"Boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew."
Earlier this month I re-opened my War Room with a pair of Lord of the Rings battles against my friends Eric and Joshua. Despite a great looking miniature range sculpted mostly by the Perry Brothers and a set of solid rules from Games Workshop, the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game has never really caught on locally. A few years ago there was a small surge with the release of War of the Ring, a game that a few of us still play from time to time, but the skirmish level SBG never really took off until this Spring.
In February, GW breathed new life into their LotR game with five new sourcebooks covering all the forces across Middle Earth. These books effectively tweaked the main rules without having to issue an new edition. Each side is now made up of multiple "warbands" that can include up to twelve models. Each warband is made up of a hero/character and his/her followers. Multiple warbands, along with lone characters and monsters can all be used to fill out your "army."
The dwarves make ready to defend the mountain pass against the marauding Rohan horsemen.
For these first two games we kept things simple by using the "To the Death!" scenario which is the first one in the book. The first game featured my Balin lead dwarves versus Eric's Riders of Rohan commanded by that arch villain Eomer. I was defending the ruins of an old dwarf wall to guard the mountain pass, and Eric's "evil" riders were up to no good and probably intent on stealing all our ale. :-)
"Here they come! Let's see if they like the taste of our axes!"
Doing my best impression of a dwarf general.
This battle basically boiled down to my dwarves standing in front of charging Rohan riders, getting knocked down, and then getting up and finishing off the enemy with their axes. Both of our forces were very one dimensional and seriously lacking in true bad guys. We really need to get some real "Black Hats" painted up.
A nice shot down the battle line.
The bandit Eomer and the last of his warriors are finally surrounded and laid low.
After ridding the realm of smelly horsemen, I had Joshua over a few days later with his Gondor army that he has just started. While Eric is more of a SBG veteran, Josh and I are not, and left to our own devices we were able to learn a lot during this game. My dwarves again included Balin and Josh's "evil" Gondor army was lead by the King of the Dead (Spooky! Scary!).
I thought the Palantir is supposed to be round?
As in the previous game, we both rolled mostly low for deployment (1-3) which put our warbands very close to the middle of the table according to the scenario. Since this was mostly a learning game, we were more than happy to get stuck in right away anyway.
Other than a few rangers and archers, everyone on the board was defense 6 or better. This meant that the majority of the game was spent beating on each other with no effect. We both had a good number of warriors with 36 each, but Joshua's more costly ghosts were not as effective versus my high courage dwarves. One of my rangers were able to take out his banner early, and eventually the dwarves started slowly winning the war of attrition leading to the death of his King.
The King of the Dead is banished back to the mountains... Wait?! Where?!
In both games I found out that my dwarves are very hard to kill in a straight up fight. I probably wouldn't want to face them myself, but things will get way more interesting and challenging with playing the other scenarios. Plus both games featured very one dimensional armies and no magic. It will be fun to see a more flexible force on the table with infantry, cavalry, and maybe a warmachine or monster. Especially since the game is very fluid. Even in these straight up fights the battle line ebbed and flowed and was certainly not as static as a game of Mordheim for example.
I'm certainly looking forward to a more challenging game in the future, but either way the game is always quick and fun. As mentioned before, someone really needs to start painting some real evil guys or else the free people of Middle Earth are doomed.
Thanks again to Eric and Joshua for coming over and the very enjoyable company and games. My dwarves and I are definitely looking forward to the next opportunity to swing their axes.