I just have sat down after a day of Christmas shopping with the Desolation of Smaug expansion book and had a very exciting read through. For those still considering whether they should pick it up, those still waiting to get hold of their own copy, and also for myself so I can gather my thoughts I am going to write a short review/first impressions post.
It was with a bit of hesitation I picked the book up. My gaming group is only small – with six active players, of which only two other than me have played some games of the Hobbit. The new minis have only brought little excitement around – and I think I should narrow it down to one sole friend of mine that I have (forced to) discussed rumours actively with. (Poor sod.) Bit it should be noted that I have been quite excited about the new life (if only so little) that has been brought to the skirmish game. So buying a book that relies heavily on using the new models for a group of half disheartened or uninspired players who rather put their money into growing collections of Warhammer or Warhammer 40k collections is not a self-purpose. Fortunately the book was significantly cheaper than the new armybooks and codices, and as a game the Hobbit SBG could work in a board game type setting where one person has all the necessary tools to play, and invites other people in for a game. So what do you get?
First of all there are 8 thematic scenarios that depict the events in the film and the book:
1/ Beorn fights against Azog and a bunch of orcs both on warg and on foot. With Beorn’s stats you would not be surprised that he could pull this off. In bear form he is rather like Treebeard with a brutal power attack that can cause an infinite amount of S10 hits on a single model. Crazy.
2/ Bilbo faces 6 spiders while rescuing the dwarves. This scenrio is allegedly a mixture of the events in the book and those in the film according to designer’s notes.
3/ Thorins company faces a bunch of spiders, still wobbly in the legs after the spider’s poison. Luckily a bunch of elves comes to their aide…
4/ With a little help from the elves the dwarves are trying to survive the onslaught of Azog and friends while taking a ride in the barrels.
5/ Kili is alone and hunted by the hunter Orcs – can the Elves stall them enough so he can escape?
6, 7 &8/ Battles for Dimrill Dale – A historical look back with the perspective on the dwarven armies clash with the orcs.
By adding a few special rules to the characters in these scenarios a series of very interesting and challenging scenarios are made. While not necessarily balanced they will surely provide much fin to go through. Most of these have actually a similar core, rather small, of miniatures making it plausible for a single player to host gaming evenings where these are played through – this core seems to be a hunter orc force (5/8 games) of Azog, Narzug, 6 Riders and 12 hunters ; and some Elves, namely, two warbands of rangers with Tauriel and Legolas. And of course the band of Dwarves – those interested in this book are however likely to have their own Goblin Town box. With the sneaky proxying of goblins as Hunter orcs you can get a bit further.
The narrative scenarios are ended with a campaign-like gathering of the scenarios previously released in the hardback book with the new ones adding benefits to the victors of each. More is also promised to be found later. That does not sound too shabby – too bad I did not get the hardback book.
The three new points match scenarios add some new flavour to the game too. These do sound a bit like some old forgotten scenarios that have been previously released – one have the Leader’s warband of one force in the middle surrounded by the enemy who also gets the first turn, one is another surrounded type scenario where the defenders try to do a breakthrough, with a more table quarter type deployment and finally there is the Relic scenario from 40k (well almost).
20 pages follow with the usual type of text with painted armies and collecting more. Then comes a more interesting part with the new army lists, or actually updates to the old. Here is some sneak peeks at the coming models – the rather nice bear that Beorn can shift into, Laketown guardsmen and also Gundabad Orcs. The men will still have their peculiar look it seems and the Gundabad orcs will look a lot like the armoured Uruk-hai warrors we have seen before (stat wise they are too, less fight perhaps and it is almost as if they had rolled their weapons in poison. 😮 I am also very happy to see that the Elves’ warbands can make Grey Company like forces with serious shooting power – yup they could all shoot, and fight better when there are more bad guys to hit. I would look forward to combining some elves with the new dwarves.
“So what do you think now”, the journalist asks turning the microphone to me. I had hoped for another box of hairy-footed goodness, but that was really much to ask when limited edition boxes are still on the shelves. It has also been hard to speculate when one does not know what will be in the second film in the end. I had hoped more badassery with Radagast (and Sebastian) but that would probably be just me.
If you have several of the models from the first film available you would surely get a lot out of this book. Also, with the old Grey Elf and Galadhrim lists you could easily proxy the new Elves for the scenarios (add Warg riders and old orcs and you’re good). This expansion book is probably nothing for the more competitive players, unless they are after the Gundabad Orcs’ statlines, as it, as expected focuses more on the thematic scenarios. Thus, if you are a thematic player who wants some fun games in, just acting out the events in the book and the film you will enjoy this.
For me the book was a good buy. I believe I can find some people to enjoy the game with me, but are not too keen on buying models and scenery themselves. That said the scenarios are to 2/3 or 3/4 made for small forces that are easily obtainable for most player, for a small amount of money – a forte of the Hobbit, especially when concerning GW-games. I will look forward to trying those new scenarios.