Lord of the Rings game
by TJ Crockett
Lord of the Rings
Reiner Knizia, Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Number of Players:
If you are a Lord of the Rings book fan, then you’ll love feeling the despair of the Fellowship. If you’ve just seen the movies, you’ll wonder who Fatty is.
The game and gameplay
This is a very difficult co-op game where each player takes control of one of the five hobbits that started the quest to destroy the one ring to rule them all.
If there are less than five players, then Fatty is the first hobbit to be left out, followed by Merry and Pippin. Frodo and Sam always play being the central hobbits from the story. Each hobbit has a special ability that allows them to bend the rules.
The Lord of the Rings game comes with three sturdy game boards, the smallest of which is the Master Board that tracks your progress towards Mt. Doom where the ring must be destroyed. It also has the Corruption Line, a 16 space continuum that represents the hobbits draw to evil.
The Dark Lord Sauron starts at the dark end on space 12 (15 in the beginner game), and the hobbits start in the light on space 0. Events throughout the game will cause the hobbits to move to the dark or Sauron to move closer to the light.If a hobbit is ever in the same space as Sauron, then that player is eliminated from the game. If they are also the Ring Bearer, then Sauron takes over Middle Earth and the game is lost.
Players start in Bag End where each player receives six hobbit cards. The hobbit cards have one of five symbols representing friendship, travelling, hiding, fighting and wild. These cards will be used to throughout the game to keep horrible things from happening to the fellowship.
It is here in Bag End where the fellowship faces their first challenge. One player must discard two hiding symbols, or Sauron moves one space closer to the hobbits.
In addition to Bag End, there are two other safe havens on the journey: Rivendale which is next, and Lothlorien which is between the first two scenarios. Each safe haven provides the same basics: new cards, a chance at team work, followed by a challenge to the fellowship.
Click to read our page about Lord of the Rings Monopoly!
The other two boards are each two sided and represent scenarios, the first being Moria. There are three or four activity tracks on each scenario.
On your turn you draw a tile and follow the instructions. You continue to draw until you pull a tile that allows you to move one of the activity markers.
Each space on the activity lines allow you to receive shields (used to buy help from the wizard Gandalf, or to prevent bad things from happening), life tokens (needed to keep you from moving closer to the dark at the end of the scenario), receive extra cards, or roll the die (no good comes from this. In fact, the best that can happen is nothing).
Once you’ve moved an activity marker, you can play two cards (and move the matching activity markers), draw two cards, or move your hobbit back one space to the light.
A scenario ends when the main activity line reaches its conclusion or all six events have taken place, usually with dire consequences. At the end of the scenario, each hobbit moves one space to the dark for each of the three life tokens they are missing, and a new ring bearer is chosen based on the number of ring tokens collected.
The new ring bearer and Fatty (if playing) each get to draw two cards.
If you make it do the end of the activity line in Mordor (the final scenario in the Lord of the Rings game), then you can destroy the ring by die roll. If the roll hasn’t resulted in your death, then you have destroyed the ring and saved Middle Earth.Pros and Cons
Any co-op game is good for a change of pace from the normal game options out there. You either all win or all lose.
This is a very complicated game, one which will feel stumbled though the first time that you play, or you play with someone new. In fact, your best chance at success is to immediately play a second game, while all of the challenges faced are fresh in your mind.
The hard part may be convincing your partners, especially those unfamiliar with the story, to play a second time.
The rule book is laid out in a difficult fashion, but there is an updated version on line at the Fantasy Flight Games website.
The Lord of the Rings game is beatable if you use a very logical approach and don’t just let people make a sacrifice because they haven’t done so in a while. Of course this make it easy to feel that someone isn’t pulling their weight.
The board and card art work is done by a well known Lord of the Rings artist, John Howe, and is stunningly beautiful. The pieces are all made out of quality wood and painted well.
Like the story it’s based on, The Lord of the Rings game is very dark and nothing good happens, just bad and not so bad. If you like the books (or to some degree the movies) then this won’t be a problem, but it will be a tough sell to anyone who is unfamiliar with or doesn’t like the story.