Category Archives: Lord of the Rings

First Look – War of the Ring

It’s my son’s birthday which means more games.  The big game I picked up for him this year was War of The Ring 2nd Edition and I had a chance to flip through the rules last night and here are my initial thoughts.

The rule book is pretty thick but it’s not too crazy because there are a lot of pictures and examples.  It’s put together well and the game looks like a lot of fun.  You have the army aspect to the game but then each side has characters (or for the Dark Lord, minions) that also add an extra element to the game.  Sauron’s side has a lot of military might but the good guys have the Ring-Bearer and the fellowship to even things out.

The game is driven by action dice.  Each turn, the players roll their dice to see which actions they can take.  Sauron can allocate dice before rolling to looking for the ring.  Then within each roll, the player have a choice or three to do.  For example if you roll the “army action” you can either move two armies, attack with one, or use a military oriented card.

Speaking of cards, they play a big role as well.  You can use them to bring in reinforcements, help you in battles or use them to activate nations to help in your war effort.  There’s also a very light diplomatic angle to the game as well because not all armies are willing to fight for your cause right off the bat.

One of the knocks of the game is that there’s too much randomness.  Combat is random (determined by dice) and even which actions you can take are random based on the roll at the beginning of the turn.  I’m curious to see how that plays out because on the one side, I can see a person getting good roles early having a distince advantage but on the other hand, it also lends itself to more replayability.

The game looks fun.  In fact if we have a rainy day this summer, my son wants to have a Lord of the Rings day where we play Middle Earth Quest which leads into the events of Lord of the Rings then play War of the Ring to play out what actually happened during the books.  Look for more on this game soon as we get into the game more.

Lord of the Rings The Confrontation Returns

I was pleased to see that Fantasy Flight games is reintroducing an older classic. Lord Of The Rings The Confrontation has been out of print for some time and my son and I started playing the original version of this game.  It’s a two player game with one side being the heros and the other side taking on the minions of the Dark Lord.  The game is quick to set up, easy to play, but the rules are just tricky enough to where there is a ton of replayability.  The heros can win by getting Frodo to Mordor while Sauron’s side can win by taking out Frodo.  There are a couple of terrain rules and the primary rule is most pieces have to be moved forward (no backwards movement unless that character has it as part of their special ability).

This game has been described as Stratego like but it’s a much deeper game than that.  Each token (each side has nine pieces) is unique with each character having their own special ability.  When combat occurs, each side also uses a card from their deck to boost up or give that character a special ability and this is where the strategy and counter strategy really comes into play.  When we got it last summer, we played it quite a bit and then for Christmas, I picked up Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation Deluxe Edition which gives you more character types and a few more special ability cards.  I actually preferred the base game better but it was fun to mix it up.  My son was particularly enamored with the newer Frodo card, which allowed Frodo to give the Ring to Sam.

With my son, he picked up this game and it was a treat seeing him bluff me and outthink me with his combat cards.  For a while it was all we’re playing but since then it’s been replaced but it’s still a great game.

This new version that Fantasy Flight is putting out looks like it includes everything that was in the Deluxe edition.  It’s coming in at a really good price point (I paid more than twice that for my Deluxe edition) so when this comes out, I highly recommend you pick it up.

Board Game Blog Hiatus

Thanks everyone for stopping by but I’m a brief hiatus.  I’m still getting in a game now and then with my son (played Harry Potter Hogwarts House Cup Challenge last night and got smoked and I will get in a game of Middle Earth Quest once in a while) but I’m a CPA so this is my busy time of year.  Look for new content (maybe videos?) after April 15.

Middle Earth Quest – Sauron Strategies

My son and I have now played seven games of Middle Earth Quest and all seven times I played the Sauron side.  He’s 5-2 but all but one of his wins was pretty close and had I done a thing or two differently, I might have gotten a better outcome.  Still, here are some of the things I learned.

Know your opponents – Since the hero side has a choice between five different heroes, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each is important.  The dwarf has a low wisdom so you can throw a quick road block for him just by throwing down influence.  With the female noble who has a wisdom of three, influence isn’t going to do it unless you use a big investment so using monsters is the way to go.

Get a nice influence base down – One of the mistakes I made in earlier games was concentrating my influence.  This made it easier for the heroes to knock out stacks at a time.  What I started doing is going for a wide base, putting one influence down on as many spots as I could.  Then if I knew a hero was going to make a play at a particular spot later in the game, I could throw down an obstacle or two to make things more difficult for him.

Keep the plot cards going – you can’t win if you don’t move on the story track so getting as many plot cards down as early as you can is important.  Make sure you’re one step ahead of the heroes here. Don’t get caught without a plot card on a turn where the heroes can take an existing one out because then it’s basically a two turn replacement (you use your actions to get a new plot card (turn one) and move the story marker (turn two) before you get to place your plot cards) so always keep one or two in reserve.  And when you choose your beginning plot cards, pick the ones you can play as quickly as possible.  I made the mistake one time of holding on to some stage 2 plot cards thinking I can come back late in the game but I ended up losing one to an encounter card and the other one wasn’t as effective because the heroes took it out quick.

The shadow pool helps but not as much as you’d think – In the one game where I won handily, I only ended up with six influence in the shadow pool.  Yes, those higher cost shadow cards can be wicked but they’re usually one shot things and they don’t come into play until later in the game.  In the game I won, I took advantage of some lower cost shadow cards early and that helped slow the heroes down enough for meto pull in front in the second stage.  In addition, while the higher shadow cost plot cards can give you a huge bump, they’re usually not played until later in the game when they make less of a difference.

Keep the heat on – Whenever you can, attack the heroes.  The ambush stage is your friend and unless you’re fighting the dwarf, if the hero can’t beat the creature or minion, then he loses his turn.  And the more times a hero fights, the quicker they have to rest or heal and the more times the story marker moves up.

Divide and conquer – while you don’t always have control over this, try to spread out your plot cards as much as possible.  When there are two or three heroes, it forces the heroes to split up and makes them less effective.  Nothing is tougher to defend than a group of heroes going after a common cause so having them on different sides of the map can be big.

Hopefully this helps.  Feel free to post your own Sauron strategies in the comments section.

Middle Earth Quest Review

The holidays are now more than a month in the past and I never got caught up here but I wanted to talk about one of the games my son and I (and one other for one game) played while my son was on break.  That game was Middle Earth Quest by Fantasy Flight Games.  This is an epic Lord of the Rings game that is supposed to simulate Sauron’s struggle to attain the ring early and it takes place during the 17 year period between when Bilbo leaves the Shire and when Gandalf returns to the Shire to send Frodo off on his adventure.

This is an epic game and we had a lot of fun with it.  The map board is huge (which is both a pro and a con) and one of the reasons we don’t play this game more is that it takes a while to set up and it’s a longer game (we usually play for 3-4 hours but it goes by in a blur).  What’s also interesting about this game is it’s almost two games in one because the player who’s Sauron plays a completely different game than those that take on one of the heroes.

Let’s start with the heroes.  Each good guy player takes on one of five heroes.  There’s Thalin (dwarf muscle), Argalad (elf scout), Beravor (human ranger), Eleanor (human noble) and Eometh (human horseman).  The heroes’ goal is simply to disrupt Sauron’s plans.  Throughout the game he will lay plot cards that brings him closer to victory and the players’ goals are to knock those cards out of play.  Along the way, they’re also given quests that will help them in a variety of ways, whether it’s by giving them an item, training or an increase in one of their abilities.

Sauron is given the task of trying to spread his influence through out the realm and he can also deploy creatures and his minions (advanced creatures like the Witch King) to get in the heroes way.  He can also maneuver heroes with corruption cards that inhibit the hero in a variety of different ways. They also have Shadow Cards which give Sauron a variety of different ways to strike at the heroes.  Still, his primary goal is the placement of plot cards which further his advancement in one of the three means of victory, whether it’s finding the ring, military dominance or corrupting the leaders of Middle Earth.

In a lot of ways, this games plays like a light role playing game.  The Sauron player is kind of like the Dungeon Master and he has control over a variety of things he can throw at the hero/player as they try to save the realm.  If Sauron wins, it means Frodo’s quest is essentially moot because Sauron already has control.  If the hero side wins, then it means the ring stays hidden and Sauron is kept in check so Frodo can complete his epic quest.

In short, this game is very fun but be sure to have a long evening open to play it.  Since it takes a while to set up, we played it a few times in succession and just kept it up in the meantime.  There are also a lot of different rules and I don’t think we played it 100% correct until the last time.  I suggest reading the rules once or twice, play it, then reread the rules to find out what you did wrong and adjust from there.  It’s definitely one of the funnest games we’ve played in a while.

Holiday Haul

We’re back from the holidays and with it, there’s some new games.  Here are the games either I got for Christmas or I bought for my son.  This year, I pretty much got him either 1)  Games or 2)  Legos so this is a nice list.

1) Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game Core Set as well as one each of the four expansions.

2) The Lord Of The Rings Sauron Expansion Set Board Game

3) Lord of The Rings LCG: The Hobbit Over Hill and Under Hill Expansion

4) Lord Of The Rings LCG: The Hunt For Gollum Adventure Pack

5) Wizards of The Coast Legend of Drizzt: A Dungeons and Dragons Board Game

6) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Adventure Board Game

I also got some Battlelore stuff from Santa that I picked up at Fantasy Flight’s black Friday sale and we also got in a few rare games of Middle Earth Quest.  In short, we have a lot to play and I should have a lot to report here soon.

LEGO The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Board Game Review

A couple of months ago, my son and I went to the Lego Kidsfest and they had LEGO The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey set up and ready to play. It had just come out and I had bought it for my son when it came out but we kind of stumbled along and didn’t really get into it.  Our copy sat on the shelf for a couple of months but just this week I decided to put it together and we’ve had a couple of good games out of it since.

Like any LEGO board game, construction is required and this took about 45 minutes.  The point of the game is to wander from hobbit hole to hobbit hole examining the contents of the holes, finding dwarves and making matches of the other items you can find along the way (runes, hobbits and food).  The game is kind of like memory on steroids.  If you find a dwarf, your turn is done.  If you find something else, you get to look for a match and if you find a pair, then the benefits from the match happen.  If you find a pair of food, your opponent has to put a dwarf back on the board.  If you find a rune, you get one more chance and if you find a dwarf, you get to keep it.  If you find a pair of hobbits, you get to secretly look at a tile to get a leg up on your opponents.

When all ten dwarves are found, the game is over.  The winner is the person with the most dwarves and in the event of a tie, you get to count all of the tiles you found.  In both games we played, we tied dwarves and it came down to a total count.  So far, I’m 0-2 and my son is 2-0.

This is a very light game.  The age range is 7+ but this is a manageable game for someone even younger.  I’m surprised my son is really into it because it’s pretty light but at this point, there’s Hobbit fever in the house.  I jumped all over this at the time because it was the only LEGO Hobbit anything out at the time.  There’s also a couple of variant tiles where you can add Thorin and Bilbo into the game and they provide a twist in the game play.  Other then the first time you have to put it together, it’s a fun, quick game for just about anyone.

Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation Review

Sticking with the Lord of the Rings theme for a bit more, Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation has been one of our favorite games the last few months.  Each player commands nine pieces each with a unique character from the Lord of the Rings with one side being the light side and the other the dark.  Each piece has it’s own strength value as well as it’s own, unique special ability.  The dark side’s goal is to either move four of their pieces into the Shire (the furthest space for them) or take out Frodo.  The light side’s goal is get Frodo into Mordor.

This game has been compared to Stratego but it’s much more refined then that game.  I hear “simple but elegant” thrown around a lot but this game is just that.  It’s quick to set up and quick to play but each game is just a little different because I usually try to throw a curve ball at my son.  When it works, he then makes an adjustment in the next game and we go back and forth.

In addition to the pieces each having a strength value, each player gets a small deck of cards.  When combat ensues, the players use one card to bolster the strength of their piece and the combined value of the card and the piece is used to determine who won and lost.  There are also cards that allow you to retreat or to even reuse a card you’ve already used.  Card management is also important because as you get through to the end you only have a card or two left so which player kept the “right” card at the end can determine who wins or loses.

I have the older version of the game.  Fantasy Flight did come out with a deluxe edition that incorporates different pieces and more cards.  This is on my list but since both games are out print, the price tag has been a bit high.  Still, if you enjoy Lord of the Rings this is a really nice and quick strategy game to get your kid thinking.  It’s been great seeing my son make adjustments, whether it’s in setting his pieces up or playing one card versus another in a battle.  It’s also one of the few games he doesn’t need any help to beat me.  Fun all the way around.

Lord of the Rings Card Game Resources

One of my favorite websites when it comes to gaming is Board Game Geek.  If you ever want a plethora of information on a given game, check out its Board Game Geek page.  The Lord of the Rings Card Game page has a ton of cool stuff.  There a bunch of videos and some really cool information in the forums.  There are even a few custom scenarios if you’re looking for something new to try.

On Deck – Lord of the Rings Card Game

The next game I’m going to teach my son is Lord Of The Rings: The Card Game.  We’ve played the Lord of the Rings Board Game several times and we’ve even played the more complicated Middle Earth Quest after he watched the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.  With the Hobbit coming to the big screen, I know he wants more so I picked up this game and we’re going to play to make sure he likes it before I buy some expansions for Christmas.

The first thing I liked about this game is it’s cooperative.  While we usually end up playing a lot of game “together” even when we’re opponents, this takes some of the competitive nature out of the game as we work together toward a common goal.  The Core Game comes with four ready made decks and three scenarios you can work through.  The other thing I liked about this game is it’s also designed to be played with just one person.  This let me set it up and go through the game mechanics a couple of times before I sit down with my son and teach it to him.

Each player has a deck of cards as well as one to three heroes.  The heroes are the focus in the game and the deck provides support as the heroes work their way through the scenario.  There are four spheres (Leadership, Lore, Spirit and Tactics) and the game comes with one deck for each sphere as well as three heroes for each sphere.  In your deck you have attachments (think magical items), allies and event cards that you use to help you complete the scenario.

The bad guys have their own deck called the encounter deck.  This deck contains enemy cards, location and treachery cards (think traps) that the players must navigate past.  There are seven stages to each round where each player makes choices as to how they spend their resources, whether to commit heroes and allies to advancing through the quest and then combat with the creatures you encounter along the way.  If you finish the quest, you win.  If your heroes all die or the threat meter moves too high (which means you have a limited number of turns to complete the scenario), then you lose.

There’s some interesting aspects to the game play that you have to consider.  If you commit too many characters to advancing through the quest in a turn, it leaves you open to enemy attacks.  If you travel to a location, it both slows you up and it could result in either (or both) good or bad circumstances.  If you’re used to game like Magic The Gathering, each hero or ally gets one action per turn.  If you use it early during the quest portion, he’s not available when the creatures attack.

I played the first (and easiest) scenario solo and got through it both times although one time was pretty close.  If there’s one knock on the game, I’d say it’s that there’s almost too much emphasis on the heroes and not enough on the deck although I used the same sphere both times so I don’t know if this was different for the other decks.  I’ll report back on this as we play through the other scenarios and get further into the game.

Assuming my son likes the game, I’ll be getting him Lord of The Rings LCG: The Hobbit Over Hill and Under Hill Expansion since he’s really excited about that movie.  The second Hobbit expansion is set to come out pretty soon so I see that in our future as well.