Author: greycompanyrangers

The 79th (McLean’s) Foot in Bolt Action

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This is the third in a series of articles highlighting the Allied units that fought for the liberation of Ethiopia in 1941, for which there are currently no army lists or suitable theatre selectors in Bolt Action

Once completed and play-tested, these articles will become army lists and theatre selectors for the Ethiopian Patriot Campaigns of 1941. Previous articles can be found by scrolling down below.


Two of the more interesting units to take part in the final assaults on the heavily defended Italian strongholds of the Gondar region of Ethiopia in 1941 were the Wollo Banda and the 79th (Mclean’s) Foot

Both were locally-raised units that served with the Italian forces, but after the surrender of the Debre Tabor garrison on 6th July 1941, the majority of men from both units agreed to enlist with the British and fight against their former employers.

This article focuses on the 79th Battalion. A much larger article on the Wollo (the more remarkable of the two units) will follow this one.


79th Colonial Battalion

The 79th Colonial Battalion was a regular Italian ascari unit raised in Eritrea from mostly ethnic Tigreans. At the time of hostilities, they were based at Debre Tabor, an important and well fortified administrative centre on the Gondar-Dessie road. The garrison consisted of 6000 men defending a seven mile perimeter. 

In late March ’41 a small force consisting of No 3 patrol company of the Sudanese Frontier Battalion, No 2 Operational Centre and Ethiopian patriots under Fitauari Birru arrived in the Debre Tabor area with the aim of harassing and isolating the garrison. Birru was an important patriot leader, a commander in Haile Selassie’s 1936 army and a veteran of the Battle of Maychew – the last major battle of the war against the Italians.

In April 11th, the 79th battalion fought a particularly sharp action against Patriots and No 2 Operational Centre at the Limado bridge, three miles north of Debre Tabor on the Gondar road.

The patriots had ambushed an Italian supply column from Gondar whilst the centre troops were attempting to blow up the bridge closer to Debre Tabor. However, the 79th Battalion arrived in force from the garrison and after a fierce engagement, pushed the both patriots and centre troops back.

The bridge was still blown however, when a British Sergeant from the No 2 Centre rushed forward and heroically ignited the explosives at close range with his pistol. Sadly, the Sergeant was mortally wounded in the explosion and later died under Italian care. Sgt King (Royal Artillery) was later recommended for the Victoria Cross by Major Orde Wingate but nothing was ever heard of the award.

Italian ascari miniatures from Empress painted up as the 79th Battalion. In reality most ascari wore a khaki cover over their red Tabooshes when campaiging. The battalion’s tassel and cummerbund colours were actually brown and blue, but look yellow and blue on the illustrations – hence mine are yellow and blue.

79th (Mclean’s) Foot

In a quirk of war, No 2 Operational Centre was commanded by Lt Neil ‘Billy’ Mclean, A cavalry subaltern from the Royal Scots Greys who had volunteered for special duties in Ethiopia whilst ‘cooling his heels’ in Palestine.  Mclean was later present at the surrender of the Debre Tabor garrison in July ’41 and would take command of the 79th Battalion after their defection, leading them into battle alongside the 2nd Operational Centre – men the ascari had fought against only months before at Limado.

The unit was renamed the 79th Foot – or unofficially ‘McLean’s Foot’. McLean was promoted to Captain, his force now totaling 1000 men,  (200 centre troops and the 800 ascari from the 79th).

The ascari were allowed to keep their own weapons and Italian drill. Their graduati remained as corporals, the bulucbasci (sergeants) became platoon commanders and the sciumbasci (warrant officers) became company commanders. The battalion’s Italian officers remained prisoners of war.

Whilst most of the battalion enlisted willingly with the British, some did not. A small group of ascari refused to surrender the 79th battalion’s pennant and escaping capture, attempted to reach Italian lines at Culqualber, 106 kilometers away.

One of these men, Unatù Endisciau, an Ethiopian born graduati, would be awarded Italy’s Medaglia d’Oro – an equivalent award to the Victoria Cross. He was captured by patriots on route, but quickly escaped only to be mortally wounded crossing an Italian minefield as he neared Culqualber. He steadfastly refused to hand over the pennant to anyone and died within the garrison with the pennant still wrapped around his body under his tunic. He is one of only two colonial troops to be awarded the Medaglia d’Oro.

79th Battalion
The 79th Colonial Battalion as represented in Italian propaganda. The painting on the right depicts Unatù Endisciau returning the battalion’s pennant back to friendly lines at Culqualber after the refusing to surrender at Debre Tabor. In reality the pennant was wrapped around his body under his tunic. He was awarded Italy’s highest gallantry honour, the Medaglia d’Oro.

The 79th was immediately sent north to patrol the southern Italian forts around Gondar and the Kamant country to the west. The Kamant were a particularly troublesome pro-Italian tribe who had fought the patriots and Sudanese at Chilga (see previous post). Mclean’s men were not involved in the the two fierce battles to capture Culqualber, but took part in the final battle of the entire campaign – the capture of Gondar itself.

The Gondar battle will be covered in detail in a later article highlighting the Wollo Banda, but suffice to say ‘Mclean’s Foot’, along with the Wollo and a unit of Shoan Patriots played a decisive role in the battle.  This roughly 4000-strong flanking force of local Ethiopians and Eritrean ascari swept over their objectives at such speed on their bare feet it was difficult for the supporting artillery to keep their fire ahead of them.  The Wollo eventually ignoring orders, made for Gondar itself, where they were the first infantry troops inside the city.


Lt Billy Mclean

After serving in Ethiopia, McLean continued in special operations, working for Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.) and also MI9.  In 1943 he led a five-man S.O.E mission into Albania, co-ordinating the partisan resistance against the Germans until their withdrawal in late 1944. He was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel at the age of 24.

After the war he continued working actively for western intelligence services, championing the cause of Turkis, Uzbeks, Kazaks, Tajiks, Pathans and the Kurds, as well as the royalist Yemenis against the threat of ‘communist domination’ (as he perceived it). He was also a Conservative MP for Inverness for 10 years.

McLean was a true larger-than-life character, his exploits are best described in his obituary in the Daily Telegraph written by his friend, author and former S.O.E. operative, Xan Fielding.

Billy-Mclean
Billy McLean in Albania 1944, his uniform a mismatch of British Army battledress and local Albanian costume. 

79th (McLean’s) Foot Infantry Section

Cost : Regular Infantry 55 points
Composition: 1 NCO and 4 men
Weapons : Rifles
Options:
– Up to 5 additional soldiers armed with Rifles for 11 pts each.
– One soldier may have a light machine gun for an extra +20 points. Another soldier becomes the loader.
Special Rules :
– Natural Runners: Lightly encumbered, and running on bare or sandaled feet, certain East African troops could cover great distances at high speed.  Units with this special rule can advance 7 inches and run 14 inches.


Hobby Machine’s Plastic Royal Guard

Or, 3 x 22 = 84

Hello once again, friends! I’m back with a new spontaneous hobby blog. After painting so many Uruk-Hai for my Uglúk’s Scouts Legendary Legion, I figured I may as well make a Rohan force to repel them. I had the Battle of the Pelennor Fields contents on my desk ever since I bought the box and the guilt of not using them was starting to weigh heavily on me.

After writing a 500pt list, I cast my mind to expanding it to 750 – a standard tournament sized force – and I felt like adding some more Rohan Royal Guard to Elfhelm’s warband. Still feeling the sting of an AU$18 repackaging fee for the new Rohan Royal Knights pack, I decided I’d convert some using the good old Riders of Rohan box. This way, I’ll have 4 Rohan Royal Guard, an Outrider and a Rider with an Axe all for AU$50. Much better value. To help other hobbyists of similar persuasions, I’ve recorded my process for you below.

Step 1 – Planning

The first and most important step in any conversion project is planning. The goal for this project is simple: using the plastic Riders of Rohan, convert 4 Rohan Royal Guard. In order to make it happen, I first need to work out what components make up a Rohan Royal Guard. I already promised myself I wouldn’t try and sculpt the intricate vembraces and greaves. I want this tutorial to be as accessible to as many people as possible and frankly, I know my limits. I compiled the features of a Rohan Royal Guard and listed them below.

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Features of a Rohan Royal Guard – Front

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Features of a Rohan Royal Guard – Back

After I made note of their features, I went through each of the Riders of Rohan and noted what features they had and what needed to be added by me. For this example, I’ll use the Rider with Throwing Spear that had the most features to begin with.

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Step 2 – Preparation

With the planning stage completed, I needed to prepare the models I was going to use to cut down on the amount of sculpting required. First step is to remove every bow and quiver. Royal Guard cannot take bows unfortunately – despite the fact that they used them against the underbellies of the Mumakil during the Return of the King (same with War Horns!) – so they had to go. The great thing about these conversions is that they use plastic kits, which makes carving away those details immensely easier. I also prepared some Warriors of Minas Tirith to generously donate their pauldrons. I’ve left the pauldrons off the sword-armed rider to show you that you can get the right results without this step, it’s up to you.

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At this stage, you should also carve away their hair from under their helmets, shown here

Step 3 – Gluing the Components

Now that I’ve prepped the model and carved away any unnecessary detail, I glued the Warrior of Minas Tirith pauldrons to the rider. At this stage, if you’re planning on doing any head swaps for Warriors of Rohan with large crests on their helmets, now is the time to do it. I would wait until you’ve done the initial stages of sculpting before completing weapon swaps as this will obscure your working space.

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You’ll notice the donor Warrior of Minas Tirith had to have his shield carved away, leaving the front of this Royal Guard’s pauldron bare. Not to worry, he’ll have his own shield soon. The back detail is all that matters.

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See? What did I tell you?

Step 4 – Initial Sculpting

Here we begin the tricky bit. For the cloaks, you want to fill in the area left by your carving of the quivers, whilst following the direction of the cloaks as best you can. Use any mounted model you have for reference, just don’t go as extravagant as the Rivendell Knights, you’ll be wasting Green Stuff and precious sanity. For the Riders that don’t have full length scale mail coats – in this example, the bowman and spear throwing riders – you should sculpt their coats now. I would advise against sculpting both the cloak and scale mail at the same time, as you don’t want to mess up your work with accidental finger smooshes.

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My preferred method for sculpting scale mail is to make diamond shapes with crisscrossing lines, then pressing your sculpting tool (in my case a metal skewer) into the top point of the diamond.

Step 5 – Secondary Sculpting

Here is where we start adding more details on top of these initial layers. For the scale mail you’ve just let set completely, time to sculpt the cummerbund thingys the Royal Guard have under their belts. Simply roll out a small sausage of Green Stuff and press it into place at the waist. Make sure to press the top and the bottom of the cummerbund to that you have the impression of a belt in the middle.

On the back of the models, over the cloaks that you’ve allowed to completely set, you’re going to sculpt the hoods. Simply cut a triangle of Green Stuff and press it into place, making sure to make it really thin on the shoulders. You’re then going to flatten any fingerprints or blemishes with the flat blade of your sculpting tool, and neaten the edges so that they are nice and sharp. When the shaping is done, take the blade of your sculpting tool and carve the two lines parallel to the edges for the embroidery.

With the hood set – or at least 30 minutes after sculpting the hood – you can add the small chainmail flap on top.

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You can tell the middle Rider doesn’t have pauldrons, but with the shield in place, he’s going to fit right in.

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Closer detail of the hood and chainmail. If you don’t feel confident with this step, don’t worry! We’re going to cover the whole thing with horse hair!

Step 6 – Plumes and final details

We’re now getting to the end of the journey, and I’m quite happy with the results. The final details before adding shields is the metal collar, the cloak brooches and the plumes of horse hair the Captains and their Guards have on all their helms.

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Like we did for the cummerbunds, the collars are small sausages of Green Stuff, flattened with your sculpting tool with lines carved into them for the gold details. The brooches are tiny balls of Green Stuff that are flattened, then the detail added by poking around the circumference with a sculpting tool

For the plumes on the helmets, you can either press-mold an existing plume like Eomer’s or Erkenbrand’s, or you can sculpt them yourself like I did. The benefit of sculpting them yourself is that they will blend into the rest of the model better.

To sculpt the plume, roll out a sausage of Green Stuff and apply it to the back of the crest. Then, using the blade of your sculpting tool, run lines down the length of the plume. I like to also draw lines across the plumes to simulate them twisting in the wind as they ride down the enemies of the Mark.

It’s important to note that you don’t have to do the entire plume in one go. It can get a bit frustrating at times when you’re trying to sculpt detail on the side and it pushes the entire plume off to the side. You can let the first bit dry, then add more volume to the sides, which is what I did.

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You can tell especially with the Guard on the left from the different tones of Green Stuff that I did his plume in two stages. The guy on the right is just flexing.

Step 7 – Shields

You can probably tell from the photos above that I have added press-molded shields to the minis. I love press-molds, they’re effective at getting the right details for your conversions, and you can either use Green Stuff or resin for your casts. I haven’t used resin before so I’ll leave that to more experienced sculptors like Lachlan over at Zorpazorp Gaming.

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Some of the more wonky casts I’ll use for base decorations

*Note on press-molding*

Do not copy any intellectual material to profit. I only press mold shields and heads for personal use, and I encourage you to expand your skill set in order to grow as a hobbyist, not to profit from other people’s intellectual property.

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The finished Guard

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The other finished Guard. Even without the pauldrons on the left Guard, he is still easily recognisable thanks to the details we added

Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it! It is possible to convert Rohan Royal Guard from the plastic Riders of Rohan box set. Remember to keep the sculpting to layers, so that all the detail you’re putting in is going to be crisp and blemish free. Always break down each conversion project in stages so that it’s not as daunting when you’re looking to get started.

Some things I would change if I decide to do another batch:

  • Do head swaps for all the riders. If you can, try and get them all to have the same helmets as the example rider, it’s the closest match to the Royal Guard, and you won’t need to fiddle with tiny details on the helmets that are different. This axe-armed Rohan Warrior is perfect.

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    The angle of the head and neck doesn’t matter as we sculpt the hood, chainmail and plume to cover the join

  • Make sure the hood is as small as possible over the shoulders, you don’t want your Guard to look like they’ve got tiny necks.
  • When choosing what Warrior of Minas Tirith to use for their pauldrons, try to match their poses as much as possible. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the great thing about the plastic kits is that they’re so easy to carve and do weapon and amour swaps with.
  • The level of detail you add to your conversions is up to you. Start out small, practicing chainmail and hair/fur on your models so you get the hang of these materials and you can then take those skills and add them to your bigger projects. When you break down the layers of detail, it’s just those different materials on top of each other.

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Using the techniques we’ve covered, you can also convert the spare bowmen into Outriders by simply removing their shields and adding plumes to their helmets!

Ethiopian Battalions and Mortar Platoons 1941 in Bolt Action

NEGUS UNFURLS STANDARD IN ABYSSINIA

D Company of the 2nd Ethiopian Battalion march past the Emperor Haile Selassie at Um Idla, inside the Ethiopian border.  The Emperor had flown in to raise the Imperial Standard, 20th January 1941.

This is the second in a series of articles highlighting the Allied units that fought for the liberation of Ethiopia, for which there are currently no army lists or suitable theatre selectors in Bolt Action

Eventually, these articles will become army lists and theatre selectors for The Ethiopian Patriot campaign in the Western Provinces of Ethiopia of 1941. 

The first article on the Sudanese Defence Force and Frontier Battalion can be found here.

This article focuses on the Ethiopian Battalions and the Mortar Platoon that was raised by the British for service against the Italians

The Ethiopian Battalions

There were four Ethiopian Battalions raised by the British in 1940-41 for service in the campaign to free Ethiopia – however, it was only the 2nd battalion, and to a lesser extent, the 3rd that played meaningful roles in the Italian defeat.

Both the 1st and 2nd Battalions were raised out of the large refugee camps that had sprung up in Northern Kenya after the 1936 war with Italy, but that’s where any similarities between the two units end.

For years, these refugees had been vainly demanding arms, ammunition and the authorisation to cross the border and attack the Italians. The British high command in Kenya however, was slow to recognise the potential of forming these men into units, despite many of them having fought the Italians in the previous conflict. Subsequently, the formation of the 1st Battalion was rushed and given little thought. It was scandalously under-trained, ill-equipped and was sent over the border into Southern Ethiopia with no logistic support under the command of two exiled Ethiopian chiefs.

The men were given vague orders to link up with existing rebel bandas, but unfortunately they had to pass through a region that was not only harsh, bare and foodless, but was also occupied by hostile, pro-Italian Daasanach tribesmen. Unsurprisingly after 14 days, the 500-strong unit had made little progress and was forced back over the border after skirmishing with a well-armed Daasanach banda. After this incident, which gave the Ethiopians an (undeserved) bad name with the British staff, the 1st Battalion was disbanded with some of its troops finding their way into the 2nd Battalion, Operational Centres and later into Irregular Ethiopian Scout units that proved to be extremely effective in Cunningham’s southern campaign.


2nd Ethiopian Battalion

The 2nd was a half-sized battalion of 600 men that served from the very outset with Gideon Force and fought right through to the final battles of the Gondar campaign.  It was comprised largely of former soldiers of Haile Selassie‘s defeated army, with junior officers being selected due to their former rank under the Emperor. 

In stark contrast to the 1st Battalion however, the 2nd was far more thoroughly trained with the intention that it operate alongside regular Commonwealth troops.  It had 3 months basic training in Kenya, then traveled by train and river streamer to Khartoum, Sudan, where it trained for another month before its deployment with Gideon Force.

In contrast to the Sudanese Frontier Battaion, which was lead by fluent Arab-speaking British officers, all with considerable local experience – the 2nd Battalion was lead by a core of 6 inexperienced British officers, none of whom had been pre-war regulars and none with any local Amharic language skills. Communication between officers and men was done in basic Swahili, a second language both parties had picked up in Kenya.

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The Emperor Haile Selassie reviewing the perimeter defenses upon his arrival at the HQ base at Mount Belaiya in Ethiopia. Men of 2nd Battalion stand guard, (note the Lewis gun).

The battalion was originally equipped with outdated French rifles from the previous century, but just prior to deployment they were issued with WW1 era American Springfield rifles – which they kept throughout the campaign. Their armory was rounded out with a handful of Lewis guns, Vickers machine guns and Boyes anti-tank rifles.

The men were natural soldiers with a strong esprit de corps, but they were inexperienced and lead by a core of equally keen but inexperienced British officers. The unit’s performance was initially patchy, fighting with great gallantry and effectiveness at the Battle at Charaka River but found wanting in other actions. 

At the Charaka River bridge, on the road to Dembecha, three companies of the battalion (approximately 300 men) were surprised by a force of 6000 Italians (including two armoured cars) that had abandoned the fort at Burye and were marching in columns to Dembecha. Due to a scarcity of radios, Gideon Force commander Major Wingate had been unable to get word to the Ethiopians that the Italians were headed straight for them. A fierce fire fight developed as progressively more and more Italians entered the battle, with the Ethiopians holding off the vastly superior force across the river for four hours before being overwhelmed and having to retreat into nearby woods.  

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Major Wingate reviewing the men of the 2nd Ethiopian Battalion at Dembecha after its abandonment by the Italians. The Ethiopians had recently arrived after their battle at Charaka River.

Three weeks after the Charaka battle, during a series of attacks on Italian positions at the town of Amanuel, south of Dembecha, the battalion experienced a crisis of a different type. 60 men of A company mutinied over mistreatment by a pair of British officers, refused orders and marched off to see the Emperor with their grievances. The mutiny threatened to spread through the battalion when several more platoons followed the mutineers and others were found drinking heavily in the camp the next morning. A furious Wingate sacked both the battalion and company commanders, who were poor officers and had been using their fists on their men. 

The mutineers, now numbering over 100 men, were found preparing their own attack on the Italian positions at Amanuel. The men may have lacked discipline but not courage or commitment to the cause. The mutineers swiftly returned to the unit once they realised their former commanders had been dismissed.

The battalion became an increasingly effective unit as the campaign wore on, but the stigma of the mutiny remained. It was not to be until late in the Gondar campaign that its its poor reputation was reversed.  The under strength battalion, together with an small irregular cavalry unit of 50 Sudanese and Ethiopians was ordered to stop the movement of supplies from Gondar to Lake Tana – from whence they were transported by boat to the besieged forts at Kulkulber.

A decision was made to attack the heavily fortified blockhouse at Gianda, the central outpost commanding the road to Gondar. With no mortars or supporting weapons other than Vickers Machine guns, the battalion assaulted the blockhouse with small arms and grenades. After a bloody, four-hour engagement, the Italians surrendered when a Verey pistol set fire to adjacent buildings and the grenades started to find their mark.

The battalion and the cavalry then drove back a relieving Italian force from a nearby fort and in the following weeks, continued to raid the remaining Italian positions in the area. The result of this small but very sharp action at Gianda, was that communications where cut between Gondar and Lake Tana, and the first crack in the Gondar defences had been made. 

The divisional intelligence report for the action records ‘A fierce engagement lasting four hours… Ethiopians are reported to have behaved magnificently’.  


3rd Ethiopian Battalion

The 3rd Battalion was raised in Khartoum, from Italian ascari deserters captured at the Battles at Gallabat and Kassala during Platt’s advances. The unit was retrained by the British, with the existing graduati (NCOs) given British equivalent ranks. They were armed with Springfield rifles and Hotchkiss machine guns and were lead by small core of British officers. 

The battalion (without C Companysee below) fought bravely in their sole action of the war. In April 1941, they climbed a 2000 foot escarpment to capture the heights near the strongly-fortified Italian positions at Chilga on the Gondar road, but were counter-attacked by a larger force of Italian bandas and local Qemant tribesmen and were pushed back to their starting positions.  The battalion remained outside Chilga containing the Italians, who continued to control the naturally strong defenses of the escarpment for six months until the eventual fall of Gondar. The Italians (correctly) claim the defense of Chilga as among their last victories of the war.

C Company of the 3rd Battalion wrote a completely different story to the main battalion. It was formed in Khartoum from a complete Italian ascari company, that had deserted en bloc. They were retrained, re-equipped and sent independently into the Gondar region under Major General Platt‘s direct orders. Lead by Second Lieutenant Railton, a confident (and as it turned out, a surprisingly talented) 20-year old British officer, they operated as a harassing force, with orders to link up with the region’s patriots and disrupt communications along the Gondar-Asmara road. The company proved to be extremely efficient, and became the most valued Allied unit over the tough 5-month campaign to capture a series of strongly-held mountain forts protecting the Wolchefit pass – control of which was needed to launch the final attack on Gondar.  In a number of key actions, C Company out-performed the more experienced Indian battalion, 3/14 Punjabis, sent to bolster the forces besieging Wolchefit.

Two month’s after the final Italian surrender, in January 1942, Railton‘s C Company was chosen to provide the guard of honour at the official signing of the Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement in Addis Ababa.

THE KING'S AFRICAN RIFLES IN EAST AFRICA, 1941

Aftermath of the surrender of the Italian garrison at the Wolchefit Pass. Men of the 2/4th King’s African Rifles (KAR) collect arms from the 3000 Italian troops who marched into captivity after a tough, five-month campaign.


A fourth Battalion was raised in Khartoum but saw no action in the campaigns. After the capture of Addis Ababa and the reinstatement of Haile Selassie to the throne, the Ethiopian Battalions became the first units of the newly re-established Ethiopian Army.

Ethiopian Battalion Infantry Section

Cost : Inexperienced Infantry 40 points
Composition: 1 NCO and 4 men
Weapons : Rifles
Options:
– Up to 5 additional soldiers armed with Rifles for 8 pts each.
– One soldier may have a light machine gun for an extra +20 points. Another soldier becomes the loader.
– The light machine gun may be replaced by a Lewis Gun for -5pts.

Special Rules :
– Green:
(at no extra point cost)
– Stoppages (Lewis Gun):  The gun has suffered stoppage if two or more 1s are rolled when testing for hits. It remains out of action for one turn while the gunner clears the blockage. He may not fire other weapons or move (unless in a vehicle) while he does so.

Natural Runners: Lightly encumbered, and running on bare or sandaled feet, certain East African troops could cover great distances at high speed.  Units with this special rule can advance 7 inches and run 14 inches.


Ethiopian Mortar Platoon

The Ethiopian Mortar Platoon consisted of 50 men led by a single officer, all Ethiopian. They had been recruited in Gedaref from a patriot banda that had presented itself to the officers of  Mission 101 for service against the Italians. They were equipped with four 3-inch mortars made in the Khartoum railway yards and trained in their use by a Sergeant from the local British garrison.

As robustly made as the mortars were, they were fitted with improvised range finders and the men needed to use a keen eye when firing – something they became extremely adept at throughout the campaign.

On their arrival in Ethiopia, half of the platoon was immediately sent with No 1 Operational Centre to invest the Italian forts at Burye and Injibara on the road to Debra Markos.  The five Australians leading this Operational Centre were all artillerymen recruited from the 2/1st Field Battalion and from the outset, took the mortar platoon under their wing.  Throughout the Gojjam camapign, the mortars were often attached to elements of the No 1 Centre, achieving a remarkable level of accuracy with their improvised weapons.

The Mortar Platoon was Gideon Force‘s only artillery.  It served throughout the entire campaign, including the final battles at Gondar, suffering 50% casualties.

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The Ethiopian Mortar Platoon training at Gedaref in December 1940.

Ethiopian Medium Mortar Team

Cost : 50 points (Regular)
Team: 3 men
Weapons : 1 Medium Mortar
Options: None
Special Rules :
Team Weapon
Indirect Fire

Fixed
Improvised Mortars: These mortars were made in the Khartoum railway yards  and lacked appropriate range finders. The team must have line-up sight to their targets to be able to fire. This, combined with a severe shortage of radio sets also means this mortar team cannot take a spotter as an option.


Stay tuned for the next instalments, when we look at the Operational Centres, Ethiopian Irregular Patriot squads, 79th (McClean’s) Foot and the Wollo Banda.

See also, the first article of the series on the Sudanese Defence Force and Frontier Battalion.

‘They Are Not For Eating’ – A Hobby Machine Isolation Update

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Hello once again from Hobby Machine! It’s been quite a while between drinks and now thanks to the self-isolation that we’re all going through (or as I like to call it, The Bane of the Backlog), I can clear out some of the unfinished projects on my crowded painting desk.

A lot has happened since my last post, many tournaments attended, many games lost, but I wanted to do something different for 2020. I wanted to set myself the challenge of only using lists from one faction or Legion, taking that army to as many tournaments as possible so that I can really get a feel for how the list plays at different point levels. This would help me make the most out of a modelling project and would hopefully get me a few wins along the way. The list I chose for this year would be Ugluk’s Scouts.

Ever since reading the list and all its special rules in War in Rohan, I was instantly hooked. I loved the idea of having a mix of Uruk-Hai Scouts and Mordor Orcs, whilst also having rules that would make the list feel exactly like how I imagined them when reading the books. The Uruks overtaking the orcs as they fled to the safety of Fangorn‘s treeline? The animosity between the two forces being represented in them fighting harder when around each other? A certain sneaky Orc Captain trying to grab a snack being represented as not following orders? Such sweet, sweet flavour.

To present this force on game day, I wanted to build a display board that would represent one of the two pivotal scenes that they appear in the Two Towers. My options were, “You’re late.” where the two forces meet for the first time in that gorge, with lots of grass and interesting rock formations, or “They Are Not For Eating.” when they come to blows over the lack of exotic cuisine on this particular excursion. Eventually, I decided that I wasn’t confident enough to try hand-carving rock faces just yet, so I instead went for the campsite and treeline.

Planning the Board

First step was to get the base board ready. For most of my display boards, I go with an A3 photo frame as they have nice borders and make for decent presentations. I then removed the glass and the placeholder photo and glued a polystyrene sheet cut to size onto the backing. I used PVA for this step and weighed it down with a figure case to get an even distribution of weight.

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As the glue was drying, I used the opportunity to place the army on the board to get a rough idea of the placement for the figures, and trees that I was going to use. After all, this argument happens after Ugluk orders a fire and the orcs start chopping down branches with their axes. To represent this on the board, all orc warriors with two-handed weapons will be in the treeline amongst the fallen logs.

Once I figured out the placement and the glue was dry, I ran a sharp blade around the frame to trim the polystyrene down to the frame height. The plan was to have the ground cover sort of bleed onto the frame – a plan I abandoned pretty early on. Once the trimmings were removed, I smoothed over the cuts with filler. Before it dried, I smooshed in the old Games Workshop trees and twigs from my backyard to seal them to the board and sculpt the ground around the roots. Doing this now instead of when the filler dried allowed the logs to look like they were heavy and displaced some dirt when they fell.

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With the filler dry, I applied a textured paint over all the board taking care to avoid the trees. This particular paint is used on outdoor ceramics like large flowerpots to provide a nice texture, it also works wonders at making a decent ground cover in minutes, without having to wait for glue to dry or to dust off excess grit. I applied two coats, to help hide any brushstrokes and uneven filler areas.

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Next step is to undercoat all the trees and logs. I used Mechanicus Standard Grey from Games Workshop. Then once the undercoat was dry, I began painting the undergrowth of the forest floor. One of my favourite parts of making display boards is that you can use whatever materials you have, you don’t have to go with the expensive stuff to get great results. For all my boards, I use acrylic paints from the $2 shop. Umbers, greens and greys are all easy to find, and for the forest floor, I stippled a random assortment of dark browns, greens and warm browns. There was no particular method behind the colour mixing or the placement of the colours, you just keep adding different colours to the one you just put down and stipple it in a way to prevent it from looking too manufactured.

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For the grass area, you can see in the film that the location for the camp has very pale, almost dead grass. Lots of yellows and pale greens, with long tufts (especially when Pippin crawls over to Merry) and no real rich green in the surrounding area (when the Three Hunters discover the burned carcasses). I kept that in mind while painting the ground outside the forest, using very pale browns and splashes of light green. These areas will be drybrushed before putting grass down but it will help distinguish between the dark, damp soil of Fangorn and the dry, grassy plains of Rohan.

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With the ground tones sorted, I went and painted the logs and tree in dark browns with grey highlights. In the film, the chopped wood was very pale so I went with a light brown drybrushed with bone.

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Once the trees were painted, I then drybrushed all over the ground cover, using a pale brown for the forest floor and bone for the grass area, overlapping both colours at the treeline to blur the strict divide between the two soil types.

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The next step is to start applying the grass. I used some dark brown static grass for random patches and much longer dead grass for the larger tufts. I also threw in some spots of flock here and there to bring the deep greens of the forest out a little. I also added some leaves to the forest floor by crushing up some dried leaves I found in the backyard. If I had a spice blender or a spare regular blender that the wife wouldn’t mind me using, I would have blended the leaves up in there and sifted the pieces until I had a size I liked, but I don’t so I didn’t. Instead I crushed them by hand until I was happy with the size of the leaves. These were then applied using PVA glue.

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For the larger areas of grass, I used Games Workshop’s now-out-of-production Dead Grass. I painted PVA in random patterns around the larger tufts and sprinkled the grass over the top. To make your life easier, I recommend using a static grass applicator. I however, do not make life easier for myself so I will have to content myself with flat grass.

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To add a bit of variety to the grass (I noticed that this was looking a little too flat tonally) I mixed some of the Dead Grass with some of my older mid-tone green static grass. The colours blended well together and I was able to add some green to the grass cover without compromising the feel I wanted to go with for the grasslands. I also made some larger stalks with some old $2 paintbrushes, the kind you remember painting with in primary school. I applied glue to the end of the bristles – while still attached to the brush – and once that dried, I cut the bristles off at the metal collar, then pulled apart the bristles into appropriately sized clumps.

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The final step was to seal the entire board with heavily watered-down PVA through a spray bottle. I plan on doing two coats of this sealant so that all that static grass doesn’t fall off in transport.

Once I’ve finished painting my 750 list (just got Snaga and his warband of orcs to go), I’ll make another post with the completed project. Until then stay safe, thin your paints and happy hobbying!

The Sudanese Defence Force & Frontier Battalion in Bolt Action

SDF

Troops of the Sudanese Defence Force training in Omdurman, 1940. (Imperial War Museums collection).

An Unofficial Army list for Bolt Action. Part 1.

This is the first in a series of articles highlighting the Allied units that fought in the East African campaign of 1940-41 for which there are currently no army lists or suitable theatre selectors for Bolt Action.  These articles will focus primarily on the African forces that played an important, but under-appreciated role in the liberation of Eritrea, Italian Somaliland and Ethiopia from Italian rule.

Initially,  I intend to create an army list and two theatre selectors for the Ethiopian Patriot Campaigns in the Western Provinces of Ethiopia of 1941.  But first some background.


The East African Campaign

Despite the East African campaign being the first strategic Allied victory of the war, it was overshadowed by events occurring elsewhere in the Western Desert and Mediterranean theatres – and remains to this day, largely forgotten. 

It was no mere sideshow, however. The Italian forces spread across Eritrea, Italian Somaliland and Ethiopia numbered over 250,000 troops, many of whom had been battle-tested during the recent conquest of Ethiopia and subsequently in attempting to subdue a stubborn Ethiopian resistance movement. 

Their presence not only threatened the British and French colonies in East Africa, but more crucially, endangered the vital Allied shipping lanes through the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea to the Suez Canal.  Subsequently, Middle East Command prioritised the campaign to defeat the Italians in East Africa above all others (with the exception of the defence of Egypt and the Suez Canal itself). 

The campaign was the brainchild of General Wavell and in early 1941 the Allies launched a sophisticated three-pronged attack.

An entirely African-raised force commanded by Major General Cunningham easily retook British Somaliland from the Italians, and pushed up through Italian Somaliland and into Ethiopia from the South. This was a breathtaking, mechanised advance across hundreds of kilometres, that saw 50 000 Italians captured for the loss of only 500 allied troops.

Martmopn Herrigton Sa

South African armoured car unit cleaning weapons at Hobok in Southern Ethiopia.  (Imperial War Museums collection).

At the same time, Major General Platt‘s Anglo-Indian and Sudanese forces pushed down from the north through Eritrea and into Ethiopia, defeating the bulk of the Italian forces in large, decisive battles at Agordat and Keren.

In addition to these two major offensives, a third front was opened when a number of Anglo-African special forces units infiltrated Ethiopia from the West. These forces were lead by the enigmatic Major Orde Wingate, who named it Gideon Force after the biblical military leader and prophet. 


Gideon Force

Gideon Force was a small Corps d’Elite of approximately 2000 Sudanese and Ethiopian troops lead by Wingate and a core of hand-picked British and Commonwealth officers and NCOs.

It expanded upon a much smaller operation called Mission 101, whereby British Intelligence had been covertly funding and arming the Ethiopian resistance movement since the outbreak of hostilities, and already had small teams of operatives in the field liaising with key rebel leaders across several provinces. 

In early 1941, the Gideon Force infiltrated Western Ethiopia from the Sudan. Their orders were to link up with, and expand the efforts of Mission 101 and the local rebels in harassing and tying down the Italian forces in the Gojjam province in particular. The Italians had never been able to repress the Gojjam rebellion.

After Wingate‘s forces were established, the exiled Emperor Haile Selassie crossed the border to symbolically lead and focus the resistance movement.

Wingate‘s tactics were bold and unpredictable, and the entire operation was an stunning success and exceeded expectations. By a brilliant combination of propaganda and hit-an-run guerrilla warfare, the defence-minded Italians were convinced from the outset, they were being attacked by a much larger British force and retreated to their forts. Thus handing Wingate and his Ethiopian allies almost complete freedom of movement in the countryside.  

As the Italians were forced into retreat, more local chiefs began to see the shift in the balance of power and started pledging support to the Emperor. As the outcome of the campaign became clearer, even bandas who has been previously loyal to the Italians, started to defect. Upon Wingate’s insistence, all Ethiopians fighting for the allies became known as ‘Patriots‘.

Abyssinian-patriot-troops

Ethiopian Patriots wearing a combination of captured Italian uniforms and civilian dress and carrying Italian Carcano rifles. Wingate insisted that all Ethiopian resistance fighters be referred to as ‘Patriots’ regardless of their ethnic or tribal origins.

Increasingly, isolated, with declining morale, the Italians in the Gojjam were soundly defeated within three months. In total, 1,100 Italian and 14,500 colonial troops were captured, along with armoured cars, other vehicles, artillery pieces and thousands of small arms. 

A month after the capital Addis Ababa had been secured by Cunningham‘s South Africans, the Emperor Haile Selassie entered Addis Ababa with Wingate at the head of a column of men from the 2nd Ethiopian Battalion.

Gideon Force was subsequently disbanded and its units, along with several Patriot bandas, were absorbed into Cunningham’s overall command for the last battles to liberate Ethiopia in the neighbouring northern Gondar Province.

These were tough battles fought for control of the mountain passes and it’s heavily defended forts. The Italians, emboldened by news of Rommel‘s successes in the Western Desert and hoping for a German victory in Egypt, were determined to hang on to the last scrap of their empire for as long as possible. They fought more cleverly and tenaciously than many of their fellow countrymen elsewhere in the countryside had,  but eventually were forced into surrender.

Militarily, Gideon Force played a relatively minor role in the overthrow of Italian rule in East Africa. The bulk of Mussolini’s forces were defeated by the decisive and attritional battles fought in the north around Keren, and by the relentless, ‘blitzkreig’ advance of the Africans from the south. These actions pitted divisions against divisions, involved mechanised warfare and air support. 

There is much more to be written of Gideon Force, its units and its major actions in subsequent articles. There will be new units profiled such as The British-raised Ethiopian Battalions, the Operational Centres (elite mobile columns of Ethiopian patriots lead by commando-trained British officers and NCOs), propaganda units… and of course the Ethiopian Patriot Bandas.

In the subsequent Gondar campaign, these troops fought alongside more new units to Bolt Action such as the Kings African Rifles, turncoat Italian colonial units such as the 79th (McCleans) Foot and notable patriot units such as the Wollo Banda (the ‘Easy Company’ of Ethiopian rebels!)… and more.

Gideon Force remains a fascinating unit in an under-appreciated campaign…. and one to play out on the tabletop. 

The first units we’ll look at are the men from Sudan, The regular Defence Force that fought alongside the British and Indian troops in the north, and the also the Frontier Battalion, a battalion raised specifically for guerrilla fighting that was key to Gideon Force‘s successes.


Sudanese Defence Force

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Troops of the Sudanese Defence Force training in Omdurman, 1940. (Imperial War Museums collection).

After the First World War, there was considerable anti-British sentiment in Egypt that developed into unrest and violence across the whole region. After a mutiny in Khartoum, the Egyptian troops stationed in the Sudan were deemed unreliable and plans for a locally recruited force to replace them were drawn up.

When the Sudanese Defence Force (SDF) was formed in 1925, its main function was one of internal security and policing in the event of civil or tribal unrest. Later in the mid 1930s, it would be used to counter the threat of Italian expansionism in the region.

The SDF was successfully organised along ethnic and religious lines, with two battalions recruiting exclusively from Muslim Arabs in the east and west, and one raised from the Equatorial South. These were known as the Eastern Arab Corps, Western Arab Corps and Equatorial Corps respectively. They were supported by artillery, engineer, armoured car and machine-gun units; plus medical, signals and transport services. A Camel Corps was also raised.

The force expanded in the wake of Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1936 and at the outbreak of open hostilities with Italy in June 1940, comprised of twenty-one companies — including five Motor Machine Gun Companies – totaling more than 4,500 men.

More men would be needed quickly, and the SDF expanded rapidly throughout the remainder of 1940 in preparation for the campaigns in Eritrea and northern Ethiopia. Notably, The SDF took part in the defence of the border towns of Kassala and Gallabat in the early stages of the war when Italian troops went on a short-lived offensive, and also fought in the decisive battles at Agordat and Keren during Platt‘s advance into Eritrea.

The SDF also supplied 3 Motor Machine Gun Companies to Gazelle Force – a small, reconnaissance and strike force that was an early precursor to the Long Rang Desert Group and successfully harassed the Italian forces throughout the northern campaign.

The SDF proved to be solid and dependable troops, fighting alongside the more numerous British and Indian forces and playing their role in the liberation of Eritrea and Ethiopia.

By its charter, the SDF was originally restricted to the defense of Egypt and the Sudan, and after its involvement in the East African campaign, spent the remainder of the war in garrison or supply duties in East and North Africa, freeing up other British and Commonwealth troops for front line service.

The SDF were equipped with modern British infantry weapons.

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Troops of the Sudanese Defence Force training in Omdurman, 1940. (Imperial War Museums collection).

Sudanese Defence Force Infantry Section

Cost : 35 Points (Inexperienced), 50 Points (Regular)
Composition: 1 NCO and 4 men
Weapons : Rifles
Options:
– Up to 6 additional soldiers armed with Rifles for 7 points each (Inexperienced)
10 points each (Regular)
– One soldier may have a light machine gun for an extra +20 points. Another soldier becomes the loader.


Sudanese Frontier Battalion

The Sudanese Frontier Battalion (SFB) was formed for the explicit purpose of operating as a guerrilla force deep inside Italian-held Ethiopia. Due to the special nature of its service, and the quality of its recruitment and training, the SFB can be viewed as the SDF‘s ‘elite’ infantry unit..

The battalion comprised of 5 patrol companies of 250 men each. The men were mostly recruited from the Muslim north and west and were lead by fluent Arab-speaking British Officers – all with significant local military and/or political service supported by a solid cadre of experienced Sudanese junior officers and NCOs.

The battalion’s second in command, Bimbashi (Major) Peter Acland was sent to Dafur, in Western Sudan with his junior officers and NCOs to recruit a company from the local of tribesmen. He was specifically looking for men who “could move at night and knew how to shoot”. The only civilians with these skills were “camel thieves, bandits and big game poachers” – but they were exactly the type of men he required. He put the word out and received an overwhelming number of applicants

The unit’s commander Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Boustead laid down strict rules for the battalion’s training. Anticipating the difficulties of resupply once deployed deep in occupied territory, the battalion was trained to shoot straight and conserve ammunition. Boustead insisted that it only took a single bullet to kill an enemy, and stated that any officer or NCO giving the order to rapid fire would be “sacked”. Additional to the battalion’s regular firing exercises, he had a custom-built range prepared where he drilled his men relentlessly to snap fire at moving targets. Subsequently, the battalion’s fire discipline on campaign was, (to quote Acland) “extraordinary” and Boustead never had to make good on his promise to sack any NCOs or officers!

The Sudanese Frontier Battalion was equipped with modern British infantry weapons and became a highly efficient and disciplined unit, that nearly always performed with distinction throughout the campaign.

To Wingate, “The sight of an emma (turban) on a hillside was worth a hundred men” and South African Sgt. Dick Luyt of the 2nd Ethiopian Battalion (later Sir Richard Luyt) described the SFB as “a rock in the whole campaign”.

Lieutenant W.E.D Allen of 5th Operational Centre and later the SFB‘s animal transport officer summed-up the unit thus, “A sword of rare metal has been cast out of a handful of Englishmen and a few hundred Africans”.

The Sudanese also carried the African wide-bladed machete, called a ‘Panga’ – which they used on occasion to devastating effect in close quarters fighting.

NEW SIDELIGHTS ON THE ABYSSINIAN CAMPAIGN: PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN BY

Men of the Sudanese Frontier Battalion resting at Gedasef near the Ethiopian border. The Photograph was taken by Captain Mark Pikington, who commanded the 5th & 10th Operational Centres in Gideon Force and later the Wollo Banda in the Gondar campaign. (Imperial War Museums collection).


Sudanese Frontier Battalion Section

Cost : 70 Points (Veteran)
Composition: 1 NCO and 4 men
Weapons : Rifles
Options:
– Up to 6 additional soldiers armed with Rifles for 14 Points each (Veteran).
– One soldier may have a light machine gun for an extra +20 points. Another soldier becomes the loader.
– The light machine gun may be replaced by a Lewis Gun for -5pts
– The section may be tough fighters for +1pt per man

Special Rules :
Exceptional Fire Discipline:  Combining the Sudanese recruits innate bushcraft skills with the battalion’s high level of marksmenship made the SFB exceptional skirmishing troops with excellent fire discipline.
Sudanese Frontier Battalion sections gain the Fire & Manoeuvre special rule. They do not suffer the -1 to hit penalty for moving and shooting. This applies to all men in the section regardless of how they are armed. Additionally, this unit cannot benefit from the British National Characteristic of ‘Rapid Fire’ should it be chosen for that force’s characteristic.
– Stoppages (Lewis Gun):  The gun has suffered stoppage if two or more 1s are rolled when testing for hits. It remains out of action for one turn while the gunner clears the blockage. He may not fire other weapons or move (unless in a vehicle) while he does so.

Historical Note:  In April 1941, in a flanking assault on an outlying Italian fort at Debra Markos – one of the Frontier Battalion’s highly-respected officers, Colonel (Bimbashi) Colin McDonald was shot in the head and killed instantly. The Sudanese were incensed and closed on the Italian machine gun positions, dropped their rifles, drew out their pangas and showing no mercy, proceeded to hack at them – systematically killing their way along the defensive perimeter… even going so far as to chase the remaining petrified crews through the fort to cut them down!


Modelling the Sudanese Frontier Force

Currently, (and somewhat surprisingly) there are no 28mm miniatures in the market that represent the SDF. The closest models I can find are Perry Minatures French Senegalese Tirailleurs. These models will need some green-stuffing to represent the SDFs distinctive Turban and long coats. Stay tuned for that project.

Senegalese Tirailleurs advancing with rifles

The Road to Masters 2019

Welcome back to the annual Masters writeup! As usual this is my pre event build-up and thoughts, you can expect a tournament report at some point afterwards.

This year has witnessed an explosion of activity on our community page in the lead up, with a ridiculous volume of memes flying back and forth and attracting a fair amount of interest from non-tournament players and international visitors alike. I was bemused, but rather flattered, at the sheer volume that included yours truly.

A few of the more amusing ones. I get the sense I may be getting a little hyped, probably too much…

It’s been a while between drinks, I haven’t contributed anything to the blog since last year’s report! My painting in that time has been sporadic, with a primary focus on adding occasional models to existing armies and painting up a Seraphon force after being dragged into Age of Sigmar. However at the end of last year I did paint up a substantial Angmar force, an infantry army, marking a departure from the cavalry only mantra I’ve espoused. I thoroughly enjoyed the play style though, lots of little detachments of orcs and Wights, and claimed a victory for Evil at Wrath and Ruin. I’ve also been definitively noncompetitive at local events since the new year, running lists like the Three Trolls and the Fellowship (I suspect much to the relief of some players). I’ve been enjoying taking some diverse lists with narrow win conditions and taking big unnecessary risks in my games, and am yet to podium from 4 local events.

In the two interstate events I’ve attended the reverse is true. I traveled down to Canberra for Cancon on the January long weekend with a Rohan army and pulled out a joint first place. The Rohan choice was fairly spur of the moment, I thought it was a nice fit for the points level and I thought it’d be good to show interstater’s the all mounted playstyle. With the release of the Gondor at War book that weekend and the Legendary Legions the seeds were planted. The Riders of Theoden was quite powerful, really fun and right up my alley of play with lots of agency and a million might. I brought them to Clash of the Titans 2019 and enjoyed an undefeated run and a second place finish. I love the list so much, you have options of skirmishing if you need to, and you hit like a sledgehammer, then keep on hitting with the might synergy and sheer volume of heroes you have access to. If your opponent runs out of might and your heroes are still kicking, it usually does not bode well for them. This is a long winded way of saying that I’ll be playing them again at Masters for 2019. I was tempted both by the thought of a Angmar list with 5(!) Barrow Wights and the Grey Company Legion but ultimately settled back on the horse.

 

Inspirational Movie Quotes

The Riders of Theoden

Theoden, King of Rohan – Armoured Horse, Heavy Armour, Shield

2 Riders of Rohan
2 Royal Guard- Horse
Eomer, Marshal of the Riddermark – Armoured Horse, Shield

2 Riders of Rohan
1 Royal Guard- Horse

Dernhelm

2 Riders of Rohan
1 Royal Guard- Horse

Deorwine, Chief of the King’s Knights –Horse

2 Riders of Rohan
1 Royal Guard- Horse

Gamling, Captain of Rohan – Horse, Royal Standard of Rohan

2 Riders of Rohan
1 Royal Guard- Horse

Elfhelm, Captain of Rohan – Horse

800 Points

6 (technically 7) heroes, 22 models and more might than you can swing a sword at.

Some adjustments have been made from my Clash composition. I’ve opted for a Royal Guard contingent, as I have an intuition that there will be a bunch of terror causing armies between Cirdan, Army of the Dead,Angmar and big scary things (I was right!). Fellow blogger Ian has kindly agreed to lend me his Royal Guard for the weekend. Fight Value 5 on the charge will be nice as well. 10 shots from the bows should be enough considering the only shooting wars a cavalry army takes are the ones it can win and there was not a single game at Clash I skirmished for more than a turn or two.

There are lots of interesting little tricks and interactions in this list you can pull off, which hopefully I will detail pulling off in the tournament report (just in case any of my opponents are reading).

I have debating back and forth about the inclusion of throwing spears, but I’m on an even number for break point and I’m expecting the heroes to do the leg work. Plus it means organising all the right models and who wants to go to that kind of effort! I know I am going to regret it if I run into a mirror match up though, and there are a few Rohan players floating around..

The lists for Masters have been released, so I’m going to do a brief(!) run through of them all, you can find them as a file on the Australian Middle-earth SBG Community Facebook page. An obvious disclaimer before I start, as much as I might wish otherwise these are just my opinions rather than objective truth, so take them with as many pinches of salt as you’d like to season your reading. Do remember that almost any list in SBG can win in the hands of a seasoned player, with the right matchups and missions nearly every list here has the opportunity to take it.
Got all that? Good, here we go!

List One
Riders Of Theoden : Legendary Legion

List One

Someone has excellent taste in army choice. The same list as the one I’m bringing, but they’ve opted for a second banner and throwing spears. I was debating doing the same. Enough said. Would be nervous about the mirror match-up because of the throwing spears, but it comes down to who knows the list better and can play out the mission.


List Two:

Smaug Desolator of the North

Ringwraith with horse, 2 might, 10 will and 1 fate.

If you come up against Smaug, you play to the mission. Any objective based game is winnable, he can’t kill everything before the game ends (usually). Whoever the poor bastard who faces him in Contest of Champions is, I wish them good luck in killing Smaug (and the wraith) for a wipeout victory! If I come up against him, I’m hoping to win some strike offs or it will go downhill very quickly!


List Three:

Moria

Durburz
1x Warg Marauders
1x Bat Swarm
5x Goblins w/ Shield
4x Goblins w/ Spear
2x Goblins w/ Bow

Groblog
1x Warg Marauders
1x Bat Swarm
4x Goblins w/ Shield
3x Goblins w/ Spear
2x Goblins w/ Bow

Moria Shaman
3x Goblins w/ Shield
2x Goblins w/ Spear

Gundabad Shaman
3x Goblins w/ Shield

2x Goblins w/ Spear

Gundabad Shaman
3x Goblins w/ Shield
2x Goblins w/ Spear

Watcher

I have a suspicion I know whose list this is considering they asked to borrow a Gundabad Shaman from me. I’m a fan of the double gundabad shaman, they can incredibly destructive. The large amount of heroes and the deep strike capability of the Watcher are going to help it fare well in a lot of the missions. I’m usually thrilled to see rivers on the board, but not against this army! Enemy heroes are going to have to be very careful how they position, because between the shatters and the Watcher kidnap into a batswarm, there’s a lot of unpleasant things waiting for them here. I’m curious to see if the Watcher ever takes the risk to come up to split a spear wall in half and trap the front line between it and the goblins to trigger the army bonus. I would have liked to have seen some prowlers make an appearance, they synergise so well with that combo and Groblog.


List Four:

Kingdom Of Moria

Balin
2 Dwarf Warriors with Dwarf Bow
1 Dwarf Warrior with Shield
1 Dwarf Warrior with Banner and shield
3 Khazard Guard
1 Vault Warden Team

Floi Stonehand
3 Dwarf Warriors with Dwarf Bow
2 Dwarf Warriors with Shield
2 Khazard Guard
3 Dwarf Rangers with Longbows and throwing axes

Gimli
2 Dwarf Warriors with Shield
5 Iron Guard
4 Dwarf Rangers with Dwarf long bow and throwing axes.

Dwarf Ballista with Flaming ammunition and 1 additional crew.

Dwarf Ballista with Flaming ammunition and 1 additional crew.

The double Dwarf ballista will certainly give people pause. There’s a good model count and a surprising lethal amount of firepower with all the throwing axes and bows on top of the ballistas, definitely intimidating. I’m a little surprised at the inclusion of flaming ammunition because it rarely is going to see use and that’s 3 more dwarves in your army, but if Smaug is on the table he’s definitely going to feel it. It retains the inherent mobility drawbacks of a dwarven force but Balin does have march if needed. Quite a fan of this one, it may take some people off guard. Perhaps a little less forgiving than other dwarf lists with the lowered defense.


List Five:

Misty Mountains/Thorin’s Company/Radaghast’s Alliance

Gwaihir
Great Eagle
Great Eagle

Radagast /w Sebastian and Sleigh

Beorn

Balin w/ pony

The Eagles are coming! And they need to make sure they hit hard and fast and don’t get bogged down. Lots of destructive potential in this list against cavalry with all the knockdowns and hurls.


List Six

Barad-Dur / Moria

Sauron

Balrog.

Ever wanted to play against two raid bosses at the same time? Here’s your chance! Make sure to try and split them so you kill one whilst you stave off the other. Or just play the mission. Whichever floats your boat more.


List Seven:

Return Of The King : Legendary Legion

Aragorn
4x Army of the dead with shields

King of the Dead
4x AotD, 4 shields, 1 banner

Gimli
3x Riders of the Dead

Legolas

Herald of the Dead

This force has very low numbers at 16 models, but it is very difficult to kill with all the terror, fate and high defense and boasts great heroes. If forced to separate it may get picked off and struggle somewhat but a close knit core of might and death is a tough nut to crack. Free heroic marches every time should ensure its mobile when it needs to be. Again not the most forgiving list, but probably one of the front runners to drop Smaug.


List Eight:

Army of Gothmog : Legendary legion

Gothmog, with Warg and shield
8x Morannon Orcs with shields and spear
3x Morannon Orcs with shield
1x Morannon Orc with shield spear and banner
Orc Drummer

Goroth
7x Morannon Orcs with shields and spear
3x Morannon Orcs with shield
1x Morannon Orc with shield spear and banner

Guritz, Master of Reserves
7x Morannon Orcs with shields and spear
3x Morannon Orcs with shield

Gothmogs Enforcer
7x Morannon Orc with shield and spear
3x Morannon orcs with shields.

I do not want to face this army. One of the best line infantry set ups you can get with nice hero support and special rules, in addition to being very forgiving to play. Really good mobility with the drum and marches as well. It’s not the flashiest of armies, but it grinds you down in the tar pit with brutal efficiency. The killing potential it boasts against my army of men is something I encountered at Cancon, and I am not keen to repeat the experience. It’s very possible to lose half your force of cavalry in a single turn! It is not particularly great at shutting down multiple big heroes though, and there are quite a few of them coming…


List 9

The Easterlings

List 9

A pretty standard Easterling list. Decent range of options with the warpriest and the drum, this is one of I might have liked to see the Wraith on a horse, or indeed traded in for a second Dragon Knight, but that’s a playstyle preference. Those heroes will need to be leveraging those elven blades and hunting together for enemy heroes to kill. Amdur is particularly dangerous as a Valour tier hero with Heroic Challenge, copying enemy heroes strikes and the Elven weapon.


List Ten:

Rohan / Lothlorien

Theoden w/ Armoured Horse, Heavy Armour, shield
3 Riders of Rohan, 1 banner
3 Rohan Royal Guard /w 3 horse, and 3 throwing spear.

Eomer, /w horse, shield
6 Riders of Rohan, 4 throwing spears.

Celeborn with elven blade, heavy armour and shield
8 Guards of the Galadrim Court

Rumil
4 Galadrhim Warriors with bow.

An interesting alliance between Rohan and Lothlorien with a hammer and anvil set up. The elves with the two heroes in the front back up by pikes can stall for a very long time and hold objectives whilst the riders do their thing.  I am debating heavily over whether the banner is better served with the elves or the riders, it’s a tough call because they both make good use it of it. This list is well served against the more elite lists but I do worry a little how this might fare faced up against some of the armies with high model counts. It will not enjoy being entirely surrounded.


List Eleven

Minas Tirith

Aragon King Elessar /w armoured horse
6x Knights of MT with shield
5x Warriors of Minas Tirith
5x Warriors of MT with spear and shield

Boromir Captain of Gondor /w banner and shield
4x Fountain Court /w shield
5x Warriors of MT with shield
3x Warriors of MT with Spear and shield

Avenger Bolt Thrower with swift reload.

Lore breaking time travel shenanigans aside, there are two of the biggest beat-sticks in the game here. They’ll be needing to do most of the work, which is why I personally would have mounted Boromir up to improve the killing power of the army. With the Bolt Thrower as the only shooting, they’ll probably have to be moving as well. One of them going down early could spell trouble.


List Twelve

Rangers of Ithilien : Legendary Legion

Faramir Captain of Gondor, armour, sword and bow

Frodo Baggins, sting, Mithril Coat, Elven Cloak

Samwise Gamgee with Cloak
6x Rangers of Gondor with bow
7x Ranger of Gondor with bow and spear.

Madril
12x Rangers of Gondor with bow

Damrod
6x Rangers of Gondor with bow

Captain of Minas Tirith /w Heavy armour, sword and shield
6x WoMT with shield
3x Rangers  with bow and spear

Captain of MT with shield and sword
4x WoMT with shield
3x Rangers with bow and spear.

I personally love the flavor of this legendary legion and have played it at a doubles event earlier this year. I am disappointed by the absence of Gollum, but Sam and Frodo are unexpectedly capable, Sam teamed up with another hero is a great enabler for free combats and Frodo is likewise good in tandem to shut down a big enemy hero. It may have been worth placing them in their own warband for the extra drop and to place them opposing the biggest threat so they don’t have to spend multiple turn waddling there on their short legs. The list can struggle in capturing objectives and against the large line infantry blocks, but you can mitigate that with good skirmishing and maneuvering (just like in reality, who would have thought?).  It’s a very cool and fun list, I look forward to seeing how it does.


List Thirteen

Rivendell / Lothlorien

Gilgalad /w armoured horse and shield
9 Kingsguard, /w 8 shields|
4 rivendell knights /w 4 shields

Celeborn /w sword, heavy armour and shield
3x Gladrim Knights /w shield

Galadriel
3x Knights with 2 bows and banner, 3x shields.

A very elite cavalry heavy force with an infantry core. It will struggle in a protracted skirmish but it has great maneuverability with the ability to ignore woods with the Galadhrim, as well forcing opponents towards it with the blinding light. It’s not going to be a very forgiving force with most of its eggs in the Gilgalad basket so mistakes will be costly! Picking the moment to engage is key, I’d be quite concerned if it started getting surrounded.


List Fourteen

Kingdom of Khazad-Dum

List 14

The lack of Heroic March is a little concerning for the stout dwarves and they are inconvenienced in this iteration by the lack of spear supports, but they have a solid model count, are never going to run with so much bodyguard, and are tough as nails. The heroes backed up by that many hearth guard are going to rip through just about anything. If they can catch him, I’d rate their chances going up against Smaug.


List Fifteen

Isengard

List 15

A fairly stereotypical Isengard list at this points level, model count on the low end because of the inclusion of both Saruman and the troll. A decent balance of the different options in the list means it’s solid at doing everything whilst not being best in class at any of them. Shooting, mobility, staying power and killing power all present. It’s going to stick around to the bitter end as well with Isengard’s army bonus and Saruman’s 12 inch stand fast. I hope to see Grima pull off some extra special tricks being mounted on the horse.


List Sixteen

Rivendell

Gil-Galad /w Horse, shield
3 High Elf Warriors /w Elf bow
14 Kings Guard with spear, shield
1 Kings Guard with Banner, spear, shield

Cirdan
4 High elf warriors with shield
3 High Elf warriors with bow

High Elf Captain with Horse, Lance and Shield
3 High Elf warriors with shield
3 high elf warriors with elf bow
3 Rivendell Knights with shield

Our first Cirdan/Kingsguard list. I rate this combination very highly.  Terror, F6 and blinding light means your options taking on these elves dwindle alarmingly quickly because there are few setups with a good answer to all three of those things. It was my expectation of these lists that had me sneaking in some Royal Guard. Good shooting, 37 Elves (that’s a lot), two mounted heroes and a Calvary contingent. Two big thumbs up from me on this list, it can do everything.


List Seventeen:

Rivendell / Numenor

Gil Galad (Horse, Shield)
9x King’s Guard (KG Upgrade, Spear, Shield)
2x Rivendell Knight (Shield)
1x Rivendell Knight (Shield, Banner)

Cirdan
2x Rivendell Knight (Shield)

Elendil (Horse, Shield)
6x Warrior of Numenor (Spear, Shield)
2x Warrior of Numenor (Spear, Shield, Bow)
1x Warrior of Numenor (Shield, Bow)

A list similar to the previous one, but we’ve got some Numenor in the mix. Our numbers have been tangibly reduced, but we’ve now got strength 4 for our infantry and two monstrous heroes. A little less forgiving than the last list but a larger cavalry contingent and more killing power. Is going to die faster, but will do the same to the opponent.


List Eighteen

The Black Gate Opens : Legendary Legion

Mordor Troll Chieftain (Greatest of the trolls) 140
7 Morannon orcs w/-shield 56
7 Morannon orcs w/-shield -spear 63
1 Orc warrior w/-banner 31

The Mouth of Sauron w/-armoured horse 85
1 Mordor Troll 100
7 Morannon orcs w/-shield 56
7 Morannon orcs w/-shield -spear 63

Mordor orc captain w/-orc bow 45
8 Orc warriors w/-orc bow 48

Mordor orc captain w/-shield 45
2 Orc warriors w/-shield 12
2 Orc warriors w/-two handed weapon 12
7 Orc warriors w/-spear 42

I am assuming that this list is using the Black Gate Legendary Legion. There’s a lot of bodies in this one at 51 models. The trolls will be supplying the stopping power of the list whilst the orcs grind away and attempt to bury the opponent with numbers so they can utilise the wounding bonus. It’s going to be a difficult force to push off objectives and should do well against other infantry forces but it might encounter some difficulties against the terror causing armies that are coming. I’d have liked to see a drum on the mordor troll possibly for the added mobility advantage as well but I rate the the list  highly overall.


List Nineteen

The Easterlings

Amdur, Lord of Blades (armoured horse)
1 Easterling Black Dragon Kataphract (war drum)
6 Easterling Black Dragon Kataphracts

Easterling Dragon Knight (armoured horse)
6 Easterling Black Dragon Kataphracts

Easterling Dragon Knight (armoured horse)
6 Easterling Black Dragon Kataphracts

Easterling Dragon Knight(armoured horse)
6 Easterling Black Dragon Kataphracts

Love this list. Absolutely love it. If it was possible to horde cavalry, this is it. 28 models is equaling some of the lists we’ve reviewed already! Easterling cavalry is probably the most durable in the game with their high defense, armoured horses and shieldwall rule. When you’ve got this many cavalry, you can very easily set it up to have 3 waves of charges. That means you aren’t as invested in the heroic move roll offs as most cavlary armies are because you’ve got the additional wave. Pairing up heroes with a combat and a strike to hunt enemy heroes with your elven made weapons is going to be very dangerous for an opponent. Amdur is also able to shine and keep big nasty heroes away from your cavalry. Plus I think it’s just going to look so damn cool. Can’t wait to see it in person.


List Twenty

Dark Powers Of Dol-Guldur

The Necromancer of Dol Guldur – 250 (Leader) (Hero of Legend)
4 Mirkwood Spiders – 80
Castellan of Dol Guldur – 40
+ Morgul Blade – 5

Yazneg – 45 + Fell Warg – 10+ Lance – 5
1 Hunter Orc – 8
3 Hunter Orcs (24) + Two-handed Weapons (3) – 27
4 Hunter Orcs (32) + Orc Bows (4) – 36
1 Hunter Orc (8) + Orc Bow (1) Banner (25) – 34

Narzug – 50 + Fell Warg – 10
4 Hunter Orcs – 32
4 Hunter Orcs (32) + Orc Bows (4) – 36

Fimbul – 50 + Fell Warg 10
4 Hunter Orcs – 32
4 Hunter Orcs (32) + Orc Bows (4) – 36

Hunters Orcs kill things quickly, and die quickly. The key to winning with them is making the former happen and not the latter, games with them can snowball in either direction. There’s a healthy model count and voulme of shooting that can stay competitive with most other lists. There’s also a sneaky amount of hero shutdown cloistered in this list with the Castellan, 4 paralyses from the Mirkwood Spiders and the Necromancer dropping a shroud of shadows on something. The Necromancer is tricky to access and makes for a good leader in lots of the missions, it’s a pretty thematic list with a lot to like. It also has a good shot at taking down Smaug with the Necromancer’s chill touch and Castellan’s morgul blade. I am a little concerned at how it will fare going up against the heavy shooting and terror causing lists but I have good reason to believe that it will be overcome by the person playing it.


List Twenty One

Kingdom Of Khazad-Dum

Durin, King of Khazard-Dûm
14 x Khazâd Guard /w Hearthguard
2x Vault Warden team

Dwarf Captain /w shield and throwing weapon
4 x Dwarf Ranger w/ longbows and throwing weapons.
2x Dwarf Warrior /w Bow

King’s Champion
2x Dwarf Warrior /w bow
8 x Iron Guard

Similar flavour to our earlier Durin’s Halls list with a mountain of Hearthguard. This one boasts a heavy throwing weapon contingent at the expense of defense, also has a captain to call the marches as needed. A casual 8 Iron Guard on top of the 14 Hearthguard makes up for the absence of the King’s Champion and should strike fear into the heart of any spearwall. Underestimate the stunties at your peril, this amount of strength 4 dwarves is dangerous.


List Twenty Two

Rivendell

Elrond, Master of Rivendell; with Horse & Heavy Armour
8x Rivendell Knight; with Shield
1x Rivendell Knight; with Shield & Banner

Glorfindel, Lord of the West; with Armour of Gondolin & Asfaloth
9x Rivendell Knight; with Shield

The all mounted Rivendell Knight classic. What’s not to like? My personal preference is for less knights and more heroes, but that cuts into your model count incredibly fast and it’s low to begin with, so it’s always nice to have a bit more forgiveness in the list. If however the enemy isn’t dead by the time everyone is committed I think it might become a little hairy with only 6 might available, but that many lances will do wonders to any problem. I’d expect the opponent’s forces to be naturally whittled down with a bunch of shooting by that point anyway in most cases. It’s biggest struggle may in fact be against the other elven armies, which match many of its advantages with a greater model count.


List Twenty Three:

Dark Denizens of Mirkwood / Moria / Mordor

List 23

I have lots of respect for the spider list. It’s really difficult to run well because you are punished so hard for mistakes but has lots of clever tricks you can pull, dropping down broodlings behind a line, going over walls with ease, enraging unexpected targets and other sneaky plays. I wouldn’t have minded seeing a goblin detachment to hold objectives or provide some semblance of a frontline, but the spider play style is so all in if it works you can probably come away with the win anyway. You win or lose the game depending on how much damage you’ve inflicted when or if you break. Enemy heroes beware, all your phobias are about to come to life in the worst possible way. Funnily enough, that can flow on to some of your opponents. The psychological game when playing spiders is second to none.


List Twenty Four:

List 24

If this list seems familiar then good, you’ve been paying attention! This list is mine. Moving on!


List Twenty Five

Army of Thror / Garrison Of Dale

List 25

Another dwarf list with powerful shooting, it’s an interesting trend I’m seeing. This army is also a large one with 49 models. It lacks the same level of punch as our Durin’s Halls lists but it compensates in being even more difficult to kill. This list is going to be very very good in terrain heavy boards with 14 throwing weapons. It struggles a little in answering the big heroes but it covers most other facets of the game well.


List Twenty Six

Lothlorien / Mirkwood

List 26

List 26 pt2

A Lothlorien list comprising of all the mid tier heroes they have to offer with a few more thrown in for good measure. This list is quite interesting because there’s no definitive disparities between these heroes, which makes target selection really contextual and will push the opponents decision making. There’s some potent shooting and a solid cavalry portion with plenty of might. Whilst it lacks the explosive potential of the big heroes, there are plenty of tactical options with mobility and models on the board as far as elves are concerned. A well rounded list.


List Twenty Seven

Azog’s Legion

Bolg /w Fell Warg
6 Gundabad Beserkers
1 Ogre
1 Warbat

Gundabad Captain /w shield
3 Gundabad Orcs w/ shield
4 Gundabad Orcs w/ shield and spear
1 Gunadabad Orc with shield, spear and banner
1 Orge
1 Warbat

Narzug /w Fell Warg
2 Fell Wargs
2 Hunter Orcs with Fellwarg
1 Hunter Orc with Fellwarg and bow
2 Hunter orcs
3 Hunter orcs /w orc bow
1 Hunter orc with warhorn and orc bow.

Lots of close combat killing potential in this one with hunter orcs, ogres and berserkers all piling in alongside Bolg. The inclusion of a Gundabad warband is a really good call to give yourself a front line and buy time as needed. Also glad to see the inclusion of the warhorn to help with courage, a good choice. Bolg with Master of Battle is going to help him in an army with a limited supply of might as the only big hero in the list (until he hits Mighty Hero!). The War Bats are an option I haven’t seen much of yet, mainly because they are yet to get a model, but I think they’re a versatile option to open up gaps in a line and skirmish, there’s the opportunity to do some clever things with them.


 

In Review

So that’s our lists! Breaking it down we’ve got noticeably more Good lists than Evil at 16 to 11, with Dwarves and Elves the most popular with 4 and 5 submissions respectively, followed by Rohan with 3. There are also only 5 hobbit era armies. There’s a nice diversity in composition overall, with some armies opting for numbers, others for heroes, others for shooting. Some are going to very hard to kill, others will be rather squishy. I am please to see that the Rohan lists boast the most might! Almost all the lists with a couple of notable time travelling exceptions are either mono lists or historical allies with lots of theme in them. Clearly the army bonuses are encouraging cool fluff!

My favourite list has to be the Easterling Kataphracti, with the first Cirdan list being the most well rounded competitive force. Are there any lists I’m afraid to face? I’ve never had the privilege of facing Smaug so I don’t quite know what its like yet. The eagles could potentially wreak some havoc on me, and the army of Gothmog will cut through me like butter, but the horselords are ready to face any and all challengers.

 

Predictions

Lastly, as is tradition it’s time to nominate my tournament favorites. Jeremy of the Green Dragon Podcast ended Victoria’s Masters drought last year pulling ahead of me for the win. However he’s not in attendance, neither is Kylie, who pulled ahead of me in Clash in Feburary. The only reason she hasn’t won a Masters event yet is because she’s been running the thing!

The memes seem to be now predicting me winning with one arm tied behind my back, but that’s not particularly realistic, and I’ve never been in the habit of including myself in these predictions anyway, too much bias!

My top 3 for this year are:

3 Joshua Colman – Aside from his excellent taste in surnames, he’s a veteran player and he’s bringing an army both he and I are intimately familiar with in the Rivendell Knghts. If he plays his cards right he’ll be winning lots of games, and possibly a painting award along the way.

2 Matthew Todd – The ever dependable Mr Todd, it is becoming something of an expectation to face him at some point if we’re both at an event. They consistently prove to be challenging and hard fought games with a pretty even record between the two of us. Mr Consistent is due for another interstate podium placing with his fellow Green Dragon Podcast members out of the way.

1 Andreas Cavanna – Let the memes flow thick and fast, he’s my favorite to take it! I have unwittingly played the role of a bridge too far for him, denying him so many tournament victories over the years, but those losses have forged him into a very good player. It gets a little harder every time to shut him down in the pressure moments of a high stakes game and I am going to get what’s coming for me sooner or later. But rest assured worried readers, I will doing my usual best to crush his spirit with a cheerful smile!

As I say every year, I am of course doing a disservice to all the other excellent players who will be there and consequently wipe the table against me for not mentioning them, but there are only so many spaces on a podium and you don’t have the burden of expectation to weigh you down!

If you’ve made it thus far trudging through the past 5000 words, thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings, for anyone attending Masters I hope you took something away from it.

Look forward to a battle report on each of my games in a future blog post.

Masters has never had a repeat winner. Will the trend continue?

Path to Hobbitcon: Shadow of Mordor – You serve the Brightlord!

While Hobbitcon may be over in this instalment of Ratbags rubble, Ill be presenting the paint work and conversions I have been doing among the force. At this stage I hoped to present another blog post or two, however between starting this army and a new job Ive leave it for later. 

Orc rubble.

Just a recap, in my last post I said I had created 25 but only showed 15 of my orc conversions. This time you will get to see 24 of the 25 painted

Orc shields (10)

 

 

Orc spears (11)

 

 

Orc two handed weapons (3)

dav

Orc Banner (1)

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Orc tracker

Earlier in the week I received my orc trackers and begun to work on them. For one I simple repositioned the hand, cut off the knife and replaced it with an arrow. For the other I drilled a hole into its shoulder pad, placed a pin and mounted a skull on it. These were then given a simply coat of paint.

dav

Ratbag

As I’m using the Gorbag model I will be keeping him pretty simple. The note able change are the spikes/teeth protruding from Ratbag back. This have been achieved by using the bones/forks from a goblin town weapon and plasticard. The shield is one from a gundibad upgrade kit.

 

 

Ranger

A little more complex than the other characters, I begun by changing the ogres nose to suit an oolg one. To do this I cut the human like nose and begun to greenstuff a pig like snout to the model.

 

 

As Ranger has a bit of armour I have begun to construct armour and straps using a mix of plastacard and greenstuff. The knife has been taken from a aos orge bull and glued on. While I’m not entirely happy with the result, it will do for a couple of days.

dav

Morannon Orc Captain

As teased earlier, my morannon orc captain is the bottom half of a Minas Tirith Archer and the top half a of a hex wraith. To get the look I simply removed the fire and chains from the scythe, and swapped the head with a hunter orcs (removing the hair). The bottom half to them tie into the heck knight/grim reaper feel has been greenstuffed into layers of robes.

dav

Warg Captain

My warg captain has been made using a fell warg model with some changes. The body itself has been take from a wood elf wild rider with a hunter orc head. The axe itself is a grave guard champion head on a paperclip. To finish off the model I have created a sash and fur using greenstuff. 

 

 

Talion

For those unaware Talion is the main protagonist of the game and you follow his journey as he and Celebrimbor seek to remove Sauron from Mordor.

dav

To keep Talion easy, I had decided to pass him off the Captured by Gondor Faramir model released during the two tower era. This model I felt represent Talion more in a ranger and commander fill as depicted in the Shadow of War part of the story.

dav

 

 

So there you have it. While I’m not 100%happy with the result, I do plan to revisit and expand on this force.

 

In the next installment I will writing some brief battle reports about my games.

 

Path to Hobbitcon: Shadow of Mordor – Get back in line you Maggots!

sof mordorDon’t get me wrong. I almost respect Ratbag. Who else has gone so far with so little?”
– Brûz the Chopper

warg_riders_by_feenixfabay-d5zf1f9

Welcome back to part two of my Shadow of Mordor posts in preparation of HobbitCon. For those unaware, HobbitCon is one of the two day events that works on an escalation system, bringing 400 points and then an addition 300 (700 total). Since my last post, I’ve been roped in to playing two days…. So I’ll have to look at another 300 points down the track.

hcon

It’s been quite a busy couple of weeks with real life, painting and my new toys (may have got involved with A Song of Ice and Fire tabletop game and some 3d printing.) but I have made some progress on the Middle Earth front.

When I first started this project I had expected to grow tiresome and frustrated in converting up unique Orcs after the first few. Instead It has motivated me in creating, reimaginating, and finishing this army…..  However I currently have the problem…. I can’t seem to stop converting Orc .

The process.

So to begin I gathered up a heap of parts and bits from my bits box (well places) of games workshop models. However as AoS or 40k tend to be a little big for middle earth, I did manage to find a few bits and bobs. The parts include:

~ A mixture of warriors of Middle earth – for this project I have used Hardrim, Gondor and Mordor Orcs. These models were a mixture of broken, poorly painted and dating back to the original release sets.

~ Hunter Orc Riders – generous in spare heads and parts

~ Gundabad Orc upgrade kit from Forgeworld

~Age of sigmar/fantasy undead – A range of parts from the skeleton,black guard, and mainly hex wraith sprues

~ Spare parts and tools- general things found around including easterlings, greenstuff and paper clips.

~ Some additional Aos parts, mainly from beast men, and goblins.

The Parade.

As of typing I have created 25 unique Orcs for this force, giving me a few reinforcements to add later or just to nit pick at what weapons I want.  To make things easier I’ll display them in groups and comment about each section.

Put some muscle into it!

IMG_20180712_211641.jpg

When creating a rabble of Orcs, I wanted to include a variety, so in doing so I wanted some two handed weapons. So without further adieu, I present 3/4 of them.

From left to right-

1) A standard Orc spear with a swap from a gundibad berserker weapon.

2) Normal crewman off the Mordor siege bow.

3) Two handed/spear model with a weapon head swap to an Easterling halberd.

Just poke them with the pointy end!

dav

Any good Mordor army needs a few spearmen, and with rerolling 1s when outnumbering the enemy force there even better.

L to R:

1) Haradrim warrior with a hunter Orc head swap and Mordor orc spear tip. A little green stuff fur to keep it together.

2) A simple Mordor Orc with a borrowed Gondor spear.

3) Another Haradrim with a Mordor Orc head swap and Easterling halberd

4) A Mordor Orc with an Easterling cavalry arm.

5) A standard Mordor Orc . Possibly my favourite Orc model.

Swords and shields lads!

dav

Need something to charge the enemy.

L to R:

1) A Minas Tirith Archer with a leg swap from a Mordor Orc spearman, Mordor Orc sword arm and a spare gundibad Orc arm.

2) A Mordor Orc with a head swap. The face has been carefully trimmed above the nose. Both parts have been flattened out before glueing. Green stuff as required.

3) A Gondor Warrior with a head (Hunter Orc) and Gundabad weapon swap.

dav

L to R:

1 and 2) Mordor Orc with a Hunter Orc hand swap

3) Orc with a Gundabad weapon and a hex wraith arm

4) A Mordor archer with a hunter weapon arm, and minas tirith shield arm and some random goodies in his backpack.

Let lose the Caragors!

For those unaware Caragors are a much larger versions of Wargs, and live exclusively in Mordor.

For this project I wanted to create the war riders and their dismount together so they would look similar in appearance.

dav

1) The model has been created using a simple Hunter Orc with a Gundabad back banner. The foot version was a little more involved as there is no furry chieftain like top on the foot models. Instead I have had to cut a Hunter Orc in half, glue the chest and then add arms from both sprue.

dav

2) A simple Hunter Orc with a Gundabad head swap.

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3) Much like my head swap before., I’ve simply cut a hunter Orc head above the nose, thinned it and the helmet out and glued it on.

What’s to come? 

Well for the keen eyed, you will notice I’ve only posted 15 or so Orcs up. That leaves another 10 unique Orc to display for the next blog. At the moment I’ve begun to paint, and started some minor things on my characters. So finish off, I’ll see you next week and enjoy the post credit pics.

dav

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Masters 2018 Day 2 – ‘Go Big or Go Home’

Last minute addendum: Minutes before I was to publish this Kylie publicly announced she would be stepping down from running Masters and handing the torch over to our own Adam Jenkinson. So I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the work that Kylie has done in establishing and running this event over the past 5 years, and the way in which its helped act as a touchstone to keep the national community together. I missed out on the first one but have attended every one since, and without exception they produce heavy competition, great terrain and some of the best missions and tournament structures I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying. There’s now another event I can expect to play you in, I’m sure you will be gaining the title yourself sooner if not later.


Welcome to back to Andrew’s adventures at Masters! If you haven’t already, be sure to go back and read the previous two components to this series for this year. At the end of day one I was staring down the barrel of a very grim position in the standings, but it was a new day. It’d take a little luck and other match ups going my way to reach the podium, but far more than anything it required 3 big wins and nothing less. All the missions today mirror those of yesterday, by some coincidence they were played in the same order. Lets find out how that went shall we?


Game 4 – Pillage and Burn vs Matthew Todd

Azog with The White Warg
4 Hunter Orcs
1 Hunter Orc with 2H weapon
5 Hunter Orcs with Orc bow
1 Hunter Orc with Banner

Fimbul with Fell warg
4 Hunter Orcs
4 Hunter Orcs with Orc bow

Narzug with Fell warg
3 Hunter Orcs
4 Hunter Orcs with Orc bow
1 Hunter Orc with War horn and Orc bow

Yazneg with Fell warg, Lance
3 Hunter Orcs
1 Hunter Orc with 2H weapon
4 Hunter Orcs with Orc bow

Hunter Orc Captain with Fell Warg

IMG_20180708_130630

Matt was piloting a list he’d used to great success at Clash earlier this year with the Hunter Orcs. I’m sure he won’t mind me saying their presentation took a slight boost as well as he was borrowing Jeremy’s models. If I wasn’t rotating through the cavalry Hunter Orcs was an army I was considering myself. They can cut through any army like butter with Strength 4 and 2 Attacks on every model. Pitting that against the cloth armour of my army, if I ever got locked down I would be annihilated. If I could get a good round of charges off however, I could potentially do the same with the Serpent Riders charging in with higher fight value, lances and banner support to rip through them. The presence of 5 heroes made me hesitant to consider that plan straight up however, as there was lots of might and fight value kicking around between them. They also had more bowfire than I did. My advantage lay in my mobility and the flying monsters, I had to use it to spread Matt out as much as possible and then hit the more isolated targets.

IMG_20180708_094030

We were playing Pillage and Burn, as per the first mission the previous day. I placed two objectives behind the river, which should slow Matt down considerably, and reasoned I was fine with sacrificing one because I could get it back later. I had to spread him out until I found an opportunity to pounce, and that would require some bait.

IMG_20180708_094039

The opening went off very smoothly. The Knight of Umbar successfully compelled Narzug (far right above) out of the lines and subsequently eviscerated him turn 1. Matt elected not to send his other heroes in that direction which I though may have been a possibility, keeping them centralised. He wasn’t spreading yet. The rest of my force scooted back slightly, the horses all standing mid stream as we exchanged bowfire. The dice were hot this game, and Hunter Orcs steadily dropped to the poisonous arrows of the raiders

Matt continued to advance onto my objective the following turn and I saw an opening. The Betrayer and Suladan both charged forward, the Betrayer with an excellent hurling line available that would dismount Azog and Yazneg as well dealing considerable damage and preventing Matt from destroying my objective this turn. At the same time, the Knight of Umbar threatened the far flank, and it was very much in my mind at this point that he could simply ignore the fight and fly straight to the back of the board where Matt’s objectives lay.

It was then that the Betrayer would betray me for the 3rd time! He lost combat against a single Hunter Orc, and suddenly the game turns on its head on a single dice roll. Not only are Matt’s heroes still mounted, but he’s taken no casualties, he can destroy the objective this turn and Betrayer is exposed and on his own. I then painstakingly ran through my options, Suladan retreating with his own Heroic Combat, and accepted that the Betrayers fate would come down to a 50-50 Heroic Move contest next turn.

On this occasion, I got lucky, as the dice take so they give. Suladan was forced to dismount to pull off the heroic move, and my might reserves were down to one on both him and the Betrayer, but they got out with their lives.

It was a grim blow, but the Knight of Umbar was still active, and he surged up the flank, demanding a response. Matt diverted some hunter orcs but only one hero to tie him off, and my eyes lit up, as I could potentially isolate and destroy Fimbul like I had Narzug and call a heroic combat off him to fly well beyond reach onto his objectives.

This ploy ended up succeeded, but not without some pure class from Matt. I was just short of killing him and in danger of being locked down, when he unprompted reminded me to roll a hit for thrown rider, which dealt the killing blow. I said it at the time and Matt if you’re reading here it is again, that may have cost you in the match, but you won the real game in that moment.

With that success the Knight of Umbar was free to roam the backboard, looting and pillaging as he went. At the same time I wheeled around my force for a death and glory charge. Either I would burst through and end the game before he could reach my objectives by killing everything, or by losing everything. With the objectives piling up on my side as the Betrayer bailed on the fight to join the Knight, the sooner the game could end the better.

My heroic sacrifice proved enough, and all 6 objectives ended on my side of the board, bought with blood and horse meat. One big win down, two to go. I’d beaten one of my podium picks, and there were more coming in the future.


 

Game 5 Race to the Prize vs David Leonard

Suladȃn the Serpent Lord, Horse (Army Leader) -100
5 Serpent Guards -40
5 Black Númenórean, Venomblade Knights -50
2 Serpent Riders -26 -216 -216

The Betrayer, Fell Beast -170
5 Serpent Guards -40
5 Black Númenóreans, Venomblade Knights -50
1 Haradrim Warrior, Spear and Banner -32
1 Haradrim Warrior, Spear -07 -299 -515

Haradrim Chieftain, Spear -46
12 Haradrim Warriors – Bow -84 -130 -645

Haradrim Chieftain, Spear -46
4 Haradrim Warriors, Bow -28
7 Haradrim Warriors, Spear -49
1 Haradrim Warriors, Spear and Banner -32 -155 -800

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It was time for the Harad civil war! Perhaps a debate over the merits of horses… David had brought a horde harad force, with a monstrous amount of bows and a large body count. Much like Henry’s Gondor, I could not let them get into the center unopposed. Unlike Henry’s army however, David’s didn’t have as many threatening heroes and they were much more lightly armored. His single wraith wouldn’t be able to contend with both of mine if they apprehended it simultaneously.

The deployment for this scenario ultimately played a heavy role in the outcome of this game. I drew upon my Might reserves to ensure that my army came on cohesively, with the exception of Suladan, who was fashionably late (rolled a one two times in a row). I’m a big advocate of the idea that you should be spending as much might as necessary to deploy how you want to. David however opted to split his force, the elites including the Betrayer coming on from the opposite edge whilst the Chieftans entered from my side. I think David’s plan was to get some early rounds of heavy bow fire on me and buy the time necessary to get half of his force on the objective.

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I was more than happy to take this outcome however. It mean I’d be able to take out half his force without much resistant, coming out very much ahead in the trade and not quite break him to risk the game ending, giving me all the time in the world to slam into the second half and cut through and take the objective by killing everything whilst flanking from the sides.

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The bowfire did some damage, but not enough to unduly concern me, and men of Harad began to be knocked down left right and centre from calvary charges and Fell Beast hurls. Over the course of a few turns they were well and truly routed from the field, the chieftains having some magic thrown at them to contain them and allow the slaughter to continue.

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Meanwhile the other half of Davids force was desperately rushing towards the center, but I’d made sure to keep units out of the fight on intercept duty, ready to slow and delay them. A plucky Serpent Rider dismounted and grabbed the artifact from the central objective and even succeeded in killing a Black Numenorean before going down, much to my chagrin. With that model dead, if I killed everything the Chieftans had brought on, David would break and begin to run away, possibly reducing himself to 25% before I could contest the objective. I thus made a very conscious decision to go non lethal with the fellbeast as the only model that could, getting the Betrayer to barge so as to avoid strking blows, leaving a single model shaking his fist as the thunder of hooves faded from his hearing.

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With the line reassembled and feeling confident, the cavalry charged once more into the centre, looking to break the remaining footmen and cause them to flee enmasse. In the final turns, everything was committed, so it came as a great surprise when David was one model from the game ending, that we had a final turn afterwards, because I didn’t kill a single model in around of combat. This led to a most memorable and amusing sequence of events. The Betrayer had spent almost all his will the previous turn killing the Knight of Umbar assuming it was the last turn, so my Suladan called a heroic move intending to charge him and have him fade out of existence by running out of will. Suladan then failed his courage test to charge despite having three will available with a snake eyes, courtesy of the Betrayer’s Harbinger of Evil. My heroic move having failed, David then picks up the dice and makes a courage test for his Betrayer for broken. He fails it by one, courtesy of my own Betrayer’s Harbinger of Evil. In the ultimate fulfillment of his purpose, the Betrayer had now betrayed himself. David opted to take the noble way out and spent his last will to pass that test and then fade out of existence rather than flee the battlefield, granting me the leader kill and prompting more Harad to flee the battlefield, sealing his fate.

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Another big win! At the same time Jeremy had fallen to the hands of Henry, meaning that there was now no one undefeated. I’d have to leave it to fate and Henry’s final opponent to topple him, but with Jeremy losing I felt I had a decent chance of reaching the podium if I could take any kind of win in the last game. A mindset that ultimately, might end up hurting me!


Game 6 – Random Encounter vs Jeremy Shannon

Gundabad Orc Captain with Shield;
8 Gundabad Berserker
1 Gundabad Berserker with Two-handed pick;
3 War Bat

Gundabad Orc Captain with Shield;
4 Gundabad Orc Warrior with Spear; Shield;
5 Gundabad Orc Warrior with Shield;
1 Troll Brute

Gundabad Orc Captain with Shield;
4 Gundabad Orc Warrior with Spear; Shield;
5 Gundabad Orc Warrior with Shield;
1 Gundabad Orc Warrior with Shield; Banner;
1 Gundabad Troll

 

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Jeremys list was unsurprisingly gorgeous, but it had only 3 generic captains for its heroes. I am always in admiration for how he manages to eke the most out of anything that is put in front of him. My missions were to keep my heroes alive, kill his and capture his objectives. What I realized was, with the ability to fire off black darts at his heroes, is that I could do this absolutely no risk and not take fights of any kind. Being so close, I tunneled on purely getting a win to end up on the podium which meant no risk taking and no fighting.

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That doesn’t make for a particularly engaging game, and there isn’t that much to take photos of either. Hence I wasn’t taking many in this final game and there isn’t that much to talk about either. I spent 8 of the 10 turn limit skirting around, shooting bowfire that was predominantly ineffective and firing black darts off at his heroes before Jeremy cunningly concealed them inside a tower I couldn’t reach. With the benefit of hindsight, as soon as the two surviving captains took shelter in the corner, I should have charged straight up the middle to annihilate his army on the objectives as I could get guaranteed heroic moves and charges off every turn and should be able to isolate and take down the rolls. But I did not. I was so afraid of losing I forgot to try and win, which was the opposite of how I’d been playing up until that point. It also wan’t very fun. The Knight of Umbar was in a tentative position at one point and I did commit a charge on the 9th turn, but it was too late for the outcome I was looking for. I took the small win I was guaranteed, knowing it could possibly get me on the podium. It wasn’t a big win though, and thinking back now as I type this the opportunity for one was starting me in the face on turn 6. I didn’t discover until after that game that I was only 10 points behind on the leader board, and in my head as I heard this I knew I’d blown a chance of possibly taking the whole thing!


 

The final podium was :

1. Jeremy

2. Me (!)

3. Henry

I’d come 2nd, and only 5 points behind Jeremy! If I’d been told that on the end of day 1, I’d have been rather cautious about believing it. If I’d been told I’d actually had a chance to win it, I would have hardly believed it. It comes of course, at the cost of my podium predictions, as I’d played and beaten all 3 members featuring on mine. It was not quite the Green Dragon Podcast sweep with my defeat to Kylie,  but it was a respectable haul.

Part of me wishes I could play the last game again, but if wishes were fishes there’d be no room for the water. Best way to learn is to do something wrong. Melbourne ends its title drought, with a hearty congratulations to Jeremy as this years Master, a title well deserved, his involvement in the game is second to none. A thank you also to Joshua for lending me one of his fellbeasts, and to Kylie for a spare magnet when the Betrayer opted to yet again play to the name and lose his. Tim was most generous in hosting Ben and I over the weekend and driving us all over Melbourne, it was most appreciated Tim! Ben unanimously won best sports again (because of course he did, he’s such a swell guy) and we posted something for the first time in a few years (I am such a product of my generation) as we sent home our winnings to avoid extra baggage costs and airport security potentially objecting to pointed trophies.

I was really pleased with the aesthetic of my force in the end as well, my mumaks and remaining infantry are going to get a similar paint job at some point as well. Let this stand as a good example of why you shouldn’t give up after a poor start. Each day and indeed each game is a new one! Ultimately it was close but no cigar, I will be back next year.

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If you’re in Sydney or the surrounding areas, I am running Hobbitcon on the 11th and 12th of August at the Hall of Heroes, Campbelltown. There are single day options if you can’t make both days, and if it’s an incentive given my recent run of form at home you won’t have to play me!

Thanks for reading!

Andrew C

 

 

Masters 2018 – Day 1 ‘The Betrayer’

As the dust settles in the wake of Masters on a Monday afternoon I am currently sitting in Melbourne Airport waiting for a delayed flight whilst writing the opening to this blog. It had several contributing factors that made it a memorable and challenging event…

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My force for the event

My journey began at an unreasonably early hour on Friday morning with a pre dawn trip to the airport, flying south from Sydney from Melbourne. Upon landing I was met by the wonderful Tim Wright, who was most generous in housing us and chauffeuring us around for the weekend. I spent most of Friday in the company of Tim and Caleb, gradually painting all the finishing touches to my force to make it conform to the standards I’ve begun to set myself against and generally being massive nerds. In the evening we were joined by Ben Galea, a friend of mine I’d introduced to the game making his first interstate trip.
The weather in classic Melbourne fashion was far too cold on Saturday morning for a soft Sydneysider like myself. The usual meet and greets were had, some people I’d not seen in a year or more. The turnout this year was mediocre, but it was incredibly stacked. Looking around, I thought that there would be no hiding or free rides for anyone this year. Your likelihood of versing a top quality player in each round was considerable. I’d also be remiss not to mention the quality of all the armies that were present. It was exceptionally high,  and choosing a best painted army from the field was a demanding test. If you want a rundown on my army and my thoughts going into the event check out my previous blog entry.


Round 1: Pillage and Burn vs Nick Gentile

Aragorn – Horse, Armour, Bow

Legolas – Horse, Armour

Gimli

Eomer, Marshal of the Riddermark – Horse, Shield, Throwing Spear

1 Rider of Rohan – Banner

5 Riders of Rohan

2 Rohan Royal Guard – Throwing Spears, Horse

Captain of Rohan -Horse, Heavy Armour, Shield, Throwing Spear

8 Riders of Rohan

Pillage and Burn is a mission with 6 objectives, 3 in each deployment zone. When they are destroyed they are then placed on the other half of the board. You gain points for each objective on your side of the board at the end of the game.
My first opponent was Nick. Nick had brought an army both thematic and strong, with the 3 Hunters mounted up to join Eomer and the Rohirrm. Nick and I had a moment when we looked at each other and laughed, as two all mounted armies our initial tactics on this mission had assumed we’d be playing against a force less mobile than ourselves, which was now out the window. My goal was to be aggressive and threatening with the Ringwraiths, in the hope  that he would give ground to me for fear of being dismounted en-masse courtesy of their charges and hurls. In practice, this indeed proved to be the case.

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I deployed directly on the centre line, whilst Nick ceded his front most objective to deploy out of range, no doubt hoping to reclaim it later from my half. I was able to catch out a wayward rider on the flank with magic on the fist turn, and the fell beasts hurtled forward, swiftly slaying him and allowing the Betrayer to heroic combat into a rider on the end of Nicks force.

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This was a massive early play, if I was able to throw this rider I would knock over all his friends and dismount the majority of his force including the 3 Hunters, inflicting some serious damage and granting me an overwhelming mobility advantage for the rest an overwhelming mobility advantage for the rest of the game. It was then that the Betrayer would betray me for the first time. With a 3 highest, he failed to win the combat and stood entirely exposed in front of Nicks untouched army. Not good. A very tense contested heroic move was triggered next turn and I was very fortunate to win the 50-50 roll off and allow the Betrayer to very sheepishly fly off and rejoin the rest of my army, freshly out of might.

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The plucky rider to the right of shot prepares to repel a Nazgul on Fellbeast

At the same time in the centre I had successfully pillaged one objective and on the other flank Suladan over the next couple of turns would venture into a wood to destroy another, Bow fire being exchanged across the board all the while.  In this time Nick swung his army towards Suladans flank, the bulk of my force with the Wraiths in tow in hot pursuit. Combat broke out with myself taking the worst of it. Suladan was unhorsed and his warriors were falling around him.

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I was not entirely unhappy with this outcome however, as should I be reduced to 25% of my starting force the game would end with me holding 5 objectives. It would be a delicate  balancing act between getting to that point without giving Nick openings to break through and look to reclaim the objectives I’ve pillaged.

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Suladan managed to extricate himself from the melee as the wraiths arrived and began  unleashing a torrent of debilitating magic onto Nicks heroes. Legolas was singled out and received the full attention of both of them, successfully killing him  in a single turn of combat.

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Legolas had been threatening to use his deadly shot to snipe the wraiths off their mounts all game, a dangerous proposition with an auto hit and 3 might in reserve so I was very pleased to remove him from play. Aragorn, enraged by the loss of Legolas, left a path of destruction in his wake as he sped towards the wraiths, breaking me in the process. After slaying Legolas, I was able to successfully destroy Nicks third and final objective, securing all 6 on my side of the board. In the dying moments Aragorn dueled the Knight of Umbar to a standstill, unable to inflict any wounds on him.

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Positions on the final turn

My strategy had worked more or less as planned, I was able to leverage the threat of my fliers to seize the initiative and Nick was never in a position to take it back. Contesting me face to face would have been fraught with risk, but it may have been the option that would render the greatest opportunity to break through and get to grips with my objectives. Nick was as always friendly, charming and handsome.


Round 2 – Race to the Prize vs Henry Kerr

Race to the prize is a mission in which nothing starts on the board, but instead randomly deploys  along the table edges, with the objective being to capture the centre and hold it come the end of the game.

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Boromir Captain of the White Tower – Horse, Lance, Shield

5 Knights with Shield

1 Knight with Shield and Banner.

Faramir – armored horse, lance shield

6 Warriors of Minas Tirith – Shield

5 Guard of the Fountain Court- Shield

1 Guard of the Fountain Court- Shield and Banner.

Beregond with horse

5 Warriors of Minas Tirith – Shield

1 Warrior of Minas Tirith – Shield, Warhorn

6 Rangers of Gondor -Spear

Madril

6 Rangers of Gondor -Spear

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Mr Kerr had brought a very solid all-rounder Gondor force with good defense, good shooting, good numbers and good heroes. The only advantages I held were my mobility and my hitting power on the charge. If he got the bulk of his army to the centre and hunkered down I would really struggle to push him off it. I would thus need to intercept him on the way.

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Henry’s army was split across two adjacent board edges, and after some consideration I elected not to spend might to alter his deployment and allowed the Knight of Umbar to be deployed between the two groups whilst the remainder of my force came on from the a third side. I had a couple of reasons for this choice. He was in no immediate danger on the first turn and could get an uncontested charge off. It could also draw in Henry’s forces and pull him away from the objective or possibly allow me to sandwich half of his force from both sides should he choose to ignore him.

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Henry opted for the former, and combat swiftly broke out. Some fairly shoddy rolling drew out the Knights might reserves far earlier than I was happy with, but they inflicted decent damage on the first warband they encountered.

Boromir and Faramir began to enclose, and as the Betrayer drew near a fuilsade of magic was thrown Boromirs way, as he spent 4 of magic was thrown Boromirs way, as he spent 4 might and 3 will without seeing combat, before being dismounted as one of his men was hurled at him. Happy with this draining of resources, the Knight of Umbar bailed, leaving the riders in his warband to their fate. Henry’s hornblower had been clearly chosen for some higher purpose as he spent several turns fleeing from the Knight of Umbar to the tune of the Benny Hills theme song, avoiding spells, jumping over walls, throwing his companions into harms way until the Knight of Umbar was forced to withdraw.

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The lines of battle then reset, as I stood on the objective against what was still a very sizable and heavily armoured army. I’d neutered Boromir but hasn’t actually wounded him and we spent a couple of turns exchanging arrow fire as he advanced towards me. I came out much the worst for wear, and I could not afford to lose models in the same manner that Henry could. I thus needed to charge before he reached the centre and either run him down, or, what was looking more likely at this point, reduce myself to 25% and end the game before he could reach it and without letting my lines completely collapse and allow him to surge through.

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As my hand was thus forced, I did not  have the most optimal of charges and I made a minor error keeping Boromir from being jumped on which with the margin I was playing with I could not afford to do. The Knight of Umbar failed to win combat on the first turn and Betrayer on the second. I was dismounting models to be able to use the warspears to support them and getting them coverage to give them decent odds of success but as sometimes happens, the dice were not being particularly kind.

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Whilst lots of models were knocked prone, my charges were yielding very few kills and were being slain swiftly in turn. Suladan was cut down by Faramir in one round and the floodgates opened. The wraiths both lost combat and were destroyed. My riders were alas too brave and they stayed long enough for Henry to swarm all over the objective for the win.

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I am in two minds about that game. Part of me feels I played fairly well but got a little unlucky, and another that because I lost I needed to be more assertive and aggressive than I was. Probably both are true. Henry played well and made solid decisions to lead him to the win. I remember playing him whilst he was still a teenager four years ago, he has improved his game wonderfully. With a loss this early this was certainly a setback.


Round 3 Random Encounter vs Kylie Stevenson

Random Encounter is, as the name suggests, random. You are assigned 3 of a possible 6 sets of objectives for the game, from killing enemy hero’s to capturing their objectives.
Kylie may have been the filler army, but I knew full well and welcomed the fact that she was not going to play like one.

Warband 1:

Mahud King, with Camel, Warspear, Shield, Blowpipe

8 Mahud Raiders with Warspear and Blowpipe

 

Warband 2:

Mahud Chieftain with Shield and Blowpipe

5 Mahud Warriors with Spear and Blowpipe

5 Mahud Warriors with Blowpipe

1 Mahud warrior with Banner, Spear and Blowpipe

1 Warrior of Abrakhan with Warhorn and spear

 

Warband 3:

Haradrim Taskmaster

4 Mahud warriors with spear and Blowpipe

4 Half trolls of Far Harad

2 Half Trolls of Far Harad with Two-handed Weapons

 

Warband 4:

Ringwraith on horse with 2 Might, 10 will, 2 Fate

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Kylie sent her camels marching straight up the middle of the board and I readied to receive the charge, knowing that the fell beasts should be able to quickly dismount them and I could then pick them off before supporting infantry arrived. The impact charges of the impales did damage, but the Betrayer was in prime position to dismount them all with a hurl as the ringwraiths exchanged resource drains at each other.

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The Betrayer then betrays me for the second time in the same fashion,  losing combat against a single model on the charge with help. This was even grimmer than game one, because I’d copped the impaler hits in the knowledge there should be no more of them coming afterwards, but they could now immediately do more damage.

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And with that streak of luck damage they did, happily winning the subsequent roll offs again and skewering Haradrim on the charge with the impaler rule. The Betrayer was promptly slaughtered for his efforts, along with most of my army as Suladan came in to salvage my position.

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In the meantime the  Knight of Umbar was atop a roof battling over an objective and slowly killing a Mahud chieftain but was stalled out longer than I would like, scoring a solitary wound on 6 dice needing 4s. At the same time Suladan failed to slay the Mahud King, costing both of those heroes an extra turns effort, allowing the unchecked camels enough time to break me without reprisal.

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I was eventually able to kill all of Kylie heroes, but my courage checks to stick around were poor and the game would end 3 models before I was able to break the Mahud and possibly cause them to flew en masse because of their atrocious courage values combined with harbinger of evil and lack of hero stand fasts.

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Discussing the game, Kylie said she won the game off those 3 rounds of impaler charges and she was fortunate to get them, I was making good decisions but sometimes things simply go against you. I was inclined to agree, more so than the previous game failure at pivotal moments outside the reach of my might reserves were very very costly. But sometimes that’s just the way the game goes.

This was now two losses in a row putting me at a negative win rate for the day. I was disappointed, but not giving up. I said a couple of times and thought many more ‘3 big wins. Just need 3 big wins tomorrow’. The population of the event was small enough I could have the chance to play those leading the pack in the latter half of tomorrow if I could smash my first game, and if I could beat them as I go then I could drag them down with me. Having them lose games to other people would help, and was certainly a possibility given the strength of the field, but that was out of my hands. I’d just have to focus on myself. I would also need to have a serious talk with the Betrayer so he would start betraying my opponents and not me.


Everyone enjoyed a communal dinner at the local pub, and we returned to the venue for scenarios. Some people played Battle Companies, whilst Jeremy most kindly supplied the models to let me and Ben play ‘The Last Stand’ Scenario from the There and Back Again sourcebook. Very cool scenario, Bofur took over the troll brute, and it was just enough to allow Good to survive the 10 turns they needed against the endless recycled horde of orcs. Despite playing Evil, I was cheering for the Good side to win, but wanted to make sure they worked for it. Ben received some sound tutelage and sage advice under Kylies wing.

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Come back for day 2. Can I recover from this kind of debilitating blow? Two ways to find out; feverishly check this blog everyday until I publish it, or come and ask me in person. The best way to do that would be to come to Hobbitcon! 11th and 12th of August at Hall of Heroes Campbelltown, one and two day options!

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Thanks for reading!

Andrew C

P.S. We’ve got two Andrew’s posting here now so I’ve had to start signing off as Andrew C, feels a little strange… But its probably worth it if it gets Hobby Machine divulging his secrets.