By David East.
Game 54, which was a standard 1650 Gunboat scenario, two nations per player, ended in a win for the FP. The DS conceded on turn 47, thereby ensuring that I still haven’t played in a game that reached the 50 turns limit.
I can’t remember what characters I started with the Eothraim, since most of them died early on. However, with SG I wanted some options for later play other than military. Accordingly, I started an emissary and of course an agent to use the artefact, which was +30. Luckily the emissary started as E40, so I named another as well, and a C10E20, a trend I continued throughout the game.
With the Eothraim I went straight for the IK capital. I’m pretty sure that this is also the best tactic in team games (although I’ve played only Gunboat for a few years now), but in Gunboat it strikes me as almost certainly the only way to go, as it’s much harder to co-ordinate a defence. I duly succeeded in knocking out the IK within the first few turns, and SG did fairly well in the Ithil pass too. However, the retaliation from the LR agents was pretty brutal, and by around T10 or T15 the entire Eoplex was overrun, with the Eothraim only surviving with the gift of a MT and town from SG.
Up until around T30 there is then a long stalemate. My early military conquests must have kept the DS economies down, because I never see much more in the way of their agents all game. Perhaps they are all off bothering someone else? However, there are enough to stop me ever turning my military position into another knockout blow, and given the character set up I chose inevitably a couple of the command/emissary characters end up kidnapped all game.
The DS also invest in fortifications. 3426 had a fort early on, which prevented the one cavalry army I got through from taking it – well played FK! At the same time I make the mistake of not removing the fortifications from Morannon, so although I hold it for quite a long time when the DogL emissaries eventually take it back I have no answer until very late in the game.
The Eothraim position, in isolation, was boring for most of the game. However, one of the reasons I like Gunboat is that you can ride this out and play the two (or more) positions as essentially one nation. I invest any spare cash in emissaries, mostly, and a couple of agents, and am completely left alone by the DS. Maybe my team mates kept the pressure on them, but it always seemed odd that having wiped out the Eoplex and therefore knowing that the nation was on its knees they never sent an agent company to the new capital to even try and land the killer blow. Maybe the agent nations didn’t develop a mage or two to try and locate it? If so, that was bad play. Mages are essential in Gunboat, whereas in other forms of the game you can often do without.
As a result by about T30 the Eothraim have developed into a fairly reasonable character nation, with a city at 3910 as well as the gifts from SG and the prospects for active play again. SG is strong, and leads the VP table for most of the game, including at the end. At about this point Clint announced that the Woodmen, Arthedain and Dwarves are being dropped. I volunteered, as must at least two of my team mates, since all three were snapped up. I got the Woodmen, who had just five characters and look certain to be knocked out. Luckily, their one good emissary just managed to take 1407 for a turn before a big WK army arrived, keeping the nation going long enough for me to transfer 2723, a SG city created from scratch, to the Woodmen. Thereafter they do OK, never strong but not needing much subsidy from the other nations.
I don’t think that Arthedain or the Dwarves are in much better shape. Arthedain relocated their capital to 2711 (by force or by choice), and I never found out what happened to the Dwarves, although since the Corsairs hold their far western towns I can’t imagine it’s good. At this stage I presumed we were losing.
Amusingly, throughout the game some bug affects artefact #4, my agent ring. Clint told me that it affected artifacts 1-6, and the effect was that every turn the character holding it might (or might not) drop it in some random location. The position can be restored manually, so it was amusing rather than irritating. By now I have a decent agent company, so the Woodman scout makes it really useful, although the DS have carried on building fortifications in Mordor, and my agents were never good enough to operate at places like 3426, which by now has a keep.
Cardolan and the Quiet Avenger are knocked out about T30-35, but I’m obviously wrong about the overall position, as the Corsairs follow not too long after. 11-9 to the FP! Harad must have a big position as we enter the end game, although I keep getting nation messages, rumours and reports from a doubled FK character that they are active in North Harad, so his position can’t be completely overwhelming. FK seems to be active in Dunland too, which perhaps accounts for North Gondor’s silence: I hardly see anything from him for most of the game, although he managed to give me some ships earlier on.
Towards the end I had another go at the Ithil pass, and with huge Harad armies coming along too it started to look promising. My agent squad succeeded in thinning out a CL assassin company at 3224 that obviously didn’t scout me, but I push too far and go to the DogL capital. Here I found over a dozen characters, and although my prized agent (by the end he’s A97(127) plus 25 stealth from artefact #64 which I got from killing a DS agent) escaped the rest of the company perished. However, due to my investment in emissaries throughout I have by about T35 two strong emissary companies (four or five E60+ each) and by the end of the game a third as well, and this must take a lot out of the DS economies.
Despite the lack of agents, I’m able to co-ordinate a massive military assault. One cavalry army goes through Morannon and on to 3224, taking out the opposition, whilst the real force of 4,000+ HC st/st and 3,000+ HI in three separate armies co-ordinates to arrive at Morannon on T46. At the same time Harad goes into the Ithil pass and I enjoy landing a huge Eothraim navy (sic) at 3024. Rhudaur collapsed a turn or two before; perhaps Harad also put pressure on the CL capital to stop him from supporting his partner nation?
The DS fold here. I’m fairly confident that if they hadn’t I could have got either 3624 or 3426 with my huge fed cavalry armies plus war machines, and presumably the war in the west had turned in our favour too. 11-7 nations down would have been hard for the DS to fight. They had most of the artifacts, I think, and a functioning BS curse squad (which made the Ithil pass impenetrable for w while), and without the agent cover my emissary companies were a little limited; they could chip away at economies but only rarely take major towns.
It was an interesting game. Some team mates kept up the diplomatic messages all through. I wish more would, as it can be really valuable information and a good player (I like to think I am) can respond to fairly limited clues.
I never knew the Woodmen were close to collapse until I took them over, but the Eothraim might have been able to help if they’d told me. Ditto Arthedain and Cardolan although I don’t suppose I could have done much there, but perhaps the Noldo could.
I never found out anything about the Northmen all game that I can remember, or the Dwarves until they folded and someone picked them up.
I never found out why, from my point of view, North Gondor was so quiet. I guess he took all the agent heat, and I did see a couple of smaller armies towards the end of the game. Perhaps he was fighting alongside Dunland, as the FK was active there and I think the WK must have had a good game to knock out Cardolan, with Rhudaur played right up until near the very end. Dunland finished second to SG, which supports my theory that the DS eventually folded as they were beaten in the west.
I never saw any Elves all game, but perhaps that’s not unusual. Maybe their agents did a great job and that’s why I never really got hit, bar the odd assassination or kidnapping of army commanders. It would be interesting to add their stories to this, but as usual Gunboat produced some intriguing choices for almost two years. Why would you play any other way?