Der Herr der Ringe: Die Gefährten: Das Kartenspiel
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Reiner Knizia's second game based on the Lord of the Rings. The cards from this charming game are from the movie Lord of The Rings. The objective is to build Middle Earth and accumulate points. Very simple rules, but gameplay is challenging and fast.
I am not an experienced gamer, so I am not able to compare this game with other games. I bought this game for my friend, and the reason was that it was cheap. When I read the instruction of this game, the first thing that comes to my mind was that 'can this game be fun?' It is indeed fun!. I am addicted to this game, since no game that I have played before (such as Monopoly, Risk and Clue) has given me so much enjoyment. I enjoy the process of thinking of winning strategy in this game. The game provides pretty of options for you to choose, and you must adapt your strategies in each turn. But be careful! Other players also have their own agendas and may trick you, as a result. Luck does not play as much in this game as in other classics (e.g., Monoploy).
Another merit of this game is that the game rules are simple. Although lots of different options exist in the game, the rules are not hard to understand at all, even to non-gamers.
I briefly explained them to my friends and they knew how to play.
The third merit is that strategies change when you play with different number of people. You will find the gameplay for 2 people different from the gameplay for 3 or 4 people, because the rules change. I find that this game is fun no matter how many people you play with. It is unlike Clue or Monopoly, in which a 2 player-game is boring.
Overall, I give this game a score of 4.5, since it is undoubtedly a well-designed game. Even you have bad cards on your hand, you can still win with clever strategy. Have I told you that I won Clue and Monopoly nearly every time I played, but I lost this game for five consecutive times? This game let you think, and you have to play smart to win. For gamers who hate the element of luck (like me), I strongly suggest this game.
If you are looking for a theme-based, deep-going cardgame, then you'd better skip this one. Personally, if a cardgame with this title appears, for some reason I expect an adventurous game, at least a game where some RPG-elements are a part of the gameplay. The bad thing about this game is that it has not much to do with the theme, at least not to the extent as one may expect.
However, if you are looking for a game that plays fast, and if you like abstract gameplay (but not to abstract) this Knizia game is a pretty nice one. What I like about tis game, is the easyness of it, yet at the same time offers more fun then can be determined from reading the game-rules. Like other Knizia games, the fun of this game can only be discovered by actually playing it. Let me put it in another way: after having read the game-rules, I found myself wondering 'should this game be fun?'
But all I can say is that it IS fun indeed. This is due to the fact that it isn't complex, yet it offers enough absorbing gameplay to stay far away from a label like 'boring'. Ok, I have played this game only for 6 times now, but I just feel good about this game. The point is in fact: just don't expect an Euphrat & Tigris, only because it says 'Reiner Knizia' on the box. But do expect 'Reiner Knizia', because it says so on the box. In other words, some abstractism, but nice solutions that connect to the theme somehow (visiting Villages is translated very well).
So, this game isn't going to blow your mind, like E & F. Your braincells will be left intact. What do I say, this game will refresh your overstressed mind, and that is the best way I can put it. You will be surprised by the originality that goes with this game.
The thing is that every player has the same set of cards. Meaning that every player has the same possibilities and chances. However, the cards come random to you. This means, that it may happen you have drawn a 'bad hand', at a given time. Meaning that you'd wish you had drawn better cards. But a Knizia-game wouldn't be a Knizia-game, if there were no escape-routes under the given circumstances. What I am trying to say is: it is not your hand of card that are responsible for succes, it is what you do with the cards! Even a bad hand can be transformed to your benefit, if only you play carefully and wellthought. This games offers a feature like: if you are not the strongest, then be the smartest. The challenge of the game is to make this statement happen. Loose a round or two, but come back surprisingly strong!
The cardgame can't be compared with the same-called board-game from the same designer. There is absolutely no similarity between them. The boardgame is a real nailbiting adventure, the cardgame is pure fast fun. But quality-fun, in my opinion. The only thing I can say (to convince you) is: just play it, and you know what I mean ( a typical Knizia trademark).
This game is a tie-in to the first Lord of the Rings (LotR) movie, so let's talk first about how it ties in. It follows the plot of this first third of Tolkein's epic, in that the game, like the fellowship, goes from Bag End to Amon Hen, visting in between sites such as Rivendell and Moria. The cards feature stills from the movie.
Each of the 10 sites is represented by 2 cards, which are placed adjacent to each other. The first site is Bag End, so the game starts with these 2 cards placed in the centre of the table. At this site, as at every site, there are victory points at stake. At Bag End, as at some--but not all--of the sites, there is a ring at stake.
Each player has a deck of 22 cards, with each deck having the same distribution of cards (with respect to value--the stills on the cards differ a little from deck to deck). You shuffle your deck and deal yourself a hand of 6 cards. On your turn, you place one or more cards in one of the 10 spaces that surround the current site, and then you replenish your hand to 6. Most of the time, you will place a single card. But some of the cards--the 1s, the zero, and the Nazgul--allow you to place more than one card on a turn.
When the site is completely surrounded, it is scored. You count the number of points on cards of each colour around it, and compare counts in order to allocate victory points--and rings, if any. Then the player who played the last card at the site places the next site adjacent to the growing mass of cards on the table, and competition starts for this new current site.
I think of this game as the decadent, Western cousin of an earlier Knizia game: Samurai. If you've played Samurai, you'll be able to see the similarities from the above description. If you haven't, then it's about time you did! I don't like this 'card-laying game' as much as I like Samurai. But then, I like very few games that much. So my comparison leaves plenty of room for this to be a good game. Indeed, on the basis of 4 plays in December 2001, it does seem to be a good game.
Here are some reasons why I rate the LotR card game lower than Samurai. It is less strategic and more tactical; you have to play at the current site, whereas in Samurai, you can wait until the endgame and select from a wide variety of locations to play. It is less clean with respect to rules. There are different rules for safe (white) sites, such as Bag End and Lothlorien, and for dangerous (black) sites, such as the Ford and Amon Hen. There are special rules for 3 of the sites, and each ring has a different power (with one exception). Those who prefer theme to simple rules may like these things. However, those who like theme may be disappointed by the game overall; it's really another abstract game with a thin layer of theme from Knizia.
It seems on the basis of the games I've played so far that there may be a particularly big advantage to a strong start. If you can finish Bag End and take first place in doing so, you get not only a couple of points and a ring, you also get the right to place Bree. You will place it next to some of the powerful cards you've already laid, so that they affect Bree as well. Thus, you have a good chance of also winning Bree and its ring, or at least finishing among the points. I may be wrong here. I must admit that I've only played 4 times before writing this, and that the later sites carry more victory points than do the earlier ones.
I don't like the cards for this card game. Most of the movie stills don't work for me as card art (although I enjoyed the movie). You may well hit the edge of the table unless you play on a very large one. When you do so, you either have to move all the cards so far laid, or play the semi-official variant that if a site is at the edge of the table, 3 of the 10 slots around it simply don't exist, and so you score it after 7 cards have been laid around it. I wish the cards had been smaller, rather than standard card size; I'd have made them the size of the cards in Wyatt Earp (and, by the way, I wish the cards for Wyatt Earp had been the size of these).
Having said all that, I do like this game. I like tile-laying games, and that's what this really is, despite being a card game rather than a board game. Everyone I've played it with has liked it. There is extremely little German on the cards, just a sentence on each of 3 of the sites. The game would be helped by a player aid sheet to provide a summary of the rules and translations of these site rules and of the ring powers. It would also be helped by an FAQ. There are a couple of points at which I'm not sure how to interpret the rules (e.g., when ring powers clash, which ring trumps the other?), but we haven't had real problems at such points.
Another fine Knizia game, despite the artificial theme. Shuffle your 22 personal cards (valued from zero to five, with one Nazgul), facedown. Draw a hand of six that will be replenished each turn. Two adjacent scenic cards form a Location. Play any number of #1 cards, or one of higher value, adjacent to the current Location. When the final (10th) card is laid--thereby completing a "frame" around that Location--earn points if your cards have the highest total. Playing the last card (0 is useful for this) earns the advantage of adding the next Location adjacent to a completed frame. Discarding a Nazgul removes an enemy card. Saving your cards for the last, most valuable Locations? Careful! Play could end earlier than you think, if all hands are depleted or if only one player has cards after scoring. Knizia's imaginative mechanisms can be crueler than a Dark Lord.
A famous Buddhist teacher once observed that when a conflagration is raging there is virtue in not adding one's own brand to the fire. It is a wise counsel but also one that helps explain why Buddhists have never really made it big in the field of marketing. It can't have escaped your attention that over the past few months we have been assailed from all sides by one of the most well organized and determined film merchandising operations ever, with books, games, jigsaw puzzles and calendars all in matching livery and all piled high wherever you look. This game is part of it.
The game is played with cards, but this is almost certainly because cards give the best physical medium for displaying stills from the film. If you were classifying the game, you would put it under tile laying, with a footnote to the effect that in this case the tiles happened to take the form of playing cards. A second footnote would then add a cross reference to an earlier tile laying game from the same author that is based on very similar principles, something that I mention not as a criticism but to save you scratching your head on the matter when I start describing the mechanics, where the basic ideas are
As has been pointed out already by others, this would also serve as an outline for the 1998 Hans im Glck game, [page scan/se=0047/sf=category/fi=stockin.asc/ml=20]Samurai. However, a designer is fully entitled to re-use some of his earlier ideas provided he adds significant new ones to the mix and Reiner does that here.
The locations in this case are the ten key places from the first part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy: Bag End, Bree, Weathertop, the Ford, Rivendell, Caradhras, the Gate of Moria, Moria itself, Lothlrien and Amon Hen. You compete for them one at a time, and in the right order, and at each one players will score points. Just how many varies with the location and with your position in the pecking order.
Each player has a deck of 22 cards of varying values (7 1s, 4 each of values 2, 3 and 4, 1 zero and 1 Nazgul). You begin by shuffling your cards, placing them as a face-down deck and drawing the top 6 to form your starting hand. Thereafter it is a matter of playing cards in your turn and ending it by making your hand back up to 6. Your participation in the game ends when your deck runs out.
Sites consist of two cards placed side by side and there is one in play at any one time, so the game starts with the two Bag End cards being placed in the middle of the table. The immediate aim of the players is then to surround this, picture-frame style. It requires 10 cards to do this and once it has been achieved, the site is scored and the cards for Bree placed at some point on the edge of the tableau that has been built up. When Bree has also been surrounded, Weathertop is placed and so on.
On your turn you play one or more cards at the current site and the main rule is that you can play either as many value 1 cards as you like or one card of value greater than 1. The 0 and the Nazgul are exceptions to this: they can be placed either instead of or in addition to another card. At the five 'safe' sites card placement (Nazgul aside) is done in strictly friendly fashion with each new card being played into a space; at the others you get the additional option of covering a card with one of higher value. The Nazgul is always nasty. This is played on top of another card and its effect is to remove both itself and the covered card from the game, leaving a space which someone can then fill with a new card. So typically you will play your Nazgul to knock out a high value opposition card and will then put one of your own into its place.
When the encirclement of a site is complete, each player adds up the value of the cards that they have in the border and the victory points are distributed. At some sites the "winner" will also receive a ring, which they can use to get a one-off tactical advantage at some later point in the game. That done the new site is placed by whoever played the last card at the old one. There is a significant advantage to be had here. Placement will be somewhere on the edge of the tableau and by locating the site next to one or two of your own high value cards you will get double use from them and give yourself a valuable start in the new race for precedence. This fact shows where the 0 card comes in. At each site you are not only trying for a high place in the order, you are trying to be the person who places the last card. The 0, being an 'extra', can be the one that clinches it. For example, suppose that there are two spaces left at the start of your turn. You place a high number followed by the zero. This propels you up the order, prevents anyone from countering your play and also gives you the advantage for the next location. All that remains is the gracious speech.
The game ends either when all players have run out of cards or if after the scoring of a site only one player has cards remaining. It is quite possible that this will happen before Amon Hen is reached and so even though this is the highest scorer, you can get your fingers burned if you adopt a strategy of saving most of your best cards until the end. The others are likely to realise what you are doing and thwart you by forcing an early finish. Failure to get as far as Amon Hen is most likely when there are only three players, as there are then fewer cards in play. (With just two players, you each take two colours, putting you back in the 'full deck' situation.)
As will have been clear from the description, this is not a game where the play in any way reflects the story. The thematic connection begins and ends with the pictures and the names. Even the stuff with the rings is surface decoration only. "One ring to rule them all" in the book; "One ring to increase the strength of a card by 2" in the game. Not really the same sort of resonance. If this lack comes as any sort of surprise to you, it shouldn't. As I have noted before, you can't expect a multi-player game from the main story line in The Lord of the Rings, because it doesn't deal with a multi-player situation. What you actually get here is a tightly constructed game of resource management which blends strategy, tactics and luck. The strategy consists of deciding how best to use your most powerful cards. Do you save them up in order to make a play for one of the higher scoring sites or do you use them to intimidate your rivals at a string of lesser ones? The tactics revolve around jostling for position at the current site and trying to be the player who grabs the advantage that comes from playing the last card. The luck comes from having the right cards available when you want them. You will receive all your cards by the end but the order in which they come can be critical. It is inevitable that other players will create tactical opportunities that you could exploit if you were holding the right cards and it then comes down to whether you are or not.
The verdict from my group was that the game was pleasant enough, quite good even, but not one of Reiner's best. It is interesting, but in a 'solving a puzzle' sort of way rather than a 'battle of wits' one. One of those games where players are liable to start giving each other advice, not on how to deal with a mutual rival but on how best to exploit the current board position. There isn't the tenseness that comes from being anxious about how things are going to work out and this leaves you looking at the position in a fairly objective fashion -- "what is the best move?", rather than "what is best for me?". Whether you should buy it depends not only on whether this sort of game appeals but on how many games you buy per year. If only a few, this is probably not one for the shortlist; if a lot, then it is worth considering, as you are quite likely to enjoy it and the relatively low price means that the fact that you are unlikely to play it a lot isn't that big an issue.