Der Herr der Ringe: Die Zwei Türme
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In this game of the second part of the great fantasy saga, the players must ward off the monstrous threat of Saruman's and Sauron's approaching troops. But where should you use your forces? If Isengart falls, the terrible foes from Mordor will overrun and Saruman's dark shapes will advance inexorably. If Saruman's and Sauron's forces come together, everyone loses.
Only with the help of the patient Ents can you succeed in bringing about the fall of Saruman's tower Orthanc and with it achieving victory for the side of good. In this case, the winner is the player who contributed the most toward success.
Numerous original photos from the motion picture let the players authentically re-experience the threat of the dark forces.
Reviews are, by their very nature, subjective. After all, the reviewer is giving their opinion on whatever subject is at hand. But sometimes there are extenuating circumstances and biases involved that affect the reviewer's opinion, and it's good to understand those in the context of reading the review. So here are the pertinent predispositions for this reviewer: 1) I'm a pushover for tile-laying games; 2) I'm an even bigger pushover for anything related to Tolkien.This game is a Lord of the Rings tile-laying game. Caveat Lector! The name of the game is Der Herr der Ringe: Die Zwei Trme [Spiel zum Film] - quite a mouthful! It translates to The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers [Game of the Film]. It's one of the seemingly countless Lord of the Rings products out for the second movie. It's a Kosmos big-box game, and is aimed more at the family market than the hard-core gamer. Before getting into the game itself, though, I'd like to mention that the designer, J.R.R. Hering, is actually a pseudonym used by the TM-Spiele design team. In the Letter column of issue 17, Wolfgang Ldtke gave us the whole history of the Hering game-design clan, which included one of last year's Lord of the Rings games, Der Herr der Ringe: Die Gefhrten. It is a pseudonym that works particularly well with LotR games, because, in addition to the "red herring" allusion that was there before, you now also have "Herr Ringe". The TM-Spiele design team includes both Klaus Teuber and Wolfgang Ldtke. So, back to this year's Spiel zum Film! Game play is somewhat interesting in that there are cooperative elements to it, even though it is not strictly speaking a cooperative game. There are two ways to end the game: 1) the Ents successfully march from Fangorn Forest to Isengard; or 2) Orcs overrun the board. If the former occurs, then the player with the most points wins. If the latter happens, then no one wins. The map board is an 8x16 grid of squares with a stylized map of the South-East corner of Middle Earth on it. Pedantic fans of the books should steel themselves when first looking at the board: the map is all out of proportion and is quite imaginative in terms of geographic placement of certain features. The East-West layout is recognizable, but the North-South layout has been distorted for game play purposes. In the lower-left corner, in a 2x2 square, is Orthanc, tower of Saruman in Isengard. In the upper-right corner (also 2x2) is Barad-dur, tower of Sauron in Mordor. These are drawn on the board, but are also represented by simple 3D cardboard pieces about 9cm high. There is also a path down the left-hand side of the board for the Ents to move from Fangorn (upper left) to Isengard. The Ents are also represented by a 3D piece. At the beginning of the game the 5 squares surrounding the 2x2 area of both towers are populated by Orc tiles. On each turn, Orcs stream forth from one (or both!) of the towers onto the board, as directed by a random card draw. The card will indicate which row the Orcs come in from (2-7), which tower they come from (i.e. the left side of the board or the right) and how many (3-4) get added. The Orcs fill in all unoccupied squares in the designated row(s). The players, represented by simple, colored wooden pawns, move around the board defeating Orcs. Defeat occurs by having the pawn traverse the space that the Orc is in. Movement is also governed by cards, of which a player will have 3 in hand. The cards, representing the heroes of the movie (Aragorn, Eomer, Faramir, Gandalf, Gimli & Legolas), indicate how a pawn may move (orthogonally, diagonally or either), and how many movement points they have, ranging from 5-9. From this number you lose 1 MP for each Orc orthogonally adjacent to you at the beginning of your turn. When moving the pawns, open spaces cost 1 MP and spaces with Orcs cost 2 MPs. You're allowed one direction change per turn. As you land on the Orcs you collect them and set them aside. When you're done moving, you flip them over to reveal a victory point value. This ranges from 1-3, with many more 1's than 3's. Some of the 1-value tiles have the word "Ent" on it, and finding one or more of these causes the Ent to move one step closer to Isengard, and triggers an event card. There are 15 spaces between Fangorn and Isengard, with enough event cards to last you through all but the last space - the event there is the end of the game. The events themselves are a mix of good and bad events. Bad usually means adding more Orcs to the board, while good usually means removing some. An example of each would be: "The Easterlings support Sauron. From Mordor, place 3 Orcs in row 6." or "King Theoden resists Saruman. Put two Orcs that are adjacent to Orthanc back into the stock.". A second way to defeat Orcs is to move your pawn so that there is an unbroken column of Orcs between your pawn and another pawn (the rules call this a pincer attack). All of the enlosed Orcs are then defeated and get divided evenly and randomly among the 2 players, with any extras going to the moving player. There is also a second way of moving, using Shadowfax, Gandalf's horse. Instead of using a Gandalf movement card to move normally, you can use it to transport your pawn to any square on the board, occupied or not. This makes getting a large-value pincer attack a little easier. Now for the fun part: if at any point the two towers are connected by an unbroken chain of Orcs, then all players immediately lose. For this purpose, the unbroken chain is looked at orthogonally only (i.e. diagonal connections don't count). Because of the constant stream of Orcs coming onto the board, and the high cost of capturing them, it's actually harder than you might think to keep from having a collective loss. And having more Orcs on the board increases the chance that you'll lose movement points by virtue of them being adjacent, which in turn makes it harder to defeat them, which leads to more Orcs on the board.... Game play is nice, albeit light. It plays quickly (30-45 minutes, as claimed) and is great for families. There are a number of decisions to the game, and it really is possible to lose this by having Orcs everywhere. In our first few games, we played by the standard rules and came close to losing (and we may even have, once), but in the end we had the upper hand. There is a game variant included that sets up a double ring of Orcs around one or both of the towers at the beginning of the game. We played with a double ring around both towers two or three times now, and we have lost all of them. I didn't think it would make that much of a difference, but it has! Once the Ents reach Isengard the game ends, and the player with the most victory points wins. In this there is a lot of luck, as one person may have defeated 30 1-point Orcs, and another 16 2- or 3-point Orcs, giving them the win. One way of dealing with this is to just count the raw number of Orc tiles defeated to determine the winner, with points being a tie-breaker. The rules as stated will be fine for a family game, but the alternative may work better for more serious gamers. The board and Orc tiles are of typical high quality for Kosmos, and the cards seem like they will hold up well to repeated playings. The board is hand-drawn, but the pictures on the Orc tiles and the event, movement and Orc cards all have stills from the movie. It's typical movie merchandising, but it adds a little flavor to the game. As for theme, well, this could just as easily be Shaddam's Sardaukar over-running Arrakeen and Carthag, or Space Marines defending against bug-like aliens on a distant planetary outpost. Theme just isn't there for hard-core Tolkien fans. But for the family market and those just introduced to The Lord of the Rings, it's a nice enough tie-in. It rates a spot on the Tolkien portion of my game-shelf. The rules are in German, as is the event card text. The large movie stills make paste-ups a little harder than normal, though not impossible. We just use the card translations provided with the rules. Everything else is language-neutral. For Lord of the Rings fans not looking for something too deep, this is an excellent game, and a fun way to idle away 30 minutes.