In the wastes of Mordor, the dark lord Sauron plots to cast the lands of Middle-earth into eternal darkness. He only lacks the One Ring, an artifact of ultimate power... and it hangs around the neck of a humble and unassuming hobbit, Frodo Baggins. From the Shire, Frodo and his companions plan their perilous route. He must bring the One Ring to Mount Doom, deep in the lands of Mordor. To be sure, Sauron’s forces, including nefarious orcs, sinister black riders, and formidable flying nazguls, will be hunting Frodo all the while. But he isn’t alone. The powerful Gandalf, valiant Aragorn, loyal Sam, and many others will help him on his journey, and are prepared to pay the ultimate price to ensure that Frodo destroys the One Ring and brings peace back to Middle-earth!

This week, the glowing red eye that sits atop the FFG offices stares ominously at our spotlight game, Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation Deluxe Edition ! A board game by the prolific Reiner Knizia and featuring art by the incomparable John Howe, LotR: tC pits two players against each other in a tense cat-and-mouse contest. None other than Christian Petersen, CEO, designer, and dark lord of Fantasy Flight Games , has this to say: "When I first played Reiner's prototype for the Lord of The Rings: The Confrontation , I was stunned at how the simple design not only created an amazing mix of hidden movement, special abilities, clever card-management, and nail-biting bluffing, but how well the little (and quick) game captured the epic emotion of The Lord of the Rings story. It was, and remains, the most positive reaction I've ever had to playing a prototype submission to FFG. After we published the first edition of this little gem, it quickly, and deservedly, sold out. This despite a marketplace which was, at the time, hyper-saturated with Lord of the Rings merchandise (spurred from the excellent movies by Peter Jackson.)”

L otR: tC puts one player in control of the Fellowship of the Ring, and the other player in control of the forces of Sauron. Each side has nine units at its disposal, with varying strengths and abilities, and each player has cards that augment his or her units’ strength values. Additionally, the identity of a player’s units is hidden from his opponent through the use of plastic character stands... but don’t jump to a comparison based on this alone. As Christian puts it, “I've often heard this game described as a Lord of The Rings ‘Stratego, ’ but virtually always by people who've never played it. Do not be deceived by this misnomer. Whether you like Stratego or not, other than the hidden characters (and it being a board game), Reiner Knizia's small masterpiece bears no real resemblance to Hasbro's Strate go .”

Being a Knizia-designed game, players can expect the level of elegant simplicity and strategic depth that he’s known for. At its heart, LotR: tC is a game of out-bluffing and outmaneuvering your opponent. On each turn, a player simply moves a piece. If he moves into a space containing an enemy, then combat ensues as follows: the units are revealed, along with their strength value- a number in the upper-left corner of each character’s portrait. Some units have devastating powers that allow them to automatically dispatch certain other units... this complex rock-paper-scissors system delivers several satisfying tactical options. Next, each player chooses a card from his hand and lays it face down on the table. Most of these cards are simply numbered, and they add to the strength of the fighting unit. Some of these cards, however, contain other powers, which when used at the correct times can deliver an unwelcome surprise to your opponent. When both cards are revealed simultaneously, combat is resolved and the dead are removed from the board. You must choose your cards wisely, however, since no combat card can be used again until all the rest have been used!

For players who want to add a bit of variety to their confrontations, a variant game (co-designed by Christian) is included. Says Christian, “Along with fellow designer Eric Lang, I had the pleasure to contribute a variant set of characters in FFG's "Deluxe" edition of this amazing game. It has quite simply been an honor to not only work on, but to publish what I feel is the best (among a field of great candidates) Lord of the Rings board game ever designed.” In addition to altering many of the unit abilities from the original version, the variant adds several fan-favorite characters, including Wormtongue and Gollum on the Sauron side, and Elrond and Treebeard on the Fellowship side!

There’s quite a bit here to love, and Christian is hardly alone in his admiration. To sum up, he adds, “ Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation is, in my opinion, the very best mix of Euro/American principles ever published in a game with a playing time of 30 minutes or less. In short, it has my highest recommendation and utmost respect.”

Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation is a two-player board game in which players take control of either the forces of Sauron, seeking to find their master's ring, or the forces of the free peoples of Middle Earth, seeking to destroy Sauron's ring in the fires of Mount Doom. 



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