Battle in the Mist: Dwarves vs Orcs in Middle-earth

The battle gets underway: scratch built watch tower, Cigar Box mat, lots of conifers and even more fluff serving as mist.

I’ve not gamed Middle-earth for a few months, so it was nice to be able to get a game in with Pete at the club last night. Pete has been reorganising his substantial collection of GW minis into armies for my Midgard Heroic Battles rules (which are due for publication by Reisswitz Press in the future – no date yet but watch this space for updates).

Orcs sight the Dwarves, weapons drawn!

On a whim, I decided to bring my much-loved Dwarf army. Their Orc opponents were kitted out as an army of Isengard from the Third Age, so our clash would not be strictly canonical, but quite suitable for a game of toy soldiers with a nod to Tolkien.

A lone Orc captain gets taken down in the mist: GW Moria Goblin against Vendel and Conqueror Models Dwarves

The two armies clocked in around 400 points each in Midgard; this gave the Dwarves ten units of high quality troops plus 5 Heroes, whereas the Orcish horde had roughly double this, with many poor-quality warriors and archers backed up by Uruk-Hai, Warg riders, a couple of Trolls and Saruman himself (alongside a slew of disposable Orc captains). This was definitely a quality vs quantity game, although the higher quality Isengard units – Uruk-Hai and Trolls in particular – played a critical role in the battle that was to follow.

Orc Warg riders burst out of the woods next to the watch tower (all GW minis)

I was testing out a new scenario called ‘Encounter in the Mist’ that actually had its origins as a Wars of the Roses Battle of Barnet game that we played last year (you can read Tom WD’s account of it on his blog here). The key principle was the same: creating confusion! We deployed the armies in three ‘battles’, then diced for each one to see what had happened to it in the fog.

The table after deployment – you can see how the Orcish battles have become separated (left), but the Dwarven host (admittedly smaller) is all together on the right. The goblets keep track of the two forces’ Reputation – tokens are gained and lost in battle until one cup runs empty.

I was very fortunate in that only one of the Dwarven battles deviated slightly from my planned deployment, but the Orcish left and right battles got completely lost and veered off to the far right and left of the battlefield. Better still, both groups had units in the woods, which would create further command and control problems as the game started. The Dwarves were, so far, in the pound seats and looking forward to a fast advance to crush Saruman and the Orc centre before the wings recovered. Well, that was the plan!

Terrain-wise, we used a Cigar Box mat (mine is a long pile version that is sadly no longer available) with a variety of coniferous trees that I found on eBay and rebased serving as the mountain woods. The mist is just soft toy stuffing (bought in a bag from a craft store – NOT extracted from mercilessly-hunted teddy bears!) For a bit of extra set dressing, I used a scratchbuilt watch tower from my collection as well.

Massed Moria Orcs: oldies but goodies
Dwarves fighting off the Uruk-Hai: mostly Conqueror and Vendel minis, but Dwarf Lord Drifir (right) is an old Mithril mini.

Pete’s Orc army is entirely GW, with a mix of metals and plastics dating back to the early 2000s. My Dwarf army is mostly composed of Vendel Miniatures (now available from Thistle & Rose in the USA) and UK-based Conqueror Models, all sculpted by the talented Colin Patten who is now working on Ragnarok Miniatures. There are a number of other minis in my Dwarf army, which you can read about here if you want to see more. Right, that’s the endorsements out of the way, now: to battle!

Part 1 of the plan went pretty well: the well-disciplined Dwarves moved up without too much trouble, whereas the Orc captains in the woods suffered merry hell trying to get their hordes moving! (It was quite fun watching Pete cursing away). Midgard uses a very simple command test, but it becomes more complex if you have reluctant troops, especially if they’re in rough terrain. Oh yes, and the mist made it harder to pass the command test too. Laugh? The Dwarves were certainly having a chuckle in their beards.

The Dwarf plan starts well with a coordinated advance on Saruman’s centre (top). Orcs in the woods (bottom) are having a few command and control issues thanks to the mist.

However, the mist worked against the Dwarves as well, reducing visibility to just a single Spear Throw (the unit of game measurement). This meant that the archers had to hang back, and let the Orcs get the first charge in. I can’t blame the mist for the terrible dice the Dwarves rolled in the first round of combat, but suddenly they found themselves being driven back by a horde of Orcs.

The Dwarf centre goes in, with Lords Nundir and Drifir smiting the enemy. However, note the Uruk Hai and Troll lurking behind the first wave of Orcs!

Fortunately, quality started to tell, and the Dwarves fought back, crushing the first rank of Orcs. However, cunning Saruman had created a second line of Trolls and Uruks, who then piled into the combat-weary long beards.

Drifir slays an Orc captain in single combat, but suffers a wound in the process.

Weapons clashed up and down the line; Dwarf Lord Drifir took down a goblin captain with a single blow of his hammer; and the Orcs on the flanks started to draw in, finally responding to the whips of their masters.

Turn 4 saw the mist beginning to clear (on a random dice roll) and it looked like the Dwarves might prevail, but three of their Heroes were now wounded. Noin, mighty Dwarf champion, fell fighting a huge troll.

‘I fought the Troll, and the Troll won’. (Noin bites off more than he can chew).

The other Troll was weakened by a curse from the Dwarven Elder before before decked by a combination of warriors and archers in an impressive pincer movement (the Troll then fell on top of the archers, who were fortunately saved from a certain crushing by a cry from Nundir, their lord).

A wounded Lord Nundir and his hearthguard finally bring one of the Trolls down.
Fierce combat between Dwarven scouts and Wargs; to my surprise. the Dwarves won!

However, it was too little, too late. With the mist clearing, the Orcs on the right flank had finally escaped from the woods and were bearing down on the Dwarf archers who had been sent to head them off, massacring them in a vicious round of combat.

On the right flank, the Dwarf scouts are closed down and destroyed by the recovering Orcs.

Dwarf lords Nundir and Drifir, both wounded, were still locked in combat with Saruman’s Uruks in the centre, but had failed to land a blow on the white wizard.

Saruman holds out, unscathed despite being with his Uruks!

The loss of another unit of warriors on the left reduced the Dwarves’ reputation too far, and they broke and fled, leaving a heavily mauled force of Orcs in command of the battlefield.

The end: Saruman’s goblet (right) has no Reputation left, but the Dwarves (left) are on -3!

This was an exceptionally fun game which swung both ways before the Dwarves finally threw in the towel – it could have easily gone either way. We’ll definitely play the scenario again. Cheers Pete!

Battle’s end: although the Orcs have been mauled, both Dwarf Lords are wounded and their losses are too great.

14 thoughts on “Battle in the Mist: Dwarves vs Orcs in Middle-earth

  1. Great write up, looking forward to trying these rules out when they are released. You have inspired me to dust off some romans from my pile of shame to convert into Noldor elves. Can I ask, are there set basing requirements for Midgard?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lewis, many thanks, great that you’ve been inspired. Midgard doesn’t have a set basing requirement apart from that all units need to have similar frontages (depth does not matter). The standard that we’re using for our 28mm games is a 12cm frontage, so that’s 8-12 28mm figures on a unit base. There is no individual figure removal required, although we tend to use it record damage. Heroes are based individually on any kind of base, though mostly we use rounds.


  2. Hi James. Great to see your gorgeous dwarf army out on maneuvers. Colin Patten’s dwarves are exactly how I imagined them when reading Tolkien as a kid and your paint jobs suit them perfectly.

    I just wanted to add a quick thank you for your blog. It’s been a real inspiration for getting my own toy soldiers painted up and on the gaming table. It even inspired me to have a crack at orc kit-bashing (and now I can’t stop)! I realise blogging must take up a fair chunk of time, but your efforts are very much appreciated. Please keep it coming.


    Liked by 1 person

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