Published on May 20th, 2013 | by Luke Turpeinen
Top 5 Lord of the Rings Games
One does not simply…
Lord of the Rings is a powerful license. There was always some demand for games that are Lord of the Rings related and pursuit of these games spurred interest in fantasy wargames like Warhammer and tabletop roleplaying games like D&D. Now that there has been a major blockbuster trilogy for Lord of the Rings, with the Hobbit trilogy coming out as we speak, there is an absolute glut of Lord of the Rings merchandise on the market. Maybe this is what Christopher Tolkien was thinking of when he said he hated what his father’s work had become? I’m certain that if Christopher played some of the games not on the list, he’d agree that they are terribad. Don’t lose hope though! There are some great Lord of the Rings games out there too. Here’s a run down of the best of the Lord of the Rings games on the market.
The Best of the Lot
This is one of the more well known Lord of the Rings games on the market, and one of the only Eurogames with a Lord of the Rings theme that I am aware of. In English this game is known just as Lord of the Rings and it was published in 2000 in Germany under the book license, as the Jackson movies still hadn’t been released. The game is very abstract, and while it is ostensibly about throwing the One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom to Save The World, I personally feel like the theme is kind of bizarrely added onto the mechanics. This is the German Art Film of Lord of the Rings games, but it’s interesting so don’t pass up a chance to play it just because it’s weird.
HeroClix have been around for a long time now, and while I’m not a huge fan of collectible minis or the games that tend to go with them, the Lord of the Rings series has been pretty solid. Based on the Jackson movies, the Clix do battles in Middle Earth surprisingly well. If you skip the boosters and just buy a starter pack (there are currently Lord of the Rings and Hobbit starters) then you get a decent selection of minis, a bunch of tokens, some maps, a rule book and scenarios. The Lord of the Rings starter came with a scenario for defending Balin’s Tomb from the Fellowship of the Ring (Hobbit spoiler? Nah, you probably hadn’t noticed the name anyways). The scenarios are fun and the way that Clix games use special abilities, the hobbit characters are not liabilities even though they are not heavy hitters. Overall the game and the theme fits very well together, which surprised me.
This big-box game is likely to stir the blood of anybody who has ever learned to write in elvish or let loose a dwarven battle-cry while wielding a plastic axe. The game plays a lot like a co-operative game, with players working together, moving pieces around a board trying to manage the evil leaking from Mordor and other havens of evil. The twist is that one player is playing the evil forces of Sauron and is actively trying to screw the rest of the players out of victory. this evil player is not a toaster or a secret traitor like other games of this type, but is openly antagonizing the scattered forces of good. It’s huge, it has tons of pieces, takes hours and is amazingly fun. Perfect for the kind of person who likes games that take an entire Saturday to play.
Cryptozoic has hit on a really solid formula. The second in their recent line of licensed deck-building games, the Lord of the Rings version uses mechanics very similar to those of the DC Comics game while staying different in actual play. The mechanics of the game are changed slightly to fit the idea that no one is directly fighting each other and the mood turns more into something akin to the Gimli/Legolas rivalry to hit the most orcs in the head with pointy metal. The base game includes material from the Fellowship of the Ring movie and the first expansion adds material from the Two Towers movie, with Return of the King and Hobbit expansions implied. Not only a good Lord of the rings game, Cryptozoic made a really good game, period.
I have never before seen such a perfect blend of theme and mechanics in a game. I did not have high hopes when I heard of this game. Another Lord of the Rings card game? A Living Card Game from Fantasy Flight? I was sure that this would be some Call of Cthulu knock off or worse, a reprinting of the old Middle Earth CCG in non-collectible form. My initial worries were so wrong. What Fantasy Flight has done is take the core concept of both the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings tales and distill that down into a simple idea with a lot of strategic space to play around in.
Each player makes a deck as you would for any CCG, but players work together to defeat bad guys, travel through harsh lands and work the cause of right. The deck the players are fighting involves missions and mission-specific cards, which means that every game has a story, an objective and the mechanics to support both. It’s set between the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings and many of the quest lines are sometimes subtle references to parts of the books, such as the Hunt for Gollum which is mentioned briefly in the Council of Elrond in the novel. There is also a new set of quest paths out that runs through the entire Hobbit story line with unique mechanics to support a more linear quest chain than was previously implied in the Lord of the Rings base set. FFG really hit the ball out of the park with this one.