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Subject: Second and Third Plays - More on Mechanics rss

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Mark Cresswell
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Hi, due to a change in my wife's plans I was able to get in a couple more games this afternoon. Still solo I'm afraid. Sorry I can't post any photos but my camera was stolen a couple weeks ago and I haven't replaced it yet.

So, I played two consecutive games which were both much more balanced. Setup time was 20 minutes. Gameplay was just under 3 hours first game and just under 2 hours second game. Both games went to the finale. The first game, both missions seemed too hard to bother with and neither was completed. Both sides had a story marker at the end of the track. In the battle with the Ringwraiths, the Heroes won - hooray! Second game, Sauron got his Ring story marker to the end 3 spaces ahead of the Hero marker but failed his mission (Heroes had completed their mission). In the final battle, the Ringwraiths won due to their increased combat abilities.

I'll explain a bit more about the mechanics:

Sauron Turn
1. Hero Rally Step
In this step all influence tokens in all hero locations are removed from the board. One thing I wasn't sure about was whether influence could be removed from a Stronghold - I couldn't find anything in the rules to state otherwise. This seemed like a good strategy for the Heroes, though the Strongholds are, of course, pretty dangerous places to go.

2. Story Step
The Hero story marker moves two spaces and the Sauron markers move according to whatever plots are in play. I haven't come across any cards or abilities that slow down the Hero story marker, so this pretty much guarantees that games won't go on for too long.

3. Plot Step
Sauron gets to play a new plot card and have a max of three in play at any one time. Sauron needs to have a minimum amount of influence available (varies by card and is often zero) and sometimes fulfil other conditions. Each plot card will advance a story marker 1,2 or 3 spaces on subsequent turns.

4. Event Step
A new event card is drawn. These tend to provide benefits and objectives for the Heroes. Each card always places either 1 character and 1 favour on the board; or else 2 favour in different locations. Sometimes there will be an additional benefit if a Hero can arrive at a destination before the Event Card goes out of play.

5. Action Step
Sauron's chance to make things difficult for the Heroes by placing more influence, more monsters and drawing new cards.

6. Hero Draw Step
Each Hero starts with a 25 card life pool. A Hero draws a number of cards into his hand equal to his fortitude. Cards may be spent to move around the board and are also used in combat. Spent cards go into a Rest pool (and can't be used until the Hero subsequently rests). During combat, cards are put into the damage pool and harder to retrieve.

Hero Turn
1. Rest Step
So long as a Hero is not in a Stronghold or enemy location he can rest, shuffling all his spent cards back into his life pool. If he is in a Haven he may also heal, shuffling back damaged cards too. Each rest action though results in one of Sauron's story markers moving forward one space (the one closest to the start position). By resting, a Hero may also pay favour to remove a corruption card. (Those corruption cards are very nasty and usually require at least 2 favour to remove - avoid at all costs!)

2. Ambush
Sauron gets to attack the Hero if he has managed to move a monster to the Hero's location during his turn.

3. Travel
Travel is determined by the cards in the Hero's hand and the icons on the board. Eg, if he wants to travel a certain path that has a mountain icon with a 4 in it, he must spend 1 mountain card or 4 other cards. Travel is helped by gaining a horse or boat (for river travel).

Exploring simply means picking up favour, consulting with characters (like Gandalf, Aragorn etc) that have appeared on the board due to events or quests, completing quests, or spending favour to stop Sauron's plots.

Peril occurs if a Hero enters a space that contains more influence than his wisdom score or else enters a permanently perilous space (eg Moria). Then Sauron gets to draw three peril cards and apply any one that matches the Hero's current location.

Combat occurs if a Hero enters a space occupied by a monster or minion.
Depending upon the type of monster, Sauron draws a number of cards (equal to the monster's fortitude). The Hero has any cards in his hand (not used up by travelling) and may also add a number of cards up to his agility score. Any leftover agility is added to the Hero's strength. Combatants then play cards one at a time simultaneously until one side is defeated or both sides are exhausted.

Every time a combat card is played it goes onto that combatant's combat stack. Each card has a strength value and if a combatant plays a card onto the stack that causes the total strength of all cards played to exceed his own strength then he becomes exhausted, his current card is cancelled and he may play no further cards. Each card has an attack and defense value, along with a special ability that impacts the results in some way. Monsters take damage until their life total is exceeded. Hero damage is taken in cards and they are defeated if they run out of cards (from both life and hand).

I think that the combat system has been extremely well thought out and it plays out really well. For example, a fully rested Hero is much more likely to survive a combat than one that has been travelling a few turns and hasn't rested. Also, it feels like every combat is potentially different because you will always have a different set of cards in your hand (potentially enhanced by training) and even if you encounter the same monster, there is no guarantee that it will behave in the same way because its combat cards are also drawn randomly - from one of three stacks of 25 cards each. And I love the concept that a battle can end because both combatants are too exhausted to continue fighting - ever see that in a game before ?

4. Encounter Step
Finally, at the end of the Hero's turn he gets to draw an encounter card (if he is not in a perilous location) which can be good or bad eg gain favour, discard corruption, take six damage!!

The Finale
The game ends when one side gets their story marker to the end of the track (or if Sauron can get all three markers to a mid-way point). If they can complete their mission requirements at the same time they get an automatic win. Otherwise the game goes to a final combat between the Ringwraiths and one chosen champion from the Hero side. The battle is weighted according to how far behind the 'losing' side is on the story track.

I've enjoyed the game very much, definitely a good buy. Now I want to play against a real opponent! Thanks for reading.

(edited to include details about game end)
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Michael D. Kelley
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Cool. I preordered, and you make me feel glad I did.
 
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Tim Fiscus
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Yes, thanks, that's a very valuable write up to me. Can you break down the steps as far as the "fun factor" or "decision density" for you personally? I'm always interested to hear which parts of the game seem the most exciting, interesting, or challenging. Thanks!
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Kevin Outlaw
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This game sounds a lot like Island of D with a whole bunch of whistles and bells and an "evil" player. Is the card play really as similar as your breakdown makes it seem or is it purely a superficial similarity?
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T France
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mcresswell wrote:
...One thing I wasn't sure about was whether influence could be removed from a Stronghold - I couldn't find anything in the rules to state otherwise...


Page 11 under Hero Rally Step: "In this step, each hero discards all influence tokens from his current location (as long as he is not in a Shadow Stronghold)"...
 
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Read the rulebook, plan for all contingencies, and…read the rulebook again.
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Well done! Really looking forward to this one!
 
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Wojtek Kamusella
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Can someone measure size of playing cards?
 
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Mark Cresswell
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HuckmanT wrote:
Yes, thanks, that's a very valuable write up to me. Can you break down the steps as far as the "fun factor" or "decision density" for you personally? I'm always interested to hear which parts of the game seem the most exciting, interesting, or challenging. Thanks!

Its all fun and fast moving. Its not a deeply strategic game. For Sauron its all about protecting the locations where plots are ongoing. For the Heroes its about collecting favour and getting those plots off the board. And both sides also have to keep an eye on their mission objectives.

RedMonkeyBoy wrote:
This game sounds a lot like Island of D with a whole bunch of whistles and bells and an "evil" player. Is the card play really as similar as your breakdown makes it seem or is it purely a superficial similarity?

Sorry, I'm not familiar with this game so can't comment.

Titeman wrote:
Page 11 under Hero Rally Step: "In this step, each hero discards all influence tokens from his current location (as long as he is not in a Shadow Stronghold)"...

Thanks for the clarification. I thought that was probably the case.

Wallensteinwojtek wrote:
Can someone measure size of playing cards?

The cards are standard FFG size. 220 large and 225 small. Same as the large/small cards in Arkham Horror for example.
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Wojtek Kamusella
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Quote:
The cards are standard FFG size. 220 large and 225 small. Same as the large/small cards in Arkham Horror for example.


Really? From picture it seems that if small cards are the same as AH, big ones are slightly narrower. In other words height of small cards is not he same as width of large cards as in AH.
 
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Mark Cresswell
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Let me check tonight and get back to you.
 
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Chris J Davis
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We played our first game last night. It was very much a learning game for us though, so we didn't really get a feel for how good or fun the game was.

One immediate observation was that downtime was quite high in this game. It sped up a bit towards the end, but there was still quite a while between player turns. I guess that's why the game is limited to four players.

The other observation (though I can't be certain about this until I've played the other side) was that the Sauron role isn't as interesting to play as the hero roles. Your actions are limited to placing influence tokens on the board, moving or placing monsters, or drawing cards. The rest is mostly administrative stuff.

Anyway, still very much looking forward to playing it again. Once we feel comfortable with the mechanics hopefully we'll be able to immerse ourselves more fully in the theme of the game.
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Jarek D
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Wallensteinwojtek wrote:
Quote:
The cards are standard FFG size. 220 large and 225 small. Same as the large/small cards in Arkham Horror for example.


Really? From picture it seems that if small cards are the same as AH, big ones are slightly narrower. In other words height of small cards is not he same as width of large cards as in AH.



I can confirm that both the large and small cards are the same size as the cards in Arkham Horror - in the current edition of Arkham Horror the small cards are also longer than the width of the large cards.

The actual measurements are:

Large: 3.5 x 2.25 inches (8.9 x 5.8 cm)
Small: 1.625 x 2.5 inches (6.4 x 4.2 cm)

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Anders Gabrielsson
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mcresswell wrote:
Spent cards go into a Rest pool (and can't be used until the Hero subsequently rests). During combat, cards are put into the damage pool and harder to retrieve.


I see a shade of Magic Realm there.
 
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Mark Cresswell
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bleached_lizard wrote:
The other observation (though I can't be certain about this until I've played the other side) was that the Sauron role isn't as interesting to play as the hero roles. Your actions are limited to placing influence tokens on the board, moving or placing monsters, or drawing cards. The rest is mostly administrative stuff.


I can't really comment until I get to play a non-solo game. Don't forget that the Sauron player will also be taking part in all combats during Hero turns. Though this isn't like a game of Runebound (where there is pretty much a combat every turn), here its more about combat avoidance because there is no benefit in taking out a monster unless its sitting on something you want to get a hold of.
 
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Mark Cresswell
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AndersGabrielsson wrote:
I see a shade of Magic Realm there.

Absolutely! Made me think of Magic Realm too. This is easier to manage though, because when you rest/heal you get everything back at once.
 
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Anders Gabrielsson
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Yeah, and using cards instead of cardboard tokens seems like a solid improvement.
 
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Chris J Davis
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mcresswell wrote:
bleached_lizard wrote:
The other observation (though I can't be certain about this until I've played the other side) was that the Sauron role isn't as interesting to play as the hero roles. Your actions are limited to placing influence tokens on the board, moving or placing monsters, or drawing cards. The rest is mostly administrative stuff.


I can't really comment until I get to play a non-solo game. Don't forget that the Sauron player will also be taking part in all combats during Hero turns. Though this isn't like a game of Runebound (where there is pretty much a combat every turn), here its more about combat avoidance because there is no benefit in taking out a monster unless its sitting on something you want to get a hold of.


Actually, that's something I forgot to comment on: the combat system is *very* well implemented. It really feels very tactical, and there are some very nice little combos you can pull off if you play right.
 
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Magic Pink
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bleached_lizard wrote:


The other observation (though I can't be certain about this until I've played the other side) was that the Sauron role isn't as interesting to play as the hero roles. Your actions are limited to placing influence tokens on the board, moving or placing monsters, or drawing cards. The rest is mostly administrative stuff.


Damn, damn, damn. Why is this always the case? It's true in Runebound:Midnight and in the Sauron Expansion for LOTR; it's always seems to be just dull as dishwater to play the big evil. This is almost a buy-killer for me, I hope it turns out to not be true.
 
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Chris J Davis
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Magic Pink wrote:
bleached_lizard wrote:


The other observation (though I can't be certain about this until I've played the other side) was that the Sauron role isn't as interesting to play as the hero roles. Your actions are limited to placing influence tokens on the board, moving or placing monsters, or drawing cards. The rest is mostly administrative stuff.


Damn, damn, damn. Why is this always the case? It's true in Runebound:Midnight and in the Sauron Expansion for LOTR; it's always seems to be just dull as dishwater to play the big evil. This is almost a buy-killer for me, I hope it turns out to not be true.


Like I said, it was very much a learning game and neither side of the table played very well, so I might be wrong. Once we've got to grips with the game we might find that the tactical choices for the Sauron player are more interesting and subtle than our first badly played game might indicate.

It still seems though that most of the "theme" aspects of the game are slanted towards the heroes' side. The Sauron side is a lot more abstracted.
 
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Rauli Kettunen
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I'm curious about the Heroes. Do they play and feel significantly different from one another or are the differences mostly superficial?

OT: Magic Pink, in Doom: The Boardgame Invader side is the most fun to play devil .
 
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Chris J Davis
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Dam the Man wrote:
I'm curious about the Heroes. Do they play and feel significantly different from one another or are the differences mostly superficial?

OT: Magic Pink, in Doom: The Boardgame Invader side is the most fun to play devil .


It's difficult for me to comment on that, not having played as a hero yet. However, I'd say they probably feel quite different.

Firstly, each hero has a special ability. In our game the two heroes were Berevor the ranger and Eometh the horseman of Rohan. Berevor can heal or train without needing to go to a haven, and Eometh starts with a horse, enabling him to move around faster. Berevor hardly ever went to a haven and so could concentrate on dealing with the Sauron threat. Eometh visited havens often, but could nip in and out of places quickly before I could do much (as he did at Barad-dur where Gollum was being tortured).

Secondly, each hero's deck of cards features different movement icons and combat abilities. The dwarf finds it easier to move among the mountains, and the elf moves easier through the forests. The combat abilities don't seem to be very directly related to attack type (i.e, it's not like normal games of this type where ranged attacks hit before melee attacks), but the effects of these cards are very distinctive. For example, I think it's the ranger's cards that are weaker but allow you to anticipate your opponent's moves more easily and so play a more appropriate card to counter it. I can say that combat with each of the three types of monsters (zealot, ravager and behemoth, I think they're called) each felt very distinctive, so I should imagine the same holds true for the heroes.

Finally, there's the heroes' stats. A hero with low wisdom will be more susceptible to perilous locations, so you will concentrate spreading your influence out towards him to cause him to experience bad events. A hero with low fortitude won't be able to move as far, but will probably have higher agility to make him more versatile in combat. A hero with low strength is someone you'll want to send your monsters and minions against. A difference of just 1 between the stats is actually quite significant, meaning each hero will have quite a different experience while playing.

This is all still from one bad preliminary play, of course. I should be playing again tomorrow and then again at the weekend, so can provide more info then!
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Grzegorz Dabrowiecki
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Magic Pink wrote:
bleached_lizard wrote:


The other observation (though I can't be certain about this until I've played the other side) was that the Sauron role isn't as interesting to play as the hero roles. Your actions are limited to placing influence tokens on the board, moving or placing monsters, or drawing cards. The rest is mostly administrative stuff.


Damn, damn, damn. Why is this always the case? It's true in Runebound:Midnight and in the Sauron Expansion for LOTR; it's always seems to be just dull as dishwater to play the big evil. This is almost a buy-killer for me, I hope it turns out to not be true.


Wait for "Chaos in the Old world" - game full of evil
 
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Edward Kenworthy
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AndersGabrielsson wrote:
mcresswell wrote:
Spent cards go into a Rest pool (and can't be used until the Hero subsequently rests). During combat, cards are put into the damage pool and harder to retrieve.


I see a shade of Magic Realm there.


The description is slightly wrong.

Cards you *play* during combat go, at the end of combat, into the rest pile. Cards you *discard*, either from your hand or life pool, to damage go to your damage pool.
 
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