War of the Ring Review

“The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places.”

Description from the Manufacturer

The WAR OF THE RING is a grand strategy board game that allows its players to immerse themselves in the world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s THE LORD OF THE RINGS™ and experience its epic action, dramatic conflict, and memorable characters.

As the Free Peoples player you command the proud hosts of the most important kingdoms of the Third Age. From the horse-lords of Rohan to the soldiers of Gondor and the Elven lords of Rivendell, you lead the defense of the last free realms of Middle-earth.

Face the evil minions of Sauron on the field of battle in a desperate attempt to delay their onslaught, while you lead the Fellowship of the Ring in the Quest for Mount Doom.

As the Shadow player you lead the hordes of the Dark Lord and his most powerful minions as they try to bring darkness to Middle-earth. Legions of Orcs, Trolls, Wolfriders and the dreadful Ringwraiths await your command. Hunt the Ring-bearer and bring the precious Ring to his Master, or crush your enemies with your unstoppable armies.

This is your chance to forge the destiny of an age…

Playing Time

150-180 Minutes

Number of Players


Best With

2 Players

Complexity Rating

4.00 out of 5

If you were anything like me as a kid, you enjoyed the crap out of the board game Risk.  But as you grew older, and your tastes matured, you realized you wanted a bit more from your war games.  Perhaps like me, you graduated to Diplomacy in High School, and haven’t really looked back (other than to try out the fantastic Risk: Legacy).  Or maybe you simply forgot about the pleasures of fighting with your friends, rolling a handful of dice, sweat dripping as you anxiously wait to see the result.  The adrenaline from victory, or the crushing loss of defeat.

Well, I have the perfect board game for you.  War of the Ring is an incredible, two-player, epic war game that recreates the look, and more impressively, the feel of the Lord of the Rings books.  Seriously, this game is a must have for anyone who considers themselves a Tolkien nerd, or even the less obsessive folks who adore the excellent Peter Jackson films.

Plus, it’s just good old fashioned fun trying to run over the free people with your massive orc-ish army.

Things I Loved About War of the Ring

If I haven’t made this clear, let me explicitly state; the flavor is really well realized, and you feel fully immersed in the world of Middle Earth.  Plot points are involved in the game, but don’t feel forced or tacked on.  And the setting feeds into the gameplay in an incredibly natural way.

The two paths to victory and the asymmetrical victory conditions make a more complex and satisfying game, one that is really well balanced.  When you first play, you may believe that one side has a huge advantage, but as you learn the nuances of the game, you’ll soon realize that both sides are incredibly well balanced.  They just play very, very differently.

The combat is very intense and fun.  You won’t find a better single player vs. single player minis on map style combat game.  It’s a heck of a lot fight your friends to the death.  And the siege mechanic adds a great element of complexity to the combat.

The game pieces are gorgeous, as is the map.  Beautifully detailed minis are a joy to play with (and I’m assuming paint for those who are more talnted than me).  On a related note, the manufacturer’s customer support is top notch.  When I purchased my game, it was missing the ring bearer mini, and instead I had two Gimlis.  I contacted them, and they immediately sent me the missing piece, no extra cost, no questions asked.

The action dice mechanic is really unique, and really fun.  It makes each turn incredibly nerve wracking, as you roll and pray that you will have the actions you need to move forward with your plan.  It ramps up the tension in the game, and makes it just that much more fun.

Things I Hated About War of the Ring

This is not a short game.  Not even close.  In fact, most games can last upwards of 3 hours.  If you are going to play a game make sure you understand, it is a beast and a time commitment, in particular if you are learning how to play.

While the game says for up to 4 players, it really is a two player game.  Four players doesn’t flow well, and feels a bit awkward, and can frustrate your strategy.  The game truly shines as a one on one, mano a mano fight.

While the rules are elegant, they are complicated, and there is a learning curve (the rule-book is 48 pages, and none of them are unnecessary).  Learning the game can be a bit of an ordeal, in particular if neither player has any experience with the game.

Between the tile draws and the dice rolls, it can feel like you don’t have much control over the game outcome.  Some people love a bit of chaos and randomness in their gaming experience, others prefer to live and die by skill alone.  This game leans slightly towards the random elements.

Final Thoughts

I’m going to be honest.  I love this game.  It’s a time commitment, and it has some (very minor) flaws, but I have yet to play a game of War of the Ring that hasn’t been a complete blast.  The theme is so fully realized, and for someone who poured over the Lord of the Rings books as a young nerdling, it is a pure joy to play.  The combat is fantastic, and things get more and more tense as the game progresses.  This is not a casual game, but it’s an incredibly fun one.

I would highly recommend you pick up this game.  It is a bit more expensive than most board games, but it is well worth the cost, the pieces are gorgeous, and the game is incredibly well realized, with fantastic mechanics, balanced sides that feel and play very differently, and two ways to win the game, make it a rich, rewarding game you’ll want to revisit over and over again.


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