All new releases for the Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game

Review

Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game Review - Spring 2022 Releases

May 14, 2022

By: Giaco Furino

 
 

The skies darken overhead, as rumors of the Black Dragon Emperor and his royal retinue of merciless marauders reaches even the commoner in his small village. Elsewhere, the noble men of Dale take up arms and incredible weaponry in their fight against evil. All throughout Middle-Earth, a great and terrible war stirs. The last defenses of the North are failing, who will hold strong against the face of the enemy? This week, a brand new slate of miniatures and a new sourcebook go up for preorder for Games Workshop's Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game, and GW provided us with their latest for review. Read on for our thoughts on the Spring 2022 releases for Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game.

What Are The Newest Releases For Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game?

Up for preorder this week are a wealth of new releases for Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game, including Defence of the North, a new hardcover book expansion to the game, and a slate of new miniatures including: The Dragon Emperor of Rhûn on his royal palanquin, a force of six Easterling Black Dragon Warriors, Dale Commanders, the impressive Dale Windlance, and The Fortress of Dol Guldur terrain kit. Personally, I love the battle system that Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game employs (to learn more, check out our preview and unboxing of the most recent big box release, The Battle of Pelennor Fields), and I'm thrilled to see new units hitting shelves. Let's dive in closer to take a look at each release.

 

What Is Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game: Defence of the North?

Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game Defence of the North is a new sourcebook for the game system, and comes with a lot of resources to freshen up your game as it focuses on the Northern theater of war during both the Battle of Five Armies and the War for the Ring. The book begins with a very brief description of the events that took place in the northern lands of Middle-Earth, from the desolation of Smaug to Galadriel's destruction of Dol Guldur (and everything in between). 

Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game Defence of the North. Image: Games Workshop
Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game Defence of the North. Image: Games Workshop

The book then provides an incredible 22 new Narrative Play Scenarios. A Narrative Play Scenario in Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game is a pre-determined battle scenario for two opposing sides to take part in. What's so cool about these scenarios is just how descriptive they are. They tell you exactly how to populate terrain on the map, and which specific units are included in each scenario. Instead of saying "This is a 750 point match," the scenario lists out which specific heroes and warriors take part in the battle, even down to how many men hold swords vs. spears. The scenarios included in Defence of the North range from the first encounter between Brand, King of Dale and the Easterlings, the Siege of Erebor, the Wood Elf crossing of the Anduin, and even a scenario where the Spider Queen and her legions take on invading orcs (in this scenario, the Spider Queen's forces are listed as 'Good,' the quotation marks denoting the stretching of the term). Each of these scenarios offers an engaging challenge for both the Good and Evil side at war, and their varied goals and map setups really change up the game.

 
 
Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game Dragon Emperor And Warriors
Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game Dragon Emperor And Warriors storm Erebor. Image: Games Workshop

Next up in Defence of the North is a series of Army Profiles for the Northern lands. Included are profiles for: Garrison of Dale, Erebor Reclaimed, Lothlorien, Halls of Thranduil, The Beornings, The Easterlings, Mordor, and the Dark Denizens of Mirkwood. Along with lore about the army and composition guidelines, these profiles do a nice job of explaining the strengths and weaknesses of each. For instance, the Dark Denizens of Mirkwood have venom, are fast moving, and have high strength, but they're noted as having low defence, don't have access to shooting attacks, and only have one hero (the Spider-Queen). Next are a series of Legendary Legions, these are special army lists that players can build around thematic moments from the books and films, offer special rules, and often let unlikely allies join together. The Legendary Legions included in Defence of the North are: The Army of Dale, Defenders of Erebor, The Beornings, Host of the Dragon Emperor, Fell Beings of Mirkwood, and Assault on Lothlorien. Finally, the book also includes profiles for new heroes (like the Dragon Emperor and the Dale Windlance, which we'll cover in a moment), and an appendix of extra narrative scenarios.

How Does The Dragon Emperor of Rhûn Play In Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game?

The Dragon Emperor of Rhûn is one of the most inventive and interesting new heroes to grace the battlefield in Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game. Perched atop his Royal Palanquin, which is carried by six Black Dragon Warriors, the Emperor is a truly impressive miniature. Though this might be one of the most difficult miniatures I've ever assembled, as this is not only an intricate model, but it's also a Forge World miniature which means its made of resin, which takes some patience as you build it with superglue instead of instant plastic glue. Eagle eyed readers may even spot in my pictures that I mistakenly placed two of the six Warriors carrying the palanquin, but I kind of like the way it looks!

 
 
The grand Emperor of Rhun charges the battlefield on his palanquin in Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game
The grand Emperor of Rhun charges the battlefield on his palanquin

The Dragon Emperor himself is an impressive foe. He's heavily armored, and his weapon, The Emperor's Glaive, is an elven-made weapon that gives him additional abilities a glaive normally wouldn't have (namely the Feint and Shielding special rules). But where he really shines is atop the palanquin. There's so much going on with this incredible ride, including the fact that it acts as a banner for the army, and gives all warriors within six inches of it a +1 to their fight value. One of the coolest parts of MESBG is the rules for riders on calvary. If your mount is destroyed, or you choose to dismount, the mount is replaced with a model representing the rider. The Dragon Emperor is no different on his royal palanquin, but there's a fun twist. Because he's being carried by six Black Dragon Warriors, if he dismounts (or is killed), you place a number of Black Dragon Warriors on the battlefield equal to the number of wounds remaining on the palanquin.

The Black Dragon Warriors are ready to defend the emperor in Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game.
The Black Dragon Warriors are ready to defend the emperor in Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game.

How Do The Dale Commanders and Dale Windlance Play In Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game?

On the side of good we have two fantastic new additions to the Dale army, which fits nicely with the release of Defence of the North. First up, we have the Dale Commanders set. This set includes three models, the Dale Captain who can lead a contingent of Dale fighters, and two Dale Warriors with gear they haven't had access to in the past: one with a horn and one with a banner. These two pieces of gear help to fully round out a proper Dale army, the Banner helps warriors re-roll attack dice, and the horn increases the courage of Dale warriors. This is the perfect set for rounding out your army.

Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game Dale Commanders
The Dale Commanders bring strength and courage to their legion in Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game

Next up is an exciting new huge weapon for the army, The Dale Windlance. This massive weapon was the one that first loosened a scale on the mighty red drake Smaug, and it certainly packs a punch on the battlefield. This siege weapon has a massive strength and defence stat block, and has three wounds. It comes crewed by two Dale Warriors (one of whom is holding a massive black arrow).

Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game Dale Windlance
I absolutely love the look of these models, and the Dale Windlance is an impressive yet elegantly simple piece of equipment.

Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game - The Fortress of Dol Guldur

Finally, there's the massive Fortress of Dol Guldur terrain box. I absolutely adore this box, which comes with a huge set of plastic sprues filled with walls, flooring, joints, and accessories needed to build your own crumbling fortress. There's a small guide to building a large structure included with the box, but this is really meant for modular construction. I love the look of this set, and can't wait to paint mine up once I've got it fully built the way I want it. This is the first time I've worked with a  modular terrain set from Games Workshop, and I hope they follow this route going forward. You can choose to build one massive fortress, or at least five or six smaller outcroppings of ruins. It's an incredible set for serious terrain builders.

 
 
Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game Fortress of Dol Guldur
These dreaded, looming ruins speak to ancient powers both evil and awesome. Image: Games Workshop

What Are Our Final Thoughts On the Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game Spring 2022 Releases?

I've only just recently gotten into Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game, but I'm truly enamored with the system. Along with being a lifelong fan of the novels, I find the ruleset inventive and truly cinematic. These new additions each add something really special to their respective armies. For players fielding a Dale army, the new Dale releases offer ways to hone in on what makes Dale so great (namely, expert shooting and sturdy warriors). For the Easterling army, there's no model in the line quite like the Dragon Emperor on his Royal Palanquin. It speaks to the MESBG team's willingness to think outside the box and truly ideate rules around a theme. And as I just stated above, I love the new Fortress of Dol Guldur set and its modular approach to terrain building. Finally, the Defence of the North book offers an entire slate of new gameplay options for the game. All in all, I'm completely impressed by each of these new releases, and can't wait to see what comes next for Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game.

Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game Dale Warriors
I mean, just look at these hearty Dale folk and that incredible mustache. What's not to love? Image: Games Workshop

Should I Buy These New Releases For Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game?

If you're looking to expand your Dale or Easterling army, or want options for any of the armies included in Defence of the North, you'll find something to love in these new releases. If you're brand new to the game, you should start with the Battle for Pelennor Fields box set, as this is more for players already entrenched in the hobby. That being said, whether you play MESBG, Age of Sigmar, or any other fantasy-themed war game, the Fortress of Dol Guldur is an incredible terrain kit you should seriously consider.


The products used in the creation of this review were provided by Games Workshop.

Review Summary

Review Summary

From a grand Emperor to stalwart defenders of Dale, we check out all the new Spring 2022 releases for Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game