WizKids Lord of the RingsThe WizKids product brand, under various owners, has been publishing the ‘HeroClix’ series of collectible miniature boardgames for several years now; they are move-and-fight combat games played on maps with miniature pre-painted figures whose movement and combat statistics are recorded on a dial that clicks to (usually) lower values as the figure receives damage. The most popular and numerous HeroClix products have been based on Marvel and DC superhero franchises, though there have been other settings as well.

Their newest product is a Lord of the Rings game. There are (at present) two ways to buy: an ‘Epic Campaign’ starter set, which contains eight characters (Sauron, Witch-Kingm ‘Ringbearer’ (Frodo), ‘Esquire of Rohan’ (Merry)m ‘Guard of the Citadel’ (Pippin), Strider, Captain Lurtz, and Olog-Hai), as well as rules, six largish maps, ‘Horde’ tokens representing generic Orcs or warriors, dice, character cards, and other play aides; and the standard ‘booster’ style in which one of an initial set of 21 figures (with various degrees of rarity) and its associated character card is purchased sight unseen. You might get a common ‘Frodo’, or a rare Gandalf the Grey. There will undoubtedly be many expansions with additional figures and maps before long.

I have not played Heroclix games, and do not own a copy of this one, but they are generally similar in style to the Games Workshop tabletop games, or perhaps more like the Combat Hex Tradeable Miniature game from Sabretooth from some years ago: your figures can move on the map grid, and attack enemy figures by rolling dice, comparing their current attack value and the dice roll to the enemy’s current defense value. Figures have a wide range of special abilities that add variety to this basic mechanic. The license is evidently based on the films, not the books, as we see from ‘Lurtz’, and the figures themselves are obviously based on the film portrayals. Looking at various pictures and videos, and examining a copy of the starter set in the hobby shop, the sculpt and paint jobs seem to be of middling quality, again not very different from the old Sabretooth game. Because the game is part of a ‘standard’ game system, the character cards and rulebooks and so on are in the same style as their superhero and other games – using a sort of ‘steel sans’ typeface that is more suitable for a near-future subway station than for Middle-earth. The rulebook is also the standard rulebook that comes with their other games (you can download a copy from the WizKids site), although there is a separate short booklet with LotR-specific rules and scenarios including ‘epic’ rules involving larger collections. I have only seen a bit of the maps, but they too look pretty generic-fantasy, notwithstanding their designations as ‘Helm’s Deep’ and the like. All in all, it seems pretty much a factory product, with the bare required minimum ‘flavour’ of Lord of the Rings (and, excuse me, WizKids, but a Sauron figure – scaled shorter than the Olog-Hai troll – in a tactical combat game set at the end of the Third Age??). Still, if you are already playing HeroClix, the games are supposedly compatible, so you might find it entertaining to see what Aragorn and a rampaging Hulk can do against Lurtz and Green Lantern. Or something.

If you do happen to like this style of game, the Starter set seems to be reasonably affordable ($26 at Amazon) and fully playable without buying any additional figures (a bargain compared to, say, Games Workshop’s $80 Mines of Moria entry-level game). Single-figure pot-luck boosters will run $2.50 each, and there is also a complete set of the 21 figures (including the rare ones) that will run about $80. [Starter Pack][Booster Pack] [Amazon Listing of all Items] [Official Site]