The Hobbit Board Game
by Gary Walts
(Montreal Board Game Meetup)
The Hobbit Board Game
Board game manufacturer:
Fantasy Flight Games
Number of players:
Journey with Bilbo Baggins through Middle Earth in search of adventure and of treasure in The Hobbit game, but beware the dragon Smaug…
The game and gameplay
The Hobbit is a 2-5 player Character Development game where players take on the role of Dwarfs travelling with Bilbo from Bag End to The Lonely Mountain. The game includes a long fold-out playing board, plastic gemstones, 5 specialized dice, as well as Event and Adventure cards for each of the game’s 4 adventures.
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There are also “Dragon Titles” that represent Smaug’s action if the players fail an adventure over the course of the game. Treasures in the game are counted using clear plastic stones. A Bilbo miniature starts on Bag’s End and a Smaug miniature starts on The Lonely Mountain. Continues below
Each player starts with a Character Board with three stats (Initiative, Cunning, and Strength) that can be increased or decreased during the party’s travels. Higher scores accumulated in the Event rounds can result in bonuses that are used in the Adventure rounds.
Players also start with 5 Dwarf cards (numbered 1-60) and three Provisions tiles.
The game plays over 4 Event rounds and 4 Adventure rounds.
During the Event Rounds, the top card of the Event deck for that stage of the game is revealed…
If it’s a Gift card, all players receive a bonus. Ability cards grant one player a special ability, but to gain it, each player must bid a card from their hand and the winner (can be highest or lowest) takes the card. Travelling cards advance Bilbo on the board, and players will bid a card from their hand. Starting with the lowest bid, each player will get to move Bilbo one space and claim the benefit or penalty of that space.
Most interesting in this phase are the three spaces where a player may claim The One Ring. This allows the player who holds it to set the result of one die during the Adventure rounds. Very powerful.
Once Bilbo reaches one of the game’s Adventure spaces, an Adventure Round begins…
Players compare their initiative scores, with ties broken by drawing random cards from the Dwarf deck. This sets the turn order for the round. The first player reveals the top card of the corresponding Adventure deck, and the card depicts how many shields, provisions, or axes need to be rolled in order to claim the treasure.
The player may choose to play or pass the card, however a player must pass if they do not have at least two Provisions. Any player who plays the card rolls five dice, then may re-roll as many dice as their Cunning bonus allows. These dice can each result in 1 Shield, 1 Provision, 1 Axe, or 2 Axes. Add any bonus Shields and any bonus Axes resulting from high Initiative and Strength scores to the dice rolls.
If the card requires provisions and you come up short on the dice, you can discard provision tokens to make up the difference. Should you meet or exceed the requirements of the card, you win the treasure and the next player draws a new card.
Fail, and you will have to draw a Dragon tile that can cost you Provisions, lower your stats, and advance Smaug towards the Laketown space. Your card is then passed to the next player. New cards are drawn only if a player succeeds or if all players pass on the card (which would cause Smaug to advance).
Adventure rounds conclude when all the cards for that adventure are played through. The game concludes when all the adventures are completed or Smaug reaches Laketown. The player with the most treasure is the winner.
Pros and cons
Nice components and lots of flavor text on the cards.
Handicapping system where new or younger players can start with higher stats.
Game mechanics for each phase of the game is simple and effective. Just 3 pages of rules.
Game play is very linear, with some variation provided in the order cards come up.
As nice as they are, there are only only two minis.
The Hobbit was designed as a family game, and therefore is very very light and very linear for a game from Fantasy Flight. The game does flow naturally after the first couple of turns, and is fun to play, but may not hit the table too often. 4 greedy Dwarfs out of 5.
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