I’ve always felt that a frontal assault on a fortresss citadel would be devastating. Much to my satisfaction, I was not disappointed.
In a recent round of the Games Workshop title, The Lord of the Rings Miniatures Game, a 1350 Point force of Uruk-Hai and Goblins was pitched against a 750 Point mixed force of Gondorian Foot, Elvish Archers and Dwarven Elites, all defending a long Citadel Fortress Wall with Towers.
It should be noted that this was our first experiment in storming a fortress, and many lessons were learned on both sides. We must note that in the design of this rule set, it is very possible for the Forces of Good to field Heroes that are nigh unstoppable. To this end, there is a footnote in the rules that stipulates a Point Handicap for the Forces of Evil when the Forces of Good choose to field experienced Heroes.
Unfortunately, despite nearly two to one in Points Differential, the Fortress proved to be an unaccounted factor all it’s own. In fairness, though the Point Variance was inadequate for this scenario, much of the disastrous assault can be fairly attributed to a lack of experience and poor choice of tactics.
The battle began with a Goblin force slamming into the Fortress Gate with Siege Ballista support, while the Uruk-Hai contingent swept right to attempt a breach with a Siege Tower and Siege Ladders.
Lesson 1: Concentrate Ladders!
It only became evident late in the battle that by spreading the siege ladders across the walls, we only provided the defenders with opportunity to gain-up on would be assailants. Despite thick armor and powerful Fight Scores, no Uruk-Hai was a match for Three Gondorians simultaneously defending a Parapet, supported by Elven Archers and throwing attacks off balance on the Ladders. An easy fix would be to group the ladders against a tower, forcing a series of 1:1 Fights. Lesson learned, at the cost of many Uruks.
Lesson 2: Pike The Tower!
When the Siege Tower’s ramp dropped, the Uruk-Hai charged bravely into a line of High Elves and Dwarves, supported under a Banner of Gondor. Though the defensive barrier was surpassed, this battle quickly became an unattainable choke point. The re-rolls from the Banner meant every Uruk-Hai was fighting 2:1. Had we had the foresight to include Pikes, the Siege Tower could have feasibly fielded a 3:2 ratio, allowing for a breach.
Lesson 3: Orc Archery!
It is no secret that Orc Bows are vastly inferior to their Elven counterparts. Even so, several attempts with a few dozen archers landed only a single casualty during the course of the battle. The defensive cover bonus provided by the ramparts nullified many otherwise successful shots. A future workaround would be to change the archers out for a Siege Engine, or when maintaining the Archers use Volley Fire to bypass those pesky defended positions.
Lesson 4: Goblins Move Slowly!
Our Goblin soldiers, though expendable, were a tremendous swarm! However, when they raised their ladders to storm the Gatehouse Tower, we only too late realized that Goblins can only move 5 inches a phase, while the ladders were 6 inches tall. The defenders easily nudged most of the ladders down, killing dozens of goblins a round in the process! The merciless Elven Archery did little to avail this situation. In future attempts, Goblins would be better employed exploiting a breach, then swarming the interior walls to expand the breach on both sides.
Lesson 5: Heroes Hit Hard!
We had the misfortune of facing Dane, King of the Dwarves in this particular battle. Though he personally accounted for 120 of the defender’s 750 points, he was by no means wasted. Charging out to meet the Goblin threat head on, he was quickly enveloped by a dozen Goblins. Two rounds later,a dozen Goblins lie dead, the King unscathed. His Defense of 9 against the Goblin Strength of 3 left a mere 8% chance for a Goblin to even attempt to Wound Dane. In our hope of overwhelming numbers, we had neglected to field sufficient Heroes of our own. With the point handicap, the Forces of Evil could have very reasonably fielded a Nazgul to meet the threat, or even a number of Shaman. Depending on point allowance, even a Balrog or Dragon could have done some extremely heavy hitting, but perhaps a pair of Cave Trolls would have sufficed. The lesson here, is to supplement the Pawns!
Lesson 6: Coordinated Assaults!
Had our forces had the foresight to throw everything at a single point of defense, say the Gatehouse, we could reasonably have removed much of the enemy Archery. Further, their numbers would not have been so easily or fully brought to bare. This concentration could be easily exploited by Catapult and Volley Fire, further widdling down the enemy. Add a Banner to the Siege Tower to ensure 4:2 odds or better, and it would only be a matter of time before the breach becomes indefensible.
Lesson 7: Troop Options
Diversifying the Forces further may have helped in the long run as well. Supplementing the Archers with Haradrim would have allowed more accurate and more deadly counterparts for the Orc and Goblin Archers. Trading down some Heavy Uruk-Hai for Berserkers and Shaman would have given more options, and an addition of Goblin War Drums or Shaman. Mixing in a few more Heroes, and there would be a much better recipe for victory.
The end result of the Battle was a decisive victory for the Defenders. Though the Uruk-Hai withdrew in good order, having lost 14 of their 63 members, the Goblin contingent fell from a mighty 84 to a fleeing scant of 10. For their part, the 63 Defenders stood firm at 54 by Battles End.
“We’re not retreating – we are advancing rapidly in the other direction!”
Had these forces engaged in the open, I am more than confident that the Gondorian Foot would have been overrun in short order by the Uruk-Hai, while the Goblins could have at least tied up the Elves and Dwarves with more success as the Uruks turned the Forces of Good flank.
With learning scenarios like this, it is best to try your attack however makes sense and take notes. Then, in the future, the game will go from a test of a scenario, to a memorable day of fierce combat and close calls! With any luck, the Defenders learned a thing or two as well, to keep the next assault still a challenge, though this time, a surmountable.
Special Thanks to Donald again for this awesome post. Donald will be periodically writing for our blog, and will definitely be playing a major role in the upcoming Pawns And Pints YouTube series.