Thanks to yesterday’s battle report, I’m still reeling a bit from reliving that terrible outcome of the battle I played against Scott’s Elven Galadhrim at the start of the month. I thought of more things to comment about in the game while writing that battle report; but, rather than than making the already-long battle report even lengthier with these extra thoughts tacked on at the bottom of the post, I thought I’d just do a new post….of a more easy-to-digest size.
I won’t lie: this is a post where I piss and moan about the unfairness of life–or in this case, the unfairness of pretend life in a pretend setting that I play games in.
One of my biggest concerns/complaints traces a line back beyond just that War of the Ring battle. To start this diplomatically, I think the issue one risks when writing miniatures-wargaming rules is in writing back stories (“fluff”) and then using the game’s rules to interpret that back story.
I’ve found Games Workshop’s games have always struggled with this: up until (perhaps) Warhammer’s 8th Edition, the mind has boggled as to how the Empire has been able to survive and keep its borders, with how out-classed the army tends to be (and in more than one way) when facing the armies that commonly show up for games nights and tournaments. Eldar have fared similarly; perusing their Codex, one wonders what the point is of two-thirds of the book’s entries (other than ways to guarantee the Eldar remain a dying race in decline); the rules for SO many of the entries don’t live up to how their flavour text describes them. (The 40k poster boys, the Space Marines fared no better until just this edition!)
War of the Ring doesn’t escape this either.
Take the Elves for instance. I mean, remember that time in the Lord of the Rings book when the Elves showed up, and were so terrifying that everyone on the battlefield either fled before their approach or soiled themselves as they stood paralyzed with fear, unable to do anything other than stand around getting hacked to pieces?
Neither do I.
But apparently Games Workshop does. I think the only real unpleasant surprise for me in my first outing against the Elves was when I discovered just how good they were at doing all the characteristic things that are supposed to be the trademark domain of the Forces of Evil.
The Forces of Evil (mostly the Nazgûl, really) are renowned for sowing fear and disorder among those of lesser resolve. In game terms, the Ringwraiths run around, lowering the Courage score of their opponent’s troops and then take advantage of their drained courage to press home their attack using other spells and, to a lesser extent, combat (they make troops flee, killing some by fright, hacking down others where they stand, defenseless and frozen in fear). Martial prowess may not Team Evil’s forté, but spreading despair, then unleashing hordes and monsters upon the disheartened foe before finally closing in to deliver the coup de grâce is Team Evil’s forté.
The main defense Good armies should have against the tactics of Evil is soldiers with a bit more skill and a bit more courage than do the minions of Evil–not great in itself, but added to the other BIG defense “good guys” should have (and rightly so) against Evil’s tactics is inspiring heroes possessing the leadership necessary to bolster the resolve of their basic soldiers so they can apply their superior martial ability on the less-disciplined minions of Evil. And the Good heroes would be no slouches either.
Essentially, this dynamic held true in the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game (Good forces had all kinds of buff and healing spells, and Evil had plenty of debuff and control spells). It’s considerably less so in War of the Ring. Yes, the Ringwraiths can still drain Courage and use that to their advantage; but the Elves are actually better at the tactic than the Nazgûl are. No, seriously.
The Elves in War of the Ring have that same basic traits as stated Good armies should have versus Evil ones–except, of course, being Elves their Fight ability and Courage values are significantly better than the evil models. But the Forces of Good also have more spells than Evil does–rather, they have more spells that are capable of lowering Courage values than Evil armies do! What’s more, the spells available to the Forces of Good, via lower focus values, are easier to cast! Add to that the fact that ALL Elves cause Terror, and you suddenly have an army that uses Team Evil’s playbook better than Team Evil can!
I felt more than a little disheartened after I came to the realisation that if I want to play an army that uses magiks to cause terror among their foes, demoralize their enemies and then hack them down in combat because they were too busy engaging in …”brown trouser time,” then I should be playing Galadriel and her elves. Sigh.
It just makes me really wish GW had people in their employ whose job was to take a sober look at the ramifications of the rules being written, ensure proper fluff-rules agreement and keep the game writers in line with their prose (for both rules and back story…including such mundane and “unnecessary” things such as spell checking and proof reading).
In short, I really wish Games Workshop valued (and had) honest-to-goodness editors. Their games are awesome, but sometimes it feels almost like GW is continuously “upping the ante” of stupid, waiting for me to finally just concede, fold and stop playing their games. Almost like they’re daring me to quit.
I also wish Elves weren’t so evil.
Ah well…”Another Day, Highlander!”