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     " I still don't like hobbits, but this game's getting me closer. "

      Title: The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings, The Collectible Card Game by Decipher (longest. title. ever.)

      Format: Movie based card game

      Reviewing Monkey: Chimpan-A

      The Hype: That's right, the people at Decipher just aren't going to stop until you're playing a LotR game! Here for your amusement is the Collectible Card Game. With scenes from the movie on every card and scenes from your wallet at every purchase, let's shuffle through this review.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Playability: All right, bad card puns aside, this is a fun game. It has a great blend of turn around strategy and good old-fashioned bastardry. The game play breaks down as follows. You take your hobbit; give him a ring and a best man. Then you put down vacation slides from your last trip to middle earth. While you move your fellowship through these scenes (taken from sites in the movie/book), your opponent controls the forces of evil looming just over your shoulder, waiting to pounce. The brilliant thing is the whole universal balance vibe they get going here. You see, the more good guys and good things you field the more bad things the shadow player gets to field. For example: You decide that just having Strider in your party isn't good enough, so you bring out Legolas. This adds to the "Twilight Pool". When the other player (controlling the bad guys) goes, he can only bring out as many bad guys as the Twilight Pool (enhanced by your Legolas) allows. The strategies a game like this engenders are legion. Do you bring out your big guns early and hope you can take whatever the Shadow dishes out, or do you hold back, waiting for the right moment to pull your trump cards? As the Shadow, do you use up all of the pool now with grunts, or do you gamble that he'll take another move and let you whip out your Galvanized Ass Kicker? This game can take some very quick turnarounds. Especially when the tables turn and it's time for the once hero to take on the Shadow reigns. This system alone makes this game worth playing. It may take a little time to get used to all the rules and how the game handles certain things, but after that the game is purely enjoyable. 4.5 out of 5

      Aesthetics: The cards all look very nice. Scenes from the first movie (and possibly the other movies, seeing as they've already been filmed) adorn them all. All the information you will need to use the cards is in an easily viewable location. Item cards stack with their bonuses next to the affected attribute. It's all very well put together. 5 out of 5

      Balance: The cards seem fairly well balanced. Although you'll want to read over the rules a couple of times to make sure that you understand everything. The game is definitely balanced towards strategy though. Certain decks will do better against other decks and decks filled with one particular race will work well. For instance, having the Boromir's Shield Item will do you little to no good if you haven't got any Men in your deck. The nations we see in play range from Men to Elves to Gandalf (who is a nation in and of himself and deservedly so) among the good guys. Isuldur, Sauron and Moria come to bear for the bad guys (with special mention for the Nazguls who also get there own little force). Each deck consists of an equal number of good guys and bad guys, thus allowing everyone to play in both phases. Everything does appear to be fairly balanced though. No one type of deck appears to be stronger than any other type though. 4 out of 5

      Value vs. Cost: The starter deck really only gives you one deck, but it can be split amongst two people. If you really want to play with your friends, you're likely both going to want to get your own. The boosters are relatively cheap for a decent amount of cards. All in all the cards are worthwhile for the price. 4 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       Usually, I'm not big on movie crossover crap. That's because the people making the product are usually more involved in making something with the movie stamped all over it than in making a good game. Decipher didn't take that road and for that I congratulate them. Here we have a well thought out, balanced game with a really ingenious system. I still don't like hobbits, but this game's getting me closer.

      The Good: Good looking cards, neat system

      The Bad: Not really enough for two players in a starter, slightly complicated rules

      The Overall Ugly: I get to play with Nazgul? Rule.

      What it's Worth: $15 for a starter.

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