Lord of the RIngs: Battle of Destiny (boardgame)
Published by Character Games, Ltd. 2003 (UK)
2-6 Players, Ages 8 to 108
"A battle game to either control or destroy the One Ring. The board for this game is made of printed cloth and the game is played by casting runes or stones to divine destiny."
Review by Dave Watry
This game is sort of like the LOTR Oracle in that your Destiny is revealed by the random, but pre-destined drop of mystic stones. However, this one is a real game. Your destiny reveals your character and attributes. The purpose of the game is to get the One Ring and, of course, take it to Mt Doom to destroy it if you are a Good character. If you are a Bad Character, you want to take it to Mt Doom and declare that you shall rule all of Middle Earth. That sounds a little vague, but I shall explain.
This game comes with seven Magical Stones of Power each with different colors, a Gandolf figure, a miniature Mt Doom, two sets of dice (one with special direction arrows, the other normal six-sided die), The One Ring with detachable magnifier (if you have really good reading eyes, you probably can get by without this if you have trouble reading very, very small print, the magnifier works fine, but you can only read one or two words at a time), a drawstring cloth board, and a round swivel rule booklet. It is suggested to have a pencil and paper handy (not included).
There are two parts of the game. First, you must determine your character by divination. This will determine your Character (good or evil), your Power Number, and your Magical Stone of Power (colour this is a British game, and that is how they spell it). You will also get a reading about your characters future (why, I dont know).
To perform divination, you take all seven Magical Stones of Power, Gandolf, and the numbered die (not the direction arrow die) and hold them in your hand. Clutched in your hand 10 cm (no tolerance was given, nor any rulers, but 10 cm is about 4 inches) you then release the objects over the cloth board. There are four quadrants on the board; fire, water, ice, and air. When you drop the objects, you note the number on the die. Then you determine which Magical Stone landed nearest to Gandolf, and you note which quadrant that Stone is located in (Fire, Water, Ice, or Air). With this information in hand, you use the Power Number (from the die) and the Magnifier and look up in the Rule book the meaning of the number. The Power Number reveals the meaning of your number. You didnt know number had meanings did you? For instance, did you know that Two is about relationships. You need to share and can achieve much with others. However, you can take too long to make up your mind and miss opportunities. I am not sure how this helps in the game, but it is a good thing to know, I suppose. Basically: 1 is Leadership; 2 is Relationship; 3 is Creativity; 4 is Determination; 5 is Excitement; and 6 is Care. Have fun with that information and do with it what you want. It doesnt seem to have any effect on the game play other than helping to determine your Character (see next paragraph). Dont worry, the dice will be used for movement. But if that information enhances the meaning of your existence, more Power to you.
Next, you do need to find out who your Character is, and that is important to game play. Your Character is found by remembering which quadrant (Fire, Water, Ice, or Air) your Magical Stone ended up in. You remember, the stone that was closest to Gandolf. Now here you do need to use your Power Number. If your Magical Stone ends up in the Fire Quadrant, and your Power Number was 4, looking up in the rule booklet, and again using the magnifier, you will find that your Character is a black Orc Commander (Evil) in battle you are fierce and determined. Others fear you and your skill with a sword. You fight for the Dark Lord Sauron. Now the important information is listed in bold letters and says Your fierceness makes you terrifying and you are granted +2 on dice rolls in battle and may move 1, 2, or 3 in any direction. That is pretty good. You could have ended up as, sorry to say, Boromir. He is weak in battle (excuse me?) against Ringwraiths and Orcs (say what?) and you have to subtract 1 from the dice roll during battle against these creatures. This is a Flawed Character and Turns Evil. There is more in the rules on that. Other Characters you can be are Gimli, Galadriel, Shelob, Troll, Meriadoc, and a whole bunch of other characters from the story, even a Balrog, each having advantages and disadvantages. Aragorn seems to be one of the best all around Characters, but I havent played the game enough to know for sure.
The last bit of information you can find out about your Character is future found in the Stone Oracle (a section of the rulebook, just like all the other parts). You can find out your characters future by remembering which colored (coulored) stone you had (that one that landed near Gandolf) and looking you the number using, you guessed it, the Power Number. Now why you need to know your Characters future seems to be beyond the necessity of game play. But again, this may have mystical influence on you (or your Character) beyond the trivial matter of playing a game. I will leave that up to you. But to give you an idea what your Characters future may hold, if the Yellow Stone ended up closest to Gandolf, looking up in the Stone Oracle under the Yellow Stone and using a Power Number of say 4 again, your Characters future would read: When doom lies heavy upon you, do not listen to mischief. The dawn will bring hope and warmth. Thats what it says. If you happen to be an Evil Character like a Balrong, I am not sure that is such a good thing, but who am I to say. Maybe Balrogs want loving and attention like everyone else, and a nice bungalow on the beach in California. You never know. With that whip in their hand, they can be so difficult to talk to. They just want to seem to crack it over your head any chance they get. But I digress.
Okay, now that you have been diviniated (not a real word, but I like it), it is time to get started with the game. To play the game, you need 2 to 6 people with at least one Good and one Evil Character. If you are playing with 2 people and you have two Good Characters, one of you must go to the Dark Side (sorry, wrong story). Either re-divine yourself, or just pick a Quadrant and a random number (Power Number) that comes out Evil, or Good if you have two Evil Characters (so much for Divination, but maybe it was meant to be that way). Now you already know which Quadrant you were in, and you were supposed to note which space your Magical Stone ended up in (I forgot to mention that earlier). This is your starting point. Now the One Ring or Mt Doom have not come into play yet. That comes up in a minute.
Now you take the two dice and you roll them. One is a number (1-6) and the other has directional arrows, and the One Ring. Nothing really happens until the One Ring is rolled. You can move around if you want, but you dont know where Mt Doom is, or who has the Ring. So I suggest you just alternate turns until someone rolls the Ring. Once that is done, you have a purpose. The person who rolls the ring now gets to place the Ring around their Magical Stone. Figure out where you are on the board and find the direct opposite of that on the outside circle and place Mt Doom outside the closest space on the outer circle. The object is to get to that space on the outer circle next to Mt Doom then with exact count you go to Mt Doom to either destroy the Ring or give it to Sauron depending upon if you are Good or Evil. The movement arrows give a direction you are allowed to move such as Clockwise or Inwards, Anti-clockwise or Outwards, Any Direction, or Swap places with any player or Stay. On this last one, Staying may offer safety from attacking if you have the One Ring. You cannot move diagonally. Once the One Ring has been rolled, that indication (now it is called just a Circle) on the die means you move directly to the space with the Character that has the One Ring to do Battle. There are a few problems with this game or at least aspects that have not been fully explained. One of these is, what do you do if you have the One Ring and you roll the Circle. There is no mention as to what your options are. You cant move to the Ringbearer because you are he. I suppose you either re-roll the dice, or you move in any direction you want with the number of space as indicated on the numbered die. If you do Battle with the Ringbearer and win, you get possession of the Ring and it is your turn to try and get it to Mt Doom. Once Mt. Doom is placed, it remains in that spot for the game and is not moved.
Combat. To do battle, you must land on the same space as the Ringbearer. The Ringbearer rolls first. You fight each other by rolling the six sided die. High number wins. This number can be adjusted based on the Characters attributes mentioned earlier (+2, -1, etc) depending upon the situation or quadrant. Some Characters can use Gifts or Curses. You must state this before battle. Gandolf may be able to help you if you have this ability. Now, as for the results of the battle, the rules are a little shaky. High roller wins. Fine, but then it says if there is a tie, then roll again. Best two out of three wins. What happened to high roll? You have to roll high, twice? It does say that if there is tie after three rolls, there is no winner or loser. The Ringbearer keeps the ring and no one dies. By the way, if you are the low roller, your Character dies and you have to get a new Character, unless you have an Immortal like an elf who gets to go to a resting place and comes back the next turn. If you are killed, you keep your stone in the same space, but you have divine a new character based on the quadrant you are in, but with a new Power Number. You remember how to do all of that. And if there are only two people playing, remember you have to have one Good and one Evil, so keep divining until you get the proper Character. If you were the Ringbearer and you lose the battle, the winning Character gets the ring and the chase is on again, for Good or Evil.
Winning the game. Simple. You just need to be the Ringbearer and move to Mt Doom with an EXACT roll of the dice. Now there is a problem here. The rules do not specify if you can move back and forth between two spaces (in case you are in front of Mt Doom), as long as your direction die allows you to move within the same circle. My guess is you can, but that may be something you will have to determine if that is fair. I havent played the game enough (twice so far) to see if there are any problems with this. Once you arrive at Mt Doom, if you are Good, you get to state out loud: I have destroyed the ONE RING in the volcanic fires of Mount Doom. Now Good shall rule over the world of Middle-earth. And if you are Evil, you get the privilege of stating (I suggest using a deep sinister voice that booms and echoes): Dark Lord Sauron, I give you back the ONE RING. Now Evil can rule the world of Middle-earth and all must bow down before you. I dont even want to think about the consequences if you do not make either of these last two statements out loud. And in the case that Evil wins, should the Good not bow down, well, I dont want to think about it.
The last statement in the book, like reading a bottle of shampoo, says Select a new character from the booklet and play again. Is this the never-ending story?
Now onto the review. I liked this game. It is quick and easy to play and can be folded up in the drawstring bag and if you have pockets that can hold some slightly bulky objects, you can. Like a great non-Tolkien game called Cosmic Wimpout (great game by the way), you can take this game to a top of a mountain peak and play while enjoying a spectacular sunset, or sunrise. Or you can toss it in you bag and play it at a friends house. There are enough variations with the Characters that shouldnt get too tiring too fast. There are a few bumps in the rules, but fixes can easily be worked out. I consider this a GLG (good little game).
Game consists of:
Two dice (numbered and directional)
A small Gandolf figure
A small Mt Doom figure
Seven colored Magical Stones of Power (gray, purple, pink, yellow, blue, red, and green)
One Ring with detachable Magnifier
One swivel out Rule book
Front of the box
Back of the box
The cloth board that turns into a drawstring bag
The pieces - The black blob is Mt. Doom
Rule Book that swings out
The Magnifying Ring to read the small print