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.


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