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Lord of the Rings
silver line edition
List Price: $34.95
Your Price: $27.99
(Worth 2,799 Funagain Points!)
from 62 customer reviews
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Your task is to stop the Dark Lord Sauron from winning back the One Ring and destroy it in the volcanic fires of Mount Doom. Join Frodo and the Fellowship on the perilous adventure across Middle Earth, and use your skill and fortune to guide you!
Created by master designer Reiner Knizia, Lord of the Rings: The Board Game is fully illustrated by celebrated Tolkien artist John Howe. Help guide the Fellowship past Sauron's wickedness and save Middle Earth from darkness! Players take on the role of five Hobbits—Merry, Pippen, Fatty, Sam, and Frodo—on their quest to destroy the One Ring. They must work their way through four boards, cooperating to overcome challenges and prevent the Ringbearer from being corrupted.
The Lord of the Rings board game is a unique and original game in which players must work together to defeat the game itself, a daunting task that will challenge even the most experienced players. The cooperative play style immerses players into the game, cheering their success and cursing the foul turns of fate that hinder their quest.
Fantasy Flight Games
Players: 1 - 5
Time: 60 - 90 minutes
Ages: 12 and up
Weight: 1,220 grams
Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English. Game components are printed in English.
Card Game (Preorder)
Average Rating: 3.8 in 62 reviews
I'm not sure what other people don't like about this game, but perhaps they played with the wrong group of people. Or perhaps they have more competitive spirits and don't like cooperation games. This game is so unique I can't help but love it.
Lord of the Rings is a game that I play with the other guys whenever our wives are out together. We sit down and get in the proper Lord of the Rings mood...the game delivers the rest.
This game is exactly like the books. It allows you to work together as a group trying to progress your team to the destruction of the ring. You're almost tempted to stall the team on a scenario board so that you can pick up protection from corruption, but in the back of your mind you know you have to keep moving to avoid the evil minions of Sauron. We literally find ourselves dreading what tile will be turned up next and preparing for the consequences it might bring.
The tension builds throughout the game and keeps us coming back again and again. We have yet to perfect the game with Sauron on the 12 of the corruption line. Some earlier reviews imply they easily mastered this, but the great part is you can always move up to the expert game variant if your that good. Also, it plays differently when you change the number of players.
This is a great game that encourages communication and teamwork. I believe that the Lord of the Rings accomplishes it's goal and really makes you feel like a fellowship.
First off, I have read several of the reviews below before surmising my opinion of the game. My conclusion is that this game is addictive and very tough for a single mind to master.
I have played some 7 games already with my 5 year old (insert solitaire player if you like) and have never thrown the Ring in the Volcano yet. The balance is simple to describe.
Too many cards, too close to Sauron.
Not enough cards, Sauron takes the ring through event tiles.
Every game is like that. I cannot seem to find the balance. However, it has been made clear that players should 'skip' trying to get those life tokens in order to get to the end. I have yet to give that a try. You can waste a lot of cards trying to get life tokens that prevent your Hobbits from moving towards corruption. I never considered this angle and will give it a try.
I think my son has grown disenchanted with the game while his father is completely obsessed. No matter, the two hobbits 'Frodo & Sam' will make it to the cracks of Mount Doom....even if my son rather not be there to see it. I can't even imagine how this game would play with card concealment. It is bad enough with seeing the cards.
By no means am I giving this game a bad review. I am just stating that as a two player game, I am afraid that it has turned out harder then I ever imagined. Getting it right may take more games. I am just too distracted by the activity lines and should be going to the Main Activity line when i play my cards....life tokens or not.
It didn't help that the rulebook failed to highlight the core mechanics repetively. My first 5 games were played wrong in one way or another.
One word of advice, don't show up in Mordor holding no cards....you will never make it.
On close inspection of Lord of the Rings, I sense that Knizia had a fun time designing it. The whole activity lines/event sequence is brilliant. A game built on a story cannot be open-ended like Settlers where anything can happen. It has to follow the book. But Knizia prevented this game from being straight-forward and processional with the use of activity lines. I think he drew upon his former winner, Taj Mahal, when considering certain game mechanics.
Ive read many theories as to why this game works and I dont fully agree with any of them. Yes, the cooperative element makes this game unique. Yes, the theme comes to life. I also agree that Knizia worked hard to find a way to always make the ending close. But I believe this game works for me because of Knizias trademark in all of his games: simple choices. When an event tile with three items appears, how will you decide to deal with it? Cough up the cost to avoid the event? Just let the event happen? Use a feature card to avoid it altogether? And after the activity symbol, should you play cards to grab items? Or should you not play any cards to receive two cards? Or forget cards, maybe you should move your hobbit back one step because hes getting a little too close to Sauron? All these choices make the game for me. I love choice.
As much as the purpose of this game is to destroy the ring, Im not fond of winning consistently. Id like to find a way to make the game a bit more difficult without merely giving Sauron a head start. Im thinking to hand out most of the Galadriel cards or something like that. Maybe the player farthest from Sauron gets one fewer card? Remove a couple of the good activity tiles? There are many possible tweaks Ive only begun to consider.
If I have a serious complaint, though, its that the rulebook is way too disorganized. There has got to be a better way to learn the rules than with this book. If someone had taught it to me, I would have saved myself a lot of time and frustration.
Its Knizia, it works. If you dont know Knizia, LOTR will show you what the man is capable of.
I have the The Lord of the Rings game for over a year now and every time I play it with people who never played it before they just love it.
Last Christmas I got the expansion set 'Sauron' and it is just great. Now Sauron actually becomes an active player and together with his Ring wraiths he tries to take the ring from the Fellowship. If he succeeds the Fellowship loses.
I've also player the basic game with 'Friends and Foes' and I think that this set is more challenging than 'Sauron' (I can't remember I've ever won). However with the 'Sauron' set you also get additional tiles which make the game singnificantly more difficult since they are all bad. You can also use these tiles in the basic game.
Until now I haven't had the courage to play with both expansion sets but I think it will require a lot of strategy and good luck. I'll let you now!
To give a little disclaimer at the beginning of this review...I am not a 'serious' gamer i.e. I have never played DND. BUT, I am a serious Tolkien fan and this is Tolkien. I have played this one time and I want to purchase it. I have been thinking about it every day since I played and I want to play again. My husband even enjoyed it and he is not into fantasy, Tolkien, etc. I haven't played with any of the expansion stuff, just with the basic game. I loved the cooperative aspect and the debating that we did to come to a solution for each trial. Some discussions got heated and we did lose, but it was great.
I was introduced to this game (and the Friends and Foes expansion) last night. I had such a good time that I immediately demanded to play it again (without the expansion, so I could how it worked that way), even though it was 1:00 a.m. and I had class the next morning. The second experience was just as good as the first. Other people have gone over most of the game's high points, so I won't bother repeating them; instead, I'll comment on things I don't think other people have mentioned.
One thing I think reviews here have not given the game enough credit for is how well it captures the feel of the books. There are some obvious concessions to the format, but the basic feel (that Sauron is an unstoppable force and all you can hope to do is *survive*) fits right in with Tolkien's metaphysics. Much better than other LoTR games which have made Sauron into a player.
The game does look like it will get repitive if played too often. You do go through the same tracks every time (at least in the basic game), so it's clear that after a certain point you'll find the 'best' strategy. (Then again, I think the game is subject to as much combinatorial explosion as most solitaire games, and people don't seem to get sick of *those*.) I'm really interested in experimenting with different strategies (can five players survive the Nazgul attack without the aid of Eowen?), and I should point out that the Friends and Foes expansion dramatically increases your number of options (and adds a lot more randomness to the game, which is good for adding replay value).
One thing that surprises me is that apparently no one has read the variant for the points-scoring competitive game. Most of those rules look pretty boring, but there's one really big change: if the ring-bearer can get three 'ring' tokens and get himself corrupted by Sauron, he wins and everyone else loses. This, I think, will add an interesting element to the basically cooperative nature of the game, and I'm anxious to try it. (This mechanic also feels like it will do a better job of modelling the Ring's corrupting influence on its bearer and those around it.)
So even though I don't think the game has as much replay value as others, I think there's enough there to merit five stars. I mean, you can solve The Settlers of Catan, too, if you play it enough.
I have to give this 5 stars. I have played 50+ times and still enjoy it. I can't understand whoever rated it 1 star and said they played it 20 times to find what they were missing. If I don't like a game, I put it away! But really, you can't go wrong here. It is good for children and they can understand it easily. More hardcore gamers can enjoy it too. Buy this game and Friends+Foes, you'll love it!
This is in one word a superb game. I have played a lot of different games past year, also great games, but Lord of the Rings is the little shiny diamond in my ring.
There is so much fun in playing together, listening to the arguments of each player why to take a certain risk, or be more careful and choosing wisely for another option. And sometimes, when everyone thinks the situation is unbearable and unbeatable, one of the players comes up with a great solution that the other players had overlooked. Can you imagine the feel of relief to the group when that happens?
Every player can be a life-saver, and his input will be valued by the whole group.
I have played this game with adults, but also with my kids (9-11-12 years old) and they liked this game very much.
Of course they can't overlook all the consequences, nor see through the complexity of this game, but because of the fact that this is a team-game, they feel very involved. Even when the decisions to make are wisely left to the older player (e.g. their father).
I can be short about this game. This is a game of atmosphere, it's thrilling and exiting. Out of 8 times playing, we only won once. In fact that doesn't matter, because winning this game is very difficult in the first place. But imagine the feelings of victory and pride when you actually beat that Sauron, one day......
There are many criticisms of this game written below. Most (but not all) have some justification if you are a hardcore gamer.
But for the casual gamer who can get caught up in the adventure of the storyline, this game rates 4.5 stars. Yes, there's luck involved, but that's part of any story, and I don't think it's a bad thing. It's my experience that strategy and decisions do play an important part - every time we've played the game, we've improved our score. (Now it's time for Sauron to start closer.)
This game is well-designed, unique, easy to get the hang of, has a good combination of luck and strategy, and can, with a group of imaginative players, generate tension and excitement. (We've had some mildly-heated discussions - 'save cards or take the event?', 'use Gandalf now or hold off?', 'finish the board or let everyone get their life tokens?', 'put on the ring?', etc.)
For the casual gamer who plays games once a month max, this game is an easy 4.5-stars.
For hardcore gamers who play often and are looking for heavy strategy, though, I agree with many of the below comments, and would give it 2 or 3 stars.
I wanted to second Martinian Prince's excellent points on this game below. Lord of the Rings is an inventive game, and if you really can get into the 'cooperating against the forces of darkness' feel, your enjoyment of the game should be great.
Look at it this way: does the game work (i.e. is it broken or not)? Yes, it does. While some have said that it just feels like a group puzzle--and I would partially affirm that, because you do work together to beat the system--if you pull out an actual jigsaw puzzle and work on it with some others, you'll see that Lord of the Rings is much more a game than a puzzle. Balancing event tiles with your cards and your progress along the tracks are things you do in games, not puzzles. Sure, you do them as a group--but just because the game is more cooperative than competitive does not automatically make it more of a puzzle than a game.
Look at this way, too: Is the game challenging and fun? Yes and yes. I think Martinian answered the 'Is it challenging?' question very well (again, see below); if you need to make it harder, then mix it up in any number of the ways he mentioned. Is it fun? Apparently there are some who see playing the game as a chore, but my wife, one of her friends, and I thoroughly enjoy playing it. My own experience is that if you can try out the role-playing aspect of the game--or maybe you could say the 'spirit of the game' (the struggle of the hobbits against the forces of evil)--you can really enjoy yourself in the game. My wife's friend is an RPG and [page scan/se=0534/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Magic person, and not into board games at all, but she can't stop talking about Lord of the Rings. Our session was tense and dramatic, with Pippin then Sam being consumed by evil, and Frodo finding events caught up with him before he could climb Mount Doom. My wife and I had played before and won (although Sauron had started at 13), and so we thought we would have an easier time of it, but our strategy proved flawed. What a story! That's what we feel is fun.
And lastly, look at it this way: the game really does fit the theme. I know for certain I could not have designed a game based on Tolkien's work that would have fit this theme as well as Knizia's did. As the hobbits, you struggle against corruption, try to make tough decisions with an eye toward eliminating impending evil, and sometimes find that events sweep you up beyond your control. Is that in keeping with the spirit of the books? The Spiele des Jahres judges thought so.
For what it is, Lord of the Rings is a game of original concept and enjoyable execution. It may not be nirvana, but, hey, it's a high quality game, and it's one of a kind.
For those of you who have the fortitude to read all the way to the bottom, you will see the review I wrote for this game almost a year ago. Notice that I have not changed my five-star rating in that time, after many playings. I have begun to use this game as an intro for non-gamers into the wonderful world of 'designer' games with great success.
I see below many disappointed gamers' reviews, and feel so sorry for those who are convinced that this game lacks strategy, depth or replayability. I have been playing Euro games (there, I used BOTH terms, happy?) for almost four years now, have a well-used collection of over twenty games, and play with a group at least once a month, with other games scattered in. All this to lend some credence to my opinion, which I offer not in opposition to others' opinions per se, but I hope to calm fears of those who may read only the first few reviews and not be getting a well-balanced impression.
Granted, the first 6 reviews (now at the bottom) were glowing, when the freshness and thrill of the recently released game was the talk of the gaming community. I hereby attest that the excitement has not died for me after a year. Now, please understand, I don't play this game every weekend; there are few games that I have ever done that with for any length of time. (I'll list them at the bottom, just for you.) ;) I play this one every couple of months, and love it every time. I won't repeat my previous review's comments, however I will add a few here.
Most important: rules, rules, rules. Be sure you understand every rule AND its purpose before you play and judge any game. If you do this, you will know which ones can be altered slightly without damaging the design. Also, be sure that you have played the game as it was designed first.
This game is very 'tweakable' and will stand up to tinkering.
Firstly, very definitely use a bag for the event tiles, only re-bagging them after a full round (everyone has had a turn), to keep the tile ratios accurate as designed.
Want an easier game?
Take out two sundial tiles, move Sauron back, start with one or two or five extra cards! Anything that makes the game harder can be reduced, such as making the 3-dot face of the die blank, giving you a better chance of something not befalling you.
Want a more challenging game?
1. Move up Sauron on the corruption line. (OK, that one's obvious.)
2. Take out the option of moving back one square after each round.
3. Take out a few good tiles.
4. Get the idea?
Also, play with different combos of Hobbits. Merry and Pippin going off by themselves was a very interesting game. There is nothing stopping you from making Aragorn, Legolas or any of the other fellowship one of the party; just decide what abilities they will have. For example, Aragorn could play any card as a Fighting card, Legolas the same for Hiding. Gimli is a staunch fellow all the way through, why not give him a bonus against corruption, like always having one less space to move toward the dark from an event or die-roll (after visiting Galadriel?).
Also, a mini-game on one or two boards is possible. Once we dealt out a limited number of cards, and had to play through all of the Helm's deep board before all events happened. Experiment!
This flexibility does not, in my opinion, indicate a weak game. Flexibility is a good thing. I do not hold with the opinion that if you have to tweak a game to make it more suitable to your tastes that it is by definition a failure. Nonsense! House rules are one of the great things about games all over the world. Don't box yourself in by absolute limitations from rules or mechanisms, but don't go overboard (no pun intended) by wrecking what the designer intended, either. Give the game a chance, and then innovate accordingly in the spirit of the game.
This is not a desert-island game by any means. Yes, it is very linear--it's based on a classic of english literature, folks. You can only do so much. However, the room within that linear form is very versatile, and can accommodate a lot of creativity. Not everyone is interested in that, I know, but if you're serious about games or think you might be becoming so, I think it's an important aspect of gaming. Literalism to the point of not having fun is not what it's about. Lots of the great games show this same versatility if you scratch the surface.
Lord of the Rings is what it is. I think that it is something rare and fine which deserves five stars. A game that can beat four intelligent, cooperating people is not just a luckfest. There is rarely an instance where we have not looked back and seen a strategy that would have gotten us through what seemed an insurmountable obstacle. (Gee, isn't that kind of what the book is about? Hmmm...) Frankly, most have to do with people trying to avoid making a personal sacrifice. That is the name of the game, and a large theme of the book. The elves sacrificed their whole race's presence on Middle-Earth to destroy the One Ring, not to mention the many other sacrifices made in the book. That is the main theme in the game that I see, which underlies all the mechanisms. This is an astute observation by Knizia, and the game brings it through wonderfully. If it's a theme you want your family to understand the value of, that's enough reason to get the game alone.
Just think of the strategy, art, fun and comradery that goes with it as a bonus.
Look for the expansion Friend and Foes coming out soon, that will add 60 new cards as well as two more boards from the first book's events surrounding Bree and Weathertop, as well as book two's Battle of Orthanc.
See you at the Prancing Pony.
Great replay games:
[page scan/se=0899/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Princes of Florence
Lord of the Rings has quickly become one of the favourites of my gaming group since we first played it in March 2001. We were quite aware that the replay value of the game may be lacking, but instead have found ourselves constantly going back for more (always trying to better our score in the process). The artwork on the cards is wonderful and adds a great atmosphere whilst playing, and while the game mechanic itself seems almost abstract at first (and very simple), we were pleasantly surprised by the sheer amount of strategy involved in trying to win. Fans of the books should instantly enjoy the theme behind Lord of the Rings, and the game boards themselves (3 of them, two are double-sided) display the gorgeous artwork of John Howe. The bits are made of a combination of plastic and wood, and the cards are made of a high-quality cardboard (anyone who has played Elfenland should know what I'm talking about). I highly recommend Lord of the Rings, but only to gamers that are looking for a co-operative game that really works. Those players with a competitive edge may need to look elsewhere.
I think this game plays best as a two player affair, as more characters make it to easy to finish since all feature cards are used. This is true even at expert difficulty, where Sauron starts at ten on the corruption line. With two players, usually Frodo and Sam, the game really shines as all your resources must be used at the right time, and even then you may not succeed. You should always ensure that Sam is able to get and keep the Ring after Moria to best enhance your chances of success.
This game will appeal most to those who have read the book, as it really does capture the feel of the events portrayed. Time will tell if it has a similar appeal to those who have not read LOTR. As others here have pointed out, the game is told exclusively from the hobbit's viewpoint with other major characters (except for Gandalf with his spell cards) relegated to nevertheless important support roles. This is somewhat ahistorical if you will, but works beautifully in the game which is tense throughout, but especially so in Mordor. And, yes, there are certainly some areas in each scenario where the Ring should always be used, but many times this can't be done due to card or tile constraints. Luck does indeed play a large role, but in my opinion if extremes of bad luck (such as drawing four or five non-conditional event tiles) do not occur throughout the game, it can be overcome and gives an even sweeter taste of victory. This is a superbly designed game.
In short, this game is terrific as a two player affair, but not so good with more than two. Still, since it is so good with two, especially with Frodo and Sam, it deserves five stars for its strong design and feel for the book.
After reading the review in GAMES Magazine, I clicked right over to Funagain and bought one.
I really liked the fact that you play as a team; I bought this game to play mainly with my sons, and the younger of the two never wants to play anything because he does not want to lose. Since we play as a team, we win or lose as a group and he is a little more willing to play. Overall, we think it is a great game.
We read some of the other reviews and just cannot seem to understand how anyone could dislike this game. In addition, to the guy who said he has played it a whole bunch of times and never lost, you must be cheating or not following the directions, as we have followed them to the letter and we have yet to win playing with either two or three people.
We did find using a bag to draw the event tile cards from helped tremendously. Thanks for the tip!
Overall, I would recommend this game to either anyone who enjoys Tolkien or anyone who simply enjoys a good game.
I really like this game. I play this game with my mom and her boyfriend. The thing that I like about this game is that I won before my mom's boyfriend did. That is not the only thing, I liked that you could work together and help each other out. I think that it is easier to play with more people than 2 because when you have more people then you have a better chance of surviving through the first board. I do have to say that when we won it was a two player game with me and my mom. I found this game a little difficult to understand when I first played, but then I got the hang of it the more I played. This is my favorite game.
Meghan Age 12
I think this game is amazingly gripping! You start to play and you get so hooked, you can't quit. I'm a big fan and I love the books and the game because it has so many things that are alike! The people did a good job. I just love the game, books and the web site.
Although I personally tend to like more competitive games, this solely cooperative game stresses one of the most important features in multi-player board game design: interaction. Group problem-solving is the focus of this game, making LoTR a great way of getting non-gamers involved in the game while still making it quite enjoyable for the more hardcore gamer as well. To that end, any game which successfully entices non-gamers to play games, analyze the game state and mechanics, as well as enjoy themselves, makes this game indispensible for anyone who wishes to get more people to play games. After which you can wean the new gamer on simple games (Settlers, Corsairs), slowly introducing more complexity (El Grande), until you get them to play something mind-boggling yet great (Die Macher, Schoko); let alone getting them to try a wargame (I'm dreaming).
In any event, it's a great Knizia game (though much more interactive than something like Samurai, albeit less complex), playable with 2 to 5 people, and completely worth purchasing.
It is Great and it takes less than 2 hours--there are not whole lot of games that could be said for. So far the average time is 90-105 minutes--and that is a very fast hour--you are ready to play it again right after you finish.
It seems that the main complaint about Lord of the Rings--apart from difficulty and the role of luck--is that the tiles are hard to shuffle. I found this very frustrating, too, until I broke out my copy of Through the Desert and made use of the nice cloth tile bag inside. (I put the camels in plastic bags now.) The Lord of the Rings event tiles fit perfectly, it's always clear whose turn it is (just pass the tile bag), and if you use the Gandalf card to rearrange tiles, just draw three and set them on the table. I think that the Lord of the Rings is a joy to play, and with a tile bag it makes it much less of a hassle.
This is a fantastic game that is good fun for anyone, especially so for fans of Tolkien's works. The cooperative nature of gameplay is very well done and the characters are extremely well balanced. When I first started playing I thought everyone would fight to play Frodo, but the numerous opportunities to change ringbearers coupled with very unique special abilities of all the characters makes character choosing mute. The game length is also very well done. Most games last about an hour, which is perfect for playing with non die-hard gamers. Kudos to Reiner for taking LotR in a direction completely different from any of the other Tolkien-based games that have been published over the years.
I love the game, and it is on my list of top games to play, hence the five star rating. But, like most things in life, it's not perfect. Firstly, game difficulty is proportional to the number of people playing because of the distribution of seven hobbit cards to each player at the start. If you win in a two-player game it is really quite an accomplishment because not only do you have fewer cards at the start, but you also do not get all of the award cards at Rivendell and Lothlorien. Conversely, I have found a four player game to be the easiest. Five players actually gets a little tougher because everyone takes more corruption after each dungeon since there are fewer life tokens to go around, but it is still easier to win with five than with two or three players.
Secondly, there is a lot of luck involved. Yes, there is a luck element to most games, and that element of luck is often what makes the game fun, but in LotR luck can really make or break the game. A shuffle of the event tiles that results in a bunch of sundials at the start can destroy any hope you have of winning. Personally, this doesn't bother me much. I have no problem chalking it up to a bad draw and starting a new game. But I noticed some people in my gaming group really dislike this aspect and I admit that it would have been nice if there were a way to mitigate the effect of a bad draw. A gameplay mechanic from Magic: The Gathering comes to my mind: modify Gandalf's "look at and rearrange the top three event tiles" ability to "look at the top three event tiles and place them either at the top or the bottom of the event pile stack in any order". At least this way if you see three sundials coming up, you can do something about it other than just telling everyone "we're doomed".
Thirdly, after about ten games, I'm finding that there is a pattern to each dungeon board that is often the most successful. So the novelty of deciding what to do on any given board is gone. We all know which paths to try to complete and in which order. Of course, just because you know you should complete a given path first on a board doesn't mean that you will have enough cards with the right symbol to do it. Still, the exploratory excitement fades quickly. I suppose that is true of other games as well.
Anyway, I think this is an outstanding game and I highly recommend it. The quality and artwork of the game components is first-rate, though the paper of the rulebook is a bit thin and I'm baffled as to why the most often shuffled components in the game, the event tiles, are cardboard tiles instead of cards. But these, along with my other criticisms, are really very minor. Overall LotR is a lot of fun to play sure to be a classic for many gaming groups and families.
There are two important aspects of this game to consider, which made it much more difficult to design successfully. Firstly, this is the latest in a line of games which uses as its theme a classic of modern literature that has a huge, devoted following around the world--a very large number of people to avoid offending by releasing another half-assed production. The second consideration is, of course, the gamers. We know who Knizia is and what he can do, but we had doubts of his ability to communicate a strong theme while still having solid mechanics and high fun-factor. Doubt no more.
As an avid reader and fan of fantasy, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is the standard by which all other fantasy novels are judged. Not only is the story exciting, beautifully creative and well-written, but it portrays a deep understanding of what is truly good, truly evil and how they may shade into each other. These books go beyond story into myth, to create a vivid and accurate representation of the ancient struggle between good and evil; a theme so tired and cliched in modern fantasy novels that it has become trite. To attempt to capture in a mere game such a fundamental theme, in the spirit and atmosphere in which Tolkien wrote it, seemed foolhardy to many fans. We were right for a long time. No previous game has come close to portraying and communicating the modern classic's wonderful atmosphere and depth. Knizia has come very, very close. Lord of the Rings has far exceeded any previous game in this regard.
As for the quality of the game itself, the mechanics, theme and gameplay all work smoothly to produce an engrossing and challenging sojourn to Middle-Earth. Not only did this game have to live up to literary fans, but also gamers and Knizia fans. That is a very large and daunting order to fill, with the potential of becoming a huge embarassment for designer and producers. But I had a hunch... I just knew it was going to be good. I had a feeling Dr. K had outdone himself; really broken new ground and come out with something unlike any other game out there. I couldn't imagine how right that feeling was. This game succesfully met all my hopes and expectations, and while the ways in which it did were not what I expected (No big sprawling map of Middle-Earth? Aawww...), the way in which it plays and feels while you're playing is amazing. The game is not perfect, but I don't ask for perfection. I just want something very, very solid and fun if it's going to have the name 'Tolkien' or 'Knizia' on the box. This game is fun. It's challenging. Foreboding, even. Very player-interactive. Real sacrifices are made for the good of all. Real consequences are in store for the whole group when one of the Fellowship acts in pure self-interest. And the dread sleepless eye of Sauron moves ever closer, until you and your companions are discussing seriously, in real life, if you should call on Gandalf to help you or risk drawing one more tile. Adults groan about not having enough life tokens to protect them from the inexorable shadow of corruption that spreads out from Mordor like some foul mist! As you wander the dark caverns and tunnels of Moria, dejected and weary, someone pulls out a pipe, and the wizard sends colored smoke-rings dancing about the ceiling to raise your spirits; you feel the power of your friendship grow, and are able to struggle on. Later, as Gandalf faces the dread Balrog to shatter the bridge with his staff, his final desperate cry 'Fly, you fools!' echoes through the flickering orange cavern. Now I know what a shy little Hobbit feels like when faced with the task of travelling across the world to the seat of the dark lord's power while all the time being mercilessly sought by that very dark lord! You'll be squeaking too.
Most major parts of the book (except Tom Bombadil! Aawww...) and other smaller but meaningful things are represented in the game and portrayed beautifully by John Howe. Knizia makes sure the fellowship has the opportunity to draw the 'Pipe' card while in the mines of Moria; the game board says 'Fly, you fools!' on the last event in Moria. When the Fellowship reaches Lothlorien, Galadriel bestows her gifts on the party, and powerful cards of Lembas, Aethalas herbs and the other gifts are distributed to strengthen the Fellowship. While locked in the battle for Helm's deep, the event line follows the story faithfully, while allowing variable outcomes for the gamers. Can the Riders of Rohan hold against the Wargs and their Orc riders? The fire of Orthanc has been ignited! Will the Ents come to reinforce Theoden's army in time?
Players must cooperate and communicate constantly in order to successfully deal with the challenges; it is a tough game to beat. Knizia has designed it so well that the game itself responds like lightning to the player's actions. It really seems spooky sometimes, and as you look at the jet-black tower of Sauron with its blood-red eye, only five spaces away from your poor little Hobbit, you will feel a bit nervous.
All the game components are top-notch, with the exception of the rule-book. It is very pleasing visually, but its huge (album-cover) size and thin, flimsy paper leave something to be desired. Mine got pretty trashed the first game we had--it's just not built to take any but the most gentle handling. I think the replay value is very good for a game this linear; and there are many variants coming out on the game web-sites, and it has room for expansion as well. Knizia's creative energies can easily deal with any of the conflicts an expansion might seem to suggest. The price is fair for the game you get, and its versatility for both families and game-groups seems well-established.
I really don't see how you can lose with this one, unless you hate fantasy or Tolkien in particular. People who don't like cooperative games love it; those who don't like Dr. K's games love it; kids seem to love it; true gamers like/ love/ are ecstatic about it. And if you're still not sure, just give me a call and we can give it a go the next time you're in town. See you in Rivendell!
Lord of the Rings rocks as a family game. I have five children under 12 years of age (11, 11, 7, 5, and 16 months). They all love it. Well, the youngest one only chews on the white cones... but the others have been completely sucked into the cooperative gameplay. Heck, even the spouse is playing. We have finished over a dozen games and have almost forgotten about Xmas. The older kids remember me reading the Hobbit and LOR to them. After the game they have insisted I reintroduce Tolkien to them and their siblings. I can't think of any higher praise for a game: cooperative play, complexity for adults, streamlined gameplay so simple a five year-old can play, and it creates interest in great literature. Whoa... I can still hear the cheers and celebratory grunts we made the first time we won. We cheered and danced? Go figure.
Lord of the Rings could become one of the great games. You know, the kind that ends up on people's short lists of games they can't live without. This one belongs on the list with the Settlers of Catan, El Grande, Bohnanza, Tigris & Euphrates, etc.
Let's start with the theme... I cannot recall a board game that so completely captures the elements of its theme. The artwork, pieces and board masterfully convey the ideal of Tolkien blissful escapism. Cooperation and randomness blend this into a masterfully harmonious setting. Never again can it be said that Reiner Knizia cannot stick to a theme.
Game play? A quick story. Having played Lord of the Rings several times, I pulled it out with a group of college gamers I regularly game with. They scoffed at the idea of a cooperative game, but, as all gamers, they were willing to try anything once.
We ordered pizza and started play. We all had our characters and as we started playing we grew more and more engrossed in the experience of this game. As play became more tense, we sat closer to the edge of our seats. Can we get to the end?
The doorbell rings. The dog barks. We all JUMP! We had forgotten completely about the pizza! This is a gaming experience that blends all the better as the tension mounts.
It is truly unique from my board gaming experience. This game is a genre buster. What can you compare it too? Maybe role playing... but not really. The last time I thought a game was truly ground breaking was this little card game call Magic: The Gathering.
I give this game my highest rating. It is a unique gaming experinece that is compelling, tense and thrilling. Why should any game inspire cheering when you beat it? It's only a board game.
Buy this game and play it! Share it with a friend and we could have the biggest thing to hit board games sice this little game called Settlers of Catan! WOW!!!
I have played a handful of games which in some way draw on the epic story of the journey of the ring from a comfortable hole on Bag End, to the fiery cracks of Mordor. In most, each player took a different side, one Sauron, one the fellowship, sometimes one even Saruman. In others you were on the same side, but still in competition. This is the first one to be entirely cooperative, and it does this successfully through a number of intriguing mechanisms.
A number of the reviews below have stated how much cooperation the game produces, along with the tension that develops as each new tile is turned over. Will events overcome our Fellowship, or will fortune smile and let us pass, to face the next great challenge? On these points the game doesn't disappoint--it feels well balanced, and despite the obvious luck elements always feels as though you can influence, if not control, the proceedings.
The cooperative aspect means it is always time for your input, no downtime while you wait for others to take their turn. This is important as it isn't a rapid game to finish--at least 90 minutes and probably more. The rules are fairly clear, although I found the way they all pieced together wasn't apparent until after play began. In some groups this may have the effect of more experienced players trumping new players with their knowledge and telling them what to do, which should obviously be avoided if you can.
The atmosphere is beautifully rendered with the art and the interactions of the events, progress tracks and various cards, especially the yellow special action cards. This said, there were three atmospheric disappointments for me. The first is that a number of the major characters are simply represented as cards with two of a certain symbol. This seems a bit mundane, and lacks the interest the yellow cards have. The second is that sometimes the mechanism seems too mechanical and it is a bit difficult to 'tell the story' of exactly where you are and what is happening within the scenario you are currently challenging. Finally, the 'switching the ringbearer' rule after each scenario, while more democratic, seems a bit of a departure from the works, modifying it so that it only switches if another player has three ring markers would both be more in line with the story, and also more difficult for the fellowship to win.
In the end those are very minor quibbles and this game is highly recommended, especially for fans of Tolkien's great works. It is certainly the best game of its type to depict the journey and challenges of the ring bearer and his companions. Replayability, despite the simpleness of the system and the "us vs. the board" aspect, seems high. Finally, in the category of originality this game gets full marks as it successfully implements a unique synthesis of gaming components, theories and rules into a managable and comprehensible whole.
The cooperative aspect of the game is what I liked most and it was quite fast-paced once we got the hang of it. The art is simply gorgeous.
I would have liked to see something in the game move Sauron backward. It would have added another complexity to the game play if there was, say, just one card to move Sauron back a step.
Also, the event chips are too hard to shuffle and should have been cards. But in spite of this, I do recommend the game!
I'm not the kind of person who jumps for joy when a new Reiner Knizia game comes a-wandering; let's preface things with that statement. I think he's an extremely talented game designer, and I have played and very much enjoyed many of his games, but not all of them have been 5-star winners. In fact a few of them have been relative bores, I'm sorry to say.
'The Lord Of The Rings' is definitely one of those winners! Using new and fresh ideas and game mechanics, Mr. Knizia (or is that Dr.?) has succeeded in creating a unique game playing experience!
The other reviews go into great detail about this game (and I suggest you read those), but just look at all of the elements that make this one stand out: It's cooperative (US against Sauron), it simulates a quest in an excellent way, it's glittering with beautiful components and gorgeous artwork (although the Tempura painted Hobbit tokens are a bit odd), it's tension-filled, etc., etc.
In other words, this is a terrific game that fans of the Tolkien series, the fantasy genre, cooperative games and quality games, in general, are certain to enjoy.
Buy the game. Form your own Fellowship. Journey to Mordor. Destroy the One Ring.
Being a great fan of Reiner Knizia's other games I jumped at the chance and hastily gathered 4 friends, drinks and the red velvet gaming tablecloth.
Opening the box we were delighted with the quality of the multiple boards, pieces and cards. The artwork by John Howe is stunning throughout, and even the rulebook is a joy to behold.
Of course there was the Ring itself which has a special part in the game.
After a good session with the rulebook was complete, the wine was poured and the game commenced.
The game consists of a single Master Board plus 4 Scenario boards. The Master Board tracks the progress of the Fellowship from Bag End to Mordor and determines when each of the Scenario boards come into play. The Master Board also contains the wonderfully titled 'Corruption Line' on which the players' Hobbit pieces sit. The players start at the 'light' end of the corruption line while the scary Sauron playing piece starts at the dark end. Various events, including a custom die, cause the Hobbit pieces and Sauron to move towards each other on the Corruption Line. If you meet the Dark Lord then you are out of the game; if you hold the ring as well then the game is over!
The 4 Scenario Boards are played in turn with the final goal being to destroy the Ring at Mount Doom on the last board.
From the very beginning the whole 'Fellowship' found itself playing against the gameboards and the power of Sauron rather than each other.
This was a total (but pleasant) surprise as we were expecting the cut and thrust of player vs. player nastiness as in 'Settlers of Catan'.
Each player takes the role of one of the Hobbits of the Fellowship, each Hobbit having their own special ability which affects gameplay significantly.
There was much discussion between the players as to the strategy of future moves, who held which cards to avert the penalties of the event track and which players should be collecting the life tokens (of which there are not enough for every player--thanks, Reiner :-) ) . At a higher level there are the merits of how to progress through the 4 scenario boards. Either completing a game board quickly and incurring the penalties of missing life tokens or completing the boards more slowly, collecting the life tokens but then running the risk of the event track catching up with us. These are finely balanced and well thought-out.
A nice touch was the ability to 'spend' the scoring tokens in order to call Gandalf for help at any time during the game.
Also the Ring can be used by the current Ringbearer (who changes throughout the game) to progress along the scenario boards.
Nearing the end of our game we reached Mordor with all 5 players still in the game but were thwarted by the event track on the final board and thus did the Dark Lord claim his prize.
It was a delightful night, the co-operative nature of Lord of the Rings leads to an animated and interactive gaming session.
Too much to do, not enough time to do in in.
Outstanding--Reiner does it again!
Lord of the Rings is probably the first game I've ever played where all the players are playing cooperatively against the board.
This game works perfectly. It's so automated that it almost feels as if you are playing some sort of computer game where a computer is controlling the adversary. You even get to enter your initials onto a high-score chart that's included in the game if you win.
The object of the game is to get the ring into a volcano and keep it away from Sauron. You start with a party of up to five hobbits, each with its own special power.
You start the adventure on one board that represents one of the lands from the story. The object is to get through each board as quickly and safely as you can. There is a second board that stays up for the entire game. It represents how close you are to Sauron. There are several events that push Sauron towards your hobbits and several events that push your hobbits towards Sauron. Death comes to hobbits who dare to cross Sauron's path. Loss comes if that hobbit was the Ring Bearer. Of course there are ways to move away from him, but sometimes the sacrifice can be worth the overall goal.
You are also trying to collect Hearts, Rings and Suns since you move towards Sauron one space for each one you don't have at the end of each board.
You also collect shields to help you summon Gandalf who can heal, among other things.
Each turn begins with you turning up event chips. These could either allow you to move further along the board, or trigger the next event. Events are usually bad. However, you can plan for them because the board shows the order in which they will occur. Even if you manage to block an event, you still turn over chits until something happens successfully. This is where the tension lies.
After that, you can play up to two movement cards.
There is much more detail, but what I've described is the basic game play.
Since this game is cooperative, you do not have to hide your cards from your fellow players and there are even action cards that allow you to put the action on anyone you choose.
This is a game you really 'Get Into.' As Sauron got closer, we would hold our breath at the turn of every event chit. Then there was the a sigh of relief that went with it. Finally, there was the cheer as we sacrificed two hobbits to pull off a clever maneuver and got the ring successfully into the volcano. You almost forget you are playing a board game.
There is a lot of text on the board which means the German version would be pretty tough to play unless you knew some German. Rumor has it that a certain distributor in the U.S. has just ordered the UK version, so I'd definitely wait for that to arrive.
This game is unlike anything I've ever played and definitely one I will pull off of the shelf every chance I get.
We had a great time with our first play of this masterful game. The game really gets everyone to cooperate for the best of the group. The tension in the game starts early and continues through the whole game. Even if someone had died before the end, I think they would have felt just as victorious for helping the party get to the end (our ring bearer got corrupted on the last space of the last board!) We felt victorious just getting as far as we did.
The best I can say about this game is that everyone was eager to play again. We need a few more copies for our group because people were waiting around for the first game to finish before the second could start.
As for German vs. English, we played an English version. Unless you are pretty good at German, I would wait for an English version.
This game blew me away. I haven't been ths excited about a new game since ... well, not for a while.
This is a very subtle game. Prior to this, I've never found a co-operative game that works--but this one does. The 'threat' is that if Sauron meets your character, you are out of the game and can only kibbitz (although your score will be just as good as if you had survived). Obviously, players want to be in it until the end, and so balancing this subtle pull against the good of the group is what makes the game fascinating (don't worry; player eliminations will typically occur rather late in the game, so everybody gets to play most of the game--and the game isn't that long in the first place. After a game or two it seems to take about 90 minutes).
Generally, you will have to choose between increasing your personal odds of survival and helping the group achieve its goal, the destruction of the Ring. Now, often each individual character strengthens the group, and so these goals are not necessarily disjointed, but as the game goes on the tension between these two objectives will grow rather taut--and this is where the game truly shines.
The other thing that always amazes me about Knizia games is just how finely balanced they are, and Lord of the Rings is no exception. The other thing that makes this game great is that the resources are just tight enough to make destroying the Ring rather difficult without making it seem futile. This gives it a very strong 'just one more game...' pull.
I've played several times with every number of players except 3, and I think the game strikes the best balance with 4. With 5, the individual characters can get a little lost in the group-think and the gap between turns becomes slightly noticable. With 2, the game becomes incredibly difficult because of the card shortage. Neither problem is sufficient to knock it down from 5 stars for me, but it seems that to the best play out of a great game, 4 is recommended.
Anyway, I have a more substantial preview & review on boardgamegeek.com which you can check out if you like. The game won't be for everyone, but if the idea is at all appealing I reccomend checking it out. I think this will be an enduring Knizia classic, up there with Modern Art and Tigris & Euphrates.
Finally, a brief note on editions: Der Herr der Ring is the German edition, which is (rather obviously) in German. For people who have played many German games in their original language, the German here should not be a major deterrent; and if you want to be an early adopter, there isn't much choice. However, there will be a US version at some point, published by Wizards of the Coast. There is also a UK English-language edition which hopefully Funagain can carry. So if you want an English version (and this is recommended), it shouldn't be too much of a wait.
When I heard that Dr. Knizia was going to design a 'Lord of the rings' game, I couldn't wait. When I heard that it would be a co-operative game, I became a lot less excited. Well--last weekend my girlfriend saw the box in a game-shop, and she absolutely wanted to have it because we could 'team up against evil'. Short story: I have to admit that the Dr. has done it again. Only this time, the game does even have theme! It's one of those rare titles where suspense gets higher and higher towards the end--until you fail to destroy the ring or you win. Either way, you just HAVE to try to be better immediately.
Up to now, we have only played with 2 players, and it was great. I suppose it gets even better with 3, 4 or 5 hobbits.
Well, I'm a big Tolkien fan and I was very happy when I saw this game in shop. I've bought it, but I can say I'm a little dissapointed.
The game concept is great, so are the pictures on game boards ang cards. But what bothers me is that the game becomes boring after first 10 to 15 games you play. Ok, I don't play it for half of year and then I start over. Bored after 3 games - again.
The game is superb, but its price isn't so low that everybody could buy it for just a couple of interesting games. As a Tolkien fan I also missed the real story. Yeah, the events are the only parts of the story in the whole game, and after a few games, me and my co-players didn't even read them any more, because we just looked what do we have to do so Sauron doesn't come closer...
As I wrote down, not great, just good.
This is a good game. I'm not giving it 5 stars because it is a tad bit difficult.
But I have spend many hours playing it with my friends, and it was always enjoyable. Good value for money.
So... go buy it, it's a great game. Go help Frodo destroy the One Ring, and ruin Sauron plans.
Many reviews have been written about this game and most of the writers are right. This is a lineair game and does not meet the expectations you have if you think about LotR and the game designers.
But I have played the game about 20 times (with the F&F expansion) and came to the conclusion that, although the game is quite lineair, the gameplay is not. Sometimes, certainly at the last scenario boards, the first two or three hazards aren't that bad at all if you're able to cough up some chips. So to make the game more exciting, it's best to decide in the beginning to path to follow through the whole game. And after a lot of playing, I think the best way is to rush through the first scenario boards, but to play the last ones a bit more slowly to get the best out of the first hazards.
Two final tips for winning: moving Sauron one step towards the party of hobbits is much worse then moving one hobbit towards Sauron and Sauron never steps back.
Keep the whole of the journey in mind and you will enjoy this game.
The Saturday group is not known for its cooperative spirit, so when Lord of the Rings was introduced, I said there was no way that the group would ever finish the quest. Imagine, hard-core wargamers, those of us who like light fare, and the ones who can play anything mixing together to destroy the One Ring--never in a million years.
After weeks of watching the host agonize over whether to 'take one for the team' or to let someone die, I realize that this game may just save us all from his power trips (at least for the time it takes to play the game).
The Friends & Foes exapnsion has made the madness even worse. By adding the military aspect of defeating the foes, the hard-core wargamers are cheering again--finally, something to fight!
I take a back seat when this game comes out now, but I still appreciate the basic set and what it can do at the right time. This one got overplayed quickly and it's a little heavy for my taste. All in all, though, it's a great game and Dr. Knizia should be congratulated for a beautiful design.
This game is quite fun to play and is a great stepping stone for people who are more used to playing the usual common retail games such as Monopoly, [page scan/se=0050/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Scrabble, Cluedo (aka Clue), etc.
'Stepping stone to what?' you may ask. The answer is 'a stepping stone to more hardcore games such as [page scan/se=0834/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Dungeons & Dragons, etc.'
If you are used to playing more complex games such as RPGs, serious German board games, etc., then you may find this slightly dull. Personally, I thought it was great, until I bought my D&D Adventure Game pack. This game is something I would like to play once in a while, but not every day.
About the game itself:
Pros: You get to work as a team and help each other out by giving up your resources to pull other players out of trouble.
Cons: I don't see enough life tokens to satisfy a 4 or 5 player game. This game is optimal when there are 3 players. Not enough life tokens means someone is going to suffer in the game regardless of how they play. The game can also get a little repetitive after a few plays.
Verdict: Buy it if you are used to traditional retail games. You'll love it! But beware! Once you start playing more serious stuff, the novelty of LOTR will slowly start to wear, and you won't be playing it as much you thought you would.
Wow, this one has generated a LOT of reviews! Since it has received so much attention already, I will merely offer my own take on it, as briefly as possible.
Lord of the Rings is genuinely innovative. The mechanics of the game are designed from the ground up to require the players to cooperate with one another. While personal survival is always nice, personal sacrifice can result in a win for the entire group. The system is random, and sometimes can be very, very rough on players, so cooperation is paramount in importance.
The game is, however, quite abstract. Despite the sumptuous artwork and the other first-rate components, the actual play of the game is really just an exercise in group resource management. Over time, players could develop a system that will beat the game more often than not, and the only way of keeping the game interesting is to let the system have a head start.
Does this detract from the game? In the long run, yes, it probably does, but for the first several playings, this is an almost magical experience, much like reading a good book. Players do not know what to expect from the system and there is much table talk as players try to figure out the best way to approach each new challenge.
Because of the highly interactive nature of the game, it really will live or die by the group of players you have. If they are open to the experience, this will become one of your favorite games. If your players don't give themselves over to the play of the game, it will fail worse than most.
Recommended. One and a half thumbs up.
We've played Lord of the Rings with 2, 3, 4, and 5 players, and have enjoyed every game, although we've won only once (but came very close on 3 other occasions). Everyone likes the cooperative approach to the game, and wants to play again after their first game. Another novel design by that prolific Master, Reiner Knizia.
There is quite a bit of chance in the game, to be sure; drawing 3 or 4 nasty Event tiles in a row can cripple the team's chances for winning. However, everyone in our group accepts this as part of the game and in keeping with Tolkien's theme (the Hobbits never knew what to expect on their adventure; they just happened to beat the odds and succeed). The randomness of chance challenges the team to think ahead and manage resources and very carefully, and avoids the development of pat strategies for solving the game like a puzzle.
In all, a very enjoyable gaming experience that begs to be replayed often. Excellent for families as well, because the older players can help the younger ones in the team. Quick start up for new players in the group, because the experienced players can explain the rules as the game progresses.
Highly recommended, whether you're a Tolkien fan or not.
LOTR is very well done. Attractive boards, cards and playing pieces. The game really does make teamwork essential. I liked it from the start, and want to play again.
Since there are very few (maybe none?) cooperative games that play well and hold your interest, this alone makes LOTR a winner. Yet I have to admit that it is already clear that after only a few playings the game will become very predictable, your actions will become very scripted to enhance your chances of winning, and there will be little variability in choices.
It is a good game, definitely would go down well as a family game, with the younger ones, but alas, will wear thin for us older folks.
Perhaps after a few more playings it should be packed away and brought out in a year. Enough time would pass that it would at least play well again for a few games.
4 stars because it is so well made, and the system really does work so well. It's just that darn replayability thing....
OK--a little bit of a reality check here. From the reviews below, it looks like the LotR is the best thing since sliced bread. I've played a half dozen times with about 12 different gamers from different game groups and the results have been mixed. A few loved it, most liked it, some were ho-hum about it and a couple seemed to dislike it. I've been on a bit of a uphill swing with the game--not really enjoying my first play but it has really grown on me. The cooperative aspect is very good due to the discussion of cards in each player's hand and the decision points in the game (trust me, they are not always difficult decisions but sometimes they are). It feels quite like a solitaire game--in my first game the experienced players just asked me what cards I had and told me what to play. In subsequent games, I obviously had more input into the decisions, but it could just as easily be played by one player with everyone revealing their cards (since you can tell everyone what cards you have anyway). But the rules force you to keep your cards hidden (but encourage you to discuss them with your fellowship) and I think that's mainly to help produce the interaction that the game requires to drive it along. With the right people the game interaction can be great. I will say that the events and scenario boards are usually very tense and are great fun to work through but are a little static (the event tiles which help drive the scenarios change but the boards themselves do not). In many ways, a desperate struggle and a loss against Sauron is much more satisfying than an easy win (my first game we easily destroyed the ring without any real scares). Overall the game is good (possibly very good), but not great. As I've been hearing from others who have also played a half-dozen games it is starting to wear a little thin--and it's likely it will be the type of game that will probably only get pulled out a few times per year after the initial newness wears off. But I expect those few times to be fun so IMHO it's definitely worth the money. Although my review may seem somewhat negative it's just to provide some balance to the other fine reviews we have already seen. I'll recommend it--especially now that the WotC/English edition is widely available.
This game lived up to the previous reviews on this site. It was fun at first, and we had one heck of a time making it past Helm's Deep. Then we 'figured out' what to do, and won easily. Now the game seems trivial. I hope the expansions help to rectify this, or this game will go on the shelf, or out to ebay for auction.
The game is still enjoyable on some level because it is unique amoung games, but there is nothing which causes tension among the players. In other words, we simply cooperate as best as we can and if the cards come up right, we win, if they come up wrong, we lose. If the game is really about cooperating, then it seems like it should be difficult to master it (the act of cooperating). In this case, it is very easy to cooperate because nothing compels us to go our own way or dissent. A noble first attempt I think, but I think the genre has much more to offer.
I have played this game quite a few times and I have enjoyed it but it still wish it had a little more to it. I am interested in the cooperative game format and Knizia does it well. It is a good change to play with your friends against Sauron instead of against each other, but the game is linear and a bit mechanical.
I will continue to play this game quite a bit and play to get the Friends and Foes expansion soon and the Sauron expansion when it comes out. One of the best things about this game is that you can play with people at different gaming levels and still have fun. I play this most often with my six year old (who would play it twice a night if I let him), but I wouldn't be able to sit down and play a non-cooperative game with him at the same level.
I expect the expansions will continue to allow more choices, which will give the game even more character and allow for more replayability.
O.K if you have never done any FRP. To those of us who have it's a simplified
D+D module with pre rolled characters, pretty playing pieces and 'darkside
points' instead of hit points. Nobody has to DM but how many times to you want
to replay the same scenario ?
Worst feature is that the 'encounters' are entirely predictable (printed on the
board) so you can pre-read them and find work rounds/buy offs in advance.
Since several other reviews give fairly complete details regarding the actual gameplay I will simply post my opinion after having run through the game several times.
I wasn't too thrilled with the abstraction of the story and found that I barely connect the 'events' on the board with actual points in the story. They end up as simple penalties (lose 2 cards, move a space, etc.) and the framework of LOTR has very little to do with the game itself. (Others have pointed out that this is an abstract game with the framework of LOTR hung around it, and it never really gets beyond that for me.)
The cooperative aspect is kind of amusing, but, frankly, the game boils down to a nearly solitaire game that feels MUCH too random.
It's not a bad game, but it's not even remotely close to the top ten games that I own.
Original mechanism (cooperation instead of competition? Wow! Someone will dislike this, but I find it really interesting).
Beautiful art (by Howe!).
No real feeling with Tolkiens books (Fatty as a player and Aragorn as a "one-shot" card?!?).
Low longevity (after a couple of times, youll start to play always in the same way).
High luck factor (if the tiles are bad or you get a couple of bad dice rolls, the game is easily compromised).
Its a nice game for families, but definitely avoid it if youre looking for a Tolkien-related game or a "deep" game.
Let me start my review by stating two things: first, I really wanted to like this game (really), and second, although I have read some of Tolkien's work, I am not a LOTR expert. While I don't think either of these things disqualifies me from writing an honest review, I think it's important to get personal prejudice out of the way right off the bat.
LOTR is a great adventure game with a lot of positive features working for it. The mere fact that Dr. Knizia manages to balance three separate event lines across two differnt types of boards (the corruption line being my favorite), incorporates numerous sets of cards, three different types of life tokens, and the infamous event tiles and sets it all in one of the most lauded fantasy settings in all of literature is noteworthy alone. The fact that the game turned out to be immensely playable and exciting is no small achievement either. As an added bonus, the artwork on both the cards and the boards is wonderful and conveys emotions appropriate to the situation--ranging from tranquility to dread to downright fear.
The gameplay itself is fairly smooth. Playing just one game will convince even the most stubbornly selfish person that cooperation is key to success in the game. While chance plays a big part in the game (a few bad draws of the event tiles can ruin a perfectly good adventure), I think it's reflective of the nature of the books. The hobbits didn't know exactly what was going to happen next, they just trudged along and dealt with events with what they had. Overall, the adventurous spirit of the books is captured nicely in the game.
But is it even a game? Some players argue that it is not (including one very insistant player in my gaming club). The game requires almost total cooperation and sharing of resources. As such, this leads to more of an us-against-the-game mentality when playing. In fact, the game could very easily be played solitaire with the sole player playing five hands--one for each hobbit. In addition, there's no real 'winner' in the game. Either everyone wins and Sauron is defeated or everyone loses and evil rules 'Middle Earth.' There are some conditions for individual winners, but if the game is played with that in mind, Sauron usually fares better than the hobbits.
Regardless of where one stands on the issue of whether or not it's a game, the primary question still revolves around how fun the 'activity' is. The answer to this question is also somewhat cloudy. I've played the game numerous times with anywhere from 3 to 5 people. My personal experience has been that the game is incredibly engrossing and exciting the first few times through. Everyone was cringing or rejoicing at the turn of each event tile. We all waited in wonder as each new game board was turned over and the next segment of our adventure was revealed. Initially, the game has a nice 'feeling' to it that is comperable to the spirit of the books. After playing LOTR several times, however, the feeling changes. As winning strategies are developed, the game becomes somewhat rote. It becomes a case of, 'Alright, we're on the last board, so someone cash in five shields and get the Gandalf card so we can look at the next three event tiles.' This makes the game almost business-like and not quite as much fun. Granted, the level of difficutly can be increased by moving Sauron a few spaces forward on the corruption line, but that basically means you just have to do the same thing as before, but now you have to do it faster. I'm not sure I would want to spend the time to do this.
In summary, the game is a nice representation of the book that is sure to please most Tolkien fans. In fact, I'd highly recommend it to anyone who really enjoys the LOTR books, but may not be into gaming as they will probably like it. It's well made both technically and artistically. On the negative side, I think that most serious gamers may not enjoy it quite as much since the replay value diminishes the more the game is played. I have enjoyed it, but now I feel like I am 'done' with it. I may go back and read the rest of the trilogy now. Who knows--by the time I'm done, perhaps I'll want to play the game again.
Kudos to Knizia for creating such a solid game from a massive tome (or should I say trilogy of tomes LOL) as LOTR is... BUT...
This game has a VERY strong design which melts flawlessly with the actions written in the book. This apparent design strength, though, leads soon to an unavoidable repetitions of the strategy you have to follow each stage through. Nonetheless this is a game I'd like to play again in the future, but that ends not being my cup of tea, as I don't see enough replay value.
Luck, then is too strong a factor on the outcome of the game, and once you master all the cards and events for each scenario (which took us 3 plays, mind you) the game is substantially over, and you'll stick to other classic gaming masterpieces.
Baby you're a rich man:
By the way, this is a rich game, with very good to excellent components in which luck plays a dominant role but in which you have to talk a lot to your friends. TOO BAD that REAL decisions only take place in the first two games... After that it will go on like this: 'Who holds the card that gives a player 6 cards?'... 'ok then give it to me, so I can use the ring....' Multiplayer puzzle-game anyone? :) I'll stick to [page ]Ricochet Robot. ROTFL ;)
It's the end of the world as we know it:
I definitely wanted to like the gameplay as much as I loved the overall design of LOTR, but this eventually didn't happen and I ended up this evening (should say night) quite happy, but without all those thoughts that came to my mind when I first played Euphrat and Tigris or El Caballero or Acquire about what strategy to use next time.
This is one of those games that really deserves a conditional review, which is fortunate as there are so many reviews out here already. As something of an avid gamer, this game pales compared to others for several reasons. However, I can see why others would absolutely love it. So, my review is a three, four, or five stars depending on your point of view, which I've listed accordingly.
Three Stars: The game itself is OK, and the replay value holds up for a while but it stales over several plays. Also, luck makes or breaks your game far more than in most games. While I enjoy the luck factor to some degree, this game goes over my comfort level. The components are of course excellent; the rules are only fairly well written. As a game for more hard core gamers this will be fun for a few plays then quickly tire.
Four Stars: For the family (translate: kids), this game earns high marks because you must act as a cohesive unit to win the game. Not to sound too preachy, but there's a decent life lesson in the exercise. People talk a lot about doing things as families; this game fits the bill. Plus, it's a good segue into the Lord of the Rings trilogy (hey, there's more literature out there than Harry Potter!) for the youngsters.
Five Stars: If you are more of the casual gamer and love Tolkien to boot, then Lord of the Rings is a can't miss hit. For those who put Tolkien in their list of favorite literature, and there are a LOT of gamers who do, then this game should have obvious appeal. Apparently, the sales for this game support such a claim--as of this writing it's already the #9 all-time best seller for Funagain and climbing.
the game was very unimpressive. The best part about it was the idea of trying out a cooperative game. In fact, I was very excited about this idea. The problem is that we all maximized our potential and there was very little tension in the game. We ended up winning by a good bit and none of us were really that enchanted with the experience.
I have only played this game once, so perhaps there are interesting aspects that I failed to uncover, but my sense is that the mechanics are actually very poorly done, which is a lot to say of a game that Reiner Knitzia designed! If you want a cooperative game, look into Shadows Over Camelot by Days of Wonder.
I will grant you that there is a lot of crossover between those two groups so the distinction could mostly be moot. I am a fan of the LotR books. As a LotR fan I would rate the game as 4 stars, as a gamer I must say I wish the 'Officially Licensed' game had been designed by Klaus Teuber instead.
I waited to write my review for 'Lord of the Rings' for quite a while. I wanted to like it; I kept thinking that if I played it a few times it would grow on me. It never did.
The art work is great, the production values are superb, co-operative play is a nice change and the LotR tie-in is intriguing. However, play is mechanical, the different play mechanisms don't mesh well, and it is too abstract for me.
Chess is said to be based upon warfare and military tactics. Some people can make this abstract connection in their head and it makes perfect sense. The Lord of the Rings game is similar to Chess in that respect, it is completely abstract but the artwork is good enough to set a mood and evoke a theme. Remake the board and cards to have text only, no pictures, make no reference to Frodo or Hobbits or Sauron, play a game and ask people what book the game was based on and they would think you were crazy.
As for the different mechanisms, card playing, turning event tiles to move on the event line, moving individually on the corruption line, and (this is tough to follow) moving as a group on three different lines on each scenario board while collecting life tokens individually on those lines, just don't mesh well for me. There is just too much boring stuff going on to hold my attention.
I thought this would be a good game to appeal to non-gamers who liked 'Lord of the Rings', it is not. Play is so mechanical and there are so few real decisions to be made that new players may seem overwhelmed by the group offering advice on what to do (which is encouraged by the rules). There is little room for a new player to spread their wings and learn by error. Ten years from now Herr Knizia might be praised for inventing such a unique playing game that revolutionized the way games are played, or, more likely, this will stand as a grand experiment in co-operative play that found a small niche and be collectable amongst LotR geeks and largely forgotten by game geeks.
Buy it only to collect it. There is not much of a game here.
A gorgeous game, with top quality bits and well-conceived boards, that for our group fell flat after a handful of games.
Too much of the outcome has to do with the luck of the event tile draw, such that players are left simply responding rather than strategizing. Yes, you can amongst the group maximize your chances of dealing with adverse events, but it still feels too passive.
Like the previous commenter, I am on the verge of putting this up on ebay, as I am reluctant to shell out for one of the expansions to this expensive game.
There's no denying the game is an interesting concept with nice figures. It's quickly learned and will appeal to most players, non-gamers and gamers alike. Especially cool is the cooperative aspect. Pity about the gameplay itself.
The first time I played it I loved it, the next couple of times were good, but after that the bloom was definitely off the rose. It became rather predictable: finish off a board before the events turn up, avoid damage, or--if luck and events conspire against you--have a tea party with Sauron (who, incidentally, makes a great finger rest).
Sure, it's flexible and open to all sorts of tweaking, but it's still pretty one dimensional.
One of the reasons I bought this game was because it was spoken of so highly on this site. Well, all I can say is, it was wasted money. If it were up to me, I might play it again, but none of my friends will. I was interested in the idea of cooperation: could it still be fun to play a game if there was no element of challenging your friends? As it turns out, no. It's very pretty, and it doesn't absolutely bite (i.e. it's not frustrating or unclear), but after three games, I doubt it's ever coming off the shelf. Those of you who are wary of a cooperative game--stay away!
I have played this game many times with 4 players on expert level. I play with some really good gamers and have yet to lose with 4 or 5 players. The more players in the game means more cards which translates in to easy victory even when the tiles play bad. If you want a challange play with 2 or 3 players. Another thing we are finding is the game does not have much replay value. Every game we play the game has the same strategy for all the scenario boards don't change. The only thing that really changes is the tile draw and all that does is dictate how fast you finish a scenario. The game was fun at first but has lost it's appeal do to the lack of options. If I had to do it all over again I would not buy this game.
I've read the reviews. I've read the praise. I've played the game a handful of times and I don't see the allure. Yes, some of the art is stunning. Yes it is very different. That alone gives it two stars. But here are my thoughts: this is a great game of solitaire masquerading as a board game. If you really look at it, 95% of the game comes down to the shuffle of the event tiles. A good shuffle means you win, a bad shuffle means you lose. An OK shuffle means you may win or lose depending on your choices. However, like a good solitaire game, this game gives you the illusion that your decisions really mean a lot. The separation of hands and the need to keep them 'private' is a laborious facade disguising the fact that all the players really have one hand somewhat segmented into separate parts. Furthermore the ring riders are absent, major characters are reduced to special cards that give a slight bonus, while Pippin and Merry go to Mordor and Sam and Frodo go to Helm's Deep. I didn't feel like I was in Middle Earth; I felt like I was wrestling with a resource allocation game with a Middle Earth polish.
I guess my final thoughts are that I don't want to play a game that depends on the shuffle of the event deck and I won't know if it is in my favor or not until I've chewed up a lot of time and energy that may have been pointless.
Perhaps I'm a lone voice in the wilderness, but...
It's a cute premise (players have to "cooperate" to defeat Sauron), but I found the execution pretty disappointing. I've played with several different groups of people and what mostly seems to happen is that one player quickly stands out as the one who "knows the most about the game" or "knows the most about Lord of the Rings" or is just "paying the most attention". This player basically just ends up telling everyone what they should do (capturing the essence, I suppose, of what it's like having your own personal Gandalf) -- it's just human nature to let the most capable person lead the group effort -- but that means there's a lot less sense of "playing" for everyone else unless they decide to get "cantankerous" and be intentionally uncooperative, but how fun is that in a cooperative game?
I'm bamboozled by the apparent popularity of this piece and can only attribute it to either the popularity of the theme, or a radically different view of what makes an enjoyable game. Walking along a pre-scripted track of events with little figures hastening or retarding progress in an effort to drive at one of two conclusions just doesn't strike me as remotely interesting, entertaining, challenging, stimulating or engaging. I found the chorous of yawns among players more entertaining and competitive that the game ;-).
Moreover, the family from whom we borrowed the game, confessed that none of them could understand it! I agreed the rules took some interpretation ... the game wasn't worht the effort of that interpretation let alone the $80 they ask for it in the shops here.
It might just play well in afamily context with some younger children, I can't judge, but among adults I can recomment about 100 more enjoyrable games without much trouble ;-).
This game is selling simply because of the enormous popularity of the books and movie. I've played 3 times now and don't ever plan on playing again. It's not stimulating. It's not competitive. It's not fun! What they tried to do was very creative, but they failed miserably. Back to the drawing board for Reiner. He can mark this one off as a good idea that went bad.
Look, people, I love Lord of the Rings. I've been through the book over a dozen times from start to end. I also love board games and play twice weekly with a group of 5. So how can I go wrong picking up this game? Well simply for this reason... this game is awful.
The rules are written up elsewhere on this site, so I'll take them as read. What they don't get across is that success or failure of the team in this game is based on ONE THING... the order that the hazard chits are drawn. Nothing else matters. Let me elaborate. When the party has to pay some penalty or other, SOMEONE has to cough up (e.g. discard 2 cards). Usually if you don't, the result is so bad that it's a foregone conclusion the team is going to lose. So where's the strategy? Are you just going to lie about the contents of your hand so that another player will end up paying instead? This is supposed to be a co-operative game, how would that help? Later on, when that player alone is forced to pay for a hazard, he can't because his hand is short, and you are sitting there with your big, plump, full hand of cards that are now no help. This leads to even worse things happening.
In short, at each hazard, it will be blindingly obvious (except perhaps to very young children--who may enjoy this game) who should pay which penalty and when for maximum efficiency. And, no, we are not looking at each other's hands or anything sneaky like that. It's just darn obvious. This renders the gameplay extremely shallow. There is no strategy involved in this game whatsoever. And the more you play, the more this becomes heart-sinkingly apparent.
Under 12s might like it, but everyone else should stay away. I can't believe anyone who rated this game more than 1 star has played it more than 3 or 4 times. I myself have played it about 20 times, just to make sure I wasn't missing something. I wasn't.
Honestly, it's a waste of time and money. (However, the Sauron piece is very, very cool, so if you are prepared to shell out for a small block of wood and some nicely drawn artwork, go for it!)
I was so very, very, very disappointed in this game.
YUCK! This is a HIGHLY overrated game.
Get to play with the Lord of the Rings characters--though only with hobbits.
Very nice artwork.
Is a coopertive game--I thought that was a nice change of pace.
Very little replay value--i.e. the game doesn't really change much from game to game.
No real strategy to the game.
Pretty much totally depends on luck.
BORING to play.
Basically, if you LOVE the Lord of the Rings books, you might like the game the first couple of times you play, and you MIGHT get your money's worth out of it (although I didn't feel that way).
However, if you aren't totally hooked on Lord of the Rings, then stay away and save your money.
This game is very, very poor. It plays like a 'generic' game, the gameplay isn't AT ALL focused on any idea of Middle Earth. If they changed the setting to this world or any fantasy/science fiction world, you wouldn't notice the difference. The only innovation is the corruption chart. That isn't enough to rescue it from obscurity.
Such a shame....
In Solitaire, it's a single player against the cards. Why not pit all players against the game? Dr. Knizia proves that cooperation and loyalty can produce adventures as thrilling as the determined struggles for personal victory in his best games. Everyone must cooperate to defeat the Dark Lord. The Hobbits (players) start on the Corruption Line 15 spaces away from the Dark Lord. Mishaps along their long and eventful journey, determined by malevolent Event Tiles, bring him inexorably closer. He eliminates anyone he reaches. Everyone loses if the Ring-Bearer is killed. Be prepared for self-sacrifice! Everyone wins only if the Ring-Bearer reaches Mount Doom and destroys the Ring. Tolkien would have been proud of this uncannily accurate portrayal of the dangers and mounting tensions of his novel.
What do you get when you mix the best book ever written(*) with the most prolific games designer of the last fifteen years? Lord of the Rings by Reiner Knizia. Is this a perfect combination or a flawed marketing mix? I'll let you know at the end of the review.
I first encountered LotR as a test version in December 1999. Dave Farquhar, who prepared a lot of work on the game, introduced it. We were not allowed to mention that we had played it and in fact we did not know that we would play it in advance of the games session. Very few of Reiner's games had failed to meet my expectations, so I was expecting something clever. As the boards (several) were unveiled, the excitement mounted. Lots of cards and several boards each with different tracks on them. This was all pretty enticing but how would the game play? Each player represents one of the hobbits from Lord of the Rings. Together they will form a fellowship and brave out the hazards, resist Sauron--whose evil eye watches over your progress--and destroy the One Ring by dropping it into a volcano. This is an unusual game, as it requires the near complete co-operation of all players to sacrifice resources for the good of the fellowship. It is far different from the semi-cooperative Republic of Rome (from Avalon Hill) in which you cooperate to beat the system, then try and beat each other and it means that there is no individual winner--all players win or all players lose. This concept is difficult to describe other than when you are in the game. But it is enjoyable. Initially for the play test version, we resisted the total co-operation that is required and as a result we did not start off too well. However, we soon realised that unless you help one another and sacrifice your resources for the common good, you all lose.
Each of the five hobbits has a different game bonus and it is important to use these in the right way. Again, you need to recognise each other's strengths and weaknesses and play accordingly.
The first board is the master game board, which shows a summary of the key areas that you will progress through during the game. Four of them Moria, Helm's Deep, Shelob's Lair and Mordor are covered in more detail on some specially designed scenario boards. The rest--Bag End, Rivendell and Lothlrien--are covered by text on the master board and feature brief events or decisions to take. Beneath this summary is a track with 15 spaces on it and which is used to represent the level of corruption for each of the hobbits in the game. The hobbits are placed at one end, with Sauron at the other. The normal starting point for Sauron is on the 12 space, but you can make the game easier by placing him on the 15 space. Veterans may want to risk to 10 space later. As individuals, the hobbits will fail tests and hazards and move down the track nearer to Sauron, who may also move towards them. If a hobbit and Sauron are on the same square, the hobbit has been corrupted by the Dark Side (just like Star Wars) and the player is out of the game. The party may still win, but without any further help from that particular hobbit. If that hobbit is carrying the ring (the Ring Bearer), then everybody loses. Points are scored for how far the party has travelled down the winning path, with 60 points being the maximum for travelling down the paths. Additional points are earned for shields, which are awarded as you move along the paths on the adventure boards.
The game play is spread over several adventure boards, each representing a different section of the book. On each board, the object is to move from left to right across several tracks--a main track, which represents your journey through the area, and subsidiary ones, which enable you to recruit help and to acquire the strengths you will need to resist the powers of darkness. Most boards feature three paths, with progress along each of them being tied to either friendship, travelling, hiding or fighting. To complete a board, the party can either reach the end of the main track or go through a series of six hazards. The former is much the better as each series of hazards gets very nasty towards the end.
Each player's turn consists of drawing an event chip from a stack and carrying out its instructions, which is either movement down one of the tracks or encounter a hazard. The hazards have to be overcome or else the individual, or sometimes even the whole party, is affected. If a hazard is drawn, then the player continues drawing chips and resolving them until a movement chip is drawn. A run of bad luck here can cripple the party, as cards are used up in order to survive and maybe even some of the special cards. Eventually a movement chit will be drawn and the party moves down the appropriate track, with a white marker being used to monitor progress. Each movement will usually earn the player making it some bonus in the form of shields, life tokens or cards.
In order to deal with the hazards they will meet, each player has a hand of hobbit cards. Most of these show one or two symbols that match the tracks (friendship, travelling, hiding or fighting); others are jokers, showing stars, which can be used in place of any of the other symbols). Each hobbit cards is also grey or white and the significance of this comes after you have drawn your movement chip. You may then play one or two hobbit cards in order to move further along the tracks, but the rule is that if you play two, one must be white and one grey. There are also yellow bonus cards that can be earned for successfully passing a hazard, by moving far enough down one of the tracks or by meeting allies in Bag End, Rivendell and Lothlrien. Once used, cards are not replenished automatically. The bonus cards are often double moves, so when they are played they move the party two spaces down the track instead of one. Other yellow cards can be used to avoid a hazard or overcome a problem, but since they are all "one use", it can be difficult deciding just when to play them. If you use them straight away, you may avoid a nasty fate like Sauron moving closer down the track, but there is always the nagging feeling that something even nastier could happen shortly and that the card would be even more useful then. Perhaps even in Mordor.
The co-operative element usually takes place when one of these hazards is faced. Often a hazard requires the party to surrender specific cards. If each player has not got the necessary cards, one player may be called upon to surrender more than their fair share. This moves the party on and in game circles where this works, you can make progress pretty quickly. If your gaming style is more aggressive and individualistic, you may miss out on making all the progress you should. There is an optional rule which can be used by people who like a game to have a single winner, but I don't recommend it. I think that this co-operative style is what the game is all about.
The Ring bearer always starts with Frodo, but unlike the book, the ring moves around the hobbits. When the party markers are moved down the tracks they pick up shields and life tokens. The shields are used in scoring when you are successful and have another use which I'll come to later.
The life tokens represent keeping your spirits high (suns), your body healthy (hearts) and resistance to the ring (rings). If you possess all three of these when an adventure board is concluded, you stay on the same space on the corruption track on the master game board. For each one that is missing, you move one space closer to Sauron--unless you are Merry, who only requires two of these to be safe. (One consequence of this is that he needs to be careful when moving down a track that he doesn't take too many of these and thereby make things harder for the others.) At the end of each board, the ring will generally move to another hobbit. This will be whichever one has picked up the most ring tokens during the adventure and here again the party's chances can be improved if you are careful about who is picking the things up. Players can discuss courses of action quite freely, but may not show what each other what cards they hold in their hands.
The game setting deliberately tries to create the feel of the book, with major characters being met in the right places, and the fact that you have to help each other makes the players feel they are part of a party, rather than a set of individuals. The major characters, such as Aragorn, are often "two move" benefits, so while they are not as interactive or large as they might be in your imagination, they do at least provide a helping hand. The yellow bonus cards are playable instantaneously, which means that a hazard may be just about to get you and then you make a miraculous escape. It isn't as bad as Bobby's dream in Dallas, but if you haven't read the book, it might seem a bit unlikely. However, these escapes are exciting and it is enjoyable to think of ways round problems, be relieved only to face another obstacle.
The obstacles often call for the "dark die" to be rolled. This has one blank side and five bad ones. The blank means no negative effect and if you get enough of these in the game, you will win, so there is no doubt that large slices of luck are a help. Of the bad results, three cause the hobbit to move towards Sauron (1, 2 or 3 spaces), one causes Sauron to move towards the party and one results in the loss of two cards. This seems trivial at some stages in the game because you have loads of cards. But later on a player will have the wrong type of card (friendship, when you need move cards, for example) and this earlier loss of cards can haunt you.
Instead of playing cards to move during a turn, a player can take two hobbit cards or move one one back further away from Sauron. Again, this has game benefits and downsides, as you then do not move down a track and risk more hazard chits being drawn. Generally, it is better to conclude the adventure boards as fast as possible, as you will have used up less cards, and though players may not have enough life tokens to be safe from movement on the corruption track, you will not have faced so many hazards. As each game pans out, these are the decisions that help shape your story and the outcome for your party.
Finally, you reach the edge of the volcano at Mount Doom. The Ring Bearer then gets one chance to cast the ring in to the volcano. To attempt this he rolls the die. If he survives the game is won. If not, the surviving hobbits each get the chance to make themselves into heroes. This can be really exciting, especially if some of the die rolls lead to the loss of the hobbit while others afford success.
The loss of a hobbit before you reach the end is pretty bad. Not only do you lose that character's cards, which may be vital in avoiding a hazard, that hobbit will not be able to help cast the ring into the volcano at the end of the Mordor track.
So how did my play test version go? After a sticky start, my hobbit survived to reach Mount Doom. That was the good news. The bad news was that everyone else had failed to make it, having (nobly) sacrificed themselves for the greater good. The outcome was down to me. I had a 1 in 3 chance of success, blew it and was corrupted on the edge. But though that was the ultimate result, it was incredibly exciting and really felt as if the previous two hours had been worth it. We were spoilt somewhat by Dave helping us realise the options of the game, but it was a terrific gaming experience and the only thing we slightly disappointed in was that Gandalf the wizard had only a passing effect on the game whereas in the book he is a central character.
I'm pleased to say that in the published version, Gandalf has a far greater impact. There now are five Gandalf cards that can be used, each of which can be bought if one player surrenders 5 points of shield cards. This is pretty simple to achieve, but choosing when to use these cards (which are also one-off use cards) can make the difference between succeeding and failing, so they provide another clever game decision tool.
For those people who have not read the 1000+ pages on the book, Dave Farquhar has provided a two-page summary. I think he has done a good job and I hope Tolkien purists do not criticise the style or the scale of the summary. Including it was a good idea. Finally, the price. In Essen, the gaming Mecca, it was 60DM or so. In England it is 30 or 96DM. So the obvious question is whether non-German readers should buy the English version. I would say that it is sensible to do so, as the text of the hazard events needs to be studied by all the players so that they can consider what to do with their cards. The cards themselves have some text on them, but this is not as difficult to deal with. For players in North America, I understand the game will be produced from within the Hasbro empire, but I do not know when. While 30 is higher than the average price for a game, I suspect most people will get many hours of pleasure from this game and so the cost will be well covered by the enjoyment.
The 'Multi-Path Only One Route Out' system for the game is clever, new and re-usable. It could be used for any story, or possibly in war or economic systems and I can see it being used by other games to monitor progress in a game. Whether the system is subject to copyright, will no doubt be tested in actions if it can be seen that is valuable, but I am sure someone somewhere will re-use this system as they have done in the 18XX structured games.
Some people have questioned whether the game can be replayed. The points system allows you to go for your best score, but I can see the game becoming as popular as Settlers of Catan because non-gaming people will be tempted by the title and hopefully enjoy the co-operative system. Starting the Sauron piece at different spaces along the track means you can vary the game difficulty. You could also play with fewer players. I have only played games with 4 or 5 players, but I know that the game is more challenging with fewer players as some of the bonus cards are not a available and therefore the escape routes out of certain situations are more difficult to find. But I suspect the most fun you will have is when you introduce more people to the game. The theming is obviously unusual for a Knizia title, but as with the system, it produces an excellent and enjoyable game, which I hope will open the board gaming boundaries to people who still regard Monopoly as the definitive game. If it does that, then the game will have succeeded by any standard of measurement. My conclusion is that this is a great blend of book and game, which makes it highly recommended, of course.
*The best book ever written was from a poll in a UK retailer held in late 1999.