TGN Top 5 – Battles from The Hobbit Trilogy That I Want to Play

By Enrico Nardini
In Fantasy
Dec 22nd, 2014
2 Comments
4633 Views

Enrico Nardini is always watching over Durin’s folk. TGN’s resident Hobbit freak lists his top five battles from The Hobbit book and its film trilogy that he would like to recreate with miniatures!

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Spoiler warning! Though I don’t believe you can spoil a book that is over 75 years old, it’s important to note that Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit movie trilogy embellishes and in some cases diverges from J.R.R Tolkien’s fantasy masterpiece. Aspects of Jackson’s trilogy are discussed in this article. You have been warned.

I am a huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and I have been so since I first read the story in third grade. It has had a huge impact on my life. It’s likely to have influenced my love of fantasy adventure gaming and my desire to enter our great hobby in the first place.

Now, I should note that I have made an academic study of this particular work. I have created an elementary unit of study (including a children’s play) based on The Hobbit. I’m heavily invested in Tolkien’s original vision, and there was likely no way that Peter Jackson’s interpretation was going to match mine (for better or for worse). That said, Jackson has proved his expertise in filming fantasy battle scenes. Though, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies has problems, beautiful battle scenes are not among them.

Let’s take a look at 5 battles from either the book or the trilogy (or both) that I would like to game in miniature:

5 – Ambush on Ravenhill

Thorin, Dwalin, Fili, and Kili attempt to cut of the “head of the snake” by slaying Azog and Bolg. Unbeknownst to them, their two cunning adversaries have laid a trap and wait in ambush for their prey.

This is a scene that is hinted at in the text of The Hobbit, but has been greatly expanded upon by Jackson in The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies. In the text, Thorin (accompanied by Fili and Kili) make a push towards Bolg (leader of the goblin forces). Though they fight valiantly, Fili and Kili are slain, and Thorin is mortally wounded. Thorin is recovered by Beorn, who crushes Bolg to death in a literal bear hug.

Enrico's Beorn is ready to crush any goblin monarch.

Enrico’s Beorn is ready to crush any goblin monarch.

The film follows some of those plot points, but diverges significantly. Thorin, observing Azog’s command post, leads Dwalin, Fili, and Kili up Ravenhill to kill him. He believes that by removing the orc leadership, the forces of Azog and Bolg will crumble. What he doesn’t know is that he has been set-up. Azog wants him to pursue this course, and this leads to their final showdown.

This battle would be an interesting one to recreate using the book or movie. Using the book would allow you to make use of Beorn. Who doesn’t want to wield the power of a wild bear-man. If you recreate it using the movie as a guide, Bilbo actually has a role to play. (I’ll save discussing the films’ lack of focus on Bilbo for another time.) When Azog springs his trap, he sends a wave of orcs to attack Thorin, I would include a rule that these orcs would “respawn” until the titular halfling could “warn them.” Throw in some environmental hazards and you have got yourself a battle! 

4 – Escape from Goblin-town

Thorin and company find themselves shackled as prisoners when they mistakenly rest on the “porch” of the Misty Mountains goblins.

There was no way I could leave this out. The escape from Goblin-town is an exciting encounter between Thorin’s company and their would-be captors, the gobins of the Misty Mountains. In both the book and movie, the dwarves are lead on a frantic chase through the winding passages of The Great Goblin. The chase is punctuated by small battles. In the book, these are primarily conducted by Gandalf and Thorin, but in the movie, all the dwarves can get in on the action.

Enrico's Great Goblin will drag you down, down to Goblin-town!

Enrico’s Great Goblin will drag you down, down to Goblin-town!

This encounter is thoroughly detailed in the box-set The Hobbit: Escape from Goblin Town. The set is quite a good deal in terms of content to price. You get a large number of figures plus scenery. You also get a rulebook and a set of scenarios to recreate the escape.    

3 – Confronting the Necromancer

Gandalf is rescued from the clutches of The Necromancer of Dul Guldor by Galadriel, Elrond, and Saruman.

This is an event vaguely hinted at in The Hobbit novel, but not detailed there. Referred to in Tolkien’s Silmarillion as the White Council, this group was formed to investigate the growing threat emerging from the “Hill of Dark Sorcery.”

Jackson reduces the White Council’s numbers greatly, omitting many of the elves, but it in no way diminishes the effect. (If you question its awesomeness, check out this teaser clip.) Galadriel and Gandalf are surrounded by the Nine. The Necromancer reveals that he is actually the Enemy, Sauron, the Lord of the Rings. All would be lost, but in strides Elrond (like a boss!) accompanied by Radagast the Brown and Saruman the White. Finally the forces of light stand a chance. 

This is the chance to have an awesome, completely hero driven battle. Everyone involved in this conflict is a named character of some sort and has powers appropriate to reflect that. Unfortunately, I doubt we’ll be getting any sculpts of the ghostly Nine featured in the movie. It’s a skirmish, but one where incredible power and skill are on display. Woe be anyone who confronts Galadriel in her war form!

2 – The Battle Dimrill Dale 

The Dwarves of Erebor, exiled by Smaug, attempt to reclaim the kingdom of Moria from a goblin incursion.

This was one of the most memorable scenes from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and like Confronting the Necromancer, this is not actually detailed in Tolkien’s The Hobbit. The story of this battle is featured in Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales.

In the film, Balin retells the events of the battle to Bilbo. This gives Bilbo (and the audience) a more complete understanding of Thorin and his fellow dwarves’ motivations, as well as the tragedies they have endured up until this point.

GW produces a number of nice looking miniatures that would fit this battle well, including versions of Balin, Dwalin, and Thorin. This battle is recreated in three parts in the Desolation of Smaug supplement, though I would ignore any suggestions of using Gundabad Orc models. The 36 suggested for Part 3 will run you a ridiculous $300 before tax. There are plenty of great already existing plastic orc kits that will give you more poses and cost about 1/3 of the price.

Enrico's Advice - The plastic kits offer more variety at a better price.

Enrico’s Advice – The plastic kits offer more variety at a better price.

1 – Battle at the Gates of Erebor

Thorin Oakenshield leads his company of dwarves out of Erebor to rally the allied dwarf, elf, and human alliance.

This one is absolutely epic, both in the book and in the movie! When all appears to be lost and the goblin horde presses the dwarves, men, and elves to their absolute limits… Well… I’ll just let Tolkien’s words speak for me:

Out leapt the King under the Mountain, and his companions followed. Hood and cloak were gone; they were in shining armor, and red light leapt from their eyes. In the gloom the great dwarf gleamed like gold in a dying fire.

This scene always gives me chills. The goblins and and wargs are beyond number, the forces of light are faltering, and Thorin, who had thus far been sequestered behind a wall built to fortify Erebor, bursts forth with his companions. The armies of Dain, Thranduil, and Bard rally yet again.

There’s a lot to love here in the book and movie. This battle involves many of the characters, including Dain Ironfoot. This character is only mentioned briefly in Tolkien’s story, but Jackson gives him a more significant presence. This boisterous dwarven lord rides to battle on a boar and is quick to tell the kings of both elves and men to “Sod off!” GW had better make a model for this guy!

The light may be dimming on Games Workshop’s Tolkien inspired miniature ranges, but there may yet still be life left in the blood of Durin’s line. It may be controversial to say (especially as many blame the New Line Cinema deal for killing Specialist Games), but the rules created for the Tolkien games are the best that GW has ever created in my opinion. The game is easy to learn, but offers deep tactical choices. It’s also very balanced (if you follow the force building guidelines) and just fun to play. In fact, a variation of these rules is the foundation for two of my favorite historical rulebooks: Legends of the Old West and Gladiators.

If you’re a fan of The Hobbit, let us know what battles you would recreate in miniature and why. Leave a comment below!     

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TGN's Ambassador of Awesome is here! Enrico Nardini is Tabletop Gaming News' Associate Editor, preaching the gospel of awesome to gamers everywhere.
  • And what about the Battle of Five Armies based on Warmaster ? Perfect scale for all the epic battles ! 🙂

    • Enrico Nardini

      The Battle of Five Armies would be great for Dimrill Dale or the Gates of Erebor. I’d also love to have a Battle of Five Armies game running on one table with a linked Ambush On Ravenhill game running in 28mm. EPIC!

      Unfortunately, a complete Battle of Five Armies box and any supporting blisters are only available on the secondary market, where they command an inflated price. I’d consider using the straight up Warmaster rules and looking at some of the other companies that specialize in smaller scale fantasy figures.