While at Gencon this year, I walked around everyday waiting for for an empty seat at the Fantasy Flight booth. The wait for this game was usually about 30-45 minutes long and you never really knew how far along the demo was, so waiting seemed to take forever. When I finally decided I wasn’t going to leave the table and wait for my spot, I was lucky enough to demo “Middle Earth Quest”.
This game is complicated, much like Fantasy Flight’s other large board games (Arkham Horror, and Chaos in the Old World). The board is huge, there are A LOT of pieces, the manuals are pretty big, and the games take hours upon hours. This game is no different where the setup seems to take almost as long as the actual game.
I was pleasently surprised at how quickly the game can be picked up. I should mention, that if your used to Fantasy Flight’s games, it is a little easier to understand a game like this because they tend to follow many similar rules.
The game is set to be played from 2-4 players. 1 player takes the role of Sauron, and the other players take up the roles of Heroes of Middle Earth. The main story book characters are in the game (Gandalf, the Hobbits, etc.) but the heroes you play are not real characters in the book. The main characters from the book appear as mini’s on the board and are placed in certain locations based on what a heroes quest dictates.
Each hero card starts with a set amount of life. The other stats on the card describe what you can do. Also there is a five color circle in the right upper corner. That shows the ratio of ranged to melee cards set in their particular decks. These decks are predetermined prior to the start of the game.
Fortitude determines how many cards you can draw per turn.
Strength determines the amound of cards you can play while in battle.
Agility determines the cards you can draw at the start of combat.
Wisdom helps a great deal with you are up against an mighty evil creature, or you land on a space that is considered perilous.
These stats can be increased permanently throughout the game by doing quests, and saving the land from Sauron’s influence.
The goal of the game, is remove Sauron’s influence from the board, represented by small eye tokens placed throughout the map. Sauron will continue to spread his influence every turn, but as your heroes increase with stats, the challenges will become easier. Getting there won’t be.
Players will be given certain cards which are “rare” compared to the deck they are dealt in the beginning. These cards are earned by completing quests, and by defeating some of the main evil characters (Witch King, Shelob, etc.) These cards, when played right, can turn the tide of the battle.
Battle is set where when a creature is encountered, Sauron (the player) picks the deck tuned to that creature and battle is played out where each player picks a card and puts them down at the same time. The cards determine if damage is dealt to one or the other character, or if damage is dealt to both. It all comes down to the cards. There is a certain amount of strategy, but it sometimes it will come down to a crap shoot.
Quests are fun because as you try to complete them, sometimes you must move through perilous zones to get there, which can really hurt you or just leave a scratch. While I was playing my character completed a quest and received a boat token. This token allowed me to move through rivers without the cost of movement cards. Also gaining “warp” in a sense, access to a certain city half way across the map.
Movement cards are played out by the cards you draw at the beginning of your turn. These cards are actually your ranged and melee cards, but in the lower right corner it shows an icon that corresponds to the board. Each location is attached to each other by a “path” that has an icon with a number. Example would be a “tree” icon with a number of 2. If you have a card with the tree on it that movement cost is only 1 and you discard that attack card. If you do not, you may play 2 cards that do not match the icon to move to that spot and then dicard two attack cards. Be careful though as if you go through all your cards, or are left with only a few cards, when a battle comes up you may be left with nothing to defend or attack with.
Ultimately I was impressed with the short amount of time I had with the game. Our moderator (demo representative) was extremely helpful and nice. We got to joke around with her, and ask a lot of questions and she was just wonderful. So a big thank you to her. Thanks also to Fantasy Flight for having the game there running all day. I thrilled that I was able to try this game out with the help of a professional.
If you enjoy Fantasy Flight’s games, this would be no exception. The only problem I noticed, is that when your at a convention with plenty of time to kill a game like this fits in perfectly. Trying to get a game like this going in our daily lives might be overwhelming for new players, and the amount of time it takes, you may not get through it in one sitting. Other than that, the game is well done. One player gets to be evil, and the others are out to destroy him. It can be a different game every time depending on how you play. I also really love the stat increase system. Almost like leveling, your characters can become stronger to help you through your journey. Overall the game is great and I highly recommend trying this out if you get the chance.
Part of the PNG Gencon ’09 Wrap Up series of articles.