Lord of the Rings is seemingly everywhere these days, but recently along with Magic: The Gathering, it has come to board games again. With varying success in the past, I was a little hesitant to dive into this one. But touting a storybook-like adventure with a cooperative play style with up to four players, I was intrigued.
The main goal of Lord of the Rings Adventure Book Game is to play through the events of the movie series, from the beginning of the adventure in the shire all the way to the final battle at Black Gate and Samwise and Frodo’s final encounter with Gollum to destroy the Ring. All played over the course of eight chapters, with each chapter taking around twenty to thirty minutes.
Regarding the more elaborate board games, it’s challenging to find hours upon hours to sit down for a session. With the last board game I played, Gloomhaven, the setup for each scenario was roughly thirty minutes, and each scenario was running anywhere between one and two hours, depending on who was playing. This is where The Lord of the Rings Adventure Book Game really stands out. Set up couldn’t be easier. On the left side of each chapter’s board are all the requirements for that chapter. Save for the final chapter, it’s never more than a few tokens, cards, and figures.
A unique ruleset is printed beneath the setup to keep things brief and make it easier to pick up and play each chapter. This helps for on the fly refresher and keeps the action moving. The rulebook itself has an excellent clean presentation. The rules, in general, are not overly complicated. The only thing I had to refresh myself on over the course of the game was its story’s icon card types. There are also reference cards available to each player that are for a reminder of how each order goes.
“The main goal of Lord of the Rings Adventure Book Game is to play through the events of the movie series…”
Each chapter has a set of challenges. For example, a challenge in chapter one is called “Keep It Secret. Keep It Safe.”, in which Frodo and Gandalf need to be on the Hearth spot on the board, and Samwise needs to be on the Road to the Shire tile. Showing this allows each player to pull one card from the story deck of cards to progress the story further. In order to complete the chapter, you will need to complete all these challenges, which are easy for the most part.
There is a fail state for each chapter as well. For Chapter One, if the Black Riders move more than one Hobbit to the hiding place, it’s game over. But there is also an overall fail state. If you use the power of the One Ring, you mark one corruption. If the corruption gets all the way to the end of the track, you have called too much attention towards the Hobbits, and Sauron will win. This adds a delicate touch of strategy to the game as a whole and keeps you thinking about the short game as well as the long game.
This does highlight one of the issues with the overall flow of the game. Because these cards are shuffled, your time in the game and outcome for almost anything is luck based. This can lead to some pretty frustrating situations. But on the flip side, sometimes, when you play, you will fly through chapters.
“Overall, the Lord of the Rings Adventure Book Game is a pretty good game.”
Something that needs to be mentioned is the amount of detail put into some of the miniatures, with Gimli and Frodo clearly getting the most amount of love. The others aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just weird that Frodo and Gimli get so much detail, including facial features, but Aragorn and the other Hobbits get good body detail, but their faces are just bland.
While they wouldn’t be used a lot, maybe only once or twice, it still would have pulled the game together a bit better if we got a miniature of Boromir, and it is a big miss not having a Gollum or Gandalf miniature. The art for the cards and markers is all well done and representative of what viewers of the film series would expect.
Overall, the Lord of the Rings Adventure Book Game is a pretty good game. It’s not overly complicated and is set up in a way that if you only have a few spare minutes, you can pick up and play a chapter and come back later to continue the adventure. The miniatures are a bit of a mixed bag, but the detailing on some of them is good. Is it perfect? No, the luck aspect of the card draws leaves the fun you will have up to luck, which isn’t always the most fun.