Thursday, October 8, 2009

Review of LOTR in Da Grand Waaagh 2009

Last year, the gaming club I belong to, Da Waaagh Mob, decided to put on an Independent Grand Tournament in Alameda, CA on the USS Hornet, an aircraft carrier that has been turned into a museum. Originally, we were planning on running just two systems, Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000. But a month ago, I was asked to add Lord of the Rings to the tournament. We’d originally thought to add it next year, but we had the space, so what the heck!

With such short notice, I knew we couldn’t get a huge turnout, but I did manage to scare up five players, which made for a very interesting tournament – every player would get to play each other. There was no Swiss system, but instead a pure round robin where the winner would be determined with almost no consideration to pairings or early/late placement. I also knew I’d be playing the ringer, since we had an odd number.

I also wanted to make sure that there was a variety of scenarios, and I wanted them to be different than other scenarios they had played. I took some inspiration from the Legions scenarios, changing them around to account for a time constrained environment and the army favoring characteristics of a few of the scenarios. I also hate random scenarios – I’ve lost games just because of a few bad rolls (the number of times I’ve failed to get a Major Victory in Domination because of that stupid “game ends!” roll…) and I know that just sucks. So I tried to limit the randomness. I’ll detail the scenarios in my battle reports.

One thing about being the ringer is that you’re there to provide a service only – make sure everyone gets to play every round. After all, that’s what the players are there for, to get in a game. The ringer isn’t supposed to be highly competitive, though they’re not supposed to be a pushover, either. I flatter myself in thinking that I’m a pretty good player, so I decided against going with one of my first string armies. After DundraCon last year with the “Oh, so it’s your turn to get beaten on by Gandalf” comment, I knew that the Errand wouldn’t fly, and I thought that even the Shadow list from Vegas would be pretty nasty. Of course, I haven’t painted a full army of anything else, so I used those armies for my basis.

To make things more enjoyable for the players, I decided to come up with multiple armies and let them choose the list they wanted as ringer. I also wanted to try playing with models that I normally wouldn’t consider using in a tournament. My first was pretty simple – I swapped Gandalf for Aragorn on a horse in the Errand, downgrading Ecthelion to a standard captain. The second list I came up with was a variant on the Shadow, where I dropped all of the Morannon Orcs and upgraded the wraith to Khamul the Easterling on an armored horse. I wanted one more option, and decided to go totally goofy. I called it “So Boromir picks a fight with a Balrog…” and took four models; Aragorn, Gandalf the Grey, Legolas, and Gimli. 600 points right there.

I arrived at the tournament in the early afternoon of Friday to set up. After my experience at the Necro, I wanted a really interesting skirmish game with LOTS of terrain, and there was a pretty good stash to raid. Only having three tables to fill made it easier. I set up three tables.

First was a small highland village, surrounded by small, steep hills. I wanted to use several buildings to get in the rules for fighting inside the fortress – doors, defended obstacles, stuff like that. The effect was that the center could be full of choke points if it was actually defended, otherwise it would be fairly easy to move through.

Next up was a pretty typical wooded area, lots of trees and areas of undergrowth with a few hills thrown on. The hills on both this table and the first one were slab sided – no slope at all. I made the call that it was WYSIWIG – lots of jump and climb checks were involved. It made it interesting for cavalry forces, that’s for sure.

The last table was inspired by the fact that several large pieces of fortress and the like were ignored by the other systems for being cumbersome and difficult to fit units onto. No units in this game! I tried to go for a kind of “ruined fortress” look with the four large pieces in the middle surrounded by a few large hills and individual trees.

So with that, I sat back to wait for check ins. As it turned out, we had something like three people actually play a game on the ship Friday night. A few other people checked in early, but apparently some of the ship security people turned some of our players away. That night cost us a lot of money for pretty much nothing. I doubt we’ll do that next year.

The next morning, I was raring to go. The five LOTR players showed up with plenty of time, and I presented the briefing and the options for the ringer army. A couple of people immediately said they didn’t want to see the all heroes army (if they drew that force on a couple of scenarios life would be very, very difficult), and the two people who voiced a preference chose Easterlings, so that was my force – Khamul and crew. The list was as follows:

Khamul the Easterling on armored horse (I think I forgot about paying the extra points for the armored horse during the games…)

Easterling Captain on armored horse with shield

6x Kataphracts
18x Warrior with shield
7x Warrior with shield and spear
12x Warrior with bow

Total Models: 45
Might: 4
Bow Armed Warriors: 12/43

I knew this was a suboptimal force when I took it. I particularly love Nazgul for their spell casting, and Khamul has the hardest time casting spells of any of the wraiths. With a Fell Beast, at least you have the chance of getting Will back to compensate for the extra dice you have to throw at spells. On a horse, the best you’re getting is usually staying at the same level of Will. I also knew there were no nutcrackers – D6 would be a major problem for me.

But hell with it, I wasn’t playing to win anyway! That doesn’t mean I’d try to make it easy for the people I would play…