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Subject: Really interesting game last night rss

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David Boeren
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Marietta
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We're both still relative novices - this was my 11th game and I think my opponent's 5th. He was Shadow, I took the Free Peoples. Little did we know that we were in for a very different and exciting game!

Early on, he decided to put a LOT of dice into the hunt pool - possibly because in our last game I breezed through a rink dunk victory when Frodo bypassed Lorien to go rest in Minas Tirith for several turns and heal before entering Mordor.

So, my opponent seemed determined not to let that happen again tonight and put four dice in the hunt box, and continued this for quite a while. Occasionally he'd roll some additional eyes as well. Consequently, progress was tough on the Fellowship. We got busted a couple steps out of Rivendell and I opted to risk the Moria approach. Got caught again IN Moria for an extra tile. We'd lost Gandalf, then lost Strider to a random Companion draw. Not going well here!

On the other hand, the war effort was developing nicely. With all these dice in the box, Sauron hadn't been pushing the attack much and an early Witch King helped us get Gondor to war quickly and start Mustering troops to reinforce Minas Tirith. As the Witch King approached, we played Faramir's Rangers to put a couple of hits on them and bolster Osgiliath. They steamrolled through anyway and we retreated south with a trick in mind.

Next turn, the Shadow happened to roll a lot of Eyes and only had I think 2 dice left to operate with. The Witch King invaded Minas Tirith and they went into siege with 5 guys. Then the Free People sprung their trap! We pulled troops out of Pelargir to get a full five models together, then played Help Unlooked For (I think that's the correct name) which let us attack the Witch King while limiting him to 1 die only in return. We rolled well and combined with the losses from Faramir earlier took him down to only a few orcs left - the Witch King had been given a bloody nose and had to run away in shame and now Minas Tirith had 9 figures and a couple of Leaders in the field. I'd thought about chasing him down to try to kill him, and maybe I should have, but I wanted to keep Minas Tirith safe and there were more Shadow armies about so I suspect we may have been assaulted by them and not succeeded in our mission anyway.

Emboldened by our victory, we consolidated the Rohan troops including several muster's worth in Edoras, and laid siege to Orthanc, which hadn't been sufficiently built up yet as the Shadow was occupied in other areas. With the help of two Ent cards and Gandalf the White in Fangorn we took them out and killed Saruman taking a die from the Shadow player - plus we had enough troops left to defend it reasonably well.

This put the Shadow off balance for the remainder of the game as capturing a second stronghold could give me a military victory and he had to guard against this possibility all over the map.

There were four main targets - Dol Goldur, Mount Gundabad, Moria, or somewhere in Mordor itself. The large army in Minas Tirith were a substantial threat to Mordor, so he brought up more orcs until there were 8 of them in Osgiliath. I tried to build up the Elves, reasoning they could go in multiple directions, and also the North who were at war by now.

The Shadow began a two-pronged approach. First, start trying to attack more of my territories that would also leave his armies near places he needed to defend. So, he moved troops around Lorien that could also react to a threat made on Moria or Dol Goldur for instance. Secondly, take back Orthanc! If he could do that, the pressure would be off and he could get back to the normal war effort. So, he started mustering heavily in South Dunland preparing to send them south through the Gap of Rohan.

Realizing what was up, I started building troops in the North with the goal of assaulting Mount Gundabad with a group of Elves and Northmen. We managed to slip a medium sized army in and put them in siege but the lands around Rivendell had some scattered Shadow troops which slowed getting reinforcements - we didn't have enough armies to complete the siege on our own.

So, we started rolling up troops from the Grey Havens westward. I played Tom Bombadil and A Power too Great to try to secure my lands and brought Rivendell into battle as well. It was somewhat slow progress, would Orthanc fall before we could take Mount Gundabad? Along the way, we captured Angmar - not because of the VP but to prevent the Shadow mustering a relief force there, but it cost us some time.

The Shadow judged that he had enough troops in Dunland and started moving them south. We went into siege in Orthanc and awaiting the outcome. But, the battle did not go well for the Dark Lord - his troops rolled poorly and took sizeable losses. He pushed them again, and still the defenders held out. What's more, a relief force from Rohan was approaching to drive the attackers away. He had to capture Orthanc or be wiped out by the combination of two attackers.

Meanwhile our Elves and Northmen army had made their way through to Mount Gundabad, giving us nearly a full force there to assault him with - but he'd managed to reinforce them a bit with some cards so it would take a little time to break them.

Orthanc had finally failed, he was down to just a few attackers and the Rohan army was poised to finish them off. Mount Gundabad couldn't hold out either - we happened to score several 6's on our leader reroll and there was no withstanding such a fierce assault.

Sizeable Shadow armies remained just west of Dale and in the South but Sauron's hold over the land had been broken and the Free People won with a Military Victory!

Meanwhile, Frodo was still in Moria and finally wandered out several months later half starved. He denies it to this day, but around Hobbiton it is claimed that he must have been lost as he has no sense whatsoever of direction. Frodo on the other hand lays the blame on not having a "proper guide" after Gandalf and Strider fell. The Bracegirdles of Hardbottle have yet another theory - that *pretending* to be lost and hiding until the adventures were safely over was just good hobbit-sense, but other families point out that Moria is hardly the sort of proper hobbit-hole that one would choose to reside in for an extended time, and nobody really listens to a Bracegirdle anyway.


Major factors that led to the game taking this path I think:
1. Shadow not spending enough effort on military early on
2. Early Witch King allowing all nations to get to war without being attacked and hence start mustering strong defenses
3. Over-mustering on the Shadow's part, trying to raise maximum sized armies before attacking which bought us more time and on several occasions he did not have available troops in the reinforcement pool when he needed them - plus this bought us even more time
4. Should have built up Orthanc a bit more, of course

In the post-game discussion we agreed that the Shadow needed to attack earlier and get key locations under siege or at least immediate threat and that this was worth a minor loss of efficiency by sending less than a full 10 armies. We also talked about the DEW line as a possible route of attack for future games.

Oddly, given that I've won our last two matches by FPMV's, I really need to practice separating more Companions. My instinct is always to keep everyone with the Fellowship to soak Corruption, and I've done pretty well with this strategy on the theory that if Free People usually win by a ring dunk it makes sense to protect Frodo to aid this. But, I'd also like that Strider die and it wouldn't be a bad thing to get some nations activated earlier if the Shadow isn't doing an early Witch King. So, I may need to bite the bullet and try it next time if it seems to make sense. It's just hard for me when separating Strider (or anyone else) is equivalent to giving *myself* corruption.

Either that or maybe next time we'll try the Breaking of the Fellowship scenario where I'm forced to start with separated companions
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Chris Young
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We generally use a die acquisition strategy from the begining Seperating Strider a Hobbit and usually one other companion (depending on cards in hand) Gandalf dying in the fellowship is ok Strider dying is not. The extra dice are critical to effectively dealing with a good shadow player.
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Gregg Speers
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Great write up!

Thanks for sharing it.
 
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Jay P

Alexandria
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dboeren wrote:

Major factors that led to the game taking this path I think:
1. Shadow not spending enough effort on military early on
2. Early Witch King allowing all nations to get to war without being attacked and hence start mustering strong defenses
3. Over-mustering on the Shadow's part, trying to raise maximum sized armies before attacking which bought us more time and on several occasions he did not have available troops in the reinforcement pool when he needed them - plus this bought us even more time
4. Should have built up Orthanc a bit more, of course


Correcting any of the four factors is moot if SP drops four dice in the hunt box. SP cannot execute an effective military campaign with three or four action dice.

The game starts with FP nations significantly off balance. SP has several quick strike/kill opportunities that become fleeting as FP exercise muster events, cards, and companion options. SP needs to strike fast and hard...keep FP reeling and off balance. Need a solid action dice advantage to do that.

And as for Orthanc, my personal favorite early game main line is to crush Rohan. Saruman's triple muster, elite build, and elite leadership is amazing.

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Filip Cam
Belgium
Kontich
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Nice report! How long did this game last?
 
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Will Fogg
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I must point out that in the second edition, mustering the Witch-King does NOT get all the FP nations in to war, it just activates them.
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Ralf Schemmann
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Siegen
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William_Fogg wrote:
I must point out that in the second edition, mustering the Witch-King does NOT get all the FP nations in to war, it just activates them.


True, and the same as in 1ed actually. I was assuming David meant that it gave him the option to get them to war - if they actually moved them all straight to war, that was a pretty big mistake and advantage for the Free.
 
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David Boeren
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PapaGamer wrote:
Correcting any of the four factors is moot if SP drops four dice in the hunt box. SP cannot execute an effective military campaign with three or four action dice.


That's what I was referring to when talking about not spending enough effort on the war. Effort = dice, and too much of it was going towards the hunt instead of the war.

And yes, we correctly played the Witch King. He activated all nations, which permitted me to drive my key nations to war and start reinforcing before the Shadow got there. I also got some early mustering cards that helped too. Gondor got to war first, then Rohan, Elves, and finally North. Dwarves never moved on the political track. Their help and the effort needed to acquire it didn't seem worth allowing the Mouth of Sauron to enter the game.

This is in particular contrast to our last game where the Shadow tried building up a lot before attacking anywhere and the Witch King came in late. I ended up with some Muster dice I couldn't use as everyone was one step before war already. That didn't work out for Shadow either, and after this latest game we talked about the need for Shadow to press his military advantage early before things get mustered up too much. He's been playing with the idea of not giving me "free" moves down the track with attacks while trying to use his own attack dice more efficiently by avoiding armies of less than 10 figures, but it's just not working out so I think that opening line is being abandoned and I expect something new next time.


Regarding the Shadow's opening plays... I'm pretty much with you. When I play Shadow my first targets are usually Minas Tirith and Helm's Deep (although I do like to try different approaches sometimes). But, this particular opponent really likes Shadow so I nearly always end up playing the Fellowship side against him. Personally I think a few more Free Peoples games would help his Shadow play though - seeing a battle from the other side nearly always brings insight into their strengths and weaknesses that are harder to see from the other end of the table.

Edit: Oh yeah, the time question. I didn't really check the clock, but if I had to guess I think it was about 2-2.5 hours. I got there at about 5:30, talked a bit, played a 2p Reef Encounter (which was a little slow because it was our first game), then War of the Ring, and concluded around 9:30.
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Jay P

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dboeren wrote:
Personally I think a few more Free Peoples games would help his Shadow play though - seeing a battle from the other side nearly always brings insight into their strengths and weaknesses that are harder to see from the other end of the table.


Very true!
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