This isn't really a review of the game it's my description of how the game played out against Will. We have played WotR (and CE) a number of times now and Will is getting pretty good at handling the Shadow forces. We decided to add in the expansion rules and pieces to see what effect it has. This added Ents, Galadriel and Smeagol for me, the fellowship and Will, the Shadow, had the Dunlendings, the Balrog, Corsairs of Umbar and the Witch King: King of the Ring Wraiths at his disposal.
After our initial set up the first turn laid out some key strategic decisions for both of us. Will mustered the Sauron Nation to war very quickly and this allowed me to bring in Galadriel. I suspected an attack on Gondor so I had to get the fellowship moving, I would need some of the main characters in the South very soon. Galadriel's abilities in the main make you more confident to progress the fellowship and they whipped along in the early part of the game. In the first turn Will decided to bring in the Witch King - a decision that meant that the Balrog would be consigned to the later part of the game, if ever, showing that he favoured military might to hunting for the fellowship. He now had a decision, was he going to bring him in as the Black Captain - to provide support and strength to his ground troops, or was he going to bring in the new King of the Ring Wraiths and concentrate on hunting for the Fellowship. Yes, Will the warrior went for military might and brought in the Black captain and immediately started to threaten Gondor.
These few decisions set the course of the game. Will specifically didn't bring in Saruman as he didn't want to invite an Ent attack, I was keeping 2 of the very powerful Ent strategy cards in my hand and so this action held me back early on in the game. Will's main tactic was a massive and rapid attack on Gondor, via Minas Tirith and Lorien to remove Galadriel. With the new siege engines and mustering to Lorien within a siege I managed to hold on to the elves but after a devastatingly played "Denethor's folly" Minas Tirith was in jeopardy. Due to the rapid moving of the Fellowship, Gandalf the Grey managed to fly out of the fellowship and enter the besieged city but ultimately it fell and Gandalf was dead. The sting taken out of this assault Will struggled to keep the momentum up and I halted his onslaught at Dol Amroth on the coast. Most of Gondor was under Shadow control but I managed to get Strider and Gimli into Dol Amroth and Aragon was crowned King in time to devastate the Shadow forces.
With the remaining shadow forces sweeping from Minas Tirith across to Rohan (still not at war!) Aragorn tried a sneaky assault and went towards the coast around the mountains to come in to Rohan from the West. Will saw this coming and decided to muster Saruman to build an Isengard force to support the Rohan assault. Having stormed through the East of Rohan there was only Helms Deep and the fords of Isen left. However, Gandalf the White appeared in Fangorn forest followed swiftly by the Ents who stormed out to Helms deep and destroyed most of the Sauron forces that were now besieged in the recently fallen Helms Deep. The new Saruman force (weak because Will feared to muster as this brings in the Ents) tried to take Helms deep but was destroyed by Aragorn and Gimli with a large force of Gondor and Rohan units.
During this assault Will had started another army from the Southron and Easterlings to attack the Souther edge of Gondor with a view to sacking Dol Amroth. I managed to take Aragorn through the mountains with the Army of the dead and routed the Southrons.
With all this battling going on the sneaksy Hobitses had managed to reach Minas Morgul and had proceeded, with Golum now their guide, to the edge of Mount Doom and destroyed the Ring. During the battling Will had managed to get 8 VPs of the 10 needed to win and had seriously threatened the final 2.
Another great game of WotR CE and an enjoyable few hours with my son.