Lord of the Rings: The Search
English language edition
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from 14 customer reviews
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Frodo and Sam are on their quest for the mountain of their destiny. The search starts at Auenland: Tiles for wood, water, mountain and flatlands are put down, first in the form of a cross of 6 x 8 tiles. When a certain landscape is finished, an adventure tile is placed. If a player cannot place a tile, all three tiles from his hand are put into the open stock and he draws new tiles from the hidden stacks. The active player places a tile, then moves his Hobbit and draws a tile from the stock. The Hobbit moves from landscape to landscape (not tile!) and collects adventure tiles. These tiles score victory points or give him special abilities. If the stockpile is used up and the players have no tiles in their hand, tiles from the open stock are used. If no tile can be placed, the mountain comes into play; a tile is placed face down and shows a neutral landscape which can be bordered by any landscape. If next time no tile is fit, the mountain moves, and only with the last tile placed do players know where the mountain really is. Now they move their hobbits toward it, with the hobbit reaching it first scoring special points, and concluding the game.
Time: 30 - 40 minutes
Ages: 10 and up
Weight: 434 grams
Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Game components are language-independent. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English.
Average Rating: 2.8 in 14 reviews
I originally considered getting this game for its Lord of the Rings (LotR) theme. The John Howe art (and the super-low price) clinched it. I reasoned that even if the game stunk, I would have a nice LotR collectible with art by my favorite Tolkien artist.
When I got the game, my first surprise was the size of the box. At only 8 in. x 8 in., it is quite a bit smaller than I expected; not a good sign, since (so often) small = cheaply made. But this game is anything but cheaply made. The rulebook is full color, the hobbit pieces are the same as those in the Renier Knizia [page scan/se=0870/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]LotR boardgame, and even the molded plastic tray is well-designed; this is, in short, a quality game.
And the art? Awesome! It's hard to accept that a game with tiles bearing repeating terrain (like Settlers of Catan) and small encounter tokens can have any kind of character, but these sure do. The numerous encounter tokens picture lots of key characters--both good and bad--(Gandalf, Aragorn, Gollum, the Balrog, etc.) and items (the One Ring, Sting, elven rope, etc.), with small art that is nonetheless very, very nice. And the terrain tiles have lots of little spot-art details (citadels, ships, winged Nazgul) that do not affect gameplay but certainly add to the atmosphere of the game.
So how does it play? It's very easy to learn (the box says ages 10 and up) and the 8-page rulebook has only a few pages of actual rules, with a nice summary on the back. Since your hobbits are moving while the board is being constructed, there are options for playing tiles to hamper your opponent or help yourself. You also have options when it comes to using the encounter tokens you collect. There is an element of luck (the tiles and encounter tokens you draw, plus the final location of Mount Doom--which is your ultimate destination), but the luck component is not so overpowering that the game is 'mindless'. There is a good bit of replayability since the board is constructed a different way in each game. Also, the basic nature of the rules leaves the door wide open for lots of possibilities in the way of game variants (placing all encounter tokens face-down, having to get Gollum or the Ring before going to Mount Doom, not scoring creature-encounter points without playing a character-encounter tile to defeat them, etc.).
For what this game is (and what it costs), I can't imagine any way it could be much better.
I found this game to be quite enjoyable. There are definately a few rules that need to be modified. However, if you do so this game will provide an enjoyable experience. I even had a chance to play a three player game that my game group was experimenting with. If you keep a hand of only two tiles instead of three, a three player game plays fast and fun. Some other rules we modified included the following:
- play all tiles face down when they are placed on the board
- play blue tiles on ALL enclosed water regions (not just the normal ones)
- the ring MUST be found before anyone can end the game at Mount Doom
If you add these rules, the game plays like a dream. Well maybe it ends up playing more like a bad dream. My one gripe with the game is that as you build the board, you ultimately must choose a direction to begin moving. Once you choose which direction to go, you're pretty much stuck moving in that same direction as the other player will most likely nab all the tiles before you turn around. So, if you (or your opponent) builds a bad board, you're pretty much defeated. Another shortfall is the element of luck. You can grab 4 or 5 tiles and still win the game if you get high scoring tiles. Meanwhile, your opponent may grab 6 or 7 tiles AND arrive at Mount Doom and they still might lose the game. Despite, these complaints I would still recommend this game as it is extremely relaxing and enjoyable. The strategy isn't too intense and you never feel as though you're just 'going through the motions.' There is a final point to remember when playing, however. When playing, you MUST remember that this is LOOSELY based on the trilogy. Sure, the tiles represent characters and objects from the book such as Shelob, Legolas, and Lembas. However, this is where all similarities end. In this game Frodo and Sam (and in our three player games, the hobbit 'Screwey'), compete against one another. This is certainly NOT like the books. Just remember when playing that it is a game of strategy loosly based upon The Lord of the Rings. If you can look past that fact, you will definately enjoy this game. So, to conclude (finally) if you enjoy games with strategy that won't cause you to bite your nails off in frustration, luck that will leave you griping about why you didn't move to that 'other' tile, and tile games with pretty artwork and semi-simplistic rules, then this game is definately worth your time. However, do avoid this game if you're looking for something a little more involved and in depth. LOTR: The Search will give you a night of light fun, light strategy, and heavy luck.
My girlfriend and I have played this game 5 times now and we have come to the conclusion that this game is great, though only salvaged by modifying the rules and changing the scoring.
Tile laying rules are fine and there is some interesting strategy, but not too deep.
Our first major modification is to place all the tokens face down. Now when you move your character towards a group of tokens the meetings with the various figures and artifacts are indeed chance meetings as you might expect in a real exploration.
As the blue, green, and yellow tokens are picked up we do not reveal them (except the ring) to our opponent. To some extent that means you don't know the score of your opponent and go screaming prematurely to Mt. Doom to end the game while you are ahead. We do require that any special power you utilize on the token require you reveal the token.
We have required that the ring be sought out. We have made the ring worth 5 points (should be most valuable item). This is the only token that we reveal right away. We attach an additional 5 points (10 total) for getting to Mt. Doom with the ring. This means if you're opponent has found the ring you had better try and get to Mt. Doom first or you are at a 10 point disadvatage!!
Beware if you play our modification you MUST have a boat to get the ring. Play is stalemated if neither player can get a boat to obtain the ring.
So far (two games) these rules make a lot more sense and have added considerable tension to the game.
All in all I'd say if you are willing to be creative with the game rules you can salvage this overpriced game.
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