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.