Elder Scrolls Call to Arms: The Lone Guardian
Wargames developer Charlie Perkins tells the tale of one of his early solo Delves during the development of Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms. The version you see in the Quests Book was altered following Charlie’s experience in this scenario
The Imperial Legion marches tirelessly into Skyrim, bringing with it equal amounts of coin and conflict. While some welcome the military presence, the Stormcloaks are making a stand on behalf of their homeland. So far, the Dragonborn has remained neutral in the struggle, but she can’t stand by and watch as an Imperial force prepares to raid a defenceless village. Standing alone against the approaching army, she will be the shield that defends the people of her homeland.
I’m going to be playing through the first Delve Mode Scenario in the Quests book from The Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms Core Rules Box. The scenario is called Hold The Gates, and tells the story of a friendly force trying to hold a defensive line against an incoming horde of adversaries. Rather than make a ‘balanced’ or ‘tactical’ defensive force, I have decided to pile all of my points into a single powerful Dragonborn, fully equipped and enchanted to be as strong as possible.
Every equipment slot is filled up, everything that can be enchanted has a different enchantment and she has an attachment assigned to her armour. Truly a force to be reckoned with. Worryingly though, her Septim cost has skyrocketed to 163, meaning the enemy force isn’t going to be weak either.
One friendly model versus six enemy adversaries. We might have the equipment advantage, but they certainly have the numbers. At our Septim level only 2 will activate each Round, but that's still double the number of actions that I will get each Round even before you take reactions into account.
The scenario features a long wall with two gates in it, which can be closed by using a lever. The only way I’m going to be able to hold this foe off is going to be by closing one of the gates as soon as possible and then holding the other opening. Risky and dangerous, but the only viable tactic.
I have taken two Oaths, ‘Making A Point’ and ‘Through The Gate’. The first awards 3VP for crushing an enemy by closing a gate on top of them, and the latter awards 1VP for removing an enemy before they even get through the gate. Both are very achievable if my tactic works well.
Immediately before the start of the first round, I draw a Quest Card and receive ‘Extermination’. It seems that this trespassing cannot be forgiven, and so I’ve been tasked with removing every single adversary model from the board. Difficult, but not impossible.
The game begins, and my Dragonborn sprints forward into the action, racing towards one of the gates. With her second action she casts a Fire Rune in the centre of the other gate, hopefully slowing down the enemy advance. Of course, the 2 adversaries that activate are both deployed near the un-trapped gateway, and both an Imperial Soldier and the Imperial Mage manage to race through the gate already. The Imperial Mage fails at casting a firebolt and the Imperial Soldier blocks to form the beginnings of a defensive line. The Event Card ‘Open Ground’ is drawn, giving my Dragonborn an extra 2” movement in the next round, exactly what I need.
Round 2 begins, and an adversary moves first. One of the Imperial Soldiers makes a break for a gate, not realising the rune trap that I’ve laid for him. The rune triggers, and I roll 3 Fire Damage. The Soldier only manages to block 2, and the final point of damage is enough to remove him from the battle. The plan worked, and I achieved the ‘Through The Gate’ Oath already. With this pristine opportunity, The Dragonborn uses her increased movement to move across the battlefield to get in contact with one of the levers, and successfully flips it to slam the gate closed. One weak point is sealed for now, so I can focus on the other. Just as hoped, the other Adversary to activate this round is Hadvar himself, who is forced to make the long journey to the only open door. The Event Card titled ‘Divine Inspiration’ makes an appearance, giving my Dragonborn a free reroll on their next skill or attribute test. Looks like luck is on her side today.
The advantage moves back to us for Round 3, and the Dragonborn goes on the offensive. She needs to push back through the remaining gate before the flood of adversaries becomes too much to handle, so takes an action to swap her staff of flames out for her enchanted Steel War Axe and then sprints to engage both the Imperial Soldier and the Imperial Mage who have come through the second gate. It’s a risky move, but engaging them both will hopefully slow down the advance. They both react to make an attack, made worse by the fact that Hadvar is also close enough to react and charge in for a third attack. The Imperial Soldier hits for 3 damage, the Imperial Mage only deals 1 damage and Hadvar lands a hard hit for 4 damage. 8 damage from 3 separate sources is nothing to sneer at, but my Dragonborn came prepared by wearing Nordic Carved Armor, an incredibly tough defense that comes at a high cost. She manages to block all the damage from the first two attacks, but a poor roll means she takes 2 damage from Hadvars attack and is Staggered by the Power Attack. To make matters worse, the last two adversaries both activate and move to join the fight. Things are not looking good for our hero. I drew the Event Card ‘Calm Before The Storm’, meaning a Blizzard rolls in from the next round onwards. Our luck has turned, and Skyrim itself plays a part in the outcome of this fight.
The snow storm arrives and the adversaries go first in Round 4. Hadvar moves first, automatically making an attack at the Dragonborn but luckily missing by a hair before blocking. Rather than retaliate, I activate the Dragonborn for another risky move. She restores a point of health thanks to her Amulet of Arkay, and then withdraws from the 3 enemy adversaries, giving one of them a free attack. The Imperial Soldier is the one who gets the free attack, and lands a strong blow that causes another point of damage to sink through her armor. Having survived, I enact my plan and withdraw into contact with the second lever. One strength test later, the second gate slams shut on top of an unlucky soldier that is immediately removed from the battlefield. The Oath ‘Making A Point’ is completed, bringing my total VPs up to 6. The Imperial Mage reacts by blasting me with a firebolt, dealing a further 2 points of damage and leaving me on a single point of health and Burning. Ouch. The brave Imperial Soldier who was the first to breach the gap reacts in a slightly more disruptive way, rolling Objective. He sprints to the other gate and reopens the first door, allowing his friend to activate and move through the gap. Just as I thought I was getting ahead, everything began to fall apart. I drew an Event Card and received the Radiant Quest ‘The Way Of The Voice’, which requires me to use dragon shouts to deal damage and/or status effects three times this game. I have Elemental Fury equipped, one of the best shouts to achieve this goal, so it’s a lucky find. Additionally, I use five of my six VPs to Level Up, refilling my reserves and boosting my attributes.
Round 5, and the situation looks dire. All enemies are through the wall, and I’ve only managed to remove two of the six adversaries on the table. I have to make up for lost time and complete this radiant quest. The Dragonborn, still burning, sprints into contact with the two remaining Imperial Soldiers and spends all of her Thu’um, letting loose a ‘SU GRAH DUN’ as she uses the Elemental Fury Dragonshout. This lets her make a melee attack immediately, and gives both her equipped weapons the Lightweight and Follow-Up Special Rules. She swings with her Steel Sword of Shock and her Steel War Axe of Frost at the first Imperial Soldier, hacking through his armor with ease and removing him from the battle. Thanks to the Follow-Up Special Rule, she turns her attention to the other Imperial Soldier and attacks again, sending him to join his ally off the table. In the blink of an eye, the Dragonborn shows her true power as two enemies drop, evening the odds. The Imperial Mage and Hadvar are all that can activate, as they are all that remains of their party. Hadvar tries to move into combat but cannot keep up, as the Dragonborns Conditioning Perk allows her to move an inch more when wearing Heavy Armor. The Imperial Mage moves down the battlefield, aiming for my Deployment Edge which is what she needs to touch in order for me to lose the game. The Event Card is Secret Paths, a blessing right now. It allows my Dragonborn to move 6 inches ignoring terrain immediately, so I place her much closer to the runaway Imperial Mage.
Round 6, and the battle is in its final stages but isn’t over yet. Hadvar activates first and decides to make a break for the goal, sprinting as far as he can in his Heavy Armor and Blocking. Now I’ve got to deal with two runaway models, both of them dangerous. Fantastic. Before the Imperial Mage can get any further away, my Dragonborn moves to intercept and elects to use a single point of Thu’um to shout with Elemental Fury again to attempt to complete the Radiant Quest. The first attack with my Steel Sword of Shock is a miss, but the Dual Wield Strike with my Steel War Axe of Frost is a critical hit! Five damage later, the Imperial Mage has to make an Injury Roll with the penalty from Overkill and fails, dropping and being removed from the battlefield. We’re down to 1v1, and the result is down to the wire. The Radiant Quest has been fulfilled, and my Dragonborn gains another 3VP. The next Event Card is ‘Ancient Riddles’, placing a puzzle objective on the board. Interesting, but there’s probably no time for that now.
With Round 7, I have Advantage. Hadvar is one movement away from reaching the board edge, so it all comes down to this last attack. I decide that the best way to take him out is going to be with fire and flames, and so I swap to my unused Staff of Flames and spend all three Soul Charges to blast Hadvar with every bit of magic my Dragonborn can summon. Six damage hits Hadvar, but his extremely lucky Armor Roll only lets three of it through. It’s enough though, as he takes the final point of fire damage when he activates and drops to the ground. After a long and bloody battle, I emerge the victor.
My lone Dragonborn, still with a Burning Token of her own, has successfully defended this village. She gained 6 VPs for killing all 6 enemies, 4 VPs from her completed Oaths, 3 VPs from her Extermination Quest and 3 VPs from the Radiant Quest. With a total of 16, she has passed the threshold of 14 VPs needed for this scenario and has won the Scenario!