Weekend Trip Report
On Saturday, the band got back together at Michael's and broke new ground. With Michael on vocals, Steve on guitar, Jon on bass, and me on drums, we finally beat Green Grass and High Tides on all Expert. Feeling invulnerable, we injected challenge by switching to the worst possible coupling of players with instruments: Steve on vocals, me on guitar, Michael on bass, and Jon on drums. Jon proved wholly rhythmless, but switching him and Michael hit the difficulty sweet spot.
The highlight of the day came when Michael had his first fail halfway through a song, and it looked like I wasn't far behind. Figuring we were dead, Michael wandered off to the kitchen. But just as I failed, Jon hit a clutch double-save. The unmanned drums gradually failed a second time, but were again brought back by Jon. Nearly two minutes later, Michael rejoined us, and we managed to 4-star the song. "Like I said -- never give up," declared Michael.
Sunday featured LotR Hordes of the Things hosted by Steve, who had generously bought hard-to-find HOTT rulebooks for both Jon and I. Thanks Steve! Though I can't help but envision a thought balloon over his head reading, "The first hit is free."
Last week as Saruman, I made countless errors (using Horde units as a stronghold defense rather than screening troops, charging light cavalry into bows) and lost 36-17. This time as Boromir, I had a better plan. Though the fact that my C-in-C was Boromir should have dampened my optimism.
I put a thick spear block in the middle with eagles and a manticore (non-canon airboat) for flank defense, heavy cavalry plus Aragorn and Gandalf on my left, and a bow/blade block on the right. Jon had spears on my left, hordes + Saruman in the middle, and warband (which have the advantage against Blades) and light cavalry on my right. My plan was to shift right (with Jon's spears too slow to get in the fight) and delay on my right flank while my knights punched through the soft horde center and rolled up Saruman from the side.
And at first everything went fine. My knights sprinted right and reformed in front of the hordes, while the eagles went *way* right and hemmed Jon's light cavalry into my blade block. I lost one bow to a lucky artillery shot, but my knight thrust hit home and wiped out five horde units in one blow.
Then everything went wrong:
1. My knight block got back-to-back PIP (initiative point) rolls of 1 on a d6, rendering them immobile. Rather than punch through the center and roll right, they made camp and had tea. Jon's plodding spear block simply walked left and killed one per turn.
2. My "delay" units on the right lost every combat roll but one, most of them as the favorite. I even lost with d6+3 vs. d6 at one point, which allowed the warband to move up to Elrond (the commander on that flank) and kill him one roll later. Rather than create a delay, the entire command died in two turns.
3. I still managed to get one knight unit, Gandalf, the manticore, and (eventually) Aragorn on Jon's general (Saruman). I had three attacks (at +2, +1 and even) to knock him out and even up the fight. I tied the first two and lost the third. My army fled the field on the next turn, giving Jon the win 36-9.
On the plus side, I learned a lot from the first game, and had a much better plan. But Jon learned a much more important lesson, which is to roll 6's. Another thing I've noticed is that each of his commands have good combined arms -- each has a mixture in which one troop type is always a bad matchup for me. I always like having a mobile, all-cavalry command in miniature wargames to roll around flanks, but in this game, such a homogeneous structure seems to be death.
We finished with some free-for-all Epic Duels. In both games, I did the dirty work of killing Jon, after which Steve finished me for the win. The second had the amusing combination of Vader, Yoda and Mace, in which we all hid in a corner and drew our hands full. Steve and Jon were still playing when I left.
Now that I have my own HOTT rulebook, and lots of 10mm Games Workshop figures to rebase, I'll be working on a more portable version that only takes up 2'x2', should people want to try a quicker, simpler (fewer troop types) game sometime.