The Siege of Minas Tirith

This page is devoted to miniature gaming of the epic battle of the siege of Minas Tirith, as described in Tolkien's The Return of the King. For several years, I have worked on putting together a scenario for wargaming the siege of Minas Tirith using 25mm scale miniatures. This page will show interested people what I have done, and perhaps may help folks who want to create their own Minas Tirith game scenario.

I have run the scenario seven times. It is a big undertaking, and requires about 5 to 7 hours to complete. I use about 600 miniatures in the scenario. So far, the Dark Lord has won four times, and the forces of Good have won three times. The Dark Lord has the advantage of overwhelming numbers. The forces of Good have better quality troops, and the protection of the great fortress of Minas Tirith to shelter them from the evil hordes.

The Terrain:

"For the fashion of Minas Tirith was such that it was built on seven levels, each delved into the hill, and about each was set a wall, and in each wall was a gate . . . so that the paved way that climbed towards the Citadel turned first this way and then that across the face of the hill. And each time that it passed the line of the Great Gate it went through an arched tunnel, piercing a vast pier of rock whose huge out-thrust bulk divided in two all the circles of the City save the first. For partly in the primeval shaping of the hill, partly by the mighty craft and loabour of old, there stood up from the rear of the wide court behind the Gate a towering bastion of stone, its edge sharp as a ship-keel facing east. Up it rose, even to the level of the topmost circle, and there was crowned by a battlement; so that those in the Citadel, might, like mariners in a mountainous ship, look from it peak sheer down upon the Gate seven hundred feet below."

The terrain is one of the things that makes gaming this scenario so much fun. Minas Tirith is one of the great fortresses of Middle Earth, a powerful and ancient walled city that can withstand all but the most overwhelming of attacks.

The Dark Lord's hosts advance on the city. (Click on picture for larger version.)

The Return of the King describes the city as having seven levels. For gaming purposes, however, re-creating all seven levels was not feasible. One of the restrictions of the wargaming environment is that you need to be able to reach all parts of the wargaming table so that you can move your miniatures. A seven level city would have been so large as to make it impossible to access the miniatures. I compromised with a four level city. The city model was constructed for me by Tim Vawter of Castle Works. I worked with him on the design, and he sent me a number of different floor plans before we arrived on something we were both happy with. It is very well made; constructed of heavy duty wood and some kind of plaster. It has stood up to heavy gaming use. For additional pictures of the city model in use, you can click on the Castle Works link.

Click HERE to see a truly amazing Minas Tirith model made by a guy in Australia. It has to be one of the best wargaming models I've ever seen.

"But about the Gate resistance still was stout, and there the knights of Dol Amroth and the hardiest of the garrison stood at bay. Shot and dart fell thick; siege-towers crashed or blazed suddenly like torches. All before the walls on either side of the Gate the ground was choked with wreck and with the bodies of the slain; yet still driven as by a madness more and more came up." (Click on picture for larger version.)

The miniatures:

Many of the miniatures from this scenario (most of the really well painted ones) were painted by John Price, a professional miniature painter. If you like his work, he can be reached at: (520) 790-0721. I can recommend him very highly.
The Lord of the Nazgul, painted by John Price (Click on picture for larger version.)
I've been collecting Lord of the Rings miniatures since the mid 1970's, but collecting and painting the miniatures for this scenario was probably the most challenging part of the project. Luckily, I was able to hire out much of the painting to several talented professional painters, which made the project much more feasible. The miniatures I use for this scenario are an eclectic mix of old and new. I've got Der Kriegspiellers; Ral Partha; Archive; Heritage; Citadel; Mithril; Essex, RAFM Wargames Foundry, Gripping Beast, Old Glory, and Grenadier miniatures in the order of battle. Some are specific Lord of the Rings miniatures, some are generic fantasy and/or medieval.

Click HERE to see my order of battle for the Siege of Minas Tirith, with some commentary about the miniatures I use and a few pictures of the miniatures.


"In the midst was a huge ram, great as a forest tree a hundred feet in length, swinging on mighty chains. Long had it been forging in the dark smithies of Mordor, and its hideous head, founded of black steel, was shaped in the likeness of a ravening wolf; on it spells of ruin lay. Grond they named it, in memory of the Hammer of the Underworld or old. Great beasts drew it, orcs surrounded it, and behind walked mountain-trolls to wield it."

Grond was the great battering ram used to assault the main gate of Minas Tirith. I scratch-built this miniature, using wood from the hobby shop. The head was scavenged from a "Cerberus the 3 headed Dog" action figure (part of the Hercules line.)

Grond advancing toward the gates. (Click on picture for larger version.)

The Rules:

I wasn't able to find any commercially available rule sets that I liked for this scenario. I ended up using a modified version of Piquet. I've played Piquet's Archon (ancients to Dark Ages) and Cartouche (musket, American Rev. etc.) rule sets and liked the game mechanics quite a bit. I particularly like the fact that the players can't necessarily control everything that goes on on the battlefield. Particularly in the medieval context, I like the Piquet system because it is never certain what is going to happen when your mounted knights set up to charge a line of infantry: Will the archers be able to fire several times and mow them down, or will the knights contact the infantry without the archers being able to get off an effective volley? How quickly can your troops react to the sudden appearance of the enemy on their flank? The Piquet rule set introduces an element of uncertainty to these issues that I find refreshing compared to the traditional move/counter-move rule sets. I created a set of Piquet sequence cards specifically for this scenario.

While I adopted the Piquet initiative system and turn sequence, I had to modify the combat system almost entirely. The Piquet combat system operates on the assumption that units will be of roughly comparable size. In the Minas Tirith scenario, unit size can range from 3 to more than 70, so I utilized a combat system which would allow for this. It is a "fist-full of dice" system similar to the old TSR Chainmail rule set, where each figure rolls a die (or dice), with the number needed to kill the opponent determined by comparing the attacker and defender's unit types (with a few modifications for tactical situation.)

All in all, the rules work reasonably well, and play quite quickly with no need for record keeping. Magic is pretty low-key, primarily enhancing (or harming) the combat and morale of targeted units, or aiding in personal combat between leaders.

Click HERE to view the rules in html. Click HERE to download the rules in Word Perfect format. Click HERE to download the rules in Rich Text format.

Click HERE to view the combat tables in html. Click HERE to download the combat tables in Word Perfect format. Click HERE to download the combat tables in rich text format.

Click HERE to view the sequence deck in html. Click HERE to download the sequence deck in Word Perfect format. Click HERE to download the sequence deck in Rich Text Format. The Word Perfect version is formatted to print on perforated Avery business card stock (available at office supply stores)

Click HERE to view the instructions for assembling the sequence and events deck. Click HERE to download the instructions for assembling the sequence and events deck in rich text format.

Click HERE to download unit tags in Word Perfect format. Click HERE to download unit tags in rich text format.

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