It’s been a while since I wrote one of these weekly reports. It’s been a tumultuous summer, catching colds, and having routines shaken by friends travelling. On the flip side, I’ve had some friends come and visit over the weekends, which is lovely, but also takes up the time that I usually spend writing. Add to this, the summer heat drains me of energy. I had a few hours to myself on Sunday, so I pulled a couple of games out of my closet, Arkham Horror The Card Game, Flick ’em Up: Dead of Winter, and Wild Space. All games I’ve been wanting to play solo for a while now. Each game I opened the box, rifled through the unfamiliar components, opened the rule book and let my eyes roll down the page. I’d close my eyes, realize I didn’t read a single word, then packed the game back up. Sometimes in inspiration to play a board game solo just isn’t there. But hey, now you have a sneak peek of games I’ll be talking about in the future.

This week we started a new campaign of Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth. We embarked on the Shadowed Paths campaign, which is the first big box expansion. I’ve already talked at length about the base game here

Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth is a campaign adventure game designed by Nathan I. Hajek and Grace Holdinghaus, published by Fantasy Flight games in 2019. In LotR: JiME players cooperatively explore the procedurally generated maps as dictated by the companion app. The app also doles out story and dialogue options liberally, and manages the enemy placement, movement, and behaviour. The crux of the game is testing your skills against various checks. Very often you’ll be asked to test a skill, such as wit, wisdom, or agility, among others. When you do, you draw from your personal player deck, which is a combination of basic cards (that everyone has), character specific cards, and class cards. As you play the game and gain experience in a class, you can add more cards from that class into your deck. When you draw cards during a skill check, you’re hoping to draw successes, indicated by golden suns in the top left corner, or at least fate symbols, indicated by the Lothlórien leaves. The fate symbols you can spend an inspiration to turn a symbol into a success, often allowing you to turn a failed test into a success.

The Shadowed Paths expansion adds in 5 new characters (such as Gandalf and Arwen), 5 new classes to explore, new monsters (based off the Moria and Mirkwood locations), and a slew of new titles and trinkets to collect, along with some new map tiles and terrain to explore. Nothing in this expansion changes the game in any meaningful way. The only new mechanic is corruption, which apparently could play a role in the story, where choices may require a character holding corruption tokens in order to make a particular choice.

As I mentioned before, this is a campaign game. Each session is a single adventure in the overarching story. In this campaign we have myself who is play Arwen, the lethal dagger wielding elf, my trusty sidekick Legolas, and rounding out the party is the noblewoman of Gondor, Eleanor, who is an original character who I think first appeared in the Lord of the Rings The Card Game, also by Fantasy Flight Games.

Our party is named the Lucious Locks and we are keen to explore what Shadowed Paths has in store for us. The first campaign has Arwen slay spider after spider when she got cornered in dead-end room, and it took Legolas three whole turns to investigate the wand dropped by the Supplicant of Morgoth. Eleanor found a handsome elf stuck in a web who fled almost immediately after getting freed, then proceed to make a bet that will culminate in a hat being eaten.

Here’s the thing. I like Lord of the Rings, I like Cooperative games, and I like narrative heavy adventures. I enjoy the level of customization of the player decks, and I enjoy how it feels like we’re always narrowly dodging death. Lord of the Rings Journeys in Middle Earth is a slam dunk of a game for me and my group. I’m keen to keep the adventure going, and I’ll be sure to report back on the misadventures of Lucious Locks.