The game is actually set at the skirmish level, with a 1:1 figure ratio albeit in the same relationship as the original battle. This was done because (a) we already had a large collection from the wonderful “Armies of Middle Earth” range of toys (see below for details), which look great in 1/24th scale! And (b) skirmishes make for good participation games – speaking of which….
As with last years’ “One Ring” game (reflecting our take on the encounter with the Ring-Wraiths at Weathertop), the system is partly based on the excellent but now sadly difficult to find Hasbro game “Star Wars Epic Duels”. The key features of this design are that each player controls a small team, with one main character (say, Darth Vader), plus one or two little helpers (Stormtroopers in Vader’s case). Normal movement is fairly standard, although some variability is introduced by means of a die roll. However, the design really scores because teams also get a dedicated pack of cards which are used for both combat and any unique ‘special abilities’ – such an elegant, simple way to reflect widely varying attributes, and without resorting to thick books of charts and +/- tables!
Whilst the “One Ring” game was perfect for a straight adaptation of this team-based, low-figure count approach, this year we wanted to give some idea of mass on the table, while still keeping to the spirit of the skirmish-style structure. For this reason, and to reflect the ‘hap-hazard’ nature of combat in pre-professional eras, when their turn comes around each player will now simply select two or three groups of figures from the mass to be ‘activated’ this time - and yes, it is thus possible that your carefully positioned force from last time may be hijacked by an ‘ally’ before you can get to use it again! Not that we’re suggesting such a dastardly idea….
Movement is still basically the same, using a modified die roll to generate movement points, albeit with new variations to account for the mounted troops of Rohan, and Saruman’s Warg-riders – oh, and the effect of the river (Orcs especially do not like getting wet… unless driven to it). Some special moves are also possible with the cards, such as the ever-popular trampling others under hoof, or ‘rallying’ (i.e. reorganising) those grouped around a leader or banner, or – in the Lesser Orcs’ case – being driven into combat by the Uruks having a whip-round! The other change is to allow an option to ‘advance after combat’ if successfully clearing all occupants from a hex – unless they were behind those pesky earthworks.
As with previous outings, the use of the dedicated card packs adds so much to the ‘period flavour’ of the game, hopefully reflecting the different combat options and other unique actions of the various Rohirrim, Orcs, Uruks and Wargs. For example, the Orcs can gain advantage by deliberately sacrificing figures, whilst the Rohan archery and spear-throwing are deadly. A charging Rider of Rohan is something to be avoided (as long as he can keep moving), whereas the roar of a Warg is sometimes scary enough to make the feint-hearted take a step backwards… And whilst your immediate choice of tactics may be affected by the cards in your hand, like any ‘real’ historical combat, victory will go to the side which can maximise their peculiar advantages whilst exploiting the weaknesses of the enemy.
The objective within the scenario this year is for the isolated Rohirrim at the ford to either be eliminated by Saruman’s combined forces, or relieved by the arrival of a mounted contingent. All that the Orcs know is that their target (Theodred) is one of the armoured and cloaked figures at the ford, but not precisely which one – so you’ll have to kill them all to be sure! But this force in turn is limited by their sense of honour and duty - they may not simply run away at the first sight of the enemy, as the sacred borders of Rohan must be defended – yeah, well…
- Select three ‘units’ (occupants of one hex)
- Roll a dice to determine each unit’s movement OR play a ‘special move’ card
- Now choose two actions – either:
o Pick up a card from one of the packs (hold up to 10 cards)
o Play a card (normally combat-oriented, but may also involve ‘special actions’)
The basic figures all from the fabulous “Armies of Middle Earth” (AOME) range by PlayAlong Toys and ToyBiz. This vast range covered everything from the RingWraiths and Fellowship used last year, including no less than three different sets of Orcs/Uruks, five different Wargs and numerous Rohirrim, as well as a number of special sets (like the great Uruk siege crew) whose multi-pose members can be pressed into service. Unfortunately, as with many of my recent games their availability seems to diminish the closer we get to Salute! However, if you want to risk it a quick browse on eBay still pulls up a fair number of hits, which is OK to provide all you would need for a normal skirmish. In particular (despite problems elsewhere on eBay), I’d really, really like to thank sellers “NDROBOHOBBITS” and “SARAS-SMIAL” for their help, advice and occasionally as warped a sense of humour as my own!
John Treadaway. All figures from the collection of Peter Merritt.
- Hills, rocks and special ‘ford island’ created by the ever-helpful Gary of ‘TerraScenics’ – contact him at http://www.terrascenic-online.co.uk
- Giant trees were from Andy at ‘The Last Valley’ (email email@example.com)
- Reeds and swamps courtesy of the fish tank section of my local Pets World
- Earthworks were by a great new guy I found on dodgy old eBay, who fortunately also does commissions - ‘Eris Artwork’ (email firstname.lastname@example.org )
- River Isen courtesy of DIY shower dept at my local B&Q
- Basing & remodelling of figures was by Peter Merritt and Daisy Everrett
- Finally, the large hex-cloths are only a fraction of the range created by a superb, helpful character from the USA, one Eric Hotz – see http://www.hotzartworks.com/ - whose ever-expanding product list (and interests!) are worth adding to any wargamer’s browser.
Today’s system was composed by Peter Merritt, then decomposed by the likes of Brian Cameron, Ivan Congreave, Kevin Dallimore, John Merritt, Chris Steadman and John Treadaway. I thank them, together with my long-suffering wife Sarah, for their help and encouragement.