Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Same rules, different world

Unlike The Lord of the Rings Dice Building Game, which attempted to add extra game mechanics to Quarriors in order to make it feel more Middle-earthy, Lord of the Rings Heroclix isn't a new game at all. In fact, the figures and rules are 100% compatible with the regular Heroclix game, so players can easily pit Superman against a horde of orcs or have Gandalf and Magneto join forces for an all Ian McKellen team.

The Lord of the Rings sets do add a few interesting and thematic things to Heroclix, however. The least successful, in my opinion, is the addition of Horde tokens. Similar to bystander tokens, these represent unremarkable characters such as orcs and goblins whose only real power is in the fact that there are a lot of them. The tokens are treated as characters and can move around the battlefield individually or in stacks that represent large groups and have better defensive abilities. It's an attempt to get across the idea of large numbers of characters on the battlefield without needing tons of expensive miniatures, but infortunately it falls a little (pardon the pun) flat.

Epic actions and traits are a lot more interesting. Most of the main characters such as Aragorn, Frodo, Gandalf and Saruman have Epic abilities in addition to their normal powers. Epic abilities can only be used in games with a build total of 400 points or more, and most of them tend to be more effective based on the size of the game, encouraging players to field large forces to get the epic flavor of the story.

The most intriguing game element that Lord of the Rings brings to Heroclix is a six-game scenario-based campaign. The scenarios are intended to be played in sequence and represent major scenes from the Lord of the Rings films such as the trek through the Mines of Moria, the battle at Helm's Deep, and the confrontation with Sauron's forces at the Black Gate of Mordor. The winner of each game gets an advantage to use in the next game, but in order to keep the games balanced, the loser also receives help, usually in the form of a special rule that delays the other player in some way.

Some of the campaign scenarios are straightforward battles, but one of them has an interesting special rule. In Betrayal at Amon Hen, depicting the Fellowship's battle with the Uruk-Hai at the end of the first film, Boromir is placed on the battlefield as a neutral character who will switch back and forth between the players' control based on the roll of the dice, reflecting his attempt to seize the Ring from Frodo.

I really enjoy Heroclix, but I often find that in tournament play the game becomes too competitive and predictable, and the vast array of figures that are available can be a little overwhelming. With the Lord of the Rings set I get a more manageable pool of figures to pick from, and the story-based campaign play adds a nice sense of continuity that is in keeping with the tone of the films and books.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) Lord of the Rings Heroclix adds a few nice elements to the game that help reflect the feel of the films without making us learn a whole new set of rules.

Date played: April 19, 2014

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