Lord of Rings Board Game
Review by Mike Williams
With the Lord of the
Rings (LOTR) movie looming on the horizon, a new LOTR board game
was recently released by Sophisticated Games. The game artwork was
contributed by John Howe. The game was design by Reiner Knizia.
Sophisticated Games has a superlative web site that describes and
depicts everything about the game. You can order the game in the US from
. If you would also like to see a video of the
game designer discussing the creation of the game and how to play
it, click here: Reiner
Knizia Explains The Lord of the Rings Board Game.
The game consists of
a Master playing board, four scenario boards, five Hobbit figures
and sets of action and resource cards.The outcome of action on the
scenario boards determines how close you move to the shadow and
Sauron on the Main board. Of course, you must keep the ringbearer
from capture by Sauron.
The most compelling aspect
of the game is the visual design. The graphics are exceptional and
the design layout works perfectly. Although much of the artwork
has appeared in other publications, these images fit the game format.
The entire design, including playing pieces, cards and board artwork
have an integrated appearance that is superior to any Hobbit or
LOTR board game I have seen. The production quality is also high
and the game is an excellent value. Once it becomes available in
the US, you should not hesitate to buy it. Given the popularity
of Tolkien collectibles, this game will surely keep its value.
The game play follows
the style of a role-playing game. Up to five people take on the
roles of Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin and Fatty Bolger. The players
face a variety of challenges as they attempt to return the ring
to the fire and evade Sauron. Others characters from LOTR, such
as the other Fellowship members, Faramir, Eowyn and Theoden, play
minor parts through the use of action-based playing cards. In a
very simplified form, the characters are confronted with a problem.
If they work together, pool their weapons and resources, they will
overcome the problem and keep Sauron at bay.
In general, I found
the game play to be easy and rather dull. The instructions were
also moderately ambiguous and we wasted a lot of time trying to
figure out the rules. The game play should have been tested more
among the non-game-playing crowd. Someone who plays these games
all the time can probably anticipate the instructions and not get
bogged down. The cooperative nature of the game contributed to the
dullness in game play. Although this is consistent with the quest
nature of LOTR itself, it is inherently more interesting to play
a competitive game. Given all the battles in LOTR, a competitive
game would still be in the spirit of the story. In contrast to my
feelings about the dullness of the game, my children, aged 8 and
9, loved the game and wanted to play it again and again.
There are three styles
of game that I think would be popular as Tolkien-based games. The
first is a war game that is less complex than the old War of the
Ring game that was published a number of years ago. The complexity
should be reduced to approximately the level of the game of Risk.
This makes the game play proceed at a reasonably quick pace but
complex enough to make it interesting. The second type of game that
is desperately needed is a Lord of the Rings trivia game. Now that
there are millions of LOTR readers, such a game would be very popular.
Finally, why has there never been a riddle game, that would mimic
the game actually played by Bilbo and Gollum? There is room for
a creative riddle game that would spark the imagination and could
be gauged for children and adults.
In the end, I highly
recommend the game as a collectible. The only games that compare
in production quality were the ones made by Iron Crown Enterprises.
I expect to bring it out to play with other Tolkien fans from time
to time but I donŐt think it will replace the major after-dinner
games, such as Monopoly, Risk or card games. My children clearly
enjoyed the game. Since few games for children have a cooperative
style, this feature may be attractive to parents who want their
children to play less competitive games.