Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Battle of Helms Deep

The title of this post says it all.

A couple of weeks ago Kev at the FDWC had wanted to put on a version of the 'whole' of the Battle of Helms Deep from the LotR rule books.

But in the books they break the action down into seperate scenario's of attacking the Deeping Wall and the attack on the Hornburg (probably so they could fit into 4' x 4' tables) but Kev wanted the whole spectacle in a oner, so asked for willing volunteers (or victim's depending on your point of view) to take sides on a trial run of the re-fight of the combined action. Ian and Dave B volunteered for the side of light and jaminess, and Andy and myself took the side of darkness and sharp outfits (of course).

The bad guys were a suitably motley crew of Uruk Hai, Dunlendings and a few Orcs, armed with a hefty Battering Ram, two Ballista, two explosive charges (for blowing up the Deeping Wall) and a good collection of stout ladders, and their objective to win was to take out the three main good characters, Gandalf, Aragorn and Theoden, or for a draw any one of them.

The good guys, largely made up of various Rohirrim types of course plus Aragorn, Gimili, Legolas, Theoden, Eomer and a Gamling, plus Gandalf a passle of horse would appear around round twelve to stir things up. The good guys objective, apart from staying in possession of Helms Deep, was to destroy at least 50% of the attackers. This was not going to be easy as any casualty caused on the bad guys were re-cycled on a 4+.

Initial assault on the walls.

The initial surge forward towards the walls went fairly well for the forces of darkness with few casualties being inflicted on them and early on Andy managed to scewer Legolas with a well aimed Ballista shot and though not killing him did propel him off the wall at great speed and taking him out the fray for a few turns as he made his way back. (oh how we laughed evilly).

Once the ladders reached the walls things started to go a bit more poorly though. 

The good guys started realising the main threats, started targeting the engineers/sappers carrying the charges and the mad berserkers with the torches too with a fair bit of success.

Our shooting also began to form a bit of a repeating pattern of more often than not missing it's targets usually getting hits but being deflected by the chunky walls of the Hornburg. It got the the point where it became likely that the bad guys didn't need ladders to climb the walls ( they could just use the arrows and bolts peppering the battlements to climb up :-) ).

But pretty quickly we reached the walls and ladders were thrown (or fired up) and the bods launched themselves upwards, with mixed success, well really dismal failure at first.

The battering ram reached the Hornburg gate pretty quickly with minimal losses and started to pound away getting a good couple hits in fairly early on.

The engineers, or at least one, did finally reach the wall and managed to place his charge, but failed to detonate it the first time ( he actually failed his courage test and decided that detonating the charge, and himself with it wasn't a good idea).

A couple of turns later we managed to get the second charge in place and with three or four engineers in place, so we had a reasonable chance of setting the charges off (we never did manage to get a torch bearer near the wall for an automatic BOOM).

With the quartet of engineeers hammering away on the fuses we finally managed to get them to explode. One went off like a not very explosive thing doing a reasonable, but un-spectactular amount of damage. the other charge proved to be a complete dud. So no big gapping hole in the wall to surge through ( and insidently keep out the way of impending cavalry charges from the rear).

It proved very difficult to get atop the wall via scaling ladders as the guy at the top of the ladder had to first survive long enough to get to the top of the wall without the ladder being pushed away, then he had to win the fight at the top of the ladder with the defender having a slight (defended) advantage, and then had to win the subsequent fight to make room for some else to get onto the wall behind him. With some pretty meaty bods a top the wall, it soon became aparant that it had to be an Uruk-hai or Dunlending Captain to stand a reasonable chance of success.

An Uruk-hai captain manages to get a space on the Hurnburg,
but probably not for long.
But at the far end of the wall, Andy managed to sneak a couple of bods up around turn 8, and with that success, a couple of more followed till there were two or three locations where the bad guys had a toe hold on the wall and one on the Hornburg.

And about the same time the battering ram manged to break the gates with a resounding crash. The battle at the gates was obviously going to be a slog with the bad guys very slightly getting the edge there over the next couple of turns due to some reasonable melee dice.

The Royal Guard defend the breached gates
A toe-hold

Once into combat, the feel began to change and there was a definite shift in the flow and feel of the game with the good guys beginning to fell a bit vulnerable and the bad guys getting the moxy to push on.

And another
For turns 11 and 12, things turned into a bit of a grinding match but the good guys were definitely running out of plebs and Andy was beginning to roll up the wall from the far end it was definitely beginning to look better for the bad guys. It was then that Legolas who had recently got back on the wall and was making his way towards the Hornburg was spotted by the other ballista crew and was once more projected at great speed from the wall once again, much to the merriment of all involved. (Not that we've got anything against Elves you understand).

We got to turn twelve and with time running out and Gandalf about to appear, we decided to call it a day on the trial run of the battle.

It was still very much anyone's game with the forces of darkness doing things the hard way but cutting the numbers of defenders down slowly but still to make a significant mark on the main characters but still with plenty of man-power to put up a good show but their characters running out of might and fate but all still fighting. The good guys were running low on man-power but all the characters were still pretty healthy and Gandalf and a passle of mounted Rohirrim appearing in the rear would hopefully make a significant hole in the Uruk-hai ranks.

The almost complete lack of shooting success from the bad guys (apart from at Legolas), the abject failure of the explosives and the difficulty in getting onto the wall made the forces of darkness' job very difficult, but with the forces of light's troops limited to largely a waiting role for most of their troops and the fact that most of their shooting was at the totally ineffectual engineers and torch bearers balanced things out.

All in all a great success and with only a couple of suggested tweaks the trial worked really well and now all it takes is to plan the date for a full day of LotR mayhem, to give it enough time to play to a conclusion.

Numbers begin to tell -
but it's turn twelve and the there's help on the way.

A great game and full of surprises, and a stonker for a trial game. Simple set up but really effective mainly due to our resident terrain maker 'Captain Cardboard' Ken who put together the Hornburg and Deeping Wall to great effect and of course to Kev for putting the whole scenario together and umpiring another great LotR bash. Looking forward to main event.


  1. Wow, nice report and great looking battle!

  2. Now that is quite epic, very entertaining!

  3. Looks like real fun - how long did it take you to play?

    1. Hi Paul, it was fun to do - we got twelve turns done start to finish in about three hours. To play to real conclusion I think would take about 4 and half to 5.

  4. A visual treat! Whoever made the keep did a fantastic job.

    1. Thanks Monty. Our resident cardboard king, Ken was responsible for the terrain. He certainly did a grand job :-)


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