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Subject: Playing the game with a non-gamer rss

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Tom Hancock
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My wife is a non-gamer, but she enjoys confrontational games and loves LotR, and I really wanted to play this game, so last night she gave it a shot. I've also written a review based on our experience and my own thoughts on the game that is basically a companion to this session report.

I hope this session report helps folks who plan to try to play this game with a non-gamer get some insight into whether or not they would like the game. Although we only played two turns, I hope to remember those turns in enough detail to be able to elicit some feedback on the choices I made, and hopefully someone finds it entertaining.


Session

We didn't pull the box off the shelf until almost 10pm, this would be our first time playing the game, and we knew we would not finish before we both fell asleep. Despite all that, we wanted to try it anyway, even if we only got to play it part way through. It took us a while to explain and read the rules and set up, but pretty soon, the dice started flying.

Turn 1: She is confused by what her cards do, and asks me to look at one to see if I can figure it out. It is flocks of Crebain. The play on the table and pop to use mechanic she didn't get until I explained it. I drew last battle and Gwaihir. She puts one die in the hunt box. I can't believe she remembered she had to do that! A good sign that the rules are "taking." My turn, I look at gwahir but decide to save it until I move the fellowship a few times so I can use it to land Aragorn straight into Minas Tirith. I decide to use my first action die to move the fellowship. No 6's rolled, no corruption, yay! On her turn, she considers moving armies out of mordor towards gondor, but then changes her mind and advances sauron to "at war" status instead. She seemed to know the rules about mustering and crossing borders without being at war.

On my turn, I advance Gondor one space down the political track, thinking that now if they get attacked they will immediately be at war. On her turn, she advances Isengard to war. Interesting. On my turn, I move Rohan down the political track in response to that. I'm not sure at this point whether she is going to attack Gondor or Rohan, and maybe neither is she. She had already made some comments about their being so many choices that she wasn't sure what to do.

On her turn, she plays Nazghul Search, dropping a Nazghul on the fellowship. (I mean to look back over the rules today, I seem to remember a rule about not being able to move a nazghul on top of a FP stronghold, so this play might have been illegal, I don't recall) The card revealed the fellowship. I wanted to use my will of the west to hide them back, but I had a bad feeling about Rohan, so I advanced them down the political track (again) instead. I was right.

On her turn, she attacks the fords of Isen with Orthanc. I played daylight, reducing her combat roll to 3, but she played great hosts. I took one casualty and she took one casualty, reducing her elite to a regular. Great hosts kicked in here and I was forced to take another casualty. Oh well, at least it got Rohan to war. She spent the rest of her turn drawing an event cards and playing flocks of crebain because her other three action dice were all palantirs (event actions).

Turn two is about to begin, and things dont look so good for me. It looks like she is going to take Helm's deep on turn 2, the ring is revealed with a nazghul on frodo's nuts and flocks of crebain on the table, and she is sitting there talking about how the rules aren't that bad but there are too many choices to make. I notice her reading Saruman and the Witch King's character cards. I hope she doesn't remember that they give her extra dice or I really might be in for it

Turn 2: She puts two in the hunt box (damnit) and rolls a third eye. At least that leaves her with less actions to work with. Still, moving the fellowship at all is going to be a bear with three dice in the box, a nazghul on frodo like a homeless man on a bologna sandwich, and flocks of crebain waiting to rain bird poop on the poor hobbits. Thats 3 dice, for 5-6, with a reroll. Plus I'm about to lose Helm's Deep. I begin to think I need to take drastic measures.

My first action, I muster an elite in Helm's deep. I'm not sure if the this is the right thing to do strategically, but I'm trying to scare her off of attacking there. To my surprise, on her turn she puts saruman into play. After that, I decide to muster in helm's deep again. What's she do? She plays the witch king in minas morgul. Holy Cow! At this point, I'm getting kinda scared. She dropped 2 hunt dice in the box last time, and she sort of has me hamstrung with the nazghul on the fellowship and the flocks of crebain. I was going to wait for a turn with less hunt dice to try to get the fellowship out of dodge, but now I'm thinking that she may not let up with the heavy corruption strategy. I'm also thinking that strategy might work pretty well if she has 9 dice to my 4, letting her drop tons of stuff in the hunt box every turn.

I decide to try to get GTW out faster and get Aragorn crowned faster to help my dice situation and fight off the witch king and saruman. I might have to cripple the fellowship a bit to do it, but they are already looking pretty screwed to me. So, I move the fellowship. She ends up with 2 hunt die successes, and ends up pulling two 1 corruption tiles, one of which has a reveal icon on it. I use one of them to commit gandalf suicide, and the other one I take like a man. I really wish I hadn't gotten revealed.

On her turn, She moves minas morgul towards gondor, and dol goldur towards lorien! Shes planning a third front in southern mirkwood!

On my turn, I use a WotW and drop Gandalf in Lorien, hoping that might scare her off. I have an elf recruiting card in my hand, but I don't know whether or not you can use a recruiting card if you've been chased into your stronghold. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

On her turn, she attacks osgiliath with the witch king and friends happy orc fun hour. I play daylight again, hoping for survivors, and she again plays great hosts and draws a card for the witch king's dweep power. I'm getting deja vu! Both of us should probably save good combat cards like these for more important battles, but knowing you are going to quit, pack up, and go to bed in a few minutes takes some of the strategery out of things. She gets one casualty, and her card kills my other guy, but I got one casualty on her and now Gondor is at war. She chooses not to advance into osgiliath, fearing the stack I've got in minas tirith. Its still her turn. With her remaining dice, she starts moving the main forces out of mordor, she musters in mordor and in mount gundabad (wtf?), and she moved the S&E down the political track.

Turn 3: This is when she decided she wanted to quit playing. It was pretty late, about 1 or 2 in the morning I think, and neither of us had expected to finish the game. To be honest, I think she would have won the game pretty handily. I made a few mistakes and her quick military strategy was taking a toll. Unless I got some luck with the fellowship i had no chance. The fellowship weren't looking too pretty, although if I was able to get them moved a couple spots and get aragorn crowned using gwaihir, I would have been in decent shape with 6 dice.

I think her multiple fronts strategy was interesting, especially when she revved up the extra dice from the WK and Saruman to help run it. I would have to pick and choose who to try to save from Lorien, Helm's deep, and minas tirith. I don't know what she was up to building an army in mount gundabad, but it could have just been another distraction tactic to prevent me from knowing where to reinforce.

Conclusion:

I had a good time playing the game, and I think I'll play much better next time. We didn't have much trouble with the rules but the learning curve on the decision making is steeper than it first appeared. See my review for more information, as it is also based on this first play experience. Also, if anyone has any critiques to offer my decision making, they would be much appreciated.
 
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Joel Carlson
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Great Session report; sounds like your wife should have been playing wargames for a long time

It's funny, but I find that 'non gamers', can actually be excellent gamers, especially if they like problem solving, or even basic cards. My fiance is a massive card shark, and she routinely hands me my posterior in games where cards are involved

Hope you get to finnish that game!
 
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Tom Hancock
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We don't have space in our small apartment to leave a game the size of WotR out, so I won't get to finish that particular game. I needed a reset anyway! I'm hoping she gives it another chance sometime, but I'm not holding my breath. I think I'll try a couple euros on her before going back to another wargame.
 
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Kevin Chapman
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Sounds like you guys are off to a great start, Tom. I had a similar situation with my wife - not into wargames at all, but she really likes this one. I think one of the appeals of this game is that the cards and dice make set strategies almost impossible, so you constantly have to improvise. As you mentioned, this leads to great replayability.

I would suggest that you also try Memoir '44 from Days of Wonder. While not a "true" wargame, it has a very nice WW-II flavor. The rules are very simple and easy to learn, and there are reference cards to help with the terrain rules, which are the most complicated ones. My wife actually asks me to bring this one out.

P.S. - one suggestion I might make - ask your wife to read back through the rules and see if there was anything you guys did wrong in your first play. It will reinforce the rules with her (and she'll be happy to share with you what you did wrong! ), and it may increase her interest in trying it again.
 
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Tom Hancock
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Having her read back through sounds like a fantastic suggestion. She dislikes reading rules but enjoys correcting me

Memoir is at the top of my to-buy-next list, although I'm looking at the other games in the series as well, trying to decide which one would appeal to my wife the most since she'll probably be my primary opponent. Battlelore looks great but its a little bit too close to WotR for me to justify it when we have just begun to play WotR.
 
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Tom Hancock
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Kevin: Got memoir! She liked it. I don't think she likes it as much as through the desert but she enjoyed it. Made some comments about how much more she liked it than Wotr! Funny.
 
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Kevin Chapman
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Great! I'm glad you guys are enjoying it. Happy gaming!
 
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Alan Richbourg
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Dude! You were worried about losing??? It's the GOAL to lose when you play first wargames with your significant other! This is the path to entrap their very souls into becomming Gamers. Contemplate this, and congratulate yourself on your initial success here, grasshopper.
 
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