In addition to being one of the most treasured series of books ever published, The Lord of the Rings is also regarded as one of the best movies of all time. Due to its popularity, there are many board games that are based on the Middle Earth universe created by author J.R.R. Tolkien. These games are perfect for fans to play together.
Lord of the Rings by Reiner Knizia
Unlike most other board games that are typically competitive in nature, the Lord of the Rings board game designed by Reiner Knizia is a cooperative board game.
Between two and five players work together, each playing a hobbit as part of the party. The team will then either succeed or fail as a group as they attempt to destroy the One Ring.
The gameplay corresponds to specific episodes from the original books:
- Players play cards or turn tiles to progress, collecting and spending tokens to avoid confrontation with Sauron.
- While all players take on the role of a hobbit, each hobbit has different abilities.
- One of the players is designated as the "ring bearer," but this role may pass on to other players following the different scenarios.
It only takes five minutes to set up a game and a typical game lasts from 45 to 75 minutes. Due to the strategic and sometimes complex nature of the game, the game may not be appropriate for children under the age of 10. Swords and Space says that the game is "unique, enjoyable, and challenging," going on to say that it is especially recommended for families in the spirit of cooperation rather than competition.
The main game retails for $34.95 through Fantasy Flight Games. There are three available expansion packs but these can be difficult to find both in store and online.
The Lord of the Rings Dice Building Game
To be played by two to four players, The Lord of the Rings Dice Building Game works in a similar fashion as some card deck building games, except there are unique dice involved to represent different characters and items from the Middle Earth mythology.
There are two main elements to this game:
- Cooperative: The players work together to progress through the different areas of Middle Earth to defeat Sauron and his armies
- Competitive: The player with the most "glory" points at the conclusion of the game is declared the winner.
Each of the unique dice have different abilities and these are explained by the accompanying playing cards.
The rules can be difficult to learn, as each turn is composed of multiple stages and the effects of each die are different. A typical game lasts at least 30 minutes. A three-part tutorial video series has been posted on YouTube that walks through the somewhat complex nature of the game:
There is no game board in the conventional sense, but each player does have a board where the dice are placed to represent whether they have been spent and how they are being used for the player's turn. Similarly, there is a board where the dice for the Sauron character are placed to represent the actions of his armies of orcs, goblins, wraiths and trolls.
Reviewer Matt Carlson of Opinionated Games likes the cooperative aspect of the game, saying, "(K)eeping the game cooperative is a great way to teach new players the game, removing the direct competition and having the group win or lose as a team." Publisher WizKids Games recommends this Dice Building Game for players aged 14 and up. The game is listed at $32.62 on Amazon.
The Lord of the Rings: Nazgul
Requiring a minimum of three players and supporting up to five players, The Lord of the Rings: Nazgul is also published by WizKids Games. The expected playing time for a single game is approximately two hours.
One of the main differences with this game is that players do not take on the role of the hobbits, elves, humans and other heroes from the Fellowship, but rather they take on the roles of one of Sauron's most powerful minions. As Nazguls, the players work together to destroy the resistance of man and prove their worth to the dark lord Sauron.
A two-part video series has been published on YouTube that walks through the rules, components and gameplay:
The main game board consists of 12 locations, divided into three larger regions or campaigns:
- the Rohan campaign
- The Gondor campaign
- The Ringbearer campaign
The game is played largely in a cooperative fashion, as the Nazgul must work together to conquer all 12 locations before the game ends, but there is a competitive element like the Dice Building Game where points are accumulated on an individual basis and the player with the most points at the end is declared the winner. According to Board Game Geek, "You really feel like a group of evil Nazgul trying to stop the Fellowship and its allies."
There are many components to the game beyond the main game board and these are explained in detail in the video above. It can be a very difficult game to understand at first and this is why the game is only recommended for players who are aged 14 and up.
One Ring to Rule Them All
From the books to the movies to the board games, fans of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth have many fun opportunities to dive even deeper into the mythology and really get involved. Many of the associated board games can be quite complicated and may not be appropriate for younger children, but they can present a wonderful learning opportunity and bonding experience for families and fans of all ages.