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The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth

RRP: £109.99
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RRP £109.99
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Embark on your own adventures in J.R.R. Tolkien’s iconic world with The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth, a fully co-operative, app-supported board game for one to five players! You’ll battle villainous foes, make courageous choices, and strike a blow against the evil that threatens the land – all as part of a thrilling campaign that leads you across the…
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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • The innovative app.
  • Beautiful artwork.
  • Good looking miniatures.
  • The LOTR theme!

Might Not Like

  • The card skill system is a little clunky.
  • The campaign system means you can’t just jump into a game.
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Description

Embark on your own adventures in J.R.R. Tolkien's iconic world with The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth, a fully co-operative, app-supported board game for one to five players! You'll battle villainous foes, make courageous choices, and strike a blow against the evil that threatens the land - all as part of a thrilling campaign that leads you across the storied hills and dales of Middle-earth.

Each individual game of Journeys in Middle-earth is a single adventure in a larger campaign. You'll explore the vast and dynamic landscapes of Middle-earth, using your skills to survive the challenges that you encounter on these perilous quests. As you and your fellow heroes explore the wilderness and battle the dark forces arrayed against you, the game's companion app guides you to reveal the looming forests, quiet clearings, and ancient halls of Middle-earth, while also controlling the enemies you encounter. Whether you're venturing into the wild on your own or with close companions by your side, you can write your own legend in the history of Middle-earth.

Having rated Mansions of Madness so highly, I thought nothing would top such a game. Of course, Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) had to prove me wrong! Mansions of Madness has had a baby, and Lord of the Rings (LOTR) is the dad!

Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth aims to replicate the success of the dungeon crawler, app driven, horror game Mansions of Madness with a rather exciting LOTR theme. The game itself is app driven and much like the aforementioned game, players discover areas of the map as they journey through, in this case, Middle-earth. As this game has various aspects, I feel it suitable to break this review down into three sections, the app, the game and the miniatures (you’ll see why I want to mention these later).

The App

One thing FFG do well is apps, specifically those that link into board games and take on the role of the “DM”. Mansions of Madness saw a well-polished, superbly themed app that drove the gameplay and freed up a player to allow all players to get involved in the investigations. The same is evident here, if not more so.

The app is beautifully designed, with every little aspect being thought of. The theme runs throughout, with atmospheric music being used to provide theme to the actual game itself, while the UI and use of the app was easy and pleasant to get along with. I would go as far to say that this app smashes the Mansions of Madness (MoM) app out the water. The MoM app is good, but this takes all the bad bits and spits them out, leaving a superb app and one that most will get on fairly easily with.

Do take this as a warning though; you CANNOT play this game without the app. If you dislike the idea of having an app run the enemy element of the game or just don’t want an app interfering with your gameplay, then this game is seriously not for you.

I will be honest; I was just like that a year ago. I did not want an electrical device dictating outcomes and running the game. MoM changed my opinion and this game, more so.

The app is so seamlessly integrated into the game itself that you sometimes forget that it is even there, or is even an app. It works incredibly well so I would say, if you are at all unsure, just take the plunge, it will be worth it. Anyway, enough about the app, let’s talk about the game!

The Game

In Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth (designed by Nathan Hajek and Grace Holdinghaus), you will take on the role of one of the heroes from the books/films. If you have always wanted to be Gimli, now is your chance to become that angry dwarf! Each character will have a set of stats that will essentially dictate how likely they are to pass a skill check or succeed in combat. You will have various campaigns that you will play through as a “team” and more of these will be added in due course through the app. This is the advantage of having an app in this case, as it is simply a case of downloading the new campaigns and you’re ready to go!

Once you have selected your character, you will have to work as a team to explore an expanding map of tiles which are placed onto the table as dictated by the app. The app will provide you with goals and checkpoints, with a great assortment of options available. You can go hunting for treasure, hunt down some orcs or simply explore the expansive landscape.

One neat feature is when the game “zooms” into the action and players must play out battles on larger tiles that allow you to employ strategy and thought into your next moves. As mentioned previously, you will be conducting skill checks throughout the game, whether you want to cast a spell, swing an axe or attempt to solve a puzzle. Instead of rolling dice however, you will use cards to undertake these skill checks.

These cards will have symbols that you need to use to dictate wither a success or a failure. The skill number on your character card dictates how many cards you draw during a skill check; the higher the skill number, the more likely you are to succeed in the skill check. These cards are also used at the beginning of the turn, with players having the option to equip a card to their character and start using the effect detailed on the card.

While I like this feature of the cards, I am not a fan of the cards being used for skill checks. Be it that I am used to rolling dice for skill checks, or that it just seems a bit fiddly and clunky, I just don’t feel it sits right. It slows gameplay slightly and that’s my biggest complaint of this game, but perhaps the only one. I think it was the wrong move to remove the dice and replace them with cards and I don’t think I’m alone with that opinion.

That is just one small aspect though and by no means draws away from how damn awesome this Lord of the Rings game is! The way in which players use items and discover tiles is a mechanic seen in plenty of other games, but again, the theme shines through with players being able to discover the Tolkien universe and come across familiar aspects of the LOTR world.

That takes me onto the artwork of the game. IT. IS. BEAUTIFUL! You can guarantee that being an FFG game that the artwork will at least be of a pleasant standard, but this game blows me away. The artwork found across the cards, the tiles and on other elements of the game is simply stunning. So much work has gone into this game to give players a little bit of eye-candy and the artists certainly haven’t disappointed in that department.

The Miniatures

Normally, I brush over the minis included with games, only noting them if they are atrociously bad or are the complete opposite and look fantastic. In this case however, while the miniatures are standard and look great, it’s the bases of the minis that caught my attention!

Veteran players of MoM will sympathise with me when I mention the continuous chore of organising the minis and the bases provided by the game. Unfortunately, for whatever reason still unknown to this day, it is an ongoing struggle to keep the minis served in their bases, so much so, many resort to gluing the minis in. It appears FFG have finally fixed this by providing minis that have the bases moulded to the figure, meaning gone are the days of fiddling abut trying to get a little spur of plastic into an obnoxiously small hole on a base! In my eyes, this is a massive win, so thought it noteworthy for this review.

Final Thoughts – Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth

Either way, it is safe to say that Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth has impressed me; with its app integration, its familiar yet upgraded gameplay and, of course, the brilliant theme! FFG have pulled out all the stops to make this game a winner, pulling off a fantastic use of their IP while creating a game that seamlessly fits into the realm of app-driven games.

I implore you to try this game, especially if you are yet to experience an app-driven experience. Many games with a companion app have been released that have stunned me in terms of their gameplay and their enjoyment, MoM and Detective to name just a couple. These games still manage to retain their board game-esque stature while providing an updated experience with the app, something Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth also manages to pull off.

I am massively impressed with this game, the app being a standout feature, having been deigned from the ground up and integrated seamlessly with the game. Without this app, you would have a very different experience and one that I can happily say, I would not enjoy near as much.

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!”

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • The innovative app.
  • Beautiful artwork.
  • Good looking miniatures.
  • The LOTR theme!

Might not like

  • The card skill system is a little clunky.
  • The campaign system means you cant just jump into a game.