Excitement grew in my stomach and clouded my mind from the moment I heard that this book was coming out. I remember thinking how nice it would look on my shelf, and more importantly, how key it would be for my Lord of the Rings gaming; this book promised to be a collection of all the rules, character and troop profiles, as well as a veteran's resource for both gaming and modelling. I was also relying on this book to reinvigorate my interesting in Lord of the Rings gaming after what seemed like a lifelong void of releases for this system.
After counting the hours while enslaved at work before I could head down to pick up the book, ny distracted mind struggled to maintain focus. Finally I was freed and I raced, somewhat dangerously to my local hobby store to pick it up. I was dieing to see it, but as I arrived at the GW shop I noted that there was no open store copy, unlike the 40K counterpart... I did think this was odd, but my desire to have this book blew that from my mind and I purchased one... It wasn't until I got back to my car and cracked the plastic that I started to realize I had made a mistake.
The first thing I noticed was the hobby article section. There was nothing that was new, everything in there was a reworked version of one White Dwarf article or another. I quickly remembered that I had already forked over the $90 for a White Dwarf subscription, and was sure that GW wouldn't charge me twice for the same material... To my great chagrin, not only did they reprint White Dwarf articles, but they seemed to pick some of the worst. Sorry Mr. Adrian Wood, but your LOTR painting and modelling articles are not that great... For a veteran's resource, this book should have included veteran hobby articles... That was the first let down, and a major one, and so earned the book three of the four stinkers that I gave it.
The missing profiles hit me second; where were the Army of the Dead? An editing error? Lets face it, we can all make editing mistakes. I am sure there are a number of them in this particular article as a matter of fact. But we have to remember that when a publishing company publishes a book filled with grammatical, spelling, and major content errors, there is something wrong. It would have taken a single good read through the book for someone to realize that there were problems. So, either nobody read over the book before it was published, or those who did had no real understanding of grammar or spelling, and failed to really have a clue with regards to the Lord of the Rings universe. There is really no excuse for this sort of ammature behaviour, the company has been around for far too long. My advice to GW: hire a contractor that can edit, keep better track of content, and reread the book at least twice before finalizing it. These issues earned the book its final stinker, until they get it together...
The book does do one thing that it promised, it brings together all of the official profiles released to date. Some tweaks have been made to some characters, and they finally split out the captains for each 'realm'. The themed aspect is also nice, but somewhat limited and narrow focused, as they fail to deal well with the fact that there is a timeline to the world (so, in the Gondor section we see both LOTR era and the Last Alliance era - which is odd considering that Elendil was from Arnor anyway...), and the Arnor & Angmar section deal solely with the LOTR era... Still, even though I already have all the rules and all the profiles, it is nice to have them together, and even though I am paying an arm and a leg for things I already have, the fact that everything is together here earns the book a single hero.
All in all, this book is a beginner's resource, despite GW's claims. Gamers who have collected all of the supplements to date should skip it, as the majority of the character profiles that were updated will be included in the Mines of Moria book (I have yet to find a profile from one of the supplements that has been updated - remember Dain was published only in the Return of the King main rulebook!). In my opinion, Games Workshop has let me down once again, and since they refuse to return or exchange the book because it has been opened and I can't even sell the damn thing on ebay, I will have to be reminded of their let down everytime I look at my LOTR gaming shelf...
Four stinkers and one hero translates to a 3 out of 10 if that is your flavour.