War of the Ring is a 2-4 player fantasy board game based on the movie Lord of the Rings where players will assume the roles of Free Peoples or Shadow Armies. Each side will try to either reclaim the Ring or destroy it to end the game with a victory. Alternatively, players can win the game by a military victory instead.
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Before starting the game, players must choose who will be the Free Peoples and who will play the Shadow. Once this is decided, place the game board in the middle of all players with room on the sides for discarded cards and eliminated pieces. Next, place the Ring-bearers figure on Rivendell. The Fellowship Progress counter should be placed on Step 0 of the Fellowship Track with the “Hidden” side facing up. The Corruption counter will also be placed on Step 0 of the Fellowship Track.
All Companion cards should be placed in the Guide of the Fellowship Box. The Gandalf the Grey Character card should be placed on top because he is the Fellowship’s starting Guide. The Aragorn – Heir to Isildur, Gandalf the White, and Gollum cards should be put to the side for later on. All Companion figures and their counters will go in the Fellowship of the Ring Box and the Gollum figure will be set to the side for later use as well. Place the three Elven Ring counters in the Free Peoples’ Elven Rings Box with the “Ring” side facing up.
Next, set all of the Shadow Minion cards to the side for use later in the game along with their matching figures. The Free Peoples and Shadow event cards will be separated into Character and Strategy decks following the back of each card, shuffled separately, and placed on the areas indicated by the game board. Place the beige standard Hunt tiles in a container to form the Hunt Pool. The remaining blue and red special Hunt tiles will be put to the side for now.
The Shadow player will start with 7 red Shadow Action Dice and the Free Peoples will get 4 blue Free Peoples Action Dice. The rest of the Action dice will not be used yet and can be set to the side, along with the 5 Combat Dice.
The Political counter for each Free Peoples Nation will be placed on the Political Track on its starting point. They should all be placed on the board with the “Passive” side facing up except for the Elves and Shadow Army Nations, which will be placed with the “Active” side up instead. Place the Rohan, the North, the Elven, and the Dwarves Nations’ Political counters on the top box as shown by their symbols on the track. The Gondor and Southern/Easterling Political counters will go in the second box from the top. The. Sauron and Isengard Political counters should be placed in the third box from the top.
Finally, sort all plastic figures according to color and type, following the Army Setup diagram to place the initial Army units and Leaders for each Nation. Any additional figures will be set aside to use as reinforcements. Be sure not to mix these pieces up with those that are eliminated from the game during play. Army counters will be used later in the game and set aside for now, while all remaining components will stay in the box until later in the game.
The object of the game for the Shadow player is to reclaim the Ring, and the Free Peoples player will seek to destroy it instead.
Each player’s turn will play out in 6 phases:
Recover Action Dice and Draw Event Cards: Each player will retain the Action dice that were used in their previous turn as well as any additional dice that were added to the Action Dice Pool. Each player will then draw one card from each of their Event decks.
Fellowship Phase: During this phase, the Free Peoples player will declare the position of the fellowship. If it is declared in a Free Peoples Nation City or Stronghold, that Nation will be activated by flipping it to Active on the Political Track. The Free Peoples player can also change the Guide of the Fellowship during this step and the Ring-bearers may be healed.
Hunt Allocation: The Shadow player can place Action dice in the Hunt Box according to the number indicated on the game board. They must place t least one Action die if at least 1 die from the Hunt Box was retrieved by the Free Peoples player in the previous step. The number of Companions remaining in the Fellowship is the number of dice that can be allocated during this phase.
Action Roll: Next, the players will roll their Action dice with the exception of the dice located inside the Hunt Box. The Shadow player will take all dice with the Eye result, adding them to the Hunt Box immediately.
Action Resolution: This phase will account for the majority of the game. Players will use the results of the Action dice to move their Characters and Armies on the game boards or take other actions. The results of the Action Dice roll will determine the actions the players can take during this phase. The Free Peoples player will start and the two players will alternate actions, each taking one by selecting and removing one of the available die results. Whenever the Free Peoples player uses an Action die to move the Fellowship, they will put it in the Hunt Box after the action has been done. All other dice that are used will be set to the side for the next turn.
Victory Check: Finally, players will check to see if either one of them has achieved the Military Victory Conditions. If this does not happen, a new turn will begin following the same cycle.
How to End the Game
If Sauron reclaims the One Ring or the Free Peoples player destroys the Ring at any point, the game will immediately end without waiting for the Victory Check Phase.
How to Score the Game
There are 4 conditions that will trigger a victory for either player at the end of the game. If the ring-bearers have 12 or more corruption points, Sauron will regain the Ring and the Shadow player will win. If the ring-bearers figure is on “Crack of Doom” on the Mordor Track and the ring-bearers have less than 12 corruption points, the Ring will be destroyed and the Free Peoples player is the winner. Alternatively, if the Shadow player controls the Free Peoples Settlements with a worth of at least 10 Victory points they win the game. On the other hand, if the Free Peoples player controls Shadow Settlements with a worth of at least 4 Victory points, they will take the victory.
For the Shadow player, it is a good idea to keep a few dice in the Hunt Pool in order to keep the Free Peoples player from making moves too quickly. The Free Peoples player should try to move as far as possible when the Shadow player is lacking in dice throughout the game.
How the Game Changes Depending on the Number of Players
When playing War of the Ring with 4 players, there will be 2 Free Peoples players and 2 Shadow players. In a 3-player game, there will only be one Free Peoples player instead of 2, and some rule restrictions will apply. Throughout the game, this player cannot use 2 consecutive actions of the same Nation. Other than that, all player variations follow the same rules.
Variations of the Game
War of the Ring (Second Edition) has been printed in various languages including the Korean, Russian, Italian, Chinese, Portuguese, German, and Polish Versions.
Time to play: 150-180 minutes
Alternative titles of the game: Guerra del Anillo, La Guerra dell’Anello, Der Ringkrieg
Manufacturer suggested player age: 13+
Community suggested player age: 14+
List of expansions: War of the Ring: Warriors of Middle-earth, War of the Ring: Lords of Middle-earth, War of the Ring: Scenario – The Breaking of the Fellowship
Community rating: 8.4/10
Popularity: Rank 12
Designer credits: Roberto Di Meglio, Marco Maggi, Francesco Nepitello
Published year: 2012
Link to official game site: www.aresgames.eu