Games - February 9, 2003

We finally tried a new analog game last weekend, the Lord of the Rings game by Reiner Knizia, distributed in the US by Fantasy Flight Games. I'd heard very good things about this game, and was especially interested in the cooperative aspect of it. Instead of competing with each other, players should work together to try to destroy the ring. My youngest son is six years old and still sometimes gets very upset when he doesn't win a game. The first time we played Dark Tower (about a year ago), the boys were having pretty bad luck and it was way past bedtime so I finally made my attack on the tower but convinced them first that we would all win if I was successful. That made it one of their favorite games.

This game night looked to be a bit chaotic as we were going to have a family four other kids over (without their parents). I thought I'd just try a 'new' game with my oldest son while the others drove my wife crazy. But our oldest guest, a girl about my son's age, was interested in playing too and the more I got into explaining it, the more I thought Titan would be a bit too much for this night. So we switched to LOTR.

I hadn't even read the rules yet, so I gave the kids some busywork while I tried to skim the main game rules. I have to admit that when we started I still didn't really understand how the game worked, but I thought they'd lose interest completely if I tried to read them the complete rules or even wait while I read them myself. So we dove in and for the first hour or so had frequent pauses for me to check the rules for what a particular card or die roll meant. I also kept reading whenever I could and several times pointed out that we'd not followed the rules correctly at some earlier point, so it would be different next time. We lost in Helm's Deep, but to my surprise, both kids were eager to try again, knowing several mistakes we had made due to our lack of understanding of the game.

In game two we made it all the way to Mordor, though my son was eliminated in Shelob's layer when he didn't have enough cards to turn in for an event. He was pretty upset but hung in to watch the rest of the game since we were almost to the finish. We still lost and had to call it a night at that point.

The next week he called me at work to explain how he & another friend had won and that I was right - "it really was all about cooperation!"

I haven't gotten to play again yet, and we still haven't gotten my wife or younger son to try it, but it really does look like a great game.

One warning: the plastic hobbit pieces are extremely fragile. Before we even started our first game, our guest dropped one from the table to the hardwood floor and it shattered into several pieces. I glued most of it back together, but one part (an arm) disappeared. On the bright side, I emailed Fantasy Flight Games and they said they do have a small number of replacement parts available for a nominal charge. So I should soon have a re-completed set and will snag some generic colored markers to use until the kids are a bit older.

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Last Update: February 11, 2003

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