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     " The system, without a doubt, sucks daisy-chained donkeys. "

      Title: Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings: Battle Game by Games Workshop

      Format: Table Top Miniatures Game

      Reviewing Monkey: Reader Tony A.

      The Hype: The second most printed book in history, short only to the bible, is finally becoming a major motion picture. With that movie come a slew of new game ideas and a proverbial ton of merchandising. First on the block is the tabletop miniatures game by Games Workshop. GW, in case you don’t know, is the single most successful miniatures warfare company in history- spawning the prolific "Warhammer" universe. With it’s latest venture they have promised to produce a gaming experience unique to the industry- capturing the look, feel, and style of Tolkein’s novels. So, did they succeed? Read on, my Monkeys…Read on.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Playability: Games Workshop has done something interesting, but entirely expected, with Lord of the Rings…they have designed it entirely for beginning gamers. They’re thought, and rightly so, is that lots of geeks who don’t game otherwise will come across because they love da hobbit. And that’s good.
          What’s bad is that this is, quite possibly, the most insulting and inconsistent gaming experience in recent history. The system, without a doubt, sucks daisy-chained donkeys. One the one hand, it tries to satisfy veteran gamers by having advanced optional rules for them to cling to. These rules include such drudgery as "Jumping Gaps," "Lying Down," and "Climbing"…All woefully inane and overly anal. But that’s not too bad, since they’re optional, right? Wrong. To counterbalance these insanely complex advanced rules are basic rules that will make you pull your hair out in their over simplicity.
          A good example is the general melee combat rule. Now, remember…Lord of the Rings is mostly about knights and goblins duking it out, so the general combat rules should be where it shines the most. Instead what you get is the single lamest combat system in tabletop history. To break it down into 50 words or less: When two characters meet on the field, each player rolls a die. Whoever has the highest die roll wins. The other guy, basically, dies. That’s it. End of story. It doesn’t matter how much of a badass fighter your guy is, or how incredibly crappy my dude is at swinging a stick…If I can beat you in a straight, unmodified die roll I win, you lose, end of story. HOW DUMB IS THAT!?! Forget spending army points on character’s with high fighting statistics or uber weapons…I’ll kill you with a pug-jug and a lucky toss of the bones. The only time, and I mean ONLY time, your super character’s fighting stats come into play is if our rolls TIE. Which, I’m no mathematician, but isn’t that something like a 1 in 6 chance? Give me a break. And, when you realize that better fighting abilities is pretty much all the good guys have going for them, and under the rules they’re pretty much constantly out numbered, makes the game completely unbalanced.
         As for the rest of the game, it’s fairly standard sword and sorcery tabletop. They’ve done some fun things to try and make it interesting: like incorporating courage and heroic might statistics, but really…The whole game is so undercut by the crappy combat system that playing will quickly become a chore. 1 out of 5

      Learning Curve: Since, as previously stated, simplicity is the word of the day, the rules are pleasantly easy to understand…or at least, they will be if you don’t include optional / advanced rules. Once you get past the necessary basics, the rulebook itself tends to break down and though the actual rules aren’t too difficult, flipping back and forth throughout the book will put a serious lag in your game. 4 out of 5

      Aesthetics: As with most GW products, the Lord of the Rings main book has more miniatures pictures than there are six toed children at an incest convention. Which, considering the incredibly high quality of Game Workshop’s art department is never a bad thing. To try and balance it out, they’ve also included a few assorted screen shots from the movie. Unfortunately, however, it’s not quite enough. Considering that most people who buy the game (myself included) will be trying to tie it into the film there really should be more. Also disappointing, and I’m adding it here because I think it factors into the whole look and feel of the book, is the extreme annoyance of trying to find the right sections for the rules you need during play. Though they’ve made progress, GW is still yet to figure out that when you’re playing a game…you want a good quick reference guide for all the rules you need. 3.5 out of 5

      Story: Considering that this game is based on the greatest selling fiction novels of all time…I can’t believe there isn’t even a hint of story mentioned. Nothing. Nadda. Zip. What the hell is up with that? Even the scenario section, where it would be the easiest to include the game’s yarn, is bare of any kind of plot. I suppose they’re expecting you to know what the hell’s going on…but, as far as I’m concerned, it’s just plain old laziness. Unforgivable. 0 out of 5

      Value vs. Cost: The game retails for just about 40 bananas and comes with the rules, 48 plastic minis (24 for each side), and some dice. Not, all in all, a horrible deal. Not a great one, mind you, but not horrible either. Unfortunately, however, the miniatures include just aren’t numerous or diversified enough to really allow any real replayability. So, in the end, you’ll end up dropping more like 60 or 80 bucks just to get some descent playing time in…And that’s getting more than a little obscene. 2 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       Looking at the whole, Lord of the Rings isn’t an awful addition to the tabletop genre. However, once you start breaking down the individual pieces it becomes less satisfying than getting an empty box on Christmas. It’s definitely an incredibly ill thought and sorely under developed game designed solely to capitalize on the franchise’s coat tails.

      The Good: It’s an easy to learn game with a very pretty rulebook.

      The Bad: No story, not a lot of value for the money, and a combat system not worth wiping my poop caked butt with.

      The Overall Ugly: Sadly…In the end this game, so rich with promise, chokes like Mama Cass at an all you can eat Kentucky Fried Chicken buffet.

      What it's Worth: If you’re a die hard LotR fan, it may be worth picking up if you can find it for $10-20 just to get into the game- but bare in mind that you will spend a lot of time coming up with house rules just to make it playable. For everyone else, not a whole helluva lot.

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