Dance of the Oliphaunts
At a time when Sauron was yet a distant worry and men were still young, there arose a fierce chieftain, Eorl, upon the grass lands near the Isen. He led his people to glory and in turn they became known as the mighty Rohirrim. They lived by their own code and valued horses, the spear, and freedom above all else. In fair Gondor, the threats of evil called the horse-lords to ride to battle and in victory were awarded the lands of Rohan in eternal alliance with the tall men of the west.
Our story is set in those days as evil yet lingers to harry the sons of Numenor. A fell tower of mystery broods on the outskirts of the walled city of Haradwaith whose memory has now been lost to time. Here, a foul Nazgul, Khamul the Easterling, kept a brooding watch to the north over the rolling grass lands of Haradwaith and to the south over arid plains of Near Harad. He weaved his spells and enchantments binding the Haradrim, a race of nomadic tribesmen, to fulfill their pledge of eternal evil in a mirrored parallel to the steadfast Rohirrim.
Riding hard, Eorl the Young, led the vanguard of his forces to the plains before the gates of Haradwaith. Rising dust clouds and the thunder of hooves alerted the town to the coming onslaught. Sour-noted horns rallied the evil ones from their slumbers as a red dawn broke on the new day. The deafening trumpets of angered Mumaks answered in response and started their inexorable lumber to battle. Khamul and his heavy Kataphrakt guards sortied from the tower to join the mad rush of Haradrim to repel the golden haired horse lords from their domain.
Eorl paused on a rise to espy the terrain. A sun-bleached mud brick city gleamed in the faint rays of dawn. Between his Eoreds and the city the rushing flood of a river blocked his way. Just beyond a large stone promontory could provide a bastion for his forces. His scouts reported that a broad double ford lies directly ahead; to the east and west narrow bridges span the waters. He could see a pair of mighty Oliphaunts each lingering near the bridges and streaming cavalry troops spilling from the city gate.
Speed is life and to hesitate was not in his nature. He made a fateful decision to split his forces and try all four crossings at once. Eorl dispatched two troops of cavalry along the western road to engage the large Purple liveried Mumak and one troop down the eastern flank to engage the Red Mumak. Eorl’s trumpeter sounded the charge as he spurred his bodyguard of Royal Guards, a troop of riders, and a company of Helmingas infantry towards the fords. Each Mumak moved to block a bridge as reinforcements closed from the city.
First contact occurred on the Western road as grey-gulled arrows flew toward the mammoth bulk. The Mumak was quilled by the sure aim of the horse archers. Alas, the thick hide of their quarry stymied their effect. In turn a rain of poison tipped black arrows slew two of the riders. A second exchange of arrows yielded similar results and shouted insults from the Harad archers lured the horsemen to close with the Mumak. With courage beyond reason, the Rohirrim charged to hack at the great beast with spear, sword, and axe. One mighty blow managed to pierce his flank, but the Haradrim Chieftain kept the titan under his control holding the reins with all his might. Too late, the riders discovered the danger of closing with a Mumak as his handler took the initiative, charged the Rohirrim, and trampled the lead cavalry troop into a grisly red pulp.
To the East, the story unfolded in similar fashion with faulty arrows only stinging the Mumak, poison flights killing Rohan riders, and another fateful charge into his tusks. Another troop was lost. The infantry fell back to the woods and continued their harassing fire. Twice they penetrated the hide and upon a second wound the pachyderm briefly went berserk and ran away from the Rohan foot trampling a Harad rider in the process. Alas, he was quickly brought back under control.
A critical point in the battle was reached as Eorl forced his crossing at the double ford. With his flanks reeling in defeat he forged ahead into an Easterling charge. Khamul loosed a mystical black dart which staggered Eorl, but with might and fate he avoided the blow. The Royal Guard and Easterling Kataphrakt hit in a titanic match of brawn, horseflesh, and heavy armor. Each side lost riders trapped in the narrow lane between river and rocks. Realizing that the Mumaks have nearly destroyed four troops of cavalry, the Harad foot and cavalry from the city hurtled towards Eorl.
The Mumaks rolled over the remaining forces near the bridge breaking the hearts of the Rohirrim force. Brave Eorl realized all was lost and abandoned the field before his entire command was destroyed. All that remained of his once proud vanguard were smears of gore, bone, and flesh on the sod and the lifeless corpses drifting in the river. Perhaps another day good will triumph, but this day belonged to all things dark and treacherous.
A Note on Tactics:
The good game master suggested strongly to the Rohan side that they avoid direct physical contact with the Mumak instead relying on numbers and agility to slowly cripple the beasts with arrow fire until they went berserk. Initially, the Rohan were well positioned to do this, but the desultory effects of their bows lured them into close contact and all went awry. The Mumaks in my stable are 4-0-0!
Query – Why do ducks have large webbed feet? Answer – To stomp out forest fires.
Query – Why do Mumaks have large round feet? Answer – To stomp out ducks.
That said, it was a great game and everyone had a good time – both good and evil.
Order of Battle
- Eorl the Young & Twelve Mounted Royal Guard (twelve throwing spears)
- Four warbands – Mounted Rohan Captains and Eleven Riders of Rohan (44 riders with a mix of axes, sword, & throwing spears and 44 bows)
- Three warbands – Rohan Captain (one proxy with Grimbold of Grimslade profile) and twelve Helmingas (36 foot with a mix of 12 axes / sword, 12 throwing spears and 12 bows)
- Khamul the Easterling & Twelve Easterling Kataphrakt
- Two warbands – Mounted Haradrim Chieftains & Ten Haradrim Raiders (10 bows & 10 throwing spears)
- Two warbands – Haradrim Chieftain & Twelve Haradrim Warriors (24 spears)
- Two warbands – Haradrim Chieftain mounted on Mumak & Twelve Haradrim Warriors Mumak riders (24 bows)
- Eorl and Royal Guard warband on a hill 16” inboard of north end of the board
- Cavalry warbands at 12” inboard NE, N, & NNW board edges; cavalry warband at 24” inboard WNW board edge
- Three Helmingas warbands 12” inboard to immediate left of Eorl
Note – the town is walled into 3 separate sections without interconnections, west, middle, and east blocks
Khamul and Kataphrakt warband in the tower in the west block
- One Haradrim Raider warband billeted in the barracks complex in the middle block
- One Haradrim Raider warband in the palace complex in the east block
- One Haradrim Warrior warband on the west road near the town
- One Haradrim Warrior warband in the courtyard of the palace complex in the east block
- One Mumak near the east bridge & one Mumak near the west bridge