War of the Ring: Second Edition review

War of the Ring (Second Edition)

War of the Ring Second Edition was published by Ares Games, an Italian game publisher, in 2012.

The game was designed by Kristofer Bengtsson, Roberto Di Meglio, Marco Maggi, and Francesco Nepitello.

Illustrations in the game were done by Kristofer Bengtsson, John Howe, and Fabio Maiorana.

Game Components

  • 1 forty-eight page color illustrated rule booklet;
  • 1 game board (in two sections);
  • 2 player aids folders;
  • 5 white six-side combat dice;
  • 6 blue Free Peoples action dice;
  • 10 red Shadow action dice;
  • 110 playing cards;
  • 14 character cards (1 Gollum, 3 Shadow, 10 Free);
  • 96 event cards (4 decks of 24 cards each);
  • 81 cardboard counters;
  • 205 plastic figures.

War of the Ring (Second Edition) - Game Board


War of the Ring 2nd Edition gives you an opportunity to tell your own story of the Lord of the Rings. You can try to recreate the events the way they happened in the books or start on your own journey that will lead to an unexpected ending.

There are two teams in the game: one represents the Free Peoples, the other fights for the Shadow Armies. The Free Peoples want to see that Frodo and Sam get to Mordor and the ring goes down the crack of doom. The Shadows want to corrupt the Fellowship and bring the ring back to Sauron. This is the main theme and story of the game, but there is also another way to win for both sides: have a military victory. You can have a military victory if you score enough points for conquering strongholds and fortresses.

Just like in the books, the game will seem unbalanced all the time: the Free Peoples are always fighting from a defensive position, their reinforcements are limited, while the Evil has access to more action dice and unlimited reinforcements, so they can afford to lose units with no harm. It will seem that defeating the Good will be easy. But the Evil has no defense of fortresses and always has to keep an eye on the Fellowship: Sam and Frodo will slip into Mordor if they look away.

You can play the game with 2 players (one plays for the Free Peoples, the other one – for the Shadows) or with 4 players (in this case, each player controls specific nations of their team). You can also play with 3 players, but then you will have 2 players on one team and just one on another, so the game may seem a bit uneven.

War of the Ring (Second Edition) - Free People Counters


At the start of each round, you roll action dice. On different sides of the dice, you have different actions: moving your armies, moving characters, recruiting new warriors, or playing Event cards. Different sides take turns to perform the actions they have on their dice. When all the dice have been played, the round ends. As the game progresses, you can unlock new opportunities and bring new characters into the game.

For combat, you also use dice. Besides, cards can help you in battles by adding to your score. The location from where you are leading battle also matters.

You have a political track that shows the state of each nation and their interest in war. When you are planning your battles, keep in mind the Fellowship: you either want them to move towards Mordor or you want to corrupt them and make them turn backward.

The game ends if the Fellowship reaches the crack of doom or if it is totally corrupted. Another way to end the game is to conquer enemy cities. If the Free Peoples gain control of 4 points they win, the Evil has to gain control of 10 points to do that.

War of the Ring (Second Edition) - Gameplay

Differences from the First Edition

The first edition of War of the Ring was released by Nexus and published by Fantasy Flight Games in 2004. Nexus went bankrupt and sold the rights for the game to Ares Games.

Ares Games made a few changes and prepared the second edition. Basically, they changed a few things fans and critics did not like about the game.

  • The new rulebook: a number of clarifications and revisions have been added, the font in the new version is larger.
  • The cards are larger now.
  • Design of some figures has been changed so that they are more steady.
  • The board has been redrawn.

War of the Ring (Second Edition) - Cards


The artwork in War of the Ring is beautiful, true to the spirit of the books that inspired it. A burst of colors, lots of miniatures and cards: all you need to make the process of unboxing as exciting as possible.

The design has changed dramatically since the first edition, primarily, sizes of everything have grown. Now you do not need a magnifying glass to read what is written on the cards.

Thanks to the general board size (27 X 40 inches), the mapboard covers the whole of Middle Earth and does not look cramped. It also contains the political track and various play aids.

The game includes over 200 plastic miniatures: red ones for the Shadow forces and blue ones for the Free Peoples. There are figures to represent all the major characters in the books. Frodo and Sam are in a single piece as they always move together.

There are also colorful counters to replace large groups of miniatures on the board.

War of the Ring (Second Edition) - Mountains


There is a number of misprints found in the game. The full list can be found in the official FAQ of WOTR that is maintained on their site (www.warofthering.eu).


Upgrade Kit

Upgrade Kit helps owners of the first edition to upgrade their game to the 2nd Edition without buying a new one. The kit includes the Event and Character cards from the 2nd Edition and the new rulebook.

Card Box and Sleeves (Gandalf Version)

War of the Ring (Second Edition) - Card Box and Sleeves (Gandalf Version)

For fans of the game who are worried their cards will lose their shape. Here, you get 120 card protectors fit to hold cards from the Second Edition and a box where you can put them all – with the War of the Ring logo.

Lords of Middle-earth

War of the Ring (Second Edition) - Lords of Middle-Earth

This expansion brings you some of the characters that were featured only on Event cards previously. Special action dice are also included: Elven Ring Keepers dice for the Free Peoples and Lesser Minion dice for the armies of the Shadows.

Lords of Middle-earth – Treebeard Mini-Expansion

War of the Ring (Second Edition) - Lords of Middle-Earth - Treebeard

This promotional item was available at Essen 2012. It contains one miniature and a card.

Warriors of Middle-earth

War of the Ring (Second Edition) - Warriois of Middle-Earth

This expansion brings you some of the creatures and warriors from Middle-earth that were featured only on Event cards in the base game. They come with unique figures and special abilities. The expansion also includes Faction dice and Faction event cards.

Similar Games

War of the Ring is a game designed specifically for fans of JRR Tolkien. But if you look at it from a gamer’s point of view, you can find similarities in its mechanism and mechanisms of some popular board games, for instance, Agricola. Agricola is a farming strategy: you build fences, collect clay and wood. Various decks of cards provide for the depth and complexity of the game.

Runewars is another fantasy-themed game. Here, you get a strategy with combat and area control.

War of the Ring (Second Edition) - Saruman Counters


Q: Is the game available for solo play?

A: With the official version of the rules, it is not. Of course, you can always play for both teams, pretending to be Jekyll and Hyde. However, there are rules designed by a fan of the game specifically to play it solo – War of the Ring Solitaire.

Q: How long does the game last?

A: The game goes on for 2-4 hours. Usually, you will finish in 3 hours, but prepare that the first walkthrough of WOTR might demand some extra time.

Q: How does the game with 3 players work? Does it give the advantage for the player who plays alone?

A: There is a certain advantage in having all your cards in just one hand, but the game is evened by the rule that makes the 2-player team alternate in their turns – the 1-player team has to do the same. So, even though you can attack the parts of your enemy that will not be activated during the next move, they will be able to do the same. This rule may seem a bit unintuitive, but it is necessary for balancing the game.

Q: Will players who have never read the books enjoy it?

A: WOTR is a cleverly designed game in its own right with smooth game dynamics and various opportunities for the players, but of course, its target audience is people who know and love the Tolkien series. If you are not familiar with it, you may still play the game and enjoy it, but some elements of the game will probably appeal to you less than if you were a fan.



War of the Ring Second Edition is a fantasy wargame with lots of heavy strategy and tactics. It is deep, serious, and time-consuming, but it also provides you with unforgettable and unique gaming experience.

The beautiful asymmetry of the game makes it more believable and organic. You can try playing for both sides and enjoy the totally different feeling you get from the game for fighting either for the Good or for the Evil.

If you are a fan of Lord of the Rings, this is a game you do not want to miss. You can buy it on Amazon.