Sunday 23 April 2023

Fords of Isen: The Rematch

Following on quickly from events at the Fords of Isen (see the Theodred's Fate post) we returned quickly to the action. Partly this was to strike whilst the iron was hot on us remembering the rules of the game, but mainly it was because the terrain for the two games is exactly the same and it was already set up.

And so began the excitingly titled: Second Battle of the Fords of Isen.

Set Up & Deployment

The premise of the scenario is largely the same as the first, the forces of Isengard are attacking the Fords of Isen and the Rohirrim need to stop them, however, with Theodred suffering an ignominious off screen death (much like in the books and films), the focus was purely on controlling the ford: the side with most models on the ford after 10 turns would win the game.

Sensibly, the forces of Rohan begin their defence with Grimbold (represented by Gamling) leading 2 Royal Guards (replacements for elements of the list I couldn't cover) and 24 Warriors of Rohan (12 of which, those with throwing spears or axes, being Helmingas) actually holding the objective.

Opposing them was an intimidating (and somewhat stronger than last time) force led by Vrasku (as he survive and Gorulf Ironskin didn't) and an Uruk Hai Captain, consisting of: 24 Uruk-Hai Warriors (10 with pikes, 10 with shields, 4 with crossbows) and 9 Uruk-Hai Scouts (3 with just swords, 3 with shields, 3 with bows)

What's more, Saruman had dispatched his cavalry to outflank the fords and 6 Warg Riders were attacking from the north on the Rohan side of the river...

...whilst Thryden Wolfsbane and 6 Dunlending Horsemen swept up from the south in a pincer movement.

Fortunately for Grimbold, Elfhelm was once again riding to his rescue from the east, leading 13 Riders of Rohan, hoping to prevent the trap from closing and bolster the defence of the fords.

The stage was set.

Phase 1 - The Trap Is Sprung

Realising the danger Grimbold was in if the enemy cavalry got in behind him, he again split his force in two. Some were ordered to slow their advance so they could fire on the Wargs racing for the fords, whilst Elfhelm led the rest as fast as possible in the direction of the Dunlending cavalry. 

However, Thrydan Wolfsbane was no bloodthirsty Orc, and he cunningly moved his force up being sure to keep cover between his men and the Rohirrim, seeking to draw them into extending out too far.

Somewhat predictably, however, the Warg Rider raced towards what they perceived to be the vulnerable prey at the fords, straight into the line of fire of the Rohirrim's bows. However, only one of the was felled.

Meanwhile, the armoured main force pushed towards the fords and took only minimal casualties as they advanced from enemy ranged fire. However, in return, several of the Warriors of Rohan were dropped by hard-hitting crossbow bolts.

The dynamics of the fight had changed from last time.

A great roar went up as the Uruk-Hai surged towards the enemy front line, whilst simultaneously, Warg Riders fell on their rear. Desperately fighting on two fronts already, Grimbold wondered where Elfhelm was.

However, Elfhelm had been held up. Several of the Warg Riders had cunningly redirected to prevent the Rohirrim interfering at the fords.

Meanwhile, Thrydan's cunning advance, lured Elfhelm's wing into an over-extended charge (and a totally useless Heroic Move), leaving them exposed to a vicious counter charge and encirclement.

Thrydan himself led the counter attack, cutting down one foe before swinging round to charge into another. Elfhelm was hard pressed and could not send aid to Grimbold.

Phase 2: Race Against Time

With his cavalry in disarray, Elfhelm knew he had to aid Grimbold and, taking the initiative, ordered all of his men to charge wherever they could. Outnumbered Warg Riders were surrounded and cut down, enabling some Riders of Rohan to reach the fight at the fords and the Wargs that were wreaking havoc there.

Elfhelm slew the Dunlending in front of him and then led his men in a sweeping advance to encircle Thrydan, using the Dunnish Chieftain's own tactic against him.

Unable to manoeuvre, Thrydan was unhorsed and then ridden down by Elfhelm himself, robbing Saruman's cavalry of any leadership and leaving the trap in tatters.

A handful of Warg Riders still roamed free, which meant that the Riders of Rohan would soon be able to come to the aid of Grimbold at the fords.

However, Grimbold had been having a torrid time, and, despite leading the line himself, had been losing his men to the better armed an armoured Uruk-Hai, their pikes and heavy armour making a big difference.

Elfhelm's cavalry made heavy weather of chasing down the last few Warg Riders, a task made harder now that they had begun to take crossbow fire from across the river, their own bows unable to offer meaningful counter fire.

Meanwhile, Grimbold began to tire in the face of the Captains of Isengard. If the cavalry didn't come soon, the thin green line would buckle and break.

Phase 3: The Final Struggle

Despite the impact of Vrasku and his crossbows, the Riders of Rohan finally made it to the fords. However, the press of bodies meant that they couldn't charge in to help.

Unfortunately, space was soon freed up as the last of the Warriors of Rohan were cut down, leaving Grimbold isolated.

Uruk-Hai surged through the gaps they had made and barrelled into the waiting horsemen, preventing any thunderous charges to save the day.

Nonetheless, the Uruk-Hai had reckoned without the determination of Elfhelm, who thrust deep into the fight until he was side by side with Grimbold. However, after the initial charge, the advantages of the horse were spent, and in the thick of the melee, Elfhelm and Grimbold were pulled down into the water, as were many other brave Warriors or Rohan.

Nobody saw exactly what happened to these two brave captains, and it's possible they survived (almost certain, in fact, given that they are in later scenarios) but the leaderless forces of Rohan now stood little chance of defeating the forces of Isengard.

But they met them in battle, nonetheless.

As night fell, a lone Rider, turned his horse and rode towards Edoras to bring news to his ailing and grieving King that the Fords of Isen had been lost and invasion was certain. 

The Uruk-Hai celebrated, hacking and defiling the dead and clearing the road for the great host of Isengard when it came to descend upon the world of men.


That was a really good game, better than the first actually. It swung backwards and forwards as the different heroes made themselves felt at different points in the battle.

It definitely felt that the Isengard forces had had a significant step up in power. Mainly because they had. More heroes, better armour, better weapons and better overall troop quality all made themselves felt, but Matt's use of his heroes made the real difference.

Thrydan did enough to force Elfhelm to expend most of his Might to stop him, which mean that Vrasku and the Uruk Captain had a significant advantage over Grimbold at the points where it mattered. It also helped that the Captain was like a tank in his heavy armour and shield.

Conversely, I misused my leaders, letting them get out of position, and squandered them as resources. Only once, when he took down Thrydan, did Elfhelm really have a big impact on the outcome. Grimbold was simply chewed up in the meat grinder.

On the up side, we didn't ruin the story this time which means things will move on smoothly. We'll be leaving event in Rohan again for a bit as the next scenario occurs after the events on Amon Hen, and the Fellowship has along way to go until then.

However, I did just get the Gondor At War book for my birthday, so there's a chance that the next instalment might even be in Osgiliath if I can rope Pete of Minas Tirith into this madness.

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