Actually, it's (surprisingly) one of their current Big Three. Specifically, Lord of the Rings. The Strategy Battle Game, of course. Not the mass-battle War of the Ring they pushed on us to sell more miniatures. I'm talking old school LoTR, (not the "Hobbit" reboot as I consider paying $90+ for a rulebook... ...well let's just say "more money than brains" doesn't even come close.)
My dwarf warband - normal dwarf warriors and Khazad guard upgrades for Battle Companies
I remember reading somewhere one of the LoTR authors was proud of how "clean" LoTR:SBG had remained through dozens of sourcebooks and expansions and I have to say I agree. In contrast to the convoluted bloat of, say, Warhammer Fantasy this is even more evident. The stat line is descriptive, familiar and simple and "special rules" are kept to a minimum. So you won't be losing due to forgetting an obscure rules combo *cough* Warmachine *cough.*
Whilst you can min-max in any points-based wargame, LoTR has more a focus on playing the game rather than winning by building the "uber army" list like, say, 40K. This suits me as I don't think pre-game decisions should be the ultimate factor in winning the game. I want the best general to win, not the best army builder/recruiting officer. Whilst LoTR does have powerful units and heroes, and indeed gameplay revolves around them, there aren't really any "must have" inclusions that will singlehandedly steamroller the enemy force, and a hero can usually be reliably bought down by equivalent points worth of grunts, due to the limited nature of his heroic "might."
Your in-game decisions tend to determine if you win or lose, rather than how you deployed your armies at the start. Rather than being decided in 4-6 turns like most GW games, LoTR games can often go to 20+ turns, giving more time for the battle to ebb and flow.
The rule mechanics are simple - you can pick them up in the first few turns of a game - and thereafter you would almost never need to refer to a rulebook.
Whilst not boasting anything as revolutionary as Infinity's ARO system, the initiative system (side A moves, side B moves, side A shoots, side B shoots) is more adaptive and organic than usual IGOUGO fare. There are far more player reactions and decision points within a turn. In addition, spending Might Points allows you to activate units and act out of sequence, adding a layer of both gameplay and resource management, and making the game more fluid and less predictable. It's a lot harder to cheesily halt a unit 1" out of enemy charge range.
There are rules for all sorts of skirmish-game things like climbing, jumping and falling but they all use the same simple, consistent mechanic - roll a d6 and "1" = a bad result, "2-5" = is an expected result and "6" = is a great result. In addition, different races move at different speeds - which does have an impact on the game.
With only a dozen spells, magic is simple and apart from the usual offensive spells ("transfix" an opponent in place, or blast them with missile-like sorcery) most revolve around buffs/debuffs such as raising the courage of allies and causing terror amongst foes, hampering missile fire or the like. It's powerful, but not overpowering.
I like how the winners of a fight "push back" the loser which means losers who cannot retreat are more likely to die (realistic in that they are hemmed in by a crush of bodies and don't have room to fight) but this also can open gaps in enemy formations. The 1:1 modelling means you can form realistic formations like wedges, hollow squares, double/single lines - pretty much anything you can imagine.
My painting style emphasizes speed over elegance. But I never ever field unpainted miniatures, so I count myself amongst the righteousResource Management
My favourite part of the game is how heroes use of "Might," "Will" and "Fate". These stats have a finite supply, adding a layer of resource management and more "decision points" to the game. Heroes ARE powerful, but they impact your game in more ways than simply being close-combat killing machines with huge stats.
Do you use your Might to re-roll dice and slaughter your foes in close combat? Or do you use it to move your allies into combat or fire off a volley of arrows before your opponent? Do you use Will to cast spells or resist your enemies' magic? Get bogged down in a fight for too long, and eventually your heroes' Fate will be depleted, leaving him more vulnerable to wounds.
Might is especially useful and I like using it to meddle with the initiative sequence and set up advantageous combats for my warband. However spending my Might thus leaves me vulnerable to 1v1 combat with an enemy hero who has conserved his Might for his own combats. Heroes are powerful and can have game-changing effects, but they get tired as the game goes on and their stats are drained.
The OOP Khazad Guard ($5ea!) I bought drove the price of my Battle Company up to $30 - most of my other forces cost $10 to $15. That's a very low entry point for a GW product.
Campaign Games: Mordhiem/Necromunda Fan? Meet Battle Companies Redux
Found in White Dwarf #311 and #312 (and also free online here) this is a LoTR skirmish campaign with ~12 models a side. You can recruit new soldiers, level up your heroes, and buy equipment. Think Mordhiem with better gameplay, less cheesy warbands and simpler/less complex advancement and equipment (and less superpowered heroes/wargear combinations). You can play a game in 30-40 minutes - a campaign in an evening. When I review fantasy skirmish rules, people often ask me "is this the new Mordhiem?" I wonder if they have heard of "Battle Companies." It's a concept so good (and cheap to play) Games Workshop quietly shelved it. That's a pretty good recommendation by my book!
Considering LoTR:SBG also spawned historical skirmish campaign games "Legends of High Seas" (pirates) and "Legends of the Old West" (cowboys) as well as numerous derivative works ranging from steampunk to samurai, it has pretty good "skirmish campaign" pedigree.
...so you're recommending a GW game - wait what?
Actually, yes I am. Whilst evolutionary not revolutionary, it represents a positive step forward from 40K and WHFB. It's a clean, simple rule set with familiar stats and mechanics yet some surprisingly subtle naunces, in particular the initiative sequence and the use of Might, Will and Fate. Your battles will more likely be won or lost by your in-game decisions, not in the list building or deployment stages.
The commonsense mechanics are used in a range of other rule sets for many different eras and the game scales well - from 10 minis to about 50 (after which it starts to bog down). Furthermore, if you're seeking a way to get your Mordhiem fix, but don't love the complexity or cheesiness of certain wargear/hero builds, then Battle Companies offers a legitimate, affordable* alternative.
I know a lot of people who played LoTR briefly and tossed it aside as too "simple" or "bland." I'd encourage you to dig it out and look at it with fresh eyes.
*Although you WOULD be mad to pay the actual GW prices (it's $35+ for 12 plastics by the same Perry brothers sculptors who sell their own similar medieval models at $30 for 40+ plastics) - there is a thriving secondhand market. A dozen secondhand plastics and some metals for a Battle Companies army would set you back $20 or less from eBay. The softback A5 rules booklet from the Mines of Moria boxset (secondhand ~$10) and a Battle Companies pdf (free) and "voila!"