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I've been playing Lord of the Rings Risk, in the variant where the Ring moves one territory per turn, requiring a roll of 4 or higher to leave certain territories, and the game ends when the Ring reaches Mt. Doom and is destroyed. At the game's end, victory points are allotted for:

  • Territories owned
  • Complete regions (="continents") controlled
  • Strongholds owned
  • Adventure cards played throughout the game

The problem is that once the Ring reaches Mt. Doom, the next player to go has a strong incentive to abandon strategic position and defensibility and just expand as much as he possibly can in order to maximize his points. If the Ring isn't destroyed, then the next player to go does the same thing. If this happens several times, the endgame has a tendency to become a series of ridiculous expansions and contractions that obliterates whatever strategic shape the board had beforehand.

What house rules have others used to avoid these problems?

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I hold the opposite opinion, I rather like the random element in the end of the game. And there are cards you can play to change the odds of the game ending, allowing you to punish someone who overextends on the last round. If you think about the books/films you have the crazy last-ditch assault which is doomed to failure, except the ring is destroyed just in time. If you stockpile the cards to alter the probability of the fellowship moving on then you can either do the risky last push yourself, or punish others for doing so. –  Nick Sep 12 '12 at 12:36
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3 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I find that when considering house rules, its best to think about why something is happening and attack the cause of the behavior.

The root problem as I see it, is that once the ring is one die roll away from destruction the game has a 50% chance of ending before the current player can lose any newly acquired gains. Conversely, any reserves not spent that turn are increasingly unlikely to be used productively for each additional player in the game.

Consider adding one last "round" of play after the ring would be destroyed at Mt. Doom. Essentially, when the player who "destroyed" the ring finishes his next turn the game ends.

By adding an extra round, you remove the random element of the game ending, allowing everyone to plan ahead and try and defend their territory rationally.

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I considered this, but doesn't that just make the problem worse? Now the last player to go knows absolutely that they won't lose any acquired gains. –  JSBձոգչ Oct 26 '10 at 22:04
    
@JSBangs - yes, but every player before knows that too and can plan accordingly. The problem as is is that its in everyone's best interest to spend all their resources on their turn, defending just doesn't make sense for anyone. –  Kevin Montrose Oct 26 '10 at 22:20
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The variant that we've experimented with is to give no victory points for territories owned, only for adventure cards, regions, and strongholds. Most of the point swing comes from the masses of undefended junk territories that you can acquire on your last turn, while getting entire regions and strongholds requires more effort. Strongholds in particular are hard to take and easy to defend, meaning they're less likely to change hands en masse.

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I haven't played my copy of LotR: Risk enough to have developed house-rules, however, I do have a couple ideas that might help in this area.

You could state that only territories with # armies on them score points at the end of the round. That would force the last player to leave behind armies and would think out the attacking force. Of course the player would likely choose to attack enemy territories until they were below the threshold to take points away from them.

Another idea that I like better because it is somewhat in keeping with the story (stretching a bit perhaps) would be to declare that as the ring reaches Mt. Doom the player turns end as normal then the armies of Mt. Doom make one final push to take over the land. Each territory would be attacked 1 time by 3 attacking armies (3 dice). Only surviving territories would be counted in the player scores. From a story standpoint think "cleansing of the shire". I think this has the advantage of making all players be careful about how thinly they spread their armies. You could adjust the number of Mt. Doom armies that attack (# of dice) or the number of times they attack to make it harder to finish with territories.

Like I said, I haven't played LotR Risk much so maybe this is a horrible idea. I suppose I should pull it out of the closet and playtest my idea.

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