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War of the Ring: Lords of Middle-earth» Forums » General

Subject: Most Frustrating "Luck" Experience rss

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Luke Heidebrecht
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I just finished a game of WoTR including the LoME expansion tonight with my regular gaming partner and was so frustrated with the role luck played in our game. I will first say that I believe WoTR is extremely well crafted in a way that the luck-factor is woven into the narrative and theme of the game that, in general, I find it an essential and even important aspect that makes the game so much fun!

However, tonight was an exception. I thought I would post the circumstance that we were in (as a way of venting I suppose ) and put out the question,

"What was the worst "luck" experience you have had with War of the Ring?"

If anyone would find it fun to respond I would love to hear your story and find some solace in solidarity.

Here was our situation tonight:

Middle-late game - fellowship is within two spaces of the Morannon. Gondor has fallen and is left with only its army in Minas Tirith. Rohan is hemmed in to Helms deep with a significant Isengard army of 4 elite and 4 regular with a second army that just took Edoras to the east. Shadow score is at 5 including Dale in the North. Needless to say, with two strongholds under siege it looks like a situation for a fun end game!

The "luck" factor is as follows:

Situation: Minas Tirith (under siege) has 4 elite, 1 regular, 2 leaders, Aragorn and Boromir. A very, very, tough fight, no doubt. Shadow has 3 elite and 5 regular along with the Witch King Black Captain and The Mouth of Sauron Black Numenorean. Just south in Lossarnach is another shadow army of 10 regulars ready to join the fight.

Key Cards in Play: "Denethor's Folly" card is in play - preventing the Free peoples army from being able to use combat cards in Minas Tirith. Shadow army uses "Grond, Hammer of the Underworld" card to initiate a three combat round assault.

The Battle: Shadow player uses "Fear of Their Masters" as the first combat card. Just as a reminder the text says:
Quote:
Play if a Shadow Minion is in the battle. Forfeit your entire leadership to add 2 to al dice in your combat roll. Each unmodified '6' on the Free Peoples player's Combat roll or Leader re-roll inflicts one additional hit on the Shadow Army.
Risky... yes.

The Result: Shadow rolls 4 misses and 1 hit. Free people rolls 4 sixes and 1 five - totalling 9 hits!!! Shadow loses everything but 2 regulars and due to "Grond" subsequently loses those units along with The Witch King and The Mouth of Sauron.

That ended up being the game over moment for me. I was forced to split my army in Lossarnach to Osgiliath to protect both the southern Gondorian cities I had captured and prevent the Minas Tirith army from wreaking havoc with the Shadow strongholds to the south and east. In the end the Free peoples ended the game with an easy ring victory.

So that is my recent experience where the luck-factor played a frustrating role.

Would love to hear yours!
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Humulus Lupulus
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heidebrechtluke wrote:
The Battle: Shadow player uses "Fear of Their Masters" as the first combat card. Just as a reminder the text says:
Quote:
Play if a Shadow Minion is in the battle. Forfeit your entire leadership to add 2 to al dice in your combat roll. Each unmodified '6' on the Free Peoples player's Combat roll or Leader re-roll inflicts one additional hit on the Shadow Army.
Risky... yes.

That just doesn't even sound like a good card at all. Forfeit your leadership and allows FP additional hits on a six?! Maybe if you had only one or two leadership, and the FP was rolling few dice, I can see using it, but that seems very situational. This must be a new card. Just out of curiosity, what is the event associated with it? I imagine if I played the SP, I would be using it for its event instead.

But, that is a very lucky roll, indeed.
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David Boeren
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Bad card play if you ask me. That's a card for reliably blasting through the last couple defenders, it shouldn't be used if the defenders have full dice.
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Jim Hansen
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heidebrechtluke wrote:
Shadow loses everything but 2 regulars and due to "Grond" subsequently loses those units along with The Witch King and The Mouth of Sauron.

Are you forced to fight all 3 rounds or are you allowed to stop after 1 or 2 rounds? I've always played that you can stop, but maybe I've been wrong.

I also agree with the other posters that it was a questionable card play. When they have 5 army units with 5 leadership, an average roll (with rerolls) would give 1-2 sixes and 1-2 fives. So, you were going to take 3-6 hits from an average roll with a chance for more.

My worst luck experiences always seem to be when the fellowship is in Mordor. There have been a couple games where I added all 4 special tiles and my opponent only added 2, but both of their tiles got drawn and none of mine did.
 
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Ralf Schemmann
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Teamjimby wrote:
Are you forced to fight all 3 rounds or are you allowed to stop after 1 or 2 rounds? I've always played that you can stop, but maybe I've been wrong.


You have to fight all three rounds, as the card text says "The siege lasts three Combat rounds instead of one."

No surprise that Grond is also known as the "Witch-king killer".
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Luke Heidebrecht
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dboeren wrote:
Bad card play if you ask me. That's a card for reliably blasting through the last couple defenders, it shouldn't be used if the defenders have full dice.


Totally agree in hindsight! However, in the moment, given that I only had two cards in hand (can't remember the other, but I am guessing it was either less worthwhile or I wanted to keep it for its Event action), it seemed like the best option given my reinforcements to the south... again, in the moment it seemed right

Uthoroc wrote:
No surprise that Grond is also known as the "Witch-king killer".


This exact thing happened in a previous game when my gaming partner was playing Shadow. I do like how the game highlights the paradox of power, and this is a fine example. Maybe to rephrase a quote: "The more you tighten your grip... the more strongholds will slip through your fingers."
 
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Brian Jones
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I don't know, if I see Aragorn already in Minas Tirith with that kind of force, I'm looking somewhere else for my VP's.

I agree with a previous post about the tile draw in Mordor, those damn special Shadow tiles never seem to come out for me.
 
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Henry Allen
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I had a game where as Shadow with a full set of action dice, I could only roll a character result once every two or three rounds and I rolled eyes and events CONSTANTLY the whole game.

It is so hard to work with all but a couple of your dice showing eyes and events every turn!

That was my first game with second edition. It was so upsetting, I've since traded to get my copy of 1st edition back so I can play with dice I trust
 
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Rob W
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Uthoroc wrote:
Teamjimby wrote:
Are you forced to fight all 3 rounds or are you allowed to stop after 1 or 2 rounds? I've always played that you can stop, but maybe I've been wrong.


You have to fight all three rounds, as the card text says "The siege lasts three Combat rounds instead of one."

No surprise that Grond is also known as the "Witch-king killer".


So, with Grond, the siege must last three rounds, but the Shadow Player does not need to reduce an Elite to a Regular after the first and second rounds, correct?
 
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Andrew Poulter
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Correct and once Grond has had it's 3 rounds the shadow player can still reduce elites to go for more rounds if they want to.
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KlydeFrog wrote:
I had a game where as Shadow with a full set of action dice, I could only roll a character result once every two or three rounds and I rolled eyes and events CONSTANTLY the whole game.

It is so hard to work with all but a couple of your dice showing eyes and events every turn!

I agree, and while it's a game with luck, and that's great imo, I just think that there is too much luck. FP can whizz to Mordor, then get no Character die for 3 turns so be stuck unable to destroy the ring, while the SP can get no dice that he needs making a Military Victory impossible. I'm toying with a few variations as a result, as the level of luck on the Action Die rolls are just too unbalancing I think.

One option I was considering:
For the Free People's, every turn get the following fixed dice:
Character, Muster/Army, Palantir, and ONE rolled die
In addition, ONE Elven Ring is permitted to change a die to a Will of the West (or to any other die as normal) so that you can guarantee to get Gandalf the White, OR Aragorn out in a game (and with the one rolled die, most likely be able to get both out - instead of the situation where I've seen the FP get no Will of the West for 4-5 turns meaning Strider and Gandalf the Grey are noodling about and not able to get their extra dice).
Gandalf the White would add a fixed Character die to the above set of dice.
Aragorn would add a fixed Muster/Army die to the above set of dice.

For the Shadow Player, every turn get the following fixed dice:
2x Character, 2x Muster/Army, 1x Palantir, and TWO rolled die, so you still get rolled Eyes etc, though not the situation where you can roll 5 or 6 eyes (I've seen it happen too often!)
Saruman adds a fixed Palantir die to the mix
Witch-King adds a fixed Muster/Army die
Mouth of Sauron adds a fixed Character die

I'm really curious to see how games like this work out; it could be that this idea is biased to one side or the other, hard to say, but I suspect that it would be more balanced that the roll-all-action-dice game, as I'm not sure that the game is 'balanced' as it stands. Sure, it comes down to a win for Shadow or Free People about 50-50 (with equally experienced players), and sure, a person with a lot of experience that knows the cards and strategy can swing that in their favour with that skill/knowledge, which is great, but the best player in the world can lose to the worst too easily if the Action Dice go against them. With the above, you would be able to have *slightly* more planning ability (as there is still going to be TONS of luck in all the combat die rolls, and hunt tile draws, and interesting Event cards, so there is still going to be a huge amount of unexpected and interesting things going on !!). If anyone gives this (or whatever variation you think is better) a try, please let me know how those games work out
 
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It was quite some time ago and without the expansion, but once when besieging Minas Tirith my opponent played the card that would turn my rolls of 1 against me. I rolled five 1s. Yeah, not cool.
 
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steva fields
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Yes, you could play with fixed dice if you feel like the dice are making the game to luck dependent and it probably still be a fun game. But, what you will be missing out on will be the strategizing to make the best decisions with whatever dice you have. There have been many games that I have gotten what one would assume to be a series of bad rolls, but I change what I was trying to do to some other strategy and pull off a victory with even greater satisfaction than if I had just gotten great rolls. Trying to think outside the box can be fun to, even if it does not always succeeds.
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Roy Subs
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Totally agree steva, a lot of the (desirable) tension comes from these dice rolls, and I love that, but it can also do the other thing, and that can be a waste of 2-3 hours e.g. game I played recently as Shadow, first turn, I got 4 palantir, and 3 character die. I played around with event cards, and moved 3 nazgul armies, very very weak. 2nd turn, I got similar, though got a Muster so was able to put one faction to war (whoopee!). On the other hand free had 3 character and a Palantir first turn, and I think it was 2 Muster and 2 Character die on second turn. By the end of the 3rd turn, Free was almost in Mordor and I had barely moved the Shadow, so that game was pretty skewed and that can spoil the enjoyment (for both sides!). Not sure if anything that you are saying is lost by fixing a couple of dice. I agree that fixed strategies would develop that people would exploit, but at the same time, that can be a lot of fun (in the same way that DEW is a strategy, other fascinating strategies, counter-strategies, and other odd/fascinating ways of looking at the game would develop), and no game could be 'spoiled' after 2 or 3 turns. I love thinking outside the box, and maybe even a reduced number of 'fixed' dice would be an option, so less than what I said above, and taking into account your point, I thought of something that would avoid spoiled games, but also allow for huge randomness and thinking outside of the box, the rule is simple:

At the start of the game, each player chooses 2 die to FIX (or 1 die, or 3 die, depending on how loose, or how rigid the players want to do it). The players each secretly choose how they are going to fix their die, no Will of the West is allowed, and then simultaneously show each other what dice they decided to fix. Those die stay the same, for both players, for the remainder of the game. All other die are rolled as normal.

That could be pretty interesting. So in a 2 Fixed Die game:
Free might choose 2x Char die to be fixed (or maybe not, if he wants to try a FPMV approach maybe he goes for 2x Army/Muster).
Shadow might choose 2x Army/Muster die to be fixed.
Yeah, this is probably more interesting and adds more variety, eliminates spoiled games, but is also not rigid and still has a vast amount of openness for random elements to think out of the box over.
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kevin long
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Agree with both sides. An easy fix would be nice - something as easy as you determine 2 of your dice each turn and the rest are rolled. Something like this is simple enough that if a few people push it - it could become a standard alternative. Roy - we should do this next game!
 
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Raf B
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Sounds like a workable house rule if both players agree; I doubt I would use it (except possibly as a handicap for a beginner's first game). The action dice are so integral a mechanic to this game (imho) that it would no longer be the same game without the uncertainty of each action dice roll. I have suffered as Shadow rolling too many Eyes and as Free rolling too few Character dice. The latter situation is especially tormenting when the FSP is in Mordor. Sometimes it has made the difference between Frodo soldiering on or attempting a quick pivot to FPMV. Obviously, that's not always going to be successful. But them's the breaks.
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Roy Subs
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The choices that the designers made on a lot of the game were arbitrary. That's not to say that it's not a brilliant design, it is, and easily my favourite game, but for example, exhaustive testing of a 3 hour long game is not possible. Parts can be tested, the overall structure, but the reality is that the game works out evenly, not through balance, but through a large luck element meaning it can go any way with the right combo of cards and dice (and evenly matched players of course, as there is still a huge amount of skill in knowing the cards and how to use them). If the designers made a change to say 2 dice fixed (or to say add a die for a Balrog or Elrond ), then it would become canon and everyone would do that (and yep, the new dice in LoMe for example do just that, and that's right that if an expansion comes out, we should all play those components, I'd never want to tweak that or add a 'Glorfindel' Companion for example, that's too awkward and twists the mechanics too much). I love the game, and the mechanics, but situations happen (2 bad action die rolls in a row for one player, and really, that game probably wasn't worth anyone's time to play it). That technically reduces the skill element; but I agree completely that the dice are an integral mechanic, and I love that mechanic, so I'd never change that, but reigning in the luck and moving the dial a tiny bit more towards skill (to avoid situations of 5 P's and 3 M's for example) and a tiny bit away from the luck element, without changing any of the mechanics (as the dice are just the same, but just with 2 known, and the rest is all still that fun tension of hopeful rolling and luck ) is a nice thing to experiment with. About 1 in 4 games from what I've seen are heavily modified (and often won on) the integral luck (in that it comes down to one bad action dice roll to destroy the game; I've seen rolls of 5 P's and 3 musters by Shadow that just stopped everything and lead to an easy FPMV etc). I guess some people also choose not to play LoMe as they think it's not 'real' WotR, and that's cool too.

I'll definitely be up for a game of that Kevin, you want to play one now ?
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kevin long
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Roy - Not available till next week but would like to do this! What you say about how design becomes cannon is spot on. If the designers did say that 1/3 of dice rounded down can be chosen then the game might have gotten more genius lauding for such a mechanic to balance the chaos. As a designer - i could easily see this end up in the 3rd edition. Why? Because it is a fun strategic decision to make each turn. That is the primary criteria for any rule or update. It gives the player a better sense of control. I can guarantee as the pool of players increases and more question the randomness that this game will evolve with what gives it the most play-ability and fun. devil
Once upon a time a game came out called Battle Cry. There were 2 different rules for retreat and the design could have been more elegant with out the extra rule. The purists acted like the designer is god and said it would ruin the game, was more realistic, blah blah blah, ad nausea. Lo and behold Memmoir '44 fixed the rule. Good thing designers aren't purists and believe in house rules.
My last 2 games of WOTR were clearly determined by bad rolls in the last turn or 2. How common is this? Extremely common. Too common? That question should stay out and not be closed down to experimenting.
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kevin long
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Rafamir wrote:
Sounds like a workable house rule if both players agree; I doubt I would use it (except possibly as a handicap for a beginner's first game). The action dice are so integral a mechanic to this game (imho) that it would no longer be the same game without the uncertainty of each action dice roll. I have suffered as Shadow rolling too many Eyes and as Free rolling too few Character dice. The latter situation is especially tormenting when the FSP is in Mordor. Sometimes it has made the difference between Frodo soldiering on or attempting a quick pivot to FPMV. Obviously, that's not always going to be successful. But them's the breaks.


The game is clearly amazing. But if one could get rid of those errant games and still have all the fun and still preserve the vaunted randomness...balance
 
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treece keenes wrote:
As a designer - i could easily see this end up in the 3rd edition. Why? Because it is a fun strategic decision to make each turn. That is the primary criteria for any rule or update. It gives the player a better sense of control. I can guarantee as the pool of players increases and more question the randomness that this game will evolve with what gives it the most play-ability and fun. devil


It can be introduced earlier, in one in furure expansions for example
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kevin long
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This is still burning my brain. All the randomness from cards, action dice, and combat dice. That is a lot when you put all 3 together. You could argue one in 3 games are decided by randomness versus superior strategy within that randomness.
 
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steva fields
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The game is long enough that lot of the randomness will even out on MOST games. It still happens that one side will landslide the luck factors. This I feel gives a less experienced player some hope that they could win. Thus giving them reason to play, and thus will play enough that they could become experienced players themselves one day!!
 
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David K
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Love 'em even if a few games get scuttled from time to time.
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Slight rant warning.

In several plays of WotR I've only had one game that I would describe as being a really good experience. It was tight, tense, and both sides had some swings in their favor. It was great.

The other three have all had some sort of massive imbalance and I've severely downgraded my opinion of the game because of it.

I lost one game because in a decisive battle I had over a dozen dice to roll total (5 regular, 5 leader, another bunch because of a card) and I failed to get a single hit. My opponent had actually conceded but I insisted that I roll anyways. Lo and behold, that was the wrong time to say such a thing.

In two games as the fellowship I was constantly caught while moving the fellowship even though the shadow only had one or two dice to roll. It was uncanny. They kept getting 6s, and the salt in my wound was I kept getting screwed on the subsequent tile draw. One game was especially annoying as even though the shadow player did very poorly in battles it didn't really matter - he did really well with the hunt and that was enough to prevent me from having a real chance (even spending multiple turns healing corruption made no real impact, and normally that's considered a dangerous move time-wise, but I was doing well militarily).

Worse than these was seeing another group playing where the fellowship managed to get to the endgame with four of the companions left. He had very low corruption - I believe just two points (maybe three?) and that was it. In the next several turns he lost as the shadow player got crazy rolls (granting lots of eyes) and then multiple "blocking" pulls and a bunch of eye tile draws. I wasn't too upset since it was my wife that won but it was still rather depressing to see just how poorly he fared.

I still will play the game again because I have friends that love it but it's not a game I enjoy much anymore. I thought the luck would spread out because you have so many rolls and so many card draws throughout the game that it would even out. In my experience it hasn't.
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Happymrdave wrote:
Slight rant warning. In several plays of WotR I've only had one game that I would describe as being a really good experience. It was tight, tense, and both sides had some swings in their favor. It was great.

The other three have all had some sort of massive imbalance and I've severely downgraded my opinion of the game because of it.


I think everything you are saying is absolutely correct, and I've had many many games with very similar, very unsatisfying results, mainly due to outrageous Action Dice rolls. I've been 1 step from the Crack, and then on 6 dice, not a single Character or Will of the West and then watch the Shadow just trample the Free People, and similarly, had a game last week where things were fine, but my Shadow rolled ZERO Army or Character dice (out of 9 dice) and so could not move, allowing the Free Player easy ways to stroll to victory, and that was an incredibly unsatisfying way to end a 3 hour game, for *both* players involved.

So, a few of us consider that there is a little too much awkward luck in the game, and wanted to try experimenting with simple options on that. The Dwarven Rings in the 2013 Tournament also tried to balance this with extra actions for the person that got the rings, which was appropriate for the tournament. This is not to say that skill is not a huge factor in War of the Ring. When I play the top players they run rings around me due to their knowledge of the game, so there's both a lot of luck *and* skill in this game, and it's the combination of all of that which makes it such a fun and interesting game (and easily my favourite game). But, situations that you noted and that I've also experienced above can ruin the enjoyment of a tense game and sometimes turn it into a very non-satisfying experience. So to prevent at least those situations where either side just rolls musters, crippling them for a turn, I had an idea a month ago to fix some dice and have been talking about that with a few of the others. We've looked at fixing 1 or 2 dice each turn, and we've settled on the following very simple rule (and this is justified as Lords of Middle-earth has a plethora of complex extra Action Dice, with different effects and discard rules etc, while this is far simpler and very consistent):

War of the Ring, 1 Fixed Die Rule
=================================
Each player may fix 1 Action Die to be anything they want each Turn, except that "Will of the West" or "Eye" results cannot be chosen. Each player must announce their fixed die at the start of the Turn (FP should announce first as part of his Fellowship Phase, then the SP after Eye allocation and before rolling). Each player may alternatively choose each Turn to roll all of his dice and give up the right to fix 1 die until next Turn when he gets the option again.
=================================

Generally, FP will fix a Character die (to use for FSP movement) or an Army/Muster (if going for an FPMV), and the SP will mostly fix an Army/Muster (pretty much always, though if the SP has the Palantir card out on the table say, the SP may want to go for a P die as that could be useful in cases like that, etc).

This slightly alleviates those crippling situation of the FP getting 6 Musters in Mordor, or the SP rolling too many Eyes that happen all too often. The advantage is equal on both sides. We were concerned that this would reduce FP's chance of getting Will of the West, and it will slightly, but the effect is even overall as the SP is disadvantaged as he only gets to fix 1 die out of 7, compared to 1 die out of 4 that FP can fix at the start of the game, so the situation is balanced. Kevin Long and I played through a game of this today, and overall there was less frustration. We both knew that we'd get at least 1 die that we wanted to plan our goals. The game was very even, and SP gained 10 VP on turn 9, but the FP rolled a lot of Character dice in Mordor, and was able to run for the Crack of Doom. It came down to a 40% chance of getting a tile that would have caused Frodo to die from Corruption, but he ended up with 10 Corruption in the Crack of Doom so a win for the Free Player and the game was as tight as it was possible to be. We don't want to change the core mechanics, so this just gave the game slightly more of a feeling of balance and skill, without those game-destroying Action Dice rolls that just ruin the pleasure of the game. It's very simple, so does not add any complexity and even with just 1 fixed die per player (and 2 fixed dice is also a valid option worth trying), the game will still have a huge amount of luck, but at least players will have a more sensible chance to be able to achieve their goals from turn to turn. Hopefully some more people can try it out and see how it feels In every way it's the same game with all the same luck, and one dice per player is a small balancing factor to even out some of those really awful Action Dice results that happen far too regularly.
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David K
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roysubs wrote:
< lots of good info >


Thanks for the ideas!

I think what I said there makes it sound like I think WotR is a bad game. It's not. It does, however, have more luck than I like in a long game.

I don't mind luck in shorter games - in Dominion if my combos sputter out over and over I'm out like 20 minutes tops. With WotR I'm in for a long haul even if things go incredibly poorly, and that's why it bothers me.
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