Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Books into Board Games: Lord of the Rings

I don't know that any book (or series) will inspire as many games as the Lord of the Rings books have--60 titles are listed as being Tolkien-inspired on BoardGameGeek.  The publication date on these suggests that the majority of them were produced following the release of the first Lord of the Rings movie.  Remember the check out areas at bookstores during those years, hidden behind piles of LotR branded merch?  Some of these games were there, too.

Photo by BoardGameGeek user Aldaron

I've only played The Lord of the Rings, a cooperative game designed by Reiner Knizia that simulates the impossible number of obstacles the fellowship had to overcome in order to get the ring to Mordor.  Different boards are used over the course of the game, each representing a different part of the the journey, with one board being swapped for another after it is beaten.  Fans of the story will agonize over decisions, trying to keep the ring safe from Sauron's forces by not becoming corrupted or drawing the Eye.  You can get really drawn into this game, or at least drawn into the need to win.

Photo of the Dutch edition of The Confrontation by BGG user Matthias_K

There are a couple other Lord of the Rings games that have caught my interest, but I haven't yet had the fortune to play.  The first is LotR: The Confrontation, a small scale wargame similar to Stratego.  I don't know that this title really simulates any of the story, but battling with secret attackers who happen to be LotR characters with special powers sounds like a good time.

Photo by BGG user DougOrleans

I'll admit that I only want to play LotR: The Duel because it looks cool. It's a two-player game in which one player is Gandalf and the other is Balrog in battle on a 3-dimensional bridge. There are four rounds in which card play determines the winner.  The winner of each round goes up a step on the bridge, and whoever's the highest after the last round wins.  Game play doesn't sound that exciting, but the bridge of Khazad-Dum sure is.

Photo by BGG user HuckmanT

War of the Ring is another popular title, and while it seems complex, I suspect that this is the game for die-hard fans.  Players control either the Free People or Sauron's Shadow Armies.  Really simplified, the Free People player recruits armies to battle Sauron and secretly moves the Fellowship toward its Mount Doom goal.  The Sauron player attacks the Free People in their cities and hunts the Fellowship.  After 3 hours (the length of the extended edition of one of the movies), somebody wins.  This game draws on the stealth, politics, and battle aspects of the Lord of the Rings, bringing the adventure to your dining room table (so stash the China somewhere safe).  

Hopefully, I've gotten the interest of some Lord of the Rings fans who haven't heard of or tried any of these games.  I realize I've written about some titles I haven't tried myself, and there's a danger of misrepresenting a game in that, so if you're seriously interested, look up more info on BoardGameGeek.

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