Code:
        From the Mouth of Sauron

Issue:    	   E-9
Date:     	   02-17-94

Note:  all authors retain exclusive rights to their material.  
Reprinting is allowed for non-commercial game use only.


          Editorial

Another happy Friday to you!  Of course, you're all going to get 
this on Thursday, but that's because I'm going to be on vacation 
until next Tuesday.

New guys:  many, many new people have asked to be signed up.  I can 
only put a few names on at a time, and my primary contact person is 
leaving for two weeks of vacation.  Unfortunately for you, you're 
going to have to get the Mouth from a secondary source for a while.

File availability:  it's been awhile since I said this.  I have 
files on encounters, artifacts, riddles, setups, etc. which you 
might find useful.  For those who've been getting the Mouth for 
awhile, this is the same set of files I dumped to you when you first 
signed on, modified by all the info that's appeared in this 
newsletter.

If you want these files, drop me a line and I'll send them to you as 
time permits.  If you already have the files and copies of the 
Mouth, please!  Make the modifications yourself.  Mailing via our 
router here can be a time-consuming task.  Again, to those of you 
who aren't yet on the mailing list, I'm sorry, but you're going to 
have to wait or get the files from someone who has them.

Submissions:  I love those submissions!  Without your tireless 
efforts, this newsletter'd be dead in the water.  I do have a couple 
of suggestions for authors:

- I have to format the newsletter with a 1 inch left margin and a 2 
inch right margin.  This is to accommodate people with older 
systems, where the character length per line is extremely short.  If 
you format your submissions with these margins prior to sending it 
to me, if would save me alot of work.  Why is that?  Because longer 
line lengths get hard-returned and look like this:

As you can see, this line length is too long given the 1 and 2 inch 
requirements.  The line
'bleeds' over for a few words and then gets slapped with a hard 
return, meaning that I

have to go through and erase, manually, every such hard return that 
I find.  If I didn't, each Mouth would have twice as many pages as 
it really needed, and would be very difficult to read.

- paragraph styles.  Most of you use casual letter-style paragraphs 
indented from the left margin.  The Mouth uses the full-block 
business style.  I use this style because it makes it easier to read 
the newsletter and better separates sections from each other.  If 
you could use this style as well, I'd most appreciate it.

- tabs and indents are fine for your tables and formulas, as is 
plain old spacing.  Do me one favor though, and don't mix methods in 
the same table.  If you do, the table will look something like this:

Test      .001
Test      .002
Test          .003
Test         .004
Test      .005

With complex tables, I have to go in and clean things up so that 
people can tell what numbers belong in what columns.  Again, all the 
above methods are fine, just use the SAME method within the table.

- I don't run spell-checks nor correct grammatical errors.  I don't 
think this is important; so long as you convey your thoughts, who 
cares if it's spelled correctly?  Still, if YOU care, I suggest you 
spell-check prior to sending the article to me.  I just cut and 
paste the baby into the Mouth file, so all your errors will be 
retained in the final product.  Sorry about that, but I just don't 
have the time to go over each article word-by-word.

Leslie Foreman:  Leslie left me two articles, one of which you'll 
see here in the Mouth.  The second you'll just have to wait for.  
Enjoy, they'll probably be the last for quite some time!

Tom

          Artifacts

No new info.

	          Encounters

Comment by Brian Mason:  On the Lake/Swamp encounter, it should be 
"monsters are Mewlips," or a "Mewlip." The Mewlips are a species of 
creature allegedly inhabiting wet areas and comes from the poem "The 
Mewlips" in JRRT's collection of Hobbit poetry "The Adventures of 
Tom Bombadil."

Ghostly Army:  OFFER to negotiate a truce = escape with injuries for 
Dark Servants.

Generic Dragon:  a reliable source says it's possible to steal gold 
from the generic dragon-in-a-lair encounter.  The agent who did this 
was around an effective 90 or so skill rank.

Thanks to Brian Mason and Keith Peterson for this information.
           Dragons

Can it be?  No new info?


 Other Corrections and Notes

From Keith Peterson

Overrun -- we had long discussions with GSI about this on the CI$ 
forum. The overrun has a threshhold of troops after which overrun 
becomes impossible. The point of overrun is to stop people from 
continuously throwing a few hundred troops out and stopping large 
armies. An army of 400-500 MA MIGHT get overrun by 5000, but an army 
of 1000 will never get overrun, even if the enemy has 20,000 troops.

From Tom Walton

I've successfully overrun a number of armies.  In two instances, 
scouts reported the army to be around 900 troops; I ran into them 
with a better than 5:1 advantage in numbers.  In the other cases, I 
never found out how strong the armies nor, alas, what characters 
were killed.

I will say this, though.  For purposes of overrun, each opposing 
army is compared to your own SEPARATELY.  It could be that there are 
four armies with 500 troops in the hex, 2000 total; but if you have 
5,000 troops, you'll overrun each army individually when moving 
through.  I've done this before as well.

Also, it isn't necessary to actually move THROUGH the hex, just INTO 
it.  And as a last note, you can't overrun an enemy force that's 
sitting on one of it's own (not an ally's) fortified pop centers.  
You can, however, sabotage the fortifications that turn and THEN 
march into the hex, overrunning the stunned enemy (did that too).

From Brian Mason

In response/comment to Eric Schurr's questions.

Opening strategies have been provided in "The Mouth" #8 for the 
Eothraim and the Dragon Lord. One on the Dwarves is "in the pipes."  
(Editor's Note:  it's in this issue of the Mouth).  I would not 
presume to write a strategy article on the Northmen or Sinda, for 
I'd just ask Jeremy Richman and Glen Mayfield for their moves in 
game 131. I might come up with a few variations, but it's best to 
let that game "cook" for a while, and then let them write the 
articles!

Which nations, and how can they, form a "curses squad?" I believe 
this technique was described in "Blood & Glory."

Prior to writing my article on Population Center Development, I 
asked GSI about production values being different for population
centers versus hexes open at start. The answered point blank that 
they were the same.

In response to Jeremy Baxter's "Kill Guard" wish list request, if 
you know who is guarding whom judicious use of assassinate and 
kidnap with two different agents will allow you to get rid of the 
guard before the primary target.

From Darren Beyer

Response to Guards and the Equation

I've seen the agent assassination model and one thing strikes me as 
odd in it, the double the guard agent rank as a negative modifier to 
success.

I would've believed this double guard rank modifier a few months ago 
when (as the Cloud Lord) I had Kadida have his assassination attempt 
foiled by a 40's rank guard who captured him in the process, Kadida 
was an 80 (+20 = 100).  This was prior to GSI's annnouncement that 
agent actions were tougher.

Now here I am being much more careful as the Cloud Lord when as the 
Rhudaur, I have a number of characters meet up with a lone Tormog 
(Dark Lts agent).  Tormog scouted out as an 80's agent and I figured 
it was likely that he had the Cloak of the Abyss (40 pt stealth 
item).  I also knew that my best agent in the hex (base rank 68, +15 
point item, +25 point stealth item) was being tracked and that he 
was the likely target of Tormog.  I issued challenge on Tormog, and 
tried to assassinate him.  In case he refused and acted before my 
assassin, I had a 65 point agent guarding my good agent.  Under a 
double guard rank, this should have been more than enough even IF 
Tormog had the 40 point stealth item.

The result:

Tormog refused, went prior to my agent, and CUT THROUGH MY 65 POINT 
GUARD!!!!!!!

Needless to say I was miffed and muttering "so much for the new 
agent rules" for days.  My friends consoled me and brought to my
attention that a lucky role on an 80 agent/40 stealth could have cut 
through a 65 guard, I agreed and stopped cursing GSI.

A few days later...

The Dark Lts called me and gloated a little and said that Tormag 
didn't have the item, he was a base 80 agent with NO added 
bonuses!!!!

Back to being miffed and muttering, I'd never heard of a 65 guard 
being cut through by an 80 agent even before the new rules, but 
after ...?

Basically, my point is that there is a LARGE random factor in the 
agent equation when a 100 rank agent gets captured by a 40's guard 
and an 80 rank agent cuts through a 65 rank guard on his way to kill 
his target.

From Tom Walton

One thing people aren't taking into account on character actions, 
which can sometimes influence things beyond rational analysis:  
double agents.  I balk at discussing this in depth, because I've 
used this tactic to great effect on some occasions.

Taking a double agent is an emissary action and thus happens prior 
to assassination, kidnaps, etc.  If you want to influence a guard's 
action before assassination/kidnap but don't have the resources 
available to kill the guard first, you can take him as a double- 
agent with an emissary.  If successful, the guard will in all 
likelihood conveniently 'forget' to cover his target, allowing the 
primary assassin to waltz right through and take out his victim.  
This works very well in my experience, and seems to be easier than 
actually killing the guard in many cases.  Best of all, that guard 
will remain doubled for all future actions and continue to provide 
you with interesting information as well.

So if you start getting really screwy results with your guards, or 
your favorite assassin suddenly starts failing every mission against 
a particular nation, you might consider bringing him in for a little 
counter-intelligence.  You might be surprised at what you find.

I surely hope none of my enemies in the game are reading this....

From Holger Eichmann

Because I want to learn the programming under Windoze 
(pronouncements of compassion will be accepted), I have started to 
write a program, by which you can calculate how many troops you will 
lose, if you attack an enemy army/town. But now I had to find out 
that I need some quantitative information, where the game 
description doesn't want to tell details. (If you don't want to 
bother to write an article, you can mail me directly: 
eichmann@ceres.amp.uni-hannover.de. I will collect the answers and 
write an article, if I get enough response.)

1. Which are the climate modifier of the different nations? I 
already got the terrain modifier for mild climate of all nations, 
but the climate modifiers are still needed.

2. The description tells how the different troop types are fighting 
in the different terrain, but it doesn't tell, what that 'good', 
'average' and 'poor' means quantitative.

3. The same with the Troop Tactic Modifier (I think the Tactic vs. 
Tactic Modifier isn't so important, because normally you don't know 
the tactic of the enemy).

4. The game description says (p. 58): 'In cases where more than one 
opponent appears, then strength is split proportionally between the 
opposing forces and tactics adjusted accordingly.'. Strength is 
split proportionally to what? To the strength, constitution or 
number of men of the different armies?

5. Are there some traps, probably I haven't seen like that an army 
gets some advantage if a friendly town is present (how great is that 
advantage?).

6. Last, but really not least: How does the battle work? The 
description says (p. 58): 'What follows is then a round by round 
activity where, starting with the strength and constitution computed 
above, the strength of each Army is subtracted from the constitution 
of their enemy until one or both Armies reach constitutions of zero 
whereby combat ends.' It says that in every round the constitution 
of the fighting armies will be reduced, but it doesn't say that the 
number of troops and therefore the strength will be reduced, too (of 
course the number of troops will be reduced after battle ended). I 
can't believe that.

This means, e.g. army A (strength: 50000, constitution: 50000) meets 
army B (s: 25000, c: 49999). After round 1 the constitution of army 
1 will be reduced to 50000-25000 = 25000, that of army B to 49999 
50000 = -1. Therefore army B will be destroyed and army A will lose 
half of his troops. But now suddenly before the fight starts, a Man 
at Arms appears and strengthens army B. Now army A has s: 50000, c: 
50000 and army B: s: 25001, c: 50001. After round 1 army A has s: 
50000, c: 50000-25001=24999 and army B: s: 25001, c: 50001-50000=1, 
if the strength isn't reduced, too, as the description tells. 
Because army B isn't destroyed, fight goes into round 2. After that 
army A has a constition of 24999-25001 = -2 and army B one of 1 
50000 = -49999. Now both armies are destroyed after that battle. If 
I understand the description correctly, then only one man at arms 
can cause the destruction of half a huge army (really a great hero, 
even though a dead hero).

So thats all. Of course you can correct the text, if something is 
written in bad English (I know my English isn't the best) or 
misunderstandible.

Holger

Reply to Holger Eichmann
From Tom Walton

Holger, I'll answer questions 5 and 6 and leave the rest up to those 
interested:

5.  The defensive bonus only applies if you own the pop center in 
question.  The bonus varies between 10% and 20% depending on the 
level of fortifications, i.e., 10% for a tower, 20% for a citadel, 
with everything else falling in-between.  This bonus is a direct add
to the constitution of the defending army, recalculated every round 
and destroyed prior to any actual damage being done to the army 
(think of the bonus as Star Trek 'shields').

6.  The combat strength of the armies is also reduced each round.  
The computer takes losses inflicted, spreads them out among your 
troop types, reduces these troops accordingly, and THEN recalculates 
offensive potential and constitution.  Thus, two evenly matched 
armies may fight for many rounds as they whittle away at each other.  
A large army might destroy a smaller one in one round.


         In Your Ear

Nothing this time around.


          Personals

No personals.


      ME-PBM Wish List

 From Brian Lowrey

Would like something more discriptive when you kill a character with 
curses.  Currently all you get is the message: "no character with 
that id exists" - you know the message.

From Holger Eichmann

It would be of great help, if one can give a parameter to the move 
orders that one only wants to move, if the other command has been 
successful. E.g. if an army commander wants to threaten a population 
center, he would give the commands: 'Threaten Population Center' and 
then 'Move Army' (only if the threatening has been successful), so 
he can try it again, if he wasn't successful. Then he needn't to 
stand around one turn, if he didn't risk to move away and he had 
success, or he needn't to move back, if he decided otherwise. The 
same e.g., if an emissary wants to create a camp in a hex with great 
production or if a mage searches an artifact.

And to the improvement wishes to the game description:

The game description could describe more exactly, which orders a 
navy commander can give and which not and which orders will anchors 
his ships. The description says: 'Most orders that can be given to 
Armies can also be given to Navies as long as the Navy could anchor 
its ships and become an Army. If the Navy could not anchor and 
become an Army, then orders pertaining to the troops or baggage 
train may be restricted. This does NOT mean that the Navy will 
become an Army by issuing such orders...'. You can't write things 
more diffusely. The words 'most' and 'may' alone take care that you
don't know whether that one command you want to give will be 
accepted and will anchor the ships. Additionally the description of 
the different orders says 'army commander only' for some commands a 
navy commander in a shore hex can give, too (like 'put troops on 
maneuvers').

From Tom Walton

Okay, so I'm shooting off my mouth this issue.  There's just so many 
interesting things to comment on....

I'd like to see the use of Conditional orders as well.  These 
wouldn't be terribly hard to program and would give the game greater 
flexibility.  Some orders I'd like to see:

Track Character:  an agent could attempt to track and follow a 
character who starts the turn in the same hex, essentially following 
him around the map.  This wouldn't work if the character uses magic 
to move, or is attached to an army.

If the agent fails, he might fail to move, move some distance and 
stop (lost the trail), or even move in the wrong direction!

Track Army:  allows a characer in your own army to track an enemy 
army that starts in the same hex.  A device to allow one army to 
pursue another.

If the agent fails, the army could simply not move, move a couple of 
hexes and then stop (lost the enemy), or move in the wrong 
direction.  Moving in the right direction might be bad news, as the 
enemy could lead your forces into an ambush or an encounter with 
many agents....

Emissaries:  give Emissaries something better to do than uncover 
secrets/spread rumors as their secondary orders.  Or, add nation 
message rumors to the 'uncover secrets', allowing them to actually 
garner some useful information with this order.  It also makes the 
'spread rumors' order more useful.

Mage Training:  allow one mage to train another with a 'train 
apprentice' order.  The first mage would get no skill increase, the 
second 1-5 points (if the second could also Prentice) or 1-10 points 
(if the second can't also Prentice).  Limit the train order to 
characters whose skill rank is more than 10 points lower than that 
of the trainer.

Example:  a character will a mage rank of 50 could train another 
character so long as the second character doesn't have a skill rank 
of 40 or better.

This would allow a nation to train new mages faster, but would be 
limited by the skill rank of the trainer.  Unless you had a very 
good mage, your training would top out with just a few orders (but 
make that new mage much more useful in a much shorter period of
time).  This would definitely help mage-heavy nations, yet wouldn't 
allow these nations to create supercharacters through faster 
training.  It would also keep the Ring safe from being found early 
in the game.


 How I Got Shafted in ME-PBM

From Dan DeYoung

As a new player, I made certain to read and reread the rule book 
from front to back (and I vouch for that being the sister-in 
law/typist)  before making my first moves.  I made several mistakes 
which I openly admit were pure oversights which I should have caught 
from my reading.  For instance, I tried to move 14 days movement 
with the normal `Move Army` order rather  than the `Force-march', 
and I even moved a Navy to a rough hex and tried to move directly 
off as an army not realizing the ships had to be anchored and this 
could only occur on a shore/plains hex.  Also, I was bummed to find 
that my Sinda kingdom did not include Galadriel or Celeborn, elven 
lords in Lorien for ages including the T.A. 1650 when the game was 
set, but I understand such things as game balance and forgave MEPBM 
for this.  (I, the typist, was also disappointed when I found out 
Beoraborn (a shape-changer) in the book--real cool character)  was 
a normal man with no extraordinary characteristics--and I had no 
forgiveness to ME because my characters (the Woodmen) were far from 
balanced!!!!)

One thing which made me crazy that I couldn't figure out until 
enlightened by a veteran player (Thanks Dave Forman!) was artifact 
retrieval.  I had an 80 pt character on a hex with a report of a 
trail to be investigated.  For 3 turns I issued the #900 order Find 
Artifact, each turn astounded at my bad luck at not picking up my 
artifact.  Silly of me to assume that Find Artifact should find a 
missing artifact.  Seeing a hidden path did not seem like the kind 
of thing that should be investigated with an Investigate Encounter, 
and the rule book does not clue the novice into this.  Perhaps I'm 
just dense.  (Maybe it runs in the family!!)  I have been told that 
Find Artifact works on the sea for retrieving missing artifacts.  
Consistency........

My second gripe has to do with Dragons.  As I came to understand the 
play balance of MEPBM, it has become apparent to me that the Freeps 
have the large economies and armies while the Dark Servants have 
character power and some valuable nation abilites backed by strong, 
though unsustainable, starting armies.  This balance is excellent on 
its own, but Dragon-wise evil condoms tip this balance quickly to 
the evil side.  One Dragon can kill an opposing army of nearly any 
size in one round of combat, thus offseting the Freep numbers 
advantage.  The Freeps have no such balancing mechanism to offset 
the character power of the servants  (Editor's Note:  Throkmaw and 
Scorba will join the Freeps if you know the right response).  Some 
might argue that the numerous Good NPC's offset this, but to my 
knowledge in game 88, only 1 kingdom has had characters effected by
an NPC.  This by no means offsets the 15000+ troops evil dragons 
have devoured across the Good kingdoms by turn 18.  I guess I think 
they eat too much!!!  Also, historically in Middle Earth, I cannot 
recall Sauron ever having the power to control a Dragon in his 
armies.  Morgoth used them in the Silmarillion and their presence 
was so great as to inspire a mention in the story at every 
encounter, so I believe that Sauron himself couldn't use them or 
we'd have known about it.  (He deserves a medal making it through 
the Silmarillion!)  Certainly some fast-talking servant shouldn't be 
able to do what his nearly all-pwerful master couldn't do.

One geographical beef; is there no mountain or hill in all of Middle 
Earth that a Free People emissary may move on without running a 
serious chance of encountering a Dragon or Balrog?  It seems that 
Freep metal production has no hope of being developed.

Spells are really quite wimpy in this game.  Battles seem to  occur 
between many - thousands-of-man armies and spell-casters have little 
to no effect.  Nearly all of the Offensive and Defensive spells are 
essentially the same, killing or saving various small numbers of 
troops.  Locating artifacts and some scrying spells are virtually 
the only reason to keep mages around.  It also seems that most 
kindgdoms would need 30 turns to develop a 75 pint mage who could 
learn spells with any chance of casting them.  That's a lot of gold 
for  a lot of turns before a character begins to be worth the money.  
(I think a solutions to this is to have good people mages have 
awesome spells if a dragon is present in the army--else small spells 
keep the game balanced --especially for Woodmen who have no desire 
for magic  (though artifacts would be nice ...I think...since I 
never owned one.))

My last beef has to do with troops types, and I've heard it from 
many other players in my game and in the hallowed pages of the 
Mouth.  I really like the way Army movement is measured and tracked 
in this game, and the fact that equipment and training influence 
army performance (though the percentages could be shifted some to 
stress these factors even more), but (this is where the beef is) the 
fact that it is NEVER worthwhile to have anything but Heavy Infantry 
or Heavy Calalry is disappointing.  In fact, it's a waste of a 
combat system designed to take various troop types and equipment 
into consideration.  What makes a recriut hired with wooden weapons 
and no armor a heavy infantryman rather that a light?  Such flaws in 
logic and execution at the value-assignment end are a real shame 
since the conceopt and capability of the system are magnificent.

My list of complaints is long, but minor (I'm sure glad I don't have 
to type his brother's complaints ) I find MEPBM to be an execptional 
game and its consistent 2 week turnaroud is fantastic.  Maybe if 
enough of us mention our gripes and suggestions, a good game will 
get that much better!

(Victoria DeYoung as the typist!)

Yet Another Editor's Note:  Unbeknownst to you all, Bill Field at
GSI will receive a list of our 'suggestions' by the end of next 
week.  I've collected, collated, and organized all the comments made 
here in the Mouth and elsewhere, then taken the most common 
complaints and suggestions to pass on.  No one's name is attached to 
any of these comments or complaints.

The point is exactly as Dan says:  to make the game better, and 
remove the flaws that most of us encounter at one time or another.  
Using the Mouth and the net as info-gathering devices, I've 
accumulated the responses from more than 100 players, which should 
have some weight.  It's my hope that the most flagrant flaws will be 
corrected or at least examined, since it appears that nothing is 
being done at GSI right now concerning these topics (at least we 
aren't hearing about it if any rules or code are under review).

Still, remember:  we're in a seller's market.  GSI grows by leaps 
and bounds regardless.  Until this growth levels off, we might have 
difficulty getting the company to examine the game.


       The Dragon Lord

Editor's Note:  last issue, Brian Mason proposed an opening strategy 
for the Dragon Lord.  Here are the responses:

From Keith Peterson

I enjoyed the work Brian Mason put into the DragL theory. Unless you 
can get those loyalties pumped up, it simply isn't going to work,  
however. He's hypothesizing a 70% tax rate, which makes it even more 
unlikely. Since you, Tom, didn't jump on it, I wonder how many 
people understand how loyalty affects the ability to improve pop 
ctrs. The program assumes that the pop ctr needs a base 40% for a 
village, a base 55 for a town, a base 75 for a MT, and 100 for 
cities. Anything under that is apparently a direct negative modifier 
to your chance to improve the pop ctr. Loyalty over that base 
improve your chance to increase the size of the pop ctr.

In Brian's example, you've got 30 pt emissaries making camps -- 
which will have 15 loyalties (before the decrease for taxes!) Now he 
wants to make them villages -- but he'll have a -25 to his roll (40 
-15). With a good emissary, you might pull this off, but not with a 
30-35 emissary. To assume that you'll get to make this a town with 
a -40 (55-15) modifier is even more unlikely. The Compuserve players 
have been working under this system for about two years, and it 
seems to work very well. Players who try to make MTs with 25 loyalty 
can't, for example.

Note that this means that there is a severe penalty for high taxes  
- you can't increase your pop ctrs very easily -- if at all!

Response to Keith Peterson
From Tom Walton
In regards to upgrades, I've used 45-50 point emissaries to improve
camps to villages on a regular basis, when the camp loyalty was only 
in it's low 20's.  I've also used mid-50's/low-60's emissaries to 
improve villages to towns on a number of occasions, again with 
loyalty in the low or mid 20's.  I've only improved one town to a 
major town, but did so with a mid-70's emissary on a town with a 
loyalty in the low 40's.

I've found I'm much more likely to fail to place a camp than upgrade 
an existing pop center, using emissaries of the listed skill ranks.  
Loyalty is no doubt important, but I have some doubts about it being 
a direct modifier to the emissary's skill rank.  Given that 
assumption, I should've failed my upgrades about half the time (at 
least), and to my recollection I've only done so three or four times 
across twelve games.

From Brian Lowrey

Unless the Dwarfs screw things up an agressive Dragon Lord and Witch 
King can take out both the Woodman Major Towns by turn 3.

Witch King recruits 400 HI and moves to Buhr Fram.  Also takes cav 
from capital and moves to Buhr Fram.  This is a large enough force 
to take out the army from the Woodman capital if he moves on Buhr 
Fram; this will also eliminate the Witch King army.  Dragon Lord 
combines troops and moves to 2711.  Turn two: Witch King either 
Kills the Woodman army or Threatens and moves to Woodman Capital. 
Dragon Lord Captures or Destroys 2711 and Moves to Woodman Capital.

Characters:

Definitly Emissarys and Definitly the Misty Mtns.  Between the Witch 
King and Dragon Lord creating camps here - well thats a lot of 
Dragon Names.

I also feel its important to build one or two Agents.  If you want 
help from DS Agents you equal the best scouts in the game, 
effectively scouting for characters you will befriend a lot of 
agents and the Dragon Lord & Witch King can use some friends.

Starting Characters:

It is tempting to stack some mage artifacts on Celedring.  Pump his 
challenge rank to 190 and suprise Bain.  Very nice +40 ring and a 
sword for Duran.  If you show off your 190 challenge rank early they 
should waste a lot of orders refusing challenge this will slow them 
down a bit.  This reduces the effectivness of your mages but a 190 
challenge rank can be worth a lot early in the game.

Mt Gundabad:

The idea of giving this up to the Dragon Lord is interesting and 
worth doing if the Witch King cannot get the Blind Sorcerer or 
Cloudlord to exchange Gundie. If the WK can get an exchange its 
better for the Witch King and the presence in Mirkwood is now
maintained by either the Cloud Lord or Blind Sorcerer and the Dragon 
Lord Economys, all of the witch King Economy can now be focused in 
the west.

Outlook:

Against good FP players the Dragon lord should be removed from 
Mirkwood early with one Major town a hidden town and a few camps 
remaining.  This is definitly the economy of a character based 
positon, this should be planned for.  The Dragon Lord has some good 
characters it could be fun.

Help:

Besides the obvious help from your teamates I think GSI needs to 
seriously consider strengthing this position by giving at least one 
more major town in Mordor.  For that matter most Dark Servant 
positions need some Economic help!

Boy this position looks grim when you write it up - its  fun to run 
play though.


         Commentary
      by Leslie Foreman

When most people think of  STRATEGY, thoughts of  the Battle of the 
Bulge, Pearl Harbor, etc. are the events which are likely to come to 
mind.  I would like to propose that strategy is, in fact, a much 
more widespread idea than one only associated with military 
campaigns.  I hear and see strategy at work every time I watch ME- 
PBM gamers writing up their turn.  I also see strategy at work every 
time I go to the grocery store.  I know that there is a leap of 
faith here, but stay with me.

The first strategic decision you have to make is choosing the 
parking place in the parking lot.  Do you choose a place under the 
light, near the door, next to the other store you need to go to, 
between the two stores, etc.  Then you have to decide whether 
backing in is a good idea.  I have seen similar situations with the 
gamers I watch.  Basically, "Where am I going to go, and how am I 
going to get there?"  The other parking lot adventure centers around 
the 'little dance' you do with the other cars who are also looking 
for the "right" place.  This is the time when you are called upon to 
move evasively so that the Enemy doesn't see you and beat you to the 
prize spot.  Force marching is also called upon occasionally, but it 
is at that time that the pedestrians take their lives into their own 
hands because your philosophy is 'I SAW THAT PLACE FIRST!!'

Once inside the building, you need to decide on a character type. I 
recommend a multi-class character, a mage\agent.  The mage will 
allow you to use special abilities and the spy will allow you to 
move quickly in and out.  Of course, there are advantages to all of 
the character types, but this is the combination which works best
for me.

There are two special abilities which need to be developed to be a 
successful grocery shopper. The first is to be able to use coupons 
wisely.  This is truly a gift.  I have seen people receive money 
FROM the cashier at the check-out because they have effectively used 
coupons.  What do you say - a mage rank of 80? The other skill is 
the ability to figure out the unit price of items on the shelf.  
Many store now have them listed for you, but not all of the stores 
do nor are all of the items listed.  An 80 mage should be able to do 
this easily, but with a calculator modifier the job becomes much 
easier.  And then, only the valiant will attempt to figure out a 
unit price after factoring in the deduction of the coupon.  Strategy 
is again playing a significant role in the grocery store outing.

We're not done yet.  What about the encounters you do NOT want to 
have?  In ME-PBM there are other armies, characters and dragons. In 
the grocery store there are neighbors,  previous co-workers, friends 
of you parents, etc.  Again. strategy plays a role.  HOW DO I HANDLE 
THIS SITUATION??  Do I walk right up and say something quickly and 
then leave before they have the chance to answer?  Do I skip an 
aisle and then go back and get the stuff on 5B after 'they' have 
moved on? Do I abandon the cart filled nearly to the top with yummy 
stuff I really wanted and flee the store?  or Do I suddenly become  
interested in the article in the STAR about how Bill Clinton is 
really Elvis in disguise ( only they couldn't hide the voice.)?  
Again, strategy in action.

Last, but not least, is the choosing of the check-out line.  Wow, 
what a task.  You have to consider the length of the line.  You have 
to look at the scanning speed of the cashier. You have to factor in 
the number of items belonging to the patron ahead of you. Heck, you 
have to consider the age of the patrons ahead of you.   Do they have 
children - and  are they well behaved?  Are they using cash or a 
check?  Finally, there is that last scan for the "dragon" you missed 
on aisle 5B - the check-out line is NOT the time to talk to them.  
YOU CAN'T GET AWAY!!!!  Once you have considered your options and 
examined the data, you guess like you always do and get in a line.  
Sometimes you do well, and other times "You choose poorly."

I asked you in the opening paragraph to have faith in me and I hope 
that I have not disappointed you.  Strategy is everywhere!! I 
probably have pointed out something which you had never considered 
before and quite possibly will never think about again.  If, on the 
other hand, you think of this commentary and a small smile appears 
on your face the next time you go to the grocery store, then I have 
done well.  I have succeeded in making an otherwise tolerated job a 
little bit more fun.  Isn't that what it's all about?   Good gaming 
and good shopping!!


           HOW MANY WOODMEN COULD A DRAGON LORD CHUCK IF A DRAGON
           LORD COULD CHUCK WOODMEN.....?
       By Dan DeYoung

Contributing to the continuing discussion of opening moves for the 
seemingly hapless Woodman kingdom in MEPBM, I offer the following 
statements-

The Woodman can defeat the initial Dragon Lord armies if that Dark 
Servant commits to a 'berserk' attack in an effort to knock the 
Woodman out fo the game by turn 3.

and

This can be accomplished without allied aid!

I fully agree that with Sinda aid, the Dragon armies can be stopped 
handily, and with Dwarven aid, the Dragon can be destroyed utterly, 
but such aid is often unavailable (in an individual game) or sent 
elsewhere by farsighted (Editor's Note:  you being just a bit 
facetious here, Dan?) teammates.

I offer the following strategic plan for the Woodman based on the 
following starting force locations which occurred in game #88.  This 
plan assumes a worst case scenario for the Woodman- An all our 
attack by all Dragon Lord armies determined to destroy the two 
Woodman major towns at 2711 (on turn 2) and 2508 (on turn3)  before 
inevitably failing to the superior Freep forces in the area.

Turn 1-

Woodman Order of Battle

2508-Woodman Army 1-     1200HI, 900LI
2711-Woodman Army2-	600HI, 600LI
2711-Woodman Army3-	600LI,600AR

Dragon Lord Order of Battle

2715-Dragon Army1-	600HC, 600HI, 300AR, 600MA
2715-Dragon Army2-	600LI, 600AR, 300MA
2409-Dragon Army3-	300LC, 300HI, 300LI

Dragon armies 2&3 recruit 400HI each before moving.  Celedhring and  
his 2000 point weapon join Dragon Army1.  (This is  'worst case' ).  
Dragon Army 2 transfers all but 100MA to Dragon Army1.  Duran 
leading Dragon Army1 puts army on Maneuvers and moves directly to 
2711.  Dragon Army3 also moves directly to 2711 to join in what he 
assumes will be an easy pummeling of the comparatively weak Woodman 
forces there, since the powerful Woodmn Army1 cannot reach 2711 in 
1 movement.  Easy victory, thinks the Dragon Lord. 

I THINK NOT!  The following moves will allow the Witch King to take 
the Woodman town at 2405, but that army supported only from Mount 
Gundabad cannot stand against the entire Woodman nation when it 
finishes with the Dragon Lord turns its attention northward.

Woodman Army1 recruits 400HI and moves 1 hex to the hidden town of 
2609. Woodman Army 2 recruits 400HI and remains at 2711.  Woodman 
Army3 moves SE to 2612 to intercept the main Dragon Army from 2715 
(1200men will not be 'overrun' by the large Dragon force;  I had 900 
archers intercept the same force in game #88).  For completeness ' 
sake, the Woodman Army3's actual movement might be SW, H