Sunday 18 June 2023

LoTR: Easterlings in 3D + 'Battle Companies' Thoughts

 I've often wanted to bolster my rather bare Easterling army and finally - thanks to 3D printing - I can afford to.

 First some squishy glass cannons. Acolytes of the Dragon Cult. I think I recall they have 'supreme agility' - +2 to fall/climb rolls and don't count doorways and walls as 'in the way' - making them hard to stop. Quite detailed sculpts and I like the fighting claw-on-a-rope.

Next a war priest (foot+mounted) and some sort of hero/commander I got as a freebie.

 Dragon Knights. They look sooo flimsy. Thematically the 3D prints (again, Davale?) fit with my existing models.

The 3D prints are similar in height but rather frail looking. Centre is an old Easterling Warrior, vs some 3D printed Easterling warriors who serve as 'Black Dragons' for me. I'd probably like them ~5% larger to compensate.

But most out of scale were 'evil men' aka Black Numenoreans, who are noticeably smaller than the Gondor men at arms on the right. They really need to be 10% bigger. On the table they are OK, but side by side they look kinda puny. 

Again, not perfect but (a) the models are much more fluid and detailed than the 20-year-old GW ones and (b) being 1/3rd to 1/4 of the price means I can get a bunch of unique heroes and elite or even OOP units for the price of a box of Easterling Warriors.

Battle Companies: Thoughts

I've plans to play Battle Companies with my son - it's basically LoTR Mordhiem and in typical GW fashion most warbands tend to be: when a rank and file gains XP you often 'upgrade' to a unique (read: expensive) Forgeworld model.

The old White Dwarf Battle Companies rules didn't have this problem. I think ME:SBG is probably a better game with more options and cinematic flavour, but if I was going to dip my toe into LoTR I'd recommend the old LOTR:SBG A3 blue book - cheaper and simpler $10 secondhand - I also think RoTK had a lot of profiles etc.

Finally I can afford the rare models - and buy them in small quantities.  I've also got some Wargames Atlantic spiders awaiting assembly on my desk, and eying Victrix Vikings for Dunlendings - along with Khand the only faction I don't really have. 

Whilst I don't think Battle Companies captures the lightening (or nostalgia) in a bottle that is Mordhiem, it does have a campaign map, injury rolls, experience  - heroes level up on a Bloodbowl-esque chart while ordinary warriors merely change to a more elite profile i.e. Rohan foot might become mounted, or orcs might become the tougher Morannon variety - which streamlines things a bit. Units also earn 'influence' which buys wargear and reinforcements. Also like Blood Bowl, inferior warbands get extra re-rolls and influence to compensate for the mismatch. There is armoury to buy wargear and equipment from weapons, maps and climbing ropes and you can hire mercenaries and pets - like hunting dogs - or wargs! There's 38 warbands - some you can build with a box set or two, others require unique and rare (and sometimes OOP!) models.

You start with 3 minor heroes (a leader and two sergeants) who start with a single Might, Will and Fate each - and have more complex injury, level up tables etc - like Necromunda and Mordhiem. The other models (up to a total of 15) are just 'mooks' who have simpler record keeping - they can level up to become a better troop type, and when injured merely skip a game or outright die - streamlining things. There are 18 missons which is well above average - although one requires you to own 24 wargs - as you do. Typical GW.

Despite pretty much finishing my LoTR painting project last year - 500-600 secondhand minis I bought pre-children, which I rediscovered after a 10 year hiatus...   ...I've gone on and painted 265 LoTR in 2023.

There are also locations with special terrain/effect rules, from Mirkwood to dwarf halls or Moria mines. LoTR has always been very strong in narrative/thematic play and Battle Companies just leans into this. There are even 5-6 extra 'narrative' missions to help link a series of missions into a greater whole. There are also ideas for including your battle company into larger battles.

Finally there is a map campaign - where players 'expand' their territory on a hex map of Middle Earth, and can expand and capture hexes as you win missions. You can capture special hexes/territories which confer bonuses - Lothlorien, Osgiliath, etc - from the books/movies.

 I haven't played the new Battle Companies so I'll refrain from a verdict (this is read+opinion not a proper review), but it's basically Mordhiem-lite with a bit of a Blood Bowl progression system for heroes and less detail for the mooks. More streamlined, less meaty, but I do like how weaker warbands are rewarded which (along with the constant reminders to have a set campaign length) should help avoid the dreaded snowball effect. It's another way to play GW's best game (Yep, Blood Bowl nerds, you heard me).

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