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Friday, October 30, 2009

Return to Posting on The Valley of Starlight.

I have not updated this blog in quite some time. I blame "War of the Ring". Initially because I was really looking forward to "Mass Combats in Middle-Earth", and so was playing games at our local Hobby Shop (Imperial Outpost Games, Glendale AZ) when the game first came out. Later because I was so depressed over the obvious lack of play-testing that showed when you read the rules or attempted to play the game.

We had a Summer WOTR League held at Outpost that was supposed to run 8 weeks. The League was intended to get new players interested in the game so it was very loose. Unpainted models were allowed and the league started at 750 point so new players could get an army with minimal investment. Each week the Army size would increase by 250 up to a maximum of 2000. The league died in week 4 because everyone, even the newbies, had figured that the game was not "Mass Combat in Middle-Earth", but "Massed Heroes and Massed Magic in Middle-Earth". The very minimal army building rules allowed for truly heinous character combinations, like Aragorn with Anduril fighting alongside Elendil who is wielding Narsil. Then Throw in Gil-Galad as well. In WOTR this is perfectly legal.

My friend Mike figured out in week three that using Counselor on a model with another model with Counselor or Epic Renewal made for some massive Might Pools that allowed characters to slaughter whole units and enemy heroes. Or placing the two Nazgul; the Betrayer and Khamul; in the same formation to allow every failed wound on an enemy model to be re-rolled and every wound inflicted on the formation to be reflected back as an auto hit on the enemy on the roll of a 5 or 6. Needless to say, the game did not capture the feel of massed forces in conflict.

Instead as the league progressed we saw that the “best” Armies really had very little of a LOTR “feel” and instead consisted of a small core of supposedly “Common” Troops (with D7) supported by large numbers of Magic and Combat Characters. In fact many of the more competitive armies seemed to consist of more points spent on characters than troops. That was definitely not what I and many of the others were looking for in a Mass combat game. Add to this the lack of clear rules regarding so many of the basics of the game (movement in particular) and many became discouraged and stopped showing up for league nights.

I looked at the basic game system and saw that it had some good basic concepts, but other things just did not have the LOTR feel that I was looking for. For instance there were tons of Morannon Orcs being fielded on the table, but no Orcs. Orcs are The Dark Lords bread and butter, but were not represented on the table. This just felt wrong to the LOTR Lore Geek in me.

Another thing that felt wrong: All Elves cause terror in WOTR, but this was not really supported by the books. There are many examples of the great heroes of the Elves (and even some Human Heroes) causing terror, but not the regular warriors.

To make a long story short, I went to Dave Bishop, Anthony Pigatti, Sean Ramirez, Jace Boatrite, Mike English and Carl Matherly, some of the best LOTR/WOTR Players I know, and asked all of them what they liked/disliked about the WOTR System. I also gave them my thoughts. From those discussions I put together a list of “House Rules” to attempt to address the flaws in the game. More about the results of that in a later post.


Dean said...

Thanks for the write up on WOTR. I was wondering what had happened to the Summer League. I tried WOTR once or twice and really could not get into it. Like you, I was hoping for Mass Combat with a bunch of Warriors on the Movement trays.

Howard C. Beam said...

It was a huge disappointment. We put together a set of house rules to address the most egregious problems with the game. I am going to post them, but am "prettying up" the post first...