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Will of the West

by MrWeasely

Will of the West is a simple, fun, and balanced variant for Fantasy Flight's War of the Ring. There are only three changes:


I. Shuffle Shadow Decks
Shuffle together the shadow's Strategy and Character decks. Whenever the game calls for drawing a card, the shadow player must draw the top card.

II. Active Reinforcements
If a Free People's nation is active, and a card adds new regulars, elites, or leaders of that nation to the board, then the nation moves one step down the political track. This is in addition to any effects printed on the card.
Thus, 

III. Witch King Ring
If the Witch King has entered play, elven rings may change action dice to Will of the West results. This is helpful if Aragorn or Gandalf need promotion.


The rationale is as follows:

I. Shuffle Shadow Decks

In the base game, the Witch King offers the Shadow too much flexibility. He can attack often, and in addition to playing mighty combat cards, he also serves as a clearing house, converting character cards to fresh strategy cards and vice-versa. If the fellowship is flying down the board, he can put the brakes on them by drawing character cards for corruption. If the Free People have abandoned the ring quest the Witch King can efficiently convert the Shadow's character cards to strategy cards. The flexibility is just too great on a Shadow that already has huge advantages in almost every area of the game.

Shuffling the decks together gives a random distribution. If the Shadow decides to abandon one half of the game it still must contend with drawing a few off-topic cards.

II. Active Reinforcements

Active Reinforcements give the Free Peoples a bigger incentive for active play. The games with early activations are wilder and woollier, with more capable and more mobile Free armies.

Because the Witch King activates all Free Peoples nations, bringing him out effectively hands his peaceful enemies the tools they need to mobilize. Thus he tends to stay hidden until his invading armies cross over into enemy territory. That was the Shadow's historical strategy.

As a result of a delayed Witch King, the activation rules of the original game are of more importance. If a Free nation has one or two muster cards in hand, it is often worthwhile separating a companion to convert a nation from spectator to protagonist.

The Shadow can no longer quite so easily finesse the political track. Take for example the Dwarfs of Erebor. They start the game with 1r1e1L. With reinforcements from the Iron Hills and Dain Ironfoot's Guard they might grow as tough as 2r2e2L. The fashion these days is to bypass Dale, so that's as tough as they reasonably expect to grow. With an active play of Dain Ironfoot's Guard and/or Swords in Eriador the political blowback from capturing Iron Hills can make it so the dwarfs can muster an extra elite, and maybe even save the Iron Hills regular.

III. Witch King Ring

Games where the Free People can't get more than four action dice typically are routs. There's simply no contest between a Free player rolling four dice and a Shadow rolling nine or ten. When games lasted nine or more turns, there were plenty of opportunities to roll Will of the West results, but with modern games typically lasting only seven turns, and well-understood mechanisms to prevent the appearance of Gandalf the White on the first turn, there's a critical window of the eight action dice thrown on turns two and three. A Free player that rolls no Wills of the West on those turns has one foot in the grave. With none on turn four either, he'll have to dodge the turn stall and traverse Mordor in just two turns to achieve a turn six win. I've done statistical simulations, and it is a losing bet.

This method of ensuring a fifth die for the Free People is expensive but utilitarian. Thematically, it also works well, as the power of the elven rings interacts with the most powerful Ringwraith.


Credit:

I. Shuffle Shadow Decks: The idea came from this thread on the geek.
II. Active Reinforcements: I'm not sure where this idea came from. I think it might have been mine.
III. Witch King Ring: The idea came from this thread on the geek.