RECESS Report: Siege on the Borderlands

This is another game played at RECESS, the NerdNYC-sponsored gaming convention in Manhattan, that I ran on Sunday, January-16. It's a revised version of "Siege on the Borderlands", played using my Book of War draft rules for D&D, and a big ol' castle on a high bluff made for just this purpose. (You can see the previous playtest blogged here.)

Setup -- With the defenders pre-set (red), here you see the monster players (blue) deciding where to arrange their forces for the initial assault. As usual, recall that each figure represents 10 of a given creature type. The defenders have 25 figures (250 men), mostly polearms and crossbows in chain, and a few heavy swordsmen in plate. The attackers have a major combined force of 56 figures (560 creatures), a motley mix of goblins, orcs, hobgoblins (with crossbows), ogres, and a squad of frost giants. (Side note: This force is some 6 times larger than the sum of all the warriors in the nearby monster caves!)

Turn 1 -- Here you see the start of the first turn. In this scenario, the monsters have poured out of the nearby woods under cover of darkness, and unseen, attempt an all-out escalade of the bluff and castle walls (with a variety of crude ropes and ladders). While the monsters can act freely at night, the defending men peer over the walls with sputtering torches, only able to shoot at the attackers once they come part way up the bluff and into the light (and so negating much of the advantage of the castle's commanding height). The monster players have picked a strategy of keeping the strongest portion of their forces off the board and out of sight for a prolonged time (unique in my playtests); the first wave here is mostly low-level monsters, but the threat of another attack from any point keep defenders posted all around the castle.

Turn 3 -- The defenders are doing a pretty good job fighting off the assault on the lower end of the castle; they're scoring hits from missiles & rocks, and you can see a force of goblins routing off the top side.

Turn 5 -- Here, one figure of ogres has managed to escalade over the wall into the outer bailey -- but they already have 3 out 4 hits against them; one more and they'll be eliminated. Other than that, the monsters attacking the wall have thinned noticeably.

Turn 7 -- Second Wave. At last, the monster players send in the rest of their forces, including more orcs, hobgoblins, ogres, and the squad of angry frost giants; they've chosen to send them en masse against the lower outer bailey again, where the defenders have already been stretched and weakened. (There are also sizable units of goblins thrown at the upper end of the castle, out of the picture here, mostly as a diversionary sacrifice.)

Turn 9 -- The giants have forced their way over the wall into the castle, and are being followed by scrambling units of goblins and hobgoblins. While fighting continues in the outer bailey, the defenders have chosen to collect their main strength in the strong inner gatehouse which defends the upper level of the castle.

Turn 11 -- At this point, the outer bailey is entirely taken over by the monsters. However, they seem to be tied down in a fire fight, exchanging stones and missiles with the crossbowmen at the upper level of the inner gatehouse and wall. The giants have taken 6 of their 10 allowed hits. Troublingly, however, a final squad of ogres is fighting their way up the wall and through a flanking tower (at top of the next picture).

Turn 13 -- The last of the giants go down! And, the ogres remain bottled up the guard tower by a squad of plate-armored heavy swordsmen. However, you can see how thin the remaining defenders have become after repeated devastating barrages of crossbows and giant throwing-stones.

Turn 15 -- Here, the remaining defenders are choosing to flee to the final keep fortress; the monsters are just now securing the inner gatehouse (and melee with ogres continues just behind the gatehouse).

Turn 17 -- The small number of remaining monsters exchanges some missile fire in preparation for the final assault. Note that the last ogre squad has taken 3 of 4 hits.

Turn 19 -- Endgame. The monsters make a final all-out rush against the final bastion. What happens next is: The ogres succeed at bashing down the gate, but are killed in hand-to-hand combat inside the entry hall. The rest of the monsters are too much for the defenders, however, and rush in, overwhelming them to the last man. A narrow victory for the forces of chaos!

Big thanks to my players here: Tavis, Adrian, Eric, and Joti. Really a total blast to run at this convention, I received really great feedback, and lets me further refine both Book of War and this particular scenario. Thanks, guys!


  1. It's not bad that I had the Isengard theme from the LOTR movies playing on a loop in my head while reading this, is it?

    Lovely model, by the way.

  2. Jayson: Not bad in any way. I think that's an improvement on my own soundtrack! :)

  3. I'm Adrian, one of the defending players. This was fantasssstic. I felt a direct connection to pre-D&D Gygaxian wargaming and was buzzing for days with the desire to do more of this kind of thing. Thanks!

  4. Great report Delta, thanks for sharing. Seriously though, you need a new camera.

  5. Adrian, thanks for the feedback! (And nice to finally attach face to Blogger handle...)

    Paul, this was the upgrade! LOL :)

  6. Absolutely fantastic model...where can I buy one?

    Interested in the Book of War. Question: How long does it take to run 19 turns of game play?

  7. Hey JB -- I seriously hope I never make another of these again, it took me so long. :)

    One of the interesting realizations from this particular game was: time depends a lot on number of forces per side. This particular run-through took a bit over 3 hours (including setup, introduction, briefing brand-new players, etc.); I think 6pm to 9:10 pm within a 6-10pm time slot.

    Previously I'd been running the game in about 2 hours, so I honestly went in intending to run it twice, swapping player sides each run. But I'd also about doubled the monster forces for balance purposes, so it went longer. Obvious now, but it surprised me at the time.