|Image from: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/8d/c6/73/8dc673d03258f4291b519c9cb45e04f9.jpg|
Rotgut shifted his grip on his war mace, its blood stained shaft familiar in his scarred hands. He looked across the filth of the camp to see Uzgrim, the Marauders’ hulking warlord, picking at the remains of a spit roasted sheep surrounded by his favoured warriors. Nazdreg was there, as was the stupendously foolish Naznob, the leader of the newly recruited Snortas. As far as Rotgut was concerned Naznob's Snortas were pig-loving glory hunters.
Uzgrim looked up, his heavy chin thick with mutton grease. And worse. Rotgut opened his mouth wide, baring sharp yellowing teeth, laughing long and hard.
‘It's time that you wasn't da boss no more.’
Uzgrim had known this was coming. If not from Rotgut, then from another ingrate upstart. Having dragged his Marauders over the Middle Mountains they'd run into some dirty beard-wearing Northmen, fresh of the boat smelling of salt water and blood. Orc blood. Too much orc blood. In fact, in their three bloody meetings Uzgrim had been bested every time and now his own boys were beginning to doubt him. But fighting for position was part of the job, a good part. ‘It's a…’ thought Uzgrim, ‘a meritocra… a merit… Gah… Survival of the watzzit… Meanest.’
Uzgrim took a final bite of the greasy meat, throwing the bones to the snotlings lurking in the trees at the edges of the camp. Getting to his feet, unarmed and leisurely, he stepped up to Rotgut, disdaining the heavy bladed choppa offered up by Malfang. To take it would be to admit weakness, fear. Malfang, his personal standard bearer and long term ally, would know this,, the gesture more a test of his leadership than an offer of support. Malfang’s loyalty would last no longer than Uzgrim's strength.
A ragged circle of boyz formed, hooting, jeering, spitting and laughing. Rotgut raised his mace in the air, barking out a guttural challenge, jabbing a thick finger into Uzgrim’s chest. The import of the gesture was clear and Uzgrim's response was instant. His forehead connecting with the bridge of Rotgut’s stub nose. The blow had little effect beyond rocking Rotgut’s head back. It was all the opening Uzgrim needed, his tusk-like teeth tearing a ragged hole in his opponent’s thick neck.
Rotgut slumped to the blood soaked ground, his challenge undone.
Uzgrim looked over at Naznob, the boar rider looking on at the bloody scene unmoved. ‘Feed him to the pigs.’
Behind this clunky story lies a germ of gaming truth written on the grassy (tablecloth) plains in what my boys call ‘Daddy’s playroom’. It's a painful truth. In five games of third ed. Warhammer, itself a painful if rewarding learning experience, Uzgrim’s Marauders have won precisely no battles. Admittedly the first, against a skeleton horde, might have just about gone their way but since then things have gone downhill fast. The next three games saw Uzgrim take on a Norse warband. In the first he drove his chariot straight off the table (thanks to a massively buffed Stampede spell. (The lessons learned. We decided to limit modifications to magic saving throws to just one point to avoid auto success).
The next was closer, this time we had the help of a neutral third-party force made up of black orcs and ogres who tied up the Norse for a while.
In the third encounter with the Norsemen Uzgrim recruited a giant, a move countered by the Norsemen dragging along a huge unit of Fimir. When the giant rocked up drunk things looked bad and they got worse as the unit of two stone throwers was put out of action by Winds of Magic. Uzgrim's lesson - don't put too many eggs in one basket...
In the final battle, Uzgrim found himself facing an Undead gun line. This was an uphill struggle from turn one. The giant’s second drunken appearance didn't help… The lesson from that one? Maybe use advance forces? Perhaps bring in the victory points conditions to give more static lists a reason to leave the deployment zone. And maybe leave the giant at home, drunk side-changing monsters sound hilarious but actually aren't that entertaining if they happen to be on your side, twice! Uzgrim, who thinks Giants look very cool, thinks a better strategy might be to bring two along…
While Uzgrim may have survived this time, the boys won't be giving him another chance. If the Marauders don't see victory in their next outing his fight for leadership is going to take place on the tabletop. Dice and heads will roll. Matt, if you're reading, you'll be rolling for the challenger... Could this be the end of Uzgim? Only time will tell!