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Author: Scott Rusch

Publisher: 1975

Awards: none



David Watry (USA) writes about the game:

"The Siege of Barad-Dur" is one of the rarest of the Tolkien Board games developed. The game appeared in a wargame magazine in the mid 1970's called Jagdpanther. The magazine's editor was Steve Cole who helped design the first games that they published (he is credited as the graphics designer for this game). The Siege of Barad-Dur appeared in issue #8, 15 January 1975. The magazine was published quarterly at that time and according to the editorial, the circulation of the magazine was 190. I found reference to this game in a wargamers book "Wargamer Design" Strategy & Tactics, Staff Study, Nr 2 published by SPI in 1977 (great reference book) that listed all wargames that had been published up to that time, but other than that I found no reference to it. The other game that was listed that I have had a hard time finding was "The Two Towers" by Fantasy Games. I will review that later.

The game is printed on the sheets within the magazine, standard paper. The game "board" is on yellow paper that needs to be removed from the magazine. While on a fold out sheet, the actual playing area is about 8 inches by 10 inches (about 16 hexes by 16 hexes) with a side area for the tunnels that is about 4 inches by 5 inches (about 7 by 7 hexes). The counters are also printed colored paper. The Army of the Alliance is printed on green paper and the Sauron Army is printed on light red (pink) paper. The pieces would need to be mounted on cardboard to play the game. Also, the pieces are printed on the same sheets of paper along with the other game that is included in the magazine, PQ-17, a WWII submarine game. It took me a few minutes to figure out which pieces are which.

This game was based on the SPI game "Dark Ages". "Gamers with access to a Dark Ages set may enjoy playing the game with the rules from that game, at least that is how Scott really intended it to be played".


The official title of the game is "The Siege of Barad-Dur, 3430" and was designed by Scott Roach. The game states: "Near the end of the Second Age of Middle Earth in the year 3430. The Last Alliance of Men and Elves was forced to combat the resurgent power of Sauron. Led by Gil-Galad, the Elven King, and the high King of Men, Elendil, the Army of the Last Alliance decisively defeated the Dark Lord (Sauron) in the battle of Celebrant. Sauron (and presumably his evil servants, the Nazgul, said by some to be his children [that's what the magazine said]) fled to his Fortress-Prison, the Barad-Dur, or Dark Tower. It withstood a Seven Year Siege, and then fell when hunger swept the ranks of the Orcs (the Army of Sauron mostly consisted of these creatures. They came in assorted sizes, had leathery hide and unpleasant temper, and would soon kill each other as the enemy but for the powerful leadership of Sauron) and reduced the garrison to a point of being too weak to hold of fort. The final weeks of this siege and the final assault from the subject of this game."

As with wargames of the time, the game is played in turns on a hex-based board. There are two kinds of turns, weekly turns that reflect the long drawn out art of siege craft. If, in one or more of these turns, one or more of the players wish a battle (either a sortie by Sauron or assault by the Army of the Last Alliance - ALA) a special sequence of tactical turns is slipped into the game.

The sequence of turns (weekly)

  • The ALA build bridge sections.
  • Sauron attempts to fire catapults to destroy the bridge.
  • The ALA may make an assault.
  • If the ALA doesn't make an assault then Sauron may make a sortie.
  • Tactical rules are used to fight the battle.
    • The first player is the one who starts the battle; the other is the second player.
    • Players turns alternate to form tactical turns. Each is made up of phases, as follows:
      • Movement: 1st Player moves within the limits of the rules of movement.
      • Allocations: 1st Player indicates which units will attack which enemy units.
      • Defensive Fire: Defensive units fire to disrupt attacking enemy units. Each may fire once. Remember that catapults Orcs fire only one phase in each week.
      • Offensive Fire: 1st Player fires units in an attempt to disrupt defending units.
      • Combat Phase: Conducted according to the rules.
      • Second Players turn: Just like the first except he moves his own units.
    • Sauron must explain what the Orcs will eat for the week. Note that the he starts with 25 units and has only 200 units of food factors. As each factor feeds one unit for a week, these are enough food for 10 units for the 20 turns of the game (interesting twist to the game).
    • The ALA replaces three of its lost units.
    • The Passage of a turn is recorded.

Combat is divided into melee and missile attacks. Orcs have both melee and missile attack capability, but only one at a time can be used (can't do both within one turn). Results are determined by adding up the attack strength to defense strength and determined by the Odds (ie, 1-2, 1-1, 2-1, through 8-1). Strength and Defensive factors are altered based on the terrain such as units on a hill or up on the walls of the Fortress. When the ALA attempts to use a ladder, the defensive strength of the units on top of the wall is doubled. Sauron and the King of the Nazgul cannot be killed.

Demoralization can result of a unit from the Combat Result Table. A demoralized unit is inverted. If attacked again and demoralized or worse, the unit is eliminated.

Tunnels: An interesting feature of the game allows the Orcs to sortie out from Barad-Dur by way of tunnels dug out of the basement (dungeon). There are a variety of Trap Doors inside the Fortress and the Orcs can move through a series of tunnels. The tunnels exit around various points on the map. While the tunnel exits are closed, the ALA may not enter. However, if the Orcs leave any of the tunnels open, the ALA have an opportunity to enter the tunnels (where the defensive strength is doubled). The Orcs in the Dungeon may dig one hex of tunnels each weekly turn. Tunneling is a little more complicated than this, but this is the shortened version.

Leaders (heroes for the ALA, and the Ringwraiths for Sauron) are used to increase combat strength if the Leader is stacked with other units.

There is no Magic component to this game. The One Ring, held by Sauron at this time, is not used in this game.

The Units:

  • Sauron: 25 Orcs, Sauron, 9 Ringwraths, and 6 Catapults
  • ALA: 25 sword, 10 Bowman (human), 20 Bowmen (elf), 10 Shields, 3 Battering Rams, 6 heroes (Anarion, Gil-Galiad, Elrond, Cirdan, Ilsidur, and Elendil), and 6 Catapults.

Shields are semi-portable structures that are used to protect people from arrow and catapult fire. It has a defensive factor of six against fire, and doubles the combat defense factor. Attack factors are halved for the unit that is in the Shield.

Food is only of concern for Sauron. Each week, a unit of food is used for each unit of Sauron's army. If Sauron runs out of food units, the remaining Orcs that do not have food, half must be slain for each turn (week) without food.

Panic ensues if an army loses half of its force. The heroes, Sauron, and King of the Nazgul affect the results of Panic. If the ALA panics, the forces withdraw to the edge of the board and Sauron wins. The Orcs have several different panic levels. If none of the ALA units are within or on the walls of the Fortress, then the Orcs have one turn to return to the Fortress. Those that do not make it, are lost. If the ALA are on the walls, the Orcs must pull back one hex space and the battle is over. If the ALA are within the walls, the Orcs pull out of the compound that they are in and move to the second compound, then the battle is over. On the confusing units sheets that are included in the magazine (confusing because the PQ-17 game units are printed on the same sheets as the Barad-Dur units) there are a Panic Results Wheel and Panic Units Wheel. I didn't see any reference to these in the Barad-Dur game, so they may be for the PQ-17 sub game.

Victory is achieved for the ALA if Barad-Dur falls in 15 weeks.

It is a tie, for 16-19 weeks.

Victory for Sauron is achieved if Barad-Dur holds for 20 weeks.

I haven't had a chance to play The Siege of Barad-Dur game yet, but the rules have interesting aspects that could make this game a challenge. I don't know if there are any inconsistencies or if it favors one player or the other. I have never played the game Dark Ages by SPI either, but I have found a copy on ebay and waiting for it. I am interested how those rules read as it is mentioned that this game (Barad-Dur) can use those rules as well. Since I have never come across any articles in the old wargame magazines that I have, I don't know how well, if at all, the game was taken by wargamers of the time. I will have to do a little more research in the wargame magazines to see if there are any references. This game came out after the Richard Jordison game "Battle of Helm's Deep" (1974), but before "The Siege of Minas Tirith" and the more popular SPI "War of the Ring" game. If anyone has played this game, I would be very interested in hearing from them. I am going to attempt to make a good digital copy of the game when I get a chance. At this time I can't rate this game other than appearance. I would give it a poor quality, mostly because it is just printed on paper. Some of the units (like the names of the Heroes) have hand written words on them (before they were sent off to the printer, probably a last minute fix) and the unit symbols have no real significance (a large arrow with movement/strength numbers on it indicates an Orc, and a circle with bumps on it is a Nazgul - Sauron at least gets a star in the middle of a small circle - I think the Battering Rams are probably the ones with two stripes down each side an has a "B" in between, but there are also, three Large arrows that are next to them, I don't know what they are for, if anything). The artwork is minimal, but this is supposed to be Mordor, so there are not many features anyway. The rules give it flavor, so it looks to be a good game, but without having played it yet, that is hard to tell. I would rate it at least average and may be worthy of a better rating once I play it.

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany