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War of the Ring (Second Edition)» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Playtesting the Treason of Isengard variant rss

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Raf B
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I have now playtested this variant twice (what this variant adds or modifies can be found at this thread and file), with ASelby and King in Green. To sweeten the deal for the Free player, we also used Treebeard and buffed him with this added ability:

Treebeard wrote:
With doom we come! If Treebeard is in play, roll four dice instead of three when you play any "The Ents Awake" Event card.

Overview: The two games were very different, and their outcomes rested on the War of the Ring's normal dynamics. One game ended with a Shadow military victory, the other by corruption. The latter could have easily produced a Free win if the Hunt hadn't gone as badly. The variant elements did influence the players' strategies and gave the game a different feel with a tad more theme and focus on the middle of the board. Far too early to judge balance, but nothing jumped out as inherently broken.


In the first game, where I played the Free, the Fellowship stood to be revealed into Moria and opted to continue south through Dunland, triggering the variant rule forcing the Shadow to commit an extra Eye to the Hunt. Andrew forfeited an action die before his Turn 1 action roll to place Grima in Edoras. A few turns in, Gandalf the White appeared in Fangorn, roused Treebeard, and chased Grima from Edoras, bringing Rohan to war. Aragorn led a Rohirrim army to besiege and conquer Orthanc with help from The Ents Awake event cards (and Anduril too, I think). Rolling four dice for the Ents rather than three made playing the cards as events a good deal more attractive.

Endgame: Devoting too many dice to Rohan shenanigans put my tempo off, the FSP slowed its already long southern journey, and Andrew made good progress to 10VPs. It came down to a clash of arms around Edoras. I had left a lone Rohan regular in Orthanc and had no good options to achieve FPMV, so my only hope was to buy time by waltzing the regular into an empty Helm's Deep and liberate it from Shadow control. Alas, I made the unforgivable noob error of forgetting I could not move him with a Character die and all hope for the Free Peoples perished.


In this game I took the Shadow and began the game with Grima in play. I was lucky with the Hunt and pulled all the little tiles, leaving the big nasty ones waiting for Paul when he got to Mordor. Balrog of Moria was on the table, and the FSP was not keen to declare (or reveal) through Moria. I was recruiting in Dunland, so to avoid a messy transit south, Paul took the High Pass instead. With Grima tamping down Rohan's ardor for war, I pushed into the fords and West Emnet with only a small force (3 elites, 1 regular) to avoid leaving Orthanc too thin. I reinforced both Isengard armies with Shadows Lengthen and Grima's recruitment ability. This was almost not enough, as Paul managed to pull all three Ent cards in the first eight draws, recruited Treebeard when Gandalf appeared in Fangorn, and came up one hit short when he played the two cards in his hand. When he drew and played the third, a freshly recruited elite saved Saruman's hide. "It is the Will of Theoden King" - the variant event card - kept Grima safe from Gandalf and Rohan passive. At this point West Emnet besieged Helm's Deep (which had benefited from the Fords garrison scouting there) and Rohan's moving to war eliminated Grima from Edoras.

Endgame: The sprint to Mordor became ever more fraught for the FSP, with Lure of the Ring eliminating Strider before the Black Gate just as I drew an oh so timely Cruel Weather. Action dice also slowed Paul on a couple occasions. Once in Mordor, On, On They Went was followed by a hefty Eye and Morgul Wound sealed the deal on Turn 9. Shadow armies held Lorien, Rohan, Pelargir and Dale. The variant's influence on the end game had more to do with what parts of the board were under threat. I might have gotten to 10 VPs on Turn 10 but it was not certain.

Impressions so far

Having Grima's Wormtongue effect in play at game start is nice and accentuates the theme, and forfeiting one die in the first action roll seems about right (rather than sacrificing a precious Muster die). The other thematic elements involving Saruman's interest in the ring, while they did not affect play in either game, meant there was a potentially viable alternative to the standard Moria or High Pass binary choice once the FSP was a few steps out of Rivendell.

Compared to a regular game, I was much more motivated to get the Isengard war machine rolling early and, once Rohan was crushed, send forces back across the fords against either Dol Amroth or the Shire and Grey Havens, thus forcing the Free Peoples to dilute Musters between several possible targets.

Nothing jumped out as broken, but then again, it hasn't gotten the Magic Geek treatment.
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King in Green
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Yes, I recommend that more people test the variant in its current form. The beginning of the game is less automatic, and Treebeard becomes more interesting.
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