Sunday, February 11, 2018

TOR: Rumors and Observations

Being a list of rumors overheard and observations made of Middle-earth, organized by game session.

Game #1 (1.27.18)
  • The company noticed signs of a large wolf pack moving west from the eaves of Mirkwood during their journey to the Old Ford.
  •  Thorn Hall has been reclaimed by the Woodsmen under the leadership of Eberulf, the Amber Hand. He is subsidizing those Woodsmen willing to relocate to the restore village with payments of amber he won in the east.
  • A caravan of dwarfs coming east through the High Pass encountered goblins on the Low Road through the pass. This comes after a long period of orc inactivity in the Misty Mountains in the years following the Battle of the Five Armies. Whether this is sign of growing numbers of orcs in the mountains once more or a rare break in the peace is unknown. If orcs are thriving anew in the Misty Mountains, the Low Road may once again become impassable by caravans and travelers.
Game #2 (2.11.18)
  •  Curious menhirs and dolmen were sighted in the foothills of the Misty Mountains along the path from the High Pass to the Ford of Bruinen. These ancient stones bear weird spiral carvings and appear to be of ancient make. 
  • Catmeat claims to have experienced a weird auditory hallucination when crossing the Ford. He says he heard the clash of arms as if from far off, yet somehow nearby, in mid-crossing. Nobody else experienced this.
  • A lark was seen following the company for several days as they descended from the High Pass towards the river. This may have been the same bird or several, and its presence might easily be coincidence.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

TOR: Interesting or Important People to Remember

Over the course of the campaign, you will meet many interesting people. Some will be living, some will be dead. There will be friends and enemies among them. You (and I) will sometimes forget who’s who. This page is to help us all remember and to keep your own notes straight.

This list is presented in alphabetical order by first name. New names and notes to existing names will be added as the campaign develops. I won’t track the more famous names in Middle-earth here (so no Radagasts or Beorns), as I assume you’ll remember them easily enough.

Dramatis Personae 

Bill Stonewater of Bree: Dead traveler encountered in the ruins. Possessed by a wight after dying from goblin-inflicted wounds. Was bringing a parcel to his brother, Ned, in Bree when he died.

Eberulf, called the Amber Hand: Woodman recently returned from Dorwinion who has undertaken the resettling of Thorn Hall. Well-respected by even the Woodman elders and popular with his men. Is known as the Amber Hand as he came back from the East with a small fortune in amber that he spends lavishly to assist new settlers and purchase materials for the village. Has a white hound named Frost.
Emrin: First man to hold the title of King's Huntsman. Original bearer of the Badge of Emrin, parts of which are in the fellowship's possession.

The Fox: Woodman confidante of Eberulf met at the Great Hall of Rhosgobel. The Eagle learned much about Eberulf and Thorn Hall by talking with him.

Gos: Mountain giant who lives near the high road of the High Pass. 

Ingmir, son of Inolgar: Scholar of Arnorian history who lives in Eriador, west of the Misty Mountains. It is he whom Radagast suggested you seek out to determine the provenance of the trinkets from Old Fornost owned by Fjöri and Eltharion. 
Innora, daughter of Ingmir: Assistant to her father and possible apprentice scholar.
Ivoric: One-eyed Beorning who collects tolls at the Old Ford. He was impressed with the fellowship and offered them food and lodging, collecting only a token toll payment from them.

Olveg the Bridge-Breaker: Last King's Huntsman. Perished fighting the forces of Rhudaur, bringing down a bridge to stop the advance of enemies forces. Interred in the crypts beneath Faroth-bran, the Hunting Hall, along with the Badge of Emrin.

Sunnegisil, son of Sigibert the Shepherd: A young Woodman boy met at the edge of Radagast’s grove, waiting there for the path to appear.

Tarcil, Sixth High King of Arnor: Reigned from T.A. 435-515. Was the first High King to appoint a King's Huntsman to oversee the royal preserves and woodlands of Arnor.

Unknown: Woodman woman found among the Beorning toll-collectors at the Old Ford. Her presence there among Beorn’s people was noted as unusual.
Unknown: Peddler and provisioner who sold food to the fellowship at the Old Ford.

List last updated: 2/12/18

BGiME #10: Making a Rohirrim Building

This is perhaps my favorite “Modelling Workshop” to date. Issue #10 provides detailed instructions on making low-cost but good-looking houses for Rohan. Their appearance, however, is generic enough to suit most Dark Ages or medieval periods, and they can easily pull double-duty as a Western European structure if your wargaming tastes lean towards the historical as well as Middle-earth.

The basic box shape of the house means you can use any rectangular object of the correct size as the building’s base. I followed the instructions and used some old tea boxes, but anything close to that scale would also work. If you’re overly ambitious, you could even build the base from scratch with heavy cardboard or foam board.

The roof “thatch” is ordinary spackle diluted down to a toothpaste consistency and painted on. Once laid down over the cardboard roof, lines are etched into the joint compound with a toothpick to give it the correct texture. Painted properly, the fake thatch looks fantastic and has so far proven durable.

I know later issues of Battle Games in Middle-earth demonstrate other methods of building Rohan structures, but I’d be surprised if you can make them for cheaper. It took me roughly a week of on-and-off building to create, texture, and paint these up. A long weekend of steady attention would probably suffice if you needed them faster. All in all, these are amazing terrain pieces. Combine them with the watch beacon from last issue and you have an eye-catching Rohan or Dark Age hamlet for your tabletop battles.

Under Construction: You can see the balsa wood trimmings and dried "thatch" roof ready for painting

Spackle covers the base to give it texture as well.

Painted with flocked base.

I like the horse-head roof emblems, but would probably make them from foam board or balsa wood if I had to do it again.

The doorknob is a drop of hardened white glue painted silver.

A good view of the "thatching."
Rear view.

BGiME #10: Batch Painting

This issue’s project is a bit of repeat. Back in issue #4, we received our first sprue of Uruk-hai to paint, doing so using the skills and paints we had at that point. Now, a few months later (in the original release schedule, anyway), we’re given 10 more fighting Uruk-hai to prepare for the tabletop. Issue #10’s “Painting Workshop” is primarily concerned with getting these half-score models finished and ready to fight as quickly as possible.

The Uruk-hai are some of the easiest SBG models to paint. A good spray primer has them ready for their base coats in no time flat, and the majority of their armor and weapons can be dry-brushed a dark metallic. A little edging with a brighter silver paint gives the impression of sharp edges and wear, then a coat of dark flesh for skin tone and you’re ready to base them and field them. The servants of the White Hand are pretty formidable with their heavy armor and high Strength scores. I’d personally recommend them to any newcomer wanting to play the SBG quickly.

Below are the ten Uruk-hai I painted for this issue. I’ve also included a comparison photo showing one of the models I painted for issue #4 alongside a more recent paint job. In this case, you can see I’ve started doing a little more work on my bases, using an Earthshade wash on the sand to make it look more like soil and not a day at the beach for the Uruk-hai. The newer paint job is also brighter. I believe this stems from me using a lighter metallic as a base and instead washing the metallic with a sepia wash to age the armor. The differences aren’t too great, however, and I can field both on the same table without them distracting from one another.





Saturday, February 3, 2018

Battle Games in Middle-earth Issue #10 Overview

Double digits at last! This whimsical project has advanced in fits and starts—and will undoubtedly continue to lurch forward in a similar manner—but we’ve finally made it to issue #10. And with it, we’re almost at an end of learning the basics of the Strategy Battle Game. Just in time for a whole new edition to be released, if signs from Games Workshop are indication. But we’ll cross that Bridge of Khazad-dûm when we get to it. Let’s look at BGiME #10.

The magazine begins as always with the “Guide to Middle-earth.” Issue #10 gives us the low down on Saruman’s most brutal warriors: the fighting Uruk-hai. From their emergence from the birthing pits beneath Orthanc to their appetite for man-flesh, we learn how Saruman mixes magic and science to create perhaps the fiercest soldiers of the end of the Third Age. A look at the Uruk-hai was a natural choice as this issue not only features the conclusion of the “Burn the Village!” scenario (where the Uruk-hai threaten to massacre the brave men of Rohan), but also comes with a new sprue of Uruk-hai warriors to add to our collection.

Moving on to the “Playing the Game” chapter, we learn a lesson in Courage. Or at least how the Courage stat works in the SBG. There’s a caveat here, though. The Courage rules presented in issue #10 are the old way Courage worked in the game. In the original rules as released with The Fellowship of the Ring boxed set, Courage tests were a much more complex system. When certain conditions arose, such as after a force had lost 50% or more of its models (and considered "broken") or a model found itself on its own, each model the condition applied to had to make a Courage test. This involved rolling 2d6 and adding the model’s Courage score to the result. If the total was 10+, the model passed its Courage test and play continued as normal.

However, if a model failed its Courage test, things got complicated. The model was forced to Retreat, turning directly away from the nearest enemy model and moving its maximum movement distance in that direction. Its Move was then over for that turn. If Courage test conditions continued to apply to the model in subsequent rounds, new tests would have to be made, possibly resulting in the model fleeing off the board completely and being treated as a casualty for victory conditions.

This Courage system made concessions towards realism, but proved awkward in play. Later editions streamlined the rules for Courage. Models on their own no longer had to make tests. Figures trying to charge a foe with the Terrifying quality now made their Courage test before moving toward the model (remaining still if the test failed). In the case of broken forces, any model failing its test was immediately removed from the board. This method was much simpler than making consecutive Courage tests until a model left the field of battle.

Heroes play an important role in Courage tests thanks to the “Stand Fast!” rule. In short, any Hero that makes its Courage test negates the need for all friendly models within 6” to make Courage tests of their own. A stout-hearted Good Hero could prevent the ranks from breaking and fleeing, while cruel Evil Heroes kept their lackeys in line out of sheer fear.

The chapter closes with the suggestion to go back and replay some of the old scenarios and see how they turn out with the Courage tests now invoked. It’s possible “The Last Alliance” or “Pursuit of the Ringwraiths” could have much different endings when forces break or when heroes lose their resolve. 

Next up is the conclusion of the “Burn the Village” battle report the “Battle Game” section. No new scenario is included in this issue. Instead, we get a post-battle breakdown of the scenario as played by two employees of Games Workshop. This report covers turns 5-9 and is well-written, but suffers a bit from photographic demonstrations of the various fights and maneuvers. Nevertheless, it serves as a good example of how the SBG is played and suggests tactics to newcomers. I won’t reveal how the game turns out, aside from it had a different ending that either of the matches we played ourselves!

Moving along to the “Painting Workshop,” we’re introduced to a method that every miniature wargamer who actually wants to play must master: batch painting. Tips on using spray primer, dry-brushing, using large brushes, pre-mixing paint, and stage-by-stage (or “assembly line”) painting of models are all covered. If we follow this advice, we should have our newest 10 Uruk-hai finished and ready for the table in no time.

The last section, “Modelling Workshop,” presents us with our most complex piece of tabletop terrain to date: a Rohirrim building. This will be our first intact building for Middle-earth and the challenge could be quite daunting. Luckily, the simple shape of the building provides us with some shortcuts to create an excellent piece of scenery, one that will serve us well in not only The Lord of the Rings SBG battles but other Dark Age and medieval period historical wargames such as SAGA or Frostgrave. The finished piece really is good-looking and the step-by-step directions are instructive without being opaque.

As we close the issue, the back cover gives us a look at the next issue headed for the newsagent. We can look forward to a metal Boromir model, new rules that “set your Heroes apart from lesser warriors,” an attack at Amon-hen, and how to construct a standing stone for our battlefields. All this and more await us in issue #11!

With our overview, well, over, let’s take a more detailed look at what Battle Games in Middle-earth #10 adds to our The Lord of the Rings SBG gaming table, starting with 10 new Uruk-hai for our inventory of Evil models…

Monday, January 29, 2018

BGiME #9: Burn the Village! Part 1

The scenario in issue #9 is played across two issues as a battle report recounting the outcome of the battle as fought by two Games Workshop employees. To reflect this, I’ll discuss the scenario in two parts. The first is a recap of the battle wherein my friend and regular opponent, Dave, played the forces of Good while I commanded Evil. For the issue #10 coverage, I’ll discuss how the game turned out when it was my turn to command the Good warriors of Middle-earth.

“Burn the Village!” features a small Rohan hamlet facing off against a horde of Uruk-hai. The Rohirrim are outnumbered and facing heavily-armored enemies. Their only hope is the timely arrival of the Three Hunters—Aragon, Legolas, and Gimli—who are passing nearby in pursuit of the captured hobbits when Rohan is attacked. If the Rohirrim can light a signal beacon calling for aid, the three heroes rush to lend their assistance—hopefully before the troops of the White Hand burn down the village’s two buildings!

Mechanically, once Good lights the signal beacon, the Rohan player rolls 1d6 for each of the three heroes on subsequent turns. If the roll is 4+, that hero arrives on the table side with the beacon and can charge immediately into battle.

Likewise, in order for the Uruk-hai to burn down a building, one or more of their models must be in base contact with the structure and not be involved in combat. Additionally, no Good model can also be in contact with the building and not be engaged in battle. If these conditions are met, each applicable Evil model rolls 1d6 and on a result of “6” the building catches fire and is destroyed.

In the first game, Dave set most of the Rohan warriors up behind the village’s walls, giving him the benefit of defending an obstacle in the forthcoming fight ("In the way" rolls, single combats, etc. as explained in issue #7). I had only four archers and arrayed them on either side of the path from the village to the beacon. It was my hope to kill any Rohan troops running to the beacon before they could light it. Dave countered by sending two troops off towards the beacon, while I moved the rest of my forces towards the village from three sides.

The walls worked in the favor of Rohan at the beginning, stalling my efforts to get inside the village and kill enough of the Rohirrim so that I could set the buildings alight unimpeded. Eventually, however, one or two Rohan Warriors were slain despite the walls’ protection and I sent Uruk-hai leaping inside the perimeter. Once the levy broke, the tide of the White Hand overwhelmed the Rohan forces inside.

Dave had terrible luck with reinforcements. He managed to get the signal beacon lit by the end of Turn 3, but failed every reinforcement roll (three each round!) to get the Good heroes onto the board and help turn the tide of battle. He might have gotten Gimli onto the board near the end of the game (it's been awhile since we played this battle and my memory is spotty), but the dwarf’s short legs didn’t get him anywhere near the fight before I surrounded the Rohan houses with multiple models and burned them to the ground. Score one victory for Evil!

Next, it would be me turn to command Rohan. Could I do any better? We’ll find out when coverage of Battle Games in Middle-earth #10 occurs shortly!

The forces are arranged for battle

The Uruk-hai approach as Dave measures out the movement of the Rohan warrior headed towards the signal beacon.

Uruk-hai supported by pikemen approach the village wall while Rohan prepares to receive them.

The battle is joined!

Uruk-hai have breached the village's defenses!

The signal fire is lit! Help must come to Rohan!

Rohan falls back to defend the village's building from the flames of Saruman's troops.

Surrounded!

The forces of Rohan have been slain and the buildings are burned. Victory for Evil!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

BGiME #9: Constructing a Warning Beacon

This is a cool piece of terrain that was fun to build. The warning beacon has a lot of character and its presence in one's inventory of tabletop decor suggests many potential game ideas. It could summon reinforcements as it does in this issue's battle scenario. It could be an objective to be protected for X number of turns while a model frantically kindle the beacon. It could even be a pyre upon which a hapless model is to be burned alive unless he or she is rescued. All of these are intriguing uses of the terrain piece to liven up any tabletop battle.

The piece was easy to construct using materials I already had on hand. I built it along with some Rohan houses that also made an appearance in this issue's scenario. I'll post separate images of those when I cover the next issue. Please forgive the unattractive backdrop for this series of photos. I took them without much thought of posting them online and snapped them merely to brag to a friend about what I'd accomplished.