Let’s look back at the history of the psychosis. A perfectly stable young man casually decides to toy with drugs. His opiate of choice – LOTR Strategy Battle Game. Just like any other addict, the eventual cost of this decision is not calculated. He picked up the Fellowship of the Rings starter box and inhaled, deeply inhaled and then chewed the seeds.
Hallucinogenic visions of battles danced before his eyes. Flashbacks to Middle Earth. Post Traumatic Orc Syndrome. Back in the day, Orcs came only in metal blisters – three to a card. It seems like they were egregiously priced around $6 a blister. A big game had 50 minis on a side. The hugest game called for 40 Wargs or 200 Orcs. This seemed unachievable. Who could afford to buy 200 Orcs??? I will tell you who – me. Your humble addict. I had to cancel the kids plans for college and hock the house, but those earthly, material considerations seemed no hindrance to the quest, the dream, the geas, a massive battle of titanic, but miniature proportions. My wife suggested I join a self-help group – so I joined the Triangle Warlords.
The quest became more doable. GW marched out boxes of plastic minis to match the drum-beat of the movies, but even then it took years to accumulate and paint, paint, paint. To our benefit, the prices fell as the LOTR franchise lost a bit of its glamor. Game stores marked the old LOTR blisters to go at bargain basement prices. For a while, you could buy the blisters for less than $1 per mini. The irony was the GW pricing strategy eventually pushed the retail blister prices to $4 per mini. Should I paint or sell? Paint, paint, paint. Who needs college – we can sleep in a tent. The geas must be obeyed…
Eventually the dream was in sight. An orc or warg at a time, the balance tipped. So by the time of the battle, I had a horde of warriors with slathering lips and dull-coated bodies ready for war. 9 Wraiths, 4 fell beasts, 2 Mumaks, 9 Trolls, and 400 minions stood ready. Hhm? Who should they slay? My paltry 24 Warriors of Minas Tirith and 60 Riders of Rohan would only be a morsel for this mighty force. An evil alliance was joined. Who could I corrupt to my ways. Lure into painting hundreds of tasty humans? The answer was obvious – I would suck my fellow historical gamers into the maw of LOTR. And so we did – maniacally laughing as we approached the day of reckoning. Lovecraftian!!!
The Game Plan
I have both the SBG rules (and all its myriad source-books) and the War of the Ring (WOTR) rules. WOTR is fine and dandy, but it lacks a certain disorder that characterizes real battles. The staid warriors in their neat rows, dying from the rear ranks just does not capture the flavor of the great battle. I wanted confusion, chaos, and tactical mystery. Forces trapped by the surging charges of a few key men or a monstrous troll. Frustration that only a small number of reinforcements can trickle into the maelstrom of death. SBG is a skirmish game. One battle at a time, one miniature death at a time. Thus we would approach Pelennor Fields. Using the master scenario from the “Return of the King” journey book, forces for four different scenarios were marched onto the field.
Glory of Dol Amroth
The walls of Minas Tirith assailed the foes with Trebuchet and Ballista. Orcs swarmed up scaling ladders in a last attempt to take the fortress by escalade. From the gates of Minas Tirith, the Prince of Dol Amroth, Imhrahil, leads a charge of knights and heavily armed foot against the Dark Marshall with his bodyguard of trolls and black Numenoreons, Shagrat ‘s lads the mighty Mordor Uruk-Hai, Khamul the Easterling ‘s force of Phalanx and Kataphrakts, and a swirling sky of Wraiths on wings.
Death of Kings
A ringing horn blasts a break in darkened sky, heralds the arrival of northern horsemen. Fell Lord of Nazguls abandons Grond-broken gates to swoop on the vanguard of the Riders of Rohan. Stooping Dwimmerlaik dives at Snowmane with valiant King’s life in balance. To Théoden’s defense Dernhelm charges. The fate of Nazgul awaits the not-man. Deathsworn bodyguard hurls to horror. Who shall undeath or mortal, who shall prevail?
Charge of the Rohirrim
Thundering Oliphant’s tremor the greensward – Rohirrim wheel to face the tumult. Death, death, all I see is death. Wrath, ruin, a red day, a sword day. To glory the Éoreds ride. Éomer leads the charge. Woe to the men of far Harad!
Return of the King
Look to the south. The three hunters arrive. A whelm of shades at their back. The honor of Carn Dûm to redeem. Slaking souls with the blood of Gothmog and his horde of Morannon Orcs.
Hordes of minis – that is the ticket. I looked to the bare lead and plastic pile with dismay. 1 Mumak and 1 Nazgul painted. 100 orcish things painted. Hordes await the brush. In bursts of frenetic gluing, filing, and painting the game studio spat out minions. First marched forth 9 trolls (1 GW Chieftain, 2 GW Catapults, 1 GW Warrior, 1 Reaper Warrior, 2 GW Cave Trolls, and 2 Thomarillion Pushers), then 3 more Wraiths on wings, steeds, and foot (fell beasts Metal Witch-king, Plastic Nameless Wraith, and last a combo Metal/Plastic conversion using bits and pieces), then a 2nd Mumak, followed by 250 more orcs, evil men, and undead. Marching to the muster and forming up for war. Workshops flourished near Raleigh, NC as my colleagues joined in the pursuit. The muster swelled. ~515 Evil and ~445 Good troops marched to war! That is 960 Miniatures!!!
Minas Tirith Garrison – Beregond, Pipin, and 417 Warriors of Minas Tirith
Gondor Cavalry – Prince Imrahil, 13 Swan Knights of Dol Amroth, and 18 Knights of Minas Tirith
Rohirrim Cavalry – 105 Riders including Théoden, Éowyn, Gamling, Éomer, Erkenbrad, and Captains
Army of the Dead – King of the Dead, 6 Riders of the Dead, and 97 Foot
Artillery – 4 Trebuchets and 5 Bolt Throwers
Morgul Vale – Witch King on Fell Beast, 3 Wraiths on Wings, the Dark Marshall on Steed, 11 Morgul Knights, 9 Black Numenoreons, 12 Morgul Stalkers
Harad – Serpent King, 22 Raiders, 52 Spear, 36 Archers, 2 Mumaks
Easterlings – Khamul the Easterling, 12 Kataphract, 40 Phalanx
Mordor Orcs – 170
Mordor Uruk-Hai – Shagrat, Shaman, and 40 Warriors
Morannon Orcs – Gothmog,3 Captains, and 44 Warriors
Wargs and Riders – Shaman, Warg Chieftain, 2 Captains, 66 Warg Riders, and 5 wild Wargs
Trolls – Chieftain and 8 Trolls
Artillery – 2 Catapults and 2 Siege Bows (and a number of non-crewed burning engines)
Siege Tower, Siege Ladders, 2 Battering Rams, and Grond
Swirling Battle Madness. Chaos unchecked. Blood, gore, bile, and brains. Victory at last of forces of Good. You know the drill. Théoden dead, Imrahil dead, Gothmog dead, King of the Dead really dead. Six dead trolls. One almost dead Mumak. Éowyn surrounded and about to die. Aragorn triumphant! Éomer victorious! Got the picture? We called it with about 25% casualties and a need for the Dark Lord (aka me) to head back to DC. Lots of fun – worth the effort.