The Hobbit Board Game
Tolkien Love In Eurogame Form
As a Tolkien fan (some would say snob), I expect any adaptation in any form to be faithful to both the content and spirit of the original works. And as a gamer (some would say weirdo), I insist that the games I play be well designed and engaging, not to mention simple enough that my friends and family will play them with me!
Amazingly enough, this particular version of The Hobbit hits all those marks. The game itself was designed by one of my favorite designers (Reiner Knizia), and the artwork was all done by none other than John Howe, one of the most famous Tolkien Illustrators ever. So not only does it play well, it is also visually gorgeous. And if that were not enough, the various cards in the game each have direct quotes that are taken right from the pages of the book! Now that’s some Tolkien love for you!
The game itself using a mix of auction mechanics and dice-rolling. First you traverse one of four stages of the journey, using auction cards to gain power-ups along the way, and then you take on an Adventure in which you use what you’ve gained to defeat enemies and gain jewels (victory points). It’s a novel combination, but it works well and provides a balance of skill and luck that keeps it from being too random.
- Decisions: 4/5. If it weren’t for the auctioning system, this would be lower. But the tension created each round of the journey—do I use my best card here or save it for later?—is classic Eurogame.
- Artwork: 5/5. It’s rare that I say this, but the artwork could not be any better. It’s brilliant, amazing, superb. Worth the price of the game just to look at!
- Replayability: 3/5. I have played this a number of times, and loved it each time. But I’ve had to space my sessions out to preserve the excitement. I could see how playing this too many times too often might wreck the special-ness of adventuring in Middle-Earth. But it does offer some different options and game variants to keep things interesting.
- Awesomeness: 5/5. This game is a love letter from Fantasy Flight Games to Tolkien fans everywhere. Again, it’s rare that I say this, but it’s hard to image how this game could have been done any better. Exceptional.
TOTAL SCORE: 17/20
Bottom line: This version of The Hobbit combines everything a gamer could ever want into one slick package, while being easy enough for non-gamers to enjoy. And the quotes from the book just kick it up that extra notch. Happy adventuring!