A to Z Gaming: Lord of the Rings: The Search

We searched for the one ring and raced for Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings: The Search, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Basic Info: Lord of the Rings: The Search
Players: 2
Time: 30 Minutes
Designers: Peter Neugebauer
Artists: John Howe
Publisher: Rio Grande Games

Lord of the Rings: The Search is a two-player race game where each player takes on the role of a hobbit exploring Middle Earth and bringing the ring to Mount Doom. Players will have encounters along the way, collecting points for the ones they don’t spend for movement or strength in a fight, with bonus points to the player who reaches Mount Doom first. Whoever ends with the most points wins.

The game is set up with the starting tile (the Shire) in the middle of the play area, the encounter tiles shuffled and sorted by type, and the landscape tiles shuffled. Each player chooses a hobbit figure and takes a hand of three landscape tiles.

In the first phase, players each play landscape tiles adjacent to the Shire until there is one on each side of the starting tile. (Two turns each, of course.)

During the second phase, the rest of the land is built out. On their turn, players play a landscape tile, which must either match two sides of already-played tiles or be along a direct line from the Shire. In any case, the landscapes on the new tile must match the ones on the board. If the player doesn’t have a tile in-hand that matches the available-places on the board, they show their hand, and then choose one to play upside-down. This grey tile matches each of the landscape tiles it touches. Mount Doom is also placed (or moved if it had already been placed) onto the newly-played grey tile.

If the newly-played tile completes a 2-section landscape, they also place an encounter tile in that region. Then the player moves their hobbit to an adjacent landscape-type. Blue tiles can be used to help with movement. Finally, they draw a new land tile.

If a hobbit enters a region with an encounter tile, they claim it. If it’s in the mountains (brown tiles), it will either be an empty cave (whew) or a monster to fight. The monsters will cause the loss of movement for a turn or two, unless the player gives up a yellow or green tile.

Once all of the landscape tiles have been placed, creating a region of 8 by 6 tiles, the location of Mount Doom is set. Now players race to be the first to reach Mount Doom. Once one player has reached it, the game is over and players total up their points.

Players get one point for unused blue encounter chips and the number of points shown on unused green, yellow, and brown encounter chips. They lose one point for each used green-yellow combination. The player who reaches Mount Doom gets three bonus points, plus an additional four points if they have the ring or five points if they have both the ring and Gollum. If the player who has Gollum doesn’t reach Mount Doom with the ring, they lose one point. Player with the most points wins.

(We were missing a tile, so our landscape was incomplete!)

We picked up this game a long time ago when we were collecting the Kosmos 2-player games. I can’t say I remember playing it previously, but I’m pretty sure we did get it out once or twice. It certainly didn’t make it onto our must-play list, though, since it didn’t make much of an impression.

And, I can see why it didn’t make an impression. The theme is pasted on, the tile-building is okay, but the race left me cold. I’m sure there’s some strategy there about where you play your grey tiles when you need to, and how you position your hobbit in relation to the empty spots. But…I didn’t find it that interesting.

How is it as a 2-player game? This was built as a 2-player game, so it works very well at this player count.

How about the art and component quality? The art on the encounter tiles is good — I like the style of the characters. I also liked the tiny details (say, a dragon) on the landscape tiles. The cardboard pieces are fine — not great, but fine.

Will this stay in my collection? No, this one just didn’t feel very interesting. There is certainly some strategy about where you place tiles once you get one that doesn’t match the available landscapes, but that seemed like it could be less important than just taking all the encounters you could find. However, we weren’t interested enough to play it more to find out.

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