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Phil Shepherd
United States
Arlington
Virginia
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Be on your guard. There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.
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Introduction

One Ring to rule them all. One ring to find them. One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them. Tolkien’s classic is boiled down to the barest basics, one player seeks to destroy the One Ring, the other to capture it.

Game Play and Rules

The object of Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation is, for the light player, to get Frodo to Mordor, thus destroying the One Ring; the dark player must either kill Frodo, or have three characters in the Shire. If at any point one player cannot make a legal move, he loses.

This game is similar to Stratego, with a few improvements. The rules are very simple. Each player receives nine characters and nine cards. The players set up their characters where they choose, within the rules, to begin the game. The square board is tilted baseball diamond style. To begin the game four characters start at the two pointed ends, the Shire and Mordor respectively, and one each in the territories between the ends and the mountains, which begin the game empty. Four characters may occupy these two spots and only one character may occupy any mountain space, any other space may contain two characters.

The characters have a numerical strength value and special text. Unless otherwise noted in their text, each piece can only move forward, and each turn the players must move one piece. When two or more opposing characters enter the same space, battle ensues. First the characters are revealed and their texts are read. If neither is defeated by the text, each player simultaneously plays a card. The cards either allow for special powers, in the event of text cards, or have numbers. The numbered cards add to the strength of the character, and the player with the highest strength will win.

Aside from the texts, there are some other exceptions to movement rules. Good characters can pass thru the mines of Moria to skip the mountains, but beware: if the Balrog is in Moria you’ll be instantly defeated. Good characters can also move sideways via the river.

The small board, along with the initial set-up, which leaves only four open spaces to start the game, and the rule that a player must move a piece forward on every turn, makes this a very tense game of cat and mouse. Additionally, true to the novels, the power of the dark forces feels almost overwhelming. The forces of Sauron, for the most part, have much higher numerical values than the fellowship; in addition, their cards are of higher value. The advantages of the fellowship include many sacrifice situations and as well as the victory condition.

Summary

Reiner Knizia’s games are widely known for two common traits: reliance on mathematics and tacked on theme. While the mathematic underpinnings are certainly present here, I feel that this game certainly captures the theme well.

Qualitatively, this game is solid. The board is beautiful and of thick sturdy cardboard. The cards are of excellent quality and character pieces are nice as well.

The game play is tense, and the additional variant cards should keep the game from getting too stale. I have not tried the deluxe edition, but I’m perfectly happy with this one.

Overall tilt: With tense game play, strategy, bluffing and theme this game is worth your time.

 
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Scott Brooks
United States
Freeport
Texas
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I've always thought this was a gem of a game, and one that's had a lot of replay value over the years...
 
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