"Keep Summer Safe!"
We just tried Sauron (again) after a hiatus. Played with Friends and Foes, but with the blue cards that help the fellowship (Black Gate? Push Sauron back three and the card that lets you toss the ring). 4 Hobbits, Sauron at 15.
We were worried about getting through Bree. In fact, we lost a hobbit in Moria, and then at the end of Isengard I sacrificed myself to clear the board so we could jump to Shelobs lair. Sam and Mary started with a few points of corruption to spare but the ringbearer gave up the ghost about halfway through the board.
We were running a come from behind game the entire time. We weren't playing with dark tiles, but were using the red ones. Perhaps adding the dark tiles to the mix would help (sure, you add more bad tiles, but you get to skip some). Or perhaps the red tiles are just too much (even though the rules say use them). Or, more likely, we could use your strategy tips.
We did learn not to take the four cards in bag end. Giving Sauron a (full die) turn is too painful, he saddles up and then kicks you around Bree. Got to delay that as long as possible. What else should we do?
8/8 FREE, PROTECTED
Adding the black tiles would not have helped They are least harmful when played with Friends and Foes, but they still tilt the game in Sauron's favor.
Taking preparation cards is a wash with 4 players, IMO. If you have some card issues don't be afraid to take em. If you think your starting hands are fine, don't be afraid to pass.
The Sauron player has to hit the players hard at some point in the game to have a viable shot at winning. The best times to do this are early, when the Fellowship are least prepared, or late, when Sauron has built up a lot of strength. Sounds like you fell victim to the first one You really need to prepare for the worst against Sauron. If it looks like he'll save his power for later then you're in good position to blitz the last couple boards and end the game before Sauron can spend it all. If he does try to hammer you early and you survive it well enough he'll be weakened and you'll have opportunity to take advantage.
Either way, Sauron is just evil. Great game Good luck next time
We just tried Sauron (again) after a hiatus. Played with Friends and Foes,
I wouzld suggest not to combine Sauron with Friends & Foes unless you've won a number of Sauron games without that expansion.
We weren't playing with dark tiles, but were using the red ones. Perhaps adding the dark tiles to the mix would help (sure, you add more bad tiles, but you get to skip some).
I think they help. They prevent a streak of bad luck (many sundials early in a scenario), but also reduce the chance of good luck (only good tiles coming out).
And if they don't change anything, they at least give you an illusion of control over the game flow.
Or perhaps the red tiles are just too much (even though the rules say use them).
They are mandantory when playing with the sauron expansion. They give the Sauron player a chance to fill up his hand even in boards without the die symbol.
Note that two of the tile allow any player (usually Sam) to take the consequences of a die roll, not necessary the active player.
We did learn not to take the four cards in bag end. Giving Sauron a (full die) turn is too painful, he saddles up and then kicks you around Bree.
I think these cards give an advantage to the fellowship.
If you don't take them, the Sauron player could pick up a card as his first two actions, bringing him to 4. If you take them, he could play 2 cards, bringing him to 4. So it's an additional two evil actions.
An evil action usually translates to 1 point of damage to the fellowship (often less at the start of the game, since the rider usually is no thread in the first two boards). Healing one point of damage is equal to drawing two cards, so it looks like a zero-sum move.
The advantage for the fellowship is that these 4 cards at the start are not randomly distributed, but each one can be given to the player that needs it most.
In addition, an early die symbol drawn or executed by Sam is very useless for the Sauron player, if his hand is already full.
We were worried about getting through Bree.
Was it because of the third event in Bree? It can be devastating if you haven't had much chance to advance along the Hiding line. However, you can always use Sam's Character Ability card to avoid the consequence of Sauron advancing several spaces. Not everyone realizes that at first -- I didn't.
I wouldn't use the Dark Tiles if you have less than 4 hobbits, and the Black Gate shouldn't be added if Sauron is playing, IMHO, as it gives him too dramatic an advantage in the endgame.
You have to severely restrict Sauron's opportunities to strike. In my experience it is critical to keep the Black Rider from ever reaching the Ringbearer. Use turns to push him back 3 spaces if you have to. Star of Elendil is awesome. Aside from avoiding those nasty die rolls, this will cut down on the availability of Nazgul cards that he has at his disposal, and since I've never seen the Fellowship win when Sauron uses all his Nazgul cards--that's huge. Always avoid giving Sauron a full turn. At Bag End or when skipping Moria are really the only places where it might be worth it to risk. Try to arrange for Sam to take all the necessary die rolls.
The side tracks are really important; you want those extra resources.
Keep Gandalf the White, Narya and Gwaihir for Mordor. If you can also call Gandalf's Guidance or save Frodo's special ability cards and use the One Ring with Integrity, you can get to Mt. Doom in one turn.