January 16, 2004

Family Gaming - January 16, 2004

by Susan Rozmiarek

Kevin wanted to play games after school today. This was a rare request, given that he's been engrossed in the new video and computer games he got for Christmas. I was happy to oblige. He chose LOTR: The Confrontation as our game. I'd only played this once and it had been awhile, so I brushed up on the rules before he got home.


LOTR: The Confrontation

This game has gotten extremely high praise and was the recipient of the 2003 IGA award(www.internationalgamersawards.net/) in the two-player category. Nonetheless, I've pretty much shunned it. I played it once and it just seemed like Stratego but with every piece having a different ability. I usually detest games with fussy, unique abilities and rules exceptions. That's probably one of the reasons I don't care for miniatures games. However, this is exactly the kind of game Kevin likes. And since it's a Knizia game, and since there had been overwhelming good buzz about it, I was willing to give it a second chance.

Kevin, my evil child, claimed the Dark Side right away. He immediately pushed his monstrous troll forward to wreak havoc on the countryside. Valiant Boromir met the challenge and defeated the monster but at the cost of his own life. The Good Side then proceeded to try to clear a path for Frodo to sneak across the mountains. Unfortunately, many of them met their death at the hands of marauding orcs, but were able to defeat Saruman, the Black Rider and the Witch King. Frodo was able to struggle over the mountains safely, only to be slain by a waiting Warg on the other side, giving the Dark Side the victory.

As suggested in the rules, we switched sides and I played the Dark Side. The game progressed very much like the other one, with the Good Side eventually succumbing to the might of the powerful Dark Side. This time the Orcs killed Frodo. However, I later realized that we had been playing a rule wrong. When playing text cards, the Dark Side's card is applied first. I thought this rule included the text on the characters as well, but it doesn't. So, Frodo should have been able to use his ability and retreat from the orcs. I think the Dark Side would have won anyway, as they should have easily been able to invade the Shire before Frodo made it to Mordor. However, Kevin and I tied overall, with five points each, which might have been different had we played correctly.

I liked the game a lot better this time. I'm wondering if it is weighted toward the Dark Side, but I'm starting to see some strategies for the Good Side to try. At any rate, the bluffing was very tense and enjoyable. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. I can't imagine the amount of time it must take to playtest and tweak a game like this to try and make it balanced. A whole lot, I'll wager. I guess I'll have to revise my initial opinion. I'm eager to play it some more, if I can drag my son away from the Playstation and his Harry Potter books-on-CD.

Posted by Susan Rozmiarek at January 16, 2004 3:31 PM

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