Many thanks to Games Workshop for providing a free early review copy of the new Battle Of Osgiliath boxed set. The new MESBG starter set is here! Following in the footsteps of the Battle of Pelennor Fields box, Osgiliath also brings a mix of old and brand new minis – now with an updated rulebook and some snazzy new terrain.
Fowler: It’s always surprising (and nice) to see Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game get support. This has been a pretty spectacular year for the game, especially considering that at this point it feels as though essentially everything is covered (save for updating resin and metal models). 2022 saw a number of Forgeworld splash releases, a sizeable FAQ, plastic Elrond, a refresh for Glorfindel, a round of army boxes, and now… a new starter box.
So what’s in it?
- An updated rulebook, containing the latest FAQs and errata
- A narrative scenario booklet
- Play aids: dice, tokens, and a ruler
- 2 sets (4 buildings) of Gondor ruins
- Gondor force (27 fighters)
- 12 Warriors of Minas Tirith
- 12 Rangers of Gondor
- Mordor force (26 fighters)
- Gothmog (2 models, mounted and on-foot options
- 24 Morannon Orcs
- Mordor Troll
How does the game work?
If you are unfamilar with MESBG, I would highly recommend checking out Thundercloud’s exhaustive article Getting Started: Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game. It’s a phenomenal primer for what to expect and how to generally approach the game. In short, it’s much more like a skirmish game than a mass battle one. It is also a phenomenal excuse to paint a ton of cool Lord of the Rings models.
Thundercloud: The Battle of Osgiliath comes with a small booklet of scenarios and profiles for the miniatures within the box. These scenarios use the box contents and escalate in terms of model count and complexity.
The Orcs Cross the Anduin
This is a simple training scenario with twelve models per side. It’s a fairly even fight, with the Orcs lacking missile weapons but making up for it with a larger number of spears. Victory conditions are a straight wipe out the opposing force, and there are no Heroes to complicate things with Heroic actions. It uses the terrain from the box and is the sort of learning scenario that allows you to demonstrate the basic mechanics of the game.
If you are playing ME:SBG for the first time then this is the scenario to start with to learn the structure of the turn and the mechanics for fighting and damaging models.
Of interest in particular is the section on What Next? This allows you to add more models to the scenario and make it more complex, with an option for using the box contents and a second option for using additional models purchased from GW or FW.
Damrod and his Rangers ambush the Orcs. Another battle where one side has missile weapons (and in this case a hero as well, if only a minor one) and the other does not. The Orcs start in a 6” bubble in the centre of the table and the Rangers can deploy anywhere outside of that, with each Good model getting a free shot before the first turn of the game.
A fairly slanted scenario where the team Good Guys get a free round of shooting at the Orcs who deploy where there isn’t cover. While the Rangers are better at fighting than the Orcs, they are also squishier, but I don’t think that’s enough to compensate for the advantages the good player gets in terms of having a hero and access to heroic actions and a free round of shooting to start reducing the numbers of the orcs.
This is the first scenario where a hero is introduced, and a good follow up to the first one, as Damrod is a minor hero and not going to heavily tip the game, but introduces Might and Heroic actions as a concept to the players.
The What Next adds almost everything left in the box, and turns it into a major engagement, with the second one recommending additional miniatures (Osgiliath veterans for Gondor and another hero for the orcs).
The Hunter or the Hunted
This scenario is about learning how heroes and monsters work, and how they interact. The Mordor Troll goes in the centre of the board, Faramir and 6 Rangers are set up within 12”. The other models in the scenario (which are most of the rest of the contents of the box) are set aside and players roll a dice to bring on that many models from their force as reinforcements each turn.
It’s a bit of a swingy scenario depending on dice rolls, but it’s basically a fight in the centre of the board between Faramir and a big monster. Will Faramir and his buddies surround the troll, win a fight and stab it to death, or will the troll pull Faramirs arms and legs off?
Victory conditions are a straight Faramir vs Troll, two fancy models enter, one fancy model leaves.
Fall Back to Minas Tirith
The big battle involving everything in the box. The good side have to escape the table by reaching the building designated as the stables, and only twelve orcs and a troll stand in their way. However Gothmog and the rest of the Orcs are coming up behind them and any orcs killed can be brought back onto the board on a 4+. The good player can’t get better than a draw if Faramir dies, and the evil player can’t get better than a draw if he lives.
The centrepiece scenario of the box, this lets you bring out all the toys and use them, and has monsters and heroes running around. It’s asymmetric, but LotR is so often a narrative game.
Do the scenarios work?
A solid set of scenarios building in complexity to a satisfying conclusion. Pitched at learners, as they should be, but with options included to increase the size of battles and the toys you can take. Given the amount of characters produced by Forgeworld, it’s a pleasant surprise to see some of them namechecked as options to add in scenarios.
The new terrain included in the box looks great, but has a staggering amount of pieces and takes a while to assemble. It’s great terrain for pretty much anything fantasy, just keep in mind that the build is very involved. I haven’t had a chance to paint my set up yet, but it looks like it should be exceptionally quick if you stick to a scheme that is about as simple as the box art.
As previously stated, this box contains a mix of mostly old models and a few new ones. The Mordor side of the house gets a new Gothmog mini – with on foot and mounted options. The good guys get Faramir, Madril, and Damrod. These models are a nice mix of old and new design aesthetics; solid detail, and mercifully easy to put together compared to come other modern GW kits. I thoroughly enjoyed painting Gothmog, and it’s definitely motivated me to start working on the rest of the box!
Maybe I am just a bit sick of how complicated your average modern mini is – but mouldlining the old models is a nice bit of respite. That said, filling the gaps along the legs of the Mordor Troll just stinks. You win some, you lose some!
Expanding your adventure
Thundercloud: I’d add the Armies of the Lord of the Rings book straight away, and then cavalry (Gondor Knights, Warg Riders) as that is the only thing really missing from the sets. You could easily add the Mordor and Minas Tirith Battlehosts, which give you a big character, cavalry and more infantry for both factions.
Fowler: I’ve found Thundercloud’s Going Beyond the Battlehosts article to be very helpful for a neophyte, especially as there is some faction overlap there! Personally, I opted for a Mordor Battleforce, Morannon command blister, and a Fell Beast – to really dive into the battle the box is named after!
As this box doesn’t come with a game mat; you also need to figure out a playing surface. The book recommends a 4×4 table, and that sounds great to me! If you want to stick the Osgiliath theme, look for for a cobblestone mat.
So is this box worth it?
If you are new to MESBG, this is a great deal and nice way to start – with clear options for next steps to expand your fighting force… with the caveat that the majority of the models are very old. The narrative mission booklet has a handful of missions than can function as tutorial missions, as well as more complex versions as you develop your skills and collection. For existing fans, it’s worth weighing the new book, terrain, and heroes against models you may already own. I do wonder if newer fans might bounce off of the old models, though.
I’ve been eyeballing MESBG for a very long time, and I am excited to get deeper into the game. The Battle of Osgiliath box has been a nice place to start. Is there anything you want to see us cover for MESBG? Did we goof something up? Want to show us your painted army? Drop us a line at Contact@Goonhammer.com.