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Man I wanted to like this. I'm a big fan of the books (probably have read them half a dozen times) and the movies but this game is just too slow for me. I played twice as Sauron and won both times but I took little pleasure from it. The first was a military victory which was okay but the second was a corruption of the Ring-bearers in Mordor which was just lame and just felt like luck. I know that the fact that I loaded the bag in my favor was a big part of the strategy and why I won but it didn't really feel that way. I think I would like playing the free peoples even less. This one just doesn't do it for me. If it was the only game I owned I'd certainly play it again but with so many other choices, this one is unlikely to hit the table again.
This game is full of tense and interesting decisions. It's strategic and dramatic and I've enjoyed it so far. Though there is a bit more randomness then I typically prefer, it fulfills a fun niche in my collection where I want something challenging for just two players. So far I'd say: it's important to play with someone around your skill level because it's not fun if you're mismatched. Otherwise it's good if you're in the mood for dice chucking.
Tom Vasel's Top 100 2012 #81 People's Choice Top 100 2012 #54 The Treebeard character will be available to BoardGameGeek users through the BGG store by the end of October/early November, and it will also be distributed at Essen Spiel 2012
Second edition makes very minor technical and aesthetic improvements on the already brilliant original. For a card driven game it doesn't suffer too much from "memorize the deck or else!" syndrome--as long as you tell new players about a few key cards "don't leave Saruman alone if the ents are out!" "there is a card in here that lets an army with a leader move two spaces!" you should be fine. Probably the most flavorful LOTR game I've played, and being the LOTR fan I am that is enough to move it to my top game list. The main negative I can think of is that the dice pool is so small that a few bad rolls of the action dice can screw you at times, which can be a problem since the entire game is built around the action dice.
Excellent components! BEST artwork, less like the movies and more like old Tolkien book art. Update: I finally got this to the table (Collector's Edition, thanks Ian!!). I can't stop thinking about this game, the cards, the strategy, the cinematic and epic story that's told. [I]It is precious to me, though I buy it with great pain[/I].
Started playing with my brother, we went through the rules and enjoyed it a lot, but we had to stop playing since we didn't have enough time. We will start another game soon. The game feels and looks very epic, but it takes pretty long to set it up, so I will build a custom insert to reduce the set up time.