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Subject: A convincing victory rss

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Jake Thornton
United Kingdom
Tyne and Wear
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Played WotR for the first time against my regular opponent for 2-player wargames. Overall it played better than I’d expected, and was an entertaining game, if a little long.

I took the Shadow and, having read through the rules, reviews and strategy guides on BGG my plan was to focus on doing whatever I could to slow the ringbearer first, and go for my own military victory with what I had left. Of course, the dice and cards would help dictate what was possible.

Opening moves
The Free Peoples split some companions off at the start, sending them to rouse the men of Rohan and Gondor against me (I assume). The fellowship wandered south.

I allocated 2 dice to the hunt pool every turn, a policy that was a guess at the start but seemed to be about right to give me a successful hunt on almost every roll, with average dice (and a nazgul sitting on the ringbearer). I’d do that again. Having read the rules online, but not had access to the cards, my strategy was a bit of wait and see what turned up, but I decided that I’d want all my nations at war pretty quick to give me options. For the first few turns I moved armies towards Gondor and pushed my nations to war. My first assault was on Osgiliath (I think – the one next to Minas Tirith), which rolled over them as expected. Then I moved into Minas Tirith itself, and they fell back to the stronghold.

Strategies Emerge
The first siege of Minas Tirith played out with both forces losing heavily, and mine eventually retreated onto their reinforcements before the relieving Gondor army killed them. This was all fairly predictable stuff, but had drawn quite a few Free Peoples’ troops into a battle – a good outcome for me, I thought. I’d rather he spent dice to move up to me rather than the reverse, especially when I expected to win the battle in the end anyway.

Meanwhile, the ringbearer continued his journey, though I hampered him at every turn by sitting a nazgul on his head at all times and revealing him at almost every step. Many dice were spent on hiding him again, though he did manage to sneak through Moria without any problem and soon arrived for a wine and cheese party with the elves.

Strider, having wandered off to cause trouble for me in the south, died to his own event (when he drew 3 eyes). This was a big blow to my opponent as he’d lined up a series of nice cards to play in a row to bolster Gondor and Rohan’s defences. A lucky turn for me.

The rest of my armies around Mordor homed in on Gondor, with the Southrons/Easterlings congregating on Umbar for a fairly obvious shipborne assault (my opponent actually remarked about it being obvious at the time).

None of my other armies did anything as I’d just not got the dice and cards to stall the fellowship, mount a convincing attack on Gondor and do anything else. I repeatedly pondered attacking with one of my other armies, but denuding my own strongholds of defences when the Free Peoples only need to take 2 to win seemed foolish. These were never the spare dice to hand to muster enough troops to open new fronts.

Across the Wastes
The ringbearers seemed to make much better time across the bleak wastes after they left their elven buddies. By now all the companions have left and Gandalf is his better, paler self – and heading for Minas Tirith with Merry. He makes it, along with other reinforcements, just before my troops close the net. I’d been delayed slightly by my naval assault from Umbar onto Dol-thingy (the one on Gondor’s south coast). Having the card offered me a good chance to take a stronghold by storm and also get the Southrons somewhere useful at the same time. Given that the Free Peoples had been mustering extra troops in Gondor it was also a case of sooner being better. Dol-thingy fell quickly and all that was left was the swelling forces of Minas Tirith. I was quite happy with the Gondor defence all being in one place so I could take it out all in one go. In the end, reinforcing the siege of Minas Tirith might not have been such a good plan for the Free Peoples.

I still haven’t done anything militarily except against Gondor. I only have 3 vps, though Minas Tirith is under siege. Getting 10 for a military victory looks very unlikely, and my slowing of the ringbearer doesn’t look like enough. At this point I hadn’t given up, but I was wondering how I was going to win. Oddly, my opponent was telling me he’d already lost, though I wasn’t sure why. The most likely course to victory looked like the random goodies that would come from the final track round Mordor to Mount Doom.

Final Phase
I’d held back on playing the special hunt tile cards as I thought they went into the draw immediately, and so might be wasted on a pre-Mordor draw. However, I eventually realised my mistake and played the 3 I had just before Mordor was reached by the ringbearer. By this time there weren’t a lot of other tiles left in the hunt, so it was looking pretty nasty.

The ringbearer went into Mordor with 7 corruption, mostly piled on him as he made the last few spaces. As he did so, Minas Tirith fell, along with Gandalf the White and Merry. Gondor was now mine, and although that was only 5 vps it felt like a moral victory to have killed Aragorn and Gandalf. Even if the Free Peoples won, I’d be getting an honourable mention in the Big Book of Baddies. That said, it was clear that I wasn’t going to get to 10vps before the ring got dumped in the goo, or the ringbearer joined me anyway. I’d done everything I could to nobble the ringbearers, and now it was all down to the tiles drawn.

It didn’t last long. The ringbearers first attempt to move in Mordor was blocked with a special 3 + stop. The next attempt was the end of the game…

It’s a funny game. I actually won fairly convincingly, I think. Ringbearer corrupted on the first space of the Mordor track, Gondor fallen and major characters dead. However, it didn’t feel like I’d really earned it. I was a long way off a military victory, and although I had followed my plan to hamper the ringbearer whenever possible (and this is, I believe, why I won), it felt like the victory was really down to good card and tile draws. I don’t think this is really true, but that’s how it feels. The winning seems disconnected from the setting it up, if that makes sense. I just don’t have the sense of patting myself on the back that having a plan come off well normally generates.

I never mustered a single additional trooper in the game (with a dice). I did spend a couple of cards to muster, but these troops were never used and were really just the best thing I could do at the time. In general, as the military game is so slow, mustering seemed like a waste of time.

The luck of the dice seemed fairly evenly balanced during play. The cards were, perhaps, rather kind to me, though I haven’t read through the deck so I don’t know what I didn’t get. The tiles served me well, it seemed, but again I don’t know what the mix was and we did draw most of them in the end.

Overall, an interesting game, though not without flaws. I’d like to play again with the same opponent so we can play at the same part of the learning curve. I think it would play less well if a veteran was playing a novice (lots to take in at once, lots of choices to make with little to guide inexperienced decisions). I also think it will pale fairly quickly as optimal strategies appear – some are already emerging after one game. Time will tell.
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Ira Fay
United States
New Haven
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Quirkworthy wrote:
Strider, having wandered off to cause trouble for me in the south, died to his own event (when he drew 3 eyes).

Wow! I don't believe I've ever seen that happen before. Something like 4 eyes in the bag with something like 10 non-eyes. Figure 3 non-eyes are drawn before the Challenge of the King is played, that means the chance of drawing three eyes is something like:

4/11 * 3/10 * 2/9 = 2.5% (and that assumes a fairly harsh setup situation.)

I guess it's not SO rare that it'll never happen, but... wow.

Nice report! It'll be interesting to see how your opinions on the game change as you play more. I think you may find that military victory for Shadow is quite efficient and a reasonable way for Shadow to win.

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