At a Glance
If it is your first game we recommend that you play a Free Peoples nation in a 1650 2 week turnaround game.
In particular, Woodmen, Northmen, Arthedain, Cardolan and Dwarves are good nations for beginners.
And for your second game, why not try the Dark Servants, either Dog Lord, Blind Sorcerer, Quiet Avenger or Fire King?
Choose either the 2950 or 1650 module. 2950 games have a slower build up of power to 1650 ones, which have a very aggressive nature from the start, and players preferring a slower start, then, should pick a 2950 game. This is because nations in 2950 games tend to have a lower economy, and do not begin the game mobilised for war: Economic development, then, is a priority, before conflict can be considered.
I would generally advise players to choose 2 week turnaround games. They are the most active games. (1 week turnaround will not give you much time to plan and chat to team-mates.)
Choose Free People in preference to Dark Servants unless you have a strong preference for Dark Servants. They are easier to play, and are more independent as a general rule. The Dark Servants in Mordor require a lot of diplomacy and organisation to offset the Free Peoples’ military advantage at game start. In addition, the Dark Servant economic deficit (they begin with around 1/3 the income and recruiting base of the Free) is a major hurdle to overcome, and often leads to bankruptcy or under-recruitment. You can get swarmed to by hordes of Free People armies which leads to an unhappy early exit. On the other hand, Dark Servants have a strong agent and character advantage, and are mostly defended by the Mountains of Mordor.
All Neutrals will need to join a side at some time. Their major advantage of playing Neutrals is that are that they are not usually under threat by other aligned nations at game start. However, that said, both Aligned (Free People or Dark Servants) and Neutral nations can sometimes attack other Neutrals – be warned! Most Neutrals have a strong economic base, but all will need to communicate regularly with nearby nations. Whilst the Neutrals might be seen as a tempting option, as a Neutral you are going to be playing alone until you join a side, and so will have little or no assistance. When you are still learning the game, then, it is often better to join a team and learn from your more experienced team-mates..
The following are good introductory nations to the game (the nation number is in brackets):
Dwarves (8), Cardolan (5), Arthedain (4), South Gondor (7), Sindar (9)
Advantages: strongly military force, difficult to knock out, strong economic base. A couple of strong characters.
Disadvantages: spread over map.
Advantages: strong military force, difficult to knock out, decent economic base, and can hire armies at no cost. This nation is an excellent introduction to military recruitment and movement of large armies.
Disadvantages: weak characters.
Advantages: strong military force, decent economic base, can recruit powerful mages. This nation is an excellent introduction to military recruitment, although weaker than Cardolan.
Disadvantages: capital can be under threat by your nearest enemy the Witch King.
Advantages: strong characters, good economic base, lots of magic and agents, start with hidden population centres.
Disadvantages: scattered population centres and armies, with few characters to command the armies. Sindar’s mages are important for the entire team, so the level of diplomacy required can be daunting for new players.
Advantages: excellent economy, strong characters, excellent armies and navies.
Disadvantages: the team relies on your economic and military support, which can be daunting to organise. You must diplome with the southern Neutral nations if you want to have a good game.
Long Rider (19), Blind Sorcerer (15), Fire King (18), Dark Lieutenants (20), Dog Lord (13) Quiet Avenger (17)
Advantages: strong characters, decent economic base, good starting armies and navies, safe capital and good agents. Independent to the battle for Mordor so low levels of communication needed.
Disadvantages: lots to learn. Your agents at game start are very important for the rest of the team, and you will need to diplome over their best use.
Advantages: the best mages in the game. Good starting army.
Disadvantages: minor military impact on the game, very much a support nation. Economy can be dangerous if you keep your army for too long.
Advantages: strong military forces, decent economic base. Can hire armies at no cost. Low complexity of play required. A nice mix of characters. This nation is an excellent introduction to military recruitment and the movement of large armies.
Disadvantages: weak characters. On the forefront of the Gondorian military might, you are always under threat from them, so recruitment is essential. High level of talking with team-mates and organisation needed.
Advantages: one of the strongest Dark Servant nations, it has very good characters and agents, safe population centres in Mordor, and a strong economic base.
Disadvantages: high complexity of play required. Weak militarily, providing supporting role for the team is a necessity, including some sacrifice of initial resources. Defence of Dog Lord, Ice King or Fire King essential.
Advantages: strong military force, decent economic base. Medium to high level of complexity. Good characters with a nice mix of skills. Can summon mounts This nation is an excellent introduction to military recruitment and movement of large cavalry.
Disadvantages Morannon (capital) protects the route into Mordor – the heart-land of the Dark Servants. You will come under attack by the Eothraim, Sindar, Northmen, Dwarves and/or North Gondor at some point in the game! A reasonable level of diplomacy with team-mates and organisation needed.
Advantages: strong potential economy (Emissaries start at 40 rank). Strong character-based nation. Good navies.
Disadvantages: danger that the South Gondor attacks you with their navy. Surrounded by Easterlings, Corsairs and Harad, so lots of diplomacy with these Neutrals is essential.
Dunlendings (23), Easterlings (25), Corsairs (21), Harad (22)
Advantages: good characters, including good starting mages, the ability to name strong agents.
Disadvantages: may be attacked by the military superior Rhudaur.
Advantages: good characters including good starting mages, good military force. Safe location – hard to attack, so allowing for a slow build up of forces.
Disadvantages: often forced to declare for the Dark Servant due to their location. This nation is basically split in half, with half the population centres near the Sea of Rhun and the other in the far south-east, so whichever side you join it’s quite likely you’ll lose the other half of your nation to the other side.
Advantages: good characters, including commanders, and the best navies.
Disadvantages: can be attacked by the long-term militarily superior Harad. Adjacent to the Quiet Avenger, so communication with them and Harad is essential.
Advantages: awesome economic base, navies, can hire armies at no cost.
Disadvantages: poor characters, can be attacked by the short term militarily superior Corsair. Harad is split in half by the sea so a knowledge of navies is important. Communication with the Quiet Avenger, Southern Gondor and the Corsairs is essential.
The following are good introductory nations to the game (the nation number is in brackets):
Free Peoples: Dwarves (8), Dunadan Rangers (4), Woodmen (1), South Gondor (7), Riders of Rohan (3)
Dark Servants: Long Rider (19), Blind Sorcerer (15), Dark Lieutenants (20), Fire King (18), Quiet Avenger (17) or Dog Lord (13)
Neutrals: Corsairs (21), Khand Easterlings (25), Rhun Easterlings (22)
2950 Nation Advice
(Thanks to Mac Pinsonneault for the following advice.)
Here is a stab at a list of suggested nations for new players in 2950. I have three categories: good, mixed, poor; I also discuss the pros and cons of running the “big” positions at the end.
In designing this list, I’ve considered a few factors. The ideal nation has some breathing room; it is no fun to have your nation hammered in the first few turns when you’re figuring out the rules. A good choice also has some flexibility (e.g. you could pick a military or character-based path). Finally, you’d like a position where you are not going to be under tremendous economic pressure; there are a number of nations that run a real risk of bankruptcy, especially in winter.
For all nations, name at least 2 emissaries as soon as you can and place camps. Each nation starts with 5-6 pop centres, and there are 200 slots for new camps. These new spaces fill up within the first 10 turns; you will have a far easier game with 15 pop centres on turn 10 than you will with 5.
Good choices for the Free Peoples
Dunadan Rangers (4)
The Rangers are safe and the local climate is good; try to place camps in the hills/rough and on or below row xx09. Your main tactical goal is to work with the Noldo to take 2006 from the Witch-King. This is a flexible nation – you can play banker to your team and develop in any of the 4 main skill classes.
The dwarves are a secure position that can also play a military role in the east. Use your far western armies only to post camps; they are too far from the servants to use militarily. Your main tactical goal is to work with the Northmen in the east; try to set up a shuttle sending troops from 3707 to 3916. This nation is probably best as a military nation, although you can do a decent job with emissaries or agents.
Good Neutral choices
Corsairs (21), Khand Easterlings (25)
Fairly isolated, reasonably powerful. The Corsairs can reasonably join either alliance and tough enough to withstand an attack from either. In practice the Khand usually join the dark servants. Talk to people for a better game; there is some risk of isolation if you are not strong at communicating.
Good Dark Servant choices
Quiet Avenger (17), Blind Sorcerer (15), Fire King (18)
All three nations are reasonably secure and permit you to build up a strong nation. Each has a different speciality – emissary/agent (QA), military (Fire King), mage (Blind S.) The fire king should expect to run a shuttle from 3426 to 3224 to the Ithil pass and work with the Mordor nations; place camps in spots where you can use that hire-for-free ability to get the free. The BS can do the artefact-hunting game or develop curse squads; expect a lot of requests for intelligence-gathering. The QA needs to talk to the neighbouring neutrals, and usually develops into a character-based position by mid-game.
The following nations make poor picks for new players for different reasons. Nations on this list have several of the following features:
1) they come under early pressure;
2) they require a good understanding of the “opening moves” that place new players at a big disadvantage;
3) they provide little freedom to name characters, learn the rules, build up your nation, etc.
I put Riders of Rohan on this list for several reasons. Rohan can be badly hurt if either the White Wizards or Dunlendings go dark; if the servants choose to target it, Rohan can also really struggle with survival in the early game.
Free Peoples: Northmen (2), Northern Gondor (6), Rohan (3)
Dark Servants: Witch-King (11), Dragon Lord (12)
Neutrals: Rhun (22)
The following nations may be reasonably spots for new players. Relative to the best nations, they are more vulnerable to deadly early enemy attack. They can also have a tendency to get very poor, and running them requires a higher level of interaction with other players. At the same time, many of these nations also have some strong assets and can be enjoyable *if* you go into the game well aware of their strengths and weaknesses.
Free Peoples: Woodmen (1), Silvans (5), Sinda (9)
The Woodmen and Sinda can be subjected to a deadly early attack by the servants that place them on the defensive. If they survive the early going they can be good choices. The Woodmen should never be afraid to ask for gold early and often. The Silvans can be run effectively as an agent nation. They are cursed with a poor climate and the ability to raise more troops than they can afford, while it takes longer than it looks like to get those troops to the front lines. Any of these nations should co-ordinate closely with the other Mirkwood powers.
Neutrals: White Wizard (24), Dunlendings (23)
Both are strong nations, but it can be tricky to run neutrals like these in your initial game. If either goes dark it is a huge benefit to the dark servants but a big challenge to fend off the free; if they go free they are more secure but a bit far from the action. I’d suggest trying these positions – with their subtle military and diplomatic challenges – after you have a good feel for the game.
Dark Servants: Ice King (16) , Long Rider (19)
The Long Rider position is fun but requires a lot of skill; if it was an animal it would be a cheetah. You have to make the most of your position in the first few turns, and it is easy to get stuck with few camps, no armies, and a boring position. The Ice King is usually faced with lots of demands and can easily come under severe cash shortage pressure; for a player with some experience it can be a lot of fun (armies and agents, which require emissaries to develop the economy to support them.)
The Noldo (10) and South Gondor (7) (free), along with the Cloud Lord (14), Dog Lord (13), and Dark Lieutenants (20). (dark) are strong positions.
Running any of these in your first game has some significant drawbacks that you should be aware of.
All are faced with some complex strategic decisions that will have a big impact on the game. Three of them (Cloud Lord, Dark Lts., Noldo) are relied upon heavily by their teams to perform specialised roles. You will need a higher than usual level of co-ordination with your team-mates to enjoy these nations, and if you stumble the consequences for the entire game will be severe. I would strongly advise avoiding the cloud lord, dark lieutenants, or noldo in your first game for the above reasons.
Of these five, the two most suitable are the Dog Lord and South Gondor. I’ve put the Dog Lord on this “caution” list because of the complexities of raising large cavalry armies and the bewildering array of possible military options (Ithil Pass, Rohan, Mirkwood, Sea of Rhun.) Southern Gondor needs to co-ordinate closely with Northern Gondor, the naval movement rules are tricky, and you will be expected to ship lots of gold to your team-mates. It can also be difficult to fend off a dark Corsair nation. Either is a great choice for a second or subsequent game.