Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Mordheim 2019: Using Ana Polanšćak's Witch Hunters at Mordheim 2019

In all these days will a famine lay upon all of your lands, and a plague upon all of your people.

This article was published previously on Echoes of Imperium, describing Greg's thoughts about Mordheim and the Witch Hunter warband that Ana Polanšćak built for him to use at the Mordheim 2019 event.

I started into the miniature wargaming hobby not long before Mordheim was released. Being fairly young, and lacking a disposable income, I was not able to play it at the time. That did not stop me from spending many an hour reading about it in the pages of White Dwarf magazine. Something about the setting really stuck with me, and felt very unique, even for the Warhammer Fantasy setting. It was not until much later that I finally latched on to what it was that made it so distinctive. 

The setting of Mordheim is grounded almost entirely in low fantasy. It is not about outlandish magic and mythical creatures. It is a story about the struggles of humankind in a city on the brink of madness. While the weirdness of the Old World does creep into it, it is largely through the influence of the Chaos Gods and the corrupting presence of wyrdstone. The playable Chaos warband, the Cult of the Possessed, does not have the overt Chaos elements of other Games Workshop games. It is not filled with daemons, or even unabashed worshipers of the four Chaos gods. Instead it is populated with unsavory humans and those that are possessed and starting to be blessed with mutations. The Skaven are one of the more otherworldly features of the setting, horrific ratmen that infest the sewers, beckoned from their underground lairs by the lure of wyrdstone. What makes the Skaven more terrifying in the setting is that they had largely been unknown to the Empire at that point in the Imperial Calendar. After just witnessing the cataclysmic destruction of their city, the survivors are beset by disease-ridden humanoid rat creatures intent on bringing the entire Empire under their dominion. Mordheim, more than any other game Games Workshop has released, has the capacity to function as a horror game, one anchored with a semblance of realism. This capacity to represent realistic horror in the fantasy setting is not necessary for an enjoyable skirmish game, but I think it helps elevate the game and give it relevance so many years later. It can provide an avenue for a hobbyist to explore their own fears and uncertainties, like any good horror film/story.

Ana Polanšćak’s Cult of Possessed warband.

Unfortunately, due to time constraints, and my general inexperience with modelling and painting, I was not able to build a warband to use at the Mordheim 2019 event. Fortunately for me, Ana Polanšćak (Gardens of Hecate) offered to build a warband for me to use at the event. Ana has an unmatched ability to combine folklore and historical sources to make unique and unsettling miniatures. Of all of the fantastic miniatures built for the Mordheim 2019 event, I think hers best capture the horror in the Mordheim setting. She built two warbands for the event, a group of Possessed (which she used), and a group of Witch Hunters (which I used). In a sense, the two warbands are reflections of one another. Each are primarily composed of deranged men, but in different forms. For the Possessed, they are naked and wearing non-descript masks, their bodies contorted in awkward poses. You can almost hear them speaking in tongues and see them stumbling and waving their dirt-encrusted fists. For the Witch Hunters, the men are also faceless, but in this case they are hidden behind unkempt beards and pointed capirote hats, bringing up images of the Spanish Inquisition (and more recently, the Ku Klux Klan). Even though they are supposed to be the “heroes” purging the city of the taint of Chaos, it is clear their mission is one of fanaticism and intolerance. I hear a lot of talk about the Warhammer universe being grim and dark, but I don’t often see a good representation of this. Mordheim is a dismal and awful place, and Ana’s two warbands reflect this amazingly.

Ana Polanšćak’s Witch Hunters - The Witch Hunter Captain unleashes a pack of bloodthirsty warhounds into battle.

Ana Polanšćak’s Witch Hunters - An enigmatic warrior priest leads forth crazed fanatics.

I was able to play two games with the Witch Hunters. The first was against Johan Egerkrans' undead (The Convertorum) and the second was against Ana’s Possessed and Mikko Luoma’s Chaos Dwarves (@northofsleet). The Witch Hunters were handily demolished in the second game by the Possessed. It was great that both of Ana’s warbands were able to meet on the field of battle, and especially prodigious since it ended in a thematic bloodbath. The entire Mordheim 2019 event was an amazing experience. I cannot thank Ana enough for building me a warband to participate with, and Alex for making the whole event happen. 

- Gregory Wier


  1. Replies
    1. It is a great warband. Really making the witch hunters as ominous as they should be.