Our brief states that TTM is a blog about miniature wargames, with the occasional other form of gaming sneaking in. This post is one of those occasional ones on other forms of gaming — boardgaming in the case at hand (although to be fair, the game has Tiny Plastic Men. And Elephants. And Orcs. Trolls. Hobbitses. And … oh, never mind). The game in question is War of the Ring, a board game which Alan and myself have played a few times now.
WotR is a game on, amazingly, the War of the Ring in Middle Earth. It is a game that encompasses the entirety of the events in the final year of the Third Age, with both the Quest of the Fellowship to destroy the One Ring and the global war featured in the game. It features a Good and an Evil (Free Peoples and Shadow) player, controlling armies of Men, Elves, Orcs and whatnot, with the FP player simultaneously trying to move the Fellowship to Mordor to cast the Ring in the Mountain of Doom.
There are a basic four victory conditions in the game: two for each side. The FP player can either gather up 4 points worth of Shadow strongholds (e.g. Moria and Dol Guldur) or destroy the Ring. The Shadow player needs to conquer 10 points in FP strongholds (this might seem disparate, but the Shadow armies are much larger and much easier reinforced than the FP armies) or push the fellowship to 12 points in corruption, leading Frodo to claim the Ring for himself and loosing the game for the FP player. The game is driven by ‘action dice’ and event cards, and the tactics involve using these essentially random factors within a strategic framework (the ‘master plan’).
What makes the game a real hit, is a combination two factors: the razor like game balance and the sheer endlessness of different strategies to play. The game balance is very well done, with many games hingeing on the roll of a die or the drawing of a single damage chit. It is absolutely mind boggling to imagine to amount of playtesting that must have gone into making a game with so many variables teeter on so fine an edge in play balance. Very well done.
The second great point about this game is the variety. As in Axis & Allies, you can try out a virtually infinite plethora of different strategies. As A&A, the game also has a certain chaos quality to it: given two games with the same players playing the same general strategies, the two games can differ radically, depending on a single die result or event card draw early in the game.
These two factors together make this one of the best boardgames ever, and combined with the setting amidst the epic struggles of Middle Earth this means that we will play this game for years to come.
Now let’s just hope noone gets tempted to paint the playing pieces. :)