An impressively sized war game, War of the Ring pits 2 players (or 4) against each other in a battle for Middle Earth comprised of all the favourite races and characters you love from the original trilogy. So, grab your Hobbits, Dwarves, Elves and Men. And an ungodly amount of Goblins. It’s time for War!
So, we all know how this thing goes right? Chances are if you’ve clicked on a review for this game, you’re well versed in Tolkien mythology and all he can bring to a table, which is where this review may differ from the original… because I’m not well versed at all. Don’t get me wrong, I have knowledge of the films and books, and have played other Lord of the Rings themed games but the setting has never found a place in my heart. I still find the ideas amazing, the places magical, and the characters brilliant but this second opinion review will be looking at the game and how it plays as an outsider to the setting.
Does It Look Good?
Oh, for sure! The artwork is brilliant on all of the cards and the board itself, and really draws a good distinction from the films. It’s a little quirky in some of the illustrations, namely the character cards, but I feel it fits the theme well and pulls more from ‘fantasy illustration from the 80s’ than any of the modern films. The individual models are well made if a little confusing, giving decent forms to the main fellowship as well as the different races you have control over. The bold colours of blue and red let players see from a glance who has the most control over this land. Even the dice look impressive, giving each player their own coloured set covered in gold/silver symbols, ready for them to roll and spend as their precious actions. If Tolkien is a bit alien to you then have no fear, this game looks great on its own merits and all the illustrations will add to the game guarantee.
There are a few issues, again as an outsider looking at the game. It can be quite hard to tell the miniatures apart, and this is important as it determines the amounts of which races you can play. The bright red colour helps in knowing your land ownership, but trying to figure out how many Isengard units are in play across the board had me asking for clarification from my friend a good number of times, leading him to get an idea of my next move. Also, the board is amazing but when we played it, we had the upgrade of the mat which is considerably larger in all dimensions, and even then we had trouble making all of the troops fit in the locations. Now I am aware of the sections to the side that you can place the troops on and replace their location with a cardboard marker, but there are only 3 of these and we ended up using them a lot, so I’m sure on a smaller board they will be filled quick!
Does It Play Well?
Definitely! I’m no stranger to big war games after having played regular games of Twilight Imperium, dabbling in old classics like Warrior Knights, and loving an epic miniatures game when you have a free day. And with all that said, this has got to be one of the best out there. The mechanics used for your actions are the classic dice roll, requiring different symbols to be revealed to allow them to be spent as those actions. Sauron’s side start with more dice as they are more prepared to take the world by force. The Fellowship have an extra symbol on their dice that allows it to be spent as any other symbol, giving them more flexibility to react to impending doom!
Each side of the battle also has special individuals that can either perform special actions with certain dice symbols, or upgrade dice spent to perform better with set parameters. For example, I was controlling Sauron’s minions and had been able to claim Saruman as a follower who allowed me to spawn extra troops in certain areas with stronger warriors, at the cost of Saruman himself never being able to move around the map. This gave me a good advantage for a while, spawning loads of orcish men everywhere, until the Fellowship player managed to get the help of the Ents. As Saruman was alone at the time, they beat him up and killed him. I’m told this is very true to the tales, but I liked my slightly creepy wizard man.
Should I Buy It Then?
If you aren’t a fan of Lord of the Rings and think playing one game for roughly 6 hours with only one friend (the rules allow 4, but it’s just two teams so it might not work as well) is a bit too much, then I wouldn’t advise it. The game is long and can be a bit dry when learning it/teaching it to others.
As a Lord of the Rings fan, it would be a solid purchase. My friend, the one who owns the copy I played, loves the setting and really enjoyed reading the cards that have links to the scenes and characters from the original material, and he enjoyed the traditional looking artwork found throughout. A lovely addition for a collector even if they don’t love boardgames. If the duration or war game style is what puts you off, and you’d like something set in the world have a look towards Journeys of Middle Earth for something more co-operative that does great work with the source material.
As a war game fan, definitely pick it up! The mechanics work well against each other, the cards people have usually combat one another giving the feeling of retaliation in a battle, and the dice spending for actions adds just enough chance and luck to keep each turn feeling special. Each player has special troops that change the game when they enter the field and although the Sauron player gets a hefty advantage at the start, the game is still really well balanced giving the Fellowship player the easier ways to win. If you’d love a big war game but really hate Lord of the Rings (for some reason?) try Twilight Imperium, one of the best war games set in space and also allows up to 6 players. If you want to keep the 2-player aspect, pick up Star Wars: Rebellion. Very similar play style with the rebels trying to fight the Imperial troops all while keeping their secret base hidden.
As a war game AND a Lord of the Rings fan. Of course, you should. Have you not read the rest of this review?! There’s a second on the site if you don’t believe me, go read that as well! Buy this game, you’d bloody love it it's called War of the Ring btw! I’d also recommend the game mat and organizer. Both make the game easier in play and set up, and both are for sale on the site. Now go! The beacons are lit! Gondor calls for aid!