Got in our first round of Middle Earth SBG / Battle Companies games the other night, and to be honest, had a blast. At this scale of play (6-12 models), games resolve quickly, and in the space of 4 hours or so, I got in at least 5 games, with plenty of time for breaks and chatting. The night culminated with a massive 3 on 3 battle, which we lost by the narrowest of margins.
My opening game was against a War Riders list, which proved . . . interesting. Wargs count as cavalry in the game, and have the added advantage of being mounts with a combat profile - which means they make their riders more effective, and have a chance to stick around if the rider gets killed. I know cavalry can be really effective in this game (especially against infantry in the open), but this was my first taste of what that meant in practice.
|Wargs and riders. I had to get past them to win.|
|The archers have the right idea. Get up high, and shoot them.|
|I would have deployed in the ruins if I could, but it wasn't an option. Not everyone made it to cover - Wargs are fast!|
In the end, I did my best to use terrain. Once I discovered how powerful the Wargs were (they're stronger, fight better, and move faster than my Rohirrim infantry), I got as many of my guys up on the ruins as possible. Ordinarily, this would have provided ideal protection, as cavalry can't climb, but we ruled that the wargs could on a 6 - we wanted a game after all. I rethought my position after the wargs rolled a ridiculous number of 6es, and my poor warband was more or less gobbled up!
The recovery table for Battle Companies is, however, reasonably forgiving, and my warband emerged relatively unscathed (one character picked up an "Old Wound" that means they have a chance to miss subsequent games). Moreover, I rolled really well on reinforcements, and managed to have a full-fledged Rider with mount join my warband.
|No harm done. Derhelm the rider joins the Woldwatchers.|
My next game was against an Easterling warband, my opponent in the first game I played. This gang is emerging as a bit of a nemesis, in that in that original game, they wiped me out (I've been pretty lucky with recovery rolls so far). This time, however, things were different ;)
I think this round did a fair bit to cement for me some of the distinct features of how the game works. First, terrain matters, and you can interact with it extensively. Cover, elevation, climbing, jumping etc.all have meaningful mechanics, and risks that prompt meaningful choices. Second, while there's skill in the game, and there's plenty you can do to influence outcomes, said outcomes are based on a limited pool of dice, and so can't be controlled. Unexpected things can happen, and even the strongest model is at risk. This means that while Hero models are really powerful and influential, they're never invulnerable.
|Easterlings, about to have a bad time.|
|An even cavalry fight (post spearing of the second rider) and I get to fight with numbers and cover? Yes please!|
|Dernhelm (really the Eowyn model) vs. the Easterling|
|Second to last turn? I hold the hill, and am winning the battle at the ruins.|
In my game against the Easterlngs, the goal was to take the hill (which my opponents held at the start of the game). I had, however, an advantage in missile fire, and set up in the cover of the ruin, which goaded him into attacking me, and leaving his archer to hold the hill. A bit of luck (I killed one of his riders with a bow on the way in). and the advantage of numbers let me take out his attack, and my counter attack took the hill. Victory to Rohan!
I got in a few more games, but the highlight of the evening was teh big 3x3 game we played, my Rohan, and a couple of Gondor / Fiefdoms (gondor light), versus Wargs, Uruks, and Easterlings.
|Rohan at bottom.|
|That's a lot of bad guys . . .|
|Just before the clash|
|This is where it got ugly - the two Rohirrim on the left are about to go down under a swarm of uruks.|
The game broke down into two sections, with most of my warband and a Gondorian knight trying to hold off the orcs and easterlings while my archers and the Gondorians tried to eliminate the Wargs. The game was pretty much hanging in the balance when we called it (shop was closing), but there had been some brilliant moments, including when Tinbold, my new character (warriors can become promoted to heroes) sniped an orc leader, my left flank collapsing under the sheer ferocity of the uruk charge, and the Gondorian knight holding off a ridiculous number of easterlings and uruks for something like three turns. We lost by one model, but I think that if the game went on, we'd have turned it around.
I've wanted to play LotR for ages, and I'm delighted both by the relaunch, and the surge of interest locally. We had a solid turnout, and there were several other people either hovering or who have models and looked interested in joining in. Pre-order on the new box / rules is Saturday, and I'm hoping to see more of this game in the future.