We've played this game in both a two-player and four-player mode, and it's very different in those variations. The two player game is a bit like solitaire, where the two players bond together to avoid the obstacles thrown at you by the game. In four player, the very number of players means that not everyone can make it to the end of the game, and thus, while not cutthroat, does invite a certain sacrifice among the players.
The rules are fairly simple to understand (although we did miss some basic points in our first couple of games), and not too long (you can learn to play this in a single evening without any problems). I would strongly recommend it to families with children who have become interested in the books through the movies.
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The game is played on two boards simultaneously--the Master Board and the Scenario Board, with each player assuming a Hobbit character and advancing or retreating on the Corruption Line of the Master board. The goal is to stay on the light side of the Corruption Line. There are two double-sided Scenario Boards representing the regions of Middle Earth you'll be traveling through. The action of the game is rather complicated, being dictated by the picking of Event Cards, Feature Cards, Activity Cards, and by rolling the die. You'll soon see that this game is all about cooperation, friendship, and compromise--you are asked to give up valuable cards for the common good of the Fellowship. If you get all the way to the dark end of the Corruption Line, you'll be eliminated from the game.
There is no individual winner; the group scores points as a whole. At the end of the game, points are awarded based on the amount of shields the players have left and whether or not they succeeded in destroying the Ring. Designed by the acclaimed and prolific game designer Reiner Knizia and beautifully illustrated by longtime "Middle ...