Work projects temporarily derailed my efforts to get back to chronicling my journey through the Battle Games in Middle-Earth series, but I’ve reached a brief clearing in the woods and can play catch up a bit. While I’ve been neglecting the blog, I’ve been playing and modeling more than ever thanks to my efforts to assemble a local group of SBG players. Those meetings allow me to play through more of the scenarios in the magazine series and compel me to paint and scratch-build to keep up. So with apologies out of the way, let us get things moving again and examine issue #5 of BGiME.
Issue #5 continues to add to the might of Saruman, introducing
us to our first Evil hero: the fearsome Uruk-hai, Lurtz. The issue’s “Guide to
Middle-Earth” spends a single page describing the origin of the Uruk-hai and
the event that made Lurtz stand out among his first birthing brethren, making
him commander of the scouts sent to recover the One Ring. It further introduces
the reader to what the remainder of the issue, hinting at the scenario and
painting guide to come.
After delving further into the rules of the Move and Fight
phases in the previous
the “Playing the Game” section now goes on to cover the Shoot phase, presenting
new rules and complexities to missile combat in the SBG. The rules provided
advance the reader’s knowledge base, moving him closer towards the full game.
This in-depth examination of the Shoot phase introduces the limitations on
movement for bow-armed models (they can only move half their full move if they
wish to shoot that turn), line of sight and cover (giving advantages to the
players who uses terrain and obstacles to protect his models), and discussing
why Good models can’t shoot into a melee but Evil models have no such quibbles
(life is cheap in the minds of the forces of Sauron!).
These rules made a world of difference when we replayed the “Elven
Attack!” scenario we originally tried
last year at a recent Meet-up. Cover gave the bow-less Uruk-hai a way of
standing up to the barrages of elven arrows they had to endure to win the
scenario. When replaying Elven Attack twice the other week, the Uruk-hai
snagged one victory and lost the second game by a narrow margin, a great
improvement over our original play-through of that scenario.
This issue’s “Battle Game” scenario is “Hunt of the
Uruk-hai.” This set-up is a “what if?” exploration of what might have happened
if Lutrz had arrived along with his Uruk-hai when Aragorn and Frodo were alone
at Amon Hen. The scenario requires Aragorn to get Frodo to safety (off the
board), while the Evil forces win by capturing the Ringbearer. Can Aragorn stay
the tide of Saruman’s forces long enough for Frodo to escape? We’ll see in the
battle report soon to come.
The “Painting Workshop” section provides a detailed guide
for painting the Lurtz model that originally shipped with Battle Games in Middle-Earth #5. While many of the guide’s tips
will be familiar to readers who’ve been following the series so far, advice for
painting minute details such as Lurtz’s “White Hand” war paint are a welcome
new tool in the reader’s painting repertoire.
Up until now, the SBG scenarios assume the reader is playing
on the kitchen table, floor, or other handy flat household surface. The “Modeling
Workshop” for this issue is about to change all that, moving the reader into
the miniature wargaming big leagues, by giving detailed instructions for
constructing your very own battle board for gaming! The board is basic, but it
can easily be upgraded as the reader’s skillset and interest in the hobby
increases. It can even be made modular for those of us with not a lot of home
square footage to spare.
In my opinion, issue #5 is the first big leap into the
wargaming hobby in general and the Strategy Battle Game in particular. Readers
who’ve come this far now have a modest collection of both Good and Evil models,
a real gaming board to stage play on, and a handful of terrain to make battles
interesting. Battle Games in Middle-Earth
does a superb job of laying a solid foundation for beginning wargamers to build
upon. Reading this far, I can’t but shake my head in sorrow at the fact that
BGiME was never available in the United States. It would have made a tremendous
difference in the popularity of the SBG here in America. Maybe, just maybe, the
next iteration of the SBG (and my efforts here at the Forsaken Inn) might win
some folks back to Middle-Earth.