This is a kind of 'companion' article to the one on Fellowship (FSP) starting positions. I will discuss each piece in turn, starting with the easiest and moving down.
Warg: traditionally the Warg is kept back in Mordor to hit Frodo at the end of the game, canceling his evasion text. However, the Warg has one other big use - to stop Boromir. Warg vs Boromir is the very best option for the Shadow but its awfully hard to pull it off. A standard new player's first few games will go like this: Sauron puts Balrog in Moria who then gets bombed by Boromir. Then Sauron player gets wise and puts the Warg in Moria and Boromir then dies. Once you have gone through that pattern then it gets trickier. The FSP player will then start probing with Pippen, which is also ok against the Warg in Moria, but the bluff is then up and Boromir now can avoid the Warg. All things considered, the Warg should sit back in Morder, with the odd game put it up front, just to keep things fresh I should note that the Warg does also cancel Gandalf's text, but this simply presents the FSP player a great opportunity to play Elven Cloak with no danger.
Cave Troll: will almost always die to Noble Sacrifice, since its a sure thing for the FSP player. But what if the FSP player has already played this? Then the Cave Troll really comes into play. If the FSP plays Magic to get Sacrifice back then that is a great result for Sauron. Best keep the Cave Troll back a little and watch for the FSP card play - when you get the chance, go in hard - its biggest strength is in forcing good cards out. A good second row character. Do NOT play center-front because of the first-turn Pippen threat (see below).
Black Rider: by far the weakest Sauron piece, and therefore the best 'sacrifice' for Boromir. If Boromir dies to the Black Rider then Sauron is well on the way to winning the game. Of course, its always useful to discover when other characters are - especially Gandalf and the Legolas, Gimli, Merry trio - but you are best to play the BR as just another (weak) piece. Don't use the move forward ability unless you think its a good chance to hit Boromir. Play in the front row if you want to - it does not really matter. You can even put the BR in Moria first turn as a Boromir bluff - Pippen will probably find you out but its worth a go.
Orcs: probably the piece with the most variety in starting position, but best played down back in general. A lot depends if the FSP is playing with Gandalf The White. If so, the Orcs are best placed where Gandalf will die immediately after he is resurrected in Fangorn. If not, then the Orcs are quite useful in the front row, killing anything which comes over the mountains. If you can get two auto-kills with the Orcs, then that is great.
Saruman: a great support/utility piece, because he has auto-wins against the Legolas, Gimli, Merry trio. Also a very useful piece for an early forward rush since the FSP player knows that if Saruman gets deep into his territory then it will be carnage - the FSP will kill Saruman at any cost, especially with Aragorn. I often use a strategy of pushing Shelob early down one flank to knock out Aragorn or Boromir and then follow behind with Saruman to clean up the remainding little guys. Hitting Gandalf is not so bad, since its a great use for Retreat Sideways - just make sure that often is open to you. Front or second row.
Witch King: his sideways attacking ability is great for hitting Frodo, and his weakness to Merry means he should hang back. Start in Mordor or second row.
Balrog: most of the time its just another 5-strength piece, and thus can be used anywhere. Most useful for fighting Gandalf.
Shelob: one of the best texts in the game, both for an early rush and a late-game push. You can really put Shelob anywhere in the first or second row.
Flying Nazgul: the Frodo killer in the mountains. A VERY important piece which must not die early. Keep down back until needed.
OK, so where does that leave us? Here is a 'standard' setup which I use as a starting point:
Cave Troll - Balrog - Shelob
Black Rider - Saruman
Witch King - Flying Nazgul - Warg - Orcs
This would be a set up for a Shelob-Saruman push down the middle or right flank. The Witch King would slot in where Saruman started. The Black Rider or Balrog would go into Moria.
Remember that a very common FSP first move is Pippen through Moria (provided no-one is there) to probe the center-front piece. You need to either put a piece in Moria first turn (either BR or Balrog, with the BIG Boromir risk), OR put a piece in center-front which you don't mind being probed - the Balrog is not a bad option since Pippen can probe but you can then move the BR up with Balrog, shuffle, and then put one in Moria. This leaves the right flank a little weak, but hopefully Shelob will return to bolster it. The Cave Troll is the worst option center-front because first-turn Pippen will probably take the battle and play Noble Sacrifice.
As an alternative, this is a double-bluff start:
Orcs - Warg - Saruman
Balrog - Cave Troll
Witch King - Flying Nazgul - Black Rider - Shelob
Here, Pippen can hit the Warg and die, or put the Warg in Moria. Push Saruman and the Orcs forward if the opportunity presents and threaten heavy losses on both sides. Keep your 5-strength guys and the Cave Troll in reserve once FSP has wasted the text cards on killing the front two. This is risky but fun if it pays off.
Anyway, I think that the Sauron player has more starting options than the FSP player, provided he avoids some really silly positions.
- Last edited Tue Aug 28, 2007 6:48 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue Aug 28, 2007 5:22 am
Just read this. Excellent summary of the various opportunities playing Dark! A good companion to your other article, as you've mentioned.
any piece with lower strength than 5 in front is a gift to the other player. he can kill it with gandalf without any losses and that risk is just too high.
unless you plan on scoring with a bluff (assuming you play someone you don't know bluffing won't work) you will always want shelob, balrog and witch king in front. the black rider and nazgul can work from anywhere, saruman and troll should wait until gandalf is dead before they come into play. orc in front is just too high risk (i don't fear gimli that much but it sucks if white attacks the orc) - i usually keep him in 2nd row to kill GTW immediately and from experience this works well even if my opponent knows it.
isn't the witch king in front a big risk? you will ask. i say no. usually merry won't be in front row to avoid him being just cannon fodder. your goal is to burn the witch king early, preferably to boromir, a sacrifice or gandalf. for this he is as good as the balrog or shelob and you don't have to worry about him later. if you keep the witch king in back, likely merry will also stay back and in the later game may cause great troubles. usually saruman or the troll are better choices for the later game after gandalf is dead.
i usually use the palantir before my first attack to kill the risk of meeting merry, or if i find boromir maybe send a black rider instead. so your only "risk" is that you kill a front piece with the witch king and then pippin kills you. that makes 1:1 and it's not great for you, but it isn't that bad either. you know pippin's position (the benefit of having used palantir - i rarely found better uses for it when i kept it for later).
what choices does white have against this strong start? if he has weak pieces in front, you just trash them. so white's only real chance to survive this is having killers at front. that means either frodo+sam, gandalf, boromir and/or a weak character (pippin, merry) for sacrificing. of course white can always use the sacrifice, there's really no way around that and you should try to force him to play it on the witch king.
with this setup you force white to use gandalf and you must kill him. then the road is open for saruman and the troll. these are great because you don't need your good cards (likely you won't have them anymore anyways after killing gandalf).
note that this can get very chaotic if you let gandalf break through your front line.
- Last edited Sat Nov 8, 2008 9:42 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sat Nov 8, 2008 9:37 am