Greetings fellow traveler! Have you come to hear tales of that most unfortunate and cursed city, Mordheim? A city whose fall was so terrible that our great Emperors buried the smoking shell rather than attempt to save it? Well then, pull up a stool by the fire and order me a drink, for it is going to be a long story...
Mordheim is a tactical skirmish game set in the world of Warhammer Fantasy Battles. It is a curious mix of RPG and war game where players command Warbands, groups of 10-15 warriors that scavenge among the ruins of the fallen city looking for Wyrdstone. As your warband fights other warbands the characters in it will gain new skills and experience, as well as earn gold with which they can purchase additional arms and armor.
There are two basic kinds of warriors that you can have in your warband: heroes and henchmen. Heroes are like RPG characters- they can gain experience for eliminating enemy models, can learn many cool skills and generally have better stats and armament. Henchmen are everyone else- while they can gain experience they do so much more slowly than heroes and have fewer options to upgrade them with. However, every so often a henchmen will be brought up to the big leagues and be granted the mantle of hero through the "This lad's got talent!" rule.
On the table Mordheim uses many of the same rules that are found in WFB. The units use the same stats and many of the races and abilities will be familiar to those who have played the game before. However, the action in Mordheim is much more complicated. One thing that does this is the nature of the terrain. The board for Mordheim, which you may be able to tell by looking above, is set up like a Gamma level city-fight map. Ruined houses, derelict carts and steep ledges litter the battlefield impeding movement. To deal with this there are tons of rules for climbing ledges, or for falling off of them when your character is shot/struck and fails to keep his or her balance.
Another is the very involved nature of combat. For instance, when you strike an enemy with a weapon it matters whether the weapon is a sword, axe, hammer, etc., as each weapon has its own profile (like in an RPG). And even if you manage to wound an enemy, they won't necessarily be struck down. Models can be knocked down and out in addition to being "removed from action."
This term, removed from action, is very important, as just because a model is removed doesn't mean that it is dead. While henchmen only live on 2/3s of the time it is very difficult to keep a hero down. More often then not they will suffer some kind of debilitating after effect like missing an eye... though just as often the hero will actually gain from his misfortune, for example gaining hatred for the warband that felled him!
There are also a ton of missions, especially if you consider the dozens of player created additions that you can use. Each one is unique and they often have quirky and fun rules. The assembled warbands might try to assault a wizard's tower and plunder the riches inside, or simply try to grab as many pieces of wyrdstone as they can before being forced to withdraw.
I'll get into more nuts and bolts next Monday, but just as an example of what can happen in a game let me tell you about the outcomes of my warband, Gunnar's Axes, and their first outing into the mean streets of the City of the Damned. The mission was Rescue the Prince- basically a dumb son of a noble tried adventuring in Mordheim and his father is paying to have him rescued. Whoever manages to grab him and run off the board wins. Three of us were playing- me with my Norsemen, Russell with his Skaven and Ben with Witch Hunters. Ben decided to simply shoot the prince when it looked like Russell might win, so the entire mission devolved into a massive brawl in the center of the map.
At the end of every mission we find out what happened to our heroes and henchmen who gained experience or fell in battle. This particular battle was brutal- the leader of Ben's warband was outright killed while my leader, Gunnar, now has a paltry toughness of 2 thanks to the lasting damage that a witch hunter hammer did to his rib cage, while Russell came out scot free thanks to good rolls for his people.
Join me next Monday when I continue to fight my way through Mordheim and we start talking about the typical Warband.