I know, I know; you want to relive the excitement and drama of the Lord of the Rings with your family and friends, but the role-playing games all take weeks to play and require a medium-size basement to hold all the rulebooks you need. Even if you make it past that, you still have the problem that everybody wants to play Gandalf - and nobody at all wants to be Legolas or Pippin. To top it all off, even if you get a game going it's still no fun because most of the other players don't know Tolkien's works the way you do... and when you point out that Gondor would never attack Pelargir like they insist on doing, they just don't believe you.
Well, now there's a solution.
Melkor-Bradley®, the world-renowned board-game company, is pleased to announce the release of its' newest board game. Straight from the company that produced such classic literary board games as Clue II: Murders in the Rue Morgue, Jane Eyre's Chutes and Ladders and Anna Kareninanopoly, comes a new game of action and adventure for young and old, friends and family alike: the Lord of the Rings Board Game!
Read on to learn all about the game, or jump directly ahead to the following sections:I. Object Of The Game
Each player in the game starts at Rivendell with their very own Fellowship of the Ring. The object of the game is to be the first player to defeat the powers of evil, save the countries of Gondor and Rohan, and return to the Shire to write the Red Book of Westmarch and thus preserve your honored place in history.
To win the game, you must accomplish the following Six Goals:
Here's what you'll need to play the Lord of the Rings Board Game:
The specially-designed Middle-earth gameboard, a portion of which is shown at right. To look at the gameboard in detail, just click on the picture.
A deck of plot complication cards. There are 72 cards in the deck, described later. For games with five or more players, though, you might find it useful to use more than one deck.
A set of checklists, one for each player, so they can keep track of what goals they've accomplished. Obviously a few pencils might be a good idea, too.
A set of appropriate markers, used to represent each of the players in the game.
Lastly, you'll need an ordinary six-sided die.
Starting the Game.
To begin, all players place their markers at Rivendell. Each receives a checklist from Elrond (or whoever the owner of the game is) listing the Six Goals they have to accomplish to win. The Plot Complication cards are shuffled and set face down on the table. It's up to you to decide who goes first.
Players move by rolling the die and moving the number of squares indicated in whatever direction they wish to go. For the most part, it's that simple.
There are, however, Plot Complications which may cause a player to move faster, or slower, or back up, or indeed even drop what they're doing and go in a different direction entirely. There are also special squares on the gameboard which affect movement; these are described in detail in the next section.
If a player decides before rolling the die that he doesn't want to move, then he can stay put without penalty. However, once the player rolls the die, they are obligated to move. (Particularly clever players, however, can stay put anyway by just moving repeatedly back and forth between the square they're on and the immediately-adjacent square.)
The different kinds of squares.
There are a handful of different kinds of squares on the map. They are listed below in no particular order:
Each of the players has to accomplish the Six Goals which will free Middle-earth from tyranny and make for a really exciting book. The goals can be accomplished in any order. As each player completes a goal, they check it off of their list and continue with the other goals. Once all six goals are completed, they can race to the Shire to win the game. Be warned, however, that there are Plot Complications which may force you to do certain goals over again.
Each of the goals is covered below.
The Balrog in Moria.
Once you have landed on Moria, roll a six-sided die. The results are as follows:
Edoras and the Healing of Theoden.
Once you have reached Edoras, roll a six-sided die. Interpret the results as follows:
Helm's Deep and the Healing of Theoden.
Helm's Deep is a standard Plot Complication square most of the time: you have to stop when you reach it, and you have to take a card. In the event that you have been sent here from Edoras while seeking Theoden, however, you may roll the die with the results as follows:
Saruman at Isengard.
Once you have landed on Isengard, roll a six-sided die. The results are as follows:
Pelargir, Erech and the Paths of the Dead.
In order to defeat the black fleet of the Corsairs, each player has to summon the Dead Men of Dunharrow from their uneasy resting-place at Erech. Once a player brings the Dead to Pelargir, their victory is assured. The problem, however, is this: no matter how many players there are in the game, there is only one group of the Dead available to do all the work.
Special rules apply to the Dead, and to the grey squares comprising the road between Erech and Pelargir. Once a player lands on Erech, the Dead will accompany him; he must then take the Dead to Pelargir to stop the black fleets of the Corsairs. In these squares, the following rules apply:
Minas Tirith and the Removal of Denethor.
Once you have arrived at Minas Tirith, roll a six-sided die. Interpret the results as follows:
Mount Doom and the Destruction of the One Ring.
Once you land on Mount Doom, roll the die. The results are as follows:
Whenever you land on a Plot Complication square, or you're instructed to take a card by a Goal square, you take a card from the Plot Complication deck and read it. Unless the card specifically says "Hang onto this card", you must immediately reveal it to the other players, announce its contents, and take whatever action is described on the card. The card then goes into a "discard" pile.
If the card says "Hang onto this card", however, you keep the card in your hand until you decide you're ready to play it. To play a card you're holding, you likewise reveal it and announce its contents, act on it, and then discard it. You can play the cards you are holding at any time.
Towards the end of the game, you may have a player who has completed all six of their Goals and is on their way back to the Shire. The other players in the game may wish to slow them down. Therefore, once a player has completed all of their Goals the other players can slow them down by sacrificing any two Plot Complication cards they may be holding.
It works like this: By revealing and sacrificing two Plot Complication cards they are holding, a player can force another player to lose a turn. As well, two players can sacrifice one card each in order to make a third player lose a turn. The instructions on the cards themselves are not acted upon, with the lone exception of the Narya card (described below). The sacrificed cards are added to the discard pile, and the player selected as victim loses their turn.
This tactic can only be used on players who have all of their Goals completed.
The Narya Card.
One of the cards you are permitted to hang onto is the Narya card, Narya being Gandalf's Elven Ring. If you hold this card, be careful not to show it to anybody. It's a secret. If you ever reveal it to anybody, you lose a turn. If someone correctly guesses you have it, you lose a turn. If someone guesses you have it but you don't, they lose a turn. If someone else takes this card from you, it is immediately revealed to all and discarded and both of you lose a turn.
Note that having this card will automatically force you to lose a turn when you are compelled to reveal it at Tom Bombadil's.
Precedence of cards.
Hopefully, you won't have any situations where cards conflict with one another and make a horrendous tangle of the rules. If you do, however, straighten it out with this rule: Cards played later in the game take precedence over cards played earlier. Hopefully that'll straighten everything out.
There are 72 Plot Complication cards. In no particular order, they go like this:
1 Orcs Ambush The Fellowship. The Fellowship is broken. Boromir dies. You're following the book perfectly. Take an extra turn. 2 Eagles. A sign of divine intervention from Manwe. Take an extra turn. 3 Eagles. A sign of divine intervention from Manwe. Take an extra turn. 4 Fickle Eagles. Hang onto this card. Any time another player plays an "Eagles" card, you can play this card on top of it. Instead of gaining a turn, they lose one instead. 5 Go To The Barad-dur. Go directly to the Barad-dur. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200.00. 6 Get Out Of Mordor Free! Hang onto this card. If you get a "Go To The Barad-dur" card, you can cancel it with this. This card can also be played any time you're within the borders of Mordor. When played this way, you will immediately move out of Mordor to The Black Gate. 7 Get Out Of Mordor Free! Hang onto this card. If you get a "Go To The Barad-dur" card, you can cancel it with this. This card can also be played any time you're within the borders of Mordor. When played this way, you will immediately move out of Mordor to The Black Gate. 8 Boromir Steals The Ring. You must proceed directly to Minas Tirith, forsaking all other goals until this is accomplished. (Ignore this card if you have already destroyed the Ring.) 9 Wrong Ring! Bilbo has given you a perfectly ordinary gold ring and kept the One for himself. You must return to Rivendell and get the real Ring. If you've already thrown a ring into Mount Doom, you'll have to go get the right Ring and try it again. 10 Tom Bombadil. Hang onto this card. Next time a plot complication appears that's not to your liking, play this card and Tom Bombadil will skip and prance and eliminate it for you. 11 Tom Bombadil. Hang onto this card. Next time a plot complication appears that's not to your liking, play this card and Tom Bombadil will skip and prance and eliminate it for you. 12 Somebody Else's Problem. Next time you land on a Plot Complication square, you may either draw the card yourself or make another player of your choosing draw it instead. 13 Frodo Succumbs to the Lure Of The Ring. Lose a turn while Gandalf beats some sense into him. 14 The Nazgul. Go back three squares in the direction you came. 15 Black Riders. Go back three squares in the direction you came. 16 The Sword That Was Broken Breaks Again. Lose a turn while Aragorn glues it back together. 17 The Voice of Saruman. The Voice has lulled you into a false sense of security. If you've already gone to Isengard and confronted Saruman, you'll have to go back and do it again. 18 Radagast the Simple. Radagast deceives you with false information from Saruman. Back up two squares. 19 Radagast the Fool. Radagast stupidly tells Saruman where you are. Lose a turn. 20 Radagast the Bird-tamer. Radagast agrees to help you in your Quest, but then wanders away into the forest to look at the trees at a critical moment. Next time you draw a Plot Complication card, draw a second one to go with it. 21 He's Not Quite Dead. The Balrog was only wounded. If you've already defeated the Balrog, you'l have to go back and kill it again. 22 Ent Vengeance. Gimli bows before Treebeard, his axe falls to the ground, and Treebeard mistakes him for a woodsman and stomps him. Lose a turn. 23 Rabid Horses. All players currently within Rohan lose a turn. 24 Rabid Horses. All players currently within Rohan lose a turn. 25 Hoof-And-Mouth Outbreak. Once this card is played, all movement in Rohan is restricted to a maximum of three squares per turn... for the rest of the game. 26 The Hands of a Healer. Hang onto this card. It can be used at any time to remove the Black Breath, Rabid Horses, Hoof-And-Mouth Disease, or Pipe-weed cards from play. 27 The Hands of a Healer. Hang onto this card. It can be used at any time to remove the Black Breath, Rabid Horses, Hoof-And-Mouth Disease, or Pipe-weed cards from play. 28 The Black Breath. The hobbits become violently ill. No matter what the dice say, you can move no more than three squares per turn for the next three turns. 29 Dernhelm. Just when you think everything's going fine, Eowyn shows up and starts trying to seduce Aragorn. If you haven't healed Theoden yet, you must drop whatever you're doing and go and heal him now. If you've already healed Theoden, you just lose a turn. 30 The Witch-king. Everybody gets all scared. Lose a turn. 31 The Witch-king. Everybody gets all scared. Lose a turn. 32 Smeagol Brings Nice Fishes. Take an extra turn. 33 Smeagol Brings Nice Fishes. Ptomaine poisoning. Lose a turn. 34 Killer Rabbit. Sam tries to stew a rabbit. It goes for his throat. Lose a turn while he recovers. 35 Shelob Bites Frodo. Lose two turns. 36 Shelob's Web. Next turn, you can only move one square no matter what the dice say. 37 Gollum Meets Grima. The two learn much from each other. The plot becomes unstable. Take two more cards. 38 Ghân-buri-Ghân. Hang onto this card. When you're inside the borders of Rohan, you can redeem this card and the Wild Men will give you an extra turn. 39 Grima the Thief. If you are holding any Plot Complication cards, you must give one of them up. 40 Gollum the Thief. If you are holding any Plot Complication cards, you must give one of them up. 41 Baggins the Thief. You can steal one Plot Complication card out of the hand of another player (assuming someone has a card to steal). 42 Baggins the Thief. You can steal one Plot Complication card out of the hand of another player (assuming someone has a card to steal). 43 Cats of Queen Beruthiel. You have to backtrack to avoid the feline hell-cats. Roll the dice and immediately go that many spaces back the way you came. 44 The Blue Wizards. Alatar and Pallando return unexpectedly from the East. They bear surprising tidings. Take two more cards. 45 Lembas. It nourishes both body and spirit. Move three more spaces. 46 The Deed of the Three Friends. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli run for four days without rest. Move three more spaces. 47 The Sea-longing. Legolas hears the sea-gulls and waxes poetic. Lose a turn. 48 Arwen. She shows up unexpectedly. Aragorn gets all side- tracked, but later on goes forth with fresh resolve. Lose a turn. The turn after that, take two turns. 49 Arwen Meets Eowyn. They get in a big fight over Aragorn. Lose a turn. 50 The Witch-king. Everybody panics and runs. Go back three squares the way you came. 51 The Witch-king. Everybody panics and runs. Go back three squares the way you came. 52 Eowyn. Hang onto this card. You can play it to stop any Witch-king card or Arwen card that comes into play, regardless of whether it's yours or somebody else's. (Note: This card will not affect the "Arwen Meets Eowyn" card.) 53 Arwen Sends Aragorn Tidings. Also a banner and flowers. Move three extra squares. 54 Pippin Uses the Palantir. He gets terrified by the Enemy. If you haven't defeated Saruman yet, lose a turn. If you have, Gandalf is in haste; take an extra turn. 55 The White Rider. Gandalf returns from the dead. Take an extra turn. 56 Wisdom of Galadriel. Hang onto this card. If you lose a turn for whatever reason later in the game, you can use this card to get it back. 57 Faramir. Hang onto this card. It doesn't do anything, but hang onto it anyway. 58 Eomer. Hang onto this card. It doesn't do anything, but hang onto it anyway. 59 Narya. Hang onto this card. Don't show it to anybody. It's a secret. If you ever reveal it to anybody, you lose a turn. If someone correctly guesses you have it, you lose a turn. If someone guesses you have it but you don't, they lose a turn. If someone else takes this card from you, both of you lose a turn. 60 Aragorn Uses the Palantir. All secrets are revealed. Look and see what cards are being held by every other player. 61 The Black Stone. Hang onto this card. If you are on the Paths of the Dead, you can play this card and the Dead will accompany you - even if they have to leave another player to do it. If you are not on the Paths of the Dead, you can still play this card during your turn to cause the Dead to forsake another player and return to Erech. 62 Lore of Elrond. Hang onto this card. You can redeem it at any time to move an additional five squares. 63 Blasting Fire. Hang onto this card. If another player takes it from you, it explodes and they lose two turns. 64 Bill Ferny. Sam insists on going back to punch him. Go back two squares the way you came. 65 Smeagol's Birthday. Give this card to the player of your choice. They lose a turn. 66 Pipe-weed. Roll the die immediately and interpret the result thusly: 1: You're out of pipe-weed. No effect. 2-3: You have a very refreshing smoke. Take an extra turn. 4-5: Coughing fit. Lose a turn. 6: Severe coughing fit. Merry gives up smoking. Gandalf continues to smoke nearby. Merry gets short-tempered, goes berserk and tries to kill him. Lose two turns. 67 Bill The Pony. Move 2 extra squares for each of your next two turns. 68 Mirror Of Galadriel. Hang onto this card. You can play this card to stop one of the following six cards from taking effect: "Go To The Barad-dur", "Wrong Ring!", "Boromir Steals The Ring", "The Voice of Saruman", "He's Not Quite Dead" and "Dernhelm". 69 Phial Of Galadriel. Hang onto this card. You can play this card to stop one of the following six cards from taking effect: "Go To The Barad-dur", "Wrong Ring!", "Boromir Steals The Ring", "The Voice of Saruman", "He's Not Quite Dead" and "Dernhelm". 70 Mouth Of Sauron. He tells you really bad depressing stuff, and you believe it. Then uncounted thousands of your enemies come forth from nowhere and besiege you. Lose two turns while you straighten things out. 71 The Eye of Sauron. The Eye is seeking for the Ring. You have to hide from its' gaze. Go back three squares in the direction you came, and then lose a turn. 72 The Burden. The Ring is almost too heavy to bear. Once this card is played, all movement in Mordor (for players who have not yet destroyed the Ring) is restricted to a maximum of three squares per turn... for the rest of the game.
If you're playing this game with a group of other Tolkien fanatics, you can choose to make the game more interesting by implementing some or all of the highly-unstable Advanced Rules given below. They will make the game a great deal more difficult to play sensibly or fairly, but on the other hand the game will be good for a lot more laughs.
When I first put up this page about the Lord of the Rings Board Game, one thing I didn't expect was the sheer number of people who would write to me asking where the game was sold. "None of the stores in my town can find it," people would write. "Even Toys 'R Us says they can't get a hold of a copy."
At first, I thought this would just be a few isolated letters... but more and more people wrote in asking where they could buy the game, and to this day they still keep on writing.
For the record, I've only got one copy of the game - and I'm not willing to part with it (unless somebody offers me a brand-new Venus Encore concert harp in trade, or maybe a Lyon & Healy Salzedo). So please don't write to me and ask for a copy unless you're sitting right next to, say, a $15,000 pedal harp that you don't really want around the house.
For those who are still bound and determined to shell out their hard-earned money and purchase the Lord Of The Rings Board Game for themselves, however, you might try visiting the Official Melkor-Bradley Home Page... where you might succeed in purchasing the game, but then again you might not.
To those of you who are so eagerly seeking a copy of the game, I wish you all the best of luck.