Hey - played a game recently with the following change to Saruman :
Saruman can only muster using the "Voice of Saruman" ability.
By preventing regular mustering for Saruman, it means the Ents have some threat value, as the Shadow can't pursue strategy of regular mustering for Saruman to deny the Ents reinforcements.
Also, it's more themey as it means that once Saruman is knocked out, then the Isengard nation is essentially done for reinforcements.
The one game we played with this rule ended with a Shadow corruption victory, but did have the Ents knocking out Isengard and doing enough damage to the shadow army besieging Helm's Deep that a successful sortie was possible.
I wouldn't want to play this way always, but it makes for an interesting house rule. It significantly helps the FP in the mid and late game (assuming the Ents are in play), and puts pressure on getting the Ent faction activated as early as possible.
Yes that is correct. This variant does make the Lorien rush by Isengard harder, but not impossible.
I think this is OK thematically. In the books, Lorien is supposed to be virtually unassailable, unless the Dark Lord 'put forth all his power.'
Another thematic reason I like this variant is that in the books Saruman clearly had a limited reinforcement pool, and it replicates that by cutting off Isengard reinforcements with the loss of Saruman.