Saruman at Senlac Hill: another Middle-earth / 1066 mash-up

Following on from our last couple of Middle-earth games (the Battle of Barnet reimagined as The Battle in the Mist and Stamford Bridge in Middle-earth), some wag suggested we do Hastings 1066 with Elves and Warg riders. Well, why not?

I always take inspiration from historic battles and Hastings was fairly fresh in my mind after the War & Conquest refight that I took part in earlier in the year to celebrate Rob B’s birthday. One of the scenarios that I have in the Midgard Heroic Battles manuscript is already based on Hastings, so it didn’t take much to knock up some army lists to fit. Following the destruction of much of the army of Rivendell in last week’s game, I opted to have the surviving Elves under Glorfindel holding a critical hill against the advance of Saruman’s army.

My Warg rider collection – a mongrel mix of plastic and metal from all different manufacturers.

Pete and I gathered as many Wargs and Warg riders as we could for the forces of Isengard, then bulked this out with Orcs and Uruks fighting on foot with bows and swords. The scenario requires that a quarter of the defending force arrive later in the game, so I was left with a thin blue-and-silver line of Elves holding the ridge. I picked Glorfindel as my commander hoping that he would do better than die in the first hail of arrows as happened last week! To get the Saxon vibe, all the Elves were on foot as a mixture of spearmen and archers; they probably had more shooting power than Harold Godwinsson’s forces in 1066, but there were certainly less of them as a result. After deployment, the line felt painfully thin.

The thin blue-and-silver line: converted Oathmark Elves.

Pete deployed Saruman’s forces with archers in front, warriors behind and the Warg riders (both light and heavy units) on the flanks. The battle was on!

Eek! That’s a lotta Orcs.

I confess that I’d taken some lessons from Paul W at my club, who has learned how to play the Elves under Midgard rules far better than I ever did myself! The superior leadership and discipline of the Elves gave them plenty of options to make the best of their raised position and I (aided by successful Command Tests) managed to restrain myself from my natural tactics of ‘charge them in the face,’ as Tom WD would have it. After Gildor’s diabolical performance last week (the most powerful Hero on the table being shot up by Orcs before even having a chance to get into combat), I was determined to get a bit more out of my commander this time.

Have it! Glorfindel’s Elves charge down the Orc archers who strayed too close to the line.

So, the Orcs advanced to combat, with their front line of massed archers getting the better of the Elves in the first round. I was taking casualties I could ill afford, so when the Orc archers advanced to point-blank range, Glorfindel led his spearmen down the hill to give them a kicking. Fortunately, the Elves won the combat comfortably and their leaders were able to pull them back from pursuing the defeated enemy. So far, so good.

A nice shot down the line showing the Elves curving round on the flanks.

One of the Elven spear units on the left had taken quite a beating from Orc arrows, so I sent Glorfindel down the line to rally them (a trait called Hold Fast allows him to restore a stamina point to a unit once a game). This turned out to be a smart move as this Elven unit saw a great deal of action throughout the rest of the battle.

Warg attack!

Now Saruman sent up the Orc warriors and riders on the flanks. One of the heavy Warg rider units fell to a devastating round of bowfire from Elf Lord Quildor’s archers on the right flank, but the others crashed home and drove an Elven spear unit all the way down the far side of the hill.

The Orc front line has crumbled but Wargs are massing on both flanks.

On the left flank, massed light units of Warg riders were causing problems with their bows, but the Elves were holding firm despite mounting casualties. I pulled the wings of the Elf force back to hang on as long as possible. again assisted by Elven training and discipline.

Lindir arrives with the Wood Elves: right place, right time!

Fortunately, the relief force arrived just in time. Lindir and his Wood Elves – two units each of bow and spear – rocked up in a random location in the Elven deployment zone. I think I would rather that they had turned up on the right flank to fight off the Warg attack, but as it happened they arrived in the centre. This meant that they could go straight into a supporting role, helping the battered Elven front line to hold the ridge.

The Elf line is reinforced.
Glorfindel and Lord Tannatar hold the left flank against all comers.
On the Elven right, the Orcs are breaking through.

With the Elves holding firm, the battle began to turn against Saruman.

The slope of the hill was a critical factor. One of things I tried hard to model in the rules was the advantage of terrain and supporting units, and by the time the second line arrived, the Elves had the advantage of both. Time and time again (assisted by some uncharacteristically good dice rolling, I must add), the Orcs were beaten back from the ridge. Despite being fought out with Elves and Orcs, it felt like a proper Dark Ages slog.

Despite mounting Elf casualties, the Orcs are beaten back again.
Uruks going down fighting as Glorfindel’s bodyguard gets stuck in.
The white wizard finds himself stranded amongst a sea of Elves.

It was now a question of time as the Elves beat down the Orcs all across the battlefield. Despite the loss of a couple of units, repeated counter charges by Elven heroes had raised the Reputation of the force. There was a hairy moment towards the end when Glorfindel threw the dreaded double raven for his Risk to Heroes test (see Gildor in last week’s game!), but by judicious use of Mighty Deeds, he survived with just a flesh wound. (No really, just wounded – this is not a Monty Python joke).

Now Saruman’s bodyguard of Uruks was cut down; naturally, the ghost of Christopher Lee was lucky and survived, but his army was broken and the battle was over with a decisive Elven victory. Clearly this scenario is demanding to be replayed with Saxons and Normans to see if Harold can pull off the same result!

Victory! Isengard’s cup is drained of Reputation, but Rivendell’s is looking healthy. Bye bye Orcs.

4 thoughts on “Saruman at Senlac Hill: another Middle-earth / 1066 mash-up

  1. As much as I usually enjoy seeing elves get a crumping, it was great to see the ‘correct’ result for this scenario (Godwinson was robbed).

    The massed wargary is a sight to behold, and exactly the inspiration/boot up the bum needed to get cracking on my own.

    Great stuff.

    Like

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