This area of the website is my hobby blog, it contains articles about games that I have enjoyed playing together with paining and model making articles.
A wargame using the fourth (‘One Rule Book’) version of Games Workshop’s Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, depicting an imagination of the seizing back of the Corsair port of Umbar from the last remaining forces of the dark lord Sauron’s army.
King Aragorn, Elessar, sovereign of the Reunited Kingdom of Gondor and Arnor, leads a mighty host southwards. Riding with him are his friends and allies from all the fair races of Middle-Earth – Elves, led by Prince Legolas of Ithilien; Dwarves, led by Prince Gimli of Aglarond; his kinsman and loyal Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth; King Eomer of Rohan, and two diminutive but brave Hobbits of the Shire, Knights of Rohan and Gondor. Borne by land and sea, the host has besieged the walled city-port of Umbar and prepared an escalade from the water and against the outer walls. Inside the city, the galley slaves – some of whom hail from the very lands now marching to liberate them – stand ready to rise up against their oppressors.
Facing them are the dregs of Mordor, the remnants of Harad and Rhun, the surviving Corsairs. Even trolls and half-trolls, their loyalty firm through dark magicks and habit, defend this last bastion of darkness. The Sultan of Umbar, the Fleet Lord of the Corsairs and other fell Men are torn between the desire to flee by sea to a new lair or to hold firm and fight, leaving behind tears in the camps of their enemies and songs of their great stand.
It was early in the Fourth Age, when the free and newly-liberated peoples of Middle-Earth set out to reclaim lands long lost to the forces of the dark lord Sauron. One such domain was the port of Umbar, far to the south of Gondor, that had once been a thriving possession of the mighty kingdom of men. As the realm faded, so evil crept in and for long has Umbar been a port rules by bandits and pirates. The infamous Corsairs have ravaged Gondor’s coastline for centuries until their demise at Pelargir in the last days of the Third Age but now the port is but a last desperate refuge for the minions of Sauron as they await their fate.
Nemesis approaches in the form of Aragorn, King Elessar, ruler of the reunited kingdom of Arnor and Gondor, come to bring this former jewel into the kingdom once more. Riding with him is King Eomer, ruler of Rohan and staunch friend and ally. Lending their support are Prince Legolas of Ithilien and Prince Gimli of Aglarond, once more competing in martial competition. A combined assault on the fortified port has been planned, with boats full of warriors crashing through the harbour entrance and a formal escalade over the city walls at the same time. A third front is planned with the revolt of galley slaves from their compound in the ruined Old City, still recognisable as Gondorian architecture amongst the sandstone dwellings of the Corsairs, aided by Swan Knights from Dol Amroth breaching the compound walls.
The defenders are a rag-tag bunch – survivors of the battles for Minas Tirith and Cair Andros, refugees from Mordor, bodyguards for fat sultans who sent others to do their bidding. With the troops having nowhere to run they prepare to sell their lives dearly, while rich merchants ready a large ship to break the blockade and flee.
The game started with ramps crashing down on the city walls and troops pouring onto the battlements. At the same time the fleet of boats made its way into the harbour. Two boats contained Dwarves, the speed of the rowers compensating for their short legs. Elves manned another craft, Legolas standing proud in the bow with his longbow and confident of outscoring Gimli, who needed a box to see over the hull! The final craft contained Aragorn himself, leading from the front as ever. No fool, his boat had a large crossbow in the bows to clear a path. Across the siege tower ramps Rohirrim and more Elves surged forward, with the gates breached by a mighty ram and ladders permitting more access to the walls.
The port was ever ready for a counter-attack, with high walls around the city and stretching out into the harbour. Orcs crewed Siege Bows in the towers, able to shoot massive bolts into man or vessel alike. Half Trolls and elite Haradrim warriors awaited the invasion on the jetties while Easterlings stiffened the line with their heavy armour and long spears. Ominously the dock managers had released cave and Mordor trolls from their usual duties of loading ships. With some clad in armour these brutes also awaited the forces of Light.
One Dwarves craft turned aside in order to clear the long breakwater but the other three vessels raced for the jetties. Prince Imrahil led his knights into the city, fending off rapidly-mobilising defenders but the ill-equipped galley slaves struggled against shieldwalls of Easterlings. Cave trolls guarded the shattered gates while heroes from Rohan and Ithilien strove to force them back. There were archers in profusion, with the Elves having accuracy and punch while Evil had the mighty Siege bows and poisoned tips. Those troops not engaged in hand-to-hand combat exchanged missiles and thinned the ranks of the reserves.
As is often the case, siege ladders proved more dangerous to those ascending than the defenders but progress was made from the ramp of the tower. The Dwarves were the first ashore and ran into the half-trolls with their multiple attacks and great strength. Gimli was soon beset but he loved being outnumbered. He was losing his combat score against Legolas when the latter was specifically-targeted by a visiting young general who disliked Elven princelings and shot everything he had at him! Fare well, Prince of the Woodland Realm.
The fiefdom troops continued to beat back all opposition, even as the slaves were pegged back, and Evil started to pull back deeper into the city. The surviving Elves intercepted the merchant ship before it could escape and cleared the main wharf of Corsairs. A vicious battle for the narrow bridge was won by Elrond’s sons but at a cost in time. Aragorn won his fights but the jetty was so congested that again progress was slow. The sun set and the battle ended with an inconclusive result on both walls and jetties, but the incursion of Prince Imrahil and the greater prowess of the great Heroes of the West would surely have prevailed.
Terrain is built using 12" square modular terrain boards using kits from Sally 4thTerra-Former Range
The Sultans Palace & surrounding Souks are from Exotic Locations Range
The Middle Eastern Style Buildings are from Outremer Range
Siege Towers, Battering Rams & Siege Ladders from Sally 4th Siege Range
On Monday, Doug and I played the 4th scenario in our Lord of the Rings narrative campaign.
This is based on the Games Workshop Fellowship of the Ring Campaign book. This was a great publication, now sadly out of print that combined scenarios based on events from one of the films with some great painting and modelling articles to help you construct the terrain for the game.
Strictly speaking, the Fog on the Barrow Downs scenario is based on events from the Fellowship of the Ring book rather than the film, as I don't believe that the Barrow Downs and Tom Bombadil ever made it into the movie.
The four hobbits are lost (again) stunling around in the fog on the edge of the Old Forest where the lands open up into rolling hillside and valleys where the cold grey stone of ancient barrows mark the landscape. The good player fields Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin with the hope that Tom Bombadil will apear on a D6 roll of 6. The evil player fields four barrow wights who start in base contact with there respective barrow. As usual we played the scenario twice, both taking turns to play good and evil. In the first play through I played the luck less hobbits.
Evil won the first priority roll, and of course the wights moved 6" and the hobbits 4" so they soon caught up with the hobbits, initially focussing on Frodo. For evil to win they had to either kill Frodo or paralyse any two hobbits, drag them back to there barrows and sacrafice them in there evil ritual.
Once the first wight had paralysed Frodo the rest of the hobbits headed pack to attempt to resue him. If a hobbit started there turn within 6" of a wight they could roll a D6 and on a 6, the alarm would be raised and Tom Bombadil would come to there assistance. We must have rolled over a dozen times during the game and that '6' just was no where to be found.
While the barrow wights are within 6" of there barrows they can expend a point of 'Will' for free which is very useful for casting paralyse spells.
The hobbits put up a brave fight, on a number of occasions they charge the wights (they need to pass a courage test to do this), they even win the melee when they manage to get two hobbits fighting a single wight, but fail to do any damage as the relative difference between there strength of the hobbits (2) and the defence of the wights (7) meant that they then needed a 6 followed by a 4+ to wound... which was a big ask and just did not happen either.
Once the wights had dragged there victims to there barrows they needed to roll a 4+ to sacrifice them. On the last turn, 3 hobbits were paralysed and the wights managed to sacrifice two of them for an evil victory.
When we swapped sides and I played evil, a similar result was obtained, although at a different barrow with a different mix of victims.
The game was fun to play, and looked good but the scenario was very difficult for the good player to win if Tom Bombadil did not turn up to help the hobbits.
Over the last couple of weeks I have been making some new trees for my terrain collection and I got them finished just in time for this game. The trunks are 3D printed from a design by Printable Scenery. Once they have been painted foliage was added made by spraying some rubberised horse hair with brown paint and then gluing some Woodland Scenic foliage on top off it.
The terrain boards are made using Sally 4th Terra-Former kits. These are kits with standard profiles for hills, roads, rivers, streams etc that build 12" square modular terrain tiles with embedded rare earth magnets to hold them together.
Battle of the Pelennor Fields – Lord of the Rings SBG (Games Workshop’s the ‘One Rule Book’) at Horde Games in Harrogate, Saturday December 15th 2018.
Just before Christmas, Doug borrowed 16' of Sally 4th Castle towers and walls plus an assortment of staircases, battering rams, siege towers, ladders and wheeled siege ladders and headed of for Horde Games in Harrogate to put on a Games Workshop - Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, of epic proportions. Doug has kindly written up the days events and supplied us with some great looking photos.
I’ve loved The Lord of the Rings for decades, and the passage where Tolkien describes the timely arrival of the Horse Lords, the cavalry of Rohan, to the relief of the city-fortress of Minas Tirith is my favourite piece of literature ever – “Rohan had come at last”. Being a wargamer this is, of course, something to recreate on the tabletop and I’ve fought BoPF a few times. It has a bit of everything – spectacle (an escalade against a fortification is always lovely to view, especially in 28mm scale), size (about a thousand figures in this one), variation in troop types (everything from Hobbits to Mumakil via assorted Trolls, Fell Beasts, a Dwarf, Elves, cavalry and infantry, with siege towers and ladders too) and of course theme – Gandalf holding the gate, Aragorn leading the Grey Company from the Port of Harlond, the Rohirrim streaming across the plains to relieve the garrison, the Serpent Lord racing to meet him, the Nazgul circling and driving forth their minions, Orcs and Men battling across ramps and ladders, with the fate of Midde-Earth resting on the outcome. It cries out for multiple players, two teams with their own objectives and a theoretical idea of co-operation but where helping one’s neighbour isn’t always a given, when there are so many threats on the tabletop!
This latest game was hosted by Horde Games at their gaming shop in Starbeck, Harrogate. A 12 foot long table, some five feet deep, provided the ground. Sally4th supplied the curtain wall of Minas Tirith, with assorted heights and depths of wall, interspersed with towers. We went with what was immediately to hand rather than the White City range and had two bastions alongside the gate, as well as tall towers looking down upon the attackers and their ram. Ten siege towers from Games Workshop and Sally4th plus assorted wheeled and portable ladders from the latter allowed the forces of Mordor to try and scale the walls. The gates were assumed to have been breached, with Trolls leading the charge through the choke point but the relief forces were available immediately, from each corner to the rear of the escalade.
The siege towers were loaded up, with Morannon and Mordor Orcs crewing some, Easterlings others and Haradrim and Mordor Uruk-Hai making up the ten. Despite the risk, ladders were also used to support the towers since only a handful of Warriors and Heroes could attack at a time. The narrow ramps meant attack frontage of two or three, backed up by spears or pikes where possible, but they were met by prepared defenders who - on the deeper wall sections – could also set up spear supports. A house rule meant that two figures could scale the Sally4th wheeled ladders side by side and they were too stable to be pushed down. A Mordor Troll led the gate surge, with other Trolls, Orcs and a Nazgul in support.
Turn one saw Good win Priority. They merely shuffled about since all most could do was to await Evil’s moves. Of course the massed ranks of Rohan cavalry swept forward, although archers merged into blocks of ten or more to allow for Volleys of archery. The Grey Company were close enough for normal shooting but the close combat figures pressed forward – with so many heroes in their ranks it was essential that they struck soon. Evil responded by swarming up the ladders and charging across the ramps, engaging Good models wherever they could. The Mordor Troll had been Transfixed by Gandalf so stood there drooling and blocking the gate, but the Nazgul forced Gandalf to lose some of his Will store to counter a spell. The Mumakil and other reserves chose to await further developments.
Shooting removed a few Evil figures, mostly among those loitering at the bottom of ladders but also from spear and pike supports. Return shots did little although a Troll was winged by an Avenger bolt and Volley shots from massed ranks of Rohirrim scattered amongst the Mumakil.
In close combat the danger of fighting from a ladder became very apparent as a number of the forces of darkness plunged to their deaths after falling. Assaults across the siege tower ramps were of mixed effectiveness, with Heroes largely cancelling each other out, but the first gaps in the ranks started to appear.
The second turn was much the same as the first, with Rohan and the grey Company closing on the enemy reserves, although each also broke off detachments to move towards the nearest siege towers too. The Troll was once more Transfixed but this time Imrahil charged into combat. Gandalf lost two more Will from the Nazgul’s spell.
Archery whittled down banner guards and more second-echelon troops from Evil’s ranks but the stout battlements saved many a Good warrior from harm. Pippin tried to join in with thrown stones from above the gate but received a Troll-thrown boulder in reply which killed him outright!
In combat Imrahil inflicted a single Wound on the Mordor Troll in the gateway but otherwise it was the familiar see-saw battle on ladders and siege towers which inevitably favoured the defenders.
Turn three saw Rohan closing on the outer ranks of the Harad cavalry, with veteran Redshelds leading the charge but Harad Heroes and banners were snarled up in rear ranks and thus ineffective. The Mumakil were starting to make their presence felt, poisonous arrows arcing down from the howdahs and the Commanders trying to line up their mounts behind the mob of horsemen. The Mordor Troll at the gate was transfixed once more (at least it prevented a breakout!) but the Nazgul rolled a less-than-impressive 1,1,2 against Gandalf.
Once more Shooting killed odd figures and then there was more close combat at the battlements and amongst the cavalry, Unsurprisingly Rohan fared well against their lighter-equipped and less skilful foes but Suladan, leading the Haradrim, bested Theoden in single combat and the Witch King atop his Fell beast was lurking nearby. Gaps were starting to appear on some wall sections, allowing follow-up forces to clamber across and start to attack towers from inside. On the other hand, some siege towers had been so denuded of troops that counter-attacks were made onto the wooden towers in order to block reinforcements and strike down the valuable banners on the top decks.
The game ran out of time just as the leading edge of the Grey Company was charged by Easterling and Khandish cavalry and forward elements of Rohan reached the siege towers. Some Evil troops had captured battlement steps and were rushing into the city proper but at least one siege towers was in imminent danger of being overrun completely. Next time…
The game was played close to Christmas, with lots of distractions, and on a day that had some of the foulest weather possible. Players were at a premium but of course we want to try it again soon so plans are being laid for another visit to the Pelennor Fields with a similar layout and hopefully more players to attack or defend the White City.
A few weeks ago Nick & I decided to revisit Games Workshops, Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle. This is a game that has gone through a lot of different versions, I am playing with the original version 'The One Rule book', Nick has the very latest copy, but at the end of the day it still boils down to you both roll a D6, highest roll wins, if a tie highest fight value wins, is still a tie, enie-minie-minie-mo! A simple and fun game, as long as you don't take it to seriously.
Our plan is to start at the beginning of the story, and work our way through the scenarios starting with the Fellowship journey book. As many of the scenarios are a bit unbalance, we are playing through twice so we both get to play both sides.
The minatures are all original releases, brought and painted up when first released 12-15 years ago. At that time I was running a games store, so had made all of the special scenery pieces that the scenarios required. I have however taken the opportunity to freshen them up a bit. I know use 'Lukes Apps - Geek Gaming' scenic materials as my default choice, they just win hands down on range and quality. The terrain boards are all based on 12" square Terra-Former modular terrain tiles. These are kits to build frames with consistant profiles for hills, streams, roads, rivers, canals, cliffs etc and encorporate strong rare earth magnets for perfect alignment and to stop terrain drifting apart mid game.
The first two scenarios in the Fellowship Journey book feature the Dunadain, Rangers of the North defending the borders of The Shire from the Nazgul who have been dispatched to search for 'Baggins'.
This was an interesting match, the Nazgul are fielded in there weakest state, so 7 Will but no might or fate. Each time that they cast a magical ability or fight a round of combat they lose a point of Will and when they get to zero Will they dissapear as the magical energy that holds them together is spent. This means that the evil player needs to make careful decisions about which abilities to use.
The Dunadain, on the other hand are pretty handy with a bow and arrow, but it's low strength combined with the Nazhuls high defence means that you need to roll a 6 followed by another 5 or 6 to actually cause a wound, however if you can get enough shots off you only need to cause a single wound.
Both of the Dunadain vs Nazgul scenarios had victory conditions based on the number of Nazgul that can cross the table and exit opposite side, to head for the Shire. We played both scenarios twice and two were won by Evil and two by Good.
Flight from the Shire
The first scenario that features characcters from the fellowship is based on 3 frightened hobbits assisted by Gildor, an elven hero evading the attention of 3 Nazgul on foot. For the fellowshop to win, Frodo needs to exit far side of the table.
The hobbits set up in contact with the hedge. One Nazgul sets up behind them, center of table and two Nazgul set up at the center of each side. Gildor set up centre of far side of table.
The three hobbits are lost and afraid so at the start of the game they have to pass a courage check to activate.
The Nazgul do not know where the hobbits are, so they are subject to the sentries rule until they get close enough to sniff the hobbits out.
Gildor takes a shortcut through the forest to come to the hobbits aid. As he is a 'woodland creature' the difficult terrain does not slow him down.
Eventually all 3 Nazgul get on the scent and close in on the hobbits.
In one of the games, Frodo slips out of there clutches and makes a bid for freedom, while Gildor holds the Nazgul at bay.
This scenario was played twice with one victory to good and another to Evil.
Over the last few weeks, Jack and I have been playing Battle Companies during our lunch break.
In Battle Companies you start off with a handful of rank and file miniatures which you develop over a number of games. I have been playing Arnor and have 4 Warriors of Arnor and three Rangers in my Battle Company. Jack has been playing Isengard and fields five Uruk Hai.
Today’s scenario was called 'Heirlooms of Ages Past'. We placed an objective counter in each table quarter. These represented potential sites for buried treasure.. One of them had an 'X' on the bottom that indicated that it was the actual treasure. We set up using the 'Maelstrom' set up rules. We took turns nominating a model and rolling a D6. On a 1 the miniature had not arrived yet and would roll for entry on subsequent turns. On a 6 the player can choose where to deploy the model. On a 2-5 the figure is deployed in the table quarter that matches the 2-5 dice markers that can be seen in the photograph above.
I deployed my Ranger leader and lieutenant last. Luckily they got to deploy in a good defensible position close to a potential treasure site.
Luck was definitely with the forces of good today. Arnor won the priority roll, my leader moved up to check the potential treasure site and it was indeed the treasure.
In Isengard's first turn, Jacks Uruk's charge the two warriors of Arnor and the Ranger, but the fight ends with no wounds caused.
One of the good features of 'Battle Companies' is that it can be played in a small space with minimal investment in miniatures. This is our gaming area at work. We have four Sally 4th Terra-Former blocks that we have modelled as cliffs and caves and this provides a compact 2' square gaming area that can be rearranged into different configurations. Each board has eight embedded rare earth magnets to hold the boards tightly together and prevent 'continental drift' mid-game. Click here to find out more about Terra-Former terrain.
Eventually, after a few hard fought combats, weight of numbers lead to Arnor gaining the advantage and fighting with supporting spearmen.
Eventually the Uruk leader is cornered and brought down and the last Uruk fails his courage test and flees leaving Arnor in possession of the field of battle and the treasure. Both sides gain experience for enemies defeated in combat. When a model has defeated five enemy (over a number of games), they become eligible for an upgrade. Arnor also gained 6 Gold pieces (the campaign currency), three for winning a game and a bonus three from the buried treasure.
On April 1st I attended a GBHL tournament in Ripon called “Of Dice and Men”. There were 20 people attended the event using the same scenarios as the Grand Tournament. However the catch with “Of Dice and Men” was that the warbands increased to 24 warriors per warband, monsters limited to one for every 10 warriors and everyone got a free Alfred from the old rulebook.
My army for the weekend was that of Spiders. I took Druzhag, Ashrak, Shelob and the Spider Queen leading 26 venombacks, 2 Mirkwood spiders and batswarm.
For my first game I played Louis Aplin and his Dwarf army led by Thrain for a game of domination.
With the Deployment set it looked like the Spiders were greatly outnumbered. Luckily due to the heavy density of terrain on the board, I was able to make use of the bottlenecks to stop the spiders getting swarmed by dwarfs.
Thrain led the charge to try and secure the centre point from Shelob. However she got enraged by Druzhag and killed Thrain and held back the dwarfs. While the spider queen and some helping spiders came from behind the dwarfs line and started to kill them, and the vault wardens also started to suffer from the spiders killing them quickly. However, on the other flank, the dwarfs led by a siege captain were starting to wound the spiders. I was slowly running out of the wound counters I brought to keep track of all the 2 wound models.
As the game drew to an end, the siege captain and his flank of dwarfs reduced in numbers made it to the centre. W hen we worked out the VP’s in turned out to be a draw.
Game 2 was “To the Death” and I played against Matt Weilding and his Isengard army. It was berserkers backed by 2 pikes and crossbows. With a Gollum and the ring.
As it was modified for GT we could deploy anywhere in our half. He set up near the edge of the board and tried to get a few rounds of shooting off and killed a few spiders.
When the spiders met the Uruks they unfortunately did not last long, however an enraged Shelob managed to get a 12” hurl off and threw him through the mob of Uruks forming around the poor spiders. Luckily I had a lot of prone markers as many were hit but failed to kill many of them. The low defence of the Spiders meant his 4-attack line was able to beat me. I ended up losing my second game. The Spiders First outing wasn’t going to plan.
My 3rd Game was against JT. He had a Mordor list led by the mouth of Sauron and 3 Orc Siege Bows. The scenario was Hold Ground, which meant maelstrom deployment.
Luckily for me I managed to deploy my army close and in cover of the siege bows, except Shelob who deployed on the other side and had to walk across the board to meet the army.
My first priority was the to kill the siege bows and then try to secure middle. After the first bow fell I sent 4 spiders across the board to hit the second, while my spiders fought a fierce battle to the centre. After managing to break through and get a few spiders to the centre the orcs fell slowly. Shagrat War Leader was heading towards Ashrak (my general) and his 2 spider bodyguards. Luckily as the flanks fell more spiders were coming to the centre.
The Mouth Of Sauron and some orcs trapping him charged one Spider, but somehow he managed to win the fight and kill The Mouth Of Sauron. Meaning that he was broken and the orcs started to flee when courage tests were done.
The game ended and I had more models in the centre and due to protecting my General so I won the game.
So at the End of Day 1, I had 1 win, 1 loss, and a draw.