Recommend
4 
 Thumb up
 Hide
13 Posts

Lord of the Rings» Forums » Reviews

Subject: LOTR: Maths party rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Captain Flint
msg tools
I love the Lord of the Rings, and I love cooperative games. These are only two of the reasons why I bought this game some years ago.

However, there are reasons why I sold this game: because I hate it.

Summary: how it works
I won't spend too many words on the mechanics of the game, which are covered in depth in so many other reviews. Let's just say this:
- The players take the role of one to five different Hobbits and they travel through the locations of the novel until Mordor, where they have to destroy the One Ring.
- Players have to travel through a series of completely abstract lines to earn tokens and to exit the board.
- Players have to spend tokens and cards to get to the end of the board.
- In the meantime Sauron gets closer and event cards are drawn, which are mostly bad news or give you tokens.

Components:
I was decently satisfied with most of the components. The board is beautiful, cards are not. I like to keep games simple, but most cards were rather ugly, as the characters.
However I've seen editions with better graphics around.

Gameplay:
The gameplay works very well. The rules are simple (although the manual is a mess), allowing you to start playing almost right away. The game works nicely without much need to look in the manual, and the game is fast paced. This is everything I have to say in favour of this game.

1)First of all, the gameplay is utterly unthematic. It basically feels like throwing dice and spending tokens, and if weren't for the illustrations, you might as well have been playing monopoly.
Most themed things are just names on card that give you tokens or work in a similar way. This has been said for most Knizia games, but I wanted to remark that it is true also in this case.

2) You can only play the five hobbits (ah, yeah, there is a fifth hobbit...) and there isn't much choice involved. One player has to play frodo, the second has to play Sam, then the othere (if any) can contend the others with their useless skills. So there is no particular pleasure in choosing characters.

3) The game is hard. Frustratingly hard. And it's harder with fewer players, which either encourages you to find new vict... friends to paly with, or to play more than a character each. Fine, but I'd have preferred a bit more balancing.
I see there are people who find it very easy, so I assume there must be some inconsistencies with the rule, since I failed the game with different players and different strategies.

4) Even though each scenario has event cards and you probably won't read all of them during the first play-through, the game is pretty much the same every time. After 5 or 10 plays you will have seen everything the game has to offer, if you even get that far.

5) There are no relevant choices to make in this game. Sometimes you'll have to decide wether to get closer to Sauron in order to progress faster or not. Most of the time you are having so much trouble going on that it isn't really a choice. The rest of the time you calculate which path gives you more tokens and you go that way. Then you play bonus cards when you need them. That's pretty much it. You might choose whether to play a card on this turn or in the next one, or whether to risk more during the moria scenario in order to gain more tokens for the future, but most of the time you'll just risk certain death in Moria and that's it. To me, the game feels like a mix between doing maths and one of those nightmares when you have to run faster but you can't.

I have to say that the expansion probably make this game a lot better, and that at any rate it' 18 years old, and that means a lot for a board game. Nonetheless, I have but one advice on "The Lord of the Rings": don't buy it.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
C Sandifer
United States
Lutherville
Maryland
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I'll always have a soft spot for LotR, as I received it in 2000 as a holiday gift - and most importantly it introduced me to cooperative gaming. Co-ops are common as spiders nowadays, but back then a co-op was a breath of fresh (shared) air.

Admittedly, the original rules aren't great. LotR has the dubious distinction of exposing me to the world of FAQs and rewritten rulebooks. A particularly helpful file (expanded and annotated rulebook) can be found here:

https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/2254/lord-of-the-rings-ex...

I can't honestly say how I would perceive LotR if I'd played it for the first time in 2018, having already played a million other co-op games. But I'll always enjoy it, and I've not found the two-player version to be more or less difficult than with more players.

Also, I keep teaching it to new players, and they don't seem to mind it terribly. Though perhaps they're just being polite.

Finally, if it helps, I put together a list of commonly missed rules (link here).
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Rob Rob
United States
Tampa
Florida
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Not the first time the designer has been accused of making games out of math problems.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
C Sandifer
United States
Lutherville
Maryland
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Warning: If you think this is too mathy, avoid the LotR LCG at all costs!
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Alexandre Santos
Belgium
Brussels
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Although I think that the points raised by the review are valid, I'll say that during play this game does manage to elicit a lot of emotions and tension. I already experienced failure at the mount doom on a final die roll, had to sacrifice my hobbit for the fellowship's sake, etc.

So I think one can develop an appreciation for the game from the emergent play, but I can totally agree that it's not for everyone.

In a similar manner, I will note that some people do get a ton of plays out of this game, even without expansions, but only if the game clicks for you. There is replayability, but not in the form of setup variability.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Black Bart
Australia
Sydney
NSW
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Just a few counterpoints as I'm currently on my fourth reading of LOTR and thinking about the game:

1) For me this game captures the essence of the theme, in an unusual and imaginative way. In Knizia's words (from his article 'The Design and Testing of the Board Game – Lord of the Rings'): Clearly I could not reflect much of the details of the book. But more important was the feeling of the world. The true focus of the book was not the fighting, but more personal themes [...] the game would not just retell Tolkien's plot, but more importantly it would make the players feel the emotional circumstances of the story. See also 3)

2) Yes you can only play the hobbits who are at the heart of the story. The fifth, Fredegar 'Fatty' Bolger, is in the book and could easily have played a bigger part (and did so in early LOTR drafts by Tolkien). Giving all players hobbit characters enhances the feeling of camaraderie. One player is not more powerful than others. You think the skills are useless? See 3)

3) It's supposed to be hard. It's a story of a quest that seems impossible. When you start playing this game it looks bleak very soon but then you learn to use your character skills, feature cards, Gandalf ... and find that you may just pull through. (And the difficulty level can be adjusted through Sauron's starting position.)

4) Event spaces, not cards, triggered by tile draws. Pretty much the same every time? See 5)

5) No relevant choices? From the earlier cited article: The interplay of all these game systems would create many threats, operating differently each time the game was played, and creating opportunities for discussion and planning. Many tactical choices would present themselves and hopefully lead to a rich interaction between the players. Everyone can have his own opinion how well the game succeeds in this but as you failed the game you probably haven't gotten everything out of it.
16 
 Thumb up
0.25
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Black Bart
Australia
Sydney
NSW
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
wkover wrote:
I've not found the two-player version to be more or less difficult than with more players.

From Knizia's article: Initial test results with the game confirmed that the two-player version was playable, but it was too easy to win. In response, I decided to reduce the number of resource cards given to the two players in Rivendell and Lothlorien.

I believe that in later editions of the game all resource cards are handed out in the two-player game so they made it easier (difficulty can still be adjusted through Sauron's starting position).
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Doug Adams
Australia
Oakleigh
Victoria
flag msg tools
badge
Polynesia
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
cptFlint wrote:
Nonetheless, I have but one advice on "The Lord of the Rings": don't buy it.


Too late, I bought it 18 years ago and still love it. I strongly disagree with your review, but appreciate that it's not a game for everyone.

Love your work on Black Sales, btw.

6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
C Sandifer
United States
Lutherville
Maryland
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
urbanus wrote:
I believe that in later editions of the game all resource cards are handed out in the two-player game so they made it easier (difficulty can still be adjusted through Sauron's starting position).


Huh - interesting. I've always played with the 1st edition rules, where only 8 of the 12 resource cards are handed out in the 2p game. Thanks for the info.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bill Cook
United States
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
"Math"

#obnoxiousamerican
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jens Hoppe
Denmark
Frederiksberg
flag msg tools
What are you, like 80?
badge
It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
dougadamsau wrote:
cptFlint wrote:
Nonetheless, I have but one advice on "The Lord of the Rings": don't buy it.


Too late, I bought it 18 years ago and still love it. I strongly disagree with your review, but appreciate that it's not a game for everyone.

I have "only" had my copy for 15 years, but it still has a place on my shelves. The game is exciting, difficult, beautiful, and very, very thematic. In other words, it's great!
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Pedro Silva
Portugal
Matosinhos
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
cptFlint wrote:
Nonetheless, I have but one advice on "The Lord of the Rings": don't buy it.


If you are considering buying this game I have two pieces of advice:

1 - Ignore this "review".

2 - If possible, play the game before buying. (This one is valid for any game).
6 
 Thumb up
0.05
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
♫ Eric Herman ♫
United States
West Richland
Washington
flag msg tools
designer
badge
I like elephants. I like how they swing through trees.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
1)First of all, the gameplay is utterly unthematic. It basically feels like throwing dice and spending tokens, and if weren't for the illustrations, you might as well have been playing monopoly. Most themed things are just names on card that give you tokens or work in a similar way. This has been said for most Knizia games, but I wanted to remark that it is true also in this case.


Games often conflate setting for theme, and that's what you're doing here. What are the "themes" of LOTR? Are they pictures of elves and the hobbits and Mount Doom, or are they courage, cooperation, corruption, risk, sacrifice, etc.? If the latter, then this game captures those themes VERY well. When I am on that last board (if I've made it that far), making an extremely difficult effort to scrape my way towards the end where I can dunk the ring, and reflecting on all that has happened prior; the sacrifices, the losses, the gains, the corruption I had to take, the choices I had to make, the enemies faced or evaded along the journey, and the importance of the task at hand, I feel like it is LOTR in every meaningful sense.

This game abstracts specifics to try to capture everything broadly, but it does it in an elegant way that still gives you that macro LOTR experience in a micro (1-2 hour) way. The corruption track is just Sauron moving one way and your hobbits moving the other, but it is so brilliant and simple and gives you what you really need from that; the doomed feeling as you get closer and wonder if you can resist hitting the point that is too far. The ring mechanism is also brilliantly thematic. And Gandalf, a powerful but limited resource to call upon.

Ah, there is so much that is great about this game. Thank you for reminding me to play it again soon!
17 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.