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I've just learned the game and so far I've only played two times (both as FP).
I realize it's way too early to start mixing and fixing with something I barely understand, but there have been two thematic things nagging at me throughout my first two plays:
- Gandalf! I've spent the first few turns of both my plays trying to get the guy killed, and that felt really gamey. Intuitively, there should be a downside to kill-and-upgrade compared to split-and-upgrade, but I'm not really seeing it, and actually splitting Gandalf is more expensive dice-wise. Both games I just let him die him with a Will already rolled and ready, and wham! Teleport-upgrade-decorrupt combo! And Fangorn is a really good place to have him, so it's not like he suddenly gets stranded out of the action.
- Dunland! This is much less annoying, and as I understand that this may be fixed by the expansion? Still, I think it would be cute to have Saruman be a bit wary of the Dunland guys he tricked into helping him, instead of having Dunland be Saruman's mighty springboard into the West (or just Moria's backup army, which happened too). In the Two Towers, the Dunlendings leave Saruman after realizing that the Rohirrim are actually nice guys.

So, we've been musing about adding these two house rules:
Gandalf requires two Will rolls to resurrect, while the normal upgrade-after-splitting rules stay the same. After you spend the first Will, Gandalf the White is placed in Moria's topmost corner ("And naked I lay upon the mountain-top...") - he's effectively still out of the game, and you don't get his die yet. The second Will of the West you spend has the Eagles carrying him to one of the standard "resurrection" spots.
Then we'd change "Riders of Theoden" top part, which seems quite weak when compared to its bottom, and is very similar to the Red Arrow anyway. We've come up with "Theoden's Mercy":
Quote:
If Rohan is at war, and Isengard has suffered 4 or more casualities during the game, remove one regular Isengard unit from all the Shadow Armies that contain one, then put a Northern regular into all the Dunland regions that are empty.


The overall balance of the changes seems to definitely favour the Shadow, but do you think it will skew the games too much? We're still learning the ropes, and we're not very competitive, but I think that these changes (in particular Gandalf's) would boost our enjoyment of the game, which is very high already.

The other possibile solution that has been vented is to remove FP's ability to kill off the leader of the fellowship, but that would be much less fun and we figure we'd never sacrifice anybody before splitting off Strider, and where's the fun in that.

So, I appeal to the Geekmind's wisdom: is there some nasty side effect to our changes? Is sacrificing Gandalf ASAP a worse idea than it looks like? Will we be missing out on something if we play with these rules?
Thanks for the help!
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Those ideas both sound like they'll significantly unbalance the game.
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James C
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Why not just recklessly move the fellowship with Gandalf as its leader? He'll eventually get killed that way. And if not, all the better for the FP.
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Professor X wrote:
Why not just recklessly move the fellowship with Gandalf as its leader? He'll eventually get killed that way. And if not, all the better for the FP.


That's what I've been doing. And that doesn't make sense at all from a thematical point of view.

Tallgrant, could you please elaborate? In what direction do you think they will unbalance the game?
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Re: Two House Rules from a newbie, will these break the game
I think it does. Understanding the pressing race against time, Gandalf pushes the fellowship to move quickly. This gets him killed. Yes, he's a tad more cautious in real life (or rather, in the books), but I wouldn't call that unthematic.

WotR is such a fabulous game as is, I'd be extremely wary of tinkering with it. Just my two cents.
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To each his own, but I think two plays provides far too little perspective to be dreaming up house rules. You've just begun to scratch the surface of a deep and brilliant game, with years of play by thousands of players culminating in the 2nd edition rules. Do yourself a favor and adapt your play, not the rules.
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Professor X wrote:
I think it does. Understanding the pressing race against time, Gandalf pushes the fellowship to move quickly. This gets him killed. Yes, he's a tad more cautious in real life (or rather, in the books), but I wouldn't call that unthematic.

WotR is such a fabulous game as is, I'd be extremely wary of tinkering with it. Just my two cents.


Gandalf died to save the fellowship from the certainty of total failure. Here he dies to prevent the first couple/three corruption points, so that you can get an extra die asap - actually he rushes out in the pursuit of death?! (and safe reincarnation!)
Doesn't really make sense to me.
I see how that's there to have the story to superficially follow the books, but it just doesn't make much sense from the FP's point of view.

Sphere, I'm out for a way to thematically fit the game to the tastes of my opponent and me. I hate to be tinkering with the balance of the game, but please tell me, how am I to adjust my play to avoid doing Gandalf death rushes? Will I find out that they are a bad strategy with further plays?

"Two plays provides far too little perspective to be dreaming up house rules"
I agree, and that's why I posted here to ask for your help.
I've been in the anti-house-rule camp in many discussions before. Here, though, I'm not trying to "rebalance" a game I think is unbalanced after a few plays. (man how many "Strategy X won both times I played! Here's my variant to counter broken Strategy X" threads do we get)
Here there's an aspect of the game that I personally distaste, and I'm looking for a way to reflavour that without hurting the balance.
Could you help me with that? (Assuming that pushing for Big G's death is a good idea at decent levels of play)

Edited for grammar.
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You could just play LOME, where Gandalf has a die if he is guiding the fellowship. So not quite the push to kill him off. WOW's are too hard to come by in the standard game, so it would be a huge handicap for the free to obtain an extra die. Which would give the shadow a big advantage. For Théoden, a lot of times most of the recruiting must be done before going to war, since Rohan is small and can be swept to easy. So giving them a regular in the middle of nowhere after they are at war is just useless for them.
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sixtoedcat wrote:
You could just play LOME, where Gandalf has a die if he is guiding the fellowship. So not quite the push to kill him off. WOW's are too hard to come by in the standard game, so it would be a huge handicap for the free to obtain an extra die. Which would give the shadow a big advantage. For Théoden, a lot of times most of the recruiting must be done before going to war, since Rohan is small and can be swept to easy. So giving them a regular in the middle of nowhere after they are at war is just useless for them.


Thank you for the suggestion, we'll look into LOME.
Our games were flush with WotWs but thinking about it rationally it must have been a fluke. I believe I had at least one Will every single turn, and I'm sure that all reincarnations/coronations happened in the same turn as they became available.
Maybe with more play we'll realize that resurrecting Gandalf is actually hard enough for our taste, who knows.
But what if we went out the way of the carrot instead of the way of the stick, requiring only a character die result to upgrade Gandalf if he's alive and well (and split, of course)? Would it become a no-brainer?
Regarding Theoden, you make a very good point. This one is not really a problem for us, it was just something that we talked about after the second game. Based on your feedback, I think that if we get around and try it it might be something like:
Theoden's wisdom
Do all the Theoden stuff normally. Then, if Rohan is at war, remove one Isengard unit from each of the Dunland regions, then put a Northern Regular there if they're empty.

I hope that this will be a small enough change to give us the satisfaction of seeing a Dunland revolt (sooner or - more likely - later), without interfering too much with the game balance.
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I'm in the don't-house-rule-Gandalf camp.

The key incentive to keep Gandalf the Grey alive is his card-cycling ability that kicks in when you use an Event die to play an Event card. In first edition it only applied to Character cards, and players were always rushing to get GtG killed - the guide ability just wasn't a strong enough incentive. So in 2nd edition his ability was extended to both Event decks.

This opens up significant strategic options with Gandalf guiding the Fellowship. You can have him lead all the way to Mount Doom to cycle cards to the extent possible, taking random casualties or Corruption to avoid losing him (though I recommend peeling off Strider before you start losing random Companions to Hunt tiles). Or, as Magic Geek is known to do, have all your Companions separate on the first turn but leave Gandalf with the Ringbearers in Rivendell. While the Companions rush to rouse the Free Peoples to war and get the jump on the Shadow, the Grey Pilgrim sits quietly with Bilbo, cycling cards at every opportunity to generate an arsenal of combat effects, major recruitment windfalls, and more (cf. Ents).

Why is card cycling good? Because the Events and combat effects are where the real juice of this game lies. Furthermore, some strategy cards allow recruitment and a card draw, so with an Event die and Gandalf guiding, you now get two card draws from the strategy deck. Some character events are no-brainers like the special tile cards. Play them with an Event die and you might even draw another.
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Accatitippi wrote:
I've just learned the game and so far I've only played two times (both as FP).
I realize it's way too early to start mixing and fixing with something I barely understand, but there have been two thematic things nagging at me throughout my first two plays:
- Gandalf! I've spent the first few turns of both my plays trying to get the guy killed, and that felt really gamey. Intuitively, there should be a downside to kill-and-upgrade compared to split-and-upgrade, but I'm not really seeing it, and actually splitting Gandalf is more expensive dice-wise. Both games I just let him die him with a Will already rolled and ready, and wham! Teleport-upgrade-decorrupt combo! And Fangorn is a really good place to have him, so it's not like he suddenly gets stranded out of the action.
- Dunland! This is much less annoying, and as I understand that this may be fixed by the expansion? Still, I think it would be cute to have Saruman be a bit wary of the Dunland guys he tricked into helping him, instead of having Dunland be Saruman's mighty springboard into the West (or just Moria's backup army, which happened too). In the Two Towers, the Dunlendings leave Saruman after realizing that the Rohirrim are actually nice guys.

So, we've been musing about adding these two house rules:
Gandalf requires two Will rolls to resurrect, while the normal upgrade-after-splitting rules stay the same. After you spend the first Will, Gandalf the White is placed in Moria's topmost corner ("And naked I lay upon the mountain-top...") - he's effectively still out of the game, and you don't get his die yet. The second Will of the West you spend has the Eagles carrying him to one of the standard "resurrection" spots.
Then we'd change "Riders of Theoden" top part, which seems quite weak when compared to its bottom, and is very similar to the Red Arrow anyway. We've come up with "Theoden's Mercy":
Quote:
If Rohan is at war, and Isengard has suffered 4 or more casualities during the game, remove one regular Isengard unit from all the Shadow Armies that contain one, then put a Northern regular into all the Dunland regions that are empty.


The overall balance of the changes seems to definitely favour the Shadow, but do you think it will skew the games too much? We're still learning the ropes, and we're not very competitive, but I think that these changes (in particular Gandalf's) would boost our enjoyment of the game, which is very high already.

The other possibile solution that has been vented is to remove FP's ability to kill off the leader of the fellowship, but that would be much less fun and we figure we'd never sacrifice anybody before splitting off Strider, and where's the fun in that.

So, I appeal to the Geekmind's wisdom: is there some nasty side effect to our changes? Is sacrificing Gandalf ASAP a worse idea than it looks like? Will we be missing out on something if we play with these rules?
Thanks for the help!


I actually agree with you that there is sometimes an incentive to do a Gandalf death rush, especially if you have 2-3 swords and a WOW sitting there. His guide ability is nice, but the fifth die is generally better IMO. I agree with Steva that LOME solves any inclination to do a Gandalf death rush. There are a few things in the game that don't make perfect thematic sense such as the tendency to use Gimli/Legolas as "meat shields" and kill them off to soak up corruption. In the end it is hard to have a perfectly thematic game that is also perfectly balanced and works smoothly in all areas.
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Rafamir wrote:
I'm in the don't-house-rule-Gandalf camp.

The key incentive to keep Gandalf the Grey alive is his card-cycling ability that kicks in when you use an Event die to play an Event card. In first edition it only applied to Character cards, and players were always rushing to get GtG killed - the guide ability just wasn't a strong enough incentive. So in 2nd edition his ability was extended to both Event decks.

This opens up significant strategic options with Gandalf guiding the Fellowship. You can have him lead all the way to Mount Doom to cycle cards to the extent possible, taking random casualties or Corruption to avoid losing him (though I recommend peeling off Strider before you start losing random Companions to Hunt tiles). Or, as Magic Geek is known to do, have all your Companions separate on the first turn but leave Gandalf with the Ringbearers in Rivendell. While the Companions rush to rouse the Free Peoples to war and get the jump on the Shadow, the Grey Pilgrim sits quietly with Bilbo, cycling cards at every opportunity to generate an arsenal of combat effects, major recruitment windfalls, and more (cf. Ents).

Why is card cycling good? Because the Events and combat effects are where the real juice of this game lies. Furthermore, some strategy cards allow recruitment and a card draw, so with an Event die and Gandalf guiding, you now get two card draws from the strategy deck. Some character events are no-brainers like the special tile cards. Play them with an Event die and you might even draw another.


Listen to Rafamir, he knows.

But another option is just to convince yourself that thematically it all makes sense. Think of it this way, the game War of the Ring starts at the point of the Fellowship leaving Rivendell. How much longer was it in the books before Gandalf the Grey was "dead"?

If on the second or third fellowship move there is a reveal and damage, and you kill off Gandalf, then you are pretty much following the books exactly.

What would be strange thematically would be for Gandalf to stay with and guide the fellowship all the way to Gondor. See, you just have to convince yourself that you are playing "correctly"

Edit: I am having major deja vu with this thread, was there a discussion almost exactly along these lines on the old first edition forums?
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bclayj wrote:

Listen to Rafamir, he knows.

But another option is just to convince yourself that thematically it all makes sense. Think of it this way, the game War of the Ring starts at the point of the Fellowship leaving Rivendell. How much longer was it in the books before Gandalf the Grey was "dead"?

If on the second or third fellowship move there is a reveal and damage, and you kill off Gandalf, then you are pretty much following the books exactly.

What would be strange thematically would be for Gandalf to stay with and guide the fellowship all the way to Gondor. See, you just have to convince yourself that you are playing "correctly"

Edit: I am having major deja vu with this thread, was there a discussion almost exactly along these lines on the old first edition forums?


I see how it (usually) follows the plot closely, on a superficial level (i.e. just recounting events: they set off, Gandalf dies on the third step)
The problem is that the FP's motives are upside down. Think of Galadriel's and Celeborn's dismay when learning of Gandalf's death.
In the game the only one who is sad to see Gandalf the Grey go is Sauron!

And Gandalf's plan was to lead the fellowship as long as possible, so I wouldn't have any problem with him being the guide all the way through the board.

You've all convinced me to bear with the game as written till we get to about 10 plays. If we are still bothered with how Gandalf the White works we'll look into LOME or come up with a house rule.
Maybe delaying his resurrection by one full turn. In the books a lot of stuff happens without Gandalf, while here he comes back immediately. I suspect that might be the core of our problem.
We'll see.
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Accatitippi wrote:

I realize it's way too early to start mixing and fixing with something I barely understand


Exactly.
 
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Azikin wrote:
Accatitippi wrote:

I realize it's way too early to start mixing and fixing with something I barely understand


Exactly.


How rude.
I'm shocked. I tell you, shocked!
 
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Hi Rainbow Hippie! Last Summer I went to Lake Iseo to see Christo's Floating Piers. And on the way, we stopped by Bergamo and the Citta Alta. Beautiful lands. Beautiful people.

I understand your initial frustrations and thematic doubts with WotR. I went through a similar experience myself. I would just emphasize two thoughts already expressed by others:

1) there is a fine balance to this game, which took years to achieve. To me this is one of its most amazing features, especially given all of the game's moving parts. Inserting house rules to improve its "feel" (my word, not yours), will yield unintended consequences and disrupt this fine balance.

2) there will be times when losing Gandalf early may be the best approach. And sometimes it may not be. The best Gandalf strategy will depend on your dice, your cards, your opponent's moves, etc. My humble advice is to resist tampering with Gandalf until you understand the game's subtleties better.

An anecdote: my 10-year old nephew is my chief opponent. After a few plays he wanted to create a house rule where the elves could appear if Helm's Deep were under siege. Ahhh. Where was I to begin? I got him to accept that there would be NO house rules until he read the books!

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One of the reasons I find the Gandalf the White rules-as-written so thematic is that there is no guarantee of WHETHER he will return, or WHEN. With just four cantankerous action dice, it could be a while before you roll a Will, and given the other pressures and choices the game imposes, you might need that next Will of the West to promote Strider or discard Palantir of Orthanc or hide a desperate Fellowship. Who knows?!

(Contrast that with SPI's War of the Ring game, where a deceased Gandalf the Grey had to wait 1d6 turns before reappearing all in white - both players knew exactly how long they had before he was back in play.)

As I've noted in another thread, the designers at Ares did a great job of simulating the role of Providence from Tolkien's work. IIRC, Gandalf the White seems to have the sense that he was meant to fall and return, that his mission in Middle-earth was not complete. As the Free Peoples player, you essentially get to make that call of when to off him and when, dice permitting, to bring him back. If the dice don't cooperate, then you get to share Galadriel and Celeborn's pangs of distress.
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Shark Sandwich wrote:
Hi Rainbow Hippie! Last Summer I went to Lake Iseo to see Christo's Floating Piers. And on the way, we stopped by Bergamo and the Citta Alta. Beautiful lands. Beautiful people.


I've been to Christo's piers too! I learned to sail on that very lake.
I'm glad that you enjoyed your trip here, I'm sure I'll do the same when I'll eventually visit New York City.


Thank you all for your insights, it's great to hear that our two games were not the norm. Rafamir, I see what you mean there, and how it would apply to most games.
The problem with our two games was that Gandalf's return was both times immediate and certain, since I already had a Will cocked when he died.

If after a few more plays we'll still have trouble accepting that single, occasional piece of "thematic weirdness", then we'll consider ruling that Gandalf cannot resurrect on the same turn that he died. This would prevent the "instawhite manovre" that tainted our enjoyment of the game.

That fix seems like narrow enough to completely spare the games that wouldn't bugger us, and I can live with (slightly?) skewing the rest in Shadow's favour for the sake of this particular piece of storytelling.
Does it seem cautious enough?

Again, thank you all for redimensioning my concerns about this issue, and for explaining the unintended consequences of my proposed fixes. I got exactly what I wished for out of this thread, and that's great.
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Accatitippi wrote:
The problem with our two games was that Gandalf's return was both times immediate and certain, since I already had a Will cocked when he died.

Don't worry, it won't be long until you experience the joy of being unable to roll a WoW for four turns after Gandalf snuffs it. For some of us, it's like that every game. shake
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Shadow Strategy tip:

If you're planning to bring in Saruman in the first turn or two and the FP has a Will of the West, wait to bring him into play with your last action. That way the FP cannot use the Will to bring in Gandalf the White because no Minion is in play, and if you are lucky, the FP won't roll a Will for a turn or two and further delay GtW's arrival.
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Rafamir wrote:
Shadow Strategy tip:

If you're planning to bring in Saruman in the first turn or two and the FP has a Will of the West, wait to bring him into play with your last action. That way the FP cannot use the Will to bring in Gandalf the White because no Minion is in play, and if you are lucky, the FP won't roll a Will for a turn or two and further delay GtW's arrival.


That makes a lot of sense, thanks.
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Rafamir wrote:
One of the reasons I find the Gandalf the White rules-as-written so thematic is that there is no guarantee of WHETHER he will return, or WHEN. With just four cantankerous action dice, it could be a while before you roll a Will, and given the other pressures and choices the game imposes, you might need that next Will of the West to promote Strider or discard Palantir of Orthanc or hide a desperate Fellowship. Who knows?!

(Contrast that with SPI's War of the Ring game, where a deceased Gandalf the Grey had to wait 1d6 turns before reappearing all in white - both players knew exactly how long they had before he was back in play.)

As I've noted in another thread, the designers at Ares did a great job of simulating the role of Providence from Tolkien's work. IIRC, Gandalf the White seems to have the sense that he was meant to fall and return, that his mission in Middle-earth was not complete. As the Free Peoples player, you essentially get to make that call of when to off him and when, dice permitting, to bring him back. If the dice don't cooperate, then you get to share Galadriel and Celeborn's pangs of distress.


Here we have another example of why I visit the forums for this game more than any other. This is a fantastic example of the convergence of theme and gameplay, and more evidence of why this game is the pinnacle of book to board game translations. Love this response Rafamir.
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