Warmaster game? The joy of transporting an army in a box, and assuming that you play with an large open table, some of the joys of wide sweeping flank marches. But the game retains its fluidity and sense of massed armies.

Now just get a few folks together at the club with all their WHFB troops and you can have a great game!

The Terrain

The Terrain that we used was built by James Humphries of the Virtual Alchemist Ltd. It was designed to represent the curtain wall of a Dwarf Hold stretched between two Mountain spurs. It's built from styrofoam insulation sheets and GW Mighty Fortress parts, with a load of great extras! I'll get James to describe the details elsewhere. It forms a 12' by 6' table in 3 6' x 4' sections. Thanks James!

The Action

Set Up Pictures

The game started with all the Orc & Goblin stuff lined up along the far edge, no more than 1 foot in. The Goblins under Skarsnik were on the left flank, the Orcs on the right. The 2 Giants were placed at either end of the line and the Squiggoth in the center. The siege towers were evenly spaced along the line with the rams concentratred in the middle behind a screen of infantry.

The Dwarfs in the outworks were designed to inflict serious casualties on the attacking hordes. Several Flame Cannons and Organ Guns were dug into the outworks, along with some heavily armoured dwarf elites and, of course, the 2 units of Slayers.

The Orcs were given the first move, as the range was already short and we didn't feel like handling all the drive backs.

In the first moves the Squiggoth caused more damage to its own side than to the Dwarfs, taking out most of the units pushing the rams. The Goblins and Orcs surged forward taking tremendous damage from the dwarf Artillery in the outworks, but their numbers told and the defenders were overrun. The Goblins were more successful than the Orcs clearing their flank faster. The beer cart was captured and was carried back to the orc camp.

Once the outworks were overrun they were levelled (removed) and the main assault commenced.The towers and rams crept closer to the walls, the greenskin Artillery was wheeled into place, assembled and started to batter the walls. The initial assault was led by Giants and Trolls, the former hammering the units on the walls and the latter swarming up the very stones to savage the defenders. They were beaten back, but at cost. One section of the wall was briefly in goblin paws, but as night fell the Dwarfs regained the parapets. The walls held. A gate fell to Artillery fire.

Overnight the Orcs rebuilt their destroyed towers and readied their assault for the dawn. Apparently the Orcs lost the beer cart in a game of dice, for in the morning it was in the hands of a swarm of Snotlings who seemed to have a mission to return it to the Dwarfs (perhaps hoping for a refill). The 2 units of Dwarfs that had been driven off the wall took the slayer oath and marched forth to die in front of the walls. they were joined by a unit of Ironbreakers that had sworn to preserve the gates. The Dwarfs had also repositioned their Cannon to spread their fire along the walls. They repaired the fallen gate.

Mid Game Pictures

Dawn broke and the hordes poured in, yes the hall was open again.

The Greenskins surged towards the wall, howling as they came on. The Dwarfs stood grim faced determined to sell their lives dearly. The Mangonels swang their loads at the walls and Cannons replied with fiery shot. Which side would win?

The Goblins tried to get the Pumpwagons lined up to smash the sally port gate, the Orcs and Ogres maneuvered their battering rams up towards the main gate. The slayers fell, brushed aside by the Giant. The game followed a similar pattern for many turns as the Orcs would assault the right wall, the Giant and Goblins the left. The Mangonels, having found their range, would loose rocks at the walls, 2 concentrating at a spot on the left and 3 on the right. The Squiggoth would obey the first command and run amuk on the second. The assaults would be repelled and the Artillery would fail to breach the walls. Even the greenskin magic failed to produce any results.

Then it changed, the Mangonels struck and the wall fell in 2 places. A Pumpwagon smashed into the sally port and brought down its gate. The Squiggoth managed to stay in command for 3 commands and tore a Gyrocopter from the sky in its mouth, the bolt throwers on the beast's back took out a battery of flame Cannon on the gates. A unit of Black Orcs charging from a siege tower cleared the ramparts of Dwarfs Could the Dwarfs respond?

They could, the Squiggoth fell, the combined efforts of all the Dwarf Artillery taking it out on the third turn of trying (terrible armour rolls). The Black Orcs were driven off and the walls regained. The breaches were filled with Ironbreakers and Longbeards. Only one Giant remained on his feet, the greenskins seemed leaderless and wavering.

Then the balance tipped again, a concerted assault along the entire length of the walls overwhelmed the defenders. More breaches appeared in the walls and the gates were battered down by rams. The dwarf reserves were commited, the greenskins reserves raced towards the gaps. Surely the defenders were done?

Well yes they probably were, but we had at least another session to go and the end game wouldn't have been much fun. So we gave the Dwarfs hope in the form of a relief column, Slayers, Ironbreakers and 2 units of Warriors. They were placed on the Orcs flank.

For some reason the Orcs ignored them (bad command rolls), and refused to adjust their position to meet the new threat, continuing to swarm the walls. They paid the price, on the Dwarf turn the relief tore through the Orc Flank, crushing Infantry and Artillery alike as it rolled up the line. this continued for a couple of turns and the game was called.

End Game Pictures

The result? Well, given that the orcs were in an overwhelming position prior to the relief column appearing it was declared to be an Orc victory, after all they had captured Kazrick and shaved him, the beer cart and drunk that as well put more holes in walls of Karak Azul than in a Squig herders behind. But at the end of the agme there weren't many of them left to enjoy it, so only a marginal victory after all.

A great game and once again testament to the Warmaster system, fun and easy to teach new players.

Many thanks are due to many people, but Monica and Jeff Hobbs, Shawn Reis, Steve Boegemann, Joel Cassel and Carlo, without an s :) , were invaluable on the day. James Humphries, ably assisted by John Sharp, builds a great table. Andrew Dunnam came through with some great painting, the crew for the Squiggoth and Juggernaut, the Dwarf vignettes and others. Rick Priestley, Gordon Davidson, Jeremy Vetock, Jason Buyaki and Joe Krone for encouraging this sort of madness and Tony Cottrell without whose Squiggoth we wouldn't have had nearly so much fun.

The Game was presented by The Stuff of Legends and the Virtual Alchemist Ltd

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Pictures taken by Craig Stocks & Simon Hale
This page may not be copied without permission. Last modified: Thu Jul 12 2002 by Orclord