Thursday, February 10, 2005

Shempuzelans are GREAT!

Last night the impossible happened.

Hell froze over.

Pigs Flew.

The Shempuzelans and the Easylanders buried the hatchet.

At a critical point in last night's game of Lord of the Rings Risk, they came to an agreement to not repeat old mistakes... to avoid fighting each other ceaselessly and recklessly... to instead form a pact and unleash a power heretofore unknown upon the the others (who routinely benefit from our squabling). Kozure and Luch's response? Ummm, they formed a pact too. No matter! Luch's forces wer already nearly decimated. Victory was at hand for the Shempo-Easy alliance!

However, luck being such an important part of this game, the tides didn't turn evenly. While both the Easylanders and Shempuzelans rolled over their hapless opponents (Luch was eliminated entirely on the second last round), Kozure, with the last turn of the game, piled up his forces for ONE LAST MARCH. Sadly for the Shempuzelans, it was horribly effective. They lost 50% of their territory, and dropped to 3rd place because of it.

Will the alliance hold next week, or was it just a flash in the pan? We'll see next week.

In less dramatic news, we also played a game of Carcassone, with the River AND the King and Scout AND the Inns and Cathedrals expansions. Both made a significant difference in the game, although I would say our strategies didn't totally reflect that. In further plays, we would probably try harder to take the new elements into account (for example, even though it was known that whomever had the King at the end of the game received 1 point for each completed city, many 2 tile cities were constructed). The robber changed hands frequently throughout the game, but the King was mine for 99% of it, until LUCH STOLE IT FROM ME ON HIS LAST TURN BY DRAWING A HIGHLY IMPROBABLE TILE. Of course, I can't be too surprised... I was holding the king on a measly 4 tile city I built very early on! Still, the turn of events cost me the game, and landed me in third. Tili got caught up building large cities which couldn't be finished in time (one had a cathedral, giving her no points for her efforts).

All in all, I liked how the expansion affected the game. It's interesting how the rules changes are minimal, but the strategies can become very different. It's also interesting how difficult in can be to complete large cities in a 5 player game (since there are 4 players trying to keep you from finishing anything substantial).
My only complaint would be that it seems a little long... It might make sense to take away a number of random tiles equal to the number added in by the expansions.

Kozure won that one... He stayed ahead by consistently scoring points (although never huge amounts) while still placing enough farmers to not get beat at the endgame (neither Luch's King nor Shemp's Robber were enough to give them the lead, but it seems that these would often otherwise determine the game winner)

I think I might lower my LOTR Risk score somewhat, it's a bit TOO random.


  1. Let me add to the improbable: Kozure won at Carcassonne. The funny thing is that I paid the least amount of attention to this game I ever have - dividing my attention between the game and some domestic duties.

    The new expansions are pretty decent. It's strange that the Cathedrals were more often used in a "screw your neighbour" capacity than a bonus point role. I was very happy to have one city finished for me, which more or less gave me the win in the end.

    Now that the king variant is known, I don't think people will be going for the cheapo 2 tile cities as often any more.

    Using the big meeple as a farmer turned out to be a pretty critical strategy, with several two and three way ties in areas that eventually had three farmers involved.

    As Easy pointed out, Hapi's last turn play cost Easy the win. However, I confess to being gratified by that, since I thought I had worked pretty hard for the points that I earned.

    On a game design level, the king and the thief are essential large city and long road "carrots". Many times, in the vanilla version, there is really no reason to build long roads or large cities if you can just grab a steady 3-4 points a turn.

    This session gets the WAGS Honorary M.C. Escher award for poor Tili's city that was consistently added to by her opponents. The final addition of the bizarre "city bridge over city" tile just added to the madness, almost making the sprawling metropolis into a Moebius strip.

    Risk: LOTR edition started off very inauspiciously for me, and I spent the balance of the game trying to struggle back from it. My opening campaign again the black orcses of Hapigard was a dismal failure, and two smaller offensives met with equal measures of defeat.

    Withdrawing into Eriador to lick my wounds, I was quickly beset by my erstwhile ally, the "noble" Shemporians. Fortunately, he was also being picked on by the trolls of Moreasyor. The happy go-lucky elves of Kozurendell managed to gain a few victories, especially the very fortunate "severe storms" which crushed the first wave of Shempor coming into the Grey Havens. Subsequent invasions did better however, and I was eventually reduced to seven territories. Fortunately, a last round rally reverse the position of Shempor with Kozurendell, and I squeaked into second place.

    Future Risk: LOTR edition game strategy:Attack with a minimum of 3:1 odds, even with a leader. An offensive which is intended to penetrate more than three territories should have 3:1 odds, counting all expected enemy resistance as a total. An attacking army should expect equal attacker/defender losses per territory and should also expect to leave behind 1-2 battalions per territory conquered as a garrison force. For safety, your leader should always be left with a bare minimum of four units (six is better).

    So, if you plan to capture territories, add up the number of units on the enemy border, plus the total number of garrison units you need to punch through in the rear areas, plus the number of garrison units you want to leave in each newly captured territory, and add 6 to this number.

    For example, if you are hitting an enemy with 4 units on the border and three territories behind the border with one unit each, and you want to leave 1 garrison unit per territory, you should attack with 4 (border) + 3 (enemy rear garrisons) + 4 (your new garrisons) + 6 (leader bodyguard) = 16 units. This number jumps up to 21 if you modify your garrison strength to 2.

    Attacks can be performed with much less than this amount, but you leave yourself open for counterattack. Beware of creating salients by punching too deeply into enemy territory.

    To prevent the setback of losing a leader, if your attacking force is reduced to 6 battalions plus a leader, cease the attack.

    Use ring cards at every opportunity, only reserving them if you have a weak area or are planning a major offensive.

    An enemy will be able to waltz through your rear areas if you have only one garrison battalion per area. Try to maintain at least a two unit garrison in all locations. Any weakpoints or potential critical crossings should have a minimum of four units to protect it, ideally six or more.

  2. I don't think that LOTR Risk deserves that much strategy!

  3. First – Easy, thanks for the titular props. The association was …interesting. Just don’t get too used to it, funboy.

    Second – I second the thoughts on the Carcassonne expansion. I, personally, only began to twig to the changes caused by the expansion part-way through our game, and would like to give it another shot. An elegant game.

    Third – LOTR:R, on the other hand: not so elegant. I have mixed feelings on this game – it is always fun when we play, but I really don’t think the design is very good, and it would be frustrating if I took it at all seriously. I think that certain board positions are much more advantageous to start from than others – this is the second game in a row that the player who started out with forces concentrated in the lower right hand corner of the board won quite handily. I’m not sure if this is a structural weakness or not, but it may be, and will bear further watching. I’m in agreement with Kozure’s assessment of how to progress into enemy territory safely, but found myself often in the position of trying to gain a territory in order to receive more cards at the end of my turn, or trying to take a territory that wasn’t strategically significant in order to play a card and therefore gain more battalions and victory points. I think that playing it as safely as you outline means forgoing victory points useful in the endgame. It’s probably for the best that our opinions differ – it will keep the game interesting.

    Fourth – I gambled that the game would end before Kozure got another turn, and stretched my forces too thin, opening up an opportunity for him to radically reduce the territory that I held. In retrospect, I should have played it safer, as I was pretty firmly in second, and had not much of a shot at first. I need to keep the “Go big or go home” instinct in check sometimes, it would appear.

    Fifth – I would like to point out that Hapi Luch Questionmark rolled INCREDIBLY poorly. His bad luck was not to be believed.

    Sixth – Sausages and Fries. MMMMMMM.

  4. Just wanted to comment a little more on movement in LOTR:R. I find it incredibly frustrating that it is impossible to entirely withdraw from a territory that you don't necessarily want to hold. Why, rationally, should that piece be sacrificed.

    The redeploy rule is just wierd. Any number of armies FROM one territory to any other contigiously controlled territories? Why? What is the rationale?

    AND, I really do think that there should be some provision for marching armies into adjacent territories. Again, for a "war" game, the movement rules - well, they don't make any sense to me.

    Also, another quick Carcassonne note - I think that the Cathedrals being used in a "screw yr neighbor" sense was largely a function of when they were drawn. If I had drawn a Cathedral early in the game, it would have made sense to try to build with it. Late in the game? Screwage, all the way.

  5. Shemp,

    Were we to play again, I would certainly be open to house rules on this one.

    How about these?:

    1) Want to leave a territory undefended? Go ahead. It doesn't count as one you own, and it doesn't count towards "owning" an entire region, either.
    2) Redeploy as much as you want AT THE END OF YOUR TURN ONLY. So long as the territories are connected.

    Any others?

  6. Sure, those would work.

    Or, redeploy could be: move any number of armies into an adjacent territory.

    Or, I could just learn to play within the freaking rules. That could work, too.