JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings saga has a long association with tabletop, something that I could get into now but would require an entire separate article to really capture. But it’s been such a fixture of the hobby so long you can almost track how the hobby has developed as we’ve moved from simple “move and roll” games into the more complex offerings now like EXIT: Lord of the Rings or Battle For Middle-earth. The newest title to adapt the legendary series does not follow this trend. KOSMOS‘s Lord of the Rings: Adventure to Mount Doom feels like a game out of time. It’s like something you’d find at the bottom of the library shelf or in a thrift store covered in dust. But that isn’t a bad thing. No, Adventure to Mount Doom stands out in how easy it is to play and the full embrace of this old-school vibe.
What’s In The Box?
- 1 game board
- 42 encounter cards
- 5 Gandalf cards
- 1 Boromir card
- 5 Fellowship figures (standees)
- 9 Nazgûl standees
- 6 Uruk-hai standees
- 20 stands
- 2 marker tokens
- 1 The One Ring
- 1 dice board
- 8 dice
- 1 rulebook
Part of the charm of this game is the look of it. You can’t escape the Jackson films in LOTR and the look of this game does firmly draw on that influence (blonde legolas, gnarled stick for Gandalf). But it also feels very pre-Jackson in its feel. Everyone is a little bit weird looking, the colors are all popping, and there’s just a very 1970’s flair to it all that I love. I don’t love how big the box is relative to how few things are in it, but the game is also only $30 so it’s not like I’m expecting oodles of goodies either.
How’s It Play?
Lord of the Rings: Adventure to Mount Doom is board gaming at its most basic. You roll dice, go places, and then do whatever the card says. You’re mirroring the journey of the Fellowship (though able to get further than the one in the story did) and helping Frodo and Sam get to Mount Doom. You know how it goes. Each time a player goes, they roll two colored fellowship dice and two black encounter dice. The Fellowship dice dictate who moves and the encounter dice dictate what happens, leaving the choice of who moves and when a choice for the group as a whole to make. Black dice can reveal both friend AND foe along the encounter track, with benefits and drawbacks to meeting each.
Combat, called “battles” here, is also a game of dice rolling and luck. Encounters always happen to the Ring Bearer, and the only Fellowship members who can help them are those in the same space, or ahead of them in the same stage. During a battle, you roll the white Battle die and read the outcome. Each Fellowship member has a symbol, and if you roll one of the involved members symbol you win the battle. If you get the Eye of Sauron ,you lose. There’s also a Gandalf rune, which allows you to discard Gandalf cards for a win or lose if you chose not to. More powerful enemies will take a couple battles to beat. Through all this one must keep up the party’s courage along the journey and try not to lose heart or else all will be lost.
While this game is an extremely fun time capsule, I don’t entirely know who might go for it other than big Tolkien heads like me. The dice mechanic is fun but it throws off all the on-board strategy in favor of pure luck. You can do a decent amount of planning and benefit from it but a game that can get you stuck just because you’re unlucky is never a great time. It also includes plenty of “must roll this exact number” requirements to hit and those always, ALWAYS bog games down. Plus there’s very little replay value thanks to a rather anemic card count and a standard route every game. But I don’t think this is aiming for the pure hobby set.
I think this game is really for Tolkien nerds who are embracing the throwback, hippie qualities it had in decades past. The color and campy vibes of things like the Rankin Bass’s The Hobbit have been in vogue, and lots of people I think would love a game that captures that vibe. It’s a well thought out little game, though, and at a price point that makes checking it out worthwhile for anyone who needs a little more Tabletop Tolkien.
Images via KOSMOS
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