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Lord of the Rings: The Search
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Lord of the Rings: The Search

English language edition

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Ages Play Time Players
10+ 30-40 minutes 2

Designer(s): Peter Neugebauer

Manufacturer(s): Rio Grande Games, Kosmos

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Product Description

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.

Product Information

  • Designer(s): Peter Neugebauer

  • Manufacturer(s): Rio Grande Games, Kosmos

  • Artist(s): John Howe

  • Year: 2001

  • Players: 2

  • 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.

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 2.8 in 14 reviews

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Beautiful: Very Well-Made, Easy-to-Learn, and Fun
October 17, 2001

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.

Not the best, but certainly not the worst.
February 06, 2003

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.

Good with the right rules...
January 15, 2002

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.

Subtle strategy keeps this interesting
January 10, 2002

I too think that previous reviewers are too harsh & missing subtle strategies that can be applied. Already in the few times that I've played the game & lost (it happens), I could reflect on the specific mistake I made that cost me the game. And these were tactical mistakes, not just unlucky tile draws. To me, that is the mark of a game that is at least worth playing again.

It also reminds me quite of bit of Carcassonne, which I also like. You actually have a choice of tiles to play in this one, which dispenses with one of the key criticisms against Carcassonne. Nonetheless, those who dislike Carcassonne should probably stay away. But if you are a fan, I recommend this, even prefering it over 2-person Carcassonne.

The one criticism that I do agree with is that the theme does seem a bit forced. The whole reason that the Knizia boardgame is so remarkable is that it captures the desperate collaborative element of the book's fellowship & perfectly incorporates it into its flexible gameplay. In this game, to have Frodo & Sam competing with each other to race to Mt. Doom (and not even necessarily with the Ring!!!) does seem sort of stretching it. However, I've never been too bugged by sketchy themes in games before - Lost Cities remains a favorite way to kill 15 minutes, and that game doesn't even need the board that comes with it!!!

I don't feel like I've exhausted this game yet, so I can recommend it to anyone looking for a 2-person game with which to pass a pleasant half hour or so.

More than meets the Eye (of Sauron)
January 10, 2002

As other reviewers have pointed out, this game has some subtleties that are not at first apparent. As noted previously, Hobbit movement and tile placement usually need to be carefully considered. In addition, the location of Mount Doom near the end of the game becomes of primary importance. The player who can best predict or control the placement of Mount Doom and position his Hobbit accordingly often has the best chance of winning.

Fine Tile Laying Game For Two
January 07, 2002

Wow! Seems a few of the previous viewers missed the point! The Search is not an overly complex game, that I'll agree with. The game play is, as mentioned before, simply one of laying a tile, then putting an encounter token if you create a surrounded 2 section region, and then moving you hobbit from the region you're in to an adjacent one. If there is a token in the region you move to, you get it. Most tokens you will know what they are- yellow, green and blue ones. The brown you don't know until you turn them over. The brown ones can score zero, 2, 3, or 4 points. The scoring ones, while helping to gain points, also halt your movement for 1-2 turns, which can hurt you at times.

If that were all there was to the game, I'd agree it's not much. But like many things we encounter in life, and games, there's more to it than meets the eye. There is strategy in where the tile is placed. There is strategy in where you move your hobbit. Just randomly placing tiles about can make it very easy for your opponent to get more tokens, and can put yourself in areas very difficult to move out of.

Moving your hobbit without determining where it can keep moving from there can also get you into trouble. Do I move my hobbit to get that 4 point token, which will then make it so I am going to burn 1-2 turns getting back out of there? Options, decisions, choices, strategy. Not rocket science sure, but still calls for thought and planning.

You also have options which cost you points but can help you move about better, or grab an extra high scoring token before your opponent does. Also realize the blue tokens are worth one point, but if you use them to take an extra move or turn, they cost you negative one. That's a two point swing, so you better make sure it's worth it.

You can build a boat, which allows you to move onto blue/water regions. It's the only way you can get the blue tokens. To build the boat however, you must turn in two brown tokens. There are blank/zero point tokens you can find, and ones with two or more points. The ideal is to get two blank brown tokens and turn them in for the boat. No points lost there. But you may decide to give up a few points to get the bost for increased mobility. It's a decision that can have an effect on the outcome for you.

I have played this game 10+ times, and have seen games won without ever having built a boat, thus never getting a blue token. I have seen other games that were won with the difference having been the winner built a boat, gathered a few blue tokens, which helped their mobility, and thus helped win the game. It's different each time, and as a player you need to adapt to the way the board forms as you lay tiles.

I would agree that the game has little to do with the LoTR story. But if the criteria of a good game was that it had to fully resemble a book or reality itself, well, we'd have damned few games. Even chess, the ultimate wargame for centuries, bears little resemblence to war or battle. The Search is fine in it's theme even if it isn't a serious reflection of the books. I suggest to play it several times to begin to spot the nuances and options you have to win the game.

As one might have guessed by now, after my ramblings, I like the game. It offers good gameplay, opportunities for strategy, for luck, and it plays in 40-45 minutes usually. It may not be a Hera and Zeus or Caesar and Cleopatra, or a Lost Cities or Starship Catan, but it is a decent little game in it's own right.

Oh, and it does come with excellent components, and is very affordable. So if you want a good game of tile laying for two, I can recommend The Search with no hesitation.

Fun game, but a little complicated
January 16, 2004

This is an excellent game, as far as LOTR licensed games go. I've seen some awful ones, but this is one of the best. That said, it's a good game to play with a friend, but it takes a while to learn the rules, some of which just seem to be thrown in to take up space on the page. If you're a LOTR fan, snap this up, especially ar $14.95, but if you're just looking for a game to play to pass the time, I would go with Aquarius, by Looney Labs.

Relaxing, fun game if you don't take the theme too seriously
January 06, 2003

I've played this game about 10 times and found it very enjoyable. True, the game does not simulate the epic struggle of good and evil in the Lord of the Rings books. However, it's great for an enjoyable afternoon of game playing.

My minor gripe is that the person with the ring, once they know where Mt. Doom is at, can continue wandering around trying to pick up extra points for as long as they want. Therefore, I added one simple rule at the end.

Once the location of Mt. Doom is known, the player with the ring must go there as quickly as they can (although they are not required to use any of the special treasures they've picked up). They are free to move to a region with a counter as long as it doesn't add distance to their rout to Mt. Doom. The other player can wander around getting points until the player with the ring reaches Mt. Doom. Once the ring reaches Mt. Doom, the game ends.

At least the art by John Howe.
February 23, 2002

I was greatly disappointed with this game. It seamed like Kosmos wanted to make a rip-off of Carcassonne but in a Middle Earth setting. Unfortunately they did a terrible job at it.

My friend who is a Tolkien fanatic became so outraged by the game's failure to have ANY consistency with books, that he left the game half way through. For one thing, Frodo and Sam are supposed to search for the ring together! And the tokens you pick up do not really symbolize any of their character's abilities. I know this is supposed to be a fairly abstract game but Reiner Knizia's Lord of the Rings boardgame is very abstract and still captures the spirit of the books perfectly.

I kept the game because I love John Howe's art but now I'm so disgusted by the limited replay value that I am offering it available to trade...for cheap! If you want to play a cool tile placement game play Carcassonne. If you want to play a cool Tolkien game play Reiner's Lord of the Rings boardgame.

What's the Point?
January 01, 2002

I have only played this once, but after my initial excitement wore off, I found that there was little to this game. Basically, you build the gameboard, then walk around picking up tokens. There's only limited strategy, and the gameplay is boring. Furthermore, the ring is worth only ONE point! The whole point of the trilogy only worth ONE point! If you're looking for 2-player games, stick with the others in the Rio Grande series.

Uninteresting - rip off - money grabbing Crap!
September 15, 2002

This so-called 'game', that goes under the name 'The Search', is a horrendous piece of uttermost crap. The whole idea is flat and boring from the first second to the last. Absolutely no consistency or real application or connection to The Lord of the rings legacy, just a bunch of meaningless tokens that, for some obscure reason, happen to have great paintings of charachters from The Tolkien Saga.

Expensive and highly irritating. This is nothing less than a pure money grabbing rip off piece of german scheize!

Anyone remotely interested in boardgaming connected with Tolkien stuff, should immediately check out Rainer Knizias faboulous Lord of the Rings board game + its expansions.


I'm selling my only copy at PrezCon in February.
January 08, 2002

I have played this game between 5 and 10 times depending on if you include the variations I created or not. My girlfriend and I kept hoping to discover that we had missed something. Now she even refuses to play my variations although she admitts they are more interesting. Simply put, the game needs a lot of work and you might as well buy some other game.

I am not sure why this game has been marketed as a 2 player game. Maybe it would be better with more players. In fact, perhaps it was supposed to be a 4 player game but Kosmos could only get the rights to a two player Lord of the Rings game. I haven't tested this theory by playing with more players but that is only because I hate to waste more of our time.

Chutes and Ladders is more fun than this!
January 07, 2002

This game is one of the most pointless games I have ever played. The game play stinks, all you do is walk around, if you feel like moving or you can just stand at the finish line and wait for the end. I cannot believe they put the Lord of the Rings title on this. Your money would be better spent on anything else besides this game. The only good thing about this game is the box cover has somewhat nice graphics to it.

by Sassy
Do NOT buy this game...
January 06, 2002

It has absolutely no feel of the movie or the book. Winning the game is not about reaching Mt Doom. It is about finding little squares trying to represent Gandalf and others...and if you run into the sweat just wait a turn or two >yawn<. The whole concept is flawed...the hobbits have to SEARCH for mount doom? There is no concept of Sauron in the fear. Once Mount Doom is 'found', you have no reason to 'race' for it unless you are winning which is easily determined by seeing what you and your opponent have in front of you. The worst of the two-player Kosmos games to date...

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