War of the Ring >> A Fighting Chance
Michael Silbey (armadi) and I squared off for a game of War of the Ring, completing setup as Michael finished going over some last minute rules. I had read the rules several times and had myriad player aids and references, but felt that there was always something missing so it was worth the refresher.
I opted to be the Free People's player, as Michael had played the Free People in the last several games. My overall goal was to forsake military activation to push the fellowship along as quickly as possible before Sauron's forces could activate a large military presence or claim additional dice to allocate to the hunt.
After the second or third turn, I decided this strategy was not only unimportant, but that any long-term strategy or planning was largely irrelevant, as the dice strongly dictated what I could do during any given turn. My frustration grew into bitterness as I felt that fewer and fewer of my decisions mattered, and the incredibly high barrier to entry (and for me, enjoyment) of the game reared its head.
The overall feeling was one of frustration, detachment and boredom. Finally, after nine turns, we called the game, as the fellowship was taking a serious pounding and had 11 corruption as it stood, locked in place, at the outskirts of Mordor. Getting to that point took about 2.5 hours, which normally wouldn't be too bad a time investment for a good two player "wargame" experience. But the game felt like it had taken 4-5 hours, and not in a good way.
I also felt that my turns were incredibly limited by countless points of luck -- the roll of the action dice, the roll of the combat dice, which hunt tiles were drawn, which event cards I drew, and then the cascading luck effects from the various event card actions. Or that any real planning was far too easily undermined by good cards (and good card play) by my opponent.
Free People finally roll the one die type they need to move the Fellowship toward Mordor? Ok, let Sauron draw a Hunt tile. Great. Take 2 damage or lose the Fellowship leader... Oh, and on Sauron's turn, he's playing this card that moves you back a space. So effectively, you lost a turn, gained corruption and got moved to a worse location. Oh, and Sauron has 2 more dice left while you get to sit back and watch him move all over the place. Wheeeeee!
And people call this fun?
Previous Rating: 6.5
Revised Rating: 3.5
My Comments: A mish mosh of fairly good (production quality) and very bad (everything else). Very strong theme, excellent looking components (which don't fit 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've never felt so uninvolved, bored and disinterested in my role in a game. Decisions are not very compelling, the exception-riddled rules are confounding, and the gameplay bogs down into a herky-jerky pace that really squeezes any enjoyment out of this. I never need (or want) to suffer through this again.