Glorious Battle: Easterlings vs Gondor!

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Glorious Battle: Easterlings vs Gondor!

Postby BaronDeSade » Sat Dec 05, 2009 2:23 pm

Samwise Gamgee looked up at Faramir. “Captain Faramir, you’ve shown your quality, sir, the very highest.”

Faramir smiled at the two hobbits and their gangrel guide. The shadows in the sewer passage shifted then, as Madril, Ranger of Gondor stepped into the entrance. “Captain Faramir, a force of Easterlings approach from the North! They must have crossed the river undetected by our scouts.”

Faramir’s face hardened. “Then they have turned our flank.” He gestured to the hobbits, “Go, make all haste to the other side of the river, and may all luck be with you.” He turned back to Madril, “Ready the army for a pitched battle. The Easterlings will come at us in a formal battle line, unlike those skulking Orcs. Make sure the Knights are ready as well; we’ll want their lances to pierce the Easterling armor.”

Madril hurried off, shouting orders. Faramir watched the Hobbits disappear down the sewer tunnel. “Good luck,” he whispered again, then turned back towards the surface of Osgiliath.

To the North, the Easterling army had halted outside the edge of what had used to be the protective wall of Osgiliath, but had been reduced to rubble by Orcish siege weapons. Amdur, the lord of blades, stood in front of his Easterlings. His helmet rested in the crook of his arm, his pale, almost Elvish features exposed to the sun. His voice rang over the assembled Men of Rhun like a clarion call.

“Warriors of Rhun! You stand before a ruined city, but the glory of this battle remains undamaged, and is yours to take! The wretched Orcs have failed to capture this city and hold it, but today, we have a chance to shine in the gaze of the Great Eye, and show how Rhunish Men can do what Orcs cannot! Today, we will wrench this city from the weak and failing hands of the Men of the West, and present it to our lord, Sauron the Great!”

He paused, surveying his army with a grim smile. “Men of Rhun, are you ready for battle?”

“Ready!” shouted the Easterlings. They raised their swords, spears and bows in a glittering forest of bronze-forged weaponry, then beat their weapons upon their shields in a deafening chorus of percussion. Amdur donned his horned helmet, then raised his sword in the order to move forward. The first line of Easterlings began to march forward. They were the swordsmen, who carried large rectangular shields. It would be their honor to first engage the enemy, blunting their attack and pushing them back. Behind them stepped the archers, who were already forming into a solid block, ready to send a volley of arrows deep into the Gondorian lines. The third line was made up of the veteran spearmen, who were uniquely skilled in the art of close formation combat, and the Kataphrakts, Easterling warriors who rode horses that wore heavy bronze armor just as the Men of Rhun did. Amdur marched along with the third rank, as did his second, the Dragon Knight Sadun. Along with them glided the black, hunched form of a Ringwraith, casting an almost tangible aura of terror wherever it went.

The Gondorians, for their part, had split their force into four groups. Two squads of infantry stood fast in the center, while to their left, a squad of archers took cover behind some crumbling stone walls. On the extreme left, a squadron of Gondorian Knights galloped forwards at full speed, led by a captain and bearing a resplendent white banner.

Amdur could see that the Gondorian Knights were trying to outflank his right, and were galloping towards a large, fairly intact wall, where they would be protected from the Easterlings archery. ‘They haven’t made it to cover, yet,” he thought with sadistic pleasure. “Give them a volley!” he ordered his archers.

The Easterling archers bent back their bows and sent a hail of arrows raining down on the Gondorian Knights. One arrow plunged straight down into the Knight-Captain’s horse, tumbling the beast into the dust and sending the Captain to the ground in a humiliated heap. The Gondorian archers fired back, but Amdur smiled as he saw their arrows glance harmlessly off of his warriors’ upraised shields.

The Gondorian cavalry continued forward, undaunted, with their captain running behind them like a small child might run after his older brothers. Amdur watched the Gondorian infantry march forward at full speed, and he recognized that the weight of their attack would come on his left flank. “Shift the line to the left!” he ordered, and the Easterling warriors began move in a diagonal direction, forward and to the left. Amdur ordered his archers to hold position, and left Sadun the Dragon Knight in charge of a small contingent that would hold the right flank if the Gondorian Knights tried a flanking maneuver. He was confident that Sadun could handle the Knights with only a few warriors to help him. With that, he followed the motion of the battle towards the left, with the malign presence of the Ringwraith gliding alongside him. He knew the Nazgul could speak, but they rarely did unless it was to give orders. He took this one’s silence as an unspoken agreement with his tactics.

A man next to him grunted as an arrow struck him between the scales of his armor. Amdur ignored it. There would be a lot more casualties in the coming hours. His archers and the Gondorians were continuing to trade volleys, trading blood for blood in even numbers.

He continued to march, forward and to the left, when he saw the Gondorian soldiers falling back before him. Amdur frowned. He understood what they were doing. Now that their Knights had reached the safety of the stone wall, they were going to continue to retreat before him, trying to bleed his force white with archery. It was a wretched, cowardly tactic, unworthy of the Gondorians, whose force already outnumbered Amdur’s. Never the less, it could work, if he allowed it to. “Shift the line to the left, sharply!” he shouted. This would bring the Easterling forces farther away from the Gondorian archers on the right, while also minimizing the frontage he presented to the Gondorian infantry in front of him, should they decide to turn and attack. Although the Gondorians had more men, he knew that none of them could match his skill with a blade, and that, over time, he could cut down their numbers without difficulty.

The Gondorian archers fired another volley, which did nothing, while some Easterling Kataphrakts galloped over to the right, so that they could now see the Gondorian Knights who were skulking there. The Easterling archers drew their bows back and fired a volley at the other side of the wall, and one of their arrows struck the de-horsed Gondorian captain, grievously wounding him.

The captain staggered forward, only to see an Easterling Kataphrakt bearing down on him. With an admirable display of fighting skill, the captain sidestepped the charge, cutting the legs out from under the horse, moved in as the rider fell to the ground, and dispatched him with a downward thrust of his sword.

The Gondorian Knights began to back up, though, as they saw the Dragon Knight rounding the wall, his twin scimitars poised to strike. The Gondorian captain stepped back as well, only to be charged by another Kataphrakt, whom he disposed of as easily as he had the first. Sadun shook his head. That captain had natural skill. As the Gondorian Knights backed up, though, they exposed themselves to the Easterling archers, who shot one of the Knights out of his saddle. A moment later, the Gondorian captain lunged forward, and with a mighty swing, killed another Kataphrakt.

Out on the left flank of the Easterlings line, Amdur saw with grim satisfaction that the Gondorians had stopped retreating and were forming into a battle line. Finally, he would have his chance to display his swordsmanship! He slowed his own advance, allowing the Easterling warriors to catch up with him and form their own battle line. The first squad of Gondorians didn’t wait for the Easterlings to finish forming up, though, and launched an immediate attack, while their second squad marched forward, seeking to move around an array of broken walls and attack the Easterlings in the flank. Amdur saw the maneuver, and ordered his Kataphrakts to fall back, ready to run down any Gondorian infantry that tried to press his flank.

Above the serried ranks of Gondorian warriors, a white banner marked with a silver tree rippled in the wind. It was a sign of great significance for the Men of Gondor, even as Amdur himself was a herald of victory to the Easterlings. Were the banner to fall, it would be a grave blow to Gondorian morale.

The man who held the banner waved it with enthusiasm, shouting inspirational words to his fellows. Then, he locked gazes with a hunched, black-robed figure that stalked amongst the Easterlings. The faceless gaze of the Nazgul seemed to bore into his very soul. His blood turned to ice water, and his heart froze in his chest. He staggered backwards, with no thought in his mind but to get away from the dread shape. He fell back, alone, and the whistling of a volley of Easterling arrows barely registered in his terrified mind. Piercing pain ran through him as a Rhunish arrow plunged into his throat. He staggered and fell, letting the white banner fall into the mud.

Amdur smiled a predatory smile, stepped forward, and cut down a hapless soldier of Gondor. All around him, heavily armored men clashed, but their armor prevented most of them from seriously harming their opponents. It mattered not to Amdur. He was the greatest swordsman on the field, and his hand-and-a-half falchion could cut through heavier armor than could his companion’s scimitars.

Out on the right flank, Sadun watched in disgust as the Gondorian captain slew yet another Kataphrakt. Sadun would have gone after the captain himself, but he knew the man would just run away from him like the rest of his cowardly ilk had done, and besides, he needed to stand by in case the Gondorian Knights broke out.

His opinion quickly changed, though, as the Gondorian archers fired a devastating salvo of arrows into the Kataphrakts that were guarding Amdur’s rear, killing two of their horses. Sadun knew that he was needed on the left flank, now, and he motioned for his troops to follow him. The Rhunish archers would have to fend for themselves. Seeing this, the Gondorian Knights charged out from behind the wall, only to have two of their horses shot out from under them by the accurate shots of the Easterling archers. It seemed that the archers would be able to fend for themselves very well indeed!

Amdur’s falchion swept down and hacked through the shoulder of the Gondorian warrior who had been foolish enough to get in front of him. Behind him, the Nazgul continued to work its arcane magic, but so far, Captain Faramir, its target, seemed to be resisting it so far.

Those Gondorian Knights that still had horses charged towards the Easterling archers, as did the wounded Gondorian captain on foot who had been the bane of so many Kataphrakts today. The Easterling archers pulled back their bows and shot the Gondorian captain down, turning him into a silver-armored pin-cushion, while another Gondorian Knight’s horse went sprawling with an Easterling arrow in its chest. The Gondorian archers were drifting forward and towards the main melee, and occasionally brought down an Easterling warrior with a snapped-shot, but their fire was in no way as effective as that of the Easterlings.

Amdur knocked a Gondorian warrior aside with an elbow-jab, and came face to face with Captain Faramir. Amdur’s almond-shaped eyes were hard beneath the bronze mask of his helmet. Faramir’s bearded face was likewise set, although he trembled with the effort of resisting the Nazgul’s magic. Amdur thrust his sword at Faramir, who parried as Amdur had expected him to, but Amdur had feinted, and reversed his grip cutting open Faramir’s flesh where his breastplate rested on his thick leather belt. Bright crimson blood began to flow down Faramir’s legs, and he fell back from Amdur, warriors of Gondor rushing forward to fill in the gap he had left and protect their captain from the lord of blades.

Stymied, Amdur slashed at the Gondorians as their flanking force closed in to attack. The Men of the West and the East struggled fiercely against each other, but the Gondorians had more warriors, and they were pressing the Easterlings back.

With a heroic effort, Sadun launched himself at the Gondorian captain who commanded the flanking force, forcing him back with a storm of slashing attacks. Amdur slashed and fought, but his foes were holding a firm shield-wall against him. Meanwhile, Faramir had tightened his belt over his wound, and cut down an Easterling warrior who tried to attack him. Out on the right flank, one of the last two Gondorian Knights charged at the Easterling archers, his lance lowered menacingly. The rest of the Easterling archers drew back and fired into the melee, their expertly-aimed arrows skewering the Knight while leaving the Easterling untouched.

Although the Gondorians were pressing in on the front and flank, the arcane magic of the Nazgul stole the initiative away from them. Faramir felt his limbs deaden and grow heavy as the Ringwraith’s magic finally broke through his mental defenses. He could see Amdur coming at him, but he had not the strength to turn away. He found himself alone, facing Amdur and an Easterling swordsman. He tried to raise his shield, but his arm seemed to be made of lead. Amdur raised his sword in a two-handed finishing-grip. “Now, Captain Faramir, your men shall see your true quality.” Amdur struck downwards, slaying Faramir and covering himself with crimson glory. The Easterlings cheered to see Amdur triumphant, while the Men of the West groaned in despair.

The weight of the Gondorians was beginning to tell against the Easterlings, though. Many of the Eastern Men had already been lost to arrows, and the Kataphrakts had all been dismounted or slain. Amdur and the Dragon Knight continued to slay their foes with abandon, but their bloody work was not fast enough to turn the tide of battle in their favor.

Out on the right flank, the last Gondorian Knight, still holding a white banner high, charged forward and dispatched another Easterling archer. As he attempted to repeat this feat, though, the rest of the Easterling archers fired into the melee between him and another archer, and again, slew the Gondorian Knight without harming the Easterling. The second of the Gondorian’s banners fluttered into the dust.

The Gondorian captain of the flanking force had fought his way to the rear of Amdur’s infantry. He was in an excellent position to attack the dread Ringwraith, and end the black spirit’s reign of terror. Yet, every time he tried to attack the Nazgul, his liver turned to jelly. Again and again, he tried to force himself to move, to slay the Ringwraith, but every time, his heart failed him.

Amdur laughed at the cowardice of the Gondorian captain, but the gods do not smile on hubris, and even a lord of blades is still a mortal man. Four warriors of Gondor launched at attack at Amdur’s flank, and somehow struck past his defenses and his armor. The lord of blades stood, transfixed by two swords in his chest, and then slumped to the ground to join many of his warriors in pools of Eastern blood.

It was too much for the Easterlings. Their morale broke, and many of them cast away their shields and fled. Even the Dragon Knight retired, fighting off opportunistic Gondorians with his flashing scimitars. The Nazgul fought on, along with a handful of inspired warriors, but it was not enough. Gondor had won this day with a major victory over the Men of Rhun, but the sun set on a bittersweet triumph. With Captain Faramir slain, would the defenders of Osgiliath be able to hold against Gothmog’s inevitable assault? Gone too, were their banners, their Knights, and one of Faramir’s captains, and the captain that remained had shown himself to be a knock-kneed coward in the presence of the Nazgul. How long could they hold?

Alright! That was a most enjoyable battle against Gary that went for 19 rounds before the Easterlings were reduced to 25% of their starting number. Most of the time, Gary’s skill at this game far exceeds my own, and he seems to play against me without much effort or thought. This time, though, he was extremely focused, thinking hard about his moves and even taking some of them back when he realized that I had already considered his options and moved to block them. His “Fabian strategy” of trying to bleed me while his infantry retreated gave him mixed returns, as my own archers devastated his Knights and slew his banner bearer. He rightly feared the Dragon Knight, and this hampered his movements on the right flank, and he did his best to avoid Amdur with Faramir, but eventually the priority swung back to the Evil side and Amdur disposed of Denethor’s lesser son. It is regrettable that I lost without breaking the Gondorians, as I was expecting great returns from the Nazgul’s Harbinger of Evil special rule, but I began the game with fewer models, lost quite a few to archery, lost several in the general attrition melee on the left flank, and Gary did a very good job of disposing of my Kataphrakts. His Gondorian captain, I think, was remarkably lucky to be able to defeat four Kataphrakts on his own, with only one wound, but I had more than my own share of luck as well. Compelling the Gondorian banner backwards and then volley firing at it was a long shot (literally) but it paid off, hugely, and moving the banner away from the Gondorian infantry for a turn was a worthwhile objective even if the banner bearer survived. Gary was also quite frustrated as my archers fired accurately into melees and killed two of his Knights. So, although I didn’t win, I played very well, had some great luck, and enjoyed tormenting my opponent with my dread heroes and laughing at his lily-livered captain who could never attack my Ringwraith.

I love the new options that the new Easterling heroes have given me. I used to have to try and win my battles with attrition of numbers, but now I have dread heroes who can stalk the battlefield and intimidate my opponents! Glory!

Thanks for reading!

Baron DeSade
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Postby Gartl » Sat Dec 05, 2009 3:24 pm

Excellent story and a truly excellent game. This game reminded me very much of some my and Tim's games; move-countermove. A real chess match. Your new heroes have given you new options that you are using very effectively. This is quite probably our best game ever. Thanks!
It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. - Boromir FOTR
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Postby BostonNazgul » Sat Dec 05, 2009 3:42 pm

uh oh, gary is getting back into lotr! watchout! all that teaching in school has got him wanting to give us vets a lesson or two!
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Postby Gartl » Sat Dec 05, 2009 4:26 pm

LOL! Probably no teaching from me. In my last game against Tim I had forgotten basic rules like volly fire. Instead of doubling my range I was adding 3". Don't ask me how I came up with that, but there you are :-)
It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. - Boromir FOTR
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