Sunday, March 3, 2002

Friends and Foes Expansion to Lord of the Rings

I played the href="">Friends and
Foes expansion to href=""> Lord of the
Rings a couple of times this weekend. I enjoyed the unexpanded
game quite a bit, and felt the expansion improved on it further. The
rest of the group I played with (both games) were completely new to
the game, and with varying degrees of familiarity with the books,
though all had at least seen the movie, so had some basic narrative

First of all, the game is a lot harder now. In my
previous plays, we probably won about half the time and lost about
half the time, and the losses were usually reasonably close. In our
first game with the expansion, we almost got killed in Bree, the new
first board. We would have, but because of foolish error, but given
it was our first game on that board we let ourselves back out the
mistake. Well, we died in Moria. We had an amazingly bad tile
shuffle (we got every event tile in Bree on the first two players),
but still, we got killed quick. Oh well.

So, having gone through all the rules and gotten killed so quickly,
everyone was eager to try it again. This time, we still had some bad
tile draws, but were doing very well against the foes. We ended up
dying in Isengard, still fairly early in the whole process, but we'd
nearly achieved a military victory (we'd killed 27 of the 30 foes)
with three hobbits killed. I worry that the game may be almost
impossible to win except by military victory.

Ok, that's not quite true. I just wonder whether by making the game
more difficult, it doesn't make that victory more luck dependent. In
the "basic" game, a long series of events hurts, but as long as you
get a few turns in there, you can usually do OK. With the F&F
expansion, a long series of events interrupted by a few action tiles
is worse, because of the impending threat of being overrun by foes.
The occasional bad tile mix in the original seemed annoying, but less
likely to be fatal. It seems to really hurt now. That said, I really
like a challenge, but would like to think it is somewhat more skill
based. I'm tempted to do the following; instead of shuffling the
entire tile set, shuffle the 11 bad tiles and the 12 "good" tiles
seperately, then create two piles one of 11 (6 good, 5 bad) and one of
12 (6 good, 6 bad). Shuffle these seperate piles. Then, put the
stack of 12 on top of the stack of 11.

Other than the difficulty issue (maybe we just had bad luck or played
poorly), it is a very nice addition. It adds to the narrative, it
enhances the in game tension, and is a lot of fun. I'll play it again
sometime soon.

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