We always knew that The Two Towers was going to have to be, ah, altered a bit to make the leap to the big screen. The Two Towers game module preceded the movie by about a month, and we got a taste of how much … the last scenario had Frodo and Sam with Faramir in Osgiliath? With a culvert? What’s up with that? The funny thing is, after the movie came out we still weren’t all that enlightened because this whole scenario was cut, sharing the fate of the Flight to Lothlorien (from Fellowship) and the battle in the streets of Minas Tirith (from Return of the King). We got it back in the Extended Edition though.
At any rate, we played the scenario. Frodo starts on the board edge and has to make it to the middle, where the escape route is located. Of a large horde of Orcs, half start near the culvert (the delaying force), and half start near the board edge (the hammer). The hammer serves more as a timer, since if they arrive in the melee before Frodo has escaped, it’s bad, bad news for the good guys.
Rich and I played the bad guys to Jeff’s good guys. Things got off to a good start as the much-maligned (with reason) Orcish archery arm managed to do some damage, actually knocking off more Rangers than they lost themselves. This was kind of cool, we haven’t played a scenario in which both sides had substantial archery capabilities in a long time, so we got to see a little bit of an actual firefight instead of the infantry/cavalry or siege slugfests that have been more common of late. Damrod and a small force on the flank were mauled early, although Damrod himself survived (much to the aggravation of Rich, who rolled like 8 dice to try to eliminate him once). But where Faramir went, the Orcs were driven back, and he managed to force his way towards the culvert.
What then emerged was probably the greatest density of figures I’ve ever seen in a Middle-Earth game. I mean, it makes sense – there is only one objective in the game for the good guys, and it’s right in the middle of the table. So it ended up like elementary school soccer, with everyone forming a big mob around the ball. Faramir and Frodo reached the culvert, but found it jammed shut, and as they worked to open it, they were sliced apart. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Frodo buy it before, but then again I don’t think we’ve ever played a scenario in which he had to be so close the pointy end of things.
Gollum was in this scenario, and he proved to be pretty much a non-factor until right at the end, when in a critical battle Gollum took over from Smeagol and he throttled a Gondorian soldier in a heroic fight to break through to allow a few more orcs to get at Frodo and seal his fate. Gollum has one might point, which I must admit seems a little wacky to spend on “leadership” type activities like heroic moves and combats as I did here; I doubt surrounding Orcs or Rangers (depending on whose side he’s on this turn) would be much impressed by his heroic example. The rules for Gollum, like Wormtounge, are a bit sketchy (OK, the Wormtounge rules are really sketchy). But these guys arguably don’t really belong in a full-on battle anyway. I might have to add him to the list of stuff that needs to be house-ruled.
This was a good second-tier scenario. I enjoyed it, it seemed pretty well balanced, the tactics were interesting, but now that I’ve done it it’s not high on my list of stuff to play again. With a few tweaks, maybe, to mix it up a bit and so that it doesn’t end up quite as the huge melee right around the victory area. But the Minas Tirith street battle from Return of the King (the Gandalf vs. the Witch King grudge match) was similar in flavor but much more interesting, at least from a replay standpoint, in my opinion.