Sunday, 22 December 2013


Another late battle report, this. So some things that should not have been forgotten won't be lost, etc etc.

While General Kas was over in the summer, we cracked open The Hobbit for an evening's entertainment. Not the film! That would have made entertainment impossible.

Masters of the tabletop as we are, we were able to fit in one round of each of the introductory scenarios that come with the rules. These gradually introduce variant weapon rules, special actions, morale, magic and so on. They aren't bad, although some of them seem to have a distinct bias in how they play out.

Kasfunatu took the roles of Thorin and Company throughout; I stayed on my usual side of the Good/Evil divide and took Goblins.

No photos or maps for this, I'm afraid, you'll have to use the power of your imaginations. I was recently reminded how much we do that in our hobby anyway. During a game of George R R Martin's A Game Of Thrones The Board Game (2nd Edition) - the title is at least a quarter of the boxed weight - we were having a fierce political debate on who would be the next holder of the Iron Throne.

"It's just a piece of cardboard," observed one player, a novice to the whole board games thing. He went on to lose, obviously.

Round 1 - Fight!

Exactly the same scenario as described in this scintillating battle report! So Fili, Kili, Oin and Gloin are trying to make it across some rickety bridges. Barring their progress - the goblin captain and his scurvy goblins.

(The models are actually quite good illustrations, by the way, on what happens to you if you have scurvy. Could be used educationally, perhaps.)

Gloin, as chief axe wound generator, leads the charge over the bridge, backed up by Fili. Kili hangs back to try and thin the goblins out with sniper fire.

This totally works. The goblins manage to wound Fili, but Oin is on hand to patch him up with healing herbs. Gloin beats the Goblin Captain up in person, then the three dwarves hack their way to freedom with great aplomb.

We're nearly out, I remember this rocky pass from an old Star Trek episode.
Kas -1
Kraken - 0

Round 2 - A Leap of Faith

The next scenario sees three more dwarves (Bifur, Bofur and Bombur if memory serves) trying to rescue their baggage from a carefully guarded goblin strongbox. Well, strongplank. The dwarves start on one large platform, the baggage on another nearby. There are goblin guards around, and the promise of more on the way.

The big choice is whether to go round the long and slightly twisty bridge that links the platforms, or jump across the narrow but precipitous gap. This introduces the leaping rules to the game, as well as the use of more rerolls and tactical movement abilities.

It's a close one, this. Kas dashes to the gap, batting goblin sentries out of the way, then Bifor and Bofur prepare to leap over. Bombur has special comedy relief fat dwarf rules, in a rare concurrence with the book, and lags behind a bit.

Before they can make it over, though, goblins start counterleaping to block them. Yes, one or two leap to their deaths. But my plan is to block the dwarves on the wrong side of the gap until the reinforcements start showing, the surround and exterminate them.

This is a hideous failure. Even with Grinnah, my goblin character for the round, in play (he has a ranged whip and can swap himself around with nearby goblins to hide from a pasting if needed), the Dwarves hack and push their way through the goblin pack, jump the chasm and grab their stash.

Then it almost goes hairy dwarven tits up. Bombur is still lagging, he's not jumped over yet. And Bofur, who is carrying the gear so his tougher cousin Bifur can do the bulk of the fighting, gets mobbed by a goblin pack and taken out.

This ties up so many of my goblins that I can't stop Bombur getting across. When he does, the two remaining dwarves scatter my limited pack, nab their stash and flee. Leaving Bombur behind to guard his back, Bifur scarpers handily to win the scenario. All Kas needs is the pack, there's nothing mentioned about getting everyone home with it. Seems less than true to the source material, perhaps, but well, in for a penny,

in for the desecration of your youth, I assume

Kas - 2
Kraken - 0

Round Three - Snatch and Grab

Three more dwarves (I won't even pretend to remember which) are in a big cave, containing two goblin shanty lean-tos. On one of these, their weapons are located. Can they find them and run off with them? Or will they fall foul of the wandering goblin patrols and raise the alarm?

A Dwarven stealth scenario? This should be short.

We need to borrow your ring. 

And so it is, all puns aside. The goblins wander slightly randomly (using a system familiar to me from Necromunda's Raid rules, where a dice-off gives one or other player a short move) and if you get too close the jig is up. Even getting to one platform triggers this, and I immediately get to bring in a hoard of reinforcements from any side of the board I want.

Adding to this is the Goblin Scribe character, who can take a leadership test to get extra goblins into the game. And he does, and I get a metric shit ton very quickly.

The dwarves in this particular fight aren't the fightiest lot. Even having new rules on heroic actions, where one dwarf can spend a point to get everyone moving double time, doesn't help them. They all go down in a huge goblin scrum, and I'm back in the game.

Kas - 2
Kraken - 1

Round Four - The Same Bridge Too Far Again

This is some lazy-ass game design right here. It's the same scenario as the first one, except the roles are reversed! Now the dwarves (including their leader, Thorin) must hold a pair of narrow walkways against a goblin hoard. Weapon rules make a welcome appearance in this one, so you can do various special attacks with your different pointy spikes.

As ever, I get random reinforcements to the tune of d6-1. The first time I roll a one, however, I get the Goblin King instead, and he's way more powerful than most dwarves in combat. Not Thorin, possibly, but they're at least closely matched.

Ten turns, Kas needs to hold the bridges for. Unluckily (and therefore totally uncharacteristically) for him, I roll a one on my first go.

Hail to the King - whilst the walkway held by two dwarves against a hoard of underlings holds relatively well, Thorin ends up facing down his big fat nemesis. Who has a bunch of Big Monster special attacks, best of which is 'throw minion'. Thorin gets flanneled by a goblin beamer, and before he can get up, the King grabs him and bungs him over the edge of the bridge without even a by-your-leave.

The other dwarves fight a valiant retreat, but to no avail. They can't plug the gap in their defence Thorin has left behind, and the goblins get their second win.

Kas - 2
Kraken - 2

Final Round - Finish Him!

Another big open cavern for the final conflict. Magic is introduced at this juncture, as wielded by Mr Secret Flame 2013, Gandalf the Grey himself. Along with whichever dwarves haven't made an appearance so far, Gandalf starts in one corner.

The burglar is in the opposite one, trying to escape through a closing noose woven entirely of goblins. If he and Gandalf can meet in base-to-base contact, it's a Dwarven win. If the goblins can kill either Gandalf or Bilbo, then the rest of the film trilogy gets cancelled early and we can all die happy.

The Ring hasn't yet awoken, so Bilbo can use all its powerful evasion abilities without having to worry about going mad or joining Team Darkness. Goblins can't attack him in any way while he's using it - all I can do it try and make it impossible for him to escape past them without getting into fights. Yes, he gets invisible bonuses in those fights, but Bilbo isn't exactly a combat juggernaut.

And I've got the Goblin King again, lurking in the middle and ready to crush.

Gandalf, on the other hand, is ludicrous. His magics allow him to stun goblins from afar, give them the heebiejeebies so they flee, heal his pals, crush his foes - he's a multi-purpose tool of battlefield control, as well as being a good fighter.

His first acts are to lock down the Goblin King, which he does with full effect. Then his neighbouring dwarves use their heroic charge abilities to sprint the whole pack of heroes into the centre. I try and tighten the noose, and there's a bit of jiggling around where it momentarily looks like Bilbo might have some problems escaping.

But Gandalf paralyses any goblins who get too close, his dwarven escort butcher the rest, and suddenly wizard and hobbit are holding hands in the middle of the board, happily reunited at last.

Kas - 3
Kraken - 2

We knew it would have a happy endings, my precious. Typicals. 

As a testament to the speed of the game, all this took just over two hours! I think the system is really pretty solid. Quick, detailed and fun. The combat is such a crap shoot that mad upsets can and do happen a fair bit, though. This either makes it wildly entertaining or very irritating, depending on which side of the dice you happen to land. But with a quick game, you can generally move on quickly enough for it not to matter.

The scenarios feel rather rigged, that said. The first two are pretty dwarf friendly, the third one extremely tough for Thorin's lot. Probably to give goblin players some heart, I suspect. The fifth one feels very pro-hobbit to me, although I would say that. Doubtless Kas wouldn't have a great deal of faith in the balance of the Goblin King's special attack powers.

But all in all, an excellent Swedish Offboot session. It does, however, lead me to address a glaring imbalance issue in such battle reports.

Please could we all make it our new year's battle resolution to have an offboot fight which General Kasfunatu doesn't win?


  1. It's clearly home field advantage for Kasfunatu. We should get special consideration: away points count double.

    Sounds like a fun game, almost enough for me to shove my Mines of Moria goblins forward in the painting list, so I can use my box set (I mean, I have hundreds of painted goblins, but I'm sure I'm not allowed to use off-brand ones. That would be like letting Peter Jackson include... well, all the stuff he included )

    Have you seen Hobbit 2 yet? I can confidently say that my expectations were met.

  2. I'm saving it until I get home, although I can confidently say my expectations can only be exceeded. Tauriel mutter mutter mutter barrel ride mutter mutter Orlando frickin' Bloom mutter mutter...

  3. In which case, I'll say no more. I'd hate to ruin the film before Peter Jackson has a chance to.