Tonight we were finally able to get War of the Ring to the table, a game that has been sitting on the shelf for a few months now. Kim and I decided to spend a few hours learning the game, and of course I mentioned how I was going to destroy her so she got pretty hyped to try to stop that from happening.

The War of the Ring Second edition was released in 2012, and is strongly considered a much better game than the first edition based mostly on the amount of errata that were released after the game. War of the Ring depicts the great battle of Middle Earth between the Free People and the Shadow Armies, as the Fellowship attempts to take the ring to Mount Doom to destroy it. The Free People win if they control enough Shadow Armies cities, or if the Fellowship can get to Mount Doom through the Mordor track, and the Shadow Armies win if they control enough Free People cities, or the Fellowship gets corrupted by the ring. For our first game, I was playing as the Shadow Armies and Kim was playing as the Free People.

The first thing we noticed when we opened the game was that the contents were very high quality. The board itself is 28 inches by 40 inches and the large size makes the game feel incredibly epic, and the room is definitely needed with all of those army figures. The figures themselves are well sculpted, and the sheer number of them is impressive. The cards are over sized even though they really don’t need to be, but it adds to the overall size of the game. The most daunting part, however, is the rulebook, which is 46 pages of difficult learning. After doing a quick read through of the rules, and an extensive setup of both armies, we were ready to start.

Each turn of War of the Ring is broken down into six different phases. First, each player gathers their dice pool and draws two event cards, one from each of their respective event decks. Second, the person playing the Free People gets to decide whether or not they want to declare the location of the Fellowship, and if they are declared in a city or stronghold that belongs to the Free People, then the nation may be activated (brought into the war), and the Fellowship can heal. The third phase is when the player of the Shadow Armies decides how many dice to allocate to the hunt for the Fellowship, meaning you roll the number of dice that are allocated to search for the Fellowship when they move. The action roll is next, in which the players roll the action dice that they have in their dice pool, determining what actions they have available to them in the Action Resolution phase. In the fifth phase, the Action Resolution phase, players take turns using the results of their dice rolls to complete many different actions until they use all of their dice. The final phase is to check to see if either side has won a military victory, then rinse and repeat.

Our entire game can be summed up very easily. The Shadow Armies kept rolling army and muster results, which made them able to position armies around the Free People’s northern cities, and allowed me to move the nations of the Shadow Armies into war on the political track, allowing me to recruit more units. The Free People kept trying to move the Fellowship, but almost every single time I would roll a six on the hunt roll, resulting in corruption to the ring bearers. With the combination of the “horse shoe” rolls as Kim called them, and the action dice allowing me to attack her northern cities, the game only lasted seven turns before the Fellowship succumbed to the corruption of the one ring.

What War of the Ring Did Right:

  • High quality components for the reasonably priced MSRP.
  • Great thematic art that differentiates itself from the cinematic world.
  • The movement of the Fellowship is a great mechanic that keeps the Shadow Armies player guessing as to where the ring bearers are.

What War of the Ring Could Have Done Better:

  • There is an emphasis on dice rolls and card draw that makes luck overshadow the strategy.
  • The nations for each side should have different colours making them easier to find. We spent way too long looking for the Rohan figures in the Free People pile full of blue figures.
  • The rulebook is hard to read, and could be formatted to be easier to follow.

Overall, we both really enjoyed War of the Ring, even though I completely destroyed Kim she still had fun. I will be bringing the game to the table again, perhaps next time with four players. I would strongly recommend this game, especially if you like the Lord of the Rings theme with a Risk vibe.

If you have had any experiences with War of the Ring let me know in the comments.

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