I attended the 5th annual Gathering in the Desert (GitD) this weekend. This is one of the best gaming tournaments you'll ever attend. It's two days of Lord of the Rings gaming on some incredible tables. The scenarios are fun and the competition is tough but friendly. I'm lucky to have this event happening right in my backyard. We have people come from all over the country to participate.
Well, despite having a camera phone in my pocket the entire time, I took exactly no pictures (unless you count the picture I accidentally took of my nostrils while messing with my phone). I attribute the lack of pictures, honestly, to the fun I was having and the concentration on my games. I never thought of photography. Keep an eye on the blog link above, and I'm sure Tim will have pictures posted.
Overall, I came in 8th place. That's the best I've ever done. I played a 600 pt force of Far Harad supported by Corsairs with spears. They are a "one trick pony" style of army. When I can pull off the trick, they perform fantastically. Otherwise, they don't do so well. They can, however, get punched in the face for a while. That's why I had so many drawn games. I tallied up three draws, one major victory, and one minor loss. I did solidly in sportsmanship (I didn't swear or throw any punches) and appearance (wore fresh clothes each day), which helped cement my spot in the top ten. Not having some serious out of town competition around also let some of us mid-listers float up a bit this year.
With the changes in the new books, this was probably my Far Harad army's last ride. I'm OK with that, as I'm tired of it at this point. I want something different. Let's review the games that formed their farewell tour.
Game One: This was "The Artifact" scenario played on the Osgiliath table. I faced High Elves. This is a modified "Seize the Prize" scenario from the Legions of Middle Earth book. I had to dig up and carry the artifact off the enemy table edge. My army got the artifact first, and the Elves sealed off every avenue to their table edge while I did that. A huge brawl ensued and in the end my army broke and the Mahud King died. He dropped the artifact and the Elves picked it up. But time was called, and it was only a draw. Whew!
Game Two: This was a straight up game of Domination on the Balin's Tomb table. If you followed the above link you'll see the board and think that it's wide open. Believe me when I say that's an optical illusion. There's very little LOS on that board. I played it last year too; so I speak from hard experience.
I faced Gimli and his Dwarf buddies. I unwisely tried to contest three points and ended up having to concede one and try to shore up my other two holdings. I was able to retreat because the Dwarfs move slow. But I had to feed them troops to allow me to do so. That was all wasted resources. When time was called, we ended in a draw. That was a hard game.
Game Three: This was "The Emissary" which is a modified "Storm the Camp." We each had to escort an emissary into the enemy's camp. I faced Dol Amroth and Prince Imirhil on the so-called generic table #2. It was basically both our lines clashing together and doing a meat grinder. My opponent expected to walk through me like a revolving door. But Far Harad excels at busting up stuff in close combat. We fought to a standstill. The Far Harad broke and so did Dol Amroth. A random die roll ended the game at that point, and so I got my third draw. In all honesty, if we continued I had a serious risk of losing due to low courage.
Game Four: This was played on day two of the event. We started with "Bilbo's Treasure." I faced an Arnor list on the generic table #1. There are five treasure markers on the table. You randomly determine which number marker is going to be the treasure. Then whoever gets to the marker first flips it and sees if they have the treasure. I got to three markers after a few turns of movement. It ended up being in my possession and right at the table edge. I had two guys rush it off the table for a major victory.
But we still had two hours to play. So we just continued on with a "kill 'em all" scenario where we fought to 25% forces remaining. Arnor and their dwarf allies put up a great fight. But Far Harad was in good form for this "fake game" and ripped Arnor into bits. I felt bad dealing a horrible defeat twice, but we were just killing time. The men of Arnor would be avenged during.......
Game Five: The final game of the tournament proved to be the most suspenseful of all my games. I played on the incredibly modeled Prancing Pony table. I faced 59 Woses (Wildmen of Druadan), all with spears and blowpipes. These were not the shitty Harad blowpipes that are move OR shoot. These allowed a half move to shoot. The scenario was "Head of the Snake," which meant my Mahud King had to kill the Woses leader Ghan-buri-ghan in combat to get a major victory. This wouldn't be so bad but for Radagast floating around the back ranks casting Aura of Dismay and also Transfixing my tough guys.
Well, the Woses lined up a firing line and I dutifully walked into 30+ blowgun darts for three turns. He couldn't always get all 59 blowguns on me at once, but managed quite a bit. At first I doubted S2 blowguns would be much to worry about at D5/6 on the Mahud. But the Woses player was rolling hot and I saw 6 after 6 after 6 come up. By the time I got to the line, 16 of my men were dead and almost all were Mahud. I had 5 left to break point. It was fucking brutal! I thought the game was done.
But my opponent had miscalculated my Mahud King's wounds, thinking he had already dealt one to me. So we ended up in a dance with Ghan-buri-ghan and the King each seeking advantage. There was a lot of nail biting at this point, and I'm not doing the tension any justice in this write up. In the end, Radagast was out of gas and my King got on Ghan-buri-ghan and slammed four S5 attacks on his naked ass. He only did two wounds and GBG rolled his Fate to save one. Then the Mahud hit the break point.
The Mahud King failed courage spectacularly and left. While I would've thought that to be a draw, since GBG didn't kill him, it was ruled as a kill for the Woses. I ended up with a minor loss. It really came to that last Fate roll of GBG. Despite the loss, it was probably the most satisfying game I played in a while, coming from almost total loss to a real chance to win. Oh and for what it's worth, when the surviving Mahud and Corsairs hit the Woses line, they tore them to shreds. So it didn't feel too bad!
So overall it was a great two days. I thought I'd be tired of LotR but just like last year this event reinvigorated my enthusiasm for the game. While the new army books have screwed some armies, others got a nice boost. It's time for me to do something different in LotR. I tried Elves and detested their pansy play style. I'm thinking Orcs and lots of monsters. I want big monsters and ugly evil for my next list. That's where I'll be headed when my gaming group is ready to pick up LotR again.