Other SBG Battles

Flies & Spiders, Part II

This is a scenario of Games Workshop's Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game from the There and Back Again sourcebook. Having freed his friends (see Part I), Bilbo and the weakened dwarves face off against a horde (well, eighteen) Mirkwood Spiders.

This scenario is an endurance test, where over half the Good heroes have to survive for 10 turns for Good to win. If Evil kills at least half the heroes, or Bilbo and Thorin regardless, Evil wins.

(Click on any image to see an enlargement.)

The Forces

Evil Forces Thorin's Company The Elves

These spiders aren't actual GW models. See Part I for my justification/rationalization.

Though they survived the poison of the spiders, Thorin's Company is in bad shape and starts the game with no Might or Will. Also, every turn the Dwarves have a 50% chance of being Transfixed because of the poison's lingering effects. This rule does not affect Bilbo, though.

Also helping the dwarves are 20 Mirkwood Rangers led by Tauriel and Legolas, who arrive at the end of Turn 1. I used the cool rule interpretation that the Spilforeningen the Fellowship guys made where the Elves can fire into combats between the spiders and the dwarves. Though they are nominally on the same side, there's no love lost here betwixt Elf and Dwarf...


Setup, closeup Setup

Thorin's Company starts in the center of the board, with the spiders lurking more than 10" (i.e. one spider move) away. For fun, the company is arranged by kinship. Thorin is in the 9 o'clock position, and going counterclockwise are Kili and Fili, then Oin and Gloin, then Balin and Dwalin, then Bombur, Bifur, and Bofu, and finally Ori, Nori, and Dori. Bilbo hides in the center for protection.

Turn 1

Turn 1 Turn 1, West Turn 1, East

Good always starts with Priority.

Seven dwarves are transfixed -- they are the prone models -- but since the spiders are out of charge range it doesn't matter much. The main effect is to prevent the company from running towards the elves, since Good doesn't want to leave folk behind as easy pickings for the monsters.

The spiders close, trying to paralyze as they go. Dwalin and Thorin are both affected but shake off the effects with a single Fate point each.

Bilbo and Gloin use their throwing weapons but both miss.

To envelop the spiders, Legolas and 10 Rangers enter on the west edge, and Tauriel and 10 more Rangers enter on the east edge.

We're 10% of the way through the game; so far, so good for Good.

Turn 2

Turn 2

Good Priority, 5-4.

The transfix rolls start off well for Good, with Thorin, Dori, Nori, and Ori all passing. Then disaster strikes and everyone but Fili succumbs. The company's entire eastern flank is unprotected! Bilbo puts on The Ring to help avoid being charged. The hale dwarves charge two spiders each where they can to minimize Evil's ability to pick on the vulnerable company members.

The elves advance a half-move so that they can fire their bows.

Two spiders try to charge Bilbo but neither pass their Courage Tests.

The elven shooting is not good. With 24 shots, they manage only 3 wounds on spiders, at the cost of 2 wounds on Bombur, one negated by Fate.

I've tried something different here from my other battle reports by using red gems to mark wounds. I hope you'll find the markers helpful rather than distracting. I sure found them useful, especially for the spiders. And I can't just have the dead models lay down, since then there'd be no way to tell the dead from the transfixed.

Dori, Ori, and Oin are wounded and forced to use a Fate point; Balin is forced to use two.

Two spiders are dead and two are wounded. Bombur is in bad shape with two Wounds, and Dori and Ori each have one.

Turn 3

Turn 3

Evil Priority, 6-1.

The dwarfs roll well for the transfixes, with only Nori, Bifur, and Bombur affected. With the spiders about to close in, these seems like an excellent time for Bilbo to call a Heroic Move and get the healthy dwarves into the spiders to protect the sick. The dwarves charge, except Oin who moves adjacent to Bombur to try to heal him next turn.

Fili throws an axe on the way in and kills a spider wounded last turn. Du Bekar!

All the spiders are engaged (though it looks like I forgot the gray spider next to Nori) and the two killed last turn moved so as to block Tauriel's elves on the east side of the board (off picture). Three rangers each surround those two spiders and the rest of the elves move up 6". They need to engage the spiders to tie them up, as Shooting isn't doing the job.

Dwalin and Gloin take out a spider each, but Dori and Ori are killed and Bofur is saved only by his Fate point.

Off to the east, one of the spiders is taken down but the other survives the six strikes with a single Wound!

Four spiders went down this turn but at the cost of two heroes. Many of the dwarves are low on Fate.

Turn 4

Turn 4

Good Priority, 2-2.

A little over half of the dwarves are transfixed. The elves are in Charge range of a few spiders ... and at this point I remember that Mirkwood Spiders cause Terror. This turn it doesn't matter as everyone passes their Courage Tests. But it will matter in the future, and slightly taints the previous two turns.

Everyone who can reach a spider does, but three are still free when it's Evil's turn to move and they attack the transfixed Thorin and Nori, and move to surround Bifur. Two of the four dead spiders return.

Off the image to the right, three rangers repeat last turn's trap of a spider, then lose the combat again and one is killed for her efforts.

Tauriel's band, Dwalin, and Bofur kill their spiders. The first two are what you'd expect, but Bofur was a shock since he's stuck with a two-handed weapon (-1 on the combat roll) and he's only got two dice against four.

Balin also unexpectedly wins (1 die vs 2) and wounds his opponent.

Legolas puts in a disappointing performance as even aided by two rangers he's only able to put one Wound on his spider.

But that's better than Bilbo, who loses, takes a Wound, and then rolls the dreaded triple 1s for his Fate points. Kili also takes a Wound and expends his Fate for nothing.

And that's better than Bifur, who loses, takes three Wounds, and is flat out dead.

Good killed three spiders this turn, but lost another hero (now three are dead) and a ranger.

Turn 5

Turn 5 Turn 5, Legolas' Mistake

Evil Priority, 5-2.

Legolas and Tauriel call Heroic Moves to get the jump on most of the spiders. Five of the Dwarves are transfixed. Oin uses his Healing Herbs to cure Bombur of a Wound. All the spiders are engaged save one, who ends up charging Kili. Despite their high Courage, a good number of elves fail their Courage Tests. You can see them malingering on the right side of the image.

Because of The Ring, Bilbo needed to roll before moving and luck continues to desert him as he rolls a 2 and Evil gets to move him. Say hello to a spider, Bilbo.

Four dead spiders return. They decide to come up from the less-crowded south edge. They haven't quite made it into the pictured area.

Kili, Bombur, Dwalin, and a group of three brave rangers each kill their spider.

But several rangers die as well, and Legolas continues to underperform, losing to a trapped spider despite two helpers. The spider puts two Wounds on Legolas, who rolls 2 for his first Fate point. Try again: 3. Ok, we'll Might the last one if we need it. But of course it's a 1 and Legolas has only 2 Might points left. So he dies!

That's four spiders dead this turn, at the cost of Legolas (and his two unspent Might points) and 3 rangers. Still, we're halfway through the game and halfway through the eight heroes that Evil needs to kill to win the game. So it's not game over yet.

Turn 6

Turn 6

Good Priority, 6-1.

Seven dwarves are transfixed. Still, with the elves now stuck in all but two spiders are engaged. The latter charge Fili and Kili. Four of the five spiders in the dead pile return, coming up from the South and moving to where a ranger pinned two of last turn's reinforcements. The elves have an unusually high number of failed Courage Tests, this time in the west. The death of Legolas must have understandably given them pause.

Fili wins despite being transfixed but Kili is slain along with four rangers in other combats. Tauriel and a pair of rangers each manage to kill a spider, which seems a bit underperformant for Good. Gloin in particular disappoints, winning his fight but then rolling 3, 1, 1 to Wound and his rerolls also fail. On the other hand, Thorin loses his combat but his enemy has no better luck and so the king remains unscathed, at least for now.

Turn 7

Turn 7

Evil Priority, 6-4.

Good news: only one dwarf is transfixed. Bad news: Evil moves first. Good news: Tauriel still has Might and uses it for a Heroic Move. Better news: most of the Good models are within her range.

Oin uses his move to heal Bombur again. Everyone else fans out to engage the spiders, all of which are tied up barring the reinforcements in the south. Fili chokes, however, failing his Courage Test and so just standing still.

The free spiders break into the defensive ring in the west. All three dead spiders return, this time coming down from the north.

Combat sees three spiders go down. But Bofur's luck runs out and he's killed, done in by the -1 for a two-handed weapon, along with four more rangers. The elves are looking pretty thin on the ground. The big dwarf fighters have a rough turn, too. Gloin inflicts just one Wound despite his reroll ability. Thorin and Dwalin each take a Wound and then blow their Fate rolls.

Six heroes are dead now.

Turn 8

Turn 8

Good Priority, 4-4.

All the dwarves save two avoid being transfixed. Unfortunately, the two who succumb are Dwalin and Thorin; I suppose they didn't like getting wounded last turn. The Good side swarms the spiders. Fili lobs a throwing axe as he does so and scores the first Shooting hit in a while.

All three dead spiders return, coming in on the North edge.

Combat sees three spiders slain. The tanky dwarves disappoint again, with Thorin and Gloin losing (although avoiding any wounds). Dwalin is less lucky and falls to the fangs of his opponent.

And what's this near Thorin? Bilbo tries to help surround a spider. But the Good guys lose, and the spider manages to put two Wounds on an already-wounded and Fate-less hobbit. Bilbo goes down and with eight heroes now killed, the Evil side has won the game!

Post-game Thoughts

I'm not sure what to think about that. Exciting? Sure. Fun? Absolutely! Balanced? I don't know.

There seemed to be vast imbalances in the luck factor, but not always in the same direction. The Dwarves had ridiculously few transfixes as the game went on. On the other hand the single turn of Elven shooting was poor, and while Good probably won their fair share of combats they were unable to close the deal by killing spiders. And Good's Fate rolls were terrible. Worse for Good, the Spiders revived at an above-average rate, and the smaller board (my table's not quite 4' x 4') meant the reinforcements got into the fray a little quicker, and the too-small spider base size meant the spiders got in each other's way a lot less.

Compounding Good's problems were some grievous errors on my part. Legolas should have burned a Might point on his second Fate roll to ensure that he lived, and putting Bilbo into combat just to surround an already-engaged spider was certainly too cute.

But even had I played smarter, my gut feeling is that Good has an uphill (though not impossible) battle here.