My son and I have now played seven games of Middle Earth Quest and all seven times I played the Sauron side. He’s 5-2 but all but one of his wins was pretty close and had I done a thing or two differently, I might have gotten a better outcome. Still, here are some of the things I learned.
Know your opponents – Since the hero side has a choice between five different heroes, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each is important. The dwarf has a low wisdom so you can throw a quick road block for him just by throwing down influence. With the female noble who has a wisdom of three, influence isn’t going to do it unless you use a big investment so using monsters is the way to go.
Get a nice influence base down – One of the mistakes I made in earlier games was concentrating my influence. This made it easier for the heroes to knock out stacks at a time. What I started doing is going for a wide base, putting one influence down on as many spots as I could. Then if I knew a hero was going to make a play at a particular spot later in the game, I could throw down an obstacle or two to make things more difficult for him.
Keep the plot cards going – you can’t win if you don’t move on the story track so getting as many plot cards down as early as you can is important. Make sure you’re one step ahead of the heroes here. Don’t get caught without a plot card on a turn where the heroes can take an existing one out because then it’s basically a two turn replacement (you use your actions to get a new plot card (turn one) and move the story marker (turn two) before you get to place your plot cards) so always keep one or two in reserve. And when you choose your beginning plot cards, pick the ones you can play as quickly as possible. I made the mistake one time of holding on to some stage 2 plot cards thinking I can come back late in the game but I ended up losing one to an encounter card and the other one wasn’t as effective because the heroes took it out quick.
The shadow pool helps but not as much as you’d think – In the one game where I won handily, I only ended up with six influence in the shadow pool. Yes, those higher cost shadow cards can be wicked but they’re usually one shot things and they don’t come into play until later in the game. In the game I won, I took advantage of some lower cost shadow cards early and that helped slow the heroes down enough for meto pull in front in the second stage. In addition, while the higher shadow cost plot cards can give you a huge bump, they’re usually not played until later in the game when they make less of a difference.
Keep the heat on – Whenever you can, attack the heroes. The ambush stage is your friend and unless you’re fighting the dwarf, if the hero can’t beat the creature or minion, then he loses his turn. And the more times a hero fights, the quicker they have to rest or heal and the more times the story marker moves up.
Divide and conquer – while you don’t always have control over this, try to spread out your plot cards as much as possible. When there are two or three heroes, it forces the heroes to split up and makes them less effective. Nothing is tougher to defend than a group of heroes going after a common cause so having them on different sides of the map can be big.
Hopefully this helps. Feel free to post your own Sauron strategies in the comments section.