When someone first suggested that I play Lord of the Rings, my natural reply was “Lord of the Rings: Online, yeah course I play it, I have a Hobbit Minstrel…” but before I could finish my sentence they were shaking their head. They meant the limited Games Workshop games that supported the films upon their initial release, which personally at the time I had never tried. I didn’t try the game. As a serious war-gamer I was taken aback, why would I play a children’s game? From my regal perch I had watched the younger generations throw dice at Gandalf and a Stone Troll and thought, I have more impressive things to do, like Night Goblins.
Lo and behold I was recruited into the ranks of Games Workshops Blue shirt program, and informed that I would have to learn all the systems. Luckily with the Hobbit coming out soon, I had a chance to learn a new system along with everyone else. Being part of the Games Workshop company not only meant I got a brand new hardback rulebook, but I also got my hands on a Limited Edition Hobbit box set, which upon opening really displays how far miniature development has come since Games Workshop started many moons ago. Having seen the Dark Vengeance miniatures I was braced for something special, but the quality and detail that has gone into the box set is outstanding.
The Hobbit figures are “True Scale”, meaning that a Hobbit is the size of a Hobbit, an Orc is the size of an Orc. Fantasy scale is what Warhammer and Fantasy use, it’s sort of proportional, so an Orc is, roughly, the same size of a Human. The reason I mention this is that the box is full of the Dwarfs from the film and no detail is spared. They are modelled exactly as they look in the film. It’s exceptional, but due to the size of the miniatures they can be very fragile. One of the setbacks from moving from metal to pure plastic is that smaller figures tend to be easily broken, thus the emphasis on buying decent transportation for them.
Since I was so “Anti” Lord of the Rings, not because of the system, merely because of my own ignorance and disillusionment, it took me a while to come to terms with actually playing The Hobbit. I was so happy after my first game, I went and spent nearly half of my next wage on all the army books, models and a new case to carry them all in. The game is amazingly simple to play, allowing a varied age group to join in. Often when I ran introductory games (the best part of my job) I could string some 10/12/14 year old kids in and they would fully understand the rules. Model wise you can play with a couple of figures each, or you can build entire armies and fight huge battles, the rules can fully encompass the entire spectrum of scale.
As well as being able to fight the varying spectrum of gaming, you also have the added aspect of being able to play as a Games Master. Yes, thats right, Games Master. Due to the fact that its such an adaptable game you don’t just have to play using the current format that we are all used too. 1vs1 & 2vs2 for example, can still be used as valid formats of playing The Hobbit, but you could have each player representing a member of the fellowship, whilst the GM plays all the bad guys. The rules cover climbing up walls, leaping gaps and shooting through cover to perform epic, one-in-a-million shots.
You don’t only get a war-game when you buy the Hobbit, you get a potential role-playing game rolled in with it, which opens the game up vastly. You also don’t require a huge area to play with, one of the key points I often used was that you can play the game using just the box set lid. You can play on a huge table if you desire, or you can play on a coffee table at home. It’s such an adaptive game, but I must say that more scenery does improve game play. There is nothing like fighting through and around four to six buildings with a good size war band.
The game gets more complex the more you dive into it, as the rulebook breaks the game into the basic rules and advanced rules, and this allows you to tailor your own experience. Again both offer themselves to be played as a war-game or a role-playing game, depending what it is you want to play. As the rules get more advanced, they start to open up fresh tactics and playability. The back of the rulebook contains the usual scenarios list and the varying win conditions make each battle unique. Heroes in the Hobbit really do stand head and shoulders above the bog standard minions of the game. In Warhammer or 40k, your hugely pointed hero can often be killed with a single shot, sometimes ruining the experience.
With the Hobbit it’s difficult to kill a hero without them going down fighting and, often, it takes another hero to do it. This creates a really good story telling experience for each game and you often forget you’re playing, getting the feeling that you’re re-writing part of the famous books that Tolkien wrote so long ago. If you purchase the rulebook, you can build your own war-band from that. However in the box you get a “How To” guide and that has a further five unique, special missions to play. That’s not it, if you were lucky enough to purchase a Limited Edition box set, you got a further special mission to play with Gandalf and, the Limited Edition figure, Radagast (Yes, he is carrying a hedgehog).
Over all I was very pleased with The Hobbit, and despite me attempting to sell it to everyone who came through the door, not enough people seemed interested. It’s a fantastic game, well worth the time, and with it opening up to the role-play option, it creates a great start to anyone getting into either War-gaming or Role-playing. Even though most war-games destroy bank accounts, the fact you can spend less than fifty quid (after the box set/rulebook purchase) and play with a decent sized army and never have to spend a penny again, it’s proof that it’s worth the time. The model quality is excellent, the rules are dynamite and it’s usually a stress free gaming environment. If you want to get into the hobby this is a great place to start and the price is massively reasonable. You can game for days with just the box set alone. If you don’t want to take my word for it, pop along and ask for an intro, you’ll love it. I did.