WizKids/NECA announced the release of a couple of Lord of the Rings HeroClix games this week with both games scheduled to release in the second half of 2011. One will use the traditional HeroClix bases and rules and play as a standard HeroClix miniatures combat game. The other is more plays more as a traditional board game with players taking the roles of Nazgul both co-operating and working against each other to prevent the Ringbearer from taking the One Ring to Mount Doom.
I'm not as excited as some other store owners are about the release of LOTR HeroClix for a couple of reasons. First is the track record of LOTR as a collectible miniatures game. Sabertooth Games released a LOTR collectible miniatures game back in 2003 at the height of interest in the Lord of the Rings movie, the year that Return of the King won the Oscar. While game play wasn't great, Board Game Geek's members still rated the system a little over six. Still, and despite the high quality of the figures, sales of the game ended along with Sabertooth's collapse as a company, and while many of Sabertooth's games were picked up and re-released by Fantasy Flight Games, FFG opted not to do anything with the LOTR license. If FFG thought the the game had longer term potential, the company would have opted to release a version of it.
The second major problem is that licensed products, such as LOTR, need to have the core license available in order to draw interest in the line. The last movie in the LOTR trilogy released in 2003 and the next one to relate to the franchise, The Hobbit, won't release until 2012 and most of the characters from LOTR either won't appear or only have limited appearances in the movie. Witness the sales of Games Workshop's Lord of the Rings line of miniatures. Thought it sold quite well while the trilogy was in theaters, and for a limited time afterwards, the line has languished for much of the last decade. Releasing a Hobbit HeroClix game would make sense, taking advantage of the excitement surrounding the movie, then release a LOTR set afterward.
I do expect this to sell but not in large quantities and nowhere near the amount that I would expect from a new Marvel or DC HeroClix set. Even at the height of its popularity, the Sabertooth CMG never sold anywhere near the levels that a new superhero HeroClix set did.