Lord of the Rings
English language edition
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The game follows the spirit of the book with the players as Hobbits. The fellowship members are working toward a common goal--the destruction of the One Ring before it corrupts them, or they are overcome by Sauron's power. Other members of the Fellowship, along with other characters and items, appear as cards and events. Game comes with Hobbit miniatures and a series of boards depicting different adventure scenarios.
Players: 1 - 5
Time: 60 - 90 minutes
Ages: 12 and up
Weight: 1,625 grams
All-Time Sales Rank: #58
Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Game components are printed in English. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English.
- Master gameboard
- 2 double-sided Scenario boards
- 60 Hobbit cards
- 5 Character cards
- 5 Gandalf cards
- 35 Feature cards
- 23 cardboard tiles
- 11 cardboard tokens
- 32 cardboard shields
- 1 special die
- 1 Ring
- 1 Sauron figure
- 5 Hobbit figures
- 6 markers
- Hall of Fame record sheet
- game rules
Average Rating: 3.8 in 62 reviews
I'm not sure what other people don't like about this game, but perhaps they played with the wrong group of people. Or perhaps they have more competitive spirits and don't like cooperation games. This game is so unique I can't help but love it.
Lord of the Rings is a game that I play with the other guys whenever our wives are out together. We sit down and get in the proper Lord of the Rings mood...the game delivers the rest.
This game is exactly like the books. It allows you to work together as a group trying to progress your team to the destruction of the ring. You're almost tempted to stall the team on a scenario board so that you can pick up protection from corruption, but in the back of your mind you know you have to keep moving to avoid the evil minions of Sauron. We literally find ourselves dreading what tile will be turned up next and preparing for the consequences it might bring.
The tension builds throughout the game and keeps us coming back again and again. We have yet to perfect the game with Sauron on the 12 of the corruption line. Some earlier reviews imply they easily mastered this, but the great part is you can always move up to the expert game variant if your that good. Also, it plays differently when you change the number of players.
This is a great game that encourages communication and teamwork. I believe that the Lord of the Rings accomplishes it's goal and really makes you feel like a fellowship.
First off, I have read several of the reviews below before surmising my opinion of the game. My conclusion is that this game is addictive and very tough for a single mind to master.
I have played some 7 games already with my 5 year old (insert solitaire player if you like) and have never thrown the Ring in the Volcano yet. The balance is simple to describe.
Too many cards, too close to Sauron.
Not enough cards, Sauron takes the ring through event tiles.
Every game is like that. I cannot seem to find the balance. However, it has been made clear that players should 'skip' trying to get those life tokens in order to get to the end. I have yet to give that a try. You can waste a lot of cards trying to get life tokens that prevent your Hobbits from moving towards corruption. I never considered this angle and will give it a try.
I think my son has grown disenchanted with the game while his father is completely obsessed. No matter, the two hobbits 'Frodo & Sam' will make it to the cracks of Mount Doom....even if my son rather not be there to see it. I can't even imagine how this game would play with card concealment. It is bad enough with seeing the cards.
By no means am I giving this game a bad review. I am just stating that as a two player game, I am afraid that it has turned out harder then I ever imagined. Getting it right may take more games. I am just too distracted by the activity lines and should be going to the Main Activity line when i play my cards....life tokens or not.
It didn't help that the rulebook failed to highlight the core mechanics repetively. My first 5 games were played wrong in one way or another.
One word of advice, don't show up in Mordor holding no cards....you will never make it.
On close inspection of Lord of the Rings, I sense that Knizia had a fun time designing it. The whole activity lines/event sequence is brilliant. A game built on a story cannot be open-ended like Settlers where anything can happen. It has to follow the book. But Knizia prevented this game from being straight-forward and processional with the use of activity lines. I think he drew upon his former winner, Taj Mahal, when considering certain game mechanics.
Ive read many theories as to why this game works and I dont fully agree with any of them. Yes, the cooperative element makes this game unique. Yes, the theme comes to life. I also agree that Knizia worked hard to find a way to always make the ending close. But I believe this game works for me because of Knizias trademark in all of his games: simple choices. When an event tile with three items appears, how will you decide to deal with it? Cough up the cost to avoid the event? Just let the event happen? Use a feature card to avoid it altogether? And after the activity symbol, should you play cards to grab items? Or should you not play any cards to receive two cards? Or forget cards, maybe you should move your hobbit back one step because hes getting a little too close to Sauron? All these choices make the game for me. I love choice.
As much as the purpose of this game is to destroy the ring, Im not fond of winning consistently. Id like to find a way to make the game a bit more difficult without merely giving Sauron a head start. Im thinking to hand out most of the Galadriel cards or something like that. Maybe the player farthest from Sauron gets one fewer card? Remove a couple of the good activity tiles? There are many possible tweaks Ive only begun to consider.
If I have a serious complaint, though, its that the rulebook is way too disorganized. There has got to be a better way to learn the rules than with this book. If someone had taught it to me, I would have saved myself a lot of time and frustration.
Its Knizia, it works. If you dont know Knizia, LOTR will show you what the man is capable of.
Show all 62 reviews >
In Solitaire, it's a single player against the cards. Why not pit all players against the game? Dr. Knizia proves that cooperation and loyalty can produce adventures as thrilling as the determined struggles for personal victory in his best games. Everyone must cooperate to defeat the Dark Lord. The Hobbits (players) start on the Corruption Line 15 spaces away from the Dark Lord. Mishaps along their long and eventful journey, determined by malevolent Event Tiles, bring him inexorably closer. He eliminates anyone he reaches. Everyone loses if the Ring-Bearer is killed. Be prepared for self-sacrifice! Everyone wins only if the Ring-Bearer reaches Mount Doom and destroys the Ring. Tolkien would have been proud of this uncannily accurate portrayal of the dangers and mounting tensions of his novel.
What do you get when you mix the best book ever written(*) with the most prolific games designer of the last fifteen years? Lord of the Rings by Reiner Knizia. Is this a perfect combination or a flawed marketing mix? I'll let you know at the end of the review.
I first encountered LotR as a test version in December 1999. Dave Farquhar, who prepared a lot of work on the game, introduced it. We were not allowed to mention that we had played it and in fact we did not know that we would play it in advance of the games session. Very few of Reiner's games had failed to meet my expectations, so I was expecting something clever. As the boards (several) were unveiled, the excitement mounted. Lots of cards and several boards each with different tracks on them. This was all pretty enticing but how would the game play? Each player represents one of the hobbits from Lord of the Rings. Together they will form a fellowship and brave out the hazards, resist Sauron--whose evil eye watches over your progress--and destroy the One Ring by dropping it into a volcano. This is an unusual game, as it requires the near complete co-operation of all players to sacrifice resources for the good of the fellowship. It is far different from the semi-cooperative Republic of Rome (from Avalon Hill) in which you cooperate to beat the system, then try and beat each other and it means that there is no individual winner--all players win or all players lose. This concept is difficult to describe other than when you are in the game. But it is enjoyable. Initially for the play test version, we resisted the total co-operation that is required and as a result we did not start off too well. However, we soon realised that unless you help one another and sacrifice your resources for the common good, you all lose.
Each of the five hobbits has a different game bonus and it is important to use these in the right way. Again, you need to recognise each other's strengths and weaknesses and play accordingly.
The first board is the master game board, which shows a summary of the key areas that you will progress through during the game. Four of them Moria, Helm's Deep, Shelob's Lair and Mordor are covered in more detail on some specially designed scenario boards. The rest--Bag End, Rivendell and Lothlrien--are covered by text on the master board and feature brief events or decisions to take. Beneath this summary is a track with 15 spaces on it and which is used to represent the level of corruption for each of the hobbits in the game. The hobbits are placed at one end, with Sauron at the other. The normal starting point for Sauron is on the 12 space, but you can make the game easier by placing him on the 15 space. Veterans may want to risk to 10 space later. As individuals, the hobbits will fail tests and hazards and move down the track nearer to Sauron, who may also move towards them. If a hobbit and Sauron are on the same square, the hobbit has been corrupted by the Dark Side (just like Star Wars) and the player is out of the game. The party may still win, but without any further help from that particular hobbit. If that hobbit is carrying the ring (the Ring Bearer), then everybody loses. Points are scored for how far the party has travelled down the winning path, with 60 points being the maximum for travelling down the paths. Additional points are earned for shields, which are awarded as you move along the paths on the adventure boards.
The game play is spread over several adventure boards, each representing a different section of the book. On each board, the object is to move from left to right across several tracks--a main track, which represents your journey through the area, and subsidiary ones, which enable you to recruit help and to acquire the strengths you will need to resist the powers of darkness. Most boards feature three paths, with progress along each of them being tied to either friendship, travelling, hiding or fighting. To complete a board, the party can either reach the end of the main track or go through a series of six hazards. The former is much the better as each series of hazards gets very nasty towards the end.
Each player's turn consists of drawing an event chip from a stack and carrying out its instructions, which is either movement down one of the tracks or encounter a hazard. The hazards have to be overcome or else the individual, or sometimes even the whole party, is affected. If a hazard is drawn, then the player continues drawing chips and resolving them until a movement chip is drawn. A run of bad luck here can cripple the party, as cards are used up in order to survive and maybe even some of the special cards. Eventually a movement chit will be drawn and the party moves down the appropriate track, with a white marker being used to monitor progress. Each movement will usually earn the player making it some bonus in the form of shields, life tokens or cards.
In order to deal with the hazards they will meet, each player has a hand of hobbit cards. Most of these show one or two symbols that match the tracks (friendship, travelling, hiding or fighting); others are jokers, showing stars, which can be used in place of any of the other symbols). Each hobbit cards is also grey or white and the significance of this comes after you have drawn your movement chip. You may then play one or two hobbit cards in order to move further along the tracks, but the rule is that if you play two, one must be white and one grey. There are also yellow bonus cards that can be earned for successfully passing a hazard, by moving far enough down one of the tracks or by meeting allies in Bag End, Rivendell and Lothlrien. Once used, cards are not replenished automatically. The bonus cards are often double moves, so when they are played they move the party two spaces down the track instead of one. Other yellow cards can be used to avoid a hazard or overcome a problem, but since they are all "one use", it can be difficult deciding just when to play them. If you use them straight away, you may avoid a nasty fate like Sauron moving closer down the track, but there is always the nagging feeling that something even nastier could happen shortly and that the card would be even more useful then. Perhaps even in Mordor.
The co-operative element usually takes place when one of these hazards is faced. Often a hazard requires the party to surrender specific cards. If each player has not got the necessary cards, one player may be called upon to surrender more than their fair share. This moves the party on and in game circles where this works, you can make progress pretty quickly. If your gaming style is more aggressive and individualistic, you may miss out on making all the progress you should. There is an optional rule which can be used by people who like a game to have a single winner, but I don't recommend it. I think that this co-operative style is what the game is all about.
The Ring bearer always starts with Frodo, but unlike the book, the ring moves around the hobbits. When the party markers are moved down the tracks they pick up shields and life tokens. The shields are used in scoring when you are successful and have another use which I'll come to later.
The life tokens represent keeping your spirits high (suns), your body healthy (hearts) and resistance to the ring (rings). If you possess all three of these when an adventure board is concluded, you stay on the same space on the corruption track on the master game board. For each one that is missing, you move one space closer to Sauron--unless you are Merry, who only requires two of these to be safe. (One consequence of this is that he needs to be careful when moving down a track that he doesn't take too many of these and thereby make things harder for the others.) At the end of each board, the ring will generally move to another hobbit. This will be whichever one has picked up the most ring tokens during the adventure and here again the party's chances can be improved if you are careful about who is picking the things up. Players can discuss courses of action quite freely, but may not show what each other what cards they hold in their hands.
The game setting deliberately tries to create the feel of the book, with major characters being met in the right places, and the fact that you have to help each other makes the players feel they are part of a party, rather than a set of individuals. The major characters, such as Aragorn, are often "two move" benefits, so while they are not as interactive or large as they might be in your imagination, they do at least provide a helping hand. The yellow bonus cards are playable instantaneously, which means that a hazard may be just about to get you and then you make a miraculous escape. It isn't as bad as Bobby's dream in Dallas, but if you haven't read the book, it might seem a bit unlikely. However, these escapes are exciting and it is enjoyable to think of ways round problems, be relieved only to face another obstacle.
The obstacles often call for the "dark die" to be rolled. This has one blank side and five bad ones. The blank means no negative effect and if you get enough of these in the game, you will win, so there is no doubt that large slices of luck are a help. Of the bad results, three cause the hobbit to move towards Sauron (1, 2 or 3 spaces), one causes Sauron to move towards the party and one results in the loss of two cards. This seems trivial at some stages in the game because you have loads of cards. But later on a player will have the wrong type of card (friendship, when you need move cards, for example) and this earlier loss of cards can haunt you.
Instead of playing cards to move during a turn, a player can take two hobbit cards or move one one back further away from Sauron. Again, this has game benefits and downsides, as you then do not move down a track and risk more hazard chits being drawn. Generally, it is better to conclude the adventure boards as fast as possible, as you will have used up less cards, and though players may not have enough life tokens to be safe from movement on the corruption track, you will not have faced so many hazards. As each game pans out, these are the decisions that help shape your story and the outcome for your party.
Finally, you reach the edge of the volcano at Mount Doom. The Ring Bearer then gets one chance to cast the ring in to the volcano. To attempt this he rolls the die. If he survives the game is won. If not, the surviving hobbits each get the chance to make themselves into heroes. This can be really exciting, especially if some of the die rolls lead to the loss of the hobbit while others afford success.
The loss of a hobbit before you reach the end is pretty bad. Not only do you lose that character's cards, which may be vital in avoiding a hazard, that hobbit will not be able to help cast the ring into the volcano at the end of the Mordor track.
So how did my play test version go? After a sticky start, my hobbit survived to reach Mount Doom. That was the good news. The bad news was that everyone else had failed to make it, having (nobly) sacrificed themselves for the greater good. The outcome was down to me. I had a 1 in 3 chance of success, blew it and was corrupted on the edge. But though that was the ultimate result, it was incredibly exciting and really felt as if the previous two hours had been worth it. We were spoilt somewhat by Dave helping us realise the options of the game, but it was a terrific gaming experience and the only thing we slightly disappointed in was that Gandalf the wizard had only a passing effect on the game whereas in the book he is a central character.
I'm pleased to say that in the published version, Gandalf has a far greater impact. There now are five Gandalf cards that can be used, each of which can be bought if one player surrenders 5 points of shield cards. This is pretty simple to achieve, but choosing when to use these cards (which are also one-off use cards) can make the difference between succeeding and failing, so they provide another clever game decision tool.
For those people who have not read the 1000+ pages on the book, Dave Farquhar has provided a two-page summary. I think he has done a good job and I hope Tolkien purists do not criticise the style or the scale of the summary. Including it was a good idea. Finally, the price. In Essen, the gaming Mecca, it was 60DM or so. In England it is 30 or 96DM. So the obvious question is whether non-German readers should buy the English version. I would say that it is sensible to do so, as the text of the hazard events needs to be studied by all the players so that they can consider what to do with their cards. The cards themselves have some text on them, but this is not as difficult to deal with. For players in North America, I understand the game will be produced from within the Hasbro empire, but I do not know when. While 30 is higher than the average price for a game, I suspect most people will get many hours of pleasure from this game and so the cost will be well covered by the enjoyment.
The 'Multi-Path Only One Route Out' system for the game is clever, new and re-usable. It could be used for any story, or possibly in war or economic systems and I can see it being used by other games to monitor progress in a game. Whether the system is subject to copyright, will no doubt be tested in actions if it can be seen that is valuable, but I am sure someone somewhere will re-use this system as they have done in the 18XX structured games.
Some people have questioned whether the game can be replayed. The points system allows you to go for your best score, but I can see the game becoming as popular as Settlers of Catan because non-gaming people will be tempted by the title and hopefully enjoy the co-operative system. Starting the Sauron piece at different spaces along the track means you can vary the game difficulty. You could also play with fewer players. I have only played games with 4 or 5 players, but I know that the game is more challenging with fewer players as some of the bonus cards are not a available and therefore the escape routes out of certain situations are more difficult to find. But I suspect the most fun you will have is when you introduce more people to the game. The theming is obviously unusual for a Knizia title, but as with the system, it produces an excellent and enjoyable game, which I hope will open the board gaming boundaries to people who still regard Monopoly as the definitive game. If it does that, then the game will have succeeded by any standard of measurement. My conclusion is that this is a great blend of book and game, which makes it highly recommended, of course.
*The best book ever written was from a poll in a UK retailer held in late 1999.