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Subject: Sauron versus two heroes - observation and suggestions rss

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Michael
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Some background information: The canonical opinion seems to be that the game is slanted in favour of Sauron. As I have never experienced this (Sauron either losing - sometimes badly - or winning barely by the seat of his pants), I have been wondering what I am doing wrong. After some time, I realized that it is due to the fact that I have only been playing games that set Sauron vs. 2 heroes. The specific problem of this setting is that Sauron only has 2 actions, which is a severe logistical restriction. In other words, the scaling that simply correlates actions to opponents doesn't work well with 2 players.

For example, if Sauron has a starting plot that doesn't match his "X marker in III" vitory condition AND not the best of luck drawing plots (high influence plots, hard prerequisites), he will have to draw useful plots fast. The problem is that using the plots action twice in the first round leaves him with nothing else to do, so maneuvering minions (or placing influence in order to place monsters) will have to be delayed. This leaves him dead in his tracks at the beginning of the game. It often happens that Sauron doesn't manage to get a useful plot installed before the 4th turn. Even in stage II of the game, the fact that Sauron has only 2 actions available often left him in the position of having to delay installing a plot, because there's something missing that prevents the plot from being fired up. Scenarios like this are the rule rather than the exception: Having drawn a good plot card, Sauron can either place influence around the location as required, but then he can't put enouogh influence into the shadow pool to actually be able to play the plot, or he builds up the pool strength but then the prerequisite isn't met. While one could use both actions to place influence, one was taken up drawing the card, so he will have to stall an extra turn. In other situations, after having drawn plot cards, monsters or minions have to be moved, too, e.g. to keep the heroes away from supply lines that support already placed influence and/or to protect plots, and again he cannot ensure that the drawn card can be played in the following turn. Or he does and leaves something important undefended, which results in him being able to set up the plot in his next turn but losing some other plot in some hero's turn - which is even worse.

Thus, scheming against three heroes seems like luxury compared to what I am used to. That third action must be so handy! Cycle through 2x2 plots AND increase influence! Draw cards AND place 11(!) influence or place 6 influence and even do a monsters/minions action! With only 2 actions, Sauron sometimes feels pretty much dead in the water. Everything in the scheduling of plots and actions needs to be 100% watertight or nothing gets into gear, there's hardly any margin for error. Sure, having three actions means having three opponents. But I dare say that the limitation of 2 actions is so severe in itself that the part of opposing the heroes almost comes second. With three actions, Sauron can first focus on unfolding his plots just nicely, and then put some thought into tackling those three heroes. Somehow that seems less daunting than having to struggle with one's own logistic bottleneck.

I propose two different variants that should adjust Sauron's chances for the game versus 2 heroes.

1) Allow Sauron to simply replace plots - rather than him having to remove them first and then place a new one in his following turn. While this doesn't remove his action bottleneck, at least he can have some of the easy beginning plots installed in order to advance one or two of his merkers somewhat until he can kick plots into high gear. And then it is handy to be able to do so without having to go into neutral first.

2) Modify Sauron's possible actions as follows:
- influence: 7 / 6 (/ 5)
- cards: 3 / 2 (/ 1)
- monsters/minions: 3 / 2 (/ 1)

I have so far tried 1). It seems to work just fine, keeps Sauron in the game, but it doesn't make it too easy for him. (I have to admit that I also like that variant, because I don't really understand why Sauron has to nicely decommission a plot before commencing with another one...)
 
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♫ Eric Herman ♫
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grey_wolf wrote:
I don't really understand why Sauron has to nicely decommission a plot before commencing with another one...)


There is a lot of paperwork to do when decommissioning a plot...

Seriously, though, I don't know that I'd bother with that. I've played the game about 7-8 times, all but 1 of which were with 3 players (meaning 2 Heroes and Sauron), and Sauron won 3-4 times. I would say that Sauron has less room for mistakes in the 3p game; you really need to think hard and plan out what you're doing and do a good job with bluffing, and make the most you can with the limited actions you have. But the game, exactly as it is, is very winnable for Sauron in a 3p game.
 
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Rauli Kettunen
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grey_wolf wrote:
Some background information: The canonical opinion seems to be that the game is slanted in favour of Sauron. As I have never experienced this (Sauron either losing - sometimes badly - or winning barely by the seat of his pants), I have been wondering what I am doing wrong. After some time, I realized that it is due to the fact that I have only been playing games that set Sauron vs. 2 heroes. The specific problem of this setting is that Sauron only has 2 actions, which is a severe logistical restriction. In other words, the scaling that simply correlates actions to opponents doesn't work well with 2 players.


For us, Sauron dominates 2-Hero games (23-7 I think), 1-Hero are almost even and so far Sauron is 2-0 in 3-Hero games.

Quote:
For example, if Sauron has a starting plot that doesn't match his "X marker in III" vitory condition AND not the best of luck drawing plots (high influence plots, hard prerequisites), he will have to draw useful plots fast.


I don't really care if I get Plots that move the same token as my Mission. Just run one the tokens to the Finale ASAP and win by final combat if the right Plots don't show up early enough. You get about 2 Plots from 3-5 during setup, should have something you can play on turn 2, if not, then draw cards on the first turn, otherwise Influence + Monster actions normally. Only the Black token Starting Plot doesn't net you enough influence to meet the requirements for "A Broken Line of Kings" during setup (my go-to Plot early), so could very well be you don't even need an influence action during the first turn to have a Plot playable.

Quote:
Having drawn a good plot card, Sauron can either place influence around the location as required, but then he can't put enouogh influence into the shadow pool to actually be able to play the plot, or he builds up the pool strength but then the prerequisite isn't met. While one could use both actions to place influence, one was taken up drawing the card, so he will have to stall an extra turn.


SP I prefer to keep maxed ASAP, it's harder for the heroes to remove than regular influence chains. Secondly, monsters/minions with Wisdom allow you to add influence in extension if the monster can hold off a hero in combat (Mouth + Wretched combo FTW).

Key from my POV is that in 2-Hero games, if/when Sauron manages to cripple one of the heroes (usually though Corruption, Thalin being the prime target), that leaves one hero to try and cover the ground of both heroes. Whereas in a normal 1-Hero game the lone hero gets two turns in a row, in a 2-Hero that turns effectively a 1-Hero game, heroes still only get one turn before Sauron's turn roll around again. Lot less ground they can cover before tokens move. And once you've crippled one of the heroes, you can hammer the other down while the first one tries to get himself back into the game, then switch again.
 
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