After playing LotR Strategy Battle game for the past year, I have decided it is unbalanced. To explain why, lets start at the beginning. Why do any of us play any games at all? I believe firstly it is about how appealing the theme is to us. When i say theme i mean a composit of background over all, particular aspect of that background made personal, and of course the gaming pieces themselves. The first and biggest thing going for LotR is the background so many of us are familiar with from either the books and or the movies. If possible, we all want a little corner of the LotR universe.
Once we connect with the background then we look at the rules of game play. Face it, some game systems are clearly better than others. In this regard, from the GW major games, I believe the LotR SBG has the best rules compared to Fantasy Battle or 40k. Thus it is a win win so far with LotR from both background/theme and rules. So we enter the game and choose a force for us. There are two reason to choose any particular force: theme and competitiveness. It is hard to choose just competitiveness without theme, especially since theme is one, if not the first, reason we chose to play the game to begin with. But with any particular theme, we still want our force to be competitive.
Though the game is set as good versus evil, I believe most people view this as sides rather than theme. Theme includes such concept as a Mirkwood force of elves, a city of Gondor, a tribe of Far Harad, or a force of Orc Uruk hai venturing abroad in day light. Here is where I think the LotR SBG breaks down. If you want a theme force, in general Good themes are stronger than Evil themes, and game play is subsequently affected.
Lets look at the essential phases and aspects of the game.
Movement: Usually this is fairly balanced between good and evil.
Magic: Seems to me that despite having only three wizards available, these are really powerful Good wizards and typically superior to Evil wizards. Their spells have more offensive capability and their pool of Will slightly more available. Rarely a Good army ventures forth without a named wizard. The edge goes to Good.
Shooting: The forces of Good have superior shooting in terms of elven archers and or Grey companies. This discrepancy is exaggerated even more when considering the poor shooting ability of goblins and orcs. It is no contest, the shooting phase belongs to Good.
Fight: Again on average forces of Good has better and easier access to higher Fight value troops (not to mention anything about characters yet). From Elves to Dwarves to many human options, in most fight encounters, Good automatically wins when they roll a six. This means Good statistically wins 7 out of 12 times overall. While an argument may be posed that these higher Fight value models cost more to field, the same cannot be true for an argument that fielding more Evil models can compensate for a lower Fight value. Whether facing one or three evil models, Good still wins 7 out of 12.
Might: It should be obvious that the heroes of Good have greater access to higher Might characters than Evil. I do not believe the option to take monsters can offset higher Might (much like more fighters cannot offset higher Fight value Good models). Think about it, having more Might and Fate allows a hero to win over monsters, breaking any tie and surviving most losses. And those monsters Good does not want to fight they can always shoot or magic against. Heck, even having more Might can turn the neutral appearing movement phase to favor Good over Evil.
Thus in my analysis in nearly, if not all, phases and aspects of the game Good has the edge.
Yes I know we can all build killer combinations to win with, but these combinations typically will be "unfluffly" and stray, if not violate, the main reasons many of us chose to play to begin with, and that is theme. If the common Evil themes are uncompetitive, it really becomes a drag after a while, whether you play good or evil.