There’s something in those Trees: Fangorn in Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game

An article by    Middle Earth Start Competing        0

Do you play Imperial Knights? Do you want your opponents to go ‘wow that’s characterful’ instead of rolling their eyes when you get your models out of the case? Do you want to make no changes to how you play except the game system? Do you want to paint a maximum of 9 models for a 1000 point army? Do you like single powerful models and playing games on hard mode? Have you read the monster rules section in the main rulebook?

If so, Fangorn might be the army for you.

Dunlendings exploring Fangorn, prior to the Battle of Helms Deep.

Fangorn has no historical allies, and cannot take allies without losing their army bonus. This means either you can play pure Fangorn, and, like Custodes in Kill Team, it’s a challenging way of playing the game, or ally with another force, losing both army bonuses, but gaining the other advantages of that force.

This article will go through the Fangorn list and its units, and talk about a couple of characterful armies to ally with.

Army Bonus

The Fangorn army bonus is immunity to spells or special rules that force movement (things like Compel, Transfix, etc). This stops your opponents dragging your figures out of position, or immobilizing them so they can be surrounded and chopped up.

This is useful and will counter one of the key ‘screw yous’ that can be used against a small model count monster army.

All the Ents are also fearless, so you don’t have to take courage tests.

Ents all cause Terror, and this means everyone who charges you needs to take a courage test to do so. It’s difficult to persuade Orcs to run towards giant enraged trees I guess.

In the introduction article I talked about the 3 Ms of Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game – Movement, Might and Murder. Ents excel at Murder, have decent Might, but lack the model count to exploit Movement and control the board and objectives.

One idea to get used to in ME:SBG is that some armies peak at different point values. At 1000 points people are bringing Heroes/Monsters that cost over 150 points (Aragorn, Gandalf the White, Witch King on Fell Beast with Crown, Elrond, Gil-Galad, Saruman, Mumaks, Balrogs etc) that you don’t see in 500 point games. So some armies/legendary legions peak at certain points values (Ugluks scouts around 5/600, but Gothmogs Legion 750/1000). At 500 you can have 3 hero Ents with 9 might points, but there are no more hero Ents to take and no Ent captains, which gives you a hard cap on the might points available to your force, and means you’ll likely be out-mighted in 750 and 1000 point games.

Small numbers of models mean you are playing a very hard game if it is objective based.

Treebeard in the original movie.

Power Attacks

Ents have access to a number of power attacks that can completely change how combats resolve. It’s important to remember the rules for these, as each of them has a different use. Bludgeon is unique to Ents and is very very good.

Bludgeon

All Ents have access to the Bludgeon special rule. If you win the fight, you pick up a human sized model (you can pick a model off a cavalry mount and automatically dismount someone) and then mash that model into each other model in base to base contact with you causing a Str 8 hit on each of them, and as long as you kill the target you can keep doing it, as well as inflicting a Str 8 hit on the model you picked up for every strike you make.

This means the go to play is to pick up the best hero in base to base contact with you, and mash them into everyone in contact with you with defense 6 or less. As long as you keep rolling 3+ the bodies keep piling up and you’ve got a decent chance of killing the hero.

Hurl

If you are facing a single model in combat, likely put into contact with you as a speed bump to prevent you charging a juicier target, then you can hurl them.

Hurl means if you win the combat you can throw a losing model as a missile for a distance of your strength – the target model’s + D3”. The hurled model and every model in its path (including both mount and rider for cavalry models) takes a strength 3 hit. Every surviving model is knocked prone. So a lowly orc speedbump goes 6-8” and can bowling ball a bunch of their friends to the ground.

Rend

If you win you can opt to shred a losing model like a lettuce. Instead of rolling your strength vs the enemy defence, you roll your strength vs the enemy strength. As your strength is 8 and most infantry models are strength 5 at most, that means that instead of trying to crack defence 7 or 8 you’ll be rolling 3+ to wound against the significantly lower strength. Good for grabbing a hero and pulling their arms and legs off if you are in single combat with them.

Orc’s don’t surf.

The Inhabitants of Fangorn

There are only 6 different units available to Fangorn lists, and two of those are essentially big squirrels hanging out on Treebeard.

As noted above, all Ents cause Terror, and enemy models must pass Courage tests to charge you unless they are Fearless. You need to remember this rule, as it can help prevent you getting swamped and trapped in combat.

Treebeard

Clocking in at 190 points Treebeard is a hero monster able to murder most opposition in single combat. Fight 8, Strength 8 and three attacks makes you able to squish upstarts like Aragorn 1-2-1. You have 3 Might, 6 Will and 3 Fate. As a Fearless model you aren’t going to be taking any Courage tests, so those 6 Will points are purely there to give you saves against magical attacks; while you have immunity to a number of spells from your army rule, things like Black Dart and Sorcerous Blast might be directed at you to chip wounds off, or debuffs like Curse to make it easier for your opponent to kill you.

Treebeard has access to Heroic Strike, Heroic Strength and Heroic Defense. Heroic Strike you may be using if you are facing Fight 8 or 9 opponents. These are incredibly rare. You are more likely to be facing heroes using Heroic Strike to maximise their fight value and bring you down by surrounding you, rolling a ton of dice to get a 6 and then trapping you and rolling a huge pile of dice to try and kill you.

Ents are Defence 8, so strength 3 enemies will need 6s and then 4s to wound, and strength 4 would need 6s.

To take down Ents your opponent will try to trap you, preferably with troops with Backstab or 2 handed weapons to try to make it easier to wound, if your opponent has access to them. Moria Prowlers are ideal for this, having both.

Treebeard has access to Might, and can Heroic Strike himself. He really needs to win fights, especially when he is trapped, in order to grab whatever enemy character is in base to base contact with him, and smush them into every rank and file grunt you can.

Treebeard can purchase Merry and Pippin for 10 points. This is a good idea for a number of reasons.

Merry and Pippin are their naff versions from the Fellowship, and would normally be ten points each with no Might or Will, and a single point of Fate. They can hang out in Treebeards hair, and can throw stones (range 8”, strength 1, 3+ to hit) even if Treebeard is in combat. This lets them try to snipe out spear supports, or to prevent Treebeard being trapped by killing the trapping model. If you can find a defense 3 model you can wound them on 5s. However the most important use for them is to jump off Treebeard and hold objectives after Treebeard has killed everyone on them. Fangorn lists struggle to control objectives and two models that can sit on them, short enough to stay out of sight behind cover, are actually really useful.

Treebeard’s job is to bulldoze though rank and file opponents, ideally grabbing a hero and mushing them into their buddies like a fork into a banana.

Throw stones, break bones.

Quickbeam

Quickbeam is another hero monster, with 3 Might, 1 Will and 1 Fate. Quickbeam has movement 8”, allowing him to get places a bit quicker than other Ents, and the Heroic March special action, if you want to get your Ents moving quickly. At 20 points more than a standard Ent, you become a hero with Might, Will and Fate, and access to Heroic actions, so it’s 20 points well spent.

 

Beechbone

Beechbone is the goatee Ent and clocks in at 40 points more than a standard Ent, again with 3 Might, 1 Will and 1 Fate. You also get Fight 8, and you reroll failed wounds against Orcs, Goblins and Uruk Hai. Combined with bludgeon this is incredible, as it makes it likelier that you’ll smush your way through large engagements with Orcs. However you must also charge Orcs, Goblins or Uruk Hai if you are able, which does make it possible for your opponent to lure you out or kite you around the board using sacrificial orcs. If you have a hobbit army and are looking for an Ent ally to fight goblins or orcs with, then Beechbone is a real good choice.

Beechbone has Heroic Strike and Heroic Strength, but is already Fight and Strength 8, which makes these a bit redundant.

 

Ents

The humble Ent clocks in at 120 points for a Fight 7 monster with 3 attacks, 3 wounds, defence and strength 8 and courage 6. He causes Terror, can throw strength 8 stones and has access to Bludgeon.

Ents are better than Mordor/Isengard/Cave Trolls. They have higher defence, higher strength and higher courage, and Bludgeon to murder your way through hordes. You pay more, and would be outnumbered even if your opponent went with a Angmar Troll list, but one on one you can beat any non-hero monster Evil can field, with higher Fight, Defence and often Strength.

In a pure Fangorn army these are your rank and file, and can munch their way through most things one to one. In a good army they provide valuable punch.

 

Fighting Against Ents

A common counter to Ents is bat swarms plus surrounding the with chaff to trap them. Against Fight 7 defence 8 monsters with 3 wounds reducing the fight value, trapping the model, and hitting the model with a lot of dice, hopefully two-handed weapons and Backstabber models as well, will lead to rolling big piles of dice. You will want to kill Ents in a single turn. Heroes, ideally with high fight and heroic strike to boost it above 7, and might points to ensure the fight is won, are key. However if you lose that fight, the Ent will pick up the hero leading the fight and smush them into the chaff trapping them, likely killing the hero and a bunch of models. It’s a risk.

If you have a lot of chaff you aren’t likely to have high courage, so models may fail to charge in and surround, so think about what you can do to make sure models pass their courage (look at what you have available in your force as some forces have work arounds for this, like Far Harad).

High strength shooting, war machines and magic like Black Dart are good for chipping wounds off Ents, and if you have a choice hit hero Ents, because drawing out Fate points or getting a wound through makes it easier to kill Ents later, or make the Ent player more cautious in committing them to combat. If you have massed shooting (Uruk Hai Strength 4 crossbows for example) you may want to focus them on nailing one Ent over several turns and killing them, rather than splitting up the shots. Your opponent will have few models, so focusing them down is an obvious tactic. If you lose 10 Orcs you can live with it in a 500 point game, but if your opponent loses one Ent then things swing very much in your favour.

Alternatively play the scenario and use your armies’ strengths. This will almost certainly include board control, as you will be stronger at this than a purely Ent force. You may well have more might, especially at 750 or 1000 points, when there are only 3 hero Ents and a maximum of 9 might points. You may have magic, war machines, or massed shooting that can pick off an Ent a turn. In these larger games kill the hero Ents first, as it means when your opponent gets into combat he will have no heroic actions or might points to help him win.

You need to focus on nullifying what Ents can do, which is murder massed infantry with Bludgeon. Look at using units as speed bumps. A single Orc warrior to tie up a hero Ent for a turn while you swarm and kill another Ent is a sacrifice worth making, particularly if you can use speed bumping and positioning to break up Ents into waves, so that instead of hitting you in a single turn and breaking up your battleline, single Ents hit your battleline over several turns and can be swarmed and chopped down.

With these speed bump combats you can shoot into them as an Evil player, and an Orcs life is not worth much in the grand scheme of things.

If playing as something like Rohan you can Parthian shot Ents over a number of turns to wear them down, and then charge in to mop up what is left. You have the speed to avoid combat and stay out of stone throwing range. It doesn’t make for an interesting game, but playing Rohan with Parthian shot tactics never does.

 

Taking Allies

Taking a pure Ent army to a tournament is playing on hard mode. Against a good player you will find the game challenging. However you gain the army bonus, which taking any allies will get rid of for both forces. There are no Ent legendary legions that include other forces, so this is the only option you have.

In terms of possible allies, there are several that fit nicely in terms of theme.

The Shire

The Shire list has a large number of cheap heroes, access to magic in Gandalf the Grey, access to massed shooting with hobbit archers, and access to dogs, which are a unit that people may regard as not getting on with Ents for obvious reasons, but which are good fun miniatures to paint. Don’t forget you can take Dunedain as well, and the extra Forgeworld hobbit heroes.

This faction gives you access to numbers, might, shooting and the ability to hold objectives. A couple of Ents supported by a hobbit horde gives you an army with a heavy monster punch supported by shooting and objective folders, and a smattering of cheap heroes. The supply of might points from hobbit heroes can be used for heroic actions benefiting Ents, and don’t forget that.

They’re the Ewoks of Middle Earth, though.

Tree-Hugging elves

Whether Rivendell, Lothlorien or Halls of Thranduil, there are a variety of elves with good shooting, high fight value, access to magic and access to cavalry that you can use to control the board. They’re better than Hobbits, and with Ents to ream through hordes you can threaten cheaper troops trying to surround your elves with something bigger and meaner than a troll.

Radagast’s Alliance

Fancy dealing with none of the issues of low model count that Fangorn have? Fancy just having more monsters? Radaghast’s Alliance lets you take a wizard, Beorn and Eagles. This can certainly increase your mobility, but does little with helping you hold objectives or control the board. It is however, a cool idea, as birds and trees thematically go together.

The Rangers

Again thematic rather than optimized, this entirely hero faction of wilderness wandering hobbit botherers provides you with a number of independent heroes to rove round the board, though is definitely not the most competitive choice

Wildmen of Druadan

Shooty poison blowpipes on perhaps the most unfortunate of the ME:SBG models, but they’re famous for hanging out in woods.

Or if you want to win…

Then the various tough factions (Dwarves of various stripes), mobile factions (Rohan or knight heavy Gondor) or horde factions (Survivors of Laketown, Garrison of Dale, Arnor) can be taken. You can come up with some sort of explanation  for why they’re hanging out in the woods:

  • Eomer rides to Isengard after his exile and ends up joining up with Treebeard, Merry and Pippin to bring down Saruman.
  • Treebeard and the gang, after defeating Saruman at Isengard, go with Gandalf to Gondor, though they arrive more slowly than him but get there in time for Pelennor fields.
  • The trees in Buckland turn out to be a bit more than trees when an Orc invasion threatens the Shire.
  • Lothlorien is invaded by a horde of Orcs and Galadriel asks the Ents for their aid.
  • Saruman’s Orcs are chopping down Fangorn and the Riders of Rohan chase them down at the same time the Ents take action.
  • Ents realise they’re flammable, which makes dragons their natural enemy, and so march to Erebor to try and take down Smaug, but leave it too late and join in the Battle of Five Armies.

With some imagination you can come up with some fairly plausible reasons for alliances.

The Models

The Ents have three model kits available – Treebeard, Quickbeam and the plastic Ent kit.

Treebeard is a new and modern plastic which also comes with Merry and Pippin, and benefits from being a modern GW kit in terms of sculpting and instructions.

Quickbeam is a Forge World kit, and benefits from a good scrub in soapy water before you incredibly carefully remove the flash between twigs on the branches that are all separate pieces you have to stick on individually, and look destined to come to a bad end if you have to take the model anywhere (magnetic base, magnetic case solution?).

A large number of these branches have to be stuck on individually. Imagine them in a foam case.

The Ent kit is one of the only models on the GW website without sprue pictures, and I think it suffers for that. The kit includes two faces, different arms and 2 (!) dead orcs to put on bases. The instructions are very 2000s for some reason, but if you collect Ents you’ll likely be getting two of these so it’s good that they have a variety of builds.

Showing both faces from the plastic Ent sprue, which for some reason GW don’t show on the store. Pic from warhammer community.

Out of Production – for models you may find second hand at an exorbitant price

Metal Treebeard – a common source for Ent conversions for the first fifteen years of the game, with people taking a Dremel to them to create all sorts of things. There was a White Dwarf article on converting Treebeard to a bunch of different Ents seen in the movies, including a weeping willow Ent.

Metal generic Ent – resembling a pile of metal twigs, this for some reason commands a high price on eBay from hobby masochists who want to pay top shelf prices for a model that looks awful. Just buy two plastic Ent kits with the money and bust out the greenstuff.

I don’t want to be mean about people’s sculpting, but this is not very good.

Metal Treebeard (1985 version) – legal to use in a GW store, though you might be looking it up on Stuff of Legends to prove it to staff who were all born after this model became OOP. This will be substantially shorter than the modern miniatures and will need taking off the 40mm square base and putting on a 60mm round one.

Still store and tournament legal as an official citadel miniature.

Marauder Treeman – doesn’t match well with the models based on the movie, but it’s a nice mini.

Old Fantasy Treemen – the old fantasy metal Treeman has the same ‘bundle of metal sticks’ look that the old metal generic Ent does, to the point where gluing together things out of the garden starts to look a lot more viable.

Various 3rd party and 3D printed Ents – there’s a few out there, normally called Treemen. Quality is variable.

With all of these models adding moss, leaves or clump foliage to models at the end of painting makes them look a lot more treelike. You also have 60mm bases to play with, so don’t be shy about making scenic forest bases, and adding grass tufts or flowers or both.

There is a world of railway modellers tree products out there to pillage in customising your Ents, don’t hesitate to do it.

For 500 points you are looking at Treebeard, Beechbone and Quickbeam for a total cost of £126 at full RRP, which isn’t terrible for a complete army, but compares poorly to the infantry box or two and a couple of blisters 500 point armies that a lot of factions have. The army also paints up very quickly. For dipping your toe in collecting Ents then Treebeard or the generic Ent kit are good purchases for adding an Ent to your force.

 

Wrapping Things Up (but not too hastily)

Fangorn gives you a low model count elite force. For casual play a small force of pure ents gives you a quick turn to play, limited painting, and is nice and characterful.

If you are taking them to a tournament and want to place high, then taking allies and using the Ents as an anvil in a combined arms force is the way to go.

As a painting project you can experiment with painting different sorts of bark, adding moss and lichen to a model, and have big bases to scenic up. It allows you, with limited time, to paint up a 500 or 1000 point force in less than a month, and the large models take well to contrast and drybrushing.

The range of tree species gives you a large canvas for different Ent types, and the plastic Ent kit gives you a starting point to get out the greenstuff and wire and try some interesting tree builds. You could turn your project into your own exploration of nature, and create individual conversions that are visually interesting. I bet there’s plenty of 25mm woodland animals out there as well, if you wanted to do The Animals of Fangorn Wood.

 

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