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.