War of the Ring Card Game is not to be confused with the Fantasy Flight Lord of the Rings Living Card Game, or this game’s bigger older sibling ‘The War of The Ring’, Ian Brody brings us this two to four player card game. A card game inspired by both the novels and the game that came before it, distilling the War of The Ring board game experience into a more palatable game length. This is simpler and shorter than its predecessor but make no mistake that this is not a simple or short game.
Unlike the LCG, which sees players working together through scenarios, in this game up to four players will play against each other in teams of up to two fighting over paths and battlegrounds to see which side can amass the most points by the end of the game.
In a standard 4 player game, each player starts with a deck depending on the scenario or mode played, and starts by drawing 7 cards, keeping 5 and cycling 2. Cards in the game are either played, cycled (discarded) or forsaken and eliminated (removed from the game) which is usually by combat but can be removed by other ways.
The game takes place over a number of rounds, with the number depending on the type of game you are playing, and each starts with placing a random battleground or battlegrounds and a random path increasing in numerical value that will both be contested over the course of that round. For each battleground there is an assigned faction or factions for attacker and defender representing the major battles across the Lord of the Rings books. Each path represents the journey taken by Frodo and the ring towards the fires of Mt. Doom and here the shadow players are trying to thwart the ring’s progress and gain points through amassing corruption tokens.
Cards are played to one of the two locations, or into your reserve for use in future rounds, and this is done through cycling another card from your hand. I really like the simplicity here in not having to worry about the cost of cards in my hand but also knowing the agonising decision that I have to get rid of something I might want to play another card.
Choosing where to play cards is sometimes limited by where the location is, so certain cards can only be played to locations that fit with the narrative of the books and so this adds to the tension of a bad card draw but being able to play cards to your reserve area is a positive way of mitigating this or you have the option of cycling two to draw one. You can effectively choose to lose a round, knowing you can use those cards to better effect further down the line.
I Have No Memory Of This Place
Where the art is strong, I would say that the rulebook could be a little clearer and it can feel dense in places. I find it slightly odd that it runs through the full rules and then offers some more stripped down scenarios at the back of the book and I think the game would have benefitted from offering some ‘first play’ scenarios which are slightly more stripped back at the beginning of the book before adding in all the rules for a larger full two vs two game. It is also a little odd that some cards only refer to parts of the name of another card, for example Sam is sometimes used for Samwise Gamge, which is fine if you are familiar with the source material but not everyone would be (although if you’re not, then perhaps this isn’t the game for you) and there are a number of different keywords to learn as you wrap your head around how to play. A shorter ‘how to play’ or summary would have been beneficial too but I found the two player scenario for the Fellowship at the back of the rules to be the best way to learn.
This game has received post game support including new scenarios to try which can be found online and I’m excited to hear they’ve just announced a solo and co-operative mode to be released via an expansion later in the year, meaning you’re going to have a wide array of options to play this game depending on what fits your mood.
Is This The One Ring?
With so many Lord of the Ring games on the market, I really feel this does enough to elevate it above others to warrant a place in your collection. This is certainly a game that benefits from multiple plays and trying the various game modes and it’s fantastic that you can play a shorter 1v1 scenario or a larger full scale sprawling recreation of the trilogy story as a 2v2 or 2v1 straight from the box. Once you’ve got your head around the rules and understand the terminology and interplay between the cards there is a deep and rewarding card game here that feels epic compared to the sum of its parts. Each round is full of tough and meaningful choices that will impact on how you can approach subsequent rounds keeping a high level of tension throughout. It might not have the table presence of War of the Ring but then why shouldn’t I keep it?