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War of the Ring: Actual Play

By August 29, 2013June 1st, 2023Battle Reports, Boardgames

I may have said before that that one of my favourite games of all time is War of the Ring, and yet it’s not often I get an opportunity to get this beast on a table and immerse myself in all its crackly thematic goodness. However, every time I do, it’s an event that makes me wish I had the time to play it more often and explore its strategies and subtleties. The hours fly by, but I flounder about like a blind fish in Gollum’s slippery hands trying to sucessfully exploit all the rules crammed into my head. Luckily, my usual opponent is Will, who is equally inept—so we manage to cancel each other out somewhat in that respect.

Well, that probably doesn’t strike you as the ideal subject for an entertaining fifteen-minute video. I’ll let you be the judge, should you wish to view this actual play session—condensed from the original four-plus hours of course—between my gaming buddy Will and I during his recent visit to the shores of Middle-earth New Zealand.

Witness the highs! The lows! The rules errors! The general sense of clueless blundering about! Well, it may not be a master class in how to play this classic game, but it does show you how much fun can be had.

Why not share your War of the Ring experiences in the comments below. Do you find it difficult to recall the rules after a break? Are my reference sheets useful? Or are you an experienced, confident player with armies, companions and time-tested ingenious strategies at your effortless command? Tell us all about your adventures conquering—or saving—Middle-earth!


  • Ant says:


    Every two week on tuesday whith a friend, we try to play big two player games in the afternoon before the rush of regular gamenight at 20 . Normally we do a game of Twilight Struggle, followed nowdays by a exploration of Netrunner or Starwars, we are still discovering all the factions, or a game of Star War Queen Gambit when i want to show off to the regular customers at the café…, but we try to mix a game of War of the Ring when we feel like it.

    There is a graphic setup file on boardgamegeek that speed the install process. After that you can dive right in.

    The first time i played, i discovered at half the game that we where doing one rule wrong, we keep all the cards (we didn’t keep a hand of six), so the game was crawling to a halt as we were reading more and more effects on them and trying to understand all of it and choose one for a battle or else was mindblowing. We corrected that and even did a second game right after, i was younger then.

    Now i feel i know better my options: i can separate Gandalf to wake the Ents, send Aragorn to be crowned, where to rush and take risk with the hunt, try to find a specific card in a deck and try to draw from it, try not to forget to use a Ring if you are stuck. It is a great game.

    I often forget to send the nazgul on the trail, i use them too much for combat, i even forget sometimes to take a new dice when i have a new character, yes it is gamebreaking, but i don’t care, this game is so good. I never tryied the first edition expansion nor the Lord of Middle earth one, i am still trying to master the base game. Epic.

    Next game is this tuesday, yes!

    Personaly i use Tequila Sunrise to go with it.


    • Universal Head says:

      Thanks Ant, it’s great to hear from other people who love this game. I think some people are daunted by ‘playing it wrong’, but as you say, it really doesn’t matter if you make mistakes the first few times (or after not playing for a while, as happened in the video). Though after 4 hours of Tequila Sunrises I think I’d be making more than my usual share of errors!

  • Ant says:

    Nowadays i think we play for 2 hours and a half with the setup, never more than three hours with a little bit of rule reminders so it is not that long anymore. I will pay attention on tuesday.

    Last month i played with a just-bought non-played second-hand first edition. I did mix the cards but not enough, the three ent cards where at the bottom of the deck in the last four cards. So for first time player, mix your decks!


  • Dogma1979 says:

    Nice video, sympathic players. Very nice view outside the window
    Greetings from Germany.

  • Ben Lynch says:

    I finished my first game last night with a military victory for the shadow. It came down to the wire, and I only committed to the assault on Minas Tirith at the end, when I needed to bring the massive forces on hand in Harad and Ithilien into Osgiliath to support a successful Umbar Corsair task force that had made it to Pelargir.

    Before that, I kept the free people player focused on the DEW, Rohan, Lorien, and the North.

    My muster event cards were fabulous, allowing me to empty all of my regular shadow units onto the board early in the game.

    My main problem may have been that I held onto other great muster cards a good long while even though the dice flew hard mostly in my favor, so it took quite awhile to get casualties at the scale to make playing the other muster cards worth the cost. All in all, a good problem!

    Either way, I managed to surge across into Osgiliath and drive Aragorn and company back into Minas Tirith, where a follow up assault began even as the Fellowship began the Mordor track.

    The first assault resulted in a siege that paused awhile as I moved more units in to reinforce the depleted shadow armies at Minas Tirth so the final assault could begin in earnest when the Witch King brought forth the Hammer of the Underworld, Grond, which broke the back of Gondor’s defenses, giving the shadow victory points ten and eleven in an epic finish!

  • CK Lai says:

    My recent play (2 days ago) went the other way.

    I had crushed the West militarily. Minas Tirith fell early on (but they did take out 2 Nazgul) and Lorien fell in the end game stage. All I needed was to take Dol Amroth for a military victory… when the Ringbearer did his stuff and chucked the Ring into Mt. Doom despite the Corruption piling up.

    An “aaarrggghhhh” from me but what a fantastic game! Took us 5 hours to play though.

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