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How To Play War Of The Ring (Part 2)

Updated on November 20, 2014
Close up of WOTR board, showing Moria and Lorien regions.
Close up of WOTR board, showing Moria and Lorien regions. | Source

How To Play War of the Ring Board Game - Continued

This is part 2 of a series on how to play WOTR, one of my favourite board games.

It's full of Lord of the Rings goodness, with plenty of strategy and tactics.

In part 1, I talked about the core component of the game, the Action dice.

If you missed it, what are you doing here?

Go read it and come back here when you are finished!

Seriously though, in this post we will discuss:

  • how the game turn works.
  • an example of play
  • finish with a discussion about the Elven Rings

Stay tuned for more.

Image Credit: all photos mine, unless stated otherwise.

Player Aid Chart showing Game Turn Overview
Player Aid Chart showing Game Turn Overview | Source

The WOTR Game Turn

In my previous article, I went through specifics on what the Action dice do (here), but this section will cover how they actually play out in practice.

According to the rules (and shown on the player aid charts), each turn consists of the following phases, in order:

  1. Recover action dice from previous turn and draw 2 event cards.
  2. Fellowship phase: Free People's player can choose to Declare the Fellowship. If it is then in a friendly stronghold can heal corruption of the ring bearer.
  3. Shadow player allocates action dice to the hunt for the ring. If the Free Peoples removed at least one die back from the hunt box, the Shadow player must allocate at least one die.
  4. Both players roll remaining action dice. They then take it in turns to "spend" one action die to, er, do something.
  5. Victory check: if Shadow player has 10 points, he wins; if Free Peoples player has 4 points, he wins.

This sounds complicated but in reality, most of your time will be spent in spending your action dice (number 4, above).

This is because the first 3 phases above take about 2 or 3 seconds each.

If at part 5 someone has won a military victory, then you'll know it because they will already be dancing around the room!

War Of The Ring On Amazon

Ares Games War of The Ring 2nd Edition
Ares Games War of The Ring 2nd Edition

The Second Edition of the game and the one I have a copy of.




I will write a separate section for battles and battle strategy.

For the moment, know that it is this part of the game that can slow down a turn more than anything else.

Don't forget that you need to muster troops and move them into position in order to be successful in battles.

Once a stronghold is under siege, the defender can't bring new troops in (except for playing the right event cards), so you must ensure that you get the right defences in place before that happens!

War of the Ring Second Edition - Lords of Middle Earth Expansion
War of the Ring Second Edition - Lords of Middle Earth Expansion

Even more War of the Ring Goodness in this expansion pack.

It presents some alternative scenarios and comes with extra figures and cards to fill out the base game.



Spending Your WOTR Action Dice

"All you have to do is decide what to do with the time"

So how do players 'spend' their action dice?

The Free Peoples (FP) player starts each turn and nearly always has fewer dice than his opponent.

This means that a typical game turn will have the Free Peoples and Shadow players playing alternately for 3-4 actions.

Then the Shadow uses up his remaining 2-3 action dice, one after the other.

The FP player will almost always try to move the Fellowship at least once every turn, if he can.

Reaching Mount Doom is his best chance of victory, so if he doesn't keep the Fellowship moving, Sauron will eventually overpower him, before they can get there.

The FP will also try to reinforce his defences as much as possible, particularly his strongholds, as they are easier to defend.

He will try to work out where the Shadow player will attack next, so he can slow down the enemy as much as possible.

The Shadow player will try to get his own nations to war as soon as possible.

He can then muster lots of armies before launching his assaults on Middle Earth.

He tends to go after one nation at a time in order to prevent too many Free Peoples nations getting to the "at war" step too soon.

Just like in the books, the most obvious early target is Rohan (especially once Saruman is in play).

However, the Northern nations such as the Dwarves in Erebor and Men in Dale, can also be ripe pickings at the beginning of the game.

Having said all that, the Shadow may decide that going all-out for Gondor, right from the start, is the best strategy.

If Gondor is conquered quickly enough, then this will prevent Strider from becoming Aragorn.

If Aragorn is out of the picture, the Free Peoples are deprived of an extra action die for the rest of the game.

Action dice rolls for the turn 1 of the game (example below).
Action dice rolls for the turn 1 of the game (example below). | Source

War of the Ring Example Of Play

Let's say for the sake of argument, that it's the very first turn of the game.

All the armies are in their starting positions, the Fellowship is in Rivendell and none of the nations are "at war".

Following our "order of play":

  1. Both players draw 2 event cards (one from each deck) and read them to check what they do.
  2. The Fellowship phase doesn't need to happen, since the Fellowship is already in a Stronghold and doesn't need healing.
  3. The Shadow player decides to put 1 action die in the Hunt Box.
  4. Both players roll the rest of their action dice and then take it in turns to spend them.
  5. There won't be any need for a Victory check because it's not possible to win a military victory on the first turn of the game!

Continuing our example, the Action dice roll for the players is as follows (see picture, above):

  • Free Peoples: 2 Character actions, 1 Event and an Army/Muster die
  • Shadow: 2 Character actions, 1 Event, 1 Eye, 2 Muster and 1 Army/Muster

The Eye rolled by the Shadow player is immediately added to the Hunt Box.

Read on to see what happens in the rest of the turn.

The Fellowship moves one space on the Fellowship Track.
The Fellowship moves one space on the Fellowship Track. | Source

Fellowship Player Moves The Fellowship

"We Must Be Swift And Quiet As Shadows"

1. The Free Peoples always move first and they choose to get the Fellowship moving straight away.

Remember that the Fellowship figure does not move on the map at this stage.

Instead, the Fellowship Marker is moved 1 step along the Fellowship Track (see picture).

The Shadow player now resolves the Hunt for the Ring.

He rolls 2 combat dice (one for each of the Action dice in the Hunt Box)

He needs to get a 6 on either die to score a "success"...

He rolls a '1' and a '5': the Fellowship is safe for now.

The Free People's player puts the Action die he just used in the Hunt Box.

Sauron goes to war
Sauron goes to war | Source

Sauron Is On The Move

2. The Shadow player now has his turn.

He uses a Muster die to move the Sauron nation one spot on the Political Track.

The Sauron nation is now "At War".

3. The Free Peoples player decides to use his Army/Muster die to move Gondor 1 step along the Political Track.

They are still a step away from the At War box.

However, an attack on Gondor armies would activate them and push them to "At War" at the same time.

The Hunt Tile drawn causes 1 corruption point damage to the Fellowship.
The Hunt Tile drawn causes 1 corruption point damage to the Fellowship. | Source

Shadow Player Musters And Hunts For The Ring

"He Is Seeking It, Seeking It With All His Will"

4. The Shadow wants to bring the Southrons and Haradrim into play early, so uses his other Muster die to move them along the political track.

5. The Free Peoples player can't do anything about that at the moment, but decides to move the Fellowship again.

He moves the Fellowship Marker to step '2' and the Shadow player rolls once more for the Hunt.

He still uses 2 combat dice, but now needs either a '5' or a '6' to succeed (he adds 1 to the roll because there is 1 Free People's Action die in the Hunt Box).

The Shadow rolls a '3' and a '6': a success!

He picks a Hunt Tile (cardboard counter) from the "cup".

It shows the number '1', without any other icons: the Fellowship must take 1 corruption damage.

What to do?

The Free People's player could choose to sacrifice Gandalf to prevent the damage (he could then come back as Gandalf the White later), but decides that it is too soon for that.

It would also be a waste, because Gandalf can prevent up to 3 corruption damage, when they only need to take 1.

He moves the Corruption marker 1 step on the Fellowship Track.

He breathes a sigh of relief the Fellowship wasn't Revealed at the same time.

Sauron moves an army with a leader (a Nazgul) into South Ithilien - towards Gondor
Sauron moves an army with a leader (a Nazgul) into South Ithilien - towards Gondor | Source

Shadow Player Presses The Advantage

"War Is Upon You, Whether You Would Risk It Or Not"

6. Happy to have caused the Free Peoples some inconvenience so early on, the Shadow player tries to press the advantage.

He uses a Character die to move one of his armies with a leader 1 region on the board, heading in the direction of Gondor (picture above).

From South Ithilien he directly threatens the fortress at Osgiliath and indirectly, Minas Tirith behind it.

This event card allows the FP to muster North units, even though they are not At War.
This event card allows the FP to muster North units, even though they are not At War. | Source

Free Peoples Play Event Card

"Let The Ringbearer Decide"

7. The Free Peoples player now uses his Event action to play a card from his hand.

He plays a card (see picture) that allows him to muster 2 North units (1 elite army and 1 leader) in the Carrock region.

Note: the North nation is not at war, so cannot muster armies normally, but the event card overrides this.

Since Gandalf is currently the Guide of the Fellowship, the Free Peoples player can use his special ability and draw another Event card immediately after playing one as part of an Event action die.

He chooses to draw a card from the Character deck.

Isengard moves to war, increasing the threat to Rohan and Gondor.
Isengard moves to war, increasing the threat to Rohan and Gondor. | Source

Shadow Goes To War

"To War!"

8. The Free Peoples player has now used all 4 of his Action dice.

The Shadow therefore plays the rest of his dice:

  • The event cards in his hand aren't immediately useful, so he uses the Event die to draw an additional Event card, choosing one from the Strategy deck.
  • The Shadow has his eye on Rohan, so he uses the Muster die to move Isengard to war (see picture).
  • Finally, he uses the Army/Muster die to move some Isengard units from different regions, together into the same one.

Position at the end of the first turn

"The die is cast"

The FP has not done too badly on the first turn.

While the Fellowship has already received 1 corruption point of damage, they have moved twice already.

- It could have been a lot worse and the Fellowship is still hidden.

All his characters are intact, and he has moved Gondor closer to war.

The Shadow will want to ensure that he has enough armies in place to take on Gondor before pressing the advantage.

Too soon and the Free Peoples might be able to counter attack, once Gondor is roused.

On the other hand, both Mordor and Isengard are already at War.

He can quickly start a build up of armies in both nations and he is poised to strike on the Fords of Isen region on the next turn.

Tip: Don't forget that you can use Elven Rings as a "wild card".

"Wild Cards" - The Elven Rings at the beginning of the game.
"Wild Cards" - The Elven Rings at the beginning of the game. | Source

Elven Rings

"Three Rings For The Elven Kings Under The Sky"

The Free Peoples player starts with 3 Elven rings available to him at the top edge of the board.

He can use these rings as a "wild card":

He can choose to use one of them to change any of his action dice to a symbol of his choice, except for a Will of the West.

Once he has used that ring, he turns it over to show its Sauronic side and hands it to the Shadow player.

The Shadow player can then use it in the same way, when he wants to.

The Shadow player is allowed to change an Action die into an Eye, but cannot change an Eye in the Hunt Box back into another action.

Once a ring has been used by both players, then it is out of the game.

...and that's it.

Except ...when would you want to do this?

Since I am relatively new to the game, I don't know the full answer.

Some possibilities might be:

  • The Free Peoples player can keep the Fellowship moving, when they didn't roll any Character actions that turn.
  • An extra Character action might be important, if you need to hide the Fellowship in a hurry after it was revealed.
  • To get a crucial army or muster action, when needed.

Perhaps the best hint I can give is: don't forget that you have them!

Sometimes, you can be so occupied with the current turn and focused on your action dice rolls, that you can let this slip by.

How steep was the learning curve when you first started playing War of the Ring?

Let me know your comments here!

Any thoughts?

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    • Tim Bader profile imageAUTHOR

      Tim Bader 

      5 years ago from Surrey, UK

      @electrolion: You're welcome. Thanks for reading.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      How fun. Thanks for this.


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