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Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation» Forums » General

Subject: How to stalemate LOTR:Confrontation rss

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Mark N
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Going off the definition of a stalemate in Chess. It's a scenario such that each player's incentives are to drag out the game, and their only other alternative is to make a move that's guaranteed to lose it.



(Flying Nazgul in the Shire, The watcher one square ahead of Moria, Pippin/Frodo in the square ahead of the watcher.)

This is the simplest stalemate I could come up with. Every turn, Pippin attacks The Watcher and retreats backwards upon attacking. The Sauron player has no moves available: the watcher is revealed and can't move, and the Flying Nazgul has no solo characters available to attack.

Strength cards are 6,5 Sauron and 2,1 fellowship.

Alternative options:

Pippin fights the watcher Pippin dies due to the massive strength advantage, Frodo will eventually be forced to move forward and be pinned by the flying Nazgul, unable to retreat sideways into the watcher.

Pippin or Frodo advances The Flying Nazgul attacks the character that advanced, guaranteeing a kill, and then if Frodo is left, he's forced to move into one of the Sauron characters.

Hence, Pippin keeps attacking the watcher and retreating for all eternity. You can have a parallel version of this endgame by having Frodo on the opposite side of the pass, someone else in the square with pippin antagonizing and retreating from the watcher, so that the Flying Nazgul juggles Frodo back and forth, but it essentially works out to be the same scenario.

Arguably the fellowship player has lost since they have no way to avoid the Flying Nazgul, however the fellowship player has the option to stall the game indefinitely, and there's nothing the Sauron player can do about it.



Pretend there are any two Sauron characters in the shire, such that the Sauron player only needs Wormtongue in the shire to win, that was an oversight in the photo. The Watcher is revealed in Moria, Pippin is directly in front of the watcher, the Warg is opposite the pass through the mountains, Frodo is on the other side of the pass, Wormtongue is on one side of Frodo and Aragorn in between Frodo and the shire.

Strength cards are 6,5 Sauron and 1, Noble Sacrifice Fellowship.

What happens in this scenario is that during the Sauron player's turn, Wormtongue attacks Aragorn every turn, Aragorn decides no cards are played, and Wormtongue retreats backwards into the empty region directly behind him. On the fellowship player's turn, Pippin attacks the revealed Watcher, and immediately retreats backwards.

If Frodo advances in any way, the Warg is guaranteed to kill him. If the Warg advances, Frodo is guaranteed to slip past. So both sides continue to play moves that serve no purpose except to delay the game.

Other options for the Sauron player:
Advance the Warg: Guaranteed to lose, Frodo runs through the tunnel, and reaches Moria before the Warg reaches the Shire.

Other options for the Fellowship player:
Fight the Watcher. Whether Noble Sacrifice is played or not, this is a pointless gesture that removes the Fellowship's ability to delay the game. Eventually another option has to be taken.
Attack with Aragorn or allow cards to be played as Aragorn The cards remaining guarantee a double KO if the Sauron player simply saves the 6, which Wormtongue can survive and Aragorn can't. Even under the best possible scenario, where Pippin engaged in combat first (the Sauron player plays a 5) then Aragorn plays another card to force a card refresh, Wormtongue can begin advancing on the Shire immediately, and is guaranteed to win the race with Frodo, even if Frodo defeats the Warg on a rock-paper-scissors card play.

If Aragorn allows cards to be played when attacked, Wormtongue will end up two turns away from victory, while Frodo is three, fellowship having the next move. If Aragorn advances into Wormtongue, Wormtongue will be three turns away from victory to Frodo's three, but in this case the Sauron player goes first, so Wormtongue is again guaranteed a victory in making it to the shire before Frodo reaches Moria.

Essentially, both sides have no choice but to keep delaying the game and hoping that the other one trips up or gives in. It's like a game of chicken that never ends. As mentioned in my Coup thread, http://boardgamegeek.com/article/15410994#15410994 I don't think it's a criticism of a game to show that it can lead to a stalemate. LOTR:C is one of my all time favorite games, and breaking it is just one more enjoyable puzzle it's presented me with.

Some final thoughts: I'm certain that any possible stalemate has to involve Pippin, to explain why the fellowship is able to act without cards being played (which could typically force a rock paper scissors to resolve the stalemate at some point) or advancing every turn. I also haven't found a combination that works other than Pippin against a revealed Watcher, which explains why the Sauron player doesn't simply kill Pippin to stop him from delaying the game. I don't have any proof yet, but I suspect that most stalemate scenarios would be variants on this. Wormtongue vs Aragorn in never ending cardless combat, Pippin vs the Watcher in a similar vein, and occasionally an eternally dodging Frodo in a variation on the first stalemate.

I haven't yet found a way to stalemate either variant game on its own, my guess is that it may only be possible to reach a stalemate with a combined character set.
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Yeah I would call it a draw in those conditions... since usually multiple games are played (swapping sides), still useful to have a draw in scoring overall matches.

Nice catch!
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Christopher Dearlove
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JohnnyDollar wrote:
Yeah I would call it a draw in those conditions... since usually multiple games are played (swapping sides), still useful to have a draw in scoring overall matches.

Nice catch!


Unless I misread, these all involve added characters in the Deluxe Edition. Are any possible in the original game?
 
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Yiorgos Golfinopoulos
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Unless I am mistaken (haven't played for years), a side that can't make a move loses the game. It's in the rules, isn't it?
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Mark N
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Dearlove wrote:
JohnnyDollar wrote:
Yeah I would call it a draw in those conditions... since usually multiple games are played (swapping sides), still useful to have a draw in scoring overall matches.

Nice catch!


Unless I misread, these all involve added characters in the Deluxe Edition. Are any possible in the original game?

I haven't found a stalemate with the base game yet. Any stalemate has to involve Pippin attacking and retreating indefinitely on the fellowship side, and a revealed Watcher is the only character I've been able to come up with that Pippin could be attacking who wouldn't simply move in to kill Pippin, or advance to pin Frodo.

The Sauron player can easily run out of moves or have no choice but to juggle Frodo. But Pippin against the Watcher is the only combination I've seen that allows the fellowship player to similarly delay. For example, any other character than the Watcher in the first scenario would be forced to advance and allow Frodo to slip past, making the game a default win for the Fellowship. And in most of the other possible scenarios, anyone other than the Watcher would simply kill Pippin, making the game a win for Sauron.

I don't think the base game can reach a stalemate, but I'd be interested in seeing if anyone has a counterexample.
 
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Mark N
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Boofus wrote:
Unless I am mistaken (haven't played for years), a side that can't make a move loses the game. It's in the rules, isn't it?

Actually... you're right. So the first stalemate picture technically isn't valid as shown.

So I'd need to do the amended version for the first picture. Frodo is on the other side of the pass, in front of the tunnel entrance, with the Flying Nazgul next to him. Pippin and Merry are in the square in front of the watcher. The Flying Nazgul attacks Frodo every turn, who retreats sideways. Pippin attacks The Watcher and immediately retreats.

If Pippin and Merry ever separate, the Flying Nazgul kills them with a strength card advantage. If Frodo ever advances (he can't take the tunnel because the other side is full), the Flying Nazgul kills him in the mountains.

The second stalemate should still hold as shown.
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MarkN wrote:
I haven't found a stalemate with the base game yet.


OK, let's drop the term stalemate, as it isn't.

What you are saying is that an infinite loop is possible. It's not forced by the rules, as players could choose to do something else and lose. But as its possible, they can do it. In fact the "would definitely lose" condition is irrelevant to whether the loop is possible.

So here's a stronger version of my question. Is an infinite loop possible with the base set, with both players cooperating to achieve that? The Fellowship can do nothing with a Pippin move. Can Sauron do one or more pointless moves (more being a number of moves that get back to where he started).

(I'm considering the base set as I suspect it was more rigorously examined. But completely so?)
 
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Mark N
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Dearlove wrote:
MarkN wrote:
I haven't found a stalemate with the base game yet.


OK, let's drop the term stalemate, as it isn't.


If you can think of a better term than stalemate for a scenario where both players have an incentive to maintain an infinite loop where neither player wins, I'd like to hear it. It seemed to be the best analogy I could come up with for that situation.

Dearlove wrote:
What you are saying is that an infinite loop is possible. It's not forced by the rules, as players could choose to do something else and lose. But as its possible, they can do it. In fact the "would definitely lose" condition is irrelevant to whether the loop is possible.

So here's a stronger version of my question. Is an infinite loop possible with the base set, with both players cooperating to achieve that? The Fellowship can do nothing with a Pippin move. Can Sauron do one or more pointless moves (more being a number of moves that get back to where he started).

(I'm considering the base set as I suspect it was more rigorously examined. But completely so?)


You can easily get an infinite loop in the base game where the Witch King or the Flying Nazgul attacks Frodo over and over again while Frodo dodges the attack, and Pippin attacks and retreats from any Sauron character, if both players are complicit in drawing out the game. But I have yet to find any setup where the incentives of both players are to maintain that infinite loop to prevent a loss without any variant characters.
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Dearlove wrote:


(I'm considering the base set as I suspect it was more rigorously examined. But completely so?)


IIRC correctly Knizia designed the base but not the variants... so there's that... he might have been more diligent at looking out for that kind of thing.
 
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MarkN wrote:
Dearlove wrote:
MarkN wrote:
I haven't found a stalemate with the base game yet.


OK, let's drop the term stalemate, as it isn't.


If you can think of a better term than stalemate for a scenario where both players have an incentive to maintain an infinite loop where neither player wins, I'd like to hear it.


Well, let's consider chess. It has a stalemate. This is not it. It has a repetition of position. This is it. Not as snappy, but accurate.

But yes to your example.
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