I’ve been enjoying The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth almost solidly for the last three months now either playing or painting up the beautifully made and plentiful figures. I’ve also bought every one of the boxed expansions, though I’ll restrict myself here to the base game (with a couple of small exceptions). I feel the need to contribute my second opinion to the already posted glowing review which I am broadly in tune with.
First, let me say, I love this game. I first read The Lord of the Rings over half a century ago and I’ve been enthralled by the lore of Elves and Orcs and Hobbits ever since. This game then transports me through its beautifully created map tiles, the artwork of the character cards, the superb sculpts of the miniatures themselves and the evocative text of the companion App into a truly Tolkienesque world. Here I can tread the forest trails and delve the dark dungeons as I make my own journey with my fellowship companions.
Even The Smallest Person Can Change The Course Of The Future
The talk of companions brings me to my first point: I play The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth exclusively Multi-Player Solo. By that, I mean, I make a party of, usually, 4 characters, assign them rôles and items but then play all of them myself against the many foes and fate twists provided by the splendid App. Yes, You can play with up to 5, huddled around the table trying to co-operatively, co-ordinate their actions to beat an increasingly able enemy but why would you when you can more perfectly mastermind all the moves yourself? Let’s face it successful co-ordination is tricky at best and you can either get fearfully, paranoid that your actions aren’t good enough to please that Alpha leader or you are that person getting increasingly irritated at the ineptitude of your hapless compatriots!
Yet Hope Remains While The Company Is True
Also you play The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth in a legacy-like campaign of up to 15 scenarios and it’s going to be difficult to get the same players around the table every time. So, relax and take charge of the whole thing yourself and pit your party against the powers of the App. It’s not that hard as the App takes care of a lot of the logistics and you can concentrate on using cunning combinations of card skills and items.
Bringing me, neatly, on to my second point the Cards. Not only do they provide further atmosphere by their attractive artwork, but the clever use of the skills and actions they provide is the very heart of the game. The many Skill Tests you have to take throughout the game: Combat, Searching, Character interaction etc. are dependent on the drawing of Successes from the deck replacing traditional dice rolls. The difference with the deck over dice is that you can manipulate the deck in a way that would get you thrown out of Vegas if you tried it with the dice!
All We Have To Decide Is What To Do With The Time That Is Given To Us
Let me be clear, the magnificent Scout action lets you take from 1 to 3 cards from the top of your deck, ready one for action if you wish and then return the others to the top or bottom of the deck. Thus you can stack your deck with any actual Successes or possibles via Inspiration on the top and consign poor cards or Weaknesses to the bottom. If you have Aragorn in your party you have the chance to Scout 3 at the rally phase at the start of your turn potentially loading you and your comrades with guaranteed hits. There are also many actions that provide further Scout opportunities during the course of the turn and judicious use of this action can make the difference between desperate defeat and glorious victory. Showing battles can be won or lost through good reconnaissance.
The other action that can be undervalued is Sprint. Most of the scenarios are fairly tight on time and you’ll need a few Sprints here and there plus split party multi-tasking to get all your goals achieved. Similarily I found the Pathfinder rôle to be very useful is moving your party about. In my games I switched Bilbo from the suggested assignment of Burglar to Pathfinder in the later stages.
Whilst we’re talking about the Skill Cards the one niggle I have with them is how and when you use their actions. It is not always clear whether the Action is available at all times when the card is prepared like with Tactic, Knowledge or Aid and remains in play or whether you only get it when the card is discarded. Similarily the sequence of actions can be open to interpretation sometimes. One advantage of playing on my own is I take the interpretation that is most favourable to me!
There Is No Knowing Where You Might Be Swept Off To
The App is very good, provides a ready opponent day or night and takes most of the effort out of book-keeping. Most importantly, it provides an unfolding story as the landscape is revealed around you as you take your hesitant steps forward. Then as you Explore you reveal locations to Search and NPCs to Interact with. Further, what may not be immediately apparent, is if you replay a scenario it will provide a different landscape. This also applies if you buy any of the boxed expansions, either just figures or the two full sized sets Shadowed Paths and Spreading War the app will add new figures, tiles and terrain features into the existing campaigns. The key events in a scenario will still be present but locations, enemies, items and NPCs wil be re-arranged. This dramatically improves replayability.
The Board Is Set, The Pieces Are Moving. We Come To It At Last, The Great Battle Of Our Time
Finally I must talk about the figurines. The miniatures are lovely, well sculpted and take paint well. You get a good haul right from the start with 6 Heroes and 25 enemies in the base set. They already look good but with even a basic paint job can look superb. I used Army Painter Speed Paints for the balanced compromise of a one coat solution giving a highlighted and layered effect. You can add the Figure pack Villains of Eriador, to give the Boss foes of the first campaign, giving greater feel to the climactic battles. The later expansions will introduce some much larger models too: the fiery Balrog and the mighty Oliphant to fill your table.
So enjoy The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth and remember:-
“There’s some good in this world and it’s worth fighting for!”