Battle for the Dorwinion Valley

I got the beer and pretzels and the boys came over for some lead pushing and die rolling. In order to save time, Steve volunteered to serve as Aruman, the Multi-Coulored (Head of the Istari Council). In this fantastic scenario, he has found himself leading Easterlings and Southrons. Historically, perhaps the Evil (a.k.a. the horribly misunderstood) Horde should have been led by a Blue Wizard, but I don’t have one of those in my collection. Apparently the very particular Prof. Tolkien would be rolling in his grave if he knew a Saruman like wizard were leading Easterlings.  But I don’t feel so bad about including giant badgers in the Dwarven Order of Battle since the Peter Jackson’s Hobbit included Radagahst’s giant rabbits.

Aruman the Muti-Coloured prepares a fire ball 2

Aruman, the Multi-Coloured prepares a fire ball

Steve was good enough to select the deployment of the baddies in advance of the game, using an area map I provided him, thus saving a lot of time and allowing the Dwarven players to deploy their lead without having to worry about setting up a visual block, to avoid leaking vital tactical intelligence to the enemy. The double blind deployment resulted in just what I might have expected, Aruman set most of his powerful troops around squares A5 and A6, so he could immediately capture the town in front of square A6, and contest the town in the middle of the ping pong table, in front of square A4.

The New Dwarven Army set their most powerful troops (Swamp and Mountain Giants) in Square E1, since these units were not impacted by the wet fields in front of that town, and with their great size and power, could easily capture that town unless heavily attacked by the enemy, in which case the battle would be on no less than equal terms. The stout and heavily armored Dwarven Heavy Infantry were deployed between the two towns on the Dwarves right and center (columns #1 and #4) so that they could capture the town on the right w/the help of the Giants, and maybe capture the one in the center depending on how the initiative rolls worked out. The Dwarven army’s left flank was protected by a the fearsome Badger Heavy and Light Cavalry, no doubt with the intention of at least slowing the advance of Aruman’s forces until the center and right towns could be captured and fortified.

Arumans Right Flank Cavalry holding up the Dwarves left

Aruman’s right flank and the badger cavalry blocking his advance
With the strengths of the two armies on opposite corners of the ping pong table, it looked like there was a good chance that eventually the two weaker flanks could both be turned. Intriguing!
In this scenario, I added the following victory conditions after play testing the scenario (see previous blog):
• Points are awarded based on the unit point values of all eliminated enemy units.
• Eliminated leaders are worth 10 points each;
• Magic Users are worth 20 Points.
• Each captured town is worth 25 points.
So capturing the towns are very significant objectives, not only because of the victory points awarded at the end of the game, but also due to their excellent defensive bonus awarded to those troops defending within (1 pip higher armor save, which statistically speaking can make Heavy Dwarven Infantry defending in towns nearly impossible nuts to crack). Aruman has some troops with excellent armor as well, but not nearly as many as the crafty Dwarves who as we all know don the finest Mithril Armor (whatever that is, my theory is that Mithril is actually a Titanium alloy, although it could be an iron with just the right amount/type of impurities properly quenched, Dwarven HY-100).
The armies were each worth about 350 points.

New Dwarven Army Order of Battle:

Number of Units


Special Type


Total Value


Heavy Inf Hvy Dwarven Inf



Heavy HvyCav Hvy Dwarven Cav



Light LtCav Lt Dwarven Cav



Light Art Dwarven Battlefield Art



Heavy Giant Mountain Giant



Heavy Giant Swamp Giants



Heavy HvyCav Hvy Badger Cav



Light LtCav Lt Badger Cav




 Aruman’s Horribly Misunderstood Army Order of Battle:

Number of Units


Special Type


Total Value


Heavy Giant Hvy Mumakil



Heavy HvyCav Hvy Harad Cav Lance



Heavy HvyCav Hvy Easterling Cav Axe



Light LtCav Lt Harad Cav Bow & Spear



Light LtCav Lt Easterling Cav Spear



Heavy HvyCav Hvy Harad Cav Sword



Heavy Inf Hvy Harad Inf



Heavy Inf Hvy Easterling Inf 2-handed



Light Inf Lt Harad Inf



Heavy Inf Hvy Easterling Inf 1-handed



Light Inf Lt Orc Archers



Light LtCav Lt Warg Riders



Heavy HvyCav Hvy Warg Riders



Heavy Large Variag Trolls




I did not include all the unit statistics in these tables, but as can be inferred
by the unit point values and types of units on each side, the Aruman’s Army has
the following advantages:

1)      More units.  This may allow for more tricksy flanking maneuvers.

2)      About ½ of their army’s value stems from 5 of the 34 units, the Giant Oliphant Heavy Cavalry and Large Variag Trolls.  So if these can be successfully deployed and utilized, they have the ability to steam roll through otherwise good opposition.   Giant troops subtract 2 pips from an opponent’s armor save and Large troops subtract 1.

3) A good number of light troops.  Although these troops have no order, they are excellent at chipping away at heavy troops if they have ground to give after they hit and run.  In the Ares Exultant game system, light troops can be paired with heavies to good effect, but they will eventually end up suffering losses to other lights, and retreating off the board (being eliminated) if they run out of space to maneuver when being pushed by heavies.

The New Dwarven Army has the following advantages:

1)      That crazy good mithril armor and toughness.  They save 2/3rds of their potential casualties due to their excellent armor (against human sized opposition) and crafty Dwarven fighting skills.  And they have outstanding morale.

2)      They do have excellent Badger Cavalry to provide some light cavalry protection, and some light cavalry of their own, of good quality.  The punch of the Badger heavy cavalry and the quality of their heavy troops are hard to match.

3)      The new Dwarven Ballistae.  The Dwarven War College is still trying to figure out how to effectively employ these units in a field battle, but they look COOL, have extended range and can shoot in the first round of a melee.  The problem is they have to be set in a defensive position in order to fire.  In hindsight, the Dwarven players trash talked them, but that is because it took them the whole game to get them into a good position.

In general, the dwarves could have mixed and matched their heavy & light troops better.  However their lights were all cavalry and ballistae, the latter useful when defending in place only.  Cavalry is no good in towns, and if they stick w/infantry they lose their extra move so the deployment made sense.

Action Report Day 1:

The New Model Dwarven army advances on both flanks and the center.  On their right flank, they will march right for the town with their scary Swamp Giants and Mountain Giant.  In the center, they advance with heavy infantry.  The foppishly attired Highlander Badger Cavalry challenge Aruman’s right flank.

Arumans left threatened

The Giants have taken the town and now move to flank the Mouth of Aruman’s left

Overview from Arumans Side Situation in middle town

Situation at the end of the first night’s play; Dwarves have taken Middle Towne

Aruman advances his legions on all fronts as well.  On turn 2, he misses a critical initiative roll, which lets the Dwarven scum (Aruman’s words, not mine) take Middle Town before his own troops reach the walls.  The Dwarvies also take the town on Aruman’s left, which was anticipated.  This leaves the town on Aruman’s right to his light troops, who capture the town without a fight as the remaining town’s people flee in terror.  In the center town, 2 units of town folk actually rally to the Gray Wizard’s side as the Dwarves advance, helping to man the town walls to hold off Aruman’s host.  The Giants fighting for the Dwarves, however, encounter stiff resistance from the townies in the Column #1.  Although they are in a hopeless position, against all odds (they rolled a “6” reaction roll when the Giants stomped into town) they set against the Giants with a furious although short lived defense, inflicting significant damage to the Giants before running for the hills.

The only real action the first day came when the terrifying Highlander Mounted Badgers charged against the heavily armored Haradrim.  The badgers routed two units of Harad’s finest, in a brilliant display of poor tactical die rolling by Steve.  Aruman also attempted to throw one of his famous fire balls, but it did absolutely nothing when countered by a shielding spell from the Gray Wizard.

So at the close of battle day 1, as 2100 hrs arrived and players need to get home for work the next day, things looked pretty grim for Aruman.  The Dwarvies owned 2 towns to Aruman’s one, and although there were no units eliminated on either side, there was one spent Dwarvish Heavy Cavalry unit vs. 2 heavily damaged and routed Haradrim for the Multi-Coloured One.  The victory point total stood at 25 for Aruman and 50 for the Gray Wanderer and his hearty band of Dwarves, et. al.

Action Report Day 2:

A major change of command was in store for the leadership of EVIL.  Steve, Andy and Allen all were either out of town or sick, leaving the ranks of the horribly misunderstood lacking any commanders.  This left the baddies to be played by myself and Rick (who was unavailable for Day 1).  I usually don’t like to play in games I’m running just in case there are any rules interpretations necessary, plus it leaves me free fetch provisions and choose the soothing battle music and videos, but with too much lead and too few players, I became Aruman and Rick served as my Number 1, A.K.A the Mouth of Aruman, leading the evil troops left of the A5 stream.  The base rules were not written my me in any case.

97 Dwarf Right Flank CO plots strategems 101 Siege of Middle Towne Day 2

Tim moves to beset the Mouth of Aruman’s light troops on the Dwarven right, and the EVIL attack into Middle Towne

As Commander in Chief, I ordered the Mouth to beset the runty Dwarves in the center and hold off the giants stomping our way from the town in Column 1.  I took over the remaining troops, and proceeded to advance as quickly as possible to outflank and destroy the Badger Cavalry.

The Dwarves moved their heavy infantry to reinforce Middle Town as quickly as they could, while the badgers engaged the Oliphants and other heavy and light support troops.  Although Aruman had an advantage in numbers in most of these battles on his right flank, my skill in die rolling, paired with John’s grim luck proved devastating to his plan to hold the Dwarven left.  His Badgers were smashed and routed, and exploitation attacks left them all DOA at the badger field hospital, or otherwise AWOL.  The Badger Commandant was slain with his mammalian kin, and YES – there will be songs written about his bravery.

102 Dwarf Left Flank depleted 103 Not Looking Good for these guys

The grim field of battle after the brave badger cavalry were eliminated, leaving a single heavy Dwarf infantry unit to hold the left flank of Middle Towne

The Mouth, however, was facing desperate odds with Dwarvies and Giants bearing down on his outmanned forces.  I transferred troops to his flank and he administered a brave and partially successful attack on Middle Town, even though the Dwarves had the advantage of fighting behind walls and are tough to kill in any circumstance.  On Aruman’s far left, one of our brave Easterling Light Cavalry Brigades was forced to retreat off the edge of the table, and was never heard from again.

Dwarven Rough Rider Light Cav Dwarven Spear engage the Trolls

Dwarf Light Cavalry harass the Mouth of Aruman while formations of Dwarf Spear battle Variag Trolls 

So at the close of Day 2, due to the great success against the Badgers, the heavy Dwarven infantry that was defending the Gray Wizard’s left were mostly decimated, but the large majority of Dwarven Heavy Infantry remain in excellent fighting condition.  With all the dead Badgers, the victory point total now stood at 103 for Aruman to 53 for the Gray Wonderer.

Valhala after 2nd day Light Cav hiding from giants

Valhalla at the end of the second night’s play indicate a 7:1 casualty ratio.  Light Cav hide in the forest waiting for the final night of battle.

Action Report Day 3: The Final Stage of the Battle


Rick and Tim were back in action controlling the New Model Dwarven Army, while Steve and Allen had operational command of the horribly misunderstood ones

Aruman’s troops continued their offensive on their right flank, pressing their advantage after having eliminated the Badger cavalry.  But they were challenged on their right, as the Dwarvie Giant creatures (of the Swamp and Mountain variety) rolled up the left, with a few stout dwarven infantry and light cavalry adding to the advantage.


Aruman’s Southrons advance around Middletown, cutting off any hope of retreat for the Dwarves. 

The battle for Middletown dragged on, with Aruman not giving up on the prize.  However, the dwarvies were too well armored and entrenched in the town to be easily evicted.  They held firm even when facing a mixed force with missile troops without coming close to routing, or losing too many casualties to stand before nightfall and the end of hostilities.


Although the Haradrim had managed to defeat the dwarves on their right and advanced around Middletown, they were forced to fall back from their original attack to defensive positions behind the twisty creek and leave the heavy work to the Murmakil.  The town was effectively relieved by the end of the scenario.    

blog photo

The largest melee of the battle happened in the fields in front or Middletown, with the Dwarven heavy infantry, light cavalry and giants taking on Variags, Easterling and goblin warg riders.  The Dwarves got the better of their foe, which forced Aruman’s strategic withdrawal.


Largest melee of the scenario.  It was glorious!

The Final Talley


The New Dwarven Army casualties are on the left and center of the Valhalla tray, Aruman’s are on the right.  The Dwarves fought valiantly and nearly turned things around with respect to victory points, but Aruman managed a narrow victory.


The final score was 98 VPs for the Gray Wizard/Dwarves against 135 for Auman/Southrons.  This was a very close game, as the Variag Trolls (2 stands) were nearly eliminated, and one the two units likely SHOULD have been, but I erroneously allowed too many dice in one battle for the excess units present, which caused a route that probably saved the unit from elimination on the very next turn. Had it been eliminated, there would have been a 7 point difference in the game.

Lessons Learned 

This game system was not originally meant for fantasy troop types, and is usually not played with so much terrain.  We solidified the rules for how the town defenses and movement should work, and how the Ballistae should function within the excellent Ares Exultant system.  I think I also went a little overboard with terrain effects, which I thought would add extra amusement to the fantasy game, but proved annoying to the players.  These elements will be addressed & written into the scenario rules before I play this or a similar fantasy game in the future.   Lots of classic miniatures were painted that otherwise would still be uncoated, and it kept the gaming group busy for 3 weeks of play, so I call it a success!




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