There, but not back again
There are an awful lot of games based on JRR Tolkien’s works and a lot of them are awful. I don’t know half of them half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of them half as well as they deserve. Or something like that. Anyway, we have been playing a game called The Hobbit, which is one of a few with the same title. I know of one such game that has a huge dragon in the middle of the board. This is not that one. This game is by Reiner Knizia and has Smaug the dragon at one end of the board and Bilbo the hobbit at the other, and you need to get Bilbo to Smaug’s lair before Smaug gets to Laketown. All clear? Good.
I’ll come out and say it straight away: the rulebook for this game is a jumbled mess which spends more time (incorrectly) summarising the plot of the book (the Arkenstone is not a cup, for crying out loud!) than clearly explaining the rules. Still, we figured it out and got playing.
Once you are past the none-too-great explanations I actually reckon the game is quite good. Basically, part of the game is travelling to the next of four key locations, during which time you bid to accumulate provisions, develop skills, and acquire special items. On arrival at the locations you undertake a series of adventures which involve rolling dice in a simple sub-game. Cards get turned over at each step which reveal what is going on and give a little flavour from the book.
Miss B loved the flavour text on the cards, and we had to read each section out when it came up, which led to her commenting occasionally on how we were encountering things out of order (we read the book together last year). The aim of collecting treasure throughout the game seems to miss the theme a little, but it all seemed to work out OK, and it did feel like we were going on an adventure together. All in all I think this went really well, despite it taking us well over an hour to play. I expect the game to come out again from time to time, though I’m thinking a bit about making a small tweak to turn this into a proper cooperative game with increased difficulty.
We do have friends possessing one of the aforementioned other Hobbit games, so Miss B is hoping to try that one some time so she can decide which she likes the best. Looking forward to that.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 6): “I liked the game because a bit of the game is a bit tough, but some of the adventure fours are surprisingly easy. It was funny that there wasn’t enough gems so we had to use some of my beads. I was a bit scared when Smaug came up because I thought he would get to Laketown really quickly but it was lucky because he was only two, three or four spaces down the track to Laketown.”
The game: The Hobbit (Imagination), 2 to 5 players aged 10+.