Words and pictures by Para Bellum
PLUS: If you want to see inside the new Warband, you can see Charlie unboxing the W’adrhŭn starter set below!
From the Wastelands beyond the Claustrine Mountains, the W’adrhûn are pushed to the east by some unseen force. Survivors, hunters, beast-tamers but above all warriors, this fledgling race is determined to carve a place for itself in the world. And they have the dinosaurs to do it...
The W’adrhu˘n are Conquest’s new and shiny fifth faction: and they’re finally here! Tackling the fantasy orc-archetype with a typical “Para Bellum twist”, these dino-riding warriors have been much anticipated by the community of Conquest. With impressive beasts, beautiful minis and a unique play-style based on faction-specific rules, the W’adrhûn are here to improve the gameplay of not one, but two games of Conquest!
WHO ARE THE W’ADRHU˘N?
The first recorded mention of the W’adrhu˘n is a canto of the saga of Charles Armatellum that speaks of his peace treaty with the primitive tribes beyond the Claustrine Mountains. For centuries, the tales of nomadic savages with giant, pre-dominion beasts that dwell beyond the edges of civilization have been a source of entertainment, delight and lazy, abstract deliberations amongst self-titled scholars and historians. The truth lies so far from these theories and witticisms as the wastelands and oases of the W’adrhu˘n lie from the luxurious foyers these discussions are usually held in.
It is perhaps understandable why the learned of humanity would be so dismissive in their views of this young race. The W’adrhu˘n are indeed a fledgling civilization, one that was forced to scrap a living off the extremely limited resources available in the Wastelands beyond the Claustrine mountains. This lack of resources has forced them into a harsh living, often violent as different Tribes clash for sources of food or water, with equipment and attires that look near-primitive in the eyes of the civilized Kingdoms. Such abstract descriptions are vaguely known by the learned elite. It is also known to them that the W’adrhu˘n are “just another” creation of the Spires, therefor they are conceived much like the witless drones the Exiles throw on the field of war to die at their masters’ convenience or the terrifying but mindless abominations they have unleashed upon the world. But unlike prior attempts and creations, the W’adrhu˘n were never meant to supplement their retinue of monsters, killers or expendable troops. They were meant to be a race of true warriors, an unstoppable vanguard force capable of securing the Reclamation of the Exile homeland.
To create the W’adrhu˘n, rather than work on the basis of Exile strands, the Biomancers of the Spires sought to decipher the weaves of countless donor species that presented the desired characteristics in order to replicate their features on a completely new and hybridized structure. While series upon series of creations proved failures, unable to “quicken” into awareness, one day, for no understandable reason, no discernible metric, the bodies of two breeding pairs woke within minutes of each other, their physical capacity far exceeding original expectations. Some would later attribute the outcome to the strands of humanity weaved into their design. Others would speculate that the regenerative abilities of echinoderms or reptiles were responsible; such strands had been mixed in the many different attempts to urge quickening with insufficient research about the possible mutations they could trigger. Others still would attribute the awakening of the Four to the powerful – perhaps too powerful – primeval essences infused into the final design; a dangerous experiment that many had cautioned against only to be overruled. Whatever the reason, these four prime specimens awakened and looked upon their creators with hungry, knowing eyes...
Yet the true history of the race begun much later as the four primes were put in stasis and their design was revisited time and time again. How the experiment would have developed without outside interference we will never know, for as the W’adrhu˘n race was still being refined, the world was galloping with haste towards the Cataclysm of the Fall. A series of desperate Caelesors of the Old Dominion had declared and maintained a Holy War against the Exiles. To add to the threat, the ensuing chaos and bloodshed would drive Dweghom Hosts to renew their ancestral hostility with the Spires. With thousands of years of preparation and their opponents still engaged on multiple fronts against the Dominion, not one, not two but five Hosts would fall upon the Exiles in the area of the Dominion. They achieved what nobody but the Dragons had achieved: the wholesale destruction of a Spire.
As the shock of this almost unprecedented event echoed throughout the Spires, the Dweghom capitalized on their initiative. With desperation growing, the decision was taken to unleash the W’adrhu˘n and the four primes would eventually be re-awoken. Under the monikers of Death, Famine, War and Conquest, the primes were allowed to lead their kin but even so the contest was never meant to be equal. Still less reliable than the creations of streamlined processes, they were to be sacrificed so that the population of the Spires and their research might escape. Even if many regretted the outcome, their destruction at the hands of the Dweghom was seen as an acceptable deletion of a promising but unfinished design.
The result of unleashing the Primes, however, was nothing short of spectacular. Galvanizing the W’adrhu˘n population, the four primes were greeted as Gods by their lesser kin and took control of their warriors within days of being released, even as their creators abandoned them. Surrounded and outmanned, the end seemed certain as the Primes girded themselves for battle after battle. The last has passed into legend amongst the W’adrhu˘n and only Conquest, clearest eyed and keenest of intellect, survived the conflict. Using the last stand of her brothers and sisters as a decoy, she took her carefully husbanded reserves and smashed a thin corridor through the encircling Dweghom Hosts, giving the last remnants of the W’adrhu˘n forces a chance to escape. While the remaining primes fought to the death and were ultimately defeated Conquest led her followers to salvation.
Then the Fall happened.
It is a testament to their very race, and the purpose and strength of will of their living God, that the W’adrhu˘n survived the Fall, even exposed as they were. But the very gifts of their physique would become their curse in the lean years that followed; the cold, the darkness, even the suffocating air, they were equipped to survive. But as resources died, countless perished of starvation, brought on by their own unnatural physique and its demanding appetite. Desperate to witness her people having survived such wanton destruction since the very beginning of their existence, Conquest led them to the one place they recognized as home; the Spires that spawned them. This desperate idea would prove the entire race’s salvation.
Filled with aeons of gathered resources in their bowels, the Spires had released their massive biomass to the surrounding areas, creating lush oases trapped scattered throughout the desolate wastelands. These primal lands proved to be a lifesaving boon to the nascent W’adrhu˘n race but they were not without danger. Many of the specimens collected by the spires had been the greatest predators of their age, released once more into an unsuspecting world who had thought them extinct countless millennia ago. These beasts would in time help shape the very culture of the fledgling race and in the end the W’adrhu˘n thrived, isolated from the outside world, slowly rebuilding their population.
In the end, the W’adrhu˘n represent the first truly collaborative efforts between the Spires – in itself, that is a testament to their design and their capability to perform the role they were intended to. They are not a race of mass-produced, bloodthirsty fighters with overgrown muscles. They are beings designed to wage war; to fight, overcome obstacles, survive and perform under extreme circumstances, with the mindset, senses, physique and endurance to match. They are also not mindless savages that by some accident of fate managed to survive the Fall. They were designed to think, calculate, form strategies and adapt to those of their opponents with cunning, guile, creative solutions and true intelligence. They managed not simply to overcome the fatal dangers of the Wastelands during and after the Fall, but thrive and form a civilization from scratch which, while young and perhaps rough, is complex, inventive, values music and has perfectly adapted to their surroundings and circumstances, enduring for centuries where no man has dared to even attempt to settle. The humans that so readily dismiss the W’adrhu˘n as savages have only to look to their own past to see just how great the potential of this young race’s destiny is… And how well equipped it is to meet it.
Your average W’adrhu˘n towers over a human, with an average height of 7ft (2m). Their bone density far surpasses that of humans, with bones extruding from the shin and forearm providing significant protection even for an unarmoured W’adrhu˘n along these vulnerable limbs. Their rib cage has fused into a solid mass encasing their vital organs while their skin is tough and leathery with keratin deposits along the abdominal region to protect this vulnerable area. They are heavily muscled, with tone and elasticity of the meanest W’adrhu˘n approaching human maxima.
Given their unique origin, it comes as small surprise that the W’adrhu˘n race itself is highly variable. Previous variants of the design lie dormant in their genes, appearing unexpectedly in every generation. The Warbred are the main example: Towering over their brethren, Warbred are bigger, stronger, and tougher than their brethren, throwbacks to the earlier generations of W’adrhu˘n the Spires had sought to breed. The Speakers, while less obvious that the Warbred, represent another unique variant of the W’adrhu˘n race with much deeper social and developmental consequences.
All W’adrhu˘n, in part thanks to the acute sense of hearing they possess, have a natural affinity with the beasts that roam their lands. It is through this gift that they not only managed to survive the predators of the wastelands and the oases, but also to form bonds with many of them, to assimilate them into their culture, their way of life… and the way they wage war. By far the most remarkable feature the W’adrhu˘n possess, however, is their hearing. Unlike humans, Exiles or any other humanoid, their natural hearing physiology is not limited to their ear structure. Additional structures along their jaw and nasal cavity provide them with a hearing prowess that far exceeds human or even Exile norms. They are capable of navigating in near-pitch darkness, based merely on the echoes and sounds they perceive.
A curious development is that W’adrhu˘n are capable of control the sensitivity of their hearing, allowing them to focus on one source or frequency to the exclusion of all others, a necessary trait to prevent their sensitivity from overwhelming them. However the result is that W’adrhu˘n are capable of communicating across great distances through the use of pitched voices or vast drums. This is the source of the W’adrhu˘n uncanny coordination, their ability to communicate in a manner completely beyond human capability to replicate. This also grants them a tremendous advantage on the battlefield, where W’adrhu˘n leadership can remain in communication over the din of battle without resorting to messengers. Their hearing is also an integral component of the feared blood trance; the meditative trance that grants Blood Berserkers their situational hyper-awareness allowing them to reach unheard of levels of coordination on the battlefield.
However it must be noted that these adaptations come with a price. W’adrhu˘n consume prodigious amounts of food to support their unique physiology. To address this, their designers modified the W’adrhu˘n digestive track, allowing them to digest food that would sicken or possibly kill a human but this alone is not enough and this was known; their merciless digestive systems were designed to survive with cheap, otherwise unwanted materials – while their demanding appetites would ensure population control if needed. Coupled with the limited resources of the Wastelands, this commanding need would forge the very culture and civilization of the fledgling race.
THE W’ADRHU˘N IN THE GAME
The W’adrhu˘n are a young race, and their numbers are still relatively few, but on the flip side their entire species has been literally bred for war. This makes their faction an elite force, capable of battling most foes on equal terms. Players should expect to field a fast, offensive army led by formidable combat characters that prefer to close in their opponents... but not in a mindless, bloodthirsty manner.
What makes the W’adrhu˘n really stand out (well, apart from the dinosaurs!) is their War Chants. As the army moves forward and battles, the war songs of the W’adrhu˘n crescendo into a mighty Battle cry, each influenced by one of the four Gods of the W’adrhu˘n: War. Death, Famine and Conquest. Those units that activate as these songs crescendo will receive bonuses to their activation. Those who activate at the very peak of a war chant will issue a mighty Battle cry and receive major benefits. If the unit should happen to be one of the Chosen of these gods, expect the benefits to be truly impactful. W’adrhu˘n magic revolves around manipulating these songs to incite fury amongst their own warriors or to deafen and demoralize their foes.
All in all, the W’adrhu˘n are a sophisticated force that will reward players willing to time their activations and structure their command cards carefully, rather than those who prefer to rush headlong at their foes.
MEET THE FIRST W’ADRHU˘N!
They can be split into different types:
All W’adrhu˘n train relentlessly from childhood to pass the challenges that would mark them as warriors of the tribe rather than the menial Bound, whose task it is to provide food for the tribe. Standing close to 2 meters tall and massing well over 100 kilograms, your average W’adrhu˘n specimen would be more than enough to strike terror into the hearts of any sensible warrior. Unfortunately for their opponents after their trials even the meanest W’adrhu˘n Brave stands well over 2 meters tall and masses over 140 kilograms, making a W’adrhu˘n Brave a match for even the elite troops of the enemy once the furore of battle is upon him.
Braves who can bring the Chosen of War three weapons taken from a worthy foe they have defeated in battle earn the right to be called Blooded. In exchange for their enemies’ weapons sanctified on the field of battle, the Chosen henceforth agree to provide the warrior true weaponry, crafted with his physique and temperament in mind. While the secret of Steel is still withheld from these individuals, one should not underestimate the sheer the physical and psychological impact of these ritual weaponry. Any foe who has faced the W’adrhu˘n in battle and survived the whirlwind of violence that is a Blooded advance can confirm this.
While Braves are the first line of defence against all threats that a Tribe might face, Hunters are those W’adrhu˘n who have devoted themselves to protecting the tribe against the wild, dangerous beasts that stalk them in their home territories. Their physical gifts and fighting experience make them peerless woodsmen, equally adept at hunting prey deep in the Wastelands or falling upon an unsuspecting enemy formation in the chaos of battle, their charge heralded by a volley of heavy javelins capable of skewering a man straight through his armour.
Given the awesome physique of a W’adrhu˘n warrior, even simple weaponry can be deadly when in their hands. This is nowhere more apparent than in the brutal efficacy of the Slingers who occupy a unique niche in the Tribes. Powered by the powerful build of a trained W’adrhu˘n and guided by their acute senses, a well-placed sling shot can kill an armoured horse at a hundred paces. Their efficacy is such that all tribes have come to appreciate the value of a permanent cadre of trained Slingers. The status and rights accorded to these rare warriors means that competition is fierce among those who would hope to join their vaunted ranks; only the most skilled warriors may don the ceremonial feather harness that distinguish these elite regiments.
This unmatched bond between a Raptor and its rider is an unexpected result of the Biomantic process that created the W’adrhu˘n. A small portion of the population is capable of speaking with beasts. While males commonly bond with herbivores, it is female W’adrhu˘n who most often bond with carnivores.
Raptors are quite possibly the ultimate light cavalry upon Eä, the bond between the rider and its mount turning them into a single unit whose speed is matched only by their ferocity.
Towering over even the olympian physique of a W’adrhu˘n Brave, the Warbred are genetic throwbacks to an earlier iteration of the W’adrhu˘n race, when the Spires bred them for ferocity and physical prowess above all else. Despite their size and ferocity, Warbred are shunned pariahs for, in a society which prizes females above all others, no W’adrhu˘n mother can survive giving birth to a Warbred. The best chance they have for a normal life is to hurl themselves into battle with fearless abandon in the hopes of catching the eye of the Cult of War and thus escape the oppressive censure of their peers.
Both the Mass Battles of Conquest: The Last Argument of Kings and the Skirmish combat of Conquest: First Blood use characters to build a force around them.
The W’adrhu˘n come out with two to begin with, the Scion of Conquest and the Predator… and they both look very serious about what they do.
This article originally appeared in issue 457 of Miniature Wargames. You can pick up your issue of the magazine here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
Don't forget to take a look at the unboxing of this too!