Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game – Fall Of The Necromancer Review & Ruins of Dol Guldur and Plastic Witch-King Unboxing
Hello everyone and welcome to another sourcebook review and this time we are journeying to Middle-Earth! The Fall of the Necromancer is up for preorder today alongside the new plastic Dol Guldor scenery and Witch-King of Angmar! If you would like to help support the site then why not order via our affiliate Element Games and save yourself some money too!
If you would rather watch this review than read it then you can see our unboxing video over on YouTube below!
Massive thanks goes to Games Workshop for giving us a free copy early to review.
So jumping into the book, the Fall of the Necromancer is the latest sourcebook for the Middle-Earth strategy battle game which focuses on…… you guessed it the Necromancer (Sauron) in Dol Guldur and some of the epic events of the Hobbit films.
The book it self is only 72 pages so its quite a small sourcebook, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up with content, the book starts out with the story of Sauron and how he came to be the Necromancer, we then have 13 scenarios to recreate the events of this story and rules for running the scenarios as a linked campaign.
We of course get rules for the armies featured in the book and legendary legions for these factions to use in matched play games of Middle-Earth.
So let’s jump in.
This section describes Sauron’s defeat at the hands of Isildur, which forced his essence from his mortal being who then as a spectral form attacked the Greenwood or what is more commonly known as Mirkwood, gathering strength while also keeping his identity a secret Sauron created the Hill of sorcery aka Dol Guldur.
Afterwards his presence attracted all manner of foul creatures such as giant spiders and orcs, these dark forces then began to attack any who lived within the forest of Mirkwood, most notably the Elves. Thranduil, the great elven king of Mirkwood then ordered his forces to repel these creatures.
However it wasn’t until Radagast the brown discovered a foul sickness that was killing the wildlife of Mirkwood that he ventured to Dol Guldur in search of answers, after being attacked by the Witch King he sought the aid of Gandalf the grey, who together discovered the true identity of the Necromancer.
After being captured by the Necromancer aka Sauron the white council jumped into action and rescued their ally and lady Galadriel banished Sauron back to Mordor.
The book contains 13 scenarios which ill run through in a sec, but there are a few things that they all have in common that I think is great, first of if you use the participants listed on the scenarios then you really do not need that many models, I believe the largest amount you will need on either side is 26 models which is an issue I’ve had with the other books that require you to have a lot more models.
Also each of the scenarios has an introduction page that describes the mission and gives you an idea of the narrative of the scenario, these little bits are most certainly worth a read especially if you like doing dramatic readings like I do.
Anyways lets start talking about the scenarios.
- The Founding of Dol Guldur = This scenario is a great intro into the campaign, it sets the Necromancer and 12 orcs against a small group of woodsmen ( warriors of Rohan in essence ) with the objective being to to either wipe out all the woodsmen or kill the Necromancer.
- The Gathering Evil = Having founded Dol Guldur the Necromancer must defend his fortress from a band of Mirkwood rangers who are scouting out the fortress, in this scenario the elves are trying to get models of the evil players board edge while the evil player is again trying to kill enough of the elves to stop this.
- Corruption Of The Greenwood = This scenario requires 2 Mirkwood captains and 20! Mirkwood rangers who are facing off against castellans of Dol Guldur and a variety of spiders, wargs and bats. The objective of this scenario for the evil forces is to corrupt 2/5 objectives while the good forces are trying to keep the objectives untainted, again not a lot of models required and the elves can be used for a lot of the scenarios.
- Lurking In The Shadows = This scenario sees the same amount of elves from the previous scenario fight of against a spider queen, 12 spiders and some bats with the aim of killing the spider queen and driving the spiders out of Mirkwood. This scenario has a cool mechanic where the spiders (not the spider queen) can come back so it feels like a race against time for the forces of good.
- Flight To The East = This has to be one of my favourite scenarios in the book, in this mission you have Gandalf who is trying to reveal the identity of the Necromancer who is hidden and represented by 6 40mm counters, however the Necromancer has 4 castellans to help him escape. I really really want to play this mission especially with all the new Dol Guldur scenery.
- The Watchful Peace = Nice simple scenario which introduces Legolas Greenleaf the prince of Mirkwood into the campaign, basically this scenario has Legolas and 10 Mirkwood rangers face of against 2 orc captains and 24 orcs with the mission being to reduce the forces to 25% of their starting strength, nice and easy just kill your opponents models.
- Clearing The Nests = Another nice and simple scenario that sees Legolas, Tauriel and 10 Mirkwood rangers fight against 12 spiders the mission being to destroy the spider nest in the centre of the battlefield, I like these sort of scenarios as it feels like it will be a challenging game for both forces.
- Attack on Rhosgobel = Remember that scene in the Hobbit film where Radagast is caring for his dear friend, Sebastian the hedgehog, well this scenario allows you to recreate that scene. Set on a 2ft x 2ft board there are six objectives that represent woodland creatures that Radagast must save while 4 spiders are trying to kill Radagast.
- Exploration of Dol Guldur = This is another scenario that looks amazing, Radagast goes to Dol Guldur to search for evidence of no good that he can take to Gandalf, this scenario requires Radagast and the witch king and thats it, there are 6 objectives that could contain evidence of something more evil and the witch king starts the scenario hiding in one of these objectives ( randomly determined and secret). In order for Radagast to win he must uncover the evidence and leave the board edge while the witch king just has to kill Radagast; I cannot wait to play this one too !!!
- Thrain the Broken = To start off with this scenario was originally created as a fan made scenario by Damian O’Byrne and Tom Harrison which I think is super cool that the writers put this designers note in the book. So this scenario sees Gandalf trying to unveil the secrets that are being concealed within Dol Guldur by destroying 5 objectives and breaking the evil spell that has taken over Thrain’s mind.
- Capture of the Grey Wizard = Gandalf discovers what evil is really stirring in the bowls of Dol Guldur and must escape, basically Gandalf and Thrain must make it from one side of the board to the other while Azog and all kinds of hunter orcs chase after them, there is a designers note that says its very difficult for Gandalf to win this scenario but we will have to see.
- Make Haste to Dol Guldur = This scenario sees Radagast on his sleigh !!! trying to break through a lot of spiders to the opposite board edge while the spiders just have to kill Radagast, seems like a nice fun scenario.
- The Fall of the Necromancer = The epic showdown between the white council and the Necromancer with accompanying Nazgul. This looks like a real tough scenario for both sides as the good forces try to get a wounded Gandalf off the board on Radagast’s sleigh while also trying to banish the Necromancer, who doesn’t arrive until turn 9 !!!. This scenario is the focal point of the book for me as it looks like it will be an epic showdown and a great scenario to end a campaign on ….. speaking of which.
The Fall of the Necromancer Campaign
So all of the scenarios in this book can be played as part of a linked campaign, something we have seen in the other Middle Earth sourcebooks which gives a bonus to either the Good forces or the Evil depending on who won the previous battle, so for example if the Evil force wins the Founding of Dol Guldur scenario then 5 elves instead of 4 elves need to escape in The Gathering Evil scenario.
These are nice little bonuses that can make what is already very interesting scenarios even more interesting and enjoyable.
This section focuses on the forces that are represented in the sourcebook, each rundown goes through the army composition, rules, bonuses, strengths and weaknesses and key models for that army.
So lets get into the armies
The white council = As you expect this army only includes the white council models, Saruman, Galadriel, Elrond, Gandalf, Radagast, Glorfindel and Celebron. The army gets +1 to resist magic if another member is within 6″ which is pretty nice as you don’t want a member being transfixed on a crucial turn.
Radagast Alliance = This army includes Radagast, Beorn, Ghaihir and great eagles, allowing you to recreate the force that we see in the battle for five armies, this army gives eagle models +1 strength on a turn in which they charge which is pretty big when you don’t have a lot of models in the force.
Halls of Thranduil = This one is for all the elves players out their, the army contains Thranduil, Legolas, Tauriel, palace guard captains, Mirkwood ranger captains, Mirkwood captains, palace guard, Mirkwood elves, Mirkwood cavalry, Mirkwood rangers and wood elf sentinels. The army bonus is pretty big the Mirkwood rangers do not count towards your armies bow limit and all models within 3″ of Thranduil get +1 to wound when making strikes which is big.
Dark Powers of Dol Guldur = This army includes the Necromancer, the Nazgul, keeper of the dungeons, castellans of Dol Guldur, hunter orc captains, gundabad captains, hunter orcs, gundabad orc warriors, fell wargs and Mirkwood spiders. The army bonus gives the Necromancer an extra will dice when he attempts to cast spells making him even more efficient.
Dark Denizens of Mirkwood = This army consists of the spider queen, Mirkwood spiders, giant spiders, bat swarms and fell wargs. The only bonus basically allows the models to be taken without heroes so long as they have a certain number of models in the war band, a little bit disappointing as all this does is makes the force playable which is not really a bonus but its okay.
And thats it for armies, I really like the Halls of Thranduil and Radagast’s Alliance which both seem like strong forces while the Dark powers of Dol Guldur is a nice bonus if you plan on taking the Necromancer, however there might be a legendary legion that also helps him……
So this section starts off by introducing legendary legions and explains what they are, in short they are forces themed around key moments from the films or books and restrict what units can be taken while also giving a lot of bonuses. However your forces never gain an army bonus, can never have allies and some heroes can lead models in their war band that they would not normally be allowed to, so there are some pros and cons to the legendary legions.
Rangers of Mirkwood – This legion is themed around Legolas and Tauriel’s hunting parties that get sent out to kill the spiders that are infesting Mirkwood, the army allows all models to be armed with bows which is very cool and gives all models the ability to ignore a wound in the same way as a fate point if they are stood next to a tree. The legion consists of Legolas, tauriel, Mirkwood ranger captain, Mirkwood rangers and wood elf sentinels.
The Vanquishers of the Necromancer – This includes all members of the white council (Saruman, Elrond , Galadriel, Gandalf and Radagast) but strangely does not include Glorfindel or Celebron which means that you an only make an army of 840 points as you can’t include allies, a little bit annoying seeing as a lot of events are 1,000 points. However the army bonuses gives a lot of buffs to the members if they are standing next to each other like Saruman giving nearby wizards a single D6 re roll when casting magical powers.
Pits of Dol Guldur – This legion focuses on Azog and the legions of Dol Guldur which gives the controlling player the ability to auto win the priority once per game if Azog is alive which is super powerful, this force buffs Azog by giving him a free heroic combat once per turn and gives all models the resistant to magic ability which is a super good buff for the army. The legion consists of Azog, the Keeper of the dungeons, gundabad orc captains, hunter orc captains, Thrain the broken, gundabad orc warriors, hunter orcs and fell wargs.
Rise of the Necromancer – My favourite out of all the legions as it focuses on the Necromancer and his 9 Nazgul, you can also take the keeper of the dungeons giving you a nicely rounded 1,000 point force with only 11 models in it !!! Surprisingly it buffs the Necromancer with extra attacks, the ability to cast 2 powers a turn rather than 1 and ……….. a free point of will whenever he casts a spell making him super good. I would love to do this force for a Middle Earth event at some point.
In addition to the rules content, the rest of the source book contains a painting masterclass for the Necromancer which is extremely detailed but requires an airbrush (which is a little bit annoying as not everyone has one – though it is an excellent guide), and a painting guide for painting the ruins of Dol Guldur which is actually very well written and is something I would like to try out on some of my own personal scenery.
Overall the sourcebook gives a lot to players with a narrative focus like my self who want to play through scenarios rather than just play matched play, however the book does also include a lot for matched play in the form of armies and legendary legions. Personally I cannot wait to start playing through some of these scenarios, so overall I think its a fantastic sourcebook that has got me super pumped for some more Middle-Earth gaming.
But the Fall of the Necromancer isn’t the only thing up for pre order today – we also have 2 new plastic sets! Let’s take a look!
The Ruins of Dol Guldur
Following up on some amazing Middle-Earth scenery such as the Rohan Houses and Lake Town buildings we now have something to represent the darker regions of Middle-Earth with the Ruins of Dol Guldur
When I first saw the images for this kit over on Warhammer Community I originally assumed this would be quite restrictive with limited options – oh how wrong I was!
As you can see from the sprues each individual piece will fit alongside any other piece in the box due to universal connectors along each side and pillars to link them together in a similar style to the construction of the Rohan House.
Due to this the limits to your construction is simply based on how many sprues you have – pick up a couple of boxes and could you create a single massive structure, multiple small ruins or anything in between!
Games Workshop have done some amazing things with scenery kits over the last few years, and it’s great to see the Middle-Earth range get expanded with kits such as these that really boost your gaming experience and enhance the narrative by giving you battlefields to fight over that are faithful to the movies.
The Witch-King of Angmar
The other new kit up for pre order today is the new plastic Witch-King!
Just like the other recent plastic Middle-Earth releases, Games Workshop have opted to replace an old character set with a new plastic model with both a version mounted and on foot. These releases so far have been absolutely outstanding, with the only downside being that I’d love to see these released more often! As you can see from the images you actually get the option of building this either in his Black Rider form, or as he appears at the battle of Pelenor with his crown and flail!
The sculpt is gorgeous with loads of nice details, and while this is more a refinement of what came before rather than something completely new, the kit has to be in my opinion the best version of the Witch-King so far!
We’ll be building and painting both of these over the course of the week, so stay tuned to our Twitter to watch our progress!
With all these items up for pre order today and another wave of Middle-Earth releases coming soon the future is looking great for the Strategy Battle Game and there’s never been a better time to jump into the game!
Games Workshop provided Sprues & Brews free copies for review purposes.
All these items are available to pre order today and are released 30/10/21