From Dr Graham:

Games Workshop’s LOTR Tabletop Battle Game

It’s been about 6 years since I had an interest in miniatures or tabletop gaming, but on a bit of a nostalgic whim a friend and I went halves on purchasing the LOTR game boxed starter set and the Fellowship figure set.

The main game comes with 38 plastic figures (Moria Goblins, Elves and Men of Gondor) some sections on ruined building and the 120-or-so page rulebook. The Fellowship boxed set comes with the nine fellowship members, obviously, and these are very nice looking and cast in metal.

My friend and I were fairly concerned about the price mark up (seeing as it was Games Workshop’s soaring costs that were the catalyst to our leaving the hobby years ago) and decided that, despite our excitement about trying out the game, the asking price is way too high; the contents of the box certainly not being worth £40. I emailed Games Workshop about this and they said that New Line Cinema had asked them to keep the prices constant and offer no deals or discounts… I can only accept their word on this and hope they spend their fat profits on something nice!

Anyway, I digress. The rulebook is glossy and full colour throughout with some very nice illustrations/photos, many I have not seen before. Having been seasoned gamers in the past, we got to grips with the rules fairly quickly and were soon into our first game.

The scenarios are a nice introduction to the mechanics of the game. The first scenario involves the Good player having to make his way across the playing area without the Evil player wiping our more than half his (relatively small) force. The rules are quick and do not hinder gameplay. The introduction of ‘Priority’, whereby players roll to see who will move, fire or fight first in each respective round is a very good one and provides some very tense dice rolls! The player with ‘Priority’ has all the more of an edge when it comes to moving into close combat – if you can move first, you can engage your opponents forces before they even get to move and thus choose who fights who in the combat round.

The combat system makes for very exciting skirmishes, allowing even the weakest of characters the possibility of winning a fight (though, not necessarily wounding their opponent). Advantages come from strength of numbers (this is vital in the case of the Goblins), although it can prove difficult to defeat a strong opponent even with hordes of fighters. In the last game we played my Moria Goblins swarmed all over Boromir and were knocked back (not always with casualties) over and over! They succeeded in holding him back for quite some time until he was able to break free, killing three in one round of combat but by that time I’d managed to defeat enough of the rest of my opponent’s force to win the game.

The scores and attributes of the characters seem to be fair and reflect well on the game. Not only are Elf bows more powerful than Ork bows, but they have a better chance of hitting their targets with them too. The Hobbits aren’t great at fighting, but have advantages of their own. The forces of Good seem to have a lot more special characters to choose from than the Evil, though, but this is something I’m sure will be rectified with the provision of more releases and extra rules.

You can have quite a few good and interesting games with the figures straight out of the box, but most of the other scenarios require additional models. This is obviously with the assumption that new players are buying into the hobby and will thus buy the newly released models as and when they are released. The opinion of my friend and I is that we will buy *some* of the new models, but generally dig out our own old fantasy models to be used as conversions or simply to represent other characters from LOTR. I don’t think we can justify the asking price of too many brand new figures, even though it’s tempting.

Overall – a very enjoyable game that is both quick, and with characters true to LOTR, and relies heavily on strategy as well as a few lucky dice rolls here and there! The down side is the costs. It won’t be cheap to keep up to date with the new figure releases and I certainly do have a problem with Games Workshop and the sometimes ridiculous asking prices of their products… ripping off the very people who are ethusiastic about your products is bad!

That said though, if you can justify the costs (or perhaps split them with a friend as I have done) and have an interest in wargaming in Middle Earth then the game doesn’t disappoint.