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Lord of the Rings Board Game
14 January 2002

I tend to prefer games that are inexpensive, deceptively simple, and promote good social interaction between players. Well, the Lord of the Rings Board Game is somewhat pricey (though at just under $30 on, it won't break the bank) and fairly complex, but it promotes social interaction between players like no game you've ever played before.

At first, I was prepared to be skeptical. Board games based on books and movies are often just merchandising fluff. But this game is serious. The graphics were clearly developed before the movie, and by and large are excellent, and it captures the suspenseful feel of the book very well.

It's also a cooperative game, and I don't think I've ever played a good cooperative game until this one. The goal is to overcome the challenges presented by the boards and cards by working together with your fellow hobbits. The challenges are so difficult, but manageable, that I found myself very wrapped up in the need to survive in the game, and to help my friends. As a cooperative game, it's very successful.

The game represents the entire Lord of the Rings story, and accordingly it's long. This isn't Candy Land. There's one master board that represents your progress from region to region as you play, and most of the regions have their own separate boards you must work your way through. You're all hobbits, Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, or Fatty Bolger, each with your own special abilities, and you must overcome a variety of obstacles in each board by walking, hiding, friendship, and, inevitably, fighting. All the while, the hobbits are slowly corrupted as a consequence of the events in the game, and the enemy Sauron moves slowly closer.

My one complaint would be the complexity of the game. There's a lot going on, and more rules to know than most board games. As a beginning player, it's hard to make the many decisions necessary to play without knowing how to prioritize the game's different factors. When I played, there were two other players who were familiar with the game. They sort of ran the game while participating as players, and that helped the two of us who weren't familiar with it settle in and enjoy the tension.

Want an evening of casual beer-and-pretzels competition? This probably isn't it.

Want to play a tough game that really helps you bond with your fellow players? You've found the right game.
by McRey "Mac" Moyer

28 October 2001

This game is cool! Proteus us a chess variant -- sort of. Instead of pieces, you play with dice, each one marked with various chess pieces. Every turn, you may promote a piece by rotating the die. Major chaos, boyo, and major fun.

I've played Nightmare Chess, SJ Games' other big chess variant, and found that chess strategy means almost nothing in that game. Not true of Proteus. If you're good at chess, that will help you a lot in Proteus. But this game adds a major layer of strategy on top of that with the promotion mechanic.

Play is quick, just a few minutes, perfect for playing during a snack run or even a smoke break at a roleplaying session. The only down side I can think of is it doesn't come with everything you need to play: you need a chess board. You probably have a chess board, though, so it shouldn't be a big deal. However, that does detract from the game a bit, because one of its up sides is portability. Lucky for you, Secret Doors has a chess board that prints on a single page so you can fold it up to fit in the package with the Proteus dice.

Get Proteus from your local game store, or order it from Steve Jackson Games. Retail is $9.95... might seem a little steep for a set of sixteen dice, but well worth it, I assure you.

by McRey "Mac" Moyer

Secre Doors Web Press