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Subject: strategy for beginners rss

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John Farrell
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Buster Keaton from 'Go West'
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I like to play this game with my 8yo son. However, as I have been reading this site and he has not, I have become better than him and he really doesn't like getting beaten. In order to train him up, I have written a basic strategy guide, stating the bleeding obvious and a few deeper thoughts. I'd like feedback from you guys before I present it to him, so I can make it a useful resource for everyone.

Friendless
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Beginner's Guide to Strategy

The first strategy lesson for this game is: no matter what strategy you follow, your opponent will defeat you if they know what your plans are! So although this guide will give you some ideas, you should not do everything it says all the time. Your ideal strategy is to follow these ideas but make your opponent think you are doing something else.

LIGHT

The strength of the Light side is in its characters who instantly defeat opponents: Merry, Legolas, Gimli and Boromir. If they can do their jobs effectively, Gandalf, Aragorn and Sam should be able to clean up enough to let Frodo through to Mordor.

Boromir - 0, Both Boromir and Enemy character are instantly defeated

Boromir's special power does not work against the Warg, so try to avoid that unit. Try to swap him for the Troll, Saruman, Witch King, Shelob, Balrog or Orcs in decreasing order of preference.

Frodo - 1, When attacked, may retreat sideways

Frodo should not attack, that's a quick way to lose the game. Keep Frodo with Sam, with plenty of units around him to interfere if things get dangerous. Frodo should only cross the mountains if there is a safe path forward (remembering that Shelob and the Flying Nazgul can move backwards).

Pippin - 1, When attacking, may retreat backwards

Pippin is an excellent scout, as he can move into a space and then retreat from it after seeing the opponent. However, he cannot retreat from the Warg. If Pippin is attacked, he will die, so try to let him retreat into a region containing Aragorn, Gandalf or Boromir, so he can hide with them.

Sam - 2, When with Frodo, is Strength 5 and may replace Frodo in battle

Sam should stick with Frodo both to defend him and to ensure Sam's own survival. The challenge with moving them as a pair is getting them over the mountains. Sam cannot be used to defend Frodo from the Warg.

Merry - 2, Instantly defeats the Witch King

If you can locate the Witch King, use Merry to destroy him. Otherwise, Merry's main uses are to pretend to be Frodo, luring the Flying Nazgul into Legolas's path, or as the victim of the Noble Sacrifice.

Legolas - 3, Instantly defeats the Flying Nazgul

As the Flying Nazgul can move right across the board, it is important to keep Legolas at the back so that once the Flying Nazgul is revealed Legolas can be brought forward to destroy it.

Gimli - 3, Instantly defeats the Orcs

Gimli is vital for destroying the Orcs. Try to keep him at the back until the Orcs are revealed, and then move him into their path.

Aragorn - 4, May attack any adjacent region

Despite being weaker than half of the Dark units, Aragorn is the second strongest on the Light side. Before you're forced to use him, try to trick the Dark player into giving up several of his higher strength cards. The ideal spot for Aragorn is Hollin, where he can attack most of the Light side of the board, particularly the Flying Nazgul, the Black Rider and rampaging Orcs.

Gandalf - 5, The Dark Player must play his card first

Gandalf is by far the Light's strongest unit. He can defeat many of the Dark units in combat, but is only guaranteed to survive if the Dark player has used his 5 and 6 strength cards. In combat, he can use the minimum strength possible to win a combat (except against the Warg) If he is lost, and you are with the variant cards, he can come back as Gandalf the White if you control Fangorn.

DARK

The strength of the Dark side is in its overwhelming strength. The Orcs, Saruman, and the Troll are capable of destroying large numbers of Light characters, with Shelob, the Balrog and the Witch King very powerful as well. The aim of the Dark is to destroy enough light characters cheaply so that the Light is overwhelmed by high unit strengths and higher strength cards despite its best efforts.

Warg - 2, Enemy character's text is ignored

The Warg is useful for those annoying hobbits, Frodo and Pippin, as they can't use their retreat ability. If your opponent often starts by using Pippin to scout the front row, it might be a nice surprise to put the Warg there to greet him. Although the Warg is less vulnerable to Gandalf, it's not really powerful enough to defeat him. If Sam and Frodo are moving together, the Warg has a chance of defeating Frodo without Sam interfering. The Warg is capable of defeating Boromir without being destroyed itself.

Orcs - 2, When attacking, instantly defeat the first character

The Orcs are a very powerful unit, as they can destroy Aragorn, Gandalf, Legolas, Merry, Pippin and Sam without a fight. Their natural enemies are Boromir and particularly Gimli. If you can avoid Gimli and Boromir, the Orcs can clean up the rest of the board. The Orcs are best used to destroy Gandalf, if you know where he is. The orcs only have their special ability when attacking, so once they are revealed the most effective way to use is to keep attacking.

Black Rider - 3, May move forward any number of regions to attack

The Black Rider can move forward very quickly, so there is no reason to keep it on the front line. Keep it at the back and move it forward to attack Frodo trying to sneak down the side, or else to attack lone hobbits on the Light side of the board. If you can attack Boromir with the Black Rider, that's a good trade.

Flying Nazgul - 3, May attack a single Good character anywhere on the board

The Flying Nazgul is useful for attacking hobbits when they venture out by themselves. Keep it at the back of the board until a good opponent can be found. However, be aware that Frodo can retreat sideways, and that Legolas is always lurking trying to hunt it down. The Flying Nazgul can also move backwards (to attack a single Good character), so can be used to prevent Frodo from running into Mordor.

Saruman - 4, May decide that no cards are played

With strength 4, Saruman is at least as strong as any of the Light characters except Gandalf. However, his special ability means that he can always defeat anyone except Gandalf or Aragorn, and he can take Aragorn down in a noble sacrifice. The most effective use of Saruman is destroy as many of the weaker Light characters as possible, leaving the Orcs to dispose of Gandalf.

Witch King - 5, May attack sideways

The Witch King's ability to attack sideways is most useful in Fangorn or Hollin. However he can also be used in Dagorlad to guard the entrance to Mordor. Watch out for Merry.

Shelob - 5, After Shelob defeats an Enemy character, she is immediately returned to Gondor

Shelob is useful as she can advance, kill, and escape, without fear of counter-attack. Once she is in Gondor she can guard Moria to prevent hobbits getting in. Always keep a Light character in front of her so she has a chance to move backwards. Keep Gondor free for her to move to.

Balrog - 5, When in Moria, instantly defeats any Character using the Tunnel

Although it is nice to have the Balrog in Moria, it is an obvious strategy. Consequently you can't use it every game. However, if you sometimes have the Balrog in Moria, your opponent will be afraid that any enemy in Moria is the Balrog and won't use the tunnel. The Troll is an effective substitute, as Moria is a good starting place for him to launch his muscle onto the Light side of the board.

Troll - 9, The Dark Player's card has no value or effect

The troll is simply a meat-head. He's useful at the end of the game after all the fancy Noble Sacrifices and Boromirs have been used up - he can then just smash the Light side one by one. He should definitely avoid Boromir.
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Golden Lotus
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Re:strategy for beginners
Friendless (#468919),

Nice little summary. The FAQ (file stored on BGG) contains some similar notes as well as rules clarifications. I always keep it handy when playing!

David
 
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Re:strategy for beginners
Friendless (#468919),

Quote:
Boromir's special power does not work against the Warg, so try to avoid that unit. Try to swap him for the Troll, Saruman, Witch King, Shelob, Balrog or Orcs in decreasing order of preference.


I would say that Boromir's preference is:

Shelob, Balrog, Saruman, W-K, Nazgul, Troll, Orcs, Rider, Warg

Of course, Troll goes to the top of the list once NS, magic, and 5 are used...

Gandolf: I would add the standards exchange of cards in a Gandolf/5 strength battle: 5/retreat, 6/magic (retreat), magic(6)/Cloak. If Gandolf can get this sequence to kill Balrog, Dark advantage, if Gandolf can get this sequence and kill another dark piece, than light advantage.

Orcs: Are only useful against experienced players as a 1-time threat. The threat of orcs can delay/prevent Gandolf from wreaking havoc. Light needs to ensure that they never advance a piece so far ahead that the orcs can kill that piece and be able to survive the next round.

 
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John Farrell
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Re:strategy for beginners
bowman (#469205),

I understand about Shelob and Balrog - while the Dark has 5 and 6 strength cards, they are the strongest pieces on the board. Why do you rate the Flying Nazgul so highly?

Thanks for your interest,

John
 
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Re:strategy for beginners
Friendless (#469725),

Quote:
Why do you rate the Flying Nazgul so highly?


The Nazgul are the ultimate end-game piece. He can always attack Frodo from anywhere (mountains), and can provide delay by advancing and being able to fly backwards to attack. By eliminating him early, the Dark is severely limited in their end-game, and are forced to move forwards their heavy hitters.

Another way to put it is that the Balrog and others can be avoided by going around them, but the Nazgul are always able to attck Frodo in the mountains.
 
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Mark McEvoy
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Re:strategy for beginners
bowman (#471246),

I wonder if the relative values of pieces are highly varibale based on the presence of the special cards? I think Light having Shadowfax significantly reduces the Nazgul's usefulness (because, in a pinch, it allows Frodo to safely bypass mountains). Likewise, if Dark has Recall To Mordor it gives the Dark side a substial endgame stall tactic such that the Nazgul is no longer so critical in an endgame push to avoid the inevitable breaking-of-ranks.
 
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Re:strategy for beginners
thatmarkguy (#471394),

The relative value of pieces is extremely subjective for all game situations. I can imagine situations where attacking the warg with Boromir is the correct move. Regarding Shadowfax, it depends... keeping the Nazgul alive forces Light to use Shadowfax to cross the mountains, and not to use it offensively (for example, to move Gandolf forwards two places to Dagorlad to combat a piece, or to bring up a specific counter-piece in one move.)

My order of preference for Boromir assumes starting positions, and is similar to the results in this thread.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/66252
 
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Alan Kwan
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The relative value of pieces is extremely subject to game positions. Please see my puzzle/paradox article (in the strategy forum) - the Troll becomes a liability because he is too stupid to use Eye of Sauron to prevent Frodo from retreating.
 
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