"Lord of the Rings : The Search"
Reviewed by Nigel Buckle Copyright ©2002
Edited by Suzanne Campbell for The Guild Companion
Produced by Rio-Grande Games [$19.99 US, £14.99 UK], this is a simple, quick, enjoyable 2-player tile laying/exploration game with a Lord of the Rings theme. A typical game will take about 45 minutes.
The players build a map of Middle-Earth starting at the Shire using tiles. In the completed map of 48 tiles (6x8) will be Mount Doom (represented by a stand-up cardboard volcano) and usually this will be located in one of the last tiles placed. As the map is being constructed (one tile a turn is placed by each player) the players may move their hobbit markers to explore the map, having encounters. These encounters are in the form of tokens (chits): items (like Sting), characters (like Aragorn), Gollum, the Ring and monsters (Orcs). All the tokens players collect are worth points. You can also 'use' the tokens for a benefit within the game but then the points they provide are reduced. The tokens are placed face up apart from the 'monsters' so the searching element of the game is more a matter of racing to the highest value tokens.
Once the map is completed the players then race to Mount Doom and the game ends as soon as one reaches it. This player gets some bonus points (more if you also have the Ring), and the player with the most points at the end is the winner.
The mechanics of the game are quite simple and after a couple of games you probably will not refer to the rulebook again. The building of the map from tiles and the placement of tokens mean that the game is different each time, but the theme of the Lord of the Rings is rather thin. This is really an abstract tile game and any exploration theme could have been used.
If you are looking for a quick little fun abstract game and are happy with a Middle Earth theme then this could be the game for you. If you are searching for an in-depth Lord of the Rings gaming experience then I suggest you search elsewhere.
In the process of reviewing this game I have developed a couple of variants that make the game different (usually I play with both):
- Place all encounter tokens face down. You can 'use' any token to look at any 2 face down tokens. Defeated monsters that are used in this manner count 1 less point at the end of the game like any other used token. If the tokens you look at are the same colour you can swap them. Using Gollum allows you to look at any 3 face down tokens.
- Double the points allocated for reaching Mount Doom first.