Thursday, March 29, 2007

Be Very Afraid (Wheedle, LOTR: Sauron, Mall of Horror)

Few games strike fear in the hearts of Wagsters like LOTR w/ Sauron expansion.

Well, that may not be exactly true. In the case of Shemp, this game inspires hatred. Our first play was a pretty brutal experience, since we tried to play it with the "black tiles" mini-expansion... and it was way too hard. That was February 2005. I happen to really like it, and so I took the opportunity of Shemp's temporary absence to give it a second shot.

After a quick game of of Wheedle (which continues to be a fun game, BTW) I again took the role of Sauron.

Lord of the Rings w/ Sauron expansion

The 4 hobbits (Kozure, Bharmer, Ouch and JayWowzer) undertook the hopeless quest. Moria was quite difficult for them. As they clawed thier way through the mines, Frodo became seriously corrupted and the Nazgul had succeeded in finding him (although he didn't make it back in time to end the game). Luckily for the hobbits, Helm's Deep and Shelob's Lair proved much easier. Things were looking pretty good for the halflings: Merry, barely corrupted, held the ring. The Nazgul found them once more, but again did not make it back. The fellowship hadn't yet been forced to resort to calling Gandalf or using many of their powers.

Then, in Mordor, it all went to hell. A substantially corrupted Sam unwillingly inherented The Ring at the conclusion of Shelob's Lair. What's worse, Jaywowzer drew many "bad" tiles on his turn (he was only the second player to act on that board, and by the time he was done there were 5 bad tiles drawn). I had been saving up cards to hit them hard at the end, and the combination was overwhelming. They were crushed just a few steps into Mordor.

I'm really happy I was able to play this again. The Sauron character is lots of fun to play, but the experience is quite different than the other players simply because victory is virtually assured... it's more a question of "when". I was frankly quite surprised at how easily the group made it to Mordor. I was doing my best, but they seemed to easily absorb my attacks (well, not easily, but I didn't really feel like they were struggling THAT hard). It's a bit of a hollow victory that the game was essentially handed to me by several unfortunate draws by JayWowzer. Oh well, the fun is in the experience with this one.

I do wish there was a way to eliminate the possibility of a long line of bad draws, particularly at the beginning of a scenario.

Mall of horror

We finished up the evening with Mall of Horror. Luch locked up the Security Headquarters in the initial placement, and with virtually no zombies attacking he was able to stay there. This meant the Luch was the Security Officer for most of the game.

Hapless movie extras scurried from one location to the next, hot bimbos gathered at the "toy" shop, zombies arrived "en mass". JayWowser had a bad run and was nearly eliminated early on. Then Bharmer found himself with no survivors and gleefully placed zombies on the board until the game ended. As the survivors dwindled, the security Headquarters and the Parking Lot were the places to be. I had my bimbo left, and was holding 2 cards, so I won the tie-breaker against Kozure.

I was a little dissapointed at the lack of deal-making during this session. It seemed that the result of nearly every zombie meal was a foregone conclusion. Not sure why it happened this way, but the theory is that Luch's lock on security combined with the surpringly low volume of Zombies to that room should be blamed for "breaking the game" a little.


  1. I am just horrible at Wheedle. It's good, but I wish I could do better at it. I guess I need more games.

    LOTR: Sauron - without the black tiles - seems feasible. I enjoy the basic game system, although three (almost four) years after purchasing it and probably about a dozen plays (including eight or so two player games played with my ex-roommate), it doesn't hold quite as much shine for me, especially after seeing what seems like a more refined system in Beowulf. That said, the struggle in LOTR is more cooperative rather than competative and I enjoy that aspect of cooperative games. I actually wish there were more of them (i.e. "truly" cooperative games).

    LOTR: Sauron makes a difficult game harder (with the black tiles it almost seems hopeless). I felt that we did well through most of the game with a fair amount of effort, though as easy points out, not overly so. I would actually like to do two sessions of LOTR in succession at some point in the future. One with the basic rules to warm up, then another with the Sauron expansion to challenge us further after we (hopefully) triumph in the first game. I'm curious what experienced players feel about numbers of players in the game - whether more is better in terms of chances for Hobbit victory.

    Mall of Horror. Fun, but on it's third (fourth) play, still showing signs of weakness as a result of vaguely (or in some cases, outright poorly) worded rules in the English version.

    As I pointed out in a apres-game e-mail, we encountered some rules difficulties which needed to be clarified by a visit to BGG.

    1) Hidden cards can be played if your character is alone. If zombies do not "feast" (eat a player character) they are not removed from a location (except in the case of the parking lot, where they are removed at the end of every round, regardless of whether they eat anyone or not. Both aspects of this rule (hiding when alone and when zombies leave or not) were unclear enough to require several posts by the designer to finally dispel confusion, so we weren't alone in this respect.

    2) Technically, if your last character is eaten, you only place a zombie in the 4th phase in the turn after you die, not on all subsequent turns, as we played last night. Although we interpreted that correctly when reading the rules on that night, we chose instead to allow the dead player to place a zombie on all subsequent turns in order to keep him somewhat in the game and to put more pressure on those who remained.

    One thing I discovered last night is that you have to play weapons before a vote is cast - you may not just hold them in reserve to kill off zombies if the vote doesn't go your way. This adds a little more tension to the negotiation aspect of the game. In fact, most cards except "Sprint" and "Security Cameras" must be played before the vote is taken (which, with the exception of weapons, is how we've been playing) but makes it easier to remember for future plays.

    Other than the crappy rules (translation or phrasing issues?), I still enjoy Mall of Horror, a quick playing game which almost focuses more on the meta-game than the mechanics of play itself.

  2. The reason that you like Lord of the Rings is that YOU ARE A SICKO.


    I am very glad you can indulge your SICK SICK LOTR:Sauron urges while I am away.

    On the other hand, sad to miss Mall of Horror. I've only played the once, but it had a great deal of backbiting.

    Was that the theme? Completely Co-operative + Completely Cut Throat?

  3. Kozure:

    I've played enough 2 character LOTR games (solo) to state with certainty that it's hardest that way. From 3 to 5 might be similar, but two player is really hard. I would definitely be up for your "experiment" of playing two sessions in a row, but I'm not sure if anyone else would.


    Guilty as charged.