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War of the Ring (First Edition)» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Which side/strategy is best for a new player? rss

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The Bill
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I've played this game 3 times now, and at first I was certain that playing the SP would be "easier" to pick up than playing the FP, but now I'm not sure.

It seems to me that either side has so much to keep up on that a person who is unfamiliar with how the rules work will have a hard time winning.

For example, in all three games, mismanagement of combat cards on the SP led to horrible losses. As I see it, many SP combat cards rely on having a huge army to attack with (I'm thinking about cards like Deadly Strife or the one that allows you to inflict casualties on your own army to get additional rolls). If you are attacking a comparable amount of FP troops, then these cards are horrible, but if you are attacking with an army with 7-10 units (especially if you have elites), then these cards would help you do a lot of damage to a dwindling FP force.

Also, in terms of movement and sieges, I saw in all three games a siege on MT or HD but the SP does not move another army to replenish the siege forces (what happened was a siege began with 10SP units vs. 5FP units, but as the SP force dwindled from bad rolls, they didn't move in armies from surrounding regions. Finally, when the number was tipped the other way, a FP sortie made quick work of the leftovers.

I see these two issues (combat cards and sieges) as something a new SP is at a disadvantage if they don't understand fully.
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Andy Latto
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I've had much more success having new players I teach play the Shadow. When they play the free people, it's too despiriting; the massive Shadow armies crush their strongholds, their companions die, Frodo gets increasingly corrupted, and everything seems hopeless. When they play the shadow, they raise huge armies, conduct epic sieges, conquer strongholds, corrupt the fellowship, and kill off companions. They feel a great sense of accomplishment up until one little hobbit dunks the ring in the fire and they lose.

I avoid the problems you've mentioned by giving new players a small amount of strategy help, something like this:

"Your overall game plan is: Bring nations to war; muster huge armies; move them to FP strongholds; conquer the strongholds. Moving the same number of troops as multiple armies is less efficient, so you want to raise big armies before you start to move. The defensive advantage of strongholds is large, so you want big armies. For well-defended strongholds like Minas Tirith, it will probably take more than one 10-unit army. The witch king is really powerful; bring him in as soon as possible, and use his special ability as much as you can. the combat cards make it useful to have lots of Nazgul leadership; move a bunch of Nazgul to one location, and fight that siege until it's done, then move the Nazgul to another siege."

Of course, some people would rather not get even minimal strategy advice. If they figure out the basics of strategy on their own, or don't mind losing badly while they figure it out, no problem. If they don't want strategy hints, I'm not going to worry if they don't do well at first.
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David F
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Conventional wisdom says stick the new player on Shadow, because the FP has more cards, more rules (the Fellowship and companions, activating nations) to keep track of.

With experience, I now always stick the new player on the FP. Reasons:

1. The tension in this game is all driven by the Shadow player; a new Shadow player results in a weird game that isn't enjoyable for both, and leaves a bad first impression on the newbie.

2. The Shadow player gets at least 50% more action dice throughout the game. If a new player's plowing through these decisions, downtime and playtime gets very long, and that leaves another bad impression.

3. More Shadow decisions also means more room for error for the newbie. In first plays of the game, it's good to have a few guide rails instead of being left on your own with an overwhelming array of options and cards. Being the FP allows the newbie to react, instead of trying to grapple with how to lead.

4. The analogue is to playing USSR in Twilight Struggle. Show the newbie how the game was meant to be played. Crush him swiftly (which is possible with Shadow) instead of in a slow, agonizing manner (as is the case with you using the FP) and leave him wanting more. When confusing rules and strategies like Fellowship, companion and activating nations comes up, guide him and lay out his options for him instead of letting him read through every card and rule once again.
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John Hathorn
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blondlostime wrote:
I've played this game 3 times now, and at first I was certain that playing the SP would be "easier" to pick up than playing the FP, but now I'm not sure.

It seems to me that either side has so much to keep up on that a person who is unfamiliar with how the rules work will have a hard time winning.

For example, in all three games, mismanagement of combat cards on the SP led to horrible losses. As I see it, many SP combat cards rely on having a huge army to attack with (I'm thinking about cards like Deadly Strife or the one that allows you to inflict casualties on your own army to get additional rolls). If you are attacking a comparable amount of FP troops, then these cards are horrible, but if you are attacking with an army with 7-10 units (especially if you have elites), then these cards would help you do a lot of damage to a dwindling FP force.

Also, in terms of movement and sieges, I saw in all three games a siege on MT or HD but the SP does not move another army to replenish the siege forces (what happened was a siege began with 10SP units vs. 5FP units, but as the SP force dwindled from bad rolls, they didn't move in armies from surrounding regions. Finally, when the number was tipped the other way, a FP sortie made quick work of the leftovers.

I see these two issues (combat cards and sieges) as something a new SP is at a disadvantage if they don't understand fully.

There are pitfalls with both sides that you have to watch out for. In the first game I ever played, the Shadow player emptied out Isengard and I had 2 of the 3 Ent cards in my hand. Goodbye Saruman.

I think it's easier for a new player to wrap their head around the offensive combat needs of the Shadow as opposed to learning to balance the FP's actions between FSP and defense.
 
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David Boeren
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blondlostime wrote:
It seems to me that either side has so much to keep up on that a person who is unfamiliar with how the rules work will have a hard time winning.


But isn't that how it should be? A game where a new player can beat a veteran is probably one without much skill that won't hold interest after a couple of plays.

I think there's something to be said for both sides. Having the new player be Fellowship puts them in the shoes of the good guys and they get to relive the trilogy a bit more. There aren't that many more rules and you can condense a lot of the strategy to "reinforce your strongholds as much as you can and get Frodo to the Crack of Doom as quickly as safely as you can taking only reasonable risks of being spotted". Plus the Shadow player does control the pace of the game more as pointed out.

Letting them play the Shadow lets them feel powerful. They get to march big armies around and smash things. Even if they don't win, they'll have taken over at least a few strongholds or cities that they remember from the books/movies and can feel they accomplished something. And if Frodo dunks the ring, well, that's what happened to the real Sauron too Can't feel too bad about it, you conquered more stuff than he did.

Consequently, I'd give them a brief explanation of each side and let them choose what they want to play. They shouldn't be expecting to win their first game anyway, so what does it matter as long as they have fun, which is more likely to happen if they're playing the side they want.
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Kevin Wojtaszczyk
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I typically let a new player play the FP and I empty Orthanc. So if the FP figures out Ents to kill off Saruman, bonus for them, and high point of their game, as the rest of the shadow crush their strongholds... :-)

Also makes them aware of not letting their SP play lose Saruman when it gets time for that...

Overall the FP is more straight forward to play when just letting them go for the ring dunk primarily. As others mentioned the SP has a lot more actions and you gotta have a plan on how to get your 10 VPs as the SP and a newbie won't really have a plan per se. Telling them the FSP needs to move to Mordor using C/W's and pointing out the different routes there is much more straight forward to play.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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blondlostime wrote:
It seems to me that either side has so much to keep up on that a person who is unfamiliar with how the rules work will have a hard time winning.

Is there such a thing as a game with any depth where a person who is unfamiliar with how the rules work will not have a hard time winning?

[edit] After posting, I see that David had already made the same point. blush
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The Bill
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Quote:
But isn't that how it should be? A game where a new player can beat a veteran is probably one without much skill that won't hold interest after a couple of plays.


I guess what I was trying to say is that it is not "easy" to play the SP compared to the FP. The SP has SO many options and without understanding combat and army movement well, they will lose.

I think the point about the SP setting the pace is a very good one. Plus, the FP is mostly just reacting to what the SP is doing.
 
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The Bill
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Also, the fact that the SP has so many armies to keep track of, and so many more chances to muster and move them, it becomes very important that they understand mustering and movement.

I am mostly writing this all in response to the idea that it is "easier" for a new player to play the SP the first time, and I now think this is not the case.
 
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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I'm pretty sure whichever side a new player tries will seem like the hard side to him. It takes 2-3 games to get past that, and I don't think it matters all that much which side they play.
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David Boeren
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Given that any new player will take a few games to "get it", I think it's good to encourage them to play relatively quickly. There's no point in sitting and pondering choices when you don't have enough understanding to cause more thought to yield a better choice.

Better to get through the first couple of games more quickly and use the time saved for post-game discussion so you can learn more about what went right, wrong, and what you could have done differently.

I do think you need to play each side at least once to get more perspective on how everything works but it doesn't matter which side is first.
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Jay P

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New player should play Shadow.
First game....let them win. Or, at minimum, reach end game where the win is up in the air.
But don't make it obvious you are letting them win.
And provide a lot of coaching on strategy and what you are doing and why. Don't just play....coach...explain...suggest.

Let them make their own decisions, but provide feedback on the ramifications of a bad move. "If you move/attack there, then on my turn I can do....yada yada".

It takes several games (and personal research on the side!) to reach a level of basic rules/play proficiency.

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Craig Rose
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I used to think letting newbs go with the Shadow army was best, but after teaching half a dozen people how to play, I found its just best to let them play whatever side they are more drawn to.

I tend to go easy on them and identify various strategies for them.

Maybe a bit off topic, but I have taken to teaching the game by letting two newbs play one another with me coaching both of them. Also, my regular WotR opponent and I will set up two copies of the game. One for us to play, and the other to teach new players. That way, each of us can coach an individual player, but still get in our own game.
 
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