Thursday, September 29, 2011

Taking a moment to ponder

I"ll end my all Lord of Rings SBG month of Blog Talk, with some food for thought. Our local tournament I have been talking about all month Bilbo's Birthday Bash, now has 33 registered and paid players. yes you read that correctly 33 "paid" players with 5 weeks to go for Lord of the Rings SBG. If you follow Lord of the Rings at all, you know its tight group nationally that travels alot. so half of the attendees are from out of town. Still 16 local players with 600 point painted blowing my mind, I have to tell you. When I started dabbling in this game in 2008 it was already waning as a GW core game, at the height of 7th Edition Warhammer, the first tournament I played in BBB 09, had 7 players and a ringer.  You never saw the game being played in GW store. The National events in 2010 were at an all time low attendance wise, resulting in the worst turnout in years at Adepticon this last spring.

So what the hell happened in the last six months.??? Well we all have our own opinions I am sure, but for me it has alot to due with WFB's 8th edition wearing out its welcome for alot of people (which was not helped at all by GW recent behavior in the customer relations department, (aka, Failcast, insane price increases, and price fixing'/gouging in AUS/NZ)  It's not just WFB defections, as for the record there are only a handful of people I know on the list who are former or on-hiatus WFB players, who did not choose to attend last weekends Core Competency event, which is "the" WFB fall tourney around here and only had 30 players turn out. Yes, you read that right three less the LotR current sign ups. If you told me 6 months ago, that BBB was going to outsell Core Comp, I would have told you I have a bridge to sell you. Now this isn't a slight at Core Comp, which is as great of a Warhammer event as you can get, (having played in 3 of them myself) but indicative in a change in player behavior.

Of course LotR SBG is still a GW game, yes rarely supported and treated as the red headed step child of the core games, and relegated to "Specialist Game", status for sometime now. Its large format cousin War of the Ring gets whatever attention GW has decided is merited and if your lucky you get updated SBG stats in White Dwarf. It easy to look the other way with this game and Games Workshop, its not their IP, with the majority of the sculpts by the Perry Twins and some of the better rules GW has written for game, and its the only game with low cost entry point, So there isn't much not to like, Company lack of support or behavior aside.  This game is 100% fan supported by fans, guys who like this game who have supported through thick and thin. I think most fans of the game, as well as non fans of game where hoping GW would drop the game when the contract was up, hoping someone else who wanted to support it would pick it up.  But with the new movies coming out next year GW eagerly persued and signed deals with Warner Brothers and renewed options with New Line Cinema. I dont think people realize there are lot of people out there who dont even play the game but collect the models, and people who do both have huge in "everything', not just an army or two. As result GW is all over the LotR for the new films, if the releases are SBG or WotR related I have no idea...part of the new cone of silence around GW new lack of information sharing has to do with strict confidentially agreements signed around the WB deal, so we wont see or hear anything on new releases I am sure until next fall at the earliest.

So much to the chagrin of various haters in both 40K and WFB camps the Lord of the Rings as a GW property isnt going anywhere anytime soon , in short its growing in popularity out a long period of neglect and stagnation because its something "good" thats been untainted by the years of GW bad decision making, The SBG has remained unchanged since the release of the big book. I think people are finding something consistent-refreshing. Compared to games you have thousands of dollars invested in that have army books that havent been updated in close to a decade and poorly written rules that can't keep pace with the splash releases or stand the test of multiple editions. In fact this game, is only damn consistent thing Games Workshop has done going back as far as 2007. I think people, around here anyway ,are catching to that fact. I have to ask you it just here? or are you seeing a resurgence of this game however minor in your area?

Cirith Ungol vs Isengard

Another 600 point brawl, in preparation for the upcoming BBB tourney, My pal Jeff came by, recently being inspired by all the LotR SBG activity going on in these parts, he dusted off his Isengard and brought them over for an evil on evil tournament style match up. Jeff is a long time GW collector and hobbyist for all its systems, so its great to see him dig into the LotR case from time to time and put those models to good use. We of course had to use my new Amon Hen piece as the table centerpiece.

Jeff's test list was something close to
8 Uruk Hai Scouts
8 Uruk Hai with Pikes
1 Uruk Hai with Banner
6 Feral Uruk Hai

My Cirith Ungol at 44 models has him at almost 2 to 1.

Unfortunately, I had way too much confidence in my Warg Riders as I sped them across the battlefield to engage. Saruman has a whole host of nasty tricks, "The Palantir" being able to call Priority being the worst
of them, other than that he's quite similar to Gandalf. Jeff just dropped back until I was out of 10 inch range
softened me up with Bows, after winning a key priority he brought Saruman out and hit me with big Sorcerous blast...then siezed the next priority with the Palantir and mobbed my warg riders, I took enough hurt there, that they were pretty neutralized.

I had Shelob looking for an oppotunity to go after Saruman..but the troll kept her at bay, with 3 attack dice
and no getting a charge bonus, the Spider only had one attack, meaning I needed my mob of guys trudging across the battefield to help me out with the troll.

We played the same scenario I played last game, where you have to contol 5 objective points. its very difficult to get a major victory as you need to control at least 4 at the end of this shot here I have 3 but it doesnt stay the way. Shelob ends up facing off with the Troll once the mob rolls in, but I am losing guys almost 3 to 1 versus Jeff. I put a wound on the troll but dont kill it.

The troll fails a terror test and freezes, giving Shelob the in on Saruman...I got close but not quite
Shelob never took a wound herself, but used all her will to fend off Saruman, immoblization attempts
in the end both survive but the White Wizard with only one wound and out of fate.

My force was broken somewhere around here, while Jeff was still a few models away, I roll the game continued for two turns...Jeff had his troll grab an objective, but as he hoped the guys I had camping on the two objectives on my side of the board, ran away, with failed courage lone warrior passed killed on his leaving the center contested, and I killed enough guys near one of the others to make that one close.
In the end Jeff had 1 objective, 2 contested and 2 empty, another Draw. although in kill points department
he did a great job, ending the game with an unbroken force with a 2 to 1 kill ratio against me.

This a great scenario, as you need to really use your head to get a major victory, separating your force is an fine idea, unless you get broken and your guys run away, You'll need a combination of brains, mobile forces and luck to win this one...I would have been way better off holding my cav back until the and learn.
Jeff realizes that while the troll had a roll in this match, it needs to go in favor of 100 more points troops, Saruman
and Lurtz are a great team..they dont need a troll.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Amon Hen and Some

My latest terrain piece is a popular one, the Amon Hen lookout post from the finale of the Fellowship of the Ring or the scene of the breaking of the Fellowship. Yeah I am on a Lord of the Rings binge of late, with huge turnout for our local Bilbo's Birthday Bash, just about a month away, I am busy toiling away in basement late night. . (like blogging at 1:25am) Between trying to finish painting the army, doing a display base, getting some practice games in, getting the films on Blu Ray last month and talk about making the Five Armies battle happen, its an easy thing to go binge on.

The Amon Hen piece came about as I was working on some new boards mainly for Ancients gaming, I am using alot of new landscaping materials from Woodland Scenics, I haven't really used before so I wanted a small test piece to try some stuff out, before I started landscaping the larger boards. somewhere along the way during that train of thought, I spoke to my pal Jeff and we talked about getting a game bringing his Isengard over and throwing down (this coming Tuesday.) or whatever reason while Isengard often makes folks think of the epic fight at Helm's Deep, It always makes me think of Amon Hen.

The Hirst blocks were already all cast, so all I really did here was build the hill out of Pink Foam.I worked up and built the basic design based by looking at the scene in the film and other peoples models. I wanted it to be playable, so I cut the design down a bit reducing the pillars to two so the was more room...I also made the model slight larger than some of the others I have seen, It just felt right when I start putting models next to it. The Seeing seat was the biggest challenge. I wanted to keep it simple. I cut the birds out with scroll saw and only used three instead of four as it just worked better. if your accustomed to detail work with a scroll saw, if was very easy, I wished I used a different material then MDF because it takes paint for shit..but this was meant to be a quickie project so I just went with it.

The fun new part was the landscaping, using the plaster rock molds and weathering pigment en masses was new for me. There is very little paint here, the building was sprayed Denheb Stone, the ground Brown and the rocks painted white..everything else here is weathering pigments except for some quickie drybrushing on the square edges at the very end to highlight...that's it done...I think from conception to completion may 10 hours since..Sunday. the bulk if being Sunday Night. Well get some good use out of it Tuesday as Mordor fights a 600 point practice game.

Speaking of my Cirith Ungol force, a couple quick pics of my Shelob, I spent alot of time on this model, from the posing, to re-modeling the face...(I think my model was miscast or something, I got it used and the face looked really I went to work on the scar tissue and proper remaining eyes) to the painting,. alot of washes, highlight, washes..repeat- going can not really tell from these photos but while she looks "black" its really dark dark blues and purples mixed up from a black base..I want to give here a little more color than the standard Black/Red/Grey highlight I have seen with this model. when I unpack the photo tent to shoot my Vikings I'll take a couple more clearer shots. Mordor Orcs are a tough army to make "pop" appearance wise due to the dark and cruddy tones that fit the themes, hopefully my characters will at least jump out a bit over the horde of plastic orcs I have on the bench.

Okay So besides my LotR binge, we got a Hail Caesar Campaign kicking off soon, and Ancients Armies also getting painted, and probably some Warmachine going on, in the next couple weeks, good times.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Erebor vs Cirith Ungol

Lord of the Rings Battle Recap and SBG update

I got the rare chance to get out the Chicago battle bunker last weekend, for some LotR SBG with my fellow blogger, miniature painter and LotR enthusiast Jamie W.

Jamie's got numerous beautiful armies and this time he brought out his Erebor Dwarven force for the upcoming Bilbos Birthday Bash and I brought out the Orcs of Cirith Ungol and their Spider Queen. Its was great game and we demoed one the event scenarios. I was happy to give the dwarves a go, as their brutal defensive stats make them one of the toughest armies in the game.

I forgot my camera so grabbing pics of Jamies great army of his blog is best I can do here.


Dwarf Captain with Shield
Dwarf Warrior w/ Banner
12 Dwarf Warriors w/ Dwarf Bow
7 Dwarf Warrios w/ Shield
8 Khazad Guard
6 Iron Guard
6 Dwarf Rangers w/ throwing axes and two-handed axes

Cirith Ungol

Shagrat, War Leader
Orc Shaman on Warg

8 Warg Riders, w/Hand Weapon and Shield
18 Orcs w/Hand Weapon and Shield
10 Orcs w/Spears
1 Orc with Banner.
4 Uruk Hai with two handed weapons

The scenario was a "control" scenario based on 5 objective many you controlled at the end of game dictate either Major, Minor win or Draw.

My deployment was very straight forward..and I cant see it particularly different in any game I play with ths Army, The Wargs on one flank the, Shelob on the other and the mob of Orcs in the middle.

Jamies deployment was a bit more nuanced he had his captain and a mix of Khazad and Iron guard with a couple rangers on the flank opposite the Wargs. the warriors with Bows in the center. Balin, The Banner Bearer and mix of remaining troops spread out on the other flank around the objective.

Worried about Volley fire directed at Shelob...I held her back and pushed hard with Wargs slamming into their brick wall of defense 6 and 7 troops by my second turn. The shaman leading the way had cast "Fury" and away they went for long struggle. My infantry need 4 full moves to really mix it up with dwarves and Jamie just waited for me to come to him in the middle. Shelob played cat and mouse with some of the dwarves that where screening for Balin, I survived many a ranged attack and during a run of many lost priorities in a row. Jamie just fed single dwarves to the spider to keep her tied up. eventually when the brawl in the middle broke out there was no where for the spider to get to that could cause alot of damage, so she just stayed on the edge, killing single dwarves hoping to break his hold on the objective. The Warg vs Khazad/Iron Guard flank was were alot of the action was...I literally charged, bounced off and charged again, and again...eventually whittling him down to the Defense 8 Captain who survived a 3 Warg Rider charged and was also the time I killed all the dwarves on the flank I'd lost most my Warg Riders and the battle of attrition in the middle evened us up on losses and both our forces broke at exactly the same time. According the scenario when one player breaks we roll to see how many turns the game continues. I roll "1" and then win priority. I start making break checks...Shagrat and his Orcs around him via standfast all stick around, so does Shelob, but none of my Wargs or few troopers I left camping on Objectives do...I go from having 2 objectives and contesting 1, to having zero....One more turn gets me some good kills and Jamie has bad break check run too. so in the end, it winds up 1 objective for him 2 contested by me...and a Draw...but its was literally down to the last turn, and we both easliy lost 75% of our forces with our main heroes and small entourages remaining.--a bloodbath, as it should be.

It took me half the game to get my head back in the rules, While I have been playing Legends of the High seas all summer and it uses the same basic rules, LotR is alot more complicated due to alot of Might, Will and Fate being continuely used plus alot lot more special rules. I stupidly forgot that your banner bearer needs to be touching another model it keep the banner on the field if the bearer dies...and a sloppy move cost me banner at a key point toward the end. It was all good thou as a great bloody scrap like this got me pumped up to get a few more practice games in before the tournament. I was happy with my armies performance, Shagrat was a beast and Shelob had alot more staying power than I thought given her Hunting Instinct liability. Great game to Jamie, and I look forward to the next one.

With a notable crew of regional LotR players in attendance its was very cool to see the renewed interest in the game from the older players and a lot of new players too. I was totally surprised to see Brent sweating that he only had enough swag for 39 players, as he had over 20 paid with inquiries from another other people that he had to post a 1st come, 1st serve notice on the local forums in regards to swag for the event. My reaction was of course -39 players!! are you kidding me?..when I played in the original Bilbo's bash in 2009, it was 7 players and a ringer, with 300% percent bump in 2010 to 21, with a projected another 100 % attendance bump this year? If you read various popular forums you won't have to go far to find some 40K of WFB fanboy crowing about how LotR is dead and just eating resources from the other games. I don't think so guys. because when the chips are down, its the good games that have legs. It is the only low investment, high return game that GW puts out. For a tournament turnout comparison -Core, Competency one of area's bigger fall WFB tourneys only had 29 players last year (although its looking at over 40 this year) but for whatever reason, (points, scheduling) Adepticon numbers for LotR remain anemic, while other games are in triple digits..However, let be clear. Rumors of this games death are greatly exaggerated..with the Hobbit coming out next year, if you are in the IL, WI, MN, IN region, its definitely a good time to get or get back into this game.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Lonely Mountain

All things "The Hobbit" have been on my mind lately, not only from the upcoming Jackson films, or playing Game's Workshops Lord of the Rings, Strategy Battle Game, or even collecting various vintage LotR items. My wife even came home from the Thrift Store (2nd hand or resale shop) the last week, with an unprompted and totally unexpected score. The 7" 33 1/3 rpm story book version based on the 1977 Rankin/ Bass animated film for whole .25 cents (It routinely goes on eBay for about $20) This abridged, version of the abridged film is about 20 pages and clocks in at under 10mins and is perfect for my 5 and 3 year old. Since I am longtime fan of vinyl records we are dropping it on the turntable nightly as a bedtime story.

My 'active' miniatures collection has been in a state of flux of late as well. "Active" being gaming stuff I actually use for wargaming, versus my passive collection of vintage pieces, that dont really get used, other than to be painted at looked it. While for sometime now my active collection was much bigger due my interest in large format wargames, some parity is returning as I get rid of stuff that is strictly wargaming related. Actively what's been growing this year is various historically period figures or armies, and Lord of the Rings.

Since I have had a large enough army of Mordor for big "War of the Ring" style game, I have thought about slowly growing the good guys beyond the many heros I have to fill out the rank and file troops for a large format wargame. Not quite there yet, I could be for a modest sum. However I recently started thinking about my favorite part of "The Hobbit", The Battle of the Five Armies.

If you've read this far, you're surely familiar with the details of the above. So I am going to cut straight to the point of this piece. Recreating the "Battle of the Five Armies" in 28mm. We know Games Workshop produces this game in 6mm and its still currently available and of course it would be cheaper and easier to just play this on a 4x4 board. However if you've read Plastic Legions at all over the years you know the path of least resistance is rarely followed.

I'm sure over the course of 2012-2013, GW is going to release of slew of new models concerning the above in 28mm and I am definitely both excited and cynical about that...since that's along way off, my mind immediately starting thing about how to make this happen in a timely manner, and a serious of coincidences make attaining this goal not all that difficult. Lets get to the details.

The Battlefield

In 1998, Miniatures Wargames Magazine ran an article on BoFA in 28mm using popular rules of the time, I stumbled upon an online archive of this (and other great LotR battles) here, while the late nineties wargaming profiles were interesting, what was important here was the map and force structures. While familiar with the layout, the map immediately struck me as being coincidently similar to the new table top I am working on for our Ancients game play. In two 4x4 sections that can be flipped around is basically a low side and rocky high side with a shallow river running right down the middle. Since a Battle of this size needs more than a 4x8 table, a 4 x 12 would suffice with the extra section being the Mountain cul-de-sac and entrance to the domain of the dwarves.

With two sections already planned and WIP, for inspiration for the third section I had to go no further than my own Blog Roll.Back in 2009, the leading LotR hobby forum, The Last Alliance, shutdown over financial and organizational troubles. Two of most awesome prolific miniature scenery builders, I have come across to date frequented that forum. users, Onyx and Dagorlad.(The latter did resuscitate TLA at a later date and the forums still exist but not in the scope of the site 2007-2009.) While both have scaled back their output while Dagorlad is still active (see Blog "Spodding") Onyx's blog remains without an update for over two years now. His blog remains on my rolls because of its content. His LotR builds are simply the best diorama/ play boards I have ever seen. His "Erebor" or Lonely Mountain is about as perfect as I could envision with the exception of some side cliffs specifically for recreating this battle. A 4 x 4 section of this scope is probably and easy 40 hour project for to get it off the ground. Playing this would need to be a reality with people whom actually want to participate to see it happen. That would be the planned table layout at 12 x 4 table that a gradual rocky slope ending in a mountain cul-de-sac with river through the middle, just as Tolkien laid in out in our minds in 1937.


While many would gravitate to GW's "War of the Ring" for rules ( and GW will certainly push new releases for War of the Ring play)I am of the mind that the ruleset suffers some major issues for a tactical wargame, the magic phase and individual heroes "special rules" are wildly overpowered. While magic is non issue in BoFA, (there is none) The heroes and special rules certainly are. For a straight up lean, mean and tactical wargame, I have to gravitate to my current favorite rules set, Warlord Games "Hail Caesar". Both games are based at heart on Games Workshop' Warmaster Rules. WotR rules however are based on company perspective that first and foremost that they want to sell you a ton of models, and that the games players want there heroes to be awesome on the battlefield. As a historical game Hail Caesar does not suffer the burden of either, while model counts are high and Warlord certainly sell figures..the games rules don't so obviously, superficially call for "more models" and models counts are presented in scope mainly for aesthetics. You can play the game as you see fit with 16 model units or giant hordes. In my mind, HC is the perfect ruleset for this.

I wasn't sure exactly how it would work until I sat down to make some army lists.
Fortunately and I must admit surprisingly, I was happy to find Hail Caesar's current special rules all seem to find their place in my Battle of the Five armies army list. Rules I wasn't even familiar with yet because they don't show up currently in our Ancient English/Arab face offs, easily found there place in hands of Elves, Dwarfs, Goblins, Orcs, Men, Wolves, Wargs and Eagles. Rules like "Brave", "Valiant", "Marksman", "Drilled" "Phalanx" and "Marauders" all show up along with things we are accustomed too, like "Tough or Wild Fighters" "Elite" and "Feigned Flight", very little modification is needed from the core HC rules to pull this off. The only thing I had to do was treat some of the characters as an actual "unit" as opposed to commander. "Thorin's Company" and "Beorn" namely. We will also allow individual characters and command stands to fight alone in this scenario if necessary instead of only supporting. (which you cant do in HC). The one thing I am borrowing from WotR is its excellent use of force structure in the form of "Companies" being 8 models for infantry and 2 models for Cavarly. Using Hail Caesar model counts for this is beyond the scope of whats possible is terms of model counts which just forces a larger table size.

Force Structure

Using War of the Ring's, Company formations The force structure and model counts breakdown as follows..This is based on my own extrapolation of the 1998 MWM article and GW's forces provided in its 6mm game as basis for the proper sized event.

The Dwarves.
Thorins Company. - 2 Companies made up of 13 models
Dain's Company- 1 Command Company , Dain + 7, 8 models
Dwarf infantry- 7 companies - 56 models.

In HC terms, Dain is in command of two divisions of dwarves. While Thorins two company activate and an independent unit. minimum unit size is two companies. unless a character.

The Elves
Thranduils Company- 1, Thranduil+7 - 8 models
Elven Spearmen- 10 Companies- 80 models
Elven Longbows- 5 Companies- 40 models
Elven Commands- 3 Companies- 24 models

Organized, like a standard HC army, 1 General, 3 Sub Comands, 3 Divisions

Men of Laketown
Bard- Solo Command- 1 Model
Spearman- 8 Companies- 64 models
Archers- 6 Companies- 48 models

Organized as 1 Division.


3 Cavalry Stands or 6 models


as Bear- 1 model.


Blog's Company, Blog +7- 8 Models
Orc Infantry- 7 companies- 56 models
Goblin Infantry- 28 Companies- 224 Models
Goblin Command- 4 Companies- 32 models
Goblin Cavalry (Warg Riders)- 16 Companies- 32 models

Organized as 1 huge army Blog with 1 company of Orcs leading, 4 Sub Commands leading 4 Divisions


Warg Command, 1 model
Wargs- 8 companies...16 models
Wolves 12 companies 24 models.

Organized as one large division.

While models counts per side are not that far apart 349 to 393..Destroyed Goblin Infantry and Wolves would respawn as reserves until their division is broken, this would simulate..the endless factor of the enemy forces.


while 750 models is nothing to sneeze at, fortunately my unarmored Saxons proxy perfectly as the Men of Laketown, and I have a good portion of the enemy forces...28 companies of Goblin Infantry, drop it to 27 and its 9 boxes of GW goblins fortunately GW gobins are the one thing you can pick up on ebay on the super cheap, not to mention, I know some folks that have a ton of them. The real issue is Dwarves and Elves, of which I have almost none, other than a few heroes. I do have alot of the weird stuff from the passive collection, like Beorn, the Eagles, lots of wargs, wolves, etc. I am expanding my Elves a bit but would certainly need more and other than my 1985 Thorin and various Gimli models my dwarves stop there. so I need some like minded LotR collectors to join me.

There you go, Battle of the five armies in 28 mm, 750 models on a 12 x 4 table, with Hail Caesar, slightly modified rules."IF" it happens you'll be seeing it here.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


I dont think I have posted one of these self congratulatory posts before, If I have humor me. But the blog broke the quarter million visitors mark last night. I started tracking this via site meter sometime in roughly 3 and half years. My page views are almost exactly double that. So it pleases me to say that people that stop by here, usually find something else they want to look at as well. I know this is small potatoes in the real world of "internet hits" but Like a an old car, I just keep on chugging along doing my thing. I know I have lost some readers with my recent general anti-GW stance, and criticism at the more popular "hobby blogs" not really being good for the "hobby" at all. (BoLS was my biggest traffic supplier). but I have also gained some new ones because of that and with my coverage of other games, so all in its wash.

I will remain ad free here (my personal relationship with Cipher Games aside) as I don't do this for "hits". It really just about communicating with the like minded about our "hobby". I have busy couple months coming up with both my personal life and my Hobby life, and plan on knocking some great stuff before year end. I'd figure I'd start August with about as positive a post as I can muster this morning. So if your reading this, thanks! for sticking with me, I promise to keep the commentary "sharp" and the hobby output as heavy as I can manage.

I'll close with brief plug for Adepticon 2012, next year is its 10th Anniversary and like many of us it continues to grow and branch out of the "GW only" mindset to become the best wargaming hobby convention in the US. Expanding to 4 days this year. Look for a variety of all kinds of new games being featured. and If you are so inclined. please join me in my second Legends of the High Seas event!. Registration goes online this fall, so keep your eye on the site or just keep on stopping by here.


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