Monday, July 23, 2018

Battle Report: "Kill Radagast!"

Warg-riders engage an Ent

This past Saturday, a small group of friends visited to play some Middle Earth skirmish wargames. The scenario was based on the Battle Games in Middle-earth #79 magazine article "Kill the Wizard!", modified for Knights & Magick, and using the K&M Single Combat rules. All figs are Mithril Miniatures except for Radagast the Brown, which is a pre-Hobbit film Games Workshop mini.

At some point during the War of the Ring, Saruman decides it's time to off Radagast the Brown. The corrupted wizard sends two bands (2 x 11 figs) of Uruk-Hai and also a band of (4) Warg-riders to Rhosgobel in order to rid himself of "this meddlesome bird-tamer."

"Horns of the buffalo" tactics. Warbands split into two wings
The first two turns saw the orcs and wargs struggling through the densly-implied underbrush of south-western Mirkwood. Movement costs were doubled when in or near (2") of the trees. The Uruks crept along at 3.5 inches; the warg-riders did slightly better at 5.5" per turn.

Meanwhile Radagast, who had no such restrictions, being made of wizardly stuff, nipped into the back allotment and summoned an Ent.
The wizard's staff gave him a bonus, making success automatic.

Radagast "Root Strikes" the lead Uruk, who survies, for now.
Each of the Uruk bands had two archers in it, and they were taking pot-shots whenever Radagast left himslef in the open, which did not happen often. Due to his wood-craftness, Radagast had automatic line-of-sight, and conjured "Crushing Root" attacks against the two Uruk leaders, killing one and immobilising the other for a turn.

It was during these "root strikes" that Radagast failed his magic drain roll. Normally, in K & M, that would result in the death of the magic user -fortunately, Radman's staff of power gave him a +2 to his roll, resulting in a bad headache and urge to take a short nap.

The Great Eagle has landed....(sorry 'bout that)
On Turn 3, the great eagle, Gwahir, arrives on the board edge. "Whats all this, then?  Orc-mischief in the forest?" he sez, and then chucks himself into the backs of a couple of Uruk archers. Up to this point, those archers were feeling pretty smug at staying out of harm's way - two sharp talons the size of garden forks  spoiled their otherwise pleasant day. One archer hands his lunch to his mate, and goes down.

"Speedy the Orc" rushes to his doom
By turn 4-5, things were starting to look serious for the good guys. Radagast had summoned a second Ent, and had cast "Disturbing Omens" on himself, giving all orcs within 6" a -1 on their to-hit rolls. Still, the first ent was going down, after taking out three of the wargs and riders, and the Brown Wizard was finally in an exposed position.  The surviving warg-rider charged...

Radagasts +2 staff also makes a jolly good club, and after a brief exchange, the Brown wizard rang the rider's bell, taking him out.

"Two against one? Hardly fair, boys..."
Turn 6: more Uruks were closing in - Gwahir had been slain by two Uruks, lead by the last leader Uruk. Gwahir did manage to take out the leader, so that'll do, bird, that'll do.

Now leaderless, the last of the Uruks swept into the deep thicket where Radagast had taken to squatting. Feeling pretty kick-@ss with his staff, the wizard charged a pair of Uruks - whack, clang-clang, thump, one Uruk went down. Rinse and repeat, and both lay dead, Radagast had a healthy scratch for their trouble (took a wound, but had two left).

Uruks withdraw in shaky order.

By turn 7, it was clear to the Uruks that Saruman had got his sums wrong (again!) and they would be unable to defeat Radagast, who had placed himself back-to-back with the surviving Ent, laying on hands and healing him.

The Uruks decided to withdraw, denying Radagast his final victory point (13 Orcs dead, one shy of a clear victory. Draw Match.

Still, the Uruks knew that Radagast was still Master of Rhosgobel...for now.

Post Game Thoughts:
This was a frustrating fight for the orcs (played by Rob C. and Derek C.) It was very difficult bringing Radagast to heel, due to the disparity of movement and the disposable allied-obstacles that were thrown in their way. It was early-midpoint when the Orc players decided to use encirclement tactics, and that's when the wizard felt the pressure.

In the initial playtest, the weekend prior, my brother Chris was playing the wizard, who somehow had  received the K&M spell "sorcery blast/fireball".  This effect is more in line with a D&D Magic Missile. Wizardly firebolts flew like a gatling gun. This didn't "feel" very Tolkien-ish, and was redacted from the second game. "Crushing Roots" was substituted, which had the added bonus of immobilising the target (if they survived the ent-like crush+3 attack) for a turn.

Playtesting the Sorcery Blast

The "Crushing Roots" attacks were fun - it had a 1.5" area-of-effect  and an 18" range with no line-of-sight restrictions. Only once caught two orcs simultaneously. One survived, the other suffered a "Gruesome Death" effect as they were "eviscerated by the boughs of a mighty oak". The Uruks spread out a bit after that, and wouldn't you?

"HEY! No smokin' during workin' hours!"
We also need to add rules for riderless wargs - a simple morale check to stay in combat or flee would be fine. Once a warg-rider went down, the warg was lifted off table. This should be corrected.

By and large, an amusing game. The lads did well, especially when considering this was their first time out the gate with Knights and Magick. It was suggested that perhaps the Uruks could do with a troll as added muscle, which is worth looking into. In the Two Towers book, there is a scene with a disgruntled troll in Saruman's servce, airing a grievance in the Black Speech.

I'm thinking of adding "Disgruntled" rules to allow a troll to strike or Go Slow on a borderline morale roll. Hah!