Here is Citadel's ME-53 "The Mouth of Sauron" (1985), the Lieutenant of the Tower of Barad-dûr. As I mentioned before, I collected and painted miniatures from Citadel's classic range of Lord of the Rings miniatures in order to play Ares Games' War of the Ring. I've never played a game that better captures the flavour of Tolkien's work. Perhaps the best part of it is that while staying true to the essentials of Tolkien, the game give you the freedom to re-shape the events in his trilogy.
What if the fellowship avoided Moria? What if Legolas followed Frodo into Mordor? What if Sauron had waited longer to build up his forces before attacking Gondor? Or attacked right away? What if Rivendale had marched to war? Being able to simulate these scenarios within the confines of a coherent and elegant set of rules is a deeply satisfying experience.
|Gandalf by John Howe|
I've never seen a board game where story is so central. Strategy, luck, and rules are all important, but they take a supporting role in creating a larger narrative. This emphasis on story makes the game a lot of fun to play solo. It is not at all designed for solitary play -- but I enjoy playing it alone anyway because it gives me a chance to re-imagine the course of The Lord of the Rings.
Another element of the game that I have to mention is the artwork by John Howe (a fellow Canadian by the way). The game designers are to be applauded for getting such an iconic illustrator of Tolkien to paint the card art for the game. Whereas most game companies favour flashy, exaggerated or cartoonish artwork, Ares/Asmodee went in a completely different direction by going with Howe. His stately, elegant and sad paintings set the tone for the game, giving everything a mature air that would surely please Prof. Tolkien.
The only thing that needed improvement was the miniatures. I have no complaints about the sculptures themselves, designed as they are by Citadel alumnus Bob Naismith. But they're small and formed in a soft plastic, which makes them poor for detailed painting. Hence my decision to turn to Citadel miniatures from the 1980's (some of which were sculpted by Mr. Naismith back in the day).
For example, here's my Treebeard. It's actually the C31 Giant Monster Treeman (1983) later released as "Klinty" from The Tragedy of McDeath scenario pack (1986). I selected this miniature because I love his gorgeous texture, his tangled branches and his sad eyes. But most importantly, he can fit on a small base, which is terribly important for The War of the Ring, where real estate is at a premium.
|Treebeard by John Howe|
Next week I'll post the rest of my Lord of the Rings miniatures. Thanks for stopping by!