AICN TABLETOP: Wait, wait, wait...GWs LORD OF THE RINGS WAR OF THE RING...is...really good?
Published at: Feb. 20, 2009, 12:05 p.m. CST by merrick
Hola all. Massawyrm here.
Games Workshop’s LORD OF THE RINGS is often treated as the red-headed stepchild of their line. Not by GW, they love the little thing, giving a full third of their year’s release schedule to it. But while I’m certain there are small pockets of players around the states, it just hasn’t caught on the way their other two games have – despite the built in fanbase. So when it was announced that GW was renewing the license for the property, a lot of us collectively scratched our heads. WHY? The models are great and all – but the game? Not so much. So for the last few months, GW’s monthly magazine/catalog/$8 advertisement has had gorgeous pictures of large LOTR armies with the words WAR IS COMING!
Well, WAR is almost here. WAR OF THE RINGS, GW’s new “mass combat” version of their game. I put “mass combat” in quotes because if you read their company descriptions, this isn’t a completely separate game so much as it is a refined game meant to handle what us 40k players refer to as APOCALYPSE sized battles. In other words, rules that would let you play something like Helms Deep. AHEM. It’s not an apocalypse level version of LOTR. It’s a completely new game. And while the rules are designed with “mass combat” in mind, it really is designed to be played in Warhammer Fantasy Battles (WHFB)/Warhammer 40,000 (40k) sized games – though it appears, at a cursory glance, to be workable at gargantuan levels.
I honestly didn’t have much faith in this. I tried LOTR a while back and was unimpressed. I wasn’t alone. While some stores stock it, many stock a bare minimum and the secondary market is almost nonexistent, especially compared to the WHFB/40K aftermarkets. But when I walked into my local store the other day, I found 4 of the tournament loving locals putting together LOTR armies. When I asked them why, they pointed to the demo copy of WAR OF THE RINGS. “Wait,” I asked “it’s good?” They all pointed down at their new armies. “Yeah.” They almost looked defeated, a number of them having trash talked it, at least a little bit.
So tonight I watched a game and perused the book a bit – and yeah. It looks pretty sweet. Here’s the lowdown:
-Units are broken up into three rarities. Common, Rare and Legendary (these are just designations, as this isn’t a randomized game.) Legendary units are the named units most of us are familiar with: Sauron, Gandalf, Ringwraiths, Elrond, Frodo. These are your leaders. Rare units are the tougher standard units and Common are your core troops. There is no Force Organization Chart. You MUST have one legendary unit. Then you MUST have one common unit. From then on you can have ANY NUMBER of common or legendary units. Rare units, however, must be at MOST 1 for 1 with common units. For every common unit you have, you may take one rare unit. You may only have one of any particular legendary unit in your army (Only one Sauron, etc.)
-Units are referred to as companies. Each company is comprised of either 8 men on foot, 2 mounted troops or 1 monster/creature. When you buy a unit, you buy a number of companies to fill out its size. For example, you can buy a unit of Orcs for 25pts a company and it can contain up to 6 companies. So for 25pts you get 8 orcs – or you can have up to 48 for 150pts. Many units also have upgrades like leaders, musicians and spellcasters.
-The play is very fast and, while simple, not over simplified. I’ve heard it said that 3000pt games can be played in under 2 hours on average. I watched a 1000pt game run about 45 minutes.
-Heroes are…heroes. They do heroic things. I watched Elrond alone chew through 20 goblins and a wizard in a single round. They are also expensive. When you field your favorite character (and they are ALL there) you won’t get that “he should be more badass” feeling playing him.
-The book is entirely self-contained. EVERY ARMY LIST is in the book. No army books. Every list is balanced against one another and there doesn’t appear to be a single standout broken army. (Note: That doesn’t mean that we won’t find one.)
-The back of the book is a collection of everything you need to run every major battle from the books/movies. There’s even rules for playing a campaign that takes you through all of them.
-The rules for the major characters are insane. You can field the Fellowship as a 500 point unit. For an extra 25 points you can add Bill the Pony. Sauron is also 500pts, as is running THE NINE – all nine Nazgul together in one unit. Each of these is also fieldable separately, with each Ringwraith/Fellowship member possessing its own special rule. There are a lot of fun, goofy rules for the many quirky characters in the books as well. Tom Bombadil is played with his wife and he moves (I believe) 2d6” towards her every turn – momentarily confusing any unit he comes into contact with who stands around trying to figure out WTF this Hobbit is doing walking through their battlefield. Bill the Pony can’t be killed – for obvious reasons. Gollum gets put in your ENEMY’S army and adds an extra wound to the unit he is in as he secretly strangles one of the members while everyone else is occupied. The Mouth of Sauron has a power called Epic Cowardice which allows him to withdraw from combat when most heroes are force to stay and fight to the death.
-Games Workshop has finally made movement trays with 25mm circles for placing the round LOTR bases into them. This will be AWESOME for 40k Chaos Demon players who can now very easily use the armies in WHFB. These will be very popular and are due out on the 28th.
Hopefully I’ll have a play report shortly. If some magical little bird out there can slip a copy of this under my door for further review, you would be my hero. I’m gonna spend the weekend trying to (wife willing) assemble a Mordor army. I’m DYING to field Sauron and The Nine at the same time with a table full of Orcs and Trolls. That sounds several different kinds of awesome. More on this next week. Until then, check out GW’s series of articles introducing you to the game here..
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.