Shockingly, it seems one of the most active centers of LOTR/Hobbit gaming is here in DC! There is a group called the DC Hobbit League that put on a very successful set of events at the last noVA open, getting more players than many "bigger" and newer games. They can be found ehre:
Last night, the head of the organization, Devin, was kind enough to meet myself and the Consul at Ye Olde Not-So-Friendly LGS for a re-introduction to the "Strategy Battle Game" aka "The Hobbit". I had last played seriously back when this was the comprehensive rule book:
And as much as I love that book, time has moved on and GW changed the ruleset. For good or ill? We shall see!
Devin took an 800 point force of dwarves, joined by many of the heroes of the hobbit such as Dwalin, Kili and Thorin himself. I took 400 points of Gondor warriors, knights, and rangers, lead by Faramir.
And the Consul took 400 points of Galadhrim foot and horse, lead by No-Namolas of Lorien.
Because we were just learning the rules again, we played a very straightforward fight scenario. In the Hobbit you start no further than 24 inches away unless you can roll to deploy further off. So you can see our battle lines are very close to begin with. This speeds the conflict up, although it certainly makes shooting (along with other "new" rules) less effective.
The dwarves form a solid battle-line, while the alliance of men and elves seems to have an allergy to close coordination.
Having won priority on the first turn , I decided to see if my cavalry were any good and charged the dwarven line. Devin quickly showed me how a mob of high-defense infantry can surround cav and absorb their charge with ease. I did not kill a single dwarf and quickly lost all of my cavalry.
Ouch! Also ,shooting has been weakened as you have a -1 to hit if you move and shoot. Against the fantastic dwarf defence values, the feeble arrows of the rangers were ineffective even when they hit.
The Elves engaged the dwarves in the center but their charge was spectacularly unsuccessful. The men of Gondor manuevered away from the dwarfs who had beaten their cavalry friends, in order to try to help the elves. Faramir put an arrow in the eye-slit of one of the King's Champion's shield-bearers, but he saved the wound with a point of fate. I imagined him ripping the arrow out of his eye with a contemptuous "Phaw!"
In subsequent turns, the dwarves kept winning priority but the elves kept winning fights and rolling "6" to kill dwarves. The dwarf casualties started mounting up.
The slow dwarves on the left try to maneuver to the center while the rangers waste arrows on the dwarves, killing one or two wardens with spears.
Elf and dwarf casualties accrue as a war of attrition sets in. Thorin oakenshield is unstoppable but the elves are killing a goodly number of line dwarves with some lucky rolls.
We use this scrum to learn about the new special weapon rules like piercing strike and sword re-riolls when supported be spears. The new rules add some nice flavor but do slow things down a tad.
All parties converge on the center in order to achieve some kind of decisive result. The Elf cavalry never gets to charge again so that limits their effectiveness.
The dwarves win priority on the final turn and tie up the Gondorians who wished to surround Thorin.
Through clever use of might points (and advice from Devin) Faramir leads a "heroic combat" which breaks through the dwarf line and allows him to fight again. He corners Thorin and uses his last point of might for a new "heroic strike" roll increasing his fight value to 8. If he wins, I will be rolling 10 dice to wound Thorin as he is trapped.
However, Thorin wins the combat by rolling a 6 to Faramir's best die of 5, despite a re-roll from the banner of Minas Tirith. A few more dwarves and elves die as the game comes to an end when time runs out.
We had to call the game before either side broke, but overall I think the dwarves had a narrow win given the high value of the cavalry they had slain. The "new" rules are interesting. They clearly reduce the power of shooting and favor lots of close combat. The weapon options are interesting but feel a little cumbersome. Maybe I will get used to them with time. We also discussed the rules for monsters, which are now much more dangerous and cannot be "tar-pitted" by single weak models any longer. It was great to play Lord of the Rings again and I look forward to more games of this skirmish scale as well as the mass-battle "War of the Ring" rules. Many thanks to DCHobbitleague's Devin for putting us through the paces!