Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Middle-earth for two

Lord of the Rings: the Search is a simple but engaging tile-laying game for two players. It isn't a cooperative game like many Lord of the Rings games tend to be, but it isn't overly confrontational either, being essentially a race to see who can navigate the tiles more effectively and get to Mount Doom first.

The tiles depict four types of terrain: mountains, deserts, forests, and water. Each tile is divided into between two and four areas of different terrain, so that when they are laid out the form regions of various sizes which must be navigated by the players. A player can't move into a water space until he has procured a boat.

Any region that is formed from exactly two tiles gets a counter placed on it: face-up allies and treasures in the desert, water and forest spaces, and face-down monsters in the mountain spaces. Any time a player moves into an area with a tile they either collect the ally or treasure, or fight the monster, which takes up valuable turns, although about half of the monster counters are blank and don't need to be fought. At any time, a player can trade in two defeated monsters (including blanks) to get a boat so he can move through the water spaces.

Players draw and place one new tile each turn, matching up terrain edges until no further tiles can be played. At this point Mount Doom appears, and it becomes a race. The game ends when a player reaches Mount Doom, but that player isn't necessarily the winner (although they do get a bonus to their score).

The players' final scores are determined by the number of counters they have collected throughout the game. Ally and treasure counters are printed with a value, but they can also be used during the game to help with combat or gain extra moves. These need to be used sparingly, however, as used tiles will deduct one point from your score rather than adding their value.

Two counters of special note are Gollum and the Ring. A player gains five extra points if they reach Mount Doom with Gollum and the Ring. They get four points if they get there with just the Ring, but they lose a point if they're stuck with Gollum at the end of the game and they haven't reached Mount Doom.

It's a simple, relaxing game that nonetheless has a fair amount of strategy and decision-making to it. Since it only accommodates two it's no good for gaming groups, but it's a great game for a couple to play after dinner or while travelling (we took it with us on a trip to New Zealand). Unfortunately, this game has been out of print for a while.

Rating: 3 (out of 5) A nice casual game that should be fun for gamers and non-gamers alike, but not one that it occurs to us to play very often, and very simple compared to other games in our collection.

Date Played: April 20, 2014

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