Author: Reiner Knizia

Publisher: Kosmos 2002

G@mebox Star



Many players and Tolkien fans might think "Oh no - another Lord of the Rings game!" when they take a first look at the new Die Entscheidung (= the decision) game by Reiner Knizia. However, this game should not be met with any premature prejudice, but it should be given a chance: And when you do so, you will quickly discover that Die Entscheidung is one of the best two player games ever published!. Being part of the Kosmos series for high-classed two-player games, Die Entscheidung not only keeps up with the high standard established by many titles of this series, but instead its able to set a new standard of its own.

When taking a first look at the game, a comparison with the all-time classic Stratego cannot be refused: The game is played on a nicely illustrated but abstract map of Middle Earth, and each player has a total of 9 figures in play which remain hidden to the opponent player for most of the time. Only when characters of opposing sides meet in battle the characters are revealed. [IMAGE]

Each player sets up his playing pieces on his half of the gameboard, and a mountain range in the middle of the gameboard separates both forces. Furthermore, each player receives a set of 9 player cards - strength cards and spells. Both decks of cards are nearly identical, but the Sauron player receives one more strength card, whereas the Fellowship player gets one more spell. When the setup has been made, the game starts and in turn each player now may his figures for one space - one figure per turn.

When moving the playing pieces, certain movement rules need to be observed: so usually the figures may only move forwards, and furthermore one space may never contain more than 2 figures from the one player. Sooner or later, figures from opposing sides will meet, and when that is the case a battle between both sides will arise. Each player now reveals his figure, and as a first step a look at the special ability of each figure will be taken. These special abilities will be dealt with, and only if no figure is defeated through the use of a special ability the battle will come to its next phase. In the following phase of the battle, each player may place one of his hand-cards face down in front of him, and when both players have done so both cards are revealed at the same time. Basically, each player aims at getting a higher battle score than his opponent by adding the combat value of his figure to the value of the strength card which he might have played. The figure with the higher score will eliminate the opponent - or both pieces are removed if there should be a tie. However, the outcome of the combat may be influenced if a player decides to play a spell instead of a strength card. A spell will be dealt with before the strength scores are compared, and the use of spells might lead to the escape of a player, the instant elimination of both figures etc. Following this basic combat procedure, the playing pieces from both sides will decimate each other. The more combats are played, the less cards the players will have on their hand since they are only allowed to take back their full hand of cards once all 9 cards have been used. As for victory, the Fellowship player must try to get the Frodo figure through to Mordor, whereas the Sauron player must try to capture Frodo.

However, the game does not stop with this standard mechanism for gameplay, but instead many rules alterations are caused by the special ability each figure possesses. So the Black Rider of the flying Nazgul may move more than one space, Sam and Frodo are stronger if combined in one space, Gimli is especially keep to kill the Orc etc. If used in the right way, these special abilities have a strong influence on a player's strategy, and clever use of these abilities certainly is decisive for a player's victory.

Despite its open similiarities to Stratego, Die Entscheidung offers a unique new gaming concept which perfectly combines the elements of boardgames and cardgames. The game has short rules which can easily be mastered, but it still offers a very high degree of tactics which will especially appeal to players who do not like games based too much on luck. As a matter of fact, it seems that the element of luck in this game is almost nonexistent. While some meetings of characters and the playing of cards might cause seemingly random outcomes, these results are much more caused by good advance planning and bluffing. When it comes to playing cards, quite a few combinations need to be taken into account and quite a bit of time is taken for speculating what the opponent may be deciding to do. Especiallly those repeating battles of wits and skill between the players make the game quite entertaining, and to give newcomers a chance variant rules are included which allow the inclusion of some extra abilities for each player.

On the other hand, the game even is one of the best Tolkien-adaptions which I have ever seen. The gameplay itself remains true to the story, and many elements from the story are reflected in some way or the other by the rules. The different abilities of the playing pieces are chosen to match the characters they depict, the forces of the Fellowship are somewhat weaker than Sauron's forces etc. To my mind, this game can only be given one matching praise: It is brilliant!

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

[Gamebox Index]


Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany