War of the Ring is the Best Strategy Board Game You Have Ever Played

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War of the Ring 2nd Edition is a great strategy board game that will keep you engaged for hours on end. This game has been praised by gamers, boardgamers, roleplaying gamers and wargamers alike. War of the Ring is fun to play solo or with friends and family members. The rules are easy enough for beginners but challenging enough for veteran players who want their games to be more difficult. Whether you’re new to gaming or an experienced gamer, War of the Ring is sure to please!

In this article, Jared Emanuel, an avid boardgamer and RPG enthusiast, reviews his favorite board game, The War of the Ring 2nd Edition.


Key Reasons to Play “War of the Ring”

  • Unique game play that feels like you’re on the battlefield
  • Captivating time and resource management system
  • Strategic card management through an asymmetric design
  • Deep, rewarding experience with a variety of strategies to suit anyone
  • You play in the Tolkien Universe!

The Tolkien Lore Endures, Forever

The Lord of the Rings is undisputedly one of the best book series of all time. It can be argued that it was the inspiration for the best TTRPG of all time.

That same book series spawned one of the greatest movie trilogies of time. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that those movies contain some of the finest music of all time.

So, is it really shocking to learn that it also produced perhaps the best isometric war game of all time? War of the Ring is the one strategy board game to rule them all.

War of The Ring 2nd Edition Review: The Most Epic Board Game of All Time

It does not bear repeating, but I am doing it anyway. The world of Middle-Earth created by the great J.R.R Tolkien is intoxicating. A delight to read, watch and listen to thanks to the epic films by Peter Jackson, Howard Shore and fellowship.

War of the Ring 2nd Edition Board Game Review - Lord of the Ring games - DVD movie set for Lord of the Ring trilogy
Epic movies in the Tolkienesque world

The Ares Games War of The Ring 2nd Edition board game itself is a delight. It is a large full color map of Middle-Earth, with all the familiar regions of the world clearly labeled. With War of the Ring you and your competitor will get a rare experience to personally reenact the epic struggle between Good and Evil. Or, perhaps better still, subvert the classic story entirely.

War of the Ring 2nd Edition Board Game Review - Lord of the Ring games - Middle Earth Map in War of the Ring Board game
A large full color map of Middle-Earth in the War of the Ring board game.

The “What if…..” Boardgame

What does a fan do once they have consumed every piece of media that their favorite author has produced? Make things up, and perhaps one of the most entertaining things to do as a fan is to ask the provocative and simple question: What if [fill in the blank] happened instead?

With War of the Ring you have an opportunity to simulate a ton of these alternate narratives. What if the Rohirim had sacked Isengard from the start? Or, What if the Goblins of Moria invaded Rivendell?

With you and a friend in control of the story, the power to change the destiny of Middle-Earth is yours….non-canonically, of course. 

War of the Ring 2nd Edition Board Game Review - Lord of the Ring games - Board game components
The 2nd Edition version of the War of the Ring board game comes with everything you need to start playing. You can paint the plastic miniatures (which I’d love to do), or use them as-is immediately. Every piece of art is aesthetically pleasing, informative (such as those on the cards) and clearly in the same cohesive motif within the Tolkein lore.

Gameplay Mechanics: How Does It Feel to Play the War of the Ring?

The game mechanic for War of the Ring is asymmetric with each side having distinct advantages and disadvantages. The view is isometric or top-down view of the gameplay “world”. You and your friend will take control of two great powers in this world: The Shadow and the Free Peoples.

Each player is armed with decks and dice in this duel for the doom or rescue of Middle-Earth. The actions are decided in rounds, with the rolling of dice and the playing of resource cards at critical times.

The mechanics of the game seem to have captured the essence of the quote from the Wizard Gandalf: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us”. Indeed, every action determined by the dice, and every card played in response feel vitally important to success. This concept of time and resource management are infused throughout the entire War of the Ring experience. I can think of few other games that achieve this balance of fate vs. strategy.  

The game, however is not easy. The Free Peoples will win through superior tactics, but the Shadow player has some amazing powers at his command. In addition to stronger armies, the Shadow can also play a special “surge” card at critical moments in the game. This gives the Shadow army extra power and resources to tip the balance in their favor.

Here is a quick, fun video about how to play the War of the Ring 2nd edition.

Two Player Battles: Shadow Versus Free Peoples

The Shadow wins the game by conquering 10 points worth of strongholds. Vast and endless hordes of orcs and evil men can quickly pour forth from their dark fortresses to lay siege to the last enclaves of men, elves and dwarves. While the cities of the Free Peoples bear the onslaught of Mordor and Isengard the Shadow can also win should the Ring Bearer become corrupted.

But, hope is the weapon of the Free Peoples. They can control the pace of the game. Each turn the Free Peoples can bring the Ring closer to its ruin. However, should they take too long to deliver the One Ring to the fires of Mount Doom, they risk losing everything. Because, unlike the Shadow (who have revival abilities), every unit in the armies of the Free Peoples dies, permanently. 

Feeling the walls closing in, perhaps the Free Peoples can achieve victory in a truly surprising way. It is entirely possible that an outnumbered force of men, elves, and dwarves can take an unexpected gamble and make a desperate push against the forces of Shadow. For the Free People, they can also achieve victory if they take only 4 points worth of strongholds.

Is War of the Ring Easy To Learn?

This is probably one of the easiest games I have ever learned. The basic concepts are easy to grasp and the special powers are clearly explained. The game does get more complicated once you start trying to develop strategies as a Free People’s player, or try to use the Shadow’s surges effectively. Learning the tactics of each side is crucial if you want to win consistently.

Is War of The Ring Fun to Play?

Yes, War of the Ring is a triumph! In fact it was so much more fun than I was expecting from the box cover that I’ve played it many times since. However, let me warn you. This game is not for everyone. It takes approximately 3 or more hours to finish (see below). But, if you have the time to play, it’s fantastic and I think you will find this game very satisfying.

If you are a fan of strategy board games or simply want to try your hand at one, then War of the Ring deserves a place in your collection (and perhaps even atop it). Each turn is full-on, and so much fun trying to outwit a friend, while at the same time teetering on that knife’s edge between victory and defeat.

The game is pretty challenging, too. I’d say it’s definitely on the harder side of strategy games. But, there is such a wonderful balance here between the random nature of the dice rolls and the strategic plays that make War of The Ring feel so right.

How Long is the War of The Ring Board Game?

War of the Ring is a two-player game that takes about 3 hours. Some people have said that 5 hours is more reasonable, given the variation and casual nature of how most players may engage the game. There are also variant rules for three or four players. Using online tools, you can even play War of the Ring solo and control both sides by yourself.

All in all War of the Ring is not a quick game to play. You’ll want a sizable chunk of time just for one epic battle between good and evil. This is one board game that I may recommend playing over lunch or dinner, so that you have the full evening to get through it.

Price: Is the War of the Ring 2nd Edition Worth It?

Some of the more popular asymmetric strategy games require deep pockets and fiery commitment to play. From hobby paints for the miniatures, gaming mats, resin terrain, models, and books that change with each edition, the content train never stops.

War of the Ring 2nd Edition Board Game Review - Lord of the Ring games - resin terrain on Etsy
Mount Doom and Mountain set for the War of the Ring board game–Painted and ready to play!

Accessories and content keep boardgamers excited for each new improvement or addition to their favorite games. But, it can become exhausting and sometimes frustrating to keep up.

The good news is that the War of the Ring is essentially stand alone and self contained. Ares Games has introduced 3 or 4 expansions and variations to consider if you and your friend seek to change things up. However, despite the fun and new mechanics they introduce, they are completely unnecessary to get the full Lord of the Rings experience.   

Conclusion

War of the Ring is a great strategy board game for those who love playing with their friends. If you’re looking to play without spending too much money, War of the Ring might be your best option.

You and your friend can experience alternate stories that are non-canonical in Middle Earth during key events like what would have happened if Rivendell was invaded by orcs, or Isengard had sacked Moria instead? With mechanics that balance fate against strategy, this game is sure to entertain fans of tabletop gaming!

About the Author

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Jared Emanuel

Jared Emanuel is a hobby enthusiast that loves high fantasy, science fiction, and everything in between.

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