Sunday, 17 July 2011

Orc's Drift 2: Ashak Rise

After much hard work, I was finally in position to present the Battle of Ashak Rise last night, the second part in the old Games Workshop Warhammer campaign, Blood Bath At Orc's Drift. This is very much a narrative campaign, involving three tribes of orcs descending from the mountains to converge on the hamlet of Orc's Drift, in the rear of the army of the Grand League of Ramalia. Huzzah!

Last time, we saw the Vile Rune tribe - accompanied by the frost giant Guthrum Mane - stampede over a small wood elf garrsion at Kachas Pass. This time, the Severed Hand tribe surprises a small posse of dwarf deserters panning for gold at Ashak Rise.

I'm not going to go into great detail as to the battle itself, since I hope to umpire it a couple more times before packing it up. As I am using the Lord of the Rings rules from GW, rather than the original Warhammer 2e rules, there is always a slight risk that forces might be over-balanced. At Kachas Pass, I felt the armoured orcs were too tough for the elves, who only managed to kill 11 of them (just over 25% of their total force). Consequently, the Severed Hand took the field with no armoured regiments, although they had more archers and a smattering of spears, plus the assistance of a pack of dire wolves and their hobgoblin handler.

The dwarfs of Ashak Rise also have two personality figures, the father and son team of Borrin and Snorrin Fimbull, while the elves only had one. I chose poweful LotR profiles for these two dwarves, again in the interests of getting the scenario balance right, and here I may have erred too far the other way.

I got to lay out my new river sections and a bridge I painted up over the past week and was quite pleased with the way they looked. The wolves and dwarves had all been painted up in the last month or so, although there were some additional dwarves kindly lent from Ben's collection.

The Severed Hand were also given a banner. In the last game, the Vile Rune lost their banner early in the battle, when an elf arrow found a chink in the banner bearer's armour. This time around, the Severed Hand used the banner to good effect, and it was critical in rallying their troops in a couple of key struggles with the dwarfs earlier in the game. I shall make sure the Kwae Karr have one at Linden Way as well.

The ideal outcome is for the orcs to take close to 50% losses, but still succeed. At 50% they reach break point in the LotR rules, and individuals will start to rout. A force with low Courage can quick disintegrate after that. I felt we had a pretty close game on until the two dwarf personalities were committed, and here they showed what the more powerful heroes in the LotR game can do on their own, one of them killing the hobgoblin wolf handler and two of his wolves in a single round of combat. Although out-numbered 8-1 or more, they held their own, killing the bulk of the orcs, until one of the dwarf heroes, Snorinn Fimbul, was slain. By this time, however, the puff had gone out of the Severed Hand, and most of them were running for the hills.

The game ended with the Severed Hand chief, Hagar Sheol, going toe to toe with Borinn Fimbul, but the orc lost. The rest of the orcs fled, leaving Borinn standing over the body of his son and raging at their retreating backs.

After the game we sat around for a bit in a post-game analysis session, and it was decided the strength of the Fimbuls ought to be dialled down. I had also introduced a rule which allowed figures that began their move on the road to add +50% to their move allowance. This gave the orcs a 9" road move, for example, and the wolves 15". I felt it worked quite well, but Ric, the orc commander, worried that it allowed the dwarfs to block the road too easily. I wonder, however, whether that was not the scenario writer's intention? I may give this game a second shot without the road move bonus, and see how it plays out.

King F'yar would not be pleased if the Severed Hand failed to turn up at Orc's Drift at all...!


  1. I think it's easy to over emphasise the road's importance; after all, it's not as if the rest of the table was difficult terrain, and the mules were slower than everything else on the table, either way. The strength of the heroes was a more significant factor, I feel.

    Perhaps a vengeance-crazed Borinn might turn up at Orc's Drift, thirsting for orcish blood!

  2. Ha, vengeance, yes!

    My point about the road was that it effectively created one long bridge as the only hope of catching the mules was via the road despite the better speed of the Orc army. It could well be the case that a game can be decided by the 5/6 turn although it would continue for a further 10. I personally feel that a game that does become decided in such a way speaks to a flaw in the design or the matching of the players. Better by far to have key moments that become resolved making it less/more favourable for the players for the remainder of the game then to essentially have it over and done with.

    Without the road mechanic the bridge was such a key moment, the later the orcs broke it the harder it was for them to catch the mules.

    Still a very enjoyable battle though.