Since reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy back when I was in high school, I was captivated by the world that Tolkien had created in his works of fiction. But it wouldn't be until later in life that I would be drawn into Middle Earth Strategy Battle Games (MESBG).
When one of my old Battle Brothers from my Games Workshop Southlands day; Josh Lance, came over to London we caught up for a few pints and talked hobby. I knew from our days back at Southlands that he was a Lord of the Rings fanatic and was a source of wisdom when it came to that part of the hobby.
Maybe it was his contagious enthusiasm for MESBG or those many pints of Beavertown Gamma Ray, but I went away from that pub with a mission: collect, build, paint and play with a MESBG army.
I decided to collect an army of Khazad-Dum Dwarfs. I had liked the look of them for some time now and from my research into their play style and tactics discovered that they were a hard-hitting and resilient force.
Dan's Khazad-Dum Dwarf Army - Source: Quartermaster Studios
But it was at my first tournament that I discovered their true weakness; speed. Some scenarios rely on you as the player getting models to an objective, into you're opponent's deployment zone or to a volcano in far-off Mordor to deposit a piece of powerful jewellery (ok maybe that last one is a bit too specific!). Basically, if I played a mission that involved my Dwarfs having to go anywhere far, they were doomed. After all, Dwarfs are natural sprinters, deadly over short distances!
While for some hobbyists this may prove to be a dead end, alas it was not. For in MESBG, there exist the good/evil tournaments; a tournament format that requires you to bring along and play with a fully painted good faction army as well as an evil faction army. So I decided to go in the polar opposite direction with my evil force for MESBG; fast and manoeuvrable. And what better way to do that than with The Serpent Horde.
Dan's Serpent Horde Army - Source: Quartermaster Studios
While building and painting up my Haradrim Warriors and Raiders for my Serpent Horde Force, I delved into their lore and background to find out more about these warriors of the Southlands. From what little Tolkien had written about them (in comparison to other races of Middle Earth), I discovered a harsh land that bred equally hard and resilient people whose tumultuous history had led them down a dark road.
Upon reading the Harad Sourcebook published by Games Workshop back in 2007 as an expansion for MESBG precursor The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, I found a wealth of knowledge regarding the Haradrim. I was drawn in particular to the city of Karna, home of the mysterious Watcher of Karna; a playable unit in the Game.
A Map of Harad - Source: Harad Source Book Published by Games Workshop 2007.
To summarize, in the wake of the Battle of the Last Alliance which saw Sauron's defeat (for now...), a large army of Gondor invaded and occupied Harad to secure Gondor's southern border. The Haradrim didn't like living under the Gondorian occupation and several generations later rebelled (with the help of a 'defeated' Dark Lord) and drove the forces of Gondor out of Harad.
Karna would be a central focus of this conflict, as it was where Mardat; a King of Far Harad and leader of the rebellion, would establish his capital. Gondor would retaliate and the ensuing series of battles would leave Karna a cursed and haunted ruin.
So after moving out of London down to Horsham, West Sussex (and now having way more space in my wife and I's new house), I decided to build a Ruins of Karna terrain set so that my MESBG gamer friends and I could recreate those epic battles from a part of Middle Earth's history that's not all that well explored.
In the next part of my MESBG Terrain Project series of articles, I will explore Karna in a bit more depth and show you some of the concept work I have done before embarking upon making my Ruins of Karna terrain set. Until then, keep on hobbying!
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