Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Eves of Mirkwood can be a Hazardous Place

After almost two months, Mark and I were finally able to get together to have a game of War of the Ring. It's been awhile because I simply haven't been healthy enough, or the kids weren't healthy enough for him to come over and I certainly didn't want him to get sick and pass the joy onto his family.

Now, Mark is very cool in that he brings all the stuff we need to play the game, including the miniatures and the terrain. This time he even brought the table, or at least the table top. He had got a big piece of particle board and cut it into three 2' x 4' sections. This gave us a total playing surface of 6' x 4' when laid on the 6' by 2 1/2' foot dining room table. This gave us, literally, room to maneuver, and his green terrain map fits it perfectly.

Again, I was playing the Uruk-hai. I had a good force lead by Saruman. There was a two company formation of Uruk phalanx, a three company Uruk Warband, Vrashku leading two companies of crossbows, an Isegard Troll Captain, a company of Beserkers, a two company formation of Uruk-hai Scouts, and a three company + formation of Orcs with swords and shields. After previous experience dealing with cavalry, I put Saruman in with the phalanx, whose pikes would negate charge bonuses.

Arrayed against me was a mix of Rohan units with one surprise, three companies of wood elves accompanied by their King, Thranduil. For the first time, Mark had brought a spell caster to the table, and some of the best archers in Middle Earth. There were three separate groups of Rohan cavalry, two of Riders and one of Knights, accompanied by Eomer, Deowine and and Erkenbrand. I think there were three or four companies in each formation. There were also two formations of Oathsworn Militia with two companies in each and two, two company formation of Militia archers.

The game this time was not a fight over some structures as were the previous two games, but a fight to the death near the edge of Mirkwood Forest. There were a number of patches of forest on the board and a creek which separated roughly 1/3 of the board from the rest. The creek counted as difficult terrain put was not impassable.

I set up along one map edge with the Orcs to my far right, on the far side of the creek, but close to the Troll captain who could support them with his greater movement and ability to at the double. To the Trolls left was the Uruk hai Phalanx with Saruman, too his left were Vrashku's Talons beside the Uruk-hai warband. At the far left were the two companies of Uruk-hai scouts with bows.

I can't remember exactly how Mark deployed, but the wood elves were near the centre, flanked by the militia and some cavalry with the other archers on the far left opposite the Uruk scouts. IIRC Mark won priority on the first turn but let me move first. All of my units advance. My plan was to use the terrain as much as possible to keep my units from being flanked by cavalry. My first mistake was advancing the troll into range of the wood elf archers.

Erkenbrand and his cavalry moved towards the Orcs on the far right and the other two cavalry units at the doubled towards the centre Uruk-hai warband. The Militia hung back and the archers moved towards a clump of woods. The wood elves advanced a short distance so they could shoot but were out of Saruman's spell range.

Arrows from the wood elves fell like rain onto the poor troll, but after all was said and done, only three struck home, generating a single roll on the Very Hard to Kill table. Whew, dodged a bullet (well, arrow) but Mark rolled a 6 on the table, which modified down to a 5 causing two wounds. He then expended a point of might to bump the roll up to a 6 killing my 150 point unit. That was not a good start to the game though it did set the tone for the afternoon. Mark forgot that he had given me priority which meant my units could charge his cavalry, taking away their charge bonus, so he was forced to expend a point of might to call a heroic charge against the orcs who also tried a heroic charge but lost the die roll and were hit by 4 companies of cavalry. He decided not to attack the Uruk-hai war band in the centre. During the fight phase, about one and a half companies of orcs died, taking down a couple of Erkenbrand's riders in the process. The orcs were also Disordered.

Next turn I won priority, advancing the scouts into some woods, and moving the Uruks into positions were it would be difficult to flank them with cavalry. Saruman also began casting spells, launching a bolt of fire at the Elves, taking out three of them, but failing his focus roll so no further spells could be cast. The poor orcs remained disordered and thus would be charged again next turn, but could not charge and only had one attack dice. Mark's Rohirim and Knights in the centre lined up for a charge against the Uruk warband. Vrasku managed to whittle down one of the approaching groups of cavalry, killing four riders. The berserkers moving up the middle caught a storm of arrows from the wood elves, reducing their numbers by three. Mark was forced to declare a heroic charge so he could come to grips with the Uruk-hai warband, but I won the roll off and charged one unit of cav, in turn being charged by the other. At least I got rid of some of his charge bonus. The fight phase saw most of a company or uruk-hai warband die, for the loss of one horseman of Mark's, and the Uruks were disordered.

Mark won priority on the next turn, slowly advancing his wood elves and the militia began to advance as well but there wasn't a lot of movement on either side. Thranduil cast Natures Wrath on the Talon's killing a couple of them and cast Entanglement on the berserkers, severely limiting their advance towards a group of Rohan archers. Saruman countered with Exsicate against the wood elves boosted by Epic Ruination. Mark quickly expended a point of might, his last one, to try to block the spell and succeeded, saving himself a pile of potential damage. I followed up with bolt of fire taking out a few more elves but failing to Transfix them with my third spell. The wood elves and militia concentrated fire on the Talons killing some more crossbows, and their return fire plus that of the scouts killed another rider. My last remaining company of Orcs was charged by Erkenbrand and the two centre formations of cav charged the Uruks in the centre. He called out the Uruk captain in an Epic Duel, also using Epic Strike, getting eight rolls on the heroic duel table which killed the captain and 6 other Uruks. The follow on charges reduced the formation to one company. The last company of orcs on the right fell to Erkenbrand's charge.

The next turn saw Mark win priority again, and again there wasn't much movement, other than Erkenbrand wheeling around to join the fight in the centre and the militia slowly advancing. Vrashku's unit was hit by Nature's Wrath again plus shooting from the elves, reducing them to a single company. The berserkers were entangled again, plodding desperately towards a target, any target.

The lat few turns are a bit hazy for me, but what basically happened is Mark focused his spell and missile fire on the Talon's, wiping them out. The Uruk-hai warband in the centre was reduced to a single company. The Uruk-hai phalanx advanced part way across the creek and Saruman pounded the elves with spells, but got caught on the next term by Nature's Wrath which was enhanced by the creek. It really messed up that formation and Mark turned all of his cavalry towards Saruman and the phalanx. The scouts in the woods managed to shoot down the last two riders in one of the Rohirim formation as they turned to attack Saruman but then Saruman and the phalanx were destroyed by archery from the elves and the remaining cavalry. The berserkers survived but never made it into combat after being entangled three turns in a row. At the end of the game I was left with the scout archers minus a couple of dead, one company of Uruk-hai warband, and a half company of berserkers. I think Mark lost a full company of elves, one full formation of cavalry and a couple of other companies of cavalry. All in all not a good day for the forces of the White Hand. I think for the next game we are planning a re-fight, but there may be some variations in the forces.

Tactically, I did some good things. I used the terrain well to avoid being flanked by cav, something that has pain in the butt for me in previous game. I also tried to limit the huge charge bonus that cavalry gets, sometimes successfully. Still, in the end, it was a pretty crushing defeat, with Saruman fleeing from the board. The Elves were very effective at shooting, and Thranduil did some effective spell casting. He also had two units of Rohan militia that essentially did nothing in the game, not that they had to. Oh well, the forces of the White Hand will return, and it will be a dark day for men and elves.

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