Thursday, March 20, 2008

Nerd Games!

This is how I spent my Wednesday night. Recreating Lord of the Rings one plastic figurine at a time. Above is the beginning setup for War of the Ring. I'm not sure how much of my love of this game is related to my intense LotR fanboism, but with that caveat, I must say that it really is a great game. I say this despite the fact that Anna has won all but one of the half a dozen games we've played so far.

It's a little on the complicated side for a board game, but nowhere near the mind numbing rules lawyering that hardcore war games can degrade into. The basic combat rules are fairly simple: roll one die for each unit (up to 5), hit on a 5 or 6 (reduced to 6 when defenders have fortifications), regulars can take one hit and elites can take two. Of course, combat is not really the basis of the game... certainly the forces of Shadow need to make the world run red with the blood of hobbits and elves, but it's almost impossible for the Free Peoples to do much in a military sense, so it's really just a matter of doing so before the One Ring can be destroyed. That's not to say that the battles aren't important and tense, but for the Free Peoples a "crushing victory" is barely beating off a siege with a surprising card play or lucky rolls... generally, the Shadow can amass such a superiority of numbers that it is just a matter of holding out as long as you can.

Now, while the Free Peoples are trying to withstand the rampaging hordes of darkness, they are also trying to move Frodo, Sam, and the rest of the Fellowship into Mordor to destroy the Ring. Of course, they don't get to move without opposition... the Shadow is simultaneously hunting for the Ring as they cut a bloody swath across Middle Earth. For them, the balance between The Hunt and military conquest turns out to be one of the more important strategic decisions they make, as the ability to perform any action (muster, move an army, play a card, etc) comes from random dice rolls each round, and the dice dedicated to The Hunt must removed from this pool before you roll to determine what type of actions you can take that round. The Free Peoples on the other hand, are pretty much trying to move the Fellowship closer to Mordor whenever circumstances allow.

There's a fair bit more to it than that, but I think I've given a decent summary. For most of our games to date, I've played the Free Peeps and she's gone with the Hordes of Darkness (ex- goth chick you see)... but last night we switched it up. We only got a few turns in, and I don't want to be premature, but I think I might be looking at my second straight win here. I don't have a lot of "victory points" (acquired by capturing Goody-Goody strongholds) yet, but the Fellowship is still a fair bit from Mordor and has already 6 points of corruption (simulates putting on the Ring to escape enemies - too much of that(12) and it's game over). Lothorien has fallen and Helm's Deep and Minas Tirith are under siege.

We shall see, but I'm feeling pretty good about my days of ineptitude being a thing of the past.