Wednesday, December 02, 2020
Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-Earth and the app
As I said in my previous post, I have started to play Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-Earth (JIME). What attracted me to the game was the lore. I am playing Bilbo, Gimli, and Legolas, instead of some generic rogue, fighter, and ranger! I also wanted to switch to game which has a bit more story and less tactical planning, for a more casual option than Gloomhaven.
The interesting part about JIME is the app. This is not an optional app from some third party, like Gloomhaven Helper. The JIME app is integral part of the board game, and you can't play the game without it. I really liked the idea in principle: Let the computer handle the fiddly part, and I can concentrate on actually playing the game! I wasn't worried about the criticism I read that maybe some day the app wouldn't be available anymore. Rather I was happy to see that since release the app had grown, and you could purchase for a reasonable sum some additional campaigns and content. And it was interesting to see that if you played the same scenario several times, the map would be different every time.
And then I set up the game, played through the first scenario, and was surprised how much I disliked the experience. I felt that rather than doing the fiddly stuff, the app was hiding the stuff that I wanted to know, while I was doing the boring, repetitive stuff. In JIME every character has a small, 15-card deck. Every time you try something, you turn over between 1 and 4 cards of that deck (depending on your stats), and then count the number of successes marked on those cards. Some cards have a success symbol, some don't, and some have a symbol that can be transformed into a success by spending an inspiration point. It is all easy enough. But every character only gets 2 actions per turn, not all of which necessarily result in a test. And at the end of the turn, you need to shuffle your deck, and "scout" the top 2 cards. Playing solo with 3 characters meant that I had to shuffle 3 decks at the end of each turn. And I felt that the turns were short, and the time I spent shuffling was long. On the other hand, I came into contact with 4 types of different monsters in the first scenario, but they all felt the same, because the app only shows you their hit points and armor, and not how dangerous the attacks of these monsters are. For some of the tests it also hides how many successes you need.
In the end I felt the app was actually making the game worse. I would have much preferred if the app would have handled the cards and the randomization / shuffling, and had given me more information about the monsters and tests. After some more research, I found out another big flaw of the app: You can't replay scenarios. If you lose the final scenario of the campaign, the game is over, and you would have to play through all the scenarios again to have another go at the end boss.
Maybe it is just me. I like throwing dice as a random number generator in games, and do prefer physical dice to virtual ones. But you don't need to shuffle dice. Cards are okay in games like Magic the Gathering, where you shuffle rarely. But if you have to shuffle small decks every turn, and that for several characters if you play solo, shuffling quickly becomes quite a chore and not fun at all.
So, no recommendation from me for Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-Earth. Besides the shuffling issue, I found the game thinner on lore and story than I had hoped. And for what's in the box, I actually found the game a bit overpriced; you'd get more game for less money if you bought Jaws of the Lion.
Labels: Board Games