Author: Reiner Knizia

Publisher: Ravensburger 2001

Awards: none



A game which I was quite eager to see was the new Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship cardgame by Ravensburger. Due to my strong interest in the topic, I was eager to see in how far this game - which was designed by none less than Rainer Knizia - could upkeed the atmosphere of the Lord of the Rings.

After a good study of the rules it turned out that the basic playing principles for the new game are quite simple: At the beginning of the game each player is equipped with a total of 22 playing cards, showing 4 times a Hobbit and otherwise his companions and last also a Nazgul. Each player has to mix his deck of cards and draws his hand of cards always from his own deck. The cards have values between 0 and 5, and they are used in the game to score victory points.

During the game, the players have to "visit" different places in Middle Earth and, starting with the first place, they are allowed to place one or more of their had cards next to the specific place. For this, they have to follow certain rules allowing them to place several low ranking cards at once or just one card with a higher ranking. Once all cards had been placed next to a place (10 cards do fit around one place), the place is evaluated and victory points are distributed to the players, with the player with the most valuable cards gaining most victory points. Afterwards, the next place is put onto the table, bordering the already placed cards on one corner. Thus, always one or two of the cards which had been placed for the last place now will also count for the next place.

This pretty much outlines the basic playing mechanism of the game, but further spice is added due to some special rules. On the one hand, at the some the places the players must observe some special rules. Thus, at the ford before Rivendell, always up to two cards can be played, whereas for example at Moria the player with the cards with the lowest value next to the place loses 3 victory points. Furthermore, the players can gain Ring-counters at some of the places, and these allow the players to change cardplay in some other ways if they are used. Finally, the players also can play their Nazgul cards against cards of other players, forcing a particularly disturbing card to be removed.

This game is quite difficult to judge fairly. On the one hand, you have a decent playing mechanism which - perhaps surprisingly - even carries a slight feeling and a bit of atmosphere from the books. By travelling from place to place and facing dangers, the players a bit get the feeling that they are really travelling through Middle Earth, and thus normally nothing would prevent me from giving quite a bit of praise. However, from my point of view the use of cards with pictures from the movie gives the game a very poor optical impression. It is simply not nice to look at those cards, and the decision to use photos instead of graphics moves the game much more into the quarter of pure merchandise products. In the end, the game will find most praise by the people who liked the film and want some sort of memorabilia. These fans will get a decent, better than average merchandise product, whereas the real gaming freaks and collectors more often will refrain from buying the game because of its poor graphical design.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany