LotR: Heroes of Sauron

Deep in the southern reaches of Mirkwood can be found the evil fortress of Dol Guldur, once hiding place for Sauron himself and a stronghold of evil far from the borders of Mordor.  It is from here that Sauron massed the forces to launch his assaults on the Elves of Mirkwood and Lothlorien and strike north against the Dwarves of Erebor and the Men that lived in its shadow.

Among the varied foul creatures that comprise the forces of Dol Guldur are a detachment of War Trolls.  Smaller in number than the Trolls that accompanied the host of Mordor in its siege on Minas Tirith, they are still a strong part of the force of this dark tower.

As I built my Dol Guldur army for SBG and WotR, I wanted to include Trolls for several reasons.  Though "overpriced" in game terms for most smaller armies, Trolls provide nice value in medium and large forces...even more so after the Monster buffs introduced in the Hobbit version of the rules.  They are also very impressive models to see in play and let's be honest...monsters are just plain fun.   

Games Workshop makes some very nice Mordor Troll models that represent the beasts as PJ presented them in the Return of the King.  But for my Dol Guldur army I wanted them to be more unique. My thought being that these beasts regularly do battle with the Elves of Mirkwood - far more dangerous of a foe than Men of Gondor which the Trolls of Mordor have been trained and equipped to face. And where better to start the them with a Troll Chief.

You can see my WIP of the process here

To help them stand out a little I started by removing the two metal "horns" from the helmet and filling in the gaps.  I then crafted some additional armor in the form of a chain mail mantel coming from the helm and helping protect the neck and head and a similar chain mail guard around the waist and upper legs.  This was my first significant GreenStuff sculpting effort and I'm relatively happy with it.  I started by creating two waist pieces out of GreenStuff, cut in the shape I wanted and shaped while flat on a piece of wax paper.  I then wrapped them around the model as if it were being put on as parts of the belt, one on each side.  This allowed the pieces to drape naturally on the model's contours and blend in with the pose (if I would have been working directly on the model the pieces may have had artificially straight lines that I may not have picked up on during the sculpt itself).  I let these dry fairly well and then used the tip of a modeling tool to impress a chain mail pattern into it, being careful to leave the edge.  This same basic process was used for the mail hanging from the helmet.  I also fashioned a heavy belt from GreenStuff so that the new waist armor would have something to hang from and scared and weathered it slightly before it finished drying.

The normal weapon for the metal Mordor Troll is a mighty hammer.  Though this is perfectly acceptable even against the Elves of Mirkwood, it just didn't stand out enough.  So I also gave the model a unique weapon - a double mounted morning star.  Back in the Good Old Days, Games Workshop used to sell many bitz (individual small pieces normal packaged as parts of their models) for their Lord of the Rings range.  You could get specific heads, or arms or half of a horse, etc. In time though they stopped doing that, but while it was still available I took advantage of it a few times.  One such time I picked up two of the maces used on the Witch King model.  I trimmed the handles off of these, and cut the end off of the original hammer.  I then fashioned a tip to the hammer's handle in which I placed the chains from the maces.  I gave the arm a little additional positioning by pinning the arm to the body at the angle I wanted (as opposed to the original position designed for holding the hammer) and filling the gap with GreenStuff.  The hardest part of this modification was making the chains hang at in a realistic manner but I think I got it right.

Finally, I wanted him to really look "in the action" with his foe.  To do this I took one of the plastic Wood Elf models from my collection and cut the base off of him.  I picked one that was running with his sword held high above his head and a shout modeled on his face...this gave the perfect pose.  I had to trim his cloths a little and do some repair work on his boots, but for the most part he looked the part needed.  The Troll was a harder effort.  This arm is normally held pretty far out to the side and is no where near the position needed to be holding a victim.  To get the Elf to be held properly I needed to do some major work.  I started by cutting the arm at three points (just below the shoulder, at the elbow and at the wrist).  I then cut and reshaped the fingers a little to go around the Elf (remember that I did some trim work on the victim's cloak and cloths so that the hand held it more realistically).  I then used some pinning work to get the rest of the arm segments in a good position so that the Elf looked like it was being scooped up and brought face to face with the mighty beast that was about to end its immortality.

I have this model standing on a custom base I made by gluing a Back 2 Base IX 25mm base onto the 60mm base that came with the Troll, with some rocks and GreenStuff shaping.  I wanted to make this look like the beast was heavily engaged in combat deep under Mirkwood's eves.

War Trolls in the Strategy Battle Game

** The following notes are specific to my experience with War Trolls.  I will update this to better reflect the additional benefits (and challenges) of the Troll Chief. **

In the Strategy Battle Game system, Mordor Trolls are actually pretty effective.  If you allow them to get surrounded they will go down pretty quick but if you play them intelligently they can cut through a lot of basic troops or help you take out enemy Heroes.  They are very effective at holding important positions in scenarios or helping to break an enemy line so that your rank and file warriors can exploit the weak points.  One of my favorite actions is to have a Hero in combat with the Troll call an Heroic Fight.  Between the Hero and the Troll you are almost assured victory and can then hop them forward into other fights either together or spread out.  And since the Troll can take on multiple foes in a single turn (remember that warning about being surrounded though!) these follow-up battles can be equally effective.

The biggest risk to Trolls in SBG are magic (being Immobilized or Transfixed is almost certain doom) or being surrounded while in combat with a high-Fight model such as a Hero.

War Trolls in War of the Ring

Sadly, in the War of the Ring game system Mordor Trolls are a bit of a let down.  The main reason is that they use the Hard to Kill table (see my discussion on Hard To Kill or Not ).  Though they are a Defense 7 with Resilience 2, when working alone they just don't have the staying power.

However, if you have a couple of these to help spread out enemy attention and you use them as support forces for your normal troops (such as charging a flank when your main warrior blocks clash) then they can be effective.

I am lucky enough to have a total of three of these models from various collections, sets and trades over the years, so getting several into an army is not beyond my goals (I don't have to buy them!).  For my future ones I will be doing the same armor modifications to be sure they look like they are a consistent part of the same Dol Guldur army.  I won't be doing the same work on the left arm that I did for the Elf-grip, and will probably leave the hammer in place (with perhaps some minor changes there as well).  As such it will be easier to get the others completed and in play.

I have played this model as a Troll Chief and have found it to be far and above better, as expected of the Olag-Hai.  I am looking forward to getting an actual Troll Chief so that I can use it and combine it with my more standard War Trolls.


Khamul the Easterling

Lieutenant of Sauron, Shadow of the East, Commander of the forces of Dol Guldur


Khamul is probably my favorite of all the Nazgul.  Except for the Witch King of Angmar, he was the only one given a name and significant background by Tolkien.  He was also the one that took charge of the dark fortress of Dol Guldur when Sauron fled from there back to Mordor and he eventually lead the forces from that stronghold against the Elves of Lothlorien and Mirkwood during the War of the Ring, returning on his Fell Beast to assist with the siege of Gondor.  The cursed stronghold at Dol Guldur, it's influence on Mirkwood and the ongoing struggle of the Wood Elves living there and their eventual break out attacks against the Free Peoples near the end, has been one of my favorite side-stories in Middle Earth once I was old enough to start putting all the pieces together.

Khamul in the Hobbit Strategy Battle Game

In the Strategy Battle Game, Khamul was a little more combat focused than the unnamed Ringwraiths in the game, which really served as supporting spell casters for the most part.  If mounted on a horse, or even better on a Fell Beast, he was able to dish out damage and leech the essence from his foes to remain strong (in SBG the Nazgul need to spend a point of Will every turn they are in combat and Khamul could regain Will from foes he slew).


Khamul in the War of the Ring

In War of the Ring, GW went a bit overboard with the special abilities of the Nazgul, combined with the over-powered Magic and cheap points, turning them into something fearful but a bit cheezy.  Khamul is probably the worse of all of these.  He has a special ability which allows him to bounce hits off of his Formation and direct them elsewhere.  If it was limited to his Company then this would have been enough, but covering his whole Formation turned him into perhaps the most over played and under-priced powerhouse in the game.  As a result, when I field my Dol Guldur army I now feel very cheezy having it led by Khamul, though he is the most appropriate of all the Nine to do so.  Hopefully GW will reign some of this back in with a future update to the game system.

The Khamul model is attractive.  It retains most of the look of the Nine as they are portrayed as nameless, terrifying servants of Sauron, almost indistinct from each other.  Beneath his flowing robes you can see his helm and remnants of his ancient garb.  His pose is dynamic but not over the top.  His appearance helps him stand out as unique without casting aside the full appearance of the Nine from the stories and films (some of the later named Nazgul really depart too dramatically in my opinion).



Sauron, the Necromancer

Early in the Third Age of Middle Earth, Sauron began to grow in strength again.  He set up a stronghold in southern Greenwood in a location that came to be known as the Hill of Sorcery, or Dol Guldur.  There he disguised himself as a dark sorcerer known as the Necromancer and hid his true nature even from the Elves that lived in the northern regions of the woods.  He began to draw all foul and evil creatures in the area to his service and in time, his evil polluted the area so fully that the woods themselves were changed and came to be known as Mirkwood.

Gandalf suspected the evil dwelling at Dol Guldur was powerful but most in the White Council believed it was a Ringwraith, not suspecting the truth.  When Gandalf learned that Thrain II, father of Thorin Oakenshield, was being held in the dungeons there he stole in.  Unable to save the Dwarf, he was given the key and map that allowed Bilbo and company access to Erebor, but also learned the true nature of the evil that was corrupting the region.

Despite the objections of Saruman, who was already falling into darkness, Gandalf convinced the White Council to strike at Dol Guldur.  The Necromancer had warning of their coming (perhaps from Saruman ) and though his forces were defeated, Sauron himself escaped back to Mordor.  The fortress of Dol Guldur also survived and in time was strengthened back to a mighty garrison which helped extend the reach of Mordor until it was utterly destroyed by the armies of Lothlorien and Mirkwood at the close of the War of the Ring.

The model itself is pretty good for one of GW's creations.  When they have something from the films to work from they have done a great job of presenting it.  But when they have used their own imagination they often "run home" to their 40K roots (oversized weapons, lots of skulls, etc.).  Thankfully the Necromancer really looks like an extension of the Nazgul concept of flowing robes with some armor calling out themes of both Sauron from the Second Age (seen in the prequel of Fellowship of the Ring) and the Mouth of Sauron as seen in Return of the King.  Most examples of the model are painted up in the fashion of GW's example which gives the robes a look of ghostly green.  For mine though I wanted him to look closer to his Nazgul servants in appearance.  So I did his robes black with a reverse-highlighting of green glow to the areas where his inner spirit essence may be showing through.  I think I am going to do a little more work on darkening the glowing regions but overall I am happy with him and believe he looks very good next to Khamul and the Castellans.

The Necromancer in the Hobbit Strategy Battle Game

In the Strategy Battle Game, the Necromancer is a formidable model but typically not the most "cost effective" for a game.  This may change if GW introduces a new or modified profile for his appearance in the Hobbit films.  

Currently he is dangerous in close combat but also wields significant magical power.  He can be worn down in time but with proper support from his forces can be a major power on the table.  

He has the Ancient Evil rule which gives a -1 Courage to all enemy models within 18".  This is a good start to his defense as he is also a Terror causing model meaning any enemy must pass a Courage Test to charge him.  The -1 Courage also helps when your enemy army is broken and you want to see them scatter faster and when you have other Courage based tactics in your force.

From an offensive perspective, Drain Soul is a very effective rule.  If the Necromancer deals even a single Wound to an enemy model that model will be slain.  This means no matter how many Wounds a model can take as long as it does not avoid a hit with Fate it will be slain.  In some cases there are strong opponents that don't have any Fate but multiple Wounds (Ent, Eagle, Boromir from the Fellowship).  In other cases where the model does have Fate it can often be burned-through via earlier attacks or your opponent may simply fail to make the Fate rolls.  In any situation the fact that you can kill the enemy model immediately without having to deal out large numbers of Wounds is very handy.

His only real disadvantage in a combat role is the fact that he has only one Attack.  His high Fight and Strength values are great for when he wins the dual roll, but with only one die to cast that's a risk.  It is important to at least have him supported by other models or have a banner near by...or both.

Beyond his use in melee, the Necromancer is also a very potent magical force.  He has the full staple of "Evil" spells to include Drain Courage, Transfix and Compel (and is almost guaranteed to cast any of them successfully with 2+ and 3+ targets), as well as Sap Will when you want to start wearing down a strong Hero.  He also has Chill Soul which allows you to deal a wound from a distance but the relatively high casting target makes it less attractive unless you're really committed to it with multiple dice.  It should be noted that Drain Soul and Chill Soul do not work together...you can't use the spell to deliver the wound and have it count for the Drain Soul auto-kill.

The Necromancer in the War of the Ring

In War of the Ring he has even more potential if it were not for one fatal flaw in his profile.  He uses the Hard to Kill ( H2K ) special rule, which I have found from experience is really not very hard to kill at all.  My Wood Elves easily bring down H2K models in a single turn of bow fire, and I've rarely seen one survive more than two combats in melee.  They are also easy prey to many special rule attacks and magic.  The Very Hard To Kill ( VH2K ) rule helps for stronger models by giving the dice a -1 modifier and effectively adding one turn of survivability to most models that have the rule.

Though the Necromancer in WotR has some good special abilities, strong magical power and a reasonable profile (including a high defense and a resilience of 2), that H2K has made me hesitant to play him so far.  I will likely start fielding him as my Dol Guldur army grows a little more, but under 2000 points I believe he is more of a liability than an asset.


Few of my models beg for new photos as much as this one does.  In person the model is far more subdued and the green "glow" more subtle of a feature.  The curse of flash photography...

My Dol Guldur army for both Strategy Battle Game and War of the Ring is mostly based around a solid Mordor army but themed to bring in the unique characteristics of the Hill of Dark Sorcery.  As such, the more regulated troops, the Morannon Orcs, are garbed in dark greens and browns representative of an army based in Mirkwood rather than the black and gray you typically see for Mordor.

As with may forces in the games, the generic Captains make up an important part of the army.  As I always love the dynamic action poses above the static poses GW sometimes uses, this is one of my favorite Captain models.  He has served me well in both game systems leading my Dol Guldur forces to victory...usually.

"A tall and evil shape, mounted upon a black horse… The rider was robed all in black, and black was his lofty helm; yet this was no Ringwraith but a living man ... his name is remembered in no tale, for he himself had forgotten it."

In the film version of Return of the King, the Mouth of Sauron is a pretty impressive character, even if only for a short time.  In the books a little more is revealed about him though his full details, like those of the Nazgul, are shadowed.  He was a Black Numenorean, and may have been in the service of Sauron for a hundred or even for thousands of years, possibly since the First Age.  We learn that he is the Lieutenant of the Dark Tower and commander of the vast Orc armies of Gorgoroth.  Had evil triumphed in the War of the Ring, it even seems likely that the Mouth of Sauron was to be given control of Isengard.

The Mouth of Sauron in the Hobbit Strategy Battle Game

In the Strategy Battle Game, the Mouth of Sauron is actually a cost effective, fun model to play.   He costs little more than an Orc Shaman or Orc Captain and can fill the role of both...and with more style!

With a successful Terrifying Aura cast early in the game (maybe even using his Might to channel it) you can limit the risk of being charged by many enemy forces. Should he be engaged in combat, 2 Attacks and a Fight 4 give him a reasonable chance of success.  If you equip him on his armored horse he becomes even more potent.

Among his magic abilities he can cast Transfix relatively easily which can give him or an ally a significant advantage in combat.

Only his 1 Might could be considered his greatest drawback.  Most generic captains have 2 typically so this puts him at a slight disadvantage from that perspective, but for only 60 points ( 75 with his armored horse) he's still a good bargain to bring in a mixed combat/magic Hero.

The Mouth of Sauron in the War of the Ring

I will expand on this with more details when I have access to my books again, but for now I can say that with both magic and combat capabilities he is an effective and flexible Hero for including in a larger army.

I have to finish the mounted version soon.  With the mobility and extra combat advantages of the horse, the Mouth of Sauron is an even greater foe in both game systems.