(The following has been taken from the Games Workshop forum, as at 12/11/2005):

Replies [1]. This Reply Posted [12/11/2005 11:13].
  I didn't write this. I got it of Miths post. He got it from another site. Hope this helps.

LotR is a lot simpler in the sense that the game mechanics can be taught to anyone in 15 minutes and after that you barely need to refer to the rulebook. The actual battles are much, much more complex though. Far more realistic too. For me, the key differences are the following:

1/ The turn sequence. WFB and 40k both require that a player watch while his opponent moves his entire army, then shoots with his entire army, then attacks with his entire army. This limits the ability of players to react to enemy movement and to move out of the way of incoming fire. LotR on the other hand has just one player move, then the other. Then the first player shoots, then the other does. This allows for much more realistic and adaptive movement, shooting, and combat initiation. It is a concept so simple but so brilliant I cannot understand why it wasn't adapted for use in 4th Edition 40k as well. It is undisputably a better, more realistic turn sequence.

The LotR turn sequence requires players to constantly think ahead, to use Priority to give them an advantage. Unlike WFB, where once who goes first is decided that is fixed until the end of the game, in LotR the player to go first in each turn changes. At the start of each turn both players roll a die, highest goes first. In the case of a draw, the player who went second gets Priority. The implications of this are that you know if you are more or less likely to go first next turn and make decisions accordingly. Cavalry need to charge in on turns where the player has lost Priority so that in the following turn they are (more likely) able to withdraw rather than be swarmed by infantry that negate their bonuses. Even within the turns the alternating sequence makes for very tactical play. Move up to a great firing position and the opponent has a chance to hide before you get a chance to shoot, or they can charge you to prevent you shooting, or they can get a hero to expend a point of Might from their finite store to allow them to move or shoot first on a small part of the battlefield.

2/ Game length. WFB and 40k both have much fewer turns in which to resolve things. 4-6 turns doesn't give much room for to jockey for position and utilise movement properly. Movement is the most important thing in any wargame, whether it be to set up a charge, to outflank the enemy to gain an advantage, to set up a good fire position, or to avoid any of the above. I lost count of the number of games of 40k where I was in combat on the second turn and after that it was just a case of damage limitation for my Imperial Guard. Games of LotR can go on to 20 turns easily in the same amount of time and the ebb and flow of the battle can change things so much.

3/ Army selection. WFB and 40k both rely heavily on choosing the best army that you can. This doesn't make players good generals, it makes them good recruiting officers. I'm sure it is a valid intellectual exercise in of itself, but pre-game decisions should not be the major influence on who wins the game. Ideally the game should start with both players having an EQUAL chance to win regardless of the troops at their disposal. Also, the endless special abilities and magic items and wargear choices in WFB and 40k do mean that often it is a case of getting that uber hero/unit/wargear item/magic item/banner etc into combat so it can steamroller the entire enemy line and win you the game. I know both the other core games periodically tweak the power levels of said things, they have varied in effectiveness so much over the various editions, but it remains a basic part of both games in many ways. One of the reasons why Warhammer Ancients Battles remains so superior as a gaming system to normal WFB is that all the uber heroes, monsters, magic items etc are taken out of the equation. When that happens all you are left with is movement and application of force, which is how real battles are won and lost.

Admittedly LotR has seen an influx of ever increasingly powerful characters over the last couple of years, the newer versions of Boromir, Gothmog and several others can indeed tear big holes in the enemy army. At no point has any single hero ever become a gamewinning choice though, a similar number of points of troops always has the advantage. There is no winning army in LotR, no selection that gives an advantage over all others, no automatic choice that the player cannot leave home without (apart from ensuring a third of the army is archers, which always pays dividends). Look at all the units in 40k and WFB that never get used, look at all the wargear or magic items that are not worth the points. I can't think of anything in the official LotR rules that is a complete waste of time, everything gets fielded and can contribute towards victory. (The pisspoor White Dwarf rules Mat Ward keeps churning out are another matter, we'll pretend those things don't exist, which is fair as he keeps inventing stuff that isn't in the background material and making unbalanced rules for them.)

5/ Deployment and redeployment. As with army selection in WFB, how you deploy your troops can win or lose you the game almost by itself. With such large, unwieldy blocks of troops you are effectively screwed if your big block of pointy death ends up stuck at the wrong end of the line. One poster reduced LotR battles down to a couple of basic forms, WFB to an outsider looks just the same: make a line of troops and roll it forward into the enemy. If you are lucky, you'll have just enough time and space to slightly shuffle a unit along the line a bit, but mostly you'll have to deal with the deployment you chose. Again, I'm sure planning the perfect deployment is a valid intellectual exercise in its own right, but that still puts major limits on how you get to move your units in the game itself to the point where the player can often just be going through the motions in many ways.

6/ Battlefield modelling. This is where LotR really shines over WFB. In WFB you form up your blocks according to the random and arbitrary bonuses attributed by the game mechanics. You really don't get much say in the matter, you must include X, Y and Z to make it an effective unit. In LotR, the bonuses are there, just most of the time they are not spelled out so blatantly. A good example are the pike rules. Novice players always wonder why pikes don't have an advantage against cavalry, and start trying to write some house rule where horses get skewered by them. But look how they really work. A single pikeman gets ridden down by a horseman, and that is realistic because an 18 foot pole can't turn to face a fast moving rider quick enough. Historically accurate in a one-on-one situation. Line up a whole load of pikes though to form a block, and the horseman ends up in a losing situation, his two attacks leaving him likely to lose against the three attack maximum of the pikeman who now has support. The bonuses are there, you just need to line them up in different ways to activate it. And flanking? Sure, send the cavalry around to the sides and rear of the formation and you can ensure that fewer pikemen can join in the fight, bringing the odds back down into the favour of the attacker. It is all there, it just isn't listed as "do this and get +1".

7/ Formations. Okay, so in Warhammer you can make rectangular blocks with your models, a deep one for a rank bonus, and a wide one for better ranged fire and to defend a wider area. Oh, and Bretonnians get to use a wedge and skirmishers spread out a bit. That's it? Seriously? In LotR I can make a block, a line, a hollow square/circle, a wedge. Every single possible formation you have ever read about or imagined can be replicated in the LotR rules, AND they give real bonuses for doing so. I can make a double line of spears and curl the edges back to form a circle if you look like you are in danger of flanking the line. I can use a hero to form the tip of a wedge and drive deep into the heart of one of your formations. I can form dense pike blocks that split apart to allow cavalry to pass through before reforming again. I can keep reserves behind the main line to plug holes in formations. The level of control makes WFB look like clumsy and artfificial by comparison.

8/ Tactical control. Warhammer games are not better at massed combat than LotR. This is an illusion based on the fact that you put more models on the table in Warhammer. So what? Is that block of 30 spearmen really 30 models? You move it as one block, you turn it as one block, it fights as one block. Most of the models never even get to fight, they are just there to provide an arbitrary rank bonus and they get removed before they get to raise a sword. I'm sure all the Warhammer players here can tell stories of blocks of men being killed or driven off without getting a single kill. So, I say again, is that really 30 men? Or 50? Or 100? No, it is one unit. The fact it has multiple attacks and multiple wounds still doesn't change the fact that the player still has just 5-10 units to move around.

LotR on the other hand, which treats every single warrior as an individual, means we have usually 50 units to move around. Those units can form up, break apart, reform ad infinitum. Choose the shape of formation that benefits you most and switch to it in an instant. In WFB, you can't split up that block of 30 spearmen to chase two different units. You can't decide to break some off to go and reinforce another. You can't keep some men back as a reserve ready to join a weakening formation. LotR can do all of this, that makes it better.

9/ Realistic ebb and flow. LotR battles look more realistic for several reasons. One of which is the pushback rule. In WFB the big blocks of men crash into each other and grind away until one side or the other runs or is destroyed. In LotR, the battle lines crash into each other just the same, but then things get interesting. The winners push back the losers even if they are not killed. This is one of the best things about the game. If they can't move back due to the press of bodies they are more likely to die (which simulates the danger of not having enough room to fight), but if they are driven back it opens up a gap in the enemy formation. The victorious warriors can then push into the gap and drive the wedge deeper over following turns. In WFB the big blocks remain blocks, in LotR a formation can be split in two, reform into new formations, fall back and join up with new troops to refresh the formation. A snapshot of any WFB game shows unrealistic looking blocks of models. A snapshot of any LotR game shows a swirling melee. The difference is not just aesthetic, the player has to control the models in the LotR melee to make sure they do not get surrounded and isolated, to make sure that the various weapon types support each other, to make sure that models do not get trapped, to push open weak points in the line ... the level of micromanagement in LotR leaves WFB's pushing around of 5-10 units looking positively juvenile by comparison.

Okay, I know that last comment will sound contentious to WFB players who will want to point out that unit X contains this banner and that unit Y contains models that have bonuses for something or other. I appreciate that, but LotR games have bonuses for banners, special rules for weapons and heroes and various other things, but put all that aside for a moment. In LotR you control 30, 50, 100 units. WFB tends to have 5-10 units, sometimes as many as 15 even. All wargames boil down to movement and application of force, and LotR allows more control of this. There is no contest then, LotR is superior. I can do the same things that a WFB player does, but I can do it better and with more control. I can also do many things that a WFB player cannot, things that real generals could.

10/ Heroes. LotR heroes have a limited store of dice modifiers called Might, Will and Fate. These give them bonuses beyond their normal ability to fight better, to kill more , and to survive longer. They are a finite supply though, and the net effect of using these points means that heroes can have a game changing effect in small doses, but they run out. In LotR, heroes get tired the longer the game goes on.

There is more, much more, but I think you get the gist of things. I don't wish in any way to come across as overly negative about Warhammer. It is a still a good game in many ways, it is just that LotR is better. I've read many rulesets over the years and LotR gives a free-flowing game that rewards realistic real world tactics. LotR can be learnt in minutes but still gives victory to the best player nine times out of ten. LotR is very adaptable, being suitable for any time period and weapon use. GW themselves used a mod of LotR to form the best ever Wild West set of rules recently. A friend is currently adapting it to use for pirates, another chap I read of used it for Samurai games, and I still plan to use the system for my Darkest Africa models. There are still some areas in LotR that need a little polish (some of which have been done in the latest edition, some of which haven't), but overall it is a solid game system that works and works well. No other gaming system can do as much in modelling a battlefield, no other gaming system offers as much control, no other gaming system is as flexible, no other gaming system is so applicable to so many situations. Using the LotR rules you can do everything from a small skirmish to a giant battle, a castle siege to a ship boarding action. A few simple principles cover everything you could ever want to do, and you can teach it in just 15 minutes and hardly ever need to refer back to the rulebook.

Look beyond the simple mechanics of the game, look instead at what the simplicity allows you to do. Simple rules mean you have less things getting in the way of what you, the general, wants to do. LotR may not be to everyone's taste, and part of that may be the models or the background. The system though can do anything you want it to, there is no limitation on the player's tactical inventiveness.


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