I dusted off The Battle of Five Armies after a six year gap. This is a boardgame from Ares Games about the climactic battle of The Hobbit. The Shadow forces are sweeping down onto an alliance of Men, Elves, and Dwarves at the foot of the Lonely Mountain. There are a number of key areas to be controlled, but they are too far apart to support each other. If the Free Peoples can hold on, more help will arrive. Bolg, the leader of the Shadow force, must press the attack in a battle of attrition...
Read on, and click to embiggen! The vantage point is from over the Eastern Spur looking south across the valley, as the Shadow (played by yours truly) sets its eyes on the Front Gate to the west...
The Shadow vanguard pours towards the Running River from the broken lands.
Dale falls to the orc vanguard a second time.
|The next orc wave threatens Bard's position on the Eastern Spur.|
|Can Gandalf's blast of magic save Bard and Bilbo?|
|Bard dies at his post after inflicting heavy casualties. Bilbo escapes using his Ring.|
|The Free people regroup at the Camp, and Dale is threatened again.|
|The ruins of Dale fall to the Shadow a third time.|
|Gandalf and Thranduil sally forth to save Dale again.|
|A desperate new wave of orcs approach.|
|Bolg himself attacks Dale as a splinter group take the Lower Slopes.|
|The southernmost orcs take Ravenhill.|
|The strong elf counterattack is temporarily repulsed.|
|Bold manoeuvers on the Eastern Spur as Gandalf|
retakes the position and the Camp is threatened.
Dale has fallen to the Shadow a fourth time!
|Gandalf retakes Dale as the last orc assault runs out of steam. The Shadow loses!|
Having not played this for many years, I was impressed with how much fun we had. The clashes are many and mostly predictable with enough room for chance, while cards and action dice add thematic events and uncertainty as to your opponent's options. Combined arms attacks and choice of terrain give you a slight advantage. Meanwhile, reinforcing an area or pressing an attack leaves other areas denuded and inviting for counterattacks. The ruins of Dale exchanged hands so many times!
As the Shadow player, I was hoping to get goblins pouring out of hidden mountain passes in a bold flanking manoeuvre, but this never eventuated. I was keenly aware that if I dilly-dallied, powerful allies like the Lord of the Eagles, Beorn and Thorin Oakenshield would absolutely ruin my day. This meant that I had to press the attack rather than build up my forces. The outcome was never certain, and we both thought the other would prevail at different times in this desperate battle.
The Shadow's brief high-water mark was at 12 Victory Points after the taking of Ravenhill, but this was reduced to 4VPs at game's end. Holding 10VPs at the end of a turn will win the Shadow the game.
I hope you can appreciate what a fun story this refight told!
My opponent, Amnese, has published a 20 minute comparison of Battle of Five Armies and War of the Ring on his YouTube channel:
Check it out!