Author: unknown

Publisher: Parker 2002

Awards: none



Released in Fall 2002, the new Lord of the Rings - RISK definately was produced before the background of the second part of the movie which was scheduled to come to the cinemas shortly after the release of this game. The year 2002 once again has seen half a dozen new games based on the Lord of the Rings, and it will be scrutinised in this review whether this new game by Parker is one of the better or weaker ones...

To describe the rules, it is best to start with the traditional Risk-rules and then have a look at the differences introduced in this new game. Basically, the game has remained a moving of armies in order to conquer countries. When troops of two players meet, battles will need to be resolved by rolling dice, and here the traditional 3 to 2 relation between the maximum number of dice which may be rolled by either the attacker or the defender has remained the same. Always the highest results of the dicerolls will be compared, and the player who did roll the lower result will be forced to remove troops. Battle continues until either the attacker or the defender is the only player with units left on the battlefield.

Another feature which has remained unchanged is that the gameboard featuring the countries is largely divided into 6 regions with different strategic values. If a player has occupied all countries in a region, he will receive bonus-armies for his strategic stronghold. However, the number of armies he will receive depends on how easy his specific region can be defended.

After having outlined these essential similiarities with traditional Risk, I will now move onwards to describe the new elements introduces in this game. The first object of change was - of course - the gameboard. The map now displays the northern part of Middle Earth, going as far south as Rohan in the west and the northern mountain ranges of Mordor in the east. Special features on the map are mountain ranges and rivers (making movement between certain countries impossible), Places of Power, Strongholds and a printed path for the Fellowship of the Ring. Also, the playing pieces have been replaced: the game now includes a total of two good and two evil armies, and in these armies the playing pieces now are Elves, Riders of Rohan, Eagles, Orks, Ringwraiths and Trolls. Furthermore, the players now receive tokens for military leaders which may be used to enhance the combat abilities of troops. Finally, the deck of cards was also changed. Now the game not only includes cards for all the countries (with the traditionally known army symbols on them), but also Adventure cards (including Mission cards, Event Cards and Power cards). But more of these new cards later.

At the beginning, each player will be assigned a number of either good or evil aligned countries (depending on the alignment of the player's army) and also a few neutral countries. In these countries the players distribute their starting quota of armies and also one military leader (which is available for each player). Also, each player receives three randomly dealt Adventure cards as staring equipment. Finally, a marker for the Fellowship of the Ring will be placed at the Shire, and it will be moved along the Fellowship's path during the game as an indicator of the remaining playing time. After all preparations were made and the two decks of cards re-shuffled, the game can begin.

A player's turn is divided into the following phases, and their order must be strictly observed. The turn starts with the player receiving reinforcements, and their number depends on the number of countries a player has occupied plus eventual bonus troops. Bonus troops may either be assigned because the player has occupied a complete region on the gameboard, or because the player can trade matching sets of country cards (these cards a player receives when he wins a battle). After all reinforcements have been placed, the battle for Middle Earth will begin, and the player may move some of his units into a neighbouring country which is occupied by another player. Battle now is resolved following the standard Riskrules, until either the attacker wins, withdraws or has no units left. If a military leader participates in a battle, the player with the leader may add one to his highest diceroll, giving him a better chance to win. A result of a battle may further be influenced by a stronghold which might be present at the attacked country. Such a stronghold gives an additional +1 bonus to the highest diceroll of the defender. If the attacker is successful, he may check his Adventure cards whether he has possibly fulfilled the prerequisitions listed on a Mission card (which he might have). If this should be the case, the player may reveal his card, declare is Mission fulfilled and collect as many bonus troops as listed on this cards.

When determining where and whether to attack, a player usually will have to take Adventure cards into account. So far I have only outlined the use of Mission cards, but Event cards and Power cards may be likewise of importance. Thus, an Event card (which must be played directly when drawn) may cause certain movement restrictions or other special rules to influence the game, and a Power card may be played to gain certain benefits on side of the player who has used it.

After the player has made as many attacks as he desired, he will be allowed to move troops from ONE of his countries to another, provided both countries are linked by an unbroken chain of friendly countries. Further, a player now may add a new military leader to his army if his leader should have been lost in a previous turn. Also, if at least one of the player's attack(s) was successful, the player is assigned one country card, and furthermore the player will receive one Adventure card for each Place of Power he succeeded to conquer this turn (up to a maximum hand of three Adventure Cards). A player's turn ends with moving the Fellowship of the Ring one space further along it's track. If a dice-symbol is placed next to the track, the Fellowship may be held up, and the player only moves it forwards if he rolls a 3 to 6 on one dice.

The game ends with the Fellowship passing out of the Dead Marshes and thus leaving the gameboard, and now the players' scores will be calculated by considering the number of countries he has occupied, any regions he has occupied, any strongholds he has and any Missions he has fulfilled. The player with the highest score will win the game.

The new Lord of the Rings Risk definately has brought a number of decisive changes into the traditional game of Risk, and to my mind the rules serve rather well to enhance the playing value. More variety in gameplay is caused due to the new gameboard, military leaders and the new cards, and this offers a number of strategic choices to the players which are not available in the traditional game. Risk always was a game which I liked to play once in a while, but this new version for me has increased the attractiveness of the whole playing concept. Apart from the fact that the new rules fit in rather smoothly with existing playing mechanisms from traditional Risk, the game even succeeds in capturing a bit of the background-story of the Lord of the Rings, a fact which I would have considered to be hardly possible. To sum it up, the game definately is much better than many of the other Tolkien-games which were released, and it is much more than a simple merchandise product. I really like playing the game, and I am looking forwards to see the second part which is scheduled to be released in 2003. This box will contain another stand-alone game, but it will be possible to combine the maps of both games to get a complete map of Middle Earth.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

[Gamebox Index]


Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany