Thursday, April 28, 2011

Isildur's Bane

As I promised a few posts back, I wanted to test the Isildur's Bane rules set.  This is an adaptation of the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game rules to allow for solo play.  I wanted to try solo play to test out new armies or new units before playing a real game.  While I could just line up two armies and roll dice as usual, it's better when there's some randomness involved.

I won't get too involved with the rules.  The link I provided will take you to these.  I'll just give the key differences.  The move and shoot phases are combined.  Priority is replaced with an activation phase that is determined by randomly drawn cards.  There's no heroic actions and the use of might is determined by making a might roll.  Otherwise, all other LotR rules apply.  There's a lot to cover; so let's get started.

I picked two forces I own but have never played and used 175 pts for the size.  I rolled up a Legions of Middle Earth game.  Seize the Artifact was the scenario.  I set up a 2'x2' board and gave myself a 3" deployment rather than the standard 6" zone.  The evil side was a Barad-dur force of Morranon and garden variety Orcs, a horrifying visage of unpainted plastic.  The good side was Rivendell Elves, fully painted and wearing freshly starched capes.  The artifact went to the middle of the board: a pot of Tin Bitz paint.  The Orcs coveted its pigment, and the Elves could not abide color falling into the clutches of evil.  It was going to be a tough fight.

The rules don't say anything about how to select table sides.  I just rolled for the elves and gave the orcs the other side.  I set up, divided into groups, and dealt activation cards.  Groups with a hero get red cards, which mean these groups go first.  Other groups get black cards and go after the red.  Suits determine order and so does Ace thru King.  Groups can be single models up to ten models.  They just have to be within 4" of each other to start.  I split my groups up into archer versus non archer units.  Here's what my magnificent game board looked like at the start.
Whichever side moves first gets what is called "the edge."  This means that during combat you make the best tactical decisions for whichever side has the edge.  However, since movement means a lot in this game, I gave the edge throughout the whole turn.  This made a difference later on, which I'll explain when I get there.

Turn One
You can see from the cards in the picture above that the Elf Captain and his swordsman go first, followed by the Orc Captain and his wild bunch.  Finally Elves shoot and Orcs shoot.  On turn one, the Elves pick off one of the two orcs on the hill.  The remaining Orc archer misses his return fire.  The other forces simply move forward to the artifact.  The orcs realize it's a metallic paint and simply go nuts for it.

Turn Two

The Orcs are going first (hearts go before diamonds) and get the edge.  So they swarm the artifact,with a defensive line going before it and a 2hd weapon grunt getting into base with the artifact.  The Elf Captain
2 Handed weapons are great for removing stubborn paint caps.
and Tennille engage the Orc line.  The orcs have set up with spear support and wide enough to prevent an end run around them.  Next comes the Elf archers, they shift out 3" and shoot at the Orc on the artifact, killing him, and shoot out another orc spear supporting.   (This is the combined move and shoot phase, remember?)  The lone orc bowman reaffirms his uselessness.  The fight phase goes as expected with Elves winning but not wounding.  The Elf Captain uses his Elven blade to wound the Orc Captain. If a model has Fate points, a fate roll is required whenever a wound is suffered.  The orc fails it and is wounded.  Interestingly enough, the orcs are pushed back onto the artifact and now get to dig for it.  They succeed and are the proud owners of 10ml of Tin Bitz, artifact grade!

Turn Three
The orcs go first and the Orc Captain and his warriors lock down all the Elven swordsmen and Captain.  The lone orc with his artifact starts to run.  Since the orcs had the edge, I should've had two orcs escort the artifact.  But I wasn't thinking about that.  The Elf warriors go next but are locked down, so now the archers come up and shoot.  The Orc artifact bearer dies and drops the artifact about 7" from the table edge.    The archers shoot out another spear support.  The close combats are a repeat from before, but at least they kill one orc.  I used Elven blades to crack the D6.  The orc archer again achieves nothing.  Now the orcs are one away from 50% break point and the Elves are untouched.

Turn Four
 The orcs go first and therefore have "the edge."  So I make moves that tactically benefit them most.  You can see from the picture above there's an elf able to reach the artifact.  (I switched to an artifact token, since the paint pot was getting in the way.)  While I was "routing for" the elves, I had to pick up that open elf to keep him away from the artifact.  The Elf warriors are again tied up.  But the elf archers go next and shoot out a spear supporting orc.  This breaks the orcs.  Now when the archer is activated, he takes a courage check and fails.  The hand to hand fights get a little more deadly this turn, with one elf and one orc dying.  I used Elven blades again on any D6 model.

Turn Five
 The elves are now on the attack and go first.  They engage all the remaining orcs and one elf moves to pick up the artifact.  The archers have nothing to do but move up.  The Orc and Elf captains are fighting.  The Elf captain wins but rolls box cars on his wound rolls.  It's starting to get silly.  Another orc falls to an Elven blade.

Turns Six & Seven
The Elves have the edge, so I make the best decisions for them.  The orcs could still reach the artifact bearer if they pass courage checks.  It only takes the captain to pass and everyone else will stand fast.  So I re-engage all the orcs while the lone elf picks up the artifact.  The Elf archers join the fight and trap the Orc captain.  During that fight, the Orc captain shields and the wins the fight, rolling a six to the elves' five.  I make a might check for the Elf Captain.  He passes and bumps his roll to a six, and now wins base on his fight value.  At last the orc captain is vanquished.  All but one orc is killed.  On the following turn, the Elves move to 1" of the table edge with the artifact.  The last orc actually rolls a 12 for his courage check!  It's useless at this point and just runs from the Elves. I call it here, since there's nothing left to do.

Major Victory to the Elves!  Here they are with their prize.

Overall I thought it was a fun game.  The concept of the edge made sure I wasn't always favoring one side.  I also got to learn some things about my force.  I didn't think three bows would be "all that" but for this points level they were very good.  I was surprised how tough the Elves were to crack, but very unimpressed with their ability to kill.  Elves won almost every fight, but were pressed to hurt anything.  I was surprised to see that for Elf bows being S3 it didn't make any difference for rolling to wound.  The bows may as well have been S2.  For Orcs, I realized regular Orc bows are pitiful in range and accuracy.  They are only useful for creating a nuisance, but probably shouldn't be given important objectives.

So will I play Isildur's Bane again?  I'm certain I will.  This 175 pt match on a small table only took one hour from busting out the figures to cleaning up when done.  It took me longer to write this post!  I guess I wished there was more unpredictability in the game.  But the "edge" concept did compensate for knowing both sides' strategies.  Overall, I think this is a great rules set and would recommend it to anyone wanting to brush up on rules, scenarios, or just try something different.


Tim Kulinski said...

Nice write up again Jerry, I love that the Elves won the "Artifact" of Tin Bitz!

We will need to get in a game against my awesome Goblin Horde of 175 points!

Jerry said...

Yup... sounds like a fun challenge. These small games are a lot of fun. I bet we could get in 2-3 games versus the one that we could do at a larger points value.

Dogui said...

Hey Jerry, nice to see you had fun with the rules!

Regarding groups, the rules state the max number of figs is 10, but you can change it for scenarios. For example I played a small scenario recently where I simply split groups by troop type. If you have a battle where some uruks together with some regular orcs face some elves with a bit of help from some human rangers, you could just draw cards for each race. Changes the flavor a bit.

Also, for unpredictability I suggest you use the random events rules. Maybe even rolling one at a certain point on a scenario rather than just on Jokers. Also the differing command cards dependant on point cost of the armies can give you differing commands for differing point battles. One last thing, Ive played a scenario where any card higher than 10 meant the group was hesitant, except of course if in close combat. Just some thoughts!


Jerry said...

Hey Dougi, I fixed the reference to group rules, as you mentioned.

I liked the rules set a lot. My comment around "unpredictability" was more around the movement of the troops as opposed to random events. I always knew what both sides were planning to do. Your idea of a group being "hesitant" based on certain cards is interesting. That's like the unpredictability of a real person who get's spooked for some reason or has a change of heart. I think I'll try that out. Thanks for making your rules public!