War of the Ring

A grand strategy board game that allows players to immerse themselves in the world created by J.R.R. Tolkien.

The holder of the crown for most stunning Tolkien-themed game—and one of my favourite games of all time—is the classic, War of the Ring. If you enjoy a challenging, moderately complex wargame absolutely dripping with Lord of the Rings theme, this game is a must-buy.

What an incredible game this is—no other game I’ve played so effectively captures both the epic feel of armies clashing in Middle-Earth, and the desperate journey of the Ring towards Mordor. Everything about this game is big—the huge board, the roughly 200 plastic figures, over 100 cards—not to mention the huge scope of the game. Not only does War of the Ring cover sweeping, epic armies battling over Middle-Earth, but at the same time it tracks Frodo and Sam’s journey to Mordor, and somehow manages to balance these two very different game mechanics into a harmonious whole. One of the innovative ways this is done is through the use of custom dice that display icons instead of numbers. The players roll these dice and can move, attack and trigger events according to the various icons that come up.

The War of the Ring expansion Battles of the Third Age was an interesting supplement that not only expanded the original edition, but added two more ‘mini-games’ that focussed on the battles of Isengard and Minas Tirith, using modified mechanics.

It’s an indication of the popularity and classic nature of War of the Ring that a Collector’s Edition was produced; truly a gamer’s dream and my most treasured gaming possession. Not only are all the figures in the game hand-painted and resting in faux-velvet-lined compartments, but the redesigned board is 25% larger, the rulebook is gold embossed, and the game comes in a huge painted wood and resin box decorated in suitably Elvish fashion. It certainly doesn’t come cheap, but it’s probably one of the greatest expressions of the boardgame art form available!

Set aside a long afternoon and immerse yourself in War of the Ring.

I worked long and hard on the v2.2 summary and reference to make it the best it can be, scouring both original and Collector’s Edition rulebooks and their FAQs, and trying to distill the many rules into as succinct a format as possible. It includes the additional rules from the supplement Twilight of the Third Age.

v4.2 of this summary is completely reworked for Second Edition, and includes the Lords of Middle-earth expansion rules.

Update Log

Date Version Changelog
Mar 2016 4.4 Fixed result under ‘Reveal’ on The Hunt for the Ring reference sheet
Oct 2015 4.3 Fixed reference to Fellowship not being able to move after being hidden (cannot move this action rather than turn)
Sep 2014 4.2 Galadriel’s ability fixed on special character sheet
Sep 2014 4.1 Fixed Gandalf and Balrog errors on special character sheets
Sep 2014 4 Fixed Nazgul recruitment error and added Special Character reference sheets
Jul 2013 3 Updated for 2nd edition and Lords of Middle-earth
Feb 2011 2.2 Small spelling error fixed
Oct 2010 2.1 Several typos and clarifications
? 1 Original release

19 Comments

  • Cody says:

    I’m eagerly awaiting your second edition rules summary. This 1E summary is amazing….

  • Universal Head says:

    Thanks! I’m working on it – it’s a bit more complex than I expected!

  • Falko Jäger says:

    I was lucky enough to get my hands on a WotR CE and played the game last weekend for the first time. It took us 8 hours and was a blast! The UH rules summary was an invaluable companion getting the game started. Thanks UH!

  • Mikkel Øberg says:

    I do love your player aids, thank you for all the spared hours flipping through rulebooks.

    However, on page 7 discussing the fellowship and hunt, the reveal effect states that it doesn’t happen in a FP city or stronghold. Isn’t this only if the tile is drawn during declare by a special effect? Otherwise, I’ll just camp in Rivendell 😉

    • When the Fellowship is revealed by a Reveal icon on a Hunt tile and the FP traces its movement from its last revealed position, the Fellowship marker can’t end up in a FP stronghold or FP-controlled city or stronghold. I don’t quite understand your confusion… Remember they’re just reference sheets, the full description is on page 3: ‘The Fellowship and Mount Doom’.

  • Thanks a lot for this rules summary. There’s everything needed during the game!! Just above excellent.
    I think I found a small mistake. In the page 4, under the “Hiding the Fellowship” part, it is said that:
    “Turn the Progress counter to its hidden side by using a Character action die or by playing an appropriate Event card.
    The Fellowship cannot move that turn; ”

    I think the last sentence is wrong, as the Fellowship cannot move due to the use of the same Character action that hid them, but they can move later in the same turn if another Character action die is used.

    Maybe the sentence should read “The Fellowship cannot move in the same action”.

  • madmaxtiger says:

    And now with a new expansion, will it be an update of rules summary? 🙂

  • surgeon says:

    A tiny little thing could be clearer. Since by the release of the first expansion they had decided that all characters may be recruited inside Strongholds under siege, some of the card difference may cause some confusion (including, e.g., the difference between the two versions of the Mouth of Sauron).

    What became the “special” precondition is Balrog’s specific that he CANNOT be recruited while Moria is under siege, since all characters normally can

    For that reason (and that indeed did cause confusion in one of our games), I suggest simply deleting from Saruman’s Enter Condition and the Mouth of Sauron’s Place on “even if under siege”.

    In the “Characters” part of the main text, this could be further clarified by expanding the “Minions are brought into play using a Muster die (using the rules on the appropriate Character card).” to include this notion. However, it should also be noted that this includes the two FP characters (the Elven lords, who can be placed in Lorien and Rivendell even if they’re under siege).

    • Thanks for the tip, I’ll have a think about this.

      • surgeon says:

        In that game I mentioned, it was quite a chaotic confusion. I wanted to recruit the Witch-king in Dol Guldur, but my opponent would not allow it since it states nowhere that he can be recruited “even if under siege”. Then, he was not sure if he could recruit Galadriel in Lorien which was under my siege, since nothing was written as to whether she could be recruited in a Stronghold under siege – neither in the rulebook, nor on her Character Card.

        Going for the FAQ did not help,since there was no info there regarding recruiting characters under siege.

  • Damon Asher says:

    I have played dozens of games of WoTR, and I rely upon your guide to get me back up to speed between plays! Have you given any thought to a Warriors of ME update?

What do you think?