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The Hobbit Boardgame Review

the hobbit

An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit board game developed by fantasy flight games takes you on the journey of Bilbo Baggins and the 13 dwarves as they venture to reclaim the gold of Erebor from the clutches of the mighty dragon Smaug, and that is exactly what you will be doing as you work semi cooperatively with up to 5 players.

This delightfully small and simple game will take you and your friends through an adventure with multiple levels of difficulty, the ability to level up yourself and the fight to claim as much treasure as you can.

All of you have two simple goals: get the most treasure and do not let the dragon Smaug reach Laketown, whereas the latter is a cooperative goal you must all make sure doesn’t happen. The former is a goal you compete against each other in to become the victor of the game. These two goals create a nice blend of you and your friends needing to try to make sure that Smaug never reaches Laketown whilst also securing your victory with more gold than your friends. The game is split into two phases which represent the way the board is laid out with 6 giant circles showing key milestones of the journey from the book and between them a number of small circles each containing a symbol that will have an impact on players.

A Bilbo figure is used to travel over the small circles and will move based on the number of players, it is here that the competitive side of the game can really shine. Players will be competing to gain advantages that are labelled on the board, while also avoiding the disadvantages that also appear. In this phase players will use their dwarf cards to determine who takes priority, the lowest card will move Bilbo first then the next card and so on and this will allow the owner of the card to gain or lose the rewards based on the board.

Journey Phase

During the same phase, known as the journey phase, players can also win special cards that feel like monopolies get out of jail free cards, during the second phase of the game these cards will allow players to perform extraordinary feats to win the precious gold.

The level up system that players will constantly change through the game in this journey phase allows this game to be a great play for any players out there whether they find themselves adept at board games or want a more simple game.

The rules for the Hobbit Boardgame will tell you that you can set the level up system in a few different ways to make the game more easily or challenging and I have found this to be very true as the number of chances to improve your level will change only subtly and the starting values will be able to have a big impact on the entire game.

Adventure Phase

Every time the group playing The Hobbit Boardgame reaches one of the big circles (except for Laketown) players will enter the second phase, the adventure phase, where players have a chance to fight for the gold one by one by using their three stats, any special cards they have collected and the dice in the box. Players are encouraged to give the adventures a go if they can as they are the key to winning the game but be warned if you can’t win the adventure card in front of you then Smaug gets to move closer to Laketown.

Here the game can become very interesting especially in the last few circles, countless times my friends have helped me as I helped them in winning their gold out of fear that Smaug will reach his destination and yet I should hope they fail in getting their gold. Players will keep going through these phases until they finish the last adventure card or Smaug reaches Laketown, if they are all successful they will count their gold and find the winner but if they fail to stop Smaug then no matter how much gold you have you will all lose.

I love the way this dynamic sets up the game for players as it forces you to make choices that sometimes won’t benefit you purely to make sure that Smaug won’t progress through your opponents lack of strength. Although in the adventure phase where I know all the cards will be played and I can expect what will come after many playthroughs of the game it becomes overshadowed by how diverse the journey phase will be everytime I play.

As I draw cards to see if Biblo will progress or we shall gain special rewards I am constantly on the edge, hoping for rewards and if not rewards trying to stay ahead on how I will land exactly where I need to give myself the best chance in the adventure phase.
As the dwarf cards you use get discarded and replaced by a new one from the reshuffled pile, you have to decide whether risking good cards is worth it or if saving it will benefit you later on, many times I have played a number confident in where I will land only to find that someone else has used a card just slightly higher or lower than mine.

Home At Last

Overall although the Hobbit isn’t one that will spark a new found love driving you to play it every week, it will never get forgotten for the brilliant way it can allow some diverse levels of play and games that will feel different every time. If you love the Hobbit or want a easy game that is not one of the big titles give this one a go.