Ring Side Report-Wizkids Lord of the Rings Dice Building Game

My wife is a Tolkien-o-phile, and I love co-op games, so I bought the new Wizkids dice game.  Here’s what we thought…

TL;DR-6/10.  Fun, but some execution problems.

Basic Mechanic-if you played quarriors, you kind of know this game.  Here is the game for the uninitiated.  You start with a base bag of dice.  These dice are six sided dice.  Every turn you draw five dice and roll them.  The dice have faces with characters, abilities, or resources.  You have to pay for character and these can be used to attack or be prepared to help other players battle.  This is where this game takes a major departure from the quarriors game.  In quarriors your battle the other players, but in this game you battle the forces of evil (more on that in a bit).  After paying character for battle and battling evil, you can buy characters or items.  At the end of the round, the first player then rolls the evil sides dice.  As the first player rotates, everybody gets a chance to be evil and everybody will lose if you don’t work together.  The evil dice represent  monsters and difficulties on the journey through the three Lord of the Rings books.  If all the monsters are defeated at the start of an evil turn, the players move through the books/movies and go to a new location.  As this is a Lord of the Rings game, every dice that the evil player has at the start of an evil turn gives corruption to the evil side and this cause the first player to lose points or to make dice unusable.  Make to many dice useless   games over.  Use to many points to lower your score?  You lose the game as the other players have a higher score.  That is the main conflict of the game.  You have to pick and choose your battles.  Take a loss for the good of the team or make other players dice useless so you have a higher score.  Also in the mix, you can ready dice for other players to use.  When people use your readied characters, you gain points.  If they don’t, then you might gain corruption ..thus the balance game begins…  My thoughts-Once you figure the conflict between players and the evil dice pool, the game is fun.  Getting to that point is a problem….

Presentation-Again, if you player quarriors in the new flat box, not cube tin, the game looks similar.  The game has some great packaging.  The box has nice rows for the dice AND the game comes with a plastic cover that goes over the dice to keep the in place if the box is tipped over!  As someone who plays these dice games, HAVING THINGS GET MIXED UP IS A VERY BAD THING!  The art is Lord of the Rings movie art, so beautiful.  Wizkids payed for the rights to it, so it should be!  My thought-I do have one major grip with the game and its size.  The game uses tokens for corruption and a ring for the first player.  Wizkids used cardboard tokens.  Ok, that’s fine for corruption, but for the ring?  Really guys?  This game was $50 bucks.  For that price I expect at least a plastic ring to pass back and forth!  What makes it worse is the size of the tokens.  The tokens are way to small!  The box has some decent storage space left so there is room for much large tokens, so I don’t know why the tokens are so small!  As with quarriors, the dice are a bit to small for me, but for $50 bucks you get about 100 custom dice.  As a dedicated RPG player, getting that many dice for $50 bucks isn’t that bad of a deal!  Also, I have a gripe with the rules, but I will save that for a separate section

Gameplay/Rules-The game plays pretty well when you know what your doing.  Each location give you so many options to buy from.  Get to a new location, unlock new dice/character/weapons to buy.  At each location you also get new evil dice and as you buy dice, more area evil dice go to the evil pool.  Since more players mean, more buyers for the dice and thus more evil dice in the evil pool, the game scales pretty well!  Also, if you want a much more touchy feely game, you can play a full co-op game too.  My thoughts-This game works well, BUT you have to know HOW it works.  I recently bought this game and the game just came out.  The copy I bought had rules printed on some basic, white folded computer paper.  Now I’m not a snob on looks, but it kind of was tacky especially for Wizkids and the Lord of the Rings license.  Things like this would not be an issue, EXCEPT, on the Wizkids web page they have the rules up as a PDF.  These rules look GREAT AND REALLY EXPLAIN THE GAME!  The rules I got with my copy are nowhere near as good.  I LOVE really complicated board games, but this one is not the most in depth thing I have ever played and it took my wife and I three times to play this game according to the rules.  Having the version 2 rules on her kindle helped, but why were these not in the copy I bought?  Again for $50 bucks I expect a rock solid game from a solid publisher.  When I have the right explication in front of me, this game is great, but you CAN’T play the game as intended by the base rules.  Heck, there is even a major typo in how to use items in the game in the copy I received.

Overall-I asked my wife what she thought as I bought this game for her as a gift.  I thought I might be a little to harsh with my review of 6/10, but that is exactly the same score she gave this game.  When you know what your doing, this game is great.  But as presented, it has some major problems.  Maybe later copies of the game will be much better or have an insert telling you to go online for errata and updates.  That would have really helped.  All and all, if your friend has a copy and knows how to play, give it a whirl.  Its a great time and has a surprising amount of strategy compared to the basic quarriors game strategy of buy the most expensive dice possible.  However, if you are off by yourself with your friends, then this game might not be the best if you don’t have a baseline for this game.

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