Saturday, 27 September 2014

War of the Ring first impressions

It's been a long time coming, but I have finally played my first couple of games of War of the Ring. For a decent overview of the game, have a look at this article on BOLS. For a very detailed look at the rules, check out this article on RPGnet. As both reviews noted, the game plays like a hybrid of Warmaster and Warhammer. The rules are quite streamlined and quick to play, with just one table to memorise - ideal for the more mature gamer!

Everything you need is in just one book. The rules, army lists, modelling section and scenarios, all in one big blue book, which is no longer in print but can be picked up on ebay for around £10, quite a steal for a hardback book containing more than 300 pages of the usual GW quality content.

Here's  a shot of the first game, as you can see we are still working on the movement trays, but it gives a good idea of the look and feel of a typical game. Note the orcs on the right moving up in a column formation, when they charge they can fan out into a wider formation to maximise attack potential.

The game is played in turns, split into movement, shooting, charging and combat, but in an alternating sequence. Players roll at the start of the turn for initiative, then player1 moves his troops, then player2 moves his troops, then player1 shoots, then player2 shoots and so on. I prefer this system, there's far less down time waiting for your opponent to complete all phases. It makes the game feel more engaging, you only have to wait a couple of minutes before you are called on to do something.

Movement is a straight forward affair. All units have a move allowance measured in inches, formations are free to move in any way as long as the companies do not exceed the move allowed. So a formation could turn, or move into a column, or widen it's frontage, or just plain old move forward. Terrain and enemy proximity halve the movement distance. That's basically it, the rules for moving are covered in just four pages. It's neat and quick without loads of measuring and fiddling that some systems insist upon.

Charging is performed in a similar way. Pre-measuring is allowed, then there's a dice roll with an amount (dependent on unit type) added  to see if the charge reaches the enemy. If it does not, the charger simply remains where he started. If successful, the companies move up and fan out, not necessarily remaining in the same formation they started in. I find this to be quite realistic and satisfying, compared to the rigid charges of other systems.

One Chart to Rule Them All
Shooting and combat are very similar, both use the same mechanics. The attacker first calculates how many dice he will use, better fighters/shooters get more dice and there are other bonuses for things like charging, or penalties applied if attacked in the flank or rear. Once the number of dice is known, the player then looks up on a single chart the score required. For each success, a casualty is caused. Thus, both shooting and combat resolution is performed in just one dice roll - considerably speeding up the game. There's no roll to hit, roll to wound, roll armour save, roll parry save - it's all performed quickly and neatly in just one roll. Casualties from shooting might cause a formation to be pushed back. Casualties in combat might see the unit take even more casualties, or become disordered, or resolutely dig in and refuse to give ground.

At the basic level the game plays smoothly and quickly. The rules are simple and logical for the most part, though the shooting stat is an oddity. For some reason a higher shooting stat means poorer shooting - probably this was the old "to hit" value in the skirmish game. There's also very little in the way of morale. There's no panic when nearby units are butchered, or for other unsettling events. But for the most part, the basic rules give a very reasonable and satisfying wargaming experience.

Characters and magic add greater levels of complexity and strategic choices, but I need a few more games before I can properly comment on this part of the game. It's a bit like moving from draughts to chess, there are far more possibilities and combinations to ponder, so I will come back to this in a future post. So far, with a grand total of two games under my belt, I am really enjoying it and looking forward to delving deeper into Middle Earth. Who knows what will be awakened?

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