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New blog: mogsymakes by James Morris

Many years ago, Big Red Bat guru Simon Miller asked me why I didn’t have a blog to support the various games that I took around wargames shows. “Why would I want a blog?” I asked him. “You’ll get followers,” came the reply. I laughed.

I don’t really do this to get followers, but I love swapping ideas and photos with other gamers around the world. I seem to post on social media every week or so, only then to find myself unable to find my own pictures, battle reports or words of advice just a few weeks later. Questions like this crop up all the time: “Have you got any size comparison pictures with different manufacturers?” “What was the paint recipe you used on your wolves?” “Has anyone had a go at converting Elf cavalry/ Cretan gendarmes/ Sikh sappers?” “How does Muskets & Tomahawks II play?” And often, I say, “Yes, but…just let me find it…” Hopefully mogsymakes will go some way towards helping out with these senior moments of social media.

My chum Scrivs claims that one of his main reasons for having a blog is to be able to find his paint recipes several years down the line; I can confirm this, having used several of his colour schemes after looking them up online! I’ve gone for something in between a blog and a website, in that I have different pages and sections where I will hopefully archive posts to make them easier to find. It is still very much in its infancy, so any helpful suggestions about improving access and layout will be quite welcome.

And so, I find myself following Simon’s sage advice: get a blog. I hope you enjoy it!

Against the Frost Giants: Partizan Show Preview 2023

Dark Alliance 1/72 plastic trolls with smaller Lucid Eye metal trolls. The background is a download from Jon Hodgson Art’s Miniature Backdrops.

With Salute 50 out of the way and Partizan coming up, I added a few extra pieces to the ‘Against the Frost Giants’ scenario that we’ll be playing in Newark on May 21st 2023. There will, in fact, be two games on show – the 28mm Against the Frost Giants game (with a Norse myth setting) and the 15mm Battle of Degsastan 603 game (set in the early medieval period).

Battle of Degsastan 603 using 15/ 18mm miniatures by Forged in Battle and Wiglaf Miniatures. Background image used by permission of Jon Hodgson Illustration.

We’re looking forward to demoing Midgard Heroic Battles again with both games, hopefully showing the versatility of the rule set and running through some examples of play. We have a bigger team than we did at Salute, cheaper (free) parking and better lighting, so we look forward to seeing you there if you can make it!

Note that we (Morris and Chums) have moved from our usual spot in the Demo Zone: as the rules are due to be published by Reisswitz Press (Two Fat Lardies), it only seemed right to move into the welcoming arms of the Lard Zone – see the new map above!

Lucid Eye Trolls alongside an Ogre and Merrow by Reaper Bones.

First up is a quick look at the smaller end of the Frost Giant army. I have added a number of new units in the last month, combining a variety of different-sized models. I dipped into the excellent Reaper Bones range of trolls and the like; these were supplemented by Lucid Eye Trolls from the Red Book of the Elf King range (pricy but lovely models) and some plastic Oathmark Goblins given a frosty paint job. The 1/72 soft plastic Trolls from Dark Alliance – incredibly good value at around £8 for a box of 8 – were also pressed into service.

Another Reaper Bones Ogre with his minions (Oathmark Goblins)

All of the units are based on magnetic discs, which are then attached to an MDF unit base with a top layer of steel paper. As with all Midgard units, the exact number of miniatures on the base is unimportant as long as frontages are consistent (these are on the standard base width of 12 cm). In Midgard terms, these are treated as Warriors with the Big and Impetuous traits.

Some extra terrain pieces have also been added. My only miniatures purchase at Salute was this pair of rune stones from Fenris Games which painted up an absolute treat. This is my first Fenris purchase and certainly won’t be my last!

Top notch Viking rune stones by Fenris Games with a Lucid Eye Troll

As a tidy-up after finishing the rainbow bridge centre piece, I created some fantastical ice crystal terrain pieces with leftover items from the Bifrost build. These included some pieces of quartz and also crystals made from cheap plastic Christmas decorations.

Chunks of quartz repurposed into drop on terrain alongside a Lucid Eye Elf
Loki (a Lucid Eye Elf) hangs out in the crystals
Frosty crystals – cheap plastic Christmas decorations with some modifications
Angrboda, Loki’s giant wife (Reaper Bones)

There’s not much new for the Aesir but I thought it’d be nice to grab a few shots of some of the protagonists. Here’s Freya by Bad Squiddo Games – she is serving as the Army Commander for the Aesir force, being the goddess of war and somewhat more strategic than good ol’ Thor.

Other Gods featured in the game are Heimdall and Thor, a couple of awesome sculpts from the miniatures for the Blood Rage boardgame.

I’ve provided the Aesir forces with a number of archer units which did great service in our last game. Here’s some Conqueror Models’ Dwarves sculpted by dwarfmeister Colin Patten.

More Bad Squiddo Games minis here in the form of a unit of shield maidens.

And finally some very old but much-loved Foundry Vikings (with a Gripping Beast berserker lurking at back right). Some of these fellas first saw action in the 1990s but have had a recent refurb for the game.

See you at Partizan!

The Battle of Degsastan in 15mm

The 90 x 120 cm battlefied set for action in my kitchen as Martin takes the role of Aethelfrith of Northumbria. Background art used by kind permission of Jon Hodgson Illustration.

Following the game’s first appearance at Salute 50 in London, Martin popped over for a much quieter gaming experience – a kitchen table rematch of Northumbria vs Dal Riada at the Battle of Degsastan in 603 CE.

I’ve played this game many times since reading Guy Halsall’s article in Miniature Wargames magazine in the 1980s, and was delighted to hear that he’s just written an updated version due to appear soon in Wargames Soldiers & Strategy magazine! Definitely one to look out for,

Goblets are used to record the Reputation of both forces during the game

Although Martin’s being playing my Midgard Heroic Battles rules since their very first play test some years ago, quite a bit has changed over the last year so a quiet game was a good opportunity to bring him up to date. I still don’t have a release date for the rules but keep an eye on social media and my blog – as soon as there’s an official announcement from Reisswitz Press, it’ll be on here.

The two forces arrayed for battle: Dal Riada on the left (all 15mm figures from Forged in Battle; Northumbrians on the right (18mm fgures by Wiglaf Miniatures). Background art used by kind permission of Jon Hodgson Illustration.

This 15mm battle is an ideal introduction to Midgard: the forces are around 300 points each (perfect for an evening’s play) and there’s nothing more fantastical in the game than a pattern-welded blade and the Fated trait hanging over Saxon noble Theobald. (As Theobald died in the historical battle, I gave him a trait which means that he can’t reroll his Risk to Heroes tests – meaning that he’s more likely to be wounded or killed. As fortune would have it, he survived our game to inherit his brother’s kingdom!)

Divine help is appealed for by the Dal Riadans

The forces were as follows:

DAL RIADA & ALLIES

Aedan Mac Gabhrain (Army Commander, Level 3 Mighty Hero)

Mael Uma (Irish Warlord, Level 2 Minor Hero)

Domingart (Aedan’s son, Level 2 Minor Hero)

2 Dal Riada/ Irish Hearthguard units (bodyguards for Aedan and Mael Uma)

4 Dal Riada/ Irish Warrior units

3 Dal Riadan units of Mounted Warriors (Noble Light Riders in Midgard terms)

4 Dal Riada/ Irish Skirmisher units

Dal Riadans – 11 units, 3 Heroes (300 Midgard points)

NORTHUMBRIANS

The Northumbrian force was smaller but better-equipped:

Aethelfrith (Army Commander and Level 3 Mighty Hero)

Theobald (Brother of Aethelfrith, Level 2 Minor Hero)

Cerdic (Champion, Level 1 Hero)

Eanfrith (Brother of Aethelfrith, Level 2 Minor Hero)

3 Saxon Hearthguard Warrior units

4 Saxon Warrior units

3 Saxon Skirmisher units

And the Northumbrians – 10 units, 4 Heroes (300 Midgard points)
Skirmishers swap darts and arrows

True to form, both sides advanced to the stream and exchanged missiles across it.

The micro-dice at the back of each base is used to keep track of Stamina (damage) – all skirmisher units have just two points each, so are unlikely to hang around when combat starts

Playing Domingart leading the Celtic mounted warriors, I chose to throw in the first charge of the game to gain the maximum Reputation! This was possibly a little optimistic but at that point, there was only a single Saxon unit commanded by Eanfrith holding the Northumbrian left flank. An unfortunate Risk to Heroes roll – made in Midgard whenever a Hero’s unit suffers damage – saw Eanfrith roll the dreaded double one! Fortunately, he was able to expend a Mighty Deed and a Reputation Token from his goblet to survive this, but it was an early boost for the Dal Riadans.

Eanfrith (bottom right) flunks that Risk to Heroes roll!

Seeing the danger, wily old Aethelfrith sent some of the Saxon warriors down the line in case Eanfrith should break.

More Saxons (right) arrive to reinforce the beleaguered Eanfrith

Sporadic javelin fire was beginning to cause problems for the Saxons in the centre and right, so Northumbrian champion Cerdic bravely charged over the stream and into the main Dal Riadan force. Very quickly, the Northumbrians found themselves taking casualties with their friends too far behind to support (the stream provided a movement penalty, making it hard to advance over in good order). Once again, Aethelfrith proved himself an inspiring leader by using his Hold Fast! trait to rally Cerdic’s men and keep them in the fight.

Another Saxon unit followed Cerdic and found itself fighting both Mael Uma and Aedan’s hearthguard units – a most perilous situation.

This is when Aethelfrith stepped up to the mark and crossed the stream, gaining great reputation as his men charged Aedan Mac Gabhrain’s personal guard (Reputation Tokens can be gained for leading units into combat, with bonuses if the Army Commander is involved).

Aethelfrith steps up to the stream

Not only were the Saxons better-armoured, but they had the luck, and Aedan rolled double one for his Risk to Heroes test! He recovered to suffer just a single wound, but his reputation had taken a battering.

Hearthguard on hearthguard action
Double one (ravens) for Aedan! I found the raven dice at a games shop in Copenhagen – with the custom icon on the 1 (rather than the 6) they are ideal for Risk to Heroes tests in Midgard.
The Saxons have secured their left flank (bottom) and are holding firm in the centre having crossed the stream

With Aedan wounded and his hearth guard taking a battering (reduced to one Stamina point), I desperately needed to get some reinforcements into action. Two Dal Riadan warrior units were rushing to the rescue, but failed their Command Test for charge home. With Aedan having burned all his Mighty Deeds for this turn in the preceding combat, there was nothing I could do!

The fresh Dal Riadan unit (right) has just failed its Command Test and cannot charge in to reinforce Aedan’s struggling hearthguard!

Reduced to desperate measures and feeling heroic, Aedan challenged Aethelfrith to single combat in the midst of battle. The Northumbrian leader accepted but quickly regretted it as Aedan struck him a wounding blow in the second round – now both leaders were on the ropes.

Single combat!

A draw in the third round of single combat in Midgard inflicts a wound on both challengers…and guess what? Aedan struck Aethelfrith down, but was himself mortally wounded in the act. Both leaders fell dying as the battle raged on around them. This meant a major loss of Reputation Tokens for both sides – the next units to break would decide the game.

The Dal Riadans (green) are running out of Reputation! Dice tray by Handiwork Games.

Despite the loss of their leader, the Saxons had done exceptionally well to hang onto their troops, although several warrior units were close to breaking. However, Domingart’s impetuous charge on the Dal Riadan right had cost them dear. After Saxon reinforcements had arrived, all three Dal Riadan mounted warrior units had broken in short succession – Domingart was still fighting, but was now wounded and losing Reputation hand over fist. Having lost all his men in the melee, he fought on but was last seen falling under a hedge of Saxon spears. Victory to the Northumbrians!

Domingart goes down fighting

And so, history was repeated with another Saxon victory. Although I had given him the Fated trait to encourage a heroic end, Theobald survived with a single wound and took over the kingship from his fallen brother Aethelfrith.

We’ll be running this game again at Partizan in Newark on Trent on May 21st 2023 – do come and say hi. You’ll find us in the Lard Zone this time around.

Hammer of the Gods: Midgard Heroic Battles at Salute 2023

With the rainbow bridge terrain piece complete, on April 22 it was time for the big one: Salute 50!  The UK’s biggest miniature wargames show takes place every year at ExCel in Docklands, London; I hadn’t been since 2015 so was very excited about a return to the fiftieth edition of Salute.

We come from the land of ice and snow! The background is by Jon Hodgson Illustration and used with kind permission.

Salute is absolutely huge and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the space, though this year we had tagged along with the Two Fat Lardies on the edge of the Lard Zone – a collection of TFL/ Reisswitz Press participation games.

Frost Giants march into battle – the big chap on the left is by Reaper Bones.

That said, due to the size of the venue they were still a full spear throw from our table, but we were graced with visits from many of the Lardistas, including Sidney Roundwood himself! (All joking aside, Sid is a terrific chap who influenced me in my Verdun project several years ago and has always been supportive and creative in equal measure).

I was accompanied by two stalwart souls – Pete J and Andy Mac – long term gaming companions who have been separately involved in the Midgard Heroic Battles play testing process.  This was fortunate, as I’d had the bright idea of running not just one but two games of Midgard at the show!  

Pete, myself and Andy looking bright and breezy before the hordes descend! Photo by Pete Jenkins Photography.

Midgard is a highly versatile game, switching easily between figure sizes and different settings. To showcase this, we were running a 28mm Norse myth battle next to a 15mm Dark Ages one. 

28mm Norse myth Midgard on one side of the table…
…15mm Dark Ages on the other, with another stunning backdrop from Jon Hodgson Illustration and used with kind permission.

The 28mm game was the chance for the rainbow bridge to get into action: equipped with lights, snow and a Led Zep soundtrack. this scenario saw Loki leading an army of frost giants in an attack on Bifrost, the rainbow bridge of Norse mythology (and Marvel) fame.

Loki lurks whilst planning Ragnarok. Figure by Lucid Eye Publications.

Opposing him were, of course, Heimdall, Freya and Thor with a diverse bunch of Asgardian defenders, including Norsemen, shield maidens, dwarfs and alfar.  If you’re interested in the figures and terrain, there is a full blog article here with details of what’s what.

Freya leads the Aesir into action – miniature by Bad Squiddo Games

I was blown away by the popularity of the games – we spent a very fulfilling day chatting and fielding enquiries about the rules virtually non-stop. Gaming-wise, we settled for running sections of the Norse myth game for passing players to introduce the basic mechanics of the rules.

Heimdall leads the left flank. Miniature from the Blood Rage board game.

Heimdall fought a gripping single combat against Bergelmir the Frost Giant, with both wounding each other but surviving; unfortunately for Heimdall, he had used up all his Mighty Deeds and lost his final Stamina point after being crushed as his Dwarf unit was pushed back by the trolls. Ouch!

The Frost Giants crushed all before them and, despite Freya taking down Bergelmir, she found herself on the losing end of a melee before being sent packing to Valhalla. 

The 15mm Battle of Degsastan game proved unexpectedly popular with both Pete and Andy doing sterling work running games for interested players during the day.  We were graced with a visit from Dan Mersey who was pleased to see his 18mm Wiglaf Miniatures in action and to hear Immigrant Song blasting from the rainbow bridge! 

15/18mm Battle of Degsastan – Dal Riadans on the left (Forged in Battle minis), Northumbrians on the right (Wiglaf minis)
Mersey and Morris! Thanks for dropping by.

Overall, a fulfilling if exhausting day out, and such a pleasure to meet so many folk excited for the release of the rules. Editing, artwork, photography and ruler/ token design are all underway, but there is no release date yet. Keep following us on social media and we’ll let you know as soon as there is news!

Massive thanks to Pete J and Andy Mac for their companionship and assistance. 

Stairway to Heaven: building the Rainbow Bridge

This year’s game for Salute 50 at Excel in London (22.4.23) is going to be a double-header to promote my forthcoming Midgard Heroic Battles rules, currently in editing and pre-production with Reisswitz Press.  As Midgard can be played in multiple settings with any scale miniatures, we’re going to have an 15mm Dark Ages (early medieval) historical game next to a 28mm Norse myth one.  

The Norse myth game is entitled ‘Against the Frost Giants’ and depicts an attempt by Loki and his minions to storm Bifrost, the rainbow bridge of Norse mythology that connects Midgard to Asgard. 

Obviously, pretty much everyone’s seen the Marvel films, in which the rainbow bridge looks something like multiple strands of optic fibre.  I decided that I wanted something a little more down to earth, but with some added lighting to suggest its magical qualities. 

Frost Giant by Reaper Bones, Troll by Lucid Eye Publications from the Red Book of the Elf King range

Practicality was also a consideration (what! I hear you cry) – as the battle was going to be fought around the foot of the bridge – rather than across it – so it would need to be easily transportable.  This led me to sketch up a design with a definite arch but not one that would extend 4 feet into the air, fun as that might have been! The final design was sized to be carried in a large shopping bag. 

Once I was happy with the shape of the piece, I put together cardboard templates and then cut the three main pieces out of 5mm plywood using an electric jigsaw.  The two bridge sides were then split vertically where they join the board in order to be able to create a curved base. 

In progress…5mm plywood cut to shape

The base was painted with varnish to discourage warping, then I used my rudimentary carpentry skills to assemble the bridge uprights with screws and wood glue. While I could just have glued the whole thing together, I would hate for it to fall apart in transit at some point this year!

The uprights were deliberately positioned 13cm apart – this meant that, on some sections, I could place a wide step that would fit a 12cm wide Midgard unit base or a Hero model. The bulk of the steps were filled in with scraps of 5mm foam board to create an irregular staircase with some gaps in between to accommodate the lights.

I planned to texture the bridge sides using the same techniques from my Elf Tower build, so glued a couple of sheets of 5mm styrofoam to the wooden sides. This stuff is expensive but well worth it for the effect I was after.

With the glue dry, it was time to create the stonework design. Using some Viking/ Saxon metalwork from the loft, I pressed these into the foam to suggest large blocks that had been placed by gods with the areas around filled in with smaller stones. Additional texture was added with a pencil. Once completed, I modelled the edges of the stonework using standard yellow/green Milliput epoxy putty. I could have used more foam, but wanted the edges to be able to resist knocks in transit, so Milliput was the correct tool for the job.

With the bridge walls complete, it was time for an initial coat of paint. A mix of sand, filler and PVA glue helped to blend the steps together, which was followed up by a coat of craft acrylic applied in patches (Deco Art Acrylics, using a blend of Raw Umber, Slate Grey and Black).

Once dry, the whole thing was given a black wash and then lightly dry brushed with lighter versions the original acrylics. Individual stones were picked out in different shades of brown, grey and khaki.

Now the fun really started – time for the lights! I had initially ordered some programmable LEDs from eBay, but these turned out to be incredibly bright and a bit too disco for what I was after. Instead I bought a couple of sets of simple white LEDs and found some coloured cellophane in the bits draw – these would form the basis of my rainbow scheme.

Today on Blue Peter, you will need a set of LED Christmas lights and some coloured plastic…

I’d left the inside of the bridge hollow with a pull-out section to allow me to hide the lighting circuit – bundles of LEDs were wrapped up together in sections of cellophane and then pushed into the gaps between the steps. Once I was happy with the lights, I then glued, taped and pinned everything into position.

An entire set of 100 LEDs was used to light the staircase, with another set round the outside of the bridge. I built up a set of rocks using various vac-formed left overs from a previous project, then modelled in glass pebbles and pieces of quartz crystal to give the impression of the area being generally enchanted. Hot glue and Milliput were again used to hold everything together and hide the cracks!

Vac-formed rocks are cut to shape to create a rocky base
Rock texture going into position with a resin rune stone (left), pine bark chippings as rocks and a lit-up quartz crystal (right). Everything is blended in with a mix of brown paint, filler and sand.

The final steps involved tidying up the groundwork and adding some grass tufts – I used the Gamers Grass winter ones.

It all looked pretty good at this point, but now it was time to add the snow (the bridge is going to be used on a snowy table so I needed it to blend in). This was my usual mix of white acrylic paint, PVA glue and Woodland Scenics snow flock – I added extra paint as the flock comes out translucent if you apply it with just glue. The pictures show the three stages – apply snow mix with a brush, scatter extra snow flock on top, then shake off.

An additional frosty effect was added to areas of the stonework using a tiny amount of PVA and some snow flock.

The Lucid Eye troll poses on the bridge -Heimdall is clearly off duty!
Stairway to Heaven!

And finally, it was all done! I can’t wait to see what it looks like on the gaming table at Salute 50. If you’re at the show, you can find us in the Lard Zone at the far end of the hall (marked in red on this floor plan).

Xenos Rampant: the Battle for Central Len-Ton

Having played a couple of games with other people’s figures, it was time to get my Xenos Rampant space poilus into their first scrap. We’ve started a campaign at the club fighting over the planet Len-Ton and its multitudinous moons. 

The first mission for my Vingtième République would be a race against Je-Rem-Ee’s Orks to capture the governor of Central Len-Ton . Fortunately for both sides, the governor had become stranded in the jungle without his bodyguards. 

Capitaine Renaud Duscard and his Poilus (Light Infantry with Heavy Weapons) prepare to head into the jungles of Central Len-Ton. You can see more about this force and the minis used in my previous blog post here
The governor of Leo-Ton Central waiting for a ride. I think this is a very old Metal Magic casting.

Using Scenario Juliet: VIP Extraction from the XR rules, we set up a 4 x 4’ table using some jungle terrain (plastic aquarium plants with a respray – elephant grass from my Death in the Dark Continent games and bamboo from the WW2 Crete project of 2018). Following the advice of other XR players, we used a lot of terrain to block line of sight, counting it as soft cover and blocking sight 6” in.  

Mon Dieu! Too much elephant grass

The Orks won the initiative roll and got moving.  I have to say that I very much prefer the XR activation system to previous variants; The Men Who Would Be Kings introduced the free activation mechanic, and this is taken further in XR with all troop types having a free activation (i.e. not having to pass an activation test to perform some actions).  While the friction of the original Lion/ Dragon Rampant can be entertaining (dicing for every single activation), it can also be very frustrating when you fail a string of activations with poor dice rolls. The TMWWBK/ XR model means that you can prioritise more effectively and get some units activating w before you get onto the more risky activations that might not come off.  It’s also a better model for scaling up to a bigger battle as you’ll be able to control a few more units without the game grinding to a halt. 

Turn 1: the French advance from the left – the Orks (out of shot) are waiting to pounce.

Anyway, Pete’s Orks sprung into action, most notably the Gretchin.  These little chaps had received a movement upgrade which meant that they could move 12” and be unaffected by rough terrain.  With the bulk of the table covered by elephant grass, this unassuming unit turned out to be a game winner.  

Not the escort he was hoping for! Pete’s gretchin (GW minis)
The baguette handler encourages his charge into action. This was the best unit I had for the scenario (Greater Xenomorph with Open Order rule – 10″ move and no penalty in rough terrain)

The French tried to respond, putting units forward as fast as they could go.  The Greater Xenomorph and his baguette handler were the designated rough terrain troops (10” move with no penalties), but naturally they got distracted with the Wild Charge rule and ended up in a bloody close combat with Je-Rem-Ee’s personal guard. 

Smash n’ grab: gretchin sweep up the governor, with Shoota Boyz in support

The Gretchin zipped through the undergrowth all the way to the governor, scooped him up and scarpered. Faced with this, there wasn’t a lot we Frenchies could do apart from advance and open fire, although actually this started to make an impression on the Orks who had pushed forward towards the river.  

The gretchin have ‘rescued’ the lucky governor (centre, next to hut) and proceed to make their escape. Je-Rem-Ee’s Orks march up in support from the right.
Aerial view: the French Light Infantry at the top are trying to cut off the gretchin, but will get into a firefight with the blue Shoota Boyz

The shooting mechanisms for Xenos Rampant will be very familiar to anyone who’s played the other Rampant variants, though in this case, it’s rolling ten dice at full strength and five at half or below.  Cover increases Armour value, as does shooting beyond effective range.  The latter is a major change to the Rampant canon but works well, though it does mean that blocking terrain around the centre of a battlefield becomes a necessity to avoid a shoot out with little movement. 

The French Light Infantry with Heavy Weapons seek their targets

I was impressed by the thought that has gone into the latest incarnation of the Courage test: you need to take one whenever you are hit by shooting (even if no damage is done) but the modifier is only the number of strength points damage taken, rather than counting back unit loss from the whole game, as it is in Lion/ Dragon Rampant.  This felt much more appropriate for a shooting game and was also quicker to play. 

Ork Shoota Boyz (Light Infantry with increased squad size) suffer as they get caught in the open by French fire

Sticking with Courage tests, units in cover get a +1 bonus, and, if failed, will retreat into cover if possible. Both nice touches for a set of rules based around ranged weaponry. 

The Orks on the right stay in cover and gain a nice Armour bonus against shooting

My Greater Xenomorph was well-suited to the terrain and was able to push forwards on my right flank, although he lost a couple of Strength Points (halberdiers, in this case) to fire from Je-Rem-Ee’s unit (Elite Infantry) and the Ork Dreadnought (Fighting Vehicle, Walker). Eventually, though, he was able to Wild Charge the Ork commander. A ding-dong scrap ensued over the next couple of turns, which eventually left the Xenomorph destroyed and the Ork Commander’s unit badly mauled.

If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, it’s probably a bunch of Orks attempting to sneak up
Je-Rem-Ee’s personal guard get involved in a losing battle with the French Xenomorph. Confusingly, Pete’s Orks are modelled fighting Space Marines, hence the appearance of a three-way battle! (All Orks by GW)

This allowed me to target Je-Rem-Ee with the advancing French Commander’s unit (Light Infantry with Heavy Weapons), which stuck enough hits on Je-Rem-Ee to render him inoperable. A neat touch in the campaign rules is a simple table to roll on for commanders being taken out – Je-Rem-Ee rolled a 2 – severely wounded and had to miss the next game.

This late surge for the French continued as my Light Infantry on the left flank engaged the Shoota Boyz who had pushed up to protect the retreating gretchin. Although both units were evenly matched, the French got the better of the dice rolling and forced the Orks to fail a Courage test, thereby suppressing the unit. A bayonet charge followed and the Orks were defeated!

French Light Infantry take out the suppressed Shoota Boyz with a bayonet charge

At this point, Pete’s gretchin and the governor left the table, thereby claiming the win. It was something of a pyrrhic victory, but Pete had actually sportingly kept the VIP on for longer than needed to prolong the game. If we play the scenario again, we might modify it so that the VIP slows down the escort as they leave the table (maybe reducing move to 6″ or introducing a random element to make the move more unpredictable, e.g. an ordered activation).

Game over, man: the Orks beat a winning retreat
The French walker (Fighting Vehicle, Walker, Mechanoid) is sadly not fast enough to get forwards and join the fight

Anyway, XR has had a resounding thumbs up from our group. I’m impressed with the developments in the Rampant mechanisms, and it is unquestionably versatile. It plays quickly and doesn’t get bogged down in layers upon layers of internal detail – although having the specific special rules for your force written on your force roster is pretty much essential for speedy play. Looking forward to the next campaign game!

Xenos Rampant: a Weird War 1 side project

Roll call! The new Weird War additions to my WW1 French.

Having caved in and decided to give Xenos Rampant a go, I initially toyed with the idea of reconstructing my Eldar force from way back when. However, discovering that I only had six figures remaining (having sold the others several house moves ago), I realised that a Weird WW1 force might be easier to put together. Paul W at my club organised a trial game involving his rather nice WWW1 Germans and Brits, so I went home to look at my options.

In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only a Gloomstalker being prodded into battle by men with halberds and a baguette. The background is from Jon Hodgson’s set on Wargames Vault

Scrivs and I had played a whole series of games set in Verdun back in 2015-16, so I still had a platoon or more of 28mm poilus available that would do well to bulk out a few more fantastical items.

I felt that some kind of robot/ walker and possibly an alien beast would be fun – Reaper Bones was my first port of call. Although I live remarkably close to the Reaper UK warehouse, it was actually quicker to order from Mighty Lancer Games and get them delivered straight to my door. Ordered Monday morning and delivered Wednesday – these guys are good!

Archer (off the Reaper website).

The robot/ walker is an ‘Archer’, a Battletech-style mech that costs only a few pounds but provides an easy Fighting Vehicle with ‘Walker’ and ‘Mechanoid’ traits for XR. While I initially had ideas to convert it, I decided to simply paint it up with a base coat of Army Painter Wolf Grey to match the rest of my French. After multiple washes and plentiful grime added around the legs, it was ready for action.

Robot/ walker with a base coat of Army Painter Wolf Grey, the same stuff I use for my French greatcoats.
Robot/ walker with some washes; I’ve had a go at some (crude) edge highlighting here before adding lots of grime to the legs.
The finished robot/ walker – he’s had a coat of matt varnish, but gloss on the canopy.

Reaper Bones is also a fantastic source of giant, well-priced beastie miniatures, and I had great fun hunting down a Greater Xenomorph for the force. Rejecting the giant frogs, man-eating slugs and other more obvious items, I plumped for a ‘Gloom Stalker’. This chap bears more than a passing resemblance to a D&D Hook Horror, but for my purposes, he was going to be a misunderstood but highly dangerous creature that had been captured by the poilus and forced into battle.

Gloom Stalker from the Reaper website
3d jigsaw puzzle – Gloom Stalker and Archer parts after arrival and cleaning. These guys are actually incredibly easy to put together, aided by the very secure joining pegs.

Both the robot and the Gloom Stalker came as multi part kits in Reaper Bones’ slightly flexible plastic material. These needed a good wash before assembly using superglue, then I gave them my usual undercoat of Halfords Grey Plastic Primer before a quick spray of Halfords White Primer.

The Gloom Stalker was a very simple paint job; first he had a layer of thinned GW Contrast Skeleton Horde all over. When dry, I blended in more thinned Contrasts (Ultramarine Blue and Black Templar), getting lighter towards the belly and darker towards the back. (Sorry I failed to get photos of the latter stages…this was a busy week).

Gloom Stalker after undercoating.
Gloom Stalker gets his basecoat – thinned Skeleton Horde. I forgot to get a photo of the next few stages, sorry.

While single-model units in XR are fine, I wanted a group of handlers to tie the creature to my force and provide an easy way of tracking hits – Greater Xenomorphs have 5 Strength Points, so I needed to add four humans to the unit.

Adding metal Front Rank halberds from the bits box by drilling out the rifle hands.

These came in the form of some sprues of Wargames Atlantic WW1/WW2 French (thanks Guy and Wayne for generously providing me with these). I quickly kit bashed three halberdiers and a baguette handler, all with gas masks for that Weird WW1 look.

Ready for action! The baguette handler (left) has a bread product carefully crafted from green stuff!
The finished Gloom Stalker and his handlers going out into their first game of XR. (Spoiler: they didn’t make it.)

As well as the handlers, I also added a scattering of sci-fi poilus to bulk out my historical models.

L-R: Wargames Atlantic Grognard, Brigade Games metal, another Grognard, then two WA French plastics with Stargrave arms and weapons – these needed a little lrimming down but ended up matching the greatcoat torsos just fine. Last in the line is a Gripping Beast (Woodbine Designs) Frenchman.

Most were made using the WA French sprue with futuristic weapon arms from the Stargrave Mercenaries kit by Northstar/ Osprey, although I also experimented with a couple of figures from the WA Grognards box. The latter were slightly on the heroic side to match with my previous French but I think they mix in well enough after painting.

The Capitaine and his boys: all WA French with Stargrave Mercenaries arms and weapons.
A finished squad of Light Infantry for XR: new plastic models front centre (WA Grognard) and right (WA French with Stargrave arms/ weapon), backed up by an assortment of historical WW1 French (Brigade Games, Renegade, Gripping Beast/ Woodbine, Scarab and an Old Glory trench raider far left with club)

The boys in horizon blue got their first XR outing last week, more on which in a future blog post!

Slightly fuzzy shot taken down the club of another unit of Light Infantry with a few extras – manufacturers as above.

The bloody 7th Century: four more games of Age of Penda

Finding myself recovering from illness and with a free afternoon, I managed to fix up a game at short notice with erstwhile chum Matt. A full year ago, we jointly invested in Forged in Battle/ Wiglaf Miniatures to put together some 15/18mm armies for the 7th century – my favourite period of the early medieval age.

However, we’d not managed to actually play a game together yet! It was great to get the opportunity to put that right, and a most excellent afternoon was had by both of us. We managed to crack through four games with plenty of time for catching up and eating cake in between.

Despite the pic, there was very little rulebook flicking! Age of Penda is incredibly easy to pick up and play – more time is spent making decisions that referencing rules.

In case you’ve not encountered it, Age of Penda is one of Dan Mersey’s self-published quick play rules sets. It’s a ‘top down’ battle game played on an offset grid with a Tactics Board that drives the game play, drawing on both traditional miniatures wargame and boardgame mechanics. (I reviewed it in more detail in this earlier blog post).

The Tactics Board – glass beads used for Saxon/ Celt tactical choices; the metal token used to show who has initiative is from Handiwork Games

Today’s armies were 64 points apiece, slightly less than the sample 80 point forces given in the rulebook but absolutely adequate for a good afternoon’s gaming.

The Saxons were based on an elite raiding force composed almost entirely of professional warriors. This force is almost entirely Wiglaf Miniatures, with a handful of Forged in Battle 15mm.

Wiglaf Miniatures 18mm Saxons in all their glory, sculpted by Mark Copplestone. You can read more about these minis in this previous article.

SAXONS:

6 x Armoured Warrior units @10 pts

2 x Skirmisher units @2 points

The Celtic coalition was a more mixed bag, such as may have fought at the Battle of Degsastan 603 CE. The figures were entirely Forged In Battle 15mm.

Welsh from Forged in Battle miniatures, photographed against a background by Jon Hodgson. You can see more of the Welsh in this previous blog post.

SCOTS-IRISH/ WELSH:

3 x Armoured Warriors units @10 pts

5 x Unarmoured Warrior units @3 pts

2 x Skirmisher units @2 pts

Game 3: battle at the ford

Although Age of Penda doesn’t have scenarios as such (just some guidelines in the book), I decided to set up a couple of classic situations based around (1) a hill and (2) a river crossing. First up was the hill – maybe an abandoned hillfort? – set across two grid squares in the centre of the table. Matt took the Celts, I took the Saxons, we rolled for initiative and kicked off.

Game 1: the hill
Game 1: the Saxons get the hill with some serious reinforcements coming up. Penda himself is at the back with a purple micro dice marking his Battle Rating of 6.

Having played several times before, I knew two things: (1) get the Armoured Warriors stuck in and (2) if there was defensible terrain, get there first. Fortunately, I won the initiative and was able to get Penda and his chums into pole position on the hill.

Game 1: aerial shot of the Saxon victory. Saxons (bottom) break up the piecemeal attack of the Welsh and Irish (top and right)

There was a stiff fight when the Celts arrived, but their skirmishers on the flanks did little, and the Saxons were able to break up the main attack and hang on to win, aided by some fortunate Rally rolls. (There are two opportunities to rally off damage, but both require a random roll to pull it off, and the Celts were certainly out of luck this time around). Victory conditions are simple – your side breaks and loses when reduced to 3 or less Warrior units (or 2 in the case of forces with 6 or less Warrior units, like the Saxons in this scenario).

For game 2, we swapped forces and replayed the scenario. Matt was learning fast and pulled off some clever moves using the Tactics Board, including stealing the initiative off me on several occasions. (The player with initiative takes the first action each turn, which can be decisive). This was a much more even battle, as Matt got his Saxons to the hill first. However, I’d concentrated on bringing up as many Celts as possible so that I had options to reinforce the line. What I managed to get right in this game was swapping out damaged units using two Move actions, as well as successfully making Rally tests. With a little luck, my Scots-Irish king hung in there and broke the Saxons!

Game 2: driving the Saxons off the hill
Game 2: proof that the green dice aren’t always spawny!
Game 2: successfully juggling damage and reinforcements, the Celts (bottom) pull off the win. By seizing the initiative each turn and using two Move actions to exchange damaged units, I was able to control the combat and break the Saxons.

For the third game, I stuck with the Celts and Matt with the Saxons. We laid out a river across the centre of the board; following the rules exactly as written, the river created four squares of impassable terrain with a single ford in the centre box (marked by the tree in the pic above).

Reading up on the impassable terrain rule, we realised that this meant no unit could enter the 4 boxes on the river banks, which meant that Skirmishers could not shoot from one side to the other (missile range being a maximum of one box). We decided that it must be a very wide river and played on, but the Skirmishers stayed at the back! Effectively, this was going to be a scrap over a very tight choke point, which would probably favour the Saxons with their greater number of Armoured warriors.

Game 3: despite his early success, you can see the Irish king (centre, below river) has run out of followers!

This game wasn’t a long one! We both surged forwards, leading with our best units and taking as many Move orders as possible (Matt also discovered the the ‘Charge’ special activation didn’t have to result in combat, so he used that to get more of his Warriors up in support). Having prioritised getting my three Armoured units to the ford first, I enjoyed a couple of excellent rounds of combat where the attacking Saxons took quite a drubbing (defending some terrain means that your opponent has to roll 5+ rather than 4+ when attacking), but eventually ran out of steam. My king was reduced to a single unit with no-one left in close support, as I had spent all my activations on the combat in the ford! Another Celtic loss.

Game 3: the Scots-Irish king goes down fighting in the ford.

After a civilised round of tea and cake – closely based on Asterix in Britain – we swapped forces again and plunged into the bloodstained waters of the ford for the final time.

Matt’s dice come up trumps, for once!
Game 4: pick that one out! I couldn’t complain about my luck in this game. The Celts get absolutely battered at the ford.

It had been a great afternoon’s gaming, and the dining room table size of the game (my mat has a playing area of 90 x 90 cm) meant that we rattled through the battles. With a similar level of detail to DBA and a very clever decision-making system, I’m enjoying Age of Penda more with every game. As we were playing, discussion turned to a possible mini-campaign, some new ideas for terrain and Special Tactics, and how I definitely need to get some horsemen (still sat in their bag) painted up for the next game. As soon as this blog post is up, I’m going to get to work on that…

The ford runs red, again. Just a regular Sunday afternoon in the Heptarchy, eh?

PS It has just been announced that Wiglaf Miniatures came in third place in the ‘top indie companies’ category in the On Tabletop awards 2022 – well done chaps!

Sudden Flame in Middle-earth: Glaurung vs the Noldor

We don’t seem to be getting tired of Middle-earth at the moment, and indeed, I’m currently re-reading The Fellowship of the Ring for the first time since I was a teenager. However, last week Pete and I decided to plump for the First Age of Middle-earth again as I’d just finished Finrod Felagund and his Elf riders. As a newly-painted unit, I wasn’t expecting much out of the first game, so best to get it out of the way…

The scenario was very loosely inspired by events around Dagor Bragollach, the ‘Battle of Sudden Flame’ mentioned in the Silmarillion. In F.A. 455, Morgoth broke the siege of Angband with a counter attack led by the (wingless) dragon, Glaurung, and Finrod Felagund of Nargothrond was one of the Noldor lords who rode out to oppose the enemy. In Tolkien lore, Finrod was cut off and nearly killed at the Fen of Serech, but I wanted to try out a scenario with even forces and enemy baggage trains to loot. We decided that the Orcs had a number of captives that – along with Glaurung – would be the target of the Elven attack; in turn, the Elves had a small tented camp that could be raided if the Orcs broke through.

All set up and ready to go. Dice tray from Handiwork Games

Rules, as ever, were my own Midgard Heroic Battles (due to be published by Reisswitz Press – as soon as we have actual news on release dates, you will hear it here).

The Elven camp, robbed from various medieval/ dark ages boxes. If you’re wondering why the Elf infantry aren’t on the usual movement trays, that’ll be because the Orcs ‘borrowed’ them two weeks ago and didn’t give them back…

As it happened, we ended up with a slightly shorter table at the club than I would have liked (5′ wide rather than 6′), so flanking opportunities were somewhat reduced, but in all honesty, my Elves were so focused on taking down Glaurung that we forgot all about rescuing the prisoners! Funny how a large mini dominates your mind as well as the gaming table.

Pete deployed with Glaurung smack bang in the centre of the Orc host, ready to scorch the Noldor with his breath of fire. I went for a chequerboard formation of alternating archers and spearmen, with both heavy cavalry units held back in reserve, and horse archers on the wings. Though I knew that Finrod was unlikely to survive the battle, I didn’t want him running right into the fiery jaws of death on Turn One!

The Orcs went for an all-out advance, which didn’t go too well for them – their best captains were leading from the front, but the rear line failed command test after command test (next time, a Balrog in the back line should whip them into shape). The Orcs on the left flank, however, seemed rather keener and were closer to my Elves than I would have liked.

I let fly with as many arrows as I could, but failed to force Glauring back; then I overcooked it by sending Aegnor – the best archer in my force – into combat in search of some short-term glory. He survived, but ended up embroiled in melee for multiple turns rather than trying to stick an arrow down Glaurung’s throat, as I had planned.

Aegnor ends up swapping bow for sword as he is embroiled in melee with an Orc leader.

Both sides took some casualties from arrows, but eventually Glaurung got within range and let rip, burning up a unit of Noldor archers and forcing them back. Pete had made some ‘Walls of Flame’ for a spell effect and these came in handy for showing the dragon fire on the table.

There was scarce time for the Elves to draw breath before the warg riders charged and the whole front line became a general melee. On the right flank, an honourable mention is due to the Orc horde unit who beat my elite Noldor twice in a row and forced them back!

Leaving his brother to fend for himself, force commander Finrod unleashed the Noldor riders on the Orcs, crushing two units in short succession.

Glaurung had, by now, charged the Elven archers. Despite being wiped out, they heroically wounded the dragon.

This left the way clear for the counter-punch, delivered by Finrod’s brother Angrod. Surging into battle and calling upon every glamour known to Elf or Gnome, the Noldor rolled impeccably, broke the wingless wyrm and sent him into flight with just a few Elves crushed underfoot. Luck of the dice!

Centre: the Orc horde unit that WOULD NOT DIE! 🙂 But Glaurung is in flight and Finrdd has punched through the line.

With the destruction of another warg unit, the Orcs were left with no reputation in their goblet and forced to scurry back to Morgoth, who will doubtless wheel out some Balrogs and tell them to get back to work!

It was an interesting game though without any single combats, for once – I think Pete and I were so focused on taking down/ getting Glaurung that it felt like an unnecessary risk! I had gained reputation early in the game by getting the first charges in, and the Orcs were unlucky to lose Glaurung so soon, but overall it was a solid victory for the Noldor.

Heroes of the hour: Finrod’s brother Angrod and the surviving riders of Nargothrond

Three cheers for Finrod Felagund and the newly-painted unit, still alive at the end of the game! 🙂

I’m expecting to take similar forces to the Midgard games that I’ll be running at the BIG Winter Wonderlard event next month (Feb 18th at Bristol Independent Gaming), but Glaurung will be taking a break as I’m not sure he’d be a fair intro to the game for new players!

Elf Riders for Middle-earth: a tale of plastic, putty and 3D prints

Finrod and his Elves photographed in front of one of Jon Hodgson’s stunning miniature backgrounds

Since getting tempted into collecting a small Elf force for Middle-earth, it’s been overdue for some extra riders. I already had a number of units of Noldor horse archers and heavy cavalry – mostly created by kit bashing Oathmark Elves with Gripping Beast Arab Heavy Cavalry – but the release of the Victrix Norman Knights in 2022 sent me back down the rabbit hole.

Base models: Victrix Norman (left), Reconquer Designs (right)
Victrix Norman Knights converted into Elves with Oathmark heads and shields

The second source of riders was the astonishing 3D range of El Cid era models by Reconquer Designs (previously Caballero Miniatures, that I looked in this article back in 2021). I had several of their Spanish knights knocking around in the bits box, two of which became standard bearers for the Elves. Mine were printed for me by James P of Fenland Miniatures (Iron Gate Scenery and Grey Green Customs also do them in the UK; the latter also sells versions with Elf heads and plumes which require no conversion).

Two Reconquer Designs medieval knights converted into Elves
One of Victor Ambrus’s Elves from the Tolkien Bestiary

Visual inspiration came from Tolkien stalwart Graham Green (Grey Green Customs), who converted bucketloads of metal minis into First Age Elves and then wrote about them in Miniature Wargames magazine (and also posts to the Wargaming In Middle-earth Facebook group). I still hark back to the artwork of Victor Ambrus in the 1979 Tolkien Bestiary and the more recent illustrations of Jenny Dolfen.

I love the horse archers in this Jenny Dolfen illustration – definitely an influence on my colour choices http://goldseven.de

Since rereading the Silmarillion a few years back, I’ve been fascinated by Finrod Felagund, so I decided to add him as a commander. The rest of my Elven force has a blue/ grey colour scheme and uses the heraldry of Finarfin – which was also used by Finrod – but I fancied creating a a bodyguard unit of Elves using Finrod’s personal device. To match the white, yellow and green of this symbol, I went with a largely green colour scheme and green shields.

Alongside the ten models I was working on for Finrod’s unit, I used the last remaining four Victrix Normans to create a few more horse archers in my regular blue/ grey scheme.

I snapped up the Victrix Normans as soon as they became available; they are superb models, but the first moulding had some issues with fitting the horses together, which I understand has now been rectified. This meant that I had some trimming and filling to do. Some of the horses had plumes added from the Oathmark Elves kits.

First experiments – this figure has an Oathmark Elf torso, which is a bit narrow (I used GB ones for the rest)

All of the horses were sprayed with Halfords Matt White Primer as a base colour which was then given a coat of GW Contrast Apothecary White. When dry, I highlighted this with a white acrylic.

Some of the muzzles received a layer of GW Contrast Gulliman Flesh and I picked out socks and hooves in acrylic dark greys and black. Reins and saddles were added with GW Contrast Cygor Brown – this dark colour is ideal for this job.

Saddlecloths were done using a mix of Contrast and regular acrylics, after which I sprayed all the horses with a coat of matt varnish.

Horses nearly finished (the riders are not glued on at this point)

The riders were kit bashed using a variety of plastic parts, all using the Victrix Normans as a base. The Oathmark Elves kits (both heavy and light infantry) saw extensive use of arms, heads, plumes and shields. From working on previous horse archers, I had a number of spare parts from the Gripping Beast Arab Heavy Cavalry kit; the most useful of these were the scale-armoured torsos, which fit well with the Victrix legs and Oathmark arms. Some spare cloaks from Fireforge Knights also came in handy to add a dynamic look to the charging riders.

These have the Arab Heavy Cavalry torsos from the Gripping Beast kit, which are a great fit for the Oathmark arms and heads.

With all this done, I went round and filled various gaps with green stuff.

Gap filling (Milliput for the horse and green stuff for the rider’s cloak)

Due to the high level of armour, I decided to spray the riders separately with a black undercoat (Halfords Matt Black again). After this, they received a dry brush of Army Painter Shining Silver acrylic over the armour, and I tidied this up with black acrylic.

Skin, clothing and leatherwork were all filled in with various acrylics (I can’t remember them all), trying to keep a green/ yellow/ white theme to match the heraldry.

Like the rest of my Elves, I did the shield devices by snipping and printing the artwork onto regular printer sticker paper, cutting them out neatly and sticking them onto the basecoated shield (any corners that didn’t quite stick down had a dot of PVA to hold them in place). With some painting and shading around the device, it’s not perfect but does the job for me.

Basecoated shields
Finished shields

The two 3D prints from Reconquer Designs became Finrod himself, waving his flag, and an additional standard bearer for his unit.

Finrod completed

I spent a little longer on the paintwork on these two, although I can claim no credit for the banner, being a piece of lovely Tolkien art that I found online, snipping and resizing it before printing it out onto regular paper.

Printed paper banners being fitted

The unit was based up on Warbases 25x50mm pill bases, with Finrod and his champion on larger 50 and 40mm round bases. Tufts and flowers are from Gamers Grass supplied by Northstar, as ever.

Despite having taken me far longer than I was hoping, I’m really pleased with the unit and look forward to charging it to its doom on the gaming table! I’d like to add a couple more infantry units and will then be calling it done, although the temptation of acquring some more Reconquer Models may be too much to resist…

Death in the Riddermark: Orcs vs Rohirrim in Middle-earth

This game came about as a result of two Petes: Pete D had requested a game of Midgard Heroic Battles, and Pete J had been busy building a Rohan mounted force, so it seemed only right to put the two together for the first game at the pub of 2023.

I quickly threw together a straightforward Middle-earth scenario – Orcs invading the Riddermark in the Third Age – and we got things underway. (Apologies if the photos are a little dark – I’d like to say it’s the smoke of burning Rohan homesteads, but actually the pub lighting wasn’t too bright last night).

The Two Petes took command of the army of Rohan, featuring a force of light and medium cavalry commanded by some familiar faces and with a mysterious unnamed wizard. Although some of our El Cid outings have involved a lot of cavalry, I think this was the first time we’d fielded a fully-mounted force. Pete J has been steadily creating unit trays for all his GW LOTR miniatures which are looking marvellous.

Riders of Rohan with move unit trays (GW LOTR minis)

I brought my usual host of Orcs, with a couple of units of Warg riders, a Troll Captain and a Nazgul riding a Fell Beast.

The game opened with the traditional single combat, with Eomer inviting the Orcs to ‘get orf my laand’ (poor Rohan accent there, sorry). Azdak, Captain of Trolls, came at him with his (very) big club but did no more than wound the Hero before getting decked by his legendary weapon.

Only slightly deterred, the Orcs hurled themselves forward at the Rohirrim. After failing a stack of command tests, this was revised to a fractured advance in the centre. The Two Petes actually had a PLAN (unsporting or what!) and split their force to try to get round the Orcish flanks.

The Dark Lord contemplates a change of wallpaper

This actually worked exceptionally well, with the speed of the riders and disorganisation of the Orcs adding to the overall effect of battlefield chaos. The Orcs in the centre were missing Akdar to tell them what to do.

Rohan light cavalry rode up to the front lines and caused mayhem with some spectacular (beginner’s luck, obvs) shooting from Pete D. Then Pete J did the same on the other flank!

Orcs getting peppered with arrers

At this point, I abandoned my ‘sensible’ plan to have the Nazgul lurking on the ground just behind the line where he could help control the Orcs, and sent him out on a swooping attack against Eomer and his personal guard. This was definitely the Orcish high water mark of the game, as the hooded menace and his pet tore apart Eomer’s horsemen and flew off scot-free. Unfortunately, Eomer survived the carnage and rode off to join some of his other mates.

The Nazgul goes after Eomer and his guard (centre)

The pressure from the riders on the flanks continued as one of my Warg units got destroyed by a pair of Rohirrim light cavalry and the arrows just kept pouring in. By now, the Orcs had been forced to turn to face, creating a most interesting formation (resembling Cannae, as Pete D dryly noted).

Orcs inadvertently adopt the ‘Cannae’ formation as they try to hold the flanks and push forwards in the centre
Close quarters with Wargs and Rohirrim

Some Orc counter-charges followed, but they were disjointed and badly-led. This was an obvious opportunity for one of my Orc Captains to challenge a lower-ranked Rohan commander to single combat, only for me to realise that he bore a worrying resemblance to Viggo Mortensen! He rolled dice like him too, quickly rendering my Orc an ex-Orc.

The Nazgul went off on another swooping attack which went spectacularly badly – he chewed up a unit of Rohirrim, but the Fell Beast took a belly full of spears as he passed over and was driven back.

General sorcerous trouble as the unnamed wizard holds off the Orcs with fire and flame

This left him vulnerable to the attentions of the unnamed wizard, who blasted the struggling creature with smoke and flame. Although surviving the assault, the beast failed its command test and fled the battlefield, taking the servant of Sauron with him.

Despite the Orcish collapse, the game was an absolute hoot in great company. It was excellent to watch Pete D picking up the mechanics so quickly and very enjoyable to see Pete J’s Rohirrim out on the table.