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Into the Borderlands, Episode 3

Our campaign journal continues.

14th day of Highsun

Report by Xavier of Rauvin Cross, forwarded to Zhentarim section 21

Begin report

I, Xavier of Rauvin Cross, followed the firbolg and his companions to Everlund as instructed.  Working with the Harpers of Moongleam Tower, the group eliminated the Cult of Zariel cell led by Harlan Mesk.  During the semi-official fete following the return of the kidnapped Everlundians I was able to steal a small notebook that the firbolg had left unattended in his bag under a table at Danivarr’s House.   Many of the pages were torn out, others were covered in blood.  Only one page was legible.  I have included it with this missive.  My source inside Moongleam Tower informs me that the band is now investigating a link between the Cult of Zariel and  the Arcane Brotherhood.  Furthermore, the group has begin researching means of traveling to the City of Brass.  I know not what intelligence has prompted this latest path of inquiry.  I am now returning to Silverymoon to await further instructions.




Lines 1-5 of Spleodrach’s ramblings from William Blake, The Sick Rose

Bloodsplatter watermark image from Sagacious on Deviantart

Into the Borderlands, Episode 2

Our campaign journal of Into the Borderlands continues.  The first episode is here.  The following brief summary combines multiple sessions.

The 28th day of Summertide, The Keep on the Borderlands

Salutations Genrok of Silverwood, Autumnreaver of the Emerald Enclave and protector of the Iron Yew, may Nature’s blessing be upon you.  Necessity demands that I employ a griffon rider to speed this missive to you (I shall submit the appropriate remittance voucher through the bursar’s office when time allows).

A Cult of Zariel, the comely but deadly ruler of Avernus, has taken hold in the Borderlands and risks fouling the region–like a spilled barrel of lantern oil spoils a well.  I am marching hard to Everlund in the company of my companions: Urxikas the tiefling paladin, Torbrek the half-elf monk, and Risrin the drow warlock.  We should arrive in Everlund 8 days after this letter.  We will proceed to Danivarr’s House to secure lodgings–please leave a message there informing me where I can meet you when I arrive.  I now relate was has transpired.

Weeks of scouring the caves had left us scarred and depleted of resources.  In addition to kobolds and goblins, we fought bugears, hobgoblins, an ogre, and a minotaur.  Some of our group relished these fierce combats, but they did not bring us closer to understanding what or who bound these creatures to the Caves of Chaos, or if there was–as I suspected–a traitor in the Keep.  Our investigation was also delayed by Torbrek’s insistence on spending a ten day obtaining a land grant from Castellan Mirthmillen and a writ of custodial martial training to establish a monastery-orphanage.  This is a noble endeavor, and I contributed by clearing land and then seeding an apple orchard, but it did not further our quest to discover the evil at the root of the Caves of Chaos.

A bowl of rice will prepare this young orphan for a day of rigorous martial training.

Our presence in the Keep also created demands as the residents constantly beseeched us for aid (a poor reflection of Mirthmillen’s ability to satisfy his duty of care!).   We investigated the swamp south of the Goblinwater river and discovered that an adolescent black dragon had taken residence in a ruined ship.  Tobrek’s longbow sang that day and Urxikas’s sword arm was strong.  The wyrm Varonyx perished under our onslaught.  We also solved the riddle of the Tomb of Dromond and defeated the necromancer of Lance Rock (n.b., we subsequently had to deal with a corpse flower here–instruct all Emerald Enclave agents to burn the bodies of necromancers).

When we finally were able to return to the Caves of Chaos we proceeded with caution.  I remembered Thref’s wise counsel: “roots can be for tea or for tripping on–care decides.”  Risrin was engaged with investigations in the Keep so we reverted to my strategy of constructing a blind to observe the Caves of Chaos.  A young goblin ranger named Grashook who had forsaken his kin’s ethos aided our quest.   Later that night we saw three cultists entering a heretofore undiscovered cave.  We girded ourselves for battle and entered the cave.

A mouth to one of the Caves of Chaos

This cave was full of cultists and undead.  Silvanus favored us, for my spike growth spell proved more than a match for the shambling hordes.  The cultists fell under the swords of Grashook, Urxikas, and Torbrek.  We penetrated the inner sanctum and confronted a devil emissary named Binlarga and a high priest.  We indulged in a parley with Binlarga (the priest’s tongue had been cut out as some form or ritual self-mortification).  The devil spawn offered us all officer commissions and command postings to devil armies engaged in the Blood War in Avernus.  I watched Urxikas carefully–ready to strike him down if he wavered.  My doubt was misplaced.  Neither Urxikas nor Torbrek were tempted by the devil’s offer.  In a fit of rage and violence it attacked.  Our swords and magic triumphed.  The destruction of Zariel’s emissary caused the evil magic of the Caves of Chaos to disappear.  The unnatural binding of the humanoid tribes broke and they fought each other and fled into the Nether Mountains.

We returned to the Keep and informed Mirthmillen of our victory.  Later we captured his advisor Marovak fleeing into the night.  He confessed to being an agent of the cult and after a brief roadside trial I humanely executed him–thereby releasing his soul to serve in the front lines of Zariel’s legions.  I fear that the cult of Zariel has agents in Everlund.  Castellan Mirthmillen advised that we seek an audience with Krowen Valharrow in Moongleam Tower.  Please arrange letters of introduction for my companions and I so that we may seek out Krowen when we arrive.  The balance of nature in the Borderlands remains on a knife edge.  No matter how deep they penetrate, we must eradicate the roots of this cult.

I remain your faithful servant,



Image credits

“Child Eating Rice with Chopsticks,” by Isabella Lucy Bird [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“Cave mouth,” by Thomas Quine [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.


Into the Borderlands, Episode 1

Last night our D&D group began a new campaign using Goodman Games’s Into the Borderlands, their excellent reprint of the classic module.  One of the players will be contributing posts after each session in the form of missives to the leadership of his faction.

The 2nd day of Summertide, The Keep on the Borderlands

Salutations Genrok of Silverwood, Autumnreaver of the Emerald Enclave and protector of the Iron Yew, may Nature’s blessing be upon you.

I, Spleodrach, Springwarden of the Emerald Enclave, traveled to the Keep on the Borderlands in the foothills of the Nether Mountains north of Everlund as directed and humbly submit this missive that I may add another leaf to the Tree of Knowledge.

The Rauvin Road was treacherous and bereft of succor and I would certainly have perished and returned to nature as wolf meat had I not met three traveling companions.  Urxikas, a tiefling paladin, declared that he was traveling to the Keep to combat the encroaching forces of chaos.  Torbrek, a half-elf monk, shares Urxikas’s purpose and possesses a martial bearing as sharp as the paladin’s.  Risrin is a sickly drow warlock exiled from his homeland.  Between Torbrek and Urxikas, both virtuous and naive (as shown by their hopefulness), and Risrin, tormented inwardly and outwardly cynical, it was I, Spleodrach, the last survivor of a firbolg tribe, who brought balance to the group.

We arrived at the keep and I met my contact Borin Locklinshield in the Stretching Goat tavern.  He confirmed our fears: the forces of evil and chaos are in unnatural balance in the area–driven forward by who knows what foul power.

After renting a room in the keep’s inn we set out to a homestead to the north.  My intention was to discern if the keep’s presence was encouraging farmers to expand at the expense of the neighboring forests–could it be the keep’s presence that had provoked the forces of chaos?  The farm was but a short walk from the keep and I can confirm that the homestead, Dreml’s Farm, is in harmony with nature.  The care with which they work the land honors the highest ideals of  Chauntea.   However, the human womenfolk who run the farm asked us to help locate their daughter who “got lost in the forest.”  “Or rather the forest has found her” I corrected them.   Nevertheless, given the solicitude they show the land my companions and I agreed to look for the girl.   As we searched the woods an owlbear attacked.  Blessing be to Silvanus, we defeated the creature and I planted a yew seedling next to the corpse so that death may bring forth life.  A short while later we discovered the missing girl’s body in an abandoned wizard’s hideout.  The young human’s curiosity got the better of her it seems.  Urixkas committed to return the body to her mothers, but before we could make plans for this we discovered an arcane circle.  My master Thref often counseled me about caution when in a dungeon–“Spleodrach, have you not noticed it is the slowest growing trees that are also the tallest?”–yet his words escaped me and I foolishly entered the circle.  This was in fact a portal to the cursed plane of Avernus and I do not possess enough vellum to describe the horrors we encountered in this chthonic wasteland.  We escaped  at great expense and I fear that I may have incurred the wrath of a powerful fiend as well as a hag.  I have included a map with the location of the entrance and exit portals to be forwarded to the Emerald Enclave Fiendish Threats Section.

This dread encounter solidified my opinion that the force behind the encroaching evil hordes is a malevolent fiendish presence.  After a rest in the keep my companions and I decided to investigate the so-called Caves of Chaos.  Indeed, nature’s balance is twisted here for from the safety of our hunter’s blind (and fortified by goodberries during the three day silent vigil we sat) we observed kobolds, gnolls, goblins, and giant spiders among the caves and trees–sometimes fighting each other, other times apparently ignoring each other.  Surely something powerful must bind or draw them to these caves.


Our careful watch–which it must be said chafed Risrin’s mercurial nature–allowed us to discern the guard schedule of the kobolds and we planned an assault to correspond to the end of a watch.  Our initial  attack culled over a dozen of the kobolds and six of their giant rat minions.  We retired to our hide and fortified ourselves.  Sensing weakness, the goblins launched a raid against their kobold rivals and we dispatched the exhausted goblin raiding party as they returned to their lair.  After a brief war council we decided to immediately attack the kobolds while they were reeling from the goblin raid.   As a result of our attack I can confirm that the kobolds have been eliminated from the Caves of Chaos.  No mercy was shown–does a gardener spare a sprouting weed so that she must pull it when it is fully grown and has killed her tomato vines?  As goats that escape from ships flourish at the expense of  the plants on the Korinn Archipelago so do these evil humanoids flourish within a day’s travel of the keep.  Risrin did not seem troubled but I worry that Urxikas and Torbrek are possessed of a sentimentality that may prevent them from doing what is necessary to restore nature’s balance.

I am writing from the Stretched Goat as we recover from our fight and continue to investigate rumours in the keep.  I have heard rumors of a “wasting curse” afflicting homesteads.  My inclination is to discount these rumors–to a human peasant the natural course of aging can easily be mistaken for a curse, such is the fleeting, painful, and miserable nature of their lives before dying  to serve nature in a different (and likely more useful) guise.  Nevertheless, I will consult with my companions whose knowledge of dark rituals and sorcerous powers may reveal something nefarious.

Please send messages to Borin and he will deliver them to me.  My mission here  would benefit from additional spell components, healing potions, and whatever supplemental funds the Emerald Enclave is in a position to provide.  I will write again when I have news.


I remain your faithful servant,

Spleodrach, Springwarden of the Emerald Enclave


Review: Zvezda M3 Lee

The M3 Lee is a fine tank.  Well, the Russian soldiers that used it may have had a different opinion of it: “Riveted freak,” “three-storey overgrown,” “grave for six.”  But our concern here is Zvezda’s 1/100 scale M3 Lee used in Flames of War.

An M3 Lee crewman see a bright future ahead

An M3 Lee crewman sees a bright future ahead


The United States developed the M3 in 1940.  At the time U.S. Army doctrine used tanks primarily as infantry support weapons.  However, after the fall of France it become clear that the anti-armour capabilities of the M3 would need to be improved.  Designers adopted a 75mm gun but they didn’t have a turret that would take a gun that large.  Thus was born the hull-mounted mediocrity you see here.  The M4 Sherman, incidentally, is basically a Lee chassis with a turret to take a 75mm.

The sponson mount of the 75mm prevented the tank from firing in a hull-down position and even small calibre anti-tank rounds could penetrate the Lee’s expansive flat surfaces.  To make matters worse, the gasoline-powered aircraft engine easily caught fire.  Nevertheless, during the crucial year of 1942 the M3 played an important role.  It was an important counter to panzers in Africa and the Lee contributed to the British victory at Gazala.  The following year over a hundred Lees fought at the Battle of Kursk.  However, by then superior tanks were widely available.


In Flames of War

The stat line of the M3 Lee in a U.S. force is as follows:


The stabilisers and the two guns produce a fierce amount of fire power.  The armor is unremarkable, but in MW facing a far amount of AT9 the Lee will have a fighting chance.

The M3 can be used in British, U.S. and Soviet forces.  It is primarily a Mid-War tank, but it can have some utility in a Late-War Soviet list.  Let’s see how the Lee looks in a few different lists.  The first list is one Bill Willcox sent us:


This list is not for the reckless.  You’ll need to use terrain and all that smoke to your advantage.    Harmon is a great character, and the M10s will make any Panther player cautious.  The list is vulnerable to AT gun spam, and I’d hate to run into any British or Italian infantry lists that have multiple gun and artillery platoons.  Nevertheless, this is a fast, fun list.

The British, of course, used the Lee in Africa.  They swapped out the turret for a different one and called it the Grant.  The Zvezda kit does not have the Grant turret so if you use your Lees in the following list you may incur sour looks from rivet counters.  Some sources indicate that British troops saw the Grant as an improvement over their Crusader tanks.  However, this says more about what a dreadful tank the Crusader was rather than the merits of the Grant.  In any case, you can run a decent Lee list with the British:


The Grant uses the short 75mm (AT9) and loses the cupola MG.  It retains smoke and instead of stabilisers it has the semi-indirect fire rule.

The problem with both of the above lists is that the Lees are trained and front armor 5.  They say the best armor is being hard to hit and those small trained Lee platoons could melt away quickly under enemy fire.

Now for two soviet lists.  The first one, well, it will do fine against infantry but you may struggle against tanks:


Unfortunately the M3 Lee in this list is armed with the short 75mm so it is AT9.  Yes, this means the best AT in the list is either AT9 or the I-153’s rockets.  Nevertheless, you have an impregnable unit of KV tanks to move resolutely forward and two agile units of tanks to run the flanks.

Perhaps a more well-rounded list using the Lee is the regular Tankovy:


The list will do well against opposing tank lists and Mariya’s two 2+ swings in assault are potentially decisive.  The SU85 unit is static and fragile, so you might consider swapping it out for either a unit of light tanks or some artillery (heavy mortars or katyushas) .

What about Late War?  Well this is an interesting list:


Thirty-five points for a trained Lee is perfectly reasonable in Late War.  The two units of cat-killers provide ample anti-tank assets and either the Lees or the T34s can handle anything if they get side armor shots.


Our five-star rating system is an aggregate based on price, utility of the model in various lists and periods, and hobbying-model kit characteristics.  We award the Lee four stars.


Although the Lee is certainly not at the top of every player’s list, it is a great model to add to your collection if you are looking to play some interesting historical lists (e.g., a Kursk list).  It will be a rare sight on the table, but we like the Lee.  It is one of Zvezda’s better 1/100 kits in terms of details and the price is right—the U.S. tank list above is easily put together using a combination of Zvezda, PSC, and Battlefront kits.

The European Team Championship in Athens this year is Mid-War and the Lee is being fielded by many tankovy players.   Roll on M3 Lee!



Public domain image credits:






Warheads Episode 23

We take a brief interlude in the latest research on the Eastern Front before moving on to Irish tournament reports, Mid-War ramblings, Team Yankee, Trafalgar and other games. Brian informs us of the horrors of a American childhood during the Cold War and we congratulate Baz on his continued survival. On that note, Floody remains deceased. Enjoy!

Check out this episode!

Warheads Episode 22

We resume our 2016 broadcasting utilizing new technology.  We have higher expectations for this new equipment than Hitler had for the Panther at Kursk.  Significantly, it appears that the transition to Brian’s technological management, and access the Glenroyal’s Wifi, has resulted in same day podcast publishing.

In this broadcast we muse about the recent MW update, discuss an imminent Late War tournament, and conclude with a morale parable concerning hubris.  Along the way we are outed as RPG players.

Check out this episode!

Warheads Episode 21

Welcome to an On The Road episode. We take a day trip to the Flames of War tournament at Nordicon in Queen’s University Belfast. Reputations are made and shattered over the course of a day of gaming. Thanks for listening.

Check out this episode!

Warheads Episode 20

The hosts break their long silence to bring you Episode 20. Excuses rain from their lips like water over a fall, there is a heroic effort to deliver a tournament report under trying conditions, we run through our hopes for Nordicon and potential Mid-War lists and conclude with a discussion of Battlefront’s new Cold War offering, Not Red Storm Rising. We also praise a less-popular WW2 tank and a very special plane.

Check out this episode!

Warheads Episode 19

Welcome listener,

This is our ETC after-action episode detailing our trumphant progression to not-first place. We discuss our games, strengths and weaknesses of the ETC, Brian damns entire nations on flimsy pretexts as the rest of us embrace an era of peace, love and international cooperation. And congrats, again, to the Yankee imperialists on their 2015 win!

Check out this episode!

ETC 2015: Flames of War

Ah, Prague, a beautiful city rich with history and culture, one time capital of the Holy Roman Empire. This isn’t where we were. Our event was a little further out.

The actual location of the ETC was a metal shed, full of sweat, heat and… sweat. In Ireland, this is the kind of place you go to auction livestock.

Having experienced a degree of shock from the heat, I was concerned for the well-being of my delicate team. Imagine my relief in finding that their specialised dietary requirements could be met locally.

Preparation was paramount this year, months of planning, list analysis and pairing under tournament conditions (read: drunk and sleep deprived).

On the way, we noted that Team USA had gotten there before us and were doing a little freelance work for the local CIA front.

After a night of drinking and sweet, sweet dance moves, we square off against Brian’s favourite nation, Team Belarus. I take their Finnish infantry list in Dust-up. The decision to harass his force before falling back to eliminate his reserves was a little too greedy. His reserves arrive quickly, fight well and I make heavy going of finishing them off. After a close fight, we prevail. With his reserves gone, an additional platoon kill was required. With all key platoons close to testing and the enemy deployed in good positions, it took almost an hour to unpick the defence and force company morale checks.

Ireland Score Score Belarus Result
Padraic 6 1 Artem Win
Brendan 1 6 Michail Loss
Ulick 3 2 Denis Draw
Brian 4 3 Andrew Win
Floody 3 3 Bartosz Draw
Baz 3 3 Valery Draw

Looking around, we took two wins from the round, lost a game outright and the rest were mutual losses. Having expected an easier run-out, I feared the worst as we pop into the table in 18th place. The only consolation was getting paired with England in the next round.

Between rounds, we met with Adam from the Breakthrough Assault podcast who had said unkind things about our lists previously. We forgave him his abusive comments as his crippling height disadvantage meant that there was little honour in picking a fight about such things.

Facing off against Team England, I reminded my team of their many crimes against our people (especially on the part of Steve Charlton) and strongly implied that a loss would see the Union Jack fluttering over Dublin by morning. I then squared off against their German infantry list. Pete dug in across the board. I chose a flank and rolled forward, hoping to weather the ambush. The planned smoke bombardment failed to form and the ambush was brutal. The surviving tanks fought it out for a few turns, killing a few guns, suffering heavy losses. The game ended with a futile last attack killing off the company commander.

Ireland Score Score England Result
Padraic 1 6 Pete Loss
Brendan 6 1 John Win
Ulick 4 3 Graham Win
Brian 1 6 Steve Loss
Floody 4 3 Jez Win
Baz 6 1 Kevin Win

Luckily, the team performed well, beating the English 4-2 overall. Freedom is secured for another year and we climb to 12th place. That paired us against a team who might harbour a historical grudge against us, Greece.

In honour of the occasion, special actions were called for. We located his monument and fired off quick prayers to the patron saint of rules lawyering, St. Beardius.

Best possible start to the day.

The next morning saw me defend against French tanks. Arkon, the Greek player, played a very cagey game. A careful push along a tree line tried to force my ambush but I held it for the right moment. Losses were even when I pounced but the ambush did no damage. Thankfully, the counter-attack stumbled in turn and the fight degraded back into a knife fight again. At a key moment his three bailed Laffleys fled, taking the company commander with them and the lack of covering fire saw the attack unravel. Although dangerous to the end, the surviving platoons were hunted down and the company broken.

Ireland Score Score Greece Result
Padraic 4 3 Arkon Win
Brendan 6 1 Panos Win
Ulick 4 3 Harry Win
Brian 1 6 Frank Loss
Floody 6 1 Unknown Win
Baz 3 4 Unknown Loss

Another 4-2 win settled our nerves and we began to feel comfortable. We were happy to find the Greeks to be both friendly and fair and hoped to find the Swiss as pleasant. Overall, the win gets us 9th position.

My glum and hardened veterans feast on the hearts of their enemies. Well, the hearts and assorted innards of something, anyway.

We resist the urge to accuse the South African team of murdering Cecil the Lion. We do not resist the urge to spread rumours amongst the other teams that the South African team murdered Cecil the Lion.

As another nation that ducked WW2, we have a deep affinity with the Swiss. Deploying my pidgin English during the pairings, I quickly realise Arnaud’s grasp of the language is better than mine. Playing German Mech, he is “delighted” to “win” the roll to attack and gamely advances to make a fight of it. His mobile elements make it through but his guns are bogged down. He viciously targets the mortars, to my confusion, as I filter tanks from reserve to cover the objective. The plan was revealed as eight Paks arrived wheel to wheel as my forces began to filter in. Without mortars, they will be difficult to remove. But his volleys do not have the desired effect and, with frankly ludicrous rolling, the shootout goes entirely my way.

Ireland Score Score Switzerland Result
Padraic 4 3 Arnaud Win
Brendan 2 5 Christophe Loss
Ulick 6 1 Etienne Win
Brian 5 2 Markus Win
Floody 6 1 Maurus Win
Baz 3 4 Stefan Loss

The battle of the neutral powers goes our way this year. Another 4-2 win pushed us slightly further up into 6th place. Our reward was a game against Slovenia who had beaten us 6-0 in 2012, right as we were starting to getting cocky. I fear that history might repeat itself.

Riding high on the glory that evening, I refuse to allow my team to eat in such a common establishment and insist we move on to somewhere that would be, at the very least, above-average.

Next morning, fresh-faced and happy after an entire two hours of sleep, we sit down to pair against the Slovenians. Frankly, we were delighted to be playing a team with a reputation for good-spirited play.

Truly, they are a happy and friendly people, free of burning, lingering hate. 🙂

Fighting a tank list in a mobile reserves mission, I fear the worst. Primoz enacts a set-piece offensive, rolling on my home objective. The stalling forces fought well with reluctant trained troops driving off two separate assaults. Their heroics are in vain as the reserves arrive too late to retrieve the situation and the enemy plan locks me out for a turn six defeat.

Ireland Score Score Slovenia Result
Padraic 1 6 Primoz Loss
Brendan 3 4 Jan Loss
Ulick 4 3 Anze Win
Brian 3 4 Rok Loss
Floody 4 3 Milan Win
Baz 5 2 Tevz Win

Overall, we manage a 3-3 result which drops us to 8th place but keeps us within striking distance of the top five. Our last game is against the International Brigade, Team UN #1.

My last game was against a fellow Irishman, Darragh and his Czech tanks. Having suffered their fire in the last game I move quickly to engage them and push the fight into open ground. The Somuas and Laffleys were caught out of position but arrived in time to continue the fight once the Hotchkisses had lost three of four platoons. He is unlucky not to company morale me before I do the same to him to claim a final victory.

Ireland Score Score UN #1 Result
Padraic 4 3 Darragh Win
Brendan 2 5 Matteo Loss
Ulick 3 2 Karol Draw
Brian 6 1 Ilya Win
Floody 2 5 Unknown Loss
Baz 5 2 Nic Win

The team as a whole went 3-2 and with wins scarcer in the final Fair Fight mission, it was enough to jump us into 4th place. USA, Poland and Australia scamper off with the trophies as we watch resentfully.

Having come within touching distance of the podium, we were proud but also a little disappointed. That disappointment was brutally compounded the next day when Brian drops the celebratory ice-cream Floody bought him. His sobs ring through the Old Castle for hours.

No matter, we gather our belongings, take a bearing off the Eiffel Tower (who knew it was visible from Prague) and start marching home.

P.S. I’m missing some names from our match-ups, if you know them, let us know.

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