Review of LOTR at the 2009 Grand Waaagh

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Review of LOTR at the 2009 Grand Waaagh

Postby ChrisLS » Thu Oct 08, 2009 11:25 pm

Last year, the gaming club I belong to, Da Waaagh Mob, decided to put on an Independent Grand Tournament in Alameda, CA on the USS Hornet, an aircraft carrier that has been turned into a museum. Originally, we were planning on running just two systems, Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000. But a month ago, I was asked to add Lord of the Rings to the tournament. We’d originally thought to add it next year, but we had the space, so what the heck!

With such short notice, I knew we couldn’t get a huge turnout, but I did manage to scare up five players, which made for a very interesting tournament – every player would get to play each other. There was no Swiss system, but instead a pure round robin where the winner would be determined with almost no consideration to pairings or early/late placement. I also knew I’d be playing the ringer, since we had an odd number.

I also wanted to make sure that there was a variety of scenarios, and I wanted them to be different than other scenarios they had played. I took some inspiration from the Legions scenarios, changing them around to account for a time constrained environment and the army favoring characteristics of a few of the scenarios. I also hate random scenarios – I’ve lost games just because of a few bad rolls (the number of times I’ve failed to get a Major Victory in Domination because of that stupid “game ends!” roll…) and I know that just sucks. So I tried to limit the randomness. I’ll detail the scenarios in my battle reports.

One thing about being the ringer is that you’re there to provide a service only – make sure everyone gets to play every round. After all, that’s what the players are there for, to get in a game. The ringer isn’t supposed to be highly competitive, though they’re not supposed to be a pushover, either. I flatter myself in thinking that I’m a pretty good player, so I decided against going with one of my first string armies. After DundraCon last year with the “Oh, so it’s your turn to get beaten on by Gandalf” comment, I knew that the Errand wouldn’t fly, and I thought that even the Shadow list from Vegas would be pretty nasty. Of course, I haven’t painted a full army of anything else, so I used those armies for my basis.

To make things more enjoyable for the players, I decided to come up with multiple armies and let them choose the list they wanted as ringer. I also wanted to try playing with models that I normally wouldn’t consider using in a tournament. My first was pretty simple – I swapped Gandalf for Aragorn on a horse in the Errand, downgrading Ecthelion to a standard captain. The second list I came up with was a variant on the Shadow, where I dropped all of the Morannon Orcs and upgraded the wraith to Khamul the Easterling on an armored horse. I wanted one more option, and decided to go totally goofy. I called it “So Boromir picks a fight with a Balrog…” and took four models; Aragorn, Gandalf the Grey, Legolas, and Gimli. 600 points right there.

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I arrived at the tournament in the early afternoon of Friday to set up. After my experience at the Necro, I wanted a really interesting skirmish game with LOTS of terrain, and there was a pretty good stash to raid. Only having three tables to fill made it easier. I set up three tables.

First was a small highland village, surrounded by small, steep hills. I wanted to use several buildings to get in the rules for fighting inside the fortress – doors, defended obstacles, stuff like that. The effect was that the center could be full of choke points if it was actually defended, otherwise it would be fairly easy to move through.

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Next up was a pretty typical wooded area, lots of trees and areas of undergrowth with a few hills thrown on. The hills on both this table and the first one were slab sided – no slope at all. I made the call that it was WYSIWIG – lots of jump and climb checks were involved. It made it interesting for cavalry forces, that’s for sure.

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The last table was inspired by the fact that several large pieces of fortress and the like were ignored by the other systems for being cumbersome and difficult to fit units onto. No units in this game! I tried to go for a kind of “ruined fortress” look with the four large pieces in the middle surrounded by a few large hills and individual trees.

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So with that, I sat back to wait for check ins. As it turned out, we had something like three people actually play a game on the ship Friday night. A few other people checked in early, but apparently some of the ship security people turned some of our players away. That night cost us a lot of money for pretty much nothing. I doubt we’ll do that next year.

The next morning, I was raring to go. The five LOTR players showed up with plenty of time, and I presented the briefing and the options for the ringer army. A couple of people immediately said they didn’t want to see the all heroes army (if they drew that force on a couple of scenarios life would be very, very difficult), and the two people who voiced a preference chose Easterlings, so that was my force – Khamul and crew. The list was as follows:

Khamul the Easterling on armored horse (I think I forgot about paying the extra points for the armored horse during the games…)

Easterling Captain on armored horse with shield

6x Kataphracts
18x Warrior with shield
7x Warrior with shield and spear
12x Warrior with bow

Total Models: 45
Might: 4
Bow Armed Warriors: 12/43

I knew this was a suboptimal force when I took it. I particularly love Nazgul for their spell casting, and Khamul has the hardest time casting spells of any of the wraiths. With a Fell Beast, at least you have the chance of getting Will back to compensate for the extra dice you have to throw at spells. On a horse, the best you’re getting is usually staying at the same level of Will. I also knew there were no nutcrackers – D6 would be a major problem for me.

But hell with it, I wasn’t playing to win anyway! That doesn’t mean I’d try to make it easy for the people I would play…
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Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself. - Mark Twain
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Postby ChrisLS » Thu Oct 08, 2009 11:30 pm

Oh, by the way, here was a picture of part of the hangar deck with the tables laid out in front of a WWII warbird.

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Clickable thumbnail.
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Postby ChrisLS » Fri Oct 09, 2009 12:07 am

GAME 1 – Escort the Messengers

Opponent: Joshua Robertson – Tower of Ecthelion
Table: Ruined Fortress

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I wrote this scenario to be an answer to both Seize the Prize and Reconnoitre, though I guess it has more in common with the latter. The objective is to select three of your models that you have to get off the table through your opponent’s deployment zone. The trick is that each model must leave via a different edge – one to the left, one to the right, and one off the back. You get a bonus point for each model that makes it off the table, with an extra point if it goes off the back edge. All of the scenarios are scored relative to your opponent – in this case if you got two more messengers off than your opponent, you got a Major Win, and one more you got a Minor Win.

Joshua had a pretty solid Minas Tirith force. His heavy hitters were Faramir mounted with an escort of knights, and he also had Beregond with some Citadel Guard. The most obnoxious part? He also brought a bolt thrower. Oh, great. Oh, and that’s right, I’m on the single most choked up table. Predicably, he plunked his bolt thrower right down in the middle of his deployment zone covering the open center. Guess I won’t be going that way…

He did deploy his forces first, with two messengers (knights) on his right, and Faramir as a messenger on his left. A few Citadel Guard and Beregond supported the bolt thrower, which sat astride the center choke point in his line. His main effort looked to be Faramir.

I decided I’d play for just two more messengers. I figured if Faramir really wanted to leave the table, there wasn’t a damn thing I could to do stop him. So I put a delaying force on my right and went heavy left. Down the center? Not with that stupid bolt thrower hanging out there. I also put my archers in the middle of the table, figuring I could volley wherever I wanted and throw them in to block whoever broke through.

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We got rolling, and I sent my infantry up the left flank to hold his messengers in place with the captain and Kataphracts behind them. I decided to send Khamul off against Faramir on the right. After all, I didn’t really need him, so maybe he could make things easier for me by getting rid of Faramir. Josh’s moves mirrored my own, and the bolt thrower sat forlorn in the middle with no targets. OK, all together – “Awwwww… poor bolt thrower.”

I closed in with him on my left, and lost priority where I could get bottled up with my cavalry behind my infantry. Hey, he doesn’t have a hero over there… HEROIC MOVE! Now it’s Josh’s messengers who are stuck behind their own infantry. I then send my cavalry running down the side of a ruined building where they had cover from the bolt thrower.

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On my right, I have my thin green line getting ready to stop the charge of Faramir, and pull out one of my favorite tricks – Compel. Four dice are thrown at Faramir, and I get a 6, which he fails to resist. Cool! Alas, I can only get three attacks on him and I can’t surround him. All I manage to do is kill his horse. Well, maybe next turn I can Transfix him… Nope! Faramir calls a Heroic Move and wins the roll off, running behind his own troops.

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On my left, the Gondorians are going nowhere, completely bottled in by my infantry. Josh brings his Citadel Guard out to shoot at my cavalry, but all he really manages to do is get them within range of my own archers, who start knocking off Guards. As the cavalry gets closer, he withdraws his troops. However, he makes a mistake and my captain can see one of his troops. I blast in and get him while running my messengers through the large, unprotected door… Oh, yes, you can do that! I manage to kill the Guard with my captain, and Josh throws a couple of his troops against the wall to prevent me from jumping it while sending half of them around the back to try to bottle up my messengers. Hmmm… just because I can go that way doesn’t mean I have to! I send the messengers back out the door and over by the now abandoned bolt thrower. It’s going to be nearly impossible to stop me from leaving via the back edge.

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On the other side, Faramir’s knights start making a bloody mess of my troops, and Khamul shows he’s a huge pussy, getting beaten in close combat by a guy holding a banner. Faramir then slingshots himself forward via a Heroic Combat. Not a chance that I’ll stop him now.

Time is running short. Josh realizes he’s never going to crack through my infantry and pulls one of his knights back to stop my second messenger from leaving. He also ties up my other troops with his remaining Citadel Guard. We start getting down to priority rolls. The second to last turn, if I lose priority I can’t get my messenger off the back edge. I win it, and he’s gone. Last turn, if I win priority, I can get my messenger off the left table edge. I lose and am charged by his messenger. I survive, but time is called before I get another chance, and Faramir has already left via my right table edge.

RESULT: DRAW, +2 Bonus Points

Pretty good game! Hard to say what I could have done better. I didn’t intend to really stop Faramir, and with the D6 vs D6 battles, I knew I wouldn’t be killing many of his troops. I had to outmaneuver him and I almost did. One possibility could have been to completely ignore Faramir and bring Khamul in to help break my messengers through, but that’s a lot of supposition. Josh could have advanced his bolt thrower to start showering me with bolts as I came in, but the problems of Good not being able to fire close to their own models was a pain. Plus, it accomplished the task of denying me access to the center. I guess I would have put Beregond in with the forces on his right to counter a Heroic Move, which did enable me to plug him up instead of the other way around. All in all, well played by both sides.
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Postby ChrisLS » Fri Oct 09, 2009 12:20 am

Oh, one bit of drama I forgot:

I had sent one messenger down my right side, escorted by Khamul (that was another reason I sent him over there). I pulled a Heroic Combat trick, and nearly escaped with my messenger. Unfortunately, when I lost the Heroic Move roll off against Faramir, that led to my messenger being surrounded by MT archers and turned into kibble. It was worth the shot...
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Postby ChrisLS » Fri Oct 09, 2009 7:01 am

GAME 2 – Destroy the Supplies

Opponent: Wyn Robertson - Erebor
Table: Highlands Village

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This scenario I designed to replace Storm the Camp. My thought was that with the requirement to simply outnumber your opponent in their camp it rewarded horde armies too much, and I’ve won a couple of those scenarios just because I managed to slip one guy in while tying up the rest of my opponent’s force. Instead, the idea is to defend destructible objectives. One objective must be set in the far corner of your deployment zone, and the other two must be placed in your deployment zone at least 9” away from another objective. If a model spends a full fight phase in contact with the objective (unengaged by another model) then it destroys the objective. Victory is again based upon relative achievement of objectives – two more than your opponent is a Major, one more a Minor.

Wyn deployed first, and I saw his force being one of the ones I hate to face – being outnumbered by Dwarves. He also brought Radagast – keep him away from my horses! He had two rock-solid heroes, too, Balin and Gimli. He placed his archers in the back near one of his objectives (both of the free ones were on hills) and then placed his forces in a blocking formation through the village.

I put my cavalry on my right and my archers on a hill with an objective to my left. In the middle were my infantry. I left four swordsmen on the other objective hill. I figured I had a couple options. I could send my cavalry down the flank and try to squeeze past the blockers and get to his back corner objective, or possibly sneak some infantry through the house on my right and get them on an objective before I got caught.

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The game started pretty typically, with some volley fire and my cavalry and infantry moving forward. Unsurprisingly, Wyn moved some Khazad Guard to block the choke point between the table edge and the walls of the rightmost house. Well, I’m not breaking through that any time soon. However, I did notice he wasn’t actually entering the house, and frankly his troops in the middle were kind of light.

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I brought my cavalry and infantry into the center square, and tried my Compel trick on a warrior – four dice from Khamul + Heroic Combat with lots of cavalry models would mean very bad things! I completely whiff the roll – my highest die is a 3. Bugger! I still manage to swarm Wyn’s infantry in the center, and blast through the left side of the line, threatening Radagast (Wyn actually forgot his model at home and was borrowing my Gandalf). In the mean time, I’m trying to hold off the rest of his infantry in the center with my own foot soldiers, and I’m shooting away at anything I can with my archers.

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I manage to achieve a breakthrough on the right, and my cavalry goes roaring into the center. I couldn’t charge Radagast due to wise positioning on Wyn’s part, but a Heroic Combat fixes that problem, and now Khamul is poised to thump the wizard into the ground. My infantry also swarms into the house, hoping to achieve its own breakthrough in the lightly defended yard. Here is where things start going wrong.

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Sure enough, I knock the wizard to the ground with Khamul, but he only does one wound. Not even enough to make back the Will I’ve been spending. I now NEED priority, but fail to get it. I make the controversial call to not call a heroic move with my captain, thinking that I’ll need that might down the road and not enough models are going to be able to end their moves with 6” of his end position. In the mean time, Balin falls back from the center and Gimli comes up from the rear, both supported by friends. My cavalry starts dropping as they get counter-charged. I struggle to get my captain free for a run at an objective, and Wyn is scrambling to get his archers over the two hills between them and that objective, but I just can’t break through due to bad priority rolls.

Next thing I know, Khamul’s horse is taken out and he’s surrounded by dwarves. On the ground. Oh, well, so much for him. My breakthrough has been contained, and while I’m trying to get my infantry models through the yard and into the now less defended right objective, they get contained quickly as well.

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If there is a silver lining, it is that Wyn’s choice to bottle up my breakthrough is preventing him from making his own. He’s gotten several infantry models near my deployment zone, but between some lucky shooting and then swarming his troops with archers they’re dropping fast. He gets a couple Khazad Guard in contact with my swordsmen on the hill, but trying to climb and kill Easterlings is not working for them, particularly once the archers surround them.

As time is called, neither of us has so much as touched the other side’s objectives.

RESULT: Draw, 0 bonus points

Another great game against Wyn. We have radically different playing styles – I tend to be very aggressive and take risks, while he is extremely deliberate and methodical. Both styles were on display, and in both cases they could have hurt us. I had a great opportunity crushed by Wyn’s thorough smiting of my cavalry breakthrough, but that very thoroughness may have lost his own chances for a victory by pulling his heroes all into defensive mode, making his few offensive models easy pickings for my archers. I would have loved to get lucky and pull a Minor, but I’m always happy when I don’t lose to Wyn.
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Postby Guardian of Ecthelion » Fri Oct 09, 2009 8:43 am

Nice reads Chris.
I saw you had +2 points in the first game. How did you get those? Did I miss something? I am just curious.
Scenarios sounded a little different which is what you wanted: How was the feedback from the rest of the players?
I also love the fact you guys played the tournament on an aircraft carrier. Is the year end GT going to be in the same spot?

Good luck and I hope you get better numbers for the rest of your tournaments.
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Postby ChrisLS » Fri Oct 09, 2009 9:51 am

This is actlly the event that everything else is supposed to lead up to. We added LOTR at the last minute so I'm not surprised at the turnout. We'll be doing it at the Hornet again next year.

I put bonus points on achieving scenario objectives - I got two from getting a messenger off the back table edge. Josh got one for going off the side table edge.
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Postby ChrisLS » Sat Oct 10, 2009 12:26 pm

GAME 3 – Different Priorities

Opponent: Tim Hixon – Barad-Dur
Table: Ruined Fortress

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The scenario we played came directly out of a conversation I had with Tim after the Necro this year. We were talking about how most scenarios favor one kind of army or another, and that perhaps the best way to handle that would be develop a scenario where there are multiple ways to win. Perhaps later I may want to come up with a scenario which has multiple objectives and ends as soon as a certain number have been accomplished, like Epic: Armageddon does. But this one had four objectives: Hold the majority of hills on the table (to hold it you need twice the number of models on it as your opponent), kill half of your opponents heroes and banners (combined), break your opponent’s force, and get a hero off the back edge of your opponent’s deployment zone. Again, having two more objectives is a Major, one more objective is a Minor.

Tim brought a very interesting force – he had a horde of trackers riding Wargs backed up by a large number of foot orcs. They were led by a drummer and two captains, one on foot and one mounted with a bow. Total numbers were about 60, and over a third were mounted. I’m outnumbered by almost 50% and he has a lot of S4 models with the wargs. At least I’ve got my wraith to make his courage checks interesting.

Tim chooses his side, and I’m ending up on the same side I was before on this table. He splits his cavalry, placing his mounted captain on his right with the drummer and his foot captain on his left. His foot troops go in the middle but are split by a large ruin. He’s got three of the five hills on my right, but the drummer is left. I decide to try to even the odds by going to my left – it will take longer to reinforce from that side. I also hope that my smaller infantry bases with spear support can overwhelm the cavalry in a choke point. So I go heavy left, putting my cavalry in the middle.

The game starts and we both head forward. Tim forms a pocket in the back of the relatively open center area, and I know that if I take that bait I’m going to be trapped on three sides. Forget it. There’s only 11 models on my far left – I can kill them pretty quickly, right? I take a couple models and send them to slow down the reinforcements from my right, and position my archers so they can shoot the incoming warg riding trackers.

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I win priority, but Tim calls a Heroic Move and plugs up my infantry in the center left choke point. I’m not too concerned, particularly because I outnumber him significantly there. He also protects his cavalry’s flank and moves his infantry support forward. I send in some infantry to block them and my mounted captain hits the flankers.

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The next several turns become extremely frustrating. I just can’t manage to break through his damn wargs. I go for the trackers because they are easier to kill and the warg needs a 9 to pass its courage check with the wraith around. It just doesn’t seem to work. Tim keeps winning priority and getting the charges off, then winning combat. His mounted captain fights off wave after wave of Easterlings, and I’m barely keeping the infantry support off of me. The drummer gets into the action, and I have to scramble to keep him from collapsing my own infantry line. Tim also has a horde of troops coming from the right (even while leaving a bunch up on the hills to achieve that objective), and I just fall back to close my lines up. I get some useful archery while Tim doesn’t, but that’s a small comfort.

I finally manage to bring down the captain, and a little while later the drummer also goes down. Woo-hoo, I’ve achieved an objective! Too bad I’m getting my ass kicked. My infantry on the left has been attrited, and my cavalry has been neutralized. His wargs from the right are hitting my lines, and I’ve committed my archers, but they’re dropping fast as well. To make matters even worse, I dismount one of his trackers, but the warg passes its test and his other captain climbs onto the warg! DAMN! I also haven’t made a dent in his infantry because I’m so desperately shielding to keep them off of my cavalry.

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I finally manage to break through his flank protectors and surround his wargs, but its too little too late. My infantry are nearly gone, and my archers are getting annihilated. Tim owns the center of the field, and my force breaks. Tim has now achieved two objectives, breaking my force and holding the majority of the hills.

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Now my force is disappearing, so I need to find a way to achieve some objectives and stop Tim from doing the same. I send the captain off towards the back edge, and roll for his Courage test – 4! OH CRAP! After initially removing the model, we realize he has one will and one might, so we put him back on the table then immediately rode him off. Two to two.

My force is dissolving, but one of my archers pulls a Superman and wins combat against the warg captain and three other models. He the proceeds to end the warg the captain is riding on. I’ve got a chance! I run Khamul and my two remaining kataphracts towards Tim’s last captain and I try to keep him Transfixed, but I blow the roll and Khamul is now down to two will. The captain then runs off, and we’re at 3-2 in Tim’s favor. The best I can now do is a Minor Loss, so I start running Khamul away like a little girl with Tim’s troops in hot pursuit. I don’t pull the delaying crap, and as time is called Tim is finally engaged with Khamul with only one will remaining. I lose the fight and we call the game.

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RESULT: Major Loss, +2 Bonus Points (for getting my captain off the back edge and killing half his heroes)

I’m really not sure what I could have done here. If I’d gone right, I’d have been swamped much faster. If I’d gone into the center I’d have been surrounded and annihilated. The dice just didn’t like me against the wargs fast enough. In the end, I think this was a list issue. I didn’t have the high power combat captain I had at Vegas, nor did I have the magic trickery with either a budget wraith or Gandalf. I might have been able to challenge Tim for the hills, but that would have just meant he had that much more infantry in the fight. All in all, he played a great game and earned his Major Victory.
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Postby ChrisLS » Sat Oct 10, 2009 7:52 pm

GAME 4 – Decapitation

Opponent: David Wan – Moria with Angmar
Table: Highland Village

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This scenario was my answer to To Kill A King. I love the idea of having to protect your heroes while still needing them to get the job done, but Tim’s criticism of the original scenario is spot on – one or two lucky rolls and the game can be over, often before combat is joined. So the idea here is to kill your opponent’s leadership (heroes and banners) while preserving your own. There was a tiny amount of math to determine victory here – subtract the percentage of your leadership killed from the percentage of your opponent’s leadership killed, and if you get 50% or over, you win a Major, if it is positive, you get a Minor. Draw is equal percentages killed, and a loss is obviously if you have a negative number. So an example would be – I kill 3 out of 4 of my opponent’s leaders (75%) and he kills 1 of two of my leaders (50%) – I win a Minor Victory (75%-50%=25%). If I managed to keep all of my leaders alive, I’d have gotten a Major.

David is a very good player, having regularly played against Wyn and myself and beaten both of us. He got started years back when I was still managing a GW hobby center and he figured out that Goblins were point for point the most efficient force out there. For a while he would play the hordes – 100+ models on the table with 4 or more captains. It totally sucked. He almost stopped playing when Legions came out, but he figured out how to play them well with the cap. For this one, I think he was mindful of the 2 1/4 hour time limit, because his force was only 50 models. To reduce his numbers, he brought a shade, a shaman, and 6 captains. Oh, and I have to kill his leadership? Goody.

I forget who deployed first, but David made what I considered to be a controversial choice – he spread his captains out across the table, backing each one up with warriors. He doesn’t have the normal goblin overwhelming advantage in numbers, so it seemed to me his best bet would be concentrating his forces around the shade and shaman and forcing me to try to cut my way into them. With the way he deployed, I can probably cut his forces in half and keep the half with the shade in them from messing with me while I take out captains. I deploy with my archers all on my left, my infantry in the center, and my cavalry right.

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I start off with my cavalry going towards the right – I want him to believe I’m shooting for his flank. I also send my infantry towards the houses on the right, and bring my archers in to block access to the center square. Sure enough, he starts pulling those forces back and bringing troops over from the center to support them. I send some of my infantry into the house to hold it against any incursions and throw a few more models into the gap between the houses, and shift everything else left. The archers drop back to start shooting at his troops that were trying to flank my forces and trap them in the middle. I’ve already gotten his army split in half.

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David does not take this lightly. He starts pulling his forces back away from the incoming cavalry and throws the forces on my right towards my blocking force. He double checks distances to make sure I can’t pull a Heroic Combat and get my mounted models into his center captain. He does that right – unfortunately he didn’t count on Khamul. One four die Compel later, a little goblin goes walking out in front of his lines and is pounced upon by my mounted captain, a swordsman, and a kataphract. The following Heroic Combat puts my captain up close and personal with his captain, who is cut down in a single turn. I’m in the lead and even get two bonus points for killing one of his heroes with my own hero.

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I’m keeping his shade and shaman group, which has three captains with it, off to one side. Through holding the houses and the gap between them, David simply can’t get through. He’s winning almost every fight due to that damn shade, but my D6 is keeping the troops alive. When one does fall, I start collapsing my far right to back up the main line.

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On my left, I get an awesome round of archery, putting two wounds onto one of his other captains, but he makes his fate roll so he doesn’t die. David uses the goblins’ ability to climb to great effect, as well as the choke points. This can only work for so long, though, as my archers jump into the fray with my infantry. I crush resistance on the far left, and his wounded captain goes running behind a hill. Another captain is finally cornered between a house and a hill and is killed. As time runs out, David still hasn’t broken through my lines, but there is no way I can kill half of his heroes.

RESULT: Minor Win, +2 Bonus points (for killing one of his heroes with my hero)

Afterwards, David told me he hadn’t counted on Compel, which allowed me to break through his lines and take out his first captain. While I can see that, I don’t think that was the game breaker. What really did it was the fact that I could keep half of his army, which included his single most effective model (the shade) out of the main fight. Rather than sending some of his forces around my flanks through, around, or even over the houses (remember, these are goblins we’re talking about) he just beat his forces against the thin green line of troops. I could replace my losses because he wasn’t threatening my flanks, and I won enough to prevent them from being overwhelmed. All he had to do was get enough people into combat with Khamul (an easy task with his shaman) and suddenly I need to kill 4 of his models just to break even. This time, David was off his game. I expect he’ll be much better prepared for next year with the year long tournament series Wyn and I are running to build up interest in the GT.
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Postby ChrisLS » Sun Oct 11, 2009 9:35 am

GAME 5 – Own the Field

Opponent: Stewart Blain – Thranduil’s Halls/Riders of Eorl alliance
Table: Highland Village

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This scenario is very similar to Domination, but it changed what I considered to be the two most annoying parts of it. First, victory is determined not by controlling a set number of objectives, but by controlling more objectives than your opponent. You also can’t control an objective unless you have at least twice the number of models on that objective as your opponent. As with everything else, two more objectives was a Major, one more a Minor. The second major change I put in was taking away the random game end. I’ve heard a good case made for it, but having played several games where I was in firm control of the game and failed to get a Major Win because the game ended at the first opportunity, I see the flaws more than the benefits. In this case, I set the game end at time or when one army was destroyed.

Stewart is a friend of Wyn’s who was recruited in the last week before the tournament to make sure we could actually play it. He’s played several times, but he doesn’t have his own tournament army, so he borrowed a force I’d seen before – Wyn’s Legolas/Eorl the Young alliance that I’d played against at Vegas in the last round. I knew this would not be an easy game.

We set out the objectives first. We ended up with a cluster of objectives near each other – two houses and a small hill – and one hill far away from the others. Stewart won the roll off for choosing deployment areas and picked the corner closest to the cluster of objectives. That put the last objective in my deployment zone, so I put my archers on top of it. I figured I could volley fire and sweep the open square with archery if I needed to. Looking at the table and Stewart’s deployment, I didn’t think there was any chance I could take the intact house objective – spear supported elves could get into there before I could even get close, which meant obstacles defended by F5 models. Yeah, that ain’t happening. So instead I figured I’d sweep around the left side, taking the ruined house and then storming the small hill.

Things started off predictably – Eorl and the cavalry came down the center, Legolas came up my left side with infantry and a similar number of unsupported infantry came up the other side towards the intact house. The most obnoxious part of this list is two sentinels. In all of my lead up games before Vegas against Wyn, these guys were incredibly annoying, throwing my models hither and yon, setting up Heroic Combats, all of that kind of nonsense. But in Vegas I finally figured out how to deal with them – volley fire. As long as I can get two hits, I can put one of them on those damn sentinels. In Vegas, I killed those two guys in about three rounds. This time I think it took me four. I mentioned each time I killed a sentinel to Wyn as he played Tim over on another table – nasty comments followed. I’m a cruel person.

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As the forces drew closer to each other, I decided to try to suck Stewart’s cavalry into a pocket of infantry and cavalry together in the hope of nullifying his charges and surrounding them. In the mean time, I’d hit the elves on my left with my remaining cavalry to keep them busy while I finished off the Rohirrim. I also figured I’d try to bottle up the elves inside the house when I realized I could get to the door and windows before them elves – the first person to an obstacle defends it!

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This plan went best in the center. Eorl came rampaging into the middle of the table, but Khamul first Transfixes him and then charges him, juiced up for extra attacks. Several more Easterlings pile into the founder of Rohan and in no time he is dead. Apparently I was the only person to kill Eorl the entire tournament. Go me! I’m also taking out more of the Riders in the center as I encircle them.

Alas, the elves are not as cooperative. My brilliant maneuver on the right side completely backfires on me when two surviving Riders charge the rear of my defenders, allowing the elves inside to open the door and get around the obstacles. Nice knowing you guys. Legolas and his buddies also prove to be extremely troublesome, brushing off my cavalry and mounted captain and starting to pour through the gap in the ruined house. In there, the surrounder is in danger of becoming the surroundee. At least the Rohirrim are almost completely gone.

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Remember my archers? I forgot about them too. Well, not really, but my idea of sweeping the center of the town was great as long as I didn’t think about range. Almost all of the fights took place outside of 24” from them. I did fire some more volleys, but failed to accomplish anything meaningful. Meanwhile, I count up the models in the ruined house and I’m up, but I need to kill three models to be outnumbering 2-to-1. Legolas promptly changes my math by killing another model. I’m able to slowly whittle them down, but the key is “slowly”. Time is running out, and I’m unable to outnumber Legolas’ crew in the house by two to one, so I can’t hold that objective. When time is called, Stewart holds the intact house and a hill, and I hold a hill.

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RESULT: Minor Loss, +1 Bonus Point (holding one objective)

In this game, I made a classic LOTR error – I left my archers out of the fight. I didn’t need 12 archers to hold that rear objective, but I left them there, succumbing to the siren song of volley fire. With them making up a quarter of my force, it is no wonder I couldn’t outnumber the elves. If I’d left two models back on my hill and sent the other ten archers in as soon as I’d killed his sentinels, I’d have been able to swamp the cavalry in the middle, preventing my boys over at the house from getting dogpiled, and I could have thrown several more models into the ruined house to outnumber Legolas. Those two things probably would have allowed me to assault the rear hill, or at the worst just start shooting the elves up top there with direct fire. I also think the scenario worked exactly as I designed it – the person who controls the most objectives, and I mean TRULY controls them, wins. While I outnumbered Legolas in the ruins, I can’t pretend to have control over that objective. Stewart, on the other hand, truly controlled the other two objectives. In a typical Domination, this would have been a draw – one I don’t think I deserved. Tim did have one valid complaint – with the game ending when one force is wiped out, a player can simply play “kill ‘em all” without regard to the objectives, then jump on a couple objectives as the other force disappears after being broken. His suggested solution – ending the game when one side hits a quarter of its starting models – will be incorporated into this scenario in the future.
In my fantasy world, we have pie.

Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself. - Mark Twain
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ChrisLS
 
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Postby ChrisLS » Sun Oct 11, 2009 10:36 am

GENERAL REVIEW

First off, the ringer army. The first time I ever played ringer in a tournament was at GW’s 2003 Los Angeles Grand Tournament. I was on the 40K side (I had barely even seen LOTR at that point, and was to order my Fantasy starter set with the comp I got from working the GT) and got to play the studio Grey Knights army. It was GORGEOUS. It had lots of examples of what is in the army. It had a hand written list that didn’t explain what everything was. On the whole, it was unbalanced, had huge holes in its capabilities, and generally sucked as a gaming army. If you know 40K, it had precisely one anti-tank weapon – a dreadnought with a lascannon.

I played a guy who later on I found out was part of a group of guys whose hobby was to come up with the most broken, wrong, over-the-top, win-at-all-costs armies, then slug it out between them all. They did make sure they were pretty though. So I ended up playing his two-monolith Necron list with 60 warriors (no phase out realistically possible). To make a long story short, I got incredibly lucky and popped both of his monoliths in the first two turns. I still almost lost. After the game, he exclaimed, “The ringer isn’t supposed to WIN!” As it turns out, that was his only loss of the entire tournament. I probably knocked him out of contention for Best Overall.

While I personally didn’t feel bad about winning at all (particularly against such a cheesy list), there is a certain logic to what he said. The ringer army isn’t there to win, it’s to give a good game to the odd man out. It shouldn’t be a pushover, mind you – but its purpose is to make sure everyone has a game. In most tournaments, the ringer is going to be playing the person at the dead bottom so it has the least impact on the standings as possible. After playing in a small tournament with a small version of Mithrandir’s Errand army as ringer, my opponent made the comment to the next guy, “Oh, so it’s your turn to get beaten on by Gandalf.” Point taken.

This army definitely achieved that goal. It wasn’t quite as bad as a list I put together that I called “The Sub-Optimals” but it wasn’t that great, either. Khamul on foot, point for point, has a case for being one of the worst models in the game. Put him on an armored horse and he isn’t much better – I’d take a Morannon Orc Captain, budget Nazgul, and an orc with a Banner over mounted Khamul any day of the week. Perhaps when he’s on a Fell Beast he’d be better. With 3 S6 attacks on the charge, knocking down cavalry, plus the ability to juice his attacks, strength, or fight and get back his will – now you’re talking a model I can see playing with. Of course, then he’s an arrow magnet, but you can’t have everything.

I’m also reminded of why I started to convert all of my archers to be spear carriers. It is far too tempting to leave your archers in the back of your lines and volley fire away, keeping them out of the fight until it is too late. With spears, your lower defense archers are able to contribute to the melee without becoming easy pickings. You will also want to keep them with your infantry so you’ll have them when you need them. Leaving that innovation out of this list was right and proper for a ringer army.

Of course, in this tournament with everyone playing the ringer, I wanted to play that less than the best army to its fullest. It would just be unfair to the strong players to do otherwise. In a normal tournament, where the ringer is facing off against the bottom of the heap, I’d probably dial back the competitiveness and make sure my opponent had a good time.

Next, the scenarios. Each one was based upon the same principles: 1) The game should be determined by the ability to meet objectives while preventing your opponent from doing the same; 2) The game should take most if not all of the time allotted, and; 3) there shouldn’t be any randomness in the scenario that can significantly affect the game’s outcome.

The objectives for each of the games was based upon comparing the number of objectives you accomplished to the number your opponent accomplished. I really like this system, because it means that even if one person is down, the game isn’t over and they still have a chance to claw back. The person in the lead can’t slack off or stop playing to the scenario when their opponent can still accomplish their own objectives and take the victory away from them. I also liked that I didn’t see a place at which counter-intuitive play was encouraged (such as trying to get your own people killed or avoiding killing your opponent’s models). One of Tim’s comments was that with the Priorities scenario, he wasn’t sure what to go after first, and he couldn’t go for everything at once in the beginning – GREAT! That was exactly what I wanted to see happen.

One complaint that I have frequently heard (particularly from Tim) is how many scenarios can be played as “kill ‘em all”, which is where LOTR is the weakest. It is games like those that created the impression that LOTR is just about “rolling 6s.” I’m not a huge fan of “kill ‘em all” but I can see that it has a place in the overall picture. For this tournament, nothing was pure “kill ‘em all”, though it certainly helped in Decapitation and Own the Field, and one of the objectives in Different Priorities was just to kill your opponent’s troops. So I guess the fact that most objectives are supported by killing your opponent’s army kind of makes up for the fact that there was no pure “kill ‘em all” scenario, and I think I will continue that in my future tournaments.

Are there any other thoughts out there about the scenarios? Any suggestions for other scenarios with the same principles?

As for the overall tournament, I think it went really well. We had time restrictions due to having to pay for overtime for the ship’s staff, but I think next year that can be dealt with by eliminating the Friday night registration and gaming and adding a little time onto the other days. The player packets that I borrowed from other GTs I’ve attended worked really well, and the overall scoring system also worked well. For a long time, I’ve used a peer grading system, where each opponent gives the other a grade of 2 to 10 points for their sportsmanship. The crappy part about this is that it becomes so subjective that it affects the outcome of the event. If you do run into a truly bad sportsman, they are far more likely to give YOU a poor rank out of competitiveness or spite. I think I do prefer the GW system (at least in the US) where you check boxes to make sure various unsportsmanlike behaviors are avoided (inaccurate measuring, non-WYSIWYG, being grumpy or rude, etc) but the real Best Sportsman is determined by a ranking system that doesn’t seriously impact the overall tournament.

I’m really excited about the next year of events, and I am hoping to get more GTs myself in as well!
In my fantasy world, we have pie.

Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself. - Mark Twain
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Postby BostonNazgul » Sun Oct 11, 2009 5:14 pm

3) there shouldn’t be any randomness in the scenario that can significantly affect the game’s outcome.


I know jamie and tim run a tight shift but that goal is one that makes me a happy tourney player, just something to always consider when making scenarios etc.

Good thoughts on the ringer list, thats usually why you see alot of non-popular armies as ringers; i.e. 2nd age gondor, non-elite heros, basic core troops etc.

Just like having a good natured opponent, having a good natured ringer player is even more key. Having a very competitive person run a ringer list can also lead to unhappy situations.
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Postby ChrisLS » Sun Oct 11, 2009 7:52 pm

BostonNazgul wrote: non-elite heros, basic core troops etc.


Hmmm... sounds like I should try an army like one of Hixon's for ringer. After all, Khand Mercenaries suck, right? :lol:

Maybe that's my motivation to get my Army of the High King painted - I can use it for ringer next year!
In my fantasy world, we have pie.

Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself. - Mark Twain
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Postby Smeagol » Sun Oct 11, 2009 9:29 pm

My armies are not high powered killers, but they are good scenario forces. I'm not sure they're a good Ringer choice. :P
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Postby prion2001 » Mon Oct 12, 2009 6:27 pm

Thanks for posting this. It's always great to see new LotR events popping up. And playing on an aircraft carrier in front of actual machines of war is about the coolest gaming venue I could think of.

Keep us posted here about your plans for next year. I'm sure you'll see an increase in numbers in 2010.

Jamie
"It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing." Boromir
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