The game with Dougly this Friday went very well for the noble stalwarts of the Empire, although the degree to which this is attributable to blind luck is possibly up for debate.
My deployment had hills and a tower on the left, and rough ground and a copse of woods on the right. I put a cannon on the hills and a mortar behind some walls on the right, the Helblaster mid-line sort of in the middle, and my pistoliers on the left wing. From inside the tower going towards the right were spearmen, halberds, ogres, Hellcannon, and then knights behind the wood. My handgunners got stuck on the far right for lack of room to put them anywhere else.
Dougly lined up two units of Saurus behind an impressive meatshield screen of skinks, plus a unit of three Kroxigor, supported by a Stegadon on my right and his Slann. Pterodon riders were posted on each of his flanks.
The battle was basically an exercise of him advancing into a withering hail of fire until, finally, charges were exchanged. The helblaster did a vicious number on his skinks, 14 hits with no misfires on the first volley. My handgunners did nothing except shoot down the right-hand pterodons. On my left his pterodons decimated my pistoliers only to charge a detachment of crossbows and end up getting charged by the pistolier survivors in the rear.
My cannon managed to sink two cannonballs uselessly into the turf and then run out of things to shoot at, but the mortar did much better, killing a bunch of skinks, a couple of saurus, and (to great acclaim from my side of the table), inflicted a fluke wound on the Slann.
Despite the fact that I only had one level 2 amethyst mage to face down Dougly's skink shaman and Slann magic-machine, things didn't go entirely his way; both of his mages rolled up a Celestial spell that lets you get re-rolls, and the one turn that he failed to cast it, he desperately could have used it, as he then proceeded to miscast a spell that he really needed to cast, and end his own magic phase.
Once we got to grips with the remainder of his force, things generally went the Empire's way. My knights suffered the loss of their lances to magic and got charged by the stegadon but they were off on the flanks and generally not of much use in any event. My ogres routed his saurus and then my halberds did likewise to his kroxigor, at which point we called the game. My gunnery fire and the unusual reticence of my helblaster to immolate itself inflicted severe damage on his battle line, his Saurus did nothing in the magic phases to justify his cost (roughly 20% of Dougly's total army) and having 2/3rds of his core battle-line routing (even with Lizardmen rerolls, his Kroxigor couldn't help rolling boxcars) was just a hill too high to climb.
I think I did a lot better this time around both due to luck and to understanding my army better. The vast majority of games I've played have been as a Chaos general, and the Empire don't work that way. I need to get used to the idea of exploiting my artillery and gunfire, minimizing the impact of the generally lackluster quality of most of my units, and reconciling myself to the idea that I really don't have any elites.
The biggest concern playing Empire is that there are so many threats that you don't really have an answer to, besides 'hope a cannon shot gets lucky'. I'm used to having a Chaos Lord who can kill anything that you point it at. Even the best warrior in an Empire army is maybe a good match for an Exalted Champion. They just don't have anything in the same league as a Lord of Chaos.
It's a fun army to play though, with stuff to do in every phase of the game and a lot of versatility, variety, and chrome. I'm growing to be a big fan.
In other news, today I was playing with my new Brown Stuff. As you may know, sculpting is done with Green Stuff, an epoxy putty which comes in blue and yellow strips that you mush together to produce the eponymous green putty. Brown stuff is similar but a different mixture. I'd never used it before. It's different. It's softer but it holds form better; green stuff is slightly spongy, and therefore more forgiving. But you can get some interesting detail work and rigid shapes out of brown stuff that green stuff just won't do well.
I can think of lots of interesting applications for it. I'm quite enjoying playing with it and getting a feel for what it can do.