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Coming the Week of January 18th (17 Jan 2020)

First Impressions of Return to Dark Tower.
Reviews of Clank!, On the Underground, Cover Your Kingdom, and Arkham Horror LCG: Circle Undone Core Box.
It Came from the Tabletop's take on Sanctum.
Part 3 of The Others.
And more TBA

Flashback Friday - War of the Ring - Love it or Hate It? Do you Still Play It?

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24 Aug 2018 12:26 #280296 by ubarose
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24 Aug 2018 12:54 #280297 by Black Barney
I got asked yesterday on an internal work-based social media space what people's favourite board game of all time was. Although I didn't put War of the Ring first, I felt I had to make an honourable mention of it. It's probably the most thematic game I've ever played. I used to love playing it and even though i don't play it anymore, I absolutely have to say that I still love this game. It's the best DOAM game I've played. I love all the feelings it evokes. A mastahpeece.
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24 Aug 2018 13:32 #280300 by Gary Sax
So, to begin, I have this game on my shelf and I think it's ultra cool.

That said, I think people undersell the importance of card knowledge in this game. There are like a million cards and many of them have vital pop-up invasions of random spots that you wouldn't necessarily know are coming. In that way, the game has some Twilight Struggle elements. It's definitely a game that you need to play a number of times to internalize key card contents.
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24 Aug 2018 13:33 #280301 by Shellhead
I have never played War of the Ring, at least not the edition under discussion here. I did play the original by SPI, and that was a messy and overly complicated game that has deservedly been forgotten. However, there was another SPI game from that time (Freedom in the Galaxy) with a very similar design that was brought back in modern times as Star Wars: Rebellion.

Anyway, while I haven't played War of the Ring 2nd edition, I watched a full game of it. It didn't impress me. The components were a failure from a practical standpoint. The minis were usually too big for the map spaces, and the small cards appeared to be using a 4 pt font that I couldn't read. The game tried so hard to follow the books that the game was essentially scripted, which left players with an inconsequential number of meaningful decisions to make. And it was a long game, which magnified all the other shortcomings.

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24 Aug 2018 13:37 - 24 Aug 2018 13:38 #280302 by Black Barney
Like Agricola and Through the Ages, it has a good beginner version which you absolutely HAVE to play first as both sides before trying the advanced/full version. Everyone that I know that started with the advanced version never played the game again. It's just too overwhelming. The beginner version is fun because it's actually possible for the freeps to get a military victory which is fun to pull off. It's a very different game. Then when you go full version, the cards become so much fun.

I think Gary is very right. Isengard is either a thing or it isn't, depending on the cards.

The heroes/fellowship become such beasts with the right cards too, most notably Gandalf. Getting him to become the White Wixard is a fun mini-goal to get that precious extra die.

I also love how players have to tip-toe to not 'awaken' certain factions too early.

And i totally loved how unbalanced the game was at first. Really hard to win as the free peoples. I like that built-in handicap.
Last edit: 24 Aug 2018 13:38 by Black Barney.
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24 Aug 2018 14:47 #280303 by Josh Look
War of the Ring is the kind of game I’m glad I committed to learning when I did. There’s no way in hell I’d ever commit to learning a game like it nowadays, and for as much of a mess (needlessly so, I might add), I can still enjoy it now because I know it so well. It was the first game that I really dug in and said I was going to learn how to play correctly, like how ASL or 2nd edition Arkham Horror fantatics do with those games.

All this being said, I haven’t played it in awhile, and I’m okay with that. I’m a rare case of someone who got the chance to play it all the time. It was the go to for Repo and I when we started hanging out together and I used to have a downstairs neighbor who was really into when I lived in my apartment. I need to give it a very long break. I’ll come back to it someday and I’m sure it will be just as exciting as I remember. It’s a great game.

In the meantime, Star Wars Rebellion (with the _excellent_ expansion) fits that niche of an IP I love with all the “what if” scenarios that can play out, without any of the convoluted, poorly written rules we’ve come to expect out of Nexus/Ares.
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24 Aug 2018 15:16 #280304 by Msample

Shellhead wrote: I have never played War of the Ring, at least not the edition under discussion here. I did play the original by SPI, and that was a messy and overly complicated game that has deservedly been forgotten. However, there was another SPI game from that time (Freedom in the Galaxy) with a very similar design that was brought back in modern times as Star Wars: Rebellion.

Anyway, while I haven't played War of the Ring 2nd edition, I watched a full game of it. It didn't impress me. The components were a failure from a practical standpoint. The minis were usually too big for the map spaces, and the small cards appeared to be using a 4 pt font that I couldn't read. The game tried so hard to follow the books that the game was essentially scripted, which left players with an inconsequential number of meaningful decisions to make. And it was a long game, which magnified all the other shortcomings.



It sounds like you played the first edition, which had the smaller format cards.

The second edition has the tarot sized cards, as well as holding boxes for larger armies as well as defenders hiding out in besieged fortresses. This pretty eliminated the stacking/congestion issue. I've played OCS Enemy at the Gates; any whining about stacking pales in comparison to that game around Stalingrad.

I do agree with others that today the game would probably have a somewhat harder time gaining traction amidst the onslaught of Cult of the New, but the IP is certainly compelling to fight the tide. Star Wars Rebellion seems to be holding up well in this regard and the strategy discussion in the BGG forum is not dissimilar to those that took place when WotR first came out.

Play time does come down somewhat dramatically once you get the hang of the game. I got in three games at WBC and none came in over three hours. For me that playing time is not out of line considering the game play. If you're read the books, nothing card event wise should come as a huge shock for the most part.

I think mechanically the Hunt mechanic for hiding the Fellowship is brilliant and prevents the perfect knowledge that hamstrung play in the SPI game where the end game was just a pile of Nazgul waiting on Mt Doom. In this game, you can often replicate the Fellowship staggering up the slopes of Mt Doom while some citadel is being attacked by the Witch King.
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24 Aug 2018 15:20 #280305 by Black Barney
I always saw the clumsiness of the massive piles of dudes as an actual plus to the game. When Mordor FULLY musters and they start pouring out of the black gate towards Osgiliath and beyond... it is an amazing look to the map on how much doom is coming towards Gondor. Can they hold out long enough to give the fellowship a real shot at dunking the ring? I just love the visual of all those little figures massing in that area. It's terrifying.

And I like how everyone always knocks down the tall Nazgul figures by accident whenever they want to move anything at all on the board.
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24 Aug 2018 16:00 #280309 by Gary Sax

Msample wrote: I do agree with others that today the game would probably have a somewhat harder time gaining traction amidst the onslaught of Cult of the New, but the IP is certainly compelling to fight the tide. Star Wars Rebellion seems to be holding up well in this regard and the strategy discussion in the BGG forum is not dissimilar to those that took place when WotR first came out.


This brings up a really good point. One of my big fears with all the huge (I mean playtime and contentwise) games coming out these days is that you might get the game, play 3 times... and realize the game hasn't really been designed for the long haul and is pretty shallow. It's a distinct problem with seeing these kickstarters, who knows if they really designed the thing all the way out or they knew that people are only likely to play it at most 1-2 times and take all the minis out of the box and go "oooooh."

By contrast, War of the Ring came out at a time when there weren't many of these types of games and there had been a lot of other people grinding through a lot of games of it.
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24 Aug 2018 16:24 #280310 by DarthJoJo
So I picked up my first edition in a trade with the Battles of the Third Age expansion. I’ve played most of one core game, but any thoughts on the new units and armies or Helm’s Deep and Minas Tirith scenarios?

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24 Aug 2018 17:02 #280315 by Michael Barnes
I played first edition a lot. In fact, I had one of the first copies of the game in the US- my editor at Games International knew some people and pulled some strings.

I loved the game, and I think it is still one of the best big scale DOAM games. But I have utterly no desire to ever play it again. The themes I want from a LOTR game are in the Knizia one, not this one.

I remember thinking even at the time “wow, this is like a GMT war game but with LOTR artwork”...it is a very complicated game. Totally agree that it would have trouble finding traction today.

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24 Aug 2018 17:23 #280319 by dysjunct
I think it’s one of the greatest games from the 2nd-wave of classic AT, but yeah, too long, quirky, and limited to get table time these days. Glad I played it though.

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24 Aug 2018 17:45 - 24 Aug 2018 17:45 #280320 by Frohike
Now that asymmetry is the hot new thing, it's interesting to look back on a design that experimented with this but not purely in the way of mechanisms. There are certainly differences in this respect on both sides but I actually think the asymmetrical tempo on either side (and its thematic tie-in) is what makes this special for me. The Free Peoples are handling two fronts with the Fellowship striking out quickly, then gradually slowing to a crawl once they hit Mordor, while the rest of Middle Earth is slow to react and gradually becomes a juggernaut as each race "awakens" in reaction to the Shadow's aggression. On the other side, the Shadow is poised to flood the board and crush FP cities but has to deal with traversal issues, and his/her Hunt actions against the Fellowship begins to compress and accelerate once they hit the Mordor track (the opposite of the tempo that the FP player experiences). It's really pretty damned brilliant.

Also, in light of todays one-and-done climate, I think it's telling that the SUSD folks picked this one up and really enjoyed it, even going so far as to say that it outclasses SW: Rebellion.

If it weren't strictly two-player, I'd venture to say that anyone cutting their teeth on Root could look to this one as another step down the rabbit hole (or COIN but that seems like a pretty big jump).

I picked up the Anniversary edition awhile ago, not because I'm a collector but because I honestly think I'll still play this with my kids when they visit as adults, or maybe even with the grandkids. It's still thematically beautiful and a joy to play and I don't expect that to change.
Last edit: 24 Aug 2018 17:45 by Frohike.
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24 Aug 2018 17:55 #280323 by Jackwraith
Still own it (and the Battles of the Third Age expansion.) Still love it. Like many have already mentioned, it was one of the first AT-style board games that I really got into and which started me down the path back into serious boardgaming. I haven't played in years, but I could still see myself pulling it out for a game with my regular 2-player partner or with someone who really appreciates the theme. Like Frohike said, the design and asymmetry of the two sides is actually pretty amazing for the time in which it was released. I'll never part with it, even if it is a shelf toad.
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24 Aug 2018 18:10 - 24 Aug 2018 18:12 #280326 by repoman
"I never played it but I think it sucks."

Did somebody actually say that and not get laughed out of the room?

Listen you whiny bastards. This game is great. It was great. It is great. It will be great. Certainly the best Lord of the Rings game ever made.

Knizia? Gimme a damn break. Might as well say how Stratego really captures the themes of the Napoleonic Wars.

It's got a long play time? Oh lets jump up on a chair and lift our skirt hems as we shriek in terror. Ya know what has a long play time and is all the rage? Any one of a ton of crap in a box games rolling off the kickstarter treadmill. OMG...Gloomhaven is a freakin modern classic! People will still be talking about it next week!

Bah! I spiritually flip all your tables and storm out the door.
Last edit: 24 Aug 2018 18:12 by repoman.
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