In 2001 Peter Jackson started a lot of us on an epic journey bringing J.R.R. Tolkien's world of Middle-earth to the big screen. In the same year, Games Workshop released their first Strategy Battle Game (SBG) for the franchise and began gamers on their journey into Middle-earth through the forces of Good and Evil. Now, seventeen years, six huge movies, and several editions, supplements, and many battles later, Games Workshop's Forge World division are releasing the most complete edition of the Middle-earth miniatures games so far, the Middle-earth Strategy Battle Game.
In this article we're going to do a complete unboxing and look at the miniatures and rulebooks from the Battle of Pelennor Fields Core Se,t and we will follow up later with some Battle Reports on how our forces fared. This article will be quite picture heavy, so brace yourselves!
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As you can see from the unboxing gallery, the Battle of Pelennor Fields box is packed with miniature sprues. The core soldiers have fixed equipment with some variation in shields, but there are several options for the Witch-king, Mordor Troll, and Théoden.
Théoden, both mounted and dismounted, have the option of helmeted and non-helmeted. We opted for helmeted in our build because no-one likes to take an unarmored blow to the head. The Witch-king can be built as either the Witch King Angmar or a Nazgul rider with a different Fell Beast head. The Scenario Book details the Witch-king in the forces for the Battle of Pelennor Fields, so we of course built that option. The Mordor Troll has several head, armament, and accessory options available. We built ours slightly different from the one listed in the Scenario's book. We still gave him the hand-and-a-half hammer, but we also gave him an Isengard Troll Shield, and rather than the torso armor, we opted for the severed heads because they add some great detail to the troll.
The box also includes:
- 12 Warriors of Rohan
- 12 Riders of Rohan
- 20 Warriors of the Dead
- 36 Morannon Orcs
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The two books included with the Battle of Pelennor Fields Box are the Lord of the Rings Battle of Pelennor Fields Scenarios and Profiles book and the full Middle-earth Strategy Battle Game Rules Manual. These two books include everything you need to play with the miniatures in the box and the rules for all games beyond them. If you wish to add more miniatures to your armies though, the profiles for all of the other available miniatures are going to be published in two army books, the Armies of the Lord of the Rings and the Armies of the Hobbit. Both of those books will include army lists from forces used in the movies, as well as profiles for all the miniatures from those films and narrative play scenarios.
The Middle-earth Strategy Battle Game Rules Manual is a hardback with over 200 pages full of great detail. The core rules are just over 40 pages, which includes some very effective diagrams and examples. The rules are particularly thorough, the move phase for example includes details on moving, charging, terrain. jumping, leaping, climbing, descending and falling and prone units.
After the the core "How to play" rules are rules for cavalry, heroes, monsters, full details on weapons and wargear, magic, including an extensive magical powers list, and the advanced rules. The advanced rules include rules for water features including swimming, carrying, and sneaking, as well as sieges and the use of siege weapons. The rulebook then covers the different styles of play, which fall into line with Games Workshops standard trilogy of play styles of Narrative Play (story missions, of which there are four in the Scenarios and Profile book in this box), Open Play (free friendly play between friends), and Matched Play (competitive play with equal points values). For Matched Play, the rulebook includes full details on how to create your force, along with the rules for allies and the different tiers of heroes. Also included are 12 Matched Play scenarios, which include full details on the special rules for the scenario, deployment zones and objectives.
The last part of the Rulebook is a full gallery of all of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit miniatures in all their studio painted glory, along with several thematic example army lists.
The Battle of Pelennor Fields Scenarios and Profiles book includes four Narrative Play Scenarios that gradually build up the forces on each side to ease players into the Middle-earth Strategy Battle Game. The full profiles for all the units included in the box set are also included in this book.
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The Middle-earth Strategy Battle Game seems to really focus on interesting story games, allowing characters access to all of the actions that you have seen in the films. The focus on highly competitive wargames is to strip down the rules to avoid ambiguity and allow for straight-forward play with the focus on competition, where as the Middle-earth Strategy Battle Game needs to have all the details for water, sieges, and different levels of terrain, as that's the dynamic action we want to see from the characters to create the stories we play.
The Battle of Pelennor Fields box is a great starting point for this new edition of the Middle-earth Strategy Battle Game. The forces included are a solid core that can be built out and we're really looking forward to what's next for the ME SBG.
We will be playing out the four full Battle of Pelennor Fields Narrative Play Scenarios and more Middle-earth Strategy Battle Game's soon and reporting back on them.
Are you a previous player of the Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit Strategy Battle Games? What forces did you or do you play? Are you excited for this new edition? Let us know in the comments below.
This copy of the Battle of Pelennor Fields was provided by Warhammer Community.