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.


Chicago Terrain Factory said...

That's one wild project. You'll be done in time for Adepticon, right?

eriochrome said...

Sounds like an impressive project. Maybe for Adepticon next year since you are in the Windy City.

My wife and I just enjoyed watching the LOTR extended editions through over the last week. Only on DVD not the new Blue Ray though.

JPL said...

It would be a cool Adepticon project more so, in 2013 after the 1st new film is out. the reality of this happening anytime soon are nil with LotHS event and other commitments on the Horizon.

Anonymous said...

G'day mate, Onyx here.
MANY thanks for the very kind words!
I have managed to post over a dozen updates to my blog in the last few years (mostly Epic Armageddon related) including tutorials and tournament reports. I am very much active :)
We have a LotR SBG tournament scheduled for next month with a lot of my terrain being used again so hopefully there will be some more photos and another update soon.

JPL said...

Thanks for dropping by Steve, that is excellent to know you are still hobbying away. for whatever reason my feed doesnt update your blog when you do, with the 2009 post at the top of your page..I assumed you went dormant for that I tried poking around in there bit at other stuff, ( instead of just drooling over your LotR work) I do see more recent good to have you back!
(even thou you never went anywhere, LOL!)...on serious note..awesome work my friend- its truly inspirational.

Cbalke said...

This sounds totally awesome. Do you have a time table on this? I can't wait to see it, your hobby skills are excellent and this sounds so epic. Good Luck and I hope we see WIP pics.

Anonymous said...

Well I already have Thorin's company painted and I am working on a new Dwarf army for GitD next year... I'm just sayin'

JPL said...

@ Chris

not sure -if people express interest with the models, like Brent would go along way to making it happen. I am already working on 2/3 of the b, building the entrance piece is relatively big project. As I mentioned I have alot of the models needed, and alot of the unpainted stuff is on cue for paint. if brent was in with dwarves...the bulk of elves and goblins would be needed.
I have pretty big plate for Adepticon already with High Seas
but interest in this could narrow my own work down to the one more table section and painting my own models. I know Rich was joking but "around" Adepticon isn't crazy, with the right people involved.

@ Brent- I know man you were my mind as I typed the initial post as a contributor, I just did not want to presume. I'll keep you posted.

Scottswargaming said...

What an Excellent Post!
My LOTR interest has faded of late after recent slight dissatisfaction with WOTR rules, yet I was not sure about going back to SBG as I still see it as 'just a skirmish game', and LOTR battles should be bigger than that, to me.
I too am a fan of the Warmaster and now BP & HC rules mechanic and the idea of transposing LOTR figs to HC stats and rules seems excellent.
I'll be watching this post and its further 'issues' with interest!

Unknown said...

Hi John,
This sounds like a very cool project! I know you said you had eagles, but I am currently building an Eagles army for LotR SBG and found a bunch of eagle minis from various companies. Check out this post on my blog if you are interested.
~Russ Brown

Unknown said...

Hi John,
This sounds like a very cool project! I know you said you had eagles, but I am currently building an Eagles army for LotR SBG and found a bunch of eagle minis from various companies. Check out this post on my blog if you are interested.
~Russ Brown

Jeff said...

John, this sounds like a awesome project. I really like the idea of hc as the base rules set. After your early post on the system I went a picked it up, I love it. If you wanted I would be down with helping out, I can do some figures, help with terrain, but you have to play me in some SBG games, I am thinking about playing in bilbos bash with my Isengaurd army, so need practice.

JPL said...


great to hear from you again man, I have been meaning to email you.
most would be awesome for you to be involved to play some SBG with you, I just played Jamie W on saturday it was a blast. definitely do Bilbos..Brent is looking at the biggest crowd of LotR SBG I have seen in 5 years at this event..its going to be very cool
I'll email you.

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