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I was pretty excited to be finally playing more games of War of the Ring. A long-time fan of all things Lord of the Rings, from the moment I heard this game was coming I was excited. I really liked GW’s Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, but my enthusiasm for it could never completely overcome what I perceived were some of its shortfalls.

For the uninitiated, the scale of the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game calls for armies around twenty-to-fifty strong.  Though the game’s mechanics are SOLID, the size of battles always tended to feel awkward to me: like it was placed uncomfortably somewhere between Mordheim and 40k with the number of models present in each battle.

What’s unfortunate about the game is even though its battles use smaller amounts of models than in 40k, Lord of the Rings feels like it has LESS overall detail than does 40k –which IS weird, seeing as how LotR has waaaaay more tactical choices during a game, due to each model being its own unit. The upshot is that the majority of the models ( ie: rank and file troops) don’t feel significantly different from each other, and so any games not using a large amount of hero models (which, coincidentally, is my preference of play) end up feeling un-engaging and a little stale.

I think, ultimately, the  Strategy Battle Game wasn’t a very good fit for “wars” gaming in Middle Earth: it should have been designed to use either quite a few more troops on the board with only a little extra detail added to the amount  already provided or less models and loads more detail concerning the troops involved. My opinion, for what it’s worth.

What little advertising there was for War of the Ring very much hinted that the game would upping its scale of battles, thus fixing this perceived “problem.” Not only that, but it looked like it not only was going to substantially increase the amount of troops used but was also going to add noticeably more detail in some areas of game play. Yeah,  I was very much looking forward to the arrival of the new rules set.

When I finally got my mitts on a copy of the War of the Ring this last spring, I was NOT disappointed. Fast forward into summer, and I had built an Angmar army with the Witch King and orc hordes at its core that was only about a dozen models away from being completely painted.

Early in August, I heard about a WotR tournament being held at the Games Workshop in Chinook mall, so I decided to attend. My aim was to meet new players, see what they were fielding, support the (very) fledgling –some might say struggling– War of the Ring community and maybe even get some new people into the game. Perhaps a bit much to hope from a first tournament, but there’s nothing wrong with setting the bar high….right?

Tournament Day: August 29, 2009

Labeling this a “tournament” is a little misleading: only four people signed up for it….and unfortunately, only me and one other person showed up on tournament day.  I decided such was the occupational hazard of tournaments with no entry fee: even the people who DO sign up will only show up on the actual day of the event if their whim fancies it. So as it turned out, I got to play against one of my regular opponents for my first game and against one of the staff working that day for my second game. But I guess things could have been worse: the whole thing could have been called off.

I’m not going to do (much of) an in-depth play by play of how each game went; overall I did quite well. In my first game, there were a couple rounds where the game could have turned against me pretty easily (but thankfully didn’t), and I managed to squeak ahead and end up with a major victory: my Angmar forces secured a very solid victory against the Mordor army led by the Undying One on Fell Beast (and backed up by the Mouth of Sauron, another two orc shamans and Gothmog). This army has made me sweat every time I’ve played against it.

My second game was much (MUCH) more challenging: I was up against a Gondor army that had Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Boromir and Gandalf in its ranks….and two trebuchets. And the mission was played going lengthwise down the table instead of the usual width wise.I thought my goose was cooked before I even started the game.

The second game had me on the ropes easily for the first half of the game; only through clever (if I do say so myself) use of my unit of Barrow Wights –and an equal measure of good luck– was I able to grind down the unit with Aragorn and Gimli in it.  That,  and my Wargs who usually flee in every battle (not Warg Riders, mind you, just the dogs themselves) and NEVER rally were filled to the brim with horse shoes: not only did they never flee, they managed to live for several combat turns against a Gondorian unit backed up by Gandalf and Boromir (though it was with the help from a mob of orcs).

Through sheer attrition I managed to wear down the Gondorian player, and he conceded defeat. Another full-fledged victory that was hard fought to the very end. Lucky for me, my opponent held my view that despite it not being written explicitly in the rules book, a natural roll of  ‘1’ always counts as a failure (just like in every other GW game) unless, of course,  Might Points are used to increase the die roll.  (This has a HUGE impact, considering how broken Gimli’s Epic Rampage would be if naturally-rolled ones didn’t count as automatic fails).

The end result of the afternoon’s gaming was two major victories for me, both were hard fought for against excellent opponents. I had a great time, and with only two players to go up against, we were able to play our games at a more leisurely (and strategic) pace –which helped lure those shopping that day closer to the table to stop by and check out the action.

So did the tournament meet my expectations?

(A) Meet new players. Technically, I guess I met ONE. I also played against my regular adversary….so does that maybe count as 50% success?

(B) See what others were fielding. The staffer I played pulled a Gondor army out of the store’s cabinets, which left me doubting they were his real army. So I guess it’s a technical ‘fail’ for this goal, BUT my army (with more troops than heroes) took on and came up on top of an army heavy with heroes –and said heroes were definitely some of the heavier hitters in the entire game. That fact makes me love WotR even more. Despite the prevalence of heroes, Hero-hammer it is not!

(C) Support the fledgling WotR community. Veni vidi vici–though I’m not sure it counts (sound of a tree falling in the forest and all that). That said, all rock slides begin with a single stone.

(D) Maybe even get some new people into the game. I think I was most successful here. Too many players think that anything Lord of the Rings automatically sucks. The games I played turned a few heads…and possibly a few opinions too. Time will tell.

My only disappointment was that I forgot to take more pictures: the pictures above represent just over half the total amount of pictures I took that day; the majority were taken before the second turn in my first game….and without a flash (flashes tend to wash out the picture); my apologies for any blurry photos.

So that was my War of the Ring gaming day, waaaay back at the end of August. All in all,  I can’t stress enough how glad I was that the guys over at Games Workshop in Chinook mall ran the event–and kept it going despite the abysmal turnout; kudos to them is certainly in order. Here’s hoping that next time we’ll get DOUBLE the turnout. I’d be satisfied with that much.

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3 Responses to War of the Ring Goodness (plus diatribe!)

  1. Charlie Torok says:

    I feel your pain, no one is playing this system, too bad. Recently played in the Forging of Fates, no players in San Antonio TX and only 4 in the regional event (Dallas TX area). too bad, I like the models, story line and game system (Both LOTR and WOTR).

    GW is trying to promote, but it is not working.

    • imaginarywars says:

      I think the big problem is that this is a game that’s making its gains by dimes and nickels.

      War of the Ring, though great, is not a game that can poach its sales from the other Workshop systems (too much hate towards LotR for some dumb reason). As such, the game–unbeknownst to Games Workshop, I suspect–needs to gain players one at a time, and from a grass roots initiative, as GW simply telling people to play this game won’t work: they’ve managed to lose a lot of player trust over the years.

      I also think Games Workshop have forgotten how much effort it actually takes to get people to commit to a new game (again, as opposed to convincing current fans to expand their interests more). That, and I think there’s a lot of complacency in the halls of Workshop from all the momentum Warhammer and 40k have behind them–not to mention that GW failed to learn from the Lord of the Rings SBG; in my opinion, its success was due to the movies driving the mass market (mass market, not necessarily Lord of the Rings fans) into GW’s stores. People bought the game in droves…and then ditched it in droves–as all families do who buy into the “latest” fad family games…which, back in 2001-2004 is what the LotR SBG was perceived as. Perhaps that initial mass-market dive is why the SBG and War of the Rings games are encountering so much fan-boy hate(?).

      While I do think War of the Ring is growing, albeit slowly, I’m scared with it being a GW product, slow growth won’t please the board of directors enough to give it a fair chance.

  2. […] my disposal). I’ve also been thinking about doing some slight changes to the paint jobs on my War of the Rings Orcs. (It should also be mentioned that I’m regularly scheming and discarding painting projects for […]

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