Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Sand in the Eye - Middle Earth SBG Tournament AAR

My second day at Fall In! 2019 was spent in a Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game tournament. 

Earlier this year I decided to jump in feet first as the newest edition has seemed to breath life into the game. I had never really looked at Games Workshop's Lord of the Rings games, and the Hobbit line had left me even colder. 

But the new starter box had piqued my interest, so a couple Amazon purchases later and I had a pretty decent start to a Mordor army. I've added on to it since that to get enough options to mix and match. It was from this that I picked my tournament force.

My first game was against Stephen, who had brought a Mirkwood force. The scenario was Lords of Battle, where each player primarily scored victory points by causing wounds to the opposing force.

I was able to deploy my Orcs in a line, which faced off against two warbands of elves, one led by Thranduil, and another by Legolas.

Since Stephen and I were both relatively new to the game, this ended up being more or less a straight up brawl. The elves' higher Fight saw them winning more combats, but the Morannon Orcs had a higher Strength and could more easily cause wounds. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get Shagrat close to Thranduil to try and draw him into combat, and Stephen was ultimately able to cause more wounds by the time the round ended.

So the first game was a close loss for Mordor.

The second game was against Ted and his Fiefdoms. I quickly learned that this force was all about the overlapping auras that made their infantry living blenders. The scenario was Heirloom of Ages Past, where both sides had to search through six objectives, find the relic, and hold onto it until one side reached 25% of its original size.

It was in this game that I learned to dread the Maelstrom of Battle special rule, where warbands come onto the table randomly, either at the player's choice or their opponent's. While Shagrat was able to move onto the table with relative safety, both Kardush and the Morannon Captain came on right on top of Ted's force. I basically had to watch as two of my warbands were slaughtered.

I then tried to quickly end the scenario by causing my army to reach its 25% limit before the relic had been found, but Ted managed to keep enough of my force alive to secure the objective and kill my banner (which would have given me victory points) to win the game.

It was a second, and much more devastating loss for the forces of Sauron.

My third game was against Nick and his Lothlorien elves. The scenario was Contests of Champions, where a force's leader aims to cause as much damage as possible, and I messed it up from the beginning. Both sides' Leaders have to deploy within 3" of the center, and then deploy their warbands within 6" of the center. I placed Shagrat right out in the center, thinking that Nick's Leader, Galadriel, had to do the same. Instead, Shagrat found himself facing a wall of Galadhrim warriors.

A lucky Priority roll meant that Shagrat wasn't immediately surrounded and chopped to pieces, but that wasn't much of a comfort when he was Commanded through the Lothlorien line over to Galadriel, who proceeded to slap my Leader to death. Since Shagrat hadn't managed to kill even a single elf by that point, it was more or less a total wash at that point. Nick proceeded to spend the rest of the game just aiming to break my force to score the maximum amount of victory points.

Another embarrassing loss for Mordor.

By this point I had become somewhat put out by the beatings I had been getting, especially when I found out I was going to be playing another Maelstrom of Battle scenario against Rainier and his all-mounted (and fantastic looking) Khand army. The scenario was Hold Ground, where both sides needed to control an objective in the center of the table by the (randomly decided) end of the game.

My only goal was to lose as quickly as possible to get the game over with, which was facilitated when Shagrat failed to show up the first turn, while the Morannon Captain and Kardush ended up on opposite ends of the table with plenty of Khandish horsemen and their chariot-riding heroes for company. I abandoned any pretensions of cohesion for the warbands and just throw them at the horsemen when I had priority. Doing so, I was actually able to kill off the Khandish King with a horde of regular Orc Warriors and Orc Trackers.

Shagrat's warband came on at the end of the second turn in yet another area, seperated from the rest of the Mordor army. So I just marched him and the rest of his warband towards the center. More through dumb luck than any amount of skill, Shagrat ended up being the only model within 6" of the objective when my army broke and the game ended, which meant I had managed a win by a slim margin.

I have to admit, the games I played were somewhat discouraging, even at such a low points value. I felt like I kept coming up against players who were far better than me, but only had losses on their records because they had been up against even better players. I certainly learned plenty about the rules, but these were harsh lessons.

I do plan to go to another tournament in January, but this event has opened my eyes to how rough a treatment I'll probably get there as well. In the future, I'll probably spend my HMGS events trying out participation games, rather than trying my hand at MESBG.


  1. Maelstrom of Battle seems great for a funsy, one-off game but not so great for a Tournament battle.

    1. Absolutely. You can spend Might to modify the result, or bring Heroes that can affect it, but it can completely screw you over right from the beginning.