Posted 19/01/2017

Hobby Focus: Tim’s Garrison of Dale

Tim is a true veteran of the Strategy Battle Game community, renowned on the tournament scene, not just in the USA (where he calls home), but also on the other side of the pond with attendance at a number of events at Warhammer World over the years. Last time Tim was over here in the UK, he took on the Middle-earth™ team’s own Adam Troke in a friendly game ahead of the event… and then unceremoniously massacred Adam’s Easterling horde with his Garrison of Dale. Unwilling to hold a grudge, Adam caught up with Tim about his Dale army, and what was next for it.

Adam: So, I’ve never seen a bigger Dale army than yours, and before The Hobbit: Motion Picture Trilogy™ There and Back Again came out, they weren’t the most common sight on the tabletop. What led you to collect such an impressive Dale army?

Tim: Initially, it was their look. I really liked the appearance of the Garrison of Dale models the first time I saw them. I bought every box that came into my local gaming store for the next couple of months until I had enough to field a Garrison of Dale force, and had them glued and assembled for play soon after. I didn’t actually paint any of the models until The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug™ was released and I purchased Girion, Lord of Dale. Girion was the first model of my Dale force I painted. I used a photo I had found of the movie character as a guide and then themed the rest of the Garrison of Dale around the same paint scheme.

The reason I choose to make my Garrison of Dale larger was Smaug. I want to be able to play out a campaign based upon an ongoing war of attrition between Smaug and the City of Dale after he routs the Dwarves from Erebor. While I have completed painting 1,000 points of Dale models, I still haven’t finished painting Smaug.

Adam: With lots of (relatively) elite infantry, only one named Hero and a Windlance, what tactics do you prefer?

Tim: The strength and character of the force is their bowmen, so I always give Girion his Great bow and assign the majority of the archers to his warband as the central core of the force. The Captains of Dale lead the combat infantry warbands and guard Girion’s flanks. I use archery to soften up my opponent by targeting Heroes and/or cavalry. Once the lines close, the archers draw swords and join the fray. From the history of our world, I am a fan of Hannibal’s and General George Washington’s tactics of a collapsing centre, and the archers of Dale are well suited to falling back and still being able to shoot. Hopefully this lures the enemy into my centre and, once they are engaged, my flankers close on the engaged opponent from the sides. This typically works well for me, at least when I have the higher model count.

In bigger games, typically 700 or more points, I also give Girion a Windlance. This gives me a weapon that can take down the bigger targets such as Trolls, Fell Beasts and so on, that the infantry would otherwise struggle to take on in combat.

Adam: So, has There and Back Again made a big difference to your force?

Tim: Yes, originally the Garrison of Dale was basically a clone of Elendil’s Númenóreans and I played them as I would my Númenórean force. I used a small archer contingent supporting a mass of spear backed Warriors pressing the attack.

Once the The Hobbit: Motion Picture Trilogy™ There and Back Again came out, this force gained its own character as an army that is very much in line with my vision of them from the book and movies. The addition of the Esgaroth bows, the changes to Girion’s archery rules and the thematic Army Bonus strengthened the army enough that it is able to stand on its own without allies. In the past I would be tempted to ally the Dwarves of Erebor with the warriors of Dale for their high Defence and powerful Heroes, in order to allow this force to be less defensive and more attack oriented.

Organisationally my army hasn’t change much, but I have had to work on ways to make this force more successful as an attacker. In addition to adding Girion into the lineup, I converted a warrior model into an archer captain so I can field more than one archer warband. This opens up a variety of tactics other than a predictable collapsing centre battle plan. I am still perfecting more aggressive tactics to allow my archers to better support my combat infantry when on the attack.

Adam: I understand you’re a prolific painter, with lots of armies (I’ve even seen a few of them). What painting and hobby tips would you give to someone who wanted to match your own amazing collection?

Tim: I own and have used just about every force from The Lord of The Rings™ and most of The Hobbit™ ranges, so I have a lot of unpainted models still left in my collection.

I am primarily a player, rather than a painter so I finish my armies to what most people would call a ‘table-top standard’ as a matter of course. Typically, I use tournaments and other gaming events as my motivation to paint new armies, since this gives me the opportunity to play with different forces and get my collection painted over time. The UK Throne of Skulls and Nova in the USA were enough motivation to get me to finish painting my Mirkwood Spiders, the Garrison of Dale, a couple of warbands of Dwarves from Erebor and a White Council force.

When I don’t have tournaments to provide a deadline, I make sure to dedicate an hour or so of down time after the kids go to bed to paint a figure or two. After a while, my collection of painted models adds up to a finished force. I try to organise my painting queue into small groups so I don’t get discouraged by the number of unfinished models. If I am only working on a warband at a time, then I get a sense of accomplishment as I see them to completion – which keeps me motivated to move onto the next warband.

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