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Subject: The game I want to love. rss

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miles briand
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This is my first review so I hope you board game folks go easy on me.

War of the Ring is a game that has very intricately designed pieces, and a lot of great artwork. It is evident that a lot of work was put into this game, and I give it credit for being very high quality in terms of production. It simply isn't enough for me though. The reason I titled this "The game I want to love," is because when I bought it I was extremely excited to play it, and was unsure that anything about the game could make me think otherwise. But after playing about 4 games, I am sorely disappointed, and can't seem to muster the enthusiasm for a fifth go.

The reason for this is as follows: The Free People team just does not seem to have a fighting chance. Somebody reviewed the game saying that a good FP player could win 40% of the time. However, in the games that I've played, the free peoples have not even come close to winning! Granted I may be playing the free people poorly, but my strategies in most games generally improve over a period of time, but with WotR, I do not seem to find my varied plans to ever be any better or worse than previous strategies.

I am the kind of person who has a lot of sympathy for the underdog, and feel like I cannot have fun until I know that I can win playing FP.

My major critique therein, is that in the books, the stakes are stacked horribly against the free people, but they get extremely lucky and pull off a victory. I think that this game has tried to emulate that, but I feel as though the event and character cars should play a bigger role in offsetting Saurons plans.

Frankly, I think that one of the major imbalances in the game is in the cards. The FP cards allow you to place one army for every 3-4 armies that the opposing team can place. Granted, the FP team is not supposed to be able to win with military victory, but I think how bad they often lose is to the point of absurdity. What I want, is cards that emulate the kind of absurd luck that the FPs experience in the books. But most of the cards are so specific, that you have to shape your plans around them, and frankly, they are not effective enough to be worth changing one's strategy to try to pull off some of the absurdly specific things that the cards require you to do.

"Play this card when Aragorn is in Minas Tirith with at least 3 troops, but not more than 8, and with an opposing army that has at least two Nazgul is in play to make all Nazgul in this province return to Mordor." This is an exaggerated example, but my main point is, once I have spent all the dice to land Aragorn in Minas Tirith, I could still very easily lose that particular battle, as Nazgul only count for dice re-rolls. If I am to spend a lot of time trying to situate certain characters, I want an opportunity to totally smoke a wave of the opposing force. I think that this is very unlikely.

Once you lose your major heros (The extra dice heros that allow you to just barely keep up), it is pretty much over. Even if the ring could still make it, by that point you are losing so bad as the FP team, that it is no longer enjoyable. That is my experience anyway. Usually there is one big battle or set of battles in one place, where you can hold off for a little bit, but one bad roll and it is generally over. It seems like the Mordor team can handle quite a few poor dice rolls, where as one bad roll as the FPs and its all over.

I would say that this game has some exciting moments, but every time I've played, 2/3rds way through the game, something happens that cripples the free people team, and it becomes very unenjoyable. I try not to be a sore loser, but I like games where you are going strong until the very end, and there is very little possibility of that happening with the FP team. Even if you did pull off winning, it would likely be because you kept your dice # increasing heros out of harms way, and you sacrificed all of your fronts to push the ring along.

Anyways, I end this first attempt at a review by requesting any house rules that would make this game more worth playing. I want to try again, but as it is, I don't think that the free peoples have enough of a chance to make this worthwhile.
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Chris Farrell
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Good review.

If I tell you how to play competitively with the Fellowship, will you play the game again? Will you want to?

You need to move the Fellowship virtually every time you get a Character die. Also, you should virtually never split off a character from the Fellowship (maybe Aragorn to get the extra die, and of course Gandalf when he dies). Characters are far more valuable for absorbing corruption than they could possibly be on the gameboard.

I think if you realize that the Fellowship is a clock, and that you need to push it forward every chance you get, and that splitting off characters is virtually always a sucker play, you'll find the Fellowship will do a lot better. You need a laser-like focus, and to ignore any of the many temptations the games throw your way to anything other than move the Fellowship. Use your remaining activations to try to slow down the SP military juggernaut.

There are advanced Shadow Player strategies that may mess with this, I don't know - I'm about where you are, although for different reasons (I got a few more games in). But at the risk of beating the dead horse, my experience is that the game works when the Fellowship moves as often as you get character dice, and does not if the Fellowship diddles at all.
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Dave J McWeasely
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threeshardvisage wrote:
Anyways, I end this first attempt at a review by requesting any house rules that would make this game more worth playing.


I find National Action Tokens to be pretty fun. http://veldrin.proboards22.com/index.cgi?board=HouseRules&ac...
 
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Christian Marcussen
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I think I have some 10-15 games under my belt, and I love it. I think the 40% chance of FP winning is pretty accurate in our group, and ironicly many wins have been military! However even when the SP has won the game they have still been extremely tense, close and exciting.

You want to love the game? Then love it It has great elements, and you just need to appreciate that the game isn't balanced 50/50. Just go with it and have fun!
 
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James Forsythe
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The expansion should give the FP a better shot at winning. If balance is your only complaint, then you could give that a try. Hopefully a friend has it to borrow, so you could try before you buy.
 
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Kevin Chapman
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War of the Ring is really unlike any other wargame I've ever played. It's nuances can be a little elusive, even to experienced wargamers. I've found most either love it or hate it.

I would urge you to review the strategy articles found here:
http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/lotr_support.html

and then play again before passing judgment on this great game.

P.S. - The Free Peoples do have quite a few very powerful cards, but the circumstances under which they can be used can be quite limiting. I've found that it's better to keep the cards that fit the way the current game is moving and discard the others, no matter how powerful. Spending a lot of resources to "set up" a powerful card is often counter-productive. The most important thing is to adapt to the game as it unfolds and keep the Ring moving. The pressure of the Ring "clock" will force the Shadow to make risky attacks, which will probably end up benefitting the Free Peoples. Time is the Shadow's ally.
 
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Dave J McWeasely
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Or maybe check out the weasely FP strategy guide, the #1 reccommended war of the ring strategy article of all time. http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/107726
 
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Clare C
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I've played about the same number of games as you, always as the FP against someone who has also played only four games, and so far I think I have won 3 out of 4. Of course this may be because my opponent is not very experienced (he hasn't been playing DEW North etc), but still.

On the last game I split all the fellowship off, except the two hobbits, very early on. This meant the SP could put only 2 dice in the hunt box for most of the game, and I could get the gandalf and strider dice. I won a ring victory with plenty of corruption to spare. What are we doing wrong, if it's always mad to split off the fellowship? I know that my opponent feels there is little he can do to increase the amount of corruption suffered by the ring bearers since it's all just dependent on the dice rolls. Maybe we are missing a crucial rule? Is there a way for the SP to increase the amount of corruption suffered by the FP?
 
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David Male
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With few eye dice in the hunt box, the SP can still improve his search considerably, by using the pursuit tactic. An orc and nazgul pursue the ring-bearers South using a 1/2 army dice and getting two rerolls each time. (There is a post on this tactic, in the strategy folder - in pursuit of the ring). This levels things up considerably, especially if used in conjuction with cards that hurt the fellowship. I would be very reluctant as FP to peel off too many companions too soon, as it is likely to prove fatal against a good SP player.

Incidentally, I have played about 30 games with roughly equal wins to each side, and almost always a cliff-hanger ending, with the ring poised within 1 or 2 spaces of mount doom, corruption hovering around 10pts, and the SP straining all efforts for the last stronghold needed to win. - a wonderful game.
 
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Isley
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I will say that the expansion really does help the free peoples. I don't normally play against seasoned shadow players (and I'm not too seasoned myself), but I'd say it's pretty even with the expansion (maybe even a FP edge).
 
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Mike Compton
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I played against the Galadriel expansion player in my first play and it gave an edge to the forces of good that I felt as I played the Sauron side.

Overall, my first playing of the game the other day was not a great experience. Granted, the components are good (as nobody seems to be debating in the various forums I've read) but the figures are a bit too big for the board - the counter chips notwithstanding - and the size of the board notwithstanding.

The theme of the game is very well reinforced (the hunt for the ring mechanic, the moving of the fellowship mechanic, the fact that a good portion of the action naturally takes place at Gondor, the "mustering" of the various nations, etc.)

However, my experience with War of the Ring was, at best, "okay". It wasn't great. If anything it was just "okay" and my problems with the game are as follows:

-It seems that large portions of the board are not realistically useful. Granted, if I play as Sauron, I could try to bring troops all the way across several regions of the board and make some things happen but it takes so many action dice movements to get troops from one place to another that it seems to me most of the board will of necessity go unused in any particular game of War of the Ring in the interest of playing efficiently and that this will hold true for either side. In other words, only a few hot spots will see action and most of the other pieces will just sit in their original spots (the Nazgul being the exception) simply because it isn't practical or efficient. I'm open to others pointing out to me how this isn't true but this is how the game appears to me. That's not to say that the same portions of the board will always go unused - just that it seems that a large portion of the board will go unused on any given play of the game.

-It also seems that most of the cards are so situationally specific that the most fulfilling use of each (i.e. the top portion of the card and not the bottom) can only be accomodated if a person is allowed to hold on to a card for a long time - which isn't permitted by the "hand limit of 6" rule. I know some people will say that it is perhaps a more realistic game with the hand limit in place and that it forces more choices but I personally think the game would be more exciting if more cards could be played to their fullest extent - which brings me to my primary complaint about the game:

For all of the rules, the components, the action dice, the cards, the political track, the different nations, etc., and in spite of the length of the game I played (about 3 hours - which, I know, isn't long in wargame terms but still 3 hours is 3 hours), I was left with the impression that not much really happened. Metaphorically speaking, it's as if the game had 10 aspects that each had lots of potential for making the game great but the actual play the game creates a situation where only, at most, 3 of those 10 aspects are realistically accessed on any one particular play of the game if a player plays efficiently (i.e. tries to win and not just to see what happens when they do x, y, or z).

Bottom line: lots of potential for payoff but actual payoff is very low in proportion to the potential the mechanics have for fun and the time invested in playing the game.
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Dave J McWeasely
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clarec wrote:
On the last game I split all the fellowship off, except the two hobbits, very early on. This meant the SP could put only 2 dice in the hunt box for most of the game, and I could get the gandalf and strider dice. I won a ring victory with plenty of corruption to spare. What are we doing wrong, if it's always mad to split off the fellowship?
I'm not sure what you're doing wrong, but I am sure you're doing something wrong! You've only got 14 corruption absorption there. Just mordor itself should yield 10 corruption. The wilderness before Mordor should do about 10 corruption as well. Frodo should be dead. Check your interpretation of the rules.
 
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Dave J McWeasely
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compman wrote:
For all of the rules, the components, the action dice, the cards, the political track, the different nations, etc., and in spite of the length of the game I played (about 3 hours - which, I know, isn't long in wargame terms but still 3 hours is 3 hours), I was left with the impression that not much really happened. Metaphorically speaking, it's as if the game had 10 aspects that each had lots of potential for making the game great but the actual play the game creates a situation where only, at most, 3 of those 10 aspects are realistically accessed on any one particular play of the game if a player plays efficiently (i.e. tries to win and not just to see what happens when they do x, y, or z).

Bottom line: lots of potential for payoff but actual payoff is very low in proportion to the potential the mechanics have for fun and the time invested in playing the game.

I'm sympathetic to this criticism. Especially for the Free People, sound play is often playing to a military stalemate. Yesterday, Denethor, Gandalf, Aragorn, and Boromir spent nearly the whole game holed up in Minas Tirith besieged by an orcish army with no intention of getting its ass kicked. A sally was still extremely dangerous for the Free, since they stood to lose 33% of their action dice on a bad combat result. So they sat. Booooooooring Snoozefest!

Tolkein's world is one where good armies materielize out of nowhere, daring disaster to sweep away hordes of confounded orcs. The game, in its base form, doesn't reward this enough.

I prefer several variants that, to varying degrees, seem to make the military play more exciting.

National Action Tokens http://veldrin.proboards22.com/index.cgi?board=HouseRules&ac...
Wizardry http://wiz.osaurus.us/
Twilight of the Third Age http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/18034

compman wrote:
-It seems that large portions of the board are not realistically useful.
That's a common misconception...in fact the consensus at bgg was once that the Gray Havens were unreachable by the Shadow. Then we realized: hey, it takes 3 dice to march to Minas Tirith, and 5 dice to beat it down, while it takes 5 dice to march to the Havens, and 3 dice to beat it down because the elves are whimps. Now the whole map tends to see play about equally, with maybe only the DEW line (Dale-Erebor-Woodenrealm) recieving more than its fair share of Shadow spite.



Quote:
-It also seems that most of the cards are so situationally specific that the most fulfilling use of each (i.e. the top portion of the card and not the bottom) can only be accomodated if a person is allowed to hold on to a card for a long time - which isn't permitted by the "hand limit of 6" rule.
This improves with practice, at least a little bit.
 
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miles briand
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Thank all you folks for your great comments! Sorry I haven't read this in so long I totally forgot about it. Anyways, the main one of these I am interested in, is getting the expansion set. I have heard that it improves the FP enough to at least make it closer to 50/50. But what exactly does it add. I have scoured the FFgames site, and I find it hard to discover exactly what it adds to the game, differentiated from the things that are only added in the "side games."
 
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Kevin Chapman
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In a nutshell:

A few new and replacement event cards
Siege Machines
New characters: Galadriel, an alternative version of the Witch-king, Smeagol (kind of an alternative version of Gollum), the Balrog
New factions: the Ents, the Corsairs of Umbar, the Dunlendings
 
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