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

Subject: Fellowship starts in the Shire scenario rss

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Noah B
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I think it would be really interesting to have a scenario where Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin begin the game in the Shire. The Fellowship at this point only includes the four Hobbits.

Legolas starts in the Woodland Realm, Boromir in Minas Tirith, Gimli in Erebor, Strider in Bree (or somewhere in the North), and Gandalf in Orthanc. In this scenario, Gandalf is trapped by Saruman (as in the books). To have Gandalf escape, the Free Peoples player must play a Will of the West die. Gandalf may move four spaces (to represent the rescue by the eagle, Gwaihir). After this, the goal is to get all of the characters to Rivendell in order to form the Fellowship. The Fellowship cannot include more than the ring bearers, Merry, and Pippin until they reach Rivendell. The exception to this is Strider and Gandalf, who may join the Fellowship at any time before Rivendell. The Free Peoples player may, however, choose to use some or all of the characters as military leaders instead (as in the Lords of Middle Earth expansion, with the alternate companions). If this option is chosen, the ring bearers do not have to travel to Rivendell.

So then it is a toss up: the shortest route to Mordor is now straight south through Rohan (11 spaces to Minas Morgul), but with less companions for fodder (only Merry and Pippin, and possibly Strider and Gandalf); or the other option is to go to Rivendell and add characters into the Fellowship, but travelling a longer distance (14 spaces minimum to Morannon).

It might be interesting to add a rule that introduces the possibility of Gandalf being trapped in Orthanc for a period of time. If Saruman is brought into play before a Will of the West die is played to free Gandalf, then Gandalf must remain in captivity until either an Ents Awake card demolishes Orthanc, or the card Gwaihir the Windlord is played (which can be used to free Gandalf and move him OR fulfill the original card description).

When the ring bearers and all characters the Free Peoples player wants in the Fellowship arrive in Rivendell, all characters in Rivendell join the Fellowship (except Elrond), and the War of the Ring proceeds as per the normal rules.

To balance the new starting positions of the Free Peoples player (they will have to use lots of dice to move characters), the Shadow Player needs to have less military units on the board. Not sure how much less yet. Sauron, Saruman, and the Southrons should also probably be put one step back on the political track.

Another idea I am playing with is having the Nazgul on horseback, like in The Fellowship of the Ring. They would be called Black Riders. Some could start in or near the Shire, Buckland, and/or Bree (although in the books I believe some start in Dol Guldur). They harass the ringbearers and Merry and Pippin as they move to Rivendell (or can be used for military purposes). Because they ride horses, they have limited movement (3 or 4). They will eventually need to be replaced with their winged mounts to allow infinite movement. This could be accomplished in several ways. One might be that they can move to a Shadow stronghold and be replaced with a winged mount, but only after the ring bearers have reached Rivendell or are five spaces away from the Shire. An alternative is to have them be temporarily eliminated. I think a new Free Peoples Character event card (like The Fords of Bruinen, where the Nazgul and their horses are drowned) would be cool to see. It might look something like this:

Any Black Riders (NOT Nazgul with winged mounts) that are in the Fords of Bruinen region are immediately removed from play. If any Black Riders are in a region or regions adjacent to the Fords of Bruinen, roll a die for each Black Rider in those regions. Each result of 4 or more removes a Black Rider from play. Any Black Riders eliminated in this way cannot be mustered on winged mounts until next round.

In addition, the corruption the ring bearers are likely to receive on the way to Rivendell should be balanced somehow.

In the unlikely event that Rivendell is taken by the Shadow before the Ringbearers arrive, then no more characters may join the fellowship, but the ring bearers must continue on towards Mordor with their current companions.

I believe that this scenario would bring a lot more action to the NW corner of the board that often seems to be fairly vacant and relatively untouched (this is not always the case). This would make cards like The Power of Tom Bombadil and Monsters Roused much more potent and viable.

I welcome your thoughts and ideas!
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Chris Long
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https://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/45057/starting-shire-...
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Raf B
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Great fans think alike. Besides the version linked to above, there was some pretty good discussion of Shire variants in the first edition forums.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/spsearch.php?objectid=9609&obj...
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The Fiend
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I've covered most of what you said in my variant. Remember that you want it as straightforward as possible so as not to be overly complicated. The Nazguls blocking the FSP could be imagined to be on horseback (that's what I explain because I don't have actual figs for them). I have everyone waiting at Rivendell, once again, to avoid complexity. Gandalf has logical choices and Strider must be picked up or triggered.
What you might want to do is try my variant and then adjust it with rules you favor. It takes many plays to achieve balance so hopefully you have a partner like I did to do it.
Hmmm, haven't played this in a long while now and it used to be all I ever wanted to play!
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Noah B
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Thanks! Your version looks like a lot of fun, looking forward to trying it out!
 
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Ben McJunkin
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Here are the settings I've been testing with, seems to be pretty well balanced:

1) Ringbearers start in the Shire, Merry and Pippin are members of Fellowship, one is chosen as guide.
2) All nations except Sauron start in top Political box. Sauron nation starts in second from top box. All FSP nations are initially inactive.
3) Other FSP Characters are placed on board as follows, with their counter placed underneath them to show them as "locked". While locked, the FSP Characters cannot be moved and cannot be used for events or for mustering/activating nations. Essentially they are passive and only provide benefit if their region is attacked.
- Strider in Bree
- Gandalf in Orthanc
- Legolas in Woodland Realm
- Gimli in Erebor
- Boromir in Minas Tirith
4) FSP Characters can be unlocked in the following ways:
- If the FSP Character is in a region attacked by the Shadow player, he immediately becomes unlocked and joins the Fellowship.
- If the Ringbearers enter Rivendell, they may CHOOSE to unlock any or all FSP Characters and IMMEDIATELY move them to Rivendell to join the Fellowship of the Ring. Any FSP Characters already unlocked CANNOT be moved to Rivendell this way. Any FSP Characters who are left locked and not placed in the Fellowship MUST be activated with another option.
- If the nation the FSP Character is residing in (i.e. The North for Strider, Gondor for Boromir, Elves for Legolas, Dwarves for Gimli, Isengard for Gandalf) reach "At War" status, the FSP Character in the nation borders immediately becomes unlocked.
- A Will of the West dice can be used to unlock an FSP Character.
*** NOTE: When an FSP Character is unlocked, he does not move until a Character dice is played later.
5) The four starting Nazgul start in regions adjacent to the Shire (Shadow chooses where to place them). A character dice can be played by the Shadow player to move the Nazgul anywhere on the board (this is assumed to be when the Nazgul take to their Fell Beast mounts).

This setup works nicely, and is really clean to implement. If the FSP player decides to beeline to Mordor and skip Rivendell, they will end up spending a lot more dice to activate characters in the long run, so there's a trade-off. There's also more variation, since the early mustering turns can shake up quite differently (maybe the Shadow player bee-lines to activate Isengard first and put more pressure on the North, for example). Getting to Rivendell is harrowing, and the Shadow is tempted to spend some of those early dice on The Hunt, since the Nazgul are closed in and can really make it tough to move the Fellowship early on. I had a test game where Strider died defending Frodo at Weathertop, which made for an interesting later game.

I also use slightly modified rules around political mobilization:
- At top level 3, units may move only within their national borders. No mustering of troops allowed.
- At next level 2, units may move into national and neutral regions but cannot attack. No mustering. No mustering of troops allowed.
- At next level 1, units may move into national and neutral regions but cannot attack. Mustering allowed within national borders.
- At War: No restrictions.
 
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Koolin
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This one looks really clean and interesting with all the options you have. To me this seems a possible implementation for the suggestion that started this thread.
 
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Ben McJunkin
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It works well, though I'm still a bit concerned the 3 action dice disadvantage for the Free Peoples player may prove too much, since the game ends up being 2-3 turns longer this way. Perhaps it should also include +1 FSP dice at start, with the last FSP dice coming in whenever Gandalf the White OR Aragorn enters play. Next playthrough I'm going to test with these settings. To compensate, may need to make FSP require 6 VP worth of Shadow cities/strongholds to compensate.
 
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Oliver O'Brien
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We tried playing this variant with four players yesterday. We went off of the rules in the links of this thread and made two changes:

1) We decided that Nazgul could only move one space until either Sauron went to war, or the Fellowship was formed in Rivendell at which point they would become mounted and be free to move as normal; and

2) We decided that Oliphants were not leaders (as they would normally be in a 4 player game) but that they could have Nazgul in their armies.

These changes are NOT recommended. The Ring-bearer skipped into Rivendell without being caught despite encountering cruel weather and a very determined amount of effort on behalf of the all seeing eye. With the Oliphants unable to bear any leadership the Shadow was forced to use many of their limited actions moving Nazgul while the Free People mustered most of their forces onto the board.

Very one sided.

The only way I can see this variant being balanced for 4 players is for the fellowship to struggle to reach Rivendell (which would require that the Nazgul be free to fly about the board and litter the Shire with their presence), and for Shadow armies to pose significant threats by virtue of leadership.

Just an FYI for anyone wanting to try with 4.
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The Fiend
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Thanks for the comments Ragnar. I wrote this as only a 2-player variant with no thought for 4-players (that's how I roll cool)so I imagine there might be some problems.
I did come up with a 3-player variant where 1 person plays the Saruman forces but can't remember if I published it here. Writing rules that make sense to you automatically to make sense to others is exhausting soblue
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Yosef Bender

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in my five player rules set, the hobbits started shire, and must make it to one of the five elvin locations on the board, the Council of the ring may start somewhere else on the board I've added a fifth Elvin community in the Southwest region of the map since it barely gets used, I've made nine black riders for the ring wraiths, unlike the book though they have other duties like mustering armies preparing Mordor for the dark Lord, and trying to win over neutral men and dwarf armies to their side, the dark Lord can gift two palintines which can be used to win over a neutral nonplayer faction, are severely limit their movement on the political track. Strider and his faction are given the destination of the hobbits and he can seek them out to aid them. Black writers are banished in combat and must crawl back to morder to be re-outfitted with Nazguls. but I like to start at the beginning!
 
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