This supplement gets four heroes and one stinker. For those of you who want the more standard rating system, it rates an 8 out of 10.
I have never been too dissapointed by any of the Lord of the Rings supplements put out by Games Workshop, and this supplement is no exception. It is well put together, well laid out graphically, and filled with snazzy glossy images of new miniatures; what more could a gamer ask for?
Along with the basics, this supplement includes a few new warrior types that are quite interesting. Firstly there is the expanded Easterling list, which notably includes mounted Easterlings. Although that is cool, it is hardly the highlight. The Khand list is really the highlight of this supplement, as it includes not only nicely painted (and schemed), well designed figures for the forces of Khand, but also chariots! The chariot models are excellent, as are the rules.
I have heard people complain that chariots required a driver and a warrior, making the GW version somewhat unrealistic. I partly agree, but at the same time I like the look of the single person in the chariot. Furthermore, since I can manage to put reality aside and believe in a flying dragon and magical powers, I can put reality aside and assume that the charioteers are so skilled with their tools of war and well connected with thier horses that they do not need a driver to fight from the chariot.
As far as the rules go for chariots, I could not have asked for anything better. The Mumak rules were great, but they really added a huge amount of overhead to the rules system. Of course, for the Mumak it was totally worth it, but I would have had a hard time swallowing such an extra set of rules for something that didn't blow me away in the movies. By using rules that had previously existed (monstrous mounts) with some tweeks GW not only saved themselves some R&D time, but also saved the expansion!
I must reiterate that I quite like the Khand figs. Although perhaps not exactly what Tolkien himself would have dreamed up, they still fit into the well designed, nice to look, and realistic realm that is Middle-earth. Yay goes to the Perry twins for some excellent design and sculpting work! My only gripe about these figs is their cost... but that is another story.
I was also pleased to see the new figs for the free peoples. Actually, I guess I should qualify that I was happy to see Madril finally released. As for Cirion and the Dwarves, I am not really convinced that they fit, but I guess it is nice to see some new characters, especially for the dwarves, as they will allows players to expand those armies. The Eorl fig deserves a special mention though. Not only is the fig excellent, but they managed to create an entire 'sub-theme' army based around the creation of Rohan with Eorl's ride southward to the aid of Gondor. I love the idea and I am looking forward to creating an entirely new army by painting up a single figure! (well, a mounted and foot version anyway).
The hobby articles must also be mentioned. Straying away from the simplistic articles included in the Fellowship supplement, A Shadow in the East includes some really great terrain building guides! All of the basic terrain type stuff such as the palisades and the tents are done extremely well. That is not mentioning the Easterling themed terrain, which is absolutely top notch! Finally, it looks like the painting articles are based on the 'Eavy Metal paint jobs, which is really great! All in all, the hobby articles are a breath of fresh air in and of themselves!
So with all of the praise, where does the stinker come from? Well, I noticed that the supplement was a bit slimmer than previous supplements. When I went back to compare it with previous supplements I realized that it lacked a lot of story and commentary that typically accompanied the previous Lord of the Rings supplements. All of the story in this supplement is narrated through the scenarios, unlike the previous ones that included background details throughout.
Although I must say that I am not sure if I am happy or sad about this. I mean, I loved the extra background details as they held my interest in the supplement for longer than it took to read over the profiles and scenarios a couple of times. But I wasn't always happy about the content; lets face it, Mat Ward, unlike Tolkien, doesn't have the time to do Middle-earth justice. Still, it added flavour and it was nice to have the option of being able to take or leave Mat's fluff... This missing content also kinda worries me because if GW is cutting corners on that stuff, does that mean they will continue to find new corners to cut until the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle game falls into the abyss? So, for that I give it one stinker.
All in all though I would highly recommend this supplement. It is worth its price tag for the new profiles, army lists, and warrior types alone. Add on the hobby articles and it is a must have for all Lord of the Rings miniature gamers!