Saturday, 20 January 2018

Middle-Earth SBG – Battle Companies

Long-time readers will be aware of my fondness for Games Workshop’s The Lord of the Rings, Strategy Battle Game, both as a game system and as a miniatures line. However, after a rebranding to The Hobbit SBG failed to catch the public interest, the whole line was allowed to languish, with both books and miniatures becoming increasingly out of stock.

Then, with the recent resurgence of Games Workshop came a few glimmers of interest in the SBG. A few new figures appeared – as expensive Forge World resins, it’s true, but new figures none-the-less. Then, just before Christmas, GW released a new book, under a new branding – Middle Earth, Strategy Battle Game: Battle Companies. While the core of this book is drawn from a series of White Dwarf articles that appeared over a decade ago, the work, as a whole, is something brand new. And, in truth, I really like it.

This book takes a new approach to the SBG, starting from a position of 'fun first, balance and tight rules second'. It will probably come as a surprise to no one who has played Frostgrave, that this is my default approach to gaming! In Battle Companies, you start with a small group of warriors, based around one of the core army lists, and over the course of numerous scenarios, you can grow your battle company in both skill and size. Okay, there is still very much an element of using the game to drive minis sales, but to some level this must be accepted and forgiven if we want the company to survive.

What is really great about this book is the number and variety of basic scenarios (12!), and, even better, the additional 5 scenarios that compose the narrative campaign. In these scenarios you can earn special rewards like having a wandering elf joining your battle company (or giant spider for you evil battle companies out there!).

The only major drawback with this book is that you can’t actually play the game without at least 2 other books – some of which might be hard to obtain (Or, like me, you can plan to cheat and just use the out-of-date, but still wonderful, Big Blue Rulebook!).

As for myself, I’m already thinking I might do a full ‘Lamedon’ Battle Company, based on the ‘Gondor Fiefdom’ rules. I’ve already got a couple of warriors and a potential archer I could use…


  1. I am glad that GW are back putting out rules for MIddle Earth again. I believe their plan is to rebrand the games as "Middle Earth Strategy Battle Games" and launch a new version of the rules suitable for use across the whole range. Like yourself I am still on the big blue book, but will consider this book and the new version of the rules, if it ever appears.

  2. I haven't played these rules but I have heard good things about them.

  3. Just picked these up last week and like you intend to cheat and use the old rule books for stats etc. I like the rules first time round and these do add a certain something.

  4. What is the Big Blue Book. I have a small blue book from one of the LotR box sets.

  5. Joe -I also really liked this Battle Companies book. I remember playing some battle companies back in the day.

    Stu -the big blue rule (The One Ring Rulebook as we call it) is the same as the little paper back version from the Mines of Moria, except as I recall, a few of the miniature profiles were omitted in the soft cover version.

    I’ve also heard that a new Middle Earth SBG Rulebook is in the queue.

  6. Will you be using this to revisit the Glaurung?

  7. No, but I have just pulled the Glaurung out of storage, so hopefully the adventure will start up again soon!

  8. I too recently bought this book and intend to use it with the BBRB until the new version comes out later this year (depending on price point though due to lack of hobby funds at the moment). Good to see that there are loads of people getting back into this great game system.

    1. I have heard rumours about a relaunch - which I hope are true. It is a great system, and really influential to me as a designer.