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Written Review – The Hobbit Card Game

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Being a fan of all things Tolkien, I highly anticipated the release of a new card game from Fantasy Flight Games called The Hobbit Card Game at the end of 2012. In this game, 2-5 brave players take on the roles of the side of good or evil in a game of tricks. The number of players determines which character cards are used, and how many cards each player gets.  Victory could mean incineration of good, or the defeat of evil. So, let’s get into it and see what The Hobbit Card Game has to offer.

Out Of The Box

Its said that big things come in small packages, and The Hobbit Card Game follows suit. While the outside and inner packaging of this game looks similar to the larger Fantasy Flight Games boxes, it is considerably small in comparison. Inside the box, you will find a small folded rulesheet, 5 character cards, and 60 playing cards in 5 colors.

The card colors are red, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Purple cards are important, as they trump all other cards.

Across the cards, 3 various symbols can be found. Cards with white stars do one point of damage to an evil player or heal one point of damage for a good player when assigned. Cards with an orc helmet do one point of damage to a good player or heal one point of damage for an evil player when assigned. Cards with a brown pipe entitle the player it is assigned to an extra card in the second round.

Playing The Game

According to the chart on the rulesheet, determine which character cards will be in play based on the number of players. These cards are shuffled and randomly dealt out to determine who will be acting as who. The player acting as Thorin starts the first trick. In a two player game, one person plays as Smaug, and the other plays as both Thorin and Bilbo.

One card is played from his hand face up on the table. The color of this card will be the color of the trick. The person to his left must play a card of the same color, regardless of whether it has a higher numerical value or not. If any player does not have a card of that color, then they must play another color, but will not be in the running for the winner of the trick. Purple cards may be played to trump all other cards, and will win the trick regardless of number. If more than one purple cards are played, then the highest number among the purple cards wins.

The player that wins the trick takes all the cards played and assigns them to the players. Each character has rules in regards to this phase of the game. These cards can damage, or heal players, according to the symbols on these cards that we mentioned above. If a card is assigned with no symbol on it, the card is discarded, otherwise it remains face-up in front of the player until damage is healed or the card is used. The player that wins the trick begins the next one.

Round one ends when all players have played all cards from their hands. Players then check to see if any of the characters in play are eliminated. If the game does not end according to the win conditions at the end of round one, then round two begins. Cards are dealt out again as in the first round, and the game will end at the conclusion of the second round.

Winning the game as a good Character means this : In a two player game, Smaug must be eliminated at the end of round one or at least one of the good Characters survives to the end of the second round. In a 3 player game, at least one good member must survive, in a 4 player 2 good characters must survive, and in a 5 player game, the number of surviving good characters must be equal to or greater than the surviving bad characters.  If the good characters do not meet their win conditions, evil triumphs, even if all evil characters have been eliminated.

Final Thoughts

This game is excellent for young and new players, as its target audience is 11+ and is easily taught and picked up. It is simple, but keeps to the spirit of the story behind it which makes me think that avid Tolkien fans will appreciate it. It is quick and light, and perfect for an easy night of gaming. Retailing at $9.95, I would highly encourage picking this up if you’re a fan of adventures in Middle Earth, or as a gift for a Tolkien loving friend. Can you outsmart Smaug, or will you succumb to his tricks and fall prey to his deceit?