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Subject: A Fighting Chance >> Session Report rss

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Jay Little
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War of the Ring >> A Fighting Chance

Michael Silbey (armadi) and I squared off for a game of War of the Ring, completing setup as Michael finished going over some last minute rules. I had read the rules several times and had myriad player aids and references, but felt that there was always something missing so it was worth the refresher.

I opted to be the Free People's player, as Michael had played the Free People in the last several games. My overall goal was to forsake military activation to push the fellowship along as quickly as possible before Sauron's forces could activate a large military presence or claim additional dice to allocate to the hunt.

After the second or third turn, I decided this strategy was not only unimportant, but that any long-term strategy or planning was largely irrelevant, as the dice strongly dictated what I could do during any given turn. My frustration grew into bitterness as I felt that fewer and fewer of my decisions mattered, and the incredibly high barrier to entry (and for me, enjoyment) of the game reared its head.

Here's a recap of the Free People dice results during the game:

Turn 1: Palantir, Sword, Sword, Helmet

Not bad. I used the Palantir to play the Elven Rope event to ease the burden of the Hunt, moved the Fellowship twice (avoiding any hunt tiles) and started to move the Rohirrim toward war.

Turn 2: Sword, Sword, Helmet, Helmet/Flag

Another good mix of dice, from what I could tell. But now I was feeling like "why would I ever do anything other than move the Fellowship?" I moved the fellowship twice, took 1 corruption from a Hunt tile, and wasn't sure whether this was a good idea or not. The moved Rohan and Elves toward war.

Turn 3: Sword, Palantir, Helm/Flag, Will of the West

Now the game started to break down, as there was no way for me to evaluate the relative value between any options. I moved the fellowship, took damage from the hunt and killed off Gandalf in hopes of bringing Gandalf the White into play -- and his bonus die -- as early as possible. Played the Horn of Gondor to mitigate hunt damage later in the game. Sauron strikes, activating some armies.

Turn 4: Helm, Sword, Palantir, Palantir

Drat. Can't upgrade Strider to Aragorn, or activate Gandalf the White. Ok, so move the Fellowship. Damn, more damage. Had to discard events, as I can't play the ones in my hand. And can't use the Palantir to play events in my hands due to the nested conditional requirements, and can't draw more cards since I'm at the maximum handsize and would be forced to keep hemorrhaging events.

Turn 5: Helm, Helm, Palantir, Palantir

Discard more event cards, as hand is cluttered with cards like "Recruit a Dwarf on the opposite end of the board that you can't possibly get into play by the end of the game" and "Play only if ARAGORN or GANDALF THE WHITE is with a Free Peoples Army in South or North Ithilien, Dagorlad or a Region in Mordor" ... How many conditions do I need in effect to make use of these cards? Sheesh! Felt that this turn was a complete waste, as I can only activate or move armies toward war that I don't care about, as a military victory (or in fact, any military movement) seems counter to my Free People goals and strengths.

Turn 6: Helmet, Helmet, Helmet/Flag, Palantir

Whee!! Still no character icons, still no Will of the West. Gandalf and Aragorn remain off the board. Rich keep getting richer. Since I can't roll well enough to get a Will of the West, I won't get an extra die to increase my options or match the pace of Sauron's full bevy of dice. Discard more event cards, as they are almost all tied to having Gandalf or Aragorn in play, or build troops in areas on the far reaches of the board that are only part of the game by virtue of sharing the same board.

Turn 7: Palantir, Helm/Flag, Helm, Will of the West

Finally, a Will of the West! I bring in Gandalf the White in Fangorn, and look to activate the Ents, which I've been holding on to for a while. I burn the Palantir, roll my dice, and score no hits. So I've now burned 2 dice (Will of the West to activate Gandalf, Palantir for the Event) for no appreciable effect, other than getting an extra die on my following turn.

Turn 8: Helm/Flag, Helm/Flag, Helm, Palantir, Will of the West

Screw this. Nothing is going well. Burn all the elven rings to convert those stupid Helm/Flag icons to Swords to try and move the fellowship. Sauron has a zillion conditional cards that I happen to fulfill by moving into the wrong places at the wrong time. First time Fellowship has even had a chance to move since Turn 4, and get clobbered for 8 corruption, eliminating all companions, leaving Gollum as the leader of the fellowship.

Turn 9: Sword, Sword, Sword, Will of the West, Flag

Bored beyond belief, I desperately try to push myself into Mordor's throat and kill off the Fellowship. I use every die to activate and move the fellowship or conceal the fellowship. The net result is with 4 dice devoted to activating the Fellowship, they advance one single space, as Sauron has cards to keep pushing me back. I take no corruption, through a quirk of dice rolls and hunt tiles drawn. But I don't care anymore. The entire game has felt linear, uninspired and boring.

After Turn 9, the Free People concede and eagerly welcome the yoke of the great Sauron, figuring eternal pain under the oppression of an almighty tyrant like Sauron is preferable to finishing the game.

Gut Feelings:
The overall feeling during the game was one of frustration, detachment and boredom. Finally, after nine turns, we called the game, as the fellowship was taking a serious pounding and had 11 corruption as it stood, locked in place, at the outskirts of Mordor. Getting to that point took about 2.5 hours, which normally wouldn't be too bad a time investment for a good two player "wargame" experience. But the game felt like it had taken 4-5 hours, and not in a good way.

Here's a look at what I felt was a fairly typical turn in War of the Ring: Free People finally roll the one die type they need to move the Fellowship toward Mordor? Ok, let Sauron draw a Hunt tile. Great. Take 2 damage or lose the Fellowship leader... Oh, and on Sauron's turn, he's playing this card that moves you back a space. So effectively, you lost a turn and the abiliy to use that die you finally rolled, gained corruption and got moved to a worse location. Oh, and Sauron has 2 more dice left while you get to sit back and watch him move all over the place. Wheeeeee!

And people call this fun?
 
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Rusty McFisticuffs
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ynnen wrote:
Getting to that point took about 2.5 hours


You lucky bastard! Last weekend I played my second or third full game, and my brothers' first (so it was a learning game), but it took 7 hours. There were definitely some exciting moments, but not 7 hours' worth. (It would have gone longer, too, if I hadn't emptied a bunch of my FP strongholds to make a surprise run on a military victory. I almost made it, but the SP was able to walk in and take my strongholds for free.)

So far, both of the times I've begun by saying "we'll play twice--once to learn it, and once for real," nobody's been real excited about that second game. I'm not giving up on it yet--too many people love this game, and I want to too--but if no one will play it with me...
 
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Jay Little
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But that 2.5 hour timeframe doesn't take into account the hour or so I spend reading the rules, reading the player aids, setting up the game and basically preparing to play. The 2.5 hours was literally just the play time once everything else was set up and ready to go.

I'd say that, all said and done, this took just over 3.5 hours of total time investment, including set up, rules explanation, game play and tear down. Far too long for what I got out of it.
 
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Dave J McWeasely
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Well do I remember learning War of the Ring, and the experience was bitter-sweet. I remember fretting that I'd never get my elves in the Gray Havens moved up towards the front lines in Gondor.

It wouldn't kill Fanstasy Flight to include a "strategy tips" paragraph in their games, but for whatever reason they don't.

You say that your "strategy" was to move the fellowship escheqing military victory. That's an honest and noble goal, especially for a first time player, but unfortunately the strategy in this game is at a lower level. The game *assumes* you use almost every sword and will-o-the-west to move the fellowship early. Anything else is dubious bordering on suicidal. Do they tell you this? No. Should they have? Abso-friggin-loutely. As you clearly noticed, you have no way of evaluating the strengths of various options: (1) Keeping Gandalf the Grey around as long as possible for his card drawing, (2) killing him and getting the extra die, maybe, (3) splitting Aragorn with a precious sword, looking to use yet more precious swords to get him promoted (4) splitting other companions or (5) keeping them in the FSP as bullet-stoppers. And that's just the companion decisions, to say nothing of when to move the FSP, when to muster armies, when to move nations to war, blah blah blah. Its not that you're dumb, its that the game gives you no guidance, and many moves that would seem potentially good to a new player (especially if they're FSP), are in fact suicidally bad.

That's not to say getting massive sword/wow draughts, and that makes it impossible to persue what you were trying: a "fellowship sprint" is what its called. If you're getting so many musters, then you should be able to assemble one or more formidable armies. If you're getting lots of palantir you should have decent battle cards when the SP brings the fight to you. (and if you've got a fist full of unplayable character cards, use Palantirs to draw *strategy* cards which are easier to use in battle).

I'm a little befuddled by your claims that you got moved back multiple times by shadow cardplay. There's only one card that does that: Cruel Weather. When I started out I often misplayed "reveal" as "reveal & stop", a holdover from the god-forsaken quick start rules. I wonder if you're making a similar mistake.

Anyway, its hard to tell someone that they're thinking about the strategy of the game at the wrong level. I put together a fake session report for a game of Chess, where the first time player decides on a "strategy" of furious attack and sacrifice to bring about the capture of the enemy king, while at the same time neglecting to move the "weak" pawns (an analogy to your disdain for non-sword action die results). Needless to say, this doesn't go well.
__________________________________________

Bob and I squared off for a game of Chess, completing setup as Bob finished going over some last minute rules. I had read the rules several times and had seen many movies about chess, but felt that there was always something missing so it was worth the refresher.

I opted to be the White player, as Bob had played White in the last several games. My overall goal was to forsake capturing intermediate pieces and go straight for my enemy's King.

After the second or third turn, I decided this strategy was not only unimportant, but that any long-term strategy or planning was largely irrelevant, as the tactical considerations of piece movement strongly dictated what I could do during any given turn. My frustration grew into bitterness as I felt that fewer and fewer of my decisions mattered, and the incredibly high barrier to entry (and for me, enjoyment) of the game reared its head.

Here's a recap of my moves during the game:

Turn 1: Nb1-c3

Not bad. I used the knight jumping ability to get one of my pieces out.

Turn 2: Ng1-f3

Another good move. But now I was feeling like "why would I ever move one of those slow unthreatening pawns?" I moved the knights a few more times, trying to get in striking distance of the enemy King, and wasn't sure whether this was a good idea or not...

Turn 3: Nxd5

Now the game started to break down, as there was no way for me to evaluate the relative value between any options. I moved the knight, only to have it taken by the enemy queen.

Turn 4: Ra1-b1

Drat. Can't do anything non-suicidal with my remaining knight. Ok, so move one of these back rank pieces. Unfortunately, all these pawns are in the way, and it would take several moves to get them out of the way. Damn, more damage: 4:...qxa2, and my rook is going to be taken next move no matter what I do. I'd like to move a piece, but there are those pesky pawns in the way.

Turn 5: Rh1-g1

Settle for moving my remaining rook on the back rank. All my pieces are cluttered with movement restrictions like "Move in a straight line not broken or terminated by one of your own pieces, and not broken by an enemy piece". Knights are the only pieces worth a damn in this game.
How many intermediate moves do I need to perform to make use of these other pieces? Sheesh! Felt that this turn was a complete waste, as I can only move pieces that I don't care about, as a military victory (or in fact, any military movement) seems counter to my king-checkmating goals and strengths.

Turn 6: Nf3-g5

Whee!! Still no ability to move back rank pieces. Rooks and queens remain confined to backwaters. Rich keep getting richer - down went my left-hand rook to his queen to 5...qxb2. Since I can't strategize well enough to get a nice long rook move, I disinterestedly move the knight, since its the only useful piece. Beats moving my remaining rook on the far reaches of the board that are only part of the game by virtue of sharing the same board.

Turn 7: Nxc3

Finally, my opponent brings his knight into range, and unhesitatingly I strike with my own knight! Now that I've knocked out one of his big pieces, things are looking up. Also, my knight is drawing ever-nearer his king, for the checkmate. Unfortunately, he responds with 7...bxc6, capturing my own knight. Now I've lost my knight to a lowly pawn, have no pieces past the back two ranks, and have made no appreciable progress in checkmating his king.

Turn 8: e4!

Screw this. Nothing is going well. Burn a move to get one stupid pawn out of the way and try to move some pieces. Bob has a zillion potential moves that I happen to make worse by moving into the wrong places at the wrong time: 8...nxe4.

Turn 9: Bf1-b5

Bored beyond belief, I desperately try to push a bishop down his King's throat. I've used almost every move on pieces threatening his King. The net result is 9...xb5, as the bishop is taken out by a pawn. Once again I'm pushed back. But I don't care anymore. The entire game has felt linear, uninspired and boring.

After Turn 9, the White Player concedes and eagerly welcome the yoke of the great Black Player, figuring eternal pain under the oppression of an almighty tyrant like Bob is preferable to finishing the game.

Gut Feelings:
The overall feeling during the game was one of frustration, detachment and boredom. Finally, after nine turns, we called the game, as the white player was taking a serious pounding and had lost lots of pieces. The rest were still locked in place, at their end of the board. Getting to that point took about 2.5 hours, which normally wouldn't be too bad a time investment for a good two player "wargame" experience. But the game felt like it had taken 4-5 hours, and not in a good way.

Here's a look at what I felt was a fairly typical turn in Chess: White moves the one type of piece they can actually move towards teh enemy King. Ok, let Black move a piece or pawn, capturing your piece... Oh, and on Sauron's turn, he's activating his own piece. So effectively, you lost a turn and the abiliy to use that knight. Oh, and Black has 17 more pieces than you so you get to sit back and watch him move all over the place. Wheeeeee!

And people call this fun?

_____________________________________

You're clearly highly intelligent, but you're just coming at this game from the wrong angle of attack, trying to brute-force fit the action dice you got into your preconcieved plan. WotR is not kind to this approach. In this case, your complaint that the game is playing you is perfectly understandable. You need to come to accept that you have palantirs and musters, not swords and WoWs. When you start thinking about how to spend those palantirs and musters, you'll notice a number of good choices, and a number of bad ones, and probably some of unknown value. You'll have to make hard decisions, and may find this to be pleasurable. At that point, if you care to reach it, you'll be playing the game, and not the other way around.
 
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Sean McCarthy
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Too true, Mr Weasely. I think the main thing that can cause people to dislike War of the Ring is a misplaced view of where the strategy is.

I think I will try to write an article explaining this. Soon.
 
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MrWeasely wrote:
Bob and I squared off for a game of Chess, completing setup as Bob finished going over some last minute rules. I had read the rules several times and had seen many movies about chess, but felt that there was always something missing so it was worth the refresher.

I opted to be the White player, as Bob had played White in the last several games. My overall goal was to forsake capturing intermediate pieces and go straight for my enemy's King.

After the second or third turn, I decided this strategy was not only unimportant, but that any long-term strategy or planning was largely irrelevant, as the tactical considerations of piece movement strongly dictated what I could do during any given turn. My frustration grew into bitterness as I felt that fewer and fewer of my decisions mattered, and the incredibly high barrier to entry (and for me, enjoyment) of the game reared its head.

Here's a recap of my moves during the game:

Turn 1: Nb1-c3

Not bad. I used the knight jumping ability to get one of my pieces out.

Turn 2: Ng1-f3

Another good move. But now I was feeling like "why would I ever move one of those slow unthreatening pawns?" I moved the knights a few more times, trying to get in striking distance of the enemy King, and wasn't sure whether this was a good idea or not...

Turn 3: Nxd5

Now the game started to break down, as there was no way for me to evaluate the relative value between any options. I moved the knight, only to have it taken by the enemy queen.

Turn 4: Ra1-b1

Drat. Can't do anything non-suicidal with my remaining knight. Ok, so move one of these back rank pieces. Unfortunately, all these pawns are in the way, and it would take several moves to get them out of the way. Damn, more damage: 4:...qxa2, and my rook is going to be taken next move no matter what I do. I'd like to move a piece, but there are those pesky pawns in the way.

Turn 5: Rh1-g1

Settle for moving my remaining rook on the back rank. All my pieces are cluttered with movement restrictions like "Move in a straight line not broken or terminated by one of your own pieces, and not broken by an enemy piece". Knights are the only pieces worth a damn in this game.
How many intermediate moves do I need to perform to make use of these other pieces? Sheesh! Felt that this turn was a complete waste, as I can only move pieces that I don't care about, as a military victory (or in fact, any military movement) seems counter to my king-checkmating goals and strengths.

Turn 6: Nf3-g5

Whee!! Still no ability to move back rank pieces. Rooks and queens remain confined to backwaters. Rich keep getting richer - down went my left-hand rook to his queen to 5...qxb2. Since I can't strategize well enough to get a nice long rook move, I disinterestedly move the knight, since its the only useful piece. Beats moving my remaining rook on the far reaches of the board that are only part of the game by virtue of sharing the same board.

Turn 7: Nxc3

Finally, my opponent brings his knight into range, and unhesitatingly I strike with my own knight! Now that I've knocked out one of his big pieces, things are looking up. Also, my knight is drawing ever-nearer his king, for the checkmate. Unfortunately, he responds with 7...bxc6, capturing my own knight. Now I've lost my knight to a lowly pawn, have no pieces past the back two ranks, and have made no appreciable progress in checkmating his king.

Turn 8: e4!

Screw this. Nothing is going well. Burn a move to get one stupid pawn out of the way and try to move some pieces. Bob has a zillion potential moves that I happen to make worse by moving into the wrong places at the wrong time: 8...nxe4.

Turn 9: Bf1-b5

Bored beyond belief, I desperately try to push a bishop down his King's throat. I've used almost every move on pieces threatening his King. The net result is 9...xb5, as the bishop is taken out by a pawn. Once again I'm pushed back. But I don't care anymore. The entire game has felt linear, uninspired and boring.

After Turn 9, the White Player concedes and eagerly welcome the yoke of the great Black Player, figuring eternal pain under the oppression of an almighty tyrant like Bob is preferable to finishing the game.

Gut Feelings:
The overall feeling during the game was one of frustration, detachment and boredom. Finally, after nine turns, we called the game, as the white player was taking a serious pounding and had lost lots of pieces. The rest were still locked in place, at their end of the board. Getting to that point took about 2.5 hours, which normally wouldn't be too bad a time investment for a good two player "wargame" experience. But the game felt like it had taken 4-5 hours, and not in a good way.

Here's a look at what I felt was a fairly typical turn in Chess: White moves the one type of piece they can actually move towards teh enemy King. Ok, let Black move a piece or pawn, capturing your piece... Oh, and on Sauron's turn, he's activating his own piece. So effectively, you lost a turn and the abiliy to use that knight. Oh, and Black has 17 more pieces than you so you get to sit back and watch him move all over the place. Wheeeeee!

And people call this fun?


Good lord
 
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Jay Little
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While an interesting read, I don't think the analogy to Chess is very accurate, as it's really comparing apples to oranges -- or perhaps apples to sub-quarks, as the games aren't even in the same fruit bowl.

The disparity in the number of units, the smaller finite gameboard of Chess, the perfect game condition information in Chess and the fact that all options are available in Chess on each turn (rather than a prerequisite number/type of die result or specific event card) are just a few of the numerous differences in the game approach, gameplay experience and strategy points between the two games.

The single most important point I was hoping to convey in the session report still stands, I think. The incredible difficulty in evaluating different turn options without being able to simply rely on knowledge of the rules. When faced with 3 different dice options and myriad choices, many other players see limitless options and depth of strategy, where I see a morass of inevaluable options and frustration in the lack of viable strategic choices -- which can only be learned through investing more time and energy than I feel the game warrants.
 
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Dave J McWeasely
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ynnen wrote:
While an interesting read, I don't think the analogy to Chess is very accurate, as it's really comparing apples to oranges -- or perhaps apples to sub-quarks, as the games aren't even in the same fruit bowl.

The disparity in the number of units, the smaller finite gameboard of Chess, the perfect game condition information in Chess and the fact that all options are available in Chess on each turn (rather than a prerequisite number/type of die result or specific event card) are just a few of the numerous differences in the game approach, gameplay experience and strategy points between the two games.


Yes, of course! But if you've played 25 games of chess and look at that game move-by-move, then white's "king-blitzin' strategy" looks like random flailing starting on move 3. Even if you want to defend with a Sicilian, the other player may not move their pieces to let you.

(As you noticed, in WotR there's even a third party acting to frustrate plans for a set-piece opening: the roll of the dice. )

White needs to unclench a bit from their strategy and take care of tactical considerations first. If a fellowship blitz is not available this game due to uncooperative dice, then you got to roll with the punches and prepare your military options. Dig in in Gondor? Move Rohan to war and take the fight to Sauruman or Dul Guldur or Osgiliath? Move the elves to war to give them a fighting chance? Some cards make some options more palatable: Early Fear Fire Foes makes the North a SP nightmare.

I'm not going to try to sugar-coat it: the dice you got, they were bad dice. Waiting turn after turn to get Gandalf back is Very Bad for the good guys - those are actions that you're not ever going to be able to get back. Also, not being able to move the FSP once per turn is bad, since the first time you move each turn you're revealed only on 6s, which is somewhat unlikely even with 4 dice in the pool. Giving out Elven Rings willy-nilly to the SP is also bad. They were bad. Some fist-table-percussion was completely warrented. But you were not doomed by these dice.

Quote:
The single most important point I was hoping to convey in the session report still stands, I think. The incredible difficulty in evaluating different turn options without being able to simply rely on knowledge of the rules. When faced with 3 different dice options and myriad choices, many other players see limitless options and depth of strategy, where I see a morass of inevaluable options and frustration in the lack of viable strategic choices -- which can only be learned through investing more time and energy than I feel the game warrants.


I agree, your point still stands. I think that's why you've written such a popular article. (in fact, I think I'll go give you a '5'). I tried WotR with several opponents before I found a regular opponent who really liked it. The rest were thrown off by the learning curve. (it also helped in my last student, that I'd already taught the game several times before that). When games get wild, sometimes I fall out of my storehouse of WotR experience, and I have to do some blind guessing and/or combinatorics to make decisions.

For example, there was a game where I'd completely stymied Sauron's armies, but we'd fought so many battles that I had nothing left to muster and nothing left to recapture. Both sides were tapped out on cards. The fellowship had been sitting in Dale healing for many many turns, with Gollum as guide, and when they finally set out they got severely hunted, like up to 8 corruption at the Gates of Mordor. I could retrace my steps back to Dale and try to heal up some more, trusting to my victorious but bled-white military to hold out for 8-10 more turns. Or I could go into Mordor and try my luck. I didn't know, at that point, that Mordor with 8 corruption is a death trap (still only my ~8th game at that point, with 0 ring victories). It is a death trap. I should have backtracked and hoped for some fantastic military stalling. I took a long time to make my (wrong) decision. I lacked the mental scaffolding for analyzing the likely hunt results. After that game I got to work and came up with a hunt tile simulator. Well, no, really I just read somebody else's article on the geek. But anyway, though I lost the game I had fun in the aftermath, crunching numbers and whatnot. It made me a better player - I inched up the learning curve a little higher.

Hey, not everyone likes combinatorics! Fine by me.

- McWeaseley
 
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MrWeasely wrote:
Bob and I squared off for a game of Chess..

MrWeasely, this is the impression I got from your description of that particular game of chess.

And since it is merely a personal impression, I'm entitled to it.

It sounds like you started that game, determined not to enjoy the experience, no matter the outcome.

That's how it sounded from your writing. Nothing more.

If I'm wrong, I'm wrong. But that won't change how it sounded.





By the way, I always make it a point to make sure, people I introduce to chess, play black.

As I find that those who'd be naturally inclined to enjoy this game, tend to find black's wargamey aspects easier to play.

Just some of the little things I do to make sure people I play with, find their first few games enjoyable.

It takes smarts to win, but takes savvy to let opponents(your buddies) win.

It may all sound foolish, but the payoff is that I never lack for playing partners in chess.





But the stuff I do above raises a few questions.

Why do I have do it?

The reason I don't play for smarts(against beginners) is because Jason has a good point.

This game can be frustrating to new players.

It's fine to play for keeps against newbies, if you know he/she already likes the game.

But it's different when playing against new players who are still unsure of the game.

What's the point of winning when you already have veteran's advantage anyway.

Might as well let your buddies have a blast gaming with you.

Losing ain't fun.

Losing while still frustrated about rules(new after all), is even worse.

To realize that, and to adapt instead of to obliviously go for overkill, takes savvy.

And that's my philosophy regarding the introduction of people to any heavy gaming.





MrWeasely wrote:
White needs to... ...roll with the punches

This got me to reminisce on my first few games.

Back then, I've heard about how white's not as intuitive to play as black.

So I deliberately decided to play white until I've got that side solved.

Besides the fact that it was a frustrating and long first game, I also played my side like it was Axis & Allies instead of chess.

Needless to say, white got slaughtered.

Second game: white still played axis to black's allies.

Result: the usual massacre.

Third game: I knew I'd have to not only stop neglecting the fellowship, but basically do nothing but 'fellowship'.

Result: another white slaughter, but close this time.

I can see how white is actually doable.

And that those who posted about white being overpowered, weren't high on drugs.





However, I remember thinking how boring white must be to play, and how linear this side could potentially be.

And the next game as white didn't help either.

I thought 'Damn, is this all there is to it?'

By the time we got to the next game, I've had enough of it: I played black.

'Goddamn, now we're in business!'

It was fun.

Black was a blast to play.

I remember thinking, the black blitz(what we've been doing so far) is pure overkill.

I could emphathize with white.

I already knew how boring that side can be, as white got slaughtered again.

After having a taste of the black side, I decided to keep playing white until I've got my buddies hooked, as I could see the game had huge potential. (though we still weren't too excited about it)

As diehard Axis & Allie gamers, white is not how we liked to play games.

Now black is more like it.





Still, we went for another game: by this time, we're very familiar with the cards.

And I can still recall the distinct change in the way we saw cards, as well as the way we played them.

In past games, we'd find it annoying not getting the 'good' cards, and remembered getting 'bad' cards.

But this time, we couldn't get useless cards if we'd wanted to.

And no, it wasn't mere luck of the draw.

We only realized that we've become familiar with not only how to use the cards, but when to properly play them.

Suddenly, the bad cards that we'd inevitably draw, weren't useless anymore, due to the fact that we now knew when they were most likely to become useful.

And thus plan our strategies accordingly.

That's when white won for the first time, while also maintaining a solid presence on the board against the blitzes. (no bulldozing this time)

Our next succeeding games were just a spectacular series of exploits and discoveries, as we tried different methods of getting the upper hand.

Realizing that white was no pushover on the board, made us see the posibilities for that side again.

And I remember thinking how that side might not be so linear after all.

It was refreshing to discover that white can be formidable on the board if black isn't careful.

No more boring 'sprints'.





It is in these later games that we truly elevated our cardplay, to the point that, we relish excellent cardplay more than we do sound strategic planning on the board.

We've now come to realize, the fun is in working & adapting with the hand & dice you've been dealt.

What we used to think of as 'bad rolls' were now merely 'changes in strategy' or sometimes even 'unexpectedly welcome exploit tools'.

What we used to think of as 'useless bad draws' became 'dangerous future cardplays'.

Whereas we used to have rigid pre-concieved strategic moves that we'd follow by rote on the board.

We now have flexible strategic moves that we base on the cards we've drawn and that adapts accordingly.

I can see now where people might get frustrated when the cards they draw don't fit the master plans they've already started executing on the board.

That's why we eventually shifted to basing our board plans on our drawn cards, instead of the other way around.

We found the results of that change in philosophy to be superior and devastating.

More importantly, it's fun.

As this fluid play cuts down on frustrated plans.

So, as McWeaselly wrote, roll with the punches!

It's damn good advice.




 
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Hmm, come to think of it.

The reminisce above shows that if I hadn't continued playing the (at the time) crappy Free Peoples.

My friends wouldn't be having more fun with the Shadow.

And I wouldn't find enough people to play this game with a few more times to elevate play and appreciate the nuances.

Meaning, I could have chucked War of the Ring in the trash by now.devil

Interesting.



 
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Just an addition:

In contrast to how it was in the beginning, we now want to play as the Free Peoples, as we find that side to be more challenging.

The choices for the Shadow player seem to be easier and more forgiving.

Whereas, the Free Peoples' choices are often tougher but doable. (a far cry from our initial wrong impression: pushover & boring.)



 
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Indiana,

I agree that the SP side is easier to play and has more obvious goals. Generally, if one player is teaching another they should suggest that side for the beginner. In this case, I gave ynnen the choice of side and he had already played 2 aborted games so wasn't a complete beginner. Still, I think he would have enjoyed himself more as the SP player, especially considering that one of his dislikes of the game was that he couldn't play many cards (hard to do for the FP player at the beginning of the game since many have requirements involving companions).

That being said, his criticisms of the game apply to both sides and I doubt this is the game for him.

Oh yeah, I like the game. Generally disagree with his criticisms- in fact, my problem is the opposite of his. I'd like to see more difficult and interesting decisions in WotR.
 
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Quote:
in fact, my problem is the opposite of his. I'd like to see more difficult and interesting decisions in WotR.


Michael,

I think you will find that the Strategic portion of the Expansion game adds a lot more interesting decisions for both sides.
 
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Armadi wrote:
in fact, my problem is the opposite of his. I'd like to see more difficult and interesting decisions in WotR.

Our group has come to this assessment as well.

Something we'd never have imagined possible in the beginning.




 
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I am definitely purchasing the expansion. Looking forward to it.
 
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Rather than use chess as analogy, I thing Magic or some other constructed deck game is a better analog.

With both games, you know what is in the decks and where the board stands. What you have in your hand (and on the board), what you have already played, and what you have left in your deck (or reserves) impacts your strategy from turn to turn.

Not a perfect analogy, but it helps, I think.

Just to beat a dead horse, in WotR, your openning play should be based upon what you have in your hand, what you rolled, and what your opponent rolled, and later in the game, what he has played.

If there are 5 eyes in the hunt box turn one, and I roll a WoW and two swords, I'm burning a ring to bring out Aragorn turn one.

If there are 2 eyes in the hund and I roll a WoW and two swords, I will move the FSP twice.

I'd check out the theatres of war article at the ffg site. This is a great article that recommends what do do based upon what is in your hand...

http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/wotrarticlestheatresofwar....
 
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OusterX wrote:
Rather than use chess as analogy, I thing Magic or some other constructed deck game is a better analog.

We've also come to think of it more as Magic instead of Axis & Allies.

That way, the emphasis is placed on the cardplays, rather than on the board.

We find that it really helps people when they stop underestimating the power of the cards.

Conversely, we tap out the deck faster, since we tend to play the cards more than we'd save them.

But it's not a problem because excellent cardplays tends to shorten the number of turns in our games.

But like you said, still not a perfect analogy.



 
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Turn 1: Palantir, Sword, Sword, Helmet

Not bad. I used the Palantir to play the Elven Rope event to ease the burden of the Hunt, moved the Fellowship twice (avoiding any hunt tiles) and started to move the Rohirrim toward war.


Gondor is better, as it requires one political muster before being attacked. Rohan meanwhile is likely to be beset by all sorts of complications.

Quote:
Turn 2: Sword, Sword, Helmet, Helmet/Flag

Another good mix of dice, from what I could tell. But now I was feeling like "why would I ever do anything other than move the Fellowship?" I moved the fellowship twice, took 1 corruption from a Hunt tile, and wasn't sure whether this was a good idea or not. The moved Rohan and Elves toward war.


Because those strongholds can go down faster than you would think likely, unless they are well-defended. Minor damage should be taken as corruption. There are of course regular chances to lose corruption. It may not be a great idea to spread political musters, as enemy attacks will eventually do this for free. Getting the Elves to War is perhaps better as this will affect the SA player’s thinking.

Quote:
Turn 3: Sword, Palantir, Helm/Flag, Will of the West

Now the game started to break down, as there was no way for me to evaluate the relative value between any options.


Maybe not the game, as its only T3. If Gandalf is still the Guide, obviously the Will is significant.

Quote:
I moved the fellowship, took damage from the hunt and killed off Gandalf in hopes of bringing Gandalf the White into play -- and his bonus die -- as early as possible. Played the Horn of Gondor to mitigate hunt damage later in the game. Sauron strikes, activating some armies.


One would assume Gandalf the White would now appear, as presumably Saruman is extant, but it doesn’t look like that happened. Was this the game’s fault?

Quote:
Turn 4: Helm, Sword, Palantir, Palantir

Drat. Can't upgrade Strider to Aragorn, or activate Gandalf the White. Ok, so move the Fellowship. Damn, more damage. Had to discard events, as I can't play the ones in my hand.


I’d have thought combat would have started somewhere by T4, and that cards could be used in that. Card discard is a problem with using Gandalf the Grey’s Guide ability too much, but a problem of excess is not as bad as one of deficit.

Quote:
And can't use the Palantir to play events in my hands due to the nested conditional requirements, and can't draw more cards since I'm at the maximum handsize and would be forced to keep hemorrhaging events.


this doesn’t need to be said, as you use the battle events, or if neither, then happily discard for something better. Deploying more of your events first is a massive advantage.

Quote:
Turn 5: Helm, Helm, Palantir, Palantir

Discard more event cards, as hand is cluttered with cards like "Recruit a Dwarf on the opposite end of the board that you can't possibly get into play by the end of the game" and "Play only if ARAGORN or GANDALF THE WHITE is with a Free Peoples Army in South or North Ithilien, Dagorlad or a Region in Mordor" ... How many conditions do I need in effect to make use of these cards? Sheesh!


Draw a card? Still no combat??

Quote:
Felt that this turn was a complete waste, as I can only activate or move armies toward war that I don't care about,


because…? The obvious inference is you lack confidence in the outcome, though your combat events should outnumber those of the enemy.

Quote:
as a military victory (or in fact, any military movement) seems counter to my Free People goals and strengths.


correct

Quote:
Turn 6: Helmet, Helmet, Helmet/Flag, Palantir

Whee!! Still no character icons, still no Will of the West. Gandalf and Aragorn remain off the board. Rich keep getting richer. Since I can't roll well enough to get a Will of the West,


this time it would have helped to use the one you did get, if necessary supporting its use by using Elven Rings. Best not to take the gamble as a new player: get the fifth dice as fast as possible. Unfortunately you are already three Action dice down.

Quote:
I won't get an extra die to increase my options or match the pace of Sauron's full bevy of dice. Discard more event cards, as they are almost all tied to having Gandalf or Aragorn in play, or build troops in areas on the far reaches of the board that are only part of the game by virtue of sharing the same board.


The SA may not think so, though they will attack where you haven’t been reinforcing. I am wondering just how many unplayable events you have drawn by this stage of the game. It is most unlikely there are as many as this account suggests.

Quote:
Turn 7: Palantir, Helm/Flag, Helm, Will of the West

Finally, a Will of the West! I bring in Gandalf the White in Fangorn, and look to activate the Ents, which I've been holding on to for a while. I burn the Palantir, roll my dice, and score no hits. So I've now burned 2 dice (Will of the West to activate Gandalf, Palantir for the Event) for no appreciable effect, other than getting an extra die on my following turn.


Which is a great advantage, though T7 is very late for a fifth dice.

Quote:
Turn 8: Helm/Flag, Helm/Flag, Helm, Palantir, Will of the West

Screw this. Nothing is going well. Burn all the elven rings to convert those stupid Helm/Flag icons to Swords to try and move the fellowship. Sauron has a zillion conditional cards that I happen to fulfill by moving into the wrong places at the wrong time.


It is the mapboard where they are moving, and this is business as usual. Were you a panicking and unlucky beginner rolling crap dice? If so, the game is reacting appropriately. The good side is that chance and the benefit of experience makes this unlikely to happen again. Fellowship progress and movement is something the more experienced player worries about less, as they know it is very variable. Moving a lot all at once is supposed to be dangerous.

Quote:
First time Fellowship has even had a chance to move since Turn 4, and get clobbered for 8 corruption, eliminating all companions, leaving Gollum as the leader of the fellowship.


OK. Its seems even from these sparse notes that the Ring game is lost. Minor changes in ability, experience and chance would have prevented this and allowed the game to develop at least another five turns as it should. Gandalf’s die is the obvious one.

Quote:
Turn 9: Sword, Sword, Sword, Will of the West, Flag

Bored beyond belief,


I think “stuffed beyond retrieval” is closer. Start the next game safe in the knowledge of why.

Quote:
I desperately try to push myself into Mordor's throat and kill off the Fellowship. I use every die to activate and move the fellowship or conceal the fellowship. The net result is with 4 dice devoted to activating the Fellowship, they advance one single space, as Sauron has cards to keep pushing me back. I take no corruption, through a quirk of dice rolls and hunt tiles drawn. But I don't care anymore. The entire game has felt linear, uninspired and boring.


How should the game react, if a beginner has bad luck? Drawing any inferences from this is plain foolish for the obvious reason that it is unlikely to happen again. Anyway, the variability of the game is such that the repeat play value apparently never diminishes, so the only common feature in your next game would be the prejudices and assumptions you bring to it. These will either be steadily eroded or proved correct.

The game played here is the same game that keeps Rob and Craig over at Hasbro up till 1:30am on a work night, and I bet they'd rather be demonstrating this at cons rather than the "My Little Pony Threw A Shoe Race Game".

In short, well done War of the Ring! It’s a pity you can’t speak for yourself.
 
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Although ynnen's session report gave a good idea of how the game went from his perspective, it left out many details- most importantly, pretty much everything I did as the SP. As such, even an experienced player would (or should) have difficulty criticising his play.

Quote:
Turn 1: Palantir, Sword, Sword, Helmet

Not bad. I used the Palantir to play the Elven Rope event to ease the burden of the Hunt, moved the Fellowship twice (avoiding any hunt tiles) and started to move the Rohirrim toward war.

Quote:

Gondor is better, as it requires one political muster before being attacked. Rohan meanwhile is likely to be beset by all sorts of complications.


Moving Gondor a step towards war or possibly the elves are generally better. The SP might not attack Rohan all game for fear of Ents- it certainly isn't as juicy of a target as Gondor.

However, ynnen may have been reacting to something like: "A New Power is Rising" - which would be a sensible move. He wasn't, I didn't play that card all game but there is no way to tell from this session report.

Quote:


Minor damage should be taken as corruption. There are of course regular chances to lose corruption.



Not sure I agree. Sometimes it is worth it to lose Gandalf on a "1" -especially if you have a will waiting to "upgrade" him or if the "1" also revealed the fellowship and it would be efficient to have Strider as guide. One of WotR's more interesting decisions in my opinion.

Quote:

Quote:
Turn 3: Sword, Palantir, Helm/Flag, Will of the West

Now the game started to break down, as there was no way for me to evaluate the relative value between any options.


Maybe not the game, as its only T3. If Gandalf is still the Guide, obviously the Will is significant.

Quote:
I moved the fellowship, took damage from the hunt and killed off Gandalf in hopes of bringing Gandalf the White into play -- and his bonus die -- as early as possible. Played the Horn of Gondor to mitigate hunt damage later in the game. Sauron strikes, activating some armies.


One would assume Gandalf the White would now appear, as presumably Saruman is extant, but it doesn’t look like that happened. Was this the game’s fault?



The session report wasn't clear here. Ynnen moved the Fellowship twice, once with the sword and once with the will.

Quote:


Quote:
Turn 4: Helm, Sword, Palantir, Palantir
Drat. Can't upgrade Strider to Aragorn, or activate Gandalf the White. Ok, so move the Fellowship. Damn, more damage. Had to discard events, as I can't play the ones in my hand.


I’d have thought combat would have started somewhere by T4, and that cards could be used in that. Card discard is a problem with using Gandalf the Grey’s Guide ability too much, but a problem of excess is not as bad as one of deficit.

Quote:
And can't use the Palantir to play events in my hands due to the nested conditional requirements, and can't draw more cards since I'm at the maximum handsize and would be forced to keep hemorrhaging events.



There had been several combats by this point. I had captured Lorien and Pelargir at this time. Ynnen played a few combat events but complained about his combat events requiring companions.

Quote:


Quote:
as a military victory (or in fact, any military movement) seems counter to my Free People goals and strengths.


correct



Although I would agree with this assessment in almost every game I do think this one was an exception. At a certain point the ring victory really appeared out of reach- not sure which turn it was but ynnen was at 8 corruption a few spaces from Mordor on turn 6 or 7. However the Elves were at war and had mustered in Woodland Realm and ynnen had built up a sizeable army in Minas Tirith. I had left both Dol Guldur and Umbar unoccupied. Although chances were slim, ynnen had a better chance at achieving military victory than ring victory- and would have likely enjoyed the valiant charge.
 
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Although ynnen's session report gave a good idea of how the game went from his perspective, it left out many details- most importantly, pretty much everything I did as the SP. As such, even an experienced player would (or should) have difficulty criticising his play.


no doubt, but it was his criticisms that were of no use to man nor beast, least of all his esteemed self, so it was those I hoped to ameliorate.

Quote:
Moving Gondor a step towards war or possibly the elves are generally better. The SP might not attack Rohan all game for fear of Ents- it certainly isn't as juicy of a target as Gondor.


the SA have to use everything they've got, and Saruman is powerful, even if his actions merely caused the FP to use up resources retaking HD. The Ents can still attack Isengard.

Quote:
However, ynnen may have been reacting to something like: "A New Power is Rising" - which would be a sensible move. He wasn't, I didn't play that card all game but there is no way to tell from this session report.


I disagree. Rohan is compromised, so comes last in the early priorities.

Quote:
Minor damage should be taken as corruption. There are of course regular chances to lose corruption.

Not sure I agree. Sometimes it is worth it to lose Gandalf on a "1" -especially if you have a will waiting to "upgrade" him or if the "1" also revealed the fellowship and it would be efficient to have Strider as guide. One of WotR's more interesting decisions in my opinion.


this would upset me and I wouldn't have done it, so would have ended in the same boat as ynnen. I might just have looked hard at the Character deck for Mirror of Galadriel. However he was most unlucky in not rolling more Wills and his little piece should have acknowledged this, for here the design is not at fault.

Quote:
I moved the fellowship, took damage from the hunt and killed off Gandalf in hopes of bringing Gandalf the White into play -- and his bonus die -- as early as possible. Played the Horn of Gondor to mitigate hunt damage later in the game. Sauron strikes, activating some armies.

One would assume Gandalf the White would now appear, as presumably Saruman is extant, but it doesn’t look like that happened. Was this the game’s fault?

The session report wasn't clear here. Ynnen moved the Fellowship twice, once with the sword and once with the will.


Elven Rings could have been recommended to him.

Quote:
Ynnen played a few combat events but complained about his combat events requiring companions.


and he's right.
Nexus wanted characters winning battles around the board just as they deliberately decided not to in the books [and of course there are not enough of them]. I think another option might be to consider leaders as level 1 characters for battle card use, though I guess this would prove a quick and dirty modification.

Quote:
as a military victory (or in fact, any military movement) seems counter to my Free People goals and strengths.

correct

Although I would agree with this assessment in almost every game I do think this one was an exception. At a certain point the ring victory really appeared out of reach- not sure which turn it was but ynnen was at 8 corruption a few spaces from Mordor on turn 6 or 7. However the Elves were at war and had mustered in Woodland Realm and ynnen had built up a sizeable army in Minas Tirith. I had left both Dol Guldur and Umbar unoccupied.


never a good idea. One regular housesitting doesn't hurt.

Quote:
Although chances were slim, ynnen had a better chance at achieving military victory than ring victory- and would have likely enjoyed the valiant charge.


but Michael, could you not have contrived to lose? jeez, is that too much to ask? then we'd be another step closer to 100k sales and I'd have saved the time tapping in all this crap!

 
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Generally agree with you, Andy.

Remember that ynnen is a beginner (and compared to you and many others so am I- about 10 games under my belt) and I didn't want to play the game for him. Moving Rohan toward war with his first muster was a small mistake- I doubt it had an effect on the outcome. In my defense, when he asked me what he could do with it, I did mention that 1 muster towards war in Gondor would put them at war if I attacked Osgiliath, and that the Elves were already activated so a muster might be useful there. He may have mustered Rohan because I didn't suggest it.

Similarly, I did mention and recommend his use of elven rings a few times but he did not want to give them to me.

He definitely suffered from some bad luck in the game. Although I've seen worse.

Quote:
never a good idea. One regular housesitting doesn't hurt.


No argument from me, I was definitely a bit fast and loose with my armies this game. It would have still been difficult for ynnen to pull off a military victory though. His army from Gondor would have had to slip between a horde in Osgiliath and another in Pelargir. Still probably his best chance to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Quote:
but Michael, could you not have contrived to lose? jeez, is that too much to ask? then we'd be another step closer to 100k sales and I'd have saved the time tapping in all this crap!


I know you're kidding here and I suspect that you really enjoy typing "this crap." But to take you seriously- ynnen would be offended if I threw a game and I don't plan on ever throwing a game to anyone who isn't a child.

Wish more players took an attitude of playing their first game to learn it and not caring whether they win or lose.

 
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Armadi wrote:
Wish more players took an attitude of playing their first game to learn it and not caring whether they win or lose.

I'm with you on this one.

But the simple reality is, people do care whether they win or lose.

And yes, they also care on their first games.


 
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Armadi wrote:
Generally agree with you, Andy.

Remember that ynnen is a beginner


had I forgotten? More to the point, had he?

Quote:
(and compared to you and many others so am I- about 10 games under my belt) and I didn't want to play the game for him.


I've played the published version less often.

Quote:
I know you're kidding here and I suspect that you really enjoy typing "this crap."


I have always found posting to public lists preachy and self-promotional, where I am constrained to lecture [as the Foob noted the other day] since there is no debate. So far I haven't read any sensible criticisms of this game's design, which is to say points about non-physical aspects of the game. I'm pleased to note various players claiming its heavily unbalanced in favour of both sides. Some say three hours is too long, and yet this timescale puts it in about 13th place in the Geek top 50, bearing in mind that non-wargames form the bulk of the list [and War of the Ring is usually played to a finish, unlike most wargames]. Some tell us that the Mordor track is all luck, which sends a stronger message that they know it isn't but can't figure how to reduce it, whilst a few as honest as their rarity admit their problems are down to lack of ability. The hype-boys failed to check the dictionary: hype implies exaggeration, a very hard task here: our early assessment has proved unusually accurate. The Risk/A&A critics became part of their own joke, as it would be wonderful if any version of Axis & Allies had risen to the level of a game like War of the Ring.

Quote:
But to take you seriously- ynnen would be offended if I threw a game and I don't plan on ever throwing a game to anyone who isn't a child.


What game designer can afford to believe a win wasn't down to his innate ability?

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Wish more players took an attitude of playing their first game to learn it and not caring whether they win or lose.


We like to learn how to win.
 
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aforandy wrote:
I have always found posting to public lists preachy and self-promotional, where I am constrained to lecture [as the Foob noted the other day] since there is no debate. So far I haven't read any sensible criticisms of this game's design, which is to say points about non-physical aspects of the game. I'm pleased to note various players claiming its heavily unbalanced in favour of both sides. Some say three hours is too long, and yet this timescale puts it in about 13th place in the Geek top 50, bearing in mind that non-wargames form the bulk of the list [and War of the Ring is usually played to a finish, unlike most wargames]. Some tell us that the Mordor track is all luck, which sends a stronger message that they know it isn't but can't figure how to reduce it, whilst a few as honest as their rarity admit their problems are down to lack of ability. The hype-boys failed to check the dictionary: hype implies exaggeration, a very hard task here: our early assessment has proved unusually accurate. The Risk/A&A critics became part of their own joke, as it would be wonderful if any version of Axis & Allies had risen to the level of a game like War of the Ring.


This is one of the greatest posts of all time. I have rated it a 5.

However, rating posts means nothing.

Also, I can't give you a donut, because this is the Internet.
 
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Thanks to everyone for your posts - very interesting. I just started playing myself.

By the way, you guys really, REALLY must spend a lot of time on these!!!

Three short comments in regards to the topic of not knowing which strategy will be best, and why there are no 'strategy guides'-

1) Although the game doesn't include any, there are lots of great hints and tips and strategies here on Gameboardgeek, http://home.rixtele.com/~charmtroll/wotr/, and other sites. Check them out if you haven't already.

2) I think not knowing which way to go (make a dash for Mordor, spitting/not splitting characters from the Fellowship, how many dice to allocate for the hunt, etc) are what make the game AWESOME! If the game were predictable, it wouldn't be as fun/intellectually stimulating.

3) I do compare it (on some levels) to Axis & Allies. I've spent a lot of time deployed (I'm in the military) and I've played scores of games (never online) on Navy ships, inside armored personnel carriers, or back home in the states. I love the excitement of dreaming up new strategies for different countries. That's what fuels my desire for playing the next game. Same with WOTR. I look forward to thinking 'well next time if I try this...'

4) I simultaneously love/hate agonizing over trying to decide 'should I keep this card in case I might need to muster this army a couple turns down the road, or should I get the combat advantage while I can before I end up discarding it later...' Like I don't have enough stress in my life...

That's it for now. Can't wait for the expansion (even though I still haven't fully grasped all the options/rules/cards for the original version)!

 
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