Well, it seems, after several store visits and phone calls to GW, that Battle Companies is a direct only product. So, I decided to order up the book on the web store and get it delivered to my local store - saves a couple of quid on postage and as I need to pop up to the Broadway to do some other stuff soon anyway fits in well with my plans.
Anyway, onto the book itself. It is beautifully presented with plenty of eye candy on offer. It is a hard-cover tome, so should prove nice and hard wearing. There are 14 pages of actual rules - the main rules are obviously going to be those from one of the main rule books that are already out there; so you will need an additional (the main) rule book in order to be able to play Battle Companies. To be fair, this is mentioned on the back of the book, so no confusion allowed. A good point is that it mentions the Middle Earth Strategy Battle Games rules manual - things are moving forward with this franchise.
The main rules are then followed up with the actual Battle Company descriptions split between good and evil factions; for the good side there are 5 companies for men, 3 for the Elven lords, 2 for the Dwarf realms and one for the Shire. For the evil side there are also 11 companies that can be used to represent the majority of forces you may wish to represent from both the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. There are promises within the tome to say that more will be forthcoming but may be presented in either a future supplement or within the pages of White Dwarf.
Next up are a bunch of scenarios (12 in all), with a nice little section presenting some one-off rules for particular locations if you wish to fight your battles all in one locale, Lake-Town for instance. These are an interesting addition to the basic rules and will add to the fun when played. The scenario section is completed by a new narrative style campaign/scenario - set in Arnor.
The next section, more to use up page space methinks than to add anything to the rules, contains some representative battle companies created and played with (presumably) by members of the GW staff. I must admit they do look good and give one something to strive towards; the back stories/recollections certainly make the companies feel like real forces of troops that grew organically rather than at the whim of a points jockey's calculations.
Finally, a short missive tells one how to utilise one's Battle Company in a main stream LotR:SBG game - some nice rules in here.
Overall, I am so glad that these rules have been given the time of day and released to whet our appetites for the main course which should be out sometime in the first half of next year. That said, I do wonder what will happen to the unofficial supplement doing the rounds on the internet...