The Lord Of The Rings – Battle For Balin’s Tomb Review
So we all know that scene from the Fellowship of the Ring where the fellowship journey into the heart of Moria and come across Balin’s tomb, well this new boxed game allows you to recreate that iconic scene from the film on the table top.
Our thanks to Games Workshop for sending us a copy to review and if you feel like supporting Sprues and brews head over to element games to get your copy.
You can check out our unboxing video below:
So lets get into it, this box is a standalone game set specifically in Balin’s tomb, for fans of the Middle Earth tabletop game this box does not use the normal ruleset but instead uses a much simpler set of rules to play your game that are soo simple it only took me a few minutes to get a firm grasp on.
The box itself comes with =
- A 6 page rule book.
- 13 character cards for all members of the fellowship, goblins and the infamous cave troll !!!
- A game board for Balin’s tomb that is 22 inches by 22 inches.
- The fellowship of the ring on a blue plastic frame.
- 12 Moria goblins including 4 with shields, 4 with spears and 4 with bows on a red plastic frame.
- “They have a cave troll” hehe couldn’t resist on a grey plastic frame.
- 3 blue dice for the fellowship, 2 red dice for the Goblins and the cave troll gets an additional grey dice.
- 20 Cards for the goblins more on this later.
- And finally 20 wound counters.
So quite a lot crammed into this box which is great. On the front of the box it says that the game is aimed at people 12 and over but the rules I found are very simple and would be very easy for anyone to pick up which I think makes this game perfect for a Christmas board game…. I see what you did there Games Workshop; with the average time to play a game being around the 30-45 minute mark this is a relatively quick board game to play but like a lot of games easy to play, difficult to master.
Playing the Game
So the game itself is played over 12 turns with the main aim of the game being to keep as many members of the fellowship alive as possible. The game explains that for the fellowship to win they need at least 3 members of the fellowship alive including Frodo, if Frodo is killed but the fellowship player has 3 members still alive the game is a draw and if there are less than 3 members alive the goblin player wins.
Now at the beginning of the game the goblin player takes the deck of 20 cards and firstly removes the ‘They have a cave troll” card from the deck, then shuffles the deck and draws 6 cards face down after which the goblin player puts the cave troll card back into the deck shuffles again and puts the deck on top of the 6 cards already drawn. This is super clever as it keeps each encounter fresh and different but more importantly means that the cave troll is guaranteed to arrive by a certain game turn, not at the end of the game on turn 12.
These cards are then drawn each turn and the number of cards drawn depends on the turn, so for example turn 6 the goblin player would draw 2 cards from the deck and turn 11 they would draw 3, again this is very clever as it ensures that all the cards are drawn over the course of the game.
So what is on these cards well they are used to reinforce the goblins flooding into Balin’s tomb, so will say place 2 goblins in the entrance to Balin’s tomb while others will say place a goblin next to the well, I think is is amazing as it keeps the fellowship guessing where the goblins will arrive.
So that is all the pre game stuff done, now onto setting up the board, at the beginning of the game the members of the fellowship are deployed on set squares that have their name on them based on where those character were in the film. So Gimli is deployed on top of Balin’s tomb while Gandalf and the Hobbits are set up closer to the well and Aragorn, Legolas and Boromir are set up closer to the entrance of the tomb.
The Goblins then set up 9 goblins in the entrance of the tomb while 3 goblins and the cave start off the board.
And now onto the turns.
The turns start of with the goblin player drawing a number of cards shown in the rule book and place any goblins (and maybe a cave troll too) in the appropriate locations, each model is then allowed to move and attack or just move / attack or pass, starting with the goblin player who performs these actions with all of their models and once they have no more models the fellowship player gets to activate their models.
Moving is very straight forward the game board has set squares and each model has on their character card a move value, so for example Frodo can move 4 squares and a goblin can move 5. After a model has moved they can attack by rolling a number of coloured dice that is again shown on the character card.
The fellowship always uses the blue dice which has sword, shield, blank and the one ring on their sides and the goblins red dice are the same but have the eye of Sauron instead of the one ring….. I mean it makes sense right.
Now attacking is very similar to Warhammer underworlds, swords are success’ while each shield can block 1 sword after you compare the results the damage is inflicted, so for example Aragorn rolls 3 blue dice and gets a sword, shield and a blank dice to which the goblin who only gets 1 red dice rolls and gets a blank dice. Aragorn would inflict 1 damage and kill the goblin. Defending is the same but you require shields instead of swords.
The one ring and the eye of Sauron can be used to represent any symbol you wish making them very good if you are attacking or defending, however they also have another effect in game. So on the fellowship’s cards there are certain abilities that trigger when the one ring simple is rolled, Legolas for example can shoot again but only rolls 1 blue dice on his second shot while Frodo slips on the on ring ignores all damage and can move 3 spaces……. spoilers Frodo is hard to kill.
Once you have moved and attacked with every model the turn ends and you move onto the next turn. Now the game itself adds another level of difficulty with challenges which again keeps the game super fresh, these are for both the fellowship player and the goblin player, these include =
- The hero of the Fellowship = Win the game with all nine members of the fellowship alive !!!
- Hobbits really are remarkable creatures = kill the cave troll with any of the 4 Hobbits.
- There is one dwarf yet in Moria that still draws breath = have Gimli defeat a goblin in every turn.
- The king of Gondor = kill the cave troll with only Aragorn in 2 turns.
- Protect the halflings = keep merry or pippin alive for all 12 turns .
- Rampaging cave troll = defeat a fellowship member with 2 or more wounds in a single turn with the cave troll.
- The depths of Moria = defeat all fellowship models by turn 8.
- Troll chain = defeat 2 models with the cave troll who are not adjacent to the cave troll over the course of the game.
- The time of men is over = defeat either Aragorn or Boromir with a Moria goblin with spear.
- Pointy – eared elvish princeling = defeat Legolas with a Moria goblin with bow.
These challenges add a level of difficulty to the game and keep the game exciting as every time you play through you could be trying to do another challenge.
So to sum up I love this game at first I thought “how much could I enjoy a box game” as I don’t really play any but having played a few games now I really do like it, the game itself feels unbelievably well thought out everything from ensuring the cave troll turns up to line of sight is covered and makes each game different to the last.
Even where the models are placed is true to the film and its little details like that which make the game feel very nostalgic for me, the challenges add replay-ability to the game and keep the game interesting, while the game is super easy to pick up and does not take a long time to play I feel that it would make a great game to play on a club night or a night in with the family.
The models themselves are great and are the same as the regular ones sold separately. I did have a slight issue with some of the goblins being damaged but some minor repair work with a hobby file and some plastic glue and I can’t tell anymore, for me the fact that the box set rocks in at £45 from Games Workshop makes this box a steal if like me you don’t own any of these models as the fellowship and goblin box ( 12 models worth) would come to £43.
All in all great job and I hope we get more based on other events from the films.
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