Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lord of the Rings: the boardgame

As I wrote recently, I have a bunch of games I've never even played. Recently, we gave one of them a try. It's been sitting on my shelves for years, so long that I forgot now who gave it to us. It wasn't too long after the Peter Jackson movies, so this Lord of the Rings boardgame was based more on them than on the books; you can see this in some of the production factors. On the other hand, it wasn't oblivious to the books; the art on the cards seems more reminiscent of the illustrations in some editions (and certainly not at all reminiscent of the movies), and there's references to things that didn't get into the movies (such as the rather forced option of a fifth hobbit for a fifth player, based on a passing reference in the books).

Like Pandemic or Defenders of the Realm, Lord of the Rings is a cooperative game, which only makes sense; you're playing the various hobbits, so you're working together. Though it follows the general flow of the story, it wildly ignores a lot of sequencing, and never forces the fellowship to separate, instead playing a story where the four hobbits stay together all the way to Mordor. The rest of the fellowship are reduced to cards you can win and then spend, and are no more important than incidental characters. In fact, at the rate that cards get consumed, they barely even get noticed as you collect them.

The game play is exceedingly weird and has a lot of seemingly unnecessary complexity that doesn't appear to add much. In the end, though, most of it comes down to races. You get some cards, then everything that happens takes them away. You try to spend cards to advance on no less than four different tracks at a time in different ways, and you have to advance on all of them, but you barely have enough cards to break even and occasionally advance a little bit. Most of the times you get to make a decision, you have no way to know why you'd choose one way or the other. But fortunately, most of the time, you have little or no choice to make.

It's a really elaborately produced game with lots of pieces, well made, slick and glossy, but it seems like they fell a bit short on the gameplay itself. Which is really a pity. Given how long the game takes, I can't imagine wanting to spend that much time on this instead of something else.

1 comment:

Siobhan said...

Yeah it was pretty eh. It's like they didn't really play test it before releasing it.