Saturday, May 26, 2012

Meeting Engagement: Wood Elves vs. Goblins

So with Uruk-Hai month drawn to a close (I promise I'll get some good shots of Uruks in some of the upcoming informational posts), we're traveling northward to the woodland realms of Lothlorien and Mirkwood. I'm reading through the Lord of the Rings again in my spare time (only my third time, to tell the truth), and I really want to return to my first real Good army for this game. While doing the last few conversions for the spears, I'm looking to test each of the heroes and evaluate their performance. So, of course, I get my good friend Gaius and ask him to put together the most dangerous army he can from my meager collection. Naturally, he skipped the Uruks and even the Dwarves and turned to the Goblins for his answer. Here are the forces:

The Might of Lothlorien: 300 points

Haldir with Elf bow and armor - 80 points
6 Wood Elf Warriors with Elven blades and throwing daggers - 60 points
10 Wood Elf Warriors with Wood Elf spears - 80 points
2 Wood Elf Warriors with Elf bows and Elven blades - 20 points
6 Galadhrim Warriors with Elf bows - 60 points

25 units, 9* Elf bows + 6 thrown weapons, 1 hero

The Denizens of Moria: 300 points

Durburz - 60 points
1 Bat Swarm - 35 points
16 Goblin Warriors with shields - 80 points
15 Goblin Warriors with spears - 75 points
10 Goblin Warriors with Orc bows - 50 points

43 units, 10 Orc bows, 1 hero

The scenario we will be playing is a Meeting Engagement game on a board that is 48" x 48". The game will be fought until one side is reduced to 25% of its starting size (6 Elves or 10 Goblins). If the side that is not at 25% has not been broken, a major victory is won. If both sides are reduced to 25% during the same turn, the game is a draw. We like this game because it's incredibly straight-forward and 25% of a fighting force isn't a lot of units (it's practically over at that point, right?).

The purpose of this game, of course, is to test the usefulness of Haldir, perhaps the best purchase for a unit at 75-80 points because of his Fight 6/3+, two shots each Shoot phase, Strength 3 bow, and Defense 5 (in this case, because we've equipped him with armor). The 3 Might points and Courage 6 also make him an excellent captain, capable of killing foes and keeping soldiers in the fight. Without archery protection, this game should be interesting.
The map has several woods (woodland terrain) and piles of rocks (normal terrain). A marsh sits on the northern board edge (difficult terrain). The Goblins won the roll off and have chosen to select the western board edge as their starting point (depriving the Elves of the two most valuable woods), ceding priority to the Wood Elves for the first turn.

Turn 1: First Blood (Priority - Wood Elves)
The armies move towards each other and the Goblin archers prepare to volley. 
During the Shoot phase, the Goblins landed three hits on the Elven battle line and succeeded in killing one Elf with spear.
Kill count: Wood Elves: 0/43, Goblins 1/25.

Turn 2: The Woodland Responds (P - Goblins)
The Elves are now within shooting distance, but the rocks in the middle of the map provide some cover for the Goblins. The Bat Swarm lingers in the trees but has moved up slightly, hoping to keep some cover between itself and the arrows and throwing daggers of the Elves.
In the Shoot phase, the Goblins volley again and score two hits, succeeding this time in killing an Elf with blade and throwing daggers.
The Elves respond with a fairly poor round of archery, but succeed in killing two Goblins with shields. 
Kill count: Wood Elves: 2/43, Goblins 2/25.

Turn 3: Heroic Orders (P - Gobbies)
The armies are now very close and the lines are drawing up for a hard battle. The Elves have split their company into three parts, focusing on each of the different divisions of the enemy (and each getting 3-4 shots into the enemy ranks).
Haldir calls a Heroic Shoot (I think my first ever) and has his three Galadhrim companions with bows leveled fire into the Goblin volley team. Their arrows stick on three targets and kill one of them. As a result, the Goblins become disorganized (unable to volley). The rest of the Elves, however, fail to take down their targets.
Kill count: Wood Elves: 3/43, Goblins 2/25. The score currently favors the Goblins, so I'm hoping that changes really soon.

Turn 4: A Swift Retreat, A Heated Pursuit (P - Goblins)
During this round, the only choice the Goblins have of avoiding throwing daggers from the Elves is retreat. So, in typical Goblin fashion, they charge headlong forward, hoping to run their enemy against the terrain. The Elves form up just outside of the next turn's charge radius and prepare to fire.
The shooting this round was, again, fairly poor. A Galadhrim archer and a Wood Elf with bow took down a Goblin with shield each and a Wood Elf throwing dagger killed another Goblin with shield. Haldir, in case you've been counting, hasn't killed anyone yet...come on, man.
Kill count: Wood Elves: 6/43, Goblins 2/25. The Goblins are 17 kills away from winning, while the Elves are 27 kills away...hopefully the archery gets better.

Turn 5: Precise Shots (P - Elves!)
The Elves dance away from the Goblins, moving 5" away to keep from being charged. In a future post (a very near future post), I'll discuss a few of the strategies of a skirmish army, but this one focuses on maximizing distance from the enemy and making sure that I'm not charged when I don't want to be. The Goblins, of course, stay out of throwing dagger range, since they couldn't charge me next turn anyway.
The Elves level another "deadly" volley: Haldir pays a Might point (sigh) to kill a Goblin with shield, while a Wood Elf warrior with bow shoots a Goblin spearman in the head. Come on...come on...
Kill count: Wood Elves: 8/43, Goblins 2/25.

Turn 6: Whittling The Enemy Down (P - Goblins!)
Ok, so I'm really happy the Goblins got priority this turn. The Goblins surge forward, knowing that I'm running up against the edge of the board. However, with the space I still have, the Elves dance backwards, staying in shooting range and engaging a few lone Goblins who have come out of the rock-work.
In the Shoot phase, the Elves kill two Goblins, including one who could have charged the Elven archers next turn (yaye). The other Goblin was killed by a throwing dagger, which successfully paid for the investment in throwing daggers.
In the Fight phase, the Bat Swarm defeated the two Elves it was fighting and killed one of them (yuck). The Elven archers won their fights, killing one of their foes.
Kill count: Wood Elves: 11/43, Goblins 3/25. The Elves are 10 units from breaking and the Goblins are 11 units from breaking...this would be really good if Durburz weren't here.

Turn 7: A Clash of Arms (P - Goblins AGAIN)
The Goblins move in close, but swoop in with the Bat Swarm to engage one of my throwing dagger Elves. This is a bummer, because I can give up on a comrade or risk open warfare (which should be pretty even at the moment). With a noble yell, the Elves throw their throwing daggers and charge (killing none).
In the Shoot phase, the Goblin archers killed a Galadhrim bowman...and the Goblin he was facing. Hehe... The Elves loosed their arrows and killed two, one shield-wielding kill for Haldir and one supporting spearman for a Galadhrim.
In the Fight phase, the Elves and Goblin on the right failed to kill each other (fine by me, just so long as I didn't lose anyone).
In the other fights, the Elves came out strong and killed three Goblins but lost two in return (to Durburz, who used 1/3 Might to kill his foe, and one to the Bat Swarm, who has nearly paid for himself after two rounds of combat down-handed).
Kill count: Wood Elves: 17/43, Goblins 6/25.

Turn 8: The Ground Is Stained (P - Goblins...really?)
The Goblins charge at the Elves and hope for a better round. Some of the Goblin archers prepare to shoot at more Elves who are, of course, in combat.
In the Shoot phase, the Goblins fire at an Elf who is fighting a Goblin with shield and land four hits...on the Goblins...who subsequently suffers lethal blows from three of those four hits...bummer. I had to look up the rules, because my next question was, " can my Elf shoot now?" The answer was no: models who are engaged in combat during the Shoot phase are banned from shooting that turn (p. 24 of the Mines of Moria rulebook). With no Elven archery, the Fight phase commenced.
Several of units died in the Fight phase: four Elves died and the Goblins lost one spearman and the Bat Swarm. With the fall of the swarm, the Elves have secured dominance in Fight value over ALL of the enemy units at ALL times, but consequently are very short on units. 
Kill count: Wood Elves: 20/43, Goblins 10/25. The Goblins are 2 away from breaking while the Elves are 3 units from breaking...this is going to be really close.

Turn 9: The Prowess of the Woodland (P - tied, Wood Elves)
The Wood Elves charge at the Goblins and kill one with a throwing dagger. All of the Goblins there have been engaged and three Elves are supporting in critical fights. The Goblins are busily trying to consolidate their force and gang up on the Elven archers. Nothing happened in the Shoot phase.
In the Fight phase, Haldir killed his man by using his last Might point (3/3) and his fellow Elves succeeded in killing three other Goblins (no Elves were killed this round). 
Kill count: Wood Elves: 25/43, Goblins 10/25. The Goblins are broken and the Elves are 3 units is currently very good.

Turn 10: The Toll Rises (P - ELVES!!!)
So Durburz (F4) is stuck in a sea of F5 Elves and he's the only hero they have. The Elves tactically withdrew from most of the foes and focused on Durburz and his three closest companions (and two other guys because of their control zones). The rest of the force could decide if they stayed or not. 
You can see here that five Goblins fled the field, putting the Goblins 3 units away from losing the game. My Elves are 3 units away from breaking and 9 units away from losing the game. Anything can happen, but not this round (as I could only lose 8 units).
In the Shoot phase, Haldir killed two Goblins (yaye - finally), shooting one through the head and the other through a loose link in his mail. The nearby Galadhrim grazed another Goblin, but failed to score a wound.
In the Fight phase, Durburz fought on strong, slaying both of the Elves assailing him without the use of Might. One of the Goblins nearby killed an Elf as well and one of the nearby Goblins fell to the Elven spears. With this death, the game was over.
BUT, the Elves weren't finished yet: in the other fights, they slew two more Goblins, further racking up the kills for the game. With a shout of triumph, the Goblins melt away, fleeing before the woodland's defenders.
Kill count: Wood Elves: 30+5/43, Goblins 13/25. Minor Victory for the Elves because their force was broken (barely).


Assessment by Tiberius:

So that was pretty close: the Goblins failed to take more than few archery hits each turn but ultimately failed to get into combat and capitalize on it until the end. At the close of the game, Durburz had two companions near him and were fighting off six Elves, which isn't a good match-up, but it's not a poor one if you have more units elsewhere on the board. The Elven archers did some heavy damage as the enemy closed on them and then backed up their archery with blade work. Haldir, though, was a bit of a disappointment, as he struggled to get 5 kills this game. Still, happy day for the Elves.

Assessment by Gaius:

Well, that was closer than I've seen Uruks (or Dwarves, recently) come, but that was interesting. To have nothing in the army except Goblins and a Bat Swarm is both challenging and very exciting. All told, I wasn't sure if the strategy would work, but it was nice to have lots of units to take the fire at the beginning. The Bat Swarm began as a real help, too, as he was able to kill two Elves before being mercilessly surrounded and bludgeoned. Oh well, next time. It was also nice to keep the Elves out of the woods, which traditionally keep the games from being close at all.

Stellar unit for the Wood Elves: Galadhrim Warrior with Elf bow

If you peg a victory star on consistency, the Galadhrim Warriors with Elf bows get it. From a distance and up close, they did a great job today, scoring 4 kills with their bows and 4 kills in melee. Though this only pays for four of them, one of these guys was "left behind" in the foreground and not only won every fight he was in, but also killed a Goblin while being surrounded by superior numbers. All told, I'm really happy I chose to buy these guys from Zorro and they truly are welcome additions to the army. I look forward to finishing them this month and exploring some of the possibilities of their supporting hero choices.

Stellar unit for the Goblins: Goblin Warrior with spear

I used to say I don't give these guys the credit they deserve, but lately, they've been getting most of the credit. I must admit, they can surprise me when they win (and then kill) their adversaries all by themselves. The Goblin spearman is one of the iconic Goblin units in the movies and certainly helps them be a viable army, as their low Fight value needs to be compensated with supporting attacks. An honorable mention is given to the Goblins with Orc bows, who succeeded in killing three Elves and two Goblins.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Updates from the East: Wainrider

Tolkien's discription of the Easterlings is fairly sparse compared to most of his other cultures, but the one thing he does note is that they are famed charioteers. Yet on the battlefield, nary a single wain can be found. Riddle me this GW, how can you have Easterlings and forget the chariots?

Apparently it's not as hard as one would think, since you have to come up with your own - or just steal a khandish one. I decided to settle for just stealing the Khandish king rules and modifying a warhammer chariot from ebay to suit my purposes. It probably won't see a whole lot of action, but I think it's pretty cool.  My full size (1000+pt) Easterling force is very heavy on the cavalry/monstrous mounts - specifically designed to counter other cavalry-heavy armies.

I had to trim a bit off the back and move the wheelbase up in order to make it fit on a 60mm base (acquired from Secret Weapon Miniatures). Nothing too fancy on the paint job, just (GW) scab red, and (GW) shining gold, with my (GW) chaos black/(P3) pig iron mix for the other metal parts.

side view - to show alterations

I'm still trying to decide on how to convert the Easterling king. My inclination is to start from an easterling archer, due to the specialized bow rules for chariots, but I'm still looking for inspiration for the appropriate embelishments - I'm not really a huge fan of the giant bull horns that adorn most of the Easterling heroes. I'm really tempted by the bits that come with the new kataphrakt set, but I already have seven of the old metals - making it a bit hard to justify spending $35 for a couple bits - especially since I already have sufficient models to create a 1500+pt force (a point level I'm not likely to ever play since most of my fellow TMAT gamers are at the 500-600pt level).

In other news, I started the long messy slog of stripping paint off my pre-owned Easterlings to begin work on my second batch of Dragon Guard. After hours of research to look for a decent paint stripper that won't damage plastic, I discovered that a soak in Pine-Sol worked pretty well (after testing on other surplus minis of course). I can't vouch that Pine-Sol is fit for hours of soaking for plastics (my metals did amazingly after an overnight bath), but 30 min was enough to get about 97% of the paint off with a stiff brush. It might need a second soak if you are determined to get every last nook and cranny completely cleaned out, but it was sufficient for my purposes.

Ready for a new life as Dragon Guard

Friday, May 18, 2012

Spell-caster Evaluation: Radagast the Brown

One of my newest acquisitions is Radagast the Brown. Of the wizards on the White Council, Radagast is the most tactical and least dangerous of the bunch, but the tactical advantage he provides benefits small armies greatly (especially those that rely on archery). In my armies, Radagast is the dedicated spell-caster of the Dwarves, for reasons you will see below.

Radagast the Brown: Quick Review of Rules

Radagast has a few standard features of a wizard: Fight 5, Strength 4, Defense 5, Attacks 1, Wounds 3, Courage 7, 3 Might, 6 Will, and 3 Fate. Like his fellow wizards Saruman and Gandalf, Radagast has a free Will point each turn and a two-handed weapon with his staff of power. Some rules indicate that Radagast has a hand weapon besides his two-handed weapon, but this appears unclear from the newest book. All told, Radagast is fairly resilient against Strength 2 bows and is great for passing courage tests when your army needs it.
Radagast also has two great special rules: Master of Birds and One with Nature. The Master of Birds special rule allows him to "see" any unit on the board thanks to his avian friends. This means that hiding behind units, terrain, etc. is impossible against Radagast, making him a keen spell-caster (and a real pain for Trolls, banner-bearers, and heroes with a 1 Will point or less). The One with Nature special rule allows him to move over all difficult terrain as open ground and have the rules for an Elven cloak (if obscured by anything and the viewer is beyond 6", Radagast can't be charged, shot at, or be targeted by magic spells). These rules make Radagast an amazing spell-caster and hard to hit by spell-casters.
Radagast also has 5 spells he can cast, most of which he can cast very easily. Like Gandalf and Saruman, he can cast Terrifying Aura (causes "terror") on a 2+ and Immobilize on a 3+. Radagast has 3 spells that the other wizards lack and this gives him a great place in an army that relies on other units taking the lead in the battle. Radagast casts Renew on a 3+, which gives a hero back a wound lost earlier in the fight. If you have a hero like Dain who is difficult to wound, the benefit of having Radagast in your force is obvious, but it should be equally obvious that having a hero who is easier to wound will also benefit from Radagast's spell (like Boromir of Gondor, since he has no Fate points). The best part about this spell is that it cannot be resisted by your opponent because it is used against your own unit. On a 3+, your free Will point should do it for you.
Radagast also casts Panic Steed on a 2+ and is the only unit in the game with the spell. He can target a unit with a steed and if the spell is successful, the steed is removed from the game. The rider then takes falling damage if the steed is large or takes a thrown rider test if the steed is a horse or warg. Forums disagree on whether this applies to Mumakil under the new rules, but all forums agree that this spell works against horses, wargs, and fell beasts. Again, with a free Will point, you can seriously hurt an enemy's battle plan by taking out valuable cavalry units (especially if your army lacks cavalry). Couple this with a nice piece of difficult terrain, and cavalry will need to think twice before coming near the spell-caster.
Finally, Radagast the Brown can cast Terrifying Aura on a 5+ and this spell allows all units within 6" of Radagast at the end of his move to cause terror until the next Move phase. This spell doesn't do damage against the enemy, but armies that have low Courage values (especially Orc, Goblin, and Uruk-Hai armies) will have problems charging your battle lines. This means that fights may be less evenly matched, holes may form against your battle lines, and the brute force of the enemy may not be able to hit your lines. If you employ skirmishers in your army, there is the ability to harass (and even kill) units that failed their courage tests because they are outside of combat. Perhaps the best aspect of this spell, is it is cast on the caster himself, so like Renew, it cannot be resisted by your foe.
Radagast the Brown: Strengths in Use

Radagast provides a benefit to an army during each phase of the game. To illustrate this, we'll look at each phase and see what benefits Radagast gives and assume he is working with the following army:

Dwarf Captain - 60 points
2 Dwarf Shield-bearers - 120 points
Radagast the Brown - 150 points
6 Dwarf Warriors (shields) - 54 points
7 Dwarf Rangers (throwing axes) - 70 points
10 Dwarf Warriors (Dwarf bows) - 90 points
7 Dwarf Rangers (two-handed axes) - 56 points

600 points, 34 units, 10 Dwarf bows + 7 throwing axes, 4 heroes

This army follows the rules for warbands identified in the new army books, though I would prefer to have more Dwarves and don't really like the warband set up. Still, we'll explore this not-great-case scenario for some insights into the benefits of this particular hero.

Move Phase: Your Move
Moving skirmish troops takes tact, but Radagast is a perfect hero for this army. He is one of a handful of heroes who can move over rocky difficult terrain without penalty and so can keep up with the handful of Dwarf Rangers in your army. The One with Nature special rule allows Radagast to move over all kinds of difficult terrain without penalty, letting him and the Rangers around him able to move over defensive terrain quickly and leave their enemies behind if they need to retreat. Finding rocky difficult terrain can be difficult, but this can buy you some time while your archers Rangers whittle the enemy down to size. In this army, there are 7 Dwarf Rangers who can pummel the enemy to pieces with Radagast.
Move Phase: Casting Magic
Radagast's five spells identified above are great for different points in the game. If you take archery wounds early on your heroes (not likely with the D7 and D8 of your Dwarf heroes, but still), you can cast Renew on them to ensure that their health stays up. With 2 Wounds, these heroes will be at their optimal use if they remain uninjured for as long as possible (both at the start of the game and once the melee begins). On the first turn, you should cast Terrifying Aura on Radagast to ensure that he always causes terror (so long as he had a Will point left in his store, that is).
Once the enemy draws near, though, unleash magic spells based on the danger of your enemy army. Cavalry within 12" of Radagast? Panic Steed. Enemy hero or monster approaching? Immobilize. Lots and lots and LOTS of mindless Orcs or Goblins? Aura of Dismay if they're going to charge, otherwise you can attempt to immobilize someone for practice. Remember also that the Master of Birds special rule allows Radagast to see any unit on the board, which means that hiding behind a unit or a piece of terrain will not protect foes from your spells, so be willing to immobilize tactical units in the back ranks and keep them far from your forces (shamans as the key targets while they are far from your lines, though banners are good targets too).
Move Phase: When Your Foe Moves
Casting Aura of Dismay is great before the enemy charges. Since the vast majority of evil armies can't get higher than a 3 Courage on their warriors (especially Orc and Goblin-dependent armies), failing courage tests is more than possible. If a shaman isn't nearby, 2-3 units out of every five should statistically fail their courage tests. This is really good for your units, especially this army which has a limited number of units.
Shoot Phase: Volleying
The best way to avoid suffering damage from a volley team is to hide behind something. Terrain that a unit is in base contact with will always provide an in-the-way roll against the archery hits, but the Master of Birds special rule allows Radagast to see any unit on the board. This means that Radagast could be lying down on a green tuft of grass behind a huge mountain, cry out to your volley team "they're over there" and if the target is in range, you can hit them without any unit actually being able to see them. The Elven cloak rule, commonly cited to protect units from enemy fire, requires that a unit be obscured from view. My interpretation of Radagast's rule is that he can see units with Elven cloaks, as he has a vantage point that provides line of sight to anywhere on the board - but most armies won't be using these units.
If your foe attempts to shoot you, be aware that the One with Nature special rule gives Radagast the benefit of an Elven cloak, which means that units who are more than 6" away from Radagast cannot shoot at him, cast magic against him, or charge him. This is great for keeping him alive and he is the only wizard under 200 points who comes with an Elven cloak. If your foe attempts to cast spells against you, be sure to point out this rule and if you're holding a defensive position and seek to draw flack from enemy spell-casters, you can always have Radagast lie down (half of his movement) and have him stand, cast magic, and lie back down over and over again. Try spotting him when the capes or shields of the Dwarves obscure your view of this spell-caster.

Fight Phase: Mass Killing

Aura of Dismay, as has been discussed above, is a great spell for making sure that not all of your units are engaged in combat. If any of the enemy units fail their courage rolls, there could be holes in the enemy line with routes to reach these units. This gives the benefit of the fight to your Dwarf heroes, who are capable of crashing through the enemy lines. Your Shield-bearers especially can call free heroic combats to reach the battle of their leader (the Captain), allowing you to cut through units who have engaged your lines and get as close to their leader's fight as possible (helping in other ones). If you place your Captain in the center of your line, flanked by Dwarf Warriors with shields, and then flanked by your Shield-bearers, you've got a strong core for your army.

Radagast himself is Strength 4, Fight 5, and has a two-handed weapon. This means that you can have him fight alongside some of your warriors to give them a leg-up against their foes. It remains unclear from the new book as to whether Radagast has a hand weapon or not, but if he only has his staff, it would be good to have his assisting warriors using their hand weapons.

For most heroes, it's good if they can pay for themselves with the points-worth of kills they get during a game. Though some heroes don't usually have problems reaching these goals (Gimli and Balin being two excellent killers), spell-casters do have this problem. To assess Radagast's worth, then, you should look into how he helps your other units. If a Cave Troll is immobilized and later wounded (or killed), part of that is going to be due to Radagast's work in immobilizing him (especially since your heroes are only Fight 5). If the enemy is not able to charge your units because he fails courage tests, the fights you win (and the kills you score) should also give some credit to Radagast. If you take an objective because your foe was rooted on the spot? This should score in Radagast's favor too. You get the picture I think...

Radagast the Brown: Weaknesses in Use

Radagast is a great wizard and plays a very tactical role in this army. It is worth noting though, that he is far from invincible. Here's a few ways to deal with this hero.

Move Phase: Move Move Move!
Charging a wizard who causes terror both for himself and the units around him can be really, really tough. But these courage tests can be overcome fairly easily with a shaman or war priest - someone to ensure that you pass any courage tests you need to take. Any Goblin can, of course, pass a courage test, but getting that courage test when you want it cannot be guaranteed. If, of course, you can charge him before he can cast a spell, you gain a real advantage against him. This should be a primary goal and can be reached with cavalry units that have good Courage ratings or are near a Shaman who helps them pass their tests.
Shoot Phase: Just Shoot Him!
Defense 5 wizards are generally resilient against arrows, but you can kill Boromir of Gondor with enough bows, right? Radagast, of course, has 3 Wounds and 3 Fate points, so shooting him to pieces can be really challenging, but since all of the Dwarves in this army are at least D5, you would do well to assign volley hits or direct fire to this wizard instead of the burly Dwarves in front of him. Be sure to consider that he has the rules for an Elven cloak, so shooting him may be the least effective way of dealing with Radagast.
Fight Phase: Everyone Jump On Him!
Radagast chants softly and carries a big stick, so be prepared before you jump on him. Still, with only 1 Attack dice, even two Goblins have an even chance of winning the fight against him. In close combat, Strength 3 forces will wound the great wizard on a 5+, which gives the two Goblins above a pretty good chance of wounding their target. Do that a few times, and you're in good shape against the wizard. Be sure to have a shaman (or war priest) nearby to make sure that you can pile on the units (if he causes terror, you'll be wishing you had a shaman of sorts).
So there are some thoughts on this spell-caster, and I'm planning on writing a few more posts on other spell-casters, since I like them so much.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The East Gate: Dwarves vs. Goblins

To continue the games through the new sourcebook (and to signal a close to Uruk-Hai month), Elliryanna and I are playing another game together, this time playing Dwarves vs. Goblins in the East Gate:

The Host of Erebor: 200 points

Balin, Son of Fundin - 75 points
1 Dwarf Warriors with shields - 9 points
4 Dwarf Rangers with Dwarf longbow - 40 points
6 Khazad Guards (Balin) - 66 points

1 Dwarf Ranger with throwing axes - 10 points

13 units, 4 Dwarf longbows + 2 thrown weapons, 1 hero

The Denizens of Moria: 200 points

Durburz, Goblin King of Moria - 60 points
Goblin shaman - 45 points
7 Goblin Warriors with shields - 35 points
7 Goblin Warriors with spears - 35 points
5 Goblin Warriors with Orc bows - 25 points

21 units, 5 Orc bows, 2 heroes

The scenario we will be playing is the East Gate scenario: the forces of Good were split up into three different sections (6" from north, south, and western board edges). The Goblin army was split in half: the first half (led by the Shaman) started 18" from the East Gate, while the rest waited off the board as reinforcements. The only way these units could be brought onto the board was if one of the scouting group of Goblins (the ones deployed) was able to make it alive to the East Gate. Good would win if they could get Balin and four Dwarves across the eastern board edge through the East Gate (12" past the opening). If alal but three Dwarves were killed or if Balin was killed, the Goblins would win. For major/minor victories, we're going to calculate as follows: if only four Dwarves survive or if Durburz (the Goblin leader) are killed, the victorious side can only get a minor victory. The Goblins won priority during the first turn, which was good, since it allowed them to run away from the Dwarves. Again, we're still camera shopping, but I'll give some highlights below - but first, some history.

The Tunnel Fighting games on this blog are in a dead-even break: one win for the Dwarves, one win for the Goblins, and most recently a tie. As I mentioned in a previous post, my wife and I try not to be too competitive when we play, so we cooperatively collaborated on a Goblin strategy and divided up the Dwarf units in half, so that we were playing both sides and sharing our thoughts on what we should do.

Game summary:

  1. The first few turns were spent with the Goblin watchman force fleeing from the Dwarf Rangers. Despite being hard pressed by four Dwarf Rangers with longbows (24" range, Strength 2) and later one Dwarf Ranger with throwing axes, the Goblins only lost four units before the defense of the East Gate began. We decided that it would be useful to edit the scenario and allow Goblin reinforcements to start arriving on Turn 3 on the roll of a 6+, Turn 4 on a 5+, and continue at 5+ until one of the scout troops reached the East Gate and sounded the alarm. Once the call was raised, a few of the Goblins remained outside the gate to engage and kill the Dwarf Ranger with throwing axes, who didn't hit a single person with his ranged weapon.
  2. One the reinforcements started coming, the Goblins formed up their defense within the East Gate, whose pillars limited the entrance of the Dwarves to four at a time. This, in addition to the preservation of the spear units during the beginning of the game, gave the Goblins a chance to fight back, as they only had marginally more units than the Dwarves did.
  3. The Shaman was almost completely useless. He saved two units during the game and kept the Goblins from fleeing once they lost half their forces (and of course, supported units with his spear), but that was it. Perhaps the greatest contribution he did was allow for more than one warband to come to battle...and spear supporting, which we'll get to later.
  4. Durburz killed more D7 units than he ever has in a game here to date. He slew three of the Khazad Guards and managed to score two wounds on Balin (which required all of his Might, but still). That's five rolls of 6s during his wounding stage and four won fights against units of the same or higher Fight Value. Excellent job mate.
  5. Balin killed every Goblin he faced, except when he lost three fights. This mean that he ended up killing two Goblin Warriors and Durburz (after being wounded twice and saving one of those wounds with a Fate save). Balin's killing of Durburz took two turns: one to rake through his Fate points, and one to finish the job.
  6. The Goblins managed to kill the three Khazad Guards who were not killed by Durburz, thanks to their spear support and their ability to roll 6s to wound. Their archers, of course, did more in the melee fighting than in the archery phase (and would probably have done well to have taken shields this game instead of arrows). Since Good needed four Dwarves to cross over the edge with Balin, the need to keep all but one of the remaining units alive was critical.
  7. As can be expected, Balin lived through the fight, but two of the Rangers with bows and the Dwarf Warrior with shield (trapped and pinned to one of the pillars) were killed before the Goblin lines were broken through. As such, the game ended with a victory for the Goblins. Since they lost their leader, this victory is bitter sweet.


Assessment by Tiberius and Elliryanna:

We came to the agreement that, given the presence of Dwarf Rangers with awesome shoot values and decent bows in the Dwarf army, the Goblins should have the ability to receive reinforcements before someone enters the East Gate and archers should be replaced with shield-bearing infantry. I, as a general principle, always include archers in my forces because otherwise, you have abandoned an entire phase each round in which you can do damage. In this case, however, the statistical likelihood of 2-3 Goblins with bows of hitting their targets and then wounding them is incredibly small (the chance of scoring one wound each round with 3 Goblin archers is a 17% likelihood if you're shooting at one of the Rangers and even lower if you're shooting at the D7 or D8 troops that compose the rest of the force).

We also agreed that the Goblins may have been better served running with one warband and including a Troll and Bat Swarm (the Bat Swarm to summon reinforcements/help win fights later and the Troll to do the actual killing). If the shaman was included as the leader of the warband, you'd have enough space for 8 Goblins, in addition to the two other units identified above (probably 6 shields and 2 spears). The risk, of course, with this strategy is that if the Shaman loses a fight, your army melts away - fast - and you're outnumbered by the Dwarves. But to test this strategy will require playing again sometime.

Stellar unit for the Dwarves: Dwarf Ranger with longbow

I've given this award to the Rangers before, but they truly are great units. For 10 points a piece, it takes some time to pay off the investment, but the 3+ shoot value and the D5 protection they have is great for bantering with enemy archers with Strength 2 bows (the vast majority of foes actually). In this game, the archers accounted for 4-5 kills (can't quite remember), but this took the form early in the game of killing the units furthest in front from getting to the East Gate and later took the form of shooting spearmen before they could help in combats.

Stellar unit for the Goblins: Goblin Warrior with spear

I think it might be a misnomer to say that any of the Goblin units did particularly well besides the spearmen. The spears themselves only got one kill, but their support of their comrades allowed them to kill units that required rolls of a 6 much faster than would otherwise be possible. Having cheap spears is a real boon for a Goblin army, especially when their foes can't get spears of their own.

We're looking into getting a camera sometime soon (definitely before our baby comes in June), but until then, I'll try to get a few things captured with my fuzzy web cam and post what pictures come up from the mini-tournament being held this coming weekend. Until then, happy hobbying!