We played for the first time last night, three of us. The rules has two of us play as Bilbo and Thorin and the third as Smaug. We played four games, rotating character cards so we each played each character at least once. Smaug won all four games easily. It really was no contest. His unique power is so powerful compared to the other two, especially Thorin, that the Good Players really had no chance. Of course, there's always a luck factor in card games of this nature, but really, it should have balanced out a bit after four games. But no, Thorin can't control how he distributes the cards he wins in a trick and Bilbo can only give away one other card. Smaug and give or not give and has total control over what he gives to whom. He dominated the play, even when he was losing tricks, especially if Thorin won! Three times as Smaug, I lost a hand to Thorin's player and when he randomly distributed the cards, I ended up getting Orc Helmets each time, no problem to me.
So I wonder if this game is broken with three players (haven't tried it with two)? I wonder if it was playtested enough with three players?
I can see with four players, Gandalf comes in and he is as powerful as Smaug, so there could be a balance. Still, this game has a rushed feel to it as if it was thrown together to coincide with the Hobbit movie and wasn't thoroughly playtested.
On the positive side, we all felt it was a clever variant on a trick-taking card game, introducing some novel features and strategies, so we had a good time….especially each time we played Smaug!