Saturday 05 October 2019 – After Saruman lost his influence over king Théoden, the king of Rohan decides to evacuate his people to the safety of Helm’s Deep. The journey is quite long, however, and will prove to be quite dangerous as Saruman learns of Théoden’s plan and sends his Wargs to harass the evacuating party. This scenario is found in DeAgostini BGiME magazine #40, with some alterations as will be discussed next.
This scenario consists of three skirmishes, representing repeated attacks on the Rohan convoy. Both sides consists of an army worth 600 points. Additionally, there are 20 Rohan refugees (here represented with Wood elf minis) with a Rohan warrior profile except for slower movement (4″ instead of 6″). Each skirmish ends if either 6 refugees or 12 evil models have been killed. If after the end of three skirmishes 12 or more refugees have been slain, Evil wins. Otherwise, Good wins. The refugees have to move 4″ every turn, following the path to Helm’s Deep. Once a refugee leaves the board edge, another one enters on the opposite side (providing an endless stream of refugees).
Our Heroes are taken by surprise when wolves of Isengard are sighted. Quickly, the Three Hunters try to come to the rescue of the innocent Rohan refugees, together with 11 Riders of Rohan. But they realize they are heavily outnumbered, facing a horde consisting of Sharku, 4 Warg Rider captains, 2 Warg Rider Banner bearers and 21 Warg Riders. Good has no time to lose and Aragorn calls a Heroic March with his free Might point. The vicious Warg Rider captains and Sharku also call Heroic Marches to try and kill as many as refugees as soon as possible.
The first few refugees go down, though some glimmer of hope is on the horizon as the Rohan cavalry arrives.
It’s just a fool’s hope, as more refugees are cut down by the swarming wolves that are out of reach for the Rohirrim. The best Good can do is try and exhaust the Warg Rider captains as much as possible, so they’ll have a slightly easier time in the next attacks.
Aragorn goes mano-a-mano with the leader of the warg pack, Sharku. He wins the fight and wounds him, but Sharku survives thanks to his single point of Fate. The skirmish ends once 6 refugees are slain. By that time, 7 Evil models were slain. The pack of wolves retreat and plan their next attack…
Now aware of the danger, our Heroes are travelling with the Rohirrim trying to guard the travelling refugees. But it is not long before the hounds of Isengard strike again…
The wargs move up while the Rohirrim sit still on their horses and fire their bows. This is a success as multiple Warg riders and Wargs go down. If only they could hold this advantage for just a bit longer…
The wargs soon catch up and try to slay some refugees. After a lot of fighting and shooting, 12 Evil models are slain, ending the second skirmish. Unfortunately, 4 refugees have died, meaning only 2 more need to die in the third and final skirmish for Evil to win.
The wargs have seemingly given up as the Rohirrim travel a great distance without being ambushed. Helm’s Deep is nearly in sight when Legolas spots Warg riders in the distance. It seems the wargs have planned one final assault.
With a similar setup as the first skirmish, there is hardly any hope for Good to win the scenario. The wargs close in on the refugees and while Legolas fires some good shots and Aragorn tries his very best to advance and kill some orcs, the number of total refugee casualties increases to 12, meaning Evil will win the scenario. However, the skirmish only ends after 6 refugees or 12 Evil models are slain, so the desperate fighting continues.
What can men do against such reckless hate? Aragorn rushes towards Sharku to end his foul life, but with zero Might left and being heavily outnumbered, this action has more to do with rage than sense. Aragorn loses the fight with Sharku and is on the receiving end of three Wounds. Fortunately he still has a full stash of Fate points and successfully prevents 2 of those Wounds. On the other places of the battlefield, things go equally bad as the number of Rohirrim left shrinks by the fight. The refugees are surprisingly resilient, thus not ending the game prematurely.
Aragorn is now surrounded by Sharku, 2 Warg rider captains and 2 Warg riders. Killing him would be a great prize for the Warg riders, so Evil decides to start this fight first. Aragorn barely wins but doesn’t manage to kill Sharku (though he does go down to 0 Fate and 1 Wound). With 5 refugees slain, perhaps Aragorn (or Sharku) can still be killed. In their greed, Evil chooses the fight with Aragorn to resolve first once again. This time Aragorn recollects his strength and beheads the foul Sharku as well as another Warg rider. In the same turn, the game ends as 6 refugees have died. The number of Evil casualties was 10 models.
Evil wins the scenario, meaning Evil now has 24 victory points. Good did manage to kill a (named) enemy hero, meaning they now have 16 victory points. Because of the loss for Good, our Heroes don’t get a chance to rest up at Helm’s Deep and the first siege scenario immediately starts.
From the start I had a bad feeling about this scenario. 600 points of cheap Wargs versus a force that had to include the expensive Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli is not exactly even. Weirdly, the magazine even says you have to not only include your Champion and Warriors (historically and in my case the aforementioned Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli), but also your Guide (historically and in my case Gandalf the White). Well that doesn’t even fit in 600 points (and also doesn’t follow the films, since Gandalf is out looking for Éomer). So I ignored that rule. Still it feels quite unbalanced given the victory conditions. I wonder if this was actually playtested with the campaign modifications to this scenario. In the original scenario you only have 5 warg riders and Sharku, now you have 600 points of warg riders. I think for it to make any sense you’d either have to increase the number of refugee casualties before a skirmish ends, or change the starting positions so that Evil can’t just complete 50% of their victory objective in the first two turns without Good having any way to counter this.
Despite these frustrations, there were definitely some highlights in this scenario. I really enjoyed the second skirmish. It felt nice to be prepared as the Good player and to shoot some wargs down before they got close. Still it was tense as the Wargs outnumbered the Rohirrim and could sneak in and quickly take out some refugees. The rivalry between Aragorn and Sharku also felt really intense and thematic. It was nice to be able to finish that arc in the third skirmish. I also liked the episodic nature (the scenario being split up in 3 skirmishes). It really felt thematic having the wargs make quick sneak attacks and then regrouping, while the Rohirrim also regroup and prepare themselves.
I think this scenario has the potential to be great, but it does require some tweaks to the victory conditions (more refugees should be allowed to be killed), the starting positions on skirmish #1 and #3 (perhaps both sides occupying the opposing long board sides) and perhaps some reward for refugees actually escaping towards Helm’s Deep. I belief this scenario can truly be a winner, but it does require some further fine-tuning.
In the next scenario, the siege of Helm’s Deep commences. Saruman will employ his technological prowess to try and bring the fortress of Helm’s Deep to the ground, while the Rohirrim desperately try to fend off the Uruk-hai and live to fight another day.