Isley
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Ok, I've had this game for almost three weeks before I could finally find the time (and a partner) to play it with. A friend of mine Brian finally was able to play, but couldn't start until 9:00 PM (I knew this was probably going to be a problem timewise, but I was anxious to play), so I set up the game before hand. I had read through the rules once and skimmed a bit more after that, so setup only took about 30 minutes (heh, "only"). We randomly determined starting sides, I got Shadow Armies, Brian got the Free Peoples. We knew the game would be a learning process for both of us, so we got started.

The beginning turns progressed very slowly (lots of referring back to the rulebook...but it wasn't too bad, we pretty much just looked stuff up as it came up). I quickly got out Saruman and the Witch king. The first major turning point came when I launched an attack on Minas Tirith with all four Nazgul, the Witch King and 7 troops or so. Unfortunately I underestimated how powerful the settlement defense bonus was, and coupled with Brian having a few good combat cards, I was forced to stop the attack with only 3 units left (and him with 0 casualties). Disaster struck next when he used a character dice to counter attack and managed to roll 3 hits. Just like that I lost the witch king and four nazgul! To make matters worse, on his next dice he played the "Ents attack orthanc" (or whatever it is called) card while I only had Saruman and no troops in orthanc (they were busy in helms deep). We realized that there were three of those cards in the card pile when the game was over, and thus I learned a hard lesson about leaving Saruman alone in Orthanc.

So, without the benefit of the extra action dice and other bonuses from the Witch King and Saruman I was forced on the defensive (Brian had Gandalf and Aragorn out too putting him on almost even terms as far as dice went). A few good muster cards later and I had stablized for the most part, but by then I was forced to give up the poorly defended Angmar and Mt. Gundabad (Brian had managed to activate the Northmen). Around this time I started to realize that I probably wasn't going to take Minas Tirith from that huge army Brian had stationed there. Instead I used a Corsairs of Umbar card to take a few South Gondor provinces. But on his turn Brian moved Aragorn into Rohan and then played the "Dead Men of Dunharrow" card to retake all the settlements I'd taken. Great flavor...not so great for me.

By now the Fellowship had made it to Minas Tirith with around 8 corruption counters. The Fellowship stayed there the rest of the game as Brian focused on pushing his military edge (on an interesting note, he only healed a few corruption and then kept it hidden tricking me into putting a dice in the hunt pool each time even though I don't think he intended to move them in retrospect). As the game wore on I slowly started to get a more powerful military while Brian focused on spreading his armies around the board to create multiple threats.


By now it was 3:00 AM so we agreed to postpone the finish until the next day, (I had to be up at 8:00 AM).

The next day we resumed play at 4:00 PM. I finally took Lorien while Brian amassed a large army just outside of Dol Guldor. So on my turn I attacked and was able to drive them back and on the next dice finish off his big army. I was feeling good about that except I had used all my Dol Guldor forces to do it. On his turn Brian played some card that let him move an army three spaces if it had a character in it (something like that). Anyway, he took Gandalf and Aragorn and like 8 units from Gondor and made a run for Dol Guldor. On the next turn he went first and walked right into Dol Guldor. I used three dice to try to take it back, but all he had to do was retreat to a siege and I had no chance. Ouch...Free Peoples military victory!


POST GAME THOUGHTS:

Well, first, the game took roughly 7 hours to play...but I seriously think about 3 hours of that were used looking for things in the rules, etc. Not that it mattered, we had a blast the whole time.

By far my favorite thing about the game was how well it captured the flavor of the books. You really do feel like you have been thrown into Tolkiens world during the council of Elrond and the rest of the choices are up to you. All the rules were intuitive and made sense flavorwise. And of course, the cards really made the game. I can't repeat this enough, if you are a fan of the books, playing the game feels like you are right there living the books. I can't wait to play again, I'll say that for sure!

A few tactical things we learned:

I for one must have gotten sucked into the mindset of Sauron since I spent the first half of the game wasting tons of resources attacking a well defended Minas Tirith. I kept thinking "must...take...minas...tirith" before I realized that I should probably focus on other less defended areas of the board (especailly considering that Gandalf was there to nullify my Nazgul too).

Don't leave Orthanc undefended! With multiple ent cards in the FP deck, it is too easy for Saruman to die there...the extra dice is very nice for him!

Don't leave any cities totally undefended! It seems that there are a few cards that can bring a huge army to your doorstep very quickly. I lost by thinking I could get to Dol Guldor to defend it before my opponent could take it.

Don't attack so much you can't take a counter attack (especially not when you have 4 nazgul and the witchking in your attacking army)

We learned a lot more than that, but those are some of the big ones.





So...I loved the game, and can't wait to play again...what more do you wan to hear?
 
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Eric Brosius
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Needham Heights
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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Cheer up. All those cards you didn't know the Free Peoples had in their deck---Sauron didn't know about those cards in the book either!
 
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thrasymachus wrote:

By now the Fellowship had made it to Minas Tirith with around 8 corruption counters. The Fellowship stayed there the rest of the game as Brian focused on pushing his military edge (on an interesting note, he only healed a few corruption and then kept it hidden tricking me into putting a dice in the hunt pool each time even though I don't think he intended to move them in retrospect).

Have you got this quite right, Isley? The FSP automatically heals at the start of each turn when the last known position is in a stronghold or city and the the marker is zero on the FSP track - ie, the FSP hasn't moved. How did the Free People keep the FSP 'hidden'?

thrasymachus wrote:
Well, first, the game took roughly 7 hours to play...but I seriously think about 3 hours of that were used looking for things in the rules, etc. Not that it mattered, we had a blast the whole time.

We're down to about two hours max now, including set up - that took about 30+ games though.

thrasymachus wrote:
Don't leave Orthanc undefended! With multiple ent cards in the FP deck, it is too easy for Saruman to die there...the extra dice is very nice for him!

Indeed, those Ent cards are known in our group as 'The shelling of Isengard', after a tactic in Junta ("the ceremonial shelling of the presidential palace").
 
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Isley
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Ah, you're right Alan, I was confused as to the difference between "declaring" the fellowship and the fellowship being "revealed" (I thought "declaring" revealed the fellowship).

I've played two more times now, both times as the free peoples. The first time I got totally blown out...the Shadow player played aggressively and took Minas Tirith early (heh, though I still think part of it was just that the dice seemed to fall his way). Soon Saruman's hordes took Rohan and then forces from Angmar swooped down and took out Rivendale and a few other for the win. Quick and brutal game.

The next game I played as the Fellowship went better. The Shadow player focused more on building his forces up instead of balls to the wall attacking. I was sitting on zero corruption in Minas Tirith when I moved most of their army out to Ithilien to play my "last battle" card. In retrospect that was probably a bad idea as the Shadow player started moving his Dol Armoth Southron horde up to take Minas Tirith. I planned to use "Dead men of dunharrow" to retake Dol Armoth and hopefully retake Helm's Deep with a large Rohan force, but in retrospect I think I spread myself too thin and he probably would have gotten to ten VPs before I could have dunked the ring. Unfortunately the game went too long and we had to quit before we could find out. But I'll try to be mature and admit that my eagerness to play the Last Battle card probably would have cost me the game in the long run.

One big thing that may have made a difference in those games was that we were playing that the "only hit on 6" bonus only applied for the first round for strongholds (I think that was wrong and for strongholds only it applies for every round?) We were still saccing elites to continue attacks, but it seems like that was crucial in a few sieges.

From these next two games it seems like playing aggressive as the Shadow player and sprinting with the ring are pretty much way more viable than any other slower strategies.
 
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Philip Thomas
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Just played this for the first time. Well my game didn't capture the flavour quite so much. It is true that Shaun at one point said "just like in the books", but as he was tallking about the fellowship declaring in Minas Tirith with Gandalf the Grey and Frodo and Sam being the only ones left, I guess he was joking.

Saruman ate Rohan for breakfast, The Witch King wallked into an undefended Grey Havens from Angmar. Lorien was held by the Shadow, besieged by the Elves and Northerners. The arrival of the Corsairs in Dol Amroth was sort of like the books. But Aragorn being crowned before the war ended? Boromir ending up in Ered Luin? Oh well it was a fun game anyway.

The Ents are a concern, but Gandalf has to be in Fangorn, right? So you get a heads up.
 
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Dave J McWeasely
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Re: 1st play: this game captures the flavor perfectly! Fun t
Philip Thomas wrote:
The Ents are a concern, but Gandalf has to be in Fangorn, right? So you get a heads up.
Fangorn or Rohan. Typically its Fangorn though, since presence of a companion in Fangorn lets you play multiple ent cards in one die. On occassion Gandalf will mosey down to lead the Rohan army, and Merry (or-someone) wiell sit in Fangorn to give Saruman second thoughts.
 
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Isley
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I meant it captured a nice "middle earth flavor" You don't "roll three dice and remove a unit for each 4-6, you have the ents rise up and attack Orthanc. Sure other games do this too, but WotR seems to really do a nice job of integrating flavor and function. The difference from the book is one of my favorite things about it...it feels like I'm rewriting middle earth history as I play. Though it often makes it painfully clear how stacked the odds were against the free peoples in the book (Rohan very rarely repels Saruman's forces and destroys Orthanc in the game)
 
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Philip Thomas
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Fair comment, I think the Fellowship Player may get a better deal flavour-wise: very little of the books is from Evil's perspective, so playing the Shadow naturally doesn't feel like the books...
 
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