The Siege of Minas Tirith

The Siege of Gondor siege-type scenarios are quite different in character than the ones from Helm’s deep. Saruman’s Uruk-Hai fielded only one piece of siege equipment (the Ballista) and it was largely a glorified paperweight. The Uruk-Hai relied on their martial prowess and ladders, and the occasional explosive, while the defenders depended a lot on the various heroes, shielding, and pushing down ladders.

The Orcs – even the “elite” Morannon Orcs Sauron fields in this scenario – are no Uruk-Hai. To counter that, they’ve got siege towers, catapults, and bolt-throwers. Unfortunately, the defenders are also similarly-equipped. The Gondorians are, however, much less numerous. I played the bad guys.

Crossing the beaten zone in front of the walls is a harrowing experience. The trebuchets threw rock after rock at the siege towers, but were only able to damage one of them before the doors opened and the Orcs poured out. Swirling melees developed near both towers, with the side that had to deal with Gandalf doing much more poorly. Gothmog, meanwhile, established a secure bridgehead on the right flank and started to push towards the gate. The left flank cleared up a bit when we decided to have the catapult drop a rock right into the middle of the melee, which got about 3 Orcs for every two Gondorians, but that seemed a fair trade to us. The Orcs carrying the battering ram rapidly determined that their odds of actually breaking into the fortress were so low, they split up and grabbed some ladders instead. Under heavy bow fire, only one actually made it to the top before being dispatched.

A big problem for us was the ineffectiveness of our heavy troops. The Trolls got blasted by defending bolt-throwers and did little more than push the towers. Due to some bad luck, the Witch-King did little more than disable on trebuchet – quite helpful, but you expect a little more for your 200 point investment.

In the end, though, the mass of decent-quality Morannon Orcs backed up by the leadership of Gothmog was enough. Just barely – it came down to the last die roll on the last turn – but enough.

I was generally pretty happy with the scenario, with one exception – the Gondorian bolt-throwers are an incredible pain. The siege equipment in general is a bit of a pain to resolve – roll a die for scatter, a die to hit, a die to wound, then a die to batter, with possible another die for an obstructed target – but the bolt-throwers just shoot so many times (requiring another die roll to determine the number of shots), every time you shoot one you’re rolling like 15 times. It’s just too much of a pain, and they are ungodly powerful for a paltry 70 points. I have also come to dislike the Games Workshop banner rules, which require a lot of re-rolling and so are a bit fiddly.

So the Gondorian bolt-thrower has been added to my list of units that need a house rule. In general, I’ve been extremely happy with how well-done the rules for the game are, but there is a short list of stuff which for me doesn’t work to varying degrees: Boromir’s horn, Anduril, banners, and now the bolt-thrower. I’ve also been considering adding Aragorn’s free might per turn to the list, which is incredibly powerful. So I’ll have to see what I can come up with.

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