Monday, 7 January 2013

Rumbles in the Dark

So! Time to play the new Hobbit game. This is my first outing with Battle Chronicler, so excuse some of the slight idiosyncracies of these shots. 

Generalling tonight will be Kraken and Krakeness, playing as the dwarves, against the goblin overseer Anders Wängdahl (official Woffboot name tbc).

Setup and Background

This is our first match, so I've picked out an introductory scenario in which four of the Dwarves (Oin, Gloin, Fili and Kili) must make their way across a narrow walkway through a throng of blocking goblins. They've got ten turns to get at least three dwarves across. If they don't make it, or if the goblins kill two or more of them, it's a win for the gobboes.

Anyone falling off the scenery dies immediately, very much unlike the bloody film where you can surf on planks down a mineshaft and be fine. Bah. This is actually pretty hard to achieve, though, so even if there is the frisson of an instant death, it's tall odds against. 

We're not playing the full rules, like special weapon attacks, morale, etc, as it's a new game to all of us. And two of the generals have never played a tabletop wargame. And one of them is proud of that. 

The dwarves start in two groups of two, each dwarf sticking with his closest relative. Kraken is controlling Oin, Fili and Kili. Krakeness is first of all utterly delighted to be involved and so over-excited that her joy is coming across as sarcasm, and second of all controlling Gloin. 

Fili and Kili are supposed to be a fighting team, able to swap places with each other at the start of a phase if they're in base contact. Oin has healing and support abilities, but isn't much of a fighter compared to throwing axe berserk psycho Gloin. All four dwarves are, however, tough and heroic fighters. 

The twelve goblins stacked against them are, on the other hand, not. But they can support each other in swarms, as though they all had spears, making it easy for them to overwhelm the dwarves in packs. Their captain is a more fearsome opponent, easily the equal of a dwarf. And for this fight, the goblins can get reinforcements - any dead goblin can be brought back in at the back on a 4+ in the end phase, to a max of three a turn. 

A tough prospect, then, crossing this bridge. If only Gandalf were here, he's good on bridges and the passing thereof. 

Turn 1

All four dwarves romp forward, flinging throwing weapons as they charge but not killing anything on the way in. The front guard goblins prepare for a fight, with the third one coming in to support against Fili. At the back, the goblin captain urges his minions forward ahead of him, having learnt the phrase 'cannon fodder' recently. 

Gloin, who really is a close combat monster, easily dispatches his opponent. But Fili is driven back with a wound by the two on his side - Kili, who has a bow, was going to try and pick one off. But the Good Guys in this game turn out to be strictly forbidden from firing into a combat if they might hurt a friend, so instead he's standing there looking supportive.

All the same, it's already a slow start for the dwarves, with a lot of ground left to cover and a lot of goblins in the way.

Turn 2

The goblins surge forward again, stealing the initiative as Fili tries to work out how Peter Jackson let this happen to him. As the main throng pile over the bridge, the two remaining sentries split up, keeping the dwarves pinned back.

Predictably, this noble gesture for goblinkind results in both their deaths, as the dwarves all pile gladly into melee. Although they're winning, they still aren't pushing forward yet.

Turn 3

At last, the dwarves get going. Fili and Gloin lead a charge, throwing axes as they come that pick off one goblin before combat is joined. The nearest goblins mostly pile in, but the sneaky goblin captain hangs back. Cowardice, or a cunning plan?
All those transparent goblins are currently dead, but being repositioned as reinforcements isn't something the map program could really deal with well
Fili once more screws up, though - he isn't hurt, but he is pushed back against the very edge of the platform. Being stuck with nowhere to go is bad news in combats here, as if you can't make a withdraw move, hits on you are doubled. Gloin, though, has no such problems, slaughtering another goblin and pushing its pal backwards. The goblin captain clearly knows what he's doing. Worse, three fresh goblins arrive at the back, ready to join the fray.

Turn 4

The goblins keep the pressure on, winning priority (the fancy name for initiative in this game) and leaping forward again. Kili moves to help his brother, Oin moves up behind Gloin.

The dwarves win all these combats. More goblins perish, and the pack is thinning out a little.

Turn 5

Kili sets up his bow to snipe from the corner of the platform, hoping to further thin the goblin pack. Gloin and Fili charge in, with Oin moving to back Fili up - if they're still in contact at the start of next turn, Oin can potentially heal Fili's wound. Gloin even decides to take on two goblins at once, because the trash talk from the enemy general is getting to his controlling general.

More dwarven successes follow. Kili even contributes, finally, shooting a goblin off the bridge further back. Gloin beats his foes but only kills one of them, pushing the other back. The goblin general starts rethinking those taunts, even with another backup goblin arriving to help.

Turn 6

All the success is going to the dwarves' heads. Fili charges before Oin remembers to patch him up, and Gloin is now gunning for the goblin captain, who actually retreats behind a shield of lesser minions. The goblins are now trying to stay out of Gloin's way a little, pulling back ahead of him, but they're determined to finish Fili off.

Gloin continues his killing streak, but Fili has underestimated the power of a pack of goblins again. Down goes the valiant dwarf, despite the failed use of a fate point. Yes, fate points can fail in this game. The GM in me loves it. The dwarf in me doesn't.

Turn 7

The goblin captain's plan comes to fruition at this point - Gloin is so far ahead, he's a little isolated. By sensibly choosing which goblin charges in first, the goblins manage to get a total of five goblins, including their captain, on the axe-wielding warrior. Gloin barely notices, he's hell-bent on vengeance for Fili. Oin and Kili run in behind, hoping to draw a bit of heat off their crazed chum.

No such luck. Not only do the goblins finally manage to beat the virtually unstoppable Gloin in combat, they've got him surrounded to the extent he can't withdraw. As a result, he takes twelve hits, enough to kill him stone dead in an instant, even with a fate point.

Two dwarves down means game over, and it's a goblin win down down in goblin town.

Ho ho, my lad. 


You know what? It's a pretty decent game. This whole thing took about an hour, a little more including rule explanations. But for an out-of-the-box dry run with novices, that's not a bad result for a GW title in and of itself.

Combat can be pretty arbitrary, especially with grunts. But the heroes have a system of expendable points that let them change dice rolls (Might, Will and Fate) that makes it a much more balanced system. I'd say it was somewhere between 40k and Mordheim in turns of complexity, but a small game like this played out much faster than either somehow. I rather liked it.

If you add in all the other special rules, such as the abilities of different weapons to have different effects, or the use of Might or Will points to take special actions, then I could see it slowing down into a more fretful, tactical balancing act, weighing up odds and distances in the way beloved to fans of MathHammer.

With a bunch of lightly drunk swedes who couldn't give a damn, it was fast and fun. Krakeness was getting a little involved (despite a pregnant post-food crash) while Gloin was doing so well, but immediately dismissed the game on his demise. Wängdalh was thoroughly delighted throughout, especially with the result, but admitted to finding the use of tape measures very confusing. If we play again, we might experiment with using D&D floorplans and swapping inches for squares.

But all in all, a thumbs up for this, I'd recommend it to my friends. You lot, namely.


  1. Nice battle report, makes me want to paint the goblin half of my Mines of Moria set and have a go myself.

    I experienced the same problems with Chronicler assuming my repositioning was an actual troop move - it is possible to get around, I think, by removing the unit then redeploying it.

    And bonus Exp points for getting Mrs Krakeness to the gaming table. Presumably she is now hooked, and will be leading the Dwarves out of Goblin Town in future exploits.

    P.S. Lucky Kili didn't die - he's the only one with breakout potential.

  2. Yeah, I'm still not 100% sure I know which one Fili was in the film. Even though I've got a tiny yet exact replica of him to help me.