Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth Preview

The Lord of the Rings Journeys in Middle-earth Preview

Fantasy Flight Game's latest new game announcement is a treat for all Tolkien fans out there. Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth is an expansive, app-assisted co-operative game that sees players embark on adventures across the sweeping terrain of Tolkien’s world, combating the ever-threatening darkness.

How does the Game Work?

One to five players will form a fellowship to begin their adventure. From one small corner of Middle-earth, they will explore the world over the course of a series of games strung together to form campaigns. Each player will take the role of beloved Lord of the Rings characters, such as Bilbo, Aragorn and Gimli, moving their character’s miniature across an ever-changing world map.

Every game is run with the help of a free app. The app generates the terrain for you to explore and dictates the monsters and skill tests that you will find there, allowing you to concentrate on playing the game and not having to manage a load of enemy admin. The app also tracks your progress through the campaign, recording your characters’ experience, skills and items.

Encountering and fighting enemies like orcs, wolves and trolls is a big part of Journeys in Middle-earth. The app ensures that each one behaves thematically, which means you’ll need to adapt your tactics if you want to emerge victorious. Even more interesting is the tactical maps that battles take on. You do not fight on the world map, but on grid-like tactical maps that allow for more movement and interesting interaction across the terrain.

Skill checks are also handled in an interesting way. Each character has a skill deck containing cards with different icons. When you need to make a skill test, you draw cards from this deck equal to your skill level and see if you have the requisite icons to equal a success. The app will then provide the outcome of the test depending on whether you succeeded or failed.

Of course, like any good campaign game, the majority of your character’s possessions and traits can be upgraded as you go. You’ll upgrade your skills and find new items, enabling you to do more as you adventure across Middle-earth, as you’d expect from any good campaign game.

LOTR Journeys in Middle-earth - Game Layout (Credit: Fantasy Flight Games)

Will Journeys in Middle-earth be Worth Buying?

One of the criticisms I’ve already seen levelled at this game is that it’s just Descent (Fantasy Flight’s flagship dungeon crawler) with a Lord of the Rings skin, but that doesn’t ring true to me. The games might share some superficial features, but the mechanics of Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth seem quite different.

I love the system of different maps for adventuring and fighting. It seems like a great way to capture the grandeur of exploration without losing the tactical intrigue of close-combat. The skill deck system also looks interesting, helping to make characters more unique as well as providing an alternative to the standard die roll.

For me, the game's ultimate success or failure will hinge on how easy the app is to use and how well it manages the game. If the app is user friendly and consistently able to generate exciting scenarios, I think that Fantasy Flight will be on to a winner.

Journeys in Middle-earth looks like a game that any fan of Lord of the Rings will love; something very different to the other games available for this IP. If the early reviews of the game and app are positive, this is a game that I’ll be hard pressed to say no to.

Look out for Journeys in Middle-earth on the Zatu Games website in the coming weeks!