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Subject: Shadow Strategy Guide rss

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Sean McCarthy
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Introduction

This strategy guide attempts to summarize the two best Shadow strategies in War of the Ring. You might not want to read this if you’re looking for more interesting games, because these strategies are very good and win a very high percentage of the time (maybe 80%) no matter what the Free Peoples’ counterstrategy is. If you know these strategies, you will almost certainly want to play with the Twilight of the Third Age expansion or some kind of variant.

In this guide, I leave out a lot of basic Shadow tactics and trivia, like that Deadly Strife is good, and that you should play Orc Patrol when the Fellowship is hidden. I think you can figure these things out for yourself. If you haven't yet, don't ruin it by reading about these broken strategies!

Strategy Summary

There are two Shadow strategies that have proven themselves better than all others.

One of them, frequently called the “Witch King Card Cycling Strategy” because it leans heavily on the Witch-King’s Sorcery ability, tries to corrupt the Fellowship while still applying some amount of military pressure. I am going to call it the Corruption strategy because both good strategies cycle cards with the Witch King. However, this strategy can also often win a military victory.

The other good strategy is most frequently called “DEW north”, because of its signature attack on DEW (Dale, Erebor and Woodland Realm) by an army from Mordor. I’m going to call this the Military strategy, because it completely ignores the Fellowship and just tries to conquer ten points quickly.

Shadow Strategy Invariants

Some features are common to both strategies. This section describes these essential tactics and guidelines.

Extra dice

As the Shadow, you first goal needs to be to get your extra action dice. In other words, your first four muster dice should be spent on getting Saruman and the Witch King into play. Within this guideline, of course, there is a little wiggle room to delay Gandalf the White. If the Free People could get Gandalf the White on a certain turn, and you currently have no minions in play, you should probably delay the muster of a minion until your last action.

Card Cycling

Another important thing to do as the Shadow is to use the Witch King’s card-drawing ability a lot. The ability is very powerful, because it gives you for free what would normally cost you an entire action die. When attacking with the Witch King’s army, you should almost always play a card in the first round if you are able to, even if it doesn’t really affect the battle. Even if all the cards in your hand are good, chances are you will draw a card that at least has a decent combat effect, and then you can use that card to draw another card and so on. Eventually you will draw another good card. Meanwhile, you will have played some good combat effects along the way.

Cycling cards is even more important when you have a card that isn’t very good or immediately useful in your hand. For example, you might be holding Olog-Hai, and thinking that you should try to save it for an emergency when you need to reinforce an army. If saving it precludes using the Witch King’s ability, you should bite the bullet and play it, even if you have no elites in your army.

Eye Placement

Third, you pretty much always want to put zero, one or two eyes in the hunt. The reason is that having more and more dice in the hunt makes for increasingly inefficient dice, because rolling more than one success in a given roll has no additional benefit. Meanwhile, the Fellowship can move more slowly (once per turn instead of twice, say) because you have fewer dice to pressure the Free Peoples player militarily. For this reason, you never really want more than three dice in the hunt, so you should avoid placing more than two voluntarily.

Turn Stalling

Finally, there is a critical tactic the Shadow can use – “turn-stalling” – which can prevent an entire turn of Fellowship movement. To do this, you use a card that sets the Fellowship back one action on the turn before they can declare into Mordor. For example, Nazgul Search will reveal the Fellowship, and Cruel Weather will move the Fellowship back one step. The key is to play that card using your last action die of the turn: this prevents the Fellowship from making up the lost move or hiding, and ultimately delays their declaration for an entire turn.

If you don’t have either of those cards, there are some other cards that draw tiles that can substitute a good chance of screwage in a pinch, because they might cause a reveal. These are Nazgul Strike, Orc Patrol, Foul Thing From the Deep and Isildur’s Bane. If you aren’t drawing Cruel Weather or Nazgul Search, you may want to hold one of these cards for that reason. By the way, Cruel Weather and Nazgul Search are the best cards in both Shadow decks, no matter your strategy. You should always save them for turn-stalling.

If the Fellowship is reaching Mordor and you don’t have any of those cards, you should save a character or event die for your last action anyway, to represent the threat of turn-stalling to the Free Peoples player. Sometimes, the Fellowship will have extra character dice, and will move an extra time as a preemptive counter to a possible Cruel Weather. If time is short, they may even be hoping to be successfully hunted and revealed on Morannon or Minas Morgul, so they can hide and be safe from Cruel Weather and Nazgul Search (which require the Fellowship to have accumulated movement). Leaving open the possibility of turn-stalling can only be a good thing.

Often, there will be a turn where the Fellowship is one or two spaces from Mordor and you have Nazgul Search or Cruel Weather. On this turn you should almost always put zero eyes in the hunt. Because of the low number of Fellowship moves, the eyes aren’t doing much. The downside if you roll no additional eyes is very low, because the Fellowship is inherently limited to a certain small amount of progress this turn. Finally, it’s usually actually undesirable to reveal the Fellowship directly onto Morannon or Minas Morgul before the end of the turn, because as mentioned above it blanks your turn-stalling cards. Obviously, you also shouldn’t put eyes in the hunt the turn after you successfully turn-stall, because there is at most one move for the Fellowship to take.

The Corruption Strategy

I’m going to explain this one first, because it was developed earlier in the history of people playing the game.

Summary

You place 1-2 eyes in the hunt every turn. You attack Gondor first, using the Witch King to draw as many character cards as you can. Beyond that, you attack whichever nation has spent muster dice to get to war and is thus the biggest military threat. Once the Fellowship enters Mordor, you assess the current situation and either focus all your attacking efforts on drawing the last character cards in the deck to finish off the Fellowship, or you take some of the easier victory points, like those in DEW or Rohan, to reach 10 points. Or both.

Why it works

-You usually draw enough anti-Fellowship cards, and draw enough hunt tiles, to corrupt the Fellowship.
-You almost always draw a good turn-stalling card, thus bringing your military goals into reasonable reach.
-Due to your military attack plan, it’s very difficult for the Free Peoples to achieve a military victory.
-The combination of high corruption and military pressure puts the Fellowship in a very tight position.

The Corruption Advantage

This strategy inflicts more corruption than any other strategy. First, because it places the optimum number of dice in the hunt for corruption (two). (This is based on experience, not any kind of formula, and it’s not a coincidence or anything. The strategy simply is to do that.) The reason more eyes isn’t better is because your military pressure goes down the tubes very quickly as you add more eyes. This allows the Fellowship to move more slowly, and can even result in a Free Military victory.
The second reason you add so much corruption is because you draw almost the entire character deck. For example, a common game length is eight turns, and a common number of Witch King-drawn cards is twelve or so. Using those typical numbers you draw 20 character cards. You might think I’m exaggerating the number of cards drawn by the Witch King; I’m not. The Corruption strategy pushes that advantage of attacking to the extreme.

Military Targets

The Corruption strategy chooses its military targets as follows:

1. Avoid sending nations to war. This minimizes the threat of a Free Peoples army going on the offensive – something you hate when playing the Corruption strategy. Proactive Free Peoples armies can instigate Free Military victories and can generally distract you from attacking and drawing cards. This is one reason you attack Gondor first: they are the closest Free nation to war at the beginning of the game. When you attack them, you typically only advance them one on the political track. (The Free Peoples generally push Gondor down one on their own, so they can get an elite in Minas Tirith.)

2. Attack into strength. This means attacking the most heavily defended areas first, and its purpose is also to remove the threat of the Free Peoples attacking you instead of the other way around. It has the additional benefit of often requiring a large number of attack dice spent by one army, consecutively (as opposed to easier areas like the Shire, which cost many movement dice and just one attack die). This means you draw more cards with the Witch King.

You should almost never use elite units to continue sieges with the Witch King. It’s often better to spend a die to start a new combat, so you can draw another card. Also, when you are attacking strength, you often need those extra hit points.

3. Attack Gondor in particular. Gondor is actually special for a couple reasons, in addition to the above two. If you attack it early, and the Free Peoples crown Aragorn, they will have to spend an additional character die to run him away, or you will kill him. As turns go by, they won’t even have the option of crowning him anymore.

Gondor is also very close to a huge surplus of Shadow units. What this means is that if you send those guys at Minas Tirith, you can start spending your character dice efficiently as attack dice (that also draw cards!) that much more quickly. The fact that you have two backup stacks of ten units means you can afford to keep shoveling units into battle and keep drawing cards. Gondor is a battle you cannot lose because you have so many guys there.

Back to targets beyond Gondor:

4. Attack nations that have just reached war. When the Free Peoples player spends three dice to bring a nation to war, they have just made a huge investment in the welfare of that nation. The best thing you can do is to destroy the nation immediately. Get ready to do this by moving armies into position while they are still not at war. This minimizes the number of muster opportunities being at war gives them.

5. If somehow you have taken Gondor and there have been no other threats, just take Erebor, Dale and some other stronghold. Woodland Realm and Helm’s Deep are often especially weak. Then you will have won. In general, DEW is a good place to attack after Gondor because it offers another contiguous territory with lots of opportunities for sequential attacks. The otherwise terrible drawback of sending three more nations to war is irrelevant at this point, because you will have won. However, it’s important to remember that your targets are not set in stone.

The Endgame

Near the end of the game, the Fellowship will be in Mordor. You will probably have about five points, but will be very close to taking the remainder. (Because the Corruption strategy attacks the hard targets first, you often make a comparatively huge amount of progress at the end.)

You should continue to make military progress, but don’t go all out. Try to draw as many cards as you can with the Witch King, even if this makes your attacks a bit inefficient, and play them quickly. Basically, you should be conservative militarily and very aggressive with corruption.

Every action roll, you should count how many dice you still need for military conquest (both a minimum estimate and a conservative one), and look at how many dice you could possibly spend on it that turn. Also see if the Fellowship could win that turn. If they can’t, and you have enough action dice to hit the conservative estimate, you should go for it. If they can, sometimes you should go for it anyway, to force the Fellowship to move in unfavorable conditions. You can often force them to corrupt themselves by moving too quickly or against too many eyes; just consider how much corruption from cards you are forgoing by spending your resources militarily.

The Military Strategy

Summary

You place 0-1 eyes in the hunt every turn. You attack the weakest strongholds and cities until you have 10 points.

Why it works

-The central premise of the Military strategy is that the Shadow military is faster than the Fellowship. This is true a disturbingly large fraction of the time.
-The Military strategy avoids Free military coups by taking a lot of points quickly. If the Free Peoples ever abandon locations to go on the attack, the Shadow player will be able to win on the same turn the Free Peoples win – and the Shadow win takes precedence.

Military Targets

1. DEW is the ideal first target for this strategy because the points are both very easy to take, and difficult to re-take once you have all of them. Taking DEW gives you security against Free military aggression because you only have five more points to go, which is pretty much the same as the four that they need. It pretty much ensures that you will win first if it comes to a military race. The best way to take DEW involves sending a 10-unit army north from Mordor. This is a good plan because there are plenty of extra units in Mordor you wouldn’t otherwise use, and because it’s actually not as far as you think. I usually supplement this army with the Easterlings, which leaves Dol Guldur (and Moria) free to take Lorien. That’s actually seven points right there.

2. After that, it’s really easy. You simply pick off the most undefended points you can, preferably with massively more troops than necessary. The extra troops make it hard for the Free Peoples to retake the points you have claimed, and also provide insurance against bad luck. Further, elites can be downgraded to save dice; you do that a lot in the Military strategy. In general, the easiest points to take are Helm’s Deep, Dol Amroth, Pelargir, and one other elven stronghold (perhaps Lorien) which you should attack simultaneously with Woodland Realm. If you are fortunate enough to draw Corsairs of Umbar, that will give you Dol Amroth's two points with almost no effort.

Other Pointers

You want to be drawing primarily strategy cards, because they have better combat effects. Much of the character deck (all the corruption-causing cards) are practically useless to you except for their marginal combat effects. However, it is reasonable to occasionally draw character cards if a chance of getting Nazgul Search or Cruel Weather is of greater benefit than getting more good combat effects and muster effects. Once you have drawn one of these there is really no reason to draw from the character deck any further.

Often you will end of with corruption-causing cards anyway, because of the normal draw at the start of the turn, and it's worth considering what to do with them. A good rule of thumb is that if the card has a decent chance of wasting a character die, it's worth playing with an event die. For example, any card that draws a tile is decent because it can reveal. The red tiles are good because they stop, and the ones that reveal too are doubly good. Candles of Corpses is usually best used as Dread and Despair to draw a new strategy card, but occasionally the Fellowship will rush so fast and get so unlucky that they build up a lot of corruption (though they usually have plenty of companions left; it's due to not taking casualties to keep Strider as guide). Adding corruption will at least force them to take random casualties and maybe lose Strider. You may even get lucky and win.

Winning

You usually win by turn 6 or 7. The Free People can’t really stop it. It’s pretty ridiculous. If you draw a turn-stalling card, you’re golden. I don’t have much to describe for this strategy because it’s really simple and also quite effective. You don’t interact a lot with your opponent either.

However, unlikely as it may seem, it is actually possible for the Fellowship to toss the ring before you win. To do this, the Free Peoples player has to use every single character die and Will of the West and Elven Ring they have to move or hide the Fellowship. They have to do their best to keep Strider as guide in Mordor, so they can get through all five spaces in two game turns. And they have to roll at least average action dice, and not get turn-stalled. The resulting games are very silly. They can take well under an hour and have almost no player interaction.

The Strategies Compared

The Corruption strategy is harder to get right, because it’s much more dependent on what your opponent does, and you have to balance multiple factors. By contrast, the military strategy is extremely simple and feels unbelievably powerful when you play against an unprepared opponent. However, I also think the Military strategy is a bit weaker, because of the effectiveness of the Fellowship sprint strategy which is a counter to it.

The best strategy, in my opinion, is to start the game open to playing either one, and pick your direction as late as you can without being inefficient. If your opponent separates Strider early, choose the Military path and you will have a very hard time losing. Similarly, if you draw Nazgul Search early, you can go Military and have a pretty much guaranteed win. If neither of those apply, I would probably want to go the Corruption route, because it’s just more reliable (and also more fun!).

Epilogue

The Corruption strategy was developed by a whole bunch of people within a year of War of the Ring’s release in 2004. In early 2006, magic geek introduced the Military strategy (“DEW North”). Soon thereafter, the advancement of strategic knowledge about War of the Ring slowed to a crawl as the experienced players switched to playing variants and the expansion. One question remained largely unresolved.

Given the Free Peoples’ terrible odds against the good Shadow strategies, should they pursue a military victory right from the start?

If so, what countermeasures should the Shadow take? When Corruption doesn’t matter but the Free military is strong, do you attack into strength or into weakness?

I will leave you with this rough map to a Free Peoples all-out military plan:
-Separate all companions.
-Get your extra dice as fast as you possibly can.
-Avoid spending Elven Rings.
-Use Boromir and Legolas to send your nations to war with character dice. Also send Rohan or the North to war.
-Muster as many units as you can. Build up large armies in a couple locations.
-Do not attack until you have several huge armies. This is of utmost importance.
-When you are ready, conquer two strongholds in the same turn.

You probably don’t get good odds of winning than that… but they could well be better than your odds against the best Shadow strategies.

sauron

Typos? Omissions? Factual inaccuracies? Incomprehensibility? Let me know. --Sean
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Dave J McWeasely
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Nice article. We've needed something like this for a long time.

Even though you mentioned "other variants" in passing, they weren't heavily emphasized. The game you get for $60 is complete, and very fun, it just requires a little judgement to get the balance right. In my opinion, the additional $50 for Twilight is a nice way to fix the problems somewhat, but there are other, cheaper ways that actually lead to more exciting gameplay.

I'm going to write an article talking about the major variants I've used over the years, their effects, and their success. Look for it in the "Variants" section.

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Update: here it is:
http://boardgamegeek.com/article/1422722#1422722
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Sean McCarthy
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Thanks! That was the other article we've been missing for the base game. I didn't feel qualified to write it.
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Dave J McWeasely
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I think its interesting why the game turned out to be so unbalanced. The reason is: the Shadow has more actions and stronger cards. On an average early turn, 2-3 Free actions go to moving the fellowship, leaving only ~2 for military defense. Against this, the Shadow is happy to spend 5 dice. Though the shadow isn't quite fighting a static defense, its certainly fighting a torpid slow-moving defense.

There's not a heck of a lot the torpid, slow moving defense can learn that makes it better. There's just no energy to do anything.

Whereas, the shadow gets to spend 5 dice per turn and has bigger, badder cards. And the Witch King keeps him fluid and dynamic.

Then there's the internet, which lets people share strategies.

The game shipped balanced, but with all the information sharing and all the energy on one side of the ledger, its no wonder that we quickly learned to do better with the Shadow than with the free.

_____________________

Give the free more energy, and suddenly the game is fun again. Paths of the Woses in the base game is approximately this: Play if Rohan is at War and Minas Tirith is under siege Sacrifice 3 vp (Helms & Edoras) in order to maybe defend 2 vp (Minas Tirith). That's no deal at all.

With enough energy for Rohan to defend both, say either because their recruitment cards are hella better, or because they've been getting half an action per turn since early in the game, and Paths of the Woses occassionally comes in handy.
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Kristofer Bengtsson
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Nice going guys, we should try to come up with the best fix to even out the odds a bit in the standard game.

If you had to name three fixes that might work (independently or together), which would they be?
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Kevin Chapman
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Here are a couple of ideas I have mentioned before for balancing the basic game:

1. Limited Force Pool for the Southrons & Easterlings. Evil men can't be generated in sorcerous ways, so once an S&E unit is destroyed it is out of the game.

2. Minas Tirith and Helm's Deep are Important Shadow Objectives. Both Sauron and Saruman are bent on destroying Men. The Elves are diminishing and leaving Middle Earth, so they are not deemed a great threat by Sauron, and Saruman's hatred of Rohan is immeasurable. Since capturing the greatest fortresses of Men would be great symbolic victories and greatly demoralize the Free Peoples, Minas Tirith and Helm's Deep are worth 3 Victory Points each. However the Shadow now needs 12 Victory Points to win the game.

This would allow a "traditional" Gondor/Rohan game to proceed as normal, but a Shadow strategy that ignored these areas completely would need to capture an additonal Stronghold to succeed.


I haven't tested either of these ideas, but it seems to me they may shift the balance without radically changing game play.
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Sean McCarthy
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Krieghund,

I think the limited S&E force pool will have literally no effect on balance (it certainly wouldn't bother either of the two strategies I describe, and it probably would have mattered about once in all the games I've ever played). It's really more of a theme-related house rule.

The second suggestion you have would not have much of a balance effect either. The corruption strategy likes to take those strongholds anyway, so the only effect would be to restrict their options a bit more. The military strategy would probably ignore Minas Tirith and just go for Helm's Deep plus nine other VPs. This would make it a bit worse, but not much. At best this change just decreases strategic diversity.

I'm thinking about fixes, Veldrin, and I'm not sure what to do yet. I think MrWeasely is correct the the Free really need more power in general, and I also think that the amount of corruption they can take needs to be a bit higher.
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Kevin Chapman
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You've probably already thought of this, but what would be the impact of restricting the Witch-King's card-drawing ability to Strategy cards? This would tend to keep the cards drawn to more of a military nature, rather than Hunt-based. It may also reduce the tendency to fight battles just to generate cards.
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Steve Hope
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I agree with Sean regarding Kevin's suggestions.

I think there's a series of things I would consider:

1. First, bid corruption for the FP. Lowest bid takes the FP and the FP only loses the game when corruption reaches/exceeds their corruption bid. This could entail a 15 bid winning, for example.

Two problems with this: first, it's not much fun to just move the FSP faster to win; second, it's arguable that even with infinity corruption tolerance the FP still loses (I don't think this is the case, but it's conceivable). Also it's not very thematic to have Frodo bulldozing carelessly through all troubles on a beeline for Mount Doom.

2. Definitely a house rule for "turn stalls"--there are lots of these which would be possible. If you're already bidding per 1, you can just allow the FP to take an additional corruption to avoid being revealed by any card play of the Shadow. But there are probably easier/better ways to do it. This is an edge case that I don't think the designers originally intended to have the impact on the game that it does.

3. Let the FP use Muster dice in some other way. Obviously this is less of a problem with the expansion (as is the overall balance problem), but having dice which basically can't do anything meaningful early and sometimes late is very frustrating for the FP. I'd suggest letting the FP use one Muster die result as a Character die result per turn, which might be too powerful but would certainly create more options for the FP.

Edit: Kevin, I think the idea you've posted just above (WK restricted to Strategy cards--aren't these called Army cards?) is a good one. Not sure how significant the impact would be, but it'd definitely have SOME impact and it has a good "feel".

Edit 2: Hmm. Made the post sound a little less dumb.
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Sean McCarthy
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Krieghund wrote:
You've probably already thought of this, but what would be the impact of restricting the Witch-King's card-drawing ability to Strategy cards? This would tend to keep the cards drawn to more of a military nature, rather than Hunt-based. It may also reduce the tendency to fight battles just to generate cards.


The military strategy tends to be fine drawing only strategy cards (this is something I forgot to write in the original post). The strategy cards are better for everything except turn-stalling and corruption, and you're ignoring corruption. When I am using the military strategy, I might draw character cards to fish for a turn staller if I think I need one, but other than that I will just draw strategy cards anyway. So, this suggestion would just force the military strategy and not change balance beyond that.

Letting the FP use a muster die as a character die might improve balance a bit, but it wouldn't help gameplay. Racing the Fellowship is inherently less interesting than defending.

Bidding corruption would also just force a military strategy. I think even a bid of infinity could favor the Shadow a bit.

Eliminating turn stalls is very desirable. I think the best way to do this involves adding a rule that allows mid-turn declarations, or changing some card(s) to give that ability (or remove the turn-stalling). I also don't think Smeagol is enough.

(Btw Steve, 'army' cards are all the 'strategy' cards that can be played with an army die. This is relevant for A Power Too Great and Tom Bombadil.)
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Kevin Chapman
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SevenSpirits wrote:
Krieghund wrote:
You've probably already thought of this, but what would be the impact of restricting the Witch-King's card-drawing ability to Strategy cards? This would tend to keep the cards drawn to more of a military nature, rather than Hunt-based. It may also reduce the tendency to fight battles just to generate cards.


The military strategy tends to be fine drawing only strategy cards (this is something I forgot to write in the original post). The strategy cards are better for everything except turn-stalling and corruption, and you're ignoring corruption. When I am using the military strategy, I might draw character cards to fish for a turn staller if I think I need one, but other than that I will just draw strategy cards anyway. So, this suggestion would just force the military strategy and not change balance beyond that.

I was thinking of this purely as a counter to the Corruption strategy rather than a "cure-all". It would have to work in tandem with another change to counter the Military strategy.

SevenSpirits wrote:
Eliminating turn stalls is very desirable. I think the best way to do this involves adding a rule that allows mid-turn declarations, or changing some card(s) to give that ability (or remove the turn-stalling). I also don't think Smeagol is enough.

Cruel Weather could be changed to a "play on the table" card, keeping the Fellowship from moving until it is discarded rather than moving the Last Known Position. A possible removal condition might be as simple as spending a Character die. This could be harmful under the right circumstances, while not being as devastating as a turn stall.
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Steve Hope
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Thanks, Sean. I haven't played the game in a long time now and have obviously forgotten some important aspects!

Allowing mid-turn declarations (maybe at the cost of a die, or maybe only to enter Mordor) seems a perfectly reasonable way to get rid of turn stalls.
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Kevin Chapman
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Allowing mid-turn declarations with a die would also allow the Fellowship to heal multiple points of Corruption per turn if it is in a Free Peoples City or Stronghold. This would probably be too powerful.
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Steve Hope
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I think I disagree, though I could be convinced otherwise.

I tend to pass Lorien with only 1-2 corruption at the most. If I divert to there it costs me the extra Hunt roll and delays me a turn or so to get the extra healing from multiple declarations. That's probably more than I'd want to spend.

Minas Tirith is a different matter--it's quite possible you could try to burn down to MT and spend a turn or two lowering corruption by 4-6 points there. That's much more potent. But it gives the Shadow a real incentive to take MT, which is good.

Not sure how the northern route is affected. You can stop in at WR I guess which is...5? 6? spaces from Mordor, so that's a real option but not really different than Lorien. So I don't know if there'd be any preference-shifting between routes on that basis.
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Kevin Chapman
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Hmmm. You may be right, Steve. The all-out Fellowship sprint that stopping at MT may allow under these conditions may actually be a good deterent to the Military strategy. Combining this with my suggested modification of the Witch-King's card-drawing ability might possibly just do the trick, if it doesn't push things the other way of course.

On the flip side, it might cause every game to be a race to see whether the Fellowship can get to MT before the Shadow takes it.
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Sean McCarthy
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Krieghund wrote:
Hmmm. You may be right, Steve. The all-out Fellowship sprint that stopping at MT may allow under these conditions may actually be a good deterent to the Military strategy. Combining this with my suggested modification of the Witch-King's card-drawing ability might possibly just do the trick, if it doesn't push things the other way of course.

On the flip side, it might cause every game to be a race to see whether the Fellowship can get to MT before the Shadow takes it.


Remember, the military strategy doesn't care about corruption, and the corruption strategy is happy to divert its resources towards key strongholds. Using the declare ability to heal would almost never come up. It might feel a bit strange when it did, though, which is why I am inclined to limit character-die declarations to once per turn.

I really don't like the card-drawing restriction because, although powerful, the corruption strategy is actually fun to play with and against. The military strategy is not.

Thus I would want a good variant to give the Free more power, increase corruption capacity a little, remove turn stalls, and further weaken a Shadow all-out military blitz.
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Dave J McWeasely
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I have played about 10 games with character-to-declare, including fast healing in Free strongholds. It did certainly give some fellowship victories. I'm not crazy about it, though. Getting into Mordor is some tense shit. And thematically that's Good.
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Michael Hall
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Great article Sean!

I think that the best "fix" for the base game was the one proposed by Mr. Weasely involving Active National Tokens (http://veldrin.proboards22.com/index.cgi?board=HouseRules&ac...).

I have played this variant many times now and it is a good improvement in the overall game including with Twilight. Active National Tokens improve the defense against Military Blitz and also give the FP more time to deal with Turn Stalls (sometimes). Generally, they make up for the lack of FP action dice by giving limited action capability. I usually include a variant that allows the FP to use an Elven Ring to change a die into a Will of the West if ALL FP nations are active which also helps against an early Witch King.

In Twilight, they make the new Witch King more valuable since he doesn't activate everyone. I make several other modifications in Twilight to improve the new WK, use the Southron Cavalry / Black Uruks, and limit the impacts of Smeagol. I also add in rules for Elrond and Grima in both Twilight and the base game.
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Kristofer Bengtsson
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I agree with Michael, the National Action Tokens go along way towards helping the FP against any Military Blitz, but the cost is that you often need to separate Companions early.
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Kris Hall
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Michael: You ought to post all the optional rules you use with the tokens variant.
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Michael Hall
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I posted them under Variants.

Base Game: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/160158

Twilight: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/160258

Let me know if anyone tries any of these ideas...
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Kris Hall
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Thanks for posting. There are some imaginative ideas here. A few I had not seen before.
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Dave J McWeasely
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If I have a lot of NATs, I don't care so much about not being able to roll a Will of the West. Its typically only half an action per turn difference.

If I have no WoW and no NATs, then I just activate some nations. Wisdom of Elrond is good. There and Back Again is amazing. Hobbits are decent early casualties, because they escape and hold press conferences about how evil Sauron is.

Wormtounge is actually good because it cripples Rohan's defense. Its much harder to go Edoras->Helm's Deep without the NAT.
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Alan Bright
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SevenSpirits wrote:
Epilogue
One question remained largely unresolved.

Given the Free Peoples’ terrible odds against the good Shadow strategies, should they pursue a military victory right from the start?

If so, what countermeasures should the Shadow take? When Corruption doesn’t matter but the Free military is strong, do you attack into strength or into weakness?


There have been three lengthy threads on the FPMV: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/102214 ('The Day Without Dusk'); http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/29679 and http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/80817.

Unfortunately, the First Intercontinental Championship (Brights of Beckton vs Magic Geek - http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/103041) revealed that you can't simply continue a siege with any action die (contrary to one part of the rules), it has to be an army or character die. But I suspect going for a FPMV from the start it is still the best hope against a determined, experienced DEW North - even if it scores 30% it's an improvement.

Of course, the expansion/BoTTA seems to remove to Shadow advantage so that the Free People can go for a ring victory with a reasonable chance of winning - going for a 30% chance from the start is now less attractive.
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magic gecko
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The basic assumptions and statements are right.

WK Corruption cycling is strong.
DEW North Military is also strong.

But, WK Corruption is much weaker than DEW North.
WK Corruption requires skill and timing.
The problem was that DEW North was just too easy.


When Corruption lost, it could lose BIG TIME.
WK gets dead, or Aragorn gets lucky at Minas T, or Heaps!. . .

When DEW North lost, shadow would be on 8 VP.
How does the Free get lucky against DEW North?
The only way to beat it was to try to get lucky with a ring sprint, any other strategy just outright lost.
Turn 1 or Turn 2 F!F!F! or Dwarf Book were not very scarey.


Average Free against (informed) Average Shadow going corruption, will win maybe 60%.
A Great Free player will lose against SS or AlexFrog maybe 70% of the time.
An average Free Player against SS or AlexFrog will lose maybe 90+% of the time.


DEW North was far more brutal.
Average Free against (informed) Average Shadow going DEW North, Shadow win 80%.
Against me, well, lets just say I didn't lose.


I agree with most of what is said here.
But, I have a very different take on this game than most people.
The only games I have played is with the rules as we thought they were.
(What do you mean the Characters are still alive? That army died?)

I have no knowledge of ANY variant or playtest versions.
My perspective is not skewed.

While I was writing Dew North, the rest of BGG WotR outright didn't believe me.
Being in a small part of reality, while ignorant people demand that you are wrong is always fun.
This is why I turned toxic and maybe just a little playfully abusive.
devil


The base game was balanced, 3 years ago.
If you are reading this, BUY THE EXPANSION.
Everything in it helps the Free.
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