Game Review: Lord of the Rings the Boardgame

Lord of the Rings The Boardgame

Okay, thought I’d try a new kind of review, a boardgame review.  And my first victim, Lord of the Rings: The Boardgame!

This game has actually been out for a while, long enough in fact to jump ships from one publisher to another, to even go out of print at one point, and then come back into print!  Now, the great Fantasy Flight Games publishes their second edition of the game.

First things first, the basics.  This game is for 2-5 players, and should take about an hour to play.  I’d say it’s for low to moderate level gamers.  Ellen and I had no real trouble with the rules, though there were a few vague points.  It’s certainly not as complicated as something like Descent, and the rulebook is actually fairly well written, especially for an FFG game, rulebooks being their Achilles Heel!

The big thing about this game, is competition functions very different then most games.  Where other games pit the players against each other, in LOTR the Boardgame, all the players actually play with each other against the board.  This means either EVERYONE wins, or EVERYONE loses!  Apparently Lord of the Rings was one of the first boardgames to work in this way, though others have been made since, and it’s very fitting given the source.  The basic gist of the game has every player controlling a hobbit in an attempt to destroy the one ring of power.  Essentially, recreating the plot of the novel.  Along the way you can be helped by characters such as Aragorn and Galadriel, or hindered by various events and villains, such as the Shelob.  Gandalf can be called upon in a tight pinch should things get difficult.  And make no mistake, this game is HARD!  This is very in keeping with the source material however, as the quest in the trilogy is depicted as going up against extreme odds.  The game replicates that feel nicely!  We have played more then 10 times now, but have only beat it twice.  Team strategy is very important and the players must work together.  The game includes an interesting rule forbidding players from showing their cards, but allowing free discussion about them.  This may seem like a small thing, but it forces everyone to talk, and prevents a single person from trying to run the show.  I think this game would make for a great team building exercise!  Strategy becomes very important, and the game is all about having to make hard decisions.  Some times, it may actually be to the groups benefit to allow one player to die!  (as long as it’s not the ring bearer, which will automatically result in defeat!).  The strategy has a fairly high learning curve, but you do get better.  Each time we play, we seem to get closer to destroying the ring.  I imagine if Ellen and I get good enough, we’ll up the difficulty (the game includes rules for doing so).

Component wise, this is a Fantasy Flight Games production.  Even being one of their less expensive the titles, everything is high quality and top notch.  The art is particularly lovely, as they hired John How to do the illustrations (he was one of the art designers on the films if you’re unfamiliar with the name)

The game does have a few draw backs.  As noted, you lose much more often then you win, and luck can seem to play too high a role (though the role luck plays diminishes as you learn better strategy).  It can seem a bit samey each time you play, as it will always have the same plot, and a game where you aren’t actually competing against your fellow players won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

Overall, I give it an 8 out of 10.

It’s one of the better games I’ve played, and it takes a theme I enjoy and does it well.  If you ever see it, I highly recommend it, and for less then 30 bucks on Amazon, it is more then worth it!