Sunday, November 15, 2015

Gondor Campaign - Turns 1 & 2: The Battle of South Ithilien

This post covers the first two turns of our Gondor Campaign.  The campaign starts where Faramir meets Frodo in Ithilien and decides to set him free so along with Sam and Gollum they can attempt to infiltrate into Mordor to destroy the One Ring.  Meanwhile Sauron's forces are gathering, but first must secure the crossings of the Anduin at Cair Andros and Osgiliath.  The Evil forces have moved out of Mordor and are moving towards Gondor.

Turn 1

The Good side gets priority for the first turn.  Faramir, learning that Sauron's forces are on the move decides to leave South Ithilien with the Rangers of Ithilien and move back into Osgiliath to reinforce the garrison there.  He also calls for the Rangers of Gondor in North Ithilien to pull back to Osgiliath as well.  The Dark Marshal moves out his garrison from Minas Morgul and divides his forces into North and South Ithilien, leaving Shagrat's Tower Guard in Cirith Ungol.  In Barad Dur, the Shadow Lord moves his forces into Dagorlad as a host of Easterlings move out of South Rhun and into the Ash Mountains

Turn 2

Evil wins priority for Turn 2 and decides to wait for more forces to arrive before attempting to take Osgiliath.  The Shadow Lord moves into North Ithilien poised to take Cair Andros or maybe help the forces from Minas Morgul assault Osgiliath.  But seeing that The Dark Marshal has split his forces, Faramir decides to launch a pre-emptive strike, hoping to take as many orc formations as possible and possibly kill the Dark Marshal.

Here are the forces in South Ithilien:

Evil; 1,160 points

The Dark Marshal
4 x Co Mordor Orc Warband w/shields; Captain, Banner, Orc Drummer
4 x Co Mordor Orc Warband w/shields; Captain, Banner Bearer, Taskmasker
4 x Co Mordor Orc Warband w/two-handed weapons; Captain, Banner Bearer
4 x Co Mordor Orc Warband w/two-handed weapons; Captain, Banner Bearer
1 x Siege Bow Battery
1 x Siege Bow Battery
Good: 1,045 points
2 x Guards of the Fountain Court; Captain
2 x Rangers of Ithilien w/Madril & Damrod
4 x Co Minas Tirith Warriors w/Captain & Banner Bearer
4 x Co Minas Tirith Warriors w/Captain & Banner Bearer
2 x Co Minas Archers
2 x Co Minas Archers
2 x Co Osgiliath Veterans

Evil set up first since they are the defender.  The forces of Mordor decided to hold back hiding behind wood and difficult terrain, but putting the two siege ballistae up on a hill to rain down shots from the high ground.  On the first turn, the Gondor shooting attacks were unable to reach the orc formations and the Dark Marshal as a Winged Nazgul was able to fly back and forth casting magic. 

On the second turn, Faramir decided to move out of the defensive terrain they were in and get close enough to the evil force to be in range of shooting attacks.  The plan failed as the two siege ballistae on the hilltop were able to fire 48" out and pummel the formations of Minas Tirith warriors.  The Winged Nazgul conducted swooping attacks over the formations in the open and since he had Spirit Grasp was successful against the Courage 3 of the Minas Tirith Warriors.

The Rangers of Ithilein attempted to get into a position to shoot at the Winged Nazgul but after successive swooping attacks, could not get their target within their 24" range.  The two formations of Minas Tirith Warriors were able to charge at two of the orc formations, but the Winged Nazgul was already behind them and charged into their rear.  One brave captain of Minas Tirth attempted a Heroic Duel against Gothmog, but with his Master of Battle special rule, also called a Heroic Duel and after a roll off was able to call his first, killing the captain and much of the formation along with him.

Boromir retreated to the formation of Guard of the Fountain Court, but they were caught in a swoop attack by the Winged Nazgul and then the following turn were charged their rear leaving half of the of the last company remaining, forcing them to flee the field along with Faramir due to Hope is Lost!

The Good forces were down to 30% original strength by the end of turn 6, making the battle an Evil victory.  The remaining Gondor forces retreated back into Osgiliath having suffered terrible loses.  Evil won prioty for Turn 3 and have the opportunity to follow up on their victory. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Gondor Campaign

So having successfully completed the Rohan Campiagn, (well at least successful for Isengard) we decided to change theaters and gear up for a Gondor Campaign.  The campaign essentially starts when the forces of Minas Morgul strike out at Osigiliath to secure a crossing of the Anduin as Sauron's minions gather for an assault on Minas  Tirith.  This time we decided to go for twelve turns as opposed to eight as this campaign is much larger than the Rohan Campaign and covers more space and more armies.  The original idea was just to center around Osgilath, Minas Tirith/Pelennor Fields, and then leave open the possibility for an assault on the Black Gate, but the Gondor theater was much more than that.  The final version of the campaign includes the Corsairs of Umbar being able to raid along the coast allowing the possibility of a second front to open up if that is what the Evil players choses.  We also included the Easterlings and a few Variags of Khand so we had to increase the number of Fiefdom and Rohan formations to make some sort of balance.  We might have bitten off more than we could chew with the final army lists, but it has allowed us to set goals to get through our painting backlog.

Much of the concepts from the Rohan Campaign will be the same.  Each side starts out with a small amount of forces and gradually gets reinforcements until half way through the campaign, where they have exhausted all resources and must fight to death with what they have.  The armies were again based on what I personally believed they would have from going through the books and then reading countless articles and opinions on theoretical composition of the armies.  I had to make this fit the models that Games Workshop produced making it representative of the armies.  This works best for these map styles campaigns since just giving a force a points value wouldn't work.  If you just use points, then the armies of the Fiefdoms would be 1,000 points of Knights of Minas Tirith and Mordor would be all Mordor Uruk-hai.  Instead, each army consists of common formations of Mordor and Morannon orcs and Warriors of Minas Tirith with only one of each of the legendary and rare formations.  The army list was also limited to what our group owned collectively since most of the miniatures are too expensive for mass battles games nowadays or out of production.  I also threw in Frodo and Sam being led around the map by Gollum.

We also wanted to incorporate skirmishes, field battles and sieges.  Like the Rohan Campaign, we plan to use Strategy Battle Game for skirmishes and War of the Ring for field battles.  I determined the cut off for what would be a skirmish and what would be a field battle was 700 points on a side.  My experience is 700 points is about as large of a game of SBG that is playable and 700 points of War of the Ring is probably the minimum for a playable game.  For sieges, we would use the same cut off between War of the Ring and Strategy Battle Game, but used the SBG siege rules modified for War of the Ring.  Because of the size and magnitude of the campaign, most games would be War of the Ring.

The object of the campaign is for Evil to control Minas Tirith and for the Good side to take Barad Dur or destroy the One Ring by the end of Turn 12.  If neither side achieved their objective, the result would be a draw and Middle Earth would be left in the same uncertain situation it was in before the War of the Ring.  In keeping with the narrative, Evil was given the additional objective of capturing and holding Osgiliath along with Minas Tirith.  This way Evil just didn't bypass Osgiliath as it was the key strategic crossing point to get the armies of Minas Morgul and the Southrons across the Anduin.  I also made it that it would be next to impossible for Good to defeat the armies of Evil and just walk into Mordor and take Barad Dur, leaving their hope for victory in Frodo getting to Mount Doom and destroying the ring.

The way Frodo and the ring will work is that Frodo, Sam, and Gollum will start out in South Ithilien with Faramir and his rangers.  From then on, the three will move as one formation and their movement will be kept hidden from the Evil side.  Their location will be revealed to the Evil players at the end of turns 4, 8, and 12, so Evil can try and guess what area they are in.  To record where they are, we just use a sealed envelope for each turn.  The trio has the ability to perform a "reaction" move out of an area in the event an Evil force moves into it.  They have the opportunity to fight a skirmish along with any other Good forces in the area that turn, but are not allowed to take part in a field battle and instead must perform a reaction move.  But every time Frodo makes a reaction move he is -1 Courage for the rest of the campaign.  If Frodo is unable to perform a reaction move because all the adjacent areas have an Evil force in them, Frodo is trapped and either fights a skirmish if possible or surrenders the ring.   If he surrenders the ring, Sauron appears in Barad Dur the following turn.  This way, the Evil player must decide how many formations it wants to dedicate to hunt for the ring and how many they want to dedicate to taking Minas Tirith. If Frodo makes it to Gorgoroth, he is attacked by Gollum and essentially the Taming of Sméagol scenario from from The Two Towers SBG Journey Book plays out.  If Sam and Frodo defeat Gollum, Frodo makes a Courage test minus any modifiers for making a reaction move earlier in the campaign, and if passes he destroys the ring.   If he fails or Gollum defeats Sam and Frodo, again Sauron would appear at Barad Dur the beginning of the next turn.  So Evil doesn't necessarily win if Sauron gets the ring, but now he is a playable Legendary formation in full form and the forces of Good have to kill him outright.

Modified campaign map from War of he Ring boardgame.

Again we will  be using the map from the War of the Ring board game.  The map isn't perfect, but it is better than actually drawing a map of Middle Earth using a CAD program.  I then came up with a tactical map for each area that shows what terrain will be on the board when we play the battles and on what section of the board each side will enter on.  One issue that arose is that I had the area of Osgiliath to be a city map board, but the strategic map went all the way to Druadan Forest which would mean the only way to cross the Anduin would be at Osgiliath.  I wanted to include Cair Andros in the campaign as it was the other avenue of approach for Mordor to attack Minas Tirith, and was the route Aragorn led the forces of the West to the Black gate.  So I divided Osgiliath into two areas, the southern one being the city of Osgiliath and the northern one to represent the island of Cair Andros.

Tactical map terrain layout for South Ithilien
South Ithilien on the tabletop.

The objectives of the campaign are difficult for both sides and both Good and Evil are presented with challenges that they must overcome if they want to win the campaign.  I will be updating the blog with monthly battle reports as the campaign progresses.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Rohan Campaign Turns 7 & 8 - At the Gates of Edoras

Having defeated the defenders of Helms Deep, Saruman set his eyes on the Rohan capital of Edoras.  Gandalf, Théoden, and Aragorn were all his prisoner and only Deorwine, Captain of the Royal Guard, was left to garrison Edoras.  Having won priority in Turn 7, Saruman and his army moved into Westemnet, almost guaranteeing that he would reach Edoras by Turn 8.  Treebeard and his three remaining huorns moved into the Folde so they could come to Deorwine's defense.

With no battle being fought in Turn 7, priority was rolled for Turn 8, the final turn in the campaign.  The Evil side again won priority and moved the Isengard army into Edoras.  Deorwine stood on the the ramparts of Edoras and looked out at the mass army of uruk-hai before him.  With only two companies of Royal Guard, Deorwine surrendered Edoras to Saruman without a fight.  Treebeard seeing this, moved into Eastemnet so he could save the huorns and return to Fangorn to go into a long tree slumber.  There will be no dawn for man.

Thus concludes our War of the Ring "mini-campaign".  Our goal was to see how a campaign system would work using both War of the Ring and Strategy Battle Game systems with fixed army lists and scheduled reinforcements.  Points wise, the total numbers of formations and Epic Heroes combined were almost even, with a slight nod to the Good side, since they had so many Epic Heroes compared to the number of their formations.  This actually was an advantage for the Evil side, since with only three Epic Heroes to the Good side's nine, the Evil point values were in formations of orcs and uruk-hai which would ultimately wear down the Rohan army.  Even with formation killing heroes such as Gimli and Aragorn, they quickly used up their Might on Epic or Heroic actions in battles and were not enough to take down the larger number of Evil formations by the end of a gaming session.

The one advantage that the Good had was in their cavalry superiority, but they used their formations piece-meal, and never massed all of their cavalry formations into one area to be used as a counterattack.  The forces of Good did very well in the First Battle of the Fords of Isen even though they were forced to fight a battle regardless since Evil had priority the first campaign turn. But following up on their success, the Good side chose to send Erkendbrand's Riders, two formations of Outriders and keep Elfhelm's Riders in the Fords of Isen to fight the whole of the Isengard army in Turn 3.  If the Good side kept what formations they had in Turn 2 at the Fords of Isen and moved all the infantry formations into Helms Deep and kept all the cavalry formations in either Eastemnet or Edoras, they could have been able to counter-strike at the Isengard army along with the ents and then follow through all the way to Isengard.

The Good side also could have placed just one formation of Oathsworn Militia in Edoras along with Eowyn to meet the requirement of having to keep one formation and one Epic Hero in the capital.  This would have put all of the best infantry formations and Epic Heroes at Helms Deep in order to wear down the Isengard army on the walls and hope to last eight game turns forcing Isengard to withdraw.  The next turn, Isengard would most assuredly try and assault Helms Deep again and the Good could have had all of their cavalry and ents arrive as reinforcements to fight an already depleted Isengard army.  If the Good side had been successful in this and taken the Isengard army down to 30 percent, Isengard would have no choice but to retreat to Orthanc and hope to prevent a Good victory.  But as in any wargame, much came down to die rolls.  The Evil side were able to capitalize when they won priority and send two formations of uruk-hai into Westemnet twice and pin the ents into a SBG skirmish battle not allowing them to move out of the area. 

If I had to change anything, I would have probably given Isengard a Troll Captain and two Isengard Trolls instead of so many uruk-hai formations.  I know I have criticized GW's Isengard Troll since Tolkien makes not mention of them in his writings, but the campaign came down to who could kill more companies than the other side, and trading 350 points of uruk companies for three trolls could have changed the dynamics.  Isengard having trolls in this regard makes the game more balanced.

But the campaign was overall balanced, the Good side won two battles, lost three and two were a draw, and the evil side won three, lost two and two were a draw.  The game did come down to the final turn, and it was the fact that Isengard had an overwhelming number of companies at the end of the campaign being the reason the Good side decided not even to fight a battle on Turn 8 and concede.

The next mini-campaign will be a Mordor-Gondor campaign, following Mordor's invasion of Gondor in order to take Minas Tirith which we will do some time in the Fall.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Rohan Campaign Turn 6 - Back to Helm's Deep

Saruman crossed the Isen with his host from Orthanc.  His forces reeling from their defeat in Westemnet told that the ents were moving to reinforce Helms Deep.  Saruman knew if he could delay their advance, the remaining forces at Helms Deep would be helpless.  Having won the initiative, he sent two companies of Uruk-hai with pikes to pin the ents in Westemnet so he could lead the rest of his army into Helms Deep.

The ents were few in number having suffered heavy loses from the battle last turn.  Treebeard had only five huorns and one other ent to face the two companies of Uruk-hai.  Since this was a skirmish, the Uruks were able to increase their attacks on the ents with the length of their pikes.  Although many Uruks fell, they were able to kill the remaining ent and three huorns forcing Treebeard to retreat into Eastemnet.

The Uruk-hai use their pikes to increase their attacks against the huorns.
The defeat of the ents allowed Saruman to assault the fortress of the Hornburg at Helms Deep unimpeded.  He lead a formation of Uruk-hai crossbows along with Vrasku's Talons and Thrydan Wolfsbane and his Dunlending archers close enough to the walls to rain shooting attacks on the Rohan defenders.

Knowing this could be their final hour, Gandalf deployed with a formation of dismounted Rohan Outriders to cause as many casualties as they could with shooting attacks as well as use Immobilize spells against the Uruk-hai ram.  Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas fielded as The Three Hunters so they could both use shooting attacks against the approaching Uruks, as well as charge into close combat if the fortress was breached.  Eomer and Theodred fielded with Erkenbrand's Riders and the remaining formation of Oathsworn Militia while Théoden held The Keep with a company of Oathsworn Bowmen.
Isengard prepares to assault The Hornburg.
Although the dismounted Outriders were able to cause some casualties, Saruman casted Bolts of Fire onto their formation ultimately destroying them.  With no formation protecting the gates.  Saurman sent four formations of Uruk-hai warriors to take their ladders to the Deeping Wall, and with no one standing in their way, were able to move along the walls to take the gate.  The ram ultimately smashed the gate and the Uruks piled into the fortress.

The ram finally is able to smash the gate.
Theodred and Erkenbrand moved to the gate to prevent the Uruks from reaching The Keep, but ultimately were defeated in close combat.  The Three Hunters attempted to hit the Uruks in the flank, but both Legolas and Gimli were killed leaving Aragorn to face the Uruks alone. 

With Legolas dead, only two hunters remain to fight a formation of Uruk-hai warriors. Soon Gimli would also fall.
Eomer moved his last company into The Keep to help Theoden.  But Saruman moved into the fortress and cast a Tremor spell against The Keep, killing all those inside.  Helms Deep had fallen and all the remaining survivors surrendered and were taken prisoner.

The ram smashes The Keep door as Saruman casts a Tremor spell.
Now that he was in possession of Helms Deep, all Saruman needed to do was take Edoras and Rohan would be his.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Rohan Campaign Turn 5 - Westemnet

Isengard moves into position to prevent the ents from reaching Helms Deep.
The ents moved out of Fangorn after defeating Saurons wargs who were sent to stop their advance.  Treebeard knew that the defenders of Helms Deep would not last unless he led the army of ents and huorns to their aid.  But as they moved through the open plains of Westemnet, they saw on the horizon a mass of Uruk-hai with two massive assault ballistae ready to rain down on them.  The ents had their chance to crush Saruman's siege weapons, thus negating their advantage if they were brought to bear on the Hornburg or Edoras.  So the ents and huorns slowly moved across the plain with no woods to conceal their force or protect them.  This fight was to the death. 

The Fangorn army moved along the Rohan plains with no woods or forests to protect them.

But Thrydan Wolfsbane and Vrasku had their orders from Saruman; destroy the ents.  Vrasku and Thrydan stayed behind with their shooting attacks and hurled fiery arrows against the ents and huorns causing many of the them to burn to the ground.  The wargs swarmed around the left flank to try and catch the slow moving huorns, gnashing them with their claws and fangs.  But seeing this, the ents charged the wargs pulled them apart with their thorny arms destroying them and halting the charge.

The Uruk-hai beserkers moved forward on the right flank hacking at the huorns with their two-handed weapons cutting several of them down.  But the beserkers were no match for Beechbone and the ents as they destroyed both of their companies.  See that Beechbone was wounded, Thrydan directed his Dunlending archers to fire their flaming arrows at him setting him ablaze as he fell.

Quickbeem raced forward as fast as he could to take out the Isengard ballistae.  But shot after shot fell upon him slowing down his advance.  He was joined by Treebeard and the two of them pushed forward only to be stopped by an Uruk-hai formation with pikes.  Pushing aside the pikes, the two ents tore through the formation and reaching a ballista, broke it into to pieces.  Another ent was able to reach the other ballista destroying it, thus taking out all of Saurman's artillery.  But the same fate was to befall this ent as poor Beechbone as Vrasku's Talons held their position and fired their flaming crossbows into the ent who soon was engulphed in flames.

But evil know no morals and the Uruk-hai sappers moved into position.  Quickbeem knew that he had to destroy this company of sappers by sacrificing himself to the demolition charge or else if it moves too far, it could destroy most of the Fangorn army.  But having passed their Courage test, the sappers were the ones to take their ones lives and detonated the demolition charges causing Strength 10 hits to all within 12".  The blast was titanic, killing Quickbeem and several other ents and huorns in the process.  But somehow, Treebeard had survived and seeing that the disordered Uruks also had been damaged by the blast, moved forward crushing an entire company breaking the Isengard army.

The Uruk-hai sappers move into position to detonate their demolition charges.
Saruman's plan almost worked, but the Isengard army fled the field, despite the damage done by the demolition charge.  Isengard had lost all of their ballistae, all of the remaining wargs, and all the beserkers.  Fangorn had won the battle, but at a terrible price.  Beechone and Quickbeem were dead, along with two ents and nine huorns.

Treebeard now had to reach Helms Deep in order to stop Saruman from taking the Hornburg, but fate was about to turn on the side of Good.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Rohan Campaign Turn 4 - Helm's Deep

The forces of Isengard prepare to assault The Hornburg.
Saruman looked into his palantir and knew that he must act fast.  He had to take the fortress at Helms Deep in order to break the resolve of Rohan and then march on Edoras.  But he knew something had awoken in Fangorn.  He dispatched his wargs to the forest to scout out what he had feared.  The wargs found an army of ents and a moving forest of huorns.  The wargs harassed the ents and knew they could out run them.  A company of wargs were killed, but that was just enough time to delay them so they would not be able to help the defenders at Helms Deep.
Treebeard leads the ents against the elusive wargs.

Meanwhile, Aragorn had found his way to the Hornburg, only to see that the Rohan army led by Theodred and Eomer had been defeated at the Fords of Isen and decided to retreat to the safely behind the fortress walls.  They knew that the fortress would give them the best chance against the Isengard host.  But King Théoden was not going to sit aside while a force of evil invaded his land.  He convinced Gandalf to ride with him to Helms Deep and if this was to be their end, to make it such an end worthy of song.  Théoden took four companies of the Kings Guard, while Gandalf rode with two companies of Royal knights.  Along with an eored of six companies of Rohan Riders, they hoped to smash Saruman's force in the flanks as they besieged the Hornburg.

Defenders of Helms Deep.
But the Uruks instructions were clear, not to wait for reinforcements and assault the fortress.  Vrasku's Talons led the Isengard army up to the walls firing their crossbows against the Rohan warriors who returned fire from upon the ramparts.  Four formations with ladders were sent to the left flank to occupy the Rohan warriors upon the Deeping Wall.  The assault ballistae pounded at the fortress gate, hoping to smash it by the time the fighting Uruk-hai made it up the causeway.  But as dawn broke, something happened that no one expected.  Thedoen appeared and charged at the Uruk-hai flank.  Surprised by the quickness of the steeds, the Uruks sent a phalanx of pikes over to protect their left so they could continue the assault on the fortress.  But they didn't arrive before Gandalf cast his Blinding Light on a formation of Uruk -hai who were crushed under the cavalry charge.  But the Uruks were many and the entire formation of Rohan Riders perished from the pikes wielded by the Uruk Hai phalanx.

Gandalf rides forth with Rohan Knights.
Meanwhile at the fortress, arrows were shot back and forth, stifling the Isengard advance.  An assault ballista was able to raise one of the enormous ladders, only to be pushed down by the Rohan defenders.  Seeing that Théoden had arrived to stop the advancing ladders on the Deeping Wall, Aragorn moved his formation with Epic Journey to the other side of the fortress who then began to reign down throwing weapons upon the Uruks.

Isengard brings ladders up to the fortress walls.
But the tide was turning for Théoden.  He made the mistake of dividing up his Royal Knights into smaller formations who were not able to mass against the fighting Uruk-hai.  His loyal bodyguard Hama fought a Heroic Duel that was directed against the King by an Uruk-hai captain, only to perish underneath the evil blade.  Losing riders fast, the King's sister-daughter Eowyn revealed herself amongst the riders and died in an Epic Sacrifice so that other could live.  But with their companies gone, there was little Théoden and Gandalf could do, but retreat from the field hoping that the defenders of Helms Deep could defeat such reckless hate.
The assault ballista tried again and again to hit fortress gate, but only caused minimal damage.  The Uruk-hai ram then tried to smash the gate, but the Uruks slipped and fell as they tried to charge up the causeway.  Ultimately, the Hornburg was too strong for them this day and the Uruks, now dimished in number were forced to lift the siege and retreat back to the Fords of Isen.
The ram tries to smash the fortress gates.
Victory ultimately lay with Rohan as they had prevented Isengard from taking Helms Deep.  But at what cost?  The Kings Guard were destroyed along with an entire eored of Rohan Riders.  Their only hope now lay with the ents who have moved out of Fangorn into Westemnet.  But having learned of this, enough was enough.  With his last horde of Uruk-hai now equipt for war, Saruman would lead them personally out of Isengard and crush Rohan once and for all!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Rohan Campaign Turn 3 - The Second Battle of the Fords of Isen

2000 points of Isengard descend on the Fords Of Isen
Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas rode with Erkenbrand to the Fords of Isen.  There they met Theodred and the remnants of his force.  They had put up a stubborn defense against Isengard, but Theodred knew that Saruman's forces would return in greater numbers.  Theodred spoke of a new breed of orc, the Uruk-hai, stronger than any other orc he had ever encountered.  The heroes held their council of war, and decided not to abandon the Fords.  Their plan was to wear down the orcs since they knew they would have been on the march and would have to expend their Might in order to cross the fords.  Once they had crossed, the Rohan forces would attack being lead by five Epic Heroes.  The plan was in place.  They needed to give Gandalf time to break Théoden from Saruman's spell and bring forth Rohan's elite Royal Guard from Edoras.

Rohan decided to fall back from the defenses of the fords forcing Isengard to use their Might on Heroic Moves.
But the forces of Isengard learned their lesson from the first battle.  They knew that their captains would have to expend their Might to get across the Isen.  But they planned to save at least one point of Might to declare a Heroic Fight enabling their formation to fight a second combat if they won a fight.  They had to depend on At the Double moves thereafter to reach the Rohan force on the far side.  The plan was simple, Sharku's Hunters would lead a charge of wargs across the far right ford.  Uguk's Raiders and Mahrur's Maurauders would push across the left ford, leaving the center clear for long range shots from their two assault ballistae.  The Uruk general Lugdush and the Dunland Chieftain Thrydan Wolfsbane would lead the archers to the west bank along with Vrasku's Talons.  Then they would go after the ranger from the north and the dwarf and challenge them to a Heroic duel.

Isengard is joined by Thrydan Wolfsbane and his Dunlendings from the Gap of Rohan.
With the ballistae on the horizon, Rohan decided to stay out of range and keep back from the defensive position at the fords as that would leave them vulnerable.  Then they saw the wargs charging their flank.  Elfhelm's Riders and Grimbold's Helmlingas went out to meet them.  But the wargs were a tougher opponent then they expected.  Sharku's Hunters took the advantage and charged Grimbold's Helmlingas.  Grimbold challenged Sharku to a Heroic Duel, slaying the orc captain.  But more wargs were coming and Elfhelm's and his riders were torn to shreds and Elfhelm became dog meat.  Grimbold's Helmlingas cut through the remnants of Sharku's Hunters and another formation of warg riders, but the Warg Chieftain thirsted for more blood and charge into Grimbold's flank proving too much for the brave Rohan warriors who died horribly from the fangs and claws of the wargs.

The Isengard plan was to push the wargs on the far right flank, while keeping pressure on the left and center.
Seeing that the orcs decided to come up the center as the ballistae were useless to them, Gimli led the Oathsworn militia and declared an Epic Rampage destroying an entire orc formation.  Seeing Gimli's success, Aragorn went forward to join him.  Aragorn saw that the Dunlendings had made it across the far fords and pushed forward declaring an Epic Challenge against Thrydan Wolfsbane.  The Dunlendings failed their Courage test and decided charge Aragorn's formation.  Aragorn hacked his way to Thrydan killing many Dunlandings along the way, but Thrydan proved tougher than he thought as Aragorn was wounded.  But seeing the ranger wield Anduril cutting down many in the process was too much for the Dunlendings and they fled the field since Hope is Lost with Thrydan chasing after them.

Aragorn and Gimli join Theodred and his Oathsworn Militia and were able to destroy the orc and Dunlending formations with Epic actions.
On the other flank, Eomer joined Grimbold's Helmlingas and positioned the Outriders above them on a hill so they could maximize their shooting attacks.  Legolas joined the Oathsworn Bowmen and led them out of the woods to secure Erkenbrand's left.  Mauhur's Maurauders led the charge across the ford since they are Pathfinders (Master).  But they fell from continuous shooting attacks, and Legolas's declaring an Epic Shot giving an additional D6 automatic hits.  The Ugluk's Raiders led the charge, but again were cut down by shooting attacks.  Then Lugdush tried to position the Urk-hai Scout archers to fire back, but they also fell victim to Legolas's Epic Shot running due to Hope is Lost with Lugdush running after them threatening to kill all who fled the field.  Now Vrasku's Talons were in range and fired their crossbows with Take Aim! giving each company three additional attacks against Legolas and the Oathsworn Bowmen who fled the field due to Hope is Lost.  Next to come was a formation of Uruk-has warriors armed with swords and shields.  Erkenbrand's Riders charged and after back and forth fighting, destroyed the Uruk formation, but they now had only two companies left.

Now the tide was turning in Isengard's favor as the other archer formations had made it across the Isen as well as Uruk-hai bezerkers.  The Dunlending archers fired into the Oathsworn Militia leaving Aragorn the last in his company and in the confusion, Aragorn fell into the Isen and was carried downstream.  This was proving too much for the brave Oathsworn Militia and Gimli led them to the safety of the woods.  But the woods did not provide safety from the charging wargs.  Gimli, out of Might, could do nothing but watch the Rohan die.

Rohan had been reduced to less than 30% effective combat strength and was forced to yield the field to Isengard.  The remnants chose to seek refuge in Helms Deep.  Isengard was victorious, but paid a heavy price and now must decide to follow up on their momentum, or once again consolidate and wait for reinforcements.  Rohan was beaten and had lost much of their army, but they were soon to learn that the Ents had decided to go to war!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Rohan Campaign Turn 2

The forces of Isengard were not able to break the Rohan defenders at the Fords of Isen, so they decided to retreat back to the safety of Orthanc.  Saruman was displeased that his orcs were not able to kill Theodred and wipe out the line of Théoden.  Even worse, he had learned that Gandalf had somehow appeared in Rohan and had broken the spell he had over the King.  He called forth his orc general Lugdush and told him to prepare his army for war.  He sent word to the Dunlending Chieftain Thrydan Wolfsbane to make for the Fords of Isen in two weeks time where he will be met by Lugdush and an army of Uruk-hai, a new breed of orc that Saruman had created by crossing orcs and goblin men.  These Uruk-hai were stronger and better armed than orcs and could march under the light of the sun.  Saruman then outfitted his new army with heavy armor and pikes to stop the horse lords and siege ballistae, capable of shooting long distances.  Now he had the army he needed to seize Rohan, not of thousands, but tens of thousands!

Saruman confers with his general Lugdush at Orthanc.
Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, and Gandalf the White meanwhile had come into contact with Erkenbrand, master of the Westfold, and his eored of riders. Erkenbrand told them a sickness had come over King Théoden and he would not leave his fortress of Edoras.  Erkenbrand also told them that word had come to him that Theodred, son of the king, held off what appeared to be and advance guard of orcs from Isengard.  Erkenbrand was taking his eored to reinforce the fords in the event Isengard returned.  Knowing that it was Saruman who had cast a spell on Théoden, Gandalf rode quickly  to Edoras.  Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas rode with Erkenbrand to the Fords of Isen knowing that if the position there fell, the forces of Isengard would be unleashed on the Westfold. 

But something was happening that none of them were aware of.  The ents were beginning to wake after a long age, and were to find that they were strong.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Rohan Campaign Turn 1

 Thanks to one of our players for writing this battle report!
The first turn of this Campaign was the start of the invasion of Rohan by the forces of Saruman. With King Théoden completely seduced by Wormtongue, his army scattered throughout the lands, and a Fellowship that has yet to come to their aid; The Rohirrim are left with only a feeble group of warriors led by Theoden's son, Theodred, to defend the crossing of Isengard at the Ford's of Isen.

Against them, march Uruk-Hai Scouts, Dunlendings, Warg Riders, and legions of Orcs who are attempting to take the one area that provides passage for the massing fighting Uruk-Hai, whom will ensure the end of Rohan.

This battle is fought with the Isengard Army attacking by three crossings on the river. Each one is not much more than mounds of dirt and sand that has build up over a river. While this can support a group of men, marching a legion of Orcs across can prove dangerous. Therefore for this match, The bridges all count as difficult terrain, and any formation that loses while on it, takes an extra D6 wounds. 
As the Orcs marched toward the crossing, the Rohirrim desperately fired all bows and throwing spears into the enemy. The countless numbers of Orcs seemed to be barely affected as they continued to march upon the Rohirrim. Theodred however, was not worried. He had already foreseen this overwhelming advance and called upon his Rohan Rider brothers to come to his aid. He knew they would come soon. He just needed to hold on for a little longer. He needed to hold these orcs at the crossing, the only place where the orc numbers counted for nothing. 
 As arrows were exchanged on both sides of the field, the Orcs clashed with the Rohirrim on the left and right crossings of the Ford. Theodred's company was first met with Orcs armed with crude weaponry and shields. They were easily pushed back, and more throwing spears were lodged into their necks. Seeing this, the Orc captain desperately challenged Theodred to a duel. Theodred ignored him. This foe was beneath him. He sent his captain to deal with him instead. With Reinforcements on the way, victory seemed all but assured for Rohan. 
As ranks of Orc continued to die however, the Dunlendings pushed forward. They were a rowdy group, but fearsome to behold. Wielding mighty two handed axes and a furious anger, they slammed into Theodred's company with an unstoppable charge! 
It was here that the unexpected happened! The Dunlendings ripped and tore through the Rohan forces with ease. As two full companies' vanished under the weight of great axes, the rohirrim started to panic. They broke into a disordered rabble, desperately trying to escape this fearsome foe. Seeing a hopeless situation at hand, Theodred called a full retreat for his company, and ordered his Rohan riders to crush this mighty enemy.
Even the opposite flank was experiencing trouble. Uruk Hai Scouts had met with the Rohan battlelines and drove them back. All seemed to be lost for the Rohirrim. However, as they fell back the sound of Horns filled the air and a new force could be seen on the horizon! The Rohirrim forces led by Elfhelm had arrived!
 As the Rohan fled, and new Cavalry entered the field, the forces of Isengard recognized this as their one last chance to push into the Fords of Isen and crush the Rohirrim. The remaining orcs flooded across the Ford. Warg Riders thundered through the dirt and rammed through the fleeting left flank. As the Sun fell from the sky and sat on the horizon toward the end of this day, Theodred knew the Orcs would soon have to retreat and regroup from fighting all day. Also, the night would only be his advantage since his people knew these lands. He just needed to hold on for a little while longer!
 As they day fell more to night, the Orcs managed to push back the fleeting left side to a small forest where they courageously held back the advancing warg riders.Elfhelm's Riders charged into the overwhelming numbers of Orcs to relieve Theodred's retreat. Although they managed to crush the Dunlending warbands, the Orc numbers proved to be too much even for the Rohirrim. Losing a devastating seven companies of Rohan Riders total, this victory would only be bittersweet at best. 
At the end of Turn 8, the Isengard force recognized the disadvantage of fighting so long into the day and sounded a full retreat from the field. The battle was over, but they knew Theodred was weakened, and his army was fractured. This minor victory for Rohan would only be short-lived, as the Fighting Uruk Hai were almost complete. On Turn three of this Campaign, they would be ready, and there would be nothing this pathetic group of Rohan Survivors could do. With Theoden's mind still broken, and the Fellowship having yet to arrive, only time will tell if Rohan will be able to survive this war. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

War of the RIng Map Campaign

So my group is finally off to doing a War of the Ring campaign. After months of recruiting interested players, teaching the rules system, and painting the models, I have a beta version of a campaign system for War of the Ring that captures the spirit of the books with the imagery of Peter Jackson's films and a few Games Workshop neat ideas, and several notable exclusions.

A map campaign for miniature wargames is something that is quite popular among historical wargamers.  As a historical wargamer (and closet fantasy/sci-fi gamer), I've always liked the idea of trying to change history; faced with the same challenges of Napoleon, Frederick the Great, and George Washington thinking I could do better.  One of the first I played was a Napoleon's Battles campaign where each nation had a team of players fighting the 100 Days Campaign of 1815.  I was Joachim Murat of the Kingdom of Naples and was crushed by an invading Austrian army.  We used one of the SPI strategic games with a map of Europe that had a hex grid called La Grande Armee.  Another was Warfare in the Age of Reason, an 18th Century Horse and Musket Game, where I was Russia fighting in a fictional continental war loosely based on the War of Austrian Succession.  The miniature rules had a companion campaign system complete with map that instead of a hex grid, used an area system where each province in the country was an area.  What I enjoyed most about the map campaign was that strategic decisions that you made on the map impacted what happened on the battlefield.  If you were not able to mass your forces into position before your opponent massed upon you, you were going to have a bad day.  It made our game sessions more meaningful instead of the usual you bring everything you have and I'll bring everything I have and lets play a game and kill each other. In a campaign, you need to decide if you want to conserve your force until reinforcements arrive or hit the enemy when he is weak.

So when War of the Ring came out, I was hoping for a campaign system. There is a chart linking the different scenarios, but it was missing the economy of force element, which to me is what makes a campaign interesting. Most player developed campaigns I have seen for other GW game systems were points based which is flawed, because players would always spend points on elite troops and never on your rank and file which is the bulk of your army.  So I took it upon myself to develop my own system, using elements from historical wargame campaign systems. I decided to do a smaller campaign as a beta test and chose Saruman's invasion of Rohan, since I had plenty of models for both sides from putting on a WOTR Helm's Deep game at a convention.

First for a map campaign, I needed a map.  I contemplated drawing a map with mapping software and adding an overlay for movement, but this required time and a cartography skill which I do not have.  I took a look at the old 1970s SPI War of the Ring game which used a hex grid system that many of us grew up with.  The problem with this map is that the Isengard and Rohan area were too small to move units about in a confined area.  I then got the Ares War of the Ring game which used an area movement system, much like the Age of Reason campaign system.  I decided to go with this map, since thinking ahead, I could also use it for future campaigns culminating in a grand campaign of the entire War of Ring with all the factions.

My next problem was movement.  I needed a way of representing War of the Ring formations on the map so that the opposing forces would meet in an area and force battle.  Ideally I could use a computer application that could scan the Ares game map and then have the forces move on the computer calculating what each formation consisted of.  I still would like to do this eventually, but for the beta I decided to do things the stubby pencil old fashion way on pen and paper (or at least Microsoft Word).

Now for movement, I chose the area map of Middle Earth and figured the maximum movement has to be limited to one area.  We play our games once a month, which was fitting, because I wanted each campaign turn to be one month long in game terms.  Movement on the campaign map would be sequential based on priority.  the Evil side would have priority for turn 1 and then even month when we met for a battle we would roll off for priority just like in WOTR.  Whoever had priority, had the option to pass it to the other side.  The actual movement of formations on the map was done by the payers on each side via email.  The side with priority has one week to email their moves to the other side, and then they have one week to announce their counter moves.  If one side moved into an area with enemy formations, those forces would be pinned and couldn't move a battle would be fought.  The non-priority player could always move forces from an adjacent area to reinforce, but when we played the battle, they would arrive as reinforcements on the turn determined by a D6.  If no forces met in an area, we would move to the next campaign turn and just alternate priority until we had to forces in the same area to fight a battle.

Epic Heroes would have to work differently in strategic movement since they are not tied to any one formation. Standard heroes and Legendary Heroes would of course be with their formations.  Epic Heroes, like in a battle, have more freedom of movement. For the campaign, Epic Heroes can move one area on the map just like formations.  But if an enemy formation moves into an area with an Epic Hero and that Hero has not move, they can perform an “Evade Move” to an adjacent friendly or unoccupied area.  This allows Epic Heroes to escape if they are alone in an area and an entire enemy army moves in.  They can run away to fight another day.  But if there is a friendly formation is in the area, the Epic Hero can still Evade Move, but loses one point of Courage for the rest of the campaign for abandoning their friends.

So now the force composition.  When I did the Napoleonic campaign, the strategic game came with counters that had historical units in brigade size formations.  You moved the counters on the hex grid and when two opposing forces were in adjacent hexes, you fought a battle on the tabletop.  Now I already decided that using points was cheesy, so I decided to come up with army lists for Rohan and Isengard, based on Tolkien's writing and the plethora of research done by Tolkien scholars on the respective army compositions.  For example, we all know that Isengard had 10,000 troops at Helm's Deep that consisted of Orcs, Uruks, Dunlendings, wolves, etc.  Based on some research, the garrison at the Hornburg was 1,000 strong and that approximately 1,000 troops arrived to reinforce the garrsion before the siege.  It is also approximated that Erkenbrand had 1,000 troops with him after the Second Battle of the Fords of Isen that game with Gandalf to the relief of the Hornburg.  Using this I looked at the army lists in the rulebook and also the models I had and my group had. I decided to "bathtub" the army lists to make it playable on a game table and realistically affordable in terms of money and time spent on collecting and painting the needed models.  What I came up with was a 1:40 model to troop ratio so Isengard's army at Helm's Deep would be 250 models and the Rohan garrison would be 50 models with an additional twelve models riding with Erkebrand to the relief (For games, I count cavalry as two models; horse and rider).  And yes, I went with both Bakshi's and Jackson's film version having cavalry coming to the rescue, unlike the book in which it was all infantry.

Tolkein wrote extensively on the first and second battles of the Fords of Isen which can be found in the Unfinished Tales.  This is excellent source material because unlike The Silmarillian, the text is not edited by Christopher Tolkein, but rather footnoted.  In the text, we learn Theodred led a company of horse accompanied by a company of archers to investigate reports of Saruman massing an army at Isengard leaving Grimbold to guard the west bank of the Isen and herders (Oathsworn Militia?) to guard the east bank.  Scholars approximate that a Rohan eored would have 120 riders (6 x horse and rider models) and a company would be 2 x eoreds (See the Annals of Arda for a breakdown of the Rohan military organization).  This means that each formation lead by a Marshal of the Riddermark would have twelve models.

Another factor when looking at a campaign is standardizing formation sizes.  The standard boxes that were released with War of the Ring were 24 infantry and six cavalry models.  But with the Hope is Lost rule, which eliminates the last company in a formation when it is depleted to half strength, you could not have formations of just one company.  But real world economics come into play, particularly since the infantry boxes are now 10-12 figures and the time needed to invest to assemble and paint an army.  A standard convention with many WOTR players is that common formations of infantry needed to be at least four companies in order to absorb hits from cavalry, monsters, and magic.  This worked economically since most common infantry units were available in plastic.  For legendary and rare formations, which are more elite troops, you could realistically afford, at least financially, to field two infantry companies.  Cavalry worked out better since there are six plastic models in a box and depending on their wargear, you could field three to six companies.  The more rare or elite cavalry are metal so you could field two to three companies.

So using these factors, I decided that your standard infantry formation (Oathsworn Militia, Orcs, Uruks, etc) would be four companies and the more elite or rare metal formations (Royal Guard) would be two companies.  For cavalry, the standard formation would be three companies for Evil and three-six for Good, since larger Good cavalry balances out Evil’s general superiority in magic and monsters in the game.  There would of course be exceptions based on limits of how many companies in can be in rare formations such as one company formations of Uruk-Hai Beserkers, but now I had a standard default.

So using all of this I decided that I needed to have a base number of points for each side.  I figured that at the three major battles, First and Second Fords of Isen and Helm's Deep, Rohan  had a total of 8,000 and Isengard had a total of 12,000 (including Dunland allies).  I added up all of the Good forces I thought Rohan had available whern Isengard invaded using the 1:40 ratio and then added a Fangorn force with Treebeard, Quickbeam, Beechbone, and five ents.
The final factor is once forces move into an area, how do you fight a battle or?  For two large forces you fight a standard War of the Ring game, eight turns on with pre-determined terrain for each area.  If there were only two formations on a side, instead of a War of the Ring game, a Strategy Battle Game would be played.   This way you would avoid have WOTR games of just one formation per side, which would be quite boring, but an SBG game of 16-32 figures per side, which would be quite interesting.  You have to use the “One Book” hardbound rules form 2009 as you wouldn’t be able to have warbands of twelve models and one leader.

In essence this is the premise for the beta version of this campaign; strategic movement on a map, set army lists, and the ability for a skirmish, field battle or siege.