Friday, December 26, 2014

Beware of Dragon, Part 4: The Defensive Versatile Dragon Types

Good evening gamers,

We've talked about Vanilla dragons, Utility dragons, and Offensive Versatile dragons. In this post, we're wrapping up the tactical overview of dragon builds and focusing on the "defensive versatile" dragon options. As mentioned in our last post, these dragons don't use the Breathe Fire upgrade, which brings a few concerns. The chief benefit to this dragon type is that your Will store can be saved for one of two things: casting magic (if you have the Wyrmtongue upgrade) or passing Courage tests (available to all three builds below). This allows you to protect your dragon either by weakening your foes or ensuring you are resolute enough to stay and fight. The concerns for this build are as follows:

Concerns for not taking Breathe Fire

The first and most important consideration is that your dragon is strictly a melee unit. With a large base, you need to watch terrain to make sure you can fit when you want to attack. You also need be careful not to accidentally trap your own units when you maneuver or retreat (should you lose a fight). Finally, watch out for enemy archery (for most builds), as exposure to too much archery as you try to cross the field could drain your Will (or Might/Fate) stores before combat is reached.

The second consideration is similar to a consideration for how to use Breathe Fire: you need to pay for a 350 point unit, so be deliberate about who you attack. I've hinted/said this in each post on dragons: you're paying for an expensive unit, so for the love of all that is holy, direct him at the enemy in a way that will recoup some of that investment. This could be by destroying heroes in melee combat OR by crunching enemy warriors who drift too far from the protection of a brawler hero. Whatever you choose to do to make up the cost of your army's centerpiece, don't "just attack with him," as telling him "smash" may not be good enough.

Build #4: "The Strike Drone" (Wings + Wyrmtongue)

I'll begin by saying that this is my favorite build for defensive dragons (and may be my favorite build for any dragon). Why you ask? Because taking an upgrade that allows you to fly and taking an upgrade that allows you to cast magic each turn you are not engaged is the only way to continue getting worth out of your dragon. I've talked a lot in the previous posts about how Breathe Fire only lasts for three turns (or less) and how taking the Rough Hide upgrade requires your opponent to actually try to kill you when you're nearly impregnable. These upgrades are different: they're not passive (like Tough Hide) and they're not limited use options.

The benefit of Wings can be lost if your opponent gets priority a lot, but on the whole, you should be able to use your incredible speed to position yourself to kill the units you need to kill in order to gain your points (be it to target an important hero, or line up a nice set of guys to throw one unsuspecting grunt into). Wyrmtongue also lasts the whole game, thanks to a free Will point and spells with difficulty of 3 or 4 - not all of your spells will go off successfully (and I don't particularly like spending Might points to make these work unless you REALLY need them to), but you'll have a chance next turn to make it work. Combined with wings, you have a 24" effective range too, which is great for making sure that anyone within your 12" movement path gets their will store removed or prevented from doing any damage.

Build #5: "The Lead Zeppelin" (Wings + Tough Hide)

If I didn't love magic so much, this would be my favorite dragon. I'll go further and say that if I were running a two-dragon army at 700 points, this would definitely be one of them (maybe both, depending on whether you can leave the Breathe Fire upgrade at home). With the passive skill of Tough Hide, you're not likely to take much damage and without Wyrmtongue or Breathe Fire, you can save all of your Will points to resist magic and pass Courage tests. If you don't want to be touched and be able to rapidly deploy, this is your man.

It comes at a price, though: who's going to attack you? Strength 5 heroes wound you on a single dice, but who's going to openly charge a dragon like this with the intent of trying to get that wound on 6s? Not many. The more likely event is that a single grunt (we'll call him Bob) charges you and everyone else high-tails it out of there to wherever the rest of your army is. It's worth noting that your 12" movement should allow you to lose this loser on the next turn, but losing any time with a dragon is costly. In addition, since non-siege archery isn't going to do a dent in that mail, your opponent is more likely to focus his archery on the rest of your army, which may have a greater toll on you than a Fate point or two plucked off the dragon before hitting combat without the Tough Hide upgrade.

Build #6: "The Quagmire" (Wyrmtongue + Tough Hide)

Perhaps you want to stay in step with your army and want to be able to take down the worst of your enemy's heroes. While I've come to enjoy mobility on my casters, a standard 6" movement coupled with magic works just fine. Unlike most fantasy games, you have the ability with this build to actually make your caster defensible. If you enjoy casting magic, this guy is really fun to use.

My biggest concern about this build is that you can't maneuver - it has all the benefits of the two previous builds except their movement capabilities. Being able to fly away from  "Suicide Bob" is no small thing, and being able to move quickly to keep an enemy hero on the other end of the map from making it off the board or making it to an objective is no small thing. Finally, since your foes will have no incentive to attack you, not being ahead of your army (thanks to Wings) will mean that he'll focus on everyone else. Even with a Goblin army, you're going to be pressed for numbers or other means of fire power, so having your foe focus on the rest of your army is kind of not the least for me.

The final post in this series will by my biased review of ways you can take down the 11 dragon types described in the four preceding posts. These will include general recommendations and tell you which dragon types are defeated by them - no rocket science, but a general should realize what element of his army he is neglecting to employ/expand given a monster like a dragon. After that, we move on to detail work on the Wood Elves, Goblins, and Dwarves as we celebrate the climax of the Hobbit trilogy and the turn of the year!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Operation Tuckborough Update: Trees!

Hey Reader!

First of all, I hope that your Thanksgiving was amazing!  Over the course of the extended weekend I was hard at work with a bread knife, but not because I was baking (we'll, I was baking for the holiday, but the bread knife had nothing to do with it - I'll explain in a bit), and after a few grueling weeks at work and finally having time to upload this, I wanted to give you all an update from the weekend on Operation Tuckborough, which is my Shire board for the TMAT GT IV this March.

Per interesting circumstances surrounding the tournament last year my army, the Waistcoat Brigade (Shire LOME List, which you can find here), dropped from the tournament, and for the GT this year I am bringing more or less the same army (more on that in a future post), and will also be bringing my Shire board to the tournament to accompany them.  To add a bit more flair to the board though I decided to include my first foray into the realm of trees and woodland terrain, and today's post covers the creation of two new pieces of woodland terrain for the board.

Before launching into the step-by-step process, it is worth noting that I followed the ideas laid out by Dan at Mini War Gaming, and I highly recommend their video series on terrain building.  Really good ideas on what tools to use, techniques to provide added stability and longevity to your terrain, and just all-around good ideas, :)  So, with no further ado, let's make some terrain!

STEP 1: Cut the Styrofoam

Mini War Gaming personally recommend against using the granulated styrofoam when making terrain, and I agree as a general rule - I happened to have granulated styrofoam lying around (which I'm trying to use up so that I can clean out closet space and workstation space), so I'm using granulated styrofoam in mine.  My hope is to build two modular pieces of terrain, so I'll need bases for them.

I'm just using a $6 bread knife for cutting throughout this post; you
don't need anything special to cut styrofoam.  So get a cheap one.
Because I didn't want the bases for our pieces today to be that wide, we'll only be working with the right piece, and we'll slice that in two for our first base plates:

Major thanks for the random Uruk shaman and wood chip (that
will soon become a rock) for showing scale of size today!
So with that we've got our two bases; I made the plates about the same size, though we'll be cutting these down, and they'll likely be different sizes when we're done.

STEP 2: Trace the Base

I use a simple Sharpie pen for this - don't need anything too fancy, just something that will leave a large enough mark for you to clearly cut along the line.

STEP 3: Trace the Top

Now that we've got the base we'll trace a smaller section near the top and cut along it to create more of a slope (which will be shaved into a bit come the actual cutting, but that's okay), like so:

Nothing too earthshaking here: cut out what you want, chuck the rest.  Alternatively, you can take remnant pieces and use them for additional rock pieces, rubble and the like, so worth thinking about, :)  This is a bit easier to do with the non-granulated "sheet" styrofoam, but you can do it with either.  End result will look like this:

Starting to look like a hill already.

STEP 4: Apply Plaster/Wall Putty

Paint and glue doesn't apply well to styrofoam, so I like adding wall plaster or putty to the foam to give a more solid, rigid feel.  It also means that if you don't get all of the ridges out you'll have an uneven looking terrain which will be mostly hidden by the flock and fake grass later, giving it a bit more character.  Quickly apply, and let dry:

Once dry, glue down trees.  Some people prefer to sand it down first and then apply the trees; I tend to avoid sanding until I have the trees down purely because the sanding grains can latch onto the glue, making the bond between the actual terrain piece and the tree base weaker (and greater chance it pops off), but that's a matter of personal preference.  When you're done it will look like this:

I also took the opportunity to glue down the wood chip as well (which we will be turning into a large rock shortly).  And with that, we're ready for the final step!

STEP 5: Sand, Flock, and Paint

While painting is not usually necessary on terrain projects, it became necessary for this one because we're trying to convert the wood chip.  I used a Mechanicus Standard Gray (base coat from Citadel Paints) for my rock, 1) because it's a good looking gray for terrain, 2) because I have a lot of it lying around, and 3) because it's a base coat as opposed to a layer coat or a dry coat, so it applies thicker and will hold its color better.  Final product looks like this:

And with that, we're good for Phase 1!  I'll be adding some rocks and do some touch-up to the flocking, but otherwise these pieces are basically good to go!  Should provide some "in the way" options for soldiers, some modular woodland terrain, and we've still got half of the original base plate remaining (which I hope to get underway if not completed this weekend).  Full update on Operation Tuckborough hopefully coming out after that, probably at the turn of the year.

So anyway, that's what we've been up to, :)  Doing some touch up work to a number of miniatures (and painting up some new guys - hopefully there will be a post soon on those guys), and we'll keep you all posted!  I'm also hoping to get in some games against Tiberius, especially testing out his dragon armies, so keep watching this space as we head into the Christmas Season!  Until then, you'll know where to find me,

May your days be merry and bright,


"The world was never right unless a Son of Adam was on the throne." ~ Trufflehunter, Prince Caspian

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Beware of Dragon, Part 3: The "Offensive Versatile" Dragon Types

Good morning gamers,

In our previous two posts, we talked about the Vanilla dragon type (no upgrades) an the Utility dragon types (one upgrade). These five builds are more affordable options that what we're going to be talking about today, but they only do one thing for your army. In today's post, we're going to be looking at the three possible Versatile dragon builds that include the "Breathe Fire" upgrade, because let's face it, we think breathing fire is pretty cool. Because you pay Will points to use Breathe Fire, we're going to be referring to these dragon builds as "offensive versatile" types, while the non-Breathe-Fire builds save their Will stores for resisting magic or passing Courage tests ("defensive versatile" types). It's important to note that the fact that "offensive" or "defensive" has been tacked onto the Versatile description doesn't mean that taking an "offensive" dragon build lacks defensive options (or that "defensive" dragon builds lack offensive capabilities). Rather, the focus is only on how it enables the use of its Will store. Before we begin, let's get some of the elephants out of the room.

Concerns for taking Breathe Fire

First and foremost, as we just said, you're spending your Will store to do damage, instead of resisting magic. These dragon builds are not designed to counter serious magic armies. I've mentioned magic in every post so far, but this bears repeating:

Because you're a powerful melee monster, you will be targeted by magic.

This has become particularly true with the advent of Brutal Strikes, since monsters can't be pegged so easily by a single warrior anymore. If your foe wields an army of evil, adding a 60-70 point Ringwraith is easy and you can keep a powerful unit from doing anything for 4-6 turns.

If your gaming meta doesn't rely on magic (bad idea, but we'll get into that in a future month here at TMAT), there is another consideration for Breathe Fire upgrades. Your upgrade is only good for a maximum of three turns, so don't "just use it." While the upgrade is only worth 50 points (and you should probably be able to recoup that during three rounds of killing), any dragon commander needs to think about what he strategically needs to do to win a game. If your opponent runs a hero-oriented army, focus your firepower on the hero(es) that will make a difference for the rest of your army. For example, you can probably kill most of a Dwarf volley team with a single breath attack, but if Gimli's squad (or Balin's squad or the King's Champion's squad or...) sneaks off to the rest of your army, you've lost the game. Using the same example, though, you as the commander need to decide if you need to wipe out Gimli's two Fate points (and perhaps killing the hero) or if weakening him is good enough and taking out a swathe of guys is more important. Whatever you choose to do, you need to be deliberate with your fire.

Build #1: "The Missile Copter" (Breathe Fire + Wings)

This is your "cavalry archer" build: it combines the value of a bow-style range attack with the speed and rapid redeployment of flight. Being able to move 6"and still make a 12" range attack is powerful, especially in objective-based games. Glenstorm likes to talk about armies that can "wag" from one part of the battlefield to the other, and if you like being able to do that, this is your man!

While this is likely to be one of the most popular builds for dragons (and indeed my favorite offensive build), the greatest concern for anyone running this kind of dragon is the agro (read, concentrated fire) it will attract. With only Defense 7, beware of S3+ archery and more importantly, S5+ magical spells or siege weapons. Since you will hopefully be shooting for 3 turns, this gives your opponent time to shoot at you before melee is joined - that can be a lot of time!

Build #2: "The Sniper Team" (Breathe Fire + Wyrmtongue)

This is the "12-inch-ranged-cannon" build, and while it doesn't move as rapidly as the Missile Copter, it has the potential to skirmish for a long time. I call this the "sniper team" because you are probably focusing on taking out heroes with it. While Breathe Fire can be used to kill warriors, Breathe Fire in this build can be used to wear down one or two really powerful heroes (Elven lords, Aragorn, Imrahil, etc.) and once you've exhausted your Will store, reducing the Will and later Fight value of their other heroes as you take them out one by one.

It's important to note that if the Fly special rule came standard on dragons, this would be the play (at least for me) - you could fly 6" and still breathe fire or fly 12" and cast magic - it's incredible! Since this is not a possibility, it's important to realize that you will not be able to move up as quickly and so will be vulnerable to enemy ranged damage (to include everything listed in the previous build) AND will be closer to your own ranks when you engage. Be careful if you get charged before you get off all of your Breathe Fire attacks, as later, that could mean toasting some of your own guys, along with some of his. While the trade might be worth it if you're killing Elves as well as Goblins, you're not going to have that many guys, so be careful.

Build #3: "The Tank" (Breathe Fire +Tough Hide )

When I first read up on the special rules for dragons, I immediately thought "This is where it's at." While I no longer hold this opinion, this is still a fun build. You get a great ranged attack, and while you are slow, you are also impervious to damage (some concern from S5 attacks and S9 magic/siege weapons).

Unlike the previous two builds, you trade gaining agro for its antithesis: no one is going to focus on you. Now, whatever else you bought to accompany the dragon will be receiving the focus of the attack. We've talked in a previous post about how taking the Tough Hide upgrade results in general results in not being attacked: while at first this seems like a capital idea, since all scenario reward you on breaking your foe, you basically incentivize your opponent into trying to break you instead of dealing with your power unit. Since he's not fast, redeploying him is going to be hard. Breathe Fire will do a lot for you (if you can get it off before charges), but once entangled, only Brutal Strikes will help you. In the end, your foe is likely not going to wound you on better than 6s in melee anyway, so you pay 50 points for an upgrade that all but ensures that your dragon will make it to the end of the game. If you like that sort of thing...go with it. :)

I will say one more thing about "The Tank" - this I think would be the best build for at least one dragon in a 700 point list. Here at TMAT, we've never broken 603 points in a game (grace points included) because of the time constraints we have and the time it takes to move everyone, but I've heard speak of grand tournaments in the UK which are played at the 700 point level. Two 350 point dragons in those games have been powerful in the past and personally I'd go with one "Tank" and one "Missile Copter" or better yet, one "Tank" and one of the defensive builds we haven't talked about yet - more on that in our next update.

In our next post, we'll wrap up our discussion of dragon types with a look at the non-fire Versatile dragons, all of which rely on melee for their crushing power, but ally in various tricks to maximize that melee potential. Until then, happy hobbying!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Beware of Dragon, Part 2: The "Utility" Dragon Types

Good morning gamers,

In today's post, we're going to look at the four types of "utility" dragons that you can buy in the LOTR Strategy Battle Game. The following terms will be used throughout the post, so here are their "formal" definitions up front:
  • Utility Dragon - a dragon with a single upgrade is termed a "utility" dragon, since the upgrade provides a niche capability for the dragon to perform a primary function (and very few other functions besides that). This is used to differentiate a dragon with a single upgrade from those with no upgrades (termed a "vanilla" dragon) and those with two upgrades (termed a "versatile" dragon).
  • Lightning Build - a dragon who relies on its fiery breath to devastate enemy ranks and the heroes who lead them. This allows a dragon, for a limited time, to have an archery attack option.
  • Thunder Build - a dragon who relies on the thunderous pounding of its wings to choose its battles, avoid several turns of archery, and often ensures that it will receive its charge bonus.
  • Rain Build - a dragon who relies on magical spells to enfeeble enemy heroes (or warriors, I guess) in order to defeat them asymmetrically. Like fighting in rain, heroes who face a dragon of this kind will not be entering the combat at full strength (if anywhere near the same playing field).
  • Hail Build - a dragon who relies on its tough hide to ignore wounds dealt by the most powerful of blows. This has its advantages against enemy archery, damage-oriented magical spells, and melee attacks.
For the sake of theme, these all have storm elements in their titles - the "hail" build is probably better termed a "rock" build, but since hail is get the picture.

The "Lightning" Build

By taking the Breathe Fire upgrade, your dragon is able to tackle large blocks of troops or nasty heroes from a distance. Breathing fire costs a Will point, which means you'll only be able to use it three times. If your foe knows the rules for this, he'll be sure to space out his men to reduce the amount of damage you can do with each attack. You should still be able to pay for the upgrade, though, by tackling 3-4 units at a time. Alternatively, you can really pay for the cost if you can take down two captains (or one epic hero) with your breath attacks, though your combat profile should generally be good enough to kill them without using up your fire.

While you can do lots of damage with this build, you are slow. With only 6" speed, you will probably be near your main lines when you start unloading pain on your foes. Since the breath attack is made during the Shoot phase, you need to ensure that you're not charged in order to use it, so watch out for high Courage/Bodyguard rule units! This "downside" isn't necessarily a problem, but how you maneuver your units will be key to victory. Another concern about this build is that because you cannot race across the field, you are a prime target for enemy archery and enemy magic: if they can stop you before you can get close enough to use your breath attacks, you're in trouble. Magical spells that allow you to move an opponent his full distance (Spectres and Wood Elf Sentinels most particularly) are real dangers, as moving you your full distance will keep you from being able to doing a bow-style attack.

The "Thunder" Build

Wings get you into combat sooner - this is a self-evident fact. Since you already invest in the strong melee profile for any Utility dragon, this utility type relies on speed and maneuverability to get into combat quickly. You can take advantage of the Brutal Strikes available to monsters in order to get your kill count in, but you are focused on getting into the fray quickly. If you are allowed to deploy within 12" of your board edge, you can engaged your opponent in 2-3 turns and can even tackle enemy siege weapons if you need to. An added bonus of this build is that for those early turns of the battle, your enemy archery will probably not be directed against the other 300+ points of your army. This can save you a lot guys!

The downside to this build is that if you race across the field on wings, you are likely going to be facing the full force of your enemy's army alone. You'll want to save your Might points to win fights (or promote Fate points), as one bad roll for you could spell instant doom for the beloved monster of your force. Defense 7 will hold up well against most enemy attacks, but this shouldn't make the wielder of any dragon foolhardy. Spectres are again very dangerous for these sorts of dragons, as they can not only make them move at great speed into a trap, but they also wound against your low Courage value instead of your Defense value. If there are any Ringwraiths nearby, those nasty spectres will be wounding on 4s from the get-go an on 3s if the Ringwraith casts Drain Courage twice. Choosing to resist these spells necessarily means decreasing your Will store, which makes passing those Courage rolls that much less likely.

The "Rain" Build

While both of the previous builds trust to the powerful profile of the dragon, the Wyrmtongue upgrade allows you to use this powerful profile against a weaker profile of the enemy unit of your choice. With three simple spells, you can reduce the Will store or Fight value of your enemy's prized hero. Being Fight 7 is usually enough to win on ties, but reducing the attack number of your foe is no small thing. Furthermore, if a hero is known for wounding his foes (Thrysdane Wolfsbane or Aragorn with Anduril, for example), removing his ability to roll to wound on a given round will be worth its weight in dragon scales.

The other great benefit of running with this build is that every turn you receive a free Will point to cast a spell. This means that you will never be lacking for use of this upgrade, unless someone charges you before you can cast. Of course, the Terror/Harbinger of Evil special rule combo should make charging you hard to do.

The biggest downside to this build is that if your opponent relies more heavily on his warriors doing his dirty work than his heroes, you'll be hard pressed to cast magic against the whole of the army before they carve through whatever is left of your army. Magic is great, but it's best employed against heroes who will make a difference, rather than hordes of warriors. This isn't to say that you can't Transfix someone you intend to throw/bash through...

The "Hail" Build

The "hail" build is the closest thing I could come up with that rings like a "rock" build while focusing on storm terminology. Taking the Tough Hide upgrade boosts your maximum Wounds and Defense value to 9 (instead of 7). The increase of wounds is a bit excessive, since having the higher defense should be more than enough to disincentivize shooting at you and reduce any damage intake from melee. This is the build for the person who wants to steam roll through the enemy ranks and doesn't want to worry about taking damage if he flubs a roll.

Like all of the other builds (besides the Thunder build), you are probably going to be close to your own ranks when you finally get into charge range. If he arrives at the same time as the rest of your warriors, however, there is a bigger danger: why would your opponent want to charge a large, nasty dragon when he could charge a softer part of your army? On turns when you have priority, you can probably charge whatever units you want. On the other turns, however, you'll be forced to use your Brutal Strikes in order to get any semblance of kills in.

In our next post, we'll look at three of the six "versatile" dragon builds (all featuring the Breathe Fire upgrade), so watch this space!

Friday, November 28, 2014


Happy work-off-the-tryptophan-and-carbs Day!

after a much too-long hiatus, I figured it was time to dust off the blogger log-in to post some updates from Karningul. Tiberius and Glenstorm have been working hard at keeping the blog alive, but with a lull for the holidays (and a now-functional camera) I'm hoping to have some down time to draft up some filler to display some of the projects I've been working on for the past... far too long.

my busy hobby table

so we'll kick things off with the most recent item on the project table: wild wargs

Send out your warg riders!
As you may have noticed from a number of other posts on the blog, I've been a bit slow coming to the warg party. Most of the rest of the other TMAT players use them in some form or another, and I finally caved. My plan is to use a WWC to have them augment my Harad army (because fast attack troops are always a good option), and because they are just fun.

The Pack

The rocks were sculpted using sculpy and a Basius press mold purchased via Zinge Industries. Really awesome concept - I totally recommend checking the Basius molds out if you like the idea of infinitely customization with your bases.. Basius just completed a kickstarter with improved double-sided molds (which I missed by like... 24 hours. boo hiss), so it might be worth waiting until those are released, but I was in dire need of more basing ideas and didn't feel like waiting. . .

given as TMAT already has 18+ other wargs running around (okay Glenstorm, 12 wargs and 6+ Fell wargs). I wanted to make these guys stand out a bit and did a bit of sculpting work on them to fill out their fur and make them more distinctive (and because I'll use almost any excuse to customize models).

added a more elaborate crest

extended the crest up the head and covered the bare patch on his back

"General Burnsides" - he gets a bit of a mohawk and hairy cheeks

most crests and covered flanks

I'm still trying to decide on colors. Mostly I'm going between the mottled black/brown/tan that I've seen from LOTR concept art (and is semi-displayed in TTT), or full black with glowing eyes. but first I have to find a proper rock for my WWC to pose on, because the Basius ones aren't quite big enough. 

I have a far number of other projects that have made their way across the crafting tables in the past few months, ranging from mordor, to dwarves, to uruks to elf heroes. Hoping to get some of those on display in the near future, so watch this space!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Siege Combat: Mordor vs. Rohan

Glenstorm recently acquired an amazing fort that we want to experiment with in our LOTR SBG games (and quite possibly showing up in next year's THRO tournament). This game will be between Glenstorm's beloved Rohan army and my work-in-progress Mordor army. Here are the forces:

The Helm's Deep Brigade (Rohan, Warbands)
Warband 1
-Eomer, Knight of the Pelennor: 115 pts (Army Leader)
4 Rohan Royal Guards: 40 pts
4 Rohan Warriors with shields: 28 pts
4 Rohan Outriders: 28 pts
Warband 2
Eowyn with armor and shield: 40 pts
3 Rohan Royal Guards with throwing spears: 36 pts
4 Rohan Warriors with shields: 28 pts
3 Rohan Outriders: 21 pts
Warband 3
Rohan Captain with heavy armor/shield: 60 pts
2 Rohan Royal Guards: 20 pts
2 Rohan Warriors with shields: 14 pts
3 Rohan Outriders: 21 pts
Hidden Forces:
2 Rohan Warriors with shields/throwing spears (Warband 2): 18 pts
1 Rohan Warrior with Banner (Warband 3): 31 pts
Theoden, King of Rohan with heavy armor/shield (Warband 4): 75 pts
4 Warriors of Rohan with shields (Warband 4): 28 pts
Full Total: 603 pts, 40 units, 10 Might
The Host of the Morgul Vale

Warband 1:
The Dark Marshal [Army Leader] - 120 pts
4 Spectres - 60 pts
5 Orc Warriors with spears and shields - 35 pts
Warband 2:
Ringwraith with 1M/8W/1F - 70 pts
4 Orc Warriors with shields - 24 pts
6 Orc Warriors with spears and shields - 42 pts

Warband 3:
Ringwraith with 1M/7W/1F - 65 pts
6 Orc Warriors with Orc bows - 36 pts

Hidden Forces:
Ringwraith with 1M/7W/1F (Warband 4) - 65 pts
3 Orc Warriors with shields (Warband 4) - 18 pts 
4 Orc Warriors with two-handed weapon (Warband 4) - 24 pts
2 Spectres (Warband 1) - 30 pts
1 Orc Warrior with spear and shield (Warband 1) - 7 pts
1 Orc Warrior with shield (Warband 2) - 6 pts
40 units, 602 pts, 6 Orc bows, 5 Might, lots of magic

The scenario we will be playing is a Hold Ground game on a board that is 48" x 48".  The objective will be in the center of the map (and close to the center of the fort), and all units within 6" of the objective (which is just along the interior of the palisade walls for most of the fort) score 1 Victory Point for each team.  Teams also gain 2 Victory Points for killing the enemy army leader, 1 Victory Point for breaking the enemy army, or 3 Victory Points for breaking the enemy army and not being broken yourself.

Mordor won the roll off, I elected to defend, and Glenstorm decided to forego siege equipment in favor of adding his extra 150 points worth of warriors, with Mordor winning priority for the first round.

Thoughts from Tiberius: it took me all of two seconds to realize that I didn't have enough guys to man the walls. I'm a huge fan of siege defense, but how many guys you have is a huge part of whether you win or lose. My heroes should be able to keep his guys (especially Théoden) from doing anything, but we'll see how that goes. The primary goal, though, is to break his guys (don't know how we're going to do that) OR just shield him away from the center objective.

Thoughts from Glenstorm: So, I've played a number of games growing up where my brother defended a castle, and I have to say that if there is one man that I trust to defend a castle it's Tiberius.  Cracking this army is going to be hard: I've got him beat on the model count, but he boasts a number of terror-causing units with a Ringwraith harbinger "cloud" over the entire fortress if he's smart on placement (which he will be) against a predominately Courage 3 (thus effectively Courage 2) army.  The only reliable charging men that I have are Eomer, Theoden (presuming that his 0 Will Points won't be a problem...against a caster, and the Royal Guards (who are naturally tied to Eomer, as always).  So, to call the ball: push the castle from three sides, use the RoCap and his unit to crack the flank, use Eomer and his unit to storm the gate, use Eowyn's unit to distract fire and keep the enemy penned down on the other side of the fort, and Theoden's unit can just have fun being Transfixed and torn apart, :P

Turn 1: (Priority - Evil)

In the Move phase, the Dark Marshal cast Drain Courage (1/12W) on Eowyn, who blocked the spell (1/2W), not wanting to have difficulty charging on a later turn. One of the spectres moved a Warrior of Rohan away from the fortress wall (one epic Warrior of Rohan passed his test to resist a different spectre). During the Shoot phase, a Warrior of Rohan kills an Orc spearman with his throwing spear, while an outrider kills an Orc archer (and the Orcs do heroically...nothing).

Turn 2: (P - tied, Good)

As the forces of Rohan advance against the walls, two spectres moved their targeted foes away from the castle (the guy who epically passed last time passed yet again) and a Rohan Royal Guard charges so close to the walls that the Dark Marshal comes out to fight him, after failing to cast Drain Courage on Eowyn (2/12W). Eomer is targeted by Drain Courage by Ringwraith #1 (1/7W) and he lets it pass (Courage 3 on the hero while in range of one of my Ringwraiths!). Eowyn is targeted by Drain Courage yet again by the Dark Marshal (2/12W) and she resists this too (1/2M, 2/2W). In the Shoot phase, two Outriders kill another Orc archer and an Orc spearman. During the Fight phase, the Dark Marshal won his fight (on a tie) but doesn't wound his foe (3/12W).
Kill Count: Rohan 4/28, Mordor 0/40.

Turn 3: (P - Good)

With Rohan winning yet another priority roll, Ringwraith #1 (near the gate) called a Heroic Move (1/1M). One of the spectres at the gate successfully sent a Warrior of Rohan backwards, but besides that, everyone just formed up to protect the gate (two just outside the gate, shield with spear support inside the gateway, and shield and spear support coming up just beyond the gate). After Rohan moved, Ringwraith #2 cast Compel on Théoden (1/1M, 2/8W), keeping the hero from approaching the walls. On the other side of the board, a spectre moved the Rohan banner-bearer away from the walls, taking the banner bonus from those assaulting the palisades this turn.

In the Fight phase, the RoCap called a Heroic Combat (1/2M), won, and killed his foe (bringing himself and an ally over the walls). Nearby, an Orc archer was killed, allowing yet another warrior to cross over the wall. Near the gate, a Rohan Royal Guard lost to the spectre and was killed (wound on 4s, baby!) (spectres: one of my new favorite units, :) ) and three Warriors of Rohan were killed as they attempted to breach the wall nearby. Finally, the Orc warrior with a shield who beat Eowyn and her Royal Guard last turn won for a second time, keeping the hero and elite bodyguard from breaching the far wall.

Kill Count: Rohan 6/28, Mordor 4/40.

Turn 4: (P - Good)

At this point in the game, Rohan has overrun the wall at the top of the picture and is pressing hard against the palisade on the right side. Eomer is sitting in the gateway and if Théoden can ever charge, he'll be pressing from the south end of the supporting palisade. The forces of good moved and then it was Evil's turn for a magical barrage. Ringwraith #1 has come down from the wall and cast Drain Courage on the RoCap (2/7W), but the spell only barely went off and so was resisted (1/1W). Ringwraith #2 casts Compel on Théoden, moving him away from the walls (4/8W - can't keep this up much longer).
In the Fight phase, Rohan called two heroic combats: Eomer attempted to beat a spectre and lost his fight (1/3M) and Eowyn attempted kill the Orc she's been fighting for several turns (2/2M). She lost as well. Elsewhere on the field, the Dark Marshal killed the Royal Guard he's been fighting (5/12W). Besides that, there was a lot of shielding...

Kill Count: Rohan 6/28, Mordor 5/40.

Turn 5: (P - Evil)
At this point, Rohan has solid control of one of the walls and is pressing two others. With priority finally going to Evil, it was time for some serious magic casting. The results were...mixed. Ringwraith #2 failed to Transfix Theoden (5/8W), but Ringwraith #1 transfixed the RoCap (3/7W).
In the Fight phase, Eomer called a Heroic Combat and killed a spectre and then an Orc Warrior with shield. The warrior of Rohan who epically resisted two spectre magical barrages helped a team of guys kill the spectre on the wall and prepared to charge the tower. Besides that, the Orcs on the palisade with the Dark Marshal shield off the forces of Rohan, though the Dark Marshal himself can't land any wounds (6/12W).

Turn 6-7: (P - Evil both times)

I'm just going to let you catch the drift from these pictures. Pay attention to how many guys are on the gate wall...
Yeah, things not going well. The Dark marshal squared off against an Outrider in a Heroic Combat and killed him, moved on to another outrider and killed him too! Besides that, Orcs fell left and right and I didn't have the guys to do anything about it. You will notice, however, that Eowyn STILL hasn't killed the Orc she's been trying to kill for the entire game...that's a bit encouraging (That guy deserves a medal).
I don't remember what all the counts were, but we ended with a major victory for Rohan (break and not broken, more guys within 6" of the objective).


Assessment by Tiberius: I'd have to say that I was impressed by three things: first, the Dark Marshal is great at keeping a battle line together (shielding + 6" banner radius = awesome). Second, spectres are great for dealing with units who have average/low courage OR wounding high defense units who have average Courage (Glenstorm taught me this with his Halloween army, but there's nothing like seeing it work for yourself). Finally, the fortress was not too hard to storm. I've played several games (not on this blog) where a fortress built for siege defense couldn't be taken by a force twice the size. This one gave the defenders enough protection to be valuable, but was stressing at the same time. The only revision I would make (as I told Glenstorm after the game) would be to have burning oil/tar to pour down from the gatehouse. Besides that, I just needed to have more guys...

Assessment by Glenstorm: Wow, that was a close one.  There was a lot of orc and ringwraith victories in combat that (thankfully) didn't result in damage, and the RoCap actually broke through the lines on his side (which was more of a hope than a strategy).  Theoden did virtually nothing all game, but we expected that, so it's alright.  I am disappointed with Eowyn and company: I was testing her for the first time and I hadn't factored on how only having 1 Attack can be a serious problem (like being shielded all game by an orc that cost 6 points to field).  On the whole though, not bad Rohan: good to be playing with you guys again, :)

Stellar unit for Tiberius: Orc Warriors with shields and spears. Glenstorm convinced me a few weeks ago to go the shield and spear route if I wanted a more reliable meat-shield between my Ringwraiths and enemy attackers. That extra defense pip and the ability to shield saved my team on this mission. At the gatehouse, being able to spear-support and then shield was great.

Stellar unit for Glenstorm: The Royal Guards for sure.  I don't think we would have lived as long as we did if that one Royal Guard in Eowyn's unit hadn't held down the Dark Marshal for forever (even if he did die near the end), nor would we have been able to charge the spectres at the gate.  These guys usually take the brunt of my assaults, and I'm very grateful for how they kept us in the game in this scenario, :)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Beware of Dragon, Part 1: The "Vanilla" Dragon Type

Good morning gamers,

In preparation for the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, I'm doing a four-post review of Dragons that you can buy in the LOTR SBG. There are, in my taxonomy, three classes of dragons you can buy and understanding why you would purchase each will assist in deciding what army you build around it. The classes are:
  • Vanilla: no upgrades (cheapest option, melee-oriented)
  • Utility: a single upgrade (medium expense, single-task-oriented)
  • Versatile: two upgrades (most expensive, potential for multi-task orientation)
In this post, we're going to focus on the "vanilla" class - what you get by just purchasing a dragon. As we talk about the "benefits" and "cautions" for playing with dragons, keep in mind that most of what I'm going to relay in this post isn't going to be rocket science or unexpected, but it is important for laying the groundwork for understanding what upgrades (if any) you buy for your beastie.

Benefits to Playing a Dragon

1) Melee Profile

One of the chief reasons anyone would look at a dragon is their ability to perform well in melee combat. When trying to fight normally, dragons have 4 Attacks with Fight 7, Strength 7, and 3 Might points. This is not only above average for heroes in general, but tends to be higher than the strongest heroes in Middle Earth. Though you pay the same as you would for several heroes, you can definitely go toe-to-toe against the vast majority of foes if you really need to.
2) Monster Brutal Strikes

Here at TMAT, we have incorporated the new Brutal Attacks rules for monsters, so dragons have the ability to smash armies by throwing units, attack heroes/single high defense models on their Strength stats, or blow off "Suicide Bobs" who try to tie them down. If you manage to win the fight against a D7 Boromir of the White Tower or King Aragorn, you can wound them on 4s by striking normally OR you can wound them on 3s by "rending." Facing a D7+ Dwarf front line? Throw someone. Get tagged by a Redshield near Erkenbrand? Shove him away and charge into Erkenbrand himself.
3) Courage Reduction

Dragons have the Harbinger of Evil special rule. When combined with Terror, you can make it really hard for Courage 2-3 armies to tie you down. If/when you break the enemy force, be sure to kill/tag all their heroes so you can watch units run away like mad around the dragon. This isn't unique for dragons - this can have disastrous effects when you have multiple ringwraiths on table too.
Cautions about Running a Dragon

Though dragons are great at fighting enemy units, they have limitations as well. A few are highlighted below:

1) "Resistant" to Magic

While dragons are great at taking down heroes, enemy spell-casters are a danger. I hear the veteran gamers exclaiming, "But I have the Resistant to Magic rule, which means I can always resist spells that come my way!" As true as this is, a single will point is not often enough to break a spell. Considering that most spells are cast on a 3+ or 4+, you need two Will points to have a reasonably high chance of defeating the spell (high 70 percents) and with a single dice, you may need to pay a Might point or two in order to block the threshold casting value. If they get a 6, you're even less likely to stop the spell from taking effect.
In addition, because you don't get to use the Resistant to Magic rule until you are out of Will points, you can't be "immune to magic" until you've eliminated your ability to use Will for other things (we'll see why this is a big issue for dragons in the next post). Spell-casters are also tricky, because at base cost, a dragon has no ranged capabilities and pretty much all casters move at the same speed as a dragon. While most army lists don't run spell-casters, when one does appear, you run the chance of having a 250 point punching bag instead of a powerful monster.

2) Getting Stuck

While you can use any of the Brutal Attacks to deal with a single unit who attempts to tie you down, with 6" movement, you have very little control over what damage you will be able to do if your opponent charges you with a single unit and then keeps his other units spread out. Since you're sinking the cost of three Cave Trolls into a single monster, you'd better have a way of killing lots of units. For my part, I see the dragon needing to remove most/all of the enemy heroes in play and then secondarily kill swaths of units. If this is your end goal, getting stuck by a minor unit and being able to charge/knock down only a few other units is not going to do the trick. Furthermore, because your base is large, having a few units spread out in stagger formation can create a sufficient barrier to protect a tactical hero (spell-casters like Ringwraiths, aura heroes like Malbeth the Seer, etc.) a turn or two of protection.
3) Average Courage

While Courage 4 is normal for most heroes, it has several penalties for a dragon. First and foremost, if you're out of Will points, you need to use Might points to pass Courage tests to charge terror-causing units and to stay in the game after your force is broken. Second, whenever you take wounds, your Courage rating becomes your most critical stat (and if you're out of Will points...). Finally, when facing units with high Courage and who wound against your Courage value instead of your Defense value (like Centaur's spectres), not only can they make wounding you easier, but they use the same statistic that you will later use to try to save yourself from fleeing the field.
In the coming weeks, we'll be looking at what each of the dragon upgrades gives you as well as the various combinations of what you can do with each. The next post will focus on the "Utility" versions of dragons that you can buy, where a single upgrade shapes the purpose of using the dragon model. Until then, happy hobbying!

Friday, November 7, 2014

THRO 2014: Rounds 2 and 3

So in our last post, we discussed the armies that were in the THRO 2014 tournament and how they did during their first rounds. This post will cover the second and third rounds (as well as the post-game information). Let's jump right in!

Round 2 (Lords of Battle), Table 1: "Optimistic Boromir" vs. "The Host of Rohan"
Pretty much every unit in the Fellowship list has a Elven cloak, so the masonry on this map was a huge boon. Aragorn and Legolas both have bows, and so being able to shoot out from behind masonry at the riders of Rohan without receiving enemy fire drove the riders to need to attack.
The Host of Rohan formed up to perform a valiant charge. While many armies might be concerned about the huge amount of terrain between them and their foes, the riders jumped over fences and maneuvered with ease. If it weren't for the incoming arrows, "coming from nowhere" as it were, the ride would have been quite splendid.
Here you can see Eorl the Young and a Son of Eorl riding ahead of the thundering host. It's moments like this that warm my heart - seeing an atypical army pulling a thematically awesome move.
Gimli was one of the first heroes to be charged - the Sons of Eorl were tough fighters, but the Fight 6 heroes of the Fellowship were up to the challenge.
As a matter of fact, the heroes of the Fellowship were more than a match. While the riders of Rohan were great skirmishers, the fact that none of Rohan's heroes can get to F6 is a great handicap. Aragorn was charged repeatedly by power hero after power hero, but he could not be beaten. With Anduril in hand, he not only could beat the best of Rohan, but he could wound any of them on 4s...ouch.
At the end of this game, the Fellowship had taken two wounds and exhausted 27 wounds/Fate points in reply. The Fellowship received a major victory with this kill ratio alone, but in addition broke the Riders of Rohan, drove them down to 25%, and killed the enemy army leader. The Fellowship also managed to fulfill its oath and received the Slayer of Foes Remarkable Achievement.
Round 2 (Lords of Battle), Table 3: "Isengard's Outriders" vs. "The Halloween Army"

The Halloween Army formed up in the heart of the city, organizing rank upon rank of Orcs and preparing the troll to charge the center. Here's an army you don't want to find late at night...
The Uruks spread out their formation, preparing to rush around the rocky formation and park some crossbows down low and up high. With pikes bristling, they prepared to meet the hosts of Angmar!

The Orcs and trolls race towards the enemy - you can see here also the wealth of colors this horde has...not common in armies showcased on this blog.

As the battles raged, you can see here that both sides tried to anchor their battle lines between terrain pieces. The multiple attacks of the berserkers proved to be very devastating against the lower-Fight-value Orcs.

Elsewhere on the field, the Uruks were spread thin, with the banner of the Orcs plunging through the Uruk ranks.

Unfortunately for one captain, the Paralyze spell of a Barrow Wight proved lethal, and the great army leader of Angmar, the Dwimmerlaik was waiting with his two-handed blade. Ouch...

While the fighting was rough in melee, some of the greatest contributions from the Uruk army came from their crossbows. Claiming one of the trolls, the crossbows would whittle down support troops and cut down flanking squads, making life easier for their pike-supporting brethren.
In the end, the Halloween Army dealt 15 wounds (or spent Fate points), while the Uruk-Hai dealt 32 wounds (or spent Fate points). To further secure a major victory for the Uruks, they broke the enemy and killed the enemy army leader. The Uruk-Hai also completed their oath and received the Valiant Heart and Cowardly Scum Remarkable Achievements.
Round 2 (Lords of Battle), Table 4: "The Terror of Dul Guldor" vs. "Isengard's Foot Cavalry"

The Uruks began in a corner, ready to race ahead to the bridges while the ballista provided cover support. Both players agreed that the effectiveness of the ballista would likely shape how the game would go.
In response to the threat of the ballista, the army of Dol Guldor began hidden behind some hills. Without ranged capabilities, there was no sense staying out in the open from the get-go.

Here's a blurry picture of the battle line and the conversion for Bolg that Zorro has performed. Really neat model - write up with close-ups on the blog in the future perhaps?
As the armies prepared to meet in combat, the Catellans emerged from the wood and the Uruks formed ranks. their pike support would be invaluable during this game, as it would not only bring the number of attacks closer into balance, but these warriors wouldn't have to take a courage test - ain't that nice?
Mauhur and his marauders raced into combat, taking the fight to the Castellan side of the river. Unfortunately for the Uruks, some key charges would be failed, limiting the amount of units that could contribute to the fight.
As the battle waged, the Castellans formed a loose line to engage the Uruks. Eventually, pikemen were fighting for their lives against the unphased wraiths of Mordor. The only thing more frightening than this was what was going on in the middle of the board...

After a long-fought game, the Uruks scored an unfortunate 1 wound against the Terror of Dol Guldor. In return, Bolg and his host scored 38 wounds (or Fate points). In a tremendous major victory or Dol Guldor, the servants of Sauron broke their foe, reduced them to 25%, and killed their army leader. The Terror of Dol Guldor fulfilled its oath, while Saruman's Foot Cavalry received the Valiant Heart Remarkable Achievement (lots of Terror foes will do that for you).
Round 3

Round 3 (HOLD GROUND), Table 2: "The Terror of Dol Guldor" vs. "Isengard's Outriders"

So something happened again with the pictures...sorry about this guys. Basically, this fight involved the Uruks and the Castellans (and Bolg) rushing up the face of Weathertop and fighting in the Seat of Power. The higher Fight value of the Castellans (and multiple attacks) did them well, as they beat back the Uruks. Some crossbowmen attempted to pluck wounds off of the wraiths of Mordor, but when their quarrels hit, they rarely wounded (and even then, the high Will stores of the Castellans proved sufficient to negate damage).

In the end, 2 Uruks were in range of the scoring objective when the game was called, while 9 members of the Terror of Dol Guldor were in range. The Uruks were broken and driven down to 25%, further aiding a major victory for the Terror Dol Guldor (the only team with three major victories at this tournament). Dol Guldor completed its oath, while the Uruks succeeded in receiving the Valiant Heart Remarkable Achievement (as nearly everyone did that fought this army...).

Round 3 (HOLD GROUND), Table 3: "The Host of Rohan" vs. "Isengard's Foot Cavalry"

In a classic battle between Rohan and Isengard, both armies raced towards the center. While the drummer aided the Uruks in racing towards the objective, the Riders of Rohan used their skirmishing capabilities to delay engagement until the Uruks were whittled down a little. As Eorl and his elite bodyguard raced around the board tackling the ballista, they then attacked the rear of the Uruk column, threatening the corps of troops staking out the objective.

At the end, the Uruks had 9 units in scoring range, while Rohan had 6 units in range. Since Rohan was able to break the Uruk force and was not broken itself, the teams pulled a draw. The Uruks were able to complete their oath and neither side scored any remarkable achievements.

Round 3 (HOLD GROUND), Table 4: "The Halloween Army" vs. "Optimistic Boromir"

Glenstorm and Captain Glot had practiced all three scenarios before the tournament, and both knew that if the Fellowship faced the Halloween Army on this particular scenario, things were going to be very, very uphill. With the Halloween army able to concentrate its forces in one place, any army would have been sorely pressed to beat it. As it was, Aragorn was killed in a single round of combat on the center bridge, followed shortly thereafter by Boromir and Gimli. As the hosts of Angmar raced down to catch the hobbit and Elf in the list, they squarely placed a huge block of troops on the objective.

In the final turn of the game, the Fellowship was tabled, leaving 12 Angmar troops solidly on the objective. In the biggest route of the tournament, the Halloween Army killed the enemy army leader (early), broke their foe, and reduced them to 25% (0% really) by the time the game was called. Angmar fulfilled its oath, while the Fellowship claimed the Valiant Heart Remarkable Achievement.

Tournament Recap:

The team that won the tournament was the alliance between the "Terror of Dul Guldor" list and the "Host of Rohan" list. Not only did this team win the tournament, but they were both the highest scoring players at the tournament. Both brought lists that were meant to be fun and they turned out to be quite competitive - and that, ladies and gentlemen, is what THRO tournaments are all about.

The question going into the third round was actually this: which team comes in second? After the last round, the major victoy of the Halloween Army over the Fellowship, combined with a rough last round for Isengard's Outriders and a hard-fought draw between Saruman's Foot Cavalry and Rohan, that decided the final standings. In the end, the scores were as follows:

Individual scores (OFFICIAL):
  1. The Terror of Dol Guldor - 36 pts
  2. The Host of Rohan - 21.5 pts
  3. Saruman's Foot Cavalry - 20.5 pts
  4. Isengard's Outriders - 19.5 pts
  5. Optimistic Boromir - 17 pts
  6. The Halloween Army - 16.5 pts
Team rankings (OFFICIAL):
  1.  Dol Guldor/Rohan - 57.5 pts
  2. Foot Cavalry/Angmar - 37.0 pts
  3. Outriders/Fellowship - 36.75 pts
As tournament director of my second THRO tournament (third tournament in my career), I consider this to be a uniquely successful tournament. The player were very adaptable, but I was pleased to see the teamwork that went on when allies would look at their friendly player's board and give comments and strategic hints. We've never had that before (commentary yes, but never team strategy). For next year's THRO tournament, we'll see if alliances play a more critical element to the game play. With THRO behind us and November here, we're kicking off Dragon month, so watch this space!