Two weeks ago, my analysis, such as it was, showed that Good had the advantage in LotR. Various other TripleA players had various opinions; in particular, AJMDEMEN took the position that LotR was so unbalanced that it was necessary to significantly modify the mod in favor of Good.
I note that the game, and the mod, have been around for years, and yet, no one has actually published anything demonstrating any imbalance.
On Jan. 4, I made reference to a Top Secret Killer Strategy for Evil in a post in these forums. For the past two weeks, I have been playing a game with AJMDEMEN. Now it appears that there is indeed a TSKS, and that my analysis was fundamentally wrong, and that Evil will always win. It may well be that I still don't get it, and that there is a way for Good to hold and even win. So maybe I will get egg on my face, but I am not afraid to speak out and humiliate myself, because I care more about the truth than my ego.
The basic analysis went as follows. In the NE, the Dwarves and Dale, with support from the Elves, contain and eventually push Rhun back. In the rest of the north, the Elves retreat, but eventually dominate the Goblins, with a lot of help from the Free Folk. In the centre, Rohan contains Saruman and eventually dominates the entire region. In the south, Gondor blocks Mordor, Harad, and Khand until help arrives from the north. (Help beyond hope, the Riders of Rohan appear.) This was balanced, with Good having the long-term advantage.
The initial economic breakdown is that Evil has 82 production, while Good has 112. Good has 236 units vs. 215 for Evil. Good has a nominal Total Unit Value of 908, and Evil has 937. However, this does not include 13 Ents and 10 Dead, so Good really has a TUV of 1006. Note that, for a number of reasons, TUV is only an approximate assessment of total power. There are 12 PU available to be captured in the NE, and Evil should get most of these without a fight. There are 16 PU available in the west, and Good should get most of these, but it requires significant fighting.
So far, the situation looks pretty good for Good. However, Good is initially retreating on all fronts, so they will lose a lot of territory to Evil, and the Elves lose fully 40% of their initial force before they can even move, although they do fight back, and technically, some of the dead Elves can in principle walk around for one turn, and then they die.
At the end of the first complete turn, Evil has 96 production, while Good has 108. Good has about 250 units vs. 225 for Evil. Good has a nominal Total Unit Value of about 950, and Evil has 937. Although Evil can still easily take 8 production away from Good, the situation still looks balanced.
One of the most important features of the opening moves of this game is that the Elves can never save Lorien, and the only way to save the Lorien army is to sacrifice the Rohirrim, and then Rohan is essentially out of the game.
A more careful analysis shows that Rhun's field army is significantly stronger than the Dwarf field army, so that Rhun essentially cannot be attacked. This means that if Rhun reaches an important strategic position first, they cannot be forced out of it directly. Furthermore, the way the map is set up, Rhun can attack several important points from certain locations, while they only need to defend one territory. However, the total Good force in this area is stronger than the Evil one, so with careful maneuvering, Good should still be able to eventually dominate this region.
There are several other features of the LotR mod that make it functionally unique, or nearly so. First, there are many players per side, and at least several of them do or could operate in most regions. This makes long-range penetrations very significant, because one player can break a defensive line, and the breach could be exploited before the opponent has a chance to respond. Second, and sometimes linked to the first point, airpower is very important, and only Evil can realistically employ it, because only the Elves on the Good side can have it, and they are too busy to use it much because their backs are to the wall for a long time, and there are other reasons as well. Furthermore, the Nazgul are effectively invulnerable heavy bombers. Among their other functions, each one can bleed the enemy by about 4 PU per turn, just in border territory skirmishing.
Anyway, here is the Top Secret Killer Strategy. I guess that ALMDEMEN cooked this up in his workshop in Barad-Dur. Personally, I consider it a brilliant strategy. I would never have come up with it. However, it is quite simple. It does not depend on luck, and no enemy move can prevent it. All that Evil needs to do is move Mordor’s heavy units into the area NE of Rohan on turn 1, and then strike SW into the heart of Rohan. At this time, Rohan has their hands full with Saruman, the Elves are being kicked around by the Goblins and are too far away in any case, and Gondor is still mustering and is busy defending its borders.
At a minimum, this allows Saruman to break out, and now Evil is outproducing Good by 20 points a turn, as well as having a more powerful force and advancing everywhere except in the NW. This looks like an instant forced win for Evil.
I note again that no one appears to have posted any sort of mention of this strategy anywhere at all, despite the fact that this game has been around for years.
ViTP: as to the question stated by the topic, I would say map is not broken.
The "Top Secret Killer Strategy" for evil is not really a great secret, I've been employing it since I can remember (I'm not even sure if I have invented it myself). I have had the very same opening employed against me numerous times when I played the good side and still have won (of course I still consider it a good opening). I hope we will not dwelve into a "Top Secret Killer Strategy" for good side now :)
Veq told me to post some of my saves as best demonstration, unfortunately I don't keep many, but the few I have might be helpful. 1 of them I played good and have beaten evil "TSKS" (if Mordor 1st move deserves that name) despite rather unlucky dice. Of course, in hindsight both players could have improved their moves, as is true for the other saves probably also.
Last one is apparently not finished, I can't really even remember which side I played, so it had to be a while ago. But I think it is a nice illustration of some ideas on how to exploit strategical points on the map for both sides.
Thanks so much for this. This will save me a lot of trouble and time.
No time to respond in detail right now, but you have to admit, the TSKS for Sauron seems to win almost all the time, especially if Good does bad moves such as sacrificing the Rohan cavalry, and even if Mordor builds nothing but Nazgul, which I intend to show is an inferior strategy.
The only game in which Good manages to win, we see perfect play by Good, and a whole bunch of inferior moves by Sauron.
A detailed accounting in support of these statements will follow.
The heart of the matter seems to be Rohan. It seems to me, if Rohan can be hurt early, the game is effectively over.
To help play balance, get rid of all bridges, except the Old Ford (b/t Anduin West Bank & Gladden) and the 2 halves of Osgiliath. Those were the only 2 crossing points used by the armies of Middle Earth.
The Old Forest Road which led from the High Pass into Mirkwood crossed the river at the Old Ford, to the south of Beorn's Halls. There used to be a bridge, this was fortified when Elendil crossed the river to go to war with Sauron, but it had been destroyed by the late Third Age. The only other bridge was in Osgiliath, but during the late Third Age, this was broken by forces of Mordor."
This would keep Morder from hitting Rohan in the back and protect Rohan's flank. This is why Sauron needed Saruman - to deal with Rohan.
Tofu made such mod once, also with less nations (6 instead of 12). It was a bit of fun, but I liked original 12 army more and went from there to have the current version. I think having all the connections is fun, the point Veq made about the fact that tweaking it would affect balance is also valid of course. I have been hearing lots of opinions that this or that side has the edge, yet I watch some pretty good players playing a game that still looks close after 10 rounds. Of course some games will finish fast, but that's the perk of this map- mistakes are punished heavily and some very heavily. Love it or hate it, that's the way it has to be.