Friday, July 9, 2021

Why I got rid of Knizia’s Lord of the Rings

 Reiner Knizia’s Lord of the Rings was my introduction to the cooperative genre. I know that the genre actually dates back to at least the 1940s. While many older examples are children’s games, the original Arkham Horror is still thirteen years older than LotR. Still, at the time when I found Lord of the Rings, cooperatives were very much the exception to the rule. It’s been almost ten years since I culled it from my collection.

And, looking back… yeah, no regrets.

Back when I was trying to get it on the table, a friend described it as less of a game and more like a ritual that we had all gotten together to perform. And I think that’s both an amusing and appropriate description.

Knizia’s LotR is a tough game to beat but that’s not its problem. In fact, that’s its biggest selling point. (Although cooperative games having become more common makes losing to them easier for folks to accept) And it is physically cumbersome with multiple boards and pawns and decks of cards and such but that’s honestly not a big deal unless you are playing on a TV tray.

No, what really killed the game for me and for literally everyone I played with is that it abstracted the Lord of the Rings to the point where we couldn’t see the story and it felt aggressively non-intuitive. In fact, if I were to play it again now, I’d probably like it even less.

We only beat the game once. And that was by abusing the power of the One Ring as much as possible. Which feels kind of against the spirit of the game. (It was a race between finishing the game and corruption finishing us) Afterwards, one player said ‘Okay, we never have to play that again’ and he turned out to be right.

I did get two of the expansions but never had the interest to actually try and use them. Getting the game out of my collection didn’t give me any regrets. Maybe even some relief and definitely some shelf space.

It is a fascinating, maybe even brilliant design. But that didn’t make it enjoyable.

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