The Hobbit

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

 

 

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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

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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.

back cover

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.

osigiliath

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.

logos

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 3

By Andrew Colman

Welcome to the third and final part of my Masters blog! If you haven’t , do read the previous two components I’ve written prior this one for context on what is occurring.  (It would also pad my already enormous ego to have people reading it!).

Day 2: ‘It is close, so close to achieving its goal’

Sunday dawned bright and clear, but still far below a soft Sydneysiders acceptable minimum temperature. A slightly later start time was appreciated for the extra hours’ worth of sleep. I was starting the day in a powerful position at the head of the rankings, but facing the task of maintaining it for the whole day against the top of the field.

I’d like to give a little context on the significance of my match against Locky. For this event we were both members of the Fallen so it was a team kill to start. We’d first met in the final round of Masters last year. In a game that ultimately decided the tournament with us both sitting on 5 wins, I’d secured 1st place by a good 15 point margin whilst knocking him down to 4th denying him almost all points over the course of that encounter. I knew that if I were him I’d be leaping at the chance for a rematch. We narrowly avoided playing each other at Clash, which he ultimately won, being on the top tables next to each other in the final round. There was a distinct feeling in the back of my mind that whoever won this match would have a very good opportunity to go and win the event. No pressure for round 4 out of 6 right?

 

Round 4: Random Encounter vs Lachlan Rigg (Survivors of Laketown)

Warband 1

Bard the Bowman with Armour and Horse (LEADER)

2 Lake-Town Militia with Spear and Shield

2 Lake-Town Militia with Spear and Bow

4 Lake-Town Militia with Shield

1 Lake-Town Militia with Bow

 

Warband 2

Percy

4 Lake-Town Militia with Bow and Spear

6 Lake-Town Militia with Bow

 

Warband 3

Alfrid the Councillor

5 Lake-Town Militia with Spear and Shield

4 Lake-Town Militia with Shield

 

Warband 4

Gandalf the Grey with Horse

5 Lake-Town Militia with Spear and Shield

4 Lake-Town Militia with Shield

 

THRANDUIL’S HALLS

Legolas, Prince of Mirkwood with Horse

IMG_0504[1].JPGAny man who wants to give their last, follow me!

The mission we were playing was Random Encounter. Every player receives a random assortment of 3 out of a 6 possible objectives. Crucially, you do not which objectives your opponent has secured. The opportunity to play mind games with your opponents  was apparent. I indulged in it wholeheartedly, perhaps overindulged as we shall soon see. The 3 objectives I received were:

Bodyguard: Keep my leader alive, have more heroes alive

Capture: Capture my opponents objectives

Destroy: Break my opponent’s army

I was pretty confident that I would be able to fulfill all of my objectives. The scribe and mercenaries gave me a very good opportunity to lockdown the objective points, the Goblin King is very difficult to kill and I had more heroes to start than Locky. Double Monsters hurling through a defense 4 army should be able to do the work they needed to in order to break Locky as well. We were playing on the fantastic Pelagrir board, with lots of cover, ruins, chokepoints and general theme oozing out of every crevice. From a tactical standpoint, it gave me good cover from the nasty volume of bowfire Locky was packing. There were 12 bowman backed up by Percy, alongside the sniper team of Legolas and Bard. Deployment had me placing everything at the back of the board bar the Goblin King’s warband, which meant I had some difficult decisions to make. Ideally most of my army would be towards the front so they wouldn’t have to run the gauntlet of missile fire hailing down from both bridges. But since they weren’t, did I leave the Goblin King to make the trip with them or commit him straight into combat? I ultimately opted for combat, reasoning that should he be at risk I could simply rotate him out reasonably comfortably. It’d also give me the opportunity to mind game him into thinking I didn’t have the Bodyguard objective and potentially reduce the focus that he’d otherwise receive.

IMG_0548[1]Locky assumed a commanding sniper position atop the two bridges

The Goblins all surged forward in a mad dash to spend the least amount of time under the withering hail coming from the the two bridges on overwatch. Grinnah was brought down in an enfilade of fire from Legolas and Bard and the Shaman was left with one wound and no fate, but the rest of the archery was thankfully not as devastating as it could have been with only light to moderate casualties. The Goblin King slammed into the laketowners and throwing bodies left and right. Some plucky goblins opted to jump into the water and attempt to swim under the bridge. A few of the more allergic to washing stumbled and drowned. Meanwhile the scribes reinforcements were beginning to encroach on his position from behind.

IMG_0549[1]The elite goblin Marines dons their scuba gear and jumps into the water.

In the meantime the Dark Marshal and the Black Numenoreans threatened his left flank, causing everyone to withdraw to the bridge and ceding me sole control of 70% of the board. I had control of 3 of the 4 objective markers with an easy access to the final one, an equal hero count and the ability to get into combat and start tearing his troops apart. I was rightfully feeling comfortable about being able to score good points whilst denying him lots of potential objectives. Looking at Locky, it was clear he had realised the same.

But it’s never over until its over.

IMG_0550[1]A truly beautiful board.

The Goblin King stood in a chokehold only allowing a single model to fight him at a time, and he had slaughtered his way through a total of 8 milita thus far. Locky then opted to charge him with Gandalf, hoping to damage him with Orcrist as it ignores his blubber save. Thematic, but somewhat risky because of his lower attacks and fight value, in addition to being potentially annihilated himself should he lose a fight. It paid very heavy dividends however, as over 2 turns from 4 attacks he successfully dealt 4 wounds and slew the Goblin King outright. The unexpected speed in which he was vanquished took me completely aback and gave no opportunity to withdraw him as I had initially envisioned. It was an undesirable setback, denying me lots of vps  and slowing my killing capacity, but I still held a controlled position. Locky was tunneling hard on his archers dealing out damage, which allowed the Dark Marshal to swoop in over two turns and hurl them pell mell across the bridge. I made another crucial mistake in overestimating where my mercenaries could deploy and holding them back for far too long, and immediately realised they would pay no part in the battle. They were another part of the mind games I had been playing with Locky, and while that had certainly served its purpose in demoralizing him into a losing position, they now weren’t going to be able to anything to help me win! It was at this point I realised that I was letting the game slip away from me, when I by all rights should have been simply playing it out for a comfortable win.

IMG_0553[1]Defeat from the jaws of victory?

It was now crucial that I break Locky before the game ended to secure the victory and a clean 8 VPs to tie the game up irrespective of his objectives. The Dark Marshal flew into the midst of his army looking to seal the deal whilst the goblins closed in on all sides. The Dark Marshal did minimal damage on impact before being swarmed in the final turn of the game and slain. As the dust settled, I was a heartbreaking one model short of breaking him. One model denied me a full 8vps and rendered it 0. Losing the Goblin King had caused me to lose heavy VPs, and the loss of the Dark Marshal at the death meant that because Locky also had the Bodyguard objective, he had more heroes alive and could turn it from a 6-5 to me to a final result of 8-6 in his favor. I’d gotten into his head and Locky fully believed he had lost the match even as it ended, even as we were counting up the points. My mind games had been flawless, successful to a fault, ending up in some measure into tricking Locky into winning. The look of surprise on his face when he realised he’d actually won was priceless. By the end we’d gathered a decent crowd of spectators around the table in what was dubbed the match of the tournament, I’m sure it was a most entertaining game to watch.

As I look back at this game, there are multiple  errors I made. Splitting my force, losing the Goblin King, wasting my time with the Black Numenoreans and Dark Marshal and holding back the mercenaries for far far too long. I still back my decision to commit the Dark Marshal at the death, taking a 6 point win was far too much of a risk for the overall tournament standard, and even with a mediocre finish from me Locky had made mistakes as well, I was still heartbreakingly close to the break and the win, a single defense 4 model lay between victory and defeat across multiple combats.

Unfortunately you can’t win them all. With the advantages I created and the subsequent volume of errors I made when it mattered, I didn’t deserve the win. Far better to lose and learn from your mistakes than win and fail to recognise them. Good advice for life in general!

Final Score: 6-8

 

Round 5: Clash of Champions vs Liam Daily (Moria)

Warband 1

Durbûrz, the Goblin King of Moria

4 Moria Goblin Warrior with Shield;

3 Moria Goblin Warrior with Spear;

2 Warg Marauder

 

Warband 2

Moria Goblin Shaman

4 Moria Goblin Warrior with Shield;

3 Moria Goblin Warrior with Spear;

1 Warg Marauder

 

Warband 3

Grôblog

4 Moria Goblin Warrior with Shield;

3 Moria Goblin Warrior with Spear;

1 Warg Marauder

 

Warband 4

Moria Goblin Shaman

4 Moria Goblin Warrior with Shield;

3 Moria Goblin Warrior with Spear;

3 Moria Goblin Warrior with Orc bow;

 

Warband 5

The Watcher in the Water

IMG_0499[1]Who ordered seafood?

I was quietly disappointed after the result of the last game as I knew it was a powerful opportunity to retain my position on the top of the table. Regardless, winning the final two games should put me in good stead for contention should I pull it off.

Round 5 I was playing against my travelling companion Liam, the final member of the Fallen, meaning I had now had to play against all 3 of my teammates (a testament to the quality of our team that we were all at the top!). Liam and I had spent a fair amount of time discussing strategies in the days prior and I was quietly confident he was going to be a dangerous contender for the top echelons. We’d practiced against each other, so we had a fairly intimate knowledge of how the other persons

We were playing Clash of Champions, which is all about getting kills on your leader, and generally slaughtering your opponent. Liam’s Watcher wasn’t his starting leader, but there was always a chance he would drown Durburz. Even he didn’t, there was a severe danger he would simply snatch up Goblins and deliver them to Durburz on a silver platter. It was also very obvious that he would deploy on the river for the Watchers benefit, as with my lack of shooting I would have to approach him.

Accordingly, we deployed some distance apart in a manner reminiscent of a mexican standoff. I didn’t want to commit and have my champion snatched off by Mr Tentacles to be tied up for the entire game without any prior opportunities to get rid of all the will on his shamans and heroes, whilst Liam didn’t want to face my combat nasties and take the opportunity to shoot whilst he could. A cagey start saw us maneuvering for position, as I tried to stay out of Watcher range whilst throwing off sap wills left and right.

IMG_0555[1]A 6×4 board and we end up on a 2×2 square!

I forced Liams hand with a humble goblin, travelling at Mach 3. The Goblin King successfully killed a Moria Goblin with a thrown Goblintown minion, forcing Liam to engage else he lose outright. I was so tunneled on the Watcher’s movement within the water (which doubles it from 4 inches to 8) that Liam’s decision to take him out of the water took me aback. He swarmed up, threatening to grab the Dark Marshal.

This prompted a truly unique and memorable passage of play. The Goblin King remained stationary and prepared to throw another Goblin. Thrown Goblins knock enemy models to the ground, thus if I could hit the Watcher he couldn’t use his tentacles, which are a shooting attack. Liam calls a heroic shoot, fully aware of what I intend and looking to strike first. I called a heroic shoot in response. A few judicious might later, I win the roll off, successfully hit the watcher and knock it to the ground, preventing it from shooting, and crucially limiting it to a 2 inch move the next turn! This then lead to a massed heroic combat/strike the next turn, with the hapless watcher swarmed and brought down by the King, bringing his kill count to 2. To cap it off, as Liam realises Durburz will never now reach combat, he makes the noble sacrifice of drowning himself in the river, using might to move down the result and give himself a new champion! One of the more ridiculous passages of play I’ve witnessed in recent memory, yet one that made complete tactical sense at all stages.

IMG_0558[1]The Watcher in the Water is filleted for sushi like a fish out of water

At the same time on the other flank, Liam surges into the fray as he desperately tries to secure kills on Groblog, his new champion and use his marauders to run down my goblins. My Black Numenoreans were crucial in getting the fight value to prevent them from rampaging and locking them down. Groblog successfully gets 1 kill, before the Dark Marshal swoops in to immbolise him for the rest of the game. I was fortunate that he would fail to resist the first spell, which made me reasonably confident that I could keep him down and take the game, it was just a question of by what margin.

IMG_0559[1]Thrown Goblins were the clear MVP of this match

The Goblin King waded through the river as Liam came close to breaking. The Moria goblins clung together as the encroaching swarm of their brethren came in from all sides. As the game was coming to a close, Liam consciously stayed as from the Goblin King as possible. Knowing that he would be unable to reach combat, on the last turn he readied his throwing arm for one last throw. He hit, and slew another Goblin, bringing his total to 3, breaking Liam and making my champion kills greater than double his, for a slough of victory points for me in the dying moments of the game. Liam was a difficult opponent who’s getting very good at the game, and I think he’s going to be making waves in the events he attends here in Sydney in the coming months.

Final Score: 16-4

 

Round 6: Seize and Control vs Matthew Todd(High Elves)

Gil-galad on armoured horse w/shield (Leader)

4 High Elves w/elven blade

4 King’s Guard w/spear and shield

1 High Elf w/banner, spear and shield

3 High Elves w/elven bow

 

Elladan (warband leader) and Elrohir

3 High Elves w/elven blade

4 King’s Guard w/spear and shield

3 High Elves w/elven bow

 

Arwen

3 High Elves w/elven blade

3 King’s Guard w/spear and shield

4 High Elves w/elf bow

1 High Elf w/elven blade and elf bow

IMG_0492[1]

Gil-galad was an Elven-king.
Of him the harpers sadly sing;
the last whose realm was fair and free
between the Mountains and the Sea.

His sword was long, his lance was keen.
His shining helm afar was seen;
the countless stars of heaven’s field
were mirrored in his silver shield.

But long ago he rode away,
and where he dwelleth none can say;
for into darkness fell his star
in Mordor where the shadows are.

Mr Todd is a member of the Green Dragon Podcast and a true tournament veteran. I’d predicted him for 3rd place in preamble to the event. It seemed I would need to prove my own prediction wrong if I wanted to place myself! The final round promised for a truly interesting finale. Matt had been on a supreme high of confidence after day 1 with 3 wins which continued into round 4 with a massive win at the same time myself and Locky sunk each other in points. He’d been promptly brought back down to earth with a thorough trouncing from Locky in round 5. Liam was playing Locky and our hopes rested with him to tie him down (he received a barrage of advice from us). Were that to be the case, there was a field of 4 or 5 of us in contention for 1st place. It was time to play for all the marbles. We were playing Seize and Control, effectively Domination. Understandably my focus was intent on the match at hand, so there’s an unfortunate dearth of photos for this particular game, I only took a couple at the end. I will endevour to make this an appealing chunk of text!

My list does exceptionally well at Domination being able to capture all the objectives simultaneously.  We were playing on a heavily forested board, which would favor Matts elves. He also had lots of Kingsguard, of which the Fight 6 would be heavily nullifying the power of my 2 monsters in combination with elven blades. I was fully prepared to heroic strike to be able kill the models I needed to. The match started with Gilgalad storming down a flank, slaying all the goblins in his path. I reasoned it was a reasonable trade to removing him from the primary conflict and keep away from my own hitting power. He would eventually burst through and start hunting down the scribe, who would summon reinforcements to intercept and stall him. In the centre of the board the goblins performed their trademark scuttle towards the waiting ranks of elves. In the meantime Liam had suffered early losses against Locky, but was rapidly coming back into the game for a slight lead. There was everything to play for!

It was at this point that one of the unfortunate realities of a dice game struck. I failed to cast fury two turns in a row on the roll of a one. I wasn’t channeling either so that I could retain the might to ensure it went off. A 1/36 chance that was going to severely punish me in the end game. The shaman enabled my horde to stick around, and if I were to position it in the center of the board, it could daisy chain stand fasts for all my heroes to subsequently cover the entire area around the central 3 objectives whilst the mercenaries secured another. It’d allow me to snowball my numerical advantage for the games entirety. My heart sunk when I saw this, because I knew it was going to make the game much harder and I had really overwhelm the elves, and quickly. If I was broken before the end was nigh, I was most likely now going to lose.

With some moderate casualties from bowfire, the goblins ran into combat. It is at this point I make a very foolish error. I commit the Dark Marshal to the wrong elf, so that he would be in range of a heroic combat slingshot from the twins. I was even conscious of this possibility, and was looking at a different target for him. Yet I still made the mistake. A moment of carelessness, perhaps the pressure brought on by losing my late game safety in the shaman or a touch of fatigue? Irrespective of the reason, it would prove costly. Matt still needed things to go his way because I had several mitigating tools, but full credit to him, he took the opportunity with both hands, and the Twins successfully brought down the Dark Marshal. My late game was looking even more grim now without a high courage hero and one of my major kill threats. Arwen was unable to cast natures wrath, I was fortunate to be able to resist all its casts with a couple of might to assist. One of the Twins was slain in the continuing melee, alongside a steady grind of elves and goblins. My scribe reinforcements were somewhat underwhelming on the whole this game,  and some of those that did come on were diverted to prevent Gil Galad from murdering the scribe.

IMG_0561[1]Gilgalad ran out of might and was on a solo mission relatively early in the game, but it did not stop the mighty king leaving a fearsome pile of bodies in his wake.

I then hit the dreaded break point. As I feared, without my safety nets, my army promptly collapsed upon itself. I was forced to bring the mercenaries on into the primary fight to prevent a complete rout rather than securing one of the periphery objectives Matt was looking to contest. The Goblin King fled immediately, and with it most of my hopes of winning. Should he stay around, I had the killing power to continue grinding out the elves. Gilgalad was in the far corner of the board, and if Matt wanted to contest the final objective, he would have to stay there. Unfortunately it was not be, and the elves began to slay the remaining goblins or more commonly, left them to flee en masse.

IMG_0563[1]My blunder combined with the shamans failure had cost me dearly.

As the final goblins were put to the sword, Matt had managed to pull out a respectable if not overwhelming win, but Locky in the meantime had narrowly pulled out the win over Liam. I mentioned it earlier but I have to give recognition to Liam, he did exceptionally well in the face of a very difficult schedule of opponents and pushed both me and Locky hard.

Final Result: 4-14

 

With 6 wins from 6 games, Locky would thus be the Master of Middle Earth for 2017. He would do it playing against the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th place getters. A truly impressive achievement Locky, well done, I am honored to pass on the title!

In what is some true irony, in the reversal of Locky and I’s positions last year, I would finish in 4th place. We’re one to one now, third time takes all?

David Leonard (for the second year in a row!) and Matthew Todd finished in 2nd and 3rd respectively, whilst Liam took 6th. My predictions for the podium in the preamble report I gave before the event proved to be wonderfully accurate, which was pleasing to see. My eye for how people play the game was alive and well! The Fallen would take the team award for the 3rd year at Masters by a decisive margin, despite the substantial volume of team killing we had enacted against each other.

It was a most enjoyable weekend away. I had some commanding wins and some heartbreaking losses. It wasn’t the best I have ever played, but I had a real blast of a time and it was great to see some of our friends from the south again. Goblintown is entering retirement alongside the Rivendell Knights for the forseeable future, however I feel a serious urge to return to my roots in the all cavalry force. I feel its where I best shine as a player, dictating the terms of battle, holding control and never relenting it. At the time of writing, I lead a mounted Gondor force to a tournament win at Courage of Numenor last weekend. I enjoyed a 17 game consecutive winstreak in the wake of my win at Masters last year, so hopefully its a sign that history may repeat itself!

A colossal thank you must go to all my opponents on the weekend, it’s the community that makes the game what it is. A thank you must also go to Kylie for running the event, and to Josh for once again being a most generous host. And lastly, a thank you to you, dear reader, for making it to the end. If you haven’t done it before, come along to an SBG event, you won’t regret it. If you have, I hope to see you at an event soon! I’d be remiss not to promote the next event in Sydney, Hobbitcon, the first weekend of September with one and two day options. I’ll be helping run the event, so if that’s an incentive you won’t have to play me! If you’re not a member, join the Australian LoTR & Hobbit SBG Community , all the details for this and other events are here. If you enjoyed this blog, please comment and let me know if you’d like to see more of this or other things in the future.

Masters will be taking a road trip to Sydney next year, so I’ll be back to reclaim the title!

Thank you for reading! Happy Hobbying!

Andrew

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!

There and Back Again: A Masters Tale

By Andrew Colman

The 2017 Australian Middle Earth Masters are almost upon us, and as the incumbent title holder for the past year, I thought it would be good to blog my adventures at Masters this year. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking to win back to back, but that’s only a part of the appeal. We have an excellent Hobbit SBG community that gets together to play toy soldiers and enjoy each other’s company. It’s marvellous how you can be friends with people you may have only seen face to face half a dozen times or less.

gondor

So what army do I plan to bring? Originally I was tossing up whether to bring this ‘anti-meta’ Gondor list themed around the White Council aiding a kingly Denethor in his prime (tying in the idea that this is when both Saruman and Denethor may have just begun using their Palantirs in the pride before the fall) :

Saruman the Wise
Galadriel, Lady of Light

Denethor
12 Fountain Court Guard- Shield

Beregond (Convert as Irolas, Denethors assistant)
12 Fountain Court Guard- Shield

Damrod (Thorongil conversion?)
8 Citadel Guard – Longbow
2 Citadel Guard – Horse

Lobelia Sackville Baggins (Convert up a young Boromir).

40 Models

W&R-Army

I already had most of the models to make this army from a previous army comprised of converted Numernoreans with Spartan shields and helmet for a suitably elite look.

The basic principle was to have an answer to the things you will most likely see in top table armies (Magic, Fell Beasts, Strength 4, Terror, low defence number spamming, shooting) that I’d most likely be facing while having a omnipotent late game with an army that has bodyguard, aura of command (which will also stop Denethor going mad), 12 inch stand fasts as well as the Lobelia plus Galadriel terror combo. This is a very intimidating synergy build I’m quite proud of, and you may see me bring something like it at some point in the future. But it’s a force that while potent, is influenced by what other people could bring, rather than what I want to bring and is a fairly static indomitable shield wall. I want to bring an assertive, aggressive playstyle to Masters that puts the pressure on and forces your opponent to react.

I looked at the missions again, and why I was so successful with my knights last year. The supremely well designed Masters Missions all demand that you have mobility, the ability to capture objectives which usually means numerical pressure, a good versatile leader and a good late game considering they all end at 25%.

A few minor changes to the missions and the potential for a protest march if I brought the Knights again meant I’m bringing something else. So I went from one extreme of army style to the other, but valuing at the exact same principles we touched in doing so. Which means we go down, down, down into Goblintown. I’ve played a lot of variants of Goblintown at this stage, and own far too many of the dear little cockroaches. They probably see me as Sid from Toy Story with the amount of conversions I’ve done for them to create some aesthetic and tactical variety from event to event.

The theme for this particular army comes from a LOTR video game titled War in the North. The story behind it is inspired by the unexplored conflicts in Northern Eriador during the War of the Ring.

witn

Fairly underrated game in my experience. It’s no Shadow of Mordor, but it’s pretty fun!

The grunt enemies you encounter early on are, you guessed it, goblins in loincloths, whilst the primary antagonist is a Black Numenorean named Agandaur, with a core retinue of Black Numenorean followers.

witn2

Attractive looking things, aren’t they?

Throughout the course of the game he is tasked with rising an army of Orcs and Goblins, rides a fell beast and makes extensive use of magic. Sounds quite like something up the wheelhouse of a certain Dark Marshal. I’ve not listed him as the leader of the army for a couple of reasons. The first is purely a competitive one, it makes deciding target priorities for my opponent a real headache (do you deal with the ringwraith on fellbeast or direct it towards the tanky Goblin King who is very difficult to get leader points off?). The second is that this is still a Goblintown army with the Mordor contingent as auxiliary support, and not putting the Goblin King as the general of a Goblintown army simply feels wrong.

witn3

Magic – Great for parties, also useful in SBG

It’s now on its 3rd or 4th email submission as I kept shuffling numbers and points around until I was happy, but the list I’ll bring to Masters 2017 is:

Warband 1: (Leader)
(Tharzug) The Goblin King
12 Goblins

Warband 2:
Grinnah
12 Goblins

Warband: 3
Goblin Scribe
11 Goblins

Warband 4:
Moria Goblin Shaman
1 Moria Goblin – Spear

Warband 5:
Goblin Mercenary Captain
6 Goblin Mercenaries

Warband 6:
(Agandaur) The Dark Marshal – Fell Beast
1 Morannon Orc – Spear
8 Black Numenoreans – 1 Warhorn

army

The outer walls of Fornost in ruin (one of the games early levels) as the hordes burst forth from one of the breaches in the Fall of Fornost long ago.

This is an army that embodies pressure. It’s a ticking time bomb that demands a response and provokes mistakes. The Mercenaries and the Scribe combined with the warhorn create a constant stream of models that can appear anywhere on the board, granting so many of the checklist points we need to win the Masters scenarios. As mobile as you can get considering they can appear from any point, you’ll be outnumbering your opponent with Goblintown, you can very comfortably capture objectives and the Goblin King is an exceptional leader with a 40k esque stacking 3+, 4+, 5+ save between blubber, fate and fury. You also have a decent late game considering you can be reduced to 25% and still outnumber your opponent and clinch those all important objectives. If you don’t break until late in the piece you can also snowball your growing numbers advantage to overwhelm your opponent.

The Black Numenoreans are a tool to mitigate some of the weaknesses of Goblintown with their low defense and low fight value and provide a terror causing frontline that will also be very useful in the end game. The Dark Marshal will get the full value out of the banner range with this many models to benefit from it, while also being an answer to enemy fell beasts (F6!) and dangerous heroes. Because he is not my leader, it enables me to take risks and be aggressive with him, which is what we want at a Masters event. Having a second monster is great for hurl combos as well.

Anecdotally, this will be the first tournament of the many I’ve attended that I will be bringing the power pick that is a named wraith on Fell Beast. Considering the amount I’ve faced and brought down, I’ve more or less learned how to use them by proxy of being on the receiving end and knowing what shuts them down. Their recent nerf in the FAQ’s that stops them from being one shot machines when rending enemy heroes soothed some of my previous qualms about taking these point efficient nasties.

This will be the last time I bring Goblintown for the foreseeable future as it will be the 6th event I’ve brought them along (2 wins and a podium for them thus far) before they join the Knights in semi-retirement. I have some serious shenanigans planned for some of the missions, which I won’t share just yet to keep the surprise, but suffice to say they should provide people with some wonderful headaches.

Predictions:

It’s unreasonable to rank yourself so I’m not going to put myself anywhere. I do want to point however that I have again avoided having to play Jeremy Shannon. Jeremy is the creator of the Green Dragon Podcast and has been playing the game since its inception, and he owns every model in the range. Needless to say he’s pretty damn good. With one exception in the last game of an event that had no relevance due to the scoring system, by some quirk of fate Jeremy and I have never played each other despite sitting next to each other on the scoreboards across many an event. Jeremy can’t make it to Masters this year, so I’ll just facetiously claim it’s because he doesn’t want to have to finally play me.

My top 3 are:

1: David Leonard: Mr Leonard was my pre-tournament pick to win last year, finishing with more points than the winner of the previous two years, and finished 2nd only because some jerk also won 6 games, just by a bigger total margin. He thoroughly trounced me with a crushing loss in our last game at Silmarili. Melbourne’s best hope for their first big interstate win since Masters in 2015

2: Lachlan Rigg: The Men of the West (WA) have made an impact since they arrived at Masters last year with powerful armies and very good players, with Locky leading the charge. He won Clash this year, and undoubtedly has a target on my head after knocking him off the podium by a single point after our game in the final round of Masters last year. Looking forward to a potential rematch.

3 Matthew Todd: Another veteran player coming off a high with a long coming win at Silmarilli earlier this year. Is this the Toddles renaissance? Time will tell, but Matt has been on my shortlist of players at every tournament for a long time, and this one is no different.

Dark Horse – Joshua Colman: Fellow Fallen team mate, a great sportsman and painter as well. His army is top secret TM. It is wonderfully themed and utterly ridiculous, but incredibly potent if he plays it well.

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!

Addendum: I wrote this up, but waited for the group draw before publishing this – the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place getters of last year are in the same group, which has my 1st and 2nd picks for this year! Group of Death indeed. I’m sticking with my picks, but there may be some very close games on day 1 in that group, with Corey Leslie playing an all-powerful kingmaker role. They may potentially knock each other out of contention by denying each other points, but if that happens I’m sure they can catch up on day 2 with more forgiving matchups.

My own group has Tim Wraight, Joshua Colman and Nick Beattie.
Joshua Colman and I will be indulging in some kinslaying (apt as we are also both Elf fans) being drawn against each other. From memory we have a 2-1 record in my favour so a good opportunity for him to level the score, especially considering the horrific damage his army can inflict to my Goblins in any given turn. I’ve had the pleasure of playing Tim a few times as well, and he often brings powerful centrepieces to his armies (Treebeard with an all Ent army, Gwaihir and Eagles, King Elessar and SMAUG! to name a few) so I’ll undoubtedly need to be prepared to deal with something big and scary. I’ve never met Nick, a newcomer to the hobby, (it’s also always great to play against new opponents and meet new people), but from what I understand he is a war gaming veteran who’s picked up the game very quickly under the wings of Jeremy Shannon (if the painting and conversion pieces Nick’s shared are any indication he’s already far better than me in that department). I underestimate him at my own peril!

I’d be remiss before ending this to give a quick shout out for Hobbitcon, being run early September here in Sydney. Helmed by myself, Ian Underwood and Adam Jenkinson, we’ve created a large collection of new points match scenarios to play over the weekend.

Come along and enjoy the fun!