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Subject: In Depth Session report and game replay rss

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Tim Taylor
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WAR OF THE RING session

Start 1/11/06
Finish 1/19/06

The Shadow and I played a game to completion during three nights of gaming. My estimate is that it took us about 9 hours all told! We both had played several times previously and so felt reasonably comfortable with the rules. We were easily able to find the answers to most of our rules questions within the rulebook provided, although we had available all FAQs (from BGG) that we could lay our grubby paws on as well. This was a tense game right to the very end, with some amazingly intricate battles (e.g., the dance of death in and around Osgiliath). I was the Fellowship Player and managed to convince my opponent, the Shadow, to graciously allow me to take notes for use in this session report.

An oft-repeated complaint about War of the Ring is that you don't play it, it plays you. My understanding of this criticism is that some people feel the cards and dice limit their options too much. Neither my opponent nor myself agrees with this sentiment since it could equally well be applied to any game utilizing cards, from Paths of Glory to Poker! I cannot imagine hearing someone claim that Poker plays you! The reason I mention this is that both of us held onto important cards for long periods of time, waiting for an auspicious moment to play them. Both of us had to deal with less than optimal rolls in our pursuit of victory. We had to husband our resources while dealing with the opportunities presented by cards and dice -- both good and bad. We feel that the Event cards and Action dice methodologies are an elegant means of representing command and control potentials. This session report illustrates that.

I apologize for the length of this session report. I thought some might find what dice were rolled and how they were used to be of interest. But you can just skip to the italicized paragraphs: each turn's after action report. They give an overview of the turn's events as well as what the Shadow and I were thinking while playing.

A = Army die used.
C = Character die used.
E = Event die used.
M = Muster die used.
* = Will of the West die used.
! = Elven Ring used to alter die roll.

TURN 1:
Free Peoples roll 4 dice. Fellowship in Rivendell@0. Corruption=0. VP=0. Gandalf is Guide.
Shadow rolls 7 dice. 2 eyes + 5 dice, 3 eyes total. VP=0.
FP- C Move to Rivendell@1. 3 Hunt damage. Corruption+3.
SP- M Isengard AT WAR!
FP- M Rohan advances on Political Track.
SP- M Saruman activated! Add one Action die!
FP- A Edoras to West Emnet, Minas Tirith to Osgiliath.
SP- E play "Rage of the Dunlendings" in Gap of Rohan.
FP- C* Move to Rivendell@2. Eye = 2 Hunt damage. Pippin take as a random loss, no dice left, so he dies. Corruption+1. Fellowship REVEALED in Hollin!
SP- C Move all Nazgul. Hollin, Moria, North Dunland.
Getting hammered so hard right out of the gate does not bode well. I'll switch Guides next turn to ensure that Fellowship gets Hidden again quickly. Rohan is in the Shadow's sights, but what's he really up to?


TURN 2:
Free Peoples roll 4 dice. Fellowship revealed in Hollin! Corruption=4. VP=0. Strider is Guide.
Shadow rolls 8 dice. 3 eyes + 5 dice, 3 eyes total. VP=0.
FP- C Fellowship is Hidden.
SP- M The Voice of Saruman. 2 regulars become elites in Orthanc.
FP- PASS
SP- A Gap of Rohan to Orthanc, North Dunland to Hollin.
FP- C play "Athelas" lose 2 Corruption.
SP- E play "Shelob's Lair" add a die Hunt tile to the Mordor endgame.
FP- C Move to Hollin@1. 3 Hunt damage. Gandalf randomly taken as a loss.
SP- E Draw a Strategy Event card.
FP- * Gandalf the White appears in Fangorn! Add one Action die!
SP- C play "The Nazgul Strike" Hunt does 3 damage. Corruption+3.
If I knew I'd roll so many Character dice, I would have kept Gandalf as Guide! Lucky that he was taken as the loss... The Shadow is just piling on the Corruption! This could be a real short game. Why has the Shadow not been more aggressive militarily?


TURN 3:
Free Peoples roll 5 dice. Fellowship in Hollin@1. Corruption=5. VP=0. Strider is Guide.
Shadow rolls 8 dice. 2 eyes + 6 dice, 2 eyes total. VP=0.
FP- PASS
SP- E "Threats and Promises" in effect. Passive nations may not advance Politically.
FP- E "Dain's Ironfoot Guards" in Erebor.
SP- M The Voice of Saruman recruits regulars.
FP- C Hollin@2.
SP- M Mordor AT WAR!
FP- C Hollin@3. 1 Hunt damage. Corruption+1.
SP- M Nation of Southrons and Easterlings advances on the Political track.
FP- C Move Gandalf to West Emnet. Rohan activated!
SP- A Far Harad to Near harad, Gorgoroth to Minas Morgul.
FP- C West Emnet to Fords of Isen (includes Gandalf).
SP- C Minas Morgul to South Ithilien.
Could "Threats and Promises" have been the reason that the Shadow is still playing coy? Perhaps he's looking to pick off these nations one at a time? At least the Fellowship was able to limp onward to Lorien. Corruption at 6 on turn 3 is the worst I've ever seen! There's gonna be a whole lotta healing goin' on in the flets and talans of the old Galdhrim trees tonight!


TURN 4:
Free Peoples roll 5 dice. Fellowship declared in Lorien! Corruption=6-1=5. VP=0. Strider is Guide.
Shadow rolls 8 dice. 1 eye + 7 dice, 1 eye total. VP=0.
FP- E play "Grimbeorn the Old, son of Beorn" Elite and leader in Carrock.
SP- M Nation of Southrons and Easterlings AT WAR!
FP- PASS
SP- E play "Horde from the East" 5 units in East Rhun.
FP- PASS
SP- E play "Mustering of a Long Planned War" 5 units in Gorgoroth, 5 units in Nurn.
FP- C Boromir leaves the Fellowship, moves to East Emnet.
SP- A Near Harad to West Harondor, Barad-Dur to Gorgoroth.
FP- C Boromir moves to Minas Tirith -- Gondor activated! Gandalf moves to Fangorn.
SP- A South Rhun to East Rhun, Gorgoroth to Minas Morgul.
FP- M advance Gondor on the Political Track, "Threats and Promises" discarded.
SP- M Muster 2 Nazgul -- Minas Morgul and Morannon.
FP- M advance Gondor on the Political Track, Gondor AT WAR!.
SP- C move all Nazgul, East Rhun, West Harondor, around Lorien.
With so much Corruption accumulated, the Shadow knows he can take it easy on the "Eyes." No way will I leave Lorien at 5 Corruption -- and he knows it! I'm trapped in paradise! Still, I sent Boromir out to rally Gondor and got rid of "Threats and Promises" -- that card can be most troublesome. His huge build-up of forces is obviously why the Shadow has been so quiescent. I've been saving up my own surprise for him, though...


TURN 5:
Free Peoples roll 5 dice. Fellowship in Lorien@0. Corruption=5-1=4. VP=0. Strider is Guide. must discard one Event card!
Shadow rolls 8 dice. 1 eye + 7 dice, 1 eye total. VP=0.
FP- C "Axe and Bow" in effect.
SP- E play "The Ringwraiths are Abroad" armies move to North Ithilien and Vale of the Carnen.
FP- PASS
SP- M Activate Witch King in South Ithilien! Add one Action die! All nations active.
FP- M play "Thranduil's Archers"
SP- M The Voice of Saruman -- regulars.
FP- PASS
SP- C Witch King in South Ithilien attacks Osgiliath. SP plays "They Are Terrible" while FP plays "Confusion." FP loses Elite, SP loses 4 regulars.
FP- M regulars in Minas Tirith and Pelargir.
SP- C Orthanc attacks Fords of Isen. SP plays "Great Host" while FP plays "Huorn Dark." both sides lose 1 regular, Theodred and company retreats to Helm's Deep. First Ent card played!
FP- A Minas Tirith (and Boromir) to Osgiliath, Carrock to Old Forest Road.
SP- A Fords of Isen attacks Helm's Deep. Both sides lose 4 in intial battle, retreat into the Stronghold of Helm's Deep with what little's left. Besieged! Rohan AT WAR!
FP- C play "The Ents Awake! Entmoot" then since Gandalf was in Fangorn, follow that up with "Treebeard!" Yowza! Saruman eliminated! SP loses one Action die! Second and third Ent card played with the same Action die!
SP- A attack besieged Helm's Deep. Capture Helm's Deep from Theodred's pitiful remnant! SP gets +2 VPs!
I had to discard an Event because I've been saving three Ent cards in my hand, just waiting for the right time... Boy, was the Shadow ever surprised! However, that left me only three open spots in my hand for cards. Luckily, the Shadow didn't notice my hoarding. I did make a mistake defending Helm's Deep that first time -- and paid heavily for it! Still, eliminating Saruman has totally changed the nature of this game! Since the Shadow's spirits had fallen considerably due to his loss, we decided to stop here for the evening.

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We recommenced play the following Saturday. The Shadow wanted to concede and start a new game, but I convinced him to continue this one (mainly because I'd been keeping notes for this session report)! He really was demoralized by Saruman's elimination (becoming "Sharky" and moving on to Hobbiton). The fact he held Helm's Deep with but a few units was mitigated by the fact that Rohan had lost nearly all its standing army already. Saruman was no longer a threat, true, but Rohan was ripe for the taking! Plus, the Fellowship was still pretty corrupted... In the end, we agreed to continue play.


TURN 6:
Free Peoples roll 5 dice. Fellowship in Lorien@0. Corruption=4-1=3. VP=0. Strider is Guide.
Shadow rolls 8 dice (+1-1). 1 eye + 7 dice, 2 eyes total. VP=2.
FP- M Regulars in West Emnet and Pelargir.
SP- C Vale of the Carnen attacks Dale -- wiped out utterly. +1 VP to the Shadow!
FP- M Leaders in West Emnet and Pelargir.
SP- E "Olog-Hai" in South Ithilien.
FP- C West Emnet to Fords of Isen.
SP- A Helm' Deep attacks Fords of Isen. FP plays "Sudden Strike." After several rounds, Helm's Deep reduced to one regular!
FP- A* Fords of Isen to Orthanc! +2 VPs!
SP- C play "The Black Captain Commands" South Ithilien attacks Osgiliath. SP plays "Cruel as Death." Both sides take heavy losses, but South Ithilien reduced to just one regular.
FP- PASS
SP- M Elite in Minas Morgul.
FP- E Draw Character Event card.
SP- M Elite in Minas Morgul.
The Shadow was banking that I wouldn't leave Lorien with 3 Corruption -- and he's right. So it's "light on the eyes" once again! The battles in Rohan were fought with very few pieces on both sides, making them very exciting! Just a few die rolls either way could have totally altered the outcome. As it was, the Shadow's hubris got the better of him and he attacked the Fords of Isen one too many times. He was pretty unlucky though... Same thing in the battle for Osgiliath. The Shadow later confided that he was sweating blood while the Witch King was vulnerable in South Ithilien, guarded by only one regular! He needn't have worried so. I had neither the army, the Action die, nor the Will to do much attacking. This was the very first game we saw where Orthanc fell to the Free Peoples. A lot of luck, bad judgment, and those three Ent cards had something to do with it...


TURN 7:
Free Peoples roll 5 dice. Fellowship in Lorien@0. Corruption=3-1=2. VP=2. Strider is Guide.
Shadow rolls 8 dice. 2 eyes + 6 dice, 4 eyes total. VP=3.
FP- C play "House of the Stewards" elite in Osgiliath and then draw two cards.
SP- A Minas Morgul to South Ithilien, Nurn to Gorgoroth.
FP- E "Eomer, Son of Eomund" in West Emnet.
SP- E "Hill Trolls" in South Ithilien and Dol Guldur.
FP- E* "A Power too Great!" in effect. Grey Havens, Rivendell, and Lorien may not be attacked!
SP- M regulars in Angmar and Minas Morgul.
FP- C West Emnet attacks Helm's Deep. Orcs besieged in Helm's Deep by Eomer!
SP- A North Ithilien attacks Osgiliath. SP plays "Relentless Assault" while FP plays "Confusion." This battle goes disasterously wrong for the Shadow! He loses 4 units to my one loss, then he calls it quits.
FP- C Eomer attacks besieged orcs in Helm's Deep. No effect.
This was the first turn I thought about leaving Lorien, but those four Eye dice frightened me into staying put. The funny thing was that the Shadow really bitched about rolling so many Eyes, thus limiting his options! If he only knew... The Shadow sure breathed a heavy sigh of relief when Minas Morgul's forces reinforced the Witch King and his lone defender in South Ithilien! This turn was basically just beefing up our forces again after some pretty catastrophic losses. Once again, Boromir's forces in Osgiliath hang tough and inflict another major defeat on the Shadow. I think it was around this time that I began to refer to him as "General Boromir" or simply "the General." Playing "A Power Too Great" sure makes me feel more at ease about the paltry forces guarding the Elven Havens -- they'll be safe for now (except the Woodland Realm, of course).


TURN 8:
Free Peoples roll 5 dice. Fellowship in Lorien@0. Corruption=2-1=1. VP=2. Strider is Guide.
Shadow rolls 8 dice. 2 eyes + 6 dice, 3 eyes total. VP=3.
FP- C Move to Lorien@1.
SP- E "Give it to Uss!" adds 1 Hunt tile to Mordor mix.
FP- M regulars in West Emnet and Minas Tirith.
SP- C Easterlings in Dale attack Old Forest Road. SP plays "Great Horde" while FP plays "Shield Wall" The North is AT WAR! Thus Grimbeorn and his force can retreat into Thranduil's Woodland Realm.
FP- A West Emnet to siege at Helm's Deep, North Downs to Ettenmoors.
SP- A Morannon to Dagorlad, Gorgoroth to Minas Morgul.
FP- A Siege attack on Helm's Deep results in one loss on both sides. Helm's Deep recaptured! The Shadow loses 2 VPs!
SP- M regulars in Angmar and Dol Guldur.
FP- E* "Elven Rope" adds a 0 Hunt tile to the Mordor endgame mix.
SP- E Draw a Strategy Event card.
Past time for the Fellowship to be moving on -- five turns in Lorien is long enough! I'm not sure what I was thinking by sending the Rangers into the Ettenmoors, especially with the Easterlings poised to snag the Woodland Realm and Erebor. In the end it was a wasted army move... The Shadow spent a lot of his efforts just cobbling together more forces to throw at Osgiliath. Recapturing Helm's Deep makes Rohan safe again -- for now. Good thing too, since they have almost no forces left!


TURN 9:
Free Peoples roll 5 dice. Fellowship in Lorien@1. Corruption=1. VP=2. Strider is Guide.
Shadow rolls 8 dice. 2 eyes + 6 dice, 3 eyes total. VP=1.
FP- C* Lorien@2.
SP- A Dale attacks Erebor -- besieged.
FP- E play "Kindred of Glorfindel" add an elite to Rivendell.
SP- M play "Monsters Roused" place elite in Trollshaws and a regular in Angmar, Weather Hills, and Ettenmoors (see below).
FP- E play "Guards of the Citadel" elite and leader in Minas Tirith.
SP- A Siege attack Erebor. FP plays "Sudden Strike" both sides take one loss.
FP- M regulars in West Emnet and Carrock.
SP- A Siege attack Erebor. Dwarves take heavy losses.
FP- A Edoras to West Emnet, Minas Tirith to Osgiliath.
SP- E Draw one Strategy Event card.
The "Monsters Roused" card posed our only unanswered rules question. It placed an orc in Ettenmoors, where there was already a Northern elite. We could not find either in the rules or FAQs how to handle the fact that there were two opposing pieces in the same region. On the one hand, it's easiest to say that since Ettenmoors region was already occupied by a Free Peoples' unit, no orc should be placed there. On the other hand, we both thought that it was more in keeping with the spirit of the card played to have a battle within the region immediately take place. In this battle the orc was eliminated, but the Rangers were bumped down to a regular unit. The Rangers were all but totally surrounded to boot! On the other side of the board, Erebor was looking mighty close to falling. They weren't at war yet and so I couldn't build in the Iron Hills. The Shadow was starting to feel confident of a Military Victory...


TURN 10:
Free Peoples roll 5 dice. Fellowship in Lorien@2. Corruption=1. VP=2. Strider is Guide.
Shadow rolls 8 dice. 2 eyes + 6 dice, 2 eyes total. VP=1. must discard 2 Event cards!
FP- E play "Faramir's Rangers" General Boromir's forces in Osgiliath now number 3 regulars, 3 elites, 3 leaders, and the great man himself.
SP- C move all Nazgul. Three Nazgul end up in Erebor!
FP- PASS
SP- A Dagorlad to North Ithilien, Minas Morgul to South Ithilien.
FP- C! Use an Elven Ring to change a Muster to a Character die! Lorien@3. 0 damage, but the Fellowship is REVEALED in the Druadan Forest!
SP- E play "Orc Patrol" but draw a 0 Hunt tile.
FP- M Strider uses a Muster die to Hide the Fellowship.
SP- C A Nazgul moves to the Druadan Forest, the others rearrange a bit.
FP- A West Emnet to Fords of Isen, Dol Amroth to Lamedon.
SP- E "The Ring is Mine!" adds an Eye Hunt tile to the Mordor endgame mix.
FP- M Advance the Elven nations one on the Political Track.
SP- A North Ithilien attacks Osgiliath. FP plays "Brave Stand" General Boromir's force deals out four losses to the Shadow and takes no hits in return.
First use of an Elven Ring to change a die result -- I just had to keep the Fellowship moving! Both the Shadow and I agree that Elven Rings are not to be used lightly. Once they're gone, they're gone. The Shadow was really disappointed that he couldn't make the Fellowship suffer more with that Orc Patrol while they were revealed, but them's the breaks. My moving the Rohirrim to the Fords of Isen was based on a worry that the Shadow might gather up all his scattered forces in Eriador and retake Orthanc. I needn't have bothered -- he had other plans. The move from Dol Amroth to Lamedon was sheer bravado, banking that he didn't have "Corsairs" but I'm running out of Gondorians! And once again, General Boromir's tactical genius leads to a rout of a much more numerous foe. By this time, the Shadow started to curse under his breath and examine the dice to see if there were any 5s and 6s on his set!


TURN 11:
Free Peoples roll 5 dice. Fellowship in Druadan Forest@0. Corruption=1. VP=2. Strider is Guide.
Shadow rolls 8 dice. 3 eyes + 5 dice, 3 eyes total. VP=1.
FP- E "Mithril Coat and Sting" in effect. can call for a different Hunt tile draw.
SP- A play "Shadows Gather" Forces from Dol Guldur move to North Ithilien.
FP- C* Fellowship in Druadan Forest@1. Nazgul Hunt re-roll causes a REVEAL Hunt tile result! "Mithril Coat and Sting" used to negate that Hunt tile! Instead a 2 Hunt tile is drawn, but "Axe and Bow" used to reduce the Corruption to 1 (2-1=1)!
SP- A The Witch King in South Ithilien attacks Osgiliath. SP plays "Words of Power" both sides take heavy losses during many rounds of combat.
FP- A Pelargir to Osgiliath, Lamedon to Pelargir.
SP- A North Ithilien attacks Osgiliath. Heavy Orc losses.
FP- E playing "Imrahil of Dol Amroth" puts an elite there.
SP- A West Harondor attacks Osgiliath. Heavy losses on both sides forces General Boromir's force to retreat to Minas Tirith. However, the Southrons are too few in number to risk moving any units into Osgiliath. Osgiliath is left vacant!
FP- M* Elves AT WAR!
SP- A! Use the corrupt Elven Ring to change a Muster to an Army die! North Ithilien moves to Osgiliath, Minas Morgul to South Ithilien.
Using "Mithril Coat and Sting" plus "Axe and Bow" at the same time sure got the Fellowship out of a pretty sticky situation! Being revealed so close to Mordor is no fun! In Osgiliath, I was about to retreat when the Witch King discontinued his assault. Good tactics on his part -- leaving me vulnerable by an attack from elsewhere. I had to do some artful shuffling of forces in the south to scrape together an adequate defense for later combat. Thankfully, it was enough to repulse the attack from North Ithilien. I also lucked out getting the "Imrahil" card this turn to protect against "Corsairs" (which the Shadow apparently did not have). However, at this point only one Gondorian regular is left unbuilt, which I'm saving to make "change" if an elite should be called upon to take one hit. With West Harondor's success, though, the Shadow was now becoming very confident of his conquest of Gondor... I need to declare the Fellowship in Minas Tirith, but don't want to get trapped there. This will require som fancy footwork!


TURN 12:
Free Peoples roll 5 dice. Fellowship declared in Minas Tirith! Corruption=2-1=1. VP=2. Strider is Guide.
Shadow rolls 8 dice. 2 eyes + 6 dice, 4 eyes total. VP=1.
FP- C Fellowship to Minas Tirith@1. Hunt does 1 corruption and the Fellowship is REVEALED in Osgiliath!
SP- A West Harondor to Umbar, South Ithilien to Osgiliath.
FP- E Strider uses an Event die to hide the Fellowship.
SP- E "Corsairs of Umbar!" land in Dol Amroth -- besieged!
FP- C! Use an Elven Ring to change an Event to a Character die! Strider separates from the Fellowship, Gandalf moves from Fangorn to Minas Tirith, Boromir (alone) moves back into Osgiliath.
SP- A Osigiliath attacks Minas Tirith -- besieged!
FP- E "Elven Cloaks" adds a 0 Hunt tile to the endgame Mordor mix.
SP- M "Shadows of the Misty Mountains" places 2 units in Moria.
FP- M Rohan Elite unit in Anorien.
I clearly had to get the Fellowship out of Minas Tirith right away! It's a shame they got spotted in Osgiliath, as it was filled to the brim with Nazguls and orcs -- what is it with that place, anyway?! The Shadow's army moves perplexed me, until he played "Corsairs!" In my opinion, "Corsairs" is one of the nastiest cards the Shadow has up his sleeve -- all of a sudden, there's a huge army behind your lines! Separating Strider from the Fellowship was well worth using my second Elven Ring -- I need that extra Action die of Aragorn's! Boromir's lone move into Osgiliath had two purposes: first I don't want too many besieged Companions in Minas Tirith and second ... well let's just say I've got a secret plan! The Shadow bitterly complained about how he had to ignore the sieges of Erebor and Dol Amroth since he could only really follow through with one siege at a time (due to dice). He swore he would put pressure everywhere next turn! Since we'd been playing for many, many hours and were both quite tired, we decided to call it a night. The Shadow and I chilled: we drank a brewski or twoski and walked around the board exchanging "what-if?" scenarios. At this point we both felt we had a decent shot at victory.

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The Shadow had Thursday night off, so we decided to finish up this game starting in the late afternoon. We figured an hour or so -- tops -- to finish the quest. Boy, were we ever wrong! Maybe it was the ethanol that slowed us down, but I feel that all of a sudden this game became incredibly intricate -- with small decisions having huge ramifications later. We both began seriously analyzing our moves as both tried to eke-out a win in a pretty evenly-balanced game -- right to the end. I was shooting for a Ring Victory, although Lorien's proximity to both the lightly held Shadow Strongholds of Moria and Dol Guldur kept the Shadow guessing. The Shadow was obviously trying to wear down all Gondorian and Rohan forces to get a military victory...


TURN 13:
Free Peoples roll 5 dice. Fellowship in Osgiliath@0. Corruption=2. VP=2. Legolas is Guide.
Shadow rolls 8 dice. 3 eyes + 5 dice, 3 eyes total. VP=1.
FP- C Pelargir attacks Osgiliath. Shadow forces retreat to North Ithilien. Osgiliath recaptured, while Pelargir left empty. Minas Tirith besieged, yet surrounded! Weird!
SP- E "Denethor's Folly" in effect. One FP leader eliminated in Minas Tirith.
FP- C Fellowship moves to Osgiliath@1.
SP- C play "Nazgul Search" move all Nazgul (into Osgiliath too), Fellowship REVEALED in North Ithilien!
FP- C force "Denethor's Folly" to be discarded since Gandalf is in Minas Tirith!
SP- C play "Grond, Hammer of the Underworld!" forces three siege rounds in Minas Tirith! 1st: FP plays "Brave Stand" FP loses 1, SP loses 4! 2nd: FP plays "Heroic Death" FP loses 1 leader, SP loses 4! 3rd: FP loses 2, SP loses 2. Minas Tirith holds with one regular, one leader, Gandalf, and Strider. However, the Witch King's forces are in no better shape!
FP- A play "Help Unlooked For" General Boromir in Osgiliath attacks the Witch King's besieging forces in Minas Tirith -- eliminates the Witch King! -1 die for the Shadow!
SP- A attack besieged Erebor. Dwarves AT WAR! All nations AT WAR! Dwarves barely hold against the Easterlings.
FP- * Aragorn proclaimed in Minas Tirith! +1 die for the Free Peoples!
SP- M! Use the corrupt Elven Ring to change a Character to a Muster die! Activate the Mouth of Sauron! +1 die for the Shadow!
The Osgiliath counter-attack presented a very weird situation: Strider, Gandalf and company were besieged in Minas Tirith, but the Witch King's forces were in turn surrounded on all sides -- like the Roman battle of Alesia or a glazed doughnut (take your pick of similes). The Shadow remained unconcerned -- but he should have been more circumspect. Admittedly, "Denethor's Folly" could seriously hamper the defense of Minas Tirith, but General Boromir had yet to show his true military genius. Having the Fellowship revealed in North Ithilien, though, was making me shake in my boots -- I decided to do anything I could to distract the Shadow! I started by getting rid of "Denethor's Folly" (which I might not have normally done). The Shadow took the bait, although "Grond" is another one of those uber-nasty cards, ordinarily. Some good rolling (and cards) on my part coupled with some poor rolling on the Shadow's part made for a disasterous attack. I'd been saving "Help Unlooked For" since early in the game, just waiting for the right moment to strike. Relieving the siege of Minas Tirith and eliminating the Witch King seemed a pretty good pay off to me! Proclaiming Aragorn afterwards was icing on the cake. What a rollercoaster ride this turn was! The Shadow downed a couple shots of Crown Royal (bought for the bag, to put Hunt tiles in) to ease the pain of defeat! We agreed to continue playing, but the Shadow made it clear that he went along with this only because I'd already taken such voluminous notes. Ordinarily, he would have conceded after losing the Witch King in this situation.


TURN 14:
Free Peoples roll 6 dice. Fellowship revealed in North Ithilien! Corruption=2. VP=2. Legolas is Guide.
Shadow rolls 8 dice (+1-1). 3 eyes + 5 dice, 3 eyes total. VP=1.
FP- C Hide the Fellowship!
SP- E play "Orcs Multiplying Again" 3 units in Dol Guldur, 3 in Mt. Gundabad.
FP- C Fellowship in North Ithilien@1. 1 Hunt damage. Randomly take Merry as a loss. Merry is dead!
SP- E playing "Cruel Weather" shifts the last known Fellowship position from North Ithilien to Eastern Emyn Muil!
FP- E "I Will Go Alone" Legolas and Gimli separate from the Fellowship and move to the Old Forest Road. Frodo's selflessness recovers a Corruption point (now at only 1).
SP- A attack besieged Dol Amroth, which is captured! Shadow gets +2 VPs!
FP- A Woodland Realm attacks Dale. Easterlings eliminated. Dale recaptured! -1VP.
SP- A "The Shadow is Moving" 4 armies move -- Dol Amroth to Lamedon, Dol Guldur to Eastern Mirkwood, Mt. Gundabad to Eagle's Eyrie and Moria to Dimrill Dale.
FP- M "King Brand's Men" 2 regulars reinforce Dale, draw a Strategy Event card.
SP- M one regular in both Minas Morgul and Umbar.
FP- A* Dale attacks Erebor's besiegers. Easterlings and 2 Nazgul eliminated!
Both the Shadow and I were experiencing a paucity of units, so things slowed down a bit. However, he could rebuild his shattered forces and I could not! Time was on his side, not mine. Losing Merry was unfortunate, but I'd rather not spend the die to save him at the moment... "Cruel Weather" is, perhaps, the most powerful card in the Shadow's arsenal -- especially when coupled with other nasty cards. In this case it wasn't so bad, but definitely caused a setback. I felt, the Shadow had clearly shifted gears and was opting for a Corruption Victory. That's why I separated Legolas and Gimli with "I Will Go Alone" -- he'll only be able to place one Eye die in the Hunt box from now on. I'd been saving "King Brand's Men" for a long time, and those reinforcements were crucial in saving Erebor! Most of the Shadow's plans have come to naught, but he still vowed to wipe Gondor from the face of the map!


TURN 15:
Free Peoples roll 6 dice. Fellowship in Eastern Emyn Muil@1. Corruption=1. VP=2. Gollum is Guide.
Shadow rolls 8 dice. 1 eye (max) + 7 dice, 1 eye total. VP=2.
FP- C* Move all Companions. Aragorn to Osgiliath, Gandalf to Anorien, Legolas and Gimli to Dale.
SP- M regulars in Moria and Minas Morgul.
FP- A Forces under Aragorn and Boromir in Osgiliath attack South Ithilien, Shadow loses a Nazgul and 2 orcs. Advance into South Ithilien.
SP- C Move all Nazgul. to Eagle's Eyrie and Eastern Mirkwood.
FP- A "The Last Battle" in effect!
SP- A Lamedon to Pelargir (+1 VP), Eastern Mirkwood to Old Forest Road.
FP- C "Smeagol Helps Nice Master" adds a -1 Hunt tile to the Mordor endgame mix.
SP- C Pelargir attacks Osgiliath. FP plays "Scouts" and Boromir's force retreats back into Minas Tirith. Osgiliath once again controlled by the Shadow!
FP- PASS
SP- A Southrons in Osgiliath attack Minas Tirith -- besieged yet again!
FP- C Fellowship in Eastern Emyn Muil@2.
SP- A Southrons siege attack Minas Tirith. SP plays "They are Terrible" and at the end only one regular (and Boromir) holds Minas Tirith!
FP- E* "Riders of Theoden" places an elite and leader in Anorien with Gandalf.
SP- E Draw a Character Event card.
Finally, I got to use that Gollum figure that came free in Spielbox cereal! This is the first game I've ever played where I could actually use "The Last Battle" card! It's an awesome card, but so hard to deploy and keep in play. The Southrons rolling up the coast of Gondor were a bit of a worry... Boromir's subsequent retreat left Aragorn and his force high and dry in South Ithilien -- way behind enemy lines! It began to look like I'd lose both Minas Tirith and Aragorn, and after such a wonderous victory last turn...


TURN 16: Mordor endgame starts. Fellowship placed on the Mordor Track. Special Mordor and Eye Hunt tiles added back into the Crown Royal bag.
Free Peoples roll 6 dice. Fellowship declared in Morannon. Fellowship in Mordor@1. Corruption=1. VP=2. Gollum is Guide.
Shadow rolls 8 dice. 1 eye (max) + 7 dice, 1 eye total. VP=3.
FP- C Fellowship attempts to move to Mordor@2, successful, but an Eye Hunt tile REVEALS the Fellowship and inflicts 1 Corruption. Character die is not added to the Hunt box due to "The Last Battle" being in effect!
SP- E playing "The Breaking of the Fellowship" adds +1 Corruption since Gollum is the Guide.
FP- C Hide the Fellowship.
SP- M Elite in Minas Morgul.
FP- C Fellowship attempts to move to Mordor@3, successful, but an Eye Hunt tile REVEALS the Fellowship and inflicts 1 Corruption. Character die is not added to the Hunt box due to "The Last Battle" being in effect!
SP- A Minas Morgul attacks South Ithilien. FP plays "Scouts" and retreats to West Harondor. "The Last Battle" card is discarded!
FP- E "Cirdan's Ships" pluts 2 Elven elites in West Harondor (with Aragorn). Umbar threatened!
SP- M "Many Kings to the Service of Mordor" places two regulars in Umbar, Near Harad, and North Rhun.
FP- C Fellowship Hidden again.
SP- A South Ithilien to Osgiliath, Near Harad to Umbar.
FP- A Anorien (with Gandalf and Theoden) to Druadan Forest, West Harondor (with Aragorn) to South Ithilien! Minas Morgul threatened!
SP- C Osgiliath (incl. Mouth of Sauron) to North Ithilien.
FP- PASS
SP- A North Ithilien to Minas Morgul, Umbar to West Harondor.
If only I can use "The Last Battle" to advance the Fellowship a bunch of times this turn, I'd achieve my immediate goals. I wasn't able to move as many times as I'd like before Aragorn was forced to retreat, but two spots ain't bad -- and Frodo only picked up 3 total Corruption this turn. Aragorn's retreat to West Harondor caused some surprise to the Shadow, until he saw "Cirdan's Ships!" He couldn't believe he'd actually helped me get into a better position to play that card! Aragorn's meagre forces, reinforced after their retreat, really demoralized the Shadow. He felt Umbar was threatened, but I just wanted to rescue Minas Tirith -- of course, I didn't tell him that! The Shadow really freaked when Aragorn's men and elves then threatened Minas Morgul! He immediately pulled back his forces two regions to protect it! But Aragorn was being encircled again.


TURN 17:
Free Peoples roll 6 dice. Fellowship in Mordor@3. Corruption=4. VP=2. Gollum is Guide.
Shadow rolls 8 dice. 1 eye (max) + 7 dice, 2 eyes total. VP=3.
FP- A South Ithilien (Aragorn) attacks Osgiliath. Osgiliath retaken yet again!
SP- C Discard both a Character and Strategy Event card in order to remove "A Power Too Great."
FP- A Druadan Forest (Gandalf) to Osgiliath, Dale to Woodland Realm. Legolas and Gimli stay in Dale with Brand's men and Grimbeorn.
SP- C Siege attack Minas Tirith (Boromir), which holds and inflicts Southron losses.
FP- A Osgiliath (Aragorn and Gandalf) attacks Southrons besieging Minas Tirith. SP suffers terrible losses: 2 Nazgul and 3 Southrons eliminated! Minas Tirith saved! Again!
SP- E "Pits of Mordor" places 2 regulars in Dol Guldur, Minas Morgul, and Morannon.
FP- C Fellowship attempts to move to Mordor@4, successful, draw a blue 0 Hunt tile!
SP- C Old Forest Road attacks Dale -- retreat to Erebor. Shadow gets +1 VP.
FP- C Fellowship attempts to move to Mordor@5, Must Stop due to brown Shelob (!!!) Hunt tile which inflicts 1d6 Corruption. A "4" is rolled, adding 4 Corruption for a total of 8!
SP- C playing "Candles of Corpses" adds 0 additional Corruption.
FP- E* "Bilbo's Song" Heals 2 Corruption!
SP- C Eagle's Eyrie attacks Carrock, men retreat to OLd Forest Road.
Why did the Shadow remove "A Power Too Great" like that? Did he have plans for attacking Lorien or Rivendell? When I later asked, he said he simply had two cards that "sucked big time" and so decided to discard them and get some benefit out of the deal! Clearly the Crown Royal was having an effect! However, his action really jolted me, and made me play more cautiously, so who's to say... Losing at Minas Tirith yet again, and against such paltry defending forces, really broke the Shadow's spirit! He began predicting his own his own failure in battle even before he would attack, and then act surprised if he won. Poor chap! He obviously switched to a pure Corruption Victory frame of mind. Drawing the Shelob Hunt tile and getting 4 Corruption really narrowed my chances of victory and remained a bright spot for the Shadow in an otherwise dreadful turn. We both knew this game was winding down. Could Frodo toss the ring in time?


TURN 18:
Free Peoples roll 6 dice. Fellowship in Mordor@4. Corruption=6. VP=2. Gollum is Guide.
Shadow rolls 8 dice. 1 eye (max) + 7 dice, 2 eyes total. VP=4.
FP- C Fellowship attempts to move to Mordor@5, successful, draw a blue 0 Hunt tile!
SP- E "The Shadow Lengthens" armies move from North Rhun to Dale, Dol Guldur to Dimrill Dale.
FP- M Dwarven elite in Erebor.
SP- M Nazgul in Moria and Dol Guldur.
FP- A one regular in Old Forest Road to Woodland Realm, Iron Hills regular to Erebor.
SP- C Move all Nazgul. Three to Dimrill Dale.
FP- C Fellowship attempts to move to The Crack of Doom, successful, draw an Eye Hunt tile, add 3 Corruption (to 9), Fellowship REVEALED! However, Frodo, Sam, and Gollum have made it to the Crack of Doom and chucked in the Ring!

THE FELLOWSHIP WINS A RING VICTORY!

We both knew that that blue 0 Hunt tile drawn first meant Frodo would likely make it to The Crack of Doom OK, but we played through the remainder of the turn just to make sure (and finish this session report). To the Bitter End. It all came down to that last Hunt tile drawn... Then the Shadow and I began our post mortem.

The Shadow felt like he had a good shot at victory until the last couple of turns, while I had the opposite experience. Even winning with the Free Peoples is fighting a losing battle. In the end, all my nations had very few or no available builds (except the North). The fact that the Shadow can keep coming back makes it tough to keep fighting battle after battle.

In retrospect, I feel I attacked too much, especially with Gondorian forces; I must have gotten carried away with "General" Boromir's successes. I could have gone for a military victory after capturing Orthanc, since taking one more Shadow Stronghold would've won me the game. I just never have had any success pursuing that approach and so didn't even think to attack Moria or Dol Guldur or Umbar. I think that may have been a serious mistake on my part.

The Shadow felt that his combat rolls were extremely lousy, but did not want to blame his loss on bad dice rools. After the game, he said he could see how he had been dispersed in his efforts throughout the game. He felt he should have pursued one line of attack at a time. I'm not so sure since he did get me to expend dice and cards in all these attacks. In the end, the Shadow said he learned that "The Last Battle" is not a card to be overly feared. It is just so hard to maintain a Free Peoples force that close to Mordor for any length of time. He felt I would have probably won regardless of whether that card was played or not, due to my low corruption heading into Mordor.

We both thought this game nicely illustrated how hanging onto the proper cards for a long time, until just the right time, is an integral part of the fun of this game. As such, we felt that if we were to teach a new player, we would have to sit down and at least cover some of the major card effects rather than have them go into it blind. For example, any new Shadow player has got to know about the existence of those Ent Event cards.

The Shadow wants to mention that during these long sessions we listened to a lot of different genres of music, but tended to play what I call "Ambient Noize" -- the soundtrack was predominantly:
Coil "Time Machines"
AKLO "Beyond Madness"
Haujobb, Zoviet France, Black Dice, Throbbing Gristle, and God Speed You Black Emperor.


And just to put eveyone's mind at ease, the Shadow stayed overnight in my guest room. Remember, kids, drinking and driving do not mix!

TT 1/29/06
 
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Herr Niemand wrote:
TURN 1:
Free Peoples roll 4 dice. Fellowship in Rivendell@0. Corruption=0. VP=0. Gandalf is Guide.
Shadow rolls 7 dice. 2 eyes + 5 dice, 3 eyes total. VP=0.
FP- C Move to Rivendell@1. 3 Hunt damage. Corruption+3.
SP- M Isengard AT WAR!
FP- M Rohan advances on Political Track.
SP- M Saruman activated! Add one Action die!
FP- A Edoras to West Emnet, Minas Tirith to Osgiliath.
SP- E play "Rage of the Dunlendings" in Gap of Rohan.
FP- C* Move to Rivendell@2. Eye = 2 Hunt damage. Pippin take as a random loss, no dice left, so he dies. Corruption+1. Fellowship REVEALED in Hollin!
SP- C Move all Nazgul. Hollin, Moria, North Dunland.
Getting hammered so hard right out of the gate does not bode well. I'll switch Guides next turn to ensure that Fellowship gets Hidden again quickly. Rohan is in the Shadow's sights, but what's he really up to?
You could say this is getting hammered right out of the gate, but many WotR fanatics would say that getting found and drawing a 3 tile is the best possible start for the Fellowship: Gandalf the Grey dies and is replaced by Gandalf the White, with his extra die, the very next turn - even that same turn sometimes.
 
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Robin Munn

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Excellent session report! I wish more people would write up the die rolls like that. Obviously it takes a lot of effort, so it's quite understandable when people don't. But I'd love to see more session reports this detailed, so this gets a tip of not 1, but 2 from me!
 
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Robin Munn

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Herr Niemand wrote:
TURN 14:
FP- C Fellowship in North Ithilien@1. 1 Hunt damage. Randomly take Merry as a loss. Merry is dead!
Losing Merry was unfortunate, but I'd rather not spend the die to save him at the moment...


From reading this, it seems you have the same misunderstanding of Merry and Pippin's power that I had. See http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/90917 for details: basically, you don't spend the die immediately to save Merry and Pippin. Rather, you set them aside when they're taken as casualties, and can spend a die later on (could be in the same turn, could be in a later turn) to bring them back.

Of course, if the Fellowship has reached the Mordor track, it's too late to bring them back, as their power says "As if they had just separated", and Companions separated in Mordor die immediately.
 
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Tim Taylor
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Thank you very much for both the GG and clearing up our rules' misunderstanding!

We were playing with the "Merry and Pippin -- Not Great Generals" option from the FFG website. So I probably would not have sprung to save 'em anyway!

TT
 
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Outstanding session report, the best I've ever read!!!!sauron
 
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Houserule Jay
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WOW! What a play by play report, thumbs up no question. Looks like there are quite a few strategies throughout the game that need to be considered at every stage. Deepens my interest in the game and brings forth a few questions.

As you mention, I have seen people say this game is 'playing them' and also the LOTR board game for that matter. I would agree to a large degree that in LOTR the game is playing you and determines most of your decisions. Obviously these games are worlds apart but I do see some similarities like the main goal for the free peoples and wonder about others.

1. Is the big difference here that when your actions get limited by cards, dice etc you still have some meaningful decision-making to do?

2. This being a war game, are there several paths to Victory and how many for each side?

3. Is it true that you can come right to the mountain and screw up throwing the ring in? (I heard LOTR-Risk TE this happens and I think I heard that it happens in this game too)

4. Is the "hunt" determined completely by randomness or luck and will it end the game if it is successful?

Thanks in advance, great report!
 
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Damon Asher
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Quote:
The "Monsters Roused" card posed our only unanswered rules question. It placed an orc in Ettenmoors, where there was already a Northern elite. We could not find either in the rules or FAQs how to handle the fact that there were two opposing pieces in the same region. On the one hand, it's easiest to say that since Ettenmoors region was already occupied by a Free Peoples' unit, no orc should be placed there. On the other hand, we both thought that it was more in keeping with the spirit of the card played to have a battle within the region immediately take place.


I'm pretty sure that in this case you cannot recruit units into the occupied regions. In WotR, enemy units (meaning army units, not characters/Nazgul) never coexist in the same region unless defenders have retreated into a stronghold (although there are some cards that explicitly allow an exception to this - like Cosairs of Umbar)! I think you'd need to push the FP units out of those spaces first to completely utilize the Monsters Roused card.

Thanks for the excellent session report!


 
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Dave J McWeasely
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By turn 4 I quit reading overwhelmed by questions. I couldn't make out what was happening in Osgiliath, did the Shadow attack and then not press after the first round? Renewing attacks on cities and forts is free you know.

I take it you figured out Real Fast that fighting a field battle out in front of Helm's Deep was a Very Bad Idea.

I didn't see the point of parading Gandalf the White around Rohan like a monkey. His skills are usually better spent in Fangorn or anywhere where there's significant Nazgul leadership. Wargs are the best leadership against Gandalf-led armies, so why G gravitated towards Orthanc, the source of all Wargs, eluded me...
 
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Tim Taylor
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So many questions, so little time...


DragonStalker:

1. Is the big difference here that when your actions get limited by cards, dice etc you still have some meaningful decision-making to do?

In my experience (by no means extensive), the dice limit your options per turn. The cards you get give you options which you can either use, hold onto, or discard, depending on your circumstances.

2. This being a war game, are there several paths to Victory and how many for each side?

There are many paths to victory. In the main there are two -- Ring and Military. However, a player is free to attempt to achieve these victories however they'd like (within the restrictions of cards and Action Dice).

3. Is it true that you can come right to the mountain and screw up throwing the ring in? (I heard LOTR-Risk TE this happens and I think I heard that it happens in this game too)

It is possible to lose the game right on the cusp of victory, yes.

4. Is the "hunt" determined completely by randomness or luck and will it end the game if it is successful?

The Shadow rolls dice equal to the "Eye" Action dice in the Hunt box whenever the Fellowship move. The Shadow determines how many "Eyes" he wants to place in the Hunt box. There are modifiers to these dice rolls. If the Shadow has a successful Hunt, a random tile is drawn, resulting in corruption, detection, stoppage...

Damon Asher:

I'm pretty sure that in this case you cannot recruit units into the occupied regions. In WotR, enemy units (meaning army units, not characters/Nazgul) never coexist in the same region unless defenders have retreated into a stronghold (although there are some cards that explicitly allow an exception to this - like Cosairs of Umbar)!

In retrospect, I'm sure you're correct. However, at the time it seemed that the card played "Monsters Roused" implied ambushes like the one described in this game.

MrWeasely:

By turn 4 I quit reading overwhelmed by questions. I couldn't make out what was happening in Osgiliath, did the Shadow attack and then not press after the first round? Renewing attacks on cities and forts is free you know.

Yes. Totally understand. The dice rolls were clearly favoring the Free Peoples (as it should be). The Shadow often attacked to the point where he had but a few steps of units left in the regions he was attacking from. He alternated, North Ithilien, South Ithilien, and West Harondor until he finally forced "General Boromir" to retreat. I'm the first to admit it! I was outrageously lucky in these Osgiliath battles! However, my own good fortune very nearly lead to my defeat. That's what also makes this session report interesting.

I take it you figured out Real Fast that fighting a field battle out in front of Helm's Deep was a Very Bad Idea.

Now you tell me! Where were you when I needed you?!?

I didn't see the point of parading Gandalf the White around Rohan like a monkey. His skills are usually better spent in Fangorn or anywhere where there's significant Nazgul leadership. Wargs are the best leadership against Gandalf-led armies, so why G gravitated towards Orthanc, the source of all Wargs, eluded me...

Wargs lose their ability of leadership when Saruman is no more... Gandalf hung out in Fangorn for two reasons. First, I wanted to squeeze all the goodness out of those Ent cards, and second, I couldn't afford the Character die to move his sorry ass.


I'm very gratified that you all enjoyed my in depth game session / replay. I wanted the studio audience and the folks at home to be able to follow events if they wanted to set up their boards and play along...

Thanks for all your kind comments. The Shadow thanks you as well.

TT
 
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Kevin Chapman
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drasher25 wrote:
Quote:
The "Monsters Roused" card posed our only unanswered rules question. It placed an orc in Ettenmoors, where there was already a Northern elite. We could not find either in the rules or FAQs how to handle the fact that there were two opposing pieces in the same region. On the one hand, it's easiest to say that since Ettenmoors region was already occupied by a Free Peoples' unit, no orc should be placed there. On the other hand, we both thought that it was more in keeping with the spirit of the card played to have a battle within the region immediately take place.


I'm pretty sure that in this case you cannot recruit units into the occupied regions. In WotR, enemy units (meaning army units, not characters/Nazgul) never coexist in the same region unless defenders have retreated into a stronghold (although there are some cards that explicitly allow an exception to this - like Cosairs of Umbar)! I think you'd need to push the FP units out of those spaces first to completely utilize the Monsters Roused card.

You cannot recruit units in Regions occupied or controlled by your opponent (except in Strongholds under siege) unless the card expressly allows it.
 
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