Would the Orcs have been able to overrun the keep if they didn
Yes, due to overwhelming numbers
26.7% (47)
26.7% (47)
No, the defensive would
73.3% (129)
73.3% (129)
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Poll: Helm's Deep battle, minus the bomb

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Hey all, I bumped into a LOTR: the 2 towers rerun a few nights ago, and of course had to rewatch the legendary Battle of Helm's Deep for like the 20th time. And I'm sure all of you remember Théoden being quite confident when he saw how well their defenses were doing at first, right before the orcs blew up the wall and things started going downhill from there.

But then I thought to myself: Hm, what if the orcs didn't have a bomb/access to explosives? What if their only option was to try to climb up the wall and all those archers the hard way? Would they have still be able to breach the walls and push the good guys all the way back, or would the good guys be able to hold them off?

Discuss.

Sigh: can't edit the poll, 2nd choice was supposed to say No, the defense would hold till the riders showed up. Sorry.

Considering the bomb went off and they still managed to hold out until the riders showed up they would have easily won.

Movie version? With the added bonus of an army of sniper elves? They could probably have held out quite a while.

Book version? Helm's Deep was supposed to be impregnable. Without the bomb and with all the supplies in the caves, it would have been a very long battle/siege. But, Saruman outnumbered them quite badly, and I he could afford to lose a lot of "men". In the end it was the Ents that saved them, not the riders.

Without the explosives then Saruman would not have committed to an assault but rather a seige as he'd have had no decisive mechanism for breaching. It would have neutralised the Rohan forces as well as Aragorn et al. but would have made no difference in the long run as the seige would have been broken by ents/Gandalf+riders.

Even if the Orcs & Uruks had been able to leverage some other decisive war engine or strategem to break through, or even merely overwhelm the Rohan with numbers, Saruman's forces had already been outmanouvered before the battle had even begun.

If they'd not had the bomb, in the movie they'd have needed a proper siege. That actually might have been to their advantage, they could have set up proper defences (contravallations) to protect from reinforcements. The Riders absolutely should not have won that battle, you do NOT charge blocks of pike front on from horseback.

Nothing to stop the uruk-hai uses trebuchets...they did not look like the jokes they had in the movie, real trebuchets would fire identical round stone blocks about as big as a person that would follow nice predictable paths so you could aim them. A castle wall wouldn't explode when one hit, but since the all flew much the same way, you kept hitting the same spot firing once an hour for as long as it took to knock a big enough hole in it.

...

Actually, if the uruk-ahi didn't turn into rubbish cannon fodder and had a proper siege going, the Riders wouldn't have been available to ride to Gondor, nor would Aragorn had summoned the dead.

Without the bomb, it would have just been a siege while Saruman would set the rest of his followers to burning down the Riddermark. Ironically, I'd consider the fact that the Orcs went for an assault rather than a siege to be their greatest boon to the Rohirrim.

The way I see it, the Orc would of won due to the fatigue rate built up from the human and the elf since they were fighting in the night and rain. Ok sure the whole life and death upon the human may have build up some adrenaline on them but fatigue would of still rise up. Even then how much arrows supplies did they had? Otherwise the elf would of ran out of arrows at some point or did they had ALOT of them store up somewhere in Helm Deep.
Before you mention the fatigue rate for Saruman side, don't forget that most of his army were Uruk Hai (there were more of them than Orcs) which are created to be a killing machine. This is kind of reinforce at the start of the film that had run a great length before to finnaly subcome to tiredness so I'm pretty sure fighting all night in the rain is a breeze for them.

I think the end result would have been the same, it just would have taken the Uruks more time. They already had no problems scaling the walls and breaching the gate, they had the numbers to keep pushing and tire out the defenders.

there is also the old school technique of underminding as well which would be quite successful at breaching the walls in potentially multiple places

wombat_of_war:
there is also the old school technique of underminding as well which would be quite successful at breaching the walls in potentially multiple places

Takes ages though, even though goblins seem to have a thing for digging.

the defense would have prevailed. wormtongue mentions that the fortress is impregnable, save for 1 drain (where the explosives were placed). even then, they needed a huge army. army part covered, they just needed to breach the wall. had the riders not arrived, i reckon saruman's forces would have eventually won, but they were there for a quick assault, not a long siege, so its still debatable.

(this is speaking from the film, been years since i read the books)

Depends, the urukhai had the manpower and equipment to take the walls in an assault if they were a bit smarter about it. I don't know whether or not they could have done so in time to turn the defenses against Gandalf and Co however. If they(U) are still outside of the walls when they(G) arrive on the flank, they(U) would have been slaughtered even more quickly. (at least, assuming they(U) still don't know how to hold a proper defensive pike formation.)

With or without the bomb, the Uruk's would probably have won. They'd just have to take things slower and use more traditional methods. Of course, that isn't including the reinforcements for the defenders. Without reinforcements, the defence probably would have lost, bomb or no bomb.

Eleuthera:
Movie version? With the added bonus of an army of sniper elves? They could probably have held out quite a while.

Book version? Helm's Deep was supposed to be impregnable. Without the bomb and with all the supplies in the caves, it would have been a very long battle/siege. But, Saruman outnumbered them quite badly, and I could afford to lose a lot of "men". In the end it was the Ents that saved them, not the riders.

You could have lost a lot of men?

>_>

I know your secret now!

Well, the whole "horse and the rider" scene makes it clear Helm's Deep is gonna get pummeled no matter what. The drain bomb simply knocks them out way sooner than Theodon had expected.

No, the Uruk-kai stood no chance without the bomb. Though, similarly, Theoden's people would have been screwed if the Elves hadn't shown up, even without the bomb.

Well I think the orcs would've gotten in anyway, they seemed to be doing a pretty good number on that gate, but the defenders would've had a better position so they could've bottlenecked them.

spartan231490:
Though, similarly, Theoden's people would have been screwed if the Elves hadn't shown up, even without the bomb.

What do you mean "Elves"? There was only ONE Elf at Helm's Deep, Legolas.

'Elves' refers to the movies not the books - they didn't have time (in an already long movie) to introduce the wild men of Rohan who unite and join the Helms Deep forces at the last minute, so they substituted them for the elves, who the audience had already been introduced to.

Secondly, as for the necessity of the bomb. Keep in mind that these guys were Saruman's forces, and unlike Gandalf, he's pretty trigger happy when it comes to destructive corrupting magic. He probably built the bomb, and if he hadn't done that he'd probably have some other magic trick to pull out in order to breach the walls.

So no bomb, and I'm guessing we should dismiss the Rohirrim and Ent trees as well.

If that was the case and the Orcs still went for a staight out offensive attack I think they would have won, although it would have taken longer.
The elves only had so many arrows (I think in the book the defenders had already run out of arrows when the bomb went off) they certainly didn't have 10,000, and once the arrows were gone it would have to be hand to hand combat one way or another, and although the defenders would have the advantages fighting in the castles with choke points etc. there just wouldn't be enough to offset the huge number of orcs. The defenders would have lost, but they'd have killed more than their fair share of Orcs before they were overrun.

Doesn't the movies establish Saruman to have destructive elemental magic? In the movie scenario, he probably could have assisted the siege from Isengard and not needed that bomb at all.

madwarper:

spartan231490:
Though, similarly, Theoden's people would have been screwed if the Elves hadn't shown up, even without the bomb.

What do you mean "Elves"? There was only ONE Elf at Helm's Deep, Legolas.

Did you forget Haldir turning up with a good number of Lorian Elves?

I'm totally forgetting, what was Saruman's goal in that? Did he think the one ring was there, or did he just want those forces out of the way and not joining Gondor?

If the latter, he could have been just happy with his opposition holed up in the Helm's deep, and just went for a siege, because just forcing them to be there meant he achieved his objective.

(But I suppose he just liked the idea of showing his power and utterly destroying the opposition)

arc1991:

madwarper:

spartan231490:
Though, similarly, Theoden's people would have been screwed if the Elves hadn't shown up, even without the bomb.

What do you mean "Elves"? There was only ONE Elf at Helm's Deep, Legolas.

Did you forget Haldir turning up with a good number of Lorian Elves?

Never happened.

-Dragmire-:
Doesn't the movies establish Saruman to have destructive elemental magic? In the movie scenario, he probably could have assisted the siege from Isengard and not needed that bomb at all.

And going by the books he could have probably just talked the defenders into surrendering...
But I suppose he wanted to blow stuff up and/or was too lazy or busy to hike to Helm's deep.

arc1991:
Did you forget Haldir turning up with a good number of Lorian Elves?

How can I forget something that did not happen?

in the movie version, not a chance, I don't know WHAT Saruman was thinking attack a fortress with friggin' pikemen!

book version... didn't read it, probably had a better shot but, as was already said above, he was outmanouvered before the battle began.

They didn't make it with the bombs, wouldn't make it without.

madwarper:

spartan231490:
Though, similarly, Theoden's people would have been screwed if the Elves hadn't shown up, even without the bomb.

What do you mean "Elves"? There was only ONE Elf at Helm's Deep, Legolas.

He specifically stated he was watching the movie, stop being butt-hurt

Combustion Kevin:
I don't know WHAT Saruman was thinking attack a fortress with friggin' pikemen!

I always wondered this. I mean I know they were kinda known for their cavalry, but its a siege for godssakes! Unless you're planning to pole vault over the walls, leave that 4m stick home!

thaluikhain:
Nothing to stop the uruk-hai uses trebuchets...they did not look like the jokes they had in the movie, real trebuchets would fire identical round stone blocks about as big as a person that would follow nice predictable paths so you could aim them.

AFAIK, IRL trebuchets were (contrary to popular belief, as is often the case with things that look cool) not that good of a weapon. In theory, yes, they could be accurate and they could propel big projectiles over large distances. However, probably because of technical limitations, those things did not perform great. The accuracy was quite random, it was hard to hit roughly the same spot twice, they were unreliable, extremely expensive and generally impractical. Real trebuchets were mostly rich rulers' toys, used to boost the army's morale, scare the opponents, and most importantly, make Mr. Important's willy feel large. Actual damage to the structure wasn't too impressive.

Lieju:

-Dragmire-:
Doesn't the movies establish Saruman to have destructive elemental magic? In the movie scenario, he probably could have assisted the siege from Isengard and not needed that bomb at all.

And going by the books he could have probably just talked the defenders into surrendering...
But I suppose he wanted to blow stuff up and/or was too lazy or busy to hike to Helm's deep.

That and he is quite old. Let the young orcs do the heavy lifting, that's what they're there for.

OT: I imagine siege machines constructed over a long period of time during the battle could have brought down the walls as well. Ladder assault just wasn't cutting the mustard. The thing is, Orcs don't really have much in the form of preperation. With the first waves of the assault dead, they would have had to regroup and built up trebuchets or some other siege engines to overwhelm the defenders. The riders would have arrived and likely interrupted those efforts.

That bomb really did help their chances.

I don't think Saruman would have attacked the way he did without his "ace up the sleeve." I think he lost by using the bomb because it freed up Rohan to come to the aid of Gondor. Had a real siege taken place, the Rohirrim would have been holed up for months unable to come to the assistance of gondor when called.

Now this isn't the best simulator but me and my brother once did a battle of Helms Deep Warhammer, him the defenders, me the Uruk Hai (and Ringwraiths and Goblins etc.. because why the hell not).

He won without losing a man.

Now this may just be because I'm a bad player and also we may have slightly made up rules to make it more fun... but the theory holds, he had the wall and the elven archers. My Swordsmen couldn't reach him and he cut down anybody climbing ladders.

image

As in the film the Uruk Hai were on the wall and were cutting down men and elves...BUT they couldn't maximise their force by sending Uruks up ladders 1 by 1...blowing up the wall gave them numerical advantage. However they were breaking through the gate, so no matter how long the wall held the Hornburg would have been stormed eventually when the gate was broken down.

Same result likely.

Everybody flees back to keep when gate breaks. Then ride out into occupied Helms Deep, fighting off Uruks until Gandalf appeared.

On the other hand, say Theoden instead garrisoned his troops at Dunharrow (where they gather in Return of the King), they would likely have been much better defended. Dunharrow, although it lacks walls, was deliberately designed to be unassailable.

image

The single file path up the steep mountain would have been impossible for the Uruk Hai to attack succesfully. Just Sayin Theoden but you should've listened to Gandalf.

" There is no way out of that ravine.
Théoden is walking into a trap. He thinks
he's leading them to safety. What they
will get is a massacre."

Lieju:
I'm totally forgetting, what was Saruman's goal in that? Did he think the one ring was there, or did he just want those forces out of the way and not joining Gondor?

If the latter, he could have been just happy with his opposition holed up in the Helm's deep, and just went for a siege, because just forcing them to be there meant he achieved his objective.

(But I suppose he just liked the idea of showing his power and utterly destroying the opposition)

arc1991:

madwarper:
What do you mean "Elves"? There was only ONE Elf at Helm's Deep, Legolas.

Did you forget Haldir turning up with a good number of Lorian Elves?

Never happened.

The OP was talking about the Movie version.

Like others have said, Saruman just should have laid siege to the fortress, would have turned out better for his forces

F'Angus:

On the other hand, say Theoden instead garrisoned his troops at Dunharrow (where they gather in Return of the King), they would likely have been much better defended. Dunharrow, although it lacks walls, was deliberately designed to be unassailable.

image

The single file path up the steep mountain would have been impossible for the Uruk Hai to attack succesfully. Just Sayin Theoden but you should've listened to Gandalf.

" There is no way out of that ravine.
Théoden is walking into a trap. He thinks
he's leading them to safety. What they
will get is a massacre."

I thought Gandalfs original plan was to directly assault Saruman's Tower, or at least open battle, didn't he say something along the lines of "Ride out and meet them" while arguing with the King, also I don't know, but wouldn't Dunharrow lead to pretty much the same situation as Helms Deep: a single entrance that can be assaulted, and no way out?

The stupid thing is that the Two Towers film turns Gandalf into a total, utter idiot. Like, a complete failure of a tactician.

In the books, once Theoden gets his mojo back, he's chomping at the bit to ride out to open war against Saruman, as a kind of fuck-you-for-turning-me-senile sort of thing. It's Gandalf who pushes for caution, and advocates for the Rohirrim holding out at Helm's Deep. A tactical move which proves invaluable when it becomes clear that Saruman has the overwhelming numerical advantage.

In the films, Gandalf argues straight from the off that Theoden should right out into open war against Saruman, despite knowing first-hand that Saruman is mustering a huge fucking army. Theoden quite rightly thinks this is a fucking stupid idea and decides to go to Helm's Deep, but the film portrays him as an embittered coward for doing so. Then it turns out that Saruman's got an army of 10,000+ angry Uruks, and Theoden was right all along. Except the film's can't allow Gandalf to be proven wrong, so he turns up at the end with some cavalry, charges them headfirst into row upon row of pikes... and somehow wins. Because apparently spears and pikes aren't all that good at killing cavalry, despite being designed as anti-cavalry weapons.

If Theoden had followed Gandalf's advice in the films, the Rohirrim would have been slaughtered down to the last man. The books actually had proper medieval warfare tactics, because Tolkien knew what the fuck he was writing about. Cavalry only work against spears when you catch the enemy off-guard and charge them from behind, a la the books. Lining up in a pretty line and giving the enemy time to form ranks and get their spears ready is an invitation to get your arse kicked.

...ahem. Sorry, enough with the ranting about Peter Jackson's utter incompetence and lack of understanding about even the basics of combat.

If the Uruks hadn't used explosives, the battle would have turned into a siege. And Saruman would have probably won. Siege warfare invariably turns into a contest to see who has the most food supplies. And not only would the Uruks be able to get a constant stream of supplies from Isengard, they'd have cut the Rohirrim off from getting any supplies of their own. The only option would have been for the Rohirrim to try and get supplies through the sneaky mountain road round the back, but that wouldn't have helped them. Trying to get supplies along a mountain road is much much harder than trying to get them across miles of open plains, meaning the Uruks would have had a distinct advantage.

Also, if the battle became prolonged, then it's quite likely that Sauron would have gotten involved at some point or other. Even if he'd just sent a couple of winged Nazgul already in the area to have a look at things, that would have been a huge problem for Theoden. Though in all likelihood, once he found out that Aragorn, Isildur's heir, and Gandalf were fighting at Helm's Deep, he'd have probably made it a priority to get that battle won and Aragorn dead, so would have probably sent quite a few orcs along as well.

madwarper:

arc1991:
Did you forget Haldir turning up with a good number of Lorian Elves?

How can I forget something that did not happen?

Next thing you know, people will be suggesting that Frodo abandoned Sam right before Shelob's Lair. Or that Frodo and Sam got spotted by Ringwraiths in Osgiliath of all places. Or that the Scouring of the Shire never happened.

I mean, what kind of stupid half-assed director could possibly do something like that?

*Goes and weeps into his paperback copy of ROTK*

Hero in a half shell:

F'Angus:

On the other hand, say Theoden instead garrisoned his troops at Dunharrow (where they gather in Return of the King), they would likely have been much better defended. Dunharrow, although it lacks walls, was deliberately designed to be unassailable.

image

The single file path up the steep mountain would have been impossible for the Uruk Hai to attack succesfully. Just Sayin Theoden but you should've listened to Gandalf.

" There is no way out of that ravine.
Théoden is walking into a trap. He thinks
he's leading them to safety. What they
will get is a massacre."

I thought Gandalfs original plan was to directly assault Saruman's Tower, or at least open battle, didn't he say something along the lines of "Ride out and meet them" while arguing with the King, also I don't know, but wouldn't Dunharrow lead to pretty much the same situation as Helms Deep: a single entrance that can be assaulted, and no way out?

Gandalf's plan in the films makes no sense, and is simply a result of Peter Jackson not having a clue about medieval warfare. He knew first-hand that Saruman was breeding an army. He tells Elrond as much right in the first film, before the Council. He knows that the Rohan army is undermanned. And yet his grand master plan is to get the Rohirrims to throw themselves against the Uruks in an all-out war.

Total, utter idiot. If Theoden had listened to Gandalf, then he'd have deserved to be skewered by Uruks for being such an incompetent leader. And Dunharrow would have led to the same potential problem as with Helm's Deep: siege warfare. Saruman could have just laid siege to Dunharrow, and stopped Theoden from getting any supplies or reinforcements. In fact, Dunharrow would have been worse. While it has a secret back-exit like Helm's Deep, that secret exit leads directly into a haunted mountain that no-one's ever come back from before. Helm's Deep was the right decision, as in the books, and Gandalf was a complete moron for arguing otherwise.

Ugh... now I'm getting bitter about the films again.

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