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Subject: A short review of "Lord of the Rings" rss

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Mike Compton
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Rules
Okay, this is intended to be a short review so, rather than go through all of the rules in meticulous detail, here's what you need to know about "Lord of the Rings":

The game is cooperative - everyone is on the same team playing against the game. The mechanics of the game involve drawing tiles (which may help or hurt you - occassionally rolling a die that can hurt your team in varying ways or not at all), playing cards out of your hand to progress different mini-tracks of the game (depending on which phase of the game you are in), occassionally acquiring tokens of different kinds as you progress the different tracks during each phase, and occassionally playing special cards that help along the way.

Your goal as the team of hobbits is to make your way through Middle Earth to Mordor to throw the One Ring into the flames of Mount Doom. Along the way, the role of "ring bearer" can shift around. In other words, even though Frodo starts off with the ring, Sam may carry it for a while, and then Merry, and then back to Frodo and so forth. Each hobbit has a special ability that helps him along the way. There is also a corruption track with a miniature of each hobbit on one end and a black figurine of a black tower Sauron eye on the other. The team of hobbits looses the game if the hobbit who is the current ring bearer moves past Sauron on the corruption track before the ring is thrown into the fires of Mt. Doom

Appealing aspects of the game:

Because the game is cooperative, it has the potential of appealling to those who are not into competative gaming. They can play this game and have a feeling of "we're all in this together".

The turns are relatively short.

It is well themed. The boards for the different phases of the game contain the art work of John Howe and, thus, are visually appealing. The cards also contain various icons and characters from the books.

It doesn't take an extremely long time to play. When I played it there were four of us (the game can accomodate up to five players). We got all the way to Mordor and lost halfway through that final phase. Including the initial rules explanation at the beginning, the game took a total of about an hour and a half to play (which is pretty good considering that three of us had never played before and the one who had played before occassionally had to look up rules during the game to refresh his memory).

It can be handicapped depending on the skill level of the players. If several of the players are veterans of this game, then Sauron can be started off further down the corruption track to make the game more tense near the end.

Drawbacks:

The game (and I know this has been said by others) feels very linear. Essentially you are progressing pieces along several tracks - which is probably what contributes to the game's "linear" feel. On one's turn, one can either draw cards or play cards on one of (usually) three mini-tracks of whichever phase the team is on. Occassionally, if one has accumulated enough "shields" along the way, one can "call Gandalf" and have some positive things happen for the hobbits. Nevertheless, the number of options one has on a turn is somewhat limited. As a result, this game may appeal to some who don't like having to sift through tons of options on their turn. I personally, however, felt very restricted in what I could do to affect the outcome of the game. There wasn't enough intrinsic satisfaction available in the mechanics of what a player could do on their turn to make the game interesting to me.

Conclusion:

This game definately has some aspects that many would consider appealing. I, however, didn't have much fun playing this game and I don't have any plans on playing it in the future. It's not a "bad" game. It's just wasn't very fun to play for me.
 
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