Author: Reiner Knizia

Publisher: Ravensburger 2002

Awards: none



With this new cardgame Ravensburger once more has succeeded in getting a license to produce a Lord of the Rings game which was to be released together with the new movie. The game broadly follows the story of the movie, featuring a journey of the broken Fellowship from Amon Hen through Rohan to Minas Tirith

During the game, the players will visit a total of 6 different locations at which victory points can be scored. As a preparation, random victory point markers will be assigned to each location (at each location one marker less then there are players), and between the locations voyage cards with up to 4 spaces of distance will be placed.

The game itself will begin with each player possessing a hand of 6 cards. The composition of the full deck of cards is as follows: 80 cards are broken into 4 decks of 20 cards of the same colour, and the 20 cards of the same colour are broken into 4 decks of 5 cards with the same attribute (Strength, Wisdom, Endurance, Determination). Furthermore, 16 Gandalf cards are added, serving as jokers since they each show symbols for all 4 attributes.

Basically, the game is divided into phases of travelling and scoring phases. When travelling, the players are moving forwards a token on a voyage card between two locations, and for each turn spent on travelling each player is allowed to add one card to his hand. This may be done by either drawing a random card or taking a card from a special open deck or by laying down a card to the open deck and then drawing two cards from either the random stack or the open deck or both.

Once the token representing the Fellowship has reached one of the six locations, a scoring phase will take place, in which each player is allowed to place as many cards in front of him as he wishes. This phase is begun by the player who has won the last scoring phase, and all other players follow in turn. To score during this phase, the location was assigned one or more attribute symbols which the players must try to match with their cards. Each card in front of a player showing one of these attributes counts for the player, and the player with most attributes will receive the highest victory point marker available at that location. The second player will receive the next marker and so forth, while the last player will not receive victory points at all.

However, players are not free to place any cards they like in front of them. The may only possess one row of cards of each of the colours, and all the cards in the same row must display the same attribute symbol. Thus, the players are somewhat limited concerning their choice which cards they might put in front of them, and a further limitation is reached by the rule that a joker card may only be placed at the beginning of a row. Thus, players may be forced to discard whole rows of cards which they deem to be not useful later in the game in order to make room for other cards. Also, the composition of the card rows is changed by the fact that the players who are able to score at a location are forced to discard a card from each row which helped them to score, thus decreasing the number of cards available in each row.

The game thus continues with alternating phases of travelling and scoring, until the sixth location is reached where the final scoring takes place. If this happened, the player with most victory points wins the game.

The basic playing mechanisms show the typical handwriting of a Reiner Knizia game. The underlying mechanics are well thought through, guaranteeing smooth gameplay and nice competitive atmosphere between the players. Another strength of the game is that alternate rules for two players are included, making the game attractive for two players and larger groups alike. However, there are also a fact which I personally disliked about this game. In comparison to many other games based on the Lord of the Rings, the story background is only reflected rather weakly in this game. This, once again, seems to be something rather typical for most Knizia games, since sometimes his rather technical sets of rules are very difficult to fit to a good background. In my eyes, this makes the new game not less playable, but it leaves an impression that the main factor why the game was produced was to have another product of Tolkien merchandise.

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany