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Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation
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Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation

English language edition

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Product Awards:  
International Gamers Awards
Best 2-Player Game, 2003

Ages Play Time Players
12+ 30 minutes 2

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Product Description

This stand-alone two-player Lord of the Rings game is designed by master game designer Reiner Knizia and illustrated by acclaimed Tolkien artist John Howe, the duo behind the bestselling core Lord of the Rings board game. In this wonderful game interpretation of the novels, the Fellowship must seek to bring Frodo to Mordor, and the dark lord Sauron must seek to capture Frodo and the One Ring before Frodo reaches Mt. Doom.

Each player controls nine characters who each have a unique special ability (the nine characters of the Fellowship are controlled by one player, and nine of Sauron's greatest minions are controlled by the opposing player). The game uses a hidden movement system to simulate the search for the ring, and the conflict resolution system is a brilliant cardplay mechanic from a limited resource pool of cards. The dark lord Sauron is stronger and projects more power, but the Fellowship have more devious and surprising maneuvers at hand. The straight-forward gameplay of The Confrontation allows each game to be played in about a half hour. Great strategy and fun.

Product Awards

International Gamers Awards
Best 2-Player Game, 2003

Product Information

  • Designer(s): Reiner Knizia

  • Manufacturer(s): Asmodee North America, Kosmos, Fantasy Flight Games

  • Artist(s): John Howe

  • Year: 2002

  • Players: 2

  • Time: 30 minutes

  • Ages: 12 and up

  • Weight: 591 grams

  • All-Time Sales Rank: #137

  • Language Requirements: Game components are printed in English. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English. This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item.


  • 1 Game Board
  • 18 Plastic Towers
  • 18 Cardboard Characters (for Towers)
  • 22 Oversize Cards
  • 1 Color Rules Booklet

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4.6 in 18 reviews

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A quick, intense and fun gaming experience!
November 02, 2004

1 gameboard - very artistically painted board that has very highly themed regions (ie., Shire, Mordor) and funtional details (River Anduin and Moria tunnel). Easily laid-out and folded.

18 plastic pieces (with the character cards inserted) - Simple yet functional plastic pieces that hides easily switchable character cards. Character cards includes a brief description of each character attribute. Can be prepared and stored easily.

22 cards - High quality art, medium quality card stock. I immediately need to laminate them because dirt sticks on it easily but due to the lamination, it cannot fit the box anymore. You dont need to shuffle the cards during the game so it retains its quality.

The rules are simple yet the tactical options are immense - from the game set-up to its end game. You will really need to play the game at least twice (2 each on both sides) to memorize each unit's attibutes (strength, weakness, abilities) . The beauty of the game is its assymmetry. The two sides differ on their overall characteristics.

The Fellowship exceeds in special skills like sacrifice (Boromir), counter-measures (ie., Gimli against the Orcs) and special skills (Pippin's scouting skill). The Fellowship's Text cards have an edge over Sauron's.

Sauron's forces, on the other hand is simply powerful when it comes to strength (ie., Shelob, Balrog and Witch King) and brute (ie., Cave Troll). Their Strength cards supplement their already strong fighting force.

What's really great in this game is its BALANCE despite the assymmetry. Reiner Knizia designed each character's attributes ingeniously while keeping them believable when it comes to the theme (ie., Sam is stronger when with Frodo in the same region).

Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation is a very well-themed, highly tactical game of bluffing and strategy. I think this is one of Reiner Knizia's few highly-themed game masterpiece. Most of the time, you need to have a good memory to remember your enemy's units. It plays very quick (me and my officemate can play a game, 1 round for each side, in as low as 20 mins. I have never experienced a dull moment with this game even if I'm playing with a complete newbie. The game can really suck you to play it more and more. An experience you shouldn't miss!

If you don't have this game yet, do yourself a favor and get yourself a copy!

After each game, you simply want to play again
July 02, 2004

This is one of the best games that I have ever played. It is an awesome strategy game that can be played over and over again. I truly cannot think of any real negatives that hinder this remarkable game. Two games can be played in relatively one hour. It is very easy to learn yet difficult to master. The card element significantly adds to the bluffing/strategic gameplay.

by Roy L.
Simple, Deep, and a Great LotR Game -- For All Ages
March 17, 2004

At at time when many mass market games are overly complex, shallow, and little more than cynical marketing vehicles for the latest hit film, this game comes as a welcome surprise. Not only is this a clever interpretation of the Lord of the Rings theme (with artwork by long-time Middle Earth contributor John Howe and a 'story line' that really resonates with the ringbearer's quest), but the game itself is superb.

The Confrontation comes out of the vibrant 'German' (really also French, British, and Italian) school of 'gamer's games'. Since most American gamers will be unfamiliar with this type of game, having grown up on Monopoly, Life, Clue, and Risk, it's nice to see this one so widely avaialble. Unlike these games, The Confrontation is very tightly balanced, so that only careful play can reliably win -- and careless play is always punished. Every move matters, so that play is always engaging; but the simple rules and engrossing theme keep the game from becoming sterile. Moreover, what makes this game really great is that it is accessible to all ages. Kids from 6 up can master it and win against adults. (And in a pinch, there are extra 'powers' included -- like Shadowfax or Palantir-- that can be used as handicaps.)

In short: One of the best new two-player games available (by perhaps the best game designer ever, Reiner Knizia); fast, easy to learn, and attractive -- with a fun and well-delivered theme. What more could you ask for! A superb introduction to quality European-style games for all ages.

Easily the best use of the Stratego mechanic.
November 20, 2003

This is currently one of my favorite games. It is at its best when it is played between the same two players multiple times. Because the opponent's strategy is initially hidden, it helps to know what his tendancies have been in previous games. In my experience, the game becomes richer with multiple plays against the the same opponent, as each contestent tries to infer from previous games his opponent's present strategy. One finds oneself in an increasingly elaborate 'Battle of Wits' as in 'The Princess Bride'. It's a great object lesson in Game Theory, for those interested in mathematical economics.

by Paul
Masterfully simple nail biter
January 02, 2003

Amazing. The rules are so simple. The subtle differences between pieces (retreat sideways/retreat back). The vast differences between sides. The astounding balance. So many games seem to boil down to a few pieces on the map and 1 move about to determine the whole thing - and that move a psychological struggle. Was he brave enough to move Frodo first?

You can't play just once - good thing its fast.

by Mark
Excellent game that is a lot of FUN!
December 02, 2002

Love Lord of the Rings? Love a good short 2 player game? This one fits the bill.

My teenage kids love it and my old die hard war gamming buddy of many years thought it was a lot of fun. We were both amazed at how a simple game really does capture the feel of the books. As the Fellowship player you see that as far as the strength of your characters go, your lacking next to the Dark Power player. As the Dark Power player you know you've got the Fellowship player out gunned, but don't assume that will guarentee victory.

The rules are simple but each character in the game has his own unique abilities. It's coming up with a plan on how to use each character to their potential that makes the difference. We also play with the variant cards as that seems to make the game more interesting.

Another job well done to the game designer! Game components are also a nice quality. Well worth the value.

Top-notch 2-player conflict
October 17, 2002

There seems little point in rehashing the game mechanics (which have already been detailed in previous reviews) so let me simply rave about the wonderful way in which this simple game packs a huge amount of strategy and tension into such a quick game.

The forces are in direct opposition and although imbalanced in strength, have special abilities and modifiers that create a perfect match to one another.

Yes, the element of Stratego is present and the playing of the limited number of value cards reminded me a tad bit like the spice duels of AH's Dune game (which is GOOD thing) the game itself does not seem derivative or a simple abstraction with the LOTR license tacked on after the fact.

Ironically I find the gaming experience in this simple package to be far more satisfying than the full-blown LOTR board game. (and the cost is a bargain!)

by Brian
Knizia got it right, again
October 14, 2002

Just wanted to add to the praise for this tightly designed, clever, well-themed gem. Very fun, quick to play, and does a good job of evoking a LotR 'feel.'

The graphics by John Howe are very nice and the components are of very good quality. This is the nicest production value I've seen out of Fantasy Flight Games and I hope they continue in this direction. Good job!

Well worth the modest price.

by Randy
Knizia finally got it right.
October 11, 2002

I just finished my sixth game of Confrontation tonight and can't really come up with a single serious criticism of it, especially considering the price. I would have to say this is my favorite two player game next to Battle Cry. And that's comparing it to Starship Catan, Battleline, Castle, Carcassone, Hera and Zeus, Caesar and Cleopatra, and Lost Cities.

Other than Battleline, I haven't been a big Knizia fan. The Lord of the Rings game, which I have played now with both expansions, is far too luck driven and the characters abilities seem to only vaguely resemble those of the legendary tale. However, in Confrontation each character's ability not only seems to suit the actual literary character perfectly but all of the abilities weave together to create a mesmerizing game. The tension and subtle strategies combined with nice graphics give a real feel of the Fellowship's dilemma: how to sneak a little hobbit into Mordor while distracting the big boys (i.e. Balrogs, Witch Kings, Trolls, etc..).

Each game can be set up differently to try out countless strategies and the various cards mixed with each of the character abilities gives you as many combinations to choose from as Cosmic Encounter. Though there is a Stratego-like element to the game, there is little of the random luck and frustratingly limited movement of Stratego.

This one is worth every shilling.

Two player gem: Destroy the Ring!/Get Bagginss-ss-ss!
October 04, 2002

There are possibly two great ways to write this review.

The first way to review this game is to talk about how great this little two-player game is. A board, nine pieces each, and nine cards each. Wonderful illustrations on all components. Like Stratego, players put their pieces on the board without the other player knowing what the strength of each piece is. The only way to find out is to move your piece to your opponent's piece, which brings about a battle. The curveball to that is that each piece has a special action making battles and strategy (and BLUFFING!) very interesting. On top of the special actions, battles most often also require the use of cardplay, which adds yet another layer of bluffing strategy to the game.

You'll find yourself trying different approaches with the pieces and/or the cards, every time you play. And the unique use of the board (players start on opposite CORNERS of a square board), plus the rule that pieces can only go forward (with a few small exceptions) create a quick, tense, interactive game that doesn't let up for 30 minutes. The victory conditions for each side are different to suit the theme, and make the game even better. The pieces for each side are totally different, but the game is balanced well, almost making it like having two games, since you can get better at playing the Fellowship, and then have to learn to get good at Dark.

Learning to play the pieces well, and bluff well, AND play the cards well in battle make for a great game. And if the two players playing are of different skill levels, the weaker player can have two special action cards that fit well with the game.

Looking at this game as a two player game, I can not find a single fault with it. It is very replayable, due to two different forces; the possibility of many different piece setups and subsequent moves; and the balance of bluff, board play, and cardplay. It is currently the best two player game I've ever played, joining the elite ranks of Hera & Zeus, and Battle Cry.

Whew! I don't usually write reviews that take this long!

But the second way to review this game would be to talk about how well it suits the Lord of the Rings theme. The forces are balanced well for game play, but also for theme. The forces of Mordor far stronger, and are able to cover more of the board quickly than the Fellowship. The Fellowship, on the other hand, seems overmatched, slow, and on the verge of being destroyed at every turn, were it not for the wily Frodo, and the well-timed interventions of Gandalf.

The actions on the pieces are well themed: Boromir never lasts long, but when he dies in battle, he takes someone else with him; Sam is weak, but if he's with Frodo, his power increases by 3; if Balrog is in Moria, and someone tries to travel thru the Mines or Moria, they are instantly defeated.

The victory conditions add to the game even further: Mordor must capture Frodo, or occupy the Shire with 3 pieces; the Fellowship must get the Ring to Mordor. There are even 2 extra (variant) cards for each player that add even a bit more theme to the game. What a battle!

This game, in my opinion, capture LotR perfectly, with the pressing of forces, the seeming invincibility of Mordor, and the uncanny ability of the Fellowship to overcome all opposition...

I hope this hasn't sounded complicated. Each character has one special action, and it is printed right on the piece. And there are only 9 pieces each, so it doesn't take long to understand how they work. But using them effectively... Well, that will take a little time. :)

This is my favorite two player game. It is an EXCELLENT Lord of the Rings game. It is short -- 30 minutes. It is a very good price. Four compelling reasons to add this to your very next game order. I could not recommend this more highly.

A fantastic little game
September 30, 2002

The Confrontation is a highly interesting game well worth spending time with.

After 30 or so playthroughs, this game still grows and constantly shows different( and somewhat unexpected )faces of strategy.

Strategy is indeed very important in this game, without it youre not going to get far, but then again, strategy alone wont get you anywhere either since there is luck involved as well + it takes txo to make the brew, which means that theres no telling whats on your opponents mind.

The Confrontation is fantastic for a small game, great - Middle Earth Tolkien - atmosphere and great duration. Every characther is well concieved according to Tolkiens writings. For instance: Sam recieves extra strength when with Frodo. And Gandalf always makes the dark player play his card first. Gimli instantly defeats the Orcs, and so on.

Reiner Knizia knows how to keep the players on edge and his intriguing games never let you be to sure of your position. There is no learning by doing in this game, as in 'well after a while things crystalize and you learn your moves', anything can happen, and of course -it does.

Fast, fun game of strategy and bluff
September 03, 2002

Lord of The Rings: The Confrontation is a Stratego-like game by Reiner Knizia based on the famous trilogy. Each player controls 9 pieces representing Sauron and his Minions and the Fellowship. The board is an accurate but clearly abstracted map of Middle Earth and arranged so that play ranges from one corner of the map, The Shire, to the opposing corner, Mount Doom. The goal of the Fellowship is simply to get the Ring to Mount Doom. Sauron must either kill Frodo before he gets there or occuppy the Shire with 3 pieces.

The pieces are modeled after the heroes, villains, and creatures of Middle Earth. Each one has a small piece of text, which prescribes an action it must take or an option it may choose upon encountering an opposing piece. Each is also assigned a numeric value which represents its base value in combat if both pieces survive their initial encounter with one anoher. The pieces are augmented by a deck of special cards which may boost the base values of pieces in combat or allow encounter-altering actions to be taken. Taken together, the pieces and the cards do a remarkable job invoking a salient character trait of a particular personality or creature from the books while making combat a very straighforward and effortless task to perform.

To start the game, players arrange their pieces within their corner of Middle Earth. The Fellowship starts roughly in the region of The Shire and Bree while Sauron starts in Morder. The basic rule for moving pieces is very simple: pieces move forward, only, and may not move in any other direction unless they have a special ability or play a special card that allows them to do so. Pieces are moved one at a time across the interlocking regions of the board (which mirrors movement across a hex map, although that is not how the art is arranged), attacking and defending against one another as they go.

The Stratego-like element appears when a player moves a piece into a region with 1 or more opposing pieces. The attacker chooses 'randomly' which piece he'll encounter. Each player looks at the character or creature encountered and applies the flavor text on the face of the piece. For example: 'Flying Nazgul: 3 : Attack any single piece that is alone on the board.' vs. 'Legolas : 3: Immediately destroys the Flying Nazgul.' Legolas destroys the Nazgul and the encounter is ended. However, if the Flying Nazgul had met 'Gimli : 3 : Immediately destroys the Orcs.' The Flying Nazgul and Gimli would have a round of combat using their special deck of cards to assist. Either player may play a numeric card, hoping to best the other. Or they may play a text card which will allow a special effect, such as retreating out of the battle, to end the fight. If the values of two opposing characters match, they eliminate one another. If one beats the other's total, the losing piece is taken off the board and the winner picks another character in that space to encounter, if any. Regardless, only one side or the other will have control of the space when all encounters are resolved.

But the neat thing is that it captures moods people have always wanted to feel in a LOTR game but have always been difficult to instill. As Sauron, you really feel like you're hunting down Frodo: probing one corner of the board, and then another. Watching how the Fellowship moves and arranges their pieces. (And this isn't too hard, there are only 9 to keep track of.) And as the Fellowship, you have to sweat over which character will be next to surrender their life in the Quest to see the Ring destroyed. Watching as Orcs simply overwhelm the first piece they encounter or dodging the Winged Nazgul and Black Rider as they range the board trying to flush out Frodo. I don't mean to exagerate or hype this feeling, but it's not really something you're expecting when you first look at the game and sit down to it.

And that's pretty much it. There are some special rules, such as using the tunnel in Moria to quickly bypass the mountains. Or the Fellowship may use the Anduin to travel across the face of the map. The elements that provide the flavor for the game are small and distill the struggle to the principal characters and the foes they meet in the books. No Army of Rohan or Gonder. No swarming Southrons and Easterlings. Not even, surprising to say, Gollum. Special rules allow for The Palantir, a Recall to Mordor, Shadowfax, and Gandalf The White.

When I think about all the other games for LOTR that I've seen and played, this one wins hands down, IMO, for it's value/price ratio. No complex combat rules. No cumbersome counter stacks to move. No odd loop-holes or 'gotchas' that make the game feel like something other than LOTR. Okay, there's one: the Fellowship can't move together as one big stack across the map. In fact, nobody can. Generally, only 1 or 2 pieces may occupy a given space. That and no Gollum. But it still 'feels' right, ironically, for those quirks in the game. All that for under $20 and about 30 minutes of your time.

Quick, strategic, slightly abstract, and not too lame
July 13, 2003

TO HUSBANDS AND BOYFRIENDS ONLY: I give this game an okay review but my wife still won't play it with me. Unless yours is an exceptional lady buy something else if you are counting on your wife or girlfriend to be the second player. It doesn't matter how much she liked the books or movies.

I'm always on the lookout for a good two player game. Unfortunately, most are too abstract for my taste or simply too lame. I must admit that I was skeptical at first. Games with a movie tie in are to be approached cautiously, if at all. 'Lord of the Rings' seemed like a trimmed down version of 'Stratego' with house-rules to give certain pieces some special ability.

It can be briefly compared to 'Stratego' because each piece is hidden from your opponent and it's fairly inexpensive to buy. That is where the comparison ends. Multiple characters of the same color can occupy the same space. Each game piece has a special ability. Each player also has a hand of cards, during each battle each player chooses a card and (generally) its value is added to the strength of the character, that card is then discarded. Characters can (generally) only move forward making for a short game. Once you think you have it figured out you can play the other side and have entirely new characters, abilities and cards to contend with.

I haven't yet felt like I was replaying the battle between good and evil in Middle Earth. It does have the feel of most Knizia games, that of an abstract game with the theme tacked on after the game was designed. This game could just as easily have been a 'Harry Potter' theme. Change the name of the game characters to Dumbledore instead of Gandolf, Harry instead of Frodo, change the name of the spaces on the board, to 'Hogwarts', 'Hagrid's House', or 'Weasley House'. Make the goal for the black to capture Harry, and the goal for white to get Harry to the 'Chamber of Secrets' or such.

Good game. Not destined to be a classic either. And HUSBANDS, you have been warned.

Great 2 player game
February 25, 2003

Pretty fun game. Great deal for $20. Artwork is nice and the game design is good. Some of the rules questions can get confusing. This is a game where you definatly need to read the FAQ, but once you do it should be smooth sailing. I love the idea of a 2 player game that does not have identical armies/powers, but still retains a fairly even balance between the 2. Regardless, each side takes one stab at Light/Dark, so it evens out , but obviously the game would suck if Light was clearly much better than Dark or vice versa. stuff! Bravo!

Quite a bit for such a little package
September 30, 2002

Having not been too impressed with 'Lord of the Rings:The Search', I was very pleasantly surprised with 'LOTR:The Confrontation'.

I have described the game to friends as a combination of Stratego, Chess, and Rock-Paper-Scissors, with a resource managment twist, and a surprisingly strong thematic element (especially for a Knizia game).

The Stratego element is obvious, since the pieces have numbers which help determines who wins combat. The resource management occurs with deciding which cards you will play and when. Sometimes the card choice comes down to 50/50 decision, like Rock-Paper-Scissors and trying to psyche out your opponent. Usually, however, the card choice is very strategic, but remember that short-term gains may impair your long-term survivability. The movement is very simple...reminescent of Chess with a lot of pawns; some pieces have special movement that greatly affects how they are used both offensively and defensively.

What impresses me most is how the game is asymmetric, yet extremely well balanced. The Dark Side is significantly stronger, but the Fellowship player has more movement options and ways to evade Sauron's strength. But Sauron still has a trump card (The Eye of Sauron) that can make the Fellowship player's best efforts become futile if played at the right time.

For me, the hallmark of a great Knizia game is how often you have a gut-wrenching decision to make. The Confrontation does this many times per game. And since the games are fairly short, this is another one where the first thing you say to your opponent when it is over is, 'Another game?'

Fun game, familiar elements
August 12, 2002

I really like this game, as it's quick, very easy, and still filled with strategy and fun.

The basic mechanics remind me of Stratego, but there are additional elements and limitations that take it far beyond that. We played 4 games in rapid succession with different results each time.

I recommend this game, it's a shame it's only a 2 player, though :)

Too predictable after a few games.
February 13, 2006
This game is fun for a bit until you get an idea of how to play, which mostly relates to which pieces to place where, thus taking away the mystery the game defines itself on, your opposing player not being able to tell which character is where on the board until an attack is declared between two players in the same square.

The game starts to get predictable after a while, and the game overall gets stale, due to the fact that things are very limited. You'll notice that a lot of the cards from the good side can force a weak character to kamikaze to destroy a stronger character, via "noble sacrifice" card etc. It is fun to bluff for a while, but eventually you’ll find it repetitive and boring after the 5th or 6th game.

Not quite my style
December 01, 2004

The mechanics in this game are great. If you like Stratego and you like LOTR you'll probably really like this game.

The problem is this game just isn't my style. The outcome is different every time, but there is not a lot of variety or choices you can make. This game is ok, but it doesn't have a lot of replay value for me and my wife never wants to play it (which defeats the whole purpose of having a 2-player game).

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