casey stump
United States
Indiana
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Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation Deluxe Edition is a new edition of the old classic game by Reiner Knizia. I haven’t played the original version but from what I know the only changes are the nicer components, new characters, and some special cards. The game comes with the 18 classic characters from Knizia’s original game that you can play just the classic game with or you can use the 18 variant characters also included in the game. You can even mix the two for endless replay ability options. This game really is a masterpiece of two player gaming that has quickly become one of my favorite games.

The gameplay seems simple on the outside. Two players face off with a variety of different characters from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books. One player is the Fellowship and must get Frodo into Mordor to destroy the Ring. In the classic game the characters are Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippen, Gandalf, Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas, and Gimli. Each character has a strength value that is used for combat and a special power that really specializes what a certain character can do.

The other player is the forces of Sauron and he can win either by killing Frodo or getting 3 of his characters into the Shire. In the classic game Sauron’s forces include Shelob, the Balrog, the Witch King, Flying Nazgul, Cave Troll, Black Rider, Saruman, Orcs, and the Warg. They each have special abilities and a strength value.

Your characters are faced towards you in a stand so that your opponent can’t see which character is which just like in Stratego. The board is a square that you turn in the shape of a diamond with the Shire on one end and Mordor on the other. The territories are laid out in a 1-2-3-4-3-2-1 fashion and there are a few rules about special movement things in some of the territories but basically on your turn you move one of your characters one space forward unless you have a special ability allowing you to move sideways or backwards. If you move into a territory with an enemy character then both players reveal their character check their character’s special ability. If neither ability kills the other character (there are some instant kill abilities like that Legolas instantly kills the Flying Nazgul) then each player simultaneously plays a card from their hand. These cards have either a number or a special ability on them. If both players play a card with a number, the number on the card is added to the strength value of the characters and the highest total strength wins and the losing character is defeated. The Fellowship has cards with numbers from 1-5 and the Sauron player has cards from 1-6. Once you play a card you discard it and you can’t use it until you’ve used all of your other cards. Each player has some special cards that they can play that allow them to do things like retreat from battle, play a card that was previously discarded, or sacrifice their character to kill off the other player’s character.

And basically that’s pretty much all there is to the game. It is a real test of trying to outguess your opponent and maneuver around him. There are many tense moments in a game and if you make a mistake you just very well might lose the game very quickly. In fact, your first few games will probably be very quick and not too exciting as you try to figure out just how your characters need to work together towards your team’s goal.

Components: Like any other Fantasy Flight game the components are top notch. In fact it is a bit overproduced. The box is way too big and the board is bigger than it needs to be. I don’t really care though because I’d rather have a game be overproduced than underproduced. Although the cards are very big and I’d prefer them be a bit smaller just because they’d be a bit easier to handle but it isn’t a huge deal. All of the artwork is tremendous too. I really like how the classic and variant characters both have different styles of artwork and the game looks fantastic when it is set up.

Rules: The rulebook is very good. It is easy to read and very understandable with plenty of examples in it. I think it does a very good job of going through each character and supplying answers for the many different situations that can occur during the game so any questions that might crop up during a game you can find the answer in the rulebook very quickly. To top it all off it looks very good with lots of artwork of the various characters throughout the book.

As I have said before I really like this game. It is an incredible two player game. There is no luck at all and at the end whoever played the best will win. There is a ton of replay ability too. For your first few plays I’d suggest playing just with the classic characters. Then once you’ve gotten used to them and can win with the fellowship close to half the time (because there is a strange balance in the game that I’ll talk about in a bit) then you can move on to the variant game. Once you’ve gotten used to the variant game then you can mix them. This allows you to play many games that all feel very different because the classic and variant characters feel very different. This leads into the balance of the game.

I know there is a lot of debate about this but I think that this game is very balanced. Although, Sauron is easier to play with I think that a Fellowship player who really knows the game pretty well can win about half the time. It may take a little while to figure out how to play the Fellowship but after a decent amount of experience it becomes a very good, tense game. In case you don’t know, generally the Sauron player has more strength than the Fellowship player by far. The Fellowship has better special powers that take a little bit of practice to be able to use correctly. The variant game I think slightly reverses those roles but as a whole I think that it is the case that the Sauron player has more strength. The game is really very balanced and I’m very impressed how seamlessly the variant characters work into the classic game.

The theme really takes this game to another level. It really feels like you’re desperately trying to destroy the ring while facing these overwhelming forces that you must somehow maneuver around. It really captures the kind of desperation and hopelessness that the books and movies have and although the theme might not be as prominent as in some other games it is definitely there and it greatly increases my enjoyment of the game.

Confrontation almost has a chess-like feel but I wouldn’t let that turn you off if you’re not a big fan of chess. However, it is very structured and if you generally like crazier dice fest kind of games then this might not be a game for you. This game really is a masterpiece that looks incredibly simplistic on the outside but after a few plays you will start to see all of the intricacies that make Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation Deluxe Edition an incredibly deep, strategic game that will deliver for hundreds of plays.

9/10

You can find this and all of my other reviews here:
http://stumpsboardgamereviews.blogspot.com/
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Gordon Adams
United Kingdom
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A very nice review about a very good and enjoyable game.
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Craig Hebert
United States
Goodlettsville
Tennessee
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It is my favorite game to play in under 30 minutes. There is so much variety in each game - the replay value is tremendous.
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