My enthusiasm over this book was drowned in the furvor that was the impending release of the new Rulebook. To be honest, I didn't even bother to really figure out what it was (was it a supplement, a box set in itself, or a part of the Mines of Moria set?) until after I had thoroughly explored all of my fantasies about the one rulebook... After being crushed by that rulebook, I first swore not to get this supplement, but then I remembered seeing some good hobby articles in the previews. So, I went down to my local hobby shop and had a look through it; I wasn't just going to buy it without making sure it was a good use of my ca$h as I had the one rulebook!
The book is split up into hobby sections, painting sections, and scenario sections. This setup is great, something that the supplements had previously been lacking. The painting sections showcased moderately skilled painting schemes, a step up from those in the main rulebook. Also, the paint schemes remained quite true to the movies (at least with the movie characters), which was nice. Furthermore, the book actually bothered to include details on painting methods, such as highlighting, which was great. This earns this book a hero for sure!
The hobby sections ranged in skill level and quality, but all of the hobby concepts were fantastic. Mat Ward hit the head on the nail with the reusable terrain concepts. A series of good articles are provided that explain not only how to build the terrain, but also how to reuse it later! Furthermore the level of detail in the hobby articles is wonderful, as they often explain little things like how to keep cardboard from warping. The highlight of the hobby articles is the weathertop article, which is simply a fantastic model for veterans and beginners alike! To top it all off, not a single article from this book had previously graced the pages of another Lord of the Rings or White Dwarf page. This section alone is easily worth two heroes!
The layout of this book is really the clencher. Awesome colour images for every aspect, including the scenario map layouts. Furthermore, they use (almost strictly) only the terrain that they show you how to build in the scenario layout maps, which is great! Finally, I really like the way they didn't overdo the character profiles; I never liked that for all the previous supplements, half of the book would simply be profiles for characters. In this book all of the profiles are at the back of the book and kept as minimal as possible! Certainly, this book is one of the better Lord of the Rings publications from Games Workshop.
On the other side of the coin, one thing that I noticed about this book even before I bought it was that it was based around a concept that they had already done: the Fellowship of the Ring rulebook. So, ultimately they were going to cover some material that had been covered. This wasn't as bad as it could have been, as they went back and tried to make things right from their original attempts in the Fellowship rulebook. Also, there are some great scenarios such as the Hounds of Sauron, which brings out some of the material from the books (and the awesome wild warg profiles!).
Despite some great scenarios, it is the scenario section that brought out some stinkers in this publication. The first thing that got under my skin was the first two scenarios. They are very similar, don't tell much of the story, and are there ultimately to sell the new Dunedain and Ring Wraith models. One such scenario would have done fine, or perhaps if one showcased mounted wraiths, as throughout the Fellowship of the Ring movie, the wraiths were mounted! In fact, there is only a single scenario in the entire book that contains mounted wraiths... So there is some content that could be cut away here, and unfortunately, in my view, it is all the gaming articles that contain the Dunedain...
The book itself is a bit too long for me as well. It would be better if there were fewer scenarios (as explained in the previous paragraph), giving us a shorter book that could be closer in price to the previous supplements. I understand that GW wants to sell their new miniatures, but that doesn't help the quality of this book unfortunately.
Finally, I have to mention the spelling and grammar. It is quite unprofessional, and, I am convinced, could be corrected with a single good read through the book before it is finalized... Again, I recommend that GW hires an editor to proof the books, perhaps a contractor that can actually do the job ;)
Overall though, this is a great resource. Something that will surely soothe those who have been hanging on the bell for something new to come out for Lord of the Rings over the past few months! I recommend this book for everyone from beginner to veteran, and, if you have to choose between this book and the one rulebook, take this book and wait for the Mines of Moria set.
For those of you who want the more standard rating system, this book rates a 7 out of 10.