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Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game – Matched Play Guide Review

Out today from Games Workshop with an RRP of £12 is the Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game Matched Play Guide. Join me as I review this slim but mighty tome that pledges to be the definitive guide for running Middle-Earth events!

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As someone who has had a love of Middle-Earth for a long time, but not had nearly enough games of the new edition of the game yet, I really wanted to find a way of inspiring other local players back into the wonderful world of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit! While I like the more narrative side of the scenarios from all editions of the SBG, a lot of people we game with are more fans of the traditional Matched Play style of gaming – so a book dedicated to these types of games and how to put on competitive events was certainly of interest when we spied it back at the Warhammer World Open Day back in January

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From the blurb on the back of the book, this volume is dedicated entirely to running Middle-Earth SBG tournaments, events and campaigns, with rules for organising them, a range of scenarios both old and new, and the exciting prospect of some doubles content! Weighing in at just 48 pages it is certainly a thin book (and softback unlike the meatier hardback books of the rest of the range) – but for £12 I thought it was worth a punt if only for the doubles scenarios!

So is the book worth it? Read on as we delve into it’s pages!

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Build me a tournament worthy of Mordor

The opening 10 pages of the book discuss the team’s recommended way of running a Middle-Earth tournament. It’s worth pointing out here that a lot of this content is easily transferable to other systems and is certainly informative for anyone who has thought about putting on any kind of event, even if it is just with a small group of players over a weekend!

While a lot of this may seem like common sense to veteran tournament goers or organisers, the book does break down all the things (and people!) that you need in order to put on an event, along with some helpful charts detailing things such as recommended round times, board sizes and even number of games played for a 1 day or 2 day event for a range of points sizes from 500 up to 1000. Not having enough time to comfortably fit in the right number of games can often be the downfall of an event, so it’s great to see this addressed in the book!

Towards the end of this section there is also a really hand chart breaking down the scenarios in the book into 6 different pools to randomise from to ensure you have a good mix of different battles – they mention that each pool also has one scenario with random game length in order to also randomise this as much as possible across your event. This table will also be great to use in more casual games to decide which scenario to play, as we have all had those times when the group can’t pick which one to play today!

 

The Quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray just a little and it will fail.

The main bulk of the book, and the selling point for a lot of people, is the full collection of Scenarios

12 of them are reprinted from the core rules, but they are joined by 6 new ones! These new scenarios look like they will be great fun with some interesting mechanics – Retrieval (Or as I like to call it, Capture the Flag!) has two relics in each corner of the board – you have to traverse diagonally, grab the relic and try and get it back off your corner, while stopping the opponent doing the same! This will result in an interesting decision of what forces you leave to defend yours while simultaneously trying to drive for theirs!

Another fun looking one is Assassination. Each player secretly picks one of the opponents heroes to be the target and one of their own heroes to be the assassin with big Victory Points being dished out if the assassin manages to assassinate the target. As both sides choices are secret this leads to some suitably tense psychological warfare where you are not entirely sure if it’s actually Fatty Bolger who is secretly trying to down your Mouth of Sauron…

Books containing new scenarios is something we have seen to great success in both Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000 – so I certainly wouldn’t object to seeing something like this being a semi-regular release for Middle-Earth, as I find new scenarios and objectives are a great way of breathing new life into the game.

 

You need people of intelligence on this sort of mission… quest… thing.

What’s more exciting than an Middle-Earth event with a player on each side? Well, one with 2 on each side! Doubles events are great fun both for the fun of claiming victory alongside your trusty comrade in arms, and as a project for making two distinctive forces into a well oiled, complimentary army.

The next section of the book talks about the best ways of running these events along with rules on army construction and how Legendary Legions best work in these formats. These rules will work just as well for one-off games as they will for events, and here at Sprues & Brews we are all up for giving these a go in our friendly games!

To make these games even more great we get 6 brand new scenarios designed from the ground up for the doubles format! These look really fun with some interesting twists that wouldn’t work the same in a classic 1v1 game!

One of my favourite ones is Duel of Wits – each team deploys their allied armies opposite each other, with the opponent deploying in the other two quarters – so each side is already split and surrounded with the difficult choice of having to decide which flank to fight. Making these even more interesting is the fact that each player writes down a hero that they are trying to take out, but this cannot be communicated to any other player – not even your team mate! This should create some suitably epic games where each half of the army are potentially pulling in opposite directions to try and score their own goals!

I hope we see an event at Warhammer World soon using these scenarios, as think this would be a great weekend!

 

Sauron needs only this Ring to cover all the lands in a second darkness.

The penultimate section of the book details Campaign events, with a map of 6 regions of Middle-Earth to fight over. The various factions involved with battle over regions (Each with their own special rules) to see which side will claim victory to the lands! While this is only a couple of pages, these could easily be expanded to feature more territories or more involved rules, as this is really just a framework for putting together these kind of games. Again a lot of this content could also be adapted to other systems too!

There and back again

The final couple of pages contain some really handy things for running events, such as scoring systems for various victory types, ways of deciding tiebreakers, ideas for running escalation events featuring increasing points limits and even a deck of secret objective cards that can be used in your events!

So that is 48 pages chock full of Middle-Earth tournament ideas,scenarios and new ways to play. For £12 I think this really is a bargain and well worth adding to the collection. for me the standout section is the Doubles content, and think that this looks like a brilliant format for the game. Likewise, new scenarios are always welcome as a way of mixing up the meta and giving us new ways to enjoy the hobby!

I hope you have enjoyed this journey though the Matched Play Guide – We are hoping to do some Middle-Earth content (Potentially playing the doubles scenarios!) over on our YouTube page, so please let us know in the comments if this is something you would be interested in!

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