So GW have basically given Middle Earth Strategy Battle Games Start Collecting boxes for four factions: Gondor, Mordor, Rohan and Isengard. These are all popular armies with plastic troops and cavalry, and new plastic character kits. GW have created boxes with a new, modern plastic character and two boxes worth of infantry or cavalry.
So you’ve picked a Battle Host up, and you’re wondering what to get next. I’m going to give my standard advice of play a game or two in order to get a feel for it and see if you like it, and then commit harder. There is nothing wrong with playing a 250 point game to get a feel for the system and then decide you need a monster, or another couple of characters, or some elite infantry.
All the battlehosts are from the Lord of the Rings, so profiles are all in the Armies of the Lord of the Rings book. You will also need to get a rulebook. If you went with Gondor or Mordor, then the new starter will be a great next purchase, giving you more characters/monsters and more basic troops as well as the new rulebook with the FAQ/errata in it. There are also what are basically campaign books, like War in Rohan and War in Gondor, that provide more model options (often characters) and Legendary Legions, where you give up some options for your faction but gain some extra special rules. These are worth getting if you want to do themed armies in tournament play, but if you are just starting out then there is literally nothing wrong getting Armies of the Lord of the Rings and then just stopping.
So let’s have a look at some options.
You have Eomer, Marshall of the Riddermark, 6 Riders of Rohan and 24 Warriors of Rohan. Because riders can lose their horses and get replaced by foot models, you will want to keep six of your foot models to use for this. This gives you 351 points to start.
Rohan are a very hero centred faction, but fortunately you have plenty of them to choose from. Theoden with heavy armour on armoured horse and shield clocks in at 100 points, and works great with more Riders and some Royal Guard on horse, and Gamling makes a great companion as well.
You will also have the choice between an infantry based force, a cavalry based force or a mixture.
So lets do some example forces with various levels of extra stuff to get.
Here’s an example all cavalry force (that’s fairly hero heavy and elite):
Theoden with Armoured Horse, Heavy Armour, Shield
Eomer with Armoured Horse, Shield and Throwing Spears
Gamling with Royal Banner and Horse
4 Rohan Royal Guard with Horse and Throwing Spears
6 Riders of Rohan (2 with throwing spears)
This gives a 496 point force.
However you may want to go with something easier on the wallet. 400 point games are perfectly viable in Lord of the Rings and a Mounted Rohan Command and another box of Riders of Rohan gives you the following.
Eomer with Armoured Horse, Shield and Throwing Spears
Captain of Rohan with Horse and Shield
Rider of Rohan with Banner
12 Riders of Rohan, 4 with Throwing Spears
For exactly 400 points. You can use this force for the Riders of Eomer Legendary Legion from the War of Rohan book, and some more Riders of Rohan and a command pack will always be a solid choice in building a Rohan collection.
You could also make the most of the infantry models in the Battlehost, and go with a foot force based on the Defenders of Helm’s Deep
Theoden with Heavy Armour and Shield
Captain of Rohan
6 Rohan Royal Guard (4 with throwing spears)
Warrior of Rohan with Banner
Warrior of Rohan with War Horn
24 Warriors of Rohan (8 with shield, 8 with throwing spear and shield, 8 with bow)
This would be a 500 point force using the Defenders of Helm’s Deep Legendary Legion from the War in Rohan book. Theoden, two packs of Royal Guard and the Rohan Commanders blister give you the necessary characters and elite infantry for the force.
With Rohan you can’t really go wrong with getting Theoden, for another detailed and modern sculpted character, Royal Guard for some Fight 4 elite cavalry/infantry, more Riders, and a command pack, and from there you can experiment with what you like from a solid foundation. In tournament play very often a pure cavalry force is used, but if you aren’t going to tournaments don’t let that bother you at all. Defenders of Helm’s Deep as an all foot Rohan Legendary Legion has a lot characters and character, and 24 Warriors will cover your needs for basic foot soldiers.
The Battlehost provides a very solid foundation. Saruman is a powerful wizard, you have Grima to attach to an enemy warband (ideally one on foot) and mess up their Might spending, and 20 Uruk Hai and 24 Uruk Hai scouts. The boxed set doesn’t naturally lead into a Legendary Legion, as there are no Legendary Legions with both armoured and scout Uruk Hai and none containing Saruman, but the army rules from the Armies of the Lord of the Rings book are fine in any case.
The Battlehost clocks in at 623 if you give Saruman a horse (and horse’s are great for character’s mobility). This is the highest points total for any of the Battlehosts.
For a pure Isengard force from the LOTR Armies book, obvious additions are characters, monsters, missile troops and cavalry.
I’d recommend the Fighting Uruk Hai Command Pack (Captain, Banner, Shaman) and either Lurtz and Ugluk or Mauhur and Vrasku. This gives you another couple of hundred points and enough characters to lead all your infantry.
Isengard have a number of Legendary Legions that play well at 5/600 points, with Ugluk’s Scouts being a prime example. The Uruk Hai Scouts in the Battle Host can form a solid core for this.
Similarly an Assault on Helm’s Deep Legendary Legion, which plays well at the higher points totals, would take the armoured Uruk Hai as a core.
Uruk Hai Captain with shield
Uruk Hai Shaman with armour
Uruk Hai Warrior with Banner
4 Uruk Hai Berserkers
10 Uruk Hai Warriors with Shields
10 Uruk Hai Warriors with Pikes
Uruk Hai Demolition Team with flaming brand.
This totals at 495 points. It uses the Assault Upon Helm’s Deep Legendary Legion from War in Rohan, and in particular the Isengard Hordes rule to expand the warbands heroes can lead by six models to make the force legal. It’s an infantry force designed to rush forward and put a demolition charge into the enemy shieldwall. It’s got no shooting at all but a lot of big mean close combat models. The additional models here are the Fighting Uruk Hai Warrior Command, Uruk Hai Siege Troops and Uruk Hai Berserkers. This is a pretty good opponent to a Defense of Helm’s Deep list for Rohan, and if you wanted to expand it further crossbows, a Ballista, an Isengard Troll and a captain would all be good ideas on the journey to 750 points.
Lurtz’s Scouts, a Legendary Legion from the Quest of the Ringbearer book, built around the 24 Uruk Hai Scouts.
Uruk Hai Drummer
Uruk Hai Scout with Banner
8 Uruk Hai Scouts with Bows
8 Uruk Hai Scouts with Shields
8 Uruk Hai Scouts
This army clocks in at 491 points (if you can find a spare Uruk Hai Scout model great, you could also use Vrasku as a Scout with bow to get to 500). You’re getting two character packs and a command pack, so it isn’t very spendy, but it does give you a solid and fast infantry force (everything moves 8” and you have a drummer as well). If you want to mix in Orcs later you have all the Uruk Hai you need for an Ugluk’s Scouts force.
Overall Isengard has a strong list in the Armies of the Lord of the Rings book, but suffers a little from no Legendary Legions that include Saruman, or mix up everything they have available. They do have a series of pretty interesting smaller forces, like Ugluk’s Scouts, Wolves of Isengard or the Dunlendings, but nothing that ties the disparate parts of the army list together. Fortunately they have a large army list with a decent special rule in the Armies of the Lord of the Rings book, and it is a list that regularly sees the table at events.
The Mordor Battlehost gives you the Witch King, 6 Warg Riders and 24 Mordor Orcs. This is a solid start for a Mordor force and clocks in at 376 (with a 150 point Witch King) depending on how you kit out your Witch King (who can swing between 70-205 points depending on how you equip him and how many Will, Might and Fate points you give him).
You can use this box to build a Barad-Dur, Angmar or Mordor force and everything in the box can be used in each of those armies. The new Lord of the Rings starter gives you Gothmog, a Mordor Troll and 24 Morannon Orcs, which clocks in at about 435 points, and so makes a logical companion, with the only real need being some more characters to lead troops (Mordor Orc Commanders or Morannon Orc Commanders being the obvious packs to get) as Gothmog and the Witch King can lead 15 model warbands, and you’ve got a lot more than 30 models.
For expansion you can pick something every possible faction can take (the Mordor Orc Commanders pack where the captain and banner can be used in every possible faction that uses Orcs, the Taskmaster and Drummer are Mordor and Barad-Dur only) or you can pick a sub-faction (Barad-Dur gets Black Numoreans, Angmar get cool monsters, Mordor get Morannon Orcs and Mordor Uruk-hai) and specialize. It is worth carefully reading what each faction gets, as some choices cannot be used in some of the other factions.
For legendary legions there is The Army of Gothmog, representing the legion of Orcs attacking Minas Tirith from the Gondor at War book, or the Assault on Lothlorien and Fell Beings of Mirkwood from Defence of the North. All of these contain Mordor Orcs (though no Warg Riders for Gothmog I’m afraid) and you can use this battleforce as the basis for those legendary legions.
Basically for evil armies Mordor Orcs are a staple component, and for a lot of them Warg Riders are an option as well.
For an example Mordor force (not a Legendary Legion) you could got with the following:
Witch King of Angmar with Armoured Horse, Crown of Morgul, Morgul Blade, 3 Might, 14 Will, 3 Fate
Orc Captain with Shield
Orc Warrior with banner
Orc Shaman on Warg
24 Mordor Orcs (with shield, spear, two handed weapon or bow as on the model)
4 Warg riders (2 with throwing spears, 2 with bows)
This is dead on 500 points and involves buying two blisters (Mordor Orc Command and Orc Shaman on Warg, both useable in most armies with Mordor Orcs in). This is one of the cheapest expansions to the battleforce, because the Witch King (tooled up here to murder enemy heroes and break lines) is so pricy.
This battlehost is one of the most easy to use. It slots into multiple armies and can be used from the Last Alliance era to the end of the War of the Ring. Mordor have one of the biggest model ranges in Lord of the Rings, and it naturally pairs with the new starter set to give you more than 700 points, needing only some characters to give a legal army.
Gondor has Gandalf the White on Shadowfax, Peregrine Took, 6 Knights of Minas Tirith and 24 Warriors of Minas Tirith. This clocks in at 546 points, and is only a single character model away from being a legal force.
An example 500 point force would be:
Gandalf the White on Shadowfax
Captain of Gondor with Shield
6 Knights of Minas Tirith with Shields
11 Warriors of Gondor (1 Warrior with banner, 7 Warriors with shield, 4 Warriors with bows)
Gandalf is an incredibly expensive hero in a 500 point game, but he brings a lot to the table. This is a cheap expansion again, as it is the Command blister again and it still leaves you with the Knight of the White Tower and Hornblower, which with the remaining infantry would take you over 700 points.
The new starter is again, a solid buy to expand the force, featuring 3 heroes and another 24 infantry.
Gondor has a lot of cheap heroes, and a number of elite infantry options (Citadel Guard, Guardians of the Fountain Court, Osgiliath Veterans where you are using Faramir or Boromir) which give you access to Fight 4, which you absolutely want to make sure you win fights against Orcs. These cheap heroes let you run some small warbands, or give nice abilities. Don’t hesitate to swap a standard captain for a named character (this is good advice for virtually every force).
Allies add some good variety to Gondor forces, with the Fiefdoms being the obvious choice to add a warband from.
GW have brought Start Collecting boxes to Middle Earth, and they’re not too pricey and give you a decent starting force. The new plastic characters are universally great, though the basic infantry is decent but showing it’s age (it’s simple to build and paint at least). GW are continuing to experiment with free stripped down rules and online support, which can be found here.
Lord of the Rings is in a very good place rules and model wise. It’s essentially a completed game, with the current release schedule reflecting a desire for it to be easier for people to start the game (new game in a box set including terrain, all plastic faction starters with a substantial saving against retail) while acknowledging it doesn’t need the sort of release model 40k or AoS use because the rules have been perfected over six editions, with the core mechanics unchanged. ME:SBG doesn’t need a tear down and rebuild, which is why the new rulebook is minor changes, and the various errata and FAQs over this edition have been fixing broken combos that players have found to exploit, or correcting minor issues and confirming what the designer meant. ME:SBG has no new edition, ME:SBG needs no new edition. That’s why the new rulebook appears to be very much 6.1 edition.
I will say it again though, Lord of the Rings is a very good game, and GW are making it easier to get into it. This marketing push does coincide with the new Amazon series, and I really don’t think it’s a coincidence, but it’s welcome to see one of GW’s great skirmish systems get some attention.
Editor’s Note: Fowler here! Many thanks to GW for providing us with preview copies of the Rohan and Isengard battlehost boxes. Readers can expect a “Road to” style series about my first dive into the game! As always, if you have questions or suggestions drop us a line at Contact@Goonhammer.com.