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Subject: First Impressions rss

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Mark Cresswell
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Ok, so bear with me as I have never done a review here before.

The box is chunky, bigger than your 'average' FFG game like Runebound or Arkham but smaller (I think) than Descent. As someone pointed out in the other thread, the insert wastes a lot of space, and having punched out all the tokens it wasn't really possible to get everything back in the box without removing the insert.

The board is beautiful and large, though there are spaces on the board to store the various tokens and cards so the playable area is not as large as the board.

The miniatures are very detailed but quite brittle. One of the character's sword arm was snapped off in my set (minor irritation) and also the Black Serpent miniature (the one on the rearing horse) doesn't actually stand up.

Now, most of my gaming is done with my eight-year old son but this one seemed a little complex to try with him before at least getting a feel for the rules myself. So the session was a solo 'play-test' with the dwarf Thalin and elf Argalad versus Sauron.

Timewise, the session took me 45 minutes to setup (excluding punching out the tokens) and about 3 hours to play; mainly due to unfamiliarity with both the rules and the board. I sense that next time it will all be a lot quicker. I did have to refer to the rules a lot, even towards the end of the game - but once I'm more familiar with the flow that won't be a concern. Also, even with the coloured jewel system, I found I spent a lot of time just trying to find a location on the board in order to place a favour or character. Again, this will improve with familiarity.

A quick word on some of the mechanics (a lot of which seem familiar from other FFG games). There are no dice in the game, but there is still a big luck element - mainly through the drawing of cards. For example, if a Free Peoples turn ends in Isengard they would draw three cards and encounter the lowest numbered appropriate card. There are fifteen cards specific to each pair of regions, so I may be lucky enough to draw the one (yes, only one) card specific to Isengard; or else I may get a mid-range numbered encounter specific to the Rohan region; or else I may get a higher numbered totally generic encounter.

Although there are a lot of cards, they are thinly spread. It feels like the game is crying out for an expansion already. More encounter cards, more varied character quests (there is a choice of two starting quests per character; and the advanced quest is always the same for each character; though further generic quests can be obtained through encounters).

So how did the game pan out ? (I'm assuming familiarity with the rules since they are online).

Thalin's initial quest was to explore the Blue Mountains which were across the other side of the board. Argalad had to get to a location not too far from his starting point but once there, fight an orc. (The quests seem quite basic really). The mission of the Free Peoples was to complete all four starting quests.

Sauron's mission was to get the Ringwraiths or six influence into the Shire.

Sauron's starting plot allowed him to place quite a bit of influence onto the board, certainly enough to hinder Argalad considerably. Also, he was lucky enough to get initial advanced plots that required zero influence to play and all moved the same story marker.

The various strategies went along these lines.

Thalin concentrated on achieving his quests. The Blue Mountains was fairly straightforward (he just had to get there) though it did take several turns to arrive. Likewise the advanced quest which was to explore Moria. Both achieved within the game time limit.

Argalad struggled, mostly due to Sauron placing lots of influence and monsters around the target area. But Argalad did seem to have a more interesting time including a couple of combats and a terrific battle versus the Black Serpent towards the end (the Serpent became exhausted just as Argalad played his last combat card - it felt like Argalad valiantly fended off his foe, before collapsing from his wounds).

Sauron was able to place three plots into play very easily, resulting in his conquest story marker soaring ahead by 4 spaces a turn from then on. In fact, he had to remove one plot card at one point otherwise he would not have got the Ringwraiths to the Shire in time.

The game ended in an easy win for Sauron.

Would I do things differently next time ? Sure, I would have the Free People characters worry more about stopping the Sauron plots; and breaking those chains of influence.

How did I feel at the end of the game ? Even though it was three hours playtime, I felt like the game was over too quickly and Argalad and Thalin never really had a chance - though that was probably down to the way I played it. I want to play it again and certainly next time I have a four hour slot to myself, this is the game I will get out. Will I feel that way in 3 months time ? Not sure, more likely I will be back to playing solo Arkham Horror. But I do know that if its raining on Sunday afternoon, then my son and I will be playing this for sure.

Did I get my money's worth. Well, I don't have that sinking feeling that I just wasted £60. I know I will play it again, not just with my son but also with my pal who lives a two hour drive away: we get together every three or four months and game solidly for an entire weekend - and Middle Earth Quest will be high up on the agenda for sure.

I hope thats been a help to anyone thinking of buying the game. Its now Sunday morning and the sun is shining brightly: my wife wants to go out for the day. I need a prayer for rain ...
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E J
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Wonderful first report Mark. Thanks for your time, sharing this with us.
I'm sure an expansion is right around the corner.
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James Cartwright
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Excellent review, would love to see your thoughts after you've played it a few more times and become familiar with setup and rules. I must admit I like the look and feel of the game but the price is just too much for me.

You mentioned Runebound and Arkham Horror in your review, how do you think this game compares to them in play length, depth and ease of understanding the rules?
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Jonas Jacobsson
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Thanks for your first impressions. Did you take any pictures during the game? Would be interesting to see how it plays.
 
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Will DeMorris
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Good report. If I'm reading it right you used two heroes. How do you think the game would have played out (balance wise) if you had used 3?


-Will
 
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Cameron McKenzie
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I think it's important for the Heroes to worry about foiling Sauron's plots early and often. Achieving your mission does you no good whatsoever if you aren't dominant when you get to the finale!

I think it may be a good idea for one person to work on plots while another does some quests, and then switch roles when necessary. The fact that Thalin had to go so far out of the way to finish his first quest tells me that perhaps he should have gone for plots instead!

As you observed, his Blue Mountains quest was not at all difficult. It's possible that he could arrive in that vicinity just by following Sauron's plots and then just visit the mountains on his way.

I'm interested in knowing what some of the other missions are though!
 
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Pål Toler
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Uppsala
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Thanks for a very nice report! I am really looking forward to this game.


MasterDinadan wrote:

I'm interested in knowing what some of the other missions are though!


All of the missions are on the last page of the rules that can be downloaded here: http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/ffg_content/middle-earth_q...
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Mariano
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thanks for the first review.
work the combat system? is fun?
 
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Barry Kendall
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Thanks for the first look. I'm looking forward to hearing your impression after another game or two. This sounds like it's targeted at the lighter end of the player pool. I'm hoping that repeat play brings more depth of character actino options to light.

Re your broken piece, FFG is very good with consumer service and component problems. I'm heartened to hear about the "brittle" pieces; it sounds like they are made of a styrene plastic that would hold paint well and not flex and flake.

It does indeed sound like an expansion was planned from the beginning.

I'm curious about the "diceless" combat--will have to take a look at the rules.

Again, thanks for your FI review.
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Michael D. Kelley
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This actually made me preorder. Thanks for posting!
I know the review didn't sound entirely positive, but here's what I got from it:
1 - The game was over too quickly because the heroes ignored plots. I don't think the game will usually go this way.
2 - Combat was exciting EVEN THOUGH he was playing both sides and knew all the cards. I imagine it will be quite tense when you have the suspicion and subterfuge of two minds working against each other.
So yay for high hopes!
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Mark Cresswell
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With the combat I did a kind of pseudo-random thing. I shuffled each deck but applied a bit of logic when drawing eg there is a ranged card that negates the opponents next card if its melee (but thats clear to the opponent) so on the next turn I drew until I got a ranged card (assuming I had one). That sort of thing. There are several cards that impact the next cards played (either your own or your opponents) eg Ready, Concentrate. The combat is definitely going to be one of the best aspects of the game in a real game.
 
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Mark Cresswell
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There was a question about complexity further up the thread. I'd kind of rate it alongside Arkham Horror. The rules themselves are pretty straightforward and easy to pick up. What kept me going back to the rule book was to make sure I was doing things in the correct order as there are a lot of different steps to each turn. In some respects its easier to handle than Arkham because there is far less character management involved - the only items you can obtain are a boat, horse or elven cloak. After three plays, I'm very comfortable now with all the rules.
 
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Jacob
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This sounds very similar to A Song of Ice and Fire: The Adventure Game. I wonder, did they scrap that game and produce this instead?
 
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Chris J Davis
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Jayolas wrote:
This sounds very similar to A Song of Ice and Fire: The Adventure Game. I wonder, did they scrap that game and produce this instead?


No - A Song of Fire and Ice was announced long after MEQ was already in development.
 
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Wojtek Kamusella
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Can someone measure size of playing cards?
 
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Ben Gander
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I've opened my copy and gone through the (hefty) rulebook, though no plays until Thursday. The minitures are similar to other FFG games; hugely detailed but many arrive either bent or broken. Will post my thoughts once I've had a play.

Also, the board is pretty damn huge. Not a game for small tables.
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