Edwin Tait
United States
Indiana
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I played an exciting if ultimately frustrating game of WOTR last night with a former student who had played only once before (an unfinished, epic 4-player match that lasted until 5 AM before we called it off). He picked the Shadow, which was fine with me. I had excellent luck with the Fellowship initially--made it to seven steps from Rivendell before being caught. Meanwhile, Gondor fought off the initial Shadow attack handily, and Aragorn (accompanied by Boromir) took the coastal route to Dol Amroth for his coronation. Legolas also left the Fellowship and brought the North to war by crying "Fear, Fire, Foes!" in Bree. (One can only imagine what the inhabitants of Bree thought of an Elf showing up on their doorstep, but it got their attention all right.) Rohan did not do so well--Isengard was slow to move, allowing the entire armed forces of Rohan to be concentrated in the Fords of Isen, but the battle when it came was disastrous--more than half the army was wiped out and the survivors retreated to Helm's Deep, where they were eventually overwhelmed by the hordes of Saruman. The Ents mobilized in time to do a bit of damage, but not enough. (I used my one Ent card of the game as a Combat card, which may have been a mistake--but given the lack of damage to the Fellowship there was no occasion to kill Gandalf off so early.)

The only serious trouble the Fellowship encountered before entering Mordor was warded off by the axe of Gimli and by the heroic sacrifice of Pippin (random casualty). The Fellowship declared in Mordor with no corruption, and with Gandalf and Merry still accompanying the Ringbearers. The first couple steps in Mordor were accomplished with no net corruption, but after that things went bad quickly. All the remaining companions had sacrificed their lives, and still the terrible Eye continued to search for Frodo and Sam. (The Shadow, which had had terrible luck up to this point, now started drawing the most damaging tiles possible in quick succession.) Eventually the companions stood on the brink of the Crack of Doom, but the corruption of the Ring had become severe. (8, to be precise.)

Meanwhile, the Shadow armies were moving with new strength and purpose. The forces of Isengard easily dispatched a hastily mustered force of Riders in Edoras, and moved toward Minas Tirith through the Druadan Forest. Meanwhile, the armies of Mordor returned, and a host of Southrons took Pelargir. Denethor's folly continued to hamper the Men of Gondor, and under this renewed assault the White City fell. Aragorn and Boromir watched helplessly from Dol Amroth--a large Southron army was known to be gathered in Umbar and they did not have the strength to mount an offensive without leaving the coastal stronghold unguarded. At the same time, Orcs moved out from Dol Guldur, and the will of Sauron swept aside the power of Galadriel (I played A Power Too Great and he almost immediately forced it to be discarded). Gandalf, having died in Mordor, took new form as Gandalf the White to help his Elven friends in Moria, valiantly facing the likelihood of a second and final death (final as far as Middle-Earth was concerned, that is!). He was joined by Gimli, who had left the Fellowship at Frodo's urging just before they entered Mordor ("I Will Go Alone"). In spite of the valor of the two heroes (I had some good combat cards, such as Servant of the Secret Fire), the defenders of Lorien took heavy losses and were on the verge of being overrun (one regular left) as Frodo stood at the end of his quest.

One gleam of hope beckoned in the form of Elven warriors who arrived in Dol Amroth by sea (Cirdan's Ships--if only it had come up sooner!). Now at last the King had the power--just barely--to leave a decent garrison in Dol Amroth while also threatening the Southrons in Pelargir. But the fate of Middle-Earth was decided not in Gondor but in Mordor.

Frodo was weary, and desperate to end his quest. Even though he knew that the Eye of Sauron was searching for him (I had moved twice that turn, and there were four Eyes total in the Hunt Box), he reckoned that it was unlikely Sauron could stop him before he reached the Crack of Doom. But alas, just at the crucial moment he was overcome by the power of the Ring (The Ring is Mine). He never even made it to the last step of his journey. Putting on the Ring, he was quickly found by the servants of Sauron, and all Middle-Earth was plunged in darkness.

(Really, really stupid move on my part, and not the first time I've done this sort of thing. It's hard not to just "go for it" when you're that close, but I would almost certainly have won if I'd just waited till the next turn when there presumably wouldn't have been so many Eyes out there. Somehow I managed to overlook the fact that Eyes reveal you, making Gollum's emergency-reveal power useless--this in spite of the fact that I've lost games this way before. I had also forgotten that my opponent had put "The Ring is Mine" in the Hunt Pool. Still, the odds were in my favor--two eyes out of 12 or 13 tiles, and any other draw would have been a win for me. My best excuse is that it was midnight and I had had a big day--also, I haven't played WOTR much this past year and I had gotten rusty.)

Anyway, kudos to my friend and ex-student Dustin (aka the Forces of Evil), for an excellent game!
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Luc Lauzon

Montreal
Quebec
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As a Free Peoples player, it's hard not to "go for it when I'm that close". But it hasn't worked yet. Someday, Frodo's will shall conquer!
 
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David Boeren
United States
Marietta
Georgia
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Corruption victories are my favorite kind.
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