Lately, I have been tinkering with themed lists for War of the Ring that could still be relatively playable competitively if desired, but also are capable of functioning as a themed list that could be primarily about exploring one of the less developed avenues in the game.
Initially, I considered looking at this several months ago, but was delayed by a few work projects. Now that I am a bit more back in the hobby saddle, I have time to finally execute on one of the ideas that I came up with. The initial block of themes were:
Arnor, just before the fall - the theme here would be the armies that had contested the final push of the Witch King to destroy the kingdom, meaning that it would largely be composed of warriors of arnor, rangers of arnor, converted cavalry and archers from the minas tirith profiles (using those profiles, most likely, but with the arnor green and appropriately modified armor), and maybe a smattering of war machines. Arvedui would be the leader, with the legendary formation for Arnor as the head of the host.
Karna, as the forbidden element of Harad - using the watchers of Karna battlehost as the main component of this theme, with allied spirits of some sort to represent some of the bound spirits that the watchers commanded / corralled / used against their enemies. Here, it would be a fallen realms army primarily based around misdirection, ambushing, and shooting, rather than your classic meat grinder easterling army. Was ambivalent about mumaks. Leader might have been one of the ringwraiths, or plausibly Suladan.
Men of the North - based around Rhovanion or the fallen realm of Arnor, as the men who fought against Sauron in the northlands during the latter portion of the Third Age before (and during) the War of the Ring. Here, it would be rangers, perhaps the grey company, and warriors from towns like Dale or Bree (possibly using the men of numenor stat lines to represent the lighter armor but greater fighting experience they would have). The leader might well have been Arathorn, or possibly Aragorn, depending on the situation. This is still an army idea I tinker with, and I think it has some potential.
Men of Dunland - I've always found the story of the Dunlendings interesting, as they are a group of men that are not necessarily evil in the traditional sense, but rather embittered and jaded. Forced out of their initial lands by Rohan (and Gondor), and with a rather tragic and isolated history even before that, their enmity for the forces of the Dunedain seems well-founded. Likewise, while they are mentioned in Tolkien's works several times, they are not well fleshed out, leaving some room for variability and interpretation, much like the men of the north theme.
However, the tipping point came in two ways:
1 - When the ES ruling in the WotR FAQ came out, I realized that any theme being lead by a legendary formation without ES would ultimately lead to tragedy. Thus, the Arnor theme was all but dead (unless I wanted to proxy a leader as well, which seems a bit much), as the access to an ES leader for more competitive games was just not there.
2 - I wanted to make sure that, whatever models were used, there was scope for both conversions and convertibility within it. I didn't want to be shackled down by having to use single-pose metal models and convert only from the relatively static bodies for some of them (Dunland comes to mind here), nor did I want to have to extensively convert an entirely large WotR armies. It was in my research on models to use that I stumbled across the new Vikings from Wargames Factory, and figured that they would fit the bill nicely for men in War of the Ring.
The question was who they best represented, and what else was available; clearly they share some of the elements with the ancient germans from WF as well, and I wanted to find an army where I could use all three in conjunction. While the men of the north theme was quite tempting (and still might be done), I noticed that they ultimately fit the dunlendings almost perfectly:
Vikings Huscarls for Dunlending Huscarls
Ancient Germanic Warbands for Wild Men of Dunland (shirtless, ragtag madmen!)
Ancient Germanic Cavalry for Dunlending Cavalry (representing their light cavalry quite well)
Thrydan has both a battlehost that I like (thus allowing me to field a totally legal Dunland list), has epic strike so could be used competitively, and gives me a bit of flexibility.
Some other thoughts on what might fit:
The Dwimmerlaik, as according to the GW fluff he is the ringwraith who is most active in the area. Likewise, I think he's underplayed and quite fun without being over the top like Khamul, so he might see some game time here.
Orc trackers, or basic orcs, as allies of the dunlendings either driven from the regions around Moria or seconded to them by Saruman, who I figure would never allow his best troops (the Uruk-hai) to be bossed around by dunland.
Carn Dum Barbarians, to represent berserk dunlending warriors (and, with the added benefit of also being men, as I'd like the majority of the list to be men) or their allies from further in the north, as clearly there was no love lost between Angmar and the men of the west.
Wargs, to represent the possibility of the wild creatures being used for war by the dunlendings. Thrydan Wolfsbane, after all, probably puts the fear of men into them with the whole wargbane and all, and animals respond to shows of dominance.
Part of the idea is to find common formations or heroes as allies to allow fielding more rare choices from the Isengard list to keep Dunlendings as the central theme. Thrydan's battlehost also fills this niche nicely, as I figure I could have a mostly to all mannish evil list filled to the gills with Dunlendings, and quite possibly have it play well.
I'll post more as it evolves...