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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Deck-Building Game Review

The Hobbit- An Unexpected Journey Deck-Building Game

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” deck-building game is an accessible and fun card game.

Using similar mechanics to popular deck-building games like “Dominion” and “Ascension,” Cryptozoic Entertainment’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” deck-building game is a 2-5 player card game in which each player battles to get the most victory points (the number in the bottom left of cards). In order to obtain the desired VPs, players must defeat enemies and buy cards from the path, but I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Before digging into the game and vying for those VPs, each player must select one of the 7 heroes that include Balin, Bilbo, Thorin, Dwalin, Gandalf, Gloin, and Oin. This can be done randomly or each player can pick their own hero. Each hero offers up a special ability for your deck which is initially comprised of 10 cards. To start with, each player gets 7 courage cards (which each offer a +1 power) and 3 despair cards which do nothing but clog your deck. From here you shuffle your deck and start with 5 cards. Now, the game can begin.

On your turn you have several options. You can battle archenemies or you can buy cards from the path or the valor stack. The path is a series of 5 cards randomly laid out from the massive 112 card main deck that is comprised of allies, artifacts, enemies, locations, and maneuvers. These cards allow gamers to gain victory points, build up additional powers (to attack the archenemies), or cause your opponent damage. Each card you purchase goes directly into the discard pile which will later be shuffled into your hand at some point. The cost to purchase cards is located in the bottom right. This number also doubles as an archenemy’s attack value. In order to buy or fight, a player uses the power value from their hand. For example, let’s say I drew 5 courage cards which would give me a total of 5 power. I don’t have enough to fight an archenemy, but I can purchase a Dwarven Sling which could me +1 power and an additional power equal to the level of the current archenemy on a future turn (Note: there are 3 levels of archenemies total).

Of course, not every card in the path will be initially beneficial as they provide obstacles to gamers. Certain enemy cards will have instant ambush effects that will cause players to discard cards or make you pay more for cards. As for the valor stack (which is placed near the path), it’s merely a stack of Valor cards that give you +2 power for a cost of 3. The corruption stack is also located to the side of the path, but you don’t buy or want these cards as they subtract a victory point from your total. Unfortunately, you may earn these cards throughout the game but it’s not by choice.

When you build up enough power, you will want to direct your attention to the archenemies deck that is comprised of 12 cards that include Trolls, 4 level one loot cards, The One Ring, The Great Goblin, 4 level two loot cards, and the big bad boss Azog. For a more difficult game, gamers have the option of adding other archenemies. The Trolls and The Great Goblin must each be defeated 4 times while Azog needs to be beaten only once. Each time the Trolls and Great Goblin are defeated, a loot card is given to the winner which can be highly beneficial to say the least.

As the players go back and forth for many turns, the game will end when either Azog is defeated or the path can’t be refilled with 5 cards (Note: there are ALWAYS 5 cards laid out in the path). Once the game ends, each player will count up their VPs and deduct any corruptions (-1 point cards) from their total. Whoever has the most points is the victor!

While the game mechanics for “The Hobbit” deck-building game can and have been applied to other properties, the gameplay is still quite thematic. As a player, you feel like a hero traveling along a path in Middle Earth to locations where you encounter enemies, obstacles, characters, objects, etc.

Theme aside, the game is easy to learn and addicting which is my kind of game. While some hardcore gamers may complain about its simplicity, I admire the fact that it’s a rather light game that still manages to be strategic. Yes, there’s only a set amount of actions you can do, but trying to block your opponent and create the perfect card combinations is endlessly entertaining. There’s so many ways a game can end which will have gamers trying to ponder ways to outsmart their opponents for future plays.

By the way, if you’re wondering why this box has room for more cards it’s because a “The Desolation of Smaug” expansion is on the horizon. I assume a “The Battle of the Five Armies” expansion will follow sometime in the near future as well.

Overall Thoughts: As a deck-building aficionado, I cannot recommend “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” deck-building game enough. It’s a fast paced deckbuilder that offers up a Smaug sized level of replay value. If for some reason “The Hobbit” theme doesn’t interest you, Cryptozoic Entertainment has released other deck-building titles such as the “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Capcom “Street Fighter,” and DC Comics. You can find all of these games at store.cryptozoic.com, your local game stores, and through various other online retailers.

August 21, 2014 - Posted by | Game Review | , , , , ,

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