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Clash of Empires – Mordor vs Westeros


FORCE SIZE AND COMPOSITION

Total number of forces should be as follows:

  • Mordor
    • 158 000
      • 95 000 orcs (infantry, cavalry?)
      • 23 500 Southrons (infantry, cavalry, Mumakil)
      • 27 500 Easterlings (infantry, cavalry)
      • 12 000 Corsairs (naval infantry – slaves as rowers), cca 300 ships
  • Westeros
    • 388 000
      • 179 600 infantry (est. – assuming 20 000 infantry Vale and Dorne each)
      • 49 900 cavalry
      • 152 500 navy (1180 ships)

Scenarios will ignore dragons on both sides, as by the War of Five Kings dragons have not yet hatched, while Smaug bought the farm back in The Hobbit. Including them would likely be detrimental to Westeros, as Smaug is highly intelligent – he has human baseline intelligence and millenia of experience. Also, Daenerys’ dragons are not yet immune to arrows, while Smaug is (except for one place), and he is likely much larger as well.

WEAPONS AND EQUIPMENT

Mordor

Orcs of Mordor use broad-bladed spears, sabers and short bows. Armour is predominantly various forms of mail armour, and is vulnerable to arrows as can be seen from multiple examples. Some orcs may be cavalry, as “a great cavalry of horsemen” went out of Minas Morgul along with Witch King. These however are few, as Gandalf states that Morgul-host has fewer cavalry than forces then in Minas Tirith.

Haradrim are primarily cavalry, but Mumakil are likely escorted by infantry. They utilize spears, scimitars and presumably also short bows; weapons are iron. For defense, they use large shields with spikes and corsets of overlapping brazen plates (which would likely indicate scale armour).

Easterlings which fought at Pelennor were bearded and used axes. This indicates stereotypical Norse or else Russian societies (it should be noted that word “Russian” comes from Norse word “Rus”). Another group present on Pelennor were “Variags”; this is a Slavic word which is a corruption of “Varangian”, a word which Byzantine Romans used to denote their Scandinavian mercenaries. Overall, Easterlings at Pelennor would seem to be representative of Rus Vikigs.

This conclusion has implications for their equipment. They would use bows with draw weight of 90 lbf – 130 lbf and range of 230 meters, and iron arrowheads. Most common weapon would be throwing spear, with stabbing spear used in close combat. Also would be used axes, either single-handed bearded axe or two-handed Dane axe. Some axes would be suited for throwing. Only rich individuals would be able to afford swords. Defensive equipment would consist of a round shield, a helmet of spagenhelm type and, for richer warriors, a mail hauberk.

Westeros

Westeros uses a combination of several armour types. Dominant infantry armour are mail and gambeson, which is also utilized by outriders. Heavy cavalry utilizes plate armour.

Weapons are also adapted to this, with polearms seeing heavy use.

Ranged weapons are longbow and crossbow. Longbowmen seem widespread. While historically longbowmen were deadly in open-field battles – though not necessarily because of their longbows – they are useless in sieges.

TACTICS

Mordor

Tactics of Mordor are not well-discussed, but there clearly exists idea of infantry support for mumakil, as well as combined-arms tactics with heavy troops and archers, where orcs shower enemies with arrows before trolls charge.

Westeros

Westerosi armies have a range od different tactical approaches. Reach seems to favour heavy cavalry charge, placing cavalry in front and trying to break the enemy line, with infantry remaining in the rear. Westerlands armies have combined line, with pike in center, archers on flanks and cavalry on their flanks.

STRATEGY

Mordor

Sauron’s long-term strategy in Third Age consisted of avoiding head-on confrontation and weakening his enemies through attrition. He established several hostile states – Angband and Dol Guldur, specifically – to weaken the Free Peoples, while also sending waves of plagues and migrants (Balchoth, Wainriders) against Gondor. Great Plague in 1636. weakened Gondor to the point it was incapable of maintaining garrisons at Mordor, allowing him to reoccupy his old stronghold. Afterwards, he continued nibbling at Gondor, taking Minas Ithil in 2002., and overruning Ithillien in 2460.

Sauron also used offers of friendship, geography and psychological warfare to divide his enemies. As noted in “Strategy of Sauron” article, basics of Sauron’s warfare were:

  • Psychological warfare
    • Appeal to pride
  • Vegetian warfare
    • denial of resources
    • destruction of forrests
    • misdirection
  • Attrition warfare
    • defensible military base
    • playing the long game
    • alliances
    • gradual attrition of enemy of resources
  • Surprise
    • multi-pronged attacks
  • Information
    • gaining information
    • denying information to the enemy
  • Long-term adaptability
  • Logistics
    • establishing an advanced base close to the enemy homeland

Some of these were not in evidence immediately, but over time, Sauron’s strategy grew more sophisticated – at least when he was not acting under time constraints.

Main weakness of Sauron’s always was his inability to understand people with motivations different from his own. This was perhaps a consequence of overly-centralized command structure Sauron employed. Because of this, and his own pride, he also lacked short-term adaptability: he had to actually experience a serious defeat before he would even consider adapting a strategy that was not based on brute force.”

Westeros

Westerosi strategy varies by the leader and the objective. More aggressive leaders seek resolution through battle, while cautious ones will avoid decisive engagement. But all of them lack Sauron’s time and capabilities.

INTERNAL POLITICS

Mordor

Mordor appears to be politically unified, but there are “ethnic” conflicts between orcs depending on where they are from and under which command they serve.

Westeros

Westerosi internal politics appear to be based around the “Game of Thrones”. Westeros thus lacks the unity that Gondor (or Numenor) had.

MORALE

Orc armies have very high cohesion. Orcs had left hills of the slain under walls of Minas Tirith in their suicidal determination at taking the city. Orc army continued to fight despite receiving Rohirrim charge from an unprotected flank, losing the magical cloud cover, losing the Witch King, and their reinforcements being “magically” replaced by armies of Gondor. Despite all that, and temporarily breaking at some points, majority of the army of Mordor fought to death. In fact, if it were not for Aragorn’s reinforcements, forces of Mordor may still have won despite all the earlier setbacks. Even when losing, they fought until sunset, and very few escaped – almost none to Rhun.

In similar situations, armies of Westeros often folded. Stannis’ army retreated when attacked from the flank under King’s Landing, and Lannister siege of Riverrun was destroyed piecemeal – though it should be noted that many did make valiant (if foolish) attempt to reinforce attacked section.

FINAL RESULT

Short-term scenario, united Westeros

In immediate invasion, only factor will be direct military strength of both sides. In this, theoretically-united Westeros easily wins. Seven Kingdoms have larger number of troops, and higher quality troops as well. While weapons and armour used by Mordor are generally at the level of 10th century, Westerosi weapons and armour range – depending on the region – from 10th to 15th centuries. As such, orcs will be extremely vulnerable to charge of Westerosi heavy cavalry. Mordor would also not be able to get past certain geographic obstacles, such as mountains surrounding the Vale of Arryn or deserts of Dorne.

Mordor might have advantage in organization and discipline, but even if true, this advantage will not be enough to offset Westerosi advantage in weapons and numbers, since armies of Westeros are well-drilled, disciplined and tactically flexible, if not exactly to the extent real-life Byzantine (and thus Gondor’s) armies were. Westeros will also have advantage in naval maneuver and warfare, due to ships that are both more powerful and much more numerous.

The only thing which will give some measure of grace to Mordor in a conventional clash of arms are its special units: trolls, mumakil and Nazgul. Mumakil are basically overgrown elephants, perhaps twice the height of the real thing. As such, they will be harder to defeat than real things. Their value lies in that the smell of elephants unnerves the horses, therefore heavily hampering the main striking force of Westerosi armies. But this advantage is limited, as elephants were quickly countered and stopped being used in European warfare as early as late antiquity (late Roman Republic). Further, Mordor’s heavy cavalry would be classified as light cavalry in Westeros, and be utterly unable of defeating Westerosi infantry even if Westerosi cavalry got chased off. Trolls could get used in this way, but while their appearance would definitely cause a shock, they are not unkillable.

Nazgul are a greater issue. Army of Minas Morgul was not the largest of the armies Sauron had sent forth, but presence of the Nine made if by far the most fearsome and dangerous. In a scenario without Essos, Westeros does not have access to Red Priests; or if it does, there are only two. There is also a question of whether Westerosi will discover Nazgul’s vulnerability to fire. If they do, Nazgul may be eliminated from the distance, much like Varamyr’s eagle was. If they do not, however, Nazgul alone may be capable of causing at least localized rout – Faramir notes that it was not the orcs who defeated Gondor in Battle of Osgilliath, but rather the presence of the Witch King, which caused loss of morale. Against men with a) no Numenorean blood and b) no experience of such creatures, effect will be much greater. But even though eliminating them is unlikely – Gondorians failed to do so despite likely being aware of vulneability – sheer disbalance in number and quality of troops means that Mordor may not be able to exploit these victories.

Short-term scenario, normal Westeros

Above scenario is however out-of-character for Westeros. Post-Conquest Westeros has never really faced external invasion for scenario to be certain, but it is highly likely that at least some nobles will try to get higher status etc. by cooperating with invaders – after all, such abount in real world. Further, not all lords paramount have the same influence – Riverlands are so fractured they will not be able to gatheir their full strength, and Tyrells always have to look at their backs for possible betrayal. If Westeros is ruled by Robert, he may or may not get himself killed by charging headlong into battle. In this scenario, Westeros still likely defeats the invasion, but is left in a very bad shape.

Long-term scenario, Westeros only

This would allow Sauron to soften up Westeros before invasion. Softening-up could include plagues, or gaining allies in Westeros itself – Sauron’s nickname is not “The Deceiver” for nothing. Westerosi politics would make this potentially very easy, as long as he is careful about it: Sauron would be an unknown, and he could present himself as a force that could help various Westerosi factions to achieve their own goals. Especially if he can don his face of Annatar, he could gain a number of very powerful allies in Westeros: Lannisters and Tyrells in particular are very ambitious and might believe they could exploit Sauron to advance their own interests. If not, he could work through emissaries. Greatest threat is the Faith figuring out his nature as a fallen angel, but that may not be likely. In Middle-Earth, Sauron managed to hide his intentions and war preparations from Elves for 90 years while pretending to be their friend; here, he might be able to achieve the same against Westeros, potentially for an even longer time (he would be, essentially, super-duper-Littlefinger), though a Third Age Sauron would be hamstrung by having to work through emissaries. Sauron might even unleash plagues against Westeros, and then offer help in curing them. It should also be noted that in Numenor, which at the time was psychologically similar to Westeros, Sauron managed to rise from a prisoner to an emissary of God in 48 years or so – and this despite the fact that his hate for Numenor was well known by the time Ar-Pharazon took him a prisoner. In Westeros, where no religion really has fully convincing record of wonders, such approach may be even more effective, especially since Saruman was able to manipulate most people by the power of his voice alone. This “most people” included over-ten-thousand-years-old Treebeard (whose age, based on when Men were awakened, may be between 17 000 and 36 000 years old). Yet Sauron managed to subvert Saruman to his service, after losing his Annatar mask and becoming Obviously Evil OverlordTM, and solely through Palantir. Denethor managed to resist, but he had level of mental strength and nobility that is hard to impossible to find in Westeros.

By the time he decides to invade, Westeros will be divided into pro-Sauron, anti-Sauron and neutral camps. Depending on the extent of each, war may be a narrow Westerosi victory, or a Sauron landslide victory. Assuming invasion starts during Robert’s life, and that Sauron does not use supernatural means but rather relies on diplomacy, most likely to peacefully join Sauron are the Iron Islands (they want to go back to the Old Way) and Dorne (if he promises them vengeance against the Iron Throne). Westerlands, Crownlands, Stormlands, North and Vale would be solidly in Iron Throne’s hands. Reach may go either way, but will likely join the Iron Throne unless they are convinced of Sauron’s victory.

In this scenario, armies will be as follows:

  • Sauron: Mordor, Iron Islands, Dorne
  • Iron Throne: Westerlands, Crownlands, Stormlands, North, Vale, Riverlands, Reach

With this, Sauron would have 95 000 Orcs (I will assume 5 000 cavalry), 500 longships with 30 000 men and 25 000 Dornish of which I will assume 20 000 infantry and 5 000 cavalry. Total would thus be 115 000 infantry, 10 000 cavalry and 500 ship navy. If human allies are also present, this increases to 188 000 ground troops.

Iron Throne would have a total of 210 500 ground troops and 680 ships, all of them of much higher quality than troops and ships available to Sauron. Exception may be the Uruks, which could be stronger than humans. But these are only a small portion of a total number of orcs, likely less than 10%. Trolls would be even less numerous. In this scenario, Iron Throne has significantly greater number of troops than Sauron, in addition to higher quality of the same and much more powerful cavalry.

Now, it is likely that only a portion of Westerosi strength is mobilized. At North’s mobilization rate for War of Five Kings – 20 000 out of 30 000, Westeros would be able to field 140 000 ground troops, which would still give it advantage, though not as overwhelming one. The only footholds Sauron has in Westeros – Iron Islands and Dorne – are hard to assault, so he may hold out for very long there; but this also means that attacking out of these areas would be hard. He would not be able to successfully raid or achieve surprise. The only way for Sauron to win would be for the Iron Throne to baulk at the possible casualties and opt for strategy of containment, allowing Sauron to sow discord and potentially gain allies while breeding his orcs to achieve numerical superiority. But this is not likely, especially with Robert “all I have is my hammer” Baratheon on the Iron Throne. As such, defeat is almost certain for the Dark Lord, unless plague – which I had not accounted for – has severely weakened Westeros by the time invasion begins.

If invasion starts after Robert’s death, Lannisters will be solidly in power. In that case, Tyrells may join either Lannisters or Sauron, while Martells may join Sauron. North may not join Sauron but is likely to keep opposing the Lannisters. So Iron Throne will have Westerlands and Crownlands, while Stormlands and Vale would likely remain neutral. Dorne and Iron Islands would likely join Sauron. North, Riverlands and Reach may remain neutral or else join Sauron – North and Riverlands due to Lannister raiding of the latter, and Reach due to ambition

Forces would thus be as follows:

  • Sauron: Mordor, Iron Islands, Dorne; possibly Reach, North, Riverlands
  • Iron Throne: Westerlands, Crownlands; possibly Reach
  • Neutral: Stormlands, Vale; possibly Reach, North, Riverlands

Using this scenario, armies would be as follows:

  • Sauron: 90 000 orcs, 20 000 human infantry, 10 000 cavalry, 500 warships with 42 000 men
    • Mordor: 95 000 orcs and trolls (of which 5 000 cavalry)
    • Iron Islands: 500 longships, 42 000 men
    • Dorne: 20 000 infantry, 5 000 cavalry
  • Iron Throne: 32 600 infantry, 7 400 cavalry, 460 warships with 74 750 men
    • Westerlands: 28 000 infantry, 7 000 cavalry, 200 warships with 32 500 men
    • Crownlands: 4 600 infantry, 400 cavalry, 260 warships with 42 250 men
  • Wildcards: 87 000 infantry, 27 500 cavalry, 220 warships with 35 750 men
    • Reach: 50 000 infantry, 15 000 cavalry, 220 warships with 35 750 men
    • North: 22 500 infantry, 7 000 cavalry
    • Riverlands: 14 500 infantry, 5 500 cavalry

If wildcards remain neutral, Sauron is very likely to win. His problem however is geography. Iron Throne would have very much the central location, and thus advantage of interior lines of communication. Sauron’s holdings are very strung out. If the Iron Throne plays it smart, it may be able to use its central location to isolate and eliminate Sauron’s allies one by one, finally dealing with Sauron himself. Issue with that strategy is that both Iron Islands and Dorne are naturally defensible, but with enough ships – where Iron Throne in this scenario has the advantage – these advantages can be negated, or even reversed.

If wildcards join the Iron Throne, latter will have numerical and qualitative advantage, as well as advantage of the interior lines of communication. Thus events play out very much in the same way as in “Robert is alive” scenario.

If wildcards join Sauron, situation is wholly reversed. Neither side can really count on advantage of the interior lines (or rather, both will have them in certain scenarios). However, Sauron’s territories would now form a homogenous whole while Iron Throne is divided into two enclaves, which are more-or-less surrounded on all sides. Further, Sauron would now have massive numerical advantage while having something close to qualitative parity – and in some areas such as heavy cavalry, he will have quantitative and qualitative advantage. Westerlands do have some geographic defensive advantages – mountains in particular – but Crownlands are wide open, and would be quickly subjugated. Sauron’s own territories would be extremely defensible, with the Neck and mountains of Dorne hamstringing any attempts at ground offensive. And once Sauron’s armies are past the neck, he may actually have advantage in winter – orcs had operated out of frozen wastelands in both First Age (Angband and Utumno were in far north) and Third Age (Kingdom of Angmar, Misty Mountains).

Of course, if Sauron plays a really long-term game, he may well subvert whole of Westeros without any war. Above scenarios also all assume that Sauron will not use plagues and similar assymetric weapons to wear down Westeros before the confrontation, like he did with Gondor, or else convince whole of Westeros that he is a God. Or just drop several Rings of Power somewhere in King’s Landing. Even One Ring may be used in that manner, for while Sauron’s ability to manipulate men around him may be enhanced with the Ring, he is in not diminished by its absence. In perhaps most likely scenario, Sauron will have people begging him to take the Iron Throne. Even truly honourable people such as Ned Stark or Barristan Selmy could easily be convinced to take damaging-to-disastrous course of action for the sake of honour or to promote a better world. If Mordor itself is ISOT-ed to Planetos, as opposed to just its military forces, it would mean that Sauron has a tame volcano erupting at will, which could serve as a major impediment to Westeros – Sauron could potentially use it to impede crops growth in Westeros, though whether it could actually be done is unclear.

Sauron’s operations may be impeded if Faith of the Seven correctly identifies him as a fallen Angel (assuming there are such things in Faith’s theology). However, if that does not happen, he may even be able to coopt Faith for his own purposes.

Long-term scenario, Westeros + Essos

In this scenario, Sauron goes after Essos first. This might take decades or centuries, but Sauron has time. First target would be city-states of Slaver’s Bay, as they are at actual tactical, technological and numerical disadvantage against Mordor. But fighting might not even be necessary – Slaver’s Bay cities are also highly morally susceptible to Sauron’s offers. Dothraki likewise may get either recruited or pushed away – they would not be able to counter Sauron’s army. While this would increase Sauron’s forces, tactical, strategic and technological ineptness of both Dothraki and Slaver’s Bay armies would mean that armies themselves would not offer much advantage. What would be important here is a) extending his reach, b) gaining more recruits, c) gaining information. It would also allow him to start building up his naval power.

At this point, Sauron would turn his gaze towards western Essos. Here, he is likely to start encountering Westerosi-style armies. At this point, he has two choices, not necessarily exclusive: he can try to conquer them, or he can try to recruit them. Both of these are possible; some may even willingly join. However, Braavos might present a problem, as its Faceless Men might be able to infiltrate Sauron’s ranks and discover the truth. Red Priests likewise might be able to see something in advance. As such, armed confrontation is likely inevitable. Sauron might win this, thanks to his allies, especially if he pulls back in order to upgrade his armies and wear down his enemies through plagues and making of alliances.

Whatever he does in Western Essos however will be noticed by Westeros. This may make Westerosi lords either more or less likely to join him once he turns his eyes westwards. If he plays his cards right, however, he may well achieve massive numerical advantage over the opposition, in which case he easily wins. Not only would he be able to recruit Essosi armies, but resources of Essos would also allow him to breed his orcs en-masse.

2 Comments »

  1. I feel it’s a little silly to measure the limits of saurons forces by the army fielded at the battle of the pelennor fields against the entirety of westeros’s armed capabilities, Mordor had begun a widescale offensive against all the peoples of middle earth by that point and even with them all defeated he had many more armies ready to be deployed days later.
    It should also be stressed that nazgul aren’t killed by fire, they dislike it but read preists can’t just snipe them. Also consider the magical capabilities of the witch king and how he’s practically invulnerable (unless westerosi knights begin robbing eriadorian tombs.)

    Like

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