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CardShark Content - Jonathan Gagnier (1/19/2003)

Multiplayer vs. Duel

How many times have you lost because your hand is stocked with fellowship cards and your opponent gets a free ride? It’s the most frustrating way to lose the game. Need a new challenge? One that will truly test your deck’s capabilities against not one single culture at a time but several? Welcome to Multiplayer. I’ve underlined a few important sections of the article in order to point out the most important differences for a quick reference.

As the name implies, you’ll need a few friends to try this format. The rulebook states that up to six may play in a multiplayer games, but from experience I can tell you that four is the optimum number with three being your second choice. More then four makes the game a bit too long and less well it doesn’t feel that multiplayer if you just add one more does it?

The first difference between the duel and a multiplayer is the opening bid. In a duel, this amounts to who will start out. In a multiplayer game it becomes slightly more complicated. Who ever bids the most amount of burdens decides which position he or she will be, then the second most amount decides in which position he or she will play and so forth. In a duel, the position doesn’t make much of a difference either you start or you don’t. If you start you place your first site and if you don’t start well at least you get to place your sites. Here is where it diverges, in a four player game, the first player will of course place his first site. When the first player moves, the second player will place his site two because if you place the site in front of the person who moves, the arrow points to his left and it will point to the second player (assuming everyone is in the proper seating of course) and now the shadow phase starts. Here is the change, the fourth player will start the shadow phase not the second. The next shadow phases is counter clockwise from the last or from the fellowship player, the next fellowship is the player who is clockwise from the last fellowship player. A good rule of thumb is to remember that the last person to play the fellowship will be the first player to get the first stab at the twilight pool. Shadow players may freely converse between themselves to plot and strategise the only restriction is that they may not reveal their cards allowing for bluff.

It’s not complicated once you get used to it. Here’s an example: Jon, Kim, Bojo and Kevin all decide to try a multiplayer game. They shuffle their decks and start the opening bid. Jon bids nothing, Kim bids one burden, Bojo bids three and Kevin also bids 1 burden. Bojo has the first pick of which position he will play, every player must chose their position you can’t wait and pass. Bojo playing a Dunland Deck decides to play second. Kevin and Kim flip a coin since they both have the same opening bid and Kim wins the coin flip. Kim decides to play third since she knows that Bojo’s Dunland Deck can’t stand up to Arwen and her merry elves. Kevin is next and he decides to play fourth and last to be the first to play his shadow cards. Jon being the last to choose ends up first by something of a small miracle with his opening bid of one. Everyone shuffles chairs to be seated correctly and Jon plays Easternmet Gullies to the detriment of those hoping for the Prancing Pony’s replacement The Riddermark. When Jon will move he will place the first site in front of him and follow the arrow which will point to Bojo (every site one and two, point to left, be it fellowship or two towers block).

The fellowship phase isn’t any different in multi or in duel except for site placement. The meat and bones of the multiplayer experience is the shadow alliance be it Isengard and Sauron, Naz’gul and Moria or Easterling and Dunland or any combination or lack of combination. Now some people might think that the most terrifying thing to see is two cultures coming right at you. I admit that a few Naz’gul rags with a Moria swarm tagging along is enough to send shivers down my spine but two or more of the same culture against you is just as threatening if not more.

Since we’re speaking about several players sharing the same culture, a word on unique conditions and minions, if you can spot a unique condition or minion in play even if it is not your own, you may not play the same card. Either you wait until the player with the condition switches to his fellowship phase (making the condition inactive) or you wait until the minion or condition is discarded. If several of the same unique conditions are in play, only the condition belonging to the most earliest shadow player to play is in effect although the other will immediately take effect if that condition is inactive or discarded. You may spot or exert cards belonging to another player for requirements of your own cards. Lastly, there may not be more then four copies of any given card active at the same time.

Example: Following our example Kevin and Jon are both playing the Moria culture. When Bojo is playing his fellowship, Jon can put down a Goblin Runner and three Goblin Armories. Even though Kevin only has the Cave Troll of Moria in his hand and no other orc, he can spot Jon’s Goblin Runner to fit the Cave Troll’s requirements and play him twilight permitting. Although Kevin has two Goblin Armories of his own in his hand he may only play one until Jon’s armories become inactive during Jon’s fellowship phase. Later on, when Kevin has played his armories, Jon’s 3 Armories would be active while Kevin would only have one out of his two armories active.

More on conditions specifically timing, obligatory conditions (conditions that use the word must like Tower of Barad-dur) activate before optional conditions (conditions that use the word may Like Tower of Orthanc). If there is a conflict of timing between condition of the same timing, the free people player chooses in which order he does which.

Back to the shadow alliance! If you remember correctly, the first shadow player is the one to the right of the fellowship player counter clockwise. He can wholly decide to spend all the twilight without a second thought if it pleases him. The twilight pool is at his whim until he relinquishes control of it to the second shadow player (right counter-clockwise of the former shadow player) and so forth until it arrives back to the fellowship player for the maneuver phase. Fellowship has the first crack at manuever actions then the first shadow, the second shadow and so forth for actions in all of the rest of the phases including archery, assignment, skirmish and regroup.

Now we’ve seen pretty much what a multiplayer game entails for the shadow players? But what exactly does it entail for the fellowship player? For the fellowship the main difference is archery. There is only one shadow archery total but the fellowship chooses who allocates the fellowship archery. A shadow player may only wound or discard his or her minions. This is important for other cards like Dismay of our Enemies. Remember this last phrase while reading the following example.

Following our last example: Bojo is playing the fellowship. Jon has played his Goblin Runner, Kevin has played his Cave Troll of Moria. During the Archery phase, Bojo discards his Gondor Bowmen and with Aragon equipped with Aragon’s Bow and Faramir equipped with Faramir’s Bow, the fellowship archery total is up to four with nothing for the shadow archery total. Bojo decides that Kevin must allocate the four arrows from his fellowship. Kevin has only one choice, he must allocate all four wounds on his Cave Troll, killing the poor brute before he had a chance to lay down the pain (I promised myself I wouldn’t cry… * sniff*). Note that if Kevin had 5 arrows instead of four, the extra arrow would be lost, there is no spill over to the other shadow players minions.

The Assignment phase is pretty much straight forward using the same round the table system for all players. However if any minions are left over from the assignment phase, their respective owners decide where to assign them.

The Skirmish phase is also straight forward but be careful of two players of the same culture, remember that each of them may have skirmish cards in their hands and they may use it against you and try to overwhelm your companions. Play it straight and by the rules. Start by playing a skirmish event, action or passing to the shadow players. The First Shadow player may play a skirmish event, action or pass, then the second, then the third and so on until the free people’s player and ALL shadow players have consecutively passed on events and the skirmish is resolved.

Let’s talk about wording for a moment, some cards like “Hides” read: If a (Dunland) Man is about to take a wound, remove 2 (twilight tokens) or discard this possession to prevent that wound. Emphasis on the a in the phrase. You can use Hides to prevent wounds to any Dunland Man minion. However you may not use “Ravage the Defeated” in a skirmish involving someone else’s minion. Since it reads: If your (Dunland) Man wins a skirmish, discard all Free people’s cards borne by the companion or ally he was skirmishing.

When you’re playing shadow in multiplayer you have to balance two things. One, you need to play your hand, you need more fellowship cards and you also need to play your deck. It’s not by letting the other shadow players lay waste will you be able to set up those killer combos for your fellowship or your shadow if you clogged up with the same cards. The second is that you need to make a dent in the fellowship. If you know what you have in your hand against the fellowship will be tantamount to a free ride… you should perhaps let your brother shadow players play or at least try to minimise your twilight use in order to keep your deck going.

Final Advice for shadow players: Always start by asking what’s the minimum for each of the others to play something and follow up by asking them what’s their optimum number but remember they’re there to back you up. Know when to hold them, know when to fold them and if you’re Moria, know when to throw down your hand (with They are coming) for those runners!

Final Advice for the Fellowship player: The Bloat strategy, in where you dump more twilight then your opponent can make use of, does not work in a multiplayer game. Never has, never will. Second, always review the conditions on the table and be prepared for anything. Third, in a game where there is two or more of the same culture, remember that each player may have a skirmish event in his hand.

Welcome to Multiplayer you might never go back to the plain old dual/duel again. It’s harder, more intense and your deck building has to be prepared for anything they might throw at you but then again it’s more a thrill isn’t it? Knowing you’ve bested not only Saruman and his traitorous voice, bested the Ringwraiths forever damned, stared Sauron straight in the lidless eye and braved the depths of Moria all at the same time!

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