Monday, April 18, 2016

BGiME #5: “The Hunt of the Uruk-hai”

I’ve slowly been building a network of local gamers interested in playing the SBG, beating the bushes and trying the drive these outcasts back into the daylight. We’ve managed to meet twice now in the last six weeks, playing some on the scenarios from Battle Games to introduce players to the game. We average two scenarios a meeting, playing each one twice to allow players the opportunity to experience the battles as both Good and Evil.

“The Hunt of the Uruk-hai” was the second scenario we played at our last meeting. As such, I was flying high on endorphins from our first two matches (re-plays of “Elven Attack” from issue #4) and failed to take as many pictures as I’d hoped. It’s always a sure sign the game is going well when you forget about everything but what’s happening on the tabletop. Please excuse the scant pictures documenting the scenario.

“Hunt” features Aragorn and Frodo facing off against Lurtz and four Uruk-hai warriors, representing the events at Amon Hen in the climax of The Fellowship of the Ring. Aragorn and Frodo are separated from the rest of the Fellowship and need to get the Ringbearer to safety in order to win. The Uruk-hai must capture or kill the hobbit and bring the One Ring back to Saruman.

 I started as the Good forces and, being hindered by Frodo’s 4” move each round, cautiously worked my way towards a hedgerow near my edge of the board. Aragon carries a bow with greater range and Strength than Lurtz, and I wanted to use the hedge row as both cover for the ranger and as a sight barrier for Frodo. Lurtz and his crew advanced and Aragon shot, but the heavy Uruk-hai armor protected the orcs from his arrows.

I worked my way down the edge of the hedgerow on the subsequent turn, keeping Frodo nearby but out of sight. The Uruks closed in, matching my movement on the opposite side of the hedge. A lucky shot from Lurtz inflicted a wound on Aragorn the following round, but I had the forces of Evil in my sights. One the very next turn, Aragorn managed to charge three of the Uruk-hai, allowing Frodo to make a wide run towards the right edge of the board. My plan was to keep him “running down the sidelines” where the terrain was clearer so as to not reduce his already pathetic movement rate. Aragorn took out one of the Uruk-hai as Lurtz closed in on the ranger. But one of the orcs chased after Frodo, managing to charge him and keep him from fleeing.

The next two turns saw a pitched melee, but both Frodo and Aragorn managed to hold their own. The Ranger lopped off a few more Uruk-hai heads before Lurtz was forced to charge in and support his warriors. A poor tactical decision by Evil freed up Frodo to run further towards the safety. However, it was Aragorn’s sword that won the day, dispatching the last of the Uruk-hai and their commander before Frodo reached the opposite end of the board. Chalk up a win for Good!

We swapped sides after the first game, allowing me to take on the mantle of Evil commander. My plan was to let Lurtz hang back and employ his bow as much as possible while his underlings moved in to slow down Aragorn and his cursed hobbit friend.

Beginning gambits
 My Uruk-hai advanced in a line, moving swiftly to cover ground while Aragorn and Frodo crept towards the center of the board at the Ringbearer’s slow movement rate. Lurtz rattled off an arrow whenever terrain allowed a clear shot. A lucky strike managed to pierce Frodo’s mithril coat, inflicting a wound, bringing the forces of Evil halfway to victory!

The Uruk-hai advance!
With a blow struck, Good played very cautiously, allowing me to close the distance as well as getting themselves pinned in the corner of the playing field. A small hill in that vicinity was considered difficult terrain for this scenario, meaning Frodo was limited to a mere 2” of movement if he dared ascend it and use its rocky outcropping for cover. I dispatched one Uruk-hai to chase down the halfling while the rest charged Aragorn, pooling their numbers to have a chance versus his 3 attacks and high Fighting score.

Frodo ascended the hill, much to my delight, and my Uruk-hai warrior ran him down. The noose closed around Aragorn as Lurtz, sensing it was time for the commander to join the fray, rushed towards the battle. The dice were rolled…and my Uruk-hai were sent back, one falling slain by the ranger. Frodo’s hobbit luck and mithril coat saved him from a lethal blow and he retreated back down the hill.

Battle on and below the hill
From there, the battle was joined as all the remaining forces of Evil encroached upon Frodo and Aragon and I smelled victory was near. But, as things are wont to do in these games, the tide turned when a series of lucky rolls by the Goodies dispatched more of my Uruks, leaving just Lurtz to take the halfling alive. The mighty Uruk-hai commander tried to charge the Ringbearer, but the priority roll deemed that Good would go first and Aragon stopped Lurtz cold. The dice rolled one last time and, as in the movie, Saruman’s champion was cut down by the heir of Arnor and Gondor. Good had triumphed once more!

Despite Good’s two wins, the scenario was a fun one, a quick little match to whet the appetite for battles yet to come. I feel I had a strong strategy when playing as Evil, but the dice turned against me at a critical time. I look forward to replaying this one again someday and see if I can do better.

Next up, a look at my finished game board as we close out our look at Battles in Middle-Earth #5.

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