I always thought, that our region is a quiet place, where you can live happily. But times are changing and even our village was visited by darkness. Riders wrapped up and dressed all in black dashed past and left havoc behind. Council of Elders decided, that we will send bravest hobbits to the borders. They stand no chance with small swords against horses, but they can at least warn us in time. Raven brought news, that a group of heroes is approaching us, carrying something of great value. Something, that could drive shadows back, where they came from. Into Mordor..
Board game The Lord of the Rings: Dice Building Game comes exactly from this dark world and brings entertainment to us on its hooves. It was designed by Mike Elliott and Eric M. Lang. Those, who read our reviews regularly, may find these names familiar, because they are behind emergence of dice game Quarriors! (review). Well, The Lord of the Rings DBG is based on a similar principle. It again comes from production of WizKids, it was published in 2013 and uses images from the original Peter Jackson’s trilogy.
The Lord of the Rings: Dice Building Game, along with the entire Fellowship of the Ring, is hiding in box of same size as Quarriors, thus elongated and inconspicuous. Its cover is dominated by portraits of Aragorn and Gandalf, while hobbits Frodo and Sam have only small pictures at the bottom of the lid. But all this is not important, because when you lift it, exactly what we all love so much is waiting for you.
Dice. Flood of dice. More specifically, 97 pieces of dice, wearing various symbols, differently colored and blinking on player so strongly, that you would prefer simply to start throwing. But before that happens, we still have to put aside the rules and look at other game elements, that lurk behind the transparent curtain.
There are colored bags necessary for drawing dice, but also small tokens of Sauron’s eye. And all this is supplemented by deck of cards, showing characters, items and enemies. All allies have (in addition to the image and their name) also text describing ability and bottom line describing dice. Each card has its own dice type and its six sides printed here allow players to keep track of the icons and opportunities it offers.
Cards of enemy and locations look different. While the former contains previews of Sauron dice, places of Middle Earth are wearing a number and an event, that occurs, when fellowship enters it. Only wooden blocks remain to be mentioned together with boards – not only scoring scale, but also places for each player to store his dice.
Game begins by players spreading out base cards on table: those are Frodo, Sam Gamgee and Bill the Pony. Sam gets two dice, Bill four and Frodo none. Each participant must then take one bag and pour eight Frodo’s dice and two Sam’s dice into it. Everybody places game board in front of him, while Sauron’s board is placed next to it. All other cards and dice remain yet in stock. It is also important to determine the starting player.
Whoever is ringbearer (holding The One Ring) begins the game. He draws five dice from the bag and rolls with them, trying to get the most interesting set of symbols. This is not easy, because different dice offer a variety of options. First of all, there are fellowship points, which players need to activate units, but also spend them for buying new dice from common offer (next to placed cards).
These points have shape of Elvish leaves and they should be summed up. You can then decide, whether to use them to buy dice from the menu (at the beginning only Sam and Willie) or to march (muster) troops to fight Sauron. But he does not have any servants in play at the beginning. While the price for sending fighters is equal to unit level (in the upper left corner of the dice), when players are buying new dice, they must follow cost printed on the card, which is of course higher.
If they rolled some offensive dice, player can move them into fighting position on his plan. He can lead attack himself or offer dice to be used by any of his teammates, when their turn comes. Active player can then take advantage of their attack power (upper right corner of the dice) to challenge Sauron. Any number of dice provided by his teammates can be added and used. Attacked enemy will certainly defend and his defense is decided by number in the lower right corner of dice chosen as attack target. Higher or at least equal value means destruction of the opponent and continuing attack until all damage is resolved.
Only then can player buy new units (dice) and then pass the word to his comrades. They continue until ringbearer should be playing again. But he will not have his regular turn. Instead, he becomes Sauron for a moment and will act according to clearly defined rules. In his role, he gradually attacks every player with dice prepared from the previous round.
Simultaneously, every Sauron’s creature that remained alive after player’s turns, will be adding one point of corruption. These points must then be split between heroes fame and blocking any public cards. They are now under eye of Sauron and all dice of this type count as blank from then forwards. Player in the role of master of evil rolls all the available dice, prepares units for war (Sauron does not pay anything to muster them) and evaluates other effects.
Only in the event, that no Sauron unit remained on board before Sauron’s turn, fellowship can move forward and reveal new location card. New location will bring new cards, dice, but also enemies. This is followed by another round of players, who are again trying to destroy all enemy units. Players will then receive fame only for those units, that are still standing in muster area, when they reach turn again.
Game continues until players reach Mount Doom or Sauron succeeds in blocking fixed card number (determined by number of players). In the latter case, Middle-Earth will never be like it was before and remain under domination of Sauron. Or not? Maybe you can try again!
Final movie of three-part saga The Hobbit is coming to cinemas around the world in no time and so there is no better moment to return to Middle-earth. This time we will tell you older story about journey to Mount Doom. The best news about The Lord of the Rings: Dice Building Game is the fact, that all players are fighting together against forces of evil. No one will have to become Sauron.
Cooperative dice game is very appealing combination. The game also utilizes popular game system used by Quarriors. This is basically a deckbuilding (rather dicebuilding), in which players optimize their bag of dice by appropriate purchase. But this time, they are not reaching for their own good. They want the whole country and must work together.
Each purchase has even greater value. The mechanism is set cleverly and games are interesting, although defeating the dark lord is not so difficult as it may seem. Therefore, rules also contain harder version, where is easier to get a bit of extra corruption to block cards.
This game differs against Quarriors (except cooperation, understandably) mainly in the inability of players to discard any dice and optimize their dice pool. There is no time for it in this game and no dice are downright excessive. Time generally is somewhat relative, because the game itself certainly will not fit to announced 30 minutes, even sixty of them will not suffice. You will be often rather getting closer to two hours and that means, that game unpleasantly stretches for a dice fun. A large influence on this is because of limited number of dice for each card. The game itself does not move forwards smoothly enough.
But that’s not to say, that you would not have fun while playing. Most of us liked mechanism, that brings characters and objects gradually into the game, as story progresses forwards. Each location card simply tells players what to do, add or modify. This game develops and remains interesting, although locations stay the same in each game. Now there is a missed chance to make it a little more versatile.
Lord of the Rings: Dice Building Game obviously has a big impact of luck, but this is not surprising, because its mainly a dice game. On the contrary, unpredictability of individual rolls guarantees constant tension and uncertainty. And that keeps the attention of players for future matches. Credit for that has sufficient variability, because there are always only some characters in the game. For example, characters are reversible, so altogether there are twelve in the game, but used only three (well, not exactly, as some will be turned. Same relationship also applies to card of artifacts. Only the locations and enemies remain the same every time, but means to defeat them will vary independently of the player wishes.
Players alternate in role of Sauron every turn, which is great. No one has the feeling that they must constantly be detrimental to his teammates. In addition, each individual hero also have to bring some sacrifice, if needed. Fame values are added in the end and players reach a certain level of success thanks to those. And this despite the fact, that whoever had the highest score, may feel some bigger satisfaction, than others. Its still win or lose in this one.
Largest element of cooperation is by setting dice for others. But also negotiation and table talke has a great influence on final outcome. And then players must decide well for themselves, when they bear Sauron’s robe.
What is really really awful are rules attached. They are poorly organized and difficult to understand. Fortunately, WizKids released an official revision with which will you learn the game much better. It in addition avoids a lot of confusion and unresolved issues: official revision of the rules.
The Lord of the Rings: Dice Building Game is a game full of contradictions. It brings a unique combination of dice deckbuilding and player’s cooperation. Everything is happening maybe for too long period of time and especially accompanying rules are not worthy of reading at all. You get only tangled head from them. If there was not reviesed edition from the Internet, we would only go for average grade. However, with regard to the corrected rules, game is fun and offers an interesting opportunity for all fans of The Lord of the Rings.
+ enhanced mechanism of Quarriors dice game
+ the only functioning cooperative deckbuilder
+ plenty of cards and huge pile of dile
+ interesting card adding as game progresses
+ advanced variant of corruption to make it harder
- really bad rules
- too long