Today’s scenario is They’re Here, from White Dwarf and reprinted in the Best of White Dwarf volume 2, and vaguely based on the scene in The Two Towers movie in which Frodo almost succumbs to the Nazgul. The Orcs are trying to reach and carry off Frodo (who is actually on the bad guys side in this game), while the Gondorians are trying to off 22 Orcs before this happens.
Jeff, Kim, and I played the Orcs while Rich and Matt played the good guys. The Orcs start with an initial force of only 20, facing down some 24 Warriors of Minas Tirith and Rangers of Ithilian, plus Faramir and Damrod. Not good odds, and the reinforcements (a few more orcs, 4 Warg Riders, and that Fell Beast-mounted Nazgul which comes on last) trickle on slowly. The only upside is that the Gondorians have to defend the entire board edge, the bad guys have only to cut a path through to Frodo. Unfortunately, we probably had slightly insufficient terrain on the board, and the Orcs got a severe hammering from the Gondorian archers as they tried to cross the street to come to grips with them. There is also a special rule in this scenario in which giant flying rocks randomly hit people, and we were inordinately hammered by them. To cut a long story short, even once the Wargs were thrown into battle we never were able to get the overwhelming numbers at the point of attack that the Orcs need, and our two Captains were largely ineffective – so we hit our casualty limit pretty quickly and the game didn’t last long enough for the Fell Beast to show up.
Jeff unfortunately had to head out at this point, but the rest of us decided we had to have another go at it (same teams, same sides), because Rich had after all invested a lot of time in painting this Fell Beast and we wanted to see him do some damage. So we set up again, this time with a little more cover for the bad guys. This time the Orcs avoided the archers like the plague, hiding and skulking through the city, and were able to seriously threaten the southern flank. Faramir survived only through good fortune, although we knew he was lucky. While this effort drew Gondorians south, the Wargs then entered in the far north, trying to race through the stripped northern flank to reach and carry off Frodo; they were halted by a scratch force of good guys led by Gollum, of all people. Then … the Fell Beast arrived. It turns out that in this scenario, he functions more as a game timer (like the Balrog in the Moria scenarios) than an actual playing piece; the good guys basically need to kill of half the Orcs before he shows up, because once he’s here there is little that is going to stop him from getting to Frodo. We (the bad guys) lost our 22nd orc while the Nazgul was only one move away.
This is actually a very interesting scenario, although it was slightly disappointing not to see the Fell Beast in actual combat (never fear – he shows up plenty in the Return of the King scenarios). The other big problem is the Bombardment rules, which basically just don’t work. The idea is that you roll a die every turn, with a 1-2 meaning the good guys control the bombardment, a 5-6 meaning the bad guys, and a 3-4 meaning no bombardment. The winner then gets to target a single model, which is struck by a strength 6 hit along with everyone within one inch. Sounds OK, but this ends up being really gamey, with the bombardment being able to unerringly hit captains, Faramir, even the Ringwraith himself (one of the few weapons in the good guy arsenal which can seriously threaten him). This felt wrong, and actually is a big problem for the bad guys – odds are you’re going to lose some 7 models to bombardment alone, and you can only lose 22, so that’s a third of the way there – and unlike most scenarios, here the good guys are expendable and the bad guys are not. Also, the bad guys have to clump for melee given their worthless archers and their generally inferior combat stats, while the good guys with their excellent archers can ping away from range. First game we played, every single turn for the first 5 the bombardment hit the bad guys. Anyway, to come to the point, if I played this again I would delete this rule entirely as I think the game probably favors the good guys and this does seem to hurt the bad guys alot. A shame; what they were trying to do was interesting, but it’s just not quite there.
Other than that, though, this is a fun scenario, especially with nice terrain. I’d play it again, but without the boulders falling from the sky.