Code:
        From the Mouth of Sauron

Issue:    	   E-8
Date:     	   02-11-94

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


          Editorial

Weeelllll, ask for articles and you get them...and get them...and 
get them....

Thanks to one and all for answering my call for stuff.  Because of 
your quick response, this is the largest Mouth yet - over 30 pages 
jam-packed with useful info and articles.  My mailbox was filled to 
overflowing!  Of course, I'll need more articles and such come next 
Friday, so get those keyboards primed....

First order of business:  honors and well wishes to David and Leslie 
Foreman, who in about a week's time will have another young'un to 
brighten their lives!  You probably won't see them around here for 
a while (a couple of years?), as they'll be dealing with the joys of 
caring for a new-born infant - like getting up every two hours to 
feed it.  In terms of adventure, the one they're about to embark on 
would make even Sauron quail in his boots....

Hope everything goes A-OK guys!  And tell me a name when you have 
it, so I can plaster the happy news all over the Mouth!

Second item:  I lose things.  Names, articles, info, my mind, etc.  
If you don't see something here that you sent in, it's because I 
lost it.  Just send it again, I can usually get it right the second 
time around.

Remember, if I don't print something it's due to my own penchant for 
being easily distracted.  It's not because I don't like you, or 
because you thumped me but good in a game we play together, or even 
because you commented on the dubious nature of my parentage (and a  
couple of you have); I'll send the Mouth to anyone, print anything 
they write regardless of what I might think about the person making 
the submission.  The Mouth is for everyone who asks, and while I'm 
wearing this hat I put aside all of my personal prejudices.  I won't 
cut anyone out of the loop.  If you don't see something, just send 
me a note and say "what the hell's going on?"  I'll reply with 
"huh?" and then we'll correct the problem.

Third item:  addresses.  My system doesn't pick up your address when 
you drop me a line.  Many have said "please add me to your mailing 
list", then failed to include their own in the note.  In order for 
me to get you on that list, you MUST write your complete internet 
address out WITHIN THE TEXT OF THE NOTE.  I can't stress this 
enough.  I can't track you all down, so you need to make an effort
here otherwise you'll never get on the list.

If you know someone who's saying "how come I didn't copy and you 
did?", this person in all likelihood is one of the people who didn't 
supply me with this critical info.  Please inform them that they 
need to do so.

Lastly:  I'm in the enviable position of being able to comment on 
articles in the same Mouth as they appear.  If the authors would 
like to respond to my comments (if I have any), say the word and 
I'll send them to you so that you can do so in the same Mouth.  
That's assuming you send me the article early enough to make the 
turn-around.

That's all this time around.  Enjoy!


          Artifacts

No changes.

	          Encounters

Radagast revisited:  got alot of responses on this one.  Here's 
what's been confirmed about our elusive and muddle-headed Brown 
Wizard:

- he's a character encounter, not an army encounter.

- FLEE = escape unharmed for all allegiances.

- FEED the birds = get locations/owners of 1-2 random artifacts for 
Free Peoples, escape unharmed for Dark Servants.

- he's still the only wizard with a lair.

Lake/Swamp encounter:  I'm told this is actually two different 
encounters that have similar openings.  This won't make any 
difference in terms of the response set, but you might want to 
separate them out in your encounter file just to avoid confusion.  
By the way, I'm told the monster is mewlips.

What follows is the ghostly army encounter I've been trying to hunt 
down:

(My character) lay in his camp in the depths of the night, with a 
dark, cloud-filled sky overhead. He tried to rest. The chill night 
winds seemed to taunt him by blowing hardest when he nearly captured 
sleep. Suddenly awakened by another freezing blast, he heard the 
sound of tramping feet rise over the moan of the wind. He leapt up, 
looking for the source of the sound. Moments passed before he 
finally saw them, a ghostly contingent of fighting men, marching 
behind an eagle banner. War cries erupted behind him and he spun 
around to see another spectral war party charging forward. At the
head of the charging party, a man bore a clenched-fist banner on the 
tip of the spear. Answering cries came from the first group of 
warriors and battle seemed imminent.

ATTACK all
COMMAND both sides to stop
Attack the men bearing EAGLE banner
Attack the men bearing FIST banner
Declare your ALLEGIANCE
OFFER to mediate a truce
Say ____________ (only one word)
FLEE

FLEE = escape unharmed for all allegiances.  Attack the men bearing 
the FIST banner = escape with minor injuries for Neutrals (data too 
small to tell what this really is).

Most common locations:  Southern Mirkwood area including the plains, 
southern Dunland near the White Mountains, Gap of Rohan.

Balrogs:  there was an error in an issue of the Mouth.  Balrogs 
randomly affect the loyalty of neutrals; they don't automatically 
decrease it, as they do with Free Peoples.

Thanks to Dan Arai, Glen Mayfield, Keith Peterson, Jeremy Richman, 
Michael Robinson, Brian Mason, Robert Lepper, Eric Schnurr, and 
others for the encounter info.


           Dragons

Culgor:  SAY "Sauron" = injured/killed for all allegiances.

Nimanaur:  Act MEEK = injured/killed for Free Peoples and Neutrals.  
Offer TEN thousand gold = dragon recruited into army for Dark 
Servants.

Ruingurth:  change all options except ATTACK the dragon to = escape 
unharmed for all allegiances.  ATTACK the dragon = combat for all 
allegiances.

Smaug:  DEMAND obedience = combat for all allegiances.

Turukulon:  SAY "Turukulon" = injured/killed for all allegiances.

Uruial:  State your NAME = injured/killed for all allegiances.

There's an unconfirmed rumor that any Dragon Lord character who 
States his NAME will recruit any recruitable dragon.  Sounds pretty 
darned far-fetched to me, but since I'm the Dragon Lord in one game 
I might test it out for you all.

COMBAT vs INJURED/KILLED results:  A couple of players have asked 
wha the difference is between these two results on my dragon lists. 
Here's how I distinguish them:

Where it says COMBAT, the majority of the results given to me by 
other players ended in death for the characters who chose that 
response.

Where is says INJURED/KILLED, the majority of the results given to 
me by other players ended with the character escaping severely 
wounded (1 health point).

For example, if 10 players chose DEMAND obedience from Smaug, and 
seven of the ten died gloriously, then the result would be COMBAT.  
If seven crawled away to live another day, the result would be 
INJURED/KILLED.

I distinguish between the two because INJURED/KILLED gives you a 
better chance of escaping a bad situation than COMBAT does.  And for 
many players, a chance to escape in any form is all they want.


 Other Corrections and Notes

From Jerry Clark

How does an army get overran?  Is it by outnumbering you 8-1, 9-1, 
or what?  Is overrunning based on number of troops or strength 
points?

From Keith Peterson

I recently learned something very interesting. In two cases I know 
that the One Ring ended in the same square as it was lost in (in 
both cases the characters who lost it moved, but it was apparently 
lost BEFORE movement).

In games that have ended, the location is given on the end game 
sheet. We used this in these two games (one of which I played in) to 
find out where the Ring ended up.

Why are agent actions rated hard? I asked GSI this once (esp. 
considering stealing can be done at 40 pts pretty easily)(Editor's 
note:  I've had rotten luck with 40-point agents since the change to 
the rules, but okay luck with 50-pointers). The answer - they are 
assuming guards. Without a guard, most agent actions would be merely 
avg difficulty (sabot fort obv. doesn't fit in here).

Can a DS team win? The DS are currently winning 9 nations to 1 in 
the first game. I think we'll manage to hang on.  We're also 
winning (different team) in #77. this also is just a matter of time, 
with the FP down 3 nations and we're down none.

I think I know how stealth works in determining whether your 
character is spotted. There are two main factors: the skill of the 
character and the loyalty of the pop ctr. (There is a third -- some
character are famous, or well-known according to GSI; this gives 
them a better chance of being spotted. Most NPCs probably fit into 
this category).

Simply subtracting stealth from your skill ranks wouldn't do much. 
Elrond is still always going to show up. However, if his stealth was 
subtracted from the loyalty of the pop ctr, he might not. Consider 
that a character with 30 stealth and 30 pts of stealth artifacts 
would reduce a 100 loyalty pop ctr to only 40, and has little chance 
of being spotted. A starting MT with 75 loyalty would become only 
15! 

From Wes Fortin

Response to Doug Bergstrom regarding the Assassination/Kidnap 
equation and the listed Difficulty of orders in general:

The equation is pretty accurate.  It assumes both sides have equal 
relations with each other, otherwise there is an modifier there.  
And, GSI says the targets agent rank also serves as a negative 
modifier, experience dictates a fraction of that rank, perhaps one 
half.

As for the Easy/Average/Hard designations for orders.  According to 
GSI, those agent actions listed as "hard" are actually "average" 
difficulty.  The "hard" designation assumes guards.

As with all orders, the listed difficulty does not necessarily 
reflect a preset modifier to the roll (as many newbees originally 
suspect), but a position on the bell curve. Most orders have 
modifiers built in to them, but this is not what causes the various 
designation of the order.  For instance, CreCmp is listed as easy, 
but veterans know that you better by close to 40 Emissary rank.  
Some easy orders, such as GrdChar rarely fail, and are probably 
Agent Rank + 35% or greater chance of success.

For example, look at Steal artifact.  It's Agent Rank - (modifier 
for differences in relations - see army combat for approx values) - 
2*Guards Agent Rank.  Most average orders have little, if any, 
modifiers built in to the code, so if we have a 50 Agent trying to 
steal an artifact, the relations between the nations is the same (so 
no modifier there), and no guard, the Agent has a 50% chance of 
success.  Toss in a 20 Agent guard, and the odds are more like 10%  
- pretty hard!

GSI seems to build the starting skill point ranges in the difficulty 
listings around a 50% chance of success. If most "Easy" orders are 
+35% to rank, then 10 - 40 is a 45% to 75% range, Average orders 
are, on the average, equal to skill rank so, 50 - 70 equals 50% - 
70% odds, and Hard orders are, on the average, Rank -35%.

So, in the above example of CreCmp, that order is probably more like 
Rank +15%.  10 Emissaries can succeed, but not often!

Editor's note to new players:  newly created camps always come in at 
a loyalty that's one-half the skill rank of the emissary.  This is 
another reason you don't want a 10-point emissary to create a camp; 
the loyalty will be 5.  You'll have to hang around for turns to 
increase the loyalty or the camp will instantly degrade the moment 
your character leaves.  For camp creation, an emissary of 40 or 
better is usually good (gives loyalty 20+, which allows some 'slack' 
before hitting that magical disintegration number of 15).

From Jeremy Richman

I recently heard from an ally that both Rhudaur AND Haradwaith can 
hire armies of ANY type at no cost, not just MA.  My source told me 
he'd just got off the phone with Bill Feilds; I couldn't believe it, 
so I asked GSI via CI$, and sure enough they confirmed this (!!!) in 
the following words, (though it is an unsigned response):

<>

Wild, huh ?  All this time and probably virtually all Harad/Rhudaur 
players have taken the time to hire MA first.

Tidbits:

1. Frumgara is the only Northmen character with command skill who 
doesn't start in charge of any army.  Therefore, most NM players 
have him move to the capital and join the army there.  So an 
enterprising BlindSorc could move a mage there and without even 
scouting, issue a challenge against Frumgara and be likely to 
surprise him; likewise, the LR could send an agent there and expect 
to find him there, for challenge or 615/620.  NM: be warned!  It may 
be worth the loss of orders/recruiting for the army commander at 
Frumgara's hex to transfer command to Mr. F while the previous 
commander is the one to move/join at 4013.  Don't be too 
predictable!

From David Foreman

To the question on the assasination equation:

All I can safely say about assasinations and hostage taking is that 
in my experience there appears to be a large random factor.  
Regardless of what GSI has said to me to the contrary, I have 
experienced enough fickleness in the assasination results to wonder 
what kind of random number generator is being used!

In game 104 we (the Servants) had bad luck that defied all 
statistical expectations. We went something like 3 for 23 with Ji 
Indur and Erennis!  And let me state that these were cases where no 
guard existed!

In game 133 we (the Free) lost two 40 pt commanders on turn 2. Since 
we knew where Ji Indur, Erennis, and Din Ohtar were, you figure it 
out!

******

On the subject of the Servants winning:

The verdict is still out.  It appears that what GSI did, more than 
anything else, was define, in print, the effect of guards.  To hear 
them talk now, a 30 point guard can repel a 60 point agent.  A 50 
point guard repels a 100 point agent.  A 75 point agent basically 
unassailable AS A GAURD. (As a target, NOT!)

In the blitz game, the entire military might of the Servants is 
needed to overcome a defence by the Free.  Again, without the aide 
of allies, the WK is dead, as is the Dragon Lord. I believe that the 
answer to the question must be broken into pieces to be answered.  
Grudge games are a lot different that singles.  Experienced games 
are a lot different than newby games.

A few general comments:

1) In a non-grude game, the ability of the individuals is the most 
important singe factor.  The nation doesn't matter unless there are 
others that are strong nearby.

2) In a grudge game, the servants can't win unless they coordinate 
a LOT.  Free teams can be split into regions and play a reasonable 
game.

3) If you are experienced, play the servants.  It is more of a 
challenge.  If you are new, play the free. It's more interesting 
when you don't understand the rules.

From Eric Schnurr

I would like to see some suggestions about opening strategies for 
the Sea of Rhun area.  How can the FP drive out the Long Rider? How 
can the DS kick out the Northman, Sinda, Eothraim, & Dwarves?

How about an opening strategy for the Dragon Lord?  How can they 
keep from getting driven out of Mirkwood?

I'm looking for some advice on how to make best use of Mages. Do you 
solely have them find/retrieve artifacts? help out armies?  track 
character movements?  Is it worth 3/4 mages full actions to make a 
curse squad?

Is it possible that there is a difference between amount of 
production in hexes that have starting pop centers and hexes that 
don't?  Based on my limited experience, this seems to be the case 
(at least concerning rough/hills and gold production).

         In Your Ear


Nothing this time.  Sigh....

          Personals

Miscellaneous Games

Looking for:  Evils in Game 60, Free Peoples in Game 96, and Evils 
in game 133.  Wesfor@raxco.com

Game 104

To the gang in 104:  Sorry I couldn't hang around.  We were beat and 
other games beckoned!

David Foremen (AKA the QA).

Games 133 and 142

Anyone in 133 on the DS side or 142 on the Free?
dforeman@vdoe386.vak12ed.edu



      ME-PBM Wish List

From Darren Beyer

A reply to letting neutrals know they are in a grudge match.

Having played a neutral in a grudge match, I know that it is not as 
much fun as playing in a standard game.  In a standard game a 
neutral can typically stay neutral longer, can gain a lot of info 
from talking with different factions, even attack a nation that 
isn't cooperating or communicating with its side without gaining an 
"enemy status".  Yes the neutral game is much more fun in the 
standard game, but saying that it is more difficult to win as a 
neutral in a grudge match than in other games is simply not true.

Consider:

1)  You still have ample time in the beginning of the game to get 
your nation off to a good start, building characters, camps, armies, 
etc.

2)  In a grudge match, typically the sides are more evenly matched 
than in a standard game, there aren't the nation drop outs, lack of 
communication, etc., associated with a standard game so the neutrals 
contribute more in the tipping of the scales and are thus valuable.

3)  The "side" in a grudge match will typically give a neutral more 
to join, than the "individuals" of a standard game.  There is a
greater pool to draw from and the neutral  can also negotiate from 
both sides at once, thereby upping its worth.

4)  Once you've declared for a side, unless you've really back 
stabbed the other side, they will tend not to pick on you as much 
(for a while).  For one, they may not know you've gone "good" or 
"evil" and two, they may not see you as a big threat until you start 
acting against them.  This gives you more time to build, change you 
capitol location, etc.

I played Rhudaur in a neutral game and was toggling between first 
and second (with the Noldo) on the good side (second and third in 
the game behind the Corsairs) in the 1200 - 1400 victory point 
range.  I believe I had a viable chance to place in that game, 
something, according to Tom's Whispers article, has not been 
accomplished before.  Unfortunately, the good side turned out to 
consist of a large number of boobs who decided to drop the game 
because the Corsairs and Dunland decided to go evil.  Oh well.

Granted, I would much rather play a neutral in a standard game and 
would like to know ahead if I was getting into a grudge match, 
unfortunately for GSI, so would 99 and 44/100 percent of the neutral 
players  out there.  GSI already has a hard time filling neutral 
positions and would never be able to keep up the grudge match pace 
if neutral players could decide ahead of time if they wanted to be 
in such a game.  Besides, a neutral player, upon finding he/she is 
in a grudge match, always has the option of calling GSI and dropping 
the position prior to game start, where GSI can find a replacement.  
Not something I would do, but always an option.

Darren

A Reply to Darren Beyer
From Tom Walton

I've played neutral nations six times now (3 grudge, 3 non), and my 
own experience disagrees directly with Darren's on all points.  To 
respond:

1) In team games I've had less time to organize and build prior to 
declaration.  The team, being better organized, is more easily 
capable of making a massive strike against a neutral early on 
(especially with characters), knocking that nation out.  This isn't 
true in a normal game, where disorganization within allegiances is 
the rule.

2) Neutrals make LESS of a difference in a team game because both 
sides are much more organized.  In a normal game, sides tend to 
break down into small regional groups, meaning that a neutral 
carries much more weight within it's particular geographic location.

3) I've had much worse luck trying to get even small concessions in 
team games than non-team games.  Because the allegiance is capable 
of coming down on the neutral like a ton of bricks, they tend to be
much less willing to give up stuff to recruit a neutral.  Instead, 
they concentrate on showing the neutral how coordinated they are, 
both to impress that neutral and to imply a threat ("join us or 
you're toast").

4)If you stay neutral too long in a team game, the teams start to 
get nervous and may pre-empt you with a strike (thinking you'll go 
to the other side).  Also, teams seem much more likely to take 
offensive action early on, because they know that as a group they 
can destroy a single neutral quite easily.  I've seen a number of 
neutrals creamed this way because they failed to declare early.

Team games have always been hard on my neutral nations; I've done 
much better in non-team games, taking first place early on and 
holding it.  The people are also quite a bit friendlier, as they 
need you far more than they otherwise would (can't count on the 
support of nine other players).

A new trend I've noticed in team games:  some teams seem to harbor 
a rabid dislike of neutrals regardless of how soon they join the 
allegiance, and will destroy them in the end-game to prevent them 
from winning.  I can understand this if the nation didn't declare 
for 20 turns; but when a neutral joins an allegiance prior to turn 
10, only to get backstabbed because 'neutrals shouldn't win', this 
makes it much more important to carefully assess each team before 
joining a particular side.  Complaints concerning this behavior have 
gone up markedly over the last few months.

In all, I haven't found team games to be very much fun when playing 
a neutral.  Given the treatment that I and others have received at 
the hands of teams, I'd recommend, strongly so, that you drop a 
grudge match game as soon as you find out you're in one.  You'll be 
out the $12.50, but in my opinion it's worth it simply to avoid 
throwing good money after bad.  And if you write an article for 
"Whispers", hey, you're only out a free setup!

From Wes Fortin

Put every troop type on even ground, in certain situations.  The 
game is far too slanted towards heavy troops.  They give you more 
bang for your buck, so the only reason to have light troops is 
economic, or you want an army soley to THREAT pop centers.  For 
instance, Archers were hell on old battle fields - striking several 
vollies into closing ranks before combat with the heavy troops 
actually started.  In MEPBM, they are pretty pathetic, usually 
dieing in the early phases of combat.

GSI made the attempt to compensate with Tactic vs Tactic, and failed
miserably!
From David Foreman

Allow the move & join command to join companies as well as armies.

Add a parameter to the move navy command that lets you pick up all
the ships in a hex and move, rather than just the transports.  
Afterall what is the justification for just getting the transports?

When a character is created, there are a number of orders that they 
could reasonably be expected to be able to perform prior to the next 
turn.  For example, capital orders like 948 and scouting orders.  
Therefore...  Let's add a section of the turn sheet with nothing 
written in name and stat blanks.  Orders written in those blanks 
would apply to the names in the blanks if those names are valid for 
the nation at the time the order is executed.  If a player enters a 
bad name (character name is duplicated and therefore changef) that's 
tough luck.

Then there's the move to ships and move order...

For a price (say 6 points for CAV and 4 or 5 for INF) let an army 
move to a hex where ships are anchored, get on board, and keep on 
trucking.  The order would be something like this:

880     w w sw PU w sw sw normal

where the PU is PICKUP SHIPS.  Of course, this would be transports 
only!

AND BY THE WAY....

Provide a parameter to the move navy command to allow you to pickup 
ships and move all at once.  The current requirement for two orders 
is silly, and can't be reconciled with reality given the auto pickup 
of transports.

Create a new order that allows you to move a product to multiple 
locations.  After all, how hard can that be to arrange? (For the 
programmer AND the caravan driver).

For example:

949     Food 2212 3012 3000 2227 2000 0808 2000

would move food from 2122 to

3012    3000 units
2227    2000 units
0808    2000 units

If insufficient stores exist at 2212, subtract from the last listed 
destination etc.

Make casting a spell a 1-5 skill rank improvement.  After all, most 
of the command orders result in rank improvement.  Why not the poor 
mage?

Editor's note:  how about making casting a spell a 1-5 point gain in 
certain situations, i.e., army combat, curses, etc., where the
character is at risk?  Otherwise people'd simply prentice/cast for 
2-10 points every turn in the safety of some forgotten pop center.

From Jeremy Baxter

A Move and Join Company order - otherwise you waste loads of orders 
trying to form a company.

An influence Morale order so emmisaries with armies can do an order. 
How about Influence others morale too.

Kill Guard - an Agent order occuring early in the Agent sequence!


 How I Got Shafted in ME-PBM

From David Foreman

Evasive movement hasn't been a normal part of my standard orders.  
I rarely find that I need to be hidden from scouts, and I frequently 
am moving as far as I can, which makes evasive movement a bad idea.

I recently got shafted by this oversight when I took my standard set 
of game precepts and got blown out of the water. Here WERE my 
notions on army movement:

1) Evasive movement makes only your icon visible to enemy scouts and 
maps (TRUE)

2) When moving evasively, you can sometimes walk past an enemy army 
(TRUE)

3) When moving evasively, pop center fortifications don't stop you 
if you get lucky.

4) Armies that you walk past are uneffected if you get past them 
(FALSE)

5) Evasive armies can't overrun (FALSE)

Why all the questions???  Here's why.

SETUP:

2227    2400 S Gondor troops moved e e e NORMAL
2327    1500 N Gondor troops moved e e   NORMAL
         100 N Gondor troops
2427     800 S Gondor troops moved w w   NORMAL
2527     975 Dk Lts troops   moved w w w EVASIVE
2628     500 Ice King troops moved nw nw w ??? NORMAL

So what happened???  Here it is!

2227     975 Dk Lts
         800 S Gondor
2327    2400 S Gondor
2427    1500 N Gondor
         500 Ice King
2527         EMPTY

Dk Lts (Gothmog) moved from 2527 to 2427, where he encountered the 
800 S Gondor troops.  He moved past them, leaving them undisturbed.  
He then moved to 2327, where he encountered the 2400 S Gondor 
troops.  These troops detected the Dk Lts army. All remaining 
movement points were expended while the S Gondor army 'searched' for 
the Dk Lts army.  The Dk Lts army then encountered the N Gondor army 
(small) and overran it, killing both commanders with the army. The 
army then continued to move, and stopped at 2227 as ordered.

The 800 S Gondor troops moved from 2427 to 2327, and then from 2327 
to 2227.  If I understand the math, this army was passed by Gothmog 
at 2427, then caught and passed it at 2327!

The 2400 S Gondor troops detected Gothmog at 2327 and stopped to 
search.  Since they found nothing, they sat alone at 2327 at turn 
end.

The 1500 N Gondor troops encountered Gothmog at 2327, but missed 
him.

The Ice King army moved along the road and stopped when it 
encountered the stationary N Gondor army.

The N Gondor army at 2327 was obliterated by Gothmog when it was 
overrun.

All of this was confirmed by Bill Field!  he had to run the turn 
several times to check it all for me.

Implications:

1) A small army with a good commander can walk past almost anything.

2) Small armies can be overrun on fortifications.

3) An evasive army can stop an enemy in its tracks and keep on 
moving.

4) From Bill Field... The test for overrun is done on the basis of 
the number of troops ONLY.  The strength of the troops is not used 
at all.

Comments welcome!  And by the way, the next turn Gothmog attempted 
to capture pop center and died during the assault!

Later gang


   Food and Army Movement
      By Jeremy Richman

It is often possible for armies to move their full movement 
allotment even with insuffient food.  What it takes is a second army 
(of the same nation) in the hex.  The main force commander (or a 
subcommander) transfers to the secondary army, using order 355, all 
but 100 of his troops, preferably choosing to retain non-cavalry.  
At least 101 food units are brought into the main force, either by 
pickup (order 340 I believe), purchase, transfer from the secondary 
army (order 345 by its commander or subcommander), or is already 
present.  Food is consumed approximately after order 355, so the 
(now-shrunken) main army "eats" and can move full movement for the 
turn.  Then the commander of the (now-swelled) secondary force 
transfers command (780) to the main-army commander.  Even though the 
bulk of the troops didn't eat, the original main army has in fact 
technically been fed, so it still gets full movement.  Notice that 
the secondary army no longer exists.  BTW, since all this happens 
before army movement and encounters, there is no danger from having 
only 100 troops in the big army -- they can't be overrun nor 
encountered by an NPC prior to the order 780 to transfer troops back 
to them.  HOWEVER!  An agent nailing the either army commander prior 
to order 780 could definitely put a spanner in the works, so you 
have to be careful how you use it.

Of course, in return for full army movement you may be sacrificing 
character training, since you are using orders to transfer command, 
troops and food that might be used for rank-improvement.  Admittedly 
the transfer of troop and command are miscellanious command orders, 
but if the character doing them is a multiple-class character s/he 
is still potentially missing out on at least one training order.

If you are willing to miss even more training, and have a spare 
character with command skill, you can move for quite a while on only 
(say) 2000 food and even a huge army.  You have to start with two 
armies, as above.  Say army 1 and 2, with commanders A and B, and 
extra commander C in army 1.

First turn:

1.  Subcommander C (army 1) transfers all but 200 troops to 
Commander B (army 2).

2.  2002 food (say) is brought into army 1, as discussed above. 
Army 1, now with 200 troops and 2002 food, eats 200 of it (assuming 
non-cav), leaving 1802.

3.  Commander A (army 1)  splits 100 troops (order 765) to 
Subcommander C who is now a commander, of army 3, which also gets 
901 of army 1's 1802 food.

4.  Commander B (army 2) transfers command to (and joins) Commander 
A (army 1), dissolving army 2.

Result:  Commander A, with new subcommander B, commands army 1 with 
all but 100 of the troops;  Army 1 was fed at the key time and can 
move fully.  The remaining 100 troops are in a separate army under 
Commander C; this army was split from a fed army (and has at least 
1 food unit) and so can move fully as well.

All subsequent turns, until the food runs out:

0.  To help you to follow this example, I've given #food remaining, 
assuming this is for turn 2, directly following the steps above.  
Just remember on each following turn there is 200 less food total 
between the various armies.

1.  Commander C, with 100 troops and 901 food, transfers all 901 
food to Commander A, giving A's army 1802.

2.   Subcommander B transfers all but 200 troops to Commander C, 
swelling C's 100 man army.

3.  Commander A's now 200-man army eats 200 of the remaining food 
(bringing it to 1602).

4.  Commander A splits off 100 men (half his present army) to 
subcommander B, tranferring half the remaining food (801).

5.  Commander C, still in charge of a now-swolen army, transfers 
command to (and joins) Commander A, restoring A's original huge 
size.

Result: Commander A, with new subcommander B, (still) commands army 
1 with all but 100 of the troops, and has full movement.  Commander 
C has an army of 100 troops which also has full movement.  Next turn 
repeat, but with Characters B and C having exchanged positions, as 
they will with each following turn.

In this example the commander who ends up in charge of the small 
100-man army that was split off is vulnerable to overruns (even if 
it moves with the main army, since army encounters with other moving 
armies are in random order).


         Strategy & Tactics: The Dragon Lord
       By Brian Mason

From the author:

After my last strategy & tactics submission to "The Mouth" 
(Cardolan, Mouth #5), I was a bit mistified as to which nation to 
discuss. I am probably most familiar with the other nations I am 
currently playing (Rhudaur in game 97 & Northern Gondor in game 
131), however, as those games are still active, I don't really want 
to discuss any of the more unusual actions I took as those nations 
at this time (too many of my adversaries in those games read "The 
Mouth").

I have developed other strategies similar to my efforts for other 
nations, but rather than fall send out something developed in this 
manner, I thought it might be more interesting, from a discussion 
standpoint, to throw out a clay pigeon. I've never played a Dark 
Servant, or a character strong nation, so most of my observations 
herein will be either simplistic or just plain bad ideas.

The choice of the Dragon Lord as something needing a good strategy 
was suggested by Jerry Clark and was written during a snowstorm at 
Mt. Wilson Observatory in the 100-inch dome, waiting for the weather 
to clear so I can do some work.

The Big Problem

Expected revenue and production:

The following are the expected revenue from the population centers 
given at the start of the game at a 70 % tax rate and the expected 
gold production. Also, is the expected total production of 
commodities as well as expected stores. These are computed from 
"Population Center Development," Table 1 (Brian Mason, "The Mouth," 
no. 2). Rather than take the expected values for mild, I have taken 
them to be cold in mountain and far north population centers and 
mild elsewhere.  
        le   br   st   mi   fo   ti   mo  go   tax

total   143  247  113  010  921  203  036 3421 21000

There is no substantial production of any quantity to equip troops 
on a regular basis with good weapons or armor (i.e. bronze & steel), 
or to equip mounts (i.e. leather & mounts). Also, there is not 
sufficient timber production to make a substantial number of war 
machines or to improve existing fortifications (with the exception 
of Lag-auris, which is probably not worth fortifying because it is 
SO vulnerable). It might be possible in the long term to improve 
fortifications at some locations (e.g. Goblin Gate, if still held, 
to more securely hold the pass across the Misty Mountains, or Lug 
Ghurzun to make it more secure). The most effective use of 
production would be to sell them for additional revenue.

Expected costs:

        Fortifications:      5000
        Armies:             12900
        Characters:         12200
                            -----
        Total:              30100

Expected Revenue less expected costs:  - 5679

So, even with a significant tax increase, the Dragon Lord is in 
significant financial difficulties. Also, one of his revenue
generating locations is very vulnerable: Nahald Kudan.

A Radical Idea

A way to deal with the issue is the following strategy. It is (at 
least to me) a radical strategy.

It has been stated (A Response to Wes from Tom Walton, "The Mouth," 
No. 4) that against a united front of the Sinda, Dwarves, and 
Woodmen that Dol Guldur and Goblin Gate cannot be held without 
substantial intervention from Mordor. Taking this as a given, what 
is the best course of action as you cannot count on the 
aforementioned intervention?

If we take as a given that the Dragon Lord power base in Mirkwood 
cannot be held, what remains is to re-establish himself somewhere 
else. I recommend that Khamul name four emissaries and that these do 
nothing but work on establishing the backup nation (and what will 
eventually be the Dragon Lord's main holdings).

There is nothing on the Dragon Lord map which is not seen on maps of 
the Northmen, Sinda, and Woodmen. Building a backup nation anywhere 
on the Dragon Lord map is inadvisable. However, the area in and 
around Lug Ghurzun is a good location. Examine the following:

In the first series of six hexes (3821-3921, 3722, 3922, 3823-3923) 
surrounding Lug Ghurzun we have four mountain and two hills & rough 
hexes. Developing those six hexes to towns would cost 72,000 gold, 
although in most realistic cases this would take at least six turns 
(turns one & two: create three camps each turn, turns three & four: 
improve three camps to villages each turn, turns five & six: improve 
three villages to towns each turn). As seen below, four emissaries 
are committed to this undertaking. All of this assumes that the 
creations and improvements occur all the time with no failure. This 
is probably not realistic, but will serve as a starting point for 
the analysis. The orders below assume having three emissaries to 
execute them, even though there are four. This is an attempt to 
compensate for emissary failure. The following cost analysis 
considers the six population centers to be developed as a separate 
cost. Expenses are given and net costs are given considering 
development and revenue from these six hexes only. Consider the 
following:

Turn one: Create two camps in mountain hexes, one in hills & rough. 
Cost: 6000 gold. These are anticipated to produce 2491 gold per turn 
total. Net cost: 6000 gold.

Turn two: Same as turn one. Net cost 6000 gold from turn one + 6000 
gold - 2491 gold from turn one camps is 9509.

Turn three:	   Improve three camps to villages. Cost: 12000 gold.  
These, at 70 % tax rates will produce 5250 gold per turn. Net cost 
9509 from turn two + 12000 gold for village improvement - 4982 gold 
production is 16527.

Turn four:	   Same as turn three. Net cost is 16527 gold from turn 
three + 12000 gold for village improvement - 5250 from turn three 
village taxes - 4982 gold production is 18295.

Turn five:	   Improve three villages to towns. Cost 18000 gold. 
These, at 70 % tax rates will produce 10500 gold per turn. Net cost 
is 18295 from turn four + 18000 gold for village improvements - 
10500 from turn four village taxes - 4982 gold production is 20813.

Turn six: Same as turn five. Net cost is 20813 from turn five + 
18000 gold for village improvements - 15750 from turn five village 
and town taxes - 4982 gold production is 18081.

At current revenue rates, this total cost for all six turns of 18081 
is minimal. On turn seven this is payed back, with 7901 gold to 
spare. These costs do not include the associated character costs, 
the 20000 gold to get the four emissaries, the 2400 gold per turn 
minimum maintenance fee for the emissaries, etc. Substantial selling 
of resources along with possible grants from other Dark Servants may 
be necessary.

However, an additional side benefit will be the emissaries 
themselves. There are a total of eighteen emissary orders, each 
allowing for increases of 1-10 points. Dividing these eighteen 
emissary orders among the four emissaries (five for the first two 
emissaries to arrive, four for the others) and basing improvement to 
the emissaries upon "More Character and Skill Improvement" (Tom 
Walton, "The Mouth," No. 3) the projected emissary ranks are: 49, 
49, 54, and 54. This will make a very effective company (coupled 
with a commander) to move into a begin influencing enemy population 
centers.

General Strategy

So, while these new emissaries are developing a new base of 
operations what should the Dragon Lord forces do? If Mirkwood cannot 
be held, then go into a scorched earth plan of attack. The place for 
greatest gain is in Lorien against the Sinda.

Turn one: All three of the good mages (with the exception of Khamul) 
should learn reveal population center and prentice magery. The army 
at Goblin Gate should add 400 hi and move towards Lorien.  The two 
armies at Dol Guldur should combine after adding 400 hi and move 
towards Lorien. Khamul changes the tax rate and names an emissary. 
Lhacglin improves GrdLoc and PrenMgy). Increase in costs:  3200 gold 
per turn (hi), 600 gold per turn (new character), plus 5000 gold 
character startup costs and costs associated with improving 
characters.

Turn two: All three of the good mages above learn reveal population 
center (if unsuccessful on turn one) or prentice magery and then 
move and join one of the two armies. The army from Goblin Gate moves 
onto Cerin Amroth while the army from Dol Guldur moves onto Caras 
Galadon. Khamul moves and joins an army as Lhacglin improves again.
Emissary # 1 names emissary # 2. Increase in costs: 600 gold per 
turn (new character), plus 5000 gold character startup costs and 
costs associated with improving characters.

Turn three:	   The two armies attack whatever armies they have 
facing them. The mages cast combat spells and reveal the population 
centers.  Lhacglin improves again. Emissaries # 1 & # 2 name 
emissaries # 3 & # 4, then begin moving south. Increase in costs:  
1200 gold per turn (new characters), plus 10000 gold character 
startup costs and costs associated with improving characters less 
costs due to army losses.

Turn four:	   Caras Galadon and Cerin Amroth destroyed. Armies move 
back towards Dol Guldur and Goblin Gate to hold them as long as 
possible.  The mages move to population centers to learn teleport 
and locate artifact true. Lhacglin improves once more. Emissaries #1 
& # 2 reach the backup nation area, emissaries # 3 & # 4 reach 
halfway. Increase in costs: costs associated with improving 
characters less costs due to army losses.

Turn five:	   Armies back at Dol Guldur and Goblin Gate. Mages 
continue researching spells or begin casting them. Emissaries # 1 & 
#2 begin build-up. Emissaries # 3 & # 4 reach backup nation region.

All of these moves are "idealized." That is, the moves take place 
with no armies or other obstacles getting in the way.  This is 
probably not realistic, but it serves as a beginning. What the 
Dragon Lord most needs is gold.  Lhacglin might need to move to the 
capital to execute a sell order every turn to fund continuing 
expenses as well as the population center buildup in the south.

A Final Word

There is a rumor, thus far unconfirmed, that the Dragon Lord can 
recruit any dragon recruitable by Dark Servants by simply stating 
your name. If this is so, it makes for a significant play balancer.


A Reply to Brian Mason
from Tom Walton

I've played the Dragon Lord now for 8 turns, the Dwarves for 26.  
Based on my experience, I'd modify Brian's model with the following 
assumptions:

(1) Given competent play among the Dwarves, Sinda, and Woodmen, the 
towns of Gundabad (Witch-King), Dol Guldur, Goblin-Gate, and Sarn 
Goriwing can all be taken by the end of turn 6.  This happens 
regardless of how skilled the Dragon Lord is, or how fast he 
recruits; he simply can't match the starting armies of these foes, 
or recruit fast enough to repel an attack.  Without substantial 
outside intervention, a solid FP group will drive him into the 
ground early.  Remember, I'm assuming a COMPETENT foe, which might 
not be the case in your game.
So, I'd say assume that Nahald Khudan will be captured on turn 2, 
Goblin-Gate on turn 3, Dol Guldur and Sarn Goriwing on turn 6.  
Apply the appropriate economic losses accordingly.  If it doesn't 
turn out this way, all the better for you.  I won't even comment on  
Lug Ghurzun, a juicy target for the Northmen and Eothraim.

(2) Raising taxes to 70% is a nice idea, but only Duran is capable 
of doing this with any sort of success.  And unfortunately, Duran 
sometimes starts at Goblin-Gate.  If he does, you probably won't be 
able to jack taxes beyond 60-65%.

(3) Building camps is a great idea for the Dragon Lord; he's going 
to need them right quick.  But I wouldn't put them in the mountains 
of Mordor.

Why?  For the simple reason that his loyalty's gonna go to hell in 
a handbasket from all the captures.  Instead, I'd put them in the 
Grey Mountains; you won't get very much production, but dragons are 
a constant presence at pop centers located here, and each dragon 
will raise a DS pop center 1-10 points in loyalty per turn.  In 
other words, the dragons act as built-in emissaries that you don't 
have to pay for, and are much more skilled than your own characters.  
As a bonus, you can track recruitable dragons in this manner, and 
the camp loyalty will increase so fast that even mediocre emissaries 
will be able to raise these sites to villages and towns within just 
a few turns.

A final benefit:  these camps are difficult for the FP to reach; 
they're off-map of ALL players; and they're next door to two Dwarven 
towns, where the same dragons are LOWERING the loyalty 1-10 points.  
When those emissaries hit a skill score of 50+, they can drop in on 
these towns and steal them in a couple of turns; not a darn thing 
the Dwarf can do about that unless he wants to station armies over 
them.

(3) When going after the Sinda, make sure you plot your movement to 
avoid the Woodmen and Dwarves marching for Goblin-Gate.  Otherwise, 
you'll smack head-on and lose your forces.  Same thing when marching 
from Dol Guldur in case the Woodmen move to block.

(4) As an alternate plan, avoid enemy armies and destroy all the pop 
centers you can reach.  I did this as the Dragon Lord in my own 
game; so far, I've lost my village and Goblin-Gate in trade for two 
camps, three villages, and two towns among nearby enemy nations.  I 
also have an army over the Dwarven town of Norr-dum threatening away 
with no FP relief in sight.  The 'scorched earth' policy freaked the 
enemy out, forcing him to commit approximately 10,000 troops to 
attacking/hunting me down ever since the game started.  This sort of 
thing works well in a team game (to help the team), or as a gesture 
of resistance, but it also makes your nation a very unwelcome center 
of attention among the Free - so consider it carefully.

(5) One option you might want to try.  Since the Dragon Lord usually 
gets thrashed pretty good, have the Witch-King march out right away
from Gundabad to take Buhr Fram and engage the Woodmen army.  Then 
have the Witch-King transfer both Gundabad and Buhr Fram to the 
Dragon Lord.

What does this do?  It keeps the Dragon Lord in Mirkwood a bit 
longer; it allows him to recruit at Gundabad, which is generally 
hard on the Witch-King (who needs his commanders and troops on the 
western front); it allows another avenue of approach against the 
Woodmen; and if the Dwarves in the Iron Hills don't march west, it 
provides a good back-up capitol in the event that Dol Guldur falls 
(you don't have to relocate to another region).

The loss of the 7,500 gold in taxes won't affect the Witch-King 
much, since supporting the army and characters based here usually 
costs more than is produced by the town anyway.  However, 
transferring this plus Buhr Fram (2,500 gold or 5,000, depending on 
whether the WK threatened or captured it) will add a great deal of 
punch to the Dragon Lord, whose economy starts with a tax base of 
30,000 but drops to 20,000 almost immediately (loss of Goblin-Gate 
and Nahald Khudan).


          Strategy & Tactics: The Eothraim
       By Brian Mason

Taylor Scott, a good friend of mine, said that when you drive a 
volkswagen van you have to understand that anything that wants to 
pass you, will and there is not a thing you can do about it.

Likewise, if you are playing the Eothraim you have to understand, 
that in the face of competent opposition, without tremendous help 
from your allies, you will lose and there is not a thing you can do 
about it.

The Eothraim start the game with an army which is second-to-none. 
How, then, can such a blanket statement be made?

You have three major problems. One, the armies you face on the 
north-end of Mordor (Dog Lord, Long Rider, Dark Lieutenants) are 
combined better than yours, two, you cannot afford the armies you 
have, much less the armies you need, and, three, you don't have the 
agents necessary to protect yourself from agent actions.

So, what should you do?

First, encourage military support from the Northmen and Dwarves. I 
have seen in recent games, Dwarf players consolidate their three 
eastern armies first in the Iron Hills before moving them into 
action. That is not very helpful. Both the Northmen and the Dwarves 
should move South to engage some of these three adversaries.

Second, encourage economic support from your wealthier allies. Lets 
face it, to get to the Northmen you've got to go through the 
Eothraim, and if the Eothraim are knocked out then Northern Gondor
gets more attention from the Dog Lord and Dark Lieutenants. These 
two nations, at the least, should be willing to "fork over the 
dough" so that the Eothraim can keep going.

Third, hack and slay, slash and burn, and scorch the earth. You 
might not be in the game long, so don't capture a population center 
that can be taken back. Burn, baby, burn.

As long as you're asking for the moon and the stars, ask the Noldo 
to use the Mantle of Doriath to hide your capital. If they do, your 
position improves significantly. If they say no, well, you're no 
worse off.

The Eothraim should have sufficient production to add cavalry as 
they are needed. Uirdiks should learn conjure mounts if only to get 
more mounts to sell. Well timed sells of leather, food, or mounts 
should be able to help the Eothraim economy as well as keep supplies 
at the location for recruiting as it is needed.

Total economic position = 26250 taxes (@ 70 %) + 168 gold (projected 
production) - 3250 pop centers - 27000 armies - 6200 characters = 
10032 per turn deficit! 

Group the five at start Eothraim armies into three combat groups: 
two strong, one weak. The two strong will go into combat immediately 
while the one weak one begins adding more heavy cavalry.

Consider the following: mounts and leather are transported to a 
major town in sufficient numbers to allow recruiting of at least 800 
heavy cavalry. The recruiting army goes there, recruits for a couple 
of turns and then moves off. When one of the "at the front" armies 
is exhausted, it moves back to begin recruiting while being replaced 
by the new army. Thus, at least two armies are kept in combat at all 
times. Along this line, it is worth pointing out that Buhr Marling 
(3612) does not appear on any Dark Servant regional map.

There are two problems with this strategy. One, the Eothraim cannot 
afford the troops they start with and two, a character at their 
capital to do the necessary nation transport orders is vulnerable. 
The only viable alternative is to lose a good portion of the army 
(not wise, as it makes you vulnerable) or capture population centers 
(difficult, and possibly not a good idea). If the armies are 
decreased in size in combat it can do two possible things: one, if 
attacking an enemy army, it improves the Eothraim chances for 
survival, and two, if capturing an enemy population center, it 
improves the Eothraim economic situation. However, given the ebb and 
flow nature of actions in Rhovanion, a scorched earth policy is a 
good idea.

What follows are suggested points for the Eothraim to concentrate 
attacks, as well as staging areas for first turn moves.

The primary objective of all Eothraim forces should be to engage 
armies of the Dog Lord, Long Rider, and Dark Lieutenants. If they
can, the following might be possible objectives.

Attack group one: The armies starting at 3715 and 3612 move to 4219. 
On the following turn they will combine. Their objective is to 
engage forces of the Long Rider, or if not, to force march to 3922 
on turn two and then to 3822 on turn three, then destroy the Dragon 
Lord major town of Lag-auris at that location. The Dragon Lord is 
the most vulnerable of the Dark Servants at game start (his armies 
are weaker than those of the Witch-King, and he does not have the 
potential for neutral allies). Taking out his only secure population 
center will make it much easier to get him out of the game.

Attack group two: The armies starting at 2819 and 3112 move to 3120. 
Their objective is to engage forces of the Dog Lord and Dark 
Lieutenants. One the following turn they will engage enemy forces 
present in the hex and/or destroy the Dark Lieutenant town of 
Thuringwathost.

Reserve group: The army at 3217 will move to 3612, there to begin 
recruiting to make up for anticipated losses, and to prepare this 
army to replace attack group one or two on the field.


      Strategy & Tactics: The Blind Sorcerer
      By Brian Mason

This is an interesting position to play. Unlike many of your Dark 
Servant allies, you are relatively safe from early Free People 
attack. This allows you the luxury of developing the position more 
carefully. There are many possible options for this position. This 
presents just one of them.

Because Free Peoples must either come through Mordor, through the 
Cloud Lord or around the east side of Mordor and the Sea of Rhun to 
get to you, you have the opportunity to send all of your troops out 
to engage the enemy. The question that remains is where?

Consider the time to reach the following three objectives, using a 
variety of movement techniques: one, towards Osgiliath (through 
Mordor) with 1 navy movement and 3 regular marches, two, towards 
Pelargir (through mountains to south) with 6 regular marches, or 
three, towards Dilgul {4217} (around east side of Mordor) with 1 
navy movement and 3 regular marches.

So, by turn four or six depending on your objective you could have 
your army engaged. 

Consider economics, 12250 (taxes at 70 %) + 4072 (expected gold 
production) - 12150 (army costs) -  2250 (pop center costs) - 7800 
(character costs) = - 5878 gold 

Like the Dragon Lord plan, I would recommend developing the nation 
with emissaries first. Use the at start gold surplus and that from 
sales to create emissaries and population centers in gold producing
hexes (i.e. mountains and hills/rough). Then improve those 
population centers so that they generate revenue.

A strategy which I saw employed in game 97, and I would advocate 
when possible involves trading a major town with the Witch-King. It 
gives the Witch-King a backup capital in a more secure location and 
a nearby ally (both of which he desperately needs), and gives the 
Blind Sorcerer a way to get in the "thick" of things without a four 
turn march.

You have the ability to name 40 mages, but who cares about that? You 
start the game with seven characters who have a mage rank of 30 or 
better. How do you use them?

Always have them prentice magery. This is the only way to get them 
to the levels necessary to learn hard spells, which they are, for 
the most part, too low to learn at game start.

Have them within range of your army. Just before you anticipate 
moving into a hex with combat, move a bunch of your mages there. The 
extra offensive or defensive punch they can provide can turn the 
tide in a close battle.


         Winners and Losers in Middle-Earth
        by Tom Walton

(Note:  this article originally appeared in the February issue of 
"Whispers" and is reprinted here for the perusal of those of you who 
don't subscribe to that magazine.)

Having played in Middle-Earth for over a year now, I've become 
interested in finding out just how balanced the game really is. 
Which allegiance is most likely to win? Which nations are the most 
powerful, and which are particularly weak? Do the Neutrals wield too 
much influence, as some players claim? And was the change in agent 
orders really necessary to correct an imbalance?

Prior to this time, there was insufficient data to provide an 
informed answer to any of these questions.  Opinions given by 
various players were based upon guesswork, hearsay, and complaint, 
often with little or no evidence to support anything the player 
said.  Indeed, most players had no experience beyond the few games 
they happened to be playing in, meaning that they couldn't possibly 
identify any sort of pattern from their limited exposure to Middle 
Earth.

With the December 1993 issue of Whispers, this has changed. Enough 
games have ended to provide a solid basis for establishing some 
general trends and to take a shot at answering these questions.  
Working off the numbers given by GSI for wins and nation placement, 
there's now a minimum amount of data to make this article possible.

The Data

As of December, 31 games have ended, yielding a total of 93 possible 
winning nations (1st through 3rd place).  Of these games, 12 have 
gone to the Free Peoples and 19 to the Dark Servants, a ratio of 39% 
to 61%. Given the assumption that each nation has an equal chance of 
taking one of these positions if all other factors remain equal, 
you'd expect any one nation to have placed about 3.7 times (25 
nations among 93 possible winning slots). 

Since the spread of the data is still relatively small and subject 
to error, this article operates on the premise that any nation which 
has placed 2-5 times is running about average.  A nation which 
places 0 or 1 times is considered a 'loser', while a nation which 
places 6 or more times is a 'winner'. Nations break down as 
indicated below, with the number of placements following in 
parentheses:

Free Peoples

Losers:            Woodmen (0), Eothraim (1), and Cardolan (1)
Winners:           Noldo (7)

Dark Servants

Losers:            Dragon Lord (0)
Winners:           Cloud Lord (9), Long Rider (6)

Neutrals

Losers:            Rhudaur (0)
Winners:           Corsairs (11), Harad (9)

All other nations took a winning slot an 'average' number of times.

The Balance of Power

It seems apparent from an analysis of the economic, military, and 
character strengths of the allegiance nations that the Free Peoples 
have a definite advantage over the Dark Servants. Regionally, 
they're much stronger than their opponents in all aspects except for 
characters, and here a disparity exists only near Mordor. Consider: 
the four Free nations around Mordor (Gondors, Eothraim, Northmen) 
are economically and militarily just as powerful as the eight Dark 
Servants they face. In Mirkwood and Eriador, the Free so badly 
outgun the Dragon Lord and Witch-King that victory in the face of 
competent opposition is laughable for these two positions.

Yet despite the enormous advantages the Free possess, they manage to 
win the game only 39% of the time.  This can't be attributed to 
incompetence or exceptional Dark Servant play; there must be some 
aspect of the game which favors the Dark Servant nations.  This is 
even more apparent when you take into account the fact that a nation 
like the Witch-King scores a winning position just as often as most 
other nations do, despite being surrounded by enemies and isolated
from the rest of Mordor.

What is the mystery factor? A number of players claim that Dark 
Servant agent advantages in combination with their artifacts 
unfairly tip the game away from the Free. As the Cloud Lord has 
scored the second-highest number of wins overall, there may be some 
evidence to back this up.  Yet if this is true, why aren't the 
nations most likely to suffer from agent attacks (again, the 
Gondors, Eothraim, and Northmen) all losers? Perplexing, to say the 
least.

If I were to hazard a guess (and a guess is all it is), I'd say that 
agents are indeed the primary reason for the preponderance of Dark 
Servant wins. GSI, with it's inestimably much better information, 
saw fit to make changes to the agent orders; this seems to indicate 
that they too believe this to be at least one the determining 
factors in the imbalance of victories between the allegiances.

The Losers

The losers among the nations of Middle-Earth include the Woodmen, 
Eothraim, Cardolan, Dragon Lord, and Rhudaur. Of these nations, the 
Woodmen, Dragon Lord, and Rhudaur have yet to place in the game. 
This suggests that these nations suffer some drawback serious enough 
to preclude an average chance of taking 1st, 2nd or 3rd place.

While the Dragon Lord position lends itself to easy criticism, the 
others do not.  None of the four are by any means helpless in 
comparison to their opposition, nor do they have an identifiable 
weaknesses.  The Woodmen, for example, have no nearby enemies except 
for the Dragon Lord; once this Dark Servant is driven from Mirkwood, 
they can enjoy a peace dreamed of only by neutrals, with plenty of 
room to expand.  They same can be said of Cardolan; this nation is 
often spared the direct and brutal attention of the Witch-King and 
his potential allies, yet has only managed to place a single time. 
Arthedain, on the other hand, is the prime target of Angmar; even 
so, that nation has managed to place four times.

Arguments have been made that the Eothraim are particularly 
susceptible to attack by Mordor.  This is true, but the same can be 
said for the Northmen. Why then are the Eothraim losers and the 
Northmen not?  Why also has Rhudaur alone of the five neutrals never 
managed to take a winning position?

No easy answers suggest themselves. I can only point out which 
nations seem to be particularly disadvantaged; others will have to 
suggest explanations for these results.

The Winners

The winners among the nations of Middle-Earth include the Noldo, 
Cloud Lord, Long Rider, Corsairs, and Haradwaith.  Unlike the 
losers, it's fairly easy to see why these nations often surge to the 
fore.  Protected from direct enemy action by isolation or
neutrality, all of these positions have the time to build upon their 
particular strengths and jump into the fray after many other nations 
have taken a savage beating.

There are some interesting anomalies.  Note that among the 
allegiance players, the two of the three winning nations are almost 
completely character-oriented; only the Long Rider could (with some 
stretch of the imagination) be called a 'military nation'.  In fact, 
the winning nations that truly qualify for this distinction are both 
neutral, and both are located in the same general area.

The question is, do isolation and/or neutrality really count for 
that much? The Easterlings have the exact same advantages as their 
neutral neighbors, as does the Blind Sorcerer with respect to the 
Cloud Lord and Long Rider; yet neither of these nations are winners. 
Again, some other factor or factors must be at work to give these 
nations an edge.

The Neutrals

Having played a neutral nation six times, I've heard more than my 
share of whining over how 'powerful' the neutrals are, and that they 
place in the game far too often.  Let's take a look at these 
complaints.

Since there are five neutrals in the game, you'd expect that they'd 
take about 20% of the winning slots on average.  In truth, the 
neutrals garner closer to 30% of these slots; somewhat higher than 
average, but certainly not high enough to set off any warning bells.  
In fact, considering that neutrals often remain intact in terms of 
their resources during the opening moves of the game, and spend the 
initial turns building up these resources rather than expending them 
against the enemy, you'd reasonably expect them to last longer than 
other nations and so reach winning positions more often. But even 
these numbers lend no credence to the claim that the neutrals are 
'always winning the game'.

The primary complaint concerning neutrals (other than the ludicrous 
insistence that they shouldn't exist at all) is that they affect the 
balance of power between the allegiances far too much.  This is 
rather easy to disprove. In a recent survey of 34 games with 170 
neutral positions, the allegiance chosen by 102 of these neutrals 
was reported as follows (others had yet to change allegiance or had 
dropped the game prior to changing allegiance):

Nation         Reported       Free Peoples      Dark Servants

Corsairs       18              8 (44%)          10 (56%)
Haradwaith     20             10 (50%)          10 (50%)
Dunland        20             15 (75%)           5 (25%)
Rhudaur        23             13 (57%)          10 (43%)
Easterlings    21              9 (43%)          12 (57%)

Total Free Peoples:           55 (54%)
Total Dark Servants:          47 (46%)

Note:  information on 27 of these games was provided by Jeremy 
Richman, a long-time veteran of ME-PBM.

You'll note that all of the neutrals except the Dunlendings tend to 
break out relatively evenly among the allegiances, and that among 
neutrals overall there seems to be a slight tendency to favor the 
Free Peoples. If neutrals had as much sway upon the game as some 
claim, their power should result in a balance of games won that 
stands close to even between the allegiances. Yet we know from the 
data that the Free win only 39% of the time; clearly the neutrals 
aren't affecting this, other than perhaps in letting the Free win 
more often than they would if there were no neutrals in the game at 
all. In other words, any affect the neutrals have on the game is 
usually minor (there are obvious exceptional instances, e.g., when 
all five neutrals go to one allegiance) and doesn't appreciably 
alter the balance of power between the allegiances.

Even more interesting, though, is to compare the number of times a 
neutral took a winning slot when it belonged to one side or another. 
The following table gives this information:

Nation         Wins           Free Peoples       Dark Servants

Corsairs       11*            2 (20%)            8 (80%)
Harad           9             2 (22%)            9 (78%)
Dunland         4             3 (75%)            1 (25%)
Rhudaur         0             -                  -
Easterlings     4             1 (25%)            3 (75%)

* placed second in one game, put failed to declare prior to game 
end.

The information here confirms the breakdown given above. If neutrals 
did have a great deal of influence on the outcome of the game, 
they'd tend to win in numbers equal to their rate of declaration for 
either side. Yet aside from Dunland, most neutrals win the game only 
when fighting for the Dark Servants; they most often lose the game 
when they declare for the Free Peoples!

What does this suggest? The impact that any one neutral has on the 
chances of an allegiance winning the game is much smaller than 
generally believed.  However, for three of the neutrals, joining the 
Dark Servants provides benefits that often allows them to take 
victory; for Dunland, these benefits are provided by the Free 
Peoples.  In other words, declaring for the right allegiance is 
worth much more to the neutral than the neutral is worth to the 
allegiance.

Conclusions

Many questions on the 'whys' of victory and defeat can't be answered 
by an analysis of the data, only offered up for thought.  Few things
can be said with certainty:

     - some nations win out of proportion to the average nation; 
others lose more often than they should.

     - even under the old agent rules, the Dark Servants weren't 
unbeatable.  Far from it, in fact.

     - a competent Free Peoples team won't win the game every time, 
despite their advantages in economic power and the regional 
disparities versus the Witch-King and Dragon Lord.

     - nations that one might expect to be losers (e.g., Northern 
Gondor, Northmen, Witch-King) were not, suggesting their strengths 
are fairly well proportioned for the opposition they face.

     - neutrals aren't winning the game vastly out of proportion to 
their numbers.

     - the affect that neutrals have upon the balance of power among 
the allegiances is much smaller than previously thought, and tends 
to even out both across games and in individual games.

This article can only tell you what's happening with respect to the 
questions initially proposed, not the reasons behind the results.  
I leave interpretation of the 'whys' up to my fellow gamers, and 
invite criticism and commentary.  However, I'd ask that all 
criticism of the results be based upon the data, not upon 
unsubstantiated personal belief or experience, or upon the anecdotal 
experiences that begin with "well, this happened to me in game such 
and-such once...".


Commentary on the Previous Article
From Keith Peterson

I read Tom Walton's excellent article (editor's note:  Thanks, 
Keith) in the last Whispers with great interest. His article -- and 
his request to have facts on your side and not just offer opinions  
- encouraged me to check a few things out.

However, I'd like to make a few observations. We have no data on the 
roll of drops. In #31, both the Noldor and Northmen could have 
(would have!) placed if they had played another dozen turns or less. 
Both lost interest in a game that dragged out. In the end, the three 
who placed were the only three left (1 FP and 2 DS). I'm not sure 
how stubborness (and the refusal to drop) should fit in, but it does 
determine the outcome of some games.

We also don't know how closely others finished, or whether others 
played selfishly or unselfishlessly. Certainly an unselfish Noldor 
could probably finish high more often.

Thirdly, while it is true that the neutrals as a WHOLE are not
abnormally high, it jumped out at me that two of them (the Corsairs 
and Harad) accounted for 20 of the 93 winning positions in Tom's 
statistics. That's 21.5% by just TWO NATIONS! And that is very 
statisticly abnormal.

(Editor's Note:  damn tootin' it's abnormal.  GSI needs to make some 
SERIOUS adjustments to these nations.  But also note:  these very 
same nations usually LOSE if they go FP).

Now then, to the meat of the discussion. IMHO, Middle Earth is not 
a military game, or an economic game as much as it is character 
driven. Therefore, the nations that have the best characters should 
win. This, and the matter of isolation and protection seem to be the 
biggest indicators of how well a nations should do. The isolation of 
the LR, Corsairs, Harad and Noldor serves them all well in this 
regard. The fact that Rhudaur has the worst characters of the 
neutrals PLUS is the center of the WK-FP conflict goes hand-in-hand 
with the fact it has yet to place in any game.

Notice the following chart:

        base    + skill + cbt
        skills  artif   artif

NOLDOR  860     980     1045
WITCHK  630     750     800
DRAGL   610     720     785
DK LTS  610     690     735
DOGL    490     580     610
SINDA   540     570     585
CORS    530
NG      470     520     530
LR      360     440     450
QA      420     420     445
SG      400     425
BS      390     405     415
DWARF   340     395
IK      340     390     400
FK      370     370     390
DUNL    370     370     385
ARTH    330     380
CL      330     355     370
EAST    330     330     345
EO      310     310     330
WO      320
RHU     280     310
NORTH   300
CARD    290
HARAD   290

Notice how poorly the EO, WO, Rhu and Card all rank. Harad's 
financial resources allow it to quickly fix its shortcomings (it 
could name four 30-pt characters on turn 1 and put itself in the 
middle of the pack). Add to the woes of the EO, WO, Rhu and Card
that they are all in the midst of intense military conflict 
immediately.

But how to explain the problems of the BS and the DragL? The DragL 
has the 3rd best characters in the game, yet has never placed. In 
part, we can blame this on its precarious position. However, the WK 
has almost as bad a position. The difference? The WK has emissaries 
and commanders; the Dragon Lord has mostly mages -- and mages are 
probably the weakest of the four character classes, especially at 
the beginning of the game. If the DragL mages should survive, for 
example, to all learn curses, they could be truly fearsome. But that 
takes longer than the DragL usually has.

The BS seems to be the other anomaly. But suppose we consider its 
mage skill largely useless in building its position up, as being 
mostly supportive? Consider this new chart, made by subtracting mage 
ranks from all nations' skills above:

NOLDOR         675
WK             670
NG             530
DK LTS         475
CORS           460
DRAGL          425
DOGL           410
DWARF          395
SINDA          365
LR             350
ARTH           350
QA             325
CL             320
EO             300
SG             295
WO             290
DUNL           275
RHU            270
FK             260
CARD           260
EAST           235
NO             230
HARAD          210
IK             200
BS              90

We see here that both the Dragl and the BS have fallen considerably. 
The BS is in deep trouble with such poor characters in all the non 
mage positions, and a terrible deficit.

We also notice the agent powers (IK, Dunl, CL, and to some degree 
the LR) can help their nations overcome some of their other 
shortcomings.

Middle Earth is not a simple game. No single explanation (including 
this one) can explain everything. Obviously, some positions have
some problems. The real question is what those problems are AND how 
to solve them without unbalancing the game. You can't make large or 
significant changes to the EO positions without possibly endangering 
Mordor at the same time, not to mention making it more difficult for 
the DragL, who already has problems.


        Place Names
       by Brian Mason

Many of the geographical features on the Middle-earth Play-By-Mail 
map are well known. However, some of them are less familiar. This is 
not an analysis, per se, simply a listing of geographical features 
by their proper name and identifying them by hex location on the 
map. This may add spice to the game, or it might give you some ideas 
for naming population centers. After all, it's a good bit more 
colorful to arrange a rendezvous for the passing off of an artifact 
by saying "I'll meet you in the southernmost Eyrn Vorn" rather than 
saying "I'll meet you at 0916."

Rivers are identified by pairs of hexes marking both ends of a 
river. Thos appearing in the map but which are not identified herein 
are not known. All names are given from primary sources (i.e. books 
by J.R.R. Tolkien) and not from any of the names given from the 
Middle-earth Role Playing materials published by I.C.E. 

0808-0909 to 0806-0905   Lhun
1013-1014 to 1108-1207   Branduin       or Brandywine
1219-1319 to 1713-1714   Gwathlo        or Greyflood
1713-1813 to 2107-2108   Mitheithel     or Hoarwell
1910-2011 to 2208-2209   Bruinen        or Loudwater
1714-1813 to 2213-2112   Glanduin       or Swanfleet
1321-1322 to 2119-2219   Angren         or Isen
1821-1722 to 1921-1822   Adorn
1625-1726 to 1923-2023   Lefnui
2225-2325 to 2123-2223   Morthond
2224-2325 to 2424-2524   Ringlo
2324-2424                Ciril
2527-2627 to 2524-2624   Gilrain
2626-2627 to 2626-2726   Serni
2728-2829 to 2406-2505   Anduin
2928-2929 to 3129-3130   Poros
2828-2927 to 2725-2825   Sirith
2926-2925 to 2825-2824   Erui
2722-2620 to 2118-2218   Onedlo         or Entwash

2521-2420 to 2321-2421   Snowbourn
2516-2617 to 2216-2315   Limlight
2515-2514 to 2313-2312   Celebrant
2415-2314 to 2315-2314   Nimrodel
2511-2510 to 2411-2410   Sir Ninglor    or Gladden
2406-2405                Langwell
2405-2505                Greylin
2833-2734 to 3432-3533   Harnen
4013-4012 to 3107-3108   Celduin        or River Running
3711-3712 to 3608-3708   Carnen         or Redwater
3008-3109 to 2505-2605   Forest River
2708-2808                Enchanted River

Bridges are identifed by two adjoining hexes. Sofe of these
locations are identified as fords rather than bridges, as
during the 1400+ years that pass from the time period of
me-pbm to the epoch of these maps, some deterioration has
doubtless taken place.

1211-1212      Sarn Ford
1209-1309      Bridge of Stonebows      or Brandywine Bridge
1909-2009      Last Bridge
2109-2209      Ford of Bruinen          or Ford of Rivendell
2020-2120      Fords of Isen
3129-3130      Crossings of Poros
2510-2610      Old Ford

Mountains are large ranges with beginning and ending hexes
being identified.

0703-0608      Ered Luin           or Blue Mountains
0811-0813      Ered Luin           or Blue Mountains
1804-2104      Mountains of Angmar
2304-3102      Ered Mithrin        or Grey Mountains
2006-2207      Ettenmoors
2205-2219      Hithaeglir          or Misty Mountains
1321-2824      Ered Nimrais        or White Mountains
3107           Erebor              or The Lonely Mountain
2809           The Mountains of Mirkwood

3221-4221      Ered Lithui         or Ash Mountains
3122-4226      Ephel Duath         or Mountains of Shadow

Hills and Rough

1005-1108      Emyn Uial           or Hills of Evendim
0711-0912      Tower Hills, Far Downs and White Downs
1506-1609      Weather Hills
1609           Amon Sulor Weathertop
1311-1510      Barrow Downs and South Downs
1406-1508      North Downs
1324           Druwaith Iaur
1227           Andrast or Ras Morthil
1725-2124      Pinnath Gelin
2620-2919      Emyn Muil


Islands are rare. There are only three "true" islands. While 2721 
appears to be an inland island, it actually represents the delta of 
the Onedlo at its confluence with Anduin. It should be a marsh hex 
rather than plains.  

0203           Himring or Himling
2430           Tolfalas

Forests are common, but many are unnamed.

1014-0916      Eryn Vorn
1409-1310      Old Forest
1908-2109      Trollshaws
2506-3115      Taur e-Ndaedelos    or   Mirkwood
2218-2418      Fangorn             or   Entwood
                                  (or Ambarona, Tauremorna, Aldalome,
                                   or Tauremornalome)
2622           Firienwood
2823           Druadan Forest

Swamps, Fens, Bogs (altough I believe the corrent P.C. term is 
Wetlands)

1509           Midgewater
1714           Nin-in-Eilph
2820-2822      Nindalf or Wetwang
2920           Dead Marshes

Lakes and Inland Seas

1107           Nenuial or Lake Evendim
4113-4317      Sea of Rhun
3926-3728      Sea of Nurnen

There are also various descriptors which pop up in many population 
center names, for example:

     Minas     =    Tower          (e.g. Minas Anor)
     Sarn      =    Small Stone    (e.g. Sarn Lothduin)
     Cerin     =    Mound          (e.g. Cerin Amroth)
     Erain     =    King           (e.g. Fornost Erain)
     Bar       =    Dwelling       (e.g. Bar-en-Tinnen)
     Tir       =    Watch Over     (e.g. Tir Anduin)
     Cirith    =    Cleft or Pass  (e.g. Cirith Dunrandir)
     Nan       =    Valley         (e.g. Nan Requian)
     Ceber     =    Stake          (e.g. Ceber Fanuin)
     Ost       =    Fortress       (e.g. Celeb-Ost)
     Dol       =    Hill           (e.g. Dol Guldur)
     Barad     =    Tower          (e.g. Barad-Dur)
     Tol       =    Island         (e.g. Tol Buruth)
     Eithel    =    Well           (e.g. Eithel Thurin)
     Annon     =    Gate           (e.g. Annon Baran)