Thanks in part to the encouragement of you all and a holiday weekend here in the US, I finally played my next scenario and this time it is the first one from An Unexpected Journey! I’ve been looking forward to playing this one for quite some time and while I fully admit that I haven’t heard anybody say great things about this scenario, I was still going to try my best to have fun with it.
Pre-Game Thoughts – One of the most common complaints with this scenario is that the Trolls have no chance and that the dwarves simply swarm them and beat them into submission. It is easy to see how that can happen when you compare the might totals of the two sides. The strategy for the two sides revolves around this discrepancy. The trolls want to break up and minimize how many dwarves they face at a time so their superior fight values and strength can cause problems. The evil side’s plan is to use the terrain on the board to try and help the Trolls accomplish this task.
Thorin’s Company wants to swarm the Trolls as much as they can as they are not easy to wound even when the dwarves win the duel rolls. Of course, a potential wrinkle in this plan is that the dwarves show up randomly in the opening turns and a lot or very few can show up in a given turn depending on how you roll. With the roll being on a 3 or higher, the odds are better than not that the dwarves show up early and often but we’ll see how it goes. The other rule worth noting is that starting on the 7th turn, Gandalf can show up and the game is automatically a draw once that occurs. This fits the book and movie really well obviously but the “time limit” means that both the Trolls and the dwarves have to hurry to try and dispatch their foes if they want to win. I’m curious to see how this rule plays out in the scenario. It seems like a pretty strict turn limit considering how tough the trolls are and that the board is 4×4.
Battle Report – As Bilbo chatted with the trolls and slowly tried to sneak away, the Trolls followed the Burra-hobbit. During the conversation, no less than nine dwarves entered the board to help rescue the burglar with Thorin and Dwalin being two notable exceptions.
Sensing that the hobbit was trying to draw them away from the safety of their campfire, the trolls let Bilbo slink off. The dwarves bravely charged forward to try and rescue their beleaguered burglar. With the exception of Dwalin, the remaining dwarves entered play and were ready to fight on the second turn.
Taking the initiative, Thorin’s Company closed the distance on the trolls as both sides wanted to get into combat as quickly as they could. Utilizing their low cunning, the trolls continued to stay near the campfire as the terrain kept the dwarves from swarming them. Dwalin continued to be lost in the woods and would likely play no role in this scenario.
The Trolls finally decide to spring their attack and risk leaving the campfire’s warmth! Bill just barely charged into Fili. Bert and Tom moved forward and hoped to use the terrain to protect themselves from the bulk of Thorin’s Company. Kili and Bifur charged Tom while Bofur and Gloin charged Bill thanks to the dwarves’ steely resolve. It seemed that the Trolls had their work cut out for them already!
Tom shrugged off the dwarves’s blows and stamped around in a rage. Bifur took a wound in the fracas. Fili initially won the combat but Bill wisely used a point of Might to force a win for the evil side. Fili was left finely minced and ready for the Trolls’ stew! Comically, Dwalin continued to wander the woods of Eriador in his allies’ time of need.
Thorin’s Company’s resolve held as they charged into the Trolls once again. With their numbers split across three combats, they needed to cause some damage with the possibility of day break rapidly approaching. Bill won his combat again and chose to mince Balin as Bill happily picked on weaker members of the company.
Bert used his only point of Might to win his combat and struck Oin to cause a wound. Tom continued to stamp around and wound Kili and Bombur. With the Trolls’ might dwindling, Thorin’s Company looked primed to start hurting them. Dwalin finally showed up at the end of the turn and was likely too late to impact the proceedings.
Eager to finally get to grips with these trolls, only Dori and Kili’s courage failed and kept them from rejoining combat. Bill lost his fight against Thorin’s men and suffered a wound. Bert managed to fatally wound Oin as another of Thorin’s Company fell to the Trolls! Bombur and Bofur took revenge by causing a wound to Tom.
At the start of the seventh turn, daybreak arose and turned the Trolls to stone thanks to the old wizard. There can be no doubt that Gandalf saved the dwarves from a bit of embarrassment as they allowed three comrades to be beaten by the trolls while the Trolls clearly got the better of them and only suffered a couple of wounds!
Post-Game Thoughts – Well, that was an alright scenario, if a bit unsatisfying. The daybreak rule fits the movie perfectly but doesn’t lead to a satisfying conclusion at the same time. As far as the game went, Thorin’s Company rolled just a bit worse than the Trolls did on duel rolls which made it easy for Tom, Bill, and Bert to control the opening turns of combat. Thorin’s Company did wear down the Troll’s might which started to pay dividends during the last couple of turns. Having three dead dwarves hurt though and honestly, the game would have been close if it went on another turn or two. One of trolls had to die soon or the dwarves risked being thinned down too low to stop the trolls from winning.
I learned a lot of things from playing this scenario.
- The trolls’ brutal power attacks are no joke! They were lethal and I could see a troll causing a lot of damage in a points match with them.
- I should have used a heroic march to give the dwarves another turn of combat. I think I was rusty playing this scenario and would have benefited from a warm-up game beforehand.
- I also should made a “kill team” to focus on knocking out one of three trolls early on instead of balancing the combat abilities of dwarves across the trolls. I’m pretty confident that would have helped the dwarves do better.
- It is hard to keep track of all of the rules for dwarves and trolls. I had the trolls rules down but I’m sure I didn’t use all of the dwarves abilities as well as I could have. It is just so hard to remember and keep track of everything when every model has a special rule (or two or three). I will definitely keep in mind how many heroes and special abilities are “in-play” as I decide what scenarios to play in the future. It was slightly stressful remembering everything for this one and that took from my enjoyment of the scenario.
- The terrain looked good, I just wish I had a bit more made, especially hills. I noticed that GW recommended having a stable for the ponies on your board which would take some work but would certainly give it character. Not sure this scenario is worth that extra work however.
As I suspected, this scenario needs some houseruling. I think playing on a 4×4 board is a bit of overkill. It leads to 2-4 turns where where is no combat and when you may only have six full turns that is a bit anti-climatic. Having so many dwarves showing up early I thought would guarantee an easy victory but it did not. It might be more fun if the dwarves show up in groups of 2-3 each turn with a longer turn limit. I know in the Armies of the Hobbit book, there is an updated version of this scenario and I want to see what that looks like before I play this one again and attempt to houserule it. I’d be willing to play another game using just the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey rules to see if I can be a better tactician as well.
With the trolls being time consuming to paint well, I don’t know that I would recommend this scenario as a one-off. The ending is a bit too anti-climatic to feel satisfying. Roast Mutton feels best suited in a campaign where a draw or a dwarves victory doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. What does matter is how many resources Thorin’s Company depletes along the way. With that said, I’ve now played one scenario in the eventual campaign which is nice to say and I look forward to playing more in the coming months!