Saturday 28 September 2019 – The Three Hunters and Merry have found the trail of Pippin. They end up in Fangorn forest, where they meet the white wizard. The white wizard no longer refers to Saruman, but to Gandalf, returned to Middle-earth as Gandalf the White. It appears that he, together with Treebeard have managed to save Pippin from his pursuer (Uglúk). Nevertheless, Uglúk managed to get away, so it is likely he will pop up again later in the campaign. Merry joins his hobbit friend after deciding he has seen enough battle and bloodshed. Under the watchful eye of Treebeard, the two hobbits are kept safe, for now.
Meanwhile, the Three Hunters inform Gandalf of the danger that threatens Rohan. With spare horses from the Rohirrim and of course Gandalf’s faithful steed Shadowfax, Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas and Gandalf ride with haste to Edoras. There they’ll find that king Théoden will not receive them with open arms… This scenario is found in DeAgostini BGiME magazine #51.
This scenario doesn’t follow the normal rules for SBG. The four turn phases are still there (minus the Shooting phase), but the normal profile characteristics are not used (so no Might points!). Instead, each character has their own unique characteristics. The board consists of 6 by 8 squares and the participants are Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Gandalf the White (Good) versus Grima, Gamling and three Rohan Royal Guard (‘Evil’). Every character can move one square each turn (but not diagonal, only Grima may move diagonal). Legolas may move up to two squares each turn. To fight, a character has to face another character adjacent to their square (but not diagonally). The person with Priority determines the order of the fights, as normal. Both characters roll a single D6, whoever rolls highest wins. On a tie, the player with priority rolls another D6, on a 1-3 Evil wins, 4-6 Good wins that fight. Legolas, Gimli and Gamling all get +1 on their Fight roll, while Aragorn gets +2 and Grima gets -1. Gandalf automatically loses each fight he’s in, because he’s solely focused on restoring Théoden.
If there are multiple fights with the same character, each one is resolved individually. Whoever loses the fight backs away one square in the opposite direction of the attacker. If the loser is an ‘evil’ model, he is also knocked prone. If it’s not possible to back away, he remains in the same position and is also knocked prone (this applies to the Good models as well, so this is the only way for Good to be knocked prone).
If a character is prone he may stand up the next turn, using all his movement (and thus not moving a square). However, this is not possible if an opposing model occupies this same square. Normally no one can occupy an already occupied square, but this is possible if the other model is prone. This is therefore a good strategy to prevent someone from getting up. Finally, Gandalf’s goal is to get in base contact with Théoden. After all other fights are resolved that turn, both Gandalf and Théoden roll a D6. If Gandalf’s roll is equal or higher than Théoden’s for two turns in a row, the spell is broken and Théoden is restored. If this happens within 25 turns, the Good side wins. Otherwise, Evil wins.
Good starts with Priority. Their tactics include sending Legolas up ahead because of his swiftness and hopefully take out Gamling. Gimli and Aragorn will play bodyguard for Gandalf, since he can’t win fights. The plan Evil has is to let Gamling (their best fighter) stay back and protect Théoden. Meanwhile the guards and Grima will focus on getting to Gandalf and trying to stop him as much as possible. Grima can make use of his sneaky diagonal movements to do so.
In the first turn Legolas knocks a guard down. He then aids Aragorn in the second turn to knock down another two guards together with his pal. Moving up, Legolas manages to knock out both Grima and Gamling. With Good having luck with the Priority rolls, Legolas can move in and suppress Gamling, so he cannot stand up.
Luck remains on Good side as they barely lose a fight (the bonuses do help) and Priority is often in their favour. Now Gimli holds Grima, Legolas holds Gamling and Aragorn holds a guard. Gandalf can move up on the way to Théoden.
In these turns it never really gets tense for the Good side. They generally win their fights and their priority rolls and have managed to neutralize the most important characters. Even with the occasional Priority, Evil is unable to really bring the trouble to Good. In turn 9 Gandalf the White comes into contact with Théoden. The next three turns Gandalf rolls excruciatingly bad, will his plan to save Théoden fail after all?
In turn 13 Gandalf finally rolls a 6. Now he only needs to tie or beat the next roll in turn 14. This he does, both sides rolled a 2, lifting the curse of Théoden and restoring the king of Rohan!
Good wins the scenario. Since the restoration (or cursing) of Théoden is such an important event, the winner gets 6 victory points. This means Good now has 14 victory points. Evil remains at 21 victory points. Had one side had more than double the victory points of the other side, the next scenario could be a full-blown attack on Edoras (instead of at Helm’s Deep). Since this is not the case, Good will have some time to travel to Helm’s Deep.
Things went quite smoothly for the Good side. It was a short game, but the rules were fun and a nice diversion from the normal SBG rules. It felt very much like a puzzle, almost like chess where you’re trying to visualize the steps in the following turns in your head. That said, unlike in chess the outcome of the scenario does seem reasonably luck dependant, since it relies so heavily on dice rolls (without making tactical decisions in the rolling, such as using or saving Might). I think with the right opponent, it could be a fun one-off game. I also appreciate the uniqueness of the scenario and it does feel thematic.
All that said, it wasn’t a particularly satisfying scenario to play. The board is a bit cramped and the resolution feels a bit random (winning a dice roll two turns in a row saves the king? That’s not particularly satisfying, especially since you have no influence over this). Still, I am happy to have played and it is such a vital event in the story that it definitely feels like it has a place in the campaign.
In the next scenario, Théoden orders the Rohirrim to retreat to Helm’s Deep. Their journey will not be without peril however, as Saruman has sent Wargs to raid their party…