Warriors of Middle-earth, the second expansion for War of the Ring Second Edition board game, is coming next September, and pre-releasing at GenCon. While waiting, learn more about the game with two preview articles written by Kristofer Bengtsson, starting with the Free People Factions and Event Cards.

As the Free Peoples player, Warriors of Middle-earth will place the might of the Dead Men of Dunharrow, Ents of Fangorn, and Great Eagles of the Misty Mountains at your command. This article will give some hints on how to use them to further your plans to keep Middle-earth free from the Shadow’s control.

Driving the Faction mechanics are the new Faction die and Faction cards. The Faction cards add management decisions and the Faction die forces new consideration, regarding how to spend the initial Muster Action die results. You could advance your Nations on the Political track, or bring in a Faction and gain access to the Faction die. The Faction die will give you early access to the first Faction you put into play as well as make it easier to play the Faction cards already drawn.

Dead Men of Dunharrow faction.

Dead Men of Dunharrow faction.

Dead Men of Dunharrow

What was previously a one use surprise attack in the base game of War of the Ring, is now a force the Free Peoples player can use to defend Gondor or even aid an attack on Umbar or Mordor itself. As you lose figures the farther away from the Erech region you move the Army of the Dead, it is best suited for defending Gondor or attempting to recapture regions and Victory points locations lost to the Shadow.

As the Army of the Dead also requires you to have Aragorn/Strider accompanying it at all times, you cannot have him leading your Armies or lending his powerful abilities to a Free Peoples Army.

Playing the Faction cards “Wraiths of Fear,” “Paths of the Dead,” “The Dark Door,” and “The Stone of Erech” will allow the Free Peoples player to raise and move the Army of the Dead across Gondor, toward Mordor, and even into the plains of Rohan. Under the command of Strider/Aragorn, these undead warriors will give you options to do damage to opposing Shadow Armies, as well as substantially slow the onslaught of the Shadow.

The Ents of Fangorn faction

The Ents of Fangorn faction.

The Ents of Fangorn

Previously only available through the use of the three “The Ents Awake” Event cards, you are now able to march the “Shepherds of the Trees” from the Fangorn region and aid your military endeavors of War of the Ring.

Capable of devastating attacks, the Ents can turn the tide of almost any battle. Unfortunately, their power comes with a strong limitation. As they are limited to eight figures, there are only so many places on the board they can reach. If recruited at full strength, the Ents can play an important role in Rohan, Isengard, Lórien, Moria, Dol Guldur, and Minas Tirith. When moved to places farther away, the actions used to get there, and the limited number of Ent figures available for attack, most often will not be worth it. They will be most potent when focused to one or, perhaps, two targets close to the Fangorn region.

With the Faction cards “March of the Ents,” "Father of Trees," “The Ents Awaken,” and “Saruman is a Neighbour” you can march the Ents out of Fangorn and help defend the plains of Rohan, the Elven Stronghold of Loríen, or even take the battle to the Shadow Strongholds of Orthanc or Dol Guldur. You can slow down the mustering of Isengard or even wake the ancient trees in the Old Forrest and help protect the Shire and the Gray Havens.

The Eagles of the Misty Mountains faction.

The Eagles of the Misty Mountains faction.

The Eagles of the Misty Mountains

With the Eagles of the Misty Mountains and their ability to ignore the black (impassable) borders on the game board, the Free Peoples player gains some of the unlimited movement previously only available to the Shadow player's Nazgûl.

With this greater range, the Eagles, unlike the Ents and Dead Men, can be put to good use across the game board. This makes it important to position the Eagles in regions from where they can reach the areas targeted by the Shadow player, as they can be used as a passive deterrent.

Through the Faction cards “In Long Swift Lines,” “Lifted up and Borne Far Away,” “Speed Greater than Any Wind,” and “Upon the Nazgûl They Bore” the Eagles of the Misty Mountain can spread across Middle-earth and lend their strength to the Armies of the Free Peoples, tear into the Nazgûl, and quicken the journey of the Ring-Bearers.

The Western Way event card.

The Western Way event card.

Event Cards

Six new Free Peoples Event cards are included in Warriors of Middle-earth. Let us end this article with a sneak peek at one of them...

The “The Western Way” is perhaps the most interesting new Free Peoples Event card in Warriors of Middle-earth, as it opens up a new possible route for the Fellowship. The shortest possible distance from Rivendell, through the Grey Havens, via Pelargir, and on to Minas Morgul is eleven regions. That is only one region longer than the path through Moria. For this to be a viable strategy, you must be able to play “The Western Way” early in the game, as well as risk the Corsairs Faction joining the Hunt for the Ring through the Faction card “Black Sails.”

The next article will present the Shadow Factions. Stay tuned!

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