Monday, January 18, 2010

Kingdom of Ealdormere 12th Night

Kingdom 12th Night, January 2010

Last weekend was the annual 12th Night event for the Kingdom of Ealdormere. What is 12th Night you ask? 12th Night was traditionally the 12th day after Christmas, a time to celebrate as apparently people in the Middle Ages thought those 12 days were pretty darn spooky. It was a time to blow off some steam and there were often role reversals, with Lords playing peasants and vice versa (as long as the peasants didn’t take themselves too seriously). Sometimes you’d even get things like cross dressing.

After a pretty easy pack we left our place around 10:30 and picked up two of our SCA friends, Devin and Andrea, and headed off to the event. It was about an hour and a half away and the driving weather was good. We arrived about noon.

Ealdormere’s 12th Night is a pretty laid back affair. It was held at a community hall in Mono Centre which is near Orangeville. The site is quite pretty but a bit small. We attended last year and almost went back home when we saw the layout. This year the space seemed to be organized a bit better and easier to handle. Having the two kids with us always complicates things for us, but I guess we were feeling less stressed than last year. We set up in a corner of the hall and relaxed for a bit. For once, there was no drama getting Matthew into his SCA garb. There was SCA armoured combat in a downstairs part of the hall but no fencing, which was actually kind of nice, because it meant I could just hang around and schmooze. Most of the organized 12th Night activities seemed to be outside. There was some organized sledding events and a bunch of stuff on the ice rink like human curling and Ealdormere Armoured Hockey. I didn’t catch much of this as we were setting up when a lot of it was happening and we wanted to stay in the warm for a bit.

As 12th Night is a time where people can be a bit different, I went with a different choice of garb than my usual Elizabethan. It’s nice to have a good selection of garb in the wardrobe and I think I can do almost every period between the 11th and 16th centuries. This time I went a bit exotic, wearing a 16th c. Persian red silk caftan and blue puffy harem pants. I was also wearing a dark blue turban with a nice pin on it. Around my waist was a green silk slash, which also doubles as my rank scarf for the Ealdormere Academy of Defence. I looked pretty spiff. It is January so I also wore my brown wool Norse coat with some gold silk trim. Belted with the green sash it actually looked very appropriate for the Persian look I was going for. Asa went with her Norse garb as it is warm and comfortable, and can take messes better than silk garb. Matthew wore one of his tunics and Elizabeth was in a pretty purple dress that we had gotten at an auction sometime last year.

The event had some local people who owned a team of horses and a wagon, and they were having regular rides for the attendees. I took Matthew on one of the trips and it was nice. The wagon wound its way through Mono Centre and there was some nice scenery, including the house of an Australian ex-pat, judging from the street sign in the shape of the continent and a totem pole with Koalas and kangaroos carved on it. Matthew had fun on the trip, but talked a bit too much about various horsey bodily functions, much to the chagrin of the Lady sitting across from us when her son started to repeat some of the same things.

They had a nice area set for kids, which included a table of craft and colouring supplies. Matthew had fun playing with the various kids there. He played cards, coloured and messed around with a giant Megablocks castle set that someone had brought. Elizabeth was given plenty of chances to run around with Asa and I switching off chasing duty. At one point I took Matthew to the tobogganing hill. From the angle I first saw it from I didn’t think much of it, as it looked like a big mound of snow. When we got there I was much more impressed as the little mound I had first seen was on the lip of a valley. There were some very nice icy runs and our flying saucer shaped toboggan flew down the hill. Matthew had a lot of fun and it was a near perfect hill. I couldn’t stay out too long as, even with the wool coat, it got pretty cold standing at the top of the hill.

A lot of time was spent just chatting with various friends, many of whom I hadn’t seen in awhile. Lady Jocelyn was there with her boyfriend, Rurik. Gunther was there with Mistress Nicolaa as were Angus, Isabeau and there daughter Aurora. There were a number of others and it was nice to see them all. There weren’t a lot of the traditional 12th Night shtick. There was no Lord and Lady of Misrule or silly contests, at least indoors. Some people got into the spirit of things, and I noticed several strapping young lads who looked vaguely familiar and slightly feminine. The lack of shtick, which I admit has gotten oppressive at other 12th Nights, was a bit disappointing.

The Queen was in attendance with the Princess of Ealdormere and there was a Court. Lady Jocelyn’s SO is now Lord Rurik as he received his Award of Arms, and Lady Catriona was inducted into the Order of Thorbjorn’s Hammer, a high level award for skill in the Martial Arts, of which I am also a member. She is amazing at Thrown Weapons, using her expert skill with the throwing knife, axe and spear. Lady Jocelyn was presented with a cup called a quaik (sp?) and charged by Their Excellencies Septentria to always keep it full and share it with others, an old Septentrian tradition.

After court we decided to head home. We were not staying for feast and it was getting dark out rapidly. We stopped in Orangeville for a quick supper and then proceeded home without incident, dropping off Andrea and Devin at their places. They made for very pleasant travelling companions.

It was a fairly relaxed event and Matthew and Elizabeth were well behaved. I’m glad we went, and my only real quibble was the lack of some of the traditional 12th Night stuff. Maybe next year.


Friday, January 15, 2010

A Bloody Day in Rohan

What another battle report you say? So soon? Why yes! Mark and I have been really enjoying our games of War of the Ring, so much so that he wanted another game a mere week after our last game. As can be seen from the last post, things didn’t go so well for me in the last game, but I hoped this battle would be different.

My last couple of armies drew heavily from the Fallen Realms list with some support from Mordor and Isengard and they met with mixed success. For this battle I would be going exclusively with Isengard. My original army was around 1300 points but Mark asked me to tone it down a bit, so I ended up with 1005 points. My leader was a major villain, an Istari gone very bad, Saruman of the White Hand. He had lots of things going for him in terms of special abilities and some excellent combat spells which he could boost in strength. I was hoping he was going to do serious damage to whatever forces opposed his plans. I placed him in a three company formation of Uruk-hai warband, who had the high D to keep him safe. I also took three companies of Uruk-hai with pike, a three company formation of Vrashku’s Talons (Uruk’s w/crossbows and a strong captain), a company of Berserkers, a company of Sappers (basically a mobile bomb company) and an Isengard Troll Captain.

Arrayed against me was a Rohan themed army. I don’t remember its exact composition, but it included two big formations of cavalry, one of Riders and one of Rohan Knights. One of these was lead by Erkenbrand. There was a foot unit of Royal Guard including Deorwine, a foot unit of Oathsworn Militia, and another unit of Oathsworn Bowmen. The nasty surprise was the Three Hunters, a special unit made up of Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. These guys were scary with tonnes of might, and some very special Special Abilities. If any unit on the map made me nervous, it was them.

Mark came up with a neat scenario. Down the centre of the board were three Rohan dwellings, which were the objectives of the battle. Who ever held the majority of them when time was called (2:15 pm) would be the winner. This was different and more interesting then beating on the other force until an obvious winner emerged. There were also a couple of patches of trees. We alternated units for set up. I placed the Uruk-hai warband and Pike in the centre, with the berserkers, troll and the Talons stretched out to my right and the Sappers on my left flank.

Despite the objectives of taking the buildings, I felt the best way to win was to eliminate as much of the opposing force as possible, which would make it easier to occupy the objectives. Saruman, I hoped, would be the key to this. My account of the battle is a bit of a gloss as a lot happened. I’ll try to hit the high and low points as best I can.

I lost Priority in the first turn. Mark move his cavalry up to get in position to charge Saruman's formation using At the Double. I moved what units I could At the Double, in order to get Saruman into spell casting range which was 18” for the spells I wanted to use. The troll went under cover in some woods. The Talons manoeuvred for a good shot at the Oathsworn bowman. Saruman has a number of good combat spells to choose from, the most obvious of which is Bolt of Fire. I went with a different plan though. He can use a spell with the hard to pronounce name of Exsiccate. You roll a number of d6 equal to the number of companies in the target formation and then do the total of the dice in strength 1 attacks. Saruman is Touched by Destiny, which means he can do a free Epic action each turn. One of his Epic abilities is Epic Ruination which can boost a spells strength by 2. My average roll on 4-5 dice was around 16. That meant I would get, on average, this many strength 3 attacks per spell. If I rolled a 6 for the spell effect, it would be strength 5 hits. I was hoping this would be the magical equivalent of a machine gun, and take down hordes of guys. It didn’t. I only took down a couple of horsemen despite two Exsiccate spells and a Bolt of Fire. That was disappointing. In the shoot phase I did better. The Talon’s locked onto the Rohan bowmen who were in the shadow of one of the objective buildings. The Talon’s had moved at the double, but Vrashku called a Heroic Shoot and used his Take aim ability. The poor archers were mown down by a hail of crossbow bolts, taking 14 hits. Ouch! As noted earlier, Mark had lined his cavalry up for a charge against Saruman’s unit. He then had Erkenbrand issue an Epic Challenge trying to call Saruman out and defeat him in combat, but thanks to Saruman’s high C he was able to ignore it. Saruman also managed to talk the Knights out of charging him, but they used Might to boost their roll, but then rolled a 1 for the actual charge. This left things up to the Riders. Their charge hurt the Uruk-hai warband but not nearly as bad as it could have. Mark had several instances were the dice went against him and it was frustrating. He had his usual great tactical sense but at critical moments the dice would fail him. I had my fair share of crappy dice rolling, especially for spell effects, but the Dice Gods were not with Mark today. He did call out Saruman in a Heroic Duel, which killed several Uruk but failed to kill Mr. S.

After the first couple of turns I played defensively. I tried to keep my big formations from being flanked or charged in the rear. My luck was quite good on my Priority rolls and I kept the initiative throughout much of the game. At one point Saruman transferred his flag from the depleted Uruk Warband to the Pikes, which was a good move. I managed to clear the bowmen out of the building on my right flank and occupy it with the Talon’s. In the centre my Troll Captain and Berserkers tangled with The Three Hunters. The Troll went down as did half the berserkers, but they took Aragorn and Gimli with them. At one point I was able to get my Sappers up to the building on the left flank, which was occupied by some Royal Guard, but the mad bombers failed to self detonate. The Guard then left the building on their move. No matter how hard they tried, the Sappers couldn’t quite get themselves to blow up, and Mark didn’t kill enough of them to set them off. They did occupy the building and digging them out would have had explosive consequences. Mark tried a couple of tactics to get them to detonate while his units were out of range but there was no earth shattering kaboom. Saruman kept throwing spells around and they did inflict a fair amount of casualties, but I had been hoping for more. He did prove useful in preventing several charges. At was essentially the endgame Mark moved his Knights into a position to charge but I had the Priority and was able to countercharge. The Sappers held out in the building despite a hail of bowshots from Legolas. I even managed a surprise crossbow shot on the Royal Knights when they were lining up for a charge. A lot of Might was burned through early in the game which was important later as it prevent things like Heroic Charges into my poor Uruks.

Time was almost up. There was a chance the sappers could be taken out and that would leave me in possession of just the one building. Still a victory, but a lesser one. Mark had units near the centre building which may have been able to take it thus making things a draw. We tried to rush through another turn or two after time but we made some mistakes that left the final outcome unresolved. I was victorious, but if the game had of continued properly that might have changed. The number of casualties taken by both sides was quite amazing. I lost the full formation of Uruk-hai warband, the troll, half the berserkers, almost a full company of crossbows, all but two of the sappers, and several pike. Mark lost his Riders, his Oathsworn Bowmen, the Royal Guard, 2/3rds of the Hunters, and several other Men from the other units.

I was happy with my tactics and the way my units worked. The big unit of crossbows could be devastatingly effective. Saruman was very helpful and had uses beyond his spells. His ability to prevent charges was crucial at least twice. The toughness of the Uruk-hai, especially the D7 warband absorbed a lot of punishment. I would have loved to see the sappers go Boom but it was not too be. D6+4 Strength 10 hits to every formation in range would have been something to see. They did serve their purpose though and were points well spent. My great fear is that they would be taken out by archers and go off amongst my own ranks but they were on the opposite flank from the bowmen. I tried to limit the flanking ability of the cav by keeping units close together so they could not be got around. I also tried to keep the amount of dice they could use down by charging them at every opportunity.

We plan on refighting the battle with the same forces in the near future. There are things I would do differently, but I’m sure there are things Mark will do differently as well. He is a lot of fun to play with, and his attitude to gaming is excellent. Even when I could sense his frustration with the dice, he persevered, and fought the good fight.

This weekend is the Kingdom of Ealdormere’s 12th Night and I’ll try to post about that after the event.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Another Dark Day for Men (well, Evil Men that is)

First, in something totally unrelated to the rest of this post, I must mention the fact that I had a pretty fabulous Christmas this year. The main part of this was due to the fact that my lovely wife had ten days in a row off and we got to spend plenty of time together. There were lots of very nice presents for everyone in our household and tonnes of good food, including the best Sloppy Joe's I've ever had. Now that the holiday season is over, it's back to some other fun things, like table top miniatures gaming.

The last battle I played in went quite well for me, with my mix of Uruk-hai and Evil men winning a pretty convincing victory over the forces of good. Our next game was going to be a refight using similar but slighted changed orders of battle.

Again, I was playing evil. I like playing evil in LOTR: WOTR but I'm not sure why. Maybe it'd because most of my own LOTR mini's are evil. I was notorious in high school for sticking to playing the good guys, especially the Federation in Star Fleet Battles and Ranger or some other Good character in D&D. The main difference between my forces from those in the last game was the addition of a Ringwraith, in this case Khamul the Easterling. He is a pretty expensive unit, so I lost two companies of Uruk-hai, and the remaining company was converted to crossbows, and lead by an Uruk-hai hero named Vrashku. The increase in points allowed Mark to expand his Ranger and Cavalry forces for the good side. You can see the respective forces in the pictures posted with this blog. You might notice that Mark had the weight of numbers on his side.

Mark says that he is slightly scared of magic users in WOTR, especially powerful ones like the Ringwraiths. They can cast up to three spells a turn and have all the other abilities of heroes, but only one point of Might. Khamul also has an ability called Essence Leech, which gives his formation a save against casualties and can cause those casualties to rebound onto a nearby enemy unit. As cool as he is, I'm not sure he's worth it in a small to medium game of WOTR, as he sucks up a lot of points and can leave you badly outnumbered.

We set up as usual, using the nice terrain mat Mark has plus his spiffy rocky outcroppings and trees. We faced each other as if we had entered along the long edge of the table, which meant in the first turn we would almost certainly be in arrow range of each other. You can see the initial deployments in one of the pictures.

I may be mixing up the first couple of turns here but you'll get the idea. Mark won the first Priority (initiative) roll and decided to let me go first. I hot footed my Uruk crossbows into some woods and advanced the rest of the army. Mark also advanced with his cavalry starting to sweep around both flanks. The first shooting phase was mediocre for me, taking out one Gondorian cavalryman. I did manage to use Khamul to Transfix one of the units of his cav, but in retrospect, I should have used the spells differently. His shooting phase was much more devastating than mine, with a lot of his stuff locking on to the troll. He managed to inflict two wounds on the Troll with his Avenger Bolt Thrower, which was then finished off by something like 36 shots from his Rangers. It was a terrible blow. The troll was one of the main reasons I won the last game and he was dead in the first turn. I should have used Khamul to cast Pall of Night on the bolt thrower and the Rangers, reducing their effectiveness, and I should have deployed the Troll closer to cover. He also took out some of my Uruk-hai crossbows with his formation of Gondor archers. Taking one company of anything is a mistake. The charge phase saw me blow my charge roll with my Haradrim against the Transfixed Gondor cav, so nothing happened there. I tried to charge his other unit of cav with my Haradrim foot but couldn't get close enough, and they counter charged with a Heroic charge, wiping them out but expending all of their Might in the process. The next turn saw the rest of my Uruk crossbows fall, despite the cover of the woods. They got charged in the woods, but could only fight with half their number. So, I was down to my three companies of Easterlings, including Khamul and some Haradrim Cav. I tried to limit my losses by fighting defensively, keeping the archers under palls of night to reduce their effectiveness and manoeuvring to get out of their line of sight. Faramir and his cav managed to charge the Easterlings from the rear but a combination of Essence Leech and two handed weapons destroyed the entire formation. The remaining Easterlings were whittled down by archery fire and then the other unit of cav hit them, finishing them off. The Haradrim cav, who I had kept largely intact by avoiding a headlong charge into the heart of the enemy forces, decided discretion was the better part of valour and hit the road.

Well, that battle went about as wrong as it could, other than the high point of taking out Faramir. I'm still getting used to magic so I have to work on picking the right spell for the right situation. The early Transfix would have been useful if I hadn't failed my charge roll. The Pall of Night might have been a better choice, and my troll may have survived to get under cover, or at least get into charge range. Also, taking Vrashku and his Talons was a mistake. If your going to use a Legendary unit, make sure you have at least three companies in the formation. We made one little mistake, in that when fighting from cover it's half the capacity of the terrain in terms of companies, not individual figures. This means my Uruks in the woods would have shot and fought at full strength. The Uruks were a point sink as was Khamul. The loss of the Troll, another points sink, was a nasty blow, and my forces never recovered after it was lost. I'm thinking in small to medium WOTR battles, numbers are important, and big points sinks, like a magic user, even a powerful one like Khamul, should be avoided. About half of his forces never actually engaged, with most of the damage being done through missile fire and cavalry. His big block of infantry in the centre didn't do a lot, except for a formation that took out the last of Vrashku's Uruks who were hiding in the woods.
Next time we play, I'm hoping to take an Isengard (lots of Uruk-hai lead by Saruman of the White Hand) themed force but I'm not sure who I'll be up against. There is a distinct chance of pointy eared bastards in the offing.