Sunday, June 12, 2011

Understanding the Game: How to Play Guide

So, I've posted over a dozen battle reports and have recently been informed that not all the viewership knows how to play the game. So...I'm going to try to cover the basics with this demo, featuring most of the units in my collection thus far. I'm also only going to be covering some of the basic information of the game, with later posts explaining more detailed elements of the game that make the battle more realistic (and slightly more complex).

The game progresses in a sequence of phases:

Priority - Move - Shoot - Fight - End

I'll be going through what each of these phases is, but let me begin by saying that most of what happens in a game happens in the three bolded phases (Move, Shoot, and Fight).

1) Priority Phase

This simply involves each player rolling a dice. The player with the highest roll "has priority" for that round, which gives the following benefit: the player with priority gets to move his troops first, shoot with his troops first, and decides in what order attacks are resolved. In the picture above, the Uruks rolled a 5, while the Elves rolled a 4. The Uruk player will have priority during this round.

In general, it is better to have priority than to not have it, but at the beginning of the game (before units are close enough to attack each other or shoot at each other), it can be to a player's advantage to not have priority, as you can see how your opponent is lining up his forces. Ultimately, however, the player who has priority is determined by the roll of a dice, so this cannot always be predicted.


If two players tie for priority during the first roll of the game, the players can either roll again or roll a random dice to determine who wins (this will show up later), with the roll of a 1-3 favoring one opponent and a 4-6 favoring the other. If two players tie for priority on the second or subsequent rounds, ties for priority are given to the player who did not have it on the preceding turn. If the Elf player in the situation above rolled a 5 instead of a 4 and the Uruk player had priority on the previous turn, the Elves would now have priority.

2) Move Phase

This tends to be the most tactically involved phase in the game. The Move phase in some respects is simple enough: you move your units, engaging or avoiding the enemy as it suits your fancy. Each unit has a movement value, based on how quickly that unit can run. An Uruk-Hai warrior on an Elf can move up to 6" each turn, while Dwarves and Goblins can only move up to 5" each turn (due to their smaller legs). In the picture above, you can see that the movement for a unit is taken from the front of his base and that allows him to move accordingly.
We all know that everyone has a "personal space" zone, and the same is true for each of the troops on the board. If an enemy unit tries to come within 1" of an enemy unit who is not already engaged in battle, he must engage that unit. In the example above, Gimli wants to charge the Goblin archer, but to do so, he must enter the control zone of one of the Goblins in front of the archer and therefore must engage one of the Goblins that stands in the way. If his two buddies engage the Goblins with shield and spear, Gimli is then able to charge the unit behind them if his base can pass between them without touching the bases of either foe.
This is also the part of the game where spellcasters can cast magic spells. Only one spell may be cast each round, so spellcasters must be careful to choose their spells wisely. We'll talk about how to cast magic in more detail when we talk about heroes in a later post. For now, simply know that magic can be used to change the setup of the board for the movement phase.

3) Shoot Phase

The Shoot phase is pretty straight forward: units who have ranged weapons have the opportunity to shoot at enemy characters. How that works becomes a little more...complicated.

First, depending on the ranged weapon used, a unit may have a restriction on his movement in order to shoot during that turn. The Elf above with Elven blade has been equipped with a throwing weapon, which allows him to move his full 6" and still shoot in the Shoot phase. His archer companion, however, can only move half of his distance (3" total) because he needs time to prepare his arrow to shoot. Other units, like an Uruk Warrior with crossbow cannot move at all if he wants to shoot.
Second, the unit who is shooting must be able to "see" his target. To see if the target is legitimate, get down to the model's eye view and see if you can see the torso, limbs and head of the unit you wish to shoot at. If you can see these, you are free to shoot at the unit. If you can't see them, you must pick another unit. In the picture above, the Elven archer can see the Uruk Warrior with shield, but not the Uruk Warrior with pike who is behind him, which means he can shoot at the first unit, but not at the second.

If there is ever a disagreement between the players as to whether the unit can be seen, roll a "random dice" to determine the result: on a 1-3, the unit cannot be seen and cannot be targeted by archery. On a 4-6, the unit is a legitimate target and can be targeted, but receives a special protection called "in-the-way," explained in a later post.

Third, the unit who is being shot at must be within the appropriate range of the shooter. Each bow has a certain range (in inches) that it can shoot and if the target is within this range, they can be shoot at. For example, a Crossbow and an Elf Bow have a range of 24". Orc Bows and Dwarf Bows have a range of 18" because they are smaller and can't send an arrow as far. Throwing weapons have a range of only 6", while other "special ranged weapons" have their ranges specified in their rules (like a Troll Chain or a hobbit-thrown rock). To measure this range, get a tape measure (or something that can measure the distance required) and measure from the front of the archer's base. If at least half of the target's base is covered by the distance, the target is a legitimate target (rules check on this - my mini-rulebook doesn't say: it could be that the whole base or simply a part of the base needs to be within range, but this is what I've always played with).


Once you've determined that you can shoot at an enemy unit, you get to roll to shoot at them. There are two parts to shooting at someone: hitting your target and wounding your target. Each unit has a "Shoot value," which takes the form of a "X+", where X is the minimum number that can be rolled in order for the arrow to hit his opponent. An Elf has a Shoot value of 3+, which means his arrow will hit his opponent on the dice roll of a 3, 4, 5, or 6. On a 1 or 2, we assume that the arrow went over his target's head or into the ground in front of him. In the picture above, the Elf rolls a 5, which successfully hits the Uruk-Hai Warrior he targeted.

If the target is hit, you roll a second dice to determine if the shot was able to fatally wound the target. Each weapon has a strength value, based on the force of the blow. A typical bow or Orc bow has "Strength 2," while Dwarf bows and Elf bows are slightly stronger at "Strength 3". Other weapons (like Crossbows and rocks thrown by Trolls) are higher still. This Strength value is then compared to the Defense value of the targeted unit. To keep track of these values, I've made profiles for each of the units, but the information can be found on the Games Workshop website.
I'm sorry for the blurriness, but here's basically how it works: if a unit's defense value is 1 or 2 points higher than the weapon's strength value, the attacking unit needs to roll a 5+ to wound the unit. If the defense value is 3 or 4 points higher, a 6 is required to wound the target. Should the defense value be 5 points higher or more, you must first roll a 6 and then roll another dice and score a 4+ (or 5+ for 6 defense higher or a 6 for 7 defense higher). A unit with 9 Defense (like Dain Ironfoot) cannot be wounded by a Strength 1 weapon (like a hobbit stone) because you would need to roll a 6, another 6, and another dice. 

The "To Wound" chart shows that an Elf Bow with Strength 3 will wound an Uruk-Hai Warrior with Defense 6 (Defense 5 + 1 for shield) on the roll of a 6. If the roll is met, the unit reduces his "Wounds" value by 1. If this falls to 0, the unit is removed as a casualty.

After rolling to see if you wound the unit, you may then fire with the other units that you have, determining if they are targeting a legitimate unit, rolling to hit, and then rolling to wound. An average unit will have a Bow with Strength 2, a range of 24", and a Shoot Value of 4+, so half of the shots that they fire will likely hit their targets and they will be asked to roll 5s or 6s in most cases to wound. So the likelihood that units fail to wound people with arrows is typically pretty high (though I've been surprised before).

As a final note on the Shoot phase, there is one other restriction on whether or not a unit can be targeted: units from an army of the "Good Forces" (e.g. Elves, Rohan, Gondor, Dwarves, Hobbits, etc.) cannot shoot at an enemy unit who is in "base to base" contact with one of their friendly units. This is because even the most skilled archer does not want to risk hitting his friend in the melee. These units will be fighting each other in the Fight phase (see next), so a different target must be picked. Units from the "Evil Forces" (e.g. Orcs, Uruk-Hai, Easterlings, Men of Harad, etc.) don't care about hitting their own men, so they can fire away if they wish. There will be an extra roll for "in-the-way," which we will talk about in a different post. In the scenario above, the Elf cannot shoot at the Uruk with pike because he is engaged in combat with the Elf with Elven blade.
4) Fight Phase

When units are in "base to base" contact, they get to participate in the Fight phase, with the player who has priority determining the order in which fights are fought. Both players tally the number of "attacks" that their units have. In general, a basic warrior only has 1 attack dice, but some monsters, heroes, and elite warriors have more than 1 (2-4 generally). The units then roll their dice and compare their highest dice roll: the player with the highest outcome is allowed to roll one "To Wound" roll (like the archery phase did above) for each dice that was rolled to win the fight. In this case, you're comparing the strength of the unit (shown on his profile) instead of a weapon strength. In the example above, the Goblin won the fight with the roll of a 5 and so he gets to roll to wound the Dwarf. Since the Dwarf has a Defense Value of 7 and the Goblin has a Strength of 3, he will need to roll a 6 to wound the Dwarf.

If there is a tie in the rolls to win the fight, compare the "Fight Values" of the participants in the fight. A Dwarf's Fight Value is 4, while a Goblin's Fight Value is 2 (because Dwarves care about developing skilled fighters, while Goblins don't care much). If a Dwarf and a Goblin were to tie on their rolls, the Dwarf would win the tie because his Fight Value is higher. If the units had tied Fight values, roll a "random dice" to determine who wins, with a 1-3 favoring one side and a 4-6 favoring the other.
After a unit loses a fight, he is required to move 1" away from his opponent. Generally, this is straight backwards, but it can be anywhere that gets him 1" away from where he was without touching another unit's base. If he cannot make a full inch of movement, he is considered "trapped." Trapped units can be caused when there are too many units clustered together or when a unit is being attacked by three equidistant foes (both of which are shown above). Units may also be trapped by terrain features that limit their movement. If a unit is "trapped," the attackers double the number of dice they rolled to win the fight.
Some weapons have special rules that apply in the Fight phase. For example, a unit with a spear who is in base contact with a friendly unit who is engaged in combat can give a +1 attack bonus to his friend. In the picture above, the Dwarf with shield has 1 attack in the fight, while the Goblin with shield has 2 attacks (one from his base profile and one from the spearman behind him).

Pikes work in a similar way, except two pikes can be used to support a unit (either both touching the unit in combat OR creating a three-link train of sorts, shown above).
Two-handed weapons require time to "wind up" the attack, but when the blow comes, it comes down really, really hard. So, to simulate this in the game, a unit with a two-handed weapon receives a -1 to the roll to win the fight, but receives a +1 to the roll to wound (if the fight is won). In the example above, the Dwarf with two-handed axe rolls a 4, which becomes a 3. This is higher than the Goblin's roll of 2, so the Dwarf would be able to roll a wound dice: normally, he would need a 5+ to wound his opponent, but now he needs to roll a 4+, which greatly increases his chances of slaying his opponent. NOTE: if you have a two-handed weapon in a fight with other units who do not have two-handed weapons, roll his dice separately, so that you remember not only to -1 from his first roll, but also to make sure you +1 to his second roll.


5) End Phase

Generally, nothing happens in this phase, but occasionally, the scenario you play in may have something that you do (bring on reinforcements, roll to end the game, etc.). If there is something, do it. Otherwise, proceed on to another round, beginning with Priority.

And that's it! All you need to know about the basic movements of the game. In later posts, I hope to explain how heroes work, how magic is cast, some important notes about terrain features, and tests that units need to take. In the meantime, I hope this was helpful!