Overview of the Lord of the Rings SBG - Wargaming Forum and Wargamer Forums
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Default Overview of the Lord of the Rings SBG

Strategy Battle Game

This was previously written for Wolf_Lord_Skolls' Specialist Games Overviews thread over in the Specialist Games forum however now that the Lord of the Rings has its own forum I have moved it over here.

An Overview...

"The board is set,

the pieces are moving"

The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game is a Tabletop Wargame set in the Fantasy Realm of Middle Earth created by J.R.R Tolkein (John Ronald Reuel Tolkien) and is made by Games Workshop based on the Lord of the Rings Film Trilogy.

The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game allows you to control the army of your choice from the films. You are able to take dozens of swarming goblins or if you prefer less numbers and more muscle, a solid lump of Dwarves. You are also able to take Monstrous creatures such as the almighty Balrog or the Nazgul. Siege engines are also accessible in this game.

The Game was initially released back in the year 2001 alongside the movie The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The rulebook 'The Fellowship of the Ring' was released first with boxed sets of miniatures to represent all of the characters and races met in the first film. Further rulebooks and miniatures were released for the other two movies (The Two Towers and The Return of the King). Once all this was over and Games Workshop had ran out of miniatures that needed proucing, they began creating miniatures and Supplements to add to the current range which explored the Lord of the Rings world further than the films. For example, they began to create rules for Characters in the books but not included in the Film Trilogy such as Tom Bombadil, The King of the Goblins, The Barrow Wights, Glorfindel, Radagast the Brown to name but a few. The first of these Supplements to further expand the range, was the Shadow and Flame supplement. The latest of these Supplements was the Mordor book.

The 4th Edition of the Lord of the Rings SBG rules was eventually released in 2005 with 'The One Rulebook To Rule Them All'. Shortly after the Mines of Moria starter set was released for beginners which included many miniatures and a smaller copy of the 4th Edition ruleset that excluded some of the Special rules to make it perfect for beginners.

Later on in August of the year 2006, the expansion 'Legions of Middle Earth' was released. This particular expansion focussed on themed army building, for example The Bastions of the Dark Lord was primarily centered around Sauron and his forces. The book itself contains no rules at all but helps players theme their armies and build them up aswell as including a few scenarios in which people can play. The Majority of Lord of the Rings Tournaments such as the GT use Legions of Middle Earth to judge what is a legal army and what is an illegal army.

When Games Workshop began expanding on areas of Middle Earth created by Tolkein but not written about much, there were a few Tolkein fans displeased with this outcome as it made the game less like the Books and Films themselves. However, the majority enjoyed the new fluff being created and kept on going with the game. For example, named characters within the Lord of the Rings SBG such as Gulahvar and Dalamyr Fleetmaster of Umbar cannot be found in the Books or films and are solely created by Games Workshop.

Interest in The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game has become very limited recently and those loyal fans of the game are always in fear of the line being ended. Games Workshop are also quite aware of this matter and hope for the games interest to be rejuvenated with the Upcoming release of 'The War of the Ring' which is an apocalypse scale Lord of the Rings tabletop wargame. Another thing which is being relied upon to rejuvenate popularity of the Lord of the Rings SBG is the release of the Hobit films in which Games Workshop plan to produce miniatures for.


The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game can seem relatively complicated to begin with, however the ruleset itself is actually much easier to get the hang of than the Warhammer 40K or Warhammer Fantasy Battle rules. The majority of people will understand how to play a standard game after playing 1 or 2 games.

In each game there are 2 or more armies waging war against each other on a board which can be any size but in general no smaller than 4' by 4' (48" by 48"). Each side deploys taking it in turns and usually deploy withing 6" of their board edge.

The Lord of the Rings SBG is simialure to Warhammer in the fact that it uses a points system to determine army sizes and what an army can and can not include however in many respects the game itself is slightly different to Warhammer and Warhammer 40K. The main notable difference which doesn't have anything to do with gameplay is the scale. Lord of the Rings is to a smaller scale to Warhammer due to the fact that New Line Cinema and Tolkein Enterprises didn't want the LOTR SBG to be assosciated with Warhammer Fantasy Battle and in keeping it at the same scale it's be far too simialure, therefore they requested it be smaller. The proportionality in this game is also considered more realistic.

Drifting back to the topic of gameplay, The Lord of the Rings is again considered to be more realistic and flexible by fans due to the fact that instead of playing by each player acting out their full turn before moving on to the next players turn, each player acts out each phase consecutively. For example, player 1 completes their movement phase, then player 2 completes their movement phase, then player 1 moves onto their Shooting phase etc.

There are a series of different phases within the LOTR SBG:
  • Priority Phase
  • Move Phase
  • Shoot Phase
  • Fight Phase
Another difference in the LOTR SBGs' gameplay compared to Warhammer is that rather than battles being large scale battles, it is more of a skirmish Miniature wargame. Instead of troops being parts of units, each warrior is on its own and they all have the freedom to move in any direction they want, unlike Warhammer 40k where Unit Coherency must be maintained. Obviously, with the release of War of the Ring this will change that but War of the Ring will be considered a completely different game with different rules, therefore the Lord of the Rings SBG will still be the same.

Games are also usually different sizes when it comes to comparing Warhammer with LOTR. For example, as LOTR infantry and heroes are typically cheaper than in Warhammer, you can include more models for a smaller amount of points. For this reason, Lord of the Rings games are usually played with around 500 - 750 points whereas Warhammer games usually range from around 1000 - 2000 points.

A game of The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game usually takes around 10 - 15 minutes to set up and can last for up to an hour for each 250ish points (on average).

What makes the game fun?

As a big fan of the Lord of the Rings SBG, the most fun part for me is reenacting battles from the books and the films as the game itself allows that and focusses on that being the main feature. The fact that the models themselves are also sculpted by being based upon the movies also makes the game fun as it makes it more realistic (especially as the majority of the miniatures sculpted DO look like those that they are based on).

However I do not judge this to be the only reason I find this game fun. There are many other aspects of it that are fun. For example the fact that it is independant from Warhammer or Warhammer 40K and that instead of having Units which have to stay together as much as possible, you can move all of your troops wherever you want freely without having to worry about them sticking together (okay, I'll admit that the majority of the time it's not a good thing to split them all up, but there are certain tactics that can put this to your advantage).

Required Items and Cost

In order to play The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game you will need the following:
  • The One Rulebook to Rule Them All
  • The Supplement that contains the rest of the rules for your specific army (unless you're playing an army that is all in the Rulebook)
  • Legions of Middle Earth (optional)
  • Dice
  • Tape measure
  • Miniatures of your choice
The Rulebook will put you back 30 from GW however can be purchased cheaper over E-bay or an independant retailer. Alternatively you could choose to buy the Mines of Moria boxed set instead which will cost you 40 from GW. Either way, the rulebook is well worth whatever it costs at 30 or less and is a necessity.

Supplements are all ranging between 10 - 15 depending on the thickness of the book. Again, all can be purchased cheaper over E-bay if you're lucky.

Legions of Middle Earth is optional but if wanted will cost you 12/15 from GW (sorry I cannot remember and the GW website is down for me).

Dice and Tape measure won't cost you much, around 6-8 from GW however they can be purchased much cheaper from any local Warehouse stores or shops of that kind near you.

Miniatures can literally cost you anything. It depends on how much you want and where you want it from. However, on the whole, the models for LOTR SBG are cheaper than that of Warhammer and Warhammer 40K as instead of getting 10 standard troops for 18 you can buy 24 troops for 15.

I have collated a bunch of links to all of the FAQ's that GW have released for Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game along with all of the Warrior and Hero profile summary sheets published. These may become of some use to you:

Warrior and Hero Profile Summaries
Special Rules Summaries
That seems to be all of the Summaries published by Games Workshop therefore for the others you will be required to purchase the correct Sourcebook.

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