Another expansion for the mega-game that is War of the Ring? Surely War of the Ring is big and bad enough all on its own. It doesn’t need the extra help! Well, here is War of the Ring: Warriors of Middle-Earth, a box filled with delights. More cool figures to move around, Ents and Eagles to help you defend your vulnerable strongholds and Corsairs to help you surprise your opponent.
However, these new factions don’t just play in the way that the way that the original ones in the base game did. Of course they don’t! Because in War of the Ring things are never simple and Warriors of Middle-Earth is a game very much in the spirit of the original.
What’s In The Box?
Warriors of Middle-Earth introduces six new factions to get your teeth into. For the Free Peoples player there are Ents, the terrifying Dead Men of Dunharrow and the Eagles. The Shadow player gets a choice of The Hillmen of Dunland (also known as the Dunlendings), the Corsairs of Umbar and the Spiders.
There are eight figures for each faction, a faction die for each player, faction event cards, call to battle cards, event cards and a new character: Treebeard! Unfortunately, although you get a Treebeard character card, there is no Treebeard figure, which is a shame. All the miniatures are pretty good and seem to be made of more robust, harder plastic than those of the original War of the Ring game. They are also a very slightly different blue and red than those in the original too. This helps to distinguish them, which is a good thing when your enormous board is filled with hundreds of tiny people.
And before you ask, there’s something we need to get out of the way. The Eagles cannot pick up the Ring Bearers and carry them all the way to Mount Doom. That would cut the game short and Warriors of Middle-Earth seeks to make War of the Ring even more epic and thrilling. It would be a shame to curtail it just as the Dark Lord is getting his orcs into position to conquer the lands of the Free Peoples, wouldn’t it?
All the new factions included in Warriors of Middle-Earth have preconditions as to when they can be played. For example, the Dunlendings can enter the game if Saruman is in play. As soon as you have a faction in play, you get another die at the beginning of your next turn which can be very helpful. These dice are different for the Free Peoples and Shadow players.
These new factions are also played very differently to the original forces recruited in War of the Ring. They don’t just add to the strength of the armies (although they sometimes can) and they have their own faction event cards which are used to put them into play. If you have the Eagles on the board, but none of your cards refer to the Eagles, then your Eagles can’t do anything. These faction event cards form a new deck and each player has a hand limit of four. The factions also have their own battle cards which can be used instead of ordinary battle cards and (this is nice!) the backs of the cards are the same as the original cards from the base game so your opponent doesn’t know what sort of card you’ve played. These cards also don’t get exhausted so they can be used over and over again, meaning you don’t need to waste other event cards just because your opponent insists on using one and you’re worried at what they might have played.
It’s kind of complicated and takes some time to get your head around. But hey, what did you expect?
And there are some plenty cool things here, with each of the factions having their own strengths. They also have their own individual rules just to keep you on your toes.
For The Free Peoples: Eagles, Ents & Dead Men
These new factions keep pretty well to the spirit of Lord of the Rings and, of course, they all feature at some point in the action. But don’t get your hopes up too high: The Dead Men are pretty formidable but don’t expect to put them on the board and sweep it clear of your enemies all at once. The Dead Men attack with three dice and hit on a 4+, meaning you could score three hits, or none, or anything in between, whenever they engage your shadowy foes. Pretty neat! However, you’ll need to use a die to play a card, you’ll need the card in your hand in the first place and, any time you move or attack, you’ll have to eliminate a Dead Man. The Ents work in a similar way. The Eagles can move great distances and are good for attacking and neutralising Nazgul.
For The Shadow: Corsairs, Dunlendings & Spiders
The Corsairs can transport other units, allowing them to move up to two regions and attack into another, and they can move four regions on their own. The Dunlendings can move two regions and don’t necessarily add to an army’s stacking limit but they can be eliminated to reduce hits, meaning Sauron can have extra big armies. Corsairs and Dunlendings both have a (limited) role in the original book…but in this expansion we also have the Broods of Shelob. The spiders, remember, the ones from The Hobbit? Isn’t that a bit strange? I guess that’s the point of War of the Ring. It’s all about giving players even greater choice, asking questions like, ‘What would happen if the spiders decided to join Sauron’s armies?’ These giant arachnids can be added to an army’s strength, can hunt for the Fellowship or do some other nasty spidery stuff too. It all depends which combat card you play!
Is It Worth It
If you love War of the Ring and want to add to the overall experience and have even more choice about what to do, then this expansion is pretty good fun. The new rules and factions have plenty to offer and it’s kind of neat that your opponent can’t just attack the Ents, for example. However, it leaves me feeling pretty guilty when I have to destroy an Ent to attack my enemy, especially if they don’t score any hits. I understand why the games designers made these factions work in different ways but I can’t help but think that it would have been much easier if they had worked in a similar way to the original armies of War of the Ring. My sixteen-year-old son, on the other hand, likes the new rules, especially because, as the Dark Lord, he can make his already massive armies even more massive because these new factions don’t add to the stacking limit.
Would I always want to play with this expansion? Maybe not. That said, Warriors of Middle-Earth does actually work and adds some extra flavour to the enormous pot of War of the Ring stew (it didn’t need any more flavour, but it’s kind of interesting, nonetheless). It isn’t too cumbersome and contributes towards one of the reasons why War of the Ring is such a good game. As a player, you’re so busy trying to work out what you can do, that you have very little time to think about what your opponent might be plotting.