Posts Tagged ‘Mordor’

As this series goes on it confronts me with a greater awareness of something of a dilemma: on the one hand, I enjoy winning, but but on the other I value a good game. Winning games is not the only reason that I play, and I value a narrow victory against someone who clearly knows what they’re doing where the luck was even over a complete slaughter of a novice assisted by jammy dice, but I’d rather win than lose. Even so, I’m starting to find my current series of wins against people less than half my own age rather dissatisfying. That said, every time I’ve played someone more experienced I’ve been soundly spanked, so I’m not sure if I really am that keen for a succession of worthy opponents to stroll into town. As I say, a bit of a dilemma.

Well, this week’s game was a bit closer, as you will hopefully see. I found myself playing (not his real name) Sssscotttt and his Rohan army. Sssscotttt earned my disapprobation by enquiring as to exactly what was in my list prior to writing his own (I politely refused to tell him). He ended up with a solid-looking force consisting of two rider formations, one with Eomer and the other with Deirdre (I haven’t got all the names of the Rohan characters quite down yet), an infantry block and a small archer formation. Eowyn was lurking in there somewhere too.

We ended up playing for control of a terrain feature, in this case a wood at the table centre, using the random deployment system I so spectacularly failed to completely understand a few weeks ago. With two fairly mobile armies on the table the game boiled down to a number of small battles scattered around the table. First of all the Dark Marshal and his Knights engaged with the Rohan archers, having first nobbled them with Sunder Spirit and Transfix. The archers bit the dust and the Knights headed off across the table to where the Ghosts were preparing to take on the rest of the Rohan infantry.

Before that could happen, the Morannon Orcs took on Eomer and his riders on the other side of the table. The Rohirrim got the charge but were unlucky with their dice and killed only three Orcs. In response the Orcs scored six hits on the cavalry and drew the combat. By the next turn the Knight Commander’s regiment had galloped into range and were able to hit Eomer and his men in the rear, killing another five riders.

Leaving the Orcs to finish off Eomer and his men the Knight Commander disengaged to try and tackle Deirdre and his men, who had slipped by and were bearing down on the game objective. While this was going on, the Ghosts had flanked the Rohan infantry and badly beaten them up, then slipped behind them to set up a charge from the Dark Marshal and his men. The unit duly popped.

This left my surprisingly-intact army (I’d lost six Ghosts and six Orcs leaving all the cavalry and the Troll unscathed) closing in on Deirdre and his riders from all angles. With a few turns in hand I would’ve been very confident, but for the fact that the Rohirrim had occupied the terrain and picked up a hefty Defence bonus for it. I still had the Ghosts, who wouldn’t be bothered by that, plus two hard-hitting cavalry formations and the Troll, so I think the odds were still in my favour.



The riders of Rohan bravely run away (again).


Unfortunately, we weren’t to know how it would’ve played out, as Sssscotttt had to go home for his tea. Not that it mattered, but we decided I’d probably have won had we carried on. Sssscotttt felt he’d lost due to spending too many points on heroes – I’m not sure I’d go that far, but the fact that he barely spent a point of Might all game can’t have helped his cause much. Certainly I think a judicious Heroic Charge here and a Heroic Combat there contributed significantly to my success.

I think I’ve got the hang of using this army over the past month or two, so if pressed I’d just reiterate the usual things: it could really use some decent shooting, and more cheap infantry. Nevertheless, the fact that I still (would probably have) won despite the Troll doing nothing and the Nazgul’s magic mostly fizzling is rather reassuring. Come the New Year I really must paint some more Orcs and Gothmog, but that seems a deceptively long way off at the moment.

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DftF: it all comes good!!

For some reason I feel much less guilty about administering this week’s paddling to a fairly inexperienced player. I suspect this is largely due to the fact that, for once, my victim opponent was old enough to shave. Geraldo (once again, not his real name) rocked up with a selection of miniatures which he was able to weld into a fairly formidable-looking Gondor force with a hefty contingent (six companies) of Rohirrim allies.


We ended up playing a points match (points scored for general carnage and taking out the enemy general and banners) on a small table. Geraldo deployed first, from left to right (my perspective) sticking down a small Gondor infantry formation, a tiny (one company) Citadel Guard unit commanded by Faramir, the Rohan cavalry in the centre, a medium-sized archer formation in the corner and in front of it a fair-sized infantry unit.

After some thought I tended towards the left flank, popping down the Ghosts, the Troll, the Orcs (with Nazgul) and then the two Morgul Knight regiments. Faramir was looking vulnerable in the tiny Citadel Guard unit and with luck I could get some easy points there, while the only thing he had that really worried me were the riders of Rohan.

Geraldo went first and it became clear his strategy was to move in force into every piece of defensible terrain and defy me to pry him out. The Citadel Guard occupied a wood on the left while the large infantry formation entered some ruins on the right. This did not concern me overmuch as the things I really needed to kill – the cavalry and archers – were now out in the open and unsupported. I advanced on the Rohirrim in force with the Orcs and Knights while the Ghosts bore down on the wood with Faramir in it. Following his dismal performance last week the Troll hung back.

Luck sort of favoured me as the Nazgul rolled a 6 for the first casting of Sunder Spirit, reducing the Rohirrim to an effective Courage 0. He followed this up with Transfix, which the riders failed, stopping them from shooting or charging. The Gondor archers didn’t do anything, and in the charge phase the Rohirrim received one unit of Morgul Knights in the front while the Orcs Wings of Terrored their way into their flank. The Rohirrim were wiped out for the loss of only a couple of Orcs and I started to get a good feeling about this game.

The Knights were joined by the Dark Marshal and continued over towards the archers while the Orcs spun about to confront the smaller Gondor infantry unit heading in their direction. The Ghost Legion marched up to the wood with the Citadel Guard in it and prepared to charge. The main Gondor infantry unit’s Captain rather wanted his unit to leave their cover and engage the Morgul Knights, but the troops weren’t keen and stayed put.

The archers got zapped by the Nazgul and once again their shooting did nothing, while the small Gondor infantry unit attempted to charge the Orcs and failed. The Knights and Dark Marshal got stuck into the archers while the Ghosts engaged the Citadel Guard. I could’ve taken on the infantry with the Orcs but decided to hang on for a turn until the Troll got close enough to support them.

Even against a unit with fairly steady morale the Ghosts turned out to be fairly spectacular against a dug-in unit, completely ignoring their defence bonus. The Guard were extremely fragile and sure enough popped very easily, taking Faramir with them – although he wreaked some havoc with his four Might on the way down. The Knights killed fifteen archers up on the hill as well.

On the following turn the Dark Marshal hopped back into the Orcs which lined up facing the Gondor infantry, while the Troll got into their flank and the Ghosts spirit-walked out of the wood and around their rear. The Dark Marshal cast Sunder Spirit again and rolled another jammy 6. The Knights on the hill prepared to finish off the archers while the other unit pulled back to face the Gondor infantry in the ruins, should they be foolish enough to leave their cover (they weren’t).

For the first time ever I got some shooting as the Troll ripped up a divot and frisbeed it into the small infantry unit, killing two of them. Once again all my charges thumped home, with the infantry failing their Terror test. The Troll was so rubbish last week I had no real expectations of him, but he ended up with 12 attacks hitting on 3s and flukey dice resulted in him killing 11 out of 14 troopers and popping the unit before the Ghosts and Orcs even got a chance to attack. Up on the hill the Knights slaughtered the last of the archers.

We technically had a turn or two left to play, but I was 8-0 up on points and had yet to lose a single company, while Geraldo was down to his last unit. They were well dug in but I could quite happily have sat the game out and still won. In any case we were almost out of time so we called it a night at that point.

Imagine that on this occasion they’re not charging but fleeing.


I think this win was mainly due to luck and my opponent’s inexperience. Putting Faramir in such a fragile unit was a serious error (not really knowing Faramir’s special rules didn’t help his cause), as was putting infantry into cover while leaving archers out in the open. He was unlucky on his Terror and other Courage tests, sometimes failing by only a single point. I, on the other hand, was lucky with two 6s on Sunder Spirit casting rolls and the Troll’s ridiculously good dice rolls when he finally got stuck in.

The Orc unit still feels a little on the lightweight side and I still feel the lack of any shooting in the army. I have to keep telling myself that all these wins have been against inexperienced opponents; nearly every time I’ve played an experienced opponent I’ve been soundly clobbered. Still, I came home feeling fairly cheery, which is always nice.

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Technically I suppose I should tag this as a non-competitive game, as my opponent had to write a scratch list and borrow all his models from the shop. I only actually wound up playing young Jaffar because nobody else showed up. I’m assuming this was down to the bad weather (though there wasn’t actually any snow on the streets of Oxford. For heaven’s sake, is this the attitude that built an empire?), not that it really makes any difference.

Well, anyway, the big event this week is that – with the NaNoWriMo story finished – I’ve been able to paint up some new models and play at 750 points for the first time. Making their debut appearances in this game were a Troll and two companies of Ghostly Legionaries with a Captain seconded from the Angmar list.

Jaffar used the shop’s Umbar Corsairs, fielding 14 companies of Corsairs in three formations, one led by Dalamyr, with (groan) a War Elephant to make up the rest of the total. As the new list still doesn’t have any shooting in it I knew the big beast would take some beating. The scenario we ended up playing was for control of a monolith in the table centre.



Corsairs being rolled over by Ghosts and Morgul Knights not pictured.


Jaffar decided to deploy and go first and opted for a table-wide deployment, sticking down from left to right (my viewpoint) some Corsairs, the Mumakil, the main Corsair block, and then the weediest of the infantry formations (four companies with no shield). Well aware my best chance was to crush his army a chunk at a time, I abandoned the left flank entirely, stuck the Orcs down in the centre, and filled the space up to the right table edge with the Troll, the Ghosts, and both Morgul Knight units.

Seeing the Knights bearing down on them the weedy Corsairs started backpedalling while Dalamyr’s unit and the Mumak redeployed towards the right table edge. The last Corsair unit stayed on course for the objective. The archers on the Mumak managed to shoot down the Troll on the first turn, which was intensely annoying but only to be expected as it was a newly-painted big model.

I got my own back fairly rapidly as the Dark Marshal’s Knight regiment charged the weedy Corsairs and ripped them nearly to bits, despite being flanked by Dalamyr’s unit on the same turn. This, on the other hand, opened up the flank of the main Corsair formation for the Ghosts to spirit-walk through some woods and charge them. One Heroic Combat later Dalamyr and his boys were looking a bit ragged too.

The Mumak was getting a bit too close for comfort, however, and I think my salvation was Jaffar taking it too close to the same woods the Ghosts charged through. Every time he attempted to charge or trample the Knights it ended up clipping the scenery, damaging it and halting the move. In the end he just got impatient, turned it around and went after the Orcs which were behind it. This suited me as they weren’t doing anything useful where they were (I strongly doubted they would be capable of taking on the Corsairs contesting the objective unsupported) and this removed the main threat to my cavalry and the Ghosts.

With the Elephant heading the other way I could concentrate on finishing off Dalamyr’s regiment. I decided I could do this with the Morgul Knights if they charged simultaneously and marched the Ghosts off to take the final Corsair formation in the flank.

Dalamyr and his men duly bit the dust and the Dark Marshal and his Knights galloped off to support the Ghosts (now looking rather fragile with only six men left). The last of the Umbar infantry fell even as the Mumak trampled the Orcs into the ground and polished them off with bow-fire from the howdah.

We now theoretically had two turns left, in which time Jaffar would have to wipe out all three of my surviving units and get the Mumak within 3″ of the mission objective. This was possible, just about, but extremely unlikely – and as Big Ben wanted to close up the shop and go home we decided to end the game.

Well, I won, which is always nice, but this wasn’t the toughest of games – this was a scratch list and very light on characters. I knew that if I could dummy the Elephant away from the rest of my army so the Morgul Knights could engage the Corsair flanks I would have a good chance, and so it proved.

As far as the new elements of the army go, things were a bit mixed: the Troll’s contribution to the game consisted of walking forward eight inches before collapsing full of arrows, which makes it difficult to assess its battlefield potential. On the other hand, the Ghost Legion did sterling work against the flanks and rear of the Corsair infantry. Given the low Defence and reasonable Courage of the Corsairs, the Ghosts’ Spirit Grasp ability was less important than I’d hoped (but then I was half-expecting to play Goblins), but their Spirit Walk into Dalamyr’s flank possibly won me the game. More Ghosts could well appear in higher point value games.

Well, anyway. Before we get to that point I have three more companies of Morannon Orcs and Gothmog to get ready for the table. Will Gothmog live up to his reputation as the biggest bargain in the game? Will the Ghosts’ low numbers prove their achilles heel? Will the Troll survive past the first turn of a game? Only time will tell.

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The points system for the current GW Oxford WOTR mini-league gives you 3 points for a win, 2 for a draw and 1 for a loss. This strikes me as a little odd, but I can see how it at least means that less experienced players who turn up week after week and get repeatedly stuffed will at least get points on the scoreboard.

So how, you would rightly ask, is it possible that your correspondent finished last week on 6 points, turned up and played this week and is still on 6 at the moment? Reader, permit me to explain.

Finally BJ and I rejigged our schedules to get a game in. His Moria army seemed bloomin’ enormous, with three Goblin infantry blocks of various sizes, two Goblin archer blocks, and a formation of Wargs. Leading his army was Druzhag the sorcerer. My army was the same I’ve always taken – maybe in December some new stuff will appear, but don’t hold your breath, folks.

We played on a 4×4 (this was unusual, but I don’t think it affected the result) and the game would be resolved on points for killing companies and the army generals. BJ set up in basically a big block with Druzhag’s formation behind a skirmish line of archers, and the Wargs on the flank. I put the Knights on the opposite flank with the Orcs in the centre.

I don’t know whether I just went into this certain I was going to get stuffed and only hoping to give a good account of myself, but in hindsight it should have been blazingly obvious that the central archer line was just bait. Nevertheless I went ahead and stuck both Knight units into it, hoping to Heroic Combat into Druzhag’s unit behind him. That didn’t work out, but the archers all died and the Heroic Combat took out a titchy Goblin infantry unit as well (BJ fielded it as a single company, for no reason I could work out).

Meanwhile on my side of the table the Wargs had charged the Orcs in the front, bounced off (more shocking dice for BJ), and were stranded in front of the Orcs. I was 3-0 up in company kills and starting to entertains hopes of an upset.

However, this rapidly changed as the Wargs redeployed away from the Orcs to charge one Knight unit in the rear, the main and second Goblin block approached the same unit’s flank and front, and some giant spiders summoned by Druzhag took up position on the other flank. The other Knight unit lost two-thirds of its strength to Goblin archery and black magic. Enough of the Morians passed their Terror tests to pulp the Knight unit that was surrounded, but amazingly enough the two Knights who hit Druzhag’s unit in the flank caused enough kills to make the combat a (very Pyrrhic) victory for me. Druzhag himself Epically Ran Away from the Knight Commander’s attempt to pick him off, ending up hiding with the spiders.

With the cutting edge of the army shattered and the game less than half over it was clear that killing Druzhag was my only real hope of saving the match. So I sent the Orcs after him, with the Nazgul in charge. Druzhag ran away again at that point, leaving the spiders to get blattered by the boosted Orcs. The Orcs were looking a bit tattered by now with only 15 models left, so when they were charged by 35+ Goblins the next turn I thought it was probably all over. The only choice was whether to use the Dark Marshal’s Might to try and kill Druzhag, or to make the whole unit Fight 10 and hope that BJ wouldn’t wipe me out, in which case I’d probably win the combat. In the end BJ got the 11 kills he needed to wipe me out and end the game (Druzhag had permanently shattered the Orc shields a little earlier, making his task much easier) though the Orcs gave a good account of themselves and took out more than 20 Goblins.

Hey ho. Well, it was bad tactics that were mainly to blame, though BJ did say that Moria was probably the toughest army for my type of build to face. The elite cavalry force I’ve got relies on hitting hard and doing massive casualties – the problem with Moria is that the Goblins can take massive casualties and still muster enough troops to surround my Knights and drag them down. I suspect the trick would be to pick off one unit at a time, starting with the mobile Wargs, while trying to avoid getting swamped by the Goblin hordes. I can’t imagine BJ would make this remotely easy for me. In the end he gave an excellent display of how to play a horde army against an elite one and deserved his win.

And you’re probably still wondering about the score. Sigh. My previous opponent and I both thought the rules last week had seemed a bit weird and rechecking the book proved we’d been playing them wrong. I would probably still have won, obviously, but in the circumstances I thought it was only fair to have our game redeclared as a draw rather than a win to me. So that knocked my total score down from 6 after two games to 5, with the point from losing to BJ meaning i’d gone from 6 after two to 6 after three. As long as the score doesn’t actually start going down I will not get depressed, honest.


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DftF: random slaughterhouse

You might think that the best way to win a wargames competition was to be better than everyone else competing and not immoderately unlucky. However, it seems to me that – while you can’t live without at least a little luck -all that really counts is to be better than everyone else that you play. With most events being the size they are, there’ll be fewer games than there are competitors.

Here again luck is an issue, and most tournaments I’ve been in have utilised some version of the Swiss system to try and ensure you should end up playing against someone of roughly equal ability. The GW Oxford WOTR league is not so formal as that, which is why I am currently top of the leader board after two games. This is simply because I’ve ended up playing against people even less experienced than myself.

I say all this because I’m uncomfortably aware that the wargames portion of this blog – which I anticipated would be a litany of defeat – is turning into a series of jolly retellings of how I duffed up a succession of young people. Last night’s game was against Javier (yes, of course I’m changing names to protect my victims’ anonymity) and his Moria swarm.

Javier had brought along two blocks of Goblin infantry, a block of archers, and a Troll. I took the same army I’ve always played as I’m still too busy to do any painting. The scenario was an odd one, decided by claiming objectives scattered across the table, and where the formations would turn up on random edges at random times.

I’m sure we must have been reading the rules wrong as I can’t see what’s to stop the second player, with only a little luck, from following his opponent onto the board should both their units come on from the same edge, and flank- or rear-charging them on turn one. This indeed happened in our game as I took the opportunity to stick one unit of Knights into the flank of his main Goblin formation – he’d’ve got the other unit in the other flank had I passed my Double test. That unit and the Goblin general was slaughtered by the end of turn two.

By this point nearly everything had turned up, with the Moria army down one end of the table and the Mordor force in the centre. The Knights grabbed one objective from under the noses of the Goblins and withdrew towards the other end, while the Morannon Orcs, with the aid of Wings of Terror, hoovered up another three. The Cave Troll had grabbed one for Moria but I was still 4-1 up with the game almost half gone.

I could’ve just backed off and sat out the game at this point, but that would’ve seemed a bit weaselly, so I engaged the Morians again – well, just the Troll to begin with, hitting it with the Knights and Orcs simultaneously. The Knights stuck a couple of wounds on it before the Orcs (bolstered by, as regular readers may have guessed, Strength from Corruption) dragged it down and finished it off, giving me all five objectives.

Meanwhile one of the Knight units frontally charged the second Goblin infantry unit and due to the Goblins not having shields slaughtered a bucketload. A combination of various nasty Nazgul spells killed another five leaving them an easy target for another cavalry charge on the last turn, which finished them off.

I take little pride in this win, as the scenario seemed a bit weird and Javier was clearly very, very green. Some cavalry would have furthered his cause considerably and possibly allowed him to grab a couple more objectives. His Goblin infantry weren’t exactly optimised for combat, either – no shields meant I was killing them on 3s when the Knights got the charge, and coupled with their low Fight and Courage (he really struggled with Terror tests) on these occasions I was rolling up to 30 dice a round. I suspect I lost more models to Strength from Corruption than I did to enemy action in this game.

Anyway, my game with BJ has been rescheduled for next week. A punitive beating seems only deserved at this point.


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DftF: father and son

Just when you thought the listed subject matter of this blog was a total con, up pops some proper wargaming material. I even took photos but, not surprisingly given that I find using a mouse a strenuous technical challenge, I can’t actually get them off my phone and into the blog. Hey ho.
Anyway, GW Oxford is running a WOTR mini-league until Christmas, which I have been roped into. Point values vary between .5 and 1.5K, which suits me as the ongoing financial cataclysm (not to mention my NaNoWriMo ‘commitments’) mean I’ll have to think very hard before adding to my current 500 point list. I had really thought to suspend operations entirely in this field but I enjoyed the first league game so much I’m seriously reconsidering it.
Well, at first the game looked like it’d be against a father-and-son team, but it turned out I’d just be playing young Anton and not his dad as well. Anton’s dad declared that he would not be participating in the game at all. The battle that ensued on the table paled into insignificance alongside Anton’s dad’s battle to stick to this, not assisted by Anton’s constant requests for advice and rules clarifications.
I ran my usual list of a Nazgul, two Morgul Knight formations and a handful of Morannon Orcs. Anton’s Isengard legion included no named characters, but two Uruk-Hai infantry blocks with Captains, a formation of Uruk crossbowmen, and a large pack of Warg riders. He deployed first and used the width of the table, popping down (from left to right) an Uruk-Hai block, the crossbows, the other infantry and then the Wargs. In response to this I refused my flank, sticking the Orcs down in the centre and both Knight units opposite the Warg riders.
Frankly, I knew the crossbows could blatter any of my units in fairly short order, and the fact they’d be occupying a building did not help matters. There wasn’t much I could do about that, but the mobility of the Wargs also displeased me and I was able to get a charge in on them with one of the Knight units. A judicious Heroic Combat meant I could wipe out the unit before the end of the first turn.
Not a lot happened for the next few turns besides some fairly cagey manoeuvering as I tried to line up a flank charge on the right-side Uruk block with one of the Knight regiments before the other Uruk formation could get across the table and join the fun. The Nazgul really earned his corn bombarding the crossbowmen with Sunder Spirit and Transfix, with the result that they only got one round of shooting in all game.

The deadlock on the right flank persisted all evening as the Uruks couldn’t get close enough to charge, and I wasn’t going to waste the Knight formation sending them in frontally. The other Uruk infantry group eventually charged the other Knights in the rear (Anton had been trying to charge all game, often sideways or backwards until we gently pointed out this wasn’t allowed), but this was a bit of a trap as it left them open to being charged in the rear by the Morannon Orcs (the units formed an odd fender-bender across the centre of the table). Anton rolled terrible dice and only killed a single Knight, while the Orcs hacked down many more Uruks winning me the combat. He passed his Panic test though.

The next turn, a combination of my movement and his crossbow fire shrinking the unit left the Uruks unable to charge the Knights again, and they were stranded with my Orcs (beefed up by Strength of Corruption) behind them. The reduced Knight formation fluffed its charge roll into the rear of the other Uruks (I really am outstanding at this) but the Orcs hit home, the Uruks there failing their Terror test and being torn apart.

Time was up at this point and as both our leaders were intact and neither had any banners it was down to company kills to decide the winner. I’d seen off eight companies of Wargs and Uruks while Anton had snatched back two Knight companies with his crossbows in the final turn, which translated as a 2-0 win for me.

As I’ve said before, it’s harder to learn from a win, but once again I’m feeling the need for some missile fire of my own. As their one round of shooting proved, the crossbows could have been a nightmare for me had they been able to shoot more often – as it was, the lack of a Captain in the formation made it relatively easy to neutralise them with magic. (The wobbly Courage of the Isengard troops overall was a pleasant surprise.)

It was rather easier to come up with advice for Anton. More mobile units and crossbows backing up a single big Uruk-Hai block would have made it less likely he’d be outmanoeuvered, and a spellcaster of some kind would have helped him too (though a small Isengard force is always going to struggle to find a cost-effective magic user). Overall though – and this I didn’t tell him at the time – I got the impression Anton’s army was just trundling about the table looking to get into fights, rather than actually focussing on winning the game. This made it relatively easy to dummy him out of position (he sent the left-flank Uruks off to intercept my Orcs and was very startled when they abruptly changed course rather than just marching across the table). If I’d been as heavily down in company kills as he was I’d’ve focussed entirely on trying to take out the enemy general and scoring 4 points (the equivalent of killing the rest of the army combined). As it was, the Nazgul was barely threatened and I scored a relatively easy win.

Still, it can’t last: next week I’m due to play BJ again, this time with his Moria army. I know I can expect to be horribly outnumbered by Goblins, Wargs, and giant spiders, commanded by someone who knows how to use them. I suspect the real challenge will not be winning, but maintaining good grace as I’m wiped off the table…

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I was in the pub the other night catching up with a friend, when he spied the figure case lurking under the table.

‘What’s that?’

‘I’ve been wargaming this evening.’

‘How do you do that, then?’

‘Well, I put my toy soldiers on the table, my opponent puts his on the table, we both roll lots of dice, and then I lose.’

Well, I was speaking somewhat tongue-in-cheek but I am getting a bit fixated on the fact that I haven’t won consistently since I was the Black Terror of GW Jimbocho (and hardly up against the toughest of opposition). Normal service was once again resumed last night as I took on the Duke at WOTR.

I wheeled out the Morgul Knights and the Orcs again while my opponent reconstituted three boxed sets of Easterlings and a couple of blisters into a mid-sized archer formation and a biggish (six companies) infantry phalanx with various upgrades and Khamul the Easterling.

We played on a small table, theoretically for control of the central building (which was actually too small for any of our troops to occupy it) but this was obviously just going to be another big scrap. With hindsight the tone was set by the first few turns where the Ringwraith magically boosted the Easterling infantry across the table at jaw-dropping speed, outmanoeuvering my attempts to get round his flanks.

A few turns later he was in a position to start opening up with his archers and rather than see my Knights get whittled down I was eventually forced into a frontal charge – I had the choice of going in with an already-slightly-whittled Knight unit led by a Commander or the Dark Marshal’s full-strength formation, and went for the latter option, supported by the remnants of the Orcs (who’d been shredded by magic in various ways). The Knights delivered a fairly big hit, considering, but the massed Easterling ranks – plus the fact they’d been boosted up to Str 6, again by Khamul’s magic – resulted in the Knights and Orcs getting wiped out.

A few turns of the Knights dancing around the archers trying to get a flank charge in resulted, but I was out of Might and had no real defence against Khamul’s sorcery with the Dark Marshal gone. In the end the Knights got transfixed in front of the Easterling infantry, had to receive the charge, and got pulped.

So, obviously, lots of stuff to consider as a result. The main ones are my general shortage of manpower (okay, Orcpower) and particular shortage of shooting. I was particularly struck by how well the Nazgul worked in a big infantry block – the Easterling phalanx outmoving and outcharging my cavalry thanks to Wings of Terror was a nasty shock, while the sheer size of the unit meant he could cast Strength from Corruption on it repeatedly without thinning them out too much (Khamul’s ability to transfer 33% of the damage the infantry took onto my units wasn’t as influential as I’d feared it might be). I had half the infantry, and in any case Orcs are a step or two down from Easterlings in terms of effectiveness – at the moment they’re just in the list to bulk it out a bit, but I can’t really afford an 115-point filler unit in a 500 point army.

The shooting issue is a tricky one. Not having any myself the Duke could use his to pressure me into attacking in force too early, which cost me the game. The question is how I get it – Orc archers are, again, a step down from Easterlings, and you only get one company per Orc box set – fine if I was looking to bulk out on Mordor Orcs generally, but I’m not sure I am! Orc Trackers are an option, I suppose, with some nice options, and not much more expensive than the plastics, but I’m also looking at some siege bows – do I want a few high strength hits with a massive range or more dice at a much lower range and strength? Decisions, decisions.

Anyway, the current project is just to finish highlighting and basing the existing army. Rather to my surprise the Duke asked if my Morgul Knights could go in one of the GW Oxford display cases (hurrah) as an example of a ‘work-in-progress army’ (oh – I didn’t tell him that I considered them pretty much done barring flock on the bases), so that was some sort of positive anyway. Next up: a Troll, to give the army a bit more wallop (and me a change from all the Morannon Orcs I’ve been fiddling about with).

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I was updating a chum about my wargaming activities the other day when I realised that the last bona fide win that I could recall (excluding games against someone just learning the rules, for example, or games abandoned midway through as my opponent had to go home for his tea) must have been at the GW store in Ikebukuro in Autumn of 2007. A bit of a downer I think you’ll agree.

Well, anyway, for reasons which now seem oddly vague to me I decided to put the Chaos Warrior army I’ve been nibbling away at on hold and try something completely new; to wit, the War of the Ring system. It’s surprisingly easy to knock up 500 points for this if you go fairly elite (which is what I did), and so the other day I trotted down to GW Oxford to see how the system actually played.

I ended up playing BJ, the manager, who apparently has a very good record with his Moria army. Possibly wishing to avoid an Evil-on-Evil clash he wheeled out the beginnings of a Gondor force, consisting of a few knights, a medium-sized infantry formation, some archers and a trebuchet. I had the Mordor force (army’s too strong a word for it at the moment) I’ve been working on, which is currently a small Morannon Orc unit and two mid-sized Morgul Knight formations, all commanded by the Dark Marshal (who would obviously be ruling the magic department).

The actual objective of the game was to control a wood in the table centre but this game was clearly going to be decided by a big scrap rather than clever manoeuvering. I got priority, went first, and started chucking stuff across the table towards the Gondor battleline, aiming the Orcs for the wood and aiming to blow away the infantry with a big Knight charge. In doing so I brilliantly left the Orc flank open for a devastating cavalry charge from the Gondor cavalry.

However… probability was throwing major wobblies all afternoon. The Dark Marshal killed a knight as part of his duel with the Gondor Captain, and while the knights hammered the Orcs extremely flukey dice meant I killed three more, wiping out two-thirds of the unit. Another flukey 6 meant the Orcs were steadfast and the heroic fight the Captain had called was a genuine contest. The second round saw yet more Orcs slaughtered but all the Gondorian cavalry was dead at its conclusion. The Orcs were down to a measly single company and effectively out of the game.

The next turn I was obliged to charge the Gondor archers to avoid them enfilading the Knights turn after turn, leaving the job of engaging the infantry to a single unit led by the Dark Marshal. Despite bombarding them with every nasty spell I could muster the infantry refused to fail their terror test and stood up pretty well to the cavalry charge. The other Knights flank charged the archers and wiped them out in a single round (which was rather annoying as I’d called a heroic combat).

BJ’s horrific luck continued as his trebuchet shot at the Knights who’d just slaughtered his archers, scoring five hits but only one wound (and thus leaving them utterly unscathed). While they repositioned to charge the trebuchet the infantry and Knights fought again. Being new to the game I’d neglected to jump the Nazgul into the larger unit and he was in dire peril of dying should BJ manage to kill one more Knight and reduce the unit to a single model – but, naturally, he was one 6 short of the kill he needed. Looking on the bright side for him, the Knight charge on the trebuchet stalled.

I decided to ignore the trebuchet and wheeled the bigger Knight formation round to flank the infantry, jumping the Nazgul into it at the same time. The trebuchet shot at the Orcs (the Knights were either too close or obscured) but, naturally, missed completely. Spending the Knight Commander’s last Might point got me a heroic charge in on the infantry which pinned them so the other Knights also got a lovely +6 charge bonus (BJ still refused to fail a Terror test, but I suppose I can hardly begrudge him that). Suffice to say that the infantry was routed by the combined charge and BJ threw the towel in (having comported himself with much grace throughout – much better than I would’ve done, I suspect).

So, what lessons to be learnt? Mr Kasparov wisely suggests that it’s much harder to learn from victory than defeat, but it’s pretty clear from this game that while cavalry can be devastating, it’s also rather fragile. Even vaguely average dice rolls would have seen me crushed – but that’s immaterial at this point.

Anyway – I think I need more Morannon Orcs as the current formation is a bit weedy. Not leaving my flanks wide open as I rush forward would be useful too. Not leaving the Nazgul in an understrength unit that’s about to get thumped would also be advisable. (I hung around to watch the start of another game, this time between Easterlings and Rohan, and got to see Khamul do his thing against the Rohan archery. I think I may have employed the wrong Ringwraith in my army.)

Next time I will no doubt get my just deserts, and get whacked off the table. But until then it’s just nice to have finally scraped another win, no matter what it was due to.


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