The Lord of the Rings Dice-Building game
The Lord of the Rings Dice-Building game is a game for 2 to 4 players designed by Jeph Stal and Brett Myers. In this game all players take control of the fellowship trying to take the One ring to Mount Doom and destroy it. The player who gained the most Glory doing so will be named the Hero of Middle Earth. Sauron (the game itself) on the other hand is trying everything in his power to prevent this from happening.
Setup takes little time because not everything is available from the start of the game. Each player receives a dice bag with 8 Frodo dice and 2 Sam dice, a player mat and scoring cube. A score track is played on the table with everybody’s scoring marker placed next to it. Form the Wilds by placing the three starting fellowship cards in the center of the table with their corresponding numbers of dice. The fellowship cards show all the special abilities of the corresponding dice. Place the Sauron mat on top the Wilds and put the location deck in its corresponding area ordered from 1 (top) to 8(bottom). Next to the Sauron mat you create a supply of corruption markers. The One ring token goes to the shortest player who will become the ring-bearer and play first.
A round consists of every player taking its fellowship turn and afterwards the first player taking a Sauron turn. Afterwards the ring goes to the next player and the next round begins.
First let’s take a look at the fellowship turn which consists of five phases: Score, Dice, To War!, Recruit or Restore and Clean Up. During the Score phase you score glory for each unit die left in your muster area. The glory you score per unit is written in the top right corner of its corresponding card. After you have added the glory to the score track you move all your units in the muster and prepared area to your used pile.
The second phase Dice lets you draw five dice from your draw bag and roll them together with any dice left in your active pool. When you don’t have enough dice left in your draw bag when drawing for dice, you take all of your dice in your used pile and add them to your draw bag. While any of the dice you rolled has a corruption marker placed on its card you must immediately place the die in your spent pile. The rest of the dice are placed in your active pool. Some dice might have an immediate effect which must be resolved before other dice are resolved. Now it is time to muster your units and play your artifacts. Each die has six facings being either fellowship points, effects or a representation of an artifact or unit. The effects can be used whenever you want and in the order you want during this phase. When it shows an artifact you may place it in the muster area with no cost. Artifacts usually have abilities that can be used when needed and are the only dice that stay on its player mat until used. Units that you want to use have to be mustered by paying their cost depicted in the upper left corner of the die in fellowship points. Each mustered unit is placed in the muster area. The fellowship dice used to pay for it are placed in your spent pile.
In the next phase we are going To War! Now you have to choose what you are going to do with your mustered units. Are you going to war or prepare for it? When you prepare for war you simply move your mustered units with any attached artifacts to the prepared area. These units can be used by other players when they go to war. The other option you have is going to war and attack the forces of Sauron. This is done by adding up all the attack values (top right) of your mustered units and optionally all the prepared units of one or more other players. You now destroy the forces of Sauron by comparing your attack value to a chosen defender by you. If your attack value is equal to or higher than the defense value of the defender you destroy it by moving it to the destroyed area on the Sauron mat and subtract its defense value from your attack value. If your remaining attack value is still high enough to destroy another defender you can keep on doing this until you no longer have any attack value left or have wiped out the Sauron forces. When the attack is over you place all your mustered units in the used pile. The players whose prepared units you have used also go to the used pile and they get 1 Glory for each unit used in this manner.
The fourth phase is called Recruit or Restore. This the phase in which you recruit new units or artifacts or restore the corruption done by Sauron. In the beginning you only have limited things you can recruit but while traveling you will encounter more and more units and artifacts that you can later use in your struggle against Sauron. You are only allowed to recruit one die and this is done by paying its fellowship cost in the upper left corner of the card and placing the bought die in your used pile. If there is still a Sauron die in the same row as the die you recruited, the Sauron die is added to its muster area with a corruption token placed on top of it to indicate that is has not yet been rolled. Restoring works in a similar manner where you need to pay the recruitment cost of the unit or artifact to remove the corruption token.
The final fellowship phase is the Clean Up phase. In this phase you move all of your dice in the spent pile and active pool to your used pile. This marks the end of your fellowship turn.
After all players have done their fellowship turn it is time for Sauron to do his evil deeds. The Sauron turn also consists of five phases: Score, Attack, Corrupt, Advance and Dice. Sauron starts with scoring his dice. This is doing by adding one corruption in his corruption pool for every die in his muster area.
The next Sauron phase is the Attack phase. The attack values of the Sauron units are added up and each player individually needs to defend against this total attack value with their mustered units. This is resolved in the same manner as when you attack Sauron. The player who has the One Ring and Frodo in its muster area may put on the One Ring to protect all its units from the attack. For each unit protected this way add one corruption to Sauron’s corruption pool.
The third phase is when Sauron starts to Corrupt. In this phase you add up all the corruption in the corruption pool and corrupt the highest cost card that can be corrupted (fellowship cost paid in corruption points) and is not already corrupted. The ring-bearer has the option to lose glory points to reduce the corruption points at a 1 for 1 rating. At the end of the Corruption phase all remaining corruption tokens are returned to the general supply.
Now it is time to see if we can continue our adventure in the Advance phase. If Sauron has any unit dice left in its muster area this phase is skipped. Otherwise we advance to the next location. First off Sauron moves all of its dice to its active pool. Afterwards we reveal the next location and follow the instructions of the location.
The final Sauron phase is the Dice phase. In this phase Sauron takes all of the dice in its muster area and active pool and rolls them. Eye of Sauron effects are shown on the current location and resolved immediately. All units rolled by Sauron are placed in its muster area.
When the final Sauron phase has been dealt with the One Ring is given to the player on his left and he becomes the new ring bearer and starts the first fellowship turn of the next round.
This will continue until the fellowship reaches the final location at which the player with the most glory is called the Hero of Middle Earth or until a certain number of cards are corrupted (depending on the number of players) and the players lose the game.
First off let me state that you need the Version2 rules which you can get by just mailing us or in the files section on boardgamegeek. This will give for a better experience with the game and far less frustration figuring out the rules. It was really unfortunate that it happened but luckily it was sorted out. The next thing that I would like to say is that there are some variants rules of which one is the Full Co-Op in which you all work together and do not have a single winner and this is how we play it. In this game we only find it fitting thematically that we are the fellowship trying to defeat Sauron together and not trying to outwit each other by gaining the most glory doing so. Almost all dice are used in every game but there are four different versions of each artifact and each unit card is double sided which makes for a lot of randomization. The different abilities on these cards makes for some interesting combinations and strategies to be used during each game. I also love the fact that you can prepare your units so that your fellow players can use these when they go to war. The film stills on the cards are a bit on the dark side and the font used is really hard to read from a distance. The inlay for the box is really well made. The gameplay itself is really enjoyable. Drawing the dice from the bag and seeing what you have rolled is always satisfying. When it is Sauron’s turn everybody is on the tip of their seats holding their breath when he rolls his sometimes massive amount of dice. The difficulty of this game is something hard to define. You can adjust the difficulty but since this has a lot of dice rolling it also depends a bit on your luck with dice. Usually it fans out over the course of the game but there could be instances that you cannot roll any units even if your life depends on it and roll all the strong enemies on the strong Sauron dice but these instances are rare. We simply love this game and the tension it brings to the table. There is always something fun to a dice-building game where you see your possibilities increase turn after turn. All in all this is a very fun dice-rolling game set in the world of Middle Earth.
Play with honor