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Following the release of the first 'The Lord of the Rings' movie back in 2001, and due to the fact that I had ploughed my way through the trilogy of novels (I really saw it as an accomplishment), I was going through a bit of a Lord of the Rings fanatical phase. As such, The Lord of the Rings Board Game made it onto my Christmas list of 2001, and happily, I received it. Ten years later, and with my dad threatening to throw the old board games out if nobody wants to keep them anymore, my boyfriend and I decided to play this game (we are too cool). At the age of 11, it had seemed very complicated and difficult. I figured that my 10 years of brain development would stand me in good stead and I would, at last, be able to complete this game. However, optimism is a wonderful thing...
I think I should warn you at this point that this is not your conventional board game. Forget Monopoly and its one board, two traditional 6 face die, and two decks of cards to pick from. This game has five playing boards, many card decks to pick from and many other counters which prove valuable throughout the game. I'm apprehensive about trying to explain the gameplay, just because it took us a while to grasp the idea of the game, and we had the instructions to follow! Try and bear with me...
Essentially, the game follows the basic story of the novels, and if you're familiar with the films/novels, you will be familiar with the character names/locations/items etc. Playing as Frodo/Sam/Merry/Pippin/Fatty (you won't remember him from the films!) you are on a mission to destroy the one ring, and save Middle Earth from all-consuming evil. Thus, you 'visit' various locations, starting from Bag End, and eventually making your way to Mordor in order to accomplish this. Sounds simple enough.
At any given time during the game, there will be two boards in play. The one remains in play continuously, and has a line of 15 squares, which are white at square 1, but gradually work their way to black by square 15. This shaded sequence is representative of how far the characters have been consumed by evil. So, Sauron will begin on square 12 or 15 (depending on how hard you want to make the game) and the hobbits start on square 1. As the game progresses on the other board I mentioned, the hobbits and Sauron will find themselves moving toward each other. If any of the hobbits meet Sauron on the shaded squares, their character is eliminated from the game, and if the ring bearer encounters Sauron, the game is over.
The other board will change throughout the game. It will switch between four well known scenes in the story being Moria, Helm's Deep, Shelob's Lair and Mordor. In addition to this, you will also encounter two other locations, which do not have playing boards representing them. These are Rivendell and Lothlorien, which are essentially resting locations, which are areas which will give you playing cards which will aid you in the other locations. On the location boards, there are several 'activity' paths. You must complete the main activity path in order to progress to the next board. However, travelling along the other smaller paths will also benefit you. Each path is made up of squares, and each square has a consequence, which must be played out. You must play out every consequence of the squares on the path, whether bad or good, and so it's really a game of strategy to determine how best to complete the board, and to try and minimise the damage as best you can.
Are you still with me? I'm hoping so. If it wasn't enough that you have to deal with the consequences of the squares, you also have consequences of an unseen deck of tiles to contend with. These tiles either allow you to progress along the various paths, or give you some very nasty consequences, which often involve Sauron moving closer to you on the first board I mentioned, or you moving closer to him. Without getting into too much detail and completely losing your interest, this is foremost a game of strategy, where you have to use the cards in your hand and work with your fellow players in order to complete the game as best you can.
I have always loved board games. However, back at the age of 11, I found it difficult to keep up with all the aspects of gameplay this game involved. Having my dad read out the instruction manual in careful detail was boring, and it was a strain to maintain my attention. At that age, all you want to do is get involved in the game, and instructions are just a time hindrance. Consequently, I probably didn't understand the game as well as I should have and we usually failed the game before we'd even gotten to Mordor!
Playing the game now, I am able to grasp the game far better than I did back then. I would say it takes a good half hour to grasp the rules fully (maybe quicker if you're more on the ball than me). However, I am still yet to complete this frustratingly difficult game! Today, my boyfriend and I failed mid way through the main pathway in Mordor, which is the farthest I have ever gotten in the game, and I was gutted! To be honest, I think the developers of the game knew they had made an extremely difficult game, as a 'Hall of Fame' sheet is included with the game, on which you can record how far you got before you died. While it is interesting to see how well you've done over the years, it is a constant reminder that this game is near IMPOSSIBLE to complete!
If you're looking for a particularly challenging board game and enjoy fantasy board games such as Dungeons and Dragons (I found that to be almost as confusing when I first played it), then this is probably up your street. It's truly a game of strategy, and your success is dependant on how well you play your cards, as well as the luck of the draw.
The boards themselves, as well as the character cards and the instruction booklet, are beautifully drawn, and add a really wonderful visual aspect to the game. Also, the boards are still in good condition, and over the course of a decade or so, have shown no signs of ageing. They are also highly durable, as we found out today when I accidentally spilt my cup of water over the playing boards. However, no damage was done, as I was able to wipe the water right off, and the boards show no signs of having been water damaged.
It is recommended that this is a game for 2-5 players aged 12+. I can see now why the game has a 12+ rating, as it would not maintain the patience of a child (unless your child is a saint) when attempting to explain the rules. It's currently priced at £22.51 on Amazon, and I think it's worth the money if you enjoy strategy games and/or are massive fans of The Lord of The Rings.
I did enjoy playing the game when I eventually got the hang of it, and am still dying to one day complete it. However, this is definitely not one for very young children or anybody with a low patience threshold.
With the massive interest generated by the brilliant film adaptations of Tolkiens Lord of the Rings (LOTR) it was inevitable that there would be a huge market for LOTR products especially games that could reproduce the feel of the original books. A very successful set of PS2 games was released but for the more traditional gamers an intelligently designed and very playable board game is also available.
The Lord Of the Rings board game is made by Fantasy Flight games probably the leading manufacturers of Strategy board games. The game was created by the innovative designer Renier Knizia.
As in any adaptation of a book the idea is to appeal to the current fans but also make it accessible for people who might be new to the genre. The gameplay must follow the original story but it must also be at a level that non-fans can also take part. In this respect this game does an admirable job.
As in the book the objective is to stop the Dark Lord Sauron from getting the 'One' ring (first found by Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit) back and thus subdue all the races of middle Earth to his evil rule.
The ring has now passed on to Frodo and with the help of the fellowship of Hobbits Sam, Merry Pippen and Fatty (not in the original book!) he has to negotiate great dangers to eventually reach the Dark land of Mordor and destroy the Ring in the volcanic fires of Mount Doom where it was originally forged.
The players each take the part of one of the hobbits, each has individual special abilities and one of them Frodo at the beginning has the role of ring bearer, which gives him a further special ability in the game.
The game is placed on two main boards one the Master board that remains constant and simply plots the advance of Sauron towards the hobbits and certain events that cause the hobbits to be corrupted and so progress on the path of darkness the other board, which changes for each scenario that details the paths and event that must/can take place in order to progress the game.
As the hobbits gather movement and scenario cards they attempt to complete the scenario boards before events overtake them where they succeed or fail to complete the board they move onto the next one. Unlike most board games dice are not used to determine the rate on movement on the board instead the players need to use the movement cards they gather through the game. These allow movement on a particular path and some have the special ability of allowing movement on any path. A die is used in the game but it is not a conventional six sided numbered die, in the game the dice covered in different symbols is use to determine the outcome or consequences of the activity tiles.
Failure to complete the scenario will usually mean that the hobbits and Sauron come closer together on the Master board and once a hobbits meets or is corrupted by Sauron on this board the player is eliminated from the game if the ring bearer is corrupted by Sauron the game ends. At any time if they have gathered enough shields on the way the hobbits can call upon Gandalf for help up to a maximum of five times but even this help comes a accost and so has to be used wisely.
Using strategy the players have to co-operate to move across the scenarios and keep Sauron as far away as possible from getting the ring. All through the game the players have to consult and agree on what strategy to follow, many of the events will require all of them to play certain cards to help each other out and often exchange or sacrifice tokens or cards for the benefit of the group. A lot of chat goes on during the game!
The scenarios follow the course of the book thus we start at Moria and progress to Helm's Deep, Shelob's Lair and finally Mordor. Along the way the Fellowship receives help from allies. The scenario boards include three different paths or activity lines that can be taken in order to win valuable resources and complete quests. An event line is also included where the random drawing of event tiles can cause a series of increasingly more unhelpful events to occur which again will force the hobbits to act together in order to minimise the bad consequences.
The cleverest concept of this game is that the players do not play against each other but against Sauron. Working together is essential even to the extent that at times it might be necessary to sacrifice one of the players in order to allow the ring bearer to survive (note that the role of ring bearer can change throughout the game).
The game is fairly complicated to set up initially and will not be suitable for children younger than 8 and even older children up to 11 will need some adult help to familiarise themselves with the rules.
It is a great family game and over the last Christmas holidays this was a welcomed break from the more usual PC/PS2 games and allowed my two older kids then aged 9 and 12 to play with us. The nature of the game is such that there has to be a lot of positive interaction between the players and thus many of the usual arguments that plague board games involving children are avoided. The key advantage of the game though is that because it is in a sense non competitive amongst the players you will not get tear and tantrums when somebody loses, since you all win or lose at the same time!
At the end of the game whether the ring has been destroyed or not a score can be worked out depending how far along the boards you have progressed and how many spare resources you have left with which can be noted on the Hall of Fame sheet so that you can compare to other times you play.
Strategy and skill is an important part of the game but luck in the form of the order and nature of the random event tiles and the throw of the event dice will make the game a challenge for even the best players whilst ensuring that more inexperienced player still have fun.
Visually the board and cards are impressive the brilliant illustrations supplied by celebrated Tolkien artist John Howe. The board and pieces are sturdy and well made which is usually an indication of quality and will allow the game to play over and over again. Included with the game are two rule guides one is a quick start guide and one a more in depth version, which you will inevitably have to consult as a new player. The game can be played by 2-5 players and will take experienced players no more than between 1-2 hours to play.
Overall the game can take a little time set up and to get the hang of there are wide selection of different cards and pieces to play with but with perseverance it great fun. It is definitely aimed at the family market but could also be of interest to the more serious gamer. The game can be bought for around £25-30 if you surf around for online sources and represents decent value in terms of quality and playability. I think it is a good game for young and old in a family with some interest already in board games to play together and spend some fun quality time.
*A couple of expansion sets are now available Friends and Foes and Sauron. The Friends and Foes expansion allows you to increase the variety of play and characters and includes tow new scenario boards. In the Sauron expansion one player has the role of Sauron The Dark Lord but as yet I have not tried these so I cant directly comment on how good an addition they are to the original game.
© Mauri 2006
The Lord Of The Rings Board game pits the wits of between two and five players against the Dark Lord Sauron. The idea is that you all team together and use your collective 'powers' against him to destroy the ring and prevent him reaching the light. The rules are lengthy and complex. There are many pieces, cards, tokens etc. who’s functions you need to remember. Set aside an hour simply to read the instructions and try and work out what’s what. If you're anything like me - i.e. average intelligence, reasonable knowledge of the story line - you will then need to play a 'practice' game. I have yet to play a game where the rulebook has not been essential. As a brief overview, each player becomes one of the characters from the Fellowship (Frodo, Sam, Merry ,Pippin & Fatty Bolger) but these are fixed so you have to play certain characters depending on the number of players. The game comes with a master playing board and four scenario boards. On the master board are a series of squares moving from the dark to the light. Sauron starts on the darkest square and you are on the lightest. As you complete/fail each of the scenarios you and Sauron move towards each other. The game is over when you meet. Each of the scenario boards takes you through a place in the book. There are various different cards, markers, characters, tokens and things. These are designed to help you through the game, - some you collect and others you can call on for assistance (I think). So, in between following paths, collecting shields and rings, changing boards and trying to remember what all the symbols and cards mean you are supposed to formulate a strategy to fight Sauron. I'm afraid it's as much as we can do to get through each board without forgetting something important (i.e. Gandalf) let alone actually win. There isn’t any momentum when you play this game. Just when you think you have got the hang of it something
new happens which involves more reference to the rules, or you realise you have forgotten to try and collect shields or something equally important to actually have a chance at willing. This is not the sort of game you can just pick up and play. It’s not for the easily distracted, simple minded or 'quick win' type of person. If you are a die-hard LOTR fan with lots of time and friends then I am sure you could get into this and maybe even win!
How on earth can anyone make a game that has the feel of the book Lord of the Rings? I'm still not sure, but this game is very impressive. It is beautifully illustrated by renowned Tolkien illustrator John Howe (who also did some of the conceptual art on the current film version of Lord of the Rings). The gameplay is very awkward initially if you are used to 'standard' board games. However, following the (again beautifully illustrated) rule book and playing through you will begin to pick it up once you have a feel for the typical 'round'. One interested aspect of this game is that you play inter-dependently with other players. You are all members of the fellowship, and need to work together to succeed. There is an ability to play competitively, but the aspect of team work is still required. If you are a fan of Lord of the Rings, or are just interested quite a uniquely designed game, this is definitely worth it.
Whilst some people may think the recent lord of the rings craze is nothing more than hippy propaganda to promote beards there are some really good merchandise items available. Reinhard Knizia's Lord of the rings board game for 2-5 players made by Sophisticated games/Hasbro/Parker bros. at first glance doesn't look anything special or something that would make you froth at the mouth with excitement. (Although beautifully presented)Infact people not used to board games or familiar with the one board might recoil in horror at the layout. At any one time there are two boards to play with - a master board and a strategy board. The master board is where your progress through middle earth is plotted from Bag end to Mordor. There is a line on this for your hobbits and Sauron. They both start at opposite ends and if the hobbits become corrupted during play they end up moving towards Sauron. If he should ever catch up with anyone they have died as they have gone over to evil. The strategy boards represent key locations where the adventure takes place. There are four such play areas which come on two boards which are double sided. Other areas not represented on the strategy board like Bag end, Rivendale and Lothlorien are sanctuary sites represented on the master board. Here you collect equipment, various cards which represent all sorts of things from potions, swords Glamdring etc. which help along the way. On the strategy boards your main adventuring takes place. The aim is to cross what is called the main activity line which is basically a long path. Shorter paths contain various items you can pick up like health, items, shields and other such things. Challenges come from events that may happen during play and moving across dangerous paths. One of the things I liked most about the game is that you are able to make many different choices. e.g. if you have enough shields you are able to call on Gandalf for help and use one Gandalf card. T
hese are limited so have to be used sparingly. You can also use equipment cards to good effect and during your turn you may choose to not move and heal your hobbit instead or get more cards. Whilst like most board games the ultimate aim is somewhat linear eg. to take the ring to mordor and destroy it, across predestined routes there is considerable flexibility in how you achieve this and so strategy is quite high. Unlike other games where you are competeing against opponents, this game has a nice twist to it in that whilst you can play a competitive game by scoring points at the end of play, the whole point of being succesful is to get the ring bearer to mount doom. So in effect the players are competing against the game not each other. This means players will have to cooperate and help each other out. This is a lot of fun as no one knows what cards another person has. It's means you have to trust the other players. Tolkien fans are sure to enjoy this game. All the main characters from the book are here from Gollum to Galladriel. The cards are fantastic and the game boards highly artistic. The game is very faithful to the books and plays so intuitively that if you were as keen as I was you'll be playing in half an hour or so. One thing I should mention is although it is not mentioned as a solo game this is infact quite feasible and I have played it by my self a few times. Another good thing is that an expansion has been released for this game called "Friends and Foes" which changes the rules slightly and involves fighting more monsters and travelling to two more strategy areas - Bree and Isengard. This is again high quality and all I can say is bring out more! I want more! Like the best wine this game is to be drunk slowly and not too often. The temptation with games is to play them to death if they're really good. I havent played many games for years now, the last one being Bablyon 5 but buyin
g this has been a delight and one I will savour for some time. The game is for 12 years and up and although theres no real reason why a bright 8 year old couldn't play this. It's detailed enough and interesting to hold experienced gamers attention and just so beautifully presented that kids will itch to play it. I really do recommend this wonderful game. It oozes quality and for family fun it's brilliant. Best of all it is Tolkien through and through. You really do end up caring about making sure you get the hobbits safely to mount doom. If I could change anything about the game it would be to add more to it to make it longer for a tougher challenge. The expansion is excellent and does this to some extent but like all good things I suppose it has to come to an end. Verdict 100% Worth every penny. Currently avaialable in most shops eg Argos etc. Plenty of online sellers available too. If you want to have a good look at it before you buy check the games home page www.lordoftherings-boardgame.com Not only will you get a detailed look but latest expansions and others news is here.