Middle-earth: The Wizards

Middle-earth: The Wizards

Middle-earth: The Wizards is a collectible card game based upon the characters, places, and events detailed in J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fantasy works The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The game was designed by Coleman Charlton, produced and marketed by Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE) and manufactured by Cartamundi (Belgium).

The cards used in the game feature original artwork by a multitude of artists, many of them longtime Tolkien illustrators such as John Howe, Ted Nasmith, Angus McBride, et al.

The game features a unique style of play wherein the players (from 2-5) alternate playing the "good" and "evil" forces of Middle-earth. Each player implicitly takes on the role of one of the five Istari (Wizards) of Middle-earth: Gandalf, Saruman, Radagast, Alatar, or Pallando. In the course of the game, players employ cards representing characters (e.g. Dáin, Aragorn), items (e.g. Nársil, Palantír of Osgiliath) and places (e.g. Carn Dûm, Rivendell) in an attempt to acquire a certain amount of Influence points and thus win the game (by gathering enough Influence to rally the Free Peoples and defeat the Dark Lord). The game is ordered by phases, such as the movement phase, hazard phase (wherein the opposing player(s) try to thwart or hinder the current player's actions), site phase, etc. There are 5 types of cards used:

  • Character cards (including each of the five Wizards)
  • Resource cards
  • Hazard cards
  • Site cards
  • Region (movement) cards

The game was also somewhat unique in that in was one of the first CCGs to employ dice as a mechanism of the game in addition to the cards. The rules designated the region cards to be used in order to track a company's movement (from site to site). The region cards used would determine the types of hazard cards the opposing player could play -- for example, certain creature hazards could only be "keyed" to Deep Wilderness (two or more wilderness regions), but other hazards could be played independently of region type, or in the case of corruption cards, even if the company didn't move at all. Many players chose to forego actual "playing" of the region cards in preference of simply telling their opponent which regions (and region types) their company had moved through to reach its destination. A player's characters could be removed from the game primarily in two ways:

  • killed (by a strike from an attacking creature)
  • corrupted

Nearly all items in the game gave 1 or more corruption points, and thus each player had to balance the utility of acquired items against the possibility of losing a favored character (and all of that character's items) to corruption. The game enjoyed a successful run, which included a number of expansions:

  • Middle-earth: the Dragons
  • Middle-earth: Dark Minions
  • Middle-earth: Lidless Eye (allowing the player to play the evil forces opposed to good)
  • Middle-earth: the White Hand
  • Middle-earth: Against the Shadow
  • Middle-earth: The Balrog

Iron Crown Enterprises orchestrated tournaments in which players competed for fun and sometimes small prizes (such as a facsimilie of the One Ring). ICE eventually lost the rights to produce games based upon The Lord of the Rings, and production of the game ceased, though it remained popular for quite some time afterwards both in the U.S. and in Europe.

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