(Photo: Fantasy Flight Games)
Embark on a journey through J.R.R. Tolkien's iconic Middle Earth! The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth is an immersive cooperative board game that lets 1-5 players take the roles of Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, Bilbo and a few new characters.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.
This is the first game I played that required an app which I downloaded onto my phone from the Apple App store. The app acts as the dungeon master and informs you how to set up the terrain boards and your starting location for your characters. It also keeps track of threat levels, lore levels, experience, and story progression. Moreover, it tells you where to place search tokens and encounter tokens on the game. And when you land on a token and use an action to interact with the token, the app will tell you what is there and what test you should perform to succeed or fail.
(Photo of the app: Fantasy Flight Games)
When you start, you choose a character. I played this game solo so I chose two characters to play. I chose Aragorn and Gimli.
Each character has five stats (Might, Wisdom Agility, Spirit, Wit) which invariably add up to 14. He also has Fear and a physical damage threshold. Each hero can initially pick from six roles (captain, pathfinder, burglar, musician, guardian, hunter), each of which is better suited to handle different situations like helping the party move more quickly, or attack for heavy damage. Each hero also begins with a number of items.
Photo of Character card. Photo by Fred Jung
The characters have different decks composed of basic cards that everyone has, cards that are unique to the character and cards that are unique to the role they play. They can have up to four cards active to use their abilities. Not only that, but the deck is used for skill tests for Might, Wisdom Agility, Spirit, Wit.
Modular map. Photo by Fred Jung
The gameplay is divided into 3 phases.The Action phase is where each character does two actions. Your character can move up to 2 spaces, fight which is a skill test for Might, and interact with a token on the map where you will do skill test or advance the story.
After all characters do their turn, the Shadows Phase begins. The app will instruct you to move a monster that is on the map and attack a character (if it can). Character can suffer damage from the damage deck and fear from the Fear deck. Then it activates Darkness where the app show where darkness is on the map or if darkness is everywhere where characters can suffer fear. After all that is Threat which rises depending on threats on the map, unexplored regions. When threat reaches a certain level, a new monster is placed on the map. If the Threat bar fills up completely, the game ends and the players lose.
The Rally phase is the final phase. This is the upkeep phase. You take all the cards you had discarded and reshuffle the entire deck for each character. Then you scout where you take two cards (three if you have Aragorn) from the top the deck and choose one to activate. You can have up to 4 cards activated for each characters. Each card has different abilities you can use and discard. Then whatever card you have left you put either on the top or bottom of the deck. This is where some strategy comes in as you want to keep cards that have a success icon on top while putting weakness cards that serve no purpose but to weaken your deck at the bottom.
Photo of Battle Map. Photo by Fred Jung
This is more of an overview of the rules. There are more details in the well written Learn to Play and Rules Reference books.
I am really enjoying this game from a solo standpoint. The app and the well crafted miniatures this games has really immerses you in the story. You are traveling the map trying to solve quests by interacting with the tokens and fighting evil monsters.
Awesome miniatures. Photo by Fred Jung
I really like the multi use cards. The deck of cards are used for skill tests where you look for a success icon on top left of the card. Other cards would have a silver leaf meaning you can use an inspiration token (if your character has any) to turn it into a success icon and cards with no icon where it doesn't count as a success at all. A weakness card is added at the beginning of the game which is a completely useless card that mucks up your deck and doesn't add a success to your tests.
Also the cards have abilities which you can activate. Each character can have up to 4 activated cards with abilities like adding more damage to their target, giving inspiration tokens to nearby characters, defending against damage and so on. When you use a card, you discard it. You have to be strategic because the card you activate may have a success icon which mean you have less success icons in your deck for skill tests.
The rule books are easy to read and the game is really easy to play. The app does much of the work for you in progressing the story and keeping track of the more fiddly elements. It sets up the map and everything.
The miniatures are top notch and well made. I love them and can't wait to paint them. They aren't soft though things like swords are a little bendy. But they have very good details.
What I don't like about the game is the size of the cards. They are small and my vision isn't as good as it was years ago. So I have to squint to try to read them. I am not saying they should be playing card size, but it could be just a little bigger at least for the skill cards. And the fonts are small and there is alot of empty space. Make the fonts bigger.
Even though the app is well made and tested for usability and which is why it adds to the cost of the game, I just wonder if they could have done a book of scripts and stories since I worry about playability in years to come. Will they continue to support the app as technology continues to advance. Can I use the app 5 years from now? 10 years from now? Without the app, the game is not playable.
They should have rules that is just for playing on a map and fighting monsters without the need for an app. Just for a purely tactical game. Something like the rules for Spirit Island in generating monsters. I see a lot of playability there.
In conclusion, this is a great game to add to my collection filled with story, miniatures, strategies and more. I recommend this game. They are releasing expansions to add to the story so with the $99 dollar price tag, that is hefty and you will go broke trying to keep up.