Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Fellowship of the Ring: Concerning Hobbits

So this month, I'm playing five games with the Fellowship, and I'll tell you what, it's a challenge. In a way, the scenarios got better in that the games play until either 1) one army is reduced to 25%, or 2) one army is broken and a roll of a 1-2 is cast at the end of a turn. This means that games can go on for a long time, giving the Fellowship the time it needs to kill lots and lots and LOTS of people. That said, one of the necessary elements to any Fellowship army has got to be the presence of at least one hobbit. This post, therefore, is dedicated to exploring the rules, benefits, weaknesses, and tactica for the four hobbits in the Fellowship list (and I'm throwing in Smeagol for fun because he can be treated similarly to the hobbits in the list). In future posts, I'll write about the killing power of the Fellowship (Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and Boromir) and the more tactical units available (Gandalf the Grey, Gandalf the White, and Bill the Pony).
1) Frodo Baggins
Rules & Stats
Frodo's statistics are generally lower than your average hero of 60 points: with a Fight value of 3/3+, Strength 2, Defense 3, and a single attack, you can usually find one hero in any list who is better than him. He does benefit from having 2 Might, 3 Will, and 3 Fate points, which provides him with better magic protection and a reduced likelihood of taking wounds than your average captain. Like all hobbits, Frodo can throw stones (Strength 1 ranged weapon that works like a crossbow and has a range of 8") and is Resistant to Magic. These skills, in addition to his high Shoot value (3+) and his 3 Will points, should allow Frodo to evade magical attacks and might allow him to kill a D4 or D5 foe before being charged (you are wounding these guys on a 6 though with your rocks, so don't count on it).
Frodo can be equipped with three equipment items: Sting, mithril mail, and an Elven cloak. Sting is a 15 point upgrade and brings Frodo up to a respectable Strength 3. This is probably the most overpriced item in the game and I wouldn't take it. Yes, being able to wound your foes like any decent normal person is nice, but for 75 points, I'm going to submit that you'd be better off taking either Merry or using the points to upgrade another hero to a stronger one (Boromir to Aragorn, for example). The mithril mail increases Frodo from a below average D3 to an excellent D6 (which I consider to be the goal for every unit if you can possibly get there). For 25 points, this can be worth it, but I'm a bit hesitant to say yes in every case (as you could almost by Sam as a bodyguard for that much and you're approaching the cost of better units like Gimli or Legolas). The final piece of equipment is the Elven cloak, which I consider to be completely useless. Never get it. Why is this useless? Because Frodo's base cost includes the Ring!

The Ring is a very useful tool and not used very often because only three (obscure) units can wield it (Frodo, Isildur, and the Dark Lord Sauron). The Ring can be put on or taken off during Frodo's Move phase (that is, the Good player's move phase) and while Frodo wears it, he may only be attacked by Nazgul (he can't put it on at all if Sauron is present) and is otherwise ignored. He can move through units and enter enemy control zones, but he cannot charge or be fought while wearing the Ring. Even if Frodo is charged, he can put on the Ring so long as the Evil player charges Frodo before the Good player moves Frodo. While wearing the Ring, Frodo rolls a dice at the start of the Good player's Move phase and on the roll of a 3+, the Good player can move Frodo normally. On the roll of a 1-2, Frodo is moved by the Evil player, who may move him as he wishes so long as he doesn't run off a board edge, jump off a cliff, or take the Ring off. Finally, if Frodo is wearing the Ring and is the only unit alive on his team, he succumbs to grief and is removed as a casualty - it's the price for being untouchable if the enemy doesn't have a Ringwraith. To take off the Ring, Frodo needs to pass a Courage test, which is greatly aided by his rating of Courage 6.

Purpose in army
The new sourcebook has provided the Fellowship with a special rule for their warband: while Frodo is alive, no one in the Fellowship warband needs to take a Courage test for their force being broken. This is passed automatically, meaning that Nazgul or the Golden King of Abrakhan who rely on foes failing Courage tests are out of luck. For 60 points (or perhaps a little more), Frodo can provide this benefit to his team while remaining untouchable by anyone except Nazgul (if you want to take the risk of keeping your Ring on after your force is broken).

Frodo can also lend his 2 Might points to assist his hobbit kin by joining them in their fights. Since very few of the hobbits have Might points, it's a good idea to utilize Frodo's Might points to assist your weaker units (make life easier for your other combat-oriented heroes). As we enter the tactica section now, the final purpose of Frodo in the army is his ability to target units who traditionally skulk behind ranks and try to stay out of combat.

Tactical units are very, VERY common in the Lord of the Rings. Whether it's a Nazgul who wants to save his Will points to cast spells instead of fighting or a shaman who wants to inspire his friendly forces, there is likely to be at least one unit in every army who would rather not be engaged this round (with very few exceptions). Against these units, Frodo has a serious advantage.

When you're charging towards the enemy, Frodo should make a complete move under the Good player's care and then put on the Ring. Once the Ring is on, you need only be concerned about Nazgul. Generally speaking, though, this shouldn't be a big deal. Yes, a Nazgul has the upper hand in a melee combat against Frodo, but each spell-caster can only cast one spell each turn. If your foe wishes to cast that spell against Frodo instead of someone else (Boromir or Gimli for example), you have 3 Will points + a free Will point to resist the spell with the Resistant to Magic rule. If you are left alone, walk through the enemy ranks until you are behind the front lines and prepare on the next turn to take the Ring off, declare your charge, and do everything you can to win that fight. This is best done, by the way, if you are moving second, as your foe will not be able to counter-charge Frodo and gang up on him.
Using the Ring to attack units in the back lines is also useful in getting to D4 units (usually spearmen, archers, or units with two-handed weapons). Since Frodo wounds these units on 5s, these are the kinds of units you want to be facing if you possibly can.

2) Samwise Gamgee
Rules & Stats
Of all the characters in Lord of the Rings, I associate the most with Sam. Sam is a dependable hero and a loyal friend - and it shows in his profile. For 30 points, Sam isn't a bargain, but he's decent. Like Frodo, his Fight value of 3/3+, Strength 2, Defense 3, and 1 Attack are sub-par, but in other categories he's a perfectly acceptable hero. With 1 Might, 1 Will, and 2 Fate, Sam is oriented towards staying alive rather than killing. On a team where you need both killers and tanks, Sam plays a decent role in both (and often has a kill or two each game).
Like the other hobbits, Sam benefits from stone throwing and resisting magic attacks (see discussion on Frodo above for more details). What Sam lacks when compared to Frodo is not only 1M/1W/1F, but access to equipment besides an Elven cloak. Generally speaking, I wouldn't take the Elven cloak, as you should be saving that money for another helping hand rather than keeping Sam free from archery, cavalry charges, or magic attacks while obscured by something.

Purpose in army
Of all the units in the Fellowship list, Sam is one of the heroes I rarely use. For 30 points, I find it difficult at times to include him in my armies - that is, I found it difficult until the new sourcebooks came out. Though Sam's profile hasn't changed, your Fellowship can now take Bill the Pony if it includes Sam. Though we won't be talking about Bill in this post, let it suffice to say that the nice pony serves not only as a banner for the hobbits (giving them essentially 2 Attack dice to determine who wins the fight) and allows one hero from the Fellowship to attempt to regain a Might/Will/Fate point spent earlier in the battle. For 60 points for the pair of them (Sam and Bill), I sometimes wonder if this is a better investment than Frodo.

Sam's tactica is rather simple: keep him near Bill and the other hobbits. His solitary Might point means that he can add a small pip to a joint combat he is involved in, but it won't do much to stem a bad tide. Just like the story of the Lord of the Rings, I have found that Sam makes an excellent bodyguard for Frodo, able to stand in front of his master (if he isn't wearing the Ring) to distract attacks from him. I hasten to add that he provides a greater protection for Merry and Pippin, not only because he can take up to 4 wounds on himself before dying, but because Frodo has Might points and Merry and Pippin do not.

3) Meriadoc Brandybuck & Peregrin Took
Rules & Stats
Merry and Pippin have identical stat lines and are the cheapest units the Fellowship can buy. For 10 points each, you get some of the worst heroes in the game: Fight 3/3+, Strength 2, Defense 3, 1 Attack, 1 Wound, Courage 4, no Might, no Will (Resistant to magic rule notwithstanding), and 1 Fate point each. As far as heroes go, they're really not much to look at.
Purpose in army
For 10 points, I generally find that a Dwarf Ranger, two Goblins, any Uruk-Hai, etc. is a better investment. In the Fellowship list, however, I never leave home without these guys. Why? Because for 20 points, I increase my break limit by 1 and make the game last longer. You will recall from the beginning of this post, that the scenarios now are dependent on one army being broken and a dice rolling low or one army being brought to 25% of its starting size. In a 500 point game, I can have an army of eight units (Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Frodo, Sam, Bill, Merry, and Pippin for example), which means that the enemy needs to kill 4-6 of my units. If Frodo wears the Ring and Aragorn and Gimli stay near the hobbits, that means that one of my power heroes will likely need to die before I'm close to losing. Forcing your foe to kill Aragorn, Legolas, or Gimli can be a real challenge, and that is certainly a benefit to you.

The tactics for Merry and Pippin are very straight-forward: if Bill is in your army stay very, VERY close to him to benefit from his banner rule. If Bill is not in your army, you need to have at least one combat hero (Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, or Boromir) dedicated to playing baby-sitter for them. True to the story, I have found that Merry and Pippin can provide a great screen for Boromir during one round, keeping the enemy off of his flanks and avoid being trapped. If the hobbits on the flanks are trapped, big deal - they're probably dying anyway (sorry guys, but that's your lot).
4) Smeagol

Rules & Stats
Smeagol is a new addition to the Fellowship list (he was in the Wanderers in the Wild list). If you are interested in fielding Smeagol, you need to agree to one of two things: first, a very low point game, or second, allying in another army with the Fellowship. The reason for this is that a Fellowship warband that includes Smeagol must include Frodo and may only Sam (in addition to Smeagol and Frodo). This means that your base cost for your army is 120 points and can get as high as 180 points...very small game. Smeagol's stats are decent: better than Sam's in some ways and worse in others. Unlike the other units described here, he has Fight 4/-, Strength 4, Defense 4, 2 Attacks, 2 Wounds, Courage 4, 1 Might, 0 Will, 1 Fate, and Movement 5. Nothing out of the common way, but pretty good compared to the other units we've looked at.
Purpose in army

Image courtesy of the, posted by user "SidtheSloth."  
I wouldn't recommend taking Smeagol unless your allied force (notice I've omitted the "playing a small game here") needs a low-cost killer. Smeagol's statistics make him a better-than-average Uruk-Hai Scout (with an extra attack, wound, Might point, and Fate point for 22 points more). On the whole, this might be a fair trade, but I'm not convinced. Consider that for the same cost as Smeagol, you could buy Sam or Bill (or play a big game and include Aragorn or Gandalf)...I don't know that I like my other armies enough to choose Smeagol instead of Bill or Sam.

I have never used Smeagol but I imagine the following would be his usefulness in your army: Smeagol provides better killing power than any of the hobbits discussed here (except for maybe Frodo with Sting). The fact that Smeagol can wound D6 units on 5s makes up for his general lack of a profile. If you can use the allied force (say, 350 points of Rohan in a 500 point game) to take on the enemy battle line, I can easily see Smeagol charging around the flank and killing spearmen or reserve units to his heart's content (while coughing out "Gollum - GOLLUM" all the while). He will likely be wounding these units on 4s or maybe 5s, so he might be able to pay for himself.

With this lowly beginning, we prepare to rise to new heights in the next post, where we will explore the realm of the great warriors of the Fellowship, namely the three hunters and the sword-arm of Gondor: Aragorn - Strider, Legolas, Boromir of Gondor, and Gimli, son of Gloin. Until then, happy hobbying!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting take on how to use the Hobbits; I've actually been creating my own list for running some of these scenarios (from the Fellowship side), and will likely be posting on it in the next few days.

    I'm with you: I think I'd rather take Bill than Smeagol, but then again I'm one of the only people I know that consistently uses banners, :)