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Jeremy Avery
Canada
Kamloops
BC
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There are possibly two great ways to write this review. Bear with me as I do both:

The first way to review this game is to talk about how great this little 2-player game is. A board, nine pieces each, and nine cards each. Wonderful illustrations on all components. Like Stratego, players put their pieces on the board without the other player knowing what the strength (number) of each piece is. The only way to find out is to move your piece to your opponent's piece, which brings about a battle. Highest number wins but the curveball to that is that each piece has a special action that takes place before the strength of the pieces is resolved, making battles and strategy (and BLUFFING!) very interesting. If the special action ends the battle, than nothing else is done. If the special action of each piece does not resolve the battle, then players resolve the battle with a second phase.

The second phase consists of players secretly choose one card from their hand that they hope will resolve the battle. There are two types of cards: Action and Strength. Strength cards are numbered from 1-5 (Good) and 1-6 Evil. Action cards include "Retreat" or "Remove both pieces from the board" and are carried out before Strength is compared. But if Action cards don't resolve the battle, then the battle is decided by Strength (Character strength number + numbered cardif numbered card was played.) Ties result in both players being killed.

You'll find yourself trying different approaches with the pieces and/or the cards every time you play. And the unique use of the board (players start on opposite CORNERS of a square board), plus the rule that pieces can only go forward (with a few small exceptions) create a quick, tense, interactive game that doesn't let up for 30 minutes. The victory conditions for each side are different to suit the theme, and make the game even better. The pieces for each side are totally different, but the game is balanced well, almost making it like having two games, since you can get better at playing the Fellowship, and then have to learn to get good at Dark.

Learning to play the pieces well, and bluff well, AND play the cards well in battle make for a great game. And if the two players playing are of different skill levels, the weaker player can have two special action cards that fit well with the game.

Looking at this game as a two player game, I can not find a single fault with it. It is very replayable, due to two different forces; the possibility of many different piece setups and subsequent moves; and the balance of bluff, board play, and cardplay. It is currently the best two player game I've ever played, joining the elite ranks of Hera & Zeus, and Battle Cry.

Whew! I don't usually write reviews that take this long!

But the second way to review this game would be to talk about how well it suits the Lord of the Rings theme. The forces are balanced well for game play, but also for theme. The forces of Mordor far stronger, and are able to cover more of the board quickly than the Fellowship. The Fellowship, on the other hand, seems overmatched, slow, and on the verge of being destroyed at every turn, were it not for the wily Frodo, and the well-timed interventions of Gandalf.

The actions on the pieces are well themed: Boromir never lasts long, but when he dies in battle, he takes someone else with him; Sam is weak, but if he's with Frodo, his power increases by 3; if Balrog is in Moria, and someone tries to travel thru the Mines or Moria, they are instantly defeated.

The victory conditions add to the game even further: Mordor must capture Frodo, or occupy the Shire with 3 pieces; the Fellowship must get the Ring to Mordor. There are even 2 extra (variant) cards for each player that add even a bit more theme to the game. What a battle!

This game, in my opinion, capture LotR perfectly, with the pressing of forces, the seeming invincibility of Mordor, and the uncanny ability of the Fellowship to overcome all opposition...

I hope this hasn't sounded complicated. Each character has one special action, and it is printed right on the piece. And there are only 9 pieces each, so it doesn't take long to understand how they work. But using them effectively... Well, that will take a little time.

This is my favorite two player game. It is an EXCELLENT Lord of the Rings game. It is short -- 30 minutes. It is a very good price. Four compelling reasons to add this to your very next game order. I could not recommend this more highly.

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Christian
France
Lyon
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Re:User Review
First let me say that I totally agree with Jeremy. I just would like to add a side note regarding theme and strategy (linking the two aspects of his review) :
Both sides have viable thematic strategies. As the fellowship you should consider individual sacrifice for the great cause, you know, like, heroïsm... As Sauron you should try your best to hold your minions back, coping with their natural impetuosity and bestiality (you can't move back, and a straight forward mayhem is so tempting...).
Just great.
(Well there are certainly other ways, but I like these two for obvious reasons).
 
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Neil Palfreyman
United Kingdom
Swindon
Wiltshire
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Re:User Review
familygaming (#19509),

Very nice review! I've been wondering for a while why this game was on everyone's want list (seemingly) and your great little review seems to explain why. Thanks!
 
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Alan Kwan
Hong Kong
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Great review.

The characters are well-themed, the victory conditions are well-themed, and the strategies are well-themed. May I also mention that, the cards are also mostly well-themed: Dark has the mighty "6", and the "Eye of Sauron" which will beat any Light's tricks or attempts at fleeing, but can be beaten by a courageous charge (large number). Light has the "Noble Sacrifice" to complement their sacrificial strategy, and the "Elfen Clock" to protect them against Dark's superior might.
 
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Philip Thomas
United Kingdom
London
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Alan, I think you mean 'Elven Cloak'. I'm sure the elves made fine sundials and so on, but they probably didn't use them in war.

I like the game, but I think its thematic aspect can be be overstated.
The Shadow begins the game controlling Gondor, Rohan and Fangorn (+Lothlorien). The fellowship is spread all over Eriador. The Balrog is regularly killed by Boromir, while Pippin takes out the Cave Troll.

The Orcs when attacking kill the first character they meet. This includes Gandalf...


Yes, the theme is there, but it isn't watertight...
 
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