Sydney, Potts Point
Battlefields is the 3rd expansion for Knizia's cooperative version of Lord of the Rings.
Some people have commented about the sparseness and quality of components in this expansion. I noticed the thickness of the battleboards were a bit thinner than the board and graphically they are different to the main scenario boards. This is alleviated by the fact that the boards are largely functional. The monster and hero pieces look like John Howe artwork and should please the fans. The monsters contain some new artwork not seen in the previous expansions.
The cards are illustrated similarly to the previous cards and should seamlessly be integrated into the main card deck.
As for value, some people have expressed concern. Once I laid out the components I was more concerned with the interplay of the main game than cost-benefit assessments. However, a simple approach could be if you loved the game then you should consider getting this. If you had luke warm feelings to the main game then maybe you might question the value. I had no issues with it.
The rules were clearer then the past expansions and the original rules. A secondary reading is recommended to watch out for the little things you may have missed (monsters can only be destroyed on killing spaces - squares) as well as Gandalf. Not rocket science but easier to read then past rules books which is great. Interestingly there are also rule sections in Francaise and Deutsche as well as the cards for for these languages.
We noticed for 2 players you definitely have to have more things into consideration. The main thing being the battleboard as well as main board as the trigger tiles just happen when you collect them (the only way to stop them is not to land on them on the main activity line) or a Gandalf card which stops some of them.
Anyway it was nice to have to worry about something else with the trigger tiles always adding spanners to the works and adds a nice tension as you wait to see if a certain coloured creature is activated (and sometimes you want this to happen depending how you setup your heroes) to get the benefits of killing them. Double damage monsters can add a whole world of pain as they threaten to land on Damage tiles to double the punishment value so watch out !
The game is harder with Friends & Foes and we played with the Black Gate variant (where you don't get automatic Military Victory when you kill all the purple monster cards but put some back for a final shuffle) - this card is in the files section. I would possibly say this is to hard to win a Military Victory. Perhaps the Restful Peace variant would be better - you don't win the game but you don't reshuffle the purple monsters either - you just get the Restful Peace Card (in the Sauron expansion) which lets you move Sauron back - a nice balance and compromise but yet to be fully tested.
It is hard to say what it would be like with the Sauron expansion as it has not been trialled but it should be mentioned there are no extra Sauron cards/Nazgul cards which impact Battlefield components. A possible variant would be to allow Sauron to discard X Sauron cards to activate the Trigger tile at the end of the Events.
A nasty effect is when the last Event occurs as there could be something like 5 trigger tiles on it and they all get set off one by one. So if there are no Heros in play on the Battleboard you could be in some serious trouble as the monsters run rampant doing damage.
Placing Heroes can be done by either playing mostly Fight symbols or Jokers - this means Frodo's ability is more valuable with Battlefields as he can play any White card as Jokers. Another way to play them is not to take an action so you can now play a Hero for free (or Heal, draw cards, move the Black Rider back, kill the left most Foe - depending on what expansion you are playing).
We enjoyed playing this game and it added a lot of tense moments waiting on which monsters would be activated next. There are more things to consider in a turn and it is harder to just cruise through the game for those veterans who "solved" the game. For me it completes the game as it always felt the other Fellowship characters and the LOTR story battles were under represented in the game (though the game worked as it was from the Hobbit's point of view). As I like the original game and the expansions this was a must buy for me. I would say it would enhance the game and add to its replayability for the extra chaos and thinking it brings to the game.
In summary worth getting if you liked the original game as well as Friends & Foes. The game gets harder to when you get to Mordor and to the end you will really feel like you struggled up a mountain.