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Middle-Earth SBG Defence of the North Review and Miniatures Unboxing

While the War of the Ring is in full swing, in Defence of the North up for pre order today we see what conflicts are happening across Erebor, Mirkwood and Lothlorien as Sauron attempts to break the Free Peoples of Middle-Earth.

There is also a massive range of miniatures up for pre order to support the book including new kits for both the Easterlings and the Men of Dale, and also a big scenery box allowing you to build the Fortress of Dol Guldur!

Massive thanks to Games Workshop who provided us free copies of all these goodies to review and unbox for you guys, if you would like to help support the site then why not order your copy of Defence of the North through our affiliate Element Games and save yourself money too?

I have also filmed a full unboxing and review covering all these new kits and the Defence of the North supplement, so if you would rather watch than read this review you can check it out below or over on YouTube!

Before we get stuck into the Defence of the North, let’s take a look at some of the new kits that are out alongside it!

The Dragon Emperor of Rhun

The big centrepiece kit coming alongside the book is the Dragon Emperor himself! Born aloft on his palanquin by 6 Black Dragons he is also a formidable force multiplier too as we will see later! As you can see from the images this may be an intimidating kit to build as it has a lot of parts – with any kits like this I would just recommend taking your time! Once we have him built and painted we will be sharing some further images to show off what he looks like when finished!

Black Dragons

And speaking of Black Dragons these are also available separately too, perfect for representing any remaining warriors when the Emperor dismounts from his palanquin! Like with a lot of the recent infantry kits you get an option of weapons too with both swords and pikes in the box!

Dale Windlance

Moving over to the Men of Dale, first of all we get a generic Windlance rather than one being used by Bard, and it’s a really nice kit with the ability to actually make it able to tilt the lance itself up and down in it’s mount!

Dale Commanders

The Dale range also gets reinforcements in the form of a horn blower, standard bearer and a captain (Who actually has options for two different builds either with him about to pull his sword from its scabbard or with his sword drawn!

Fortress of Dol Guldur

Finally there is a massive box containing 6 of the Ruins of Dol Guldur kits allowing you to build a fortress that will fill your table! Perfect for some of the scenarios in Fall of the Necromancer and even Defence of the North!

We’ll be building and painting these kits up over the next few weeks – so stay tuned to the site as we’ll share some photos and videos once they are done!

Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game: Defence of the North Review

So now onto the main event, the Defence of the North supplement itself! It seems we have been waiting a long time for this to drop, with it originally being seen way back into last year. But fear not, it is finally here and we can recreate the war in the north during the War of the Ring!

If you’ve not picked up one of these supplements before then there are three main sections to them – firstly the background and scenarios themselves allowing you to battle through the events of the “historical” arc, updated profiles and army lists to represent the forces used, and a collection of narrative “Legendary Legions” that enable you to take a more limited narratively driven army in exchange for extra game benefits!

Scenarios and Campaign

In Defence of the North we see a collection of 3 campaigns covering 3 key events during the War of the Ring.

Campaign 1 is The Battle of Dale – an 8 mission chain that shows the Easterling invasion of Dale leading to the siege of Erebor before the forces of good sally forth to take down the Easterling threat!

Campaign 2 is the Defence of Mirkwood – a 5 mission chain detailing the Orcs attaching Mirkwood with the intent of burning the wood to the ground and rid Sauron of the threat of Thranduil and his Elves.

Campaign 3 is the Assault on Lothlorien – a 5 mission chain that tells the tale of another Orc army marching upon Lothlorien before being reinforced by Goblins and Wargs prior to a final assault opon the Elves.

We get a nice mix of battles here with the “camera” zooming into specific conflicts within the wider battle using around 20 battles per side all the way up to epic battles with towards 70 models on each side – this gives a nice mix of different sized battles, and means that if you can gather together the miniatures needed for the biggest battle of each Campaign (The Hosts Clash for example needs a lot of models – however this represents the main push of the conflict, other battles will focus on smaller areas within the wider war) then you have enough models to do any of the battles detailed here. Equally you can always scale things down to suit your collection – by listing the participants you can always tweak things to fit what you have, which is especially useful on the bigger battles.

While the biggest battles in each campaign being large affairs with many models involved, to me these seem like a nice one to play as a gaming club, pooling your miniatures together and taking your sides in order to recreate these large sprawling battles over the course of a day, while the smaller and lower model count missions are much easier to arrange and play through with your regular opponents. By having both extremes the team have made it so there is something for everyone here.

We also get a full campaign with players earning rewards based on their performance in the battle with the winning side generally getting a bonus of some description in the next battle. These tend to be themed around the narrative events, for example if the good side wins the “Attack of the Beornings” mission then Grimbeorn is able to assist the good side in the following mission, however if evil win then they automatically get priority in the next mission.

All three campaigns can be played independently or as part of a massive 18 scenario overarching campaign, giving you a range of ways to use the content in the book.

Armies

The bulk of the book covers the new models and updated army lists for a number of factions that are featured within the narrative scenarios and there’s lots of fun stuff available!

Garrison of Dale – The Men of Dale are exceptional shooters with a Shoot value of 3+ when taken in this army, and they have had a couple of new units added – Brand, King of Dale is an interesting hero who can actually reroll a D6 from his duel roll when he is trapped so wants to be in the thick of the fighting! Bard II and the Knights of Dale both have an ability that gives them +1 to wound when they get charged making them ideal for screening your archers. Finally we get the Windlance which has the Accurate rule making it only scatter 3″

Erebor Reclaimed – We get new profiles for Dain Ironfoot, King Under the Mountain who has lost his agility in his old age, having a rule that makes him less likely to jump, leap or climb – however all Erebor Dwarves can benefit from his stand fast regardless of range. Thorin III is also a nice character who gets a refund of might on a roll of 5+ when doing heroic actions, and if the enemy also declares one he can choose to change the action given!

Lothlorien – For the Elves of Lothlorien we get Orophin the brother of Haldir and Rumil, who boasts Whirl of Blades, doubling the number of strikes he makes when he rolls a duel roll of 6

The Beornings – Ever wanted to run an elite army led by shape shifting bears? Well now you can! Grimbeorn is very similar to Beron, though is “only” fight 7 in bear form – however he does not have to charge making him more reliable that his dad! They are joined by the Beornings who are S4 men with hand and a half axes, 2 attacks and fight of 5 making them amazing infantry is expensive at 20 points each. They also count as being in range of a banner while within 6″ of a bear!

Easterlings – The Easterlings get big additions to their armies, the biggest being the Dragon Emperor! He himself is an impressive fighter with an Elven spear with Feint and he can also use shielding with it too. He is also resistant to magic and all Easterlings get the benefit of Stand Fast regardless of range. He has an unusual mount in the form of a palanquin – this is carried by 6 Black Dragons who actually get to fight alongside him when he dismounts! The palanquin itself is very good counting as a banner and also giving nearby Easterling Warriors +1 to the fight stat! We also get Rutabi who is the Emperor’s general – She is a decent hero of valour with master of battle (3+) and gets to reroll wounds against trapped models. We also get a caster added to the list with Brorgir the conjurer – he also gets to regain a will point whenever he rolls a 6 to cast. Dragon Cult Acolytes get their rules here with a +2 bonus to Jump, leap and Climb making them very agile! And finally we get dragon infantry in the Rhunish War Drakes – sadly there is no model pictured but these are very cool with their ability to cause any wounded models to reduce their right and attacks characteristic by 1 for the rest of the game!

Mordor – Finally we get a pair of new Orc heroes, Razgush allows a warband of Bat Swarms, Spiders and Wargs to join him as if they were from the Mordor list, and Muzgur who is a shaman who regains will when he slays a target!

Legendary Legions

We get 6 new Legendary Legions in the book! These allow you to take a thematic army in order to unlock some additional benefits – again these are all themed around the battles in the book.

The Army of Dale – This is essentially the Garrison of Dale list without Girion. They still get the 3+ shoot which is amazing but in addition the entire army gets Sworn Protector (Brand). This looks like a really fun army with lines of Knights protecting your archers and siege engines while your warriors work on objectives!

Defenders of Erebor – This is a really fun mixed army of Men and Dwarves where each race gets to re roll wounds of 1 if they are within an inch of the opposite race – so picture an awesome battle line with both races stood alongside each other while fighting around the royal heroes who lead them (And also count as banners!)

The Beornings – If you want a bear army then this is the way to run it! The entire army gets Resistant to magic, Bears get Monstrous Charge and ignore all wounds on a 5+ as if they spent fate and can shapeshift at will without having to do a dice roll. Expensive in points but looks like a really fun army!

The Host of the Dragon Emperor – Has to be led by the Emperor, however they get some amazing perks such as free upgrades to Black Dragons for Easterlings, all heroes get to reroll a D6 in duels and all Easterlings add 1 to courage when broken!

Fell Beings of Mirkwood – This is another fun one that allows for a mixed army of Orcs, Spiders, Wargs and Bats – all the infantry get Woodland Creature and hatred of Elves!

Assault on Lothlorien – Similar to the above with a mixed evil army, this time of Orcs, Moria Goblins, Wargs, Spiders and Bats. Their perks are free upgrades to Venon-back spiders, +1 to wound for Orcs and Goblins when outnumbering their foe and the ability to reroll all dice when casting! The biggest bonus is that whenever they fight the game takes place at night limiting shooting and magic against them to 12″ with anything over this needing a 6 to hit!

Surprise Hobbit Scenarios!

In a bit of a surprise to me, the book actually ends with a number of bonus The Hobbit themed scenarios covering Smaug’s attack on Dale, The Battle for Dale against the Gundabad Orcs, A nice scenario pitting the Beornings against the Orcs and possibly the most epic scenario I’ve seen for a long time – The Battle of the Five Armies! This is a dream scenario to play over the course of a weekend, and it’s going to be a big one! It takes place on a 6×4 board with one short edge being the walls and gates of Erebor – the forces are then deployed as in the movie with Thorin’s company holding the gate, Thranduil and the Mirkwood elves heading west to Dale, The Iron Hills Dwarfs firmly holding the line and the far opposite half of the board being filled with Azog’s Legion (almost 120 models on the Evil side including multiple Gundabad and catapult trolls of various flavours!) Can the forces of good hold firm until the Eagles, Radagast and Beorn arrive to help? While this needs a massive investment in both time and models, I think it’s safe to say it’s going to be a bucket list item for a lot of people to play this scenario – just make sure to book a whole weekend to get the game done!

Summary

So what do I think of Defence of the North? It’s been a long time coming but I can say it has been worth the wait! All of the armies featured get some nice new rules to play with, and we get some absolutely gorgeous models to go along with them! From a scenario point of view we get a decent assortment of missions of various sizes and while some do require a lot of models, we do also get a lot that don’t need much more than a box of warriors and a couple of heroes giving players a nice spectrum of game types. Throw in the bonus Hobbit scenarios and we have a nice rounded package of gaming material.

These books always seem to inject some passion and love into the game, and Defence of the North is no different with me already trying to work out some Dale and Beorning armies I can put together for casual events!

If you have been craving some more Middle-Earth then you are not going to be disappointed with this book

Defence of the North is up for pre order today and is released Saturday 21st May

Games Workshop provided Sprues & Brews with a free copy of the book and the miniature releases for review purposes

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