Sunday, December 31, 2017

BGiME #9: Painting the Uruk-hai Captain

From a painting point of view, I really enjoy the various Uruk-hai models. They can be quickly painted and deployed on the gaming table, and they're fearsome looking minis. If I was prone to playing Evil, I'd probably go with an Isengard force.

The Uruk-hai Captain was a fast paint and ready to lead his forces against Rohan in a day. There's nothing complicated about the figure and, being largely armored, was mostly drybrushed metallics. He then received a coat of Dark Flesh and was good to go. Taste the man-flesh, of Captain of Evil!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Battle Games in Middle-earth #9 Overview

There’s been a lot happening on the Middle-earth scene of late. Games Workshop is releasing their new Middle-earth Battle Companies supplement (bearing the new Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game logo!) imminently. Amazon has announced they’re developing a new series based on the years prior to the Lord of the Rings. I’ve become a huge fan of the “Exploring The Lord of the Rings” podcast, and my local gaming group is starting a new The One Ring campaign next month. So, with Middle-earth excitement waxing strongly, let’s delve back into this on-going series, shall we?

Battle Games in Middle-earth #9 starts off with the usual “Guide to Middle-earth” section, and it’s a short one. It’s also more meta than in previous issues. Little detail is given to Middle-earth and the chapter instead explains that issue #9 will feature its first Battle Report. In this issue and in #10, a game between two players will be covered in some detail, describing how events occurred during the game and the strategy behind the players’ actions. That scenario, included in this issue, features a band of Uruk-hai assaulting a Rohan village. Unlike the similar scenario in issue #7, this time, the Rohirrim have a chance of receiving some powerful reinforcements in the guise of Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli—assuming they can hold out that long. We’ll see how that plays out later.

“Playing the Game”continues the trend begun in the previous issue by detailing the various melee (or mêlée as the European-based publication prints it) weapons encountered on the battlefields of Middle-earth. These include hand weapons, two-handed weapons, spears, pikes, and shields. Rules for each are also provided, bringing a new level of complexity and tactics to your table. Two-handed weapons, for example, subtract 1 from their rolls during the Fight phase to determine who wins a battle, but add 1 to all rolls to wound opponents if the wielder wins the fight. Spears and pikes allow friendly models to support allies, giving them an additional attack die, but they’re not considered to be part of the melee when determining certain factors such as who can be struck by enemies. Shields are great for defense and a model can actively employ a shield to survive a fight, effectively doubling his dice to determine the winner, but the model cannot cause wounds if it wins.

The “Battle Game” section includes the scenario “Burn the Village!” As described above, this scenario pits twelve Warriors of Rohan against a score of Uruk-hai and their Captain. Normally, as we saw in a previous issue, the Rohirrim would be hard-pressed to win. Luckily, this battle includes a rule that allows the Warrior of Rohan to call for reinforcements. If they manage to light a warning beacon, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, en route to Isengard to save Merry and Pippin, see the fire and rush to the aid of Rohan. That is, if the Good player rolls 4 or higher on the turn after the warning beacon is set alight. Can the Warriors of Rohan survive long enough for the three hunters to save them or will the Uruk-hai burn down their village and win the battle? We’ll see how that went on our table in an upcoming post.

Also tacked on to the “Battle Game” chapter is the first half of the Battle Report. This after-action report describes Turns 1 through 4 of a game between BGiMe writers Mark Latham and Darron Bowley. Rohan is holding during these early turns and has managed to light the beacon, calling Aragorn to their aid. But the tide might be turning as a force of Uruk-hai leaps over the village walls and engages the Warriors in the heart of the settlement. We’ll see how the forces of Good fare next issue when the Battle Report concludes.

“Painting Workshop” covers two topics. The first is an overview/refresher course of the various painting techniques we’ve learned in the previous issues. Dry-brushing, silver edging, washes, using multiple layers to achieve flat colors, mixing paints, black lining, and basing are all discussed one final time. This reiteration of techniques will prove handy with this issue’s model, as it uses most of them to achieve its quality paint job.

The second half of the chapter is the usual step-by-step instruction for painting issue #9’s included model, a metal Uruk-hai Captain. Uruk-hai are great models to paint as they are simple to do and can be knocked out rather swiftly. Which is good, because we have a lot of Uruk-hai to field in this issue’s Battle Game! With the Uruk-hai Captain in our collection, we’ve got a strong nucleus for an Isengard army: 10 infantry, Lurtz to lead them, and now a Captain to assist. Next issue will have more Uruk-hai, bringing our Evil collection up to 20 Uruk-hai Warriors and two Heroes to lead them. That’s not bad for ten issues of gaming goodness from our local news merchant! 

The issue’s final section, “Modelling Workshop” describes how to build a great piece of terrain: the Rohan warning beacon.” While unlikely to get a lot of regular use, the piece is cool looking and has a lot of character. It’ll likely come in handy down the road once Gondor calls for aid, but in the meanwhile, it gives your table a wonderful decoration that’s outside the normal hedges, trees, and walls. I’m sure I can also think of some new scenarios both in the SBG and other miniature wargames to give me more excuses to use it.

As usual, the issue’s back cover provides a glimpse into the future. In two weeks—in the original print run, I mean—we can expect another sprue of plastic Uruk-hai, the rules for Courage (long overdue in my opinion!), and the conclusion to the “Burn the Village” scenario and Battle Report. It also marks our making it out of the single-digit issues. It only took two-and-a-half years, but it looks like we’re going to do it.

But first, we’ll take a look at how to paint up an Uruk-hai Captain. See you soon!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

BGiME #8: Trees and Forests

Trees are a wargaming table staple. No matter what system or period you prefer, you can always spruce (heheh) up the tabletop with trees. From lonely pines to small groves of oaks to full forests capable of hiding divisions, trees are the bee’s knees.

They’re also something I lack in my terrain inventory. I have a few I repainted and based from dollar store Christmas scene trees, but I need more. I’ve been waiting for the Battlefield in a Box woods to be manufactured again, but they seem to be on permanent pre-order. So I was enthusiastic at first about issue #8 demonstrating cheap and easy means to create tabletop trees.

I started in making them and I was satisfied with the first phases of the process. The twisted garden wire trunks—covered in masking table and spackle for texture—turned out great. Then came adding the foliage. I used the magazine’s suggestion of doing the foliage with sisal moss, a single package of which I found at the dollar store. The original moss was light tan in coloration, so I purchased a small can of green spray paint to give it the proper hue. 

The problem may be either that I didn’t have enough moss or that I did a poor job affixing it to the trees. Regardless of the reason, my end results weren’t quite equal to those show in the magazine. They’d serve in a pinch, but they’re not something I’m particularly proud to put down on the table. I’m chalking these up to a lesson learned and going to continue to keep my eyes peel for good-looking commercially made trees in a suitable scale.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

BGiME #8: Raid on Lothlorien

As mentioned in this issue’s overview, the battle scenario for BGiME #8 sees Frodo and Legolas facing off against two bands of Moria goblins, trapped in between fleeing raiders from Lothlorien and hunters looking for revenge. The encounter occurs in the eaves of Lothlorien: half of the board is covered in trees, with the last 6” of it being dense forest and therefore difficult terrain.

Frodo must escape deep into Lothlorien to evade the goblins and win a victory for Good. The Moria goblins, however, need only slay the Ringbearer to achieve victory. Although the forces of Evil greatly outnumber those of Good (nine goblins including a Goblin captain vs. only Frodo and Legolas), the Elf Prince’s three attacks during the Shoot phase and Frodo’s mithril coat might buy them enough time to escape. Or at least, that’s the theory.

In practice, things turned out pretty bleak for Good. We played the session a good four or five time with three people present, swapping sides after each bout so that everyone got a chance to try out their tactics for either side. In the end, Good only managed to achieve victory once. I employed the gambit of keeping as much cover between Frodo and the goblin archers—including using Legolas as a meat shield—while the elf’s arrows thinned the fence of goblins standing between the Ringbearer and the escape edge of the board.

After playing through eight of the BGiME scenarios, Evil seems to have an advantage most time. I believe this might change once we start using some of the more advanced rules. But as it stands, Evil often wins on either numbers or Defense scores in many of the bouts. This one was no exception.

Goblins advance of the Ringbearer and the Woodland Prince.

The Moria Goblin Captain draws a bead on Legolas.

Legolas tries to winnow down the goblins' numbers as they close on Frodo.

Good is locked in combat and cannot escape!

We'll try again. Maybe if we go this way...

"Not so fast, Blondie! Eat arrows!"

Once again, Good is overwhelmed numbers and unable to flee.

Frodo takes a goblin sword in the back!

"Ok, boys. Let's get 'em one more time!"

Legolas eyes the goblin archers off camera as Moria sword goblins approach.

All alone in the eaves of Lothlorien. Can Good ever triumph?

Sunday, November 12, 2017

BGiME #8: Painting Legolas

I own a plethora of Legolas (Legoli?) models. As is my wont, I decided to paint two versions of the Woodland Prince. One is a plastic version from my Mines of Moria starter set, and the other is a metal model from the original Fellowship of the Ring boxed set. 

Since the Battle Games’ instructional painting sections, at least for now, are aimed at beginning painters, I don’t mind if my plastic Fellowship heroes are done in a most basic tabletop standard fashion. My metal heroes, however, I’d like to be of better quality. So with that caveat in mind, here’s the two Legolas models I now have painted and ready to take the table.

Here's my metal version:

As always, I don't foresee any Golden Demon awards in my future, but I'm pretty proud that I can do a tolerable job of painting my wargaming forces. Legolas, in whatever guise I choose to field, is ready to take on some Moria Goblins in this issue's scenario. Let's hope he fares well!

Battle Games in Middle-earth #8 Overview

We take a journey into the realm of the elves with Battle Games in Middle-earth #8, temporarily forsaking the world of Men, Hobbits, and Orcs for an older race. Fans of Legolas Greenleaf undoubtedly rejoiced when this issue hit the stands, as it not only provides rules for including the elven archer in your tabletop battles, but a lovely metal miniature of him as well. 

This issue’s “Guide to Middle-earth” covers more ground than normal. First off, the chapter examines the various weapons one might wield or face in battle. Uruk-hai crossbows, bladed orc bows, elf bows, throwing axes, two-handed weapons such as elf swords and dwarven axes, and general hand weapons all are briefly described accompanied by movie production photos. 

The second section of the chapter gives us a thumbnail look at Lothlorien, Land of the Elves. This provides background information for the scenario appearing later in the issue, as well as presenting an extremely brief overview of Lothlorien’s place in Middle-earth and its mistress, Galadriel.
The third section introduces the reader to Legolas, Woodland Prince. It covers his role in the Fellowship, his skills and natural talents, and describes his “battle highlights” of memorable moments in the conflicts the Fellowship endured, up to and including Helm’s Deep.

After this lengthy “Guide,” issue #8 dives into the “Playing the Game” section. This issue’s chapter isn’t an in-depth one as others have been. I suspect the increased page count of the preceding section cut into the available space for #8’s “Playing the Game.” We received a mere two pages that broadly describe SBG’s missile weapons. Basic rules for thrown weapons, previously undiscussed, are the most useful piece of information from the two pages, although the crossbow is also introduced. Alas, while it’s stated that an Uruk-hai armed with a crossbow cannot move if it wishes to fire during the Shoot phase, no range or Strength rating is given for the weapon, making the new weapon yet unusable in your combats.

The “Battle Game” chapter is “Raid on Lothlorien,” a scenario which takes place shortly after the Fellowship flees Moria. The premise is that the goblins of Moria emerge after nightfall to hunt them down. The horde of goblins clashes with Haldir and his elves, sending some of the forces of Evil scrambling back towards Moria. Simultaneously, Frodo has become separated from the Fellowship and Legolas catches up with him just as a band of goblin hunters—led by a Moria Goblin Captain—stumbles upon them. Making matters worse, goblins fleeing Haldir and his guards come upon the scene from the opposite side of the board, effectively catching Frodo and Legolas between the hammer and anvil. Can the Ringbearer and the Woodland Prince escape?

“Painting Workshop” provides the usual step-by-step method of turning this issue’s model into a tabletop ready combatant. Legolas Greenleaf comes to life as the tutorial explains how to use a black lining technique to create more realistic looking clothing and faces, instructions sure to be useful as we increase our collection of models. Also helpful is a tip about using tile as a mixing palette. Cheap and re-usable, it’s a great new addition to our inventory of painting tools.  

Our last section, my beloved “Modelling Workshop” covers how to scratch-build trees for your table. Trees are a miniature wargaming staple, and no board is complete without at least a few of these to breakup lines of sight, provide cover, and offer dense terrain to negotiate. The instructions provided demonstrate how to make cheap but presentable trees for your table. The results, at least on paper, look good. We’ll see how they stack up when we sit down to craft our own.

Issue #8’s final page offers up a preview of what Battle Games in Middle-earth #9 has in store for us. It looks like bad news for Rohan next time as we get a scenario pitting Uruk-hai against a Rohan village, a metal Uruk-hai Captain model to paint and to lead them, as well as new rules for weapons including pikes, two-handed swords, and others. Luckily, it seems like instructions for building a Rohan warning beacon are also provided, giving us hope of calling for aid.

Until then, let’s dive deeper in Battle Games in Middle-earth issue #8!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

BGiME #7: Walls and Fences

What’s the point in having an issue dedicated to teaching the rules regarding defending walls if you don’t have some walls to defend? 

Issue #7 provides easy-to-follow directions for building walls and fences for your game table. The materials are cheap, the skill level is low (if not fool-proof, as we’ll see), and the result is as many obstacles as you could desire for your games. 

The walls are made from 6” sections of thick card glued together and topped with thin card. When you pay attention to what you’re doing, it works just fine. When you’re attention to detail is lacking, things go a little awry. When building one of my walls, I wasn’t precise in my cutting and that left a bump in the top of the wall. When I topped the wall with section of thin card, the result was a less than even finish. Not horrible, but a little more care on my part would have resulted in a better terrain.

The fences are made from balsa wood glued to a section of thin card. The uprights are placed first, then once the glue has dried, the crossbars are attached. A lot of dry brushing later and some flocking, and you’ve got yourself 6” of cheap fencing that looks fantastic. I’ll likely keep using my Pegasus Hobbies stone walls instead of these scratch built ones, but the fences have and will continue to see a lot of use in games.

That finishes off our look at issues #7. The issue’s promo blurb for #8 tells us we can look forward to new rules for missile weapons, a Legolas metal miniature, and techniques for making woods and forests. If this was back during Battle Games in Middle-earth’s original run, we’d have all that in two weeks. But I’ve got some painting and scratch-building to do, so we’ll get to issue #8 as soon as I can.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

BGiME #7: Repel the Marauders! Part 2

This scenario was run a second time two weeks ago. A friend and I play miniature wargames every Tuesday night at a FLGS and I thought it time to brush the dust off my Lord of the Rings SBG models and get caught up with this blog. I’ve proposed that the first game night of each month be dedicated to the SBG and Dave readily agreed. That should keep me up to date on my painting, building, and working my way through this series.

While the models used in this game are the same as the previous one, you’ll notice the terrain has enjoyed a slight upgrade. The buildings are my Rohan-style houses I built a few months back. We’ll cover those more in a future discussion about "Battle Games in Middle-earth."

The Warriors of Rohan rush to man the walls around their village.

The Uruk-hai slowly advance across the Riddermark.

The scent of man-flesh hangs heavy in the air, driving the servants of the White Hand forward!

A high view of the battle about to commence.

"They are upon us, men!"

The Uruk-hai have scaled the fences!

Battle rages along the length of the walls.

Rohan holds back some of the Uruk-hai, but for how long?

Pikeman surge forward to push back the Men of Rohan.

The battle reaches a fevered pitch!

Rohan begins to falter.

Two Uruk-hai engage a single Warrior of Rohan.

The melee swirls around the verge of the village as Rohan is overwhelmed.

The last Man of Rohan perishes under Uruk-hai numbers.

The battle begins anew!

The Servants of the White Hand spread their forces about the village boundary.

Archers conceal themselves behind the rocks.

An early hole in Rohan's defenses is discovered!

A solitary Uruk-hai holds his own...briefly.

The hole is closed and the Uruk-hai are pushed back!

As Rohan begins to fail, I discover I didn't take more photos.
Rohan lost both matches this time around. In retrospect, I'm to blame. I failed to refresh myself with this issue of BGiME and was using the rules for Courage and broken forces, something that hadn't been introduced to the readers of the magazine yet. So instead of Rohan being able to fight to the last man without issue, I was having them make Courage tests to remain on the field after they had been "broken" (lost more than 50% of their force). That might have made a difference in the battles.

Even without the Courage rules in play, this scenario is a tough one for Rohan. The Uruk-hai are one of the meanest forces in the original SBG. They are heavily armored, have high Fight score, and are strong, making them tough opponents. Without cavalry to back them up or similarly armored or better fighters on Rohan's side, the odds were stacked against the forces of Good. It will be interesting to see how Rohan fares in a few issues when they gain Heroes to help them and horses to ride. Stay tuned for that in upcoming posts.

Next up: making walls and fences.