Friday, 3 June 2011
Blood Bath At Orc's Drift:Kachas Pass
I've been wanting to play Blood Bath At Orc's Drift, the old 2nd edition Warhammer campaign pack, ever since it was first published in 1985 for the 2nd edition of that game. Having picked it up on eBay, I have been working towards actually playing it. Recently, I hit on the idea of using the Lord of the Rings skirmish rules from Games Workshop rather than Warhammer, largely because Warhammer is now more focused on bigger battles, with formally organised regimental formations, while LotR has more of the feel of old school Warhammer with more loosely organised units.
The first scenario in the Orc's Drift campaign is Kachas Pass, where the first of three tribes of orcs converging on Orc's Drift encounters a small stockade held by wood elves. In my case, I combined some existing elves with rangers to come up with a mixed force of men and elves. The Vile Rune tribe has 40 orcs against seven elves and eight rangers, plus the orcs have brought along the giant, Guthrum Mane.
The scenario is weighted against the elves already, the idea being that the elves need to inflict maximum casualties on the orcs before they trundle off down the road to Orc's Drift itself. In this case, the elves slew seven attackers, for the loss of 14 elves and rangers, with one fugitive elf taking refuge in the Fendal Forest having failed his morale check (no doubt it will haunt him for the rest of his very lengthy life, unless I bring him back as a disgraced hero keen to redeem himself at Orc's Drift, which might be a nice touch).
We used the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game rules from Games Workshop, as I felt it had more of the large skirmish feel I was after, even more so than Warhammer 2e. It was a big game, and it took us four hours to play, with one player new to miniatures wargaming, and all of us still relatively new to the rules, but I thought it went well. I especially liked the sub-plot of a captured half orc spy escaping from elf custody and being pursued away from the stockade by none other than the elf leader! He was slain by the elves before the orcs could get to him, although the orcs would have killed him anyway!
I was hoping the orcs would take heavier casualties than they did, and put this down to some very poor dice rolling on the part of my son, the elven commander, plus some interesting tactical decisions he took, like leaving only about five defenders in the stockade, and using his leader to track down the fugitive half orc. In addition, the armoured orcs (uruk hai) are tough customers, and able to withstand plenty of shooting from the enemy. Although the orc banner bearer took an arrow in the throat early in the game, the Vile Rune tribe still has a LOT of armoured nastiness to bring down the turnpike to Orc's Drift.
Having learned from this experiment, I think I will considerably limit the number of armoured orcs for the next battle, Ashak Rise. I'm thinking no more than five uruk hai. This will make life a bit more challenging for the orcs, combined with the fact that they will be facing dwarves, a tougher proposition than elves (an armoured wood elf in Lord of the Rings has a Defence of 4, a dwarf has a Defence of 6!)
It was also good to be umpiring a game, as this allows for a more sophisticated, narrative scenario than the usual line up and bash 'em game that Warhammer itself seems to have degenerated into. Early 1980's Warhammer was more about interesting narrative campaigns, and it showed its roots in role-playing games, particularly AD&D. Heck, it even spun off its own set of role-playing rules! This game had more of that kind of feel, with secret commander briefings and objectives, a third party sub-plot involving a half orc spy, and a degree of uncertainty injected into the affair, that helped to shape the commanders' decision making.
In particular, the knowledge that a night patrol sent out by the elven commander had been ambushed and was not coming back, helped to play a big factor in the decision making of the good guys, who were gulled by the fact that stats for the patrol were on their briefing sheet, including when they were meant to return. Concern increased as the game went on, and the elves started taking losses, looking over their shoulders all the time and wondering where the rest of their ranger allies were!
It DID feel like running an RPG scenario at times, and in terms of the size of the game, and the size of the playing area, it felt just right.
I found some of the rules a little confusing, particularly the barricades and defending a rise rules, but have now consulted a later edition of the rules which have helped to clarify this. I think I've learned quite a bit from the game, and will bring these lessons to the next chapter in the campaign, which I hope will represent a closer contest of arms.