Wow, so this is what you get for 100 pieces of gold.
Don brought out Riddle of the Ring, a 1983 game produced by Fellowship Games in South Carolina. It was sold at Origins in 1983. This game appears to be a "prototype" edition, since there is a more professional 1985 edition published by Iron Crown Enterprises in 1985, and it appears the 1985 game is a co-operative game.
Quick Synopsis. The game supports up to eight players, four hobbits and four black riders. The map is a hex representation of Middle Earth, with cities, rivers and oceans. On a player's turn they roll a six sided die, which is their movement allowance and can move a number of spaces depending on the terrain. For instance, on a road, two hexes can be moved for a cost of one, on mountain hexes only 1 space can be covered at a cost of two, oceans and rivers can only be crossed if a player has a boat card, and forest hexes cost 1 per hex to move. Each player starts with two cards, and when they land in a city (there are numerous cities on the board), they can draw three cards, then discard one card from their hand. On a player's turn, if they are adjacent to another player, they can initiate a "friendly exchange", randomly exchanging cards with that opponent. A player has two "power plays" or actions on their turn. They can initiate a battle, with the winner decided by battle points from their cards, and the attacker, if they win can send the loser to "limbo" (sort of like jail in monopoly, where you need to roll a 6 to get out, but after three turns you can leave), or they can "riddle" the loser. Riddles can also happen as a power play action (I think). The player draws a card randomly, then states it's name, and if it is the right card, that player gets it! A player can keep riddling if they are correct. If they are wrong, the other player draws a card from the riddling person's hand. Cards in the game are characters (giving battle points), eagles or dragon birds allowing one to fly anywhere on the board, horses to get extra movement, rope to help movement in mountains, palantirs to look at people's hands, etc. In the deck is the One Ring card. To win the game, a hobbit/black rider must stand one turn unopposed at the Cracks of Doom/Baradur.
This prototype looking game looked like a home made production: cut out large cards, color map, rules typed out on an old typewriter, and the rules were sort of almost written out tongue in cheek. The reason I call this a prototype looking is that the cards look like they have been cut out of cardboard by hand. The illustrations are unique. Frodo looks like an eight year old school boy, Don remarked that Strider looked like Jesus, Saruman looked like he needed a good shave, Sam was colored brown, etc. On the rules and map, it is clearly typewritten that the game is not authorized or endorsed by the Tolkein estate.
Players: Greg Nicholas, Don Smith, Jean Jodoin, Gary Baziuk, Trevor Brooks, JP and Norbert (7 player game)
In our game, I was Frodo and went first. Clockwise around the table, JP was Merry, Greg was black rider #3, Don was black rider #2, Gary was Pippin and Jean was black rider #1. On the first turn, I went to Bree, drew the one ring(!) and went to the Lake Men, on the east side of the board. JP used a palantir to look at Greg and my hands. To prevent this, one is allowed to show that person their own character card or the one ring. Greg showed JP his character card and I showed JP the one ring. Since Greg was holding the Frodo card, he knew that I couldn't have the Frodo card, so he went adjacent to me, used the Frodo card to take the one ring card from me. (In retrospect, I probably should have showed my whole hand to JP, so he would be the only one who knew I had the ring). On the next turn, I battled Greg, won, and took the one ring back. JP then did a friendly exchange with me, taking the Frodo card, then taking the ring card from me. JP then played an eagles card (there are 4 total flying cards in the deck, 2 eagles and 2 dragon birds) to go straight to the Crack of Doom. Jean then played the dragon birds card to go to the Crack of Doom and took the one ring from JP! Gary used eagles to go to Baradur and did a friendly exchange with both Jean and JP. It was unsuccessful, for Jean held the one ring in Baradur and won.
Well, as you can see, the game is quite random. Sure, you can argue you have some strategy like filling up your hand if you have the one ring, so people have less chances to take it from you. Ratings: Norbert 5, P 6, Greg, 6, Don 6, Gary 5, Jean 6. You know, it's actually not a bad attempt at a quick, light hex game of middle earth and I admire the designers (who are not mentioned in the rules) for trying such a project.