Monday, December 17, 2012

The Hobbit - LotR minis game?

LotR, anyone a fan?

Alright guys, now that most of you have seen The Hobbit, I think it's time to talk about the Strategy Battle Game.  It's been a long time since I did anything with LotR (last game I worked on was Battle for Middle-Earth II).

I haven't bought the rulebook yet, but I'm thinking about picking it up and checking out the rules.  I'm fairly convinced I'm going to play either the Galadhrim and Rivendell Elves.  Maybe even some units of the High Elves, I'm not really sure.  Whatever the case is, I'm looking at Elves although Gondor and Dwarves look pretty nice as well.

Does anyone own the rulebook and/or play LotR the Strategy Battle Game?  If so, can you tell me some stuff about the game?

I don't think I'm going to get into War of the Ring because my big fantasy game is reserved for WHFB.  However, a small skirmish-style GW game with my favorite LotR stuff sounds pretty kick ass.

12 comments:

Jay Wornham said...

I am a huge LotR gamer (or, at least WAS until I moved back here where it's the most hated minis game ever invented) and I'm happy to expound a bit on this...

The game itself is a very simple game. Here's the basic turn sequence: Player A move, Player B move (note that charges are done during the movement phase), Player A shoots, Player B shoots, Player A chooses order to work out fights, then start next turn. Roll off to see who becomes Player A, which means the order can change turn to turn.

The mechanic is just as simple. In the shoot phase, it's a stat the specifically states what minimum die roll is needed to hit. In the fight phase, each model in a fight roll a number of dice equal to attacks and whoever rolls the highest single die wins the fight. If it's a tie (especially when multiple models or multiple attacks come into play), then refer to the 'Fight' stat and the highest stat wins. The mechanic to wound is where it gets wonkey. Where 40k and Warhammer use the "1-step" chart, LotR uses a "2-step chart". This means that killing a model is a comparison between strength and defense (as normal) and it becomes hard. Average str 3 vs. average def 5 requires a '5' to kill. Average str 3 vs def 4 is ALSO a '5' to kill. But average str 3 vs def 6 (heavy armor and shield) requires a '6' to kill. Getting used to this chart is only slightly harder than 40k and fantasy, but it's still a pattern and easy to pick up.

Of note is that every model is an individual model. No units in this game. In addition, cavalry models are TWO models, and shooting them requires a roll to see if the horse is killed or if the rider is killed. In addition, cover plays a very simple role- shooting at a model behind a wall requires a 4+ roll to get over the wall after a successful roll to hit, just like cavalry.

And that's all the basics to the game. There's slightly more, such as magic, courage/fear, and different weapon stats, but this is pretty much the extent of the game. Heroes all come with an extra set of stats that give them 'feel no pain' rolls (a finite number of them called 'fate'), the ability to adjust courage and resist/use magic (finite again, called 'will'), and the ability to go out of order or adjust dice rolls (the most important hero stat, known as 'might'), but these are simple to pick up after getting the basics down.

Here's the big deal with this game- it's meant to be played at the skirmish level!!! I've played in all the scenario games, I've played in massive battles, and I've even played at tournaments (including Adepticon), and I've found the game to be most fun at smaller levels. The difficulty in killing models and the unbalancing effect of characters can lead big games to take way too long with too little action or too many characters equaling out to no chance. As a GW monkey, I used to pimp this game and always focused on the 'buy a single box of troops and a character blister' start, and then present the 'buy another box and another character' finish to cool armies. These games were quite a blast. Simple, one game can mean learning all the rules confidently, and narrative action being easy to represent make this one of the best small-scale mini games on the market.

Me personally, I have elves and uruk-hai as my two main armies (think eldar and chaos marines as an analogy) and half a dozen armies besides, and I'm very sad that I have no opponents. I've been a DnDer since 7, 40ker since 8, played tons of other games besides, and find LotR to be one of my faves. And no, I'm NOT a Tolkien-head (although I just happen to know the lore and story a bit too deeply. Thanks, GW), so I'm coming at this from a gamer standpoint.

Hope that helps! :-)

HERO said...

Thanks for the great post man.
I'm a little confused why the Fight works like that.. Do you think it's a balanced mechanic? I'm not sure how I feel if someone like Glorfindel gets punked by a Goblin simply because I can't outroll him on what it feels like a heads/tails gamble.

Are there any glaring balance issues?

Jay Wornham said...

Well, there are no saves, so the wounding mechanic has got to be harsh to start with. The fight works that way and gives preference to heroes (or supermodels) that have more dice and so a better chance to win. Plus, heroes get 'might' to adjust dice rolls and 'fate' to get saves against wounds. But both of these stats are finite which gives great credit to the idea that even heroes get tired after a long fight.
As far as the unbalance- gods yes! Dwarfs are too cheap for what they do (defense 7 models with strength 4 and only a point more expensive than a defense 5 strength 3 human), the good guys have far better heroes while the bad guys have far more models (which counts big-time and is the reason I suggest avoiding larger games) and monsters that can be rather scary. Goblins and even orcs can put out a ton of cheap heroes and warriors and just win by sheer numbers. But all in all, the game is fun despite these balance issues for two reasons: first is the fact that scenarios can make a huge difference rather than the good 'ol 'kill everything' objective (and LotR does scenarios like crazy!), and second is the idea of 'narrative action'. It's hard to math-hammer LotR simply because of the dice mechanic and that reliance on luck. But remembering that this is supposed to represent what's actually happening on a battlefield mitigates a ton of those problems. I've seen Boromir (the most powerful warrior character in the game) slay over 100 goblins on his own, while I've been responsible for killing in him in turn 1 with a few crossbows to the face. Oh yes, that was a great day for the Uruk-hai of Isengard...

HERO said...

So the imbalances from the factions balance out when you play the scenarios? When you say gods yes to Dwarves being too cost effective, it makes me think they're going to win every game!

fracas said...

Balance or imbalance depends on model selection. Since limits on force selection isn't much, open gaming can be unbalanced some if you take a primarily fight 4 force with lots of might.

Von said...

The key to playing the LotR SBG, I find, is not to treat it like a balanced, competitive wargame in which the default style of play is 'pick-up points match'. It's bloody awful at being that and its perceived crapness is largely down to its being mis-marketed as that. It's an excellent game for recreating the books and films, or doing narrative campaigns, or daft little "how many waves of Uruk-Hai can Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli fight off" scenarios. It'd be an excellent game to run a pseudo-RPG campaign with, kind of like Inquisitor.


I don't think that coming at it and thinking "I am going to collect this army and play points matches" is really the best way to approach it, though. I'd go for rounding up a couple of mates and saying "let's do a Last Alliance campaign" or "let's do that alternative Fellowship thing from White Dwarf". As an example, Hark and

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Sean Parker said...

I just got into LoTR/Hobbit with the launch of the Hobbit starter. My friend is a huge fan of the game, but I never really played. After reading the rulebook, I can see why my friend likes it so much. I cant wait to play now. I really think this game has gone underrated for a long time. Currently this is my third favorite rules set behind Dystopian Wars and Dystopian Legions.

I too went with Galadhrim Elves lead by Haldir. Its taken me about 2 weeks to assemble the 3 boxes of Warriors and 2 knights; which is incredibly fast for me.

Jay Wornham said...

nah, not every game. But they're not fun to play against and play well in 'kill 'em' scenarios. In movement scenarios, not so much. They're just slow enough to matter. But you'll enjoy playing them. They aren't outmatched in most cases.

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