Everybody knows that Hobbits are sneaky and pesky, and apparently this was the case for War of the Ring’s Hobbits as well.

Since First Edition, the game play effects of Merry and Pippin did not achieve exactly what we had in mind.

The combination of their Character abilities and Hunt rules which we had used in the original version, later corrected by the Collector’s Edition, did not actually reflect the possibilities we wanted them to have in the game.

Peregrin Took

Peregrin Took

First of all, it was in our mind that the ability of the Hobbits to separate from the Fellowship instead of taking them as Casualties, and the possibility of bringing them back into play, should reflect the events which happened at the Falls of Rauros. If we look at what happens in the Lord of the Rings, if it was a game of War of the Ring, the Fellowship was struck with the “Breaking of the Fellowship” Event – splitting off Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli . Then, what was left of the Fellowship  is hit with a very nasty Hunt tile, which is handled by a combination of killing Boromir, now the Guide, and then is handled by separating from the Fellowship Merry and Pippin at the same time.

This is not the only possible way to look at this scenario, of course, but the point was that to be really a good “simulation” of the story, the Hobbit’s Guide ability should be played in the same Hunt sequence as the elimination of another Character, and that the two Hobbits could be played together in the same phase. This was not really clear in the First Edition, and was the subject of a FAQ entry which was a complete exception to the normal functioning of the Hunt.

The modified wording used for the Hobbits in the Collector’s Edition actually made things even worse. Not making clear, either in the rules or on the card, that their Guide ability created an exception to the Hunt rule where you can only take one Casualty, the ability as written in the CE could not be used to separate both Merry and Pippin at the same time!

The other issue with the Hobbits was that they had a very nice ability, “Take them Alive!, which allows them to come back into play after being eliminated, but how often did it actually came into play? Who would spend one precious Action Dice to get one Hobbit back, instead of advancing the Fellowship or boosting the Free Peoples army? With such a high cost, the ability was a paper tiger, never to be seen in actual game play.

To make a long story short, the Hobbits’ wording continued to sneak for a long while, as one version conflicted with the effects of some cards, another one with the rules, another one did not achieve properly our intentions… In the end, with the help of our testers and their superior hair-splitting capabilities, we found the “perfect” wording, which is quite simple indeed…

Meriadoc Brandybuck

Meriadoc Brandybuck

Guide: During the Hunt, separate Merry/Pippin from the Fellowship to reduce Hunt damage by one (to a minimum of zero).

Which works perfectly---  at the cost of rewriting the Hunt rules! Actually, this is not bad as it seems as rewriting the Hunt rules demolished a good chunk of the 1st Edition FAQ entries at the same time. The Hunt sequence is now very clearly set out and the way the Guide ability, card effects, and Hunt effects interact is now much, much cleaner than before.

Regarding “Take Them Alive!” we decided that making it a little too strong rather than too weak was not too big a risk. After all, the Hobbits get quite a lot of narrative and on-screen time, so why should not they have a little more chances to strike down the Witch-king or bring down a Mordor Troll than they did now? And a very small addition to the arsenal of the Free Peoples would bring the game one step closer to the “perfect balance”. So, we changed the ability to work so that if a Hobbit is eliminated, it is immediately brought back into play as if separated from the Fellowship – no more wasting an Action dice, and the escapee can now be thrown into the heat of the action. During playtesting, the Hobbits put the new ability to good use…  Going to boost Lorien’s army and win a Free Peoples Military Victory by swarming Moria, raising Ents, daringly defying the Uruk-hai in Helm’s Deep...

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