Losing at Board Games: Walking Through Mordor on a Snowy Evening

For this column, I will be reviewing Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation, which was recently re-released by Fantasy Flight after being out of print for… well, too long.

I’m going to say it has been out of print for at least a year. Because that’s how long I’ve been looking for it. Why was I looking for it? I would like to provide you with a three point outline for why I was prepared for this game to rock my world.

 1) The subject matter is Lord of the Rings.

2) The game is designed by Reiner Knizia.

3) Everything that I had read made me think the Political Mastermind would really like this game.

 Kevin at The Wandering Dragon knew that I was waiting for this reprint. At the end of November I went rambling through the store like a game crazed graceful gazelle. Kevin, the store owner, stopped me. He held up the Lord of the Rings box, waving the game in the air. The Lord of the Rings soundtrack might have started playing in my head as I staggered towards the counter zombie-style, wallet out.

Incidentally, wallet-out is really the only pose for me in The Wandering Dragon.


So what’s the deal with the game?

One player propels the forces of Sauren. One player steels the reserves of the Fellowship of the Ring. A win is delivered by the death of Frodo, or by three of Sauren’s forces invading the Shire. Alternately, Frodo can venture into Mordor.

It is a 9 vs 9 Stratego-style Knizia-scoring madman dash for the finish.

 Two of my nails are shorter than my other fingernails. Why? Because I gnawed them off, fiendishly rocking back and forth in my chair as I prepared my pieces for their final gambit.

Have you played Stratego? No? Well, too bad, because I’m about to make some Stratego references. You know how you can move pieces backwards and forwards as you arrange your massive army on a giant grid? Well, this is like that. Except you can only move forwards, most of the time. And the game board isn’t a series of identical squares. And you only have 9 pieces. And each piece is unique. And you play a card from your hand to help resolve battle.


See how similar to Stratego it is? No? Me neither. But every review I had read mentioned that it was like Knizia Stratego.

I would compare this more to a mix of Battle Line (an amazing Knizia 2 player game) and Stratego, but with less cards than Battle Line, and less pieces than Stratego.

Imagine that. It is an original game.

Pieces do attack each other in a similar way to the attacks in Stratego. So there’s that to consider.

An Essential Line of CAT DEFENSE!
An Essential Line of CAT DEFENSE!

You know who has a strong army? The forces of Sauren. The little hobbitses are no match for the Witch-King and Hill Troll when it comes to strength. But these hobbitses, they are tricksy indeed, and like Devin Hester returning a punt, they just look for the opening and drive the ring right into Mordor.

And yes, I am writing this while watching the Chicago Bears hopefully beating the Dallas Cowboys. The sport is football.

I’m better at board games, but I really like the festive revelry of sporting events. Although advertisers seem to think I want watered down beer and a pick-up truck. When what I really want is to pretend I’m a really accurate Elven archer.

So what’s the verdict on this game?

 It is a really good strategy game for 2 players.

Will I enjoy it if I don’t like Lord of the Rings?

 Hard to say. I’d probably go in another direction if the theme doesn’t appeal to you – but if you are at least “meh” about Lord of the Rings, you should give this a go. Maybe don’t buy it site unseen, but at least give it the old college try.

What if I like Lord of the Rings?

 You’ll really like this game. It captures the theme well, but underneath it is a really solid strategy game. I’ve mentioned here before – I love the Lord of the Rings LCG. But the truth is, I know there isn’t even a small chance of the Political Mastermind playing it with me.

This game on the other hand will enter our 5 most played games list. It is simply that good.

Pros and Cons and Pros and Cons


  • The cats really like swiping the pieces off the table.  Hence the Super Soaker.
  • The theme isn’t super essential to the game, but you can’t separate the theme from the game.  If you don’t like Lord of the Rings, this won’t be the game that changes your mind.
  • The art on the pieces requires a bit of initial discernment, as some of the pieces have similar art.
  • Everyone keeps comparing this game to Stratego. It isn’t Lord of the Rings Stratego. (Not really a con.  More an important clarification.)


  • Gameplay is tight, strategic, and quick.  A game is over in roughly 30 minutes.
  • There is a ton of replayability.  If players exhaust the 9 initial players, card inserts can be flipped 9 new characters can be used, with fresh abilities.
  • Game lists for $35.  This makes it a more compelling impulse buy.
  • The Political Mastermind doesn’t find the nerdery overwhelming.  She enjoys the solid gameplay.
  • Game Components are all solid.  Cards are flexible and have good textured coating.  They aren’t best in class, but are much better than Lord of the Rings LCG, also by Fantasy Flight.
  • Fantasy Flight?  It’s me.  I’m spending a lot of money on Lord of the Rings LCG.  Can you maybe consider stepping up the card stock quality?
  • One of my Top 5 Two Player Games. Already. 



2 thoughts on “Losing at Board Games: Walking Through Mordor on a Snowy Evening

Add yours

  1. Great review and good read! I would highly recommend adding a URL to the game with your Amazon referral for us to buy game at the bottom of the review.


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