Games Workshop

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!

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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

hcon

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

 

 

Path To HobbitCon : Shadow of Mordor

Hello and welcome to my first Blog post for The Grey Company. My name is Adam and I have been a wargamer since the start of the century dabbing in everything from 40k, Fantasy/AoS, Bolt Action, Star Wars and a few others. However, despite my on-and-off-again relationship… Lord of the Rings / Hobbit / Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game has been my favourite system since 2012.

Since then, I’ve managed to complete a number of armies, won a few tournaments and painting awards, made a lot of terrain, run a few events in New South Wales … and more importantly, made many friends along the way. 

Last year, along with two fellow gamers, I helped organise and run a new tournament in Sydney, called HobbitCon. This year, whilst still helping setup the event… I have decided step away from the hands-on T.O role – pay my entry fee and try my luck with the other players competing. 

So what is HobbitCon?

HobbitCon is an exciting and social weekend that aim’s to bring together Middle Earth’s keenest players from across NSW and elsewhere in Australia. The event will be held at Hall of Heroes in Campbelltown on the 11th and 12th August, operating with both one or two day options for players wanting to attend.  More information can be found at the venue’s website or Facebook page.

hcon

So what make HobbitCon unique? It is an escalation tournament, giving the players the chance to create and run two different forces over two days –  400 points on day one and then progress to 700 points on day two. This gives the players the opportunity to theme forces that represent a particular series of battles or journeys from the books, films or even…  non-canonical video games!

I have decided to build a 400 point list of Mordor’s finest scum and villainry for the first day’s proceedings.

So Why Mordor?

After many years of collecting and painting different forces,  it came to my attention that my Mordor collection had not been feeling the love like my other forces. Furthermore, with the forthcoming (and hugely exciting) boxset release Games Workshop, and their stated focus on Battle of Pelannor Fields and the war between Gondor and Mordor, what better time to start.

The List

After much consideration, I had decided to start a new and essentially unique force based off Monolith Production‘s hugely successful Shadow of  Mordor and Shadow of War games.

The Warchief

Ratbag: The charismatic and cunning orc captain that helps Talion on his quest.. and in return Talion helps becomes a Warchief of Mordor.  Ratbag will be represented by the Gorbag model and stat line.

ratbag

Warband Leaders

Ranger: Ranger is an Olog-Hai, a sub species of troll that inhabit the regions of middle earth. Ranger however is a unique case and works with Ratbag in gaining power in Mordor. Despite their unique relationship and issues, they make a formidable team. Ranger will be based on a Gundabad ogre or troll using a Mordor Troll chieftain rules.

SoW_Ranger

Narghaash, the cruel Orc Captain

Narghaash is essentially an Orc Captain mounted on a warg. He simply follows the rules for an orc captain. 

The Warriors:

15 Orc Warriors: A mixture of warriors, rabble and slaves lead by Ratbag.
5 Orc Trackers: Ratbag’s scouts and pathfinders who will outshoot every opponent.
3 Warg Riders: Narghaash’s warg riders, ready to outflank and cause mayhem.

So there is the 400 point list that I plan to complete by August 11th (along with some new terrain). Next post I hope to reveal the start of my force with some wargs and Orc rabble.

Stay tuned

rsz_shadow-mordor-review-5

Hobby Machine’s Courage of Numenor blog

Or, How to Call a Bluff

Hello everyone! Welcome to my first blog post for the Grey Company. I’ve been meaning to provide a recap of Clash of the Titans from February, however, due to a lack of recording the results of my games, a hazy day 2 thanks to the Baron*, and more projects popping up, I … well, … haven’t.

Quick introduction, I am Hobby Machine, I have been playing the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game – and its Hobbit successor – since 2002. I only got into the tournament scene fairly recently and have enjoyed decent success on the hobby side of things, winning Best Painted in Courage of Numenor, Mother of all Battles (MOAB), Hobbitcon and three of my last four Clash of the Titans events (and coming 2nd to Jeremy Shannon in my first ever Clash ’14). I earned the nickname after working on several armies at once, and presenting them in custom display boards.

What I love most about this hobby is the feeling of taking an existing force or faction, and making them yours through conversions, force organisation or just a unique paint scheme. Each army I put on the table – no matter that faction – has a story, and through similar conversion techniques and shared paint recipes (for universal things like human flesh, silver armour, etc.) can be identified as mine. Normally, my armies can be identified from a group by asking a very simple question, “Is there a Gondor force?”

Courage of Numenor

Courage of Numenor is a single-day 400 point tournament for Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game (as it shall soon be christened) held once a year in the South West region of Sydney. The low points cost is a boon not only to hobbyists wanting to start a new force (or adapt to a new style of play), but also to those who don’t want to worry about their enemy plopping down a dirty great big red dragon in front of them. It’s also a great tournament to try out new scenarios or amendments to the “Standard Six”.

For this occasion, I wanted to challenge myself. Last year I went with a Gondor infantry horde list, with Denethor, Beregond and Damrod leading as many warriors as I could muster. I quickly found out that the lack of Might on the board meant that I was losing priority/first move to cavalry elements and getting out manoeuvred and run down, or enemy heroes who were much better than fighting than a Ranger, a Guard of the Citadel or a mentally unstable geriatric would quickly mince through my shield walls. Time for something new.

Our very own Andrew Colman is on a hot streak of running all-mounted lists, and running them very well (as chronicled here) so I decided to run an all-mounted Gondor list! Now, I’ve never played an all-mounted list before, but I am always up for a challenge, so I immediately thought of a list that would combine everything great about Gondor into 400 points.

Step 1 – Leader. Ever since 1995 I have had a favourite actor. Ever since 2000 I have had a favourite book series, and a favourite book within that series, and within that book I have had a favourite character. When I found out that my favourite actor was playing my favourite character in the film adaptation of my favourite series I was overjoyed. Later, when I discovered this hobby and began to play with the figures, I found that the games designers had translated that character into one of the most powerful heroes of the game, with a special piece of equipment that combined with his stats made him a beast of a unit. Gondor’s first son, Boromir. I have played him in almost every iteration and possible equipment combination. All except one. At such a low points cost, I need a hero that can be both aggressive and supportive, to make sure that my small number of units can stay in the fight and bring their lances to bear upon the foe. I need him to bring his fancy tablecloth.

Step 2 – Theme. Even more important to me because it influences not only my force selection, but the paint scheme and conversion bits as well. I decided that this unit was going to be Boromir’s veterans and his bodyguards. Each Knight was going to have a shield that matched Boromir’s from the Fellowship of the Ring.

Step 3 – Warriors. As I’m going all-mounted Gondor, my force selection is rather limited. My troop options are Knights of Minas Tirith and giving Citadel Guards horses. I decided to go with a roughly even mix of the two, with the front line of five Knights backed up by 5 Guards with spears on horse. I threw three Longbows in there as well for objective-based scenarios and for getting horses out from under heroes.

Mustering the Force

Now that I have a theme in my head, it’s time to gather the pieces together. Thankfully, the wonderful plastic kits make conversions a dream. I had converted some mounted Citadel Guards with Longbows in the past, so I simply repeated the process here.

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Mounted Citadel Guards with (L to R): Longbow and Spear x2, Spear x3

For the Longbow-armed Guard, I used Warrior of Minas Tirith bowmen and Knights of Minas Tirith, I cut both models at the belt and glued the bowman to the Knight’s legs. For the more complicated poses of bowmen where the bow is attached to the legs, I cut the bow off at the wrist, and attached a clean one from another model once I’d joined the torso to the legs. The spear armed Citadel Guard were even easier, just attaching a Warrior of Minas Tirith spearman arm (that come separately anyway) to the body of a Knight of Minas Tirith (who don’t have their weapon arm attached).

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The cloaks were the tricky bits. With the exception of the leftmost Guard, all of them were done using the Hobby Machine Super Glue Method™. First, assemble the model as usual, then trace a cloak from a foot Guard model onto artists paper to get the size right. Then cut them all out and soak them in water so that they will be very flexible and be able to make the same of flowing fabric. Then glue the cloak to the model using superglue. While it is there, push it to shape, then – stay with me here – coat the entire cloak in superglue. Not too thick or it will form drops at the ends, but enough to cover the surface of the cloak. Once this dries, it will harden the paper, sealing in the shape and making the actual sculpting process easier.

Once the cloaks are completely dry, you can start putting green stuff (or your preferred modelling putty) on and start sculpting. I started with the upper portion of the cloaks, to help keep the cloak attached to the model and covering the seam where the paper leads onto the model itself. When sculpting cloaks it’s important to remember how the folds bunch up tightly near the shoulders, and then open up wider near the bottom. Think of them as giant M’s. The tool I use is a metal kitchen skewer, and the best advice I can give you is to be patient, remember you can always add to the green stuff – it’s much harder to remove excess once it’s cured, and always wet your sculpting tools. Nothing worse than dragging the putty and causing tears in your cloth (unless you’re making orc tunics, in which case, go for it but you’re going to have a bad time getting green stuff off your tools).

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The full force, assembly in progress. An example of my previous Mounted Citadel Guard is in the back row

The Knights were relatively simple conversions, I simply used Instant Mold to press-mold Fellowship Boromir’s iconic shield. Since I am left-handed, I wanted to include a left-handed conversion. I took a Warrior of Minas Tirith bowman, did a torso swap like with the Citadel Guard, then cut and turned the head to be facing the other direction, repositioned the right arm (which was the ‘released arrow’ pose) to be carrying a shield and added a lance where the bow was. Done.

And now that the warriors were assembled, I could treat myself to Big Bad Bozza’s conversion. When he carries the Banner of Minas Tirith, he doesn’t receive any defensive bonus from carrying a shield, so I went through the process of removing the shield – and left arm – from the foot model. Thankfully, Boromir, Captain of the White Tower is resin so the process is much easier than if it would have been in metal. I cut away the shield, Horn of Gondor and left arm from the shoulder plates down using clippers (be very careful with resin. Clippers can remove more than you intended and can send very sharp fragments flying at you. Safety first at all times, goggles minimum) and a stanley knife. I then carefully carved off the cord that the horn was attached to. Then I carved the resin around the breastplate on his left side, and his tunic.

Whenever I put Boromir on the table, I want to make sure he bears as close a resemblance to Sean Bean as possible. That means using the best sculpt of Boromir in terms of actor likeness, Fellowship Boromir. I cut off the head and the horn arm from Fellowship Boromir on foot, and attached them to the resin model. Pinning is a great idea, but not necessary for these areas.

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Assembling the foot model. Something’s missing…

Since the spare Banner of Minas Tirith I had was metal, that definitely needed to be pinned, so using a spare outstretched Knight of Minas Tirith banner arm, I pinned both it and the banner to Boromir. I also wanted to fix the triple-jointed banner arm that the mounted model has. That was a bit more involved. I used the Mounted Banner Bearer of Minas Tirith’s right arm, cutting off the banner (but still leaving it attached to the model’s head) and using pliers, crushing the remaining pole bit above the hand into a pin shape, to sit the resin banner on top.

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The banner on the mounted Boromir is just dry-fitted at this stage

I made sure not to glue the banner to Boromir until after I had finished painting both. At this stage, the assembly is complete!

Painting the Army

This army was going to be something special, and needed a fittingly special paint scheme. You might be curious as to why I sub-titled this article How to Call a Bluff. A fellow hobbyist, Michael, had been singing the praises of transfers/decals after a very successful Adepticon in the United States where he walked away with the Best Painted award for his 30K Ultramarines. He and I were getting into a friendly banter about what was better, freehand or transfers, so I told him I was going to put my money where my mouth was and feature freehand extensively in my force. Thankfully, the Banner of Minas Tirith is going to be a fine centrepiece to my army, and I made sure to include as many freehand details on each model as possible.

My plan was, since it was called the Banner of Minas Tirith, it needed to feature Minas Tirith on it! It just makes sense. So, what I did was trace around the banner onto a piece of paper, then after looking through Google Images for a picture of Minas Tirith, copied the outline of the city onto the paper to get the right scale before painting the mini itself.

There’s a great article in the old White Dwarf issue 362 where it shows you a few techniques to get great freehand, and those tips are what I put into practice with painting the freehand on this force.

  • Always thin your paints, it makes linework so much easier and if you need to fill in an area, use multiple thin coats
  • When painting in freehand, always plan it out on paper first, you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches later.
  • If your design is complex, us a series of dots on the extremities of the design to help you map out the shape, then simply paint the points onto the miniature and join the dots.
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All the detail on the banner is freehand, that should settle the bet!

I paid particular attention to the horses in this force as well, since it was my first all-mounted list and horses are a big part of that. I loved researching the different breeds of horse, the markings, mane colours and patterns, etc. Taking that little bit of extra care with the horses really helps add to the look of the overall model.

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With each Knight’s pennant, I took care to make them mini Banners of Minas Tirith, giving them the same colour palette and adding the same freehand pattern that is on the banner itself. (I don’t know what the pointy bits of the Banner of Minas Tirith are called.) I also painted a pair of sea bird wings on the shields for another focal point.

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Here are some photos of the finished army in action on the day. My results were 2-2, which I’m not unhappy with, considering it was my first time taking all-cav. Against Andreas’s Gondor infantry horde, I fared rather poorly, and my dice rolls weren’t very helpful. Still, with Hobbitcon around the corner I have plenty of time to get more practice games in and maybe someday even be as good as Master Colman! (yeah right)

Also as a bonus, I took home Best Painted! So many wonderful forces there including Andrew’s all-mounted Harad, Andreas’ red Gondor force and Eric’s four-clan Khand chariots.

 

 

 

*Baron in this case being the main ingredient by volume of the drinks I was being served by Bone’ead, one of the original NSW strategy battle gamers, and the Tournament Organiser for Clash of the Titans for many years

The Road to Masters 2018

It’s that time of the year and Middle Earth Masters in Melbourne fast approaches once more.

Let’s have a look back at how the past 12 months since the last Masters have gone. For anyone that I’ve played or spoken to you’ll know that I made a resolution after last year that my feet would not be soiled by touching the ground again and I would play where my heart lies, in all cavalry armies. I’ve been sticking to that resolution!

At a rough count, I’ve painted 152 models in that time across 4 armies. Painting mounted armies inevitably doubles your workload with a foot dismount added to every model you want to take, on top of the fact that mounted models in my own experience take between 3 and 4 times as long to paint as an infantry model from start to finish. It has the marvelous benefit of significantly reducing the backlog however, and I’ve made some substantial strides in reducing it to a manageable level, whilst keep new purchases to a minimum until it gets thinned out. The standard of my painting is now at a level much higher than it was a few years ago and has started to get some notice for painting votes and awards which is most gratifying.

Tournament wise, it has gone exceedingly well. Seemingly everything I touch turns to gold, with a win at every event I’ve attended. Good strategy with some luck when I need it has given me a considerable run of form. Many an army has been trampled underfoot by the glory of a cavalry charge.

Courage of Numenor (Campbelltown, Sydney) (3-0) Mounted Gondor

Wrath and Ruin (Castle Hill, Sydney) (3-1) Morgul Knights

Clash of the Titans (Cherrybrook, Sydney) (6-0) Rohan (Good) / Warg Riders (Evil)

Warhammer Wollongong (Wollongong) (3-0) Morgul Knights

Sail onto Brighter Shores (Castle Hill, Sydney) (4-1) Rivendell Knights

Courage of Numenor (Campbelltown, Sydney) (4-0) Mounted Harad

An overall record of 23-2 in games played translating to 6 consecutive tournament wins on the trot! The cabinet is getting a little full! I am delighted with my resolution to become the Horselord, playing cavalry is so much fun and gives you so much empowerment when it comes to decision making and seizing control of a game. With this kind of form in the run up I am undoubtedly setting myself up for massive failure in which I will crash and burn horrendously!

As a result of all this, it will thus come as no surprise that I will be not just flying south for Masters 2018, but riding.

I had at this point actually succeeded, with exception of a few extras and hero models, in painting up almost every mounted model I own. For the first time in over a year I was in unexplored territory again, as up until then I’d simply drafted the lists based on what was next on the painting list and drawn from that. I was free to dip into the spoils of tournament wins and redeem them on something that I had foot models for, but no mounted equivalents. Games Workshop had a bargain deal a while back for 3 Mumaks, shaving roughly $100 AUD off the price, which I purchased on what was admittedly something of an impulse (and looking back, was the last thing I grabbed before I introduced the no new toys until you paint what you’ve got rule! In hindsight, might have been correlated). They came with 36 Haradrim, and looking around at some of the increasing difficulty and expense of the OOP alternatives I was eyeing like Khand and Mahud, it was the most logical choice.

So I’ve ventured south into the desert for this one:

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The Knight of Umbar – Fellbeast
3 Serpent Riders
2 Haradrim Raiders – Bow, Warspear
1 Haradrim Raider – Bow, Banner

The Betrayer – Fellbeast
3 Serpent Riders
3 Haradrim Raiders – Bow, Warspear

Suladan the Serpent Lord – Horse, Bow
2 Serpent Riders
3 Haradrim Raiders – Bow, Warspear

Haradrim Chieftan – Horse, Warspear
2 Serpent Riders
2 Haradrim Raiders – Bow

36087169_10155670202415838_413976933995380736_n.jpgI debuted half of this list at Courage of Numenor. Hits hard, can’t take the hits back.

It’s a very hard hitting list, with some dangerous shooting power because they can manoeuvre for shots with the punch of the Betrayer supporting, and heavy close combat output with 2 fell beasts, a 3 attack character and lances with enhanced poison across the board. It is not however, very durable. The army is Defence 4. Cloth and wicker armour is not the greatest of protections! Half of it is also Fight 3, which is not great for a cavalry force that wants to get quick guaranteed combat wins and move on. The army appropriately needs to embody the serpent; hit hard, hard fast, let the poison flow before their prey has a chance to respond.

It has some dangerous matchups in F4 S4 armies – Iron Hills and Isengard present a serious threat that can match them in fights, kill them exceedingly rapidly and die relatively slowly. Elves are also a real nuisance in shutting down the Fellbeasts and stalling out the cavalry charges.

I know some people don’t like double Fellbeasts, which is fair enough, but aside from the competitive strength (which still needs to be executed well) it purely just cuts down on the volume of models I have to paint, which is a real Godsend. The excellent Joshua Colman has generously agreed to lend me a second one for the weekend.

I’ve painted half the required models for Courage of Numenor last weekend. I’ve opted for a black and beige-white colour scheme for the raiders, swapping out the black for turquoise on the Serpent elites to give them a bit more pop. Serpent guard and riders are OOP, so I’ve been converting them with Numenorean heads and making them the only models with the back banners, which is enough combined with the colour scheme to distinguish them on the table.  It’s been an enjoyable departure of the greens, greys and browns of the past few forces that preceded it. It was also nice to get a few comments and messages about them after the event. I now need to seriously get cracking on the other half!

 

Predictions:

Last years winner, Locky Rigg, won’t be in attendance, so that frees up some space on the podium, and improves the home state of Victoria’s chances of claiming a big interstate title, which despite being always in contention on the podium they surprisingly actually have not done since Masters 2015. That being said, my predictions are remarkably similar to last years:

My top 3 are:

  1. David Leonard – Believe it or not, he was equal first before tiebreakers last year and won all 6 games the year before, but came out in 2nd place on both occasions. Third time in a row I’m tipping him to take it, third times the charm right?
  2. Jeremy Shannon – We will undoubtedly narrowly miss playing each other once again, though playing me probably won’t hurt his chances of winning from everything I’ve seen and heard via the Green Dragon Podcast.
  3. Matthew Todd – Really consistent player and someone that’s beaten me solidly in our last two encounters, whilst nipping at my heels in the events that I did not play him.

A full local podium on this occasion, if ever there was a chance to bring home the bacon this is it for the Melbournians! I put David and Matthew in the same positions last year, and they ended up 2nd and 3rd respectively and I correctly identified all 3 podium members so there’s some kind of track record there.

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!

I’d like to conclude by promoting Hobbitcon, now in its 2nd year! 11th and 12th of August, escalation, one and two day options, interesting goodies,  and since I’m helping run it, you don’t have to play me! Come and play!

Thanks for reading!
Andrew C

A Guide to playing Rivendell Knights

By Andrew Colman

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The Greatest Cavalry in Middle Earth

I wrote this guide in the wake of the Australian Masters in 2016 and placed it on the Australian SBG Facebook, and it recently occurred to me that it would be an excellent idea to reproduce on the blog complete with pretty pictures. Some minor profile and lists changes since that time but it is all still relevant and useful information, so here it is!

Rivendell Knights have become some of my favourite models in the game, both aesthetically and gameplay wise. I’ve been playing them for the last 6 months, and they’ve netted me a 3rd in the prequel to Clash, 2nd at The Silmarilli and 1st at Masters. They require a decent level of understanding of the game to utilise effectively, as they can be unforgiving if you make mistakes, but in exchange they give you a very strong ability to dictate the game with good decision making. I like to compare them to Apache Gunships or Panzer tanks. Heavily armed, very mobile, capable of dealing massive damage, but will struggle if tied in down into a grinding fight against superior numbers.

A small note of caution. Rivendell Knights played ‘optimally’ can be frustrating to play against in a casual game against some people, but others like the challenge. As always, know your opponent and what will make for a fun game. If you’re doing well in tournaments with them with this particular playstyle, you’ll quickly be seeded against like-minded competitive players.

Profile and Wargear

Their profiles are that of a High Elf – F5/3+, D6, C5 are the standout attributes, but where the Knights really shine is in their wargear. Elf Bows offer you some of the best shooting in the game, lances provide all important killing power for your charges, Elf blades give you the capacity to duel most heroes with a decent chance of winning, whilst for more one point shields (which you should always try and take) give you the all-important D6 and the ability to shield on foot. All this equipment turns our Knights into walking Swiss army knives and gives you the flexibility to let the Knights assume multiple roles on the battlefield.

It is also worth noting both of their special rules, Woodland Creature and Expert Rider. Woodland Creature is incredibly important, it will allow you to win shooting wars, outflank your opponent, protect you from fliers and create a large zone of control in which your opponent does not have access to you whilst you have access to them. Expert Rider gives you D6 on horseback whilst having both shield and bow. Don’t forget this bonus will only apply when on horseback, so your dismounted models are not only less mobile but more vulnerable.

List Building and Allies

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The Elves can call upon the aid of the most powerful beings in Middle Earth

The heroes you decide to use with the Knights will ultimately determine a decent proportion of your playstyle because they are so flexible, but some basic principles will remain the same. Elrond’s Household is a very small army list, equivalent to Numenor with 2 named heroes, a captain and one troop choice. Something to note is the FAQ released after the list was published which allows models from the Elrond’s Household list to ignore the bow limit (would be otherwise impossible to play them). Editors note: Since then we’ve seen experimental rules that include Knights as a troop choice in a high elf force, that will most likely be officially published at some point. You can’t run a whole army of them, so they will provide a supporting role to an infantry force but you have a much greater diversity of heroes to lead their warband. Exciting times!)

Elrond- Elrond offers everything; He is an excellent leader choice with high defence, terror and rerollable fate saves, he is an S tier combat hero with his 3 Attacks and horse, and he offers some magic in the form of Natures Wrath and the situationally useful Renew. He can also lead Knights himself, unlike some of the ally choices I will run through later, which with the expense of these models does come into play. Whilst he is an excellent choice, I have not run him much because I think there are even better options.

Lindir: In some ways Lindir is an upgrade for Elrond, as I can’t justify taking him if Elrond is not on the table. He is cheaper than most of the other options on this list, sacrificing combat stats for presence in the magic department. Magic is one of the best ways to deal with Rivendell Knights so having a tool to deny that with a bubble of magic resistance is a nice option, but one that I don’t think can be relied upon. Enemy Spell casters should be willing to spend enough resources that one dice resists are difficult to pull off, but it can make them hesitate or use an excess. Potentially unlimited Natures Wrath’s from Elrond are very dangerous, but come with a couple of caveats. The two deploy in separate warbands so it may sometimes take time to link them up, and it can be tricky to ensure multiple turns of Wrath if you want Elrond in combat as well. Devastating if successful however.

Rivendell Knight Captain: The best Captain profile in the game. Access to a lance allows him killing power equal to some of the big 3 attack heroes in a way. Fight 6 and an Elven blade has him beating the vast majority of heroes. An Elf bow gives you another shot in your force and the option to snipe priority targets using might to wound. He can also importantly, lead the Knights, giving you a substantially cheaper option than Elrond.

A pure Elrond’s Household list is excellent, and you’ll probably have a higher model count than with some of the additional suggestions I’m going to make below (most of them are expensive!). What these suggestion do provide is even greater tactical flexibility in one or another, and the ability to specialise in a particular playstyle by honing a given strength and taking advantage of point’s efficiency.

Wizards: All 3 wizards mounted are useful to a Rivendell Knight army, able to lock down or move an important component of your opponent’s army either away from the battle or into a vulnerable position you can punish. Gandalf more or less guarantees you will win a shooting war in the open with blinding light, even against Harad or Grey Company. The extra movement from Shadowfax in both Grey and White versions is also useful. White in particular is very costly, but useful if you know there’s a high chance of encountering enemy wizards. Radaghast on sleigh or eagle also doubles as an excellent combat choice, and is anathema to enemy cavalry that can potentially tie you down. Whilst not on eagle he will also enjoy Woodland creature. Aura of Dismay is also great for preventing you from being surrounded and bogged down. Again, you do pay the price in points though. Saruman is the best choice as a pure caster standpoint. A +2 immobilise on a free point of will is both consistent and a real thorn in the side of your opponent, while the 18” range of both his immobilise and command mean that you can catch your opponent off guard, and if you position well, allows him to exert control over the entire battlefield simultaneously. He is also the cheapest option of the three, coming in a measly 160 points on horse. It is important to note that Gandalf and Saruman don’t have woodland creature, so you need to exercise some caution maneuvering in and around these with your army so they don’t get caught out or left behind.

Arwen: She is a good thematic alternative to gain access to a much cheaper Natures Wrath than Elrond. Disappointingly she can’t lead Knight’s herself (get on it GW!) and her actual killing power is mediocre, but she is still F6 with an Elven Blade and becomes a dangerous duelist with a Knight or two by her side with lances.

Legolas (both versions): Legolas is the ultimate sniper and arguably one of, if not the best models in the game for his points. Point him at big heroes horses, Casters, banners, horns, drums, and squishy heroes and watch them evaporate with the application of a Might or two. His upgraded younger self is more expensive, but offers you a three attack hero and F7 with an Elven blade in addition to his sniping potential. (Future Andrew note: Megolas is no more, having been written out of the profiles. Standard Legolas is still more than up to the task though.)

Gilgalad, Glorfindel, Aragorn: All three of these choices more or less fulfil the same role with minor differences; to charge into the enemy and output major damage. Glorfindel is a very nice leader choice with the Armour of Gondolin, Aragorn lacks woodland creature but has the incredibly useful Mighty Hero, while Gilgalad effectively has a permanent lance. Your classic beatsticks.

The Twins: They lack the raw hitting power of some of the other combat choices on this list with only two attacks base on horse , but they more than make up for it in versatility; You gain access to 6 might for a cheap cost and they can take bows. That’s 6 might you can potentially drop into taking out important targets before combat, or calling heroic moves/combats. They can also be in two places at once! If you do manage to lose one of them, you’ve effectively lost both them of courtesy of their unbreakable bond, so you do need to exercise some care, but I’ve only lost one of them on two occasions over sixteen games, so it is usually avoidable.

Rangers of the North: An interesting alternative, RotN are roughly comparable to the knights themselves in points. You lose the lance but gain Strength 4, lose a fight value and the Elf Bow/ Blade, but in return you gain an extra warband drop and a Might/Will/Fight. The extra warbands can be really useful in deployment in ensuring you can avoid dangerous elements of an opponent’s army or can commit your strengths to a flank without answer. It also offers a cheap way to shepherd a few knights with a potential heroic move sitting behind them and a little protection from magic. You effectively sacrifice raw stats for utility.

Boromir of Gondor:  A more unorthodox choice, but effective if you want a hand grenade to throw at your opponent for a relatively cheap cost. He’s an excellent throw away unit that doesn’t depend on the synergy of your overall army.

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My List:

The List I ran at Masters was:

Saruman the White (Army Leader) – Horse 160

Legolas Greenleaf, Prince of Mirkwood-Horse 135

Elladan and Elrohir – Horses, Elven Bows 170

Rivendell Knight Captain – Shield 90

9 Rivendell Knights- Shield 198

1 Rivendell Knight – Shield, Banner 47

This is almost exactly the same as the list I ran at Clash, the only difference being I sacrificed a Knight and Heavy Armour on the Twins to include the upgraded version of Legolas over the regular.

The reasoning behind this composition was a combination of point’s efficiency and role section. All 5 of these heroes are probably amongst the most the best value for points you can get. There are four F6+ heroes all with Elven Blades and plenty of might, so you can comfortably duel any selection of heroes. There is also crucially 11 might that can be dropped in shooting. If something needs to be killed, you have nice odds of killing it. Taking Megolas gives access to a three attack hero in the cheapest way compared to my original list. Saruman, although he lacks Woodland Creature, offers you incredible control over the battlefield with his range and “guaranteed” castings.
What the list excels at is removing lynch points in an enemy army with magic and shooting, while making it very difficult for your opponent to pick a single threat to deal with because you have so many. What’s important to note is that every hero with the exception of the captain is D5. Importantly, I don’t actually care, because the way you play this army means they should never be put in a position where that defence is going to really matter. They shouldn’t be getting shot, they shouldn’t be taking combats they can’t reasonably win and against rends and black darts their defence is irrelevant anyway. The Knights themselves offer excellent shooting support and numbers for objectives and combats.

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Deployment and Movement:

Some of the principles here will apply to mounted forces in general, some to my list in particular, but they are all important so I will run through all of them.

When placing objectives, try to always place them as spread as possible, and in opposite corners of the board (literally 6” from the board edges). The more you can split and spread your opponent the more opportunities you offer yourself to use your superior mobility. A smart opponent will try and do the opposite by placing them as close together as possible to each other and the central objective.

When you deploy your warbands, try to assess what in your force you do and don’t want to face or be in range of. For example, Saruman wants to stay away from Wraiths with Sap Will, while Legolas wants to snipe the horses off big heroes. In many cases if you want avoid facing an opponent’s shooting or get close to objectives quickly, deploy your heroes one by one then commit all the Knights to a flank and have your heroes regroup on them quickly to overwhelm one part of the battlefield. You always want to hold local superiority on the battlefield you are fighting, you should never have to fight your opponents whole army at once, mobility is key.

The “safety zone” for cavalry against infantry is 12” when those infantry have yet to move. 6” in that turn, 6” and a heroic move in the next, whilst against cavalry it is 20”. It becomes less when terrain is incorporated, so remember to factor those in. Obviously also compensate if your opponent declares a march. Generally speaking you want to be able to shoot as much as possible, so being as far back as you can is usually ideal. Don’t be trapped however, as you deploy and move have a plan of escape, whether that be breaking through a pocket of their army, travelling through terrain etc. Rivers and forests are your biggest friends that you really want to utilise to run rings around the enemy. Unless you can create a kill funnel with your heroes at the front, (who wants to fight a line of F6 Elven heroes??) try and avoid tight corridors if you have the option of remaining in the open safely.

If your opponent has casters, be very careful in checking their ranges – 18” spell range for something on foot, 22” for mounts. When they are inevitably within range, pay extra care to potential compels. Fellbeasts can charge a model 17” away at the start of the turn. Heroes can also charge into compelled models and heroic combat off them into your lines. When you’re measuring all these distances, it helps to be very clear what your intentions are to your opponent when you move out of range of spells or charges, especially when it’s only by half an inch. If you are concerned about magic, generally speaking you want to have your heroes at the front to body block models who can’t resist, and also so they can’t get blasted into them.

As the cavalry force, you want to try and lose every priority before combat- your safety range is shorter, and your opponent cannot react to your already greater mobility, or react to your moves on the turn your charge. Because of this, sometimes you find yourself having to commit earlier than you would plan because sometimes you cannot guarantee losing priority again and the opportunity for an uninterrupted charge again. This is a question of risk taking that doesn’t really have a guaranteed answer, but I generally like to take unanswered charges when I’ve got less than two turns of movement behind me for them to make. As you play with the force you’ll gain a feel for when is the right time to commit.

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Shooting

The knights will pretty much always win a shooting war against anything that isn’t grey company or covered by blinding light, because you only ever have to take the shooting wars you should win. Move and deploy so that you only have to face a portion of their archery with your army, or none at all courtesy of terrain and distance. Woods are your friends. You usually need fives to kill enemy archers with elven bows, whilst hopefully they have to make two in the way rolls for a forest and a horse, and then require sixes to wound if they aren’t crossbows (and why are you letting crossbows that have to sit still shoot you?). Don’t also be above calling a heroic shoot or accuracy in the first round of shooting to ensure you gain the early advantage if you need it. If you are engaged in a shooting war, your heroes should be relegated to the second rank to avoid losing their mounts, and in the case of my list, because they all have lower defence than my regular troops. Leave two gaps the size of cavalry bases in your line to allow them into combat without being boxed in by your own knights. Save the shots of your heroes until last if possible, its better not to use might if you don’t have to. Earlier shooting can knock out interceding models or remove the target you’re aiming for.

Your priority targets generally speaking are magic users, heroes’ horses, monsters and troops with D5 or less.

If you have a wizard whilst you shoot use him for disruption – blast and knock models back into others so they can’t shoot. Compel models in front of archers so they obscure line of sight, forcing evil models to take an extra way and potentially kill their own model, or prevent good models from shooting altogether. Compel otherwise safe models in a zone of fire and unleash on them. This is especially useful against banners and the like, especially with Legolas around.

If you are up against models with elven cloaks, try and shoot models behind them. The elven cloaks will become in the ways and suddenly sprouting arrows.

Dismounts in a shooting war become your dedicated archers and objective holders. Against S2 bows, have them as your frontline shooters, but against S3 bows, put them in the back row as they are now only D5 on foot. Spending heroes might in shooting big heroes, banners etc is highly recommended. Obviously you want to retain reserves of might for combat, but every nasty thing you shoot down is one you don’t have to fight in combat.

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Combat (The Blitzkrieg):

By this point, you’ve hopefully knocked out some portion of your opponent’s army, but this won’t always be the case. As discussed earlier, always try and charge on a turn that you lose priority to get an uninterrupted charge. I have on multiple occasions called heroics with every hero in the first turn of combat. It is the last opportunity to do damage with your opponent reacting, make it count.

One option is to have heroes buddy up with knights as they do their heroics for adding killing power with the lances.

Another option is the “Bolging”, as Jeremy would call it. Call heroic combats and threaten to run into enemy heroes forcing them to spend might striking, at which point you simply ignore them and chew up more troops.

Compelling a model forward and surrounding them, then calling a heroic combat to get in range and take your opponent by surprise is another option as well.

Another option is what I like to term the “Heroic Retreat”, or cycle charges. Charge in, call heroic combats, then when you move again withdraw out of your opponents range. You’ve killed enemy models and they can’t catch you with heroic moves on the next turn. Rinse and repeat as desired.

Don’t commit your entire line of Knights in the first wave of charges. Keep some 6” away from the fight. Thus on the second turn of combat when the inevitable heroic roll off occurs, no matter if you win or lose you still have access to charge bonuses and lances in the second wave.

Ensure your banner covers as many combats as possible, particularly those for your heroes. It really makes a big difference when you hold the fight value advantage, improving your odds of rolling the unbeatable six.

Lances are deadly! In my list the Knight Captain has the most killing power in some situations because of it. Don’t forget they will still work against enemy cavalry and monsters so long as you still charge. With “guaranteed” wins, going two handed feinting with an elven blade is actually more effective than the lance because you can reroll ones as well as well as the +1 to wound.

Fighting against you in woods or rivers is horrific for most opponents. Woods are very convenient, but rivers are downright deadly. If you knock down models in the river with your charges or sorcerous blasts, they have to take swim tests! Especially nasty against solid infantry lines with heavy armour and shields, you’ll drown half of those you knock down.

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Objectives and winning games:

It’s entirely possible to still lose games despite killing double or triple the models of your opponents if you neglect the objective of the mission you are playing. Pay attention to your opponents break and 25% points, you should be playing your movements around those. Against low courage armies you can scatter and capture objectives just before or after they break if you make sure to knock out shamans and immobilise or charge heroes. Against higher courage force you will need to commit to a narrower margin. Work out an average of how many will die/run a turn and give yourself two turns grace to obtain objectives. Try to time it so that there is one model more to break or reach 25% at the end of a turn to effectively give yourself an extra turn than what you otherwise have. I have deliberately chose not to shoot, or shielded or gone two handed feinting to make it harder to win and kill models if I don’t want a model count point reached.

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Dismounting:

If you want to really catch your opponent off guard and slip through a gap your cavalry can’t make, dismount! You gain an additional inch of movement for effectively free as well, because you place the dismounted model in base contact with the mounted model then remove the mounted model. There’s a decent element of risk in sacrificing your mobility and killing power, but it can really throw a spanner in the works when you charge that pesky banner or caster that your opponent thought was safe. It’s also sometime necessary if you want to enter buildings or very tight pockets of terrain.

Dealing with flying units:

Hide in woods if you can, don’t let fellbeasts compel you out, try and shoot the living daylights out of them when they come within range (as the opponent it’s generally a good idea to hold the Fliers back until the infantry are in range so they can absorb fire and support them). Try and get multiple heroes into them, abuse elven blades and multiple strikes to make sure you shut them down or they can rip your army apart single handed with hurls. If it’s an eagle, immobilise ASAP every turn or run a hero into it, it only has two attacks. If it’s Gully, introduce him to Legolas. A single knight on the charge will pummel a bat swarm, two will definitely kill it. Against a Dragon, if possible see if you can simply break the army, otherwise same ideas as a Fell Beast.

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How to beat Rivendell Knights

So I’ve just spent three and a half thousand words explaining how to win games with Rivendell Knights, it’s probably appropriate to spend some time talking about how to beat them. In the hands of a good player, they are very very powerful, but they still have vulnerabilities and poor matchups. If you are matched up against them, you need to mitigate their ability to dictate the game and force them into making difficult risky decisions. They will struggle and probably crumble if you force them into prolonged combat. Rush them and get into their face to deny as much shooting as possible, call marches as necessary. Keep your threats at the back, allow lowly warriors to soak up missile fire and initial charges. Don’t be against making a staggered conga line of in the ways for them if necessary, even if it looks slightly ridiculous. Be careful of blasts if you do this.  Monstrous Cavalry, Magic and Blinding Light are all effective answers to Rivendell Knights as well. It’s also vital that you play to the mission as well- use your numbers to hold objectives, and if you see the opportunity, deliberately suicide your troops and end the game.

Elven cloaks are also tricky for because it places them in charge range if they want to charge or shoot themselves. Woses and Mirkwood Rangers in some numbers are solid (albeit squishy) counters.

Actual game time is also a factor; they have to kill things and clear areas of the board to win, and although you don’t have that many models to move it still takes some time to achieve this. This does NOT mean you should deliberately stall out a game by taking 10 minutes to think about your next move. Rather stall through your gameplay; make them have to take an extra turn moving , deploy your men in multiple rings so it’ll take them more turns of combat to get through them. This can help chew up the time you need to win. Unless you have a specific composition this should be your last resort, the vast majority of games should be finishing within a time limit.

 

Conclusion:

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading through all of my ramblings on Rivendell Knights. It’s a bit longer than I initially anticipated! Hopefully it’ll prove useful in your games with or against them. If this causes us to see more Rivendell Knights on the table I’d be delighted (until I have to play them myself!), they are really lovely models that you can do so much with painting wise and they teach you a lot about how to play the game.

Thanks again for reading!

Andrew

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Titles and Adulation Worthy of the Greatest Riders in Middle Earth!

The Oliphaunt In The SBG Room… Where Are All Of The New Players going to come from?

By Ian Underwood

There’s a lot to worry about at the moment – the world is going to hell in a hand basket, but for me there’s a more pressing issue, and one that’s been rattling around my head for the last few months…. “where are all of the new Lord Of The Rings/Hobbit SBG players going to come from?”.

Despite all of the awesomeness issuing forth from the Middle Earth team at Forgeworld – both in miniatures and in the teasing of forthcoming projects… the community here in Australia is…to be honest, in a bit of a slump. Decline would be too strong a word, but in terms of tournament attendances and in general traffic and chatter on the local Facebook group… things are a little quiet.

People who’ve been in the hobby for far longer than me will attest that over the game’s sixteen year lifespan, interest has always waxed and waned, and that this is completely natural. I agree.

One only has to look at the boom/bust and rebirth cycles of GW’s other two games systems to see that we’re not alone in that regard….but at least with 40k and Age of Sigmar, Games Workshop is actively seeking to recruit new blood into the hobby. Each store’s demo tables are invitingly positioned towards the front of the store…and the manager will jump at the opportunity to guide a prospective new player through a round or two… and the starter sets are always close at hand.  Standard GW operating procedure for sure, no complaints there… but my original question still remains… where are OUR new players going to come from?

OK, lets break it down and start stating the bleeding obvious.

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Happy times… a bit of 2002 SBG nostalgia to warm the heart.

Presence

Lets face it, in Australia at least, our hobby has virtually no presence in the wider gaming community.

We already know that all Middle Earth products have been removed from Games Workshop/Warhammer stores. When I first took my (then) ten year old son into my local GW store for a test run, there were three demo tables – The Island Of Blood Fantasy set, the Assault on Blackreach 40k set and the good old Mines of Moria set. Halcyon days indeed!  By the time we’d both jumped into the hobby the Escape From Goblin Town starter set was out and most stores were rocking not just a demo table with the box set, but also the three trolls and maybe even some of the new plastic eagles as well!

The rulebooks, sourcebooks and both model ranges were stocked…and all was right with the world.  Contrast that with now… and imagine a similar young kid going into a GW store for a test run… Age of Sigmar or 40k please!

Its no better from yer friendly local gaming store (FLGS). Long before GW bricks and mortar pulled the plug on Middle Earth, the blue and brown boxes disappeared from virtually all FLGSs as well. Whilst there’s solid financial reasons why indie game stores don’t like stocking GW’s non-core products… the fact remains anybody entering a decent FLGS will be inundated by a huge array of miniature gaming stock… but nothing from our game. I’m going to talk about competition later on… but suffice to say, at retail its an SBG wasteland.

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Osgiliath inspired diorama photographed by the author at London’s Oxford St Games Workshop in 2013.

A year ago I would have struggled to tell you what level of presence LOTR/Hobbit SBG enjoyed within the wider tabletop gaming community. The only game I played was this one and the only gamers I spent time with were fellow SBGers. Sure, some of them were also active in other communities – mostly the other two GW systems and X-Wing/Armada – which was what all the hip young things were playing at the time…. but I was gaming in a somewhat closed community.

However, last year that all changed… as I broadened my gaming palette and started playing Warlord‘s excellent WW2 game Bolt Action (its OK SBGers its written by our own Alessio Cavatore & Rick Priestly!). This year I’ve attended a few Bolt Action tournaments and  have even taken the step of attending a few nights at what is easily Sydney’s most active gaming club –  A Company of Dice.

Even though there are number of gaming clubs in Sydney, I mention Company of Dice by name because (by tabletop gaming standards at least!) they’re a seriously dynamic community.  They play everything… No, I mean they play EVERYTHING…  from Napoleonics & Ancients to 40k, Kings of War, X-Wing/Armada, Blood & Plunder and of course LOTS of Bolt Action,  I’ve even seen battle reports on their Facebook group of some weird pre-historic game with Neanderthals and Woolly Mammoths!  In short they’re a serious bunch of gamers… .good guys all… you put a miniature on a table and roll some dice, and they’re in…

BUT… no one there plays the LOTR/Hobbit, and in the clubs two years of existence… never have. In the 12 months or so I’ve been lurking on their Facebook group, I’ve seen literally hundreds of WIP posts and read loads of threads where they’ve all gotten excited by this new release… or that new game…. BUT never once has the Hobbit or LOTR ever even been mentioned…neither positively or negatively. Its an invisible game to most of them…and we as a community are likewise invisible.

But here’s the interesting thing… once I mentioned over the proverbial Bolt Action table (usually as my force was being routed by someone half my age… well nothing new there!), that actually… my main game was the Lord Of The Rings (it sounds better than calling it the Hobbit to non-SBGers)… you start to get some pretty encouraging replies…. “Man, I used to love playing LOTR… but didn’t think anyone still played anymore” or  “We used to play LOTR but stopped playing because we couldn’t find anyone to play with”…. and “I’ll be up for a game sometime for sure!”

The outlook for future games in Middle Earth at the club is pretty encouraging, but the point remains, once we step outside the ‘Shire’ and adventure in the wider gaming community – its a bit of a shock as to how small a profile our game actually has.

Competition

Now, I’m really going to state the bleeding obvious here… the ol’ tabletop gaming market is a pretty crowded one… actually scratch that. Its an INSANELY crowded market.

I’ve heard it mentioned a number of times that tabletop gaming is in its renaissance, and I agree, Its a great time to be a gamer… but with all this competition, a lot of game systems are bound to lose out.

Think back to what the wargaming competition was when LOTR SBG was launched in 2001. If we discount historicals, it was almost entirely the other Games Workshop systems, 40k, Warhammer Fantasy and Mordheim. Perhaps throw a bit of Battletech in the mix…and that was it!

Think of the competiton for the tabletop gamer’s dollar now… its frightening!

Just for kicks – here’s a list of games & game systems that we are directly fighting for table space at the moment.  Some are huge juggernauts, whilst others are more niche and others are just launching or forthcoming… but all crowd the market.

I’m not including anything historical, steampunk or weird war/alt history in this list although those have their following, or even skirmish level historicals like Saga, Test Of Honour, Lion Rampant and Blood & Plunder, which are are growing in popularity and mine a similar market to SBG.

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Battle of the Logos… The fantasy market is a very crowded one.

 

Fantasy

  • Age of Sigmar (Obviously)… it has its detractors but still front and centre in GW stores and is clawing back market share,
  • Warhammer / Oldhammer – Still loved and played by many, if not purchased much anymore.
  • Frostgrave – Osprey’s skirmish level game has been a surprise hit with classy minis and excellent gameplay.
  • Oathmark – Frostgrave’s mass battle system has good pedigree and will launch next year but minis are already out and look more than decent..
  • Judgement – Australian produced MOBA inspired 54mm battle arena game. Kicking lots of goals with super stunning minis. Launched this year.
  • Kings of War – The obvious successor to Warhammer for massed battles.  Seems to be on the ascendent. Ruleset by Alessio Cavatore.
  • Hordes/Warmchine – Shows no sign of  losing its large market share, and still a huge slice of the fantasy/steampunk gaming pie.
  • Malifaux –  Unique card-driven miniature game is more of a competitor to SBG than you probably think.
  • Bushido – Oriental Fantasy/Feudal/Samurai game from GCT Studios. On its 37th wave of release, so somebody’s buying it.
  • A Song of Ice & Fire – A huge kickstarter that was backed in a few days and now sits at $1.6 Million pledged. Based on the books rather than the HBO series.
  • Joan of Arc – Time Of legends – An even bigger kickstarter that has been backed to the tune of $2.15 Million. Essentially a boardgame with piles of great miniatures.
  • Dungeons & Dragons – Officially titled ‘Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures’, these unpainted minis from Whiz Kids are based on classic D&D aesthetics… and were the third highest selling miniature range in the US this year!
  • The Ninth Age – Free ‘open source’ ruleset written essentially for disenfranchised Warhammer players. Jury’s out as to whether it will sink or swim.
  • ‘Fantares’ –  Debuted recently at the Warlord 10th Birthday event – this is Rick Priestly‘s pet project. A fantasy ruleset written for all and any miniatures and based on the D10 dice ‘Gates of Antares’ game mechanic… probably will see the light of day next year as rule set only. First reports are it plays VERY well.

So in fantasy alone, there is a lot of complete games, rulesets and some damn impressive Kickstarters that SBG is directly fighting for oxygen with… but its gets trickier when you consider the other games that, like SBG before it, license third party intellectual property for their setting and characters.

Its fair to say that LOTR in 2001 set the bar extraordinarily high for games in this category, but recently this market has become very crowded, very quickly.  As above, some of these games have become juggernauts and some are very niche (and quite a few, for whatever reason fail to gain a foothold, or can’t sustain the royalties of the I.P. holder)… but all appeal to a certain slice of the geek market – one that wants to play in the narrative setting of a much loved film/TV/comic franchise.

A quick list of the top licensed tabletop games would have to include the Knight Models Batman & DC Universe Miniature Games & their soon to be released Harry Potter Miniature Game. Mantic‘s Walking Dead and Warlord Games‘ Doctor WhoThe sector is also a graveyard of near misses and failures. Recent retirees from this cut throat market include Alessio Cavatore’s Terminator Genisys (excellent game/average film), Judge Dread and Knight Model’s Marvel Universe Miniature Game.

Combining Sci-Fi and one of the biggest intellectual properties of all time, Fantasy Flight‘s Star War’s Legion will be HUGE.  I’m about 30 years beyond my Star Wars obsession, but surely I’m not the only SBG gamer to see the hype explode online about this game and not be excited… and in fact have their heart sink a little. It won’t just suck oxygen away from all other systems – its will, for a while at least create a vacuum!

SWlegion

Star Wars Legion will create a vacuum when its launches late 2017. Just what SBG needs… more competition.

Sci-Fi gaming is too massive a market to list all all the games , but its worth noting that X-Wing and 40k are the two biggest games in the miniatures sector globally. Add in Star Wars Armada, Infinity, Gates of Antares and Dropzone & Dropship Commander and its a pretty crowded market…. oh and did I mention Star Wars Legion at all?

So its pretty obvious that its an insanely competitive market out there…. and I haven’t even touched on boardgames and collectible card games….. and where can you buy our LOTR and Hobbit products again?

BUT, its not all doom and gloom, there are some positives.

The Good News…

The fight is not lost. As a community we have still a few strings to our bow. Namely…

We have a GREAT product.

We love our game, and know implicitly that its an excellent, polished & above all very balanced rule set. It possesses a deceptively deep level of tactical sophistication, and for a 16 years old game system, holds up incredibly well when compared to the next gen of games and their more ‘evolved’ game mechanics.

The miniatures are fantastic.  The older LOTR figures hold up extremely well, with the Perry Brothers sculpts in particular having stood the test of time.  The newer, Hobbit miniatures – especially the plastics are likewise pretty fine. Granted there’s a few odd heads amongst some of the finecast characters – but its still a nice range.

As expected, the Forgeworld era miniatures are spectacular and should impress any gamer.

We have an awesome community.

We don’t need to be told, but we are an awesome gaming community. To be truthful most gaming communities are more than decent – but we pride ourselves on being among the best. We’re friendly, inclusive and encouraging of newcomers to the game.

We host charity events, lodge and ferry around visiting interstate players and our marquee tournaments are friendly, casual affairs – even when players bring their A-game to the table. Win-at-all-costs lists and play styles are shunned, and to be fair are hardly ever encountered in our Middle Earth.

Community matters – we shouldn’t understate this. When I was casting my eye around for another game to pick up 18 months or so ago, I almost jumped into 30k/Horus Heresy on the strength of the three fellow gamers who independently raved about how great the community was.  In the end I chose Bolt Action for reasons of cost and familiarity with the historical setting….. and luckily found an equally awesome community to adopt…. about the point remains – gamers talk, and the kind of community that we have is a selling point that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Middle Earth is the BEST.

That’s kind of a rubbish heading… but seriously, do I really need to explain why Tolkien‘s vast legendarium and the cinematic vision of Peter Jackson and the WETA workshop team make for an awesome game setting for toy soldiers?

Visually, WETA’s artists and designers knocked it out of the park with the aesthetics of both trilogies and Tolkien’s work has an emotional depth born of not just a lifetime of study in the stories and mythology of Dark Age Europe but also of the sorrow and pain of serving in, and surviving the Great War.

The breaking news that Amazon has bought the rights to produce a LOTR prequel series for a reported $200-250 million will only add to the existing universe of Middle Earth. Its doubtful we’ll see Games Workshop produce miniatures from this series as the intellectual property for the Amazon series belongs to a different set of rights holders than the Hobbit & LOTR films & books – but there’s no doubt, that like the Shadow Of Mordor game series before it – the Amazon series will inspire armies and army lists built from the existing range.

A strapping game system alone however, does not in itself guarantee a game’s success. Players crave narrative depth, which is why GW has spent so much time and effort creating the dark future for 40K, and why Warlord is commissioning writers for a series of Gates of Antares novels.

We take it for granted, but Middle Earth is arguably the greatest fictional setting for any miniatures game out there. We win this one!

A Guaranteed Future for SBG

It wasn’t that long ago when a recurring question on SBG forums and FB groups was “What will happen if GW drops the game”… now a year later we have a dedicated 5 man Middle Earth team attached to Forgeworld producing amazing miniatures and on a 5 year mission finish the Hobbit range and reinvigorate the LOTR range. New miniatures, new rules, new supplements and a Middle Earth team that actively engages with the global community and even occasionally competes in the British tournament scene. What could be sweeter.

In short, the game has a future with presumably options to extend beyond the five contracted years if desired. This is actually a huge selling point.

A Legion of Former-Players exists out there.

SBG in its glory days was a hugely successful game that helped put Games Workshop where it is now financially. The story goes, that when the range was launched back in 2001, they sold what they had projected to sell in the first year… in the first month!

The game also enjoyed a serious second bounce when the Battle Games In Middle Earth fortnightly series kicked off in 2005 by publisher De Agostini. Due to popularity, this series of magazines and models sold in newsagents was extended several times and ran for 91 issues (that’s over three and a half years!).

SO, there are a LOT of former players out there, and I’m guessing many of them will have sepia-toned memories of teenage battles in Middle Earth with poorly painted minis. And I’m guessing there’s still armies of early LOTR minis sitting in figure cases across the country under beds or in garages waiting to do battle again.

BGIME

Battle Games In Middle Earth ran for 91 issues – over three and a half years and gave the hobby a serious second bounce.

So Where To From Here.

Recruit and be visible.

Quite simply, we need to recruit. Its obvious that our community needs players to replace those who naturally fall away or lose interest in the game. In the past, the heavy lifting in this regard was left to Games Workshop, but there are no more demo tables in the stores and no product on the walls. That just leaves us….

We need to be more visible in the general gaming community. Play games at home by all means, but be mindful… that every time you take a game to either a gaming store or wargaming club you’re helping dispel the myth that the game is dead. Two enthusiastic players with lovely miniatures and terrain battling it across the table top in a public gaming space will do more to spread awareness in the game than just about anything!

It was good to see both Brisbane and Perth recently host SBG tournaments at larger gaming conventions. I’m sure I’m not the only one to check out the other games systems (“De Bellis Antiquitatis – what an earth is that!”) – being run at these large events when I register online and later when I wander around the tables.  Its awesome having an SBG presence at these events.

Unfortunately, the last two attempts to re-establish SBG at MOAB (Mother Of All Battles) in Sydney have been underwhelmingly attended affairs and it was decided to give it a miss this year and put our collective efforts in HobbitCon. Sometimes, there is just too much entrenched competition for tournament spots… but in general, its great to show our colours at these events.

We need to be our own P.R. company.

At MOAB recently in Sydney, my other Grey Company correspondent, Andrew Colman and I attended the Bolt Action tournament. On the first day we both wore Tolkien themed tops and Andrew used his Rohan dice. His first game was, (by pure chance) against a former LOTR player and one of the main organisers of the Company Of Dice club. By the end of the second day of MOAB a couple of the club members had vowed to pick up, or return to the game and were surprisingly enthused about giving it a try… and I can confirm that an Easterling army has recently been purchased.

Next January at CanCon in Canberra, Andrew, Adam and I (the three of us who ran HobbitCon this year) will be attending the Bolt Action event in some kind of LOTR inspired, eBay-purchased, team t-shirt. We’ll hopefully raise some eyebrows and start a few conversations as we plummet down the Bolt Action rankings… but its in these conversations we may find someone willing to share in OUR adventure…

As tokenistic as the team shirt will be – we’ll at least have metaphorically removed our ring of power and become more visible amongst our gaming peers.

In summary, we need to be less passive about our hobby. We have a great game and are a great community… and have some pretty exciting new releases coming before Christmas.

The best thing to happen to the hobby was the creation of the Australian Facebook group a number of years ago. It brought us together as a community. We need now to make the next step….

Get out and play some games and rub shoulders with other gamers. Join a club or start frequenting a gaming space… be loud and proud. A little SBG evangelism won’t go astray.

For my part, next year I’ll be helping to run an SBG ‘boot camp’ at the Company Of Dice and will have a new shiny Battle Companies book to show off.  I’m actually pretty confident of the Sydney community experiencing a bounce in members next year.

HobbitCon 2018 is looking good, and I’ll see a bunch of you at Clash Of The Titans before that. Get out there and get your freak flag!

“The world is not in your books and maps, it’s out there”Gandalf

 

 

There and Back Again: A Masters Tale Part 2

A Masters report by Andrew Colman

Welcome back to the second part of my blog covering the Australian SBG Masters for 2017. In this part I’ll be covering the group stage on the first day of play. If you haven’t already, go back and peruse the blog entry I composed prior to the weekend, I do a preview of all three of my group stage matches and an in depth discussion of my own list which should give you some good context.

Day 1: The Road Goes Ever On and On

Friday night saw myself and Liam Dailly travelling down from Sydney to Melbourne where we were joined by Lachlan Rigg from WA and hosted by the magnificent Joshua Colman (as his surname would suggest). Together we made up the ‘Fallen’ representatives at Masters under the pseudonym of ‘The Barons’. Saturday morning was a bracing 1 degree above 0 as we plodded around in at least 4 layers. A trend of extremely cold weather seems to hang around the Melbourne events I’ve attended the past few years. Whilst the turnout for this year was a little disappointing, it was great to see both some familiar faces and get the opportunity to meet some new ones. The quality of painting and creativity in display boards made my choice for best army difficult, but I ultimately voted for Tim’s Double Mumak army just ahead of Josh’s Werewolves. Coincidentally, I’d have the pleasure of playing both of these armies on Day 1.

In the interest of assisting those who might be looking to improve their game, throughout my discussion of each of these matches I will try to convey my thought process going into the game, how it plays out and you could possibly learn from it. Before you start each game you need to identify several factors; the strengths and weaknesses of your army, the strengths and weaknesses of your opponents, how they will subsequently interact with each other and the nature of the mission you are playing, and what point in all of the these interactions will yield you the greatest advantage. This is a fairly overt way to articulate it, but everyone who’s ever played a miniatures game will have done this on some level.

Game 1: Supply Lines vs Joshua Colman (Dwellers in the Dark)

Wild Warg Chieftain

9 Dwellers in the Dark

Wolves1They don’t bite…they rend

The supply lines mission revolves around getting points for holding up to 3 objectives in every turn. Josh’s werewolf army was using dweller in the dark profiles, meaning there were 9 monsters with regeneration and higher fight value than my big hitters. I knew if they got into my goblin line they would inflict horrific damage and start a bowling competition with the amount of hurls they would unleash. The mission lay heavily in my favour however as I could easily get to all 3 objectives with superior numbers and quickly gain points Josh had limited mechanisms to answer. He also possessed only a single might point, guaranteeing me the ability to move as and when I needed to. Fury and the high courage of the Numenoreans meant the terror on his models wasn’t a heavy concern, whilst if I beat the werewolves in combat there low defence meant i could return heavy damage on them.  It was the epitomy of a glass cannon. With all these factors in mind, I was cautiously optimistic that if I simply control the game I should come out with a win. We were playing on a beautiful Khand board that drew some inspiration from Japanese aesthetics of our world. The central objective lay just outside a portico style gate in the centre of the board. This created a natural choke point that only one or two wolves could access, so a coterie of goblins proceeded to huddle in its shelter throughout the course of the game hoping they wouldn’t be killed by their hurled brethren. A stone wall run through the board on either side of the gate.

Wolves2The flying Goblin formation (with camera blur)

Hesitant about dividing my army with one half cut off by the wall, I formed a defensive V formation spearheaded upon the gate and prepared to stall out whilst I gained objective points.

My initial manoeuvres made it difficult for Josh to commit many of the dwellers and I was able to weather the initial onslaught with a little bit of luck. Meanwhile the scribe began his magic and the reinforcements began to roll in, drawing Wolves away from the primary conflict.

Wolves 3It’s rude to hurl your dinner, please just kill and eat it like a normal giant Wolf would (My inner monologue for most of this game)

The Dark Marshal and the Goblin King then proceeded to use this as an opportunity to go on the counterattack, striking up and surrounding dwellers to bring them down whilst using magic to keep others locked down. A piercing striking Goblin King with Burly needed 2s to wound the defense 5 Dwellers with 6 attacks when trapped. Ouch! This chained with heroic combats saw several dwellers downed. The goblins in the centre had taken a bit of a beating and were broken in that time however, and the King / Marshal were drained of might.

Wolves4Bottom Right: A conveniently Dweller shaped hole in the midst of the Goblins. Forcing Josh to split his army made it very difficult for him to produce the shock and awe tactics he needed.

 By this point however Goblin reinforcements were swarming over the remaining objectives and the day was clearly carried. The surviving dwellers were buried under the remaining goblins whilst the Dark Marshal heroically delivered the coup de grace to end the game, fading out of existence beside the Wolfs corpse as he lost his last will point. Ultimately a bloody victory, but a comfortable one that I didn’t make tangible mistakes in and felt in control. As much as he likes to compete Josh was a top sport as usual and clearly still enjoying himself even when losing.

Final score: 19-3 

 


Game 2: Race to the Prize vs Nick Beattie (Iron Hills Dwarves)

Dain Ironfoot – War Boar
11 Iron Hills Dwarves 

Iron Hills Captain
11 Iron Hills Dwarves 

Iron Hills Captain – War Goat
6 Goat Riders

Dwarves1‘We’re on lads! Let’s give these bastards a good hammering!’

Race to the Prize is a more balanced version of Hold Ground. Nothing starts on the board but instead randomly deploys from any board edge, runs to the middle and seeks to capture the objective and the artifact atop it. I was playing against Nick Beattie, who as I mentioned in my previous blog, from everything I heard was quickly picking up the game with the benefit of his experience in other war gaming systems. As you’ll soon see, ‘quickly’ is a severe disservice to his ability.

Iron Hills if they can bunker up are a nightmare to dislodge, but I knew that I could most likely outflank them plus the fact they needed to move to the centre while being harassed and only having limited options to stop my reinforcements. The Iron Hills army rule meant that the dwarves could always arrive when and where they wanted to (a 2 could be pushed down to a 1, a 3 could be pushed up to a 4, a 4+ is effectively a 6) so I had no hope of looking to catch them out, but was prepared to spend as much might as necessary to make sure my army came on together, its strength is in numbers. I held a decent might advantage at 11 to 7, but this was mitigated by the Captains special rules to potentially copy my actions for free. Double monster gives me good tools to take out the goats with hurls and the Marshal could shut down Dain with magic for most of the game hopefully. With all this in mind I was reasonably confident I could pull out the win against a newcomer. Nick had never encountered many of the things in my army, including Ringwraiths, Shamans and flying monsters. It was only his 2nd large point’s game and something like his 8th game in total.

I began by deploying some of my smaller weaker warbands with less might, so that if necessary the big things could spend might to come on and protect them. The Scribe was my first warband and immediately rolled for reinforcements, which combined with the spreading of that warband resulted in my covering 44 inches of a board edge in which Nick could not deploy because he would be within 6 inches of one of my models. He did however deploy his goats towards the edge of that board edge. I responded with more goblins, he deployed infantry some distance away on the short board edge. The King, The Dark Marshal and Grinnah all spent might to appear in the face of the Goat Riders. Nick immediately realised his error in not deploying his force together and resolved to do everything to mitigate his losses.

Dwarves2‘Send in the Goats’ –Dain

The goats would not be able to outrun the fellbeast who could compel, charge one and then hurl or heroic combat, so he decided to commit them in to buy time for the dwarves to reach the centre and do as much damage as possible. My jaw then proceeded to hit the floor as he looked to block the flying fellbeast by using his models to prevent a space for it to land in the back line. This is a fairly advanced tactic, and most players pick it up after a long time playing where they’ve seen it been done before. This man was doing it despite having never even played against a model with fly before. I was later told in his 2nd game ever he’d dismounted in order to able to fit through a particular gap. This is something people playing the game for years don’t do.

The goats were fairly swiftly swarmed and brought down with a combination of magic, hurling and sheer numbers whilst the rest of the Goblins swarmed for the centre from the shortest possible distance from a table edge.

Dwarves3The horde swallows the goats up, leaving nary a trace behind

At this point I was very confident of taking away the win, but I also realised I had someone who would have a great mind for the game and was very open to learning. The rest of the game was in some respects almost a cooperative venture, with both of us openly talking from both sides of the fence what our tactics should be and what our opponent should expect and how to react to that. Nick would end up earning my best sports vote, despite his early losses he wholeheartedly threw himself for the rest of the game into discussing how he should be trying to mitigate his losses and recover with an upbeat and very perceptive attitude.

Dwarves4Dwarves are natural sprinters, very dangerous over short distances!

It was then a headlong march for the centre, with harassing goblins from behind and the mercenaries deploying near the centre blocking off the dwarves ensuring I would comfortably envelop it before Nick could get there. The artifact was snatched up and quickly put into the hands of the Goblin King.

Dwarves5The Goblin Apocalypse is upon us

The Dwarves formed their shield wall, gritted their teeth and began to grind relentlessly towards the objective. Iron Hills are incredibly hard to kill, even when completely surrounded, so a heavy extended melee broke out in the town square. The Marshal kept Dain out of the fight whilst I rolled a horrendous amount of reinforcements, using up the 40 odd spare goblins I had brought along, never anticipating I would use every single one of them.

Dwarves6I ended the game with more models than when I started. Not often you can say that.

The Dwarves eventually caved under the relentless pressure, not before bringing down the Dark Marshal. A very decisive win ultimately, but a most engaging and enjoyable game. I like helping people learn, and someone with a natural knack for it like Nick is very gratifying to watch. I think it’s fair to say, come this time next year, there will be another very dangerous competitor in the ranks, and I’ll be cheering for him. I’d love a rematch then.

Final Score: 21 – 3

 


Game 3: Breakthrough vs Tim Wraight (Double Mumakil)

Mumak1Amazing display board and theme, got my best army vote

Game 3 saw me matched up against Tim’s Mumaks. As I’d suspected, the big things were coming out in full force from him. The objective of Breakthrough is to run your models off the opposite edge, with points for how many you get off. I had far more than he did, but his were much faster, and much harder to stop. If they all died or got off before I could get models to the other side, I would be losing very hard. The Goblin King could shake off a trample, but nothing else in the list can. The only other tool I have for stopping them is using the Dark Marshal to control the commander of the beasts. I couldn’t also let them die too quickly because then the game would end again! Speed bumps is the name of the game.

Mumak2Full Speed Ahead!

Tim sensibly split the Mumaks so I couldn’t slam them into each other and also forced me to divide my forces. The Mercenaries deployed early in one of the far ruins in the hope that Tim would turn around and try to run them down, which would give me some very crucial time to move everything up. He didn’t bite, and continued to storm forward, which I think was the right decision. If he gets a mumak off and ends the game he still gains more points than I do. The Purple Mumak squared up against the Goblin King, who stood at the head of a cowering column of Goblins that all stood directly in 2 lines behind him. After some thinking Tim elects to veer away from the King, reasoning that he has a low chance to kill him and will probably be losing combats against him because of the fight values. I agree with this rationale, he wants to get off the board as swiftly as possible. However, I think he would have fared better drifting to the edge of the board than towards the centre, for reasons that will soon become apparent.

Mumak3Grinnah and friends breathe a sigh of relief

In the meantime, the Dark Marshal was forcing the Green Mumak into reverse parking every turn, heavily stalling its movement forward. Most of the crew dismounted with rappelling lines, since they would be able to actually move faster than the 4 inches forward it was gaining each turn. In the meantime both Grinnah on my right flank and Black Numenoreans in the centre were sprinting towards the other end of the board unimpeded. With the Green Mumak stalled, the Dark Marshal flew over and was able to reach the Purple Mumak as it had veered towards the centre.

Mumak5Did you invite it?

I was then able to successfully turn it around a turn away from the board edge into the hands of the King and his merry goblins, who promptly took 5 wounds off the beast in combat. It didn’t stampede, but I wasn’t too fussed as the compel had also granted me an extra turns grace before it reached the edge. I was fortunate enough to win the Heroic Move next turn and promptly dealt another 5 wounds to the Mumak, bringing the beast down.

Mumak6Legend says in Harad this manoeuvre is called ‘chucking a uey’

The Beastmaster was the only survivor of the falling damage, and was hunted down by the Goblin King. The Dark Marshal returned to the left flank to answer the encroaching Green Mumak.

Mumak7Abandon Ship!

The Mercenaries, Black Numenoreans and Grinnah’s contingent sat on the edge of the board, but I didn’t move them off it.  I was close to breaking, and I didn’t want for everything to run unnecessarily. Thus they all gathered on the board edge waiting for the final turn of the game. As the crew had predominantly dismounted, the remaining Goblins on that flank threw themselves into combat. The Dark Marshal came in to assist, yet again delivering the coup de grace to end the game as the models on the board edge left to safety.

Mumak9On Your Mark… Get Set…

The end result was another very clear victory in my favour, as I’d managed to prevent Tim from getting a single model off the board. It was dangerously close though, the Mumak’s had gotten perilously close to the board edge. Tim as always was a great sport.

Final Result: 22-3


Day 1 Closing Thoughts:

I’d run the group stage very successfully, dropping only 10 potential points over the course of the day for a final tournament score of 80 from a maximum of 90 points. I believe this had me sitting in first place at the halfway point in the tournament. I was obviously pleased with this, but I knew that the high seeding I now had would mean the gloves were off and I was in for some very challenging opponents tomorrow. Round 4 was to be on the top table against Lachlan Rigg, the man I knocked off the podium last year and the winner of Clash.  It would promise to be a most interesting game……

Come back next time for my coverage of day 2!