After getting promises signed with blood about the secrecy of what we were doing, it was finally time to start playing!

The changes we devised initially were sometimes reversals to previous versions of rules and characters that were used before the end of the 'original' playtesting. Some of them were considered as options and variants. We knew that the game balance was very fragile and we preferred to be wrong in being a little too conservative rather than too 'bold' and risk that the game has become broken!

The first change we proposed was a direct strike against the DEW strategy (the Shadow assault against Dale, Erebor and the Woodland Realm), and a reversal to a previous version of the board: dividing the Noman-Lands into 2 distinct regions, making the DEW assault one movement step farther from Mordor.

The Eastern portion of the board was tested for a very long time with this division - reducing the number of regions was one of the latest developments in the original release of the game. The DEW strategy was not evident at all as a dominant strategy in the original playtest, and we thought that one of the reasons was that the published game board made it a little easier than during most of the playtest.

The new board

The new board

The proposal almost immediately got a negative reaction, on the ground that it would make the Collector’s Edition game board obsolete. Still, we went on to playtest the change, because we thought that if making the previous editions was a price to pay to make the game better, we should not worry and go ahead.

Fortunately for CE owners (!!!), the change also proved not to improve the game that much. In fact, it made worse one of the possible paths, the Old Forest Road, for the Fellowship to move towards Mordor, reducing the available options for the Free Peoples in the Quest for Mount Doom and making the choice of going through Moria almost mandatory.

We actually tried to solve this problem with ANOTHER game board change, by making the Narrows of the Forests to border Southern Mirkwood.

In the end, several more nails were added to the coffin of the game board change. First, it became clear that the impact on the DEW strategy was quite limited. Second, Kevin Wojtaszczyk realized that the change just changed a little bit the way to put the strategy in action: the so-called “Mordor Alpha” (the army created by collecting initial Mordor units) now should move onto Lorien, while Dol Guldur and the Easterlings assaulted the North. Last, “Magic Gecko” Glenn created an almost mathematical-proof that a certain set of actions gave to the Shadow the possibility of getting to the DEW line with the same number of action as before, by going through Rhun and picking up Easterlings on the way.

There was another timid attempt to change the board later on the playtesting, as we wanted to optimize a little the useless regions in the extreme South of the board. That change had really little effect, except on some weird strategy with Aragorn playing hit-and-run tactics against Southrons and Corsairs, but the cries from the testers of “Game board changes shall not pass!” where strong enough to forget about this really soon!

Tags: ,