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Subject: New Silver Line edition: squandered opportunity? rss

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Jon W
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I'm surprised FFG is doing a straight reprint of the base game (with new graphics and components, natch). After 10 years and multiple expansions, this reboot seems like a great chance to create a "director's cut," but instead it's back to square one. I'm a huge fan of this series, but I always saw the expansions as directly addressing some gaps in the base game. Weird to just chuck all that, but at the same time the expansions weren't perfect, either.

An example of a gap in the base game is variability. I suspect most fans would admit it's fairly linear. Friends and Foes adds a variable resource sink, and of course new boards; it opens it up quite a bit, which leads to the widespread opinion that it's a "necessary" expansion. But it has issues. Disproving the conspiracy theory that F&F was fully designed and then cut away to have a ready-made expansion is trivial: Military Victory. It's lame, every player uses a variant (or they've deep-sixed the game because it's trivial to beat and unthematic), and even if Black Gate (Knizia's open admission that MV was borked) fixes it mechanically, it still sucks. Likewise with skipping Bree and Isengard: great to have them in the game (I do like preserving some "strategic" options that fit the theme, such as taking the High Pass), but it goes too far astray to entirely skip the iconic Helm's Deep or Shelob's Lair. Perhaps alternate event tracks on each, one easier if you've reduced the Foes? Or a "fast track" that allows you to accelerate through those boards? Or maybe some branching and more activity/bonuses on the main board?

Also, F&F only lightly touches the "main track rush" strategy that is a weakness of the base game. It took Battlefields' trigger tiles to fix that and the "event track rush"; without rushes, it's a more interesting and intricate balancing act across all tracks (as I suspect was the original intent). It took Sauron to add a means of adding control and options to the oft-criticized (often unjustly, but still, why not make it more interesting?) event tile draws. But the Dark Tiles went too far, at least in conjunction with other expansions--as with Arkham Horror, each expansion seems designed as a standalone (with a few nods here and there), because a full integration just doesn't quite work properly (either entire areas go ignored, or the balance is way off, and of course setup and layout is a dog's breakfast). Watchful Peace and the One Ring feel like bolted on concessions to this (and though I very much like Matthew Monin's variant incorporating them as a reward for MV/Black Gate, I don't think they're quite sufficient for the resource hit required to pull that off).

Sauron is the most divisive expansion, which isn't surprising. An official "auto Sauron" mode would be an obvious addition, preserving the co-op play for those that want it (um, isn't that anyone who likes the base game?), or the "one vs. many" for those who want to mix it up. Battlefields adds a lot of interesting choices (and as noted above, directly addresses some shortcomings), but it's dreadful theme-wise. Add some labels and some art and make it look less like a flowchart, and it's the best of the bunch.

This all seems like a rant, and I'm definitely venting (I mean, really, what is this post going to change?), but truly, I love this game despite all the above, and I'd love to see a resurgence of interest in it. I don't see the base game alone doing that; people already know how they feel about it, and its flaws will be more readily apparent with 20/20 hindsight. This reboot seems like the perfect time for FFG to consolidate the good and weed out the bad and make a "full game" that isn't unwieldy or unbalanced, even if the chance is already partly squandered.

Thoughts? Tilting at windmills? Unhinged? Brilliant, inspired, let's-petition-FFG-worthy?
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Definitely a rant, but a good one.

Although I love the existing game and think it's wonderful to see it come back into print, there is no reason (so far) to buy if you own the original printing. Considering how many copies were printed and sold, there must be quite a few people in that situation.

Finding a way to provide added value for existing owners would seem like a wise move to me... but FFG seems to know their business, so it's hard to fault them for keeping design and development effort to a minimum for a Silver Line game that will probably sell regardless based on the license alone.
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Dan Cavaliere
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JW,

LOTR is one of my favorite games done by FFG as well as BattleLore, Middle Earth Quest, LOTR Confrontation to name a few.

I really like FFG and I've had great customer service from them but I must admit there have been some disappointments in some of the reprints and expansions they've made.

The things you described about LOTR as well as the BattleLore/Westroes have been a couple in particular that I'm not so sure about.

I try to be objective about it all since I really don't know what all it takes to make these decisions and all the considerations that are involved when running a business like this. However the bottom line for me when looking at two great games like LOTR and BL and their successors is - is it truly and enhancement in replacement of or in addition to the original? Both the Silver Line and Westroes are not for me.
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♫ Eric Herman ♫
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Some good points, no doubt. I was also hoping this version might be unique in some way, perhaps changing up the event system or adding some other wrinkles. I suppose the thinking may be to just have the whole thing in a smaller package for future sales of the game, even if that just means the base game in its original form. Much as the expansions (esp. Battlefields, IMO) improve the base game, surely the base game still sells waaaay more on its own than all of the expansions combined. That's just the nature of games like this... only the real devotees and hobby gamers really get into expansions.

I may end up getting this version, anyway, just to have a smaller travel version (though this looks much bigger than the Silver Line games I'm thinking of like Red November and Citadels). It's hard to beat the original box, though, which holds the base game and all three expansions just perfectly. So I can't imagine I'll ever get rid of that, even if they do release the expansions in this format. If they do release Silver Line versions of the expansions (and I hope they do for the sake of the people who will just get into the game through this new version), then I hope they will all be sold together in one package and that FFG won't dole them out one by one over time.
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Jon W
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Grudunza wrote:
If they do release Silver Line versions of the expansions (and I hope they do for the sake of the people who will just get into the game through this new version), then I hope they will all be sold together in one package and that FFG won't dole them out one by one over time.

Yes, absolutely agree. In a sense, that's what this thread is: a plea to FFG to do the expansions right.

It wouldn't make much sense to straight up reprint F&F alone, in particular. No one likes or uses MV, even with Black Gate (true? am I misreading the the entire internet on this?), and yet something must be done to reward defeating the Foes. They could go the One Ring/Watchful Peace route as an easy out, but I would hope for something a bit more creative. I like your idea over on F:AT about variable events--either small tiles (say, 3 per event), or perhaps a bigger tile with an entirely alternate event set (e.g., a stack of Moria events--six per tile--one "standard", one "easy", one "hard", with maybe the Balrog having a shot to seize the Ring, etc.).

At any rate, I think at least a few changes are mandatory.
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F H
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I just hope they make the rules more coherent. First read through of the rules was HARD. I got my copy from a guy who couldn't understand the rules, and I know where he was coming from. The rules were/are really all over the place.
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Jon W
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You can read the rules on FFG's site.

I'm not sure they're all that much clearer, but maybe a little. I think all of these (games and expansions) suffer from being overwritten. They're just too long for how complex this really is.
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♫ Eric Herman ♫
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jwoodall04 wrote:
I kind of figure that FFG knows how to run a boardgame business and I wouldn't presume to advise them on the most cost effective way to reprint this game for their customers since I don't know their cost structure.

Much like I don't expect their employees to contact me about how the Oil & Gas industry can better serve our customers.

That's my take on it anyway. They seem to have a good handle on this type of thing.


Well yeah, but we're also free to speculate and offer input as their consumers, which they can choose to consider or not.
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Jon W
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FNH1 wrote:
I just hope they make the rules more coherent.

I just read through the new ones in a bit more detail. I don't think it's all that much better than before. They just relabeled a few things and kept the same basic structure and flow.

Again, what's up with the whole "play cards, or not play cards (now called the "Refresh Option", but if you do the latter, let's break it up into multiple sub-options" business? It's ridiculous. You get one action on your turn: play, draw, or heal (with expansions, add: kill, place, horsie).
 
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Jon W
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jwoodall04 wrote:
I kind of figure that FFG knows how to run a boardgame business and I wouldn't presume to advise them on the most cost effective way to reprint this game for their customers since I don't know their cost structure.

Who is talking about cost-effectiveness here?
 
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waddball wrote:
You can read the rules on FFG's site.

I'm not sure they're all that much clearer, but maybe a little. I think all of these (games and expansions) suffer from being overwritten. They're just too long for how complex this really is.


Really? I thought this rulebook was a notable improvement from the original... but maybe I'm just misremembering how bad the presentation was in the previous versions.
 
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Jon W
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newuser wrote:
Really? I thought this rulebook was a notable improvement from the original... but maybe I'm just misremembering how bad the presentation was in the previous versions.

I'm probably misremembering the original as well. I only read the expansion rules, because I forget little details there. I think (again, not sure) the Chris Lawson rules on the web basically mirror the original printed rules.
 
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Jon W
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jwoodall04 wrote:
That's usually not the case with these Silver Line games, correct?

AFAIK. Tilting at windmills, then.

I think it's a shame, though, as LOTR is significantly improved by several of the expansion ideas. Generally, I'd say the better a game is (at least, a hobby game, not a mass market one), the more buzz and sales it will generate. What they've done here is a zero-effort, coast-on-the-brand reprint. That's too bad for all the people new to the game.
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Joseph Wisniewski
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I suspect they made it part of the Silver Line and did it as a straight reprint because they didn't want to let it die, but were not able to give it a full and proper remake. FFG does put out a lot of games, even if they often announce them a little too long time before they come out which makes them seem hyped even if they aren't.
 
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