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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Jason (WotR) >> Nothing Like Starting Out On The Right Foot

Ahhh... The first game to be discussed since I joined just had to be War of the Ring, eh? Well, I know my views aren't very popular on this game, but I might as well say my piece, as it usually tends to elicit some good feedback and discussion. And that's what it's all about.

I'm not a fan of War of the Ring. My recent attempt at giving War of the Ring another chance is well chronicled by my lengthy review and session report at BoardGameGeek.com, where I'm better known by my login ynnen. I'll summarize my thoughts as best as possible for this blog.

Current War of the Ring Rating: 3.5 / 10

I am convinced that War of the Ring is a game I will never enjoy. It may have a rich theme by virtue of the event cards, but the sheer number of special exceptions, nested conditional requirements for certain actions and the various streams of luck kept me from ever feeling that I was playing the game -- it felt more that the game was playing me, and I was merely a spectator.

I find WotR to be a mish mosh of fairly good (production quality) and very bad (virtually everything else). Very strong theme, excellent looking components (which don't fit neatly on the board, by the way, and make identifying borders and regions nigh impossible). But the complex, arduous gameplay greatly detracts from the experience. I haven't felt so uninvolved and disinterested in my role in a game since playing Tenjo or Risk: Godstorm. Decisions are not very compelling or clear, the exception-riddled rules are confounding, and the gameplay bogs down into a herky-jerky pace that really squeezes any enjoyment out of this.

While I can appreciate that different choices can have a significant impact, I felt that at several times, there were no obviously "good" choices to choose among, while at other times, there was no way for me to evaluate the value/worth of a given action/choice at a particular time. The order of performing actions eluded me, the investment in actions/turns to activate and maneuver certain troops seemed inefficient compared to other options (despite other options seeming equally unappealing), and many of my personal goals seemed incompatible with the event cards and action dice available to me.

If the entire gameplay experience (setup, teaching another player, actual game time, clean up) took 1.5 hours or thereabouts, these issues wouldn't have as negative an impact on my perception of the game. But given the amount of time involved (3+ hours for my 3rd game), these issues were magnified, and ultimately the payoff does not match up with the investment.