Rules & Stats
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.
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
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
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.
Rules & Stats
|Image courtesy of the One-Ring.co.uk, posted by user "SidtheSloth."|
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.