With a company of dwarves, I am pretty sure you could do just about anything. Just ask Bilbo Baggins. Riding high on the popularity of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey film, Cryptozoic teamed up with Reiner Knizia to put together this cooperative dice game with, wait for it, the exact same title: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. In this game you and your fellow players take on the role of the company of dwarves, and, of course, Bilbo as they set off on their trek across Middle Earth. There are some who are here because of the Lord of the Rings franchise, and there are some who are here for Reiner Knizia. Is The Hobbit just another game? Or is it The One Game to Rule Them ALL? Lets find out.
Each task will need a specific set of skills to be completed. There are 3 different skills: swiftness represented by rabbits, diplomacy represented by dwarf heads and fighting power represented by axes. On each turn at least one task must be completed or the group will lose a resource. When a task is completed, a quill token is placed to mark that part of the journey complete.
Some inquisitive people may be wondering if this game follows the book (The Hobbit, by J.r.r. Tolkien) or the movie adaptation (so far The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, by Peter Jackson). If the title of the game did not give it away, this is based on the movie. Your next question may be: “Wait… the movie is split in to three parts! Is the game?” Yes! Yes, the game is designed to be played stand alone or with 2 (yet to be published) other games following the last two movies in the series. The later games will add more boards to be completed. Resources carry over, so your performance on the first board does influence your ability to complete the next board. Without playing the yet-to-be-published expansions, it looks as though the game will seamlessly flow when they are all added together.
The game ends when the last task is completed on the second board, or when the group has run out of resources on the current board. The group totals up their victory points on their remaining resources, and rejoices in defeating the evil of Middle Earth.
Things and Bits:
The rule book is a good one, both good looking and efficient in explaining the game. The game is on the lighter side, everything flows fairly well, and is easy to teach and play with non-gamers. The nature of the game leans towards smaller groups, playing with 4 seemed to work, but was not as fun as 2 or 3 people. The game moves at a quick pace, 30-40 minutes on average. This game is going to shine with gamers who are looking for something to play with their family or non gaming friends.
I can see how some hardcore gamers will argue that this is more of cooperative puzzle solving than a game; or worse, thematic Yahtzee. I can see their arguments, and while I don’t necessarily agree, the game can be boiled down to ‘just’ rolling dice and seeing what happens. I would argue that the resource and character tiles give the players a varies of good choices as they play the game. People who like deterministic games are not really going to enjoy The Hobbit. However, if you love rolling dice, this will be a great one.
This game fits a nice niche by not taking too long, not being too complex, but still is enjoyable. Because of other players being able to play their characters on your turn, all of the players are engaged throughout the game. Turns tended to be group turns, not really individual turns. The active player was just the person rolling the dice. The Hobbit brings up a lot of open discussion, while straying away from the Alpha Gamer problem, because no one knows how the dice are going to roll. The choices in the game are simple, but still interesting enough to keep my attention. I could see this being a great game to play with kids. You can remove the failing condition of the game, and just play to completion for those with younger children.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was an unexpectedly enjoyable game. Based on solid game design by a well known designer, with an honest Tolkien theme, Cryptozoic’s production is one worth noting. I highly suggest this game for someone looking for an interesting game to play with their families, or young children, and would also suggest this to gamers who are looking for a comfortable, easy to enter cooperative game. I am already looking forward to playing the next two games. So put on your best cloak, grab your trusty sword, and roll those dice.