The Lord of the Rings: Middle-earth Strategy Battle Game is one of my favorite product lines produced by Games Workshop. With intricate rules and a unique approach to combat, the game forces me to rethink my usual approaches to wargaming in ways that keep me on my toes (and constantly making foolish blunders - which my opponents love). Add to that the LotR IP, which I consider to be the greatest work of fantasy fiction ever created - and you couldn't find a more 'Giaco' gaming system. But how does their new 'Big Box' release - Lord of the Rings: Battle of Osgiliath - hold up? Games Workshop provided us with a review copy to sample, so read on for my thoughts on the game!
What's Contained In The Battle Of Osgiliath Box Set?
The Battle of Osgiliath box set contains two distinct fighting forces - the honorable Defenders of Osgiliath and the vicious Legions of Mordor - the rules, a measuring tape, and more. The full component list for Battle of Osgiliath is:
- 224 Page Rule Manual
- 16 Page Scenario and Profiles Booklet
- 12 Six-sided Dice (6 Red and 6 Blue)
- Middle-earth Range Ruler
- 4 Pieces of Large Gondor Terrain
- Faramir, Captain of Gondor Miniature
- Madril, Captain of Ithilien Miniature
- Damrod, Ranger of Ithilien Miniature
- 12 Warriors of Minas Tirith Miniatures
- 12 Rangers of Gondor Miniatures
- 2 Gothmog, Lieutenant of Sauron Miniatures (One on Foot and One Mounted on Warg)
- Mordor Troll Miniature
- 24 Morannon Orcs
With the inclusion of the complete, hardcover rulebook for Middle-earth Strategy Battle Game, it's clear that Battle of Osgiliath is meant to be a true introduction to the game for new players. The rulebook, if this is your first foray into the game, is a bit dense, with lots to cover (and gorgeous photography of units in the game line), and the set could have benefitted from some sort of quick-start rules. But once you learn the basics of the game, the introductory scenarios included in the scenario booklet go a long way toward easing you into playing. The first match includes no heroes, the second slowly introduces them, and then from there you learn about monstrous beasts (aka the Troll), and mounted combat thanks to Gothmog on his Warg.
Of the models included in this Starter Set, it looks like there are few new additions aside from the three heroes. Both of these heroes look stunning, poised in dynamic poses against small bits of rubble and ruin included as part of their model kits. Easy to assemble and satisfying to see on the tabletop, these are really high quality (especially when compared to the single- or two-piece kits for the other forces of Good and Evil). Though incredibly easy to assemble, the other units included in this box set are older models, and in my opinion lack a bit of the depth, personality, and detail for which Games Workshop is known.
How Do The Forces Play In Battle Of Osgiliath?
Both the forces of Good and Evil feel well balanced. The Orcs hit harder and are well-armored (especially when pitted against the lightly-clad Rangers), but have no ranged weapon options. The forces of Good, on the other hand, have many bows among their ranks (though actually landing a killing blow with a bow in Middle-earth Strategy Battle Game is much harder than most other wargames). The heroes included are incredible new sculpts, featuring terrain right on their bases, and they're a great, approachable introduction to using heroes in the game. The box doesn't contain any magic-users, so you won't be slinging any spells, but how many spells do we really even see in the novels anyway?
The terrain included in this Starter Set is also nothing short of incredible. Offering height advantages for the archers on the side of Good and a challenge to climb for the Evil player, these pieces of scenery dominate the board and deserve a lot of tactical consideration. Though it takes some serious time to assemble, I found these terrain features - which are large crumbling ruins from Osgiliath - much easier to put together than the Fortress of Dol Goldur set that Games Workshop released in the Spring. And though we didn't have time to paint any of these up for the review, it's clear that with even a simple dash of speed paints these ruins will shine on the tabletop.
What Are Our Final Thoughts On Battle Of Osgiliath?
While the Battle of Osgiliath Starter Set could be more beginner-friendly, upon review that seems more the nature of Middle-earth Strategy Battle Game in general. It's a slightly crunchy system, more so than I think people would expect from a licensed IP, but learning the rules, building your forces, and playing out one-on-one fights against your opponent on the field of battle is an experience second to none. And if you can get over the learning curve (I recommend watching how-to play videos before parsing through the rulebook), then the Battle of Osgiliath Starter Set has everything you need to play, and you'll soon fall in love with this system, just like I did.
Should I Buy Battle Of Osgiliath?
If you're new to, but curious about, Lord of the Rings: Middle-earth Strategy Game, you should absolutely consider diving into the Battle of Osgiliath starter set. With the inclusion of the full hardcover rulebook and more than two-dozen miniatures each for Good and Evil, you'll be well on your way to explore the world of Middle-earth. If, however, you're already an avid player of the game, or have another Starter Set, it may be worth waiting for these heroes to get their own individual releases (as you'll likely have more Orcs than you know what to do with already).
The copy of Battle of Osgiliath used in the creation of this review was provided by Games Workshop.