THE ARMIES OF MORGOTH: Middle-earth Army suggestions for Oathmark fantasy battle rules


01 April 2021
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Words by Graham Green Photos by The Author

In the last issue, Mr Green gave us his take on Tolkien’s Elves, Dwarves and Humans from the First Age for any use in Oathmark rules by Northstar. This time he goes all evil! Ed.

In this, the second part of the Armies of Beleriand, I will be giving you possible options for creating the Armies of Morgoth for use within the Oathmark rules system (Morgoth is, of course, the chief evil within Tolkien’s created realm and all that came later seem to be his minions, servants, slaves and so forth. Ed.). It is my intention to use the statistics and points of equivalent racial types that already exist within the core rules, and, where applicable, assign a suitable statistic that also already exists in the rules, to a race or character that exists in the First Age of Middle-earth. In this way a player can chose these options without any need for house rules or alternative stats.

In this article I have used the plural ‘armies’ rather than ‘army’ because – over the 600 years of the first age of Middle-earth and the wars that raged in Beleriand – Morgoth fielded several armies, each with different commanders and each with slightly different structures, depending on the needs of the campaign at that moment, and I will cover each of these and apply them to particular battles.

I won’t go into the history of Morgoth and his war against the Elves as Tolkien did it a lot better than I can. However, I will try to keep the various options for forces chronological for the times, and loosely based around the major battles of (what are collectively known as) The War Of The Jewels, of which there were five. Within this chronological framework I will introduce the various creatures, and character types that can be used as commanders as they appeared in the histories and the make up of the forces that they commanded, as with the last article there will be no distinct ‘army list’ for these forces, merely suggestions of suitable force make up.

To start with, The first character is Morgoth himself, Morgoth was a Valar – a god – and as such was imbued with the power of that race, however he only ever fought openly himself once. He usually worked through other agents and – to field him in a tabletop battle scenario – would be all but impossible: his personal stats and cost would be astronomical compared to the rest of the units on the table, so I am not suggesting any options to actually field him (he’d look good as ‘off table artillery’, mind you... Ed.). Morgoth’s realm was called Angband and was essentially the entire extreme north of Beleriand with his fortress being Thangorodrim. Please refer to the map in the last issue.

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ARMY LISTS

The First Battle of Beleriand 

This was fought just before the Noldor Elves returned. It was mainly fought against the Sindar and Silvan Elves (this was in fact the only large engagement that involved both these Elven types and led to the creation of their relevant realms).

Morgoth’s forces for this battle were two large formations of Orcs, with possibly Troll units as well, these had been bred by Gothmog (the lord of the Balrogs) and Sauron whilst Morgoth had been in Aman, and they were large brutal forces with very little sophistication, and featuring Orc commanders, so that’s where we will start.

MORGOTH’S ORCS

This is where our first problem arises... In the Oathmark rules, Goblins and Orcs are distinct races, with the usual range of troop types, however, in Middle-earth, Goblins and Orcs were alternative names for the same creatures, so – to counter that – I will be using the stats for both races from the rules. The reasoning behind this being that the ‘Goblins’ are in Tolkien, just smaller, less powerful Orcs.

For this early part of the First Age, Morgoth’s army was large but untried, this was the first attack on the Elves of Beleriand, so I am suggesting an army made up of some of the weaker troop types. This means that points wise they are relatively cheap and the army on the tabletop is consequentially larger, recreating the look of the events from the books. As with the ‘good’ creature types in Oathmark the Goblins and Orcs are separated into various creature types: for the early battles of Beleriand I will draw the forces of Morgoth mostly from the Goblin list. This consists of:

1. Goblin King

2. Goblin Advisor

3. Goblin General

4. Goblin Captain

5. Goblin Champion

6. Goblin Spellcaster

7. Goblin Soldier 

8. Goblin Spearman

9. Goblin Archer

10. Goblin Slave

11. Goblin Slave Slinger

 

 

As the Goblin list elements for this army are purely the soldiery, I suggest instantly reducing this list by removing Classes 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 11. This leaves us with class 5, 7, 8, 9, and 10. I suggest at least 60% of the army should consist of these class, with at least 50% of those being from Class 7, 8. And the other 50% being from class 9 and 10 and with most units having a Champion (Class 5) in command.

The rest of the forces should be mostly from the standard Oathmark Orc list:

 

1. Orc King

2. Orc Prince

3. Orc General

4. Orc Captain

5. Orc Champion

6. Orc Spellcaster

7. Orc Soldier

8. Orc Spearman

9. Orc Archer

10. Orc Warrior

11. Orc Linebreaker

 

 

Again, from this I suggest eliminating Class 1, 2, 4, 6, and 9. I would suggest an Orc General (Class 3) as the Army commander with a bodyguard made up from class 11, the rest of the 40% of the whole army I would make up from Class 7, 8, 10. As an addition to these I would add an option of a Troll unit, using the standard Troll statistics from the rules.

For unit Formations, I suggest forming the largest units possible with all types, with a minimum of 15 figures but mostly the maximum 20. As you can see this is a very large, and brutal force with little finesse, however – at this time – Morgoth was attempting to overthrow the smaller Sindar and Silvan Elven forces with pure weight of numbers and this army reflects that.

 

The Battle Under Stars

Immediately following that first battle, the Noldor arrived in Beleriand with the intention of battling Morgoth, and they fought the second battle. This one was known as the ‘Dagor-nuin-Giliath’ (Battle Under Stars): this battle was fought by the forces of Feanor against a third large army that was sent against them by Morgoth. For this battle the basic Morgoth forces should be the same as those for the First Battle but with the addition of Balrogs: Demons of Might.

This was also the first time the Balrogs were sent against the Elves. Although they weren’t involved in the early stages of the battle, I will discuss the characters and possible stat options at the end of the article.

The Glorious Battle

The third battle of the age was known as the ‘Dagor Aglareb’ (The Glorious Battle). This was fought approximately 60 years after the second battle against the Noldor forces of the house of Feanor, and the House of Fingolfin. It was engendered by Morgoth because he made an erroneous assumption and sent out a force to defeat an enemy which he didn’t think was actually prepared for war: he worked on the principal of attempting to overwhelm the Noldor with numbers as he had attempted against the Sindar and Silvan in the first battle, however – in the end – the Noldor defeated this force so completely that it led to a 400 year long siege of Morgoth’s Realm of Angband.

For this battle, I would suggest the same forces as the second battle, but without the Balrogs. Due to the utter defeat of Morgoth during the Dagor Aglareb, the Elves were able to besiege Angband for four centuries and this became known as the ‘Long Peace’, however it was not completely without conflict: in that time there were various raids by Orcs and the Battle of Lammoth took place, as well as the Battle of the Gelion-Ascar Stockade (this was the first major battle between men and Morgoth). Additionally the flightless Dragon ‘Glaurung’ – Morgoth’s latest ‘secret weapon – made an attempt at breeching the siege.

For any battle fought during the Siege of Angband I would again suggest using the same forces as the Third Battle but with the optional addition of ‘Wolf Riders’ from the standard Oathmark lists to replace 10% the Normal Orcs, this reflects the more mobile forces used to raid during this time.

 

The Battle of Sudden Flame

The Fourth Battle – called the ‘Dagor Bragollach’ (Battle of Sudden Flame) – was the main turning point in the shift of power in Beleriand. This was a disaster for the Noldor: the siege of Angband was broken and the Orcs were able to defeat the Noldor and push them back. The forces for this battle should be split 50/50 from the Oathmark Goblin and Orc lists as laid out above. In addition I would suggest additional Troll units.

This attack was led by Glaurung the Dragon who had, by then, come to his full power. As with the Balrogs I will discuss stats for him at the end of this article. As Tolkien stated that Glaurung also had Balrogs in his army, I would add a unit of two basic Balrogs to this force. This shows the gradual improvement of Morgoth’s forces with increasing percentages of the more powerful Orcs over the lesser Goblins, and – with the addition of more Trolls and the unit of Balrogs – this force will be very difficult to stop, which is exactly how it should be.

 

The Battle of Unnumbered Tears

The Fifth Battle, Nirnaeth Arnoediad (The Battle of Unnumbered Tears) was the last battle of the War of the Jewels and, essentially, smashed the Noldor forces in Beleriand. The only main Elven strongholds left facing Morgoth after the battle were Nargothrond, Doriath and the City of Gondolin.

Morgoth’s forces for this stage of the war should be at least 75% from the Orc list rather than from the Goblin list, with a possibility of using any of the known characters. In addition, in the list for this battle there is an option to use a unit Humans: men of the East – or Easterlings. For their stats see the first article in the last issue.

 

AFTERMATH

After the Fifth Battle the power of the Elves in Beleriand had been effectively destroyed and Morgoth’s forces essentially roamed wherever they wanted to. As I mentioned, there were a few enclaves of resistance left but each of these fell one after another: Nargothrond was destroyed when it’s army was defeated by a force of Orcs under the command of Glaurung; Doriath fell after fighting among allies when it was attacked by other Elves and a Dwarf army. Finally Gondolin fell to a large force commanded by Gothmog, although he himself was killed in the battle. 

After the fall of Gondolin, Morgoth’s victory was pretty much secured: all of the major Elven cities had fallen and the Elves were isolated into a few small areas. It was at this point that the War of the Jewels effectively ended and was replaced by the War of Wrath: at this point the Valar themselves came into the conflict in command of a host of more Elves from the Undying Land. This later conflict was so terrible it destroyed the land itself and Beleriand fell into the sea. Additionally, Morgoth was captured and was imprisoned for the rest of time.

As you can see, Morgoth’s armies improved over time, and – with each ‘advance’ – they slowly took the initiative until they defeated even the might of the Noldo: try to reflect that in an army you wish to field.

 

COMMAND MATERIAL

Orcs also roamed around Beleriand in the later years as forces without specific character commanders, and the make up of these forces can contain any combination of Orcs or Goblins you may chose with the addition of Trolls, with an Orc general in Command.

For a First Age ‘evil’ army you can use whatever structure you see fit, and you can use the core Oathmark rules stats for most units straight out of the rules, however there are some creatures and characters that need to be added which are definitely not listed within the Oathmark lore.

To enable us to use these creatures and characters without having to create completely new stats, I have given them the stats from creatures that are already in the rules. This doesn’t mean that the creatures as listed exactly reflect the Middle-earth creatures, it just enables us to use the rules without having to justify new stats and it also enables us to use the points as listed if you want to play a points battle.

I will list each of the major characters and the stats I have assigned to them below.

 

SAURON

Sauron was the chief lieutenant of Morgoth and – like his master – he preferred to work through others and rarely took to the field of battle himself, however when he is present, he will be in command of the army. Sauron was a shape shifter and was known to use a couple of different guises: for variety I will list the three major forms he used below and the different abilities he had in each form.

Humanoid Sauron

When in his humanoid form, Sauron resembled an Elf, and could wield a degree of enchantment, so – for this form – I suggest using the stats for a Level 5 Elf spellcaster. For his spell selection I have chosen a list from all the different race’s spells that are in the rules: these reflect his ability to enchant but note that none of these spells are ‘physical’ ones: in Middle Earth the magic was subtle, and very few could wield it, and even then it was more of what I would call a ‘psychological’ magic effecting the mind. 

Spells

Courage Brace Resolute

Confound Battlerage Fury

Fear Weakness Shape change (CN9)

Shape Change is an additional spell that Sauron can use once in a game: if successfully cast he can shift his shape to one of the other shapes listed below.

Sauron can only cast spells in this form (in fact Sauron is the only character of either side that can cast spells), and the magical items rule is removed from his stats.

Giant Wolf Sauron

When in this form Sauron uses the stats for a ‘Wulver’. 

Giant Bat Sauron

When in this form Sauron also uses the stats for a ‘Wulver’ however he has the ability to fly. When in this form he can grow or reduce his size; he can use a 25x25 base when ‘man’ sized or a 50x50 base when giant sized. When he is man sized he loses his ‘horrific’ special ability, but he can join a friendly unit.

Sauron’s Body Guard

Sauron will always have a bodyguard of two Giant Wolves with him when on the battlefield, these will always stay within a move of him. They will also use the ‘Wulver’ stats.

As you can see Sauron is a very powerful character, however he will not involve himself in direct physical combat if he can avoid it

 

GOTHMOG & THE BALROGS

Gothmog is the lord of the Balrogs. Balrogs themselves should use the ‘Dragon’ stats, however they cannot fly (they don’t have wings) and they cannot breathe fire.

Gothmog is the only Balrog that can Command an army. Only a single unit of two Balrogs (in addition to Gothmog) can be used.

DRAGONS

The only Dragons that can be used are Glaurung and his spawn, however none of the first Dragons could fly. Glaurung can command armies, though, and has two specific stages to his abilities.

Young Glaurung

When he was first encountered Glaurung was young and could not breathe fire, so – when used with an Early Orc force – he will be in this form.

 

Older Glaurung

When he next appeared Glaurung was fully grown. Consequentially, he can now breathe fire, and – additionally – he may have a unit of two other Dragons under his command, however these do not have the breathe fire ability. 

 

OTHER CREATURES 

Wolves

A force with Sauron in command can also have two units of normal sized Wolves with it.

Spiders

There were two areas in Beleriand named Ered Gogoroth and Nan Dungortheb. In these two areas were the spawn of Ungoliant, the mother of all giant spiders. Her spawn were smaller (but still giant) evil spiders that were not allied to either side and so those two regions were avoided by both sides. In a game one side edge of the table could be designated as one of these areas and if a unit of either side goes within a move distance of that edge they may be attacked by a standard Oathmark Giant Spider (1-5 on a D10).

 

EPILOGUE

I have found that creating the lists for the evil side in Beleriand is rather harder than creating lists for the good side. The reason are that there are very few actual options: Morgoth always used the Orcs as his soldiery and attempting to make these armies ‘fun’ or ‘interesting’ can be a challenge, but – as you can see above – I have attempted to do that.

Oathmark and the Middle-earth setting are both perfect for ‘narrative’ based games, ones with a specific scenario and goals for each army, and this is how I normally play my games (see my earlier article on scenarios). If however you do wish to play a points based game, the Oathmark points system works well for Middle-earth in so much as it gives the Orcs and Goblins lower points than the Elves, Dwarves and men and, as such, the army fielded by an evil commander will always ‘outnumber’ the good player’s army in a physical sense. Other than as stated all the normal rules in Oathmark are binding with these lists.

I hope you have enjoyed this article: as I said it wasn’t the easiest one to do, but if you disagree with my opinions that’s perfectly all right with me too: at least look at these as a possible starting point for your own imaginations. 

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