TORn Staffer Balin was able to attend Games Day in Chicago this year. Here’s his report:

Games Day Chicago 2003
Games Workshop, makers of the LOTR Tabletop Battle Game, brought their GamesDay event to Chicago this weekend. GamesDay is a celebration of all their tabletop battle games, which include Warhammer and Warhammer40K as well as LOTR. This was my first time at such and event.

My day began at 10 AM when I arrived. After buying my ticket I entered the world of tabletop war gaming. I wandered around looking at all the different tables that were set up. There were several dedicated to each of the games. Every table was richly decorated with buildings and scenery, the perfect place to play at war. Seven of the tables were set up for LOTR. The largest of these was set up for the battle of the Last Alliance. Sauron was there in the middle towering over the others. All the miniatures were beautifully painted and the sheer number of them made for a breathtaking panorama. It would be easy to get lost in playing on this game board. Several players did just that.

While this was the largest, Helm’s Deep was the most complex and drew the most interest. I wandered about going to the store area to make my own purchases and take in all the other tables. I came back to the Helm’s deep table and found the same players, Erik and Zak defending the walls and Russ and Brad just as diligently moving wave after wave of miniature Uruk Hai up ladders to take the battlements. There were Uruk Berserkers with a ‘new deviltry’ attempting to blow a hole in the walls. Warg Riders in the ready to enter the breach and attack the Rohirrim Riders garrisoned inside. I think they must have played for at least 90 minutes before they needed to move on to other business.

There was one table for the escape into Lorien. A couple tables were generic landscapes to use for almost any battle scene. The last table was the scenario at Amon Hen. I got lucky and was able to play this one. The object of the forces of Good (the fellowship less Gandalf) was to get the Hobbits to safety. Getting 3 or 4 to safety is a win. Getting 2 is a draw. One of the Hobbits that get to safety must be Frodo. The other characters are expendable. The Hobbits start out in the company of Boromir. The other characters are spread across the board. The Uruk Hai are in the middle. The game combines strategy with a bit of luck. You have to use strategy to give yourself an opportunity but you roll the dice and sometimes luck is not with you. In my case, I was lucky and got some really good rolls and all 4 Hobbits made it to safety. This game can suck you in. You find yourself getting pumped up when that crucial roll goes your way. It is a great experience and very exciting.

There was one seminar on the LOTR game. It was given by Gordon Davidson. He talked about what was coming up for the LOTR Tabletop Battle Game. He gave a slide presentation and the images were awesome. Most have been on the web but there were some new ones from the upcoming ROTK update. There were banner bearers and soldiers of Gondor. Most of the images were of the latest section called Shadow and Flame. This will be in stores in America in a week or so. For some reason I am particularly drawn to Balin’s Guard. This is a box set and I can’t wait to get it. There will be about 9 other box sets and 21 blisters. Shadow and Flame is a first departure from the movies. It introduces characters that are familiar to the books of JRR Tolkien and this will include The Hobbit (look for Smaug and the likes of Beorn in the future). While the movies are out it makes sense to stay with them but this game is not going away any time soon. After the third movie, ROTK, there will be even more added from the books. He also talked about what was coming out for ROTK. There will be box sets like the siege of Gondor and Heroes of the West. There will be much more in the way of scenery. This will be along the lines of the Helm’s deep set that is out in conjunction with TTT. The image of the Fell Beast was great. It was a very tantalizing taste of things to come. I can’t wait.

After the presentation I wandered back to the Gaming room and took in some of the other contests and tournaments going on. There was a speed painting contest area. A gaming area where you could test your skill against each other or some pros. I focused on LOTR but there was much more there. All the games were represented and the national Blood Bowl Tournament was in another room. The day passed quickly and soon it was time to leave. I had a great time and indulged in a little gaming. I know I will be back next year. I hope to see you there!

Balin bows.