The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Archive for the ‘War of the Rings’ Category

Dear War of the Ring

I only stopped calling because I moved. It’s not like I stopped thinking about you. Let’s get back together.


Written by taogaming

January 17, 2011 at 10:27 pm

Posted in War of the Rings

Tuesday Gaming — War of the Ring

At the new San Antonio Board Game Blog, they reference my WotR game against Robert, but don’t post the report! [Much of the content is based on our email discussions, but I’m sure they’ll migrate over as things get set up].

Robert had read the rules, but hadn’t played, so it was a learning game. To speed things along, I took the fellowship (since they have more rules, IMO). Adding insult to injury, I dug a mine and Robert got the shaft. His 2nd muster was on … turn 3. My early cards included Gandalf’s Staff (stop a hunt tile) and Axe & Bow (redo a hunt tile). I did have to face the Balrog to go through Moria, but quickly got to Lorien while sending Strider to be crowned King … in Minas Tirith. He died a few turns later (at a net wash of actions, but some bonus troops killed). Meanwhile the fellowship was safely declared in Lorien and moving steadily. The Witch king finally started to sack cities when I was almost ready to declare. Sadly, my final move into Mordor revealed me, so I took the extra hit (for being revealed in a stronghold) so that Cruel weather couldn’t hurt me.

The Witch King was living dangerously, taking two strongholds with only a single hit left (and abandoning Erebor with a single unit on each side. Sadly, the Dwarf’s weren’t at war, so couldn’t attack in time).

After a brief delay, I declared in Mordor and started the final assualt with a mere two corruption. Robert had finally gotten some nice cards to attack the fellowship, and his luck turned when he managed to remove two fellowship special tiles from the bag (via Events). But it was too little, too late. The Siege on Helm’s deep killed the Witch King’s army. Merry’s presence (allowed by having the fellowship at a ‘5’ position when he split off to avoid a corruption) allowed me to play a card that gave me a bonus two hits … after one round, the WK was in danger of dying, and couldn’t retreat because of the card that forces a mandatory three round assault. Lorien had a full army ready to hit Mordor or Dul Guldur and Helm’s Deep (backed up by Gandalf and the group from Edoras) moved to attack Orthanc(!), but the Ringbearers avoided the awful things in Morder (Shelob’s Lair, et al) and dunked the ring while the Shadow had 5 VP (Minas Tirith, Dol Amroth and Pelegrir). Given the final position, a free people military victory certainly looked reasonable.

Total game time — Three hours. Very reasonable for a first game.

It was good to finally get to play this again, and I hopefully will get in a few more plays soon. Then, the expansion!

Written by taogaming

November 16, 2005 at 8:19 pm

When will boardgaming take off?

The thread over on BGG begs the question. I doubt it will take off. I mean, we may see gains, but I don’t expect the rest of the world to smack themselves on the forehead and go “Boardgames! Of course!”.

That being said, I’m moderately hopeful that recent growth will continue. I mean, the internet lets people find like-minded people, and some of those who get nostalgic and look up games from their childhood may eventually stumble onto the geek (great site, not the greatest name from a PR standpoint) and get hooked.

In other news …

Regarding Alexfrog’s bgg thread on the War of the Ring Expansion, all I can say is “You had me at toning down the Witch King.” I trust Alex’s analysis (he’s been right more often that I have whenever I’ve noticed a disagreement, and played WotR an order of magnitude more often). I’m almost certain to pony up for this. Right now I describe War of the Ring as “A game I like that isn’t balanced and doesn’t work, really.” It would be nice to just shorten that to “A game I like.”

Rio Grande is picking up Friedrich? Good to know. I don’t think it’s a purchase, but I’d like to play and this may get me a chance.

Has anyone played the Mare Nostrum expansion yet? I like the review I’ve seen, but haven’t played in a few years, and want more info. [I’ll probably buy it no matter what].

Finally, is anyone having problems viewing this in IE? I use Firefox, but I look at it with IE and text disappears (until you select it). Drop a comment.

Written by taogaming

October 18, 2005 at 7:34 pm

Yet Another War of the Rings Game

I went to the store hoping to play Shadowfist, but one person had an emergency come up, so it didn’t happen. After a few duels, I taught my opponent War of the Ring.

This game mirrored my last one. As the free people I split off campanions early to a) gain the equivalent of 6 political musters (Moving the Dwarves from top to bottom in two actions, and advancing elves and the north), b) Crown Aragorn, c) keep the number of hunt dice low. I had to skip Moria, but the corrupt kept hitting me. Militarily, I was doing fine. I lost Dol Amroth early, but was doing fine. My opponent had some trouble and wasted a few actions with recruiting; not that I was the model of efficiency.

My crucial mistake — with gollum leading the party I could decide to stop in Minas Tirith (with 6 corruption) or try to quickly hit Mordor, despite the fact that I had no blue tiles. (Only one Sauron special tile was in the bag, though). I felt confident that Minas Tirith would hold (Helm’s Deep was gone, along with Pelegir, bringing 5VP to Sauron). But that would cost several turns. I decided to press on (and got in … Cruel weather didn’t show up!). However, the push into Mordor brought me to 8.

I basically tried to move one step a turn and hunt for the tiles. I got the Phial of Galadrial in, took some corruption, but then drew the tile (back to 8!). Meanwhile, I relieved the siege of Minas Tirith, but the Mouth joined the Witch King. While I was hunting for more “safe” tiles, Sauron had dumped two more reads into the bag; regrouped, and attacked. I had a handful of beautiful defense — sacrificing Boromir to absorb hits, reducing shadow dice, cancelling cards (and several elite units). The Witch King kept pressing and after three rounds I still had five dice and he was down to 5 hits as well. He retreated, I attacked out and used a Sudden Strike to kill the Witch King and the Mouth.

I may have been able to take 4 VPs worth of shadow strongholds. The Roharim marched on Orthanc and Aragorn led Minas Tirith towards an empty mordor. But a wave of recruiting turned him around.

During the last two turns, the fellowship had advanced once/turn (to avoid the corruption), and had inched up to ten. I dropped two more blue specials into the bag as the final red special hit (Sauron had run the deck). Since it would take several turns (and a wave of luck) to get VP, I had to move and drew a 4-hit eye. Game over.

Now that I’ve played 8 times, I definitely think that the game needs some tweaking — probably bidding for sides. (Both players pick the side they think has the advantage and bid a # of turns they are willing to lose one die). If each player picks a different side, no problem. If they think the same side is advantageous, whoever thinks it’s better gets to play it, but gives up dice. Right now I’d probably bid Shadow – 2 or so. [Actually, I think that for the free people, since dice are so rare, each FP point gives the shadow a free eye that doesn’t cost a die might be in order.]

I could also see some changes to the Witch King being in order. If the Witch King could only draw from the mustering deck (when using his power), then it would fit the theme (in my opinion). He’s racing for war, not hunting the fellowship. Or just time him somehow. He can only enter play once the Fellowship has taken a certain number of steps.

In any case, my opinion of the game keeps dropping, but I still enjoy it.

Update: Here’s the geek forum discussing bids on WotR. And here’s the forum where I posted my Witch King idea.

Written by taogaming

May 21, 2005 at 8:03 pm

War of the Ring Further Thoughts

Updating my original thoughts.

I’ve now played 7 Games of WotR (only 1 as Sauron). I lost my last three games, so what do I know? Some thoughts anyway.

As the Free Peoples, I’m not sure if the right idea is to race at all costs and just concede the military. I suspect it is, but it’s pretty boring. I tried a more balanced strategy (planning on splitting for Aragorn and to place several companions in key strongholds) and it’s certainly more interesting. The “Crown Aragorn on Turn 1” strategy, which I’ve just heard of, sounds interesting. You’ll probably get the dice you spend back (instead of waiting for T4 or so to crown him), and you’ll probably cost Sauron a turn or two for a stronghold.

I hope that the expansion brings the NW portion of the map into play. In my single game as evil, I lost the Witch King early, and suddenly found myself scrambling. Using massive muster cards (+ Saruman) I could make a credible threat to take two of Rivendale, Lorien and The Gray Havens. However, the marching time is just brutal. I’ve seen a fair number of games where the Erebor falls (sometimes early, if the hordes from the east muster).

I suspect that the game is tilted towards good, despite my recent losses. Cruel Weather + Nazgul Search each force the fellowship to waste a turn, but it takes a bit of luck to get both and put a reasonable number of red special tiles into the bag.

The real problem with War of the Rings is that after 2 (or three or four) hours, the resolution often depends merely on a tile draw or two. In my one game as Sauron, I basically conceded that I wouldn’t get to 10 points, and we just played out the fellowship’s journey through mordor. It saved us 30 minutes (or more), but it was all tile dependant. Now, if the game had been closer, we would have played out and it would have depended on a tile draw and perhaps a battle.

However, I’d still rather play this than most of the new Euros or other games that I consider more balanced or better designed. Fun beats sterility of design.

I just added Coldfoot, who I discovered during one of my random technorati searches. Are there any other gaming sites I should be reading or linking?

Written by taogaming

April 23, 2005 at 9:38 pm

Posted in War of the Rings

Struggle of Empires, War of the Rings and Cognitive Limits

In the comments about my last War of the Ring game, Jon mentioned the rules got to him. The WotR rules don’t bother me, at least in regards to complexity. The grey areas cover vast swathes of ground. Or, I really am confused on the rules but don’t realize it. I’ve read the FAQ and many of the Boardgame geek archives on WotR and still have a few questions.

Anyway, I walked into the game store on Sunday and Martin Wallace mugged me for a lot of money. Age of Steam expansions don’t come cheap, but Struggle of Empires took the bulk of the bill. Boardgamegeek’s page on Struggle of Empires]

Struggle’s rules are concise (about four pages), but densely packed. They were easy to grasp straight away, with just a few special cases to remember (“When can units move around Europe?”).

Just to make sure I understood the rules, I setup a game and tried to go through a round or two and … stopped. I know the rules (at least, the basics); the options overwhelmed me.

After the (clever) turn order auction, each player takes a turn 5 (or 6) times around the table. A turn has two actions. You have six choices of actions, and can pick the same one twice (with two exceptions) in either order. So, thirty four possible actions (Let’s assume you don’t need to see the first result to decide the second. If you do, then you branch based on further contingencies!) But each of the actions involves another decision. The move action lets you move two units. The attack let’s you start a combat. And then there’s the “Take a special tile” action.

There must be 30 different special tiles, all available at the start of the game. The tiles use symbols to indicate costs and maybe a phrase to summarize benefits (the cheat sheet explains in detail).

Now, floundering through a first game is nothing new. For really complicated games, I expect to lose often (to seasonsed opponents). But I had an idea where I’m going. In War of the Ring, you are nicely constrained. Your first turn is draw two cards. Pick a guide (two choices). Sauron picks # of eyes (2-4 reasonable choices). Roll dice. Pause to gauge rough plan. Spend a die and make some number of choices with it. The rules constrain actions.

In Struggle, the rules explain outcomes of actions, but they barely constrain them at all. Additionally, the number of decision points varies between the games. In War of the Rings, when you finish and action and then your next choice awaits, the board will be basically the same. Oh, the Nazgul may have moved a bit, or a combat / hunt will resolve. But in Struggle, after your complex decision everyone else will make an equally complex decision before it gets back to you.
[Of course, more players impacts this and War of the Ring is a two player game].

Finally, given that there are multiple paths to victory (you have Victory points, but you could colonize, fight wars in Europe, spend a lot, spend little, go for a powerful army or navy or diplomatic corps … you get the idea). In Age of Steam or Europe Engulfed, there are tons of rules but you can make a rough evaluation (Income good. Crushing Enemy good). Here, I can count the VPs that would accrue if the turn ended now … but what if the turn ends 3 rounds from now?)

By no means does this reduce my enthusiasm for Struggle. I’m ready to play. But I expect the first game to drag a bit, especially early on. I think Struggle reverses people’s typical way of thinking. Consider Ursuppe. The gene cards are your options, but on the first turn you can only buy a fraction of them. By the second turn you can buy most of them (but not all) If you play with the expansion, only three of the additional genes appear each turn. This is similar to the old AH “Structured Learning,” but here, the rules don’t come in chunks as much as the game expands during play. Struggle starts with every choice available.

If options daunt you, consider yourself warned.

Written by taogaming

January 31, 2005 at 9:42 pm

War of the Rings more thoughts

I added an article to BoardGameGeek (so that the WotR designers would see it). What I’d like to see in a WotR expansion.

1) A hunt mechanism that gives the Shadow player more decisions. Right now the shadow player can allocate dice and move an army onto the fellowship. That’s it.

2) A set of options that are “Pro-Free People” or “Pro-Shadow” with approximate values that can be mixed and matched. This allows for balance to be tweaked and for more variety. (If the fellowship turns out to be better, give the
shadow 3 points of options, and the fellowship 2 points).

3) More event cards. Even just a few more (say, six in each deck) would greatly increase the variable of each game.

4) A bit more war defense for the FP, a bit more ring defense (not necessarily corruption, which seems reasonable) for the shadow.

5) Army markers and holding mats would be nice, but they’re gravy.

What I don’t want to see:

1) A ton of new units.

2) Expansions for more players. I only play 2p.

3) Cards that, despite having two uses (combat or regular), are so lopsided that one use dominates (I’m looking at you, special hunt tiles).

3a) Cards that cost the other side an entire turn, and that can be used in any situation. (I’m looking at you, Cruel Weather). Cards should be always useful or powerful in limited situations, not powerful every time.

4) Complication just for complexities sake.

I guess overall, I’d like too see the game move towards the center, with Sauron having more ways to slow (but not stop) the fellowship, and the FP having ways to slow (but not stop) the military victory. I think tension would increase if each side had more variability in play styles. That’s my chief complaint.

Update: Edited to fix linebreaks, add to post chain. Also, I’m not sure that Sauron needs more ring defense. I’d like to see Cruel Weather (and other cards that can’t be answered) dealt with.

Written by taogaming

January 29, 2005 at 12:50 pm

Posted in War of the Rings

Thursday Night Gaming (1/27/05)

Got to All Fun and Games and explained Power Grid to a group of new players. Do I want to play? No thank you, as in walked an opponent for War of the Ring. Explained the rules and set up the game. I played the Fellowship; I believe they have to track more rules, making Shadow easier to learn. [I suspect Shadow may be harder to play well, but they do have less rules].

Saruman arrived on the field while the fellowship set off from Rivendell. The second move revealed them — I decided to go through High Pass and take the long way, avoiding Moria.

I had decided on a fast fellowship strategy, not splitting off anyone unless absolutely necessary. The first successful hunts only did minor corruption or revealed the fellowship, so I didn’t sacrifice Gandalf, figuring that Lorien would soak up a point. Muster events gathered the entire Elven army (save for one regular), so spare muster dice went to put the Elves at war so they could sortie.

Saruman built up a small, but reasonable force and entered Rohan. Meanwhile, the Witch King arrived and marched for Minas Tirith. My opponent (Justin) got mildly unlucky in battles, balanced with moderate good luck on the hunt. Gandalf was still Grey, so Isengard didn’t worry about Ents (I did disclose the existence of a few cards).

Disaster struck when the fellowship’s move into Lorien got detected, revealing them prematurely. With only three corruption, I decided to press ahead. Isengard conquered Helm’s deep with little trouble. (I never saw a Rohan Muster event, and didn’t spend the actions to put them at war).

A minor orc army (with a Nazgul) landed on the fellowship, providing two hunt rerolls. Then I made a huge mistake: I decided that Lorien could defeat the orc army and threaten Dul Guldor (which was empty) even though another minor army could counter-attack. I destroyed the first army, but the counterattack eliminated the elves. (Total of about 6 orcs (1 elite) and 2 Nazgul vs 5 Elves (4 Elite) + Leader). The orcs waltzed into Lorien, although the fellowship scampered away unhindered.

The Witch King sat at the Gates of Minas Trith, which was too lightly defended to stand for long, so (using “I will go alone”) I sent Strider and Legolas for support. Next action, I crowned Aragorn and prayed that Minas Tirith could last for several rounds of battle. I had a handful of cards that help Aragorn defend Rohan or Gondor. If I could cripple the Witch King’s army, Dol Amroth (besieged by a small force) would never be seriously threatened.

Minas Tirith fell in the opening wave.

Suddenly desperate, I rushed the fellowship towards Mordor. Gandalf (finally) died and re-appeared in Fangorn. The Roharim formed (through massive muster cards) in Edoras to threaten either the Witch King or Isengard army, should they leave a stronghold. Then Saruman decided to attack Edoras.

That turn saw six hunt dice (four allocated, two rolled), so I had two more dice. Saruman emptied Helm’s Deep to take out Rohan’s final army, and launched the attack with his last die. These mistakes proved costly as “scouts” allowed a retreat before battle and the Rohan army ran back to reclaim Helm’s Deep with my last two actions.

Meanwhile the fellowship arrived in Mordor. By this point, I had played the “Phial of Galadriel” (the ‘-2’ corruption tile) as the only special tile, so the hunt tiles were favorable. “Worn with Sorry and Toil” (which causes one random discard per fellowship death) was on the table. Sauron has six of the necessary ten points, while besieging Dol Amroth and preparing to retake Helm’s Deep.

The next turn I played “Elven Rope” (another favorable hunt tile) and advanced twice (sacrificing a character and losing a card both times). Helm’s Deep succumbed to the onslaught.

The final turn saw the free people muster an elite unite in Dol Amroth and play “Mithril Coat and Sting” (which allows for a hunt tile redraw) before taking the final steps to the Crack of Doom. The desperation siege of Dol Amroth failed and the fellowship dunked the ring. Without any stops or corruption tiles, only two reveals out of the first three tiles could stop me (as I could reject the first unfavourable tile).

Another tense game. All three of my games have come down to the wire. Justin played well. The first game overwhelms with details. Having to read each card, study characters, the board and asking what your opponents cards do can be taxing. There is a lot to keep track of, even beyond the rules. If Justin had know about the ‘Scouts’ card, he probably would have won before the Fellowship arrived in Mordor.

The game took a touch under three hours (including rules, setup and cleanup).

Despite the expense and acknowledging War of the Ring’s flaws, it’s a blast. The game oozes theme and time flies by. Now I just need someone to paint my set …

Next on the table: a three player game of Lawless, a game by another Bruno from France, Mr. Cathala. Each player tries to build up their ranch by playing land, cattle (which needs land to graze) and cowboys (to keep the cattle from wandering away). Each turn you get six actions to draft face up cards (which cost 1-6, depending on slot) and play cards (cost on the card). Apart from the three basic types (Land, Cattle, Cowboys) the deck contains various thematic cards, mainly of the “Take that!” variety. You earn money by selling cattle and can spend money for extra actions. Lawless ends when either the bank or deck runs out, at which point you score based on land, cattle, cowhands and money. Our game took an hour, with two mitigating factors: the only experienced player re-read the rules while explaining them, and one of the opening cards (The Mayor) allows its owner to re-arrange the draftable cards each turn. Future plays should clock in at thirty minutes or so. An agreeable filler, but I’m happy playing someone else’s copy.

Written by taogaming

January 28, 2005 at 4:59 pm

Back from the Game Store (War of the Ring)

It’s my Birthday soon (as if I needed an excuse to buy a game) so I picked up War of the Ring. I’ve only played twice; but I should be able to get in a game or two over the next week.

In my earlier review, I commented on the atrocious graphical design. In retrospect, I was too harsh. The miniatures do have enough differences to tell apart without being painted, but when opening the box for the first time it’s overwhelming. Now that I’ve played twice, sorting the miniatures into the various nations took little time. Also, the board does have marks on the text to indicate how much each region counts towards victory. That helps quite a bit.

So I’m upgrading my comments from “Beautiful and useless” to “Beautiful and functional.”

I also picked up Colossal Arena, which just shows you how much I like the original game (Titan the Arena). I mean, the new version adds a few monsters; otherwise nothing changes.

I’ve bought remarkably few games the last half-year. I’m moving soon, so I’m trying to hold the line. I’ll probably end up with a few more games before Summer, but not many (unless I make some trades). I think my current collection will tide me over.

Written by taogaming

January 22, 2005 at 3:08 pm

Posted in War of the Rings

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