Finally! A game of WOTR. Andy braved the cross-Chch trip (and apparently saw a whole lot of damage he hadn't realised existed) to give me a game with his Mordor, which he intends to take to the first ever national WOTR event in NZ, assuming the news media hasn't scared everyone away from the city.
To give him a proper test, (purely in the interests of Science, you understand) I brought forth the Opportunistic Trans-Misty Mountain Alliance based around my Dunlending Battlehost.
This is of course a canonical force, from the Fourth Age. I like this period, since it has a real 'sequal' feel to the bad guys, which somehow were in the shadows of the titans of the Third Age but (in true sequel fashion) turn out to be even more of the threat. Here, no doubt dismayed at the peace between by most of his lick spittle fellows and the Reunited Kingdom, Thrydan leads his battlehost from hiding place to hiding place. Hot on his heels is the Prince of Ithilien's feared Cavalry wing. Luckily for the rebel Dunlending chieftain, he has made a pact with a necromancer impersonating a Nazgul and none other than Druzhag, Beastcaller of the Misty Mountains.
I took: Thrydan, Battlhost, Druzhag, Dwimmerlaik, four coy of Uruks w Crossbows, four formations of Dunlending Huscarls w shields, each four coy strong, and lastly six coy of the Wildmen of Dunland. The battlehost does two things. Firstly the only formation that even gets counted for commons and rares is the Uruks. Secondly all formations in range of Thrydan always perform an unstoppable charge.
Somehow, Andy had found two other Necromancers impersonating Wraiths (what are the odds?), though his were the much more useful Khamul and The Betrayer. He had: Khamul, Betrayer, Gothmog, five coy Morranans w shields, five coy Morranans w shields, seven coy Orcs w 2HW, five coy Orcs w bow, and one formation of three siege bows. In short, a pretty typical Mordor list.
Andy won the roll off and elected to have first turn priority and his choice of side, so as to seize the hill for his artillery. There is a capacity three ruin in the middle, the larger woods at the sides are capacity six (I don't like big pieces in the middle, too weird given the rules) and then two more capacity four woods. His army is arrayed at the top of the picture. Left to right: Morranans, Siegebows, Morranans behind Orcs with bows (Betrayer) and then the 2HW Orcs with Khamul out on his left flank (top right). My army is bottom/left. Starting at the left: Cyndig's fresh Dunlendings, Rollo's laggardly Dunlendings (who have much to prove) with Dwimmerlaik, Dunlendings with Thrydan, Uruk crossbows w Druzhag (behind ruin) then Wulf's crack Dunlendings to face Khamul on my right flank. Wildmen were in ambush.
Here are the siege bows on the hill. They are converted Zvedka 1/72 ballistas (like mine) and Andy has done extra work on the bow arms and based sideways behind a cool protective palisade.
Since he had priority, Andy raced Khamul's 2HW Orcs up his left. I pulled Wulf's well disciplined boys back, to make room for the Uruks to wheel and bring the Orcs into arc. I had the Necromancer impersonating the Dwimmlerlaik join the crossbow as well. Cyndig's fresh troops were sent through the relative safety of the forest to my left, while Rollo's boys were given the more dangerous work of taking the Morranan right flank with their front - I figured they would be well motivated to dispel lingering questions over their commitment! Thryday led his Redshirts... personal bodyguard up the centre. In the shoot phase, I did a heroic shoot with the xbow and savaged the 2HW Orcs. I took a couple of casualties from the seige bows, a few more from the bow (with Betrayer re rolls). I had used entangle magic to ensure there would be no Orc charge via Wings of Terror this turn.
Mordor had priority again for second turn, and Andy chose to go first again. I held back my ambush. He shifted his bow into the wood, the Betrayer into the Morranan Orc unit in his centre, and pulled Khamul's 2HW Orcs back toward the centre. His Morranan unit out on his right moved around between the hill and the wood to the left of the pic (above). I jumped the 'Dwimmerlaik' into Wulf's brave men and they followed the Gryphon banner forward with great elan, sweeping past Kahmul's Orcs into charge range of the Orcs in the wood. To my left, Cyndig's men left the wood to flank the Morranans, while Thrydan left his Redshirts to go give some spine to Rollo's huscarls as they completed the flanking move by facing the Morranan front. Druzhag threw out a spider on the Flank of Khamul's Orcs and Thrydan's 'bodyguard' pushed up the centre in column with orders to pin the Mordor line - poor unwitting fools.
Andy's Mordor shooting finally had the decency to reduce the crossbow to three coy, while he used his bow to destroy the decoy spiders on Khamul's flank. My crossbow savaged Khamul's Orcs once more, though his essence leech bounced a lot of that onto Thrydan's bodyguard.
Then charges went in. On his right flank, he had to choose which of theThrydan to his front. The 2HW orcs were under a Pall of night, so Thrydan's reshirts charged them, while Cyndig's Huscarls acheived a rear charge on the Morranans fighting Thrydan. The spells of the 'Dwimmerlaik' allowed a distant charge by Wulf on the Orcs sheltering in the wood. The outcome of all of this was heavy casualties on the Morranans to the left of the pic (above) and they were now sandwiched between two lines of Huscarls, heavy damage to both the 2HW Orcs and the Huscarls facing them, with essence leech almost reversing the result of combat, then Wulf's warband evicted the Orcs from the wood to the right.
Seizing the initiative early in the game has left the Dunlendings in a good position to take advantage of priority on turn three (above). I chose to go second and once more held the ambush back. This turn saw the demise of the Morranans sandwiched between the two units of Huscarls, leaving them both free to turn the Mordor flank.
Thrydan's bodyguard worked with Druzhag's crossbow to destroy the remnant of the 2HW Orcs, though pseudo-Khamul had fled to the reserve Morranan unit. That unit was now a five coy Morranan orc unit (hisr str 4 hits my Huscarls on 5s, ouch) with Khamul and the Betrayer in there, and Gothmog to make it hard to duel out Khamul. A true bunker unit. This unit spent the turn trying to reduce Wulf's hardy Huscarls in the wood, but actually found themselves transfixed by the ersatz Dwimmerlaik and unable to close the deal with a charge!
Mordor had priority for turn four and wanted to go first.I ambushed with the Wildmen and settled in for the long task of reducing the Morranan bunker formation with mutliple Dunland units and spell. Khamul's ability was going to be tedious here, it always is, but Gothmog is just a reliable bodyguard for him and you really need a hero with a lot of might to spend on the duel result to make it worth giving Gothmog all the Epic actions for free. So I decided to just sit and shoot the Bunker unit instead, suck up the reflected damage on surrounding Huscarls and use the pretend -Dwimmerlaik to taunt them and prevent charges. As a bit of 'therapy', I sent the wildmen off to sort out the Orc bow next turn.
Mordor was up first again on turn five. This turn (pic above) was at least more action-packed. There was some exchange of fire, but the real fun was in a melee between Cyndig's Huscarls and the Seige bow (top-right, total wipe out of the artillery), the Morranan Bunker unit and Wulf's Huscarls (top-middle, Wulf's Huscarls evicted from the wood) and the melee between the Wildmen, led by sham-Dwimmerlaik and Druzhag and the Orc bow (top-right, total wipe out of Orc bow). At this point, I feel that some sort of army-break mechanism would be a great addition for WOTR 2nd Ed.
I won priority for turn six, and actually wanted to go first. Why? Natures Wrath on the bunker unit in the wood! The theory at this stage was that the wildmen were to dog the bunker unit's heels and suck up the bounce back damage on their nice cheap 15pt coys. Then magic and crossbow fire would eventually sort out the bunker. Just for kicks, the remnant Huscarl units would pursue te bunker as well and angle for flank charges. I didn't hold out high hopes for these though, since Andy had wised up to the limitations of Pall of Night in these situation (not that he didn't keep casting that too) and used terrifying aura to make them that little bit harder to charge. He actually came after me as well. The bunker surged toward Thrydan and Rollo's Huscarls, then charged in. I decided that what the heck and declared a duel, he declared one back for free, I won the roll-off and got my chance at Khamul... I won the duel by five dice: 1, 2, 2, 1, 3. Four misses. Sigh. However, Gothmog lost his duel to Thrydan too, so I did at least get some free hits on the Bunker out of it... No wait, silly me, they all bounced back and hit me too!
But this is now a simple numbers game, I still have all my heroes, I have my crossbow, I have several melee units, and the bunker is surrounded and can only face one way. Even a base and a half of Huscarls is pretty dangerous in the flank. They hit on 4s, and get 1+1d3 bonus charge dice. Andy conceded at this point. In fairness, had he played it out, he could have bagged Rollo's Huscarls (the unit the bunker is facing in the pic above) and my army-commander Thrydan with them.
Cheers for the action packed game Andy, that was good fun and a tough fight. I had been feeling some trepidation about facing the full-on Mordor combos (not least because the Str 4 of Morranans actually doubles kills vs my Huscarls!) but I will have benefited from the fact that this list's one prior battle experience had been to roll over the Riders of Rohan. I am told that that one took longer in terms of setup and pack up than actual play... Next time, with a more coordinated Mordor attack, angled out of one corner to make flank protection easier, I will find it tougher still. That might not be my problem though lol since I am umpiring NATCON and am just here to try and offer some serious practice for the open-list format.
For the record though, this underlines the silliness of those Wraiths. Gothmog I can handle, points aside, he is simply their cool commander, and works like he should always being on-top of things on the battlefield. Khamul in particular though killed mofre via essence leech than his troops ever managed to achieve.
In preparing for this battle I had three principles in mind: 1. You can't win through just being tough, you need to be able to deal damage. Dunlendings are str 5 on the charge, and in range of Thrydan they always unstoppable charge. They were backed by crossbows and a ruin caster. So there were a number of reliable damage dealers in there. 2. You can't rely on out magicking the cheap Mordor casters, so you need to bring the right counter magic. Having access to the mix of Wilderness and Darkness (for my own pall of nights against the smaller number of Mordor formations) was very helpful at the right points. 3. Most of all, Mordor is clearly the best list on paper. So you need keep the list flexible through smaller formations (four is smaller than my personal 'rule' for def 4(6), but see principle 1. above). Then the fight has to be taken to them. Under pressure, people can easily fall into the trap of trying to minimise bad things (due to their uncertainty about what is unfolding) and fall back on being reactive. Sometimes, they even make mistakes (like the Mordor Right flank did), though you can't bank on that. Initiative and flexibility matter, and allow you too get the most out of the damage-dealers and utility magic you've put in at list-design time.
Consider the above as a plug for WOTR as a legitimate war game, where your on-table choices matter, rather than an unbalanced exercise in list-hammer (which some claim). I wouldn't bother with this game if it was such, there are too many other great rule sets out there. Thanks for reading.