Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Games Shmitty Plays - (Riding to the Defense of Rohan!)

How do you feel about "dead" games?  Every gamer seems to have their own take on how they approach them and games can die for different reasons.  Sometimes the designing company goes out of business or finds the game is no longer profitable.  Sometimes, the community surrounding the game just dies out instead.  The Lord of the Rings/Hobbit Strategy Battle Game from Games Workshop falls somewhere in the middle.  It gets really irregular support from GW and because of that, most of the communities around the game have died out.

However, sometimes dead gaming communities can be brought back.  Every time I have attended GenCon I have always been impressed by the massive events held for games that are years dead.  Thanks to the efforts of one local gamer, I had the opportunity to play in a LotR tournament last Saturday.  Read on to find out how I did...

I have a few armies in a dusty case for the LotR SBG.  I can't bring myself to part with them as they are lovely models, the game is really fun, and I am just a Middle Earth fan.  The game itself has some really fun mechanics and allows for skirmish style freedom of movement, but rewards formations and smart positioning.  Heroes can be heroic and monsters terrifying, but basic troops often carry the day.  It is still one of the best siege games ever made.

When the tournament was first announced I hadn't actually played the game in a couple fo years.  So I called up Jolly Dave, a trusted gaming buddy, and we got in a few practice games.  I tried out my Easterling and Rohan armies, but settled on Rohan as they were better painted and I didn't expect to have much time for painting before the tournament.  The practice games served to remind both Dave and I how much we enjoyed the game and gave us the chance to catch up on some rules tweaks that had come in with the Hobbit edition of the game.  The largest of these changes were the editions of bonuses for armies that stayed close to a theme.  For my Rohan, I gained a really nice boost to my cavalry units strength on the charge.  Before this change my cavalry charges would frequently bounce off infantry shield walls, unable to actually hurt anything.  Now the cavalry charge had gained significantly more weight.

My army had Theoden, Eomer, Eowyn, 6 Royal Guards, 5 Riders of Rohan, a banner bearer, and 2 Sons of Earl.  It was no doubt I would be outnumbered in every match, likely by 2:1 odds.

The tournament was held at a large local game shop in an upstairs semi-private area, which made it nice and relaxed.  It was also in a part of the shop that served alcohol, which allowed me to enjoy a nice pear cider with lunch.  The organizer had put together some fantastic themed tables that looked like Rohan, Osgiliath, Mirkwood, and Bree.  It really added a lot to the event.  The 8 players in the tournament brought a nice variety of armies including: Rohan, Gondor, Isengard x3, Moria Goblins, Spiders, and Mirkwood Elves.

Round 1 

My first match was against the Gondor army with Denethor, Faramir, Beregond, Citadel Guards, Fountain Court Guards, and a bunch of warriors.  We assumed that Denethor must have gotten in one of his moods and headed north to Rohan looking for a new horse.  Theoden was having none of it.

Here come the Rohirrim!  Please ignore the lack of paint on the Sons of Earl...

We were plying Domination which saw 5 key points on the battlefield set as places that needed to be controlled.  He put his archers on one of them on his left flank and his foot troops in the center.  I conceded the archer-defended objective to my opponent and went after the group in the middle with all of my army but a couple of Riders that I left back to cover my own rear objectives.

By ignoring his archers and concentrating my forces on his spear blocks I was able to lessen his numbers advantage.

Eomer and one Son of Eorl bravely held up the right side of my charge despite both being surrounded.  This allowed the rest of my charge to break through and really do some damage despite his Fount Court Guard really holding up well.  Theoden and Denethor ended up in a multi-round duel that went nowhere, but Eomer was able to eventually get the best of Faramir.  It was a tense fight, but I ended up with a comfortable win as my opponent's dice were cold and he only managed to kill one model.  When the match ended I had full control of 3 objectives and partial of the fourth.  His archers managed to control one for themselves.

Round 2

For my second game I moved over to the Rohan themed table to stop an incursion from Isengard.  This game was actually against my friend Dave and we had played the scenario, Reconnoiter, before with different armies.  In this scenario our forces show up in a staggered order, and then have to move across the table and off the other side.  Even though I was faster, I would be in trouble as he outnumbered me heavily and could simply move more models across.  So, I had to have a plan to kill enough his forces so that I didn't give up an easy win.

He deployed some crossbows on a hill and I had to keep my forces out of their range as much as possible as they could easily kill my horses.  I had pushed far forward on my right flank and lost a horse to bow fire.  The dismounted rider started to slowly make hi way across the filed. The rest of my forces on the right had to turn back as he had made a strong play towards my center and I wouldn't be able to stop him with Eowyn and a few Riders of Rohan.  By turning back I ended up hitting him from 3 angles, which went well for me and I broke the Uruk-hai forces.  Which then ended the game, but with only that one, lone dismounted Royal Guardsmen exiting the table.  Still a hard fought match and another fun game.

Round 3

My last game was played on that same table and against another Isengard army.  They really were wanting to invade Rohan that day.  This army had a mix of 2 pike blocks, some wolf riders, and a massive section of crossbows.  Those crossbows are serious threat to my horses and can upend most of my plans.  The scenario had us just trying to do the most possible wounds to the opposing army.  While he outnumbered me, he could do additional wounds, by killing my horses before the riders.  

He was able to place his crossbows behind a wall, which was a great defense against a cavalry charge.  He was also able to use an obstacle to make it harder for me to charge one of his pike blocks.  His other pike block went around a flank, but ended up out of position for most of the game.

I played very aggressively and charged in as soon as I could to reduce his chances to shoot.  He was still able to unhorse a few riders with crossbow shots.  Again I was able to use my mobility to concentrate all of my army on a portion of his.  That allowed me to take out one of his pike blocks. and start harassing his crossbows before his second pike block could really get involved.  One of my Riders of Eorl really earned the MVP for this game, he single-handedly took out huge chunks of Uruk-hai.  Despite that the game ended fairly close, with me breaking his force by a single model while I was just 1 model away from breaking as well.

It was a fun day and 3 solid wins plus some points for painting were enough to score me Best Overall for the day.  It was great to play a tournament with a "dead" game and see that there were some great players who still really enjoyed it.  The local community is planning to do more events like this in the future, which is great.  Events like this make me glad when I hold on to older games that I don't play as frequently.

So, what "dead" games do you still enjoy? 


  1. I just started playing SBG myself, first two games this weekend. I used Gondor models I had from when I briefly played War of the Ring (now there's a DEAD game). It's been fun and I'm signed up for my first tournament later this month. A fun diversion- its good to shake up the gaming habits once in a while.

  2. LOTR is such a damned good game system. I don't think there has ever been a better system for a skirmish-level fantasy miniatures. Period. It's a shame the community withered after the movies finished. GW didn't do the game any favors with its poor support, but the community itself seemed to disappear almost overnight. It was like we all collectively decided that once the last movie was a year old, the game was no longer worth our time. I ran a War of the Ring campaign when I worked for GW when the last movie came out. I should pull out those old files...