8 July 2009

Straight From The Creator

A designer diary for Middle-earth Quest from Corey Konieczka!

Challenges in Middle-earth

The biggest challenge of designing Middle-earth Quest was crafting not one but two Lord of the Rings games!

Up to three players play what I call the “Hero Game.” Each of these players controls a brave hero who explores Middle-earth, fights to hold back the shadow and seeks the help of famous characters from Lord of the Rings. The hero experience is comparable to playing an adventure game, with focus on controlling a single hero, influencing the world around him while increasing his skills and power.

One other player plays the “Sauron Game.” This consists of controlling Sauron’s powerful minions, spreading his influence, mustering merciless monsters, and affecting the world in many dark ways. The Sauron experience is comparable to playing a strategy game, with focus on spreading the shadow and commanding his legions to guarantee that his dark plans come to fruition.

The real challenge was not designing these two separate games, but designing them in a way that they are integrated into each other. Although the two games play very differently, there needs to be interaction and balance between them.

The keystone that links these two games together is Sauron’s plot cards. Sauron starts the game with one of three starting plot cards in play, each one altering his setup for different strategies. He also begins with a number of advanced plot cards (as instructed by his starting plot). These plots are the key to his victory (which is the hero’s demise).

Each advanced plot card has criteria that must be fulfilled in order to get it into play. For example, Sauron may need influence or a minion in a specific location of Middle-earth.

Once Sauron has started one of his devious plots, it will advance his corruption (black), conquest (red) or ring (yellow) story marker at the start of each future turn.


The last thing that the heroes want is for Sauron to fully advance any of these three goals as this will spell doom for Middle-earth. In order to subdue Sauron’s plots, a hero must accumulate enough favor from the Free People (by completing brave acts) and then travel to the plot’s originating location.

Sauron has many things he can do to protect his plots from meddling heroes. The most obvious strategy is to send one of his fanatical minions to defend key locations. Alternatively, an aggressive master can command his minions to intercept, combat and possibly defeat the daring adventurers. Different plots have different obstacles the heroes must overcome to defeat them. Some may cause the heroes to spend favor, while others may cause the heroes to take debilitating corruption cards.

Mustering swarms of orcs or evil men in strategic locations can also serve as traps that can spring on unsuspecting heroes. Additionally, the Dark Lord can spread influence to make the easiest path to his plots extremely perilous.

There are many other strategic options available to both Sauron and the heroes. Does Sauron play the overt war with his monsters and influence, or does he focus on more covert Shadow cards and plentiful plots?

Do heroes become corrupt in order to more easily disrupt Sauron’s plots? Do they instead remain pure, yet focus on their own betterment instead of battling the approaching shadow?

Either friend of Shadow or the Free People, endless possibilities await you in Middle-earth Quest!

Middle-earth Quest is a game of adventure and conflict set in the time leading up to the creation of the Fellowship. One player will adopt to mantle of Sauron and do his best to spread his evil influence across the lands. Up to three players become heroes and will do their best to foil Sauron's foul plots, and rally the peoples of Middle-earth to their side.




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