In a word: I do.
But before I go into why that is, I want to go over the games I played (somewhat) recently, seeing as how the end of August and start of September was very good for me getting War of the Ring games in: I managed to play four games in three weeks (which is exceptional for me).
Note: The dreaded wall of text seems to be turning into my “thing” on this blog, and I’m sure this entry will be no different. To attempt not getting mired in that, I’m going to gloss over a lot of what happened in the games…much as though I’d like give all the dirty details.
Game #1: Wednesday night at Great White – 900 points.
My Army: Gondor with Rohan allies.
Foe’s Army: Angmar (and ghost-heavy at that!)
Summary: Shook out the cobwebs & provided a “first game” for a new enthusiast.
Details: Generally a good game –the one embarrassing highlight being that my opponent and I were both so used to GW’s turn structure that we didn’t even notice until turn three that we were using the basic Warhammer turn structure instead of the proper Lord of the Rings / War of the Ring turn structure. Yeesh!
This was the first time I played not using the Angmar army I’ve been working on all year, and I had a blast! My esteemed opponent and I agreed that perhaps Angmar versus Angmar wouldn’t be too exciting, so I hobbled an army out of all the Lord of the Rings models I’ve painted up over the years …and surprisingly (!) was able to make a decent army for War of the Ring. Through making a list out of the available models I had (as opposed to going through the book, constructing the list and then buying-building-painting the models), I learned that while the bad guys do get cool monsters in their lists, good armies get a bit more …personality in their troop selections. Despite having a painted Fellowship, with the lower points limit, I decided against taking them in favour of having several small units with a few heroes: my hero roster was Boromir, Denethor and Damrod. Rather predictably, Boromir was the king of the match, but I had a ton of fun using Denethor in my army –and Damrod’s legendary unit pulled their weight too!
The game ended with a victory for the Forces of Good; but it was close enough often enough, that we both had a great time playing.
Sidenote: I play the ‘Shieldwalls’ set up every time now instead of rolling for which deployment to use. I feel the one real weak spot with War of the Ring lies in its missions and deployment choices–sure it uses, ostensibly, the same decent system in place for Warhammer 40,000 (three different setups and three different missions equals nine basic ways to play the game); but with War of the Ring, two of the three deployments provided are pretty not good for regular gaming. (Both provide a nice change to what has become standard in games: width-wise play across a gaming table, but they are poor choices for staple deployment: one deployment has players playing the game length-wise down the table; and the other makes the players’ formations arrive randomly in the game while also entering on random board edges. (I’ll say it again: pretty neat to mix things up but poor staples for regular game play.) I’ve already decided I need to write up a few more missions and deployment types and incorporate the ones in the book with any new ones I come up with into one big table.
Game #2: Wednesday night at Great White – 1500 points
My army: Angmar
Foe: Minas Tirith Gondor-heavy (with some Rohan)
Summary: While defensive terrain isn’t always my friend, the Knights of Dol Amroth are never my friends.
Details: The beginning of the end of my “undefeated” streak (I’ve been doing a decent job of maintaining that record since I got my Angmar force up and running). The mission we played was the very enjoyable “Seize the Prize” mission, which is a standard objectives mission except that it assumes the objectives the armies are fighting to possess are smaller, more portable (dare I say ring sized?) and can be dropped if a unit loses combat or gets pushed back due to bow fire.
I honestly can’t remember whether I won or lost; I do remember the Knights of Dol Amroth effortlessly carving their way through my orcs. I’m pretty sure this game was a close loss for me.(And I’m willing to concede it was likely a little worse for me than that!). I know I made mistakes: I moved too quickly into defensive terrain, leaving me unable to exit the terrain fast enough to take advantage of my opponent’s minor positional mis-steps; the Witch King, flying on his Fell Beast, was vanquished ingloriously from massed arrow fire; and Buhrdûr, the exceptionally sneaky ambushing Hill troll hero, suffered the same fate the moment he revealed himself on the battle field. So. yeah, I’m susceptible to cavalry …and to massed archery if there’s a horse shoe or two launched along with those arrows.
Game #3: Wednesday night at Great White – 1500 points.
My army: Angmar
Foe: Rohan with Gondor allies
Summary: Rough game!
Details: I was teaching one of my coworkers how the game worked. He’s only played once (as he’s been too caught up with his 40k armies to put much thought into WotR, despite being intrigued by the game); and seeing as how he didn’t have his own army, we cobbled together a force from the store’s cabinets: mostly Rohan with some Gondor allies (the store is almost done its Rohan force).
This game cemented the fatal weakness my Angmar force possesses: a crazy susceptibility to lances and a real lack of anti-cavalry troops. We played the ‘Seize the High Ground’ mission (which in this game was a patch of forest in the middle of the table) with our, now standard, ‘Shieldwalls’ set up.
I also fell prey to my biggest foil as of late: me writing my army list on the fly right before playing the game. This time, I decided to mix things up a bit and put two Ringwraiths in my army: the Witch King of Angmar and The Tainted (on a fell beast). Beyond that, everything was pretty standard –except that taking that extra Ringwraith really took away my ability to field numbers. How is it for an orc army to look across the board at an all-cavalry army and be outnumbered? (Answer: fricken’ scary!)
So to cut to the chase, despite “teaching” some of the fundamentals of the game, I had my privates handed to me on a platter. I lost in no uncertain fashion, thanks, mostly to the wealth of lances that made a mockery of my mediocre armour. There were other problems as well, my tactics not being above reproach.
The hardest thing for me right now is dealing with high-defence, fast moving cavalry. At least in that game. I also screwed up forcing a bottle neck and knowing my rules backwards and forwards to be able to answer the “tricksy” questions my opponent kept unleashing on me. (Though new to War of the Ring, he’s certainly no slouch when it comes to playing 40k and Warhammer Fantasy.) I think, tactically, I didn’t bring my ‘A’ game to this battle, which was only compounded by my having to face such a crazy amount of cavalry.
Game #4: Sunday at Sentry Box – 1200 points.
My army: Angmar with Misty Mountains Allies
Summary: A nail biter to be sure.
Details: This was my second game against “Uncle Mike,” author/owner of Strange Aeons and Uncle Mike’s Worldwide resin scenery & models, who is as big a fan of Angmar as I am…maybe more (we haven’t yet used the applause-o-meter to determine who the bigger fanboy is). With the first game we played being a mere 900-points, this time we were able to take our army size up a notch. Last time we played, I fielded a hastily-assembled Gondor army; I decided this time to bring my Angmar out to face against Mike’s Angmar. We deployed with the usual ‘Shieldwalls’ and today’s mission was ‘Seize the Prize.’
I won the dice-off for setup; so, seeing that I outnumbered my esteemed opponent almost two-to-one, I let him deploy first to give my army (still smarting from battle not five days previous) whatever deployment advantage they could get. The game proceeded from there. By the end of the second turn, the superstars were his Ghostly Riders (which were a nice conversion: the plastic Morgul Knights with warriors of the dead shields painted in ghostly colours), who, despite thundering across the board in turn one only to have their ability to charge my Carn Dûm warband curtailed, managed to survive to the second turn and really do serious damage to the men of Carn Dûm. During the second turn, I was sure I was going to see the collapse of my entire right flank. Luckily for me, I rolled a six on my panic test after my men of Carn Dûm were badly mauled and lost combat. By the skin of my teeth they held, thereby saving that flank and enabling a Cave troll and a Ringwraith on Fell beast intercept the enemy threatening my flank. (Thank God for rolling sixes!)
The following turns had both of us bungling enough rolls that everything was kept pretty lighthearted. The game see-sawed and at several points each of us were convinced that the battle had irrevocably turned to favour the other. The battle came to a head when what was left of Mike’s Angmar army –still a good portion, to be sure– had all surrounded my main Orc formation; through a bit of lucky conniving (and luckier charge-distance rolls), I not only managed to even the odds of that fight considerably but all my rolls were terrific and Mike’s dice rolls were …less than average. It was at this point that he conceded the game, even though he was still carrying enough objectives to not be down and out; and even though his Gulavhar (a Middle-Earth vampire; think of a more demonic-looking Vampire Counts Varghulf) was wreaking havoc among what was left of the troops on my right flank, we both saw what direction the wind was blowing. Not even Gulavhar’s ability to fight two combat phases each turn –complete with two charges– was going to be able to swing the battle enough in his favour. So we called it there.
Why I LOVE War of the Ring
Two of the games I played over this short period made me really think about what it is that I like about this game.
It was after I played the game using what Gondor and Rohan models I owned that I realised one “problem” the game has with becoming popular: for those coming from a Warhammer or Warhammer 40,000 background, looking over army lists for War of the Ring reveals armies that look bare and …bland compared to all the shiny bobbles that populate Warhammer codices. There’s no million options or upgrades; pretty much as exciting as it gets with options is choosing how many of the command models you want to include in a formation (WotR term for a regiment). When writing up an army list, War of the Ring just doesn’t create the same sense of thrill that the other GW games do.
BUT after playing a game, you realise War of the Ring focuses more on actually playing the game than it does on theory-hammering the game (which, essentially, is what you’re doing when you spend forever writing, rewriting and tweaking your army list). The blandness of the army entries fades to memory once you’ve played a game and realise how finely-honed the game actually is*. When I wrote up my Gondor-Rohan army, I was pretty unenthusiastic about it –but hey, I was bringing another player into the fold, so I was quite willing to take that hit. Then I played that force and, quite unexpectedly, had a GREAT time playing it. On paper, the army felt pretty boring; on the table top, for what the army was, it exuded personality and flair. Building army lists isn’t what this game is all about.
Ater playing the game where I was utterly destroyed by Rohan, I was reminded of the other great thing about this game: you get to play with your models. Detractors would argue that you get to play with you models in Warhammer & 40k as well, so what do I mean by that? Well, I can think of SO many times in Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 where I have whole units destroyed before I even get to touch them. And I’m saying this with the majority of the games I’ve played happening before the proliferation of ‘Alpha Strike’ and its being a viable, propagated strategy. Everyone can think of a time (or few) where they put their models out on the table just to put them back in their carrying cases after the opening minutes of a game.
Just due to the turn structure, with War of the Ring, every unit in the game will get a minimum of one movement phase before anything can happen to them. That means every unit in the game can influence its fate (to some extent) before the rigors of combat ensue. The effect of this simple fact results in both players feeling like they are actively influencing the game’s outcome, as opposed to each turn feeling like one person has to sit there, grab his socks and just take it. Even in the seriously one-sided games, there were a number of turns where neither player knew what direction the game was heading –and it is that factor that made the game so endearing to the coworker (a well-established 40k player) I taught the game to: in his 40k games, nine times out of ten, he can tell how he’ll fare in the game by the end of turn two. Rare is it that it’s a nail-biting game all the way through. And that is what War of the Ring gives players: a game where they’ll tend to feel they can influence the outcome for the majority of the game (various WotR players have said as much to me about that: even the serious defeats weren’t irrevocable until late in turn four or five; most games go for only five or six turns).
And that’s what I prefer in this hobby: playing the game. I mean really playing the game, participating in it. This is why I’m shying away from involving myself in tournaments as a player: the best tournament strategy, what every competitor aims for, is making it so that YOU are playing the game and your opponent is just sitting there, removing models all the way to the massacre result you need to come out on top. (There are guys who don’t have that as their primary focus yet still do exceptionally well, but they are in the minority.) This is also why I’m trying to do “wacky” tournaments that turn the regular tournament-playing paradigm on its ear: when we’re all involved in making our games two-sided affairs, we all win. And by win, I mean have fun. ‘Cause that’s why we’re playing these games, right?