Lord Of The Rings Deck Building Game (Fellowship of the Ring)
This game by Cryptozoic combines several of the mechanics of Dominion (victory points, adding cards to your deck each turn) with the well loved setting of Tolkien’s universe. It is for 2-5 players, ages 15 and up. Each player draws 5 cards for their hand each turn and must use all of them or else discard them at the end of their turn. Each of these cards can have some or all of the following: a victory point amount, power, attack/defense abilities, and draw/discard/destroy mechanics. During their turn the players may acquire cards from “The Path” (five cards that are available like Texas Hold ‘Em) and adding these to their decks. The idea is that you obtain more powerful cards that will recycle into your deck to be used as the game goes on. When you have no cards left to draw from in your personal deck, you shuffle your discard pile and start again, sort of like the old card game, War.
One of the neatest aspects of the game is the ambush/attack/defense mechanic. At the end of a player’s turn, the Path is replenished from the main deck, so there are always 5 cards in the Path at the beginning of the next player’s turn. If one of those cards is an enemy type (orc, ringwraith, etc.) it may have an ambush mechanic. This will affect only the player who is about to take a turn. The ambush effect may cause the player to discard one or more cards or acquire a “Corruption” card (-1 victory point) which are bad things. You’ll get very upset when you start your turn with only 3 cards instead of a full hand.
The goal of the game is to have the most victory points at the end. The game ends when all of the archenemies are defeated or the main deck runs out of cards (which has never happened in our games). The archenemies are cards, like Saruman, Lurtz, and the Balrog, that are very powerful and wreak havoc on all players with their attack powers once they surface, and only on your opponents if you are fortunate enough to acquire one for your deck and use it going forward. Their victory point totals are the highest in the game, and they cost quite a bit of power points to acquire. Only one is available at a time and only some are used each game. These are randomly chosen at the beginning of the game and provide a bit of variety for future games.
We played the game several times over the holidays with family and friends, ages 13 to 60. Everyone enjoyed it and once they got the mechanics under their belt, the competition and use of strategy ramped up. There is an amount of luck involved, as you are drawing cards each turn, but the strategy is rich enough for a seasoned gamer to enjoy it in a social setting. This is not for a group of hard core gamers, but they could use this as a gateway drug for geeks who have not yet reached their full nerd potential.
I would give this game at least 4/5 stars, only because seasoned gamers might balk at its simplicity.