After our defeat last time, both Jeff and I had been hankering for another go at Friends and Foes. We had 4 players, and started Sauron on 15.
Last game, we got hammered in Bree. This time, we had much better luck. We were able to keep the Foes under control. We were able to get past the nasty Nazgul Strike by completing the Hiding track, thus saving Sam’s powerful Valor special ability for a later day. We managed to scoop up all the goodies and clear out all the foes, and skipped Moria.
Part of this was just better luck; we didn’t have to deal with the avalanche of foes we encountered last time. But part also was because we were much more willing to expend resources earlier, rather than hoarding thim. We used Merry’s foe-defeating special right way, along with Frodo’s insight. We also used Gandalf’s Letter very early. This all helped a lot.
We cruised through Isengard, skipped Helm’s Deep, were able to use Sam’s Valor to avert potentially rather serious problems with the Faces of the Dead, and cruise through Mordor while keeping the Foes in check (we played with the Black Gate, which requires re-creating the Foes deck to basically take the military victory out of play).
In the end, we were able to win fairly comfortably. And there was much rejoicing. Even if it does sacrifice a little bit thematically, Friends & Foes is a pretty cool addition to the game that had been effectively “off the table” for a while because it was considered too difficult; now, maybe we’ll play it some more.
Last up was Im Schatten des Kaisers, an area control game reminiscent of both Kremlin and El Grande, although lighter than either. I think this is a rather clever game – pretty simple, fairly thematic, with significant strategy, and it is a unique game. That all said, you might want to watch for one thing: unusual for a German game, Im Shatten des Kaisers has a little bit of that dreaded arbitrary hoseage. If you are emperor, you will sometimes be presented with a choice between which of two other players to help and which to hinder, but the ability to make deals is rather limited so you end up picking somewhat arbitrarily. I don’t consider Im Schatten des Kaisers to be a diplomacy or deal-making game in the traditional sense because there really isn’t much to negotiate with; basically, it’s just “I’ll vote for you for emperor”. “No, I’ll vote for you for emperor”; there isn’t a lot going on there. So it boils down to trying to remember who has the most victory points, and people’s memories are virtually always faulty in this regard. At some level, this is just an artifact of the system, which is otherwise quite good, and since it doesn’t show up that often and the game itself isn’t very long, I can live with it.