Saturday, December 8, 2012

Hold Ground: Dwarves vs. Uruk-Hai...vs. Elves???

So recently (read, nearly a month ago now), the General Will, Zorro, and I came together to fill an afternoon with war. We discussed playing a one-on-two game, but we decided instead to try out rules for a three-way game. In order to make it fair, we decided to make it a Hold Ground game, which will force all armies to meet in the center and hopefully would wear each other's armies evenly. We're also trying out a slightly new army building rule: each army may build in conjunction with the warband rules OR may build their armies based on the Legions of Middle-Earth rules but most spend at least 33% of their funds on heroes. I brought out my Dwarves (haven't played with them for a while), while the General Will continued to explore the world of Uruk-Hai, and Zorro brought out his tournament-crowned High Elf army. Here are the forces:

The Host of Erebor: 503 points

Gimli, Son of Gloin (army leader) - 90 points
Balin, Son of Fundin with Durin's Axe - 85 points
8 Dwarf Warriors with shields - 72 points
10 Dwarf Warriors with Dwarf bows - 90 points
6 Khazad Guards (Bodyguard: Gimli) - 66 points
5 Dwarf Rangers with two-handed weapons (including Gloin) - 40 points
4 Dwarf Rangers with throwing axes - 40 points
2 Dwarf Rangers with Dwarf Longbows - 20 points

37 units, 10 Dwarf bows + 2 Dwarf Longbows + 6 thrown weapons, 2 heroes

The Vanguard of Rivendell: 503 points

High Elf Captain with shield - 80 points
Ally: *Legolas (army leader) with armor and Elven cloak - 105 points
12 High Elf Warriors with shields - 120 points
8 High Elf Warriors with shields and spears - 88 points
10 High Elf Warriors with Elf bows - 110 points

32 units, 11* Elf bows, 2 heroes

The Fist of Isengard: 503 points

*Vrasku (army leader) - 60 points
Uruk Captain with shield and heavy armor - 60 points
Uruk Captain with shield and heavy armor - 60 points
4 Uruk Berserkers - 60 points
3 Uruk-Hai Warriors with crossbows - 33 points
17 Uruk-Hai Warriors with shields - 170 points
6 Uruk-Hai Warriors with pikes - 60 points

33 units, 4* crossbows, 3 heroes

The scenario we will be playing is a Hold Ground game on a board that is roughly 36" x 36". We have sparse terrain on the board, with the most important pieces being two towers on opposing sides of the field. Points are going to be scored as follows:
  • 1 point per unit within 6" of the objective marker (Mirror of Galadriel);
  • 1 point if the enemy army leader is killed;
  • 1 point if an enemy army is broken; OR
  • 3 points if an enemy army is broken and your own army is not broken.
We're also going to have three priority rolls and the person with priority will determine which of their fights are fought first, then the second highest roll works out the rest of them in the order he chooses. Tying for priority works like it does in the original game, where the higher priority slot goes to the person who didn't have it before.

I'm already thinking that I could be in trouble: no spears against Uruk-Hai and High Elves is not a good set-up. I'm going to need my Khazad Guards and heroes to cut through the D6 foes, while my archers focus on the D5 enemies (which are largely archers). I also know (having grown up playing three-way-RISK) that when you have a three-person game, one person can sit out of the fight at the beginning and preserve his force until the end game after the other two forces have exhausted themselves. I hoped this would be me, but as we deployed (decided to do this before the first round), I started with all of my "warbands" consolidated, while the other armies were mixed up...not a bad start, except that the Elves should be able to concentrate their forces pretty easily.

Turn 1: The Race Begins (Priority - Dwarves, Uruks, Elves)
Both armies surge forward. You can see here that my Dwarves more or less lined up together and so did the Elves. The Uruks are in a tight spot and race forward towards the middle, hoping to cut us off I believe.
One of the High Elves with Elf bow could see through my ranks and marked one of my Rangers with throwing axes. Man, I wanted him...
Aaaand if the Elves didn't take the cake, Vrasku killed both a Dwarf Warrior with shield and a Dwarf Ranger with two-handed weapon (2/3M). Ouch...yeah, like I said, may not end well for one person.
Kill count (this time, I'm counting who loses units, not who kills units): Dwarves 3/37, Uruk-Hai 0/33, Elves 0/32.

Turn 2: The Sound of Steel on Mail (P - Elves, Dwarves, Uruk-Hai)

The armies continue to press on towards the center. I've got a small division deciding whether to hunt Uruk-Hai crossbows or not, but most are just trying to get to the center (or stay alive, as my archers have it).
In the Shoot phase, one of the Uruk-Hai Warriors with crossbow wounded Balin, who saved the wound with a Fate point (1/1F).
Legolas is up in the tower that you see at the top left and shot one of the Uruk-Hai Warriors with pikes. Ouch...
One of my Dwarf bowmen also killed an Uruk-Hai happy about that, but not happy  that he's the only kill I have as my team gets charged like there's no tomorrow...
The Uruk-Hai dominated the Fight phase: the Beserserker mega-killed the Dwarf archer and the Captain went on to kill the Dwarf Ranger (*Gloin falls, Gimli roars* "FATHER! NOOOO!")
Kill count: Dwarves 5/37, Uruk-Hai 2/33, Elves 0/32.

Turn 3: The Din Rises (P - Dwarves, Uruks, Elves)
During the Move phase, Balin killed a Berserker with his throwing axe - YAYE! He went on to charge with a Khazad Guard into a Warrior with shield.
The Elves shot this poor Uruk in the back as he was preparing to resist the oncoming Dwarf advance. Caught in the middle...
Vrasku shot this Dwarf with shield as he charged towards them. His buddy's not too happy...
One of the Elves with Elf bow killed a Dwarf Ranger with a two-handed weapon. "And another one bites the dust..."
Balin kills an Uruk with shield in the Fight phase easily (and of course, I forgot to call a heroic combat).
An Uruk-Hai Warrior with shield with the support of 2 Warriors with pikes killed one of my Dwarf bowman. Yeah, my volley team is kind of in a pickle.
The Uruk Captain (labeled #1) killed one of the other Dwarf archers easily (and he also forgot to call a heroic combat).
With all the dead Dwarves, this Dwarf Warrior with shield killed one of the Uruk-Hai Warriors with crossbow, avenging his fallen comrade.
A whole lot of nothing happened here, but a nice picture of Zorro's Uruk-Hai and High Elves, no?
Kill count: Dwarves 9/37, Uruk-Hai 6/33, Elves 0/32.

Turn 4: Heroism Inspires All (P - Elves, Dwarves, Uruk-Hai)
In the Shoot phase, Legolas killed a Dwarf Ranger with throwing axes before he could throw any (1/3M).
An Elf archer killed an Uruk Warrior with shield, who was in the way of the Dwarf Warrior with shield on the hill.
This Dwarf got lucky with his throwing axe and killed an Elf spearman...this is as close to "having spear support" as this Dwarf army comes...
And Balin kills another Uruk in a heroic combat, allowing me to get some distance and "spread the love" (1/3M).
Uruk Captain #1 calls a heroic combat and kills the Dwarf he's fighting (1/2M).
In the center, Gimli killed an Elf with shield, while Balin killed an Uruk with shield and a Khazad killed another Uruk with shield. Nearby, an Elf Warrior with shield killed a Dwarf Warrior with shield.
The Dwarf Warrior with shield kills another Uruk crossbowman, while Vrasku and his final crossbow compatriot kill a Dwarf ranger with longbow.
On the other side of the field, the Uruk Captain killed another Dwarf archer (his third), but no other Dwarves (or Uruks) were killed on this side.
Finally, in a surprise victory, an Uruk Warrior with shield wounds the Elf captain, who saves the wound with his fate point (1/1F).
Kill count: Dwarves 14/37, Uruk-Hai 11/33, Elves 2/32. this three person game, the Uruks are at 67% strength, the Dwarves are at 62% strength, and the Elves are at 93% strength...not so good...

Turn 5: The Captains of the Uruk-Hai (P - Dwarves, Elves, Uruk-Hai - who have still to win priority)
So, time for another map picture. Here's where we're at: Uruk Captain #2 (the one near the Elves) called a Heroic Move to get his guys arranged to keep the Elves out of the center (1/2M), while the Dwarves tied down the Uruks and raced for the center, trying to get as many guys as I can on the Elves to reduce their losses (or we're in big trouble). Gimli did succeed in killing an Elf Warrior with shield with his throwing axe, which is an added boon.
In the Shoot phase, the skilled Elf archers killed two more of my Rangers, one with throwing axe and one with two-handed weapon. Ouch...
Legolas auto-hit another Dwarf ranger (one of my last, if not my last) with an arrow and slew him too...not good at all. Nothing else happened in the Shoot phase.
As you can see, Uruk Captain #1 called a Heroic Combat (2/2M) and slew the Dwarf archer he and his comrades trapped. They have since gone on to hurt the rest of my straggling ranged band.
Vrasku got tired of the Dwarf who had nearly slain all his crossbows, so he too called a Heroic Combat and as you can see (much to my sadness), he too slew his man and charged up the field to get in scoring position (3/3M).
In what we resolved as a three-way fight (could have un-epically been broken up), an Uruk Berserk kills Elf Warrior with spear. The Dwarves lost their end,but thanks to the Defense 7 of Khazad Guards, were not wounded.
Gimli kills an Elf archer (3/3M - really?!?) as Balin epicly failed his heroic combat (3/3M), winning the fight, but utterly failing to wound. His Khazad Guard buddies were also absolutely no help. Nearby, two Elves with shields killed a Khazad Guard. The Dwarf with shield on the far left survived an attack by a Berserker with pike supporting (3 attacks), thanks to his D7 stat line, moving closer (but not quite close enough) to the scoring objective).
The Uruk-Hai suceeded in killing a trapped Dwarf with shield on the hill and the Uruk Captain killed another Dwarf archer (his fourth archer and fifth kill of the day).
Above my lines, an Elf with shield killed an Uruk pikeman, while the Elf Captain wounded the Uruk Captain, who failed his Fate save and took a wound (1/1F, 1/2H).
Kill count: Dwarves 22/37, Uruk-Hai 12/33, Elves 5/32. Yeah, I'm broken. Kinda nasty luck would have it, my men happen to be between the Elves and most of the surviving Uruk army...yaye me.

Turn 6: The Tide Swells and Ebbs (P - Elves, Uruk-Hai, Dwarves)
Another map can see from here that the pear has been eaten (yeah, hungry) and that most of the warriors now are coming around the objective marker. The Elves still have most of their backs free and I'm just trying to keep my guys on the field. Uruk Captain #2 called another Heroic Move (2/2M) and got his men into the ranks of the archers, keeping a few of them out of range. Two other notes of interest: the Dwarf Ranger who was sitting in the tower (and doing nothing helpful) fled from the field (boo!) and you can see the cape of Legolas in the tower on the right. The only thing that happened in the Shoot phase was that Legolas failed to wound Uruk Captain #2 (the one with a single wound left).
Balin suceeded in killing another Elf and the Elves killed a Khazad Guard in return. Gimli succeeded in defeating the Elves who ganged on him (3-4 if memory serves), but wasn't able to kill any of them.
Uruk Captain #1 kills yet another Dwarf archer (not too much of a surprise) and by now has leveled my volley team from 10 members to 2...ouch. You can see here that the Uruks have made it to the Elves, after cutting through my flank...
The Elves dominated on this side: their archers (trapping the Uruks in most of these fights) suceeded in killing 3 Uruks with shields.
Kill count: Dwarves 24/37, Uruk-Hai 15/33, Elves 6/32. We rolled and the game ended (yeah, can't say I was sad to see it end now). None of the army leaders were killed, so the points scoring thusly:

  • The Dwarves scored 0 points for breaking any of the other armies and 9 points for their units in range of the objective.
  • The Uruk-Hai scored 3 points for breaking the Dwarves and not being broken and 12 points for their units in range of the objective.
  • The High Elves scored 3 points for breaking the Dwarves and not being broken and 25 points for their units in range of the objective.
So, the Elves won a major victory over both the Dwarves and the Uruk-Hai (and the Uruks received a minor victory over the Dwarves).


Assessment by Tiberius:

Hehe, so my poor Dwarves got ganged on (not surprised, happens a lot). Oh well. The General Will seemed to enjoy the Uruks again, and I've offered to sell him some of my Uruk-Hai to get an army started (nearly 350 points). The Elves did well, but seeing as the Uruks avoided hitting them until the end, we can't really be surprised, right? It was interesting playing with three players, but like I thought might happen, it tends to not work well for one person. Oh well, need to try a few more three-way games before I make a judgment on them. One thing that did help, through it all, was that I rolled high enough to have priority either first or second until the final round...small victory.

Assessment by Zorro:

So I lucked out on this one. The Uruks starting mixing it up with the Dwarf archers early, and I deployed in a sufficiently concentrated manner to disincentivize the small Uruk group in my midst from provoking things (for a couple rounds anyway). Although really it was more of a win for them than for me as I would have been required to crush  the tiny warband if they had acted otherwise - thus eliminating most of their final VPs. I was perfectly content to live and let live until I could erect a shield wall near the center - and then mostly just shield my way to the objective with archers behind to garner VPs. All in all a very fun way to mix things up a bit.

Stellar unit for the Dwarves: Dwarf Warrior with Shield

Close call this game between the Warriors with shields and the Khazad Guards. These guys and their D7 makes all the difference in most games. In this particular game, the Warriors with shields won a lot of fight, succeeded in killing 2 Uruks with crossbows and a few Elves, kept the flack off of the Dwarf heroes (most of the time), and I only lost two of them. The Khazad guards did well too, but didn't hold as many people down (though they did absorb a lot of archery early-on). A shout-out goes to my massacred archers, who managed to keep 10 Uruk-Hai out of the center of the fight (which may have been my undoing, but certainly kept them from my battle-line while my Dwarves focused on the Elves).

Stellar unit for the Uruk-Hai: Uruk-Hai Warrior with shield

The Uruk-Hai with shields held a great line against both Elves and Dwarves, carving up some troopers and shielding their way against overwhelming odds from the Elven archers. A crowd favorite and perhaps the best core value unit in the game, the Uruk-Hai Warriors can't go without praise in this game.

Stellar unit for the High Elves: Elf Warrior with shield

I'm sensing a trend here... but there is no question about it, the shields carried the day. I was a bit disappointed in my archery - I'd hoped to thin out the stunted opposition a bit more. Although the archers managed to get a couple key kills, they weren't effective enough to earn this title. Frankly I'm surprised that you don't see more High Elf players who add the shields. As my opponents can attest, there are few things as frustrating as running into a F5 shield wall. When (if?) you ever manage to beat them in a fight, you are then left flailing helplessly against their D6. I can throw out a couple shields to anchor a flank against 2-3x their number while moving the spears to the areas where I actually need the killing power.


  1. Interesting scrap. I haven't had many three way games, but the last I recall, had two players go at each other, whilst I made it in late and capitalized on their weakened states. This was a pirate game (Legends of the High Seas) which is based on LOTR SBG...

  2. Balin "spreading the love"...oh, how often I've been on the business end of that deal, :)

    Good game, guys - I should get in on a 3-man game sometime, :)