The Siege of Minas Tirith
Published by Fact and Fantasy Games; Developed by Richard Jordison; 1975
(Rule Book Version: Yellow, Green, and White)
Review by Dave Watry
I have reviewed this game before elsewhere, so I am using most of that review, but slightly updated. This was my first Tolkien based game, and my personal favorite. I have had some questions on game play for this and I have passed them on to Richard Jordison who answered them. This game was well tested and is fair for both sides. I have also included an article I found in Campaign Magazine from 1975 that is a variant on this game. It is called The Nazgul. It adds all the Nazgul to this battle that were supposed to be present according to the books. It sounds like an interesting touch, but I don't know what it does to the game play. It also mentions using the TSR game War of Wizards to resolve battles between Gandolf and the Nazgul. Again, interesting. That might detract from the basic game play, but if you play this game enough, it might be fun to add this extra element. So on with the review. Sorry for the length, but it covers the basic element of all wargames, so I will only use this here.
The second game by Richard Jordison based on LOTR. This has the same basic rules as The Battle of Helms Deep (BOHD) but the board is much larger. Like BOHD, this is a hex board wargame similar to the games Gondor and Sauron by SPI and other war type strategy board games that Avalon Hill, TSR, and others put out. Where the game Gondor deals with the attack on the city of
The map sheet represents the terrain around the destroyed city of
The counters are very simple. Each shows a Unit Type Symbol and has two numbers at the bottom, Combat Strength (left; melee or missile) and Movement Allowance (right). Also, the ranged missiles (archery and catapults) have a smaller number that indicates range. The Mordor player goes first going through 4 phases; 1) Wall Breach Phase, 2) Movement Phase, 3) Archery Combat Phase, and 4) Melee Combat Phase. Gondor goes second repeating steps 2-4. Each unit may move to its maximum movement allowance taking the Terrain Effects into account (i.e. woods cost 2 movement points, roads ½). Units may travel through another friendly unit, but may not stack at end of movement except Leader Units (ie. Gandolf, Faramir, Nazgul King, Gothmog, etc.). Units must stop upon entering an enemy Zone of Control (ZOC).
Combat is resolved by attacker to defender ratios simply by adding up all the attacking units Combat Strengths verses the defenders Combat Strength(s) (i.e. an attacking unit with a strength of 4 verses one defending strength of 3 on clear spaces would be 1-1 odds). Morale modifications are made when a friendly or enemy Leader is within 3 hexes of a unit (i.e. a friendly Leader unit within 3 hexes of a friendly melee unit would get a +1 on the die, if attacking, an enemy unit would get a -1 on the die if attacking). Morale is also affected by Darkness (as indicated on the Time Track) that favors the Mordor units. Dawn of the Fourth Day favors the Gondor units. Missile units are never affected by morale. Terrain is also taken into effect for melee attacks (i.e. a friendly unit attacking up a hill or into a wooded area results in doubling the defensive strength of an enemy unit being attacked). Archery units have increased defensive strengths in certain terrain areas that melee units do not get, such as a city hex. A six-sided die is rolled with the results being determined on the Combat Results Table. Odds range from 1-3 to 8-1 on a 6 sided die roll with modifications of +1, +2, -1, or -2 due to morale (i.e. Range is from -1 to 8 on a 6 sided die). The results from the Combat Table leave either the attacker destroyed (AX), attacker retreats (AR), no effect, defender retreats (DR), or defender destroyed (DX). The odds ratio is reduces to simplest terms, rounding off in favor of the defender. If a Leader is stacked with a unit that is being attacked, the Leader adds to the strength of the unit as well as morale. Except Gandolf and the Nazgul, the Leaders would be eliminated if the unit losses the attack. Gandolf and the Nazgul are not eliminated with the unit if it loses, but are removed from the board until the next turn then placed wherever the owning player wishes.
Mordor units can create Wall Breaches on the Outer Wall and its gates (no effect on the walls and gates of the city of Minas Tirith) using a Nazgul unit and a melee unit, and can only be made on the 2nd and 3rd days on the Time Track. The melee unit is inverted (considered eliminated) and designates the breach for the rest of the game. Wall Breaches do not affect any adjacent units (friend or foe). For a Gate Attack, if a Gondor unit is on the other side, a roll of 1 on a six-sided die breaks the gate. If the gate is undefended, the gate breaks with a 1 through 4 on a six-sided die.
The Grond (a massive battering ram) is the only device the Mordor player has to break the Great Gate at Minas Tirith (it takes two turns to break the Great Gate). The Grond may not be attacked by archery attacks. It is vitally important for the Mordor player to defend the Grond from melee attacks if you want to get into the city (victory points allotted for Mordor units that are within the city).
The winner of the game is determined by the number of Victory Points accumulated by the Mordor player at the end of the game. The more points accumulated, the more likely Mordor will win. Conversely, if Gondor can keep Mordor from making points, they have a chance to win. A point can be achieved for Mordor for at least one unit across the Anduin at the end of the fourth turn on the first day. Another point is made for a unit inside the Outer Wall at the end of the second turn of the second day. A point for each turn the Mordor player has the city of
0-7 points: Major Gondor Victory
8-11 points: Minor Gondor Victory
12-16 points: Tie
17-20 points: Minor Mordor Victory
21 - up: Major Mordor Victory
There is an optional rule called the Ring Option. This favors the Gondor player, but is used at a risk. The Gondor player can announce the intention of using the One Ring at the start of any turn before the Mordor player breaks through the Outer Wall. Gondor units get a +1 morale for as long as Gondor has control of the ring. The morale rules of Darkness and Dawn of the 4th Day are eliminated. Leaders keep their effect of morale. The risks are Gondor can only receive reinforcements under Aragorn and Theoden with the roll of a 1,2, or 3 at the turn of appearance. At the end of every turn, Gondor must roll a 1-5 in order to keep control of the ring. Rolling a 6 looses control. At such a time, Gondor looses the special morale until control is regained. On every turn following, the die is rolled. A roll of a 1 regains control, 2-4 has no effect, and with a 5 or 6 control is lost at which time the Mordor player receives a +2 morale for the rest of the game. The Mordor player also receives 5 points and the Gondor player can receive no more reinforcements. Once control is lost, it can never be regained and the best Gondor can achieve is a tie. A very risky venture.
This is one of my favorite hex board games. The game takes about two to three hours to play because of the number of pieces and the size of the board. It is a well-rounded game and does not seem to favor either side. Mordor has the advantage of the sheer number of units that pour across the
Included with the game is a mini game of
Three color heavy stock paper board. Reddish-Brown, Green, Blue, and Black on Tan.
Counters; Gondor Yellow/Gold; Mordor Green.
The game comes with the following:
· 19 x 25 hex map sheet
· 16 page rule booklet
· Reinforcement Schedule and Time Track sheet
· Terrain Effects and Combat Results Table sheet
· 2 sets of 60 cardboard die cut counters
· Ring Option rules modification sheet
There is a variation to this game that was printed in a wargaming magazine of the time:
The Nazgul Variant
The Nazgul, by Steve Kane found in (the merger between two wargame magazines) Panzerfaust and Campaign issue #72, Mar/Apr 1976. This adds a little more dimension to the Nazgul Character during game play. It is mentioned that there is only one Nazgul included in this game (probably to even out the game play, plus the King of the Nazgul in the book is the only one with any real book time in this big battle). Steve Kane offers a solution to make the game more like the book. Adding five more Nazgul to the game, each with a 1-16 in strength. They are considered flying units and are not affected by terrain and may stack with any unit to add to their combat strength, but cannot be destroyed by melee (but can be affected by missile fire). They are not affected by the Zone of Control from Gondor units and may freely fly over or land on Gondor units. At night, the Nazgul strength doubles to 2-16. Also, the Nazgul may demoralize Gondor units with certain conditions. They may not attack Gondor units unless at least one Mordor unit is also attacking. The Nazgul are not considered leader units and cannot raise morale on Mordor units. But they do have eight ways to affect Gondor units, one of which is that the Nazgul may have combat with Gandolf (other leaders may join in the battle, but no melee or archery units can). On turn 14 Marchturn (M4), the Lord of the Nazgul is replaced by the Gothmog piece (the Lieutenant of Morgul). Additionally, on the same turn, one of the other Nazgul must leave the game (a messenger to the Dark Lord that the King of the Nazgul has fallen). On the final turn, none of the Nazgul become 2-16 as they normally do at night. Further, then may not demoralize Gondor units, nor attack any Gondor units unless a Mordor melee is present.
Additional rules for the Lord of the Nazgul include that if he is stacked with the Grond while it is at the Great Gate, the gate fall immediately. At night, the Lords strength becomes a 4-16 strength. And at any time, Gandolf and the Lord may have at it. Both must be stacked in the same space. If the Lord wished to destroy Gandolf, he must roll a six. If Gandolf wants to destroy the Lord, he must role two sixes in a row (or can substitute the TSR game War of Wizards giving the Lord of the Nazgul the advantage this game is a battle of magic between two opposing wizards an interesting concept). If eliminated, the Lord of the Nazgul is removed from the game. If in the event of both are killed, remove all units within a three-hex radius of the battle (explosive magic). On the turn M4, the Lord of the Nazgul is removed from the game only if he is killed inside Minas Tirith (by Pipin) or if he is stacked with or adjacent to the Theoden counter at the end of the Gondor turn. If neither of the last happens, then the Lord stays in the game, Gothmog remains a regular Nazgul, and also the messenger to the Dark Lord stays in the game. On any turn after M4, the Lord of the Nazgul is removed from the game at the end of the Gondors turn if he is either inside Minas Tirith or stacked next to Theoden (whenever this happens to Theoden, he is considered to be killed and is removed from the game). Theoden thus can seek out the Lord of the Nazgul. Note, that the regular Nazgul do not have the gate-breaking ability.
The above rules only apply to The Siege of Minas Tirith. For the Battle of Slag Hills, eight of the Nazgul are present. The Nazgul may withdraw to achieve a risky Mordor victory using the Sauron Aware option. On the sixth turn of the Battle of Slag Hills, all of the Nazgul are removed from game play (flying off to get Frodo before he throws the ring into