Exit: The Game – The Lord of The Rings: Shadows Over Middle-Earth [Hivemind Review]

The Lord of The Rings: Shadows Over Middle-Earth is a tabletop escape game created by Exit: The Game.

EXIT's Lord of the Rings Shadows Over Middle-earth game box with the One Ring. Beside it are assorted game items including instructions, story pamphlet, a map, the Eye of Sauron, and a decoder wheel.


Style of Play:

  • Tabletop escape game

Who is it For?

  • The Lord of the Rings fans
  • Any experience level
  • Story Seekers

Required Equipment: scissors, pen & paper

Recommended Team Size: 1-3

Play Time: 90-120 minutes

Price: about $20

Booking: purchase and play at your leisure


As a random hobbit, we were enlisted to blaze a path ahead of Frodo’s famous quest to destroy the One Ring and save Middle Earth. We journeyed through ten iconic milestones of the adventure, solving puzzles to smooth the way for Frodo.

This game used the standard format for novice Exit: The Game installments. We had access to a puzzle book, clue cards, various “strange items,” and a decoder wheel for entering the solutions to puzzles. As in other novice games, the puzzle book walked us through one puzzle at a time. As in all Exit: The Game installments, we had to embrace destroying various parts of the game to solve some of the puzzles.

Cindi S’ Reaction

Shadow Over Middle Earth was a think-outside-the-box Exit: The Game experience infused with the epic saga of The Lord of the Rings. The game kicked off with a scenario involving Gandalf and an easy puzzle to get us started. But as we progressed and puzzles grew more involved, the story became hard to follow. As a player not familiar with the many details of this complicated story, I wasn’t always clear what we were trying to do. The puzzles were also uneven; one pulled a minor moment from the story and used a unique implementation that worked quite well. My teammate, a true The Lord of the Rings fan, really appreciated a quirky puzzle involving Gollum. But other puzzles were less impressive, with flimsy components and ambiguous cluing and solutions. There are better Exit: The Game installments in their extensive library, but for die-hard fans who can’t get enough of The Lord of the Rings, this may be the Exit: The Game installment you’ve been waiting for.

Kate Wastl’s Reaction

In Exit: The Game’s The Lord of the Rings – Shadows Over Middle Earth, we acted as an advance team of sorts for Frodo & Company on their adventures through Middle Earth. There were several solid puzzles that guided us along our journey to clear the path of enemies and send characters to intercept the wandering hobbits. With a bit more of a steep onboarding curve than normal for a first puzzle, The Lord of the Rings – Shadows Over Middle Earth also could have benefited from clearer artwork in one particular numerical interpretation. This rendition of the Exit: The Game would be enjoyed most by The Lord of the Rings aficionados, but can also be tackled by those who have never heard of The Shire.

Theresa W’s Reaction

I’m always wary of any game designed around an Intellectual Property; this usually constrains both the puzzle design and the player base. However, The Lord of the Rings allowed for Exit: The Game to have a large enough sandbox to pull the story off with some creative puzzling along the journey. We loved being able to see Middle-earth in a new light through a puzzling narrative adventure, with only one puzzle requiring us to take a hint to progress. Each puzzle had a satisfying solve that progressed the story, and kept our attention for the full experience. Besides the one puzzle that required a hint and was a frustrating search failure, the puzzles were tangible and smooth. This Exit: The Game installment required a LOT of reading compared to the others, so be sure to have someone on your team who enjoys reading out loud. If you enjoy The Lord of the Rings, you’ll be sure to love this installment in the Exit: The Game series!

Sarah Mendez’s Reaction

The charm of this installment of Exit: The Game is in its storytelling, and I imagine that your enjoyment will hinge on how much that storytelling resonates with you. My teammate dubbed it “the Lion King 1 1/2 of Lord of the Rings” thanks to its cheesy retconning of The Lord of the Rings events. Everything from Anduril to the Balrog to Frodo’s final challenge has an added explanation here, for better or worse. Tolkien purists will cringe; everyone else will giggle or shrug.

From a puzzling perspective, this seemed a little below standard Exit: The Game quality. Of the ten puzzles, four were frustrating in various ways, ranging from multiple valid interpretations (sometimes with destructive consequences) to fiddly pieces to overly tedious interactions. The rest of the puzzles were straightforward but unremarkable.

Overall, I think casual Lord of the Rings fans who dabble in puzzles would enjoy this. I’m less sure about enthusiasts of either genre.

Disclosure: Exit: The Game provided the Hivemind reviewers with a complimentary play.

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