I started writing this entry wanting more to post a few pictures from the game I played of the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle game back on April first. It turns out I had such an awesome time gaming with friends I hadn’t seen in quite a while (across the gaming board, anyway), and I had a revelation from gaming that night: that all my enthusiasm and attention towards GW’s War of the Ring game does not diminish at all the excellence of the Lord of the Rings SBG. I was hoping to keep this entry brief, filling it mostly with photos; but as I went through, choosing which pictures to upload, I realised this deserved to be more of a battle report. So there’s my apology for the lengthiness of today’s entry.
With that said, some back story might be in order: since War of the Ring’s release at the end of spring in 2009, I’ve pretty much written off Games Workshop’s Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game. The last twelve months have seen me focusing most of my painting time on my War of the Ring army, my gaming time had me playing 40k more than anything else and my spare time–when life, family and work obligations haven’t preempted it–has been put mostly into planning and running various tournaments and store events.
Therefore, a small amount of trepidation accompanied my agreeing to play Lord of the Rings with my friends who were coming to town on the Easter weekend; I hadn’t played–or even thought about–the game in so long. The big surprise for me was that I totally forgot how much I love the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game!
A couple of days before, I did my best to hobble together some semblance of an Angmar army–I’ll explain: I dug through my 2000-point War of the Ring Angmar army and made up my 800-point Angmar force while consulting my Ruin of Arnor sourcebook. The first thing I noticed was that, unlike most the armies found in both Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game and the War of the Ring Mass Combat game, there’s not a very good crossover for Angmar between the two systems. I was totally banking on using my Men of Angmar (who, in War of the Ring, have the very handy Berserk skill) and my Spirit Hosts–neither exist in the Lord of the Rings game!
Quickly my War of the Ring army, intentionally built as a representational mish-mash of Angmar’s inhabitants (evil men, wild Wargs, bat swarms, hill trolls, corrupted spirits, Barrow Wights and the ever-ubiquitous orcs), turned into mostly just an Orc army lead by the Witch King and backed up by some wargs, trolls and Burhdur, the troll chieftan. I also worked in a single Spectre just for kicks.
My friends assembled their joint army composed of Men of Minas Tirith and Elves of Loth Lorien–and actually outnumbered me! It never feels like a good thing when your horde army is outnumbered by your opponent’s elite-skills army; and I started the night very much hoping I would play as well as I needed to, considering my friends also supplied the evening with a generous amount of wine. I knew it was going to be quite a night.
We rolled the “Ill Met by Moonlight” scenario which, as it turns out, does a lot of favours for my army: its rule of low visibility (no shooting at targets more than 12″ away) and its split deployment (half your force in the table center, the other half on your table edge) means my army doesn’t have to walk across the table braving arrow fire like Middle Earth’s best rendition of the first day on the Somme. My being outnumbered suddenly seemed a little less daunting.
Another lucky chance: the Forces of Good won the die roll for choosing table edge…and first deployment. The scenario demands both armies split their forces in two, deploying the lower-model-count contingent in the table center and the remainder on that side’s table edge, so I would be able to really react effectively to my opponents’ set up. After the Forces of Good finished their deployment, I deployed my two contingents–with Buhrdur, the Troll Chieftan, and his two Cave Troll followers setting up at the barrow mound in the table’s center (a scant few inches from the Men and Elves lurking on the other side of the mound). In the War of the Ring game, Buhrdur’s rules let him set up as an ambusher–meaning he’s deployed secretly and revealed in any turn after the first one; though that rules doesn’t exist at all in the SBG, I thought it fitting that he deployed in the center, ready to pounce from behind the cluster of barrow stones.
The Game’s First Half
Turn one saw us hammer out details for the effects of Galadriel’s “Blinding Light” spell in regards to the scenario’s shooting limitations (we decided all within 12″ of her could shoot as though it was daylight without penalty, but it went both ways: I could target anyone within 12″ of her without penalty as well…except, as per the spell’s effects, I would need sixes to hit the spell castor or anyone within 6 inches of her).
While I did manage to draw first blood, the first couple turns saw us jockeying for position and readying for my three trolls to crash into the ranks of men and elves. But by turns three and four, it became apparent that the elf and human archers at the back edge would be better served rushing to the table center and using their hand weapons in favour of their bows.
At the same time, I was coming to the same conclusion about my forces–especially because I had ignored my brain and played my orc archers like a grade ‘A’ moron: each turn I moved them half distance, hoping to use their bows…forgetting (for three turns in a row!) that I was either:
- out of volley-fire range of Galdriel (who was the only enemy I could see plain as day)
- beyond the 12-inch maximum night-time-shooting range of the few enemy models I could see
- or, by turns three and four, I couldn’t draw line of sight to Galadriel for direct fire, and she was too close for me to volley fire.
After finally coming to my senses, I rushed all my archers and all the warriors deployed at my table edge towards the scrum in the center of the board. Also in these two turns, my wine-plying opponents began to realise just how incredibly effective the Paralysis ability of the Barrow Wight could be: I paralyzed a couple of their models in key positions and kept the Forces of Good from being able to use their numbers in the table center to surround my few heavy hitters there. (What makes a Wight’s paralysis so terrible is that it’s an ability, not a spell, and the affected model cannot recover from the paralysis unless other friendlies spend time helping snap him out of it…and “snapping them out of it” is only successful if the model attempting it rolls a six on a single die–while several models can attempt this, the actual paralyzed model cannot.) The fight in the center was in no way a one-sided affair; both our forces were struggling to gain the upper hand, and I felt like it was only a matter of time until I lost the small advantage I had.
Galadriel’s spells were doing a lot to stall progress on my side: my trolls were unable to turn back her dweomers, resulting in one of them being rooted to the spot, merely drooling each turn. I was stuck in a fight of attrition where I had power on my side but no numbers; my opponents had numbers, skill and magic–and the archers that had just decimated my flanking forces of orcs and wargs were now closing in on the fray in the middle! I had no choice but to act more decisively with my army’s heavy hitter: the Witch King of Angmar! I brought him to the forefront with hopes of spurring his army on and casting some spells to speed up the trolls’ slow progress.
Thanks to some botched rolls, the Witch King did nothing except get shot by Legolas, losing him two Fate points (thanks to some more botched rolls); and thanks to another botched roll, I lost Priority, quickly resulting in the Witch King getting surrounded by Citadel Guard and Lorien Elves. Things suddenly went from me being in a battle of attrition to my army now being on the brink of disaster: I was facing the possibility of losing my army’s strategic lynch-pin…who also happened to be its leader.
Luck was on my side, however; surprisingly good archery rolls resulted in my killing just enough Lorien Elves to keep the Witch King from being surrounded and trapped in his fight should he lose it. With high hopes and tensions, we resolved this pivotal confrontation…with no discernible effect. Much to my relief (and my opponents’ chagrin), the Witch King survived unscathed. With that, the Nazgul lord made good his escape–as much as he could, anyway–and flew off to the other side of the barrow mound at the center of the table. The escape was narrow: the Nazgul lord was forced to expend Might and call a heroic move to avoid being hemmed into another combat.
The Game’s Last Half
Legolas, the Citadel Guards and the Lorien elves, having now acquired the taste for Ring-Wraith blood, pursued the Witch King, following up and across the barrow mound. The center troops still held up the trolls–and even pushed them back! (Though it should be noted that part of my giving up ground was done to create gaps so my orcs could get stuck in to the fight.) My Spectre, now vanquished, succeeded in holding up Good’s advance long enough for my orc warriors to pour into the forest; and my Barrow Wight continued to be a monumental nuisance, having never missed a single dice roll to paralyze an opponent–and not a single enemy model had recovered from its paralysis yet either! I would soon start killing my helpless foes…after I let them burden their armies a little longer.
The Witch King aimed to do what he could to affect the fights in the center area and decided to ignore the pursuing elves for a turn or two. I was trying to slow Good’s reinforcement of their center–or at least dilute their distribution. With my orcs now in the fray and the barrow mound’s difficult terrain status slowing all the elves moving across it, I was now less worried about being outnumbered and more concerned about the Forces of Good getting a string of lucky dice rolls. At the moment, I effectively out-powered and outnumbered the Humans and Elves. I intended to capitalize on that advantage before anything could change.
Tragedy! Before the Witch King could do much of anything, the elves called a heroic shoot and though the rank-and-file archers (if any elf could be called “rank and file”) accomplished nothing, Legolas succeeded in slaying the Witch King with a well-placed Deadly Shot! Instantly the miasma of Terror lifted from the troops in the center–the Witch King, being dead meant that no longer were all enemy models nearby penalized with a -1 Courage. The pendulum swung towards the Forces of Good.
From here, the Forces of Good poured on the pressure. With the Witch King no longer a threat, Galadriel could focus on Buhrdur, who, with no Will points remaining was an easy target for Galadriel’s Transfix spell (which would now keep him from taking part in the game until its conclusion). Elves were now across the barrow mound, dodging and shrugging off the feeble shots by the Angmarim orc archers. In one turn I went from having the upper hand and outnumbering my enemies to being outnumbered, leaderless and on the verge of being flanked. I had no more tricks up my sleeve–apart from my Barrow Wight….and he was on his last Will point. The only thing going for me was that I had sustained less casualties than the Forces of good had (I was sure that was about to change though).
The end of Turn seven and start of Turn eight painted a bleak picture for my army; certainly with the amount of troops engaging my trolls, I figured I was on the path to defeat. What I had failed to remember was that this is a dice game…and the dice gods were smiling upon what was left of my force. In a dramatic unforeseen turnaround, in that turn’s series of combats I managed to destroy a plethora of enemy models. What was better for me was that they were now past their breaking point.
There was still one last hurrah for the Forces of Good. Burdhur was again Transfixed and I was losing my ability to mitigate this by throwing more troops into the fray; my archers were proving ineffectual against the elves on the barrow mound. Also, my Barrow Wight had used the last of his Will points–though true to his performance over the whole game, he successfully paralyzed yet another model.
But one combat round of awesome dice rolls didn’t do enough, and my luck continued to slide. By Turn Nine, Buhdur was slain. The troll chieftan didn’t even see it coming: he was finally brought down after being forced to fight whilst (yet again) Transfixed by Galadriel. Added to that were a few more orc casualties; the forces of Angmar had finally been pushed past its breaking point for the start of Turn Ten.
No matter which Games Workshop game I play, I seem to stay away from the armies with excellent leadership–the exception being my Eldar army (though, to be fair, a large portion of that army is made up of Guardians). Suffice it to say I’m used to lackluster leadership and courage rolls for my army. So it should come as no surprise that my needing to roll ‘eights’ to pass a Courage test (and thus, now with my army below its breaking point, avoid having orcs flee the field) had no impact on me–I’m used to needing good rolls, and usually, I do pretty okay.
Not this time.
The start of Turn Ten saw almost half my remaining army flee the board (I think it was ten or eleven orcs that fled). The only consolation for me was that the enemy standard bearers and Legolas fled as well. Turn Ten was, according to my opponents, the last chance the Elves and Men had to gain their victory; that my army banner and almost every single orc archer fled made me feel their victory was that much more attainable. At least my cave trolls had decided to stay. The remaining Citadel Guard and Lorien Elves formed up defensively around Galadriel and prepared to sell their lives at a dear cost. Turn Ten saw only a little carnage. Turn Eleven would prove more telling.
Turn Eleven saw me win Priority–and saw more orcs flee. Thankfully, the cave trolls and Barrow Wight remained! That said, my numbers were low enough that I was considering just conceding at that point. With my movement done, it was time for the Forces of Good to roll their break tests. As always with this test, heroes roll first, as their success can be applied to all models within six inches of them. So it was that Galadriel, with her Courage value of seven, who could only fail on a roll of double ones, did just that: rolled double ones avoid fleeing the battlefield! What’s worse, with no Might left to influence her dice rolls, Galadriel had to take her snake-eyes roll at face value and leave the table as a casualty.
So with Galadriel’s hasty exit, it was my opponents who conceded the game, believing the most they could hope for was for me to fail more break tests in Turn Twelve. And with that, the game came to a close. The Forces of Angmar claimed a victory over the Free Peoples, but it was a victory with a huge cost.
For the Forces of Good: I would have to say that Legolas and Galadriel best earned their keep. At every point Galadriel was casting spells to even Good’s chances–and Legolas did take down te Witch King!
For me, I should say that most valuable Angmar models were the trolls, but really it was the Barrow Wight and the psychological damage he inflicted on my opponents. Yes, the trolls inflicted some real damage; my friends were prepared for that (they weren’t even phased by the prospect of three trolls). But they were totally caught off guard by how effective the Wight turned out to be, and the Spectre helped make it feel like the Wight was that much worse.
I’m sure I had more post-game thoughts and revelations; we certainly talked about the battle for another hour or so after the game–and polished off another bottle of wine doing so! (Probably the reason why I can’t remember much of my post-game thoughts.)