At some point today, my weekly diatribe on matters roleplay…ical… will be materialising on the House of Paincakes front page for your viewing pleasure. You should consider the possibility of finding the time to give it a quick once-over, if you’re not too busy.
Anyway, in the continued cause of Avoiding Content-Free Pimp Posts, here’s a Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game report, co-starring Blackheart from Grumpy Gamers Reviews.
To rationalise his collections fighting against each other, Blackheart came up with a ‘What If…’ scenario, loosely based on the battle on the edge of Fangorn that occurs at the beginning of ‘The Two Towers’ sourcebook.
What If… Grishnakh and his minions of Mordor successfully escape the Uruk-Hai with their little hobbity prisoners, but Saruman comes forth from Isengard to meet the raiders in person, and Grishnakh stumbles upon him at the edge of Fangorn. In leaving his fortress, however, the White Wizard has placed his head on three blocks at once. The Three Hunters are still in pursuit of Grishnakh, and the Riders of Rohan too, while word of his treachery has reached the ears of Sauron, who has dispatched a host from Minas Morgul to retrieve the hobbits and the traitorous Wizard alike…
One Hobbit each – technically a draw, but considering how few Orcs are left, and how many Riders, and above all the fall of Saruman, the day really belongs to Rohan.
I’d forgotten how much fun the Lord of the Rings game can be. I say ‘can be’ and not ‘is’ because you need to be in the right mood to enjoy it. Some of the Good forces – the Elves and Dwarves in particular – are so, well, good that one wonders if Sauron ever really posed a significant threat to them. While the elegant Priority system and counter-play of Heroic Moves, Shoots and Fights is pleasing, in a bugger-my-neighbour kind of way, the combat system frequently boils down to “well I rolled one six and you rolled seven fives, I win” or “well you have elves so you win all the draws” or “you’re on a horse and I’m not and HOW MANY DICE ARE YOU ROLLING?”
So it’s not what I’d call a brilliant piece of game design, although it does a decent job of recreating the films, in which the fate of heroes is seldom really in doubt (I’d argue that the sieges of Helm’s Deep and Minas Tirith are the only really tense bits in the films, and look how unbalanced the armies are there!). Points-matched pick-up games tend to be rather dull affairs, void of context, and the competitive lists tend to be rather implausible combinations of stuff. However, play it with a soundtrack, and do the voices, and bother to come up with a scenario of some sort and there’s a good day’s play in it. I think I’m going to find time to rebuild my Isengard army and maybe build a Last Alliance force to match Blackheart’s Mordor minions, so that we can actually do something resembling narrative play. Where I’m going to find the money for this fr0m I’ve no idea… and me with Lizardmen to paint and second-hand Necrons incoming too!