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There and back again, Matt’s Middle Earth adventure

In a cave in a house there was a wargamer. Not a nasty, dirty, wet cave filled with the remnants of a troll’s dinner, nor an echoing gloomy place in the depths of the earth: it was a man-cave, and that means toy soldiers.

Well, we are back again for another one of my ramblings walks back through hobby history! Last time I talked about how I first got into the hobby, but this time with the upcoming release of The Battle of Pelennor Fields I thought I would talk about how I started with the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game! So grab your walking stick, pack your lembas bread and set off as the road goes ever on!

It all began at Games Day 2001! This was my very first Games Workshop event, and I had brought along a backpack filled with Codexs and Army Books eager to be signed by legends such as Andy Chambers and Gav Thorpe! The big news (or so we thought) was the release of the brand new army for 40k, the Tau! Our goodie bag into the event was filled with brand new Tau Sprues, and the show only model was an exclusive Kroot Shaper!

We were in for a treat however, after the Golden Daemon results the arena lights dropped and we were treated to a special announcement about a super top secret project that Games Workshop had been working on…

A Lord of the Rings miniatures game! Made by Games Workshop! Rules by Alessio Cavatore and miniatures by Brian Nelson and the Perry’s! This was a dream come true for my younger self, this was my favourite book series and my favourite hobby combined together! And even better it would be coming out that Christmas alongside the movie!

And so, for that Christmas I ended up with the big green starter box and bought each of the various kits as soon as I was able to! Matched play wasn’t really a thing back then, with the game mostly revolving around recreating various scenarios from the film, but for me it was all about painting up gorgeous miniatures that even now all these years after release still hold up as decent likenesses of the actors from the films!

And so, I was hooked on a new branch of the hobby, white dwarf was split into two sections with half of the magazine dedicated to Middle Earth, new boxed games and more sets came out alongside The Two Towers and The Return of the King! We even had models released for Helms Deep and Minas Tirith! (Sadly my Helms Deep ended up going to a charity shop when I moved out of my parents house! We wants it back, precious!!)

During this period of time we also saw the release of Battle Games in Middle Earth, a Partwork series enabling you to collect a sizable Lord of the Rings miniature collection over the run of the magazine! Something we are seeing returning to the far future in Warhammer 40,000 Conquest!

This series got loads of people I know into the hobby, and it was a little bizarre at the time to see adverts for my niche geeky hobby advertised on tv!

Once I had left university and the Lord of the Rings movie hype had started to die down a little, the popularity of the game seemed to dip too. I had a huge colletion but always struggled to find someone to play with compared to those who wanted to play Warhammer or 40k!

Things picked up with the release of War of the Ring, an expansion geared around massive battles, however this seemed to split the community a little at the time!

And for a while it seemed that we would never seen another big boxed game for Lord of the Rings.

Darkness crept back into the forests of the world. Rumour grew of a shadow in the East. And Peter Jackson started making a new Middle Earth trilogy, this time The Hobbit!

It was with mixed feelings when I saw the game was back, on one hand I was overjoyed that this fantastic game was back in a new form, but on the other hand it seemed expensive, very expensive!

While Lord of the Rings had been perhaps one of the easiest games to get into due to reasonable pricing and decent boxed sets, The Hobbit seemed very expensive to get back in to, and this is coming from the guy who is considering a third Forge World Titan!

Regardless of pricing however, the models where gorgeous as ever!

After the first Hobbit film however, we did not see another starter box. Rumours of a set based around lake town being cancelled after poor sales of the initial boxed game, and whispers that we would only see the contractual minimum of releases…

But then something happened the ring did not expect, it was picked up by the most unlikely branch of Games Workshop imaginable – Forge World!

It seems that around that time all over the smaller “specialist games” had been brought together under the umbrella of Forge World, and I feel this is one of the best things to happen to the hobby for a long time! Once again we would have Blood Bowl, Necromunda, Adeptus Titanicus and even Middle Earth!

And now, this Saturday, the latest Lord of the Rings boxed game will be up for pre order, and I’m as excited as I was all that time ago back in 2001 to rip the film cover off the box and dive into a box full of Sprues and absorb the new rule book and profiles!

It feels like it is now a brilliant time to return to Middle Earth, and my Rohan force will be leading the valiant charge into battle!

We will be doing a full review of the new edition as soon as we have our hands on The Battle of Pelennor Fields, and I am very much looking forward to a new surge of hobby love for this most special of specialist games!


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