After two games played (each took 3 hours, and I think we can get the next ones down to 2 hours 30mn), my general feeling is that it is a B+ game. I like the material, I like the concepts and the card management on the players' side.
Here are a few things that came to our mind when we played our first two games:
- Regions and colors in the board are really hard to pick, especialy for color blind guys. Some of the colors are way to close to each others..
- Finale should offer possible interaction between players on the good guys' side. Its not very fun for players sitting on the side once the finale fight starts.
- Rules we missed on our first games:
- Secrete missions only resolve when at the finale stage (that was a stupid beginner mistake)
- 4th sauron action token remains in place
- Minions cant be moved twice with the same action
- A gollum plot card can't replace an already placed gollum plot card.
- Mistrusted corruption card is hard to get rid of if this is the first card you get as a player.. Cost to remove could be equal to current stage (i.e. only one favor early in the game, and harder at stage 3)
- Rules mention that plot cards not kept can be replaced on the bottom of the deck in any order, but the Sauron player can only draw 2 at a time, and keep one.. what is the point?
- There seem to be a very random aspect on how the sauron player can move his story markers.. if he get plot cards that are spread between the three different markers in the first two turns, I do not see how he can come back on the story track. Some of the plots conditions are really hard to get, and in a 9 turns only game (effectively 7 turn for the plot card to be useful to Sauron) some of the plot card conditions or shadow pool requirements are not likely to happen... Just a first impression, though, and more games may dispell that.....
One of the weird thing in this game is that when you read the rules, you have a feeling that there are a lot of choices to make for the players, which is good, but when you do play the game, and you draw three cards, the choices are usualy non existant, because most of the conditions on the event/peril are restricting to one card that can be played only.
Still I am looking forward to play more of this game. I like how it can easily be played with two or three players only.