Saturday, January 5, 2019

Terrain Tutorial: Simple Hills, Part 2

Hey Reader!

Welcome back to the TMAT blog! As we are two weeks out from Brawler Bash 2019, I spent some time this week completing the hills that we were building in our last post. We cut and spackled our hills, and now we are ready to turn them from functional hills into more...aesthetically pleasing elements on the tabletop.

As a quick reminder, I'm building hills for the King of the Hill scenario for the upcoming tournament, and as part of that scenario we need to insure that people know where the top of the hill is (so that they can claim it for Victory Points). So we start off by adding a different type of basing to this section - in this case, some sand for a rocky finish:

Now we need to add the flocking - fake grass to make it look like a grassy hill. I opted to start with the flat top section, first by putting down some glue (I just use Elmer's Glue: nothing fancy) and spreading it around:

...And then I added the flocking, pushing it down to insure that it was being held by the glue:

Now simply put down more glue on the sides:

...Then spread that out and put down the flocking to finish the look:

And that's it! The hardest part is shaping the hill; adding the aesthetic elements is relatively fast and painless. Here's the set of five so far:

Now of course you could do more to yours: you could add casualty models to give it a war-torn look, or perhaps broken pots, weapons, or other items to give it more flavor. You could even add trees (which will be the subject of a future terrain post) or other natural features to add some unique elements to your map.

The big thing is, don't feel like you have to go out and buy terrain. You can make a lot of terrain for very cheap with the right tools and template.

See you in two weeks! I'm off to do some army testing for the tournament. Should be a lot of fun!

Watching the stars,


"We watch the skies for the great tides of evil or change that are sometimes marked there." ~ Firenze, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Terrain Tutorial: Simple Hills, Part 1

Hey Reader!

I'm working on terrain for Brawler Bash 2019, so I decided to venture out from my usual posts to do a terrain tutorial. I'm not particularly good at terrain (I have my moments), but since I am working on this, I figured I'd show you a bit of what's going on in preparation for the tournament.

Brawler Bash 2019 requires several pieces of terrain: hills for the King of the Hill match in Round 3, as well as lairs for fell wargs and cave trolls in the Living Wild match in Round 2. This means that the next few weeks you'll find me making terrain, requisitioning terrain from the gaming group, and painting up the last model I need for my force (which I'll post on the 17th when registration closes).

I'm starting with the hills for King of the Hill, as I want those to be standard across all maps. Thankfully, building hills is easy. You will need:
  • Polystyrene (or another form of styrofoam)
  • Measuring devices (including a good, steady straight edge if you are doing any lines longer than 12"/30cm)
  • A marking device (as measuring off where you cut to is important)
  • Spackle (for covering the styrofoam) and a putty knife (for applying the spackle, though believe it or not cookie spatulas also work - not as well, but they do work)
  • Potentially glue and other elements for flocking and surface work (more on that in a future post), or other things you'd like to attach to your hill (trees, rocks, etc.)
  • A trusty cutting instrument
All of this can be gotten for cheap; I use a $5 bread knife from the grocery store for my cutting instrument (as I don't really care if the blade dulls or bends, as it only cost me $5), 2x2' polystyrene from Home Depot, Lowe's, or another construction store (which is less than $10), a Sharpie, a ruler, and I splurged on the longer straight edge (more on that later), but it's clearly a splurge: you can buy a yardstick for less than $5.

So here's what I'm doing to build the hills for the tournament.

Step 1: Pre-Measure

As a former apprentice carpenter who now does carpentry and home repair jobs on the side, I carry the same mindset over to building terrain: measure, measure, measure. Use notes on it if you have to if there's something you need to remind yourself of. The most frustrating thing is cutting a piece and then finding it doesn't work and you have to start over again, so measure thoroughly and mark off what you need.

In this picture, you can see how I've marked off the dimensions for the first five hills:

I use a medieval arming sword for my straight edge, 1) because it's cool, and I don't get as much use out of it as I would like, 2) because the edge is straight, so it serves the purpose (just don't line up the crossguard with the polystyrene and you're good), and 3) I haven't bought a yardstick yet, so I figure this will have to do, :P

Each hill is an 8x8" square, which will then be beveled down to be more circular and sloped. But this allows me to see how big they'll be at their widest points before I cut my polystyrene. It also conveniently allows you to do 3 on each side of the square, as 24" divides evenly by 3.

Step 2: Cutting

I cut on a kitchen island, as it gives room for my knife on the other side of the polystyrene, making it easier to cut. Just make sure you don't cut your landlord's island in the process! :P

Polystyrene cuts pretty easily, so this shouldn't be a hard process. The hardest part is not rushing it so that you don't bend the blade, as that will cause it to cut at an angle which will mess up your dimensions. This is helpful, though, when not cutting in straight lines: you can actually make jigsaw-style cuts with a bread knife in polystyrene if you are careful in how you bend the blade.

When you reach the halfway point, switch angles and cut toward the center again. This allows your piece to stay more stable as you're severing it from the rest of the board, and keeps it from snapping in places you don't want it to. Take it from one who knows: switch sides halfway through.

Here's what the hills look like once they are cut out:

I know, they don't look like hills. So let's make them look like hills.

Step 3: Shaping the Hill

So this part can take a while, as you have to be careful: whatever you cut off you can't really put back on, so cut conservatively. I like to start by measuring off how big I want the top of the hill to be, as I want to set a boundary line for cutting. In this case it has to at least house a 25mm base at the top (for the King of the Hill), but I'm going to go wider in case of larger models (so that trolls, mumakil, and other creatures on larger bases don't slide down the hill, disrupting game play). I place my template on top of the hill, and then mark where the edge is:

So naturally you won't need to do the middle circle for your hills, but for the tournament they will be clearly marked and set apart so that everyone knows where you have to stand (more on that once we get to spackling and flocking it).

Then starts the shaving process. I like to start with sloping it (as I want to know how steep the slope is, so that models don't topple while on it), then rounding out the exterior, as I feel like it gives me more control over the final result. You can do it either way, but in this portion we'll be cutting both down at an angle (to form the slope) and inward to make it less square.

I also typically use a cutting board underneath, just because we're sloping, so I want to protect the table. When you're done, it will look something like this (don't laugh - I'm not that good at this, :P ):

True story: I've cut more limbs for conversions and styrofoam for terrain
on my cutting board than loaves of bread. By a long shot.
Now you might be thinking to yourself, "Wow: I'm wasting a lot of polystyrene by shaving the sides." That's what I first thought when I started building terrain. But I've discovered that since these pieces are 1) irregular in shape and width, but 2) generally pretty straight and thin, they work great for making roofs for shingled or thatched buildings (as you can simply score and paint them), rock protrusions, or (as we'll be doing for another terrain project), flat stones used by a troll for his lair.

So we've got a sloped hill. Now to make it look less like a purple mass with a rough slope.

Step 4: Spackling

Spackling is the "secret sauce" of natural terrain features. Spackle does four things for the terrain piece that are essential to both functional and beautiful terrain pieces:
  • Color: Polystyrene not only soaks up paint when sprayed or painted on it, it can also warp in shape. Spackle provides something for paint to be applied to that is hard and calloused, not changing in shape or consistency when applied, and gripping onto the color more easily.
  • Rough but Even: Spackle, when properly smoothed out, also allows for a surface that is rough (allowing it to catch the lip of a miniature base) but not uneven (as we'll be sanding it down to make it level while still rough). This is the ideal terrain piece for a miniature model: it helps them stand, even when on a slope.
  • Glue: You can glue flocking, gravel, sand, or other embellishing terrain elements to spackle with greater ease (generally) than polystyrene. And if you intend to paint your sand to look more like rocks, for example, you can do so with impunity because of the previous notes on paint.
  • Natural Look: When spackle is painted, flocked, or in other ways embellished, it just looks more natural than polystyrene. Whereas polystyrene can develop bulbs, creases, cutting marks from places where you started cutting and then stopped, spackle allows for a more natural look and feel for your terrain piece.
So while it does add a lot of work to the piece, it's totally worth doing if you want a good looking terrain piece.

We apply the spackling, making sure to spread as we go, but not spreading so thin as to reveal the polystyrene. You also need to remember to keep your center point marked if you're planning to use an objective at the top (as we are for King of the Hill), so what I do is I apply that spackle first, let it dry, and then I can retrace my line on top of the spackle:

Continue spackling the rest of the hill after marking your center. When we're done, it looks like this:

By the way, I don't spackle the bottom - I typically leave that so that it sits more evenly on the table surface.

One last step before we have a functional (albeit not beautiful) hill: sanding down the surface.

Step 5: Sanding and Priming

So, there are two things to keep in mind about sanding spackle: 1) the dust is going to get everywhere (so I recommend doing it outside or over tile, as it's easier to clean), and 2) the dust is going to get everywhere (so wear clothes that you don't mind getting dirty, can easily wash, and don't sand near your fiancee's hair - I don't know this from experience, but my intuition says it's a bad plan).

So now that the disclaimers are done, start sanding. The trick to sanding spackle is to always go in the same direction, and not to sand down too far, as you could sand a whole piece of spackle off the polystyrene. So gentle, small motions, working a given spot down until it's level with some roughness remaining.

Once it's sanded, prime it with paint; I like using spray paints as it's faster, but you can paint by hand if desired. This gives something for the flocking (or rocks or whatever) to grab onto, and also insures that all of the sanding dust is covered (so that it doesn't cause your flocking to fall off when you start gluing).

If you are priming with a darker color (as I am), make sure to retrace lines that you need for future work (in this case, my center circles, as I'll want to flock those differently to make them stand out). When you're done it should look like this:

And now you have a functional hill: you could put miniatures on it and play a game. But if you want it to look good from a distance, we will want to dress it up a bit. But that we'll save for the next post.

Watching the stars,


"(Your teacher) is a human...and is therefore blinkered and fettered by the limitations of your kind." ~ Firenze, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Saturday, December 29, 2018

New Rules, Part VIII: The Free Peoples, Part I

Good morning gamers,

With only one of the old warbands books left to cover, we’re entering the home stretch. Today we tackle the more conventional armies from the Free Peoples, so prepare yourself for Elves, Dwarves, and Hobbits! As mentioned in our previous posts, you should also check out Mik's Veni Vidi Vici blog for thoughts from the “experts” (at the time of this writing, the Kingdom of Khazad-Dum, Rivendell, and the Shire have been covered).

1) The New Lists: Rivendell, Lothlorien, The Kingdom of Khazad-Dum, and The Shire

The armies you’ll see here haven’t changed very much over the ages – the Shire list in particular reflects what the old Legions of Middle-Earth book had, while Rivendell got a profile (finally) for the knights that were always listed in the Legions book. Lothlorien has also returned to its roots, though with a few changes here and there. The list that has changed the most is the Khazad-Dum list (Dwarves used to be three lists back in the Legions days), consolidating the Dwarves from the era of the War of the Ring to “one” list (which is really two lists). All told, not a lot of changes at the macro-level.

2) The Army Bonuses: Small Augments

I’m not sure that any of these armies NEED to keep their army bonus – though each of them helps the army in small ways. High Elves hit more with their archery when they’re standing still, but they already hit on 3s and they have problems fielding a lot of archers (unless you take the Twins and High Elf Captains with Elf bows). Lorien Elves gain Resistant to Magic, which is great for the all-important-saving-of-banners, but has absolutely no effect if your opponent avoids bringing magic to the table. Dwarves reroll 1s in close combat – possibly the best of the army bonuses in this post – and while this is definitely useful, it only marginally makes your units do more damage. Finally, Hobbits gain Woodland Creature, which helps them move through wooded terrain more easily, but if you don’t have a lot of woodland terrain on the map, it’s not going to help you. In our lists today, we’ll look at both historical and convenient alliances to give you a flavor of both options for each army.

3) The Lists: Rivendell

If you want to maximize your bow count, the best way to do it is to have lots of guys. The perennial question when using High Elves, though, is how do I do that? High Elves have both really powerful, really expensive heroes (like Gil-Galad, Elrond, and Glorfindel) who can bring more than 12 models in their warbands, while also having decently powerful heroes (often more auric-focused or magic-focused) who can only bring 6-12 models but are very, VERY cheap. For our first list, we’ll be looking at a spam army that focuses on bringing cheaper heroes to the fight:

List #1: The Guardians of the Pathways
Gildor Inglorion - 70
Arwen Undomiel - 60
High Elf Captain with Elf Bow - 80
6 High Elf Warriors with shields – 60
6 High Elf Warriors with shields and spears – 66
12 High Elf Warriors with Elf bows – 132
12 Noldorin Exiles with throwing daggers - 132

Getting more than 13 bows is basically impossible at 600 points, and we’ve landed right on 13 here. Your army leader should be the boring, High Elf Captain with an Elf bow, supported by all 12 High Elf Warriors with Elf bows so that together they can volley barrage after barrage of arrows into your opponents (hitting on 3s rerollable – truly devastating). Arwen leads the small anvil team, but with Wrath of Bruinen, she should keep the press of the enemy from breaking the ranks easily. Finally, Gildor Inglorion leads 12 Noldorin Exiles with throwing daggers, who have 8” movement with a 6” throwing range – perfect for touching cavalry early or swinging quickly towards an objective and sniping lone ememies (we chose not to give any of these guys Elf bows because not only are they just as expensive as the armored variant, but they keep the Lorien keyword and so don’t benefit from the Rivendell army bonus).

Though many of the models in this list are below D6, it sports a very respectable (for Elves) 39 models at 600 points. You could replace Gildor Inglorion with Erestor and replace the Noldorin Exiles with fewer High Elf Warriors if you wanted to, but drop below 10 guys supporting Erestor and you cut into your bow limit. I’ve decided to use Noldorin Exiles not because they’re cheaper than High Elf Warriors (they used to be, but not anymore), but because they allow more of your models to benefit from the Elven high Shoot value (though again, they don’t benefit from the army bonus). Our second list takes the high-cost hero approach to a whole new level of fun…

List #2: Into The Wild
Glorfindel, Lord of the West with Armor of Gondolin and Asfaloth – 170
5 High Elf Warriors with shields – 50
5 High Elf Warriors with shields and spears – 55
5 High Elf Warriors with Elf bows – 55

Ally: The Shire
Meriadoc, Captain of the Shire with shield - 50
Peregrin, Captain of the Shire with shield - 50
Fredegar Bolger - 10
15 Battlin’ Brandybucks – 75
10 Tookish Hunters – 60
5 Hobbit Shirriffs - 25

With a whopping 49 models, we have the great Elven lord Glorfindel on his powerful horse Asfaloth. He’s supported by 15 models who, despite lacking the archery bonus, are still a force to be reckoned with. What the Elves lack in archery is made up for by the 10 Tookish Hunters in this list (bringing us to 15 bows, though they aren’t all S3) and more Might than our last list (and Fatty – who doesn’t want to take Fatty!). Both lists give up their army bonus – neither need it and the relative cheapness of the Hobbits allows you to have the numbers that you need to buy someone like Glorfindel time to kill stuff. I think I agree with Mik’s assessment that you don’t NEED the Armor of Gondolin because you’re probably not going to lose any fights, but I’ve been wrong before, so we’ll pay 15 extra points to boost that Defense value and make us immune to the generic Monster attacks.

4) The Lists: Lothlorien

When I first got started with LOTR SBG, I had the Mines of Moria set, so my first armies were the Fellowship and Moria. Since I had Legolas and Gimli, I knew what I wanted for my first armies: Dwarves and Wood Elves. After playing some 500-point games with Legolas, 24 Wood Elves, and Gandalf to keep them alive, my good mate Zorro said, “You should run Galadriel – she’s cheaper than Gandalf.” To that I replied, “Yes, you’re right – I will.” At my next birthday, my wonderful wife surprised me with pack off Ebay that had not just Galadriel, but a Celeborn model and a Haldir model. With that, my departure from Thranduil’s Halls to Lothlorien began (though the two were joined in the Warbands books, so it didn’t really matter).

Lothlorien has two basic kinds of warriors – Galadhrim Warriors (heavy infantry) and Wood Elf Warriors (light infantry). Both of these guys got more expensive and got some major buffs: Galadhrim were given heavy armor instead of armor and got free Elven-made Hand-and-a-Half swords (we’re going to call these “Elven blades” for the rest of the post because it takes too long to write). Wood Elf Warriors were forced to pay for Elven blades and got Elven cloaks for free (which is good because we NEVER paid +5 pts/model to give them to our guys before – just too expensive). 

Both of these changes made the basic infantry for Lothlorien better, but also prevents us from spamming as well as we used to be able to do. The list below shows what you can do with a pure Lothlorien list:

List #1: The Lady of the Wood
Galadriel – 130
Celeborn with heavy armor and Elven-made Hand-and-a-Half Sword – 145
17 Galadhrim Warriors with shields – 170
5 Wood Elf Warriors with spears – 45
11 Wood Elf Warriors with Elf bows – 110

If I was playing a game larger than 600, I’d swap Celeborn for Haldir (with bow, probably heavy armor) and Rumil – gives you +9 warrior slots for +25 points (+15 points if you skip the heavy armor). While Celeborn is a beast in battle (especially if he casts Enchanted Blades on himself), you can get pretty good melee results out of Rumil and great archery from Haldir (the Elf bow is a gimme – don’t know why they don’t make the purchase standard). The core of this list is Galadriel, who not only provides great archery protection to the team, but can Immobilise people from a distance (keeping valuable heroes from getting to you), Command banners/cavalry/auric heroes away from the front ranks, or restore those oh-so-important Fate points with the Blessing of the Valar. I’ve run her even in small games and find that she always makes a difference – NEVER leave her at home.

Supporting these heroes are 17 heavily-armored swordsmen who form your shield-wall perimeter around your bowmen – Galadhrim bowmen cost a little more than Wood Elf bowmen, but I’ve found the defense doesn’t help THAT much (certainly more than it did in the previous edition). The addition of Elven Cloaks as a standard gear option makes shooting from behind fallen logs, shrubs, and stout trees/rocks much safer for your archers. In wide-open maps, your D6 front line will help some (though the Elven Cloaks won’t trigger). As you probably noticed above, I really like Wood Elves, so naturally I chose them here. We also have some token spear-armed Wood Elves because they also save us money.

While I think Lothlorien is great on its own, taking a Convenient ally doesn’t hurt you very much (Resistant to Magic is great and all, but only if your opponent brings magic in the first place). Here’s an example of what you can do without it:

List #2: Defense of the Deeping Wall
Haldir with Heavy Armor and Elf Bow - 85
3 Galadhrim Warriors with shields – 30
5 Galadhrim Warriors with shields and spears – 55
3 Galadhrim Warriors with Elf bows – 33
1 Galadhrim Warrior with Elf bow and spear - 12

Ally: The Fellowship
Aragorn – Strider with armor, bow, and horse – 180
Legolas Greenleaf with armor – 105
Gimli, Son of Gloin - 100

Our team has an equal balance of spears to non-spears across its warriors and have four KILLER heroes. Haldir has a niche special rule that gives him a banner bonus when “near” Aragorn and we’ve kitted the great hero of the Dunedain out to smash lots of things (horse-archer who can be devastating on the charge) and the natural pairing of Legolas and Gimli, who we talked about in our post on Rohan a few weeks ago. This team unleashes the power of 4 Elf bows across the Galadhrim Warriors + 2 more shots each turn from Haldir + 1-3 shots each turn from Legolas (depending on how precise you want to be), which can be as many as 9 Elf bows shooting each turn (plus Aragorn’s bow and Gimli’s throwing axes). All in a 16-model army (that’s very close to 75% of your army able to shoot). Not sure how competitive this would be (16 models is not forgiving at all), but it would definitely be fun to play with.

5) The Lists: Kingdoms of Khazad-Dum

These guys have been near-and-dear to my heart since I first got started in the hobby. There’s much to recommend these bearded fellows – high Fight, high Defense, basically average cost, several very offensive-focused elite warrior options with decent Defense, skirmish potential from Rangers, and siege engines. Only real downside to these guys? Limited Fate, 1” less movement (which is whatever except when it matters), and basically no spears. Still, over the past few years, I’ve come up with a theory about Dwarves from these lists: they’re archers.

Wait, what?

Yes, they’re archers.

With the release of the Armies of the Hobbit, you’ll find Dwarves who can D7 across everyone AND spears (Army of Thror) and armies with S4/D8 across their infantry (Iron Hills) – both of which are impossible to get with the Kingdoms of Khazad-Dum. So where does this list shine where the others don’t? Archery. The Army of Thror has access to throwing axes on their Grim Hammers and the Iron Hills have access to crossbows (to say nothing of the “twirly whirlies”), but none have the depth and diversity of the Kingdom of Khazad-Dum with Dwarf bows (which are just as good at wounding most odd-Defense troops as crossbows), Dwarf Long Bows (who are not as good across the board at wounding but hit more often or provide you with mobility while hitting just as accurately as crossbows), throwing axes on Dwarf Rangers (who aren’t as armored as Grim Hammers but otherwise are pretty similar), and the all-powerful Dwarf Ballista.

Oh, and all of these archer options are CHEAPER than their other Dwarf cousins. 

Sure, Khazad-Dum also has access to big dang heroes, but all Dwarves have access to those (we’ll argue the merits of different heroes in a later post). One other thing that makes Khazad-Dum different from the other lists is the two sublists you can run from it – Khazad-Dum and Moria. We’ll be looking at one army list from each option to give you a feel for how the armies work:

List #1: The King of Khazad-Dum
Durin, King of Khazad-Dum - 160
King’s Champion - 140
12 Hearthguard - 156
6 Dwarf Warriors with shields – 54
10 Dwarf Warriors with Dwarf bows - 90

There aren’t any Dwarf models available that deal more of a punch than Hearthguard (Vault Wardens might be more resilient, but they’re not NEARLY as lethal). For 13 points/model, you’re getting F4/S4/D7 while using an axe two-handed with no penalty to win the fight – watch those D6 shield walls collapse under your pressure. When surrounding Durin, these guys are INCREDIBLY powerful, but they become even better when supported with banners (which the King’s Champion gives us two to use).

I’ve often held the King’s Champion to be one of the most broken heroes in the game (if you subtract the cost of his retinue, he costs ~70 points – that’s less than a Dwarf King and he's better than a Dwarf King!) – so naturally, I got what I needed to convert one up (don't like the look of the one GW made). J While he can only lead 10 warriors (since his Heralds take up the first two slots), he’s a great addition to any list. In this list, he’ll bring along the Dwarf Warriors with shields (who roll effectively 3 dice to win the fight when shielding thanks to his banners) – they should keep the King’s Champion and his Heralds from getting engaged (which would disrupt their Defense bubble).

Supporting both lines of troops are 10 Dwarf Warriors with Dwarf Bows. There’s been a great debate (and it still rages today) as to which kind of Dwarf archer is best – Warriors with Dwarf Bows or Rangers with Dwarf Long Bows. I like them both, but since we have a lot of D7+ models in this list, I didn’t think having ~30% of the army at D5 would be very helpful. So, for this list, the Defense game won out. My personal opinion is that you should always have a mix of both – most armies you face will have a mixture of odd-Defense and even-Defense models, so you’ll be rewarded by having both if you target odd-Defense with odd-Strength (Dwarf Bows) and even-Defense with even-Strength (Dwarf Long Bows).

Our next list looks at the Moria end of the army, led by Balin – this army has a VERY different feel to it.

List #2: The Moria Expedition
Balin, Lord of Moria – 110
Gimli, Son of Gloin – 100
Oin the Dwarf, Champion of Erebor – 65
16 Dwarf Warriors with shields – 144
6 Dwarf Warriors with Dwarf bows – 54
7 Dwarf Rangers with Throwing axes – 63
1 Dwarf Ranger with Throwing axes and two-handed axe – 10
6 Dwarf Rangers with Dwarf Long Bows - 54

This list has room to grow before we need to buy more heroes (unlike the last one), but it’s already got a TON of shooting in it. An even balance of Warriors with Dwarf Bows and Rangers with Dwarf Long Bows are supplemented by eight Dwarf Rangers with throwing axes – perfect for doing some light skirmishing and clearing out a unit or two on the charge each turn as the battle drags on. With Gimli also having throwing axes, you’ve got 21 models who can shoot (and with only 39 models in the army, that’s over half the models being able to shoot).

I’ve often thought that having archery was better than having spears – your opponent doesn’t get a say in your archery, but he DOES get a say in combat. Having all of these bows does make up for the fact that you don’t have spears, but run these guys too much and anti-archery characters may pop up more frequently (Galadriel, Gandalf, the Shadow Lord). Even if it comes to combat, you have plenty of Dwarf Warriors who can shield when outnumbered and heroes who can CRUNCH stuff.

Balin is a baller hero and Gimli is right up there with him. One of these two beastly hearoes can be supplemented by Oin’s Prognostication rule (once-per-round banner bonus), which can save you valuable Might points in promoting a bad roll. While the predominance of Rangers does make this army a bit squishier than it could have been otherwise (I mean, we could have 25 Warriors with shields OR opted for more elite warriors), you’ve got more flexibility and skirmish potential with this list. If you want resilience, I kindly submit that Iron Hills or the Army of Thror might be more to your liking (but that's a post for another day). J

6) The Lists: The Shire

I’ll never forget the tournament where my good mate Centaur said “I’m bringing my Waistcoat Brigade – buckets of Hobbits alongside Dwarves from the Blue Mountains, including Balin, Dwalin, and TONS of D7 Dwarves.” My thought was . . . sure, there won’t be any spears in that list, but I really don’t want to face it. As luck would have it, I not only faced that list . . . I died against that list. While Hobbits are incredibly weak on paper, they’re a royal pain to fight on the table because of their sheer numbers. With the new rules, numbers can be played even more heavily than under the previous warbands restrictions (60 Hobbit warriors max if you run Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, and Bullroarer + 3 Dogs) and has returned to much of the feel we had in Legions. Let’s take a look at a bit of an extreme case:

List #1: The Heroes are Home
Frodo of the Nine Fingers on Pony – 65
Meriadoc, Captain of the Shire with shield – 50
Peregrin, Captain of the Shire with shield – 50
Paladin Took – 25
Farmer Maggot – 45
Fredegar Bolger – 10
13 Hobbit Militia with axes – 52
3 Hobbit Militia with flails – 15
15 Battlin’ Brandybucks with axes or hammers – 75
23 Tookish Hunters – 138
15 Hobbit Shirriffs - 75

Clocking in at 78 models, we’ve got a RIDICULOUS amount of Hobbits in this list. With everyone able to throw stones (or shoot bows) and with all models (except Maggot’s dogs) getting Woodland Creature, your little waistcoat brigade can move with ease through some kinds of difficult terrain and require your opponent to butcher tons of little blokes in order to break you. While it may seem that the increase in price for the warriors has hurt the Shire, I actually think the Shire has gotten better with the new system. Why?

First, heroes who used to be Independent Heroes (Farmer Maggot, Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, and Fredegar “Fatty” Bolger) have become Heroes of Fortitude (Maggot – though the first 3 slots are taken up by his dogs) or Minor Heroes (Lobelia and Fatty). This increases the number of Shire-rats you can bring with you, which is the whole point of running this list.

Second, Merry and Pippin got a bit better, cost a little bit more, and can both take shields – giving you decent Defense on two decent combat heroes. Previously, if you wanted a good combat hero, you either needed to ally a few in OR you had to use Bandobras Took, who isn’t THAT great of a hero.

Third, while there are limits to the number of Battlin’ Brandybucks and Tookish Hunters you can bring, Hobbit Militia don’t NEED the S3 bonus (you can give them axes and it works just fine) OR you can give them Flails (they’re already F1, so you’re not losing anything) PLUS the new hand-and-a-half club on Hobbit Shirriffs have made them just as efficient at killing things as Battlin’ Brandybucks (in the main).

List #2: Friends of the Shire
Gandalf the Grey with Cart – 195
Paladin Took – 25
Farmer Maggot - 45
3 Dunedain - 72
19 Hobbit Militia with axes – 76
3 Hobbit Militia with flails – 15
5 Hobbit Archers – 25
12 Tookish Hunters – 72
15 Hobbit Shirriffs - 75

While not as big as the previous list, this list does have 63 models in it and has more tactical benefits. The previous list had 23 bows, while this one has 20 bows (between the Hobbit Archers, Tookish Hunters, and Dunedain). There are no Battlin’ Brandybucks, but the same number of Flails and Shirriffs (and more axe-wielding Militia). In many ways, this list will play similarly to the previous list . . .  until you get to the heroes.

Gandalf the Grey changes everything in this list. First, while mounted on his cart, Gandalf gets to make short-range shooting attacks, even when he charges. Second, the cart provides good cover for your team from enemy archery thanks to both the height of the cart and the size of the Blinding Light spell (which uses the base of the caster, which is HUGE thanks to the cart base). Third, Gandalf’s spells can ensure that heroes like Maggot or the Dunedain are safer (either by boosting their Will with Strengthen Will, protecting them from archery via Blinding Light as mentioned previously, removing the ability to be wounded by their foes with Immobilise/Command, protect them from magic/directed special rules with Protection of the Valar, Sorcerous Blast will knock 1-2 people on the ground preventing whoever fights them from being wounded).

Supporting Gandalf are Dunedain – who are NOTHING LIKE the Dunedain you can get in the Rangers list. Dunedain here remain at only 1 Attack, they don’t have Woodland Creature, and in trade for this, you can bring extra Shire-lings. Totally worth it, but for a completely different reason than allying in Dunedain from the Rangers would have. Additionally, Dunedain are great as minor heroes because unlike Fatty and Lobelia, Dunedain have Might. Since the cost of a Dunedain is the same as getting Lobelia AND Fatty, there’s probably a good case for running these two Minor heroes instead of a Dunedain. However, the lack of Might will mean that while you can have more warriors in your army, you’re still relying on winning priority in order to get your Hobbits where they need to go. Alternatively, you can rely on a Dunedain to call much needed Heroic Moves if leading Militia/Shirriffs OR a much needed Heroic Accuracy if leading Hobbit Archers.

Well, those are the more traditional lists from the Free Peoples – hopefully this was informative and got you thinking about the army lists above. In our final post in the Lord of the Rings part of this series, we’ll look at the less conventional armies from the Free People’s book. Until next time, happy hobbying!