War of the Ring board game review: The One Game To Rule Them All

There was peace once. Long before Sauron or his former master Morgoth began their raiding of our lands in seek of power and control, Middle-Earth was a calm and quiet place. The Elves, Dwarves and Humans lived in harmony and shared their lands, as well as their shelters. Humans were welcome in underground workshops that belonged to the Dwarves and Elves led peaceful lives by hunting or trading. Then our people’s freedom and peace was discovered by forces of evil who wished nothing but to set flames of destruction on our home and on our soil.

Morgoth’s soldiers killed our children, enslaved our families and destroyed villages in the blink of an eye. Before we could even get ready for it, the attack had already left us devastated and feeling week. His wicked creations roamed our lands with a thirst for death. It took the people 40 years of fighting a disastrous war to finally all unite and put an end to Morgoth’s age of horror and servitude. Dwarves, Humans and Elves came together in a final battle against the monsters and freed our home from their vigorous claws.

We were foolish enough to celebrate our freedom once more, without proper preparation for future battles to come. They came back when we were least expecting it. The shadow forces of evil, this time led by Morgoth’s humble servant, Sauron, ambushed our freedom and imprisoned our happiness once more. Sauron claimed he had begun his conquest in search of a magical object of great power. One that in his hands, would mean the end of us all. A ring of power, forged with ancient magic ages ago, that was said to have been found by a Hobbit.

Once Sauron’s motives were discovered, consequently so was the path to his defeat. By no means were we expecting it to be easy, but defeating Sauron’s army would take even more than 40 years with no guarantees of success. And so, a group of brave adventurers and warriors volunteered to carry out an extremely dangerous mission of honor and glory that would determine the fate of our entire nation. These fearless individuals are now famously known among the free people’s armies as the one and only fellowship of the ring.

Motivated by rage and hatred towards Sauron’s far reaching reign of evil and hoping to restore order once again in Middle-Earth, the fellowship of the ring set off to an impossible mission and on a path to Mount Doom. Their sole objective is to get there before Sauron gets his hands on the One Ring and destroy the ring and Sauron’s best chance at ruling over the world with it. Their journey will be long and filled with fearsome whispers of death. To the fellowship however, failure means next to nothing. The future of all Middle-Earth and its people lies in their capable hands.

On the other side of the map, not too far away, the flames of war still burn. Armies clashing and swords dashing is the only sound that can be heard in the woods. Has been for a long time now. The free people are outnumbered and maybe outpowered, but they have hope in the fellowship’s mission and that’s what keeps them fighting. On the other hand, Nazguls of the shadow army know that lord Sauron does not accept failure. There is no place in his hall for those who come back from battle empty-handed. They can’t stop fighting either. Both armies are relentless, both are empowered by the fate of the ring and they both are staring at the peak of Mount Doom. The place of either rebirth, or death of all the free people.

Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring – 2nd Edition


J.R.R Tolkien’s beautiful world of fantasy and magical adventures has made its way to our hearts and our homes through various mediums and board gamers have received perhaps even more than a fair share of entries to it throughout the years. The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien’s classic masterpiece that was my personal favorite fantasy novel growing up, has inspired many board game titles and a good number of them have been successful at capturing at least some of the true Lord of the Rings essence. The best of which in my book, plus many others’ is War of the Ring.

This thematic territory building wargame was published in 2011 by Ares Games and it brings an epic showdown between the shadow forces of Sauron and the Free People armies to life in the form of a 2-4 player strategy game of massive scale ground-level combat and an immersive battle-driven campaign. Each session of this game can take up to 3 hours of consistent engagement in a phenomenal legendary tale of power against liberation that happens within the 3rd age of Middle-Earth, Tolkien’s fictional universe filled with fantastical elements and races.

During this unfortunate time in Middle-Earth, the innocent citizens known as the Free Peoples have been forced into war against the Shadow Armies of Sauron, who intends to take control over all using the unfathomable power of the One Ring, which he believes he can find here. The two armies clash in what seems to be a never-ending war and as Sauron’s forces actively search for whoever is bearing the ring of power, the fellowship of the ring attempt to protect and take it to Mount Doom, where it can be destroyed and gotten rid of once and for all.

Military victory is possible for both fronts of the battlefield but the Free People’s true hope is that the ring bearers successfully finish their task and rid Middle-Earth of Sauron’s shadow of dominance and death for eternity. Sauron on the other hand, has immediately and practically achieved all his ambitions if he manages to get his hands on the ring before it is destroyed and drained of its unlimited magical power. It’s up to you and your opposing team or player to determine the fate of Middle-Earth.

This game is not perfect but it’s by far my favorite depiction of Tolkien’s work in tabletop and it’s been one of the favorite games of the entire community even since the first edition came out in 2004. The canon 2nd edition is considered one of and even by some THE best wargame in the market right now. We’ve appreciated this game’s miniatures before, but truth be told, there is a lot more to War of the Ring than just good-looking mini figures and it’s everything a LotR fan could ask for on the gaming table.

The Great Battle of Our Time


The game board consists of many different regions. Each one of these regions holds its own characteristics and strategic importance. Players are supposed to lead either the Free Peoples (represented by the races of Men, Elves, Dwarves, and Hobbits) or the Shadow Armies (represented by the various minions of Sauron, including Orcs, Trolls, and Nazgul). Each army and race is equipped with unique advantages and disadvantages which must be managed strategically.

Each round is divided into different phases. During the Action Phase, players may move their armies, recruit new units, and launch attacks to try and vanquish the opponent’s army. Combat is resolved by rolling dice and each side is aided by their army and allies’ unique abilities.

Another interesting mechanic of this game is the Political Track, which represents the ongoing struggle for control over Middle-earth’s various factions and territories. Players are offered a chance to use diplomacy, bribery, and other strategic tactics to gain political influence as well as allies, which can then be used to achieve their objectives and move upwards in the Political Track. This implementation makes the game feel slightly less epic than a Lord of the Rings game but the gameplay is all the better thanks to it and seasoned board gamers will find it interesting to deal with.

Finally, the game includes a unique Fate system, which simulates the unpredictability of life in Middle-Earth and how your decisions might be significantly impacted by an unforeseen incident. Players draw Fate cards, which can grant both bonuses and penalties to their armies or trigger unexpected global events that can change the course of the game for all parties involved. As you may imagine these events can sometimes alter your strategy completely and are not always exciting but add a good amount of flavor to a game that unfolds in a slow pace and over several hours of conflict.

Innovative mechanics such as Fate and Politics have made this game an exceptional wargame experience but the huge number of rules and complications can prove to be troublesome for new players. This means that the game experience could significantly suffer from one or more players being new to the title. The rule book provides decent explanation for everything that’s featured within the game, but lacks the proper organization of a game as complex as this one. With that said, everything mentioned here, including the rule book, has seen a noticeable upgrade over the first edition and Ares Games deserve credits for that.



The Lord of the Rings is a conflict on many fronts and an epic struggle of many memorable personalities and encounters. Just like its source material, War of the Ring spreads far into Middle-Earth and shows many different scenarios, times and places in the midst of war. The base game is a strong entry on its own, but has been made even better with several great expansion packs.

4. Warriors of Middle-Earth


This expansion pack is full of fresh content. New factions and armies, gameplay mechanics, characters, events, you name it. Warriors of Middle-Earth has been made to add some much appreciated variety to the War of the Ring experience and it’s one that experienced players will definitely enjoy adding to their shelf.

The Army of the Dead, the Corsairs of Umbar, and the Men of the East are the three new armies that are introduced with this expansion pack and each of them comes with their own strengths and weaknesses. New destructive weapons for breaking enemy defense systems are also included in the form of the new Siege Engines mechanic. 18 new event cards and 10 new action dice are also featured within the pack.

3. The Breaking of The Fellowship


A first one of its kind here, The Breaking of the Fellowship is a fan-made expansion for the War of the Ring that is based on the events of the first half of The Fellowship of the Ring novel by Tolkien. It is not an official expansion and not affiliated with the game’s publisher, Ares Games. However, it’s recommended that you don’t miss it if you’re a fan of the novel.

In this expansion, one player controls the Free Peoples, including Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, Aragorn, and other heroes, while the other player controls Sauron’s Shadow Armies, including the Nazgul, Uruk-hai, and other minions. The objective of the Free Peoples is to protect Frodo and the Ring on their path to Rivendell, while the Shadow player aims to capture the Ring and prevent Frodo from reaching his destination.

The expansion features new mechanics and rule sets that manage to impressively represent the unique challenges and obstacles faced by the characters in the early part of the story. For instance, the Free Peoples player must manage Frodo’s corruption level, which increases as he carries the Ring and can lead to his capture and eventual defeat. The Shadow player, on the other hand, may use special abilities to track the ring bearers, or to sabotage their progress using natural and supernatural forces.

2. Lords of Middle-Earth


Within this expansion pack, players have a chance to forge the destiny of an age and explore different scenarios, such as what would have happened if the Keepers of the Elven Rings had challenged the Dark Lord or if the Council of Elrond had made different decisions regarding the Fellowship of the Ring.

Lord of Middle-Earth introduces new friendly faces previously represented only through Event Cards, such as Elrond, Galadriel, Sméagol, Gothmog, and the Balrog of Moria, as well as new versions of Gandalf, the Witch-king, and the Mouth of Sauron. The game also includes special Action Dice, new versions of the Companions of the Fellowship of the Ring, and all-new figures.

1. Kings of Middle-Earth


Kings of Middle-earth, the latest expansion for the War of the Ring, emphasises on the rulers of the Free Peoples and their strengths and weaknesses. The expansion introduces new figures and rules to enhance their effectiveness, allowing players to bring characters such as Theodén, Denethor, Daìn, Brand, and Thranduil to life. With new rules and mechanics, the part these characters played in the story is greatly expanded, offering players new and exciting ways to play the game.

In addition to introducing new characters, Kings of Middle-earth also includes new rules for siege battles, such as siege machine figures, and new units to expand the Shadow Armies. These new additions provide players with more strategies regarding battle and introduce a refreshing variety of options. Kings of Middle-Earth offers a refreshing yet still immersive and fun way to experience War of the Ring and in my view, it’s the best expansion pack that’s been released for the game.

Final Thoughts

War of the Ring is an extremely memorable experience for anyone who enjoys strategy and war games, but long-time Lord of the Rings fans will find this title exceptionally rewarding. Combat is almost as luck-dependent as any other dice throwing system but the overall experience is engaging in all the best ways and with the high quality design of gameplay and components, you’ll surely enjoy the physical appearance of this game. I know it’s a favorite of many and it very much has the potential of becoming yours too.

If you happen to have any notes or comments to share regarding War of the Ring, make sure to drop it down below!

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