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Saturday, September 10, 2005

The War of the War of the Ring

War of the Ring is a great classic game. They don't come along very often. The last one was Wilderness War, and its sales were poor until recently. They are easily recognisable even at the playtest kit stage, even if they've got more holes in them than a horse trader's mule. So no hype.
This was the first test of mine where every problem could be illustrated by an example from the past. Testing this game wasn't a very popular activity, which surprised me, whereas just about everyone turned up for the expansion test. A problem with great classic games may be that to some degree they require great classic players, lest the game, that inanimate cardboard and plastic construct, proves itself to be the dominant force in the games room.
The early Aragorn strategy we missed, except perhaps when accumulated Fellowship moves and events, combined with a Will, led to sudden crowning in Dol Amroth. However I have doubts that it is any good. There is a strong temptation to separate Gandalf early too, depriving the Fellowship even more. This is the game where the SA's nerve is regularly tested by a Fellowship in Lorien before his military conquest is apparently underway. However after that the FP Ring and Military games can fall apart rapidly.
The "hidden hobbit" or Fellowship Starting Point technique is questionable. It doesn't much matter whether Sauron knows where they are or not, since better knowledge would not confer greater powers to his Ring game. Carrying over movement of the FSP between turns merely allows it to scoot out of trouble, or into safe havens, along with the aforementioned boosted separation of companions. The design brilliance lies in the indirectness of Sauron's ability to set about the Fellowship. The SA player gets the impression that Sauron doesn't really know if the Ring is extant at all, nor what is intended for it. He just suspects strongly -- perhaps more on some turns than others! Thus the bane of previous Tolkien games is defeated.