Sunhold: The First Triumvirate
Posted: 12. 07. 2022.
Sunhold: The First Triumvirate, an AoS28 event we ran in Zagreb July 2nd 2022. The game was originally scheduled for July 4th 2020, but it got pushed back several times due to the global pandemic. I the meantime the original venue was damaged in a powerful earthquake, but we were kindly provided an alternative dungeon by UMS “Agram”, the local modellers’ and wargamers’ club.
I’d like to thank all participants who made warbands and sent their minis to us; and especially those who joined us in person for the game: Goran, James, Séraphim , Vladimir and Witold. Thanks to my brother Ivan for co-writing the Fabula system we used for the event and for handling most of the GM-ing on the day.
The story of The First Triumvirate takes place in a vast territory freshly liberated from occupation by Chaos. The huge and mighty Stormhost is gone to fight somewhere else, and people are working on resettling the area: rebuilding, repopulating, starting new kingdoms on ruins of old. There are lots of ruins around... Though armies of Chaos are gone, these lands are not fully safe yet. Wild beasts, the undead and small groups of servants of Chaos can still be found - especially in darker, less accessible places. The land is scarred, and it will take time and effort from the Free Peoples for it to heal, and not fall back into chaos and ruin. A small contingent of Stormcast Eternals remains to coordinate and lead these efforts.
Each city-state and country are painstakingly reclaimed for mankind, and the execution of this effort is organized as a series of reclamation projects. For each, a Company is formed, consisting of hired soldiers, suppliers, builders and more, with a board of wealthy financers to fund the project. For their efforts, upon completion of a project the company is given the reclaimed land in the name of Sigmar. Sunhold is a sprawling ruined city surrounded by plains, forests and marshes. Many dangers lurk within its walls. A lot of the Sunhold's citizens and defenders had traumatic deaths at the hands of Chaos hordes, and are now trapped as restless undead.
The events of our game took place within the ruined city of Sunhold. Each player took command of a small warband of 1-4 members (preferably human, and at least outwardly aligned with Order), representing groups that entered the city to fulfil their individual goals. They may be a part of the reclamation project and want to exterminate enemies of mankind to make the city once more habitable, or they may be a party of adventurers or bandits who wish to loot the ruins and fill their own pockets. Apart from their 1-4 member warbands, participants were welcome to contribute other models: NPCs, monsters, smaller terrain pieces. The warbands could make alliances and collaborate, or betray and eliminate each other on their path through the ruins.
The game was moderated by a pair of Polanšćak GMs. A custom rules system was written for it, designed to keep the maths and dice-rolling from taking over the experience, so players could focus on the characters, story and atmosphere of the game. In what ended up to be years leading up to the game, we created all the models, scenery, additional backstory, artwork, rules, and anything else that we needed to play the game or that would simply make the experience more enjoyable. Although this is a group project, this doesn’t mean that anything goes. There is a vision behind it and respecting a set of guidelines and directions is essential for the project to keep focus. There was plenty of space for expression within this framework. I trusted that the people I invited are sensible folk.
In my approach to Age of Sigmar, moved it away from the polished high fantasy look into a gritty, low, drab aesthetic. For humans, I switched to using 28mm historical and fantasy minis, which are smaller and differently proportioned than modern GW models. I encouraged the participants to go in that direction for this project.The player warbands should not contain models that can fly nor mounted models, due to the nature of the game and its terrain. Exploration will be a big part of the game, and flying models make scouting too easy. There were, however, flying monsters. In the ruins, going through doors and climbing on walls would be a common thing. Mounted characters would have a hard time navigating the board. The visual design of the game was heavily inspired by video games such as Diablo II, the Dark Souls series, Darkest Dungeon, Blasphemous. Looking into them, as well as into what inspired their art designers, could be helpful to get on the same page.
Cult of Spring by Witold Krawczyk
Amid smoke and ashes, Tolenne would sing of rebirth. Death is merely a change of form; every passing moment is eternal. She would sing us about the deceptions of time, the perseverance of spiders, the coming spring.
One day they came for Tolenne and slayed her with swords and axes.
Now we hear her song in our thoughts, and dream of her – alive and cocooned, deathless yet ever-changing.
Come with us, revel and seek the Singer!
The Apocryphal Sigmarite Church of Abundance by Séraphim Soupizet
They're followers of an ancient tapeworm god of abundance therefore living in the city before the chaos invasion, camouflaging their heretical cult under Sigmarites rites and symbolism, like the letter S. There adepts despite the defiance of the official cult of Sigmar where loved by most of city folk beceause in exchange of a food,wine or blood offering they where protecting youre crops or your livestock from draught and desease. Knowing that the city is now free, those cultista lead by the last of their paladina are coming back to town to protect the interest of their cult, and find the lair of their now starving god.
The Draghanwards by Vladimir Matić-Kuriljov
Chalik Draghanward is the current head of an ancient dwarf family of merchants, who come to Sunhold to reclaim their abandoned property, after spending many decades in exile. He is joined by his two sons, Momar and Bradun. None of the three is a warrior by career or training, but because of their pride, heritage and distrust of tall people they are taking up arms to claim what is rightfully theirs. They also hired a mercenary, an experienced ranger, Zar Mina Eikelboom, to guide them through the city. They don't trust her completely, but she was the only dwarf available.
Vladimir also provided a set of scatter terrain for the game.
Zessab, Sorrow’s Archivist is the memory of Sigmar, a living totem and altar for holy books and historical texts. Medea, Witch of the Visage is a reader of prophecies and low-level magic-user, Medea is a quiet figure, never removing her brass mask. Khida, Child of Sigmar is a Knight Questor of the Stormcast Eternals, having secured a Chaos-held realm gate in Vasaria, travels to secure sunhold and escape their demons. Namdas, Prophet of Her Lady’s Silent Sigmar: first to bow before the Stormcast Eternals’ coming to Vasaria, now a constant companion and herald of Khida’s coming, a bitter and aggressive character.
Amyi, Leave her to Dream: an entity which Khada seeks to outrun by coming to Sunhold, a shifting an ethereal figure tied deeply to his, and other errant’s of Sigmar’s past.
Amyi was a constant nuisance, respawning each time she was destroyed, and endlessly hunting Khida. The NPCs Guardian of Sunhold and Servestine were also created by James.
The Princeling rides his trusty steed to do battle against the knaves and vile swine that inhabit the Sunhold. Yes, the sword is made of wood, and yes, the armor does "magically" "protect" him from all harm. And, yes, since you're asking, he is very forthright and just. Ask his steed, he'd tell you the same. Go on, ask him.
The Squire is bound to the Princeling. He still has free will, but has chosen to be the chosen one. If the prince dies, he does too (or so he's always been told). The Princeling has many words of wisdom to impart on his squire, and many "menial tasks" to complete on his behalf. The Princeling needs to be entertained and consoled between good bouts and for the constant deployment of his excellent judgment, and the Jester is just the person for it. Every good victory deserves a parade, and the Celebrant makes sure adequate fan-fare follows the princeling and all his infinite wisdom. He's so wise and humble, everyone knows.
Krunić played the Princeling’s warband, and kindly transported my board, terrain and minis to and from the venue. Matt also sent us the model that represented the Screaming Many, an NPC.
Game Master Ivan Polanšćak. He co-authored the Fabula system tailored for Sunhold, made stats for pcs, npcs, bosses and monsters and was the main GM at the event.
Marko Paunović was with us as representative od UMS “Agram” gamers and modellers association in Zagreb, which provided us with the venue and infrastructure. Marko also did his share of photography during the day. You can see him lurking in the back of the photo above.
Cody Taylor created the West Ledict Township mini boss, and the accompanying NPC the Horvat family.
Just prior to the Chaos occupation of Sunhold, the Western Villages' long standing rivalries had become unsustainable. Once daemonic forces had taken their foothold, a Warmaster threatened the town in search of the Stormcast who aided their efforts. Surprisingly, with the exception of one loyal family, these villages were eager to give up their mighty warrior in exchange for favor over their neighboring villages.
The Warmaster bound this great Stormcast in a pocket chamber of the warp, knowing their death would only send them back to Sigmar. Unfortunately for the villages of West Ledict, a ritual was enacted to bind the key to this chamber to them. They were bound in unholy matrimony; what remained was a being writhing in pain that crawled with a hundred limbs and cried with a hundred voices.
The objectors, the Horvat Family, escaped the greater bond, but were still married themselves into a similar bonded horror.
The Horvat Family led the players to the Township at the end of part one. The mini boss held one of the keys useful in the next chapter. For a better look at the model, go HERE.
Simon Schießl created the First Triumvirate, which was the main boss at the end of the game, as well as two massive angel statues at the gate of their arena. The Graveyard Spirit, who appeared at the beginning and delivered exposition before vanishing, is also Simon’s creation. I bought it from him several years back.
Nic Evans made a cool warband, but sadly couldn’t join us. I commissioned Sunhold pewter pins from him, which are delightful and were given away to participants.
Saturday’s event was split into two games: first the crawl through the city, and then the epic battle against the spectral Triumvirate.
Our five players moved through the ruins: discovering areas of interest, looting, fighting enemies, and triggering traps. The game took longer than we hoped, so in order to finish the story we didn’t use up all the optional content Ivan and I prepared. The whole thing was arranged so that we could manipulate it based on time and number of players that show up. Had we had more players we would have split the action on two boards, running parallel games before they all meet in the boss battle. The warbands were capped to 4 models each to keep the players’ turns short. We prepared backup warbands in case a player’s band gets wiped out early in the game, but fortunately that didn’t happen. All players had at least one model standing at the end.
I usually do a photo shoot recreating the interesting scenes after the game, but it wasn’t possible this time due to time constraints. So I made sure to take photos during the game with my DSLR, and just took a group pic of each warband before we packed up in the evening.
During game one the players encountered ghouls, walking dead, spectres, a feral vampire, a procession of revenant nuns, a swarm of netopyr, three tree people, skeletons, a wight... They had their hands full with all those, and did not elect to scrap with each other at all.
There were several points of interest on the board: a massive crystal containing a bound demon, a malfunctioning teleportal in the park, a haunted library, an ogre mercenary camp, tombs, vampire’s throne, a healing fountain, and more.
Books of lore, books of magic, enchanted items, loot of monetary value, tools... These were all contained in barrels, crates, bookshelves and other places that could be explored in the ruins of Sunhold. Searching such places would give the warband a roll on a random table.
For example, the players assembled the Blade of Armageddon. The last king of Sunhold, Coloman Malapropos, once received a wondrous sword as a gift from a dwarven clan, its name lost to history. The sword was truly a work of art, with a ruby-encrusted handle and a blade of iridium-infused steel. The king, who dubbed it the Blade of Armageddon, would in time be killed by the sword, which was then broken into pieces.
Chalik Draghanward decided that it was his clan that had gifted it to king Coloman. The other warbands did not bother to dispute that unsubstantiated claim, so the Draghanwards are now in possession of the repaired Blade.
When the players reached the end of game one, they entered a new area. Just before the boss arena, they found a small courtyard with NPCs.
The Screaming Many - First manifested in 788, this anomalous apparition entices citizens to feed it their dear possessions, in return for its immaterial gifts. Time and place it shows up can never be predicted, and each attempt to exorcise or destory it has so far been in vain. Citizens are strictly forbidden from interacting with this unclean monstrosity by will of the High Pontiff.
When given items of a certain value it could resurrect a character that died during part one. The model was created by Matt Ross.
Abuelita - The traveling merchant. The players could trade the loot they found during the game for useful items in one last chance to prepare for the final battle. The players could even buy a blackpowder cannon to shoot the Triumvirate, which they did with a crit result - dealing a lot of damage!
The Guardian of Sunhold - Stormcast Eternal summoned from a small altar closed with three locks. The keys were scattered throghout the first part, and there were more ways to find three of them. Without unlocking the Guardian, the final battle would have been much tougher. The model was created by James Stone.
Once everyone was ready, they proceeded into the adjacent arena to face the Triumvirate.
This is where Séraphim revealed his betrayal to the other players. His cult of Abundance offered healing delicacies to his alles along the way, which unknown to them were contaminated with tapeworm eggs. The cult’s god’s Egg manifested durint the main boss fight, allowing Séraphim to control the other players’ infected models. So in this most inopportune moment, they started infighting.
But the Egg was destroyed, the players agreed to a temporary truce and finally fully focused on defeating the massive angry spirit.
After rounds and rounds of dealing damage, the killing blow was fittingly delivered by the Guardian of Sunhold, and the First Triumvirate was no more.
Glory! Your noble deeds this day give hope - that some day we will all be unbound from our torment and be devoured by sweet oblivion.
Sunhold was a great time, and was well worth all the work that went into it. I was happy to see my old friends Vlad and Witold, and to meet Séraphim and James for the first time. I hope I’ll find the time and energy to attempt another event like this in the future!
Just wow! What a fantastic event and culmination of years of work. Great report. Amazing setup and models.
My most important question, did the Princeling and his noble steed survive? I gotta know!
Thank you! Yes, the Princeling was a beast! His Squire nearly finished off the Triumvirate.
Beautiful work as always!
Insane! Really cool to see your hard work pay off. Its honesty a dream of mine to take part in something like this one day.
Thanks Ben! I hope that comes true for you!
Holy shit, I am speechless. I would love to be a part of something like this, applause!