Published on September 9th, 2013 | by Gregg Miller
There and Back Again
Gregg Explains: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
While people have varied opinions on the 2012 winter movie, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I’d like to say that the board game is quite a solid and interesting experience. While at Nerdtacular 2013, Matt, “The Favorite” and I were browsing the game room between some events, and saw a couple of people starting the setup of this game. Asking if we could join, we sat down and started to work through this interesting game. The Hobbit is a co-operative play game, where all the players win together, or lose together. It’s a game about taking what the odds have given you, and working together as desperately as you can.
During each half of the game, every player is dealt a random assortment of the adventuring group that participated in the grand adventure that Bilbo Baggins and the troop of thirteen dwarves. Each party member has special abilities they can use to benefit the active player or the player who controls the character. Going in turn order, the active player draws and reveals an Event Card to resolve, then is given five white dice that have a number of resource faces on each of the six sides. The resources are used to complete tasks shown on the stretch of the story that the players are working on. After your initial roll of the dice you may keep any number of the dice rolled; any dice not kept are rerolled once, keeping the new result with whatever was kept from the first roll. Depending on what’s printed on the character cards tha active player controls, you may be able to do things before, during, or after rolls that can change the results. Some characters let you have an additional reroll, add in additional resources in addition to what was rolled, double certain resources rolled, or add the Gold Die to the mix. The Gold Die is a resource heavy die that can pretty much help the active player accomplish even more in a turn.
If one of the tasks on the board is not accomplished on an active player’s turn, the team as a whole loses one card from a collective Resource pool- a pool that helps pull the players ahead, or pulls them out of the fire. This pool of Resources is in many ways the “health”, Victory Points, or general sense of success that the players have for the game. If you can’t complete a task on the board, and you’re completely out of the Resources, then the game ends and the players lose. If the players can complete all the tasks in the Lonelands they will gain an additional set of Resources and then they have to complete all the tasks in the Misty Mountains without losing all their Resources in order to win.
This game seemed incredibly harrowing when we played through it. Admittedly, afterwards on re-reading the rules, we learned that the Resources were supposed to be face up, instead of face down, making them more efficient in their use. In addition, we missed a rule about the Running tasks in the game, and what order they had to be completed. Still, it was a very fun game, and it promotes a lot of teamwork and tactical thinking. There’s also a rather significant luck factor, but the Resources and the character cards tend to balance it back out to being quite a skill based game.
The Hobbit Board Game is also setup to have expansions that line up with the next two movies in the series, making this game longer, or shorter, depending on how people want to play it. I would expect that the expansions are meant to add more length, as the first one releases once players have had a year to optimize team strategies. We look forward to seeing what new challenges and dangers lie ahead!