Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Revisiting the Hobbit SBG - Tactically Limited?

For the first time since around February this year, we got in a game of The Hobbit SBG (formally know as LOTR SBG).  The setting was somewhere in Mirkwood forest, and Thorin's company (without Gandalf) were coming up against some goblins, warg riders and some of Saruman's Uruk Hai (who had wandered unknowingly into the wrong movie).

We wanted to get a feel for the rules again and see what we thought of the mechanic.  I am deciding whether to pay the astronomical price for the new models (see Scott's post here) and wanted to see whether the game is worth it.  Here are some pictures of the game:

The Battle line and where the game was played out

Marauding Goblins a little lost in the forest

Are you sure we should be here?  Don't we appear in the next films?

The Dwarves about to be taken out by Goblins and Uruk Hai

My view of proceedings
Our thoughts after the game were that the SBG game is tactically limited.  All our games end up being focused on a small part of the table with combat roll offs, going across the line and picking out the casualties.  Once the forces lock into combat, that is really it until the end of the game.  Terrain and tactics seem to have little impact, from that point of first contact at least onwards.

This might have been due to a decision to choose few ranged weapons and not to play magic (for simplicity reasons), but even when we have played with magic and more ranged weapons, the same outcome occurs - a clumping at one point and an epic dice roll off to the death.

Might Will and fate do add to the game and these are nice tactical options to have, as are the heroic actions available, which have been expanded in the Hobbit.

Playing Thorin's company is also difficult with all the special rules applicable to each dwarf, so I accept we may not have been getting all we could have out of the game - but back when we were more on top of these things and playing normal warbands of one hero and 12 warriors, the same outcome eventuated.

I wouldn't mind seeing what other's thoughts are on this, and if our experience are the same as others.  Lovely models and all, but just not particularly challenging tactically at all.


  1. I think its a marked improvement to Warhammer, I haven't played it with the new HOBBIT rules but I had fun with the old LOTR SBG. It does end up as a pile up though.

  2. I agree with your observations - there is some movement until lines clash then its just a dice rolling slogfest - the only break to that now seems to be the new Monster rules that can break up shield walls etc...

  3. I agree with your thoughts Dan. My main problem with this game however is my atrocious dice rolling. I normally am on average an alright dice roller but this game had me rolling fail after fail.


    On the plus side a huge highlight for me was humming the lotr theme tune as we charged the dwarfs down the hill.

  4. You are absolutely right! The game is exactly as you describe it! Two armies face each other, run as fast as they can towards the enemy line, clash and then the dice are rolling! Plans are useless and tactics stop when the miniatures come in contact. But then, starts the fun, the dice failure and the teasing!

  5. I can't say I've played it to be honest. Interesting thoughts I have the LOTR SBG rules but never got round to doing anything with them.

  6. I've enjoyed the games I've played but you're right about the dice.....the dice gods are fickle!

  7. Awesome looking figs and game.

  8. Regardless of the limitations of the game, I hope to finally get my Hobbit dwarves done from the Hobbit set, during the painting challenge, and have a go at the Goblin Town scenarios with my son who's keen to try... musically accompaniment will be a must... I just got a mini speaker set for my Ipod for the gamesroom - just need to get the soundtracks from ITunes :-)

    1. I can highly recommend the scenarios. They get you away from the "line clash" problem and build a lot of additional interest into the game. I want some of those mini-speakers too - I like listening the radio as I paint and they would come in handy with the iphone

    2. I kid you not put your phone into a cup (works better if it's empty), bowl or tin and it will amplify the sound nicely. Although it doesn't improve the quality.

    3. The 'speakers' were a mini docking station thing by JVC from Dick Smith for $NZ50... runs off mains power or batteries... making it quite portable - handy for outside on the patio table etc for BBQs :-)

  9. If playing with objectives the decision making becomes slightly more interesting, whether to concentrate on this or that objective etc.

    Scenarios are gold, but still, the best game of SBG I had was a annihilation game with Uruk-hai versus High Elves, where the table we played on had a lot of annoying terrain in the center that made all our forces break up and go here and there. Still, after 4-6 years I can remember how much fun it was to smash the High elf contingent in the forest with my berserkers while the main battle raged someplace else and some flanking went on as well...

    Try the Battle Hosts minigame. I played a few games with tweaks (added an "Operative Board", which made the parts between battles like a boardgame) and it was great fun!

    In short the rules we used was from the Battle Hosts that was released as PDF. Still got the PDF somewhere, so they shall be uploaded sometime. Basically, you both choose a warband of 8+ or so warriors and score points after each battle depending on how you fared. With the points you can buy more stuff.

    The game's capped at around 12-15 models, IIRC. Reminds me a lot of the 40K-game with juves and heavies and "Van Saar", whatever the game was called...

    With the operative board the game became even better. The small games meant there was a lot of time for planning and moving the warband around in our contested area somewhere in Ithilien or wherever.

    1. Thanks Llama - that sounds quite interesting with the Battle Hosts thing. I might check it out. Objectives probably is the key, as it requires everyone to split their forces and therefore there are different battle lines at different places and various tactical options.

    2. Woops, it's called Battle Companies! Battle Hosts were a small supplement for War of the Ring. I'm in War of the Ring-mode most of the time, it seems!


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