Long-time readers will be aware of my fondness for Games Workshop’s The Lord of the Rings, Strategy Battle Game, both as a game system and as a miniatures line. However, after a rebranding to The Hobbit SBG failed to catch the public interest, the whole line was allowed to languish, with both books and miniatures becoming increasingly out of stock.
Then, with the recent resurgence of Games Workshop came a few glimmers of interest in the SBG. A few new figures appeared – as expensive Forge World resins, it’s true, but new figures none-the-less. Then, just before Christmas, GW released a new book, under a new branding – Middle Earth, Strategy Battle Game: Battle Companies. While the core of this book is drawn from a series of White Dwarf articles that appeared over a decade ago, the work, as a whole, is something brand new. And, in truth, I really like it.
This book takes a new approach to the SBG, starting from a position of 'fun first, balance and tight rules second'. It will probably come as a surprise to no one who has played Frostgrave, that this is my default approach to gaming! In Battle Companies, you start with a small group of warriors, based around one of the core army lists, and over the course of numerous scenarios, you can grow your battle company in both skill and size. Okay, there is still very much an element of using the game to drive minis sales, but to some level this must be accepted and forgiven if we want the company to survive.
What is really great about this book is the number and variety of basic scenarios (12!), and, even better, the additional 5 scenarios that compose the narrative campaign. In these scenarios you can earn special rewards like having a wandering elf joining your battle company (or giant spider for you evil battle companies out there!).
The only major drawback with this book is that you can’t actually play the game without at least 2 other books – some of which might be hard to obtain (Or, like me, you can plan to cheat and just use the out-of-date, but still wonderful, Big Blue Rulebook!).