March 1st, TA 3019
Théoden is leading his people from Edoras to the refuge at Helms Deep. En route they are waylaid by a group of orcs riding Wargs who inflict several casualties and more importantly delay them by some time. Scouts report that a group of Uruk-hai are in position to cut them off and will prevent them from reaching the Deeping Combe and safety. The King, rid of the influence of Grima Wormtongue and advised instead by Aragorn, decides to make a stand in the village of Arkenbridge. Defeat the Uruks and the King's entourage can make it to Helm's Deep and protect the ancient citadel - but if Théoden or Aragorn are killed then the future of the whole land is in jeopardy ...
Help, however, may be at hand - Éomer and his band of loyal horsemen are nearby and galloping to the rescue.
The Forces of Light
(all are on foot)
Théoden (on foot, with armour)
6 Royal Guard (3 sword and shield, 3 spear and shield)
24 Warriors of Rohan (8 shield and spear, 8 sword and shield, 8 bows)
(all on horseback)
12 Riders of Rohan (4 with spear and bow, 8 with sword and bow)
The Forces of Evil
4 Uruk-hai Captains
1 Uruk Standard Bearer
6 Uruk-hai with Bows
40 Uruk-hai with Pike
40 Uruk-hai with sword and shield
Use a 6'x4' table. Arkenbridge is a small village on one corner - it should be around 2'x2'. A river and bridge aren't strictly necessary since much of the fighting is likely to take place around the outskirts of the villages. Allow the Good player to move some of the hedges and walls around as he sees fit to represent the Rohirrim's attempts to fortify the village. The rest of the table should be part scrub, part farmland with hedges and fences outlining fields and small thickets of trees. The walls, hedges and fences all count as obstacles to movement and are defendable. The walls and hedges also act as cover against bowshots but the fences do not. The gates act as fences and obstacles to movement but can be opened if undefended.
Six of the Good forces are designated as pickets and must be placed (preferably in cover) somewhere in the third of the table opposite the village. The remaining Warriors are deployed in or around the village (within 12" of the edge).
The three Fellowship members (Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli) can be placed anywhere in the good deployment areas, either with the pickets or near the village.
Théoden, Éowyn and the Royal Guard must start within the environs of the town proper. The Guardsmen will not leave the King's side and will always attempt to remain within 6" of him unless forced away or pinned by combat results.
The Evil forces enter the table from the opposite short edge and halfway along the opposite long edge (see map).
To determine when the Rohirrim relief forces will appear, start throwing a d6 from turn 8 onwards. A 6 is required on this first turn. Each turn reduce the score required by 1, so that on turn 13 they will definitely arrive. They appear at the short edge opposite the village, behind the Uruk-hai.
The King and Aragorn must reach Helm's Deep to oversee the defence. To score a Victory, they must rout the Uruk-hai and both must survive. If they lose the battle but neither are killed, or one of the two are killed, the result is a draw. If both are killed then the Evil side win, regardless of the result of the actual battle.
Since I was too engrossed in the fighting to write notes, this battle-report is compiled from my notoriously dodgy memory with the help of the photos taken on the day. Turn numbers are approximate, some details may be a bit sketchy (I can't remember if Legolas was killed by a sword or an arrow, for example) but the overall narrative is pretty much correct.
The four Evil commanders were Mark Harris, Steve Oram, son George and his friend Ben Summers. They split themselves into four companies of around 22-23 figures each under the command of a Captain. The Uruks deployed entirely on the hills to the east of Arkenbridge, ready to sweep down the slope to the village. Mark took their right flank, Ben the left with the Orams going down the middle.
The Rohirrim and Fellowship were commanded by Andy King, Mike Proudlock and Tony Francis aided by 3-year-old Elliot Francis who was assigned priority dice rolling duties. The Rohirrim chose to deploy their pickets at the edge of the fields, all armed with bows, and included Aragorn and Legolas in their number. With luck, they were hoping to thin the Evil lines out a little before they hit the village. The rest of the force was split into two halves under Andy and Mike and deployed around the edge of the road with the intention of pulling back to the village fence once the Uruks crossed the hedge. Gimli was sent into the meadow with the right hand force. Tony took Théoden, Éowyn and the Guard and deployed in and around the watch-tower to act as a reserve (originally Éowyn was deployed to fight with Aragorn but it was feared she might be distracted by his manly stubble).
The first two turns saw the picket line take down several Uruks as they advanced, including two of their archers. Legolas' superior accuracy accounted for two on his own. As soon as the Uruks looked like reaching the hedge line, the pickets turned and retreated to the village to avoid being isolated.
Some of the Uruks had trouble negotiating the fence, however Mark's northern force soon cleared the obstacle and were well on their way across the fields. The centre two forces also streamed forward with Steve's company taking advantage of a gap in the fence at the southern end of the fields to avoid having to cross it. Ben sent his Uruks south of the village in an attempt to attack at a more vulnerable point. All the while the archers were pecking away but to little effect - they couldn't possibly hope to kill any significant number of Uruks.
Mark's northern force hit the defence line first at the point where Aragorn had pulled back to, opposite the main gate. The defences fell very quickly with the Rohirrim being outnumbered 2 or 3 to one with the Uruk pikes being used to increase the pressure by fighting in three ranks. Seeing the difficulties that were occuring, Aragorn called Théoden down from the watchtower and the King brought the Guard around as a mobile reserve.
In the middle, George's Uruks had got themselves into a bit of a logjam caused by trying to cross the hedge on a narrow frontage and so were lagging behind. However, they caught up with Legolas as he returned to the main defence line and cost him one of his two wounds. Steve's company made better progress, although his detour through the gap had cost him time. Ben's force hit the other Rohirrim in the meadow with Gimli to the fore. The fortunes of the Rohirrim were suffering because of a distinct lack of success with the priority dice - apart from the first turn (in which the Good side automatically gets priority) they only managed to win it in two of the first dozen turns. Little Elliot was having trouble rolling more than a '3' (although he redeemed himself in spectacular fashion later).
On the Rohirrim's left flank things were not going well - the Uruks crossed the fence and routed the (few) remaining defenders who attempted to pull back to the main village. Only the arrival of Théoden and the Guard (and a well timed win of priority) stopped the Uruks at the gate and Aragorn pulled back to aid Théoden.
In the centre, the Uruks had managed to make the hedge and beyond, pushing back Legolas and the other defenders. Gimli and his crew were steadily retreating across the meadow (although Gimli was hacking Uruks for fun, being way ahead of the girly-haired Elf on bodycount).
A major problem for the Rohirrim was their steadily mounting losses which were approaching 50%, the level required to trigger Courage tests. Then the minor miracle happened, Elliot came up with a '5' and Éomer and his band of loyal horsemen appeared on the hills behind the Uruk forces. Andy, having lost almost all of his initial force, took command of Éomer and half of the horsemen while Pete Woodger, a late arrival, took the other 5 cavalry. The hope was that they would take the immediate pressure off and would hopefully draw some of the enemy forces away.
It wasn't to be. The last of the Rohirrim on the left flank was crushed under the weight of the Uruk swords leaving only Théoden, Aragorn, Éowyn and the Guard (of whom two were already dead). Worse was to happen as the centre fell away, with Legolas (already wounded, remember) finally falling under sheer weight of numbers. Gimli and his remaining comrades made a stand in the gateway to the meadow and won some time by holding back the enemy who chose to fight through them rather than attempt to outflank. The horsemen had little impact initially, choosing to use their bows rather than riding full tilt into battle.
Théoden's retinue initially made a brave stand. The Uruks ran scared of Aragorn, being very reluctant to fight him and instead concentrating on the weaker characters. Mark's Uruk captain charged Éowyn behind the fence and was mightily surprised to receive a painful wound. Aragorn dealt death wherever he went (no wonder the enemy all tried to avoid him) and only Théoden struggled, having to use up all his points of might and fate to avoid a wound. The Guard still suffered however since a number of Steve and George's companies had moved across to attack them from the flank. The centre had effectively gone with only Gimli and a handful of Rohirrim left on the right - Gimli was up to about 8 kills by now. By this time the Good side were over 50% casualties, reinforcements notwithstanding, and began to take courage tests (fortunately their preponderance of heroes kept the force from melting away).
Éowyn struck again, slicing off the head of the Uruk captain to leave Mark's force leaderless and hero-less. Shame that the King was in no position to take advantage with Théoden and Aragorn fighting off odds of 5-1 or worse. Only Aragorn's recurring point of might allowed him to win the occasional round of combat and cause some casualties - Théoden was happy just to stay alive ! Éomer and his band finally gave up on causing casualties with their bows and charged headlong for the Uruk centre, finally distracting a number of the Uruks away from the main affray. Gimli meanwhile kept lopping the odd head off.
The Uruks gained revenge over Éowyn, outnumbering her and striking down the unarmoured shield-maiden. This, and the loss of the last guardsman, left the King and future King isolated in a sea of Uruk-hai. They stood back to back, determined to go down fighting. Éomer and his horsemen hit the inner hedge but found it defended - their earlier caution had slowed them down enough to give the Uruks time to defend their backs. All of the initial attacks were repulsed, and Steve's remaining archer killed the mount of one of Pete's cavalry, although he leapt to his feet unhurt. Gimli and his last couple of allies were surrounded in the road but the dwarf was like a whirling dervish amongst the Uruk ranks, continuing to deal out casualties.
Aragorn and Théoden, back to back, were surrounded by Uruks two and three deep. In three successive turns Théoden fought odds of 8-1, 7-1 and 6-1 with the Uruk pikemen using their reach to fight three-deep. In the initial turn Aragorn lost the combat and only survived wounds by using up two of his precious fate points. Elliot however made up for his earlier dodgy dice-rolling by propelling Théoden to three successive wins in combat, killing two Uruks each turn - and this without any might or fate left. Elliot did the same for Aragorn, winning the next two turns of combat and hacking down five more Uruks. The Evil side were also over their courage threshold now and were finding life a little harder with fewer heroes to bolster their lines. Éomer and his men made it over the hedge, although at some cost, and began to fight their way through to Gimli and the Kings. Gimli had reached 11 kills by the end of the 16th turn !
Endgame and Conclusions
Sadly, that's as far as we got - it was time to pack up and clear the hall. Having been under pressure for the whole game, things were beginning to turn around for the Good side with Uruks failing the odd courage roll here and there and Aragorn seemingly completely invincible. However, a couple of dodgy dice rolls and either or both King could fall under weight of blows from the Uruks. Although the objective was for the two Kings to survive, we declared the game a draw since there was still the possibility that either might be killed were the game to continue. The Uruks were by this time also suffering from a lack of swordsmen, most of their remaining figures having pikes (the swordsmen having been in the front line of the combat throughout the game). Éomer's cavalry didn't have the impact that the Good side had hoped for, probably because they spent a couple of turns firing their bows and were therefore slowed down - the Uruk defenders used this time to organise a defence behind the hedge which negated the advantages that the cavalry should have had when charging into combat. However, Aragorn and Théoden did live this far and would hopefully make it back to Helm's Deep. Which is another game (and another modelling project) entirely !
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