Khazâd du-bekâr (Dwarves, to Arms!) COMPLETE

Started by JasonPratt, November 30, 2016, 08:25:57 PM

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"Bring the elf," declared King Dain, seated upon the counsel throne. Ranged left and right, stood elders of his people, among them survivors of the Lonely Mountain raid many decades ere. A lone human man, King Brand of Dale, had also been invited to the Undermountain, a central location for counsel. Not far away, Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror, King Under the Mountain, lay entombed with the Arkenstone.

The elven envoy entered, escorted, guarded though with honor.

She entered, wrecked. Ripped, bruised, filthy; standing tall but hobbling.

"Was she caught in an avalanche?!" one of the counsel sputtered, along with more subtle murmurs of shock and amazement. A dirty elf could not bode well.

"I know that this is not how you treat your guests," King Brand stated, though a bit doubtfully, trying to parse this visual riddle.

"No dwarf did this," the elf agreed, surprising them all with her serviceable Khuzdul. "An avalanche did, yes. Except far worse than any possible avalanche. King Dain Ironfoot," she tottered to a stop, "and the Undermountain counsel. Please call me Ithilia; I have no family name now."

The standing counselors shifted on their feet. "What do you mean?" invited King Dain, as the woman's breath caught in her throat.

"I mean I have no family now. They died by the White Hand, in Eryn Lasgalen, the Wood of Greenleaves -- now, more truly than ever: Mirkwood."

Before the murmurs could even begin anew, Dain stood and threw up both his hands for quiet. "Thranduil, your king -- "

"Slain in battle. My people, the few survivors, scattered south, into the lands of men."

Shock struck the counsel mute -- they had heard of distant and troubling rumors, but this!?

"Into the lands of men? Not into Lorien?!" Dain tried to clarify in confusion.

"Lorien fell first. Though at about the same time..."

"A coordinated assault!" marveled King Brand; then. "For pity's sake, Dain, offer the envoy some rest!"

"Do not blame the dwarven king," the noble woman exhaled. "For I have vowed to deliver this news as I am, until it is done. Should I collapse, let it be; then I will rest."

"Why for?!" the king of Dale and the Long Lake colonies asked.

"As a sign," she simply answered; then, "I was sent by my king, to our east, creeping here to avoid being caught by the Hand, barely escaping. Three others, all who knew enough Khuzdul to help you -- they have not arrived, have they? Probably they will not."

"Who or what is this Hand? And how could this have happened?!" Dain demanded in distress and disbelief, the sight of the wretched state of an elf increasing his unease.

"You want to know how? I will tell you -- until I fall. And then afterward, if the stars above are willing." Ithilia gritted this between her teeth in fury and grief.
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!



I will tell you first of the second reason this happened (she said).

Sauron, the inheritor of Morgoth, has risen again! -- without the Ring of Power that he forged, so far as we know, but still kept alive in this world by its tether, wherever it may be. You know of the Counsel of Elrond, yes? One or two or more of you were there? Gloin and his son? We sent representatives, too. My husband accompanied Legolas, son of Thranduil, among some others.

He told me what had been found: the One Ring. That it could not be destroyed, or not feasibly. Legolas and a ranger, Aragorn, or Strider perhaps he was called, accompanied a halfling from the west, and his kinsmen, who had proven he could safely carry the thing without corruption. The elves safely escorted him to the western havens, so far as we know, to the ships departing Middle-Earth for the undying lands. There, Frodo the Ringbearer, and his uncle who also had borne the Weapon, passed beyond reach of the enemy with the Ring. If any art under heaven can be found to unmake the Ring, and so to destroy the Dark Lord, too, there it may be.

The Nine Servants, the Nazgul, had been scattered by Elrond's wards near Imladris, the Riven Dell. But naturally, one regained power with more expediency: nameless now, but the former Witch-King of Angmar.

With a wyvern steed, bred for war in Mordor, he flew northwest to the lands he once had haunted, and raised a number of armies, aided by the current king of goblins from under the Misty Mountains.

Who could stand to oppose them (she bitterly asked)? Your Blue Mountain clans fought bravely, but were caught unprepared.


Yes, this is why you have not received any messengers from them in months! -- doubtless you thought I'd bring news of some mere problem in the West that would account for their silence. Indeed. They have merely been murdered or enslaved, simply overwhelmed by a goblin flood stiffened by Angmar detachments.

The Witch-King fell upon Rivendell himself: a brutal battle, and brutally short.

The halfling Shire, the clusters of human outposts, the elven havens -- once the two principle strengths that lived west of the Misty Mountains had been scoured and tossed aside by the tide, how could they hope to do better, even having heard the distant thunders of that lightning-war? What preparation could save them?

But in the darkest deep, a lower deep! For Saruman the White, one of the lesser Valar himself, leader of the Maiar who once came to Middle-Earth to aid us against the Fallen Ones -- he himself has fallen! Reduced in power at least, but he has sworn himself to Sauron. Perhaps he thinks to compete with Barad-dur...? He has bred an army of half-orc men, Uruk-hai. How could they know to act in concert?! As if they could read each other's minds, and see across such distances?! As Rivendell burned, he burst out from under the Misty Mountains with two large armies, hidden in the tunnels of their goblin allies, and smashed into the Forests east.

I see your smug looks. You think they attacked in our weakness. This, I cannot dispute. What is the primary reason for this disaster? I will tell you, and you will look at me when I say it so you know what I am saying:

Those who could have stopped this, ran for their lives, or hid. Like cowards. Cowards!

Yes, we fear death, although we train for centuries of your time in dealing it out. You want to know how we see you? Rotting corpses walking the world, stinking, falling to pieces. I say this now, in your faces, so that you will understand I am speaking from my heart. We know it is not your fault, we do not blame you for it, but still: consider how you would feel to be touching such pits of disease. Such un-death, like barrow-wights, or not much better to us.

And so, the very concept of dying ourselves, in such dissolution, grievously insults us. We fight so fiercely to keep from being stained with... with this! (she beat her breasts) Death to you is a natural enemy; death to us is not.

So sensing, at long distance, yet another war for this world... we sighed to ourselves, and hid in our trees, and made our arrangements to sail away: to leave this world of death to death.

And so our fate is just. For we have fallen first; when with our skill, we could have sliced the foe into such ribbons that the other free peoples would then have plenty of time to gather to finish the fight in relative ease.

And so we have cursed this world, and cursed ourselves and our honor and our memory in this world, by failing this world. Running and hiding. Like cowards.

Yes, yes. I see you nodding in judgment. And self-satisfaction.


Oh! -- you thought we stood alone under judgment? That we were the only ones to creep into holes and hope that someone else would sacrifice themselves to keep us safe? Of course you didn't see yourselves, closing your eyes to all but yourselves. As we did.

LOOK UPON ME!! Open your eyes and see my shame! For now it may be too late for you: for you to avoid my shame!

(here the elven woman collapsed at last, rasping, her throat worn raw)
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!



And so my occasionally hinted Secret AAR Project stands revealed: a War of the Ring grand campaign as the dwarves in Electronic Arts' Battle For Middle-Earth 2, with the Rise of Witch-king expansion.

I'll be playing with the unofficial fan-patch 2.02, which can be found at, along with many other nice fan-patch projects keeping old games up to date(ish) and playable on modern systems.

RotWK was released in November 2006, and this coincidental 10-year anniversary is one reason why I'm going ahead and starting the AAR while it's still November 2016 (here in West Tennessee anyway), rather than waiting for next year. But while I've finished the campaign, win or lose, I have only started writing it up so entries may be sporadic for a while.

BfME2 (which by the way also has a modern fan-patch at that site, for anyone who can only get hold of one of the now-rare parts), is a real-time strategy game based on the movie property, part of a suite of games based on the films which EA released around the time Return of the King was going into theaters, including the Playstation 2 cinematic brawlers The Two Towers (which included some missions and footage/designs from the Fellowship film) and The Return of the King -- indeed, footage from the final film could be found in that game before the movie itself came out! I'd like to see those two games brought forward to modern consoles and (if possible) a good PC port; also TTT would benefit from a multiplayer co-op mode as can be found in RotK.

For PCs, EA jumped into the nascent real-time-strategy renaissance with Battle for Middle-Earth (which also has patches handy at the site, btw). The campaign for that game retells the story of the trilogy, starting the action with a party-based set of missions in the Mines of Moria and slowly adding rts functions as it went. A colorful and a bit quirky game, it helped move forward an innovation first promoted (so far as I recall) by Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns a few years prior, of generating and collecting soldiers in automatic groups and moving those around in (somewhat) reasonable formations. The Kohan series itself released a sequel around the same time, Kohan: Kings of War, which updated the graphics to 3D models; and Dawn of War completed the trifecta of the new next generation of real-time strategy design.

BFME1 had only four factions, which could also be played in single and multi-player skirmishes of course: Rohan and Gondor (as mostly human with some elven and hobbit-related support); and Isengard and Mordor (as duh). One key difference among the teams was that Rohan and Gondor could build fully walled fortresses, while the evil teams could only build encampments -- but then, of course, the evil teams got generally better tools for bringing such things down! Another major game design quirk, was that no player (human or AI) could build a base anywhere except on certain designated areas of any map. (Kohan 2, if I recall correctly, used a similar mechanic, though a bit more loosely for outlying support.)

Specifically, every map had two or sometimes three types of build-plots: single resource-gathering plots; major base plots; and small outpost plots (for raising a small tower). Each base, small or large, once raised, would then provide a limited number of sub-plots within the base area, inside and upon the walls for the heroic teams. The campaign missions were often more flexible about this, but these restricted base-building designs chafed some fans of the game. On the other hand, this design choice made BFME1 ideal for introducing new players to the rts genre.

Not surprisingly, BFME2 ditched the limited base-building plots -- now any team could build (almost) anything anywhere they wanted on the map, although the good teams retained the tendency to set up walled fortress areas and the villain teams retained the tendency to set up encampments. The faction options were expanded, too, although consolidated in other ways: specifically Rohan and Gondor were conflated into the Men faction.

The other factions ended up as the new factions of Elves and Dwarves; and then three villain types, Isengard and Mordor (again) plus the new Goblin faction. For the RotWK expansion (requiring BFME2 to play), a seventh team was added, Angmar, the former kingdom of the Witch-king, leader of the Nazgul.

Another new feature was a proper grand campaign (given some new details and options with the RotWK expansion), allowing various numbers of human and/or AI players to fight the War of the Ring over either an entire Middle-Earth map, or a map more like that from BFME1, restricted to the Misty Mountains and parts east (plus Rivendell west of the Mountains). Unfortunately, the RotWK expansion coders were unable to figure out how to add a 7th player to the grand campaign, so some faction must necessarily be left out.

Consequently, I'll be playing the Dwarf faction; with Men as my teammates; against a team of Isengard, Mordor, Goblins, and Angmar. I've set everyone to "medium" difficulty, so no one gets extra bonuses or debuffs.

(There are story campaigns for the main BFME2 game, detailing the war in the north on both good and evil sides; plus an Angmar campaign set centuries earlier for the expansion. But I'm not playing the story campaigns.)

Another new detail to the BFME2 game (compared to BFME1), is the option to design and play with a custom hero. Each team gets a suite of 'hero' characters who will level up over time -- more quickly in single skirmish games of course. But the player can now make their own hero or heroine, and choose what sort of capabilities (within a limited set appropriate for their race) will be unlocked as the character levels up. Frankly, even stock heroes can be over-powered in BFME, moreso in BFME2, and the custom heroes can completely break the game. But I made one anyway!  >:D That's Ithilia, the distaught elven holocaust survivor in the prologue narrative. The game will balance her brokenness a little (possibly a detail coded into the fan-patch?) by preventing custom heroes from leading assaults into territories. More on this later.

So I'll be having one elf helping the dwarves; but she'll factor less into the game than you might expect. Also, the dwarves have some elite human help, at their option, which considering the odds stacked against me I ended up using a lot. We'll see how that goes.

Enough introduction to the game for now; but I'll be dropping more explanatory gamenotes as I go along.
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!


And the One Song to Rule Them All is Gimme Shelter - Rolling Stones

"If its a Balrog, I don't think you get an option to not consent......." - bob

Sir Slash

One AAR to rule them all.....  :notworthy:
"Take a look at that". Sgt. Wilkerson-- CMBN. His last words after spotting a German tank on the other side of a hedgerow.



Ithilia awoke in a softly lit darkness, her last memory being of hitting the floor while casting out her despair upon her allies. She felt hungry, but not greatly so; and sore, but not greatly so. Also, her clothing felt warmer and less ragged. Feeling carefully around, she decided that someone had mended it.

Altogether, she inferred that time had passed, perhaps a few days. She hoped that she had been cared for by dwarven women -- and then decided such niceties didn't much matter anymore.

A smell of food wafted inward from the door to her room, which when opened revealed a tunnel just long enough to dampen down much noise from a small kitchen beyond. The dwarves at work there noticed her emerge, and apparently thinking she wouldn't understand, made polite gestures for her to sit nearby while a messenger was sent -- and breakfast was brought.

About an hour later, Ithilia was being escorted into a campaign-room. Several maps with different markings, temporary and permanent, lined the walls; and another one lay spread out on a central table. King Dain arrived in the otherwise empty room while she was admiring the artistic details; Gloin, Gimli his son, and King Brand the human man, along with a few more dwarven advisors followed.

"Good, good," the grandfatherly Gloin nodded in kind appraisal at her appearance, though Ithilia knew for a fact that she must surely out-age him a century or more.

"Glad to see you awake and fed," said Dain more crisply. "We've work to do, and lots of it. Before we start deploying our forces, we need to know our situation as far as possible."

"So you'll fight," she almost stated, but that seemed insultingly obvious. "Thank you," she said instead, using a formal Khuzdul expression reserved for gratitude to royalty. "I know we'll be too late," she almost added, but restrained her bitterness: it couldn't be helpful now.

"What I can add to this," she started, "is... wait, where are we?! Is this you? Are we here, no longer beneath the Lonely Mountain?!"

"This wasn't a withdrawal!" Gimli huffed. "We needed to make arrangements!"

"Wars are won at the end of a spear, but first the spears and axes must be gathered and arrive. Dwarves well know that an army marches on its stomach," chuckled Dain. "That starts, in this corner of the world, in the Iron Hills. Our presence is thin on the ground nearly everywhere else."

"Don't worry; we'll be surging soon. I wouldn't be here, away from Dale," said Brand, "if I didn't trust my allies to know what they're doing."

"Make our heart strong; then, our arms; then, crush the foe." Dain seemed to be quoting a dictum. "If we win, that will be why." 'If', Ithilia noticed... "So, again: tell us about our enemy's dispositions."

"And our allies," added Brand. "How do Rohan and Gondor fare -- do you know?"

"Underprepared, no doubt," she answered. "But then, neither has the enemy put forth anything like full strength. They have thinned themselves, striking first where they saw their enemies thinnest. I will need to make contact with the rangers among my people, in order to give you current news. But from what little we've gathered so far, this seems to be..." She started lightly sketching with different chalk.

"That can't be us!" Gloin snorted.

"It isn't, though it is. For now," she answered. Before she could clarify, Gimli muttered, "They shall answer both yes and no," to small chuckles. If that was a joke about elves, well, she couldn't exactly complain she fit the joke! She joined the small chuckle, and grimly continued:

"All I have done is leave over the parts of the map unclaimed by others for now -- but Thranduil arranged that small elven convoys should try to sneak resources out to dwarven posts at your edges, from these areas. Until they are overrun by one of our enemies." She wiped a bit of chalk that tickled her nose. "Even a little for now may help. So, for now, treat all this in red as helpful to you. Next week, expect something different.

"Here on the southwest corner, surrounding the White Mountains, are the lands held by the human kingdoms of Rohan and Gondor -- mostly Gondor. And somewhat only outpost colonies. Technically they would say they hold these areas up to the mountains of Mordor, too, but in reality the Gondor rangers can only keep a thin presence for tracking the infiltration by the enemy. Osgiliath itself, the jewel of the river, has fallen into disrepair and could easily -- "

"What nonsense is this?!" Dain exclaimed. "You think their commanders have marched away from the capitol city?!"

"My sources, before I arrived here, suggested that was the plan: to let Gondor stand as a tempting target, able to shrug off initial assaults, while they spread out to defend Meduseld, the Rohan capitol, and Helm's Deep, as well as retake the Old Brown Lands from Mordor's influence. Then, as well, they would send a captain north with forces -- into the Fangorn forest area, currently allocating resources by elven convoys to you, you're welcome," she dryly reminded them, "to be ready to retake Lorien or, more likely, cut off Saruman at Isengard Tower."

"A daring initial thrust of a plan," mused Brand.

"An arrant, horseheaded plan," Dain declared. "I hope they succeed," he tried to be diplomatic in adding, "but I won't bet on it. Hmph. We'll end up having to do all the work ourselves..."

"And there," Gloin sadly pounded a fist in frustration, "lies the ruin of the West." Ithilia noticed that although he had lightly struck on Angmar, his hand came to rest in the Shire. Well, he had friends there. Once.

"The Witch-king isn't sentimental, so he has given much of his former territory to the Goblin king -- thus protecting his main source of flooding numbers, and creating a more-or-less willing slave population." Ithilia outlined the purple area with a finger. "This green, meanwhile, shows the extent of his fullest reach beyond them. Including Rivendell now," she sighed. "But remember, he effectively controls operations for the Lidless Eye as well, and they shall surge from Mordor soon." She tapped the blue region. "Saruman, as I reported a few days ago, looped his forces around from the west, to strike over or rather from under the Misty Mountains onto Mirkwood and Lorien simultaneously. They hold, in effect, this brown area now."

"...but not Dol Guldur?!" Gimli marveled.

"No, not yet. We think the enemy thought that investing Sauron's old fortress, where he once worked as 'the Necromancer', would be far too obvious, and set his strongest enemies racing to reinforce too quickly. That plan worked," she grimaced, "and so, although my people drastically thinned his numbers, Saruman can reach out his hand and take it at his leisure now -- for his Dark Lord."

"Can he?" Dain muttered. "Can he. Hm."

"He can," she confirmed. "The last I heard, he had collected his surviving, victorious troops, and started marching south, no doubt to threaten Rohan next and to seize that dread -- ... what?"

"I," Dain declared, "will not let him have that fort without a fight."

"...what!" Ithilia blinked, wondering if she had truly awakened yet. "You have troops there already?"

"Pah, no. But I can get a steady trickle there quite quickly. We have long dug highways beneath Middle Earth, including here, and devised mechanisms that, while they cannot move many at once, can put those few at speed. I had already sent some builders down to check the tracks to potentially... problematic areas, before leaving the Lonely Mountain and coming here, with you, to plan and stage.

"Yes! -- I will start by building fortresses in the lands to our south, in Celedor where Brand's settlements flank the River Running, and in Dagorlad where that Last Alliance of Men and Elves fought Sauron long ago. Dagorlad first, actually," he pondered. "We cannot afford to start two fortresses yet, and that, along with Dol Guldur, is the key to our homelands from Mordor. So we start denying them. Brand, I'll start a fortress in Celedor next week. And we'll want you there, in case Isengard tries to move back through Mirkwood toward us." The man nodded in understanding. "Gloin, take your son and hurry to Dagorlad, find a fitting place to make our fort!"

"Eh, that land is worthless," the sullen elder judged. "I cannot guarantee we'll be able to get a small fortress going this week."

"Fine, just find a place to start. Whether Dol Guldur falls into Isengard's hands or not, Dagorlad will be an important cornerstone of our defense.

"I will march with our first dwarves already packed and provisioned, to Erebor. Once we have secured our heart, I expect to be our first arm to land a blow."

"From the Lonely Mountain?" Ithilia wondered. " mean to reclaim my home!"

"Yes, as a start. I have a fairly obvious plan beyond that; one I don't think our enemy has much appreciated yet, nor will if we keep them distracted."

"I will come with you, gladly!" she cried.

"No, my lass.

"I expect you to rush to Dol Guldur."

"Win or lose," the dwarf king roared, "they won't be expecting this party!"
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!


(Not yet time for) The Defense of Dol Guldur

The way the real-time-strategy gameplay actually works in this game, I can't feasibly keep the narrative going during the fights. But I'll switch back to narrative during the weekly interludes.

Let's talk about the strategic map setup first. The way this game works, teams necessarily start at set glowing territories, which differ somewhat depending on how many teams will be playing. What I didn't know at first, but which I discovered to my confusion when I started my first game and found my dwarves based in Mordor (!!), was that in order to make sure everyone gets placed where you want, you have to reverse-click all the capitol areas and then click them again in the order of the teams you've set up.

Because the game, in this mode, is trying to be balanced, each capitol territory starts as far as feasibly possible from other capitols; which works out okay 'historically' except in two cases for a six-player game: Rivendell and Lorien are both assigned capitols where a team must start; and Gondor would be too close to Mordor's capitol so the map designers assign the southwest-corner team to Rohan's territory instead.

That makes sort-of-quasi sense, but if there aren't two elven teams in the strategic game then at least one non-elven team has to start in an elven capitol! -- which explains some of the loopy story convolutions I'm having to angulate around. Hopefully what I've come up with sounds plausible for fighting back against a catastrophic early gain by Team Evil.

Aside from various map setups with different numbers of players, the other main choice was whether everyone should start with only one territory (the glowy capitols) and go from there, or whether everyone should start with a roughly equal number of territories. There are map setup options both ways. I decided for narrative drama it made much more sense to start with territories already established. This also gives Team Evil an early boost to production which will keep Team Dwarves(AndMenAndAFewElves) on our toes staggering around. Team Dwamaafe needs all the dwama we can get, yo!

This did mean I had to explain why on Illuvatar's green Earth the dwarves held land all the way through Dol Guldur(!) to Rohan's Gap(!!); but I figured early that was a moot issue since there was no way Team Evil would let me keep any of that past the first few turns.

(By the way, in case you are suddenly wondering, yes there are ents in this game, but they help the elven team not me, and there is no elven team in my setup for this campaign: so the ents' contributions are moot.)

(I chuckled waaaaay too hard at that.)

This led quickly to the question of what to build on my first turn. Go back up a post (past the pun dog meme), and check out my territories on the map, especially in closeup. Each territory grants at least one, up to three, plots for me to build structures. Assuming I have enough funds, I can build any one of four possible structures (with repeats as I like) per week in any or all of those territories. They won't go into effect until the following turn (or week as I'm calling the turns for narrative convenience), but they provide functions not only on the strategic map afterward but on the tactical maps for those regions during a territory defense.

Those structural options are (for the dwarves, but all factions have similar functions):

mines, which generate income per turn (and also every few seconds on the map during tac battles);

barracks, which can be used to train missile or melee squads (but only melee types during tactical);

forge, which can be used to generate two types of siege unit, a melee type and a missile type, and which also upgrades some troops per turn with all possible bling automatically (but on tac maps those have to be researched for each battle, and applied manually to any unit without them -- at cost both ways!);

and a fortress, which on the strat map just allows heroes to be recovered if they're not on the map for some reason. Most of the time this function is completely useless, as it's difficult to get rid of commanders even if you kill them off on a map they lose (as long as they have somewhere to safely retreat.) On the tactical map, though, fortresses start off plopped on the map, which is a costly and time-consuming item otherwise! Forts are very important for defense, and also generate some income (though not as much as mines).

Some territories come with large forts already on the map, however -- like, for example, Dol Guldur -- and on those maps, small forts can't be built, either strategically or during battle. Usually those territories also only have one extra plot available for something else (most of the territory already being, after all, a large fortress).

You should be able to see why I'd want to not only start by plopping as many forts as I can at the start; but also -- since I have the opportunity -- try to defend Dol Guldur. Small forts cost 1500, so I could have started by buying one, in Dagorlad being the most usefully obvious place, and then spreading the remaining money out on mines, such as in Erebor, Celeduin, and Rhur. In fact, that was my plan.

But I was so excited by my plan that I forgot to actually buy the structures. #:-)

So... yeah, that puts me one turn behind as a handicap, at the start. Good job, Jason, good hustle. {clap}{clap}...{clap}

Thus also my little narrative explanation that Gloin thinks they'll have to do some extra scouting to find a place for a fort in Dagorlad.

Incidentally, this game's flavor text treats "Dagorlad" as being the plain where the Last Alliance fought against Sauron; and the "Dead Marshes" being a different territory next door, in front of the "Black Gate" territory (where it should be). I'm not sure how canon that distinction is; I got the impression the dead bodies in the marshes were left over from the final battle? Whatev. Maybe the writers couldn't come up for something to say about Dagorlad otherwise.

Oh, a few more things about how the strat-map works. Squads can be generated either directly on the map by structures (once they're up), or can be 'paid' to stay on the map out of the map's remaining balance for the turn, so long as that doesn't go below zero. And once paid for, the squads stay available on-map permanently. (Until manually disbanded to recover some cash, or until destroyed in the Tac battles.) Squads can be shuffled between any number of groups, up to the inherent command limit supported by the territory, or by a commander: squads can only attack enemy territories if they're attached to a commander; and commanders can allow a territory to easily exceed the number and type of squads allowed by the inherent command points.

What this means, for my first turn, is that I could move my starting squad by itself one territory at a time through any area owned by Team Dwamaafe (including the golden areas, although I can't build there -- those are the Men's responsibility). Or I can attach them (in any combination of their squad numbers) to one or more commanders, and those commanders can move two territories per turn -- in friendly areas. But the commanders are also the only way for my squads to get into enemy territories. So I had to make a decision where to put my starting troops for best effect, and I figured in the early game I could chill somewhat on my defense and put those guys with a commander for an eventual daring thrust later. (I chose Dain as their commander for purely thematic reasons since this thrust would be launched from Erebor, the Lonely Mountain.)

This plan will have to be adjusted if I lose my first battle defending Dol Guldur, as more of my core starting territories will be opened up to invasion. But, more importantly for this turn:

custom heroes (like Ithilia) are treated as troops. Not as commanders.

She can only defend an area, not attack on her own, nor carry troops with her (though she can travel defensively with a troop batch); she needs a commander to attack.

So for attacking purposes, I'm only going to have four options: Brand, Dain, Gimli, and Gloin.

But I don't know this yet. I think sending Ithilia to DG could be setting up a daring second thrust. But what I do quickly realize, is that Ithliia doesn't seem to be on the map as a distinctly unique piece, and she can only move one territory at a time like a squad.

BUT: like a hero currently offmap, she can be summoned to a fortress! So once I earn the money, and get the time, I'll be able to teleport her across the map to help defend Dol Guldur!

...assuming I last that long.

Because I'm starting there with NO SQUADS WHATEVER!

(...sort of.)

And the enemy is bringing four heroes (all from Isengard's team), plus a small starting group of one sword, cav, and missile unit (attached to Saruman).

You may be thinking, eh, Wormtongue, really?

Let me tell you a story: a story where Wormtongue, by himself, hacks down the chief keep-fort of Dol Guldur.

That really happened. I watched it. And couldn't get anyone to him in time to stop it.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Ahem.
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!


(Now it's time for) The Defense of Dol Guldur

Ohhhh yeah, I can see why Team Evil wants this place.

I can reaaaly see why Team Evil wants this place! Everything visible there is part of Dol Guldur fortress -- and a lot more offscreen. But I've selected the "fort" part of the fortress, the central keep. If I had a portable keep (for want of a better term), I'd have a few more options, but selecting this one brings up the basic functions: training a builder (I start with two already in any battle, including this one -- you can see them about center screen); summoning an off-map hero (Ithilia will cost 2440 by the way, and she's only level 1, and I only start with 2500 for a battle this early in the game)... annnnd nothing else really. Except paying for faster repairs, which is an option all my buildings have. My dwarves will go out and slowly repair hurt buildings during a peaceful interlude, but I can pay to get that done faster and/or during a fight -- and sometimes, depending on how much ruin remains, I can pay to rebuild. Forts are the only place I can get new builders, so if I lose my builders and lose my fort permanently, any buildings I lose afterward can't be rebuilt. But at that point I've probably lost the battle anyway.

Um, that's a topic to return to later. Ahem.

For now, I haven't played a battle in BFME2 in... maybe eight years? And never this map, much less while defending this castle. So I have no clear idea what I ought to be concentrating on. I presume (correctly) I've got a large wall ringing me around with a gate or two (or three as it happens in this case) for the enemy to have to pound through before I'm in trouble. So I've got a little time to prepare to meet them. To prepare I'll need cash, and while my fort is slowly generating some, mines would generate more. So I need to build mines quickly and early while I have a chance to benefit the most from them.

Consequently, I spend 1000 gold (of my 2500+) on a couple of new builders first. Why?, because then I can build mines faster I guess? And some other things between mine building faster? I dunno, I'm playing this by ear: I'm just using the DG map as an opportunity to practice where if I lose, well, I was going to lose it anyway.

Around this time I see the little flashing blue "25" over above the minimap (lower left of the screen), and remember that this is where I buy special abilities for the battle. Left-click that and...

Okay, each player starts the campaign with a basic number of power points, 25 in my case. Those points reset after each battle (no matter how many battles per turn), and sometimes they increase by a few points during the battle as my troops score kills. (My troops; not my structures, a key point for how I tend to fight. More on this soon.) The total can also increase depending on certain territories held by the player on the strat map: I suspect Isengard right now has a higher starting base of power points per battle than I do, for example. (Reminder: I'm fighting Isengard here in my first battle!)

The chart there is explanatory: as I choose a special ability for this battle, it opens various paths to other abilities, and deducts the cost from my point total. The three at the top are, from left to right:

"Rallying Call", which grants temporary 50% morale and armor bonuses to any squad within the (rather limited) target radius;

"Heal", which heals very substantial amounts of damage for all non-mechanical troops (not catapults for example) within a large target radius;

and "Repair", which totally repairs any structures within a moderate target radius (no matter how damaged or how large their hit point totals).

I could buy all three and still have 10 points left over to choose something from Tier 2. Which for this battle I do, because I recall Rally being very helpful back in BFME1's story campaign missions. I will be revising this judgment after this battle; but meanwhile I can afford one more 2nd tier power. Being unfamiliar with them, I mistakenly pick the one on the far left, "Undermine", which automatically plops down a free mine anywhere I can (validly) choose on the map. (It has to be large enough flat ground.)

I said I mistakenly chose that, because in the long run or even the medium run this power isn't very useful, and I can't even use it in the early game: all these powers have to charge up first! It can damage enemy squads by erupting up underneath them (thus "undermine"), but then they recover and kill it quickly. It generates profit like a regular mine, and presumably can level up over operational time like a regular mine, but if I still need a new mine that badly by the time it charges I'm probably in too much trouble and could use something to save me with some offensive punch -- not a mine that the enemy will probably be rolling over and crumbling twenty seconds later! Dwarven mines do have the theoretically useful ability to teleport large numbers of squads (nine at a time I think!) between mines with the mine network, so I could in theory pack a an army into one mine, deep in my base, and then spit them out all the way across the map by Undermining up -- if I have a scout unit spotting through the fog of war for me! This, to be honest, is what I think I want to try, and so is why I picked it. But in practice, I might as well spoil here that I never bothered using it more than once or maybe twice in my whole campaign. Basically it's better to scout with an army and then drop in more butt-kickers by other methods: there's a squad limit based on "command points", and while a new mine does help raise that, by the time I train new troops to replace squads being lost in an assault, and get them blinged up enough to be useful in an assault, I will probably have lost any mine near the enemy. So plopping it near the enemy base for that purpose would be useless.

But eh, lessons learned later. We'll call those foresight lessons in hindsight. Or something.

As I'm waiting for my 3rd (1st new) builder to train up, I scroll around most of my nifty dark fortress, and not only locate my three gates, but also learn that my left and right gates have two dwarven catapults each already set up on pillars flanking the gates. I don't notice that my central gate also has a pair of flanking catapults already set up, because they're set on pillars on my side of the approach bridge leading over the river and to my gate -- so they have a much wider opportunity shot radius than at the other two gates. (I'll show those eventually, don't worry.)

I also don't notice, because I don't recognize what I'm looking at, that my main wall, and several places in my inner walls, have a bunch of towers with dwarven axe throwers already in them. They don't shoot as fast as my dedicated dwarven axe towers, and I can't upgrade their axes, but believe me their tally of whittling the enemy adds up.

I do see enough to be glad I tried to grab this place before Saruman did, because it's gonna be a nightmare trying to take it from a prepared defender!

On with the preparations. I have no clear ideas yet where I should most effectively start building mines for this map, but I make some initial guesses.

Here, for example, behind this nice strong gate that I haven't opened yet, farther up into the backside of my fortress where my builder will have to loop around to reach because I haven't opened that gate yet...


But in my defense, how ignorant or cheap is this wall design!? A looping path with exactly one gate in it? The enemy can just go around it! Oy. Nor can I build new walls (or a portable keep) on maps where I already have a large fortress, so I can't fix that design flaw!

Still, I'm not one to talk about ignorance: I set a builder to make a mine there behind a closed gate that I don't bother to open, and about which I've made a natural inference that there's no open way to reach the area. #:-)

While I'm introducing my "Introduction to Losing A Tactical Battle", I might as well zoom into my builder options so for future entries if I talk about one of them there's be some context:

From top to bottom those are:

Mine -- already discussed in detail. I may not have mentioned that mines automatically but slowly upgrade while they operate, to produce more gold and also to be a little more reinforced against spoil attacks. (This may be unique to the Dwarves.) At the 3rd, top level, mines add a small axe tower for short range active defense.

Barrack -- this can be upgraded twice, manually, at cost. It trains the two basic melee squads, swordsmen and pikemen. At second level I can buy the ability to buy banner sergeants for squads; these give some morale and (I think?) attack bonuses, and allow for slow medical regeneration in the field. At third level, I can buy up to three small elite dwarven berserker squads (but they can't be upgraded unlike other squads); and the barracks gets a small axe tower if I recall correctly.

Archery yard -- upgradable twice manually at cost. It trains dwarven axe throwers at first level; and human archers of Dale at second level. At third level it gets a small axe tower, and opens the option for me to buy the option to buy a fire upgrade for my archery squads.

Forge -- upgradable twice manually at cost. It trains an armored dwarven battering ram machine at first level, and also a goat-pulled battle wagon. The battle wagon itself comes with a few dwarven axe throwers, and can be upgraded with some spearmen from Dale; or with a banner providing extra bonuses in a small radius; or with a hearth providing moderately fast healing effect in a small radius. As I will discover later, these things are far more fragile than I expected from something called a DWARVEN BATTLEWAGON; and to compound this problem, they zip around much faster than any group they're assigned to support, meaning they zip ahead into danger where they get easily munched. At second level, the forge can make catapults -- a truly game winning unit -- and opens up the option to buy two abilities: double melee damage to buildings (especially nice as a global passive ability that doesn't need more buying to activate), and magical runes for any melee or squad-thrown axes (which must then be bought separately for squads). At level three, the forge unlocks fire shot for the catapults, and mithril mail shirts for squads (both of which must then be bought specifically for squads).

Before I forget, have I mentioned that dwarven catapults work on ballista principles (like reverse crossbows), and so are strong enough to throw two rocks long-distance at once?

Because I love dwarven catapults. :smitten:

Let's see... next down the icon list...

Axe Tower -- these things are quite well armored (though enemy artillery can take them down easily in two shots); are tall enough to fling axes over most walls; and each can be upgraded at additional cost after building to use runed axes. I love Axe Towers as much as Dwarven Catapults. Maybe more, since they have no command limit and I can tower spam to my heart's content -- even on fortress maps!

Hearth -- this somewhat fragile thing speedily heals and recovers lost troops in squads (as long as they have one unit remaining), within a moderate radius. Very handy for setting up a defensive point.

Statue -- this surprisingly-fragile thing (though a little tougher than the hearth) adds very nice buffs to all troops within a large radius. Again, very handy for setting up a defensive point.

Column -- blacked out because it can't be built on fortress maps by defenders (such as me for this battle). Takes a while to build the first one, but even one of these can rule a map eventually. We'll see why later.

Keep -- also known as a fortress or fort, but I'll call it a keep. Expensive, but ultimately very useful for reasons I'll get to later.

Meanwhile, I've been sending builders around fishing for the best places to build mines.

This isn't necessarily a good place, for example, because it not only lacks some open ground, but it also overlaps two other already-plotted mine radii (those are the pink arcs on the ground). The game tells me this with a percentage effectiveness in the center of the mine-shadow (where the mine hypothetically could go if I clicked the placement button); also by making that percentage yellow instead of green. Eventually I'll put it farther to the upper left of that screenshot, in a nice open courtyard not far from the left gate, where I can get 97% effectiveness.

At this point I set my first builder (who has finished his mine in the main keep's small courtyard) to building my first barracks; and I'm pondering whether to go with a forge or a range from my next available builder, when I hear: "OUR STRUCTURES!"

The minimap tells me with a glow that my central gate is under attack. I proceed to partly ignore this by focusing on starting some axe towers near the two mines closest to that gate.

That mine is in a nice open area between my central and rightward gate, by the way.

My barracks are ready, but I figure I still have some time -- the central gate looked thick, and my minimap isn't flashing there anymore so I guess the enemy got tired of knocking and went away. (Not really -- my pair of front catapults, which I don't know about yet, knackered whoever was knocking more likely, although small heroes can sneak out of catapult range by getting right up to the gates.)

I recall from BFME1 that the banner upgrade was highly important for unit survival, so I plan to buy that before getting around to any actual squads. Meaning I also have to invest in level 2 upgrading for the barrack. I set to building a range next, also in the keep's courtyard. I don't realize until later that every building I add within a mine's radius decreases its efficiency! -- but on the other hand, what use is a mine's efficiency if I don't have troops to win the map?

I'm putting in second axe towers near my main mines when I hear, "They're after our buildings!" again. Eh, better scroll over to the main gate and see if it's nearly down yet...

This is when I discover I have rock throwers for shattering enemy units attacking this gate, too -- somewhere off to the left, off-screen! (I'll show them later, but unlike the other gates they're so far away I can't show them and the main gate at the same time very well.)

These six starting dwarven catapults can, sadly, never be upgraded with fire shot -- but dang they can crumple foes! Much to my surprise, the central gate looks pretty stable so far.

Time to buy banner carrier tech, and my first actual squad: axe throwers.

While I'm waiting on that, I mouse around my environs more, unable to find any (surviving) enemy troops nearby. Wow?

Oh, therrreee are my front gate catapults! As you can see, they also serve to guard the central approaches to the left and right gates. There are fords across the river, too, near those gates, but the enemy AI likes to march troops around the path there anyway -- getting sniped by axe throwers in towers that come with this fortress, which I don't know about yet. THIS PLACE IS AWESOME I WANT TO KEEP IT SOOOOO MUCH! :D

...I don't have to be a Dark Lord to keep it. It... it can just look scary, uh, to strike fear into the hearts of cowardly and superstitious criminals. Yeah. :bd:
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!


Ah, my axe throwers are already ready already; and I can outfit them with banners now.

One of the many, many nifty touches in this game, is that squads will kind of lounge around if nothing is happening (juggling throwing axes in this case), but if I run my mouse cursor over them they snap to attention -- before I've even selected them!

With news of another assault on Central Gate, I march the throwers over to it; testing to see if they can ballistically hurl over the gate.

Much to my not-surprise, they can't. And this time Isengard has sent troops with burning torches or something, along with two or three heroes (including Grima Wormtongue? who has a glowy sword?!) My catapults are doing work, and for whatever reason most of the squads aren't attacking, but what's there has done more damage to my gate already than all other previous attempts combined!

So. It has come to this, has it? Time to stop messing around getting ready, and to get ready. Readier.

By "readier" I mean, time to buy level three on my range, and then see if a new squad of Dale Archers can shoot over the gate ballistically.

My catapults whittle down the enemy squads on the stairs, but their heroes have taken the gate down to half points already...

Oh, my dwarven repair power has long since charged up? Giggity! :D

That'll buy me some time, but I'm not sure my catapults (despite noble efforts) are even quite reaching the enemy heroes, except maybe with a bit of random splash damage, and Grima is turning out to be amazingly effective at hacking down dark iron gates of forebodance. I can also set the gates to autorepair, but not while they're under direct attack, although once started the repairs can keep going during attack. This also costs gold, of which I have an increasingly reasonable amount as my mines slowly level up. But I'm spending that on getting an archery squad ready right now.

And also on sending a couple of builders to flank the main gate with a pair of axe towers. You can see the first one starting to build at the bottom of the screen, and the second one's proposal around the green crosshair.

As my fire archers arrive (not as strong as elven archers I suppose, but still my best ranged unit), I also send builders to set up a hearth and a heroic statue. I suspect, although I'm never quite sure, that statues buff axe towers, too; but anyway I like to have them around in case my squads need to rush over to plug a gaping gate hole.

My archers can't shoot ballistics over the wall either; but I can put any unit inside my axe towers for protection and, in the case of missile units, to add shootyness. This I do; by which time my new towers along with the cats have already gotten rid of those pesky heroes. For now.

It's around this time, as I'm exploring my perimeter again, that I discover I have missile towers built into the outer wall perimeter.

Squee! Does this place come with a flying saucer, too!!? Those towers are no joke either: they may not shoot as fast, and can't get rune upgrades, and can't be replaced once destroyed, but they're tougher than my normal axe towers.

Unfortunately, even with missile squads in them, the two towers (no relation) I posted around the central gate don't always have a good angle to shoot at single heroes hacking at it, and they've come back and whittle the gate to half strength again. Fortunately, my "repair" skill has recharged, so I spend it for a free instant fix on the gate again. Time to start my forge (and unknowingly cripple my first mine some more by adding another building nearby); and send my second archery squad to the front gate.

While trying to get an angle to place a tower at the center of the front gate, for better coverage, I learn how to rotate my camera. Hey, this looks rather better!

Ha, I feel like a giant, disembodied eye, floating above my dread fortress, looming over all who dare opp--



Aw, dangit, my new tower still can't get a good angle on whichever enemy hero that is hacking at my gate -- although the AI is scared enough now that it would rather put its nearby squad back far enough on the stairs to be pulted rather than toweraxed!

Dwarven berserkers are cuing up by the way. These, as I will discover in my first few battles, aren't nearly as useful as I was expecting.

With one Uruk berserker swacking at my gate (he's the bald mostly-naked commando who rode the siege ladders to the top of the walls at Helm's Deep in the second movie, and lit the bomb -- something that Isengard could do in BFME1, by the way, but which I never saw in BFME2), and my repair not recharged yet, and not having figured out yet how to get rid of him...

...I hear an alarm from my left gate, which confuses me since I've flipped the camera so that now it looks like my right gate. But isn't. {inhale}

After wasting a bit of time reorienting my camera so that my keep is 'north' of my central gate (also allowing me to better see who's hitting it, namely that Uruk commando), I glide over leftward to see AGH!

There's quite a little horde at that gate! More than my cat pair can deal with easily. As the snapshot shows, I'm sending a builder there pronto to reinforce with an axe tower (and after the snapshot I send another for a 2nd tower).

I find the new dwarfserkers, and rush them there in case the gate falls before I can arty back the attack, and I train up more archers, setting their rally point near the gate so they'll arrive without microing them. (Meanwhile, you may not be able to tell from that snapshot but there's a squad of enemy archers marching around the outside wall methodically nixing my irreplaceable towers. One falls while I'm doing this. It leaves a hole in the wall, but fortunately no units can climb the grade there. Including my builders, so I can't repair the hole or replace the tower.)

I barely remember to "repair" my main gate in time; this assault is distracting me, and eventually that commando will get through if I'm not careful. Both new towers behind the left gate are up now, and I think I've repelled the attack -- but the downside to having cats next to the gate is that their splash damage also hurts the gate!

With the arrival of new archers (buffed up), put into a tower, the gate is saved. For now. Floating back to my keep, I buy a squad of pikes, just to check them out; and then I remember I can afford to bring in Ithilia now, so I pay the cost at the keep (or, now that I notice, the "castle" rather.) She'll take a few minutes of battle-time to arrive.

The commando has almost hacked through the central gate again, and while I suspect it'll last until I can throw the "repair" ability I also get word of a few enemy squads coming up the bridgeway. And even though they'll be crushed by my pults eventually, they might contribute enough damage to put down the gate.

So heck with it: I open the gate. That's what they wanted, right? RIGHT?

Oh -- guess they didn't want a storm of axes from the towers plastering them, huh. Note to self: sometimes opening the gate is a good idea!

Ithilia has arrived at Dol Guldur by now -- heroes, and the builder pool, show up as icons across the bottom. She's an archer whom I designed with a lot of passive abilites, so I won't have to micro her much, especially until she levels up a lot.

In the process of opening the gate (surprise, ha!), I discover that the pay-to-repair button only lights up once enemies have gotten away -- but that once it lights up, I can choose it even if enemies come back. So that's handy (and I have plenty of cash to do so.) I take the opportunity to set our left gate to repair itself, too. The repair button doesn't do an instant repair, the way the Repair skill does, but I find it's pretty quick.

Since heroes move relatively quickly, and even 1st level heroes are tough to kill, they make good scout/recovery units, so I send Ithilia out the leftward gate to one of the three signal fires on the board. Once claimed (and all have been claimed by Isengard long since), they help recharge special abilities faster. The enemy has to run a bit of a gauntlet to get there and claim it, but since that has clearly happened already I decide to send a couple of builders out as well to tower-up around the flag.

I soon learn that it takes more than two axe towers to kill a squad faster than it can retake a flag, but eh; had to make the experiment. Three or four towers next time, got it!

Back at the front gate there has been a new and perhaps portentous development:

The computer has finally realized it needs to do something about my catapults on the bridge, and so has sent bats to gnaw at one of them. They've already taken off half its strength by the time I notice -- and worse, there's nothing I can do about it!

Sensing that I may need to take the offensive before I lose half my main central gate defense (duh), I group up Ithilia and the three dwarvenserker squads to rush down the bridge to the middle signal fire (the one an attacker will surely be able to get without trouble). An assaulting squad trotting by draws her bow, and her ire, and her attention before she can claim the flag.

They also give her enough kills to level up, thus unlocking her first leadership bonus which continuously and passively grants nice buffs to any nearby allies (like my berserkers). I chose her initial skill to be a passive archery damage buff, by the way -- and I took several upgrades for those as my picks so she'll continue getting better at them throughout the game.

With my serker squads chasing down enemies (who are basically ignoring them), and Ithilia sniping people who go by -- the AI is concentrating on getting that signal flare back in the upper left corner, a little stupidly -- I have a minute to remember I haven't upgraded at my forge yet. Time to buy that research!

While there's a lull, I gather a disparate group of dwarves, along with Ithilia, and rush them down the bridge again, meeting another group of about equal numbers heading up. For kicks, I spawn an Undermine in their path, as close as I can (can't get near the bridge edge because that isn't flat but curves down for draining water -- a subtle artistic touch that doesn't otherwise affect the game at all.)

Hm; can't really tell from that snapshot, but I threw a group to the left as the mine is erupting (which takes a few seconds).

Frankly, my group is a mess, scattering around trying to hit enemies who are marching away. I need to gather everyone together more effectively and run them down past the bridge to find the enemy's camp and...


...wait, what?

What did that say?


My opponent forfeits this region to my superior might?!


How could I win!? I haven't even managed to destroy a single one of their buildings yet, and their troops are getting more numerous and tougher with each push and...

...I mean, look, even the GAME thinks it was way ahead!

At first I'm afraid I've accidentally activated a limited attack time, which could be deadly for me when it's my turn someday to hit a fort. But eventually I figure out that the game has been programmed (possibly by the fan patchers / updaters) to resign if certain somewhat-randomized thresholds are passed. In this case, looking at unit stats, my guess is that their unit count sharply dropped too quickly and too far compared to my troop totals during the last quarter minute.


I won a defensive action I was sure I'd lose!

Naturally, this was only due to Dol Guldur being a great fortress to defend. But does this mean the game will be a cakewalk?!

(Answer: no. No it does not.)
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!


(Note 1: you may be asking yourself, "Self, didn't Jason say something about Grima Wormtongue, of all people, hacking down Dol Guldur's castle by himself?" Yes. Yes I did. I said that was a story for later. I didn't say how much later.)

(Note 2: don't worry, I won't go into nearly as much detail hereafter -- this was the first fight and I wanted to explain as much as possible for people who haven't played the game. If you skipped over a lot of those textwalls, no biggie.  O:-) )
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!



"Well, who would have thought it!" Gloin smacked his mailed fists together in triumph. "The elvish lassy chased old Sharky out of Dol Guldur!"

"And Saruman, too, don't forget!" added Gimli, as the father and son made final preparations in marking off where to start the fortress. The elven courier team had already vanished in the nearby brush.



"Sharky. That's what I hear the orcs call Saruman. 'The Old Man' in orcish."

"I thought Sharku was the name of the filth who trains his warg riders. You're gettin' old, pa, the couriers clearly said -- "

"And I heard from Brand who heard it from scouts who captured Isengard scouts, that it's Saruman!"

"Maybe we're both right?" Gimli shrugged, in an offer to placate the stubborn elder.

"Well, we're both right that this is the only feasible spot to build our fort," his father grumped. "We'll send a message to Dain, that he can account for our expenses now. He'll know how much left over he can spend on digging new mines. Two I reckon."

"Where, I wonder?"

"I'd put one in Rhun, behind us; there's room for three good mines in that area easily. And a new one in the Iron Hills; we'll want troop production there soon, but we need operating expenses for that."

"Makes good sense. We'll be tied up here; no reason to put them in that silly extended tongue the elves are keeping for us down to the Rohan Gap; and even putting them on the edge of Mirkwood would be foolishly exposed."


...yeah, I slept between making that plan and implementing it. I figured I should fairly report how duh my early decisions were. In my defense however:]

"Now, while that would indeed be premature," Gloin mused, "with safer sites prepared already, Brand and Dain should march on this week into Mirkwood and secure it from Isengard. Once they do that, we'll have shortened our defensive line, and then any resource mines we build in Erebor and Celedor would be protected. Besides, Erebor has the Lonely Mountain itself as a stronghold."

[Gamenote: As you can see from the snapshot, I am in fact moving those two, along with my initial few troops, into Mirkwood this turn. So, the mines won't simply be exposed to the front line. Not unless Isengard manages to throw me out this turn...]

"And speaking of shortening defensive lines, hurray for... who was it, that ranger Aragorn or King Theoden of Rohan, who moved into the old brown lands south of here?"

"Eh, I wasn't paying attention either," Gloin grumbled. "Aragorn I think."

"You think we should march down to the Dead Swamps and cut off Mordor's access out of that mountain bowl of ash?"

"Pft. Let him do that; it's Gondorian territory after all. And a huge marsh of dead people."

"Good point. I just hope whichever human commanders are currently in that Fangorn forest -- "

"Boromir of Gondor, and Eomer of Rohan. I think."

"-- I hope they have enough sense to stay there to repel any sallies from where Saruman is camping in the Lorien area."

"Oh, aye. The humans are running around like chickens with their heads cut off. That can only lead to disaster: they need to secure what they've got first!"

"Or even what we've got! The elves are ferrying us resources out of there," Gimli reminded his pa.
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!



"What were you even thinking?!" the livid Ithilia shouted at Eomer.

"I'm thinking you don't understand how cavalry think," he grunted, half to himself, as he prepared the week's march. "We split out of the way so that they would march into a trap. They take Fangorn, I come around from the rear to retake Lorien; Boromir and Theoden return from Helm's Deep to push them out of Fangorn. They have nowhere to go. We'll give you Lorien and Fangorn back when we're done, of course. By holding Dol Guldur -- a brilliant stroke by King Dain, send him my compliments while he's forting up Mirkwood -- you acted as a hard rock spiking out of the grassland, for our enemy to pivot around since they couldn't go through it. But we can. Two weeks from now, Isengard will be finished."

"Unless they go to the Old Brown Lands, which are undefended completely now that -- !"

"And what if they do? We consolidate behind them, and push to catch them between us and Aragorn, or perhaps between us and Gondor's stronghold. Two weeks from now," Eomer promised with a grunt as he mounted his steed for an aggressive scouting raid. "You'll be thanking us, and we can concentrate on our true foe, the Witch King."

"Assuming Aragorn stays to hold and reinforce the Dead Marshes, I suppose..." Ithilia quietly allowed as the marshal of the Riddermark rode away.

ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!



"I suppose it would be poor form," King Dain muttered while waiting for King Brand to finish climbing up beside him on the Carrock, "to send congratulations to our human allies, for recovering a bunch of empty forests while losing literally all of Rohan."

"A fine view," Brand huffed a bit as he finished. "We can even see the Mountain from here!"

"Really?" Dain squinted and stood on his tiptoes. "If you say so."

"I wonder why this rock looks like a giant bear -- with giant steps leading up here to the head?" The steely eyed archer king squinted down in some confusion instead.

"I wonder if Gondor will ever be able to sort out that tangled mess of knots down south. Fah," and Dain spit, expertly clearing his beard and moustaches. "Well, at least we've solidly accomplished our first goal: forge a path to the Misty Mountains."

"Easy enough without any opposition, except a squad that ran away from here to be stomped on by Eomer," Brand reminded his royal ally. "My fellow men have had harder choices."

"Nonsense. They could and should have stayed put and made themselves invincible with perhaps one limited sally to seal off Mordor at the Black Gate and Minas Tirith. Instead they gathered at Rohan to begin -- and still ended up trying to seal off Mordor! With insufficient force!"

"They didn't have a secure rear area as we did, Ironfoot. Only an orbit around the White Mountains which they couldn't spread out far enough to defend. So they tried an, admittedly, messy offense."

"And now have lost Rohan anyway. Including Helm's Deep! Sheer folly."

"Well, they have solid dwarven allies to depend on, don't they?" the human king stated somewhat wryly.

"Aye, lad, that they do. And with mines spread out behind us back into Rhun, we'll be swarming down to put boots where they belong in no time. There," he added to an aide, pointing at a small plain some distance away. "We'll put our fortress there. Get to work." The aide heaved a breath and started the long climb down the tall stairs. "What about a mine in Dol Guldur itself?" the dwarven king chuckled with a golden glint in his eyes.

[Gamenote: in hindsight, I should have put a forge there. This would have allowed me to give free full upgrades to any troops I moved into the area, and I wouldn't have had to build a new one during a defense.]

"I assume we'll be stopping here to fortify the area and gather a proper invasion army. The only question is which way to invade..." pondered King Brand.

"No question at all; but we'll cross those mountains later. The situation might have seriously changed by then -- but not a disaster on my end, if so!" Dain declared. "Send ravens with word," he added to another aide. "Get an invasion barrack started at the Iron Hills this week. We'll set up barracks closer, too," he assured his human friend, "but should your fellow men lead us to catastrophe somehow, then we'll always have a way to pump troops forward from safety."
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!



"Get those barracks humping!" Gloin shouted to workers already doing that. "Durin's beard, have the Men got anything left at all?!"

"Six territories," the elven courier answered, quite certain he had passed that information along already. "After Mordor marched from the Black Gate."

"Aye, and by next week they might have three. They're cut off from Fangorn," growled Gimli, "so Isengard can retake that at will; and really, Gondor will be too busy to bother with it. Angmar and the Goblins are marching around the White Mountains on both sides as we speak, snipping off Gondor's southern coastline as they go. Mordor will easily take Osgiliath at least; and that will leave Gondor, what? Gondor itself, plus Cair Andros and those old brown lands to our south. If they're lucky. And I don't think they're that lucky."

"Well, the Men served as a distraction, no doubt." Gloin folded his arms and glowered. "Soon, it'll be our turn. They've bought us time to grow our finances, and to prepare our troops. Though the Enemy has also had all this time to do the same, and with more land. And strictly speaking, we don't have troops ready yet either."

"It's a good thing Dain has finally ordered barracks scattered out behind us," Gimli agreed. "But I wonder... will they be enough?"

Both looked south, where the hour had come for Boromir and Aragorn to draw their swords together, in a defiant attempt at taking the Dead Marshes from a sizable army of Mordor -- not quite by themselves, since Theoden would be bringing a ragbag army out of Cair Andros, fleeing the fall of Rohan.

But leaving Cair Andros undefended, as Isengard and its northern allies approached.

"...what are we going to do, pa." More of a statement than a question.

"Well. We'll just have to kill every stinking, twisted elf thing that dares to creep on our doorstep.

"And then, when they're all tuckered out, we'll advance a step. And then do it again. Until they don't dare to crawl out of their holes.

"That's how my grandfather did it. That's how his grandfather did it. And it's worked pretty well so far."
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!



"And where exactly do you think you're going?" Ithilia demanded as the tattered and dirty Riddermark marshal prepared his steed.

"North, into your home forest, if you must ask. I hope the welcome there fares better than here," Eomer muttered in addition.

"We have no less than seven enemy commanders within striking distance, some with sizable armies! Do you care to explain this with some cavalry logic? Or are you just running away?"

"Like the outer darkness, am I going to sit here and defend this cursed place for you! Certainly not against that! I ride for the north. You'd do best to come with me, and set up defenses for your home. Maybe this time your experience will serve you better."

"I have set up the best defense available for my ruined home: this wretched place. With stout allies."

"Who all crept away in the night, over the past weeks, and left you here alone! Because they hadn't been paid!" Eomer thundered. "Such allies! Come with me, and shoot from my saddle. You seem a noble woman; I would be glad to have you."

Ithilia's face steamed red. "-- my husband of many decades has yet to be found where he fell in the forest, not two months hence, and you, with your living rotting body, you dare --!"

Eomer was already waving off her wrath. "Not remotely what I meant." He paused just a moment to think about that answer. "Not what I was offering," he tried again. "But my offer will stand. Until I fall, or you do.

"Or until I find someone else to act as mobile archer with me instead, I suppose," he shrugged. "Stay as you see fit; see if your dwarven friends will give their lives to help an elf to annihilate herself, in her grief."
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!