23 July 2022
Words by Graham Green. Photos by The Editor
If you have read Lord of the Rings you have undoubtedly heard the phrase ‘Men of the west’, especially in reference to Aragorn and the Dunedain, however, it’s only if you explore the other references and read the Silmarillion that you get to find out who they actually are and their rich history.
Hopefully, in this article I can bring them more to life and give you some insights into using them on a wargames table, firstly I will give you a brief history of them and then some tips on how to use them in a wargames army, lastly I will give you an idea of how I see them and suitable figures to use to represent them.
So, who are the ‘Men of the west’? I will give you a brief history here, however, for the full tale read Tolkien’s works (he was much better at it than me!).
At the end of the First Age of Middle-earth Morgoth the then ‘Dark Lord’ was defeated in a cataclysmic battle that was so devastating that a large portion on Middle-earth was destroyed and fell into the sea. This area was called Beleriand and it’s there that the Númenóreans had their origins.
The First Age was defined by the wars between the Elves and Morgoth During that time the race of Men awoke and three tribes of them migrated into Beleriand and allied themselves to the Elves and fought with great courage alongside them. These Men were called the Edain by the Elves, and amongst these tribes there were many famous heroes: Beren, Hurin, Huor, Turin, Tuor and Earendel (to name just a few). There were also joinings between the Elves and Men and – from one of those unions – came the twin brothers Elrond and Elros, these half Elves were given the choice of being numbered amongst the Elves and given immortality, or to become Men and remain mortal. Elrond chose to become an Elf and Elros became a Man.
As I said, at the end of the First Age, Morgoth was defeated in the ‘War of Wrath’ and Beleriand was destroyed, taking with it many of the Elves and Edain. Those that survived went into the Second Age homeless: the Elves resettled elsewhere in Middle-earth or returned to the undying lands, however those Edain that survived had nowhere to go: they were forbidden to go to the west with the Elves, but, – as a reward for their loyalty and courage – the Valar (the gods of Middle-earth) gave them a land of their own. The Valar raised up a star shaped island from the sea between Middle-earth and western Aman and guided the Edain to it. This island was called Númenor, and the Edain became the Númenóreans, and so Elros – retaining mortality (though very long life) – became their first king.
For around three centuries the Númenóreans stayed away from Middle-earth and – with the friendship and guidance of the Elves – became a great and powerful race, with longer lives than common men. They learnt many skills and crafts and grew into the highest form that mankind could attain, becoming great scholars and mariners. Meanwhile the remaining Men in Middle-earth dwindled in their knowledge and went backwards.
Eventually, the Númenóreans started to sail east and to explore Middle-earth. At first they came as benevolent visitors: they would land, contact the locals and even educate them and then they would leave, but – after a while – they started to set up enclaves on the shores of Middle-earth and stayed. They became lords, ruling over the original occupants. In this period, they also assisted the Elves of Middle-earth in their fight against Sauron who had survived the downfall of his master and – after feigning civility – had set himself up as the new Dark Lord. So great were the Númenóreans that they equalled or even surpassed the Elves of Middle-earth, and Sauron was swiftly pushed back. However – with that great power – some of the Númenóreans had started to question why they could not go to the undying lands and have immortality the same as the Elves. This doubt heralded their decline.
Sauron realised that he could not defeat the Men of the west by arms alone and set his mind to defeating them by guile. He surrendered to a great Númenórean army and was taken back to Númenor as a prisoner, but he soon corrupted the mind of the King (Ar Pharazon ‘The Golden’) and his followers and convinced them to build a great force and attack the Valar in the undying lands, to claim their rights to immortality. This resulted in the destruction of the Númenórean army the island of Númenor being pulled down into the sea and lost forever
The only survivors of this cataclysm were corrupted ‘Black’ Númenóreans who had already settled in areas in the far south of Middle-earth and the ‘Faithful’. These were peoples who stayed allied to the Elves and they fled the sinking land of Númenor in ships and created the twin realms of Arnor in the north and Gondor in the south. These realms that came together with the other free peoples and formed the last alliance which defeated Sauron and ended the Second Age.
The question is how to represent the Númenóreans on the tabletop? For my own purposes I use the wonderful Oathmark rules, with very few alterations. I think that they are excellent for Middle-earth battles, so I will run through how I use them for my Númenóreans. However, if you use other rule systems, I am sure its easy enough to recreate the uniqueness of this army if you follow these guidlines.
The first thing is to create their statistics, for Oathmark. This is incredibly easy: I just use the same stats as the Elves but with the points cost of Humans! This sounds like it can be a bit unbalanced, however – if you are like me and play thematic battles – the points are irrelevant anyway. But if you do use points to play you can limit the troop types used by the Númenóreans: this makes them a bit less flexible in battle, which brings the balance back down.
Allowable Númenórean unit types (using the Elf statistics) are:
Remember, you are using the Human points values so, for example, an Elven archer costs 24 points, but a Númenórean archer with the same ability costs 12 points: this is where the Númenórean army becomes powerful. However, this has a counter balance: – as you can see – the unit types available to them is severely limited. This represents the very disciplined and organised mind of the Númenóreans, but also shows their weakness in their lack of flexibility.
The first thing you’ll see is that there are no cavalry: the Númenóreans loved horses and were good riders, however they didn’t use them for war.
Instead, a Númenórean army was constructed of solid infantry blocks supported by massed archers. I represent that by limiting the units to only Spearman and Archers: they developed an all steel bow which was very powerful and it became a very large part of their strategic thinking.
The Linebreakers should be limited to ten man bodyguard units for the army commanders.
We only know of two Númenórean army ‘types’ those are Roquen and Ohtar. The Roquen are the knights: these are represented by the Linebreakers, whereas the Ohtar – which are the basic soldiery – make up the Spearmen and the Archers.
For unit to unit ratio I would try for a 50/50 split for spearmen and archers: the archers should make up 40% of the army at the very least.
All the standard tactics and abilities are as per the rules, but using the extra tactics listed in the Oathmark expansion Bane of Kings, we can add:
The Númenóreans used a defensive form of shieldwall called a Thaingail. This formation could bend round on each end until it met thus providing an all round defence. Effectively, this formtion incorporates both the shieldwall and square special formations, however as this is a defensive tactic: it should only be used when a unit is charged, never when it charges. The merging of these two formations makes a Númenórean infantry unit very difficult to attack from any direction, however it will take a unit a full activation to adopt this formation. As an extra ruling I would state that a unit in the Thaingail cannot move until it reforms its normal formation.
As a well organised and disciplined force the Númenórean spearman would also know how to operate in a block. This is represented by giving them the phalanx formation.
I would make these formations compulsory. This pushes up the points cost of the units.
However, what this means is that one now we have a strong body of highly trained Spearmen in phalanxes supported by large bodies of highly effective archers: this describes a Númenórean army perfectly in my mind!
How would the Númenóreans appear? This is the big question, and is – inevitably – one of contention, so I will give you only my take on the subject (and best to do it before Amazon ruins it for us all! Ed.)
One of the few known elements are the Kharma helmet drawn by Tolkien himself (look it up on the internet) and Tolkien’s mention that the Citadel Guard of Gondor and the King’s crown were ‘traditional’ in appearance. We can also surmise that they would have used mail as it was so widely used by all the races, but after that... what? From the fragments of their language and the known names I see them as a little more exotic than the normal Middle-earth look, plus with the 300 hundred years of isolation imposed upon them by their geography and other factors, that would again give them a different look and feel. For my own army I have tried to encompass all of that.
I looked for a range of historical figures that looked recognisable, but had that slightly more ‘exotic’ feel to it and I hit upon the Byzantines. In particular I like the Aventine Miniatures range of armoured Byzantines: these come in various poses but the really nice ones (to me, at least) are the shieldwall figures. I changed them from the standard Byzantine look by adding Oathmark Elven shields, and this goes a look way to giving them the right ‘look’, I think. Aventine also make archers which match the basic troops so – again – they tick all of my boxes. As a last effect I cast up a couple of the old Mithril Miniatures Númenórean heads wearing the Kharma helmet (it has a distinctive, almost shell like shape) and I gave many of my figures these new heads. I gave the King and his personal guard winged helmets (like the Gondorian ones). To me, I think they look perfect!
Colour wise we know that the Númenóreans used Red, Black, Blue and Gold so I have stuck to that. I have made them very regimented, and – as a symbol – I gave them all a single large star. We know that they worshipped the white tree, but I feel that that was used later by the faithful in Middle-earth: the island of Númenór was star shaped and they were led to it by the star of Earendil so – to me – the star is appropriate.
So there you have it, my take on the Númenóreans for Oathmark: a very strong but inflexible army, and it looks impressive on a table!
I hope you have enjoyed this article, it is obviously my own take on this army and you are free to accept or ignore all I have said here, but maybe you can take a little bit from it and form your own ideas. After all, that’s the beauty of fantasy and Tolkien in particular.
Looking for more?
This scenario was one of many that appears in Miniature Wargames Magazine, our monthly publication for all kinds of wargames! You can check out our latest issue, or previous issues by clicking hereGet your magazine here
One Day, One Whole Army...
If you have a stack of miniatures in need of painting, preventing you from bringing anything new to the table, check out this article, where we hear from a contributor who managed to paint an entire army in a single day!Get your paint on!
Join us in person
We can't wait for Tabletop Gaming Live 2022! An epic weekend in Manchester full of board games, card games, roleplaying games, wargames and more, with amazing exhibitors, great games, and an opportunity to game together in person.See you there!
Have you visited our game store? We have everything from mystery boxes, to games and accessories – including the above Power Rangers: Heroes of the Grid, with a great discount! Head over to find your new favourite game.Visit the Game Store
Sometimes we may include links to online retailers, from which we might receive a commission if you make a purchase. Affiliate links do not influence editorial coverage and will only be used when covering relevant products