A little bit of Middle-earth in the heart of Nevada.
It was our first face-to-face game in several years, but well worth the wait! Three days of gaming, talks, presentations, meals and occasionally even the occasional few minutes of sleep thrown in for good measure.
Itinerary Highlights included:
- A chance to play a our upcoming module, Champions of Middle-earth, where players go head-to-head as Gandalf vs. Sauron.
- Attendee Dinner.
- Presentations on JOverseer and the History of Middle-earth Games, followed by a Q&A with GM Clint Oldridge.
- And of course, a live, face-to-face game of our 1650 module. The heart of the weekend, with 17 turns run over the course of three days, resulting in a last-minute victory by the Free Peoples.
We’re already thinking about how to make the next event even better. So please consider completing our Vegas Survey, found at the bottom of this page. We’d love to know what you think!
Read on for reports from GM Clint Oldridge, event organiser Raven Zachary, and players from both sides of the main game: co-organiser Jason Bock of the Free Peoples, and John Abbott of the Dark Servants.
And finally, don’t forget to take a look at our Photos from the event.
Thoughts from an Organiser
By Raven Zachary
I first learned in May 2018 that Clint Oldridge of Middle-earth Games was traveling to Las Vegas. He had a June 2018 trip planned, just a month away, and he was letting the players know that he would be out during that time. At that point, I had only been back to playing MEPBM for a few months. I was involved during the GSI days in the early 1990s, but like many play-by-mail gamers, college, career, and family got in the way and I stopped playing for over two decades. In March 2018, I was excited to be back after an extended hiatus and I was all-in to the hobby again.
I had the opportunity at Gen Con 1986 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, as a middle-school teenager to play a few turns of a handful of PBM games hosted in the expo hall by some of the companies present. GSI was there, but that was during the Earthwood days, before the existence of MEPBM. At that event, my 13-year old self did get the opportunity to meet MEPBM creators Bill Feild and Pete Stassun. I had a taste of “live PBM” that year and those memories stayed with me. I wanted to do that again! With Clint coming to Las Vegas, only a two-hour flight from where I live (Portland, Oregon, USA), I thought there might be an opportunity to do an in-person MEPBM game while he was there. Las Vegas was certainly closer to home than flying over to Cardiff, Wales, UK. So, I sent the following email to Clint: “How many people would you need to commit to run an in-person MEPBM game in Las Vegas in June? : )” He responded, “Not going to happen… 🙂 LOL”. In his defense, his trip was only a month away and it was hard to imagine organizing a game in such a short amount of time. He was right. I was being overly enthusiastic and impractical. But, those same traits also get me to undertake all sorts of projects in life.
Thus began the planning process for a face-to-face MEPBM game to happen at some point in the not-so-distant future. I posted a survey for the player community to gauge interest, collected potential dates and locations, and started working on a plan. Jason Bock joined the planning process shortly thereafter. Once Las Vegas was determined to be the right location for the event based on Clint’s future travel plans in 2019, Jason did an amazing job at researching venues and negotiating package deals. His contributions didn’t stop there. Everything from food to financials to t-shirt designs to the amazing wood engraved plaques for the player sponsors were all provided by Jason. Thank you, Jason!
Events are made possible by many people playing important parts in the whole process. While Jason, Clint, and I got everything going at the beginning and kept the train moving through the months towards the event dates, we could not have pulled this off without the support of the attendees (Ben Shushan, Dan Cosby, Dan Newman, David House, Jason Vafiades, Jeff Young, John Abbott, John Welty, Joseph Williams, Justin Scott, Matt Ashley, Michael Blomquist, Rich Thomas, Scott Wilson, Tim Huiatt, and Tony Huiatt), the player sponsors (Michael Blomquist, David House, Jason Vafiades, John Welty, Matt Ashley, and Dan Cosby), and we must not forget, John Davis, Ed Lane, and Dave Spring for keeping Middle-earth Games running in the UK and supporting Clint while he was in Las Vegas. And, of course, to Clint Oldridge, for crossing the ocean and giving up some of his vacation time to make this all possible. You all made a crazy dream a possibility.
We brought a little bit of Middle-earth to Las Vegas, made new friends, connected with old friends we only knew online, and both teams had their moments of victory and defeat in Game 61. The Free People won the game in the end, but it looked like a Dark Servants victory for most of the game. I learned a lot, had a ton of tun, and from what others told me, the event was a resounding success. We are already talking about another face-to-face game, perhaps as soon as 2020! Interest has been high, and there are many people who wanted to be in Las Vegas with us, but had a conflict that was unavoidable that weekend.
See you all at the next face-to-face game!
View from the GM’s Tower: Game Diary
by Clint Oldridge
Looks like the FP have the advantage in LATs and are using that well. 2:1 advantage here. Unusual move by the WK (Jason Vafiades) @ 2405 with a 498 and 550 order… Most unusual… after some conversation it appears that it was a mistake… 🙂
NG sees the first Champion die…. Tarondor with an early Curse squad. DS have gone for defensive Mordor with the bridges going down @ 3024 and likely the southern bridge to appear soon. LR have gained a PC in North Harad, a move I like.
FP get some offensive troops going and pull the game back a little. Curufin but the DS have RoW. So even stevens atm. North Harad, the FP find out that 2730 is likely to be LR, but the might of the FP look like they’re going to take that over the coming turns. Ji Indur is harrassing the south (both bridges down early with Defense Mordor operation).
DS have a nice kill list on their board, but the FP have done better than I’d expect at this stage. 2409 falters
DS are pinging back and fore the southern nations. Artifact game is now heating up and the Purple dragon is now active. DS are finally on the offensive from the Gates of Morannon. WK in the northwest is now running with a threatening army to add to the chaos. Eoplex is now under threat from advancing forces.
DS agents are starting to prove troublesome. South Harad looks set for a long battle, North Harad down to a couple of PCs. Most of the major items are either picked up or due for processing. DS continue to manipulate the market successfully, the FP are attempting to organise resistance. Dunland now under attack, going to be a lot of death. Capital changes are helpful …. 🙂
Eoplex takes the first hit, losing 3112 to the BS. Dun/Card move to take back 2619 roads. DS agents miss at 2715. Corsair under heavy threat by the Harad/QA agent/Curse attack… ouch. DS have made an investment in their future with PCs to their allies under threat.
WK both loses and gains. Capital is about to fall, but he’s gained many a pc to replace…. Interesting times. Dragons are now around in plenty, and causing mayhem across the board. The FP attempt to clean outside of Mordor but the valiant DS support 2715 en masse.
Harder than I thought…. “splitting 2 nations with Tim when he’s played only one turn!,” says Tony…. RFLMAO.
Dan and the email episode. Sorry Dan we still don’t have your turns… 🙂
Sindar lose a city with a timely reveal and Dog Lord armies. FP armies are burning camps all over the map but the Corsairs are now in some trouble having just lost their capital.
See the FP arrange a counter offensive, forcing the DS to prioritise defence with their agents and curses over aggression. Slowly Corsairs gets niggled away, but SG manages to get a force in to help defend. LR/Dog and DkL manage to break out to SE Rhun, and cause havoc for a few turns then North around 3110, splitting off a force to hit the Eothraim but some defensive moves block them. Iron Hills that fell to the the machinations of the DS looks to be nearly back under the control of the FP, but 3002 and 2904 remain a stronghold. North Harad looks like a wasteland.
See the DS lose the Dragon Lord to a combination of factors, the FP ems finally making headway into the heart of Mordor. Final push by the Gondors and a Cardolan navy into Ithil sees the DS countering. FP respond to the slow grind in Corsairs and 525s by the DS em squad in SG.
FK capital falls with a win to the FP… if you had asked me at the start of the day I would have said the FP were behind with small – medium chance of pulling it back, but some nice co-ordination at the start of the day pulled the game back for them all
Overall, an excellent few days of gaming!!!! Here’s to the next one (whether it be in Texas, California, Minneapolis, Skype UK vs US.
Through the Eyes of a Noob
by Jason Bock
MEPBM is a incredible, complex game. I recently returned in October after playing and dropping (I guess I took the Woodman advice) in a true by-mail game almost 30 years ago. Since I enjoy intense gaming experiences, the face-to-face event appealed to me from the start. This isn’t a typical end-game war story, but my own experiences and thoughts about the event.
Thought #1: A Master Class in MEPM
MEPBM is a complex game. This event attracted some of the most experienced players in the U.S. Most of the attendees have played off and on since inception. They have hundreds of turns under their belt. They are used to winning most of those games. The best way to learn this game is in a face-to-face event with 16 of the most experienced players in the game.
MEPBM is a game of unwritten rules. Recruit HI. Taxes to 60%. Build camps. It’s easy to get lost if you don’t know those rules. Playing with this group, with Clint occasionally lending a hand by just saying to me “I wouldn’t do that”, I learned more in 72 hours about MEPBM than in six months of playing a two-week game.
Thought #2: Planning, Planning, Planning
As the Free Peoples, we didn’t feel like we had enough time to plan. We tried to get a basic grand strategy before the start. Our ideas were to press at the edges and work our way into Mordor. Not exactly an amazing strategy and we didn’t get that done in the South in the end. The Corsairs were barely alive and North Harad was regained by the enemy. When you cramming out a turn every 60-90 minutes and trying not to make a mistake, it’s difficult to look at the bigger picture.
Clint warned us, but few people seemed ready for the intensity of the face-to-face experience. Playing this game in this way requires greater attention to detail than a normal game. You can’t hide for a few days from a bad turn. You have to get a new turn out immediately. Kudos to the guys on both teams who played two nations.
Thought #3: Wake Up with a New Attitude
The game was intense. At multiple times, it looked like the FP or DS had the advantage and then lost it. For the Free People, nights were bad. We all went to bed Friday and Saturday night feeling like we were getting slaughtered. At one point in the early mid-game, my position of South Gondor was down to 6 characters thanks to Agent action and that freaking early Sickness squad. I made a series of big mistakes that hurt the team and beat myself up about it.
Fortunately, after some contemplation, the FP woke up to a new morning. Saturday and Sunday morning were filled with renewed confidence and endless possibility. It was very interesting to me that this was a team thing. We all felt down in the night and excited in morning. Weirdly epic. Weirdly poetic.
Thought #4: Team
Maybe our team wasn’t as organized as we should have been. We all buried our head into our laptops processing orders like mad. Still, everyone came through when we needed it. We had a good mix of character players, warfare players, tacticians, and strategists. When I made mistakes, everyone was supportive and understanding. We helped each other out.
Most importantly, for the end game – the last 3-4 turns, we were in sync. That, plus a little bit of luck allowed us to pull victory from the jaws of defeat.
Thought #5: Dealing with Now
In some ways, the complexity of MEPBM means plans are undoubtedly tossed away. You must rely on your team’s ability to react to what your opponents give you. Each turn is a new opportunity to create and manage a new plan. Sometimes things carry over from turn to turn. Sometimes your commanders get assassinated, your emissaries can’t lay down camps, and your opponent moves in an unexpected way. The Free Peoples in the Face-to-Face game seemed to excel in making lemonade.
I will cherish my experiences in Las Vegas. Not only did I leap forward in my understanding and knowledge of the game, but I got meet and incredible pack of people who loved it just as much as I do. I can’t wait for the next one.
Dark Servants: Game Diary
by John Abbott
Both alliances met with Clint in one of the ballrooms for a presentation and Q & A session. Afterwards we retired to the team suites for some early turns. In the DS suite we came to an opening play. Send the Sickness Squad and heavy agents to 3024 to drop the bridge and hope to catch a starting army on Osgiliath. The North Gate will be a blocking maneuver and see if the Dog and IK can slip out. With Harad as DS we gambled that the FP would really press their naval advantage.
It would seem we guessed correctly. QA and Harad got naval stops. The FP did kill a couple of characters, but the 2nd Harad navy hid well and jumped the leftover Corsairs navy. The North Gate was cluttered. The FP did manage to take 3120 and 3621. We got our first assassination at 3621. We also got a Sickness Squad kill on Tarandor at 3024. Nice break for us that we caught the NG champion alone.
In Angmar/Rhudaur/Mirkwood the real mosh pit is boiling. WK/Rhudaur had a decent start. Noldo did capture 2208. Rhudaur did manage to push one army into Mirkwood. Dragonlord has had early success keeping Dol Guldur clear of enemy armies.
We started promptly at 9:00 am. Everyone was pretty fired up about our opening 3 turns. We started camping the Mistys heavily as well as the southern rough.
In the Brown Lands Dog Lord has found no resistance yet. Tonn is picking up all the NG pop centers as fast as he can. Threats have been working.
LR handed off his agent toys to the CL. Ji and his minions began to rack up the kills. Our economies grew. We put some nice stops on the FP as they tried to reach the 2 Mordor gates. BS sent his horde out the North Gate. CL sent his starting army to the IK capital.
In the North WK/Rh were in a slugfest. Rhu sent an army across the Mistys to the WM capital. At the same time the WK ran an end-around to the back side of the Arthedain.
About this time the FP were able to really press the Dragonlord at 2715. We were unable to get help there. This would be a problem later.
By Turn 6 the WK was growing, but the Rhu were really getting shredded in the homeland. Dol Guldur still stood and was clear of armies. Our Sickness team was getting regular kills. CL was racking up big numbers. LR had his Conjure Mounts up to 4+ mages and sending them all over or selling.
The north bank of Harad had been hit hard, but the FP offensive was losing steam. On the south bank Harad and the QA were pressing the Corsairs.
By Turn 9 our camps were all over the Mistys. There was a meat grinder on Dol Guldur. Dog Lord was the main DS defender there. Both of the gates of Mordor were secure. We were trying to grab as many camps and villages in the plains as we could, but the FP were very quick in their retaking of the lost pop centers. The Rhudaur capital was moved to 3627. WK was isolated, but still kicking. The bridges to Mordor were still down.
Turn 13 was the final turn of Saturday. It was the 10th turn of the day. We kept a steady schedule of orders written in 1 hour followed by a processing time of 15-20 minutes. The last 2 turns that night were very tiring. Not to mention the FP’s new rally. They really got themselves organized about this time. They had gone on a wholesale program of camp popping in the Mistys. Plus, they crashed the market by making minimum sales to just get by. The DS quickly ran into trouble as we could not afford to field armies. Unfortunately, the FP had army icons all over the place. The WK capital was 3002. Rhudaur was still alive. Dragonlord was surviving, but barely. Our assault on Corsairs had taken the capital, but they kept on fighting. North Harad had been retaken by the DS. Pressure was growing at the North Gate. CL was racking up multiple kills every turn. Our Sickness Squad was nearly perfect on its success rate. LR was producing 1000+ mounts per turn by now to send out. The trouble was we could no longer afford cavalry armies due to a lack of market sales. All of the Dog Lord gains in the Brown Lands had been retaken. Our assault on the Eo had faded away. What started as a great day ended with a thud…..
Sunday started just a little late. We were trying to hold off an aggressive push into Mordor and a real assault on 2715. We were 4 turns from a win. Our kill count was on its 3rd sheet. But our economies were pretty much busted.
The North Gate held for the final turns thanks to two dragons that stuck around for multiple battles. Unfortunately, the Gondors and Cardolan showed up as Osgiliath with monstrous navies. The push was there.
Turn 15 was our downfall. The FP took out the Dragonlord when they razed Dol Guldur and emmies of the Northmen unexpected flipped his backup at 3528 the turn before. The agent fight was going down at 3024. The North Gate was just a matter of time.
Turn 16. The FP weathered a bunch of kills at 3024 and still took the MT. They also flipped 3124 with emmies. Armies had reached the FK capital at 3224. The FP were still being held back from Morannon. But we were running low on armies there. WK was still holding at 3002.
6000 troops at the base of the mountain with nothing to stop them from going up the road.
We all sat in the FP suite as the final turn ran. We shared all files with both alliances. Clint gave a final speech and announced the victory the of the Free People. Congrats to that team. They really turned things around.
Also, many thanks to Raven and Jason B for being the driving forces behind this event! They did great! Thanks to Clint for hitchhiking all the way from Cardiff to Vegas ;-). It was awesome getting to meet him. Very fine fellow. Further thanks to Michael Blomquist for hosting the DS room. The décor was perfect. Our room ran very smoothly.
To others not in attendance I highly suggest you make the early commitment to attending the next event. It is a great game!!!! Tiring, but great! There is truth in what all attendees have been saying. The best part of the trip was getting to meet and hangout with all the other players. Top shelf all!
Until next time……
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