Board game reviews, strategy tips & session reports
No. of players: 2-4
Amount of time to play: 180 min
Age requirements: 13+
Set-up time: 10-15 minutes
Lords of Middle-Earth is the first expansion for the Second Edition of War of the Ring. It adds some of the characters from the books that were only represented by cards in the base game.
War of the Ring is a war game that re-enacts the epic struggle in the Lord of the Rings books. This expansion represents things that might have occurred if the tale had gone or the characters had acted differently. It introduces scenarios where the three elven rings can be used, the Balrog can roam Middle-Earth, and Gothmog gets a chance to command the armies of Mordor sooner.
If you are not familiar with War of the Ring, read my review here. It explains the basic rules and mechanics. This post is going to be about the elements and mechanics added in the Lords of Middle-Earth expansion.
One big addition is new or remakes of former characters. Elrond, Galadriel, Gandalf the Grey, the Balrog and Gothmog add special action dice to your pool. These extra action dice are different than your normal action dice because they can be removed from the game. If the Free Peoples player rolls a result with a star and Gandalf the White is in play the die will be removed from the game. In much the same way if the Shadow player rolls a result with a star that die is removed if the Witch-King is in play. You can only begin the game with Gandalf the Grey in play and even then he must be the guide of the fellowship. All the other characters are added when certain game conditions are met.
The Mouth of Sauron and the Witch-King have also received makeovers in this expansion. Like Gandalf you can only use the new version of the Mouth of Sauron if you don’t use the original one. He lets you extend a siege one round without reducing an elite unit and use one Muster result as if it were a Character result. The new Witch-King only has one leadership, but is much easier to get into the game. He may also be replaced by the more powerful original Witch-King.
Smeagol even makes an appearance. He adds tiles to the hunt pool that are considered to have zero hunt damage. Those same tiles may help the Shadow player if Gollum appears and certain events are played.
The rules also include an alternate version for setting up the council of Rivendell. There is an alternate version of each character that may be used in place of the original. Some of the new Companions can even start the game outside of the Fellowship. This allows Companions to start already on the map. If the Free Peoples exercise this option the Shadow player gains action token to help him move units or advance their nations to war.
The expansion has 13 new event cards, figures for all the new characters and two bonus figures for Aragorn and Gandalf the White.
Lords of Middle-Earth continues to add to the theme of the base game. The way the theme heavy “what if” scenarios are represented mechanically is great. It does add more randomness to the game since all the new dice can be removed if they roll a star and other conditions are met.
The components for the game are right inline with those from base game. The rules are easy to understand and blend with the normal game well.
I like the way the new characters can help the early game move a bit faster. Having extra action dice early can help you get more things done. They definitely add more randomness into the game as the die results can help you but also hurt you.
Like I said above the expansion blends well with the already existing rules and mechanics. There may be a few things to remember and reference for characters entering the game, but there aren’t really new rules or big changes mechanically.
The new Fellowship setup is interesting but will add some time to the game. It will also require you have played the base game a good bit and know what different Companions would like to use and why.
Lords of Middle-Earth adds some interesting new possibilities to War of the Ring. It integrates well with the base game and has few new rules which is great. It continues the series strong theme-driven mechanics. If you have played the base game a lot and are looking to switch things up or cause players to alter their strategies, pick this expansion up. If you only play the base game casually you might want to wait until you are more familiar with it. Either way if you have the chance to try this out and you are a fan of the base game you should try it.
Score and synopsis: (Click here for an explanation of these review categories.)
Strategy 4 out of 6
Luck 5 out of 6
Player Interaction 6 out of 6
Replay Value 6 out of 6
Complexity 6 out of 6
Fun 6 out of 6
Overall 5 out of 6