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Subject: By the One Ring Possessed rss

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Raf B
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This was a classic expansion game of War of the Ring, at least in its reliance on features like the Balrog, Siege Engines, and Galadriel. (It is posted here because this forum carries the current tournament postings, of which this game was a part.) What follows is a lengthy session report which I hope captures the truly epic scope that this game can elicit. My opponent, Alija, was a model of focus, while I took full advantage of fortunate turns of events (as the Free Peoples often do) but ultimately lost the plot. There were momentous twists, forks in the road, and a field battle in the Pelennor Fields around Minas Tirith that had the King of Gondor abandon the citadel to the Shadow and pursue more urgent stratagems. Read on...

The Opening: A deficit of Musters meant the Shadow brought in the Balrog on Turn 1, Isengard went to war on Turn 2, and mustered Saruman and moved Sauron to war only on Turn 3. The Free used this time to bring in Galadriel and the Ents, Strider first cooling his heels in Fangorn until Saruman deigned to make an appearance, then burning an Elven ring to race to Minas Tirith and get crowned at the end of Turn 3. The Shadow of Dol Guldur on Turn 2 enabled Sauron to besiege Lorien at the end of Turn 3. A Power Too Great was played and dismissed.

Turn 4 unleashed a horde of Musters for the Shadow (four, to be exact - I don’t think the Shadow lacked for Musters thereafter). Lorien recruited and doubled its complement of trebuchets, but Deep Trenches and Great Engines made short work of the Elven siege defenses. (If nothing else, all the trebuchet building forced the Shadow to use all the musters in Lorien, rather than bringing S&E early to war or reinforcing Isengard.) Then, with Hill Trolls and the Witch-king, the force arrayed against Lorien became truly daunting. Galadriel and Legolas made a Brave Stand in the Desperate Battle that ensued (scoring four hits to the Shadow’s two). The Valour of the Elves yielded another four hits in the second round. When the attack was renewed, an Heroic Death by Celeborn reduced the Elven casualties from three to two, leaving Galadriel and Legolas with an army of three Regulars to the Witch-king’s four. The Black Captain pressed the attack, and it looked like curtains for Lorien. But the dice went the Free Peoples’ way, leaving the Elves unscathed and the Witch-king down to two Regulars.

At the start of Turn 5, there was an opportunity not to be missed. Galadriel and Legolas launched a Sudden Strike against the Witch-king’s depleted force, rolling 3 dice (all missed), then 4 combat dice (nada), then 3 leader re-rolls scoring one paltry hit. The Witch-king retreated to Dimrill Dale and then to South Anduin Vale. Deep within Barad-Dur, the Dark Lord declares that "Lorien must fall," and duly reinforces Dol Guldur and Gundabad, even burning a dark ring to add a third unit of trolls to the new host gathering in Mirkwood. By now the Fellowship had reached step 5 without a single successful hunt and Gimli had quietly departed for Old Forest Road, headed for the library at Erebor (Pippin thought he heard him muttering something about having a book to return). Though loathe to leave Galadriel’s side (hey, Heroic Death meant Celeborn was out of the picture now, no?), Legolas ventured into Dimrill Dale with two Regulars and two Elites to threaten both an empty Moria and the Witch-king’s army of one (orc). (At this point, Edoras quietly reinforced the Fords of Isen, while Aragorn reinforced Osgiliath, which would have repercussions later.)

Turn 6 opened with the Free Peoples at the height of their power. The charge of the Galadhrim under Legolas spelled the end of the Witch-king of Angmar and the banishment of three other Nazgul. I think this may have been the first pivot in the game. Rather than taking Moria and threatening the Shadow with a military victory, I was still thinking in terms of dunking the Ring, and eliminating the Black Captain seemed the most sensible thing to dash the Shadow’s military wherewithal. Besides, taking an empty Moria would leave the Balrog in play, whereas attacking it later, after the Witch-king’s demise, would rob the Shadow of an Action Die. I think my logic was sound, but my subsequent course reversal proved fateful, if not fatal. (By contrast, Alija’s dogged determination to take down Lorien and Galadriel despite the expense ultimately meant I had no way of combating a Hunt pool full of Eye tiles when the Fellowship eventually got to Mordor.) The Fellowship declared in Parth Celebrant, gingerly picking its way along paths strewn with orc limbs and troll guts. The Balrog’s Fire and Shadow dealt the Ringbearer his first point of Corruption (1r).

Turn 7. A fourth troll in Dol Guldur; Gandalf eats a 3-tile on the Fellowship’s seventh move, leaving Boromir guiding four hobbits. More Nazgul muster around Lorien. Lots of Swords rolled, so the Ring keeps on truckin’ until a 0r reveals it in North Ithilien. Ah, but then the Lure of the Ring claims Boromir (did a certain ranger of Ithilien intervene to save Frodo?). Book of Mazarbul drives the Dwarves to war, hoping to deter a possible DEW-line push by the troll-heavy Dol Guldur army, which duly makes for Lorien.

Turn 8.
Nazgul Search reveals the Fellowship in Minas Morgul, and the 2-tile for the Stronghold forces Merry and Pippin’s defection from the Fellowship. They soon take refuge with Aragorn’s force in Osgiliath, bulking up its leadership. Dol Guldur’s empty walls tempt the Dwarves to muster. (A moment of indecision - focus north or focus south? Could the Dwarves march south quickly enough, and before the Easterlings entered the war?) Aragorn decides to attack North Ithilien in the hope of distracting the Great Eye with the Last Battle. The second siege of Lorien begins, Siege Towers and all. (Idiotically, I play Heroic Death for my combat card and suddenly realize I had misread The Eagles Are Coming as the Gwaihir card, for which I thought I had no use - Eagles would have been the perfect card to play BEFORE the siege began to deny the Shadow Army its leadership.) Lorien rolls five hits in the Desperate Battle, but its strength cannot hold for long. The turn ends with a lone Elven Regular, Legolas and Galadriel keeping Alija from his first two VPs.

Turn 9. Frodo, Sam and Gollum declare in Minas Morgul, where they are soon joined by the ever-hospitable and loquacious Mouth of Sauron. Lorien falls, Minas Tirith reinforces. Shadow draws Character cards. The Ring Is Mine stops the Fellowship cold. Orcs assault Osgiliath, losing four units; Aragorn withdraws to Minas Tirith. Gandalf the White appears in Fangorn (but I’m still holding NO Ent cards...).

Turn 10. Dilemma: the Free roll 4 Palantirs... Mordor masses its forces in Minas Morgul and Osgiliath, and Aragorn senses an opening for the Last Battle, though it will take some maneuvering to get within two regions of Gorgoroth. The Mouth of Sauron’s army attacks Minas Tirith and Gondor chooses to meet it on the Fields of Pelennor in a bloody clash. With the Shadow at only 2VP, Aragorn takes a calculated risk and abandons Minas Tirith to its fate, retreating to Druadan Forest, then retaking Osgiliath to bring in Faramir’s Rangers. Sauron uses his one Muster to spawn orcs in Morannon and Barad-Dur. If not for the Mouth’s advance on Gondor, Gimli might have begun leading the Dwarves in a surprise grab at Dol Guldur (using a Palantir to cover half the distance with Through a Day and a Night). Instead, Aragorn’s army uses it to skirt the formidable host in Minas Morgul and come to Dagorlad.

(Here was the next pivot. I burned a ring to move the Fellowship rather than take a point of Corruption. Shadow drew an Eye, and Mithril Coat merely produced another Eye. The Fellowship jumped from 2 Corruption to 5. Suddenly my luxurious pace was made more urgent. My unlucky choice to move the Fellowship granted Sauron the gift of an Elven ring that would prove decisive later.)

Turn 11. Mighty Attack assures the capture of the Black Gate! The Nazgul flock to Minas Morgul to lead its large garrison and guard against Aragorn’s passage into Gorgoroth. Seeing no Musters among the Shadow dice, and with just enough dice to reach the Shadow Stronghold, the Elves leave Woodland Realm for Old Forest Road. Alas, the Shadow plays his Elven ring to bring in a troll in Dol Guldur. (Curse the precise tempo of this game!) By now the Ring has already done its work - with the prospect of a military option within reach of the Free People, I started to get sloppy. Not learning my lesson, I burn the third and last ring to assault Dol Guldur with the Valour of my 1/1/1 army against the 0/1/1 defense - a desperate gamble that Dread and Despair brings to naught. The Ringbearers, still revealed, take a point of Corruption for not hiding or moving - perhaps unwise, but there were three Eyes in the Hunt box.

Turn 12. The final pivot. Three Swords and three Musters. I draw my second Ent card. It looks so clear to me now in retrospect. Use the Musters to bring Rohan to war, besiege Orthanc with the 3/1/1 army holding the Fords , then unleash three Ent attacks after one Ent at the Fords, before mopping up with a final siege attack against any survivors. Alas, I did not think this through precisely. It’s hard to work these things out when matched against a tenacious opponent and fending off my 8-year-old daughter’s desperate attempts to have me glue together her broken Polly Pockets doll! Excuses, excuses.

No, instead of a dramatic finish on the Rohan front, I opt instead for a poorly conceived attempt to take Moria. All Shadow forces in the middle of the board had gone to lift the siege of Dol Guldur. I squander my Musters on defensive recruiting in Gondor and Erebor. Then Orc Patrol knocks me with a 3-tile! Now at 9 Corruption - time is running out! Having neglected to hide the Fellowship, I’m hit with Isildur’s Bane, bringing me to 11. That was fast! The Ringbearers hide to avoid incurring an additional and fatal point of Corruption.

The Shadow takes Pelargir. Having to hide the Fellowship undoes my plans, I am forced to play my hand too soon, unleashing the Ents on Moria to deny the Shadow the Action Die from the Balrog and empty it of troops.

With Corruption so high, I no longer have the tempo or the dice remaining to get Elrond’s Elves to march into Moria for a military victory. Frodo likely won’t last long enough for me to plot this strategy more carefully. The Ents clear Moria, but for naught. Before the Elves can get there on Turn 13, new troops have been mustered. The Fellowship survives another turn in Mordor, advancing to step two and adding Phial of Galadriel to the Hunt pool. They have less than a 40% chance of surviving the next tile draw. When it comes on Turn 14, the 3-tile ends the game with Alija taking a Ring victory neither of us could have foreseen hours earlier.

Afterthoughts. I've only pulled off a Free Peoples military victory three times, and perhaps that's what makes it so seductive sometimes. It felt almost as if the One Ring wished for me to use it.

Alija's masterful corruption play on Turn 12 accelerated Frodo's impending demise, leaving me little room to close the trap Aragorn had set by taking the Black Gate. With a clearer head in the endgame, maybe I could have pulled off the Rohan gambit, but the dice would have had the final say there. A thoroughly enjoyable game despite the bitter loss.
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Jose Barreto
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So close!

That corruption hit in Mordor was brutal. Looked like you had the upper hand until then.

 
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Arnold Vincent Canaria
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Bravo! laugh Although a loss for the Free Peoples even if it was quite a solid path to victory already at mid game, I applaud the epicness of this session. The push for the Black Gate is an interesting and very intimidating tactic. Thumbs for the report
 
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Joel Carlson
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Great report; thanks for the concise and detailed write up!
 
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