I met up with my brother Chris and his oldest son Nathaniel to play a game of Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game from Games Workshop. We are using our old Ral Partha figs from when we were kids. Chris recently discovered a cache of them in his basement and I have been bringing them back to life with some washes and paint touch ups. I try to leave some of the original paint jobs on as many of the figs as possible just to keep their integrity and as a sort of homage to our teen and pre-teen efforts of 40 years ago. We cut our gaming teeth on these beauties and it is a blast to (literally) dust them off and put them back into action.
Chris was in a dwarvish mood so I developed a 400 point scenario which depicted an orcish incursion into the region around Erebor sometine between Bilbo's adventure and the start of the War of the Ring. Possibly the Master heard rumor of his ring? We decided we would play 10 turns with the Orcs being caught in the ruins of Dale. It was decided whomever had the most models in the city at game's end would be declared the victor.
The orcs were pretty generic. Their force included a captain and a Banner. 24 out of 35 of them had bows. They also had the benefit of a Mordor troll for a total of 36 models and 402 points.
The dwarves were a mixed lot. About 10 had bows, 8 had two handed mattocks and a dozen or so had shields and hand axes. They were led by Balin and a unit of 5 'Guards'. They also had 36 models and totaled 403 points.
In hindsight, the troll was not a good choice for this force. At 100 points he cost the same as 20 more orcs. Sure, he's tough but he can still only kill one dwarf a turn. In a game where you need to kill guys to force Courage tests, I should have eschewed his brawn for numbers. Truth be told, I just wanted to use the figure and wanted to play to have fun and not build a list with 'winning' in mind. Playing the game with my bro and his son, we were all winners! :-)
So the Evil strategy was to shoot the shorties as much as possible and thin their ranks before closing with them. They are tough little buggers so we wanted to increase our odds in hand to hand without getting in harms way. I had 24 dudes with bows, after all, to his 10. He shot 24" and I shot 18" but as I started in Dale, he had to come to me. I won't go into too many details but I needed a '5' or '6' to hit and a '6' to kill with our orcish bows. (Almost a 1 in 6 chance!) Then dice got involved. Now I don't want it to sound like the Good strategy wasn't sound and well thought out, but I couldn't hit the side of a fucking Barad Dur! There were at least 3 or 4 turns where I had NO kills. None. I killed one guy on the first turn and figgered I'd get one or two anyway so no biggie. By the time they get to me, I'd have whacked 8 or 10 models. Uh.... no. I think I missed every shot the next three turns. Their return fire wasn't much better, especially on Nat's side but they were picking off a couple guys a turn, needing '4's or better to hit and "5's or better to kill.
After several turns of this nonsense, I abandoned that strategy and charged out to meet them but the odds didn't get any better. The little bastards are tough! My odds for hitting in hand to hand were the same and there were no sixes on my dice. The dwarves ground us down, even with our banner allowing us to re-roll attacks within 3" of it. I won as many fights as I lost but just couldn't sever their piano wire strength mortal coils. They would back up and then come back in and hack us with their mattocks. Nat moved forward like a wall of lava brushing aside my feeble defenses and broke into Dale over the northern wall. My troll played his role as a giant fucktard and killed one dwarf the entire game. (Granted, he hid like a troll sized pussy for the first three or four turns because I didn't want him pin cushioned before he had the chance to do his club work.)
So, my strategy(ies) of winning on one side and not losing on the other both failed. At the start of turn 8, I was down to 50% of my forces and started taking Courage tests (Courage score + 2d6) for all my dudes. With a Courage score of 2 and needing a 10 or more to stay in the battle, you can guess how well that went over with my brave orcs. We called it as Evil was utterly defeated. Sauron will learn nothing of his precious ring from this foray. I think I ended up killing a total of 7 dwarfs to a loss of 20 or 21 and 10 more running!
However, on the last roll of the game I whacked one last dwarf and ran off the table shouting "Evil still lurks!"
The quick set up. We decided on no Difficult Terrain just to make things easier and get into the game.
My brave (?) orcs man the walls ready to shoot down the stunties. Unfortunately our commander was confused and ordered them to place the rubber suction cups on their arrows instead of the armor piercing tips. Check out the awesome fountain Chris made in the background.
With a battle cry of 'Is he fucking serious?' my orc battle line advances out of the ruins followed bravely by their captain and standard bearer.
This is where I intended to win. I think the old Japanese poet Basho said it best:
The summer grasses
For many brave warriors
Aftermath of dreams.
The dwarvish Guard sodomizes my Forlorn Hope.
Orcs look tough.
Probably my favorite picture of the day. The troll runs screaming back to his hole chased (???) by dwarves while in the foreground two orcs are being hacked to death by dwarves as they try to just run the fuck away. The dwarves are pushing each other out of the way to get to crush someone's skull! (Been on both ends of that scenario myself!) Too funny.
It was a great game. After, we discussed the myriad of scenarios we can play with the figures we have. Everything from the First Age through the War of the Ring, including some of the grim battles of Feanor and his Oath, to the Fellowship vs. the Balrog to the siege of Minis Tirith. We got the figs and terrain to do it all. It has been such a pleasure to get these old models back on the table.
Somewhere, my Uncle John is smiling.