I first heard about this game last year when the folks over at Troika Games (the ones responsible for the hit, Arcanum.) had all gotten into it and were telling me and my friends about how enjoyable the game was.
Recommend this product?
Personally, I didn't play the board game until this Monday, and after watching one game and participate in two of my own, I can say that it's a pretty fun game to either play through the first couple times or watch others playing it for the first time.
The game starts off with the 5 Hobbits making their journey to destroy the one ring. You'll journey through all the different locations of the trilogy.
Your goal is to reach the end of the board and destroy the ring before the evil Monolith that represents Sauron catches up to the player carrying the ring.
To start, you'll have 6 Hobbit cards in your hand, each one with an insignia. There are: Battle, Forest, Traveling, Friendship, and Wild. Occasionally, you'll pick up other special cards that'll allow you to do special things, like exchange cards with other players, or cancel events.
To determine what happens, you'll pull a tile from a randomly shuffled deck of tiles. The tiles are generally bad news. If a "sundial" shows up on the tile, you move the counter down the side of the board mark events. Usually, these are all bad news.
Some of the events will move up Sauron, or require you to give up cards to stop events, or roll the evil die. The evil die will cause on of 6 things to happen. On the good side of the scale, nothing happens. Alternately, you'll discard 2 cards. You can also move 1, 2 or 3 spaces towards Sauron, or move Sauron one space towards you...and Sauron only moves forward.
If you complete the "Battle" path on the board, you'll march your way through that map, and progress to the next one. If your character has not collected one of each of the three tokens represented on the board, A heart, a sun, and a ring, they must move a space towards Sauron for every token they are missing.
The heart, ring and sun tokens really don't do anything to benefit you asde from allowing you to maintain status quo, but, you can also pick up shield tokens, but most of the token you're going to need, as well as special bonus cards. What this means is you don't really want to dash through the "Battle" map and you want to take some time to get the other cards on the board...how long you think you can risk it before getting a really bad event is up to you.
The shield tokens will allow you to bring Gandalf into play. Gandalf will give you various benefits, but he costs 5 shields to bring into play. So, once again, there are benefits to sticking around and waiting, rather than bolting through...how long you wait is your call.
My main gripe with this game, is that I can see it getting very easy to beat the game once you've developed a coherent strategy. The first game, the characters beat the game with Sauron starting at space 15. Then we died real quick against him at 12, mainly because I didn't know what the heck I was doing.
Then we beat it at 13, with no real difficulty whatsoever. We didn't have any players die, and Sauron wasn't within 2 spaces of anyone. I'm not going to tell you what the strategy is, because that where the enjoyment of playing as a first time player is derived from...figuring out how to win.
So, while this was a ton of fun to play for me, I can see it getting used increasingly less and less as time goes on and for the price of admission, that's really not a good thing in this case.
If you see it at a friends, by all means, have a go at it. Might want to think twice before picking it up and paying to play on your own, though. There's much more value in games like Guillotine, and Zombie Grave Robbers from Outer Space.
Amount Paid (US$): 30
Type of Toy: Board Game
Age Range of Child: Whole Family