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Friends and Foes is the first expansion for the Lord of the Rings board game by Reiner Knizia. It adds to the original game in several ways, and improves upon it many more…
The most obvious addition is a new scenario board – double-sided like the others – providing Bree and Isengard for your hobbits to traverse. The box also contains two little stick-on circles to attach to the Master Board, so you can mark your progress through these two new locations.
The new Scenarios are not all bad – especially Bree, which contains the opportunity to gather a heap of additional cards when playing through it.
New rules give the Fellowship the ability to skip up to two of the original scenario boards, as long as certain criteria are met. In other words, although two new scenarios are added, with good card play and organisation, you can skip two of the older boards, essentially making the game no harder in this respect (and Bree is an awful lot easier to complete than, say, Shelob’s Lair). But more on all this later…
The next addition to the game comes in the form of Foe cards. These each depict an enemy of the Fellowship, which can either be ignored or defeated. The catch being that if there are ever eight foes face up in play, then the Fellowship loses. The dice rules have changed – now the ‘Discard two cards’ result has become ‘Place two Foes face up’. Foes are also brought into play by the Events on the two new scenarios, and are also turned up if you skip any of the scenarios. To somewhat counterbalance this, each Foes defeated is worth one point towards the final Fellowship score – whether the ring is destroyed or not. Also, if all 30 Foes are defeated, the Fellowship wins the game outright.
Foes can be defeated in any number of ways – each Foe shows how to defeat it on the card. For example, ‘Discard two Life Tokens’, or ‘Discard a Joker’. You might be required to roll the dice, or take corruption. Sauron may move closer on the Corruption track. Some Foes are easier to defeat than others, but they generally all eat into resources and cards to some degree. And you need to keep their numbers down, to avoid being overwhelmed.
Also, one of the requirements for skipping scenario boards is that no Foes are in play…
There is some help for all this, though…
Each of the hobbit characters now has a new special ability. This is basically a one-shot deal – a special card that is quite powerful, but when used, must be discarded. For example, Sam has the ability to – once in the game – roll the dice when the event marker is moved on, take the full consequences, and then ignore the actual event.
There are a few new Gandalf cards dealing with Foes, and filling a few gaps in his support. And there are new Feature cards for the two new scenarios. Some of these are quite powerful, but can be tricky to get hold of. For example, Gandalf the White is a triple joker (if I remember correctly – I don’t have my set in front of me), but the event that allows you to get hold of him makes the whole venture very dodgy. Basically, the active player may choose to turn over the next Hobbit card – if it is white, he gets the Gandalf the White card. If it is grey, Sauron moves forward unless the active player can discard two matching symbols. As long as Sauron does not move, the active player can try as many times as he wants to obtain Gandalf the White.
To round off the whole set are a few new rules – specifically those dealing with the new ability to skip scenarios. Very simply, the Fellowship can skip either Moria, Helm’s Deep, or Shelob’s Lair if there are no Foes in play when the board is about to begin. Additionally, in order to skip Shelob’s Lair, you need to discard either the Book or Shadowfax. What this means is that you are unable to skip all three ‘skipable’ boards (as the Book and Shadowfax are found in Moria and Helm’s Deep respectively). Added to this, when you skip boards, you must turn up a handful of Foe cards, and it makes it especially difficult. For example, in order to skip Helm’s Deep and Shelob’s Lair (the most desired outcome), you need to get and keep the Book from Moria, and then the active player (when ‘between boards’, the Ringbearer is the active player) must defeat all four Foes that are turned up when Helm’s Deep is skipped. As these Foes may require Life Tokens (which, as the Fellowship is ‘between boards’, nobody has), among other things, this is a bit risky.
So, that is the description. Now my views.
This expansion makes an already good game so much better! The main problem with the original game was its linearity. Basically, when you play, the same things happened in the same order – it was a matter of when (and if you can get out before it occurred). With Friends and Foes, that is alleviated somewhat. Because of the added threat (which eats up resources), and the ability to skip boards altogether, the game really does change dramatically.
There is a much greater degree of unpredictability, without making the game seem too utterly random and out of your control. There is always the feeling
, at least, that you should be able to deal with anything, given the right card play and hand management. But because you never quite know what Foes are going to come up (or even quite when – the dice roll could turn against you, after all), you can quite easily be overcome by Foes you are unable to defeat.
And yet, because you can now skip some of the harder boards, the game does not become overwhelmingly difficult. The addition of two boards means you are forced to attempt to skip two of the other boards (in order to counteract the added task of travelling through Bree and Isengard), which in turn means having to defeat Foes. It all hangs together nicely.
I do have a bit of a gripe, however, in that some of the events on the two new scenarios are somewhat random. Specifically, there is an event in Isengard that really clobbered us last time we played, and through no fault of our own… Essentially, you need to keep rolling the dice (passing it round the table and taking turns) until a blank face is rolled. You are given the opportunity to discard a joker to avoid the effects of the dice roll, but we saw all of our jokers disappear, and then each of us move steadily up the Corruption Track and progressively be eaten by Sauron before a single blank face showed itself.
Most of the events are much less random than this, but these kind do exist (see the previous example of the Gandlaf the White event). So, yes, there is more randomness. But there is also the illusion
of control. Which may or may not be a good thing…
You generally achieve higher scores with this expansion, simply because you add the number of defeated Foes to your final score, whether you win or lose. So you have the rather interesting effect of scoring higher when you lose now than you did when you won without the expansion. A simple mark or comment on your score sheet (you all keep your scores, right?) will prove very useful to avoid confusion later on…
But I like it a lot. It is more varied, lengthens the playability of the game immeasurably, and adds a whole heap more interesting new dilemmas and strategies. I would heartily recommend this expansion to anyone who enjoys the original. You honestly won’t regret it…SummaryPresentation:
The John Howe artwork that so distinguished the original board game is still present and just as good. The new cards are of the same quality and presentation as the original, and everything fits seamlessly in to the original game (with the little stickers for the master board being the only – ahem – ‘sticking’ point). 9.4/10Clarity of Rules:
The extra rules are clear and easy to read. Anybody familiar with the base game should have no trouble whatsoever picking up the additions of this game. 9.2/10Game Length:
The game is lengthened slightly, with foes to defeat and possibly two more boards to traverse, but the added tension and headaches that come with the new problems more than make up for this. 8.3/10Value:
Not bad for what you get. A little pricey, for the actual contents, but the additions that are made to the game are well worth the price. 7.9/10Overall:
I never play LotR without this expansion now – it would seem perverse in some way! Basically, if you enjoy the base game, then you will love this expansion! 9.5/10 (not an average)
Review by David Plank