Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Operation Dunharrow: Terrain Update 1

Hey Reader!

So, I've been wanting to do a Dunharrow map for years now, 1) because Rohan was my first army and I love my Rohan guys, 2) because Eomer, the Third Marshal of the Riddermark, hails from Dunharrow and he's my favorite guy in the Trilogy bar none, and 3) it would give me an opportunity to pursue a very different form of urban map, as I like urban maps, and while I've designed a number in my time, they always have a Gondorian feel to them (nothing against Gondorians; in fact, since my Rohan force is on loan right now for the tournament my Gondorians and Grey Company models will be showing off the terrain pieces to you in this post, :P ).  What is more, I've always wanted to play around with a castle idea, and this map gave me a chance to do that.

In this post, I'll be looking at each of the terrain pieces going into my Dunharrow Map, as each of them has a unique contribution to the board.  Before diving in, I'll note in passing that all of the pieces were cast by GrandManner, which is arguably the best resin casting group in the world, and the detail and quality of their products are truly top-notch.  I'd been looking at investing in some GrandManner pieces for a while, but due to cost and shipping I shied away.  Then they did a 20% off special and some email-based deals, and I caved, :P  What follows is a large purchase from their 28mm Dark Ages Collection, coupled with about 14 hours of painting (plus about an hour of base coating, give or take), and you've got a number of pieces that I'm so glad I got done in time for THRO!

1.  Large Settlement

This settlement (which you can find here) is a simple circle of two houses (the bottom right and top right structures), a stable (bottom left), and a storeroom (top left), mimicking the stone and mud structure houses that I've loved ever since seeing Braveheart at the age of fourteen.  They do offer more daub/wood-based buildings (which would be more Rohan-esque, I suppose), but 1) I like these more, 2) the offer was cheaper, and 3) I just like it, and there's something to be said about buying something that you like the look of, as it makes painting a piece much more enjoyable come Hour #8. :)

Capt. Terek and his men defending the settlement, including some
Clansmen of Lamedon because they just fit so well, :)
The large courtyard, winding entryway, and removable rooftops also mean that this piece offers the multi-dimensional approach that I love in urban warfare.  For those interested in the specs, the sheep fold to the right is about 8" long and about 4" wide, and the settlement itself is about 15" long and 10" wide (not including the pen).

As you can see, the average soldier stands high enough for an
"In the Way" roll, but the wall can also be scaled with a jump test
Also, due to the height of the buildings and the fact that the walls can be scaled with a simple climbing test, you can have fights going on inside the structures while having fights going on above them on the roofs, while having fights going on in the courtyard and defending the walls.  I've been seriously considering using it for an objective in a Domination Game (with the Gondorian Warrior with banner in the picture above being more or less where I'd place the objective marker), as it provides a lot of avenues for attack, but also provides some straightforward walking options for those who want to enter but do not want to take jumping/climbing tests.

2.  Timber-Planked Workshop/Forge
Capt. Terek and his men defend the Forge
This piece (which you can find here) is actually the one that got me thinking about GrandManner in the first place.  I'd been looking for a forge for a long time, and I didn't really like the other ones people had built.  I just wanted a simple forge, like the one in Kingdom of Heaven: place to make weapons, a workbench, nothing too fancy.

And then I saw this one at GrandManner, which is priced competitively, came large enough to have some action in it, has exceptional interior detail, and the removable roof, so if you wanted to do something on the rooftop you could (though it's precarious; not recommended for metal models).

The forge sits about 8" long and about 3.5" wide between both rooms, so it takes up a good amount of space, but it feels really open, so you have some room to fight in it as well (though it ups the anti for close quarters - lots of trapping if you lose combat).  I'm looking forward to a Pirates of the Carribbean-style fight some time in the future in this place, if any of my opponents will oblige... ;)

3.  Arthurian Fortlet

From the get-go in my miniatures investment, I knew I wanted a castle.  I didn't want a "big wall, haha, can't get to me" castle, but rather one that reflected more of my lifestyle: not much to look at, simple and decent defenses, but something worth defending.  And with the Arthurian Fortlet Deal A (which you can find here), I found it.

GrandManner offers four different fortlet deals: Norman style (which uses wooden planks and stone for walls and buildings), Arthurian style (wooden stake palisades with stone towers), Celtic style (wooden stake palisades with wooden towers), and Rus/Norse style (which is similar to Arthurian but with covered tower tops), and of them I fell in love immediately with the Arthurian style.  They offer two different options for Arthurian (and all the other styles) designated as A or B, with the only difference being the situation of the tower at the corner or on a side.  Each set comes with four corner pieces, three side pieces, and a gatehouse (which completes the circle as the fourth side piece).

For those who are looking at the size/scale, the interior of the castle (from the inner part of the palisade wall to the inner part of the opposite palisade wall) is about 14", so not bad on space, but not too massive either on a 48" x 48" board, which I like.  I'm planning on adding another 6" segment to two of the sides (near the gatehouse and on the opposite side) to widen it to 20" x 14", one of which will include a heavy weapons platform for placing siege equipment or a larger contingent of soldiers.  My plan though is to keep the fort simple.

And this goes back in part to something I'm hoping to spend the winter months before the GT doing: working on a viable means of running siege scenarios in a 90-minute game.  At the next tournament that I run (which will not be the GT, as I'll be too preoccupied getting into my Hobbit psyche to run the tournament and command one of the hardest armies in the game to do both) I hope to use a siege mission, and in my desire to find a way to make for a balanced game that neither unduly benefits the defender nor over-compensates the attacker I'm taking siege combat back to its primal state, if you will.  When you strip away a lot of the clutter, what, at heart, is present in a siege?  You have walls and towers for the defender, and you have lines of attack for the attacker, either created through natural openings or through forced openings (ladders, rams, etc.).

For this castle, the defenders start with a breach in the wall, as well as a gatehouse, and a tower will accompany the breached section of the wall for extra support for the defender.  That being said, the walls are at the height where a model can simply make a jump test to get over the wall, so the attackers are not funneled into an attack against the gate or breach.  The advantage of using those positions, though, is 1) ignoring the jump test, and 2) I'm making both sides of the sloping areas (sans the area covered in debris in front of the breach) difficult terrain, so there will be reduced movement approaching the rest of the walls (including reinforcing the walls with defenders).  The towers, as you can see, are open-topped as well, so while defending archers will get In the Way rolls against incoming archery, they are still vulnerable.

The gatehouse also has a door on the righthand side (not the lefthand side, so don't scale that side to get into the gatehouse unless you intend to walk around!), and the interior allows for 3 bases to stand in there.  This makes for quick trapping if you are not careful, so plan on defending your gatehouse well!

As you can see, there are also two windows facing forward from the interior of the gatehouse and two facing back out toward the interior of the fort (nothing to the sides - cover those areas with the top section), so if you lose one end the gatehouse can still support you with archery (limited space inside still being a factor, though).  The entryway of the gatehouse is about 2" wide and 3" deep without the door in it, so enough room for two infantry side by side or one larger 40mm base to pass through at a time.

Tiberius and I are planning on doing some siege fights once THRO is over, so keep watching this space in November for further details, :)

4.  Large Trench

I've always loved trenches - I've wanted to make some for a while now, but always struggled with how to do that without also making a board (and while I think the boards my buddies have made are cool, I'm just not interested in lugging around that much polystyrene; not my thing), so when I saw that GrandManner had a trench (and it was on sale), I decided to give it a try.  It's designed for a WWI board (hence the sandbags that I colored as rocks among other things that give away the era), but since I'm looking for Infinity and 40k terrain and I'm no stranger to recasting a piece to a medieval time period, this was easy, :)

The trench on this map would serve as the encampment of the attacker (so it's the siege works, if you will), and it's about 14 inches long, so a good length.  The trench also gives just enough for a 28mm model to comfortably navigate it (with one section that opens up for a 40mm base to comfortably fit there), but not enough room to back up, so trapping can be a problem for the defender.

On the flipside, as you can see, most of the walls are high enough for an In the Way from archery, granting the defender a bit more protection from enemy missile teams.  This makes it a fair trade in-game: do you take the "in the way" against archery as the opponent comes toward your position while risking trapping when they reach melee?  Do you spread your forces out enough to prevent trapping while risking enemy models getting into the trench because you didn't have enough men shooting at them as they approached?  Good thoughts, good ideas, and a good piece of terrain.

I'm seriously thinking about getting a second piece like this for the siege works to go on a different side of the castle, but we'll see.  Still trying to decide on a setup that I really like, and trying to find ways to use it effectively so that it actually contributes in a given game (instead of just being a chasm to be jumped at the start of the game, as if the attacker didn't have enough to think about already!), so we'll see, :)  More updates coming after THRO,

Watching the stars,


"Remember, Firenze, we are sworn not to set ourselves against the heavens.  Have we not read what is to come in the movements of the planets?" ~ Bane, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone


  1. Really like how this is coming along - a reminder about walls (particularly for your trench): if one of your guys is defending the trench (in base contact with it and someone else charges), you don't move backwards - he has to kill your guy or he moves backwards. The trench is likely to trap you if you loose control of the entries so that you get sandwiched between people coming over and down the shaft. :)

    1. That's true - since the model is lower, though, is it treated as a model engaging someone behind a wall? I seem to recall that models fighting below someone had a similar penalty to the wall penalty but it assisted the higher model. Can't remember though...