Tuesday, February 14, 2012

New Games Workshop Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game Surge

Games Workshop, the company who makes Warhammer Fantasy Battle, Warhammer 40,000, and within the last 10 years, The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game and War of the Ring, has put out a whole new set of sourcebooks for the SBG army lists.  The original sourcebooks were, in my opinion, scattered, bloated, and annoyingly hard to keep track of since they focused on areas rather than races.  The new books are much more focused; there's a book for all the Good non-human races (The Free Peoples), the Good human races (Kingdoms of Men), Mordor, The Fallen Realms (Isengard and other Evil human peoples), and the last book for Moria and Angmar.

You can find the listed books by clicking here.

I've picked up the Free Peoples book, and I like what I see.  There was a discrepancy for a while between some of the models that only had rules under the War of the Ring game (for example, the Dwarf King's Champion).  Now, every model and unit has a SBG entry, with a few rules tweaks that make sense to me.  For example, there is little point nothing that every model comes with a hand weapon since by default all models come with one, so the only wargear listed is that which the model possesses that stands out from the "default".  In addition, where there are multiple versions of the same character model (In particular, Gandalf, Galadriel, and Elrond).

One thing I don't really like is the "Warband" rules in the beginning of the book, under Choosing Your Forces.  Basically, every force you put on the table consists of one or more Warbands.  A Warband consists of a "Hero" and 0-12 warriors.  Heroes can be fielded on their own, but you cannot field warriors without a Hero.  I see this as a two-fold strategy; first, to encourage the "heroic" nature of LotR gaming by having Heroes who can use their Might points and so on to turn the tide of battle, and second, to sell more Hero models.  I can acknowledge both strategies as making sense from GW's perspective, but it annoys me nonetheless.  One of the appeals of the SBG is that each individual model can make a difference and fights their own battles.  To introduce a rules that essentially says every warrior must be led by a Hero, and each Hero is only able to lead 12 warriors at a time, means that you're going to have 5-6 heroes running around at any one time.  I actually preferred the idea that you could field a force that only had 1-2 Heroes, and that the "little guy" could do most of the heavy lifting in a battle.  For some races, having to field 5-6 heroes is going to eat up a massive amount of points, as each captain is usually worth 6-8 times their number of warriors.

In the end, it is easy enough to ignore this complication.  Many of the scenarios in the other books have a detailed listing of what sort of forces should be fielded, and the Warbands rule is mainly intended for "pickup games" (read: Tournaments).  It gives a certain level of standardization to the game, but I still feel like one of the appeals of the SBG was how every model mattered, and each model was a Hero in its own right, if it fought well enough and turned the tide of battle from defeat to victory for its side.

This "surge" in SBG models and books is no doubt in preparation for the Hobbit movie, which comes out in December.  GW will no doubt be releasing a slew of miniatures and some new books, and I guess some standardization was in order.  I'm looking forward to the new releases, and I'm sure to be commenting on them here as time goes on.

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