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.