Friday, May 28, 2010

Battle for the Hill - Dwarves vs Gondor/Rohan

Something a little different this week. We've each written a pre-game strategy comment, you'll be able to see for yourselves if we stuck to our plan or whether in the heat of battle we adapted (or failed to adapt) to new conditions. As I mentioned earlier, I chose the scenario, my brother chose the number of points.

Here's his pre-battle comments:

This week is a mystery match – the only rules for forces are that if you own the miniatures, you can bring them, and allied forces must be able to legally ally with each other. Whilst I have a Haradrim army complete and ready for battle (and I do love my giant War Mumak!) I also had some boxes of plastic miniatures lying around that I had never gotten around to assembling and painting. So I thought, why not bring something entirely different to the table this week?

So a mounted Boromir, Captain of the White Tower, is leading some Warriors of Minas Tirith into battle, with their brave allies, a mounted Captain of Rohan and some warriors of Rohan!

Who knows what they will face. Dwarves? Goblins? Trolls? Either way, I laugh in the face of danger after reading Boromir’s Horn of Gondor rules! Of course, I’ve never actually used him before, but at 190 points he’s got to be good!

Our scenario is to hold a hill top in the centre of the map at the end of 10 turns – by either having the majority of forces there, or better, being the sole possessor of the hill top.

With dwarves or goblins, my human forces are faster either way, so my plan of action is to march my forces up onto that hill as fast as possible. From what I can see in a photo of the hill my brother sent me, there are two path spots in the steep sides of the hill – and both are on the same side of the hill too. If I start on the side with the two paths, I can quickly move onto the top, and guard the steep inclines around the hill to stop enemies from climbing up on top.

Of course, if I’m facing goblins, they’ll be able to just scurry up on top without a hassle, so I’ll need to spread my soldiers out to try and form a wall of shields and armour to block him, and use my two mounted heroes to quickly move about the hilltop picking off those that try to come in from the sides or rear.

One possible concern is that I don’t have any archers in this force, it’s a force based on armour, shields, and backing spears/throwing spears. If he’s using dwarves with archers, I might send my riders forth after the battle engages, to flank attack them while melee figures engage. The same tactic might be required if he uses goblins, as he can amass quite a number of goblin archers, and has a habit of volley firing.

I’m hoping that the high defence values of my forces and heroes will protect them against most ranged attacks, but I’ll have to wait and see how it turns out. I haven’t played with such armoured forces before – as my usual Haradrim forces don’t wear heavy armour, and they don’t bear shields!

So look out forces of evil, or treasure-hoarding dwarves! The Captain of the White Tower is here to slay all who oppose his might and awesomeness!

And here's what I had to say...

My brother will in all likelihood be using his Haradrim army, I don’t think he’s finished painting enough of his other troops. It’s a 400 point game so options are fairly limited.

Really I’d like to use my newly painted guys, so even if they’re not tactically perfect it’ll be fun to watch them fight anyway!

I’ve chosen to use Etako (Balin), Brynmor (Gimli), 6 Khazad Guard, 6 Iron Guard, a Vault Warden team and a banner.

I tossed and turned for ages thinking about the lack of ranged support. The mission is to hold the top of the hill though, so I want to put lots of high defence guys up on the hill and try to keep them there.

My plan is to arrange them in a nice block with the highest defence guys up the front, a bit like this:

Then I’ll march them forwards towards the hill. From there it will depend on what he’s done. I imagine he’s going to spring up there quickly with his cavalry and then dismount and hold the ramps up the hill with his high attack guys, maybe Suladan and the Hasharin. Although he’s got his Nazgul too, which I’m a little worried about. A compel or transfix on the Vault Warden could make things messy for me!

In any case, the Iron Guard will then roam around the base of the top hill and throwing axe their way to his flanks while the VW and KG and heroes inch their way up.

Hopefully if I can establish a beach head I can just slog my way forward. The banner should help against his two rank army and hopefully the sixes he needs lots of to use his archers against me will keep me alive!
It’s a small force, but with the KG and two heroes and my plan to pretty much stick together, I’m not so worried about breaking.

It’s a simple plan, we’ll see how it goes.

If he’s brought his Mumak I could be in trouble with such a small force and no archers, but then I’m not sure how he’ll get the actual objective anyway.

Here's the opening set-up of the board:

As you can see, it's a Citadel modular gaming hill on top of my Realm of Battle Board hill. It makes quite a big hill!

The scenario calls for one special rule: if a tie is rolled for priority, the gusting winds at the top of the hill are strong enough to knock everybody down!

Our terrain related rules were that you had to roll on the jump table to go up the sheer cliff sections (on a 1 you fail to get up, 2-5 you get up, 6 you get up and continue your move). 

Apart from that it was turn limited, at the end of turn 10, whoever had the most models on the top of the flat section of the top hill won. Major victory if it was just your own guys.

Well, what a complete and total surprise (for me anyway)! On comes Boromir and his attending force! Totally made me do a double-take!

Well, here we go...

In the underground cave systems an old fort ruin has been discovered. Some people forget just how big some of the underground caverns are, massive areas that are large enough to cause their own weather cycles. In one such cave, where the roof is too far above to see in the darkness, an eerie glow comes from atop a hill. Scouts from two different parties notice that there are ancient artifacts of power in the ruins of an old fort. 

Boromir knows that any assistance he can get for his battles against the evils of Mordor must be his. Etako and his dwarven kin are greedy for any treasure and will take it at any cost. Is it the artifact itself that twists two allies against each other or is it human and dwarven greed? 

Turns 1-4 marching onwards...



So at the end of Turn 4:

Turn 5, finally some action - halfway through the game!

The dwarves: The vault warden team makes it to the top of the ramp, dismayed to find that a swarm of gondor troops are already onto the hill in front of them. One squad, led by Brynmor, head to the western side of the hill, Etako follows behind the vault wardens, a couple of Khazad Guard form a defense in front of a group of four Iron Guard.

The men: Boromir and the Captain of Rohan head around the eastern side of the hill, ready to flank the dwarves. Boromir's men head up and onto the hill, the narrow track bottlenecking them a little. The men of Rohan head toward the western track.

And the action?
The Iron Guard, safe behind the Khazad Guard, draw back muscled arms, the Khazad Guards duck and the Iron Guards let their axes fly. One axe misses by a hair's breadth, but in a blur, three axes thwack into Boromir. His heavy armour absorbs the blows easily and he plucks them out and laughs at the puny little dwarves - not even slightly scared at their battle masks.

(Aside: totally forgot to roll for whether they hit Boromir or his horse - not the first thing I forgot today, not sure where my brain was today!)

Turn 6 - Priority Dwarves.

The dwarves retreat from the horsemen in an arrowhead formation, showing a minimal aspect to the riders. The dwarves charge up onto the hilltop (yay for priority!) starting to form a wall to keep the gondor troops in. The banner bearer positions himself behind the others for safety.

Brynmor continues leading the other dwarves onto the western side, the Rohan troops are well ensconced on the hill already. Some of the gondor troops climb up onto the hill, eager for battle and not willing to wait single-file.

In an amazing move that took me totally by surprise and the second "wow - that is so cooool!" moment of the match (first being surprised by who I was facing)... Boromir turns his horse towards the rock face, the horse balks at the jump, but he digs his heels in and with a mighty shout and kick he urges the steed up and over, charging right at the banner bearer! (He used some might to make sure he got a 6 to get the horse up and moving - knowing that in such a short game he needed to take all he could as quickly as he could!)

The banner bearer is soooo useful to dwarves, as they don't get spear support (except for the vault wardens) and so are usually outnumbered 2-1. Just as well they're well armoured! Of course, Etako was already in combat, so Boromir could just race right in behind him!

Yelling "For Gondo!" Boromir's charge is valiant and victorious, he sweeps his sword through the banner, sending it fluttering to the ground, on the backswing his sword slashes the head clean off the dwarf! The head lands on the banner, body collapsing shortly thereafter. Boromir is glad that he stretched before the battle, it's not easy to swing that low when you're atop a warhorse! Any lesser man would wake up with a twinge in their back the next day - but not mighty Boromir!

Dismayed by the sight, but unable to do anything about it, already in the thick of combat the other dwarves atop the hill can't focus. Etako actually loses the fight against a cheering man of Gondor, a tear rolls out from under his eyepatch - the banner bearer was his sister's fiancee. 

The Vault Wardens stand fast, but the spearman is similarly too troubled to push forward and no injuries are caused, even though the Minas Tirith warrior is trapped. (They rolled two twos and two threes - yuck!)

The Rohan Captain also charged forward, barreling his horse into a steadfast Khazad Guard.

The Khazad Guard keeps his head (literally hehe) and stands firm, rebutting the horseman, but unable to reach high enough with his axe to hurt the expert rider from Rohan.

Turn 7 - Priority TIE! (Swaps to Gondor). 

A mighty gust of wind, channeled down through miles of caverns and narrow passages, finally bursts forth atop the hill, knocking everybody to the ground. Boromir is the only one left standing, though he is unhorsed. Rolling to his feet, he dusts himself off then surveys the killing field available to him...

Both Boromir and Etako call for Heroic moves, the roll-off gives it to Boromir and he launches an attack at Etako. In all fairness he's not that much closer to the ground than he normally is! Gondor men and brave men from Rohan clamber to their feet and attack the dwarves before they can pick themselves up.

An Iron Guard charges up the hill, hurling an axe then slamming into Boromir. The desperate move allows Etako to beat back a man of Gondor and stand up. Unfortunately, Boromir swings his shield around to block the throwing axe, then uses the momentum of the dwarf against him, tripping him over, then swinging around in one fluid movement to stab the brave dwarf through the back, piercing his lungs. Etako salutes the dying dwarf, whose blood stains his beard even redder than it was as it bubbles from his mouth.

The vault warden is completely hidden by his fallen shield, and the men can't get weapons to his body. It takes him more effort to stand back up beneath the massive shield than it does to worry about the incoming attacks. The bruise on the back of his head from the falling shield will trouble him more than any of the wounds caused by men on this day.

Elsewhere on the hill Brynmor and a Khazad both manage to fend off attacks long enough to stand up also, but a nearby Khazad Guard, attacked by three men of Rohan, cannot rebut all of their attacks. Axe whirling in a blur, he blocks two spear thrusts, but a stabbing sword pierces through the eye hole in his mask, he dies quickly, twitching for a minute afterwards in the sort of morbid display that biology students enjoy discussing.

At the eastern side of the hill, the Rohan Captain is surrounded by dwarves. They assault him mercilessly, but cannot reach high enough to cause the man any damage, his horse, however, is not so fortunate and dies to numerous axe and sword wounds.

The men of Gondor rally behind Boromir, more of them climbing to the hilltop, all shouting "For Gondor!"...

The men of Rohan fill the western side of the hill in a green blur...

Turn 7 post combat:

Turn 8: Priority Gondor.

The dwarves in the center of the hill still keep the men on the east bottled up a bit. One Iron Guard skirts the wall to come around the flank of the eastern side. Dwarves have the captain surrounded in the south east. Boromir calls a challenge to Etako, who turns to face him and call him accountable for his future brother-in-law's death.

Rohan men fling themselves bodily into the dwarves in the west, if they can break them they'll be able to sandwich the dwarves in the center.

An Iron Guard at the bottom of the hill fling his axe at a spearman of Rohan and splits his skull wide open, splattering blood over the man he was meant to be supporting. 

The four dwarves win the combat against the captain of Rohan, but he's so agile that he manages to dodge all of their attacks, even though he is trapped. Matrix-style, he weaves his way in what seems to him to be slow motion, as each sharp-bladed weapon passes just centimeters from his body.

Brynmor faces two men of Rohan. They laugh at his shovel and tell him that he should just chill out and "dig it". Who knows what those horse-people smoke around the camp fires at night, but Brynmor is not in the mood for such hippy shenanigans. He uses some might and swings powerfully at the nearest. The shovel, Gjel-Grava cleaves right through the man's raised shield and carves a narrow, but deep, valley through his chest. The sound of all those ribs snapping is a staccato beat for the other dwarves atop the hill as they also exact revenge for the banner bearer.

An Iron Guard suddenly remembers that he has two weapons (up until this point in the game I'd forgotten that they get two attacks - duh!) and feints with his axe before stabbing forward with his sword, piercing straight through the light armour of the man and killing him instantly.

Another Iron Guard repeats the process and the Vault Wardens combine attacks brilliantly, shield turning a man's blade to one side while the spear stabs forward, impaling the man right through the throat. The shield is used to scrape the man off the spear as he pulls the weapon back, the dwarf is lucky not to be lifted from his feet by the dead-weight of the man on the other end of the spear.

The dwarf in the far east of the hill throws his axe and attacks a man of Minas Tirith. The man blocks all of his attacks with his shield, taking no wounds, but getting a lot of business for his mate the panel beater when he gets back home... if he ever gets back home.

Then the big match, Etako Ironfist versus Boromir of the White Tower (with some Gondor back up crew). Etako is just not on his game today, the shock of the early banner kill, the knocking around by the wind, no amount of might can help him with the emotional upheavals of the day...

Yes, six ones in eight rolls, fortunately for the side of mankind, Boromir is on the ball today, he easily pushes back the doughty dwarf. The Ironfist Gauntlet almost has a mind of its own, or fate is with the ancient heirloom, for although Boromir uses a doubly mighty blow, Etako doesn't fall. (Boromir uses two might to cause a wound, Etako's fate saves it.)

A lot of Rohan death this turn, but there are more men on the hill than dwarves still!

Turn 9: Priority - another tie! (Swaps to Dwarf.)

The gusting wind again roars through the cavern and over the hill, knocking all of the combatants off their feet! But this time it is the dwarves that get to take the advantage.

With one turn left to go the dwarves all run for the top of the hill, leaving the captain of Rohan to decide what he's going to do. The Iron Guard on the west side of the hill tries to leap up, but slips back without getting anywhere.

The remaining Gondor troops leap up atop the hill. Now making sure he uses both weapons, the easternmost Iron Guard leaps at the closest Minas Tirith soldier and slays him on the ground without giving him a chance to rise up - picking on someone his own size!

The Vault Wardens rise and keep back the men, though cause no damage. The shield dwarf is too busy grumbling about the next bump rising on his head from the shield falling on him again due to the wind. 

Etako faces two gondor troops and uses a mighty blow from the Ironfist Gauntlet to smash the jaw in a massive uppercut (he has no real choice in the direction of his fist against a man). Teeth and blood spray everywhere. 

Boromir manages to fight off the Khazad Guard that attacked him while he was down, no wounds are caused.

On the western side it is more bad news for Rohan. One falls to a whirling thrown axe, turning at the sound only to catch the blade in the face. Brynmor smashes his shovel down on the head of a prone man, heedless of the cries for mercy.

The hill, once green with the cloaks of the men is now stained red with the blood of the fallen.

One green cloak still flutters in the breeze. The captain chases after the fleeing dwarves. He may have lost his horse, but he certainly hasn't lost his fighting spirit!

The Guard wins the combat, but the brave captain blocks the axe with his shield, how many more blows will it take to shatter the battered defence?

At the end of Turn 9 there are 9 Gondor troops on the hill and 11 Dwarves. It's going to be close!

Turn 10: Priority Gondor.

Here's how it stands at the beginning of the turn.

All remaining troops get up onto the hill.

The Rohan Captain calls a heroic combat against the Khazad Guard. The Captain's forceful charge allows him to batter aside the axe with his shield, leaving the dwarf wide open. In a split second decision the dwarf has to decide to either weather the blow of the Captain, or retreat by jumping back off the edge of the hill. The sturdy warrior braces himself for the impact...

Which comes hard, fast and deadly - the Rohan Captain, after weathering blow after blow from the dwarves, finally strikes back and the power of his strike bites through the chain armour of the Guard, felling him. Ironically the dwarf topples lifelessly off the hill, ending up dead where he could have opted to fall still living.

The Captain wastes no time, leaping past the falling dwarf and launching an attack at the Iron Guard behind him - who was not expecting to be attacked at all! The captain pushes the advantage and uses his momentum to knock his shield into the head of the dwarf, stunning him briefly before crashing his axe mightily down to slay the surprised dwarf.

Revenge for a slain horse. Those Rohan guys take their steeds very, very seriously.

The Vault Wardens team up brilliantly, no spears come close to penetrating or slipping past the massive shield, but the dwarven spear smashes heavily against a helmeted head, sending the man crashing to the ground with a part of his helmet punching into the Minas Tirith skull.

A Khazad Guard faces off against two gondor troops, they're almost perfectly evenly matched, but the 250 year old dwarf has just had too much more experience, more than making up for the younger men. He takes a blow to his chest which glances off the mighty armour and sends an axe through the neck of one of the humans. (Won on a tie! I'm kinda used to losing on tie rolls with the goblins so this is nice.)

Brynmor uses his last point of might and his hammer, Lemya, to end the dreams, ambitions, careers, academic learnings and, oh yeah, life of another man.

Things are looking grim, the battle turns to the two leaders, who lock in epic mortal combat...

Boromir calls a heroic combat. The mighty hero has little difficulty slaying the dwarf opponent, expertly finding a chink in the Khazad Guard armour and stabbing through the small defect. The dwarf slides from his bloody blade as Boromir kicks him off and turns to face Etako.

Again the two heroes clash. Boromir and Etako are so evenly matched that it seems the wind dies down and all focus is on the two. The Ironfist Gauntlet deflects the sword, Boromir's shield catches the axe. Eventually Etako ducks (which brings him really quite low) under a sword swing and headbutts Boromir in the chest! This forces the mighty man backwards, but merely knocks the breath from him rather than causing any lasting harm.

Boromir has the wind knocked out of him. Etako has headbutted a heavily armoured man. Suddenly their heads seem to clear and they realise the folly of previous friends fighting over something as silly as an artifact. They mourn the loss of their comrades, but learn a valuable lesson of the power of evil over them. Hopefully they remember this lesson forever. Something tells me that Boromir may not... but that's another story.

In any case, neither side succumb totally and will not fight to the death. The end result, a very minor victory for the dwarves, who have 11 on the hill compared to 9 men.

My brother's closing comments:

What a match! And a close one too! In the early turns of the game, I was certain I would win, but it all came down to an extremely close last turn, where whoever killed more people in that round of combat would be ultimately victorious.

I’m not sure what I would have done differently. Coming up the hill, there was only a thin pathway onto the very top, so my Gondor soldiers trickled up a path and some climbed up onto it. That was a bit of a bottleneck for my forces, especially once the people in front of them on the hill were engaged in battle.

Perhaps I should have had my trailing soldiers move around the hill to come up at a different point – such as reinforcing my Rohan soldiers at the other pathway up onto the hill - something which I did at the end of the game, finally getting two or three more Gondor soldiers up on the other end of the hill in time for the last turn.

Ultimately I wasn’t victorious, but I’d have to say my pick for a Man of the Match would have to be the nameless Captain of Rohan, who was knocked off of his horse, but remained on his feet, only to be surrounded by dwarves for numerous turns, then to have them abandon that battle without having wounded him. He chased after them up the hill, and even slew two of them atop the cliffs! What a dramatic fight that was! A great match, and looking forward to our next mystery battle.

I agree with him! What a great match! A great showcase of the SBG rules, epic motion, single, mortal combat, the effects of terrain and environment. It was so much fun from turn to turn. Sometimes it's really annoying to roll badly, but it's all part of the story and the randomness is what makes it a great adventure!

If I played again I'd really not downplay how important it is to keep an eye on heroes like Boromir with tons of might, his clever charge to take out my banner bearer early on was a real blow to my strategy! Dwarves really rely on their banners, and I should protect them more carefully in the future.

I think knowing my troops would have helped too, I can't believe I forgot that Iron Guards have two attacks, they're worth so many points! 

As for the dwarf of the match, I'm giving it to the team of Vault Wardens. They really stopped the men from getting up that narrow foothold and even when they lost fights, the 9 defense just meant that they weren't going anywhere!

So much fun, the surprise of facing a very different team than I thought was the first of many great moments in that match. We just couldn't tell from one turn to the next who was going to win in the end, and when his Captain slew two dwarves on the last turn I thought I was done for!

Anyway, could rabbit on for hours, but it's way past my bed-time. 

Let's hope the truce doesn't last too long, there's another game a-waiting to happen in a week...


  1. Great battle report - very descriptive! Some of those photos turned out really well too! Those two dwarves with the giant shield and the long spear, really held their ground the whole game! It occurs to me now that I should have tried to have Boromir engage two dwarves at the same time somehow, so he could use his horn :)

  2. My only question is how did Etako duck and head butt Boromir in the chest? I would have thought the point of contact to be much lower...

  3. In turn 6, "An Iron Guard at the bottom of the hill fling his axe at a spearman of Rohan and splits his skull wide open, splattering blood over the man he was meant to be supporting." On page 45 of the rulebook, it says that a throwing spear can't be used to support a friendly model like a normal spear

  4. Great battle report and i'll keep following you guys.... keep up the great work

  5. Is the model for Etako a modify you did of maybe a khazad guard? It looks cool. Never seen it before. Great battle report by the way

    1. Thanks =)
      It's a Balin mini (the old metal version) that's been a little converted,