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Subject: A tough game for the Free Peoples rss

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Merric Blackman
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This was my third game of Middle Earth Quest. I was joined by Nash (for his third game), Rich (for his second) and Chris (for his first). Once again, I played Sauron, whilst Nash played Thalin the dwarf of Erebor, Chris played Beravor the Dunedan Ranger, and Rich played Eometh, the rider from Rohan.

Chris and Rich

My initial plot was “Saruman Hungry For Power”, while my goal was “To Rule Them All” - have the Red plot marker in the third stage. I was extremely happy to see the Saruman plot, for it gave me a decided advantage in playing my cards. I didn’t have much in the way of influence on the map yet, but I hoped that this would change quickly.

One problem that the heroes had in this game was that both Rich and Nash had particularly low wisdoms, and thus would be very prone to me increasing influence around their areas. Thus, I started to increase my influence around Gondor and Rohan where Rich was based, adding a few monster tokens just to make things even more difficult. Unfortunately, the tokens were blank, but Rich didn’t need to know that, especially as the areas were perilous, meaning I could draw a peril card rather than revealing the non-existence of the monster.



Chris’s first quest was “Spies in Mithlond”, which required her to visit the Grey Havens and defeat Crebain there. The quest also placed Gandalf there, and my forces were nowhere in evidence. Amazingly, Chris was unable to defeat the Crebain on his first attempt – both sides became exhausted instead and retired for the night. He had to wait an additional turn before the Crebain were finally defeated and he could move onto his advanced quest.

Rich’s first quest was “A Message to the White Wizard”, which required him to visit Saruman in Isengard and defeat an Agent there. The perilous terrain around saw him being betrayed in the Gap of Rohan, which inflicted 5 damage on him. He took 2 favour from Saruman, and then defeated the Agent in combat, but not before he became corrupted (Weary) by the Agent’s poisoned words.

Nash’s starting quest was “The Ered Luin” – he needed to visit the Blue Mountains to retrieve possessions of Thorin Oakenshield that had been left there. However, Nash decided that it was too far to go and instead went to consult Thranduil in the Woodland Realm instead, causing me to lose 2 Shadow pool.

As my turn came around again, I stepped up my influence around Rich and Nash and drew more cards. I began to play Red plots – “A Broken Line of Kings” – which I played in Lothlorien, preventing it from being used as a base for healing.



Rich found himself in trouble as he got hit by a “Seems Fairer, Feel Fouler” card which allowed me to attack him with another Agent – 4 damage plus a corruption card – then moving back through the Gap of Rohan, the Hounds of Sauron caught up with him and inflicted even more damage on him. He was forced to stop in the Gap, with very few cards in hand.

Nash meanwhile ran into some Orc Scouts and became corrupted (Indifferent), and returned to Dain II and explained to him how he no longer wanted to bother with Thorin Oakenshield’s stuff. Incredibly, Dain rewarded him with a double dose of training. Nash, feeling very happy with this combat skills, made plans to go and destroy the monsters I had played on the table – and a few of my minions. What I was unaware of was that the Free Peoples needed to reduce the number of monster tokens on the table to win by their goal.

The third turn saw Rich become Despairing, and trapped in the Gap of Rohan unable to rest by a blank monster token. It was now removed, but he’d lost a valuable turn. Nash came south into Dol Guildur, where he fought the Mouth of Sauron and defeated him, but not before gaining two more corruption cards – Weak and Careless. Nash then demonstrated carelessness by moving to Lothlorien – forgetting that he couldn’t heal there. Another turn lost! Meanwhile, Chris completed his advanced quest, “Bones of an Ancient Past” by exploring the Ruins of Angmar. Where Chris was gaining lots of favour and skill, I had been extremely successful in stopping the efforts of the other heroes.

Saruman appeared in Fangorn, but in perilous lands for Rich and Nash, and with a monster token there besides.



As we moved into the second stage of the game, Chris moved south to join up with the other heroes in the lands that were more under my sway. Rich finally escaped the Gap of Rohan and moved into lands where he could properly rest and heal. Meanwhile, Nash managed to cut my line of influence into Rohan and I had to remove a number of extra Influence tokens there, freeing up the area for Rich to move through. In response, I started to play more influence around the sides to give alternate routes into Rohan. Nash later tried the same trick, and I could safely ignore it with my influence now flowing through all three strongholds around the map.

Chris encountered his first monster token of the game, and he was completely surprised to discover that it concealed an Oliphaunt – a much more dangerous opponent than the agents and snagas the other heroes had discovered. Soon enough he was exhausted, and the Oliphaunt proceeded to trample him. He woke up in Edoras with a very sore head. He was able to spend some favour to remove one of my plots, the first one that had been discarded by the efforts of the heroes.

Denethor and Boromir appeared in Minas Tirith just as Rich was resting there, but I was delighted to see that I’d drawn a card that allowed me to play the Denethor Falls Into Madness card; yes, Rich was able to consult with both, but he gained a corruption card in the process.



Incredibly, the Free People story counter had been ahead of mine for most of the game, which had contributed to how hard the game had been for them, but I now discarded the Denethor plot (it had served its purpose) and played another red plot, so that it was gaining 4 steps each turn. Nash was terribly corrupted; Rich managed to heal some of his corruption, but lost favour in the process. Chris, who had been perhaps the most successful of the heroes, had the problem of being away from the heart of the action and I was playing other cards to keep him away.



My minions now gathered around Minas Tirith, and I played “An Evil Fog” to bring Rich out into their path, where he fought one of the Black Numoreans in a fight which, while successful for Rich, used most of his cards and forced him to basically pass his final turn. Nash was also on a anti-monster move, and killed one before falling to the second. Chris was hurt from his previous turn, and couldn’t do much. The heroes, paralysed, could do nothing to stop my red marker from reaching the end of the track just ahead of their story marker.



I revealed my secret goal, and there would be no reprieve for the Free Peoples: Sauron had won! This was the first of our games that had ended with a clear victory; the first two games had seen us go to final battle conflicts which I’d then lost. The game had taken about 3 hours to play. It had been close throughout, and though I’d felt on top, the final result was a lot closer than I would have liked.



I’m very much enjoying Middle Earth Quest. I hope to play it soon from the Free People’s side, although I feel that Sauron requires some familiarity with the game first. It took me a few tries until I had a game as successful as this one. It’s not my favourite Middle Earth game – that remains War of the Ring – but it’s very diverting.
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David desJardins
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MerricB wrote:
Incredibly, the Free People story counter had been ahead of mine for most of the game, which had contributed to how hard the game had been for them, but I now discarded the Denethor plot (it had served its purpose) and played another red plot, so that it was gaining 4 steps each turn.


You do know that if you discard a plot, you can't play another plot on the same turn? That would make the game a lot easier for the Sauron player!
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Merric Blackman
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DaviddesJ wrote:
MerricB wrote:
Incredibly, the Free People story counter had been ahead of mine for most of the game, which had contributed to how hard the game had been for them, but I now discarded the Denethor plot (it had served its purpose) and played another red plot, so that it was gaining 4 steps each turn.


You do know that if you discard a plot, you can't play another plot on the same turn? That would make the game a lot easier for the Sauron player!


Yes, it did take a couple of turns to play through what I stated in a single sentence.

There were a couple of times I've been very glad that the Free Peoples have foiled one of my plots, so I could play a more effective one! Nash was also mindful of this through the game.

Cheers,
Merric
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Phil McDonald
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I traded WOTR for MEQ cos I felt WOTR was a bit linear. Have only played MEQ once so far, playing solo with 1 character and trying to win with both sides, treating neither as mine. I preferred it to WOTR even though I feel there is more randomness to it. For the record, the free people won, but it could have gone either way. Looking forward to playing it as multiplayer.
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Piero
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Nice AAR!
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Merric Blackman
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Thanks! I really need to paint the minis; they fade into the board in the photos too much.

Cheers!
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Sam Butler
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Excellent Session Report! I hope to play as Sauron soon, so maybe we should play each other!

One interesting note:

In order to achieve the Sauron missions for marker (color), it only needs to be in Stage III, not at Finale. This makes it possible to achieve that type of mission with Shadow Falls as well as the obvious way of just pushing that one marker.

So, obviously it depends on the actual game circumstances, but you may have also been able to win by playing something that advanced the Ring 2 more spaces by a plot card with a Ring, as long as red was somewhere in Stage III when the Ring also hit Shadow Falls. Another way would have been to defeat the hero players twice more (or at least force a rest twice), also resulting in Shadow Falls.

I'm not saying that is best in *your* game, I think you played it right, I am just pointing out alternatives simply because if someone had slightly different plot cards drawn and was pulling their hair out because they couldn't get a red plot card into play and thought they had fallen victim to bad luck of the draw, it is important to remember that the mission is to get that colored marker (red in your case) to Stage III, not necessarily Finale, so if Shadow Falls is easier then do it that way by all means. There is *some* luck in the game, but with thought and an open mind, you can usually overcome all but the worst of luck if your play is superior. It's certainly not luck in the same sense of Risk or Monopoly, and not even luck in the same sense as Arkham Horror. All of those games have more luck-based results than MEQ. In MEQ, luck may nudge the game toward a certain player (who is generally losing, with the event card mechanic), or force a player to pursue a different path than originally intended, but the luck usually doesn't alter the entire course of the game and make the superior player lose.
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