“The Battle of Five Armies” is the upcoming new game from Ares Games, the first entirely stand-alone new game in the “War of the Ring” line, and created by the same design team – Roberto Di Meglio, Marco Maggi and Francesco Nepitello. This is the first article in a series of Designer's Notes, where the authors tell us about the development of the game.

We designed War of the Ring between 2002 and 2004 (that story has been already told several times, and we won’t tell it again here, don’t worry!). Not long after we finished working on WotR, it was a natural step for us to start thinking about “The Hobbit”. Was it possible to apply the War of the Ring mechanics at the first novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, creating a strategy game with a similar engine?

The War of the Ring design team in 2004, when the first edition of the game was published.

The War of the Ring design team in 2004, when the first edition of the game was published.

From time to time, the idea came up, again and again, but it took a back seat, for a long time, to expanding the game itself, and to the design of other games as well – some of them by us as a team, such as "Age of Conan" and "Marvel Heroes" and many more by Marco and Francesco as a duo, from "The One Ring" RPG to the recent “Venetia”.

Fast forward to 2011. Ares Games got the rights to the War of the Ring game, but with plans much more ambitious than Nexus, the original publisher of the game, had in the past. Ares wanted to develop War of the Ring, not just as a game, but as a line of games following a tradition established by other successful strategy and simulation games in the past, from “Axis & Allies” to “Command & Colors”. And the question was – what else could we do with the War of the Ring mechanics, to create new games to be published in that line? The answer was immediate – “The Hobbit”! Of course, the second question did not take long to come: how would we deal with that subject?

The map of The Hobbit

Thror's map, from The Hobbit

Clearly, the military action in "The Hobbit" novel does not have the depth, as a strategic conflict, that the war depicted in "The Lord of the Rings" has. While it was intriguing to think about the “what ifs”, the untold stories of the conflict with the Necromancer, and stuff like that, it was clear that such a game design would have very little roots in the actual novel. As such, the risk of the game being disappointing was great. One of the reasons War of the Ring has a lot of fans is the effort we did to create a game true to its source – the novel as written.

To be true to "The Hobbit", we had to focus on the conflict that actually is in the book – the Battle of Five Armies. And so it all began…

To be continued...

Tags: , , ,