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When the Lord of the Rings films came out a few years ago, I must admit I became a huge fan of anything to do with Lord of the Rings. My family helped this addiction along by buying me plenty of Lord of the Rings themed gifts, from music to board games, which is how I came across Lord of the Rings Risk.
I have never actually played the original versions of Risk, but I do know the basic aim is to conquer the world with your armies. Usually the map you are conquering is a political map of the Earth, divided into continents and territories. It is a turn-based game for two to six players who attempt to capture territories from each other by rolling higher die numbers, winning the game by occupying every territory.
Lord of the Rings Risk takes the original Risk and transposes it onto a map of Middle-Earth. This version is for 2 to 4 players, who are provided with a choice of four army colours (green, yellow, red and black). The first two armies are 'Forces of Light', and consist of Elves, Horsemen & Eagles; the second two armies are 'Forces of Dark' and consist of Orcs, Ring-wraiths and Trolls.
Game play is similar to original Risk, but there are a few slight differences. The first is that there are additional cards that are earned in certain territories, which give Leader pieces missions to accomplish, provide bonuses or cause 'special events'. The second is that throughout the game there is another counter - a Ring. This represents the Fellowship on their journey through Middle-Earth, and they are moved along at the end of each player's turn by the roll of a die. The game ends when the Fellowship reach the end of their path, giving it a time-limit. You do have the option to play the game without the Fellowship, meaning you can play it until one player has taken all the territories. I feel the time-limit given by the Fellowship can be quite useful as without it the game can drag on for hours until the world is taken over, becoming quite tedious (especially if you are the player that is losing!).
One flaw when using the Fellowship is that if a Dark Force captures the Fellowship at any point in the game, the game is over and they win. The forces of Light must get the Fellowship to the end of it's journey to have even a chance of winning. The winner is determined at this point by points awarded for territories, strongholds, regions that are controlled and cards played throughout the game - meaning that even if the Fellowship has made it to the end, a Dark Force still may win.
The board itself shows a map of most of Middle-Earth, except for Gondor and Mordor, which I have always found a bit unusual, but presumed the board territories are based on the first two films rather than all three. The territories are in different colours, and the whole map has a dull effect to it rather than bright colours, making it look like it's an old map and allowing the colours of the armies and the Fellowship trail to stand out easily.
The game did take a while to set up at first as there were a lot of cards and rules to place and work out. The first time I played this game I did leave the Fellowship part out as we found that the game was already complex without having the added complication of moving a 3rd group through the board. However on subsequent plays of the game I have used the Fellowship, and found the time-limit it provides quite useful. It also adds another angle, as each Force attempts to gain the territories it is moving through to end or continue the game (depending on what side you are on). It is also easier to set up after you have played it once as you have a better understanding of all the cards and rules.
I would recommend trying this game, but only if you have enough patience to start it off. Once you get going it is very enjoyable, and the players can get quite competitive, and it can last for a while. Definitely a Boxing Day or rainy day game. There is a full trilogy version of the game, which gives you the full map, but if you don't mind having part of the map this version is worth a try.