Lord of the Rings Siege

October 10, 2016

My son and I have been having fun with a LotR siege game.  The game pits a small force of 12 elves and a hero against 2 bands of 12 Orcs as well as an Ogre and a small band of goblin archers.  If a band of Orcs are eliminated or routed, the  a new band comes to battle on the next turn.  The ogre and archers are removed from the game if they are killed.  The Orc force also has 4 ladders to scale the wall with.  The Elves must hold until turn 15, when another force of Elves arrives, ending the unlimited supply of Orcs.  At this point, the battle will be fought until turn 20 or until one side is completely routed.

Special rules.

  1. It takes a full turn to climb a ladder.
  2. The assaulting player may make an attack at the top if it survives a free shot by a defending character, assuming one is waiting for him at the top of the ladder
  3. If the assaulting character hits the defender (whether the defender saves or not) he may push his way onto the rampart.
  4. Ogres may attack the door and will batter it down on a ‘1’.
  5. Defenders may topple a ladder.  On a 3 the ladder is toppled.  This number is 1 less for each character on the ladder.
  6. If a ladder is toppled, the bottom character simply jumps down unhurt.  The top character must make a save or die.

Jack managed to eliminate my archers by turn 2.  They did, however, kill one of the elves with a lucky shot.  The Ogre managed to get to the door but was unable to bash it down before getting hit by a hail of arrows.  The ladders were placed on the wall and the Orcs managed to force their way up at one point on the front.  Then, the unthinkable happened.  It was bedtime.  Here are some pictures of the initial assault as well as the action at the end of turn 5.

Forces of evil approach the keep.

Forces of evil approach the keep.

A view from the Elven side.  One Orc has pushed his way onto the rampart.

A view from the Elven side. One Orc has pushed his way onto the rampart.

A view from the front.  The Orcs are scampering up the ladders.

A view from the front. The Orcs are scampering up the ladders.

A view from the side of the castle.  One of the ladder crews was frozen by Gandalf.  They come back next turn.

A view from the side of the castle. One of the ladder crews was frozen by Gandalf. They come back next turn.

The castle is by Toshach Miniatures.  It is a free 10mm paper model that was enlarged to 1/72 scale.  The images were high resolution so enlarging them did not lose any of the clarity.  Great little model.  The ladders came from Fat Dragon Games Siege Engines set.  The images here are seamless so I was able to simply add several lengths together and reduced them to 75%.  I then cut two notches so I could hang miniatures on the ladders to make them look like they were scaling the wall.  This set is a must have if you want some cheap siege engines including a siege tower and a covered battering ram.  I recommend printing them at 75% or maybe even a little less.

Blimey! If it don’t look like Mutton Tomorrow!

February 22, 2016

Jack and I got in our first Hobbit Scenario since the painting of some very nice Splintered Light Miniatures Dwarves.  (Post later on these)  The scenario deals with the three trolls, Tom, Bert and William from the first encounter in the book.  The scenario is written for Jack’s rules of war but could easily be balanced for any game.


The game map is relatively small.  A 2X2 board should suffice for most games.  The trolls are in a clearing in the hills or mountains.  The clearing is enclosed on all sides save one entrance that is exactly 2 trolls wide.  The party of dwarves are placed near the entrance and the trolls are placed within charge distance of the party.  The trolls get the first move.

Special Rules

The trolls cannot be killed.  However, they can be knocked out for D6 turns if they take 3 hits.

If a dwarf gets hit, they are also not killed.  Rather they are put “in the bag.”

Bilbo may not be attacked unless he is the last character out of the bag.  He may distract one troll on a 4 or less and the troll not making his magic save of 2 or less.  If successfully distracted, the troll can do nothing that turn.  Characters engaged with him in combat may freely disengage.  If a distracted troll is attacked, he may not strike back but may move again in his turn.  Distraction only lasts for 1 turn.

Each turn that there are no active trolls (distracted or knocked down) a single dwarf may escape from the bag.

Trolls get 2 attacks and hit on a 3 or less.  Their thick skin also allows them to save on a 3 or less.

The dwarves are relatively unarmored at this point in the story.  They hit and save with only a 2 or less.

The game lasts up to 15 turns.  Gandalf may arrive early.  At the end of turn 12 roll a die.  Gandalf arrives on a 6.  At the end of turn 13 he arrives on a 5+.  At the end of turn 14 he arrives on a 4+.  The game ends at the end of turn 15.  The Dwarf player must end the game by saying, “The dawn will take you all!”

How it played

Our game was a hedged in field about 1’X1′.  There was a mound in the middle of the field that was the location of the bag.  There was also a fire elemental that served as a campfire.  I did not have an actual camp fire.  The Trolls charged in but one was effectively blocked by the other two.  They managed to take 2 dwarves down.  Jack tried to distract but for two turns he was pretty unlucky in that department.  The trolls, effectively grabbed more than half the party by turn 5.  Things were not looking good.  Jack expressed his dismay.  I told him that maybe it was a mistake to split the party between the two trolls.  So, he managed to distract 1 of the trolls he was fighting, he then moved all of those guys to the other troll.  In a couple of turns he managed to knock that one down, then the second,  and finally the third.  When the third fell, they all were on the same number of turns to return…3 turns.  So we fats forwarded and allowed 3 dwarves to escape from the bag.  The trolls now were in position so that all 3 could attack and started making short work of the party.  Things were looking bad.  The game finally ended on turn 14.  Gandalf arrive and famously proclaimed, “The dawn will take you all!”

We sort of made it up as we went.  When Jack was lamenting the difficulty.  So we lowered the turn count to 12 turns.  Then when he knocked all the trolls down, we decided that some of the dwraves could escape.  Finally, since the battle was going to be a tight one, I decided that Gandalf could potentially arrive on turn 12 and so forth.  It ran smoothly and we both had a great time.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Jack’s Rules of War

October 14, 2015

The skirmish game my son and I have been playing.  Apparently easy enough for 7 year olds to understand.  Enjoy!

Hold for 20 turns.  The forces of good must hold off hordes of Orcs until day break.

Hold for 20 turns. The forces of good must hold off hordes of Orcs until day break.


How tall is Beorn?

September 28, 2015

How tall is Beorn from the Hobbit? The book does not explicitly say but we can figure out the rough height of the bear-man in human form.

Step 1: A point of reference. Beorn wore a tunic that hung to the top of his knee.  “As for Bilbo he could easily have trotted through his legs without ducking his head to miss the fringe of the man’s brown tunic.” (From Queer Lodgings) So we know that Bilbo was knee high to Beorn.

Step 2: How tall is Bilbo? We assume Bilbo is of average height. A hobbit, according to the book The Hobbit is “about half our height, and smaller than the bearded Dwarves.“ (From An Unexpected Party) This is a somewhat sticky point because in the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien changes things up and makes the average Hobbit about 3 feet 6 inches. For our purposes, it’s better not to mix and match. So we shall stick with the size from The Hobbit. Now, a medieval man is about 5 feet 8 inches tall or 68 inches. A WWII man, fortunately, is also about 5 feet 8 inches tall. So we don’t actually have to know what “man” Tolkien was referring to. We can safely assume Bilbo is about 34 inches tall. So the distance from the ground to the top of Beorn’s knee is also 34 inches..

Step 3: Compare to a real world person. The distance to the top of my knee is 24 inches. We an figure out the multiplier to increase my height to figure out how tall Beorn is, assuming he has my height proportions. 34 / 22 = 1.416666667. My height is 72 inches. 72 X 1.416666667 = 102 inches. That works out to 8.5 feet. I’d conjecture that Beorn is somewhere between 8 and 9 feet tall….in human form.

Step 4: (Optional) If you are looking for a miniature, you simply need to apply the multiplier above to the size of your “man” size in mm. For instance, my figures are about 24mm tall. So 24 X 1.416666667 = 34mm. Fudging that, most modern 28mm figures could fit the bill as they are usually 31mm+ tall.

As for Beorn in bear form, he was described as follows: “He came alone, and in bear’s shape; and he seemed to have grown almost to giant-size in his wrath. The roar of his voice was like drums and guns; and he tossed wolves and goblins from his path like straws and feathers.” Any werebear that is at least twice the height of your man sized miniatures should do. Mine is the Dwarf Werebear from Dungeons and Dragons miniatures but since I’ve done my research, I am kind of sorry I did not get something a bit bigger.

Left to right: Boromir, Foundr Viking (Beorn in human form maybe?), Bilbo, Beorn in Bear form

Left to right: Boromir, Foundry Viking (Beorn in human form maybe?), Bilbo, Beorn in Bear form.

My Beorn holds an ax which is not really an accurate description but it is a great looking miniature and will work nicely with the rest of my figures.  I’ll be looking at some of Reaper’s offerings for Beorn in human form as their figures are on the large size.  The one I found in my collection is a bit undersized.

LotR miniatures first outing…with my son.

December 21, 2014

My son and I have been playing a few games this weekend.  This is not his first wargame.  We’ve played simple battle games and fellow TMPr’s house Matthew/45thDiv with him and his son.  This is probably Jack’s first “serious” wargame at our house, where measurement and actual miniature positions for terrain effects matter.  Here are the rules we used.

  1. Magic: Once per GAME, a spell caster may cast a fireball.  It can affect up to 3 miniatures within close proximity of each other.  Magic has a range of 12″.  The figure(s) affected get a saving through of 2 or less.  Once per TURN, the caster may cast freeze.  This will temporarily disable the target for its next turn.  It also gets a save like with fireball.  The frozen figure has a penalty of 1 on its armor save during combat.
  2. Movement: All figures get a move of 6″ with the following exceptions.  Dwarves and Hobbits only move 4″.  Wargs and other cavalry move 8″.
  3. Terrain: Climbing hills costs 1″ of move to cross a contour line.  Goblins, Dwarves and Hobbits are unaffected.  Woods reduce movement by 1″.  Elves are unaffected.
  4. Missile shooting:  Range of bows is 12″.  Hand hurled weapons is 6″.  Hit number for Elves and Longbowmen is 2 or less.  1 for Goblins.
  5. Melee: Figures in contact may strike at an enemy.  Good Heroes hit on a 4 or less.  Other elves hit on a 3 or less.  Goblin warriors hit on a 2 or less.  Goblin archers hit on a 1.
  6. Saves: When a hit is scored from missile shooting or melee, the target is entitled to an armor save.  4 or less for Good Heroes, 3 or less for Evil heroes, Wargs and Elven Warriors.  2 or less for Goblin warriors and Elven archers, and 1 for a Goblin archer.  In woods, or other blocking terrain, the armor save is increased against shooting or for the first round of melee combat.
  7. Morale: Goblin groups run away when they lose half of their figures or more.

Our games were generally a simple escort mission like The Hobbit or the Fellowship of the Rings.  The good guys have a Hobbit, several elven warriors and archers, a Hero and a Wizard.  Jack picked up the nuances of the game quickly.  We started simple with a handful of Elves vs a handful of goblins.  We then added the Wizard.  Finally I added a few more goblins including a few more Wargs to make the game more exciting.  The object was to get the hobbit safely over the bridge or to the far board edge.  If the hobbit died, the game was over.  Jack always took precautions to ensure the little guy was guarded the whole way.

The games often have river crossings and woods to hide in and usually feature a prominent hill.

Here is the setup after turn 1.  Goblins are guarding the bridge.  Figures are Caesar Miniatures Elves and Goblin Factory Goblins.  The Hobbit is a Chariot Miniatures (Magister Militum) 15mm Hobbit.

Here is the setup after turn 1. Goblins are guarding the bridge. Figures are Caesar Miniatures Elves and Goblin Factory Goblins. The Hobbit is a Chariot Miniatures (Magister Militum) 15mm Hobbit.  Roads are by Battlefield Terrain Concepts.  They were thrown into a box for several months and now have developed a “memory.”  Trees and Hills I think are GW.  The mat is from The Terrain Guy.  The river is from Hotz Artworks.  Bridge is by Kai Weaver from Falcon Figures of Chesapeake.  Yes, it needs some paint on it!

I forced jack to work for his victory.  he did well by using his caster to suppress one cgoblin with the Freeze spell while the warriors rushed over the bridge.  This is how the game looked at the end.

I forced jack to work for his victory by leaving 4 archers guarding the other side of the bridge. He did well by using his caster to suppress one Goblin with the freeze spell while the warriors rushed over the bridge. This is how the game looked at the end.

I think changing the morale rules to more than half should make the game a little tougher the last couple of outings, he did really well and cleaned his old man’s clock.  I’m starting to develop an inferiority complex. 😉  Good times were had by all.  On a final note, my daughter Mary also joined the fun for a game this afternoon.  Not quite to her liking but I think she still had some fun.  She is a kinder and gentler soul.  War is really not her thing.

After a long hiatus…Elves!

January 5, 2014

No Lord of the Rings collection is complete with out Elves.  These are from Caesar Miniatures from their MiniKnight Fantasy collection.  Like most plastic miniatures boxes, these figures come on identical sprus.  Companies do this for efficiency reasons.  The cost of plastic miniature molds is even higher than that of metal miniature molds.  The downside of this is that when you have command figures as well, you end up with 3-4 extra figures of leaders, standard bearers and sometimes musicians.

The sculpting on this set is very good.  The look and feel is that of old school elves with simple clothing and cloaks for rangers and limited torso armor for the High Elves.  There is nothing over the top about any of these figures.

Below are pictures of all of the infantry possibilities and a final shot of 2 regiments of elves.

Armored Elves (Front)

Armored Elves (Front) with an archer, 2 swordsmen, standard bearer, leader/hero, lady caster and she-ranger.  The ranger is out of place but has been included to show the contents.  The figure looks like it was taken from World of Warcraft.

Armored Alves (Left Side)

Armored Alves (Left Side)

Armored Elves (Right Side)

Armored Elves (Right Side)

Rangers (Front)

Rangers (Front)

Rangers (Left)

Rangers (Left)

Rangers (Right)

Rangers (Right)

The Army Arrayed

The Army Arrayed

One common complaint about these figures is the large ears.  It is true they are quite large but once painted up are hardly noticeable.   The box says 35+ figures.  I believe there were 4 of every figure in my box.  There were enough figures for a 10 man melee unit, 4 other armored bowmen to add to the armored unit and a 12 rangers.  The extra command and caster figures can be painted in different color schemes and can probably be reposed or used for parts for other conversions.

Caesar Miniatures Elves Approximately $12.


Kids and gaming in practice

June 26, 2013

A few weeks ago, my son and I joined TMP’r 45thdiv/Matthew and his son for an afternoon of gaming.  As this was my son’s first wargame ever, this was going to be an interesting experiment.  The game was quite simple.  The Normans (played by the Dad’s) held a keep with a handful of men.  As well, a second contingent guarded the bridge.  The kids were the Vikings.  They had to cross the bridge, storm the keep and rescue the Queen and the prince from the tower.

The rules were quite simple.  You could move up to 3 men per player to any location within reason.  In this case, the boys had to move and fight across the bridge.  As men were defeated, it was decided that the victor could advance to contact with the next combatant freely.  Fighting was simple.  Each player rolled a die (12 sided).  the higher roll won the fight and killed the opponent.  Archery worked the same way but with no danger to the shooter.  Walls allowed the defender to roll an extra die taking the best die of the bunch rolled.   A leader could roll 2 dice and take the highest die.  If a leader died, he was sent to the beginning and one dead enemy figure was returned to play.  The door to the castle had to be chopped down with axemen.  There were a limited quantity of these.  They need to “beat” the door 6 times.  The enemies (the dad’s) got to drop rocks on the axemen.   This worked like missile fire.

The Vikings ran headlong up the bridge and into the waiting Normans.  Casualties fell on both sides and one Viking leader (who was leading the charge) was also killed.  After a few turns, the Vikings had cleared the bridge of the defenders.  They then brought up archers.  The Vikings were deadly with their bows.  They inflicted heavy casualties on the well protected Norman archers and cleared most of the tower of its missile combat ability even before the first axemen reached the door.  Ah the luck of the youth!  After a few successful dropped rocks, the Viking axemen splintered the door.  it was all a matter of time before they cleared the tower of the defenders and saved the queen and prince.

The boys had a great time.  Though they took casualties, neither were put out by this and were good sports.  Matthew’s son was 6 while mine was 5 and a half.   My son wanted to play the same kind of game with his toy soldiers when we got home that evening.  This time they were pirates.  The games were a little haphazard.  He got a little mad at me because I wanted to enforce the rules we played by before.  That was mostly because he was pretty tired.  We’ve played a couple of games since.  All pretty fun outings.

Some lessons learned.

  1. Don’t try to do too much with your young gamer.  Some rules may seem dead simple to you but will not be for the young gamer.  Keep the mechanics to a minimum.  Really, it should be a matter of how to move and how to fight.
  2. Don’t expect too much (or any!) reality.  If it is a a bloody and short game, so be it.  They have a maximum attention span of about 1 hour.  I said Maximum!
  3. If the little gamer wants to do something, work it into the game.  Just roll with it.  It’s all about them and their enjoyment.

Some interesting observations about my son and game design

  1. He started with all the basic rules.  He wanted to roll a 12 sided die but did recognize that two 6 sided dice equal the same thing (roughly).  Luckily, the bad guys had to roll the d12 which has an average number of 6.5.  The good guys rolled 2D6 which has an average number of 7.  So the good guys have an advantage.
  2. He did take to the idea of friction and limited the moves to two moves.  A figure could move twice or move once and attack or you could move two figures.
  3. He likes variable movement.  Roll a D6 die and that is how far the figure can move.  We count off imaginary spaces which are about 1-3″ in size.
  4. I cut a 6″ dowel for movement.  The concept is the same as Song of Blades and Heroes (Ganesha Games) but only one movement size.  We used it in one game but my son forgot about it.  I don’t think he disliked it.  I think he just liked random movement more.

I am going to mock up a castle attack and use some of my 1/72 scale LotR figures.  (see LotR in 20mm from previous posts)  I figure 12 men, 2 elves and two heroes against two Orc contingents (16 men each) with an Orc leader.  The heroes are Gimli and Legolas visiting a Gondorian outpost.

The rules.

  1. Combat works with opposed die rolls.  Leaders roll 2 dice and take the best.  Gimli rolls 3 dice and takes the best.  Leglas rolls 3 dice and takes the best in missile combat and 2 dice when in hand to hand combat.  Elves roll 2 dice and take the best for missile combat.
  2. Missile range is 2 sticks (12″)
  3. Movement rate is 1 stick (6″)
  4. Two men can climb onto a ladder.  It takes a full move to climb up a ladder.  So one man will be all the way up while the second man will be half way up.  A third man can steady the ladder.
  5. Ladders can be pushed over on an opposed roll.  If two men are on the ladder, the defending roll is 2 dice and take the best.  The ladder with men is heavy.  If the ladder is toppled, the man on the top portion is killed on a 4-6.  Otherwise he lands on his feet and is OK.
  6. The object of the Orcs is to capture the castle.  The object of the defenders is to defeat the attackers.

There may be too much chrome in my rules for this fight but it will be an interesting test.  My son is pretty good at picking up strategy quickly.  He has done it in several other board games we play.