by MrWeasely

Wizardry is a simple, fun, and balanced variant for War of the Ring. There are only two new rules. This is in deliberate contrast to the $50 and 12 pages of rules for the Battles of the Third Age expansion.

I. Extra Event

The game starts with the Extra Event card in play. While the card is in play, the Free People add an event action die to their action die pool after the action die roll. Discard this card when Gandalf the White enters play.

II. Active Reinforcements

If an active Free People's nation receives army units from the playing of an event card, then the nation moves one step down the political track. This is in addition to any effects printed on the card.

Carefully examine the wording above to resolve rules questions. For example, Swords in Eriador can move both The North and The Dwarves down the political track.

Wizardry was the effort of a lot of people, and a lot of games of development. The rules changes may not be perfect, but they're not arbitrary either. Some rationale:

I. Extra Event

This rule is to soften the blow when Gandalf the White is unavailable for long stretches of time. That it makes Gandalf the Grey a more potent guide is more than just a happy coincidence - his protracted guidance of the fellowship can partially counter the efforts of the Witch King.

II. Active Reinforcements

One problem with the base game is that Free Peoples nations ignored by Sauron are very difficult, if not impossible, to mobilize. Thus, you see Shadow strategies like "DEW North" (BGG.com link), which completely ignore Gondor, empty out Mordor, and send all the armies north. Of course, Gondor historically was not so foolish that they would have stood transfixed as their ancestral enemy bares his throat, but the economics of the game make this the case a frustratingly large fraction of the time.

The effort to bring free nations into the war must be decreased, but not so much so that the essential character of the game is changed. Also, Sauron's ability to finesse the political track to his own advantage must be decreased. The Free People player is likewise not the master of his political destiny, but rather both players are left wondering whether the muster cards the Free People want will come into their hands.

Activation of key nations becomes a minor goal of the Free People early on, and the Shadow works to prevent it with cards like Wormtounge. This reforges an interesting dynamic clearly intended by the designers, but made vestigal by later developments.

III. The Witch King, Unrepentant

One thing Wizardry does not do directly is dilute the awesome power of the Witch King. This is a response to a stirring speech: follow this link then "Find in page ..." for "harbor".


0. Will of the West

A previous effort along these lines was tried for about 10 games, but as the understanding of the game evolved, and better ideas emerged, the Will of the West variant has been superceded.

I. Extra Event

This idea took the longest to develop. The lack of a fifth Free die, and the fact that the Free had no control over this problem, too a long time to identify and diagnose as pure evil. Intermediate solutions were tried, but ultimately these were discarded as too deterministic and wordy.

The question was posed to BGG, and many 'geeks' stepped up to the plate. Jeff Long "The Immortal" provided valuable guidance by relentlessly insisting on simplicity, and not least of all by coming up with the idea for the rule. Philip Thomas, Yaron Racah, Alex Rockwell "Alexfrog", Sean McCarthy "SevenSpirits", and myself all provided useful brainstorming along the way.

II. Active Reinforcements

I'm not sure where this idea came from. I think it might have been mine.

You can discuss the whole thing on the Board Game Geek thread devoted to the issue. Likewise, you can go there for playtest session reports: 1 2.