Lord of the Rings: Friends & Foes
English language edition
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Friends & Foes provides two completely new Scenario boards, Bree and Isengard, as well as 21 new Feature cards to expand your Lord of the Rings game. Find new friends to help you conquer the challenges ahead: Tom Bombadil, Glorfindel, Treebeard, Strider and many more.
In addition, this Expansion introduces 30 dark Foes ready to bedevil your journey. Face the evil Spiders of Mirkwood, Orcs of the Red Eye, Cave-trolls, Wolf Riders and Barrow Wights -- to name but a few of your new adversaries.
Friends & Foes adds a whole new dimension to the gameplay, giving you more choices, but making your task no less difficult or perilous. This expansion will truly enhance your experience of taking part in thie extraordinary board game interpretation of J. R. R. Tolkien's great novel.
I just got the expansion and am writing so others looking for what the expansion brings will know.
There are a few new Gandalf cards and two new scenarios with corresponding feature cards. Some of the new cards answer the cries we had during the original game, such as 'I don't have any shields to buy a Gandalf card!' Each character also has a one-use special ability card.
The new dimension comes from the Foe cards. When you get the card-discarding symbol on the die or boards, you no longer discard, instead you reveal a foe card. These can be defeated during the game in two ways: 1) by doing the actions listed on each card (such as discarding a certain symbol, or a roll of the die, etc.) 2) as your only action for your turn (no consequences if you do it this way).
There are a few sides to the strategy regarding foes. 1) If there are 8 showing at the end of any one player's turn, the game ends! 2) The Foes defeated count as victory points. (Thus you can achieve higher scores than previously possible.)
The one question we all have is how you can get through the boards and emerge victorious if you add two more scenarios!? Well, the foes answer this question. If you are diligent in defeating your foes, you may skip Moria, Helm's Deep, and Shelob's Lair if you have NO foes showing to start the scenario. There is of course a cost for this big benefit... usually you reveal 4 foes and another penalty.
One frustration I had in the original game was trying to hold onto shields for victory points when it was virtually a must to play them. With the expansion, although you still score points for shields, I think the frustration is gone with the addition of up to 30 victory points for the foes.
One interesting note is that if you defeat all 30 foes, the game is over with normal scoring taking place. Thus, you wouldn't want to defeat the final foe until you have gotten as far along the activity line as possible so you get the closest to 60 points for it as you can. Thus you can see that there may be some tense decisions to be made if you are running out of foes around the same time you are about to reach Mount Doom!
End story--the expansion adds just enough additional depth and twists to keep us having a good time.
So for everyone who's played LOTR, you know the game is challenging as it is. I've played it several times and only ever won on a few occasions. This expansion adds an entirely new layer of considerations to an already mind-bending balancing act of strategy and action.
But oh man is it worth it...
My advice would be to play LOTR by itself prior to picking up this expansion. If you don't, your brain will likely feel something like an overcooked egg and you'll be a bit overwhelmed (unless you hold a Ph.D. in Chaos Theory). However, once you get the feel for it - dive in head first and enjoy it.
The expansion presents the players with several more choices on top of the vast array of options already available to them. This is both the drawback and the appeal of Friends and Foes - on one side, there are now almost too many choices to make - on the other hand, this added difficulty makes the game infinitely more interesting. This expansion is not for the casual gamer and I think brings LOTR out of the realm of family play. It's simply too complex with the expansion to be applied to a family audience.
But for those of you who want big, beefy, brain-melting fun, this is the Holy Grail.
Last year's Best Family Strategy Game is a thrilling portrayal of the mounting tensions of Tolkien's illustrious novel. Everyone cooperates to hinder and defeat the Dark Lord, who moves inexorably closer to the valiant Hobbits (the players) and wins by reaching the Ring-Bearer Prepare to sacrifice yourself to ensure that the Ring-Bearer wins for everyone by reaching Mount Doom and destroying his burden. The expansion has two new Scenarios, along with 30 Foe Cards. Many of the game's Events now produce a Foe that you must eliminate by expending your already thin resources. You lose if eight Foes remain undefeated. However, you progress more quickly at certain stages where no Foes are present, and also win by defeating all 30. We all agree that the expansion adds zest to the original!
This review covers only the Friends and Foes expansion and assumes you know about the main game. If you want a review of the Lord of the Rings main game, this was [page 11254#002898]reviewed in issue 11. (Back copies are available).
Friends and Foes is the first add-on to the Lord of the Rings Board game. It was released late last year and is now widely available in the shops. Given the hype about the film (which lived up to the hype in my opinion), surely this is an excellent time to cash on the Lords of the Rings? After several plays now, I can say that if you liked the first game, then this is Lord of the Rings+, with some significant additions, but if you bought the game as a family game and found it complex, then avoid the expansion as it adds more rules and provides stiffer opposition. I really enjoyed the original game, so the expansion is right up my street.
So, what do you get for your money? You get two more boards to play and these have the same high standard of graphics as the original. The boards are Bree and Isengard and they follow the same format of previous boards in that in order to complete them you have to proceed down a path and avoid the hazards that the game system throws at you. This makes the journey much more like the book. If this was all there was to the expansion though, you might feel that the game becomes harder just because of the additional boards. However, the designers have allowed you to skip two boards if specific conditions are met, thus making the game potentially similar in length to the original game. The game is well packaged and fits well with the first game. You might think that it must do, but there have been game expansions in the past that did not gel well with their base.
The biggest change is the addition of Foes. These are depicted through a new deck of cards and are placed in front of the main board (the Foe line) when the company draws certain event tiles. In practice, this can work out to about one every alternate go, as you draw a Foe whenever the Activity tile is drawn as the first tile. You have to be careful with these because when eight are face up, the party is wiped out. Naturally there are several ways to kill these foes. For example, discarding all a person's shields kills the mountain trolls. You can also kill the leftmost Foe by forfeiting your go. In a four or five player game, this sacrifice may mean that you do not acquire sufficient life tokens by the end of the board and move closer to Sauron. On the other hand too many Foes will cause your destruction. Decisions, decisions. The effect of this rule is that every turn now a nasty thing happens to the party. In the earlier game, drawing an activity tile was a benefit as no other adverse effect was bound to take place.
The addition of two new locations means that there are two more places to add on the location track. The game includes two sticky labels that fit neatly in the right sequence. There's even a picture in the rules showing you how to place them.
Further changes come in the form of one-off game benefits that each hobbit has. For example, Merry's bravery allows him to instantly defeat all Foes from the Foe line that require life tokens. As with all these options, the decision is when to play them -- too early and you fear that a later board will become impossible -- too late and you may not make it to the later board. Also on the positive side there are more good guy cards to collect on some of the paths, there are extra Gandalf cards and you can win by killing all the Foes, which becomes a military victory. (In this case, for people who like to score their position, you get the number of points for your current position, 30 points for killing all the Foes and individual points for the number of shields you have collected, which now includes 1 per despatched Foe.
Overall, the game adds more options and another layer of difficulty. If you like a further challenge then Friends and Foes certainly provides it. In a recent game I played, the Foes overwhelmed our party in 20 minutes. We had some bad luck, but did not pay enough attention to the Foes. Yep, it's more difficult, but still enjoyable!