The Battle of Pelennor Fields is the big standout fight in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It’s the one at the end of the series with all the big quotes and stuff, and also the one that everyone mixes up with Helms Deep for no good reason. It’s also an excellent idea for a miniature wargame, which probably explains why the latest starter set in the Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game series is based on this iconic battle.
Games Workshop are giants in the field of toy soldiers, and have had the Lord of the Ring license ever since the movies came out. Their latest offering brings together a load of existing models into one large box. We get a total of 84 miniatures, including Warriors of the Dead, Riders and Warriors of Rohan, and two versions of Theoden (one on horseback and the other on foot). We also get a load of orcs, a Mordor Troll and The Witch-King of Angmar on Fell Beast. None of these are new or exclusive to the box, except Theoden on horseback, which looks lovely. It’s the old style of Games Workshop plastic model - fairly easy to assemble but a little flat on some of the poses. There’s a nice mix of pieces, including enough to start different sorts of armies if you really want.
The new rules are the big draw here, and they’ve tidied the game up a lot. There's now a limit on mixing up units too much, so having the Fellowship fight alongside Thorin is no longer a winning combo, but there’s still plenty of scope for fun. Stupid loopholes have been closed (no more axe wielding eagles) and magic has been expanded and made more comprehensive. This makes management a lot less fiddly and a lot more memorable, no more scrabbling around various books for that one rule. Gameplay is faster and more heroic as bands of heroes (or villains) have more utility and the old ‘challenge of champions’ rule has been streamlined to make each fight as epic as it should be. The game still shines at the scenario/storytelling level, which is appropriate for a game inspired by Tolkien.
The box isn’t back breaking in size, though it crams a lot in, which is a feature of British games these days. Everything required to play is included and you will need to put the models together, but you can start playing the same day you get it. The Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game has reached its strongest version yet, and with its flexible play styles it’s going to be around for quite a while.
THE LORD OF THE RINGS - THE BATTLE OF PELENNOR FIELDS / PUBLISHER: GAMES WORKSHOP / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW