Friday, 5 November 2010

My thoughts on LOTR

I was wandering about the blogsphere and I remembered this post over at Cursed Treasure about why the Lord of the Rings games lacks gamers.  I viewed the comments and there were many interesting points raise, and I felt like addressing my thoughts on these points.

To start, I thought I would drop my thoughts on the original posted question.  Why don’t I play LOTR?  I have been thinking on this, and I think I fell into the same pitfall of most people.  When the game was announced it was on the back of the film trilogy, and GW just seemingly threw it in the face of gamers proclaiming it to be their third ‘Big Game’ alongside the ancient Warhammer Fantasy and its younger brother, Warhammer 40k.  It just didn’t sit right with me.  To me a game becomes popular by the gamers and supporters, not because the company ‘Says so’.  However, up until early this year I had never even read the rules to the game.  I unfairly judged the game, just like pretty much every other gamer.  I jumped right on the band wagon of “this game sucks” and grabbed the tail of the “its stealing time and space in the company” donkey.  I think it also came down to the idea of how GW first pitched it.  It was seemingly marketed to begin with as just a way of replaying the famous parts of the novels/films, seeing if you could change the outcome of the series.  This worked while the films were new and interesting, but as they waned, the idea stuck that this system was limited.  We all know the outcome of the game, and all know that nothing changes when we replay these ‘famous’ events.  I think this was a big pitfall for me.  I like games that have wider range and its ending is not set in stone.

There was also a point brought up in the comments above about lack of customisation, and I agree.  The other two ‘big games’, and even the spinoffs, are very open ended.  You can pick a generic hero for you faction and fashion a whole history for them, arm them how you wish and let them grow.  In LOTR, most characters are known and even then if you can take unnamed ones you can’t really make them a great hero of their faction because Tolkien’s world is very set and lacks any great manoeuvrability for this purpose.  So instead you end up with characters leading factions, but from what I understand race doesn’t matter.  By this I mean, you could have a dwarf character leading elves or visa versa because they are in the ‘good’ faction.  You can have northern orcs being led by evil southern men. And so forth.  It just seems a little bit like having your cake and eating it, leaving very little to skill or having flaws in the force if you can just take other models to fill in those gaps.   One other thing, it kind of goes hand in hand with the lack of customisation comments above, the heroes, or the models in general, they give you little freedom when it comes to equipment - as far as I can tell. 

My final negative point here is the scenarios.  I have nothing against scenario wins, except when they are “if X faction does achieve Y criteria they win.  If they do then Z wins”.  These bore me and strike me as one sided.  However this isn’t my gripe, as I am sure there are different ways to play the game, but it is rather how GW marketed them.  The whole “replay the LOTR and win for evil” etc is fine, but has limited appeal.  This is something I feel has put a lot of gamers off picking up the rules and actually having an opinion that is not just built off of instant dislike or hearsay.  I think win games people like the idea of it being set in a well known surrounding (LOTR, or Star Wars for example) and refighting these epic battles are interesting but after a while, it gets boring and you need more exciting things to do with your minis rather than replay these scenes.  I am sure there are more scenarios and more varied ones available to play, but how GW made them come across has always seemed like there was just the replaying of the story.  Not fun.

So what does this all mean?  Well… I am going to put my money where my mouth is.  So to speak.  I intend to buy the LOTR: SBG rules and have a read of them, to see what my real thoughts on the matter are.  I have read them before, but I want to re-read them.  This does not mean that I’ll be starting up a force for the game (though, I have already considered some options already) but I will definitely read and comment back with actual opinions based on fact and discuss my thoughts on the topic of the game itself.  Look forward to this in the future. 


  1. I worked at a GW for about a year during the height of the LOTR films. We sold a lot of boxes (for GW, they were a good deal) but never really had anyone come play the game in our store. Because I worked there, I ended up with free copies of the Fellowship and Two Towers boxes and I had to learn the rules and play demonstration games with people. While it kinda worked as a skirmish game, GW has produced better skirmish games such a Mordheim. I can't speak for the War of the Ring game, but LOTR lacks the depth that fantasy and 40k have to offer over years of gaming.

  2. I am going to disagree with Alex on one point.

    GW have never used a better skirmish game mechanic than what they did with the LotR SBG.

    The Phased turn sequence in the SBG is far superior to the I go, you go, of every other GW system.

    While the rest of the SBG is far less customizable than the other GW skirmish systems, it still shines in it's tactical depth.


  3. I am as excited as a kid in a candy store to read that you are considering giving the game a chance. To start, you need to read Legions of Middle-Earth. It provides additional army list and scenarios. These scenarios are as basic as those found in 40k and have nothing to do with the movie. This will resolve some of your concerns.

    Army construction does allow to have allies with other forces however you do have some limitation. Some player will take advantage of this however strategy is the key to this game. I feel that all the units are well balanced and their are ways to stall your opponent in this game. Again, it is called "Strategy Battle" for a reason.

    Reading your post I am not sure if you are reading the current rules or the first addition rules. I don't know if they changed much however the combat system I feel is the best. I would suggest picking up the starter set so you have the current rules and some models.

    I could go on and on about this game however I am very one sided. I enjoy it very much and have set aside WFB for another day. I feel this game has more balance with the armies and the rules. It is not about the biggest hero or the best magic. It is all about movement and the turn phase. I compare it more to WAB then WFB. I look forward to seeing what you do.

  4. @Alex - To me that seems to be a problem, it is being compared to WFB and 40K too much. I think it is an entirely different game, with different mechanics. It does lack customising options - one thing that I dislike - but I think for depth, it can have it. I hope it will.

    @Big Jim - That is one thing I quite like. The ability to get to go twice in a row first. You have to have sound planning and consider this eventuality. Unlike in 40k of WFB where you can know you have a good setting and your opponent can't counter you after they have moved. I like that mechinic.

    @Da Green Skins - I am glad it has made you so happy. =P That I like, the idea of more scenarios is good.

    The ally rule does concern me, in that I don't like the idea of mixing all of good and bad into two lots and picking what you like.

    I don't know what one I read, it was an hardback my friend had. I have considered the starter set, it has a mini rulebook (always good!) does that come with all the stuff from the big hardback? I have seen expansions (one for dwarfs, and the three films) are these also required to get the stats for certain models etc?

    Fair enough. I am not sure I could do that, mainly because I love Fantasy so much (even though I have not played it for a very, very long time). I think it is more to do with me wanting to expand my gaming repertoire, rather than just 40K and WFB. I still don't know if I'd pick this game up, but it does look interesting.

  5. Wow, great article Kuffy. I really enjoyed that.

    I have only played LoTR once, (a demo game at the first LO meet) and I have to say I really enjoyed it. This is compared to maybe 20-30 games of 40k, 3-4 games of Bloodbowl and Space Hulk and exactly 0 games of WFB, all in my 15 years of being interested in this hobby.

    This may not seem to make me qualified to give an opinion on such things. But as a person who does not play a lot of games of anything, in a weird way it sort of does. I don't play a lot of games, all my information comes from online sources rather than face to face time at gaming clubs, and even I have known about this biasis against LoTR.

    So to me it is obvious that from the very beginning there was a definite anti-LoTR sentiment amoung GW gamers, and God knows if GW gamers don't take to a game it's very unlikely that gamers which pefer non-GW games will. Now, I think that both you and the article on cursed treasures blog really did highlight what happened with the intial release. Gamers felt that this game was being forced on them as a money making scheme.

    I do remember though being incredibly excited when I first saw the anouncement of the new game though, but I'm at a loss to explain where that excitment has disappeared to.

  6. I would defiantly recommend the Legions of middle book. It adds army lists and point match scenarios.

    Legions of Middle book divides all the lord of rings range into around 40 different army lists. So plenty to choose from.

    I see why you are worried about allies, but it's quite important to lord of the rings as it's a theme which runs though the stories. The way allies work in legions of middle earth is very cleaver. You pick your main force, which lists which other army list you can take allies from.

    The allies list are very well thought and logical. For example you can't take a historical Lotr character like Elendil with Aragorn.

    Thanks, Andy

  7. @Vinny Thanks. =) I have not, but I do remember watching and laughing at Karrot as he tried to convince folk to get into the game or just play a game. I think that maybe now I should have done.

    I agree about the anti-LOTR view from gamers was happening. It was like GW just shoved it in our faces (off the back of the films) and told us to treat it like Fantasy or 40K. Now, the more I think it have grown a bit as a game. I don't mean with the War of the Ring expansion, but rather they have added more stuff not from the film and actually tried to incorporate all of Tolkien's world. This is good. And in many ways I see it as a specialist game - but with support. It has a strong gamer support base, with some studio support but many gamers seem to forget it exists.

  8. If you get the starter set you get all the rules from the main rule book minus the fluff, just like you get in 40k and WFB. The mini book also gives you the stats for many of the models. The expansions are important because they give expanded armies with more selection and updated stats for some of the models. I would suggest getting the starter set and the Legions of Middle Earth. Play the sample game to get an understanding of how everything works. Then research the armies to find one that fits your playing style and start painting and playing. All I can say is that the updated stuff has nothing to do with the movie, just the back ground and the name of the models. I will stay tuned for your conclusion.

  9. @ Andrath - Thanks. I am going to looking into that when I purchase the rules. That is quite a few, great stuff!

    That is true, I never saw it that way. I will see when I get the rules and see how it all works.

    @ Da Green Skins - Ah, I did think it would be that way like the others. Good news. I think I will do what you are suggesting here, and even if I choose not to go into the game I should have some new minis to paint. =D

    Thanks for the comments guys, it is interesting to see such support for LOTR on the blogosphere.

  10. Just as a note, I have ordered the Mines of Moria boxed set and Legions of Middle Earth supplement as suggested. Just waiting for it's delivery.


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