Lord of the Rings
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Now kids can experience the fun & excitement of the Lord of the Rings by having their own adventures in Middle Earth. During the game, players move their Hobbits through Middle Earth, overcoming obstacles and braving encounters with fantastic creatures. The first player to move their hobbit safely to the Dark Tower wins the game.
This was dropped off by the games fairy as far as my kids (6 and 7 1/2) are concerned. They can competently play Samarkand, Web of Power, Through the Desert and Tikal, but their begging for the LOTR game was in vain. 'Too complicated', I'd say. 'Lots of reading.' Groans would follow. Now at last they too can venture into Middle-Earth to sneak past Isengard, dodge the Nazgul and destroy the One Ring.
In this game, the game board shows various paths along which locations such as Amon Sul and Moria are situated. Friends and foes can be met here, but the worst thing that can happen is a loss of your turn. Encounters are decided by a spinner, and combinations of symbols on the spinner will determine the outcome. This game is not cooperative like the original Knizia masterwerk. There is a 'screw your opponent' aspect in the Nazgul, which can be sent to harry other players. There is a good variety of encounter tiles to go on the various locations, featuring most of the heroes from the book (No Tom Bombadil?! Awwwww...) and the main foes. All foes have an amount of hit points ranging from the scrawny Gollum (1) to the fearsome Witch-King of Angmar (7) and the dark Lord himself a whopping 9. These are whittled away in a series of spinner flicks; a pointer stopping on the dread Eye results in the end of your turn. A variant comes with the game so older kids (or parents) will be more challenged. The game is very heavy on luck, but some strategy can be used in choosing path branches, or whether to move one's full amount rolled on the die. Kids older than 10 won't be interested more than once or twice, this is really for the kindergraders.
Components: High quality, aesthetically pleasing and sturdy. Board has nifty little towers that fit into slots. Art work is not John Howe, and a little plain,the figures look stiff and a bit cartoonish, but the overall effect carries the theme well. The large box is the same size as the original, and has a well designed plastic insert with a compartment for all the nice bits. The setup of the board is fun because the game bits are cool.
Mechanics: Simple, easily understood and all luck-based, though there is some variation with the variant. Kids get to hide the Palantir (a red marble) and if the opponent picks the wrong hand, they have to go back and spend a turn in the tower. Otherwise, mechanics consist of dice-rolling, spinner spinning and choosing paths that sometimes have advantages over others.
Fun: Yes. Kids like the simplicity, variation in encounter tiles and the Palantir(Sending their dad to the tower of Barad-Dur is an occasion for ill-concealed glee and giggling). My seven year-old appreciates that it gets harder as the game progresses. I like that it carries the theme well, incorporates many characters and moves quickly.
Overall: This is the game to get for kids becoming interested in gaming, Tolkien or both. The present hype over the movies will help get them interested in a classic of english literature and afford some good rainy-day times for the family. If your kids are past 9 years of age, proceed with caution. I have been continually surprised at my kid's capacity to grasp a game and play effectively with minor guidance. My 7 year old regularly gives me a run for my money in Web of Power and Lost Cities. This is a simple one we can pull out when they feel like entering Tolkien's timeless story of the diminutive, overlooked and discounted little hobbits who saved the world from evil. What child wouldn't identify with that?