With the 20th anniversary of the Fellowship of the Ring here, I was super excited to try this new title from Game Workshop. The Lord of the Rings Battle in Balin’s Tomb is a two-player miniature skirmish game pitting the fellowship of the ring against the goblins and troll of Moria. Not only do you get the solid board game, but you get some great minis that can be a starting point for the Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game. Each game can take about 30 minutes to play.
For the Battle in Balin’s Tomb one player takes control of the Fellowship and another player will take control of the goblins of Moria. The game board has the exact spots for each member of the Fellowship, while the Moria player has a little bit of flexibility with which goblins will lead the charge and what order they will enter the room on turn 1.
Each member of the Fellowship has their own unique stats and abilities while goblin stats and abilities are based on what they are equipped with. Each player will get cards to keep track of each model’s stat block.
The Moria player will receive reinforcements at the start of every turn with the troll always entering on turn 7. The number and location of reinforcements each turn are determined by the Goblin Deck.
The Moria player will get to activate all their models on the board first followed by the Fellowship player. Each model can make a move and attack or an attack and a move. Moving away from an enemy model in an adjacent space provokes a sudden strike.
Combat is made by rolling the dice indicated on the model’s stat card and defense is calculated the same way. Swords are hits, shields defend against 1 hit each, and eyes and rings are wild. The rings also activate the Fellowships’s special abilities.
The game continues for 12 rounds and players calculate how many of the Fellowship have survived. If there are 3 or more members of the Fellowship, including Frodo, left alive then the Fellowship player wins.
Setting up this game was super easy, and I was worried about how overpowered the Fellowship seemed to be at first. The overall game itself is super easy to learn and play. Having stat cards for each model made referencing rules during the game almost nonexistent.
I got to play as both the Moria player and Fellowship player, and the strategy and experience varies massively depending on what side you are playing.
While the goblin player may have the strength in numbers it does take some careful management of your first couple of turns to make sure you can engage the Fellowship in a meaningful way that won’t get your models wiped off the board. Utilizing archers early and holding back my melee units seemed to work well. Swarming and attacking from multiple avenues were some of the best strategies. Unfortunately, the Fellowship player knows exactly when that troll is coming through the front door and can prepare for a counter strike pretty easily if you don’t swarm them early. The troll, while a tough unit, isn’t an insurmountable challenge for the Fellowship to strike down. The randomness of the goblin reinforcements can also contribute to a poor position allowing the Fellowship an edge on some turns.
As the Fellowship I had to keep them somewhat bunched up and moving around the board. The hobbits are easy prey for a goblin or two and can hurt your chances of winning significantly if they go down early. The Fellowship’s special powers really add some super swingy luck to the game and make it fun. Their powers are one of the main highlights during play. Most of them feel great when you can land that special ring dice roll and can have a massive impact on the momentum.
The combat system for Battle in Balin’s Tomb was easy is keeps the game flowing. The only time we had to slow down was the Fellowship’s special abilities activating. Even though this game is somewhat asymmetrical, it seems tightly balanced based on our play-throughs. That being said, those looking for in depth strategy won’t find it here and may want to dip a toe into the Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game proper.
Lord of the Rings: Battle in Balin’s Tomb is a fun filler game that can be played in between some heavier strategy games. It takes almost no time to set up or learn. The asymmetrical strategy and solid minis help immerse you in the experience. The Moria and Fellowship players each have specific strategies they should stick to during gameplay, especially knowing exactly when the troll is coming through the door. The strength of Battle in Balin’s Tomb is its simplicity and speed of play while still maintaining its light strategy. Some of the places it falls short are in replay value and the depth of its strategy. Regardless, it is a super fun, and light skirmish game that can help you take a break and clear your mind in between your heavier game on game night.
Final score: 3.5 Stars – A light two-player asymmetrical skirmish game that puts you in the middle of a great scene from the Fellowship of the Ring.
• Fellowship powers feel great when activated.
• Asymmetrical strategy allows for fun games.
• Easy to learn and set up.
• Replay value is a bit limited.
• Each side must use specific strategies to win, limiting play style.