Posted by: gschloesser | December 1, 1970

Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation

Matthew Monin offers some excellent strategy tips on how to best play this intriguing 2-player game from Fantasy Flight that is based on the Lord of the Rings epic.

In my experience this game is heavily weighted towards the forces of Good, winning about two-thirds of the games played.  For the most part the Dark player’s best chance is to force a 50-50 situation to win (which involves which of Retreat/Number card the Light player uses in combination with which of Eye of Sauron/Number card Dark plays).  This being so the Dark does have some advantages to make use of that I haven’t seen listed yet.

Sarumon – this is a key offense piece for the Dark player (who is largely on defense when you think about it.)  Once the Dark player has determined the location and/or neutralized
Aragorn, Gandalf, and Boromir then Sarumon has free reign to decimate the rest of the
fellowship (save the possibility of finding Sam with Frodo).

Orcs – I’ve seen people use Orcs as they would Boromir, that is as a one shot bomb.  The Orcs are one of the Dark player’s BEST chances to kill Frodo.  Either have the Orcs catch Frodo in the mountains or have them attack Frodo one step from Mordor using another unit to keep him from retreating sideways and Frodo suddenly has problems.

Shelob and Flying Nazgul – Both of these units can be used to similarly “pinch” Frodo one step from Mordor if you can draw him there.  Shelob is obviously trickier to use as you
need to draw Frodo to Gondor and then win a battle with Shelob to enact the pinch, but oh
so satisfying to pull off.

Dark Rider – Unless you intend to win with three Dark forces in the Shire (which I’ve never seen accomplished) the Dark Rider is your scout.  Wait until Good troup movement has opened up a hole to the back two rows and charge forward to see who is hiding.  I even won a game once by charging straight to the Shire and lucking into Frodo as the first of the four good units I chose to attack.

Cave Troll – Encourage the Good player to sacrifice Aragorn to kill off the Cave Troll to help open up the board for Sarumon.

Wargs – Another Frodo-killer, assuming the Dark player still has higher strength cards available than the Good player has.

Witch King – My least favorite Dark player unit.  As such I go Boromir hunting with the Witch King so as to keep my other fun units available to me.

Balrog – seems obvious, and as such should almost never be used for that purpose.  It’s a bluffing game, afterall.  As such I only actually put the Balrog on Moria in enough games
as to keep the Good player honest (ie not using the tunnel as long as I have a unit on
Moria).  The Balrog makes a great strong piece to hold back as the “anvil” to crush Frodo against with the hammer of my choice one step from Mordor.

As long as I’m on this roll I’ll run through the Good units and how I like to use them.  It’s much shorter, I promise you.  :o)

Gimli, Legolas, Merry – Keep them in the Shire so they have the entire board available to them until you know (or have a good feeling) for where their counterparts are.  Legolas is a bit more diverse, as I like to merely keep him behind two other solo units in an attempt to
sucker the Flying Nazgul in.  If any of these three’s paired Dark unit gets taken out they become “Noble Sacrifice” bombs.

Pippin and Boromir – as most scouting missions result in the Dark player trying to kill the pesky little Hobbit I enjoy retreating him into Boromir’s company.  50% chance (unless the
Wargs are involved) of Pippin surviving to annoy the Dark player further.

Gandalf – Keep him forward.  If using the advanced cards I’d almost recommend charging him forward.  He has a good chance of surviving at least one combat and can use Elven Cloak to kill most others, thus might get two Dark units in exchange for him.  Being able to get him back once Fangorn is open is almost unfair.

Frodo and Sam – Keep them together when behind the mountains (or have Frodo able to retreat into Sam).  Sam is expendable once Frodo is past the mountains.  The mountains are the biggest threat to Frodo, and thus the Fellowship as a whole, as it’s the only place Frodo can’t retreat.  If Frodo encounters the Orcs or Sarumon in the mountains, Game Over.

Aragorn – Keep him forward and make sure to take out at least one person with him, but try to save him for taking out Dark units most dangerous to Frodo (Sarumon, Orcs, Warg)

Of course, the most important thing is still card play, as some out-guessing can give one player more flexibility as things go on.  If you can force your opponent to play their Magic
card early then you’ll find the game really opens up.

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