Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Battle Games in Middle-Earth #4 Overview

With our first metal miniature in our collection painted and a number of Good and Evil plastic models to war with one another, it’s time to expand our forces with some of the nastiest bad guys in Middle-Earth: the Uruk-hai. They are the focus of Battle Games in Middle-Earth #4.

As always, the magazine begins with “Guide to Middle-Earth.” This issue’s entry describes the origins and characteristics of the dreaded Uruk-hai. From their creation by Saruman to their unique ability among orcs to function well in daylight, we learn the role the Uruk-hai play in the machinations of Sauron and the Enemy’s plans for the Free People of Middle-Earth. The Guide postulates a scenario where a force of elven scouts from Rivendell encounter a band of Uruk-hai en route to Helm’s Deep and attempt to prevent them from bolstering Saruman’s forces. This hypothetical event will be further explored during the Battle Game chapter later in the issue.

Next up is “Playing the Game.” Last issue, we learned new rules regarding the Priority and Move phase and how they impact the basic game rules the magazine had taught us so far. Now it’s time to further delve into the Fight phase and see what complexities exist for when forces clash in close combat. This issue demonstrates the Wound Chart for the first time. In previous battle games, the scores models needed to roll to wound an enemy were presented for each figure. Here we now see the table used to determine these scores and are told the means to calculate such numbers for ourselves (the winner’s Strength cross-referenced with loser’s Defense). We learn that when these scores are widely divergent, an attack might need to roll the dice twice on a strike, achieving a 6 on the first die, than a 4, 5, or 6 on the second to cause a wound. This came into play in the previous issue’s scenario and it’s now clear exactly how bad Frodo was outclassed by the Ringwraiths.

The methodology of breaking up complex battles into bite-sized, easily-resolved combats is taught with clear photographs of models to demonstrate the intricacies of such divisions. The rule for trapped models is given; in situations where a model losing a fight cannot retreat the usual 2cm/1” required, the winner gains twice as many chances to inflict a wound. This situation occurred in our very first battle game so it’s nice to know how to handle it now.

All these new rules and modifications are grouped with the collected Fight phase rules presented in previous issues, giving the reader a “one-stop shopping” chapter to reference during SBG matches.

The “Battle Game” chapter in this issue concerns a class between a group of High Elves from Rivendell (the ones we assembled and painted in issue #2) and a band of Uruk-hai. As previously noted, this scenario, “Elven Attack,” is set shortly before the Battle of Helm’s Deep. It presents a possible event where Elrond dispatched scouts to buy the men of Rohan more time to rally their forces and these scouts engaged Uruk-hai headed to the battlefield. The winning conditions require Good to slay at least six of the ten Uruk-hai, while Evil needs to move five Uruk-hai off the opposite end of the board. The scenario is an interesting one: The elves are slightly outnumbered and the Uruk-hai are stronger, but the forces of Good are the only ones with missile weapons. How it all turned out when we played through this battle will be covered in a future post.

The “Painting Workshop” features techniques to paint our new Uruk-hai troops. We’ve come a long way from our efforts with the Moria Goblins back in Battle Games in Middle-Earth #1. By now, we’ve learned how to mix paints to achieve different colors aside from the seven paint pots we own (assuming we’ve been relying solely on those included with each issue of the magazine), how to drybrush models, and how to use flock or static grass as a simple basing technique. We add a new trick to our repertoire this time around: “silver edging.” This gives metal weapons and armor a sharp and menacing look, something no Uruk-hai should be without!

We now come to our final chapter, “Modelling Workshop.” This issue it’s time to rise above the tabletop as we learn how to fashion simple hills for our SBG and other miniature wargames. The steps to create polystyrene hills are presented in clear, easy-to-follow steps, allowing even the most ham-handed tabletop wargamer to make any number of grassy hills to adorn the battle board for a fraction of what commercially manufactured ones cost.

Looking to the back cover, we see that another metal model, the Uruk-hai captain, Lurtz, will be arriving in two weeks, providing us with another hero (albeit an Evil one) to add to our collection. With our squad of Uruk-hai awaiting his arrival and orders, what hope do the forces of Good have? We’ll see in the weeks ahead!

Next up, let’s paint some orc.

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