Monday, 17 December 2012

Between the Lonely Mountain and Bree - Middle Earth Quest

Nice tight game of Middle Earth Quest on Saturday, getting us all in the mood for the Hobbit (movie).

Middle Earth Quest is set in the world of Tolkien, between the events described in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. In these 65 years the three main wizards of Middle Earth, Sauron, Saruman and Gandalf try to cobble together a set of clues concerning the legendary Ring of Isildur, which holds power over other rings in the possession of Sauron.

All three understand the significance of gaining hold of the ring, but lack vital information. Gandalf knows where it is, but not what it is, while Sauron knows what it is, but not where. Saruman has got hints about both.

In MEQ, this is reduced to a struggle between a group of heroes, friendly to Gandalf and Sauron. While Saurn builds up his power and searches for the Ring, the heroes try to provide Gandalf with clues and thwart Sauron's attempts to cast his shadow over Middle Earth.

The game is made by Sauron. The heroes react. Sauron can choose from three strategies, or combine them: finding out what and where the Ring is, corrupt the Free People or increase his imperium by violent means. All these efforts result in quest for the heroes to resolve.

Rob, typecast as Sauron, slowly but surely managed to establish his dominance over  Mordor and its neighbourhood, despite a speedy start for the heroes. Eleanor (Jur) and Eometh (Paul) quickly resolved their basic quests, with Argalad catching up.

Eometh finishes off the Mouth of Sauron. But loses precious time,
which Sauron uses to good effect
Rob chose the (red) conquest strategy and supported it by employing his minions (first the Black Serpent and the Mouth of Sauron, later also the Ringwraiths) aggressively. In this way he protected his quest very well.

Eleanor´s character sheet, with her unspent life points/combat cards on the left,
cards played for movement on top. Cards taken for damage are place on the right
However, this led to the heroes realising before the end of the game that they wouldn´t be able to win directly, and switched to denying Sauron the possibility of a direct win.

It was very convenient that Eleanor (Jur) had acquired a horse early in the game, as she sped from Rohan, through Rivendel where she concocted a dastardly plan with Argalad (Gerard) to slay Gothmog, onto Gundabad.

Although she was weakened by the conditions there, which were not exactly in line with health and safety regulations, she still managed to put a crossbowbolt between Gothmog´s shoulder blades. He hadn´t recovered from this nasty surprise by the time Argalad showed up and finished the job. Just in time, because it denied Rob the steps on the quest track to dispute dominance as well as his secret mission for the direct win.

Eleanor takes on Gothmog in Gundabad, while Argalad prepares the killing blow
This caused the game to end in a direct confrontation of the Ringwraiths and our brave companion Eometh (Paul). Eometh showed that his inexperience was no obstacle, as he proceeded to cut them to pieces. And so Good prevailed.

Strangely enough I haven´t played this game very often, yet. I love the setting, it works well, results in a tight contest. Somehow the rules kept me back. I will try to play it again soon, so I have the rules fresh in my mind.

Had I played it more, I would venture a more review like post, but right now I'll just stick to celebrating the balanced design, the tough choices for all players and the clever combat system incorporating fatigue/rest, training, wounds/healing, movement  and varied tactical options. Designer Corey Konieczka really pulled off a biggy here. Fantasy Flight's high standard graphic design is also apparent.

The amount of rules is probably as much as Mage Knight, but somehow this game works better for me.

As said, I always saw the War of the Ring, and especially the period leading up to it, as a three-way conflict with Saruman as the dodgy one (in hindsight). These guys are essentially equals (called maiar by Tolkien), the three most powerful beings in Middle Earth and effectively demi-gods, even more ancient than the elves. I know it's unlikely to ever be made, but that conflict would be my grail game. This comes close in scope, however.

The Hobbit is on the programme for next Monday, after we have our Christmas Offensive. There´s going to be seven of us, so the range of games available is limited. My offerings will be: Junta, Struggle of Empires, Civilization (AH) and Arkham Horror. What do you guys think?


  1. Replies
    1. Noted! It is a beloved classis. Probably the best one to get into the festive spirit!

      To get in the mood for the Hobbit I would have loved to play MEQ again, or War of the Ring, but it's more fun playing one game with seven than two games with three or four

    2. We didn't get to play Junta in the end. But I'm sure it will hit the table again sometime this year.


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