War of the Ring is very much a game about choices and at its core is the choice of which path to take in your endeavor to defeat the Free Peoples of Middle-earth. The most obvious strategy for the Shadow player is to try to crush the enemy Armies and capture the Settlements of the Free Peoples. However, if the One Ring manages to corrupt the Ring-bearers, you will be assured of the same result. With two very different paths to victory, it is a good thing that in War of the Ring the two ways are entwined from beginning to end.

If you neglect the Hunt for the Ring you will risk losing as Frodo strolls up the slopes of Mount Doom and destroys your precious Ring forever. However, focusing entirely on the Hunt is not a solid strategy on its own as you leave too much outside your control. You see hunting for the Ring is still dependent on the Free Peoples player actually moving the Fellowship when you have set up all those dice in the Hunt box and placed your Armies and Nazgûl for those helpful re-rolls.

The Basics

What you must do is go on the offensive on the military side of the game at the same time as you make sure the Fellowship is moving at a rate you can compete with. There is nothing as frustrating as taking that tenth victory point only to see Frodo destroy the One Ring later in the same turn; robbing you of your victory in the process.

To master this balance of military campaigning and hunting for the Ring you must decide which has the highest priority. If you focus on the military campaign then you need as many Action dice as possible available for that and should not put any dice in the Hunt box, except the one you have to put there if the Fellowship moved in the previous turn. If you focus on the Hunt for the Ring you need to make sure there are enough dice in the Hunt box to make a difference. Remember that even if you actively Hunt for the Ring you must push your military campaign across Middle-earth to increase the threat the Free Peoples player feels. The closer to ten Victory points you get the more pressured the Free Peoples player will be to move the Fellowship, even when you have many dice in the Hunt box.

The Hunting

By placing Hunt dice in the Hunt box during the Hunt Allocation Phase you clearly state how interested you are in hunting for the Ring. Each die will give you a chance to interfere with the Fellowship when it moves in the coming game turn. The more dice in the Hunt Box the greater the chance that you actually damage or even reveal the Fellowship. Damaging them is good as you want the Corruption of the Ring-bearers to grow, but revealing them is even better as it will force the Free Peoples player to use a precious Action Die to hide them before they can be moved again and might give you the opportunity to hit them with a powerful Event Card.

If you want to focus on the Hunt in the beginning of the game, when you only have seven Action Dice, you might want to actively put a total of two dice in the Hunt Box and rolling the rest. Statistically you should end up with two or three dice in the Hunt Box. As you gain more Action Dice through the mustering of your Minions you might want to either increase the number of Hunt dice in the Hunt Box, if the Fellowship has gotten far across Middle-earth, or reduce the number of Hunt dice in the Hunt Box to try to gain a greater superiority on the fields of battle. The bottom line is that the more dice you allocate to the Hunt the greater your chance of inflicting casualties or adding Corruption to the Ringbearer becomes.

The Event Cards

As I mentioned above the Hunt alone is a rather risky way of damaging the Fellowship since you can only increase the odds of a successful Hunt. If the Free Peoples player doesn’t move the Fellowship your dice are only doing half their job; they slow the Fellowship down but they do not cause any Corruption damage. Luckily there is a way for you to directly hurt the Ring-bearers and this brings us to the Event Cards. At your disposal are Event Cards that will inflict casualties (“Foul Thing from the Deep” and “Lure of the Ring”), force your opponent to separate Companions (“Breaking of the Fellowship”), allow you to Hunt the Fellowship (“Orc Patrol” and “The Nazgûl Strike”), increase your chances of successfully rolling for the Hunt (“Flocks of Crebain”), reveal the Fellowship (“Nazgûl Search”), force Corruption upon the Ring-bearer (“Candles of Corpses”, “Isildur’s Bane”, “Lure of the Ring”, and “Morgul Wound”), and even allow you to move the Fellowship’s last known position (“Cruel Weather”).

These Event cards can in the best of circumstances win you the game and in the worst of circumstances hardly put a dent in Frodo’s Mithril Coat. The main thing is to play the cards at the right time. Combining the effects of the “Nazgûl Search” and the “Breaking of the Fellowship” at a time when the Free Peoples player is unable to hide the Fellowship in between can be very decisive if played early on. The Event Cards that cause Corruption damage are great to play when the Fellowship is close to or in Mordor, and unable to heal any Corruption suffered.

The “Cruel Weather” card can be especially nasty if played just as the Fellowship is able to enter Mordor in the Fellowship phase of the following turn. By increasing the distance to Mordor for the Fellowship you can literally buy yourself a whole extra turn to gain those ten Victory points.

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By playing “Cruel Weather” when the Free Peoples player is unable to move the Fellowship again this turn the Shadow player can move the Fellowship miniature one region away from Minas Morgul and thus force the Free Peoples player to use the next turn to get the Fellowship into Mordor instead of declaring in Minas Morgul in the Fellowship Phase as planned.

The Military Pressure

Slowing down the Fellowship is not always easy but there is a way to force the Free Peoples player to move them more often and less carefully than he would like to, and that is by pressing your opponent in the military aspect of the game. Nothing makes your opponent forget all dangers and forces him to move the Fellowship at any cost as the sight of your Armies raking in those victory points one after another.

By rolling the majority of your Action Dice in the Action Roll phase (only putting one Action die in the Hunt Box if forced due to the Fellowship being moved in the previous turn) you will (with average dice rolls) completely dominate the military side of the game. If this is successful the Strongholds of the Free Peoples will fall to your might one by one.

This strategy, often called the Shadow Blitz, can be devastating for the Free Peoples since they are forced to move the Fellowship many times during each turn and with few dice in the Hunt Box you will still have a good chance of rolling successfully for the Hunt when you only need 4+ to hit on that third move. This strategy has its drawbacks; first if you fail in your military Blitz early on, by not capturing, or taking too long to capture, a Stronghold with the first Army sent to do the job, you have given the Fellowship a good push in getting to Mordor unhindered. Secondly your Blitz might fail later, for the same reason as mentioned above, and give the Fellowship time to reach the Crack of Doom before you reach ten Victory points. Thirdly the Blitz might fail due to you not rolling successfully for the Hunt even if you statistically should be successful since the Fellowship is moving many times per turn. The final drawback is that with all your units and Nazgûl dedicated to bringing down the Strongholds of the Free Peoples they cannot also be used to Hunt for the Ring, which brings us to the final tactic to try and slow the Fellowship; the re-rolls.

The Hunt Re-rolls

Getting as many re-rolls as possible is perhaps the most overlooked strategy when it comes to winning the game. With a single Character Die you can redeploy your Nazgûl not only to lead your Armies and give those important re-roll in combat but also to Hunt for the Ring. Drawing your Nazgûl away from your Armies to Hunt for the Ring is of course a strain on your resources, so mustering a few more is always a good move if you want to use some to Hunt for the Ring. The best way to get re-rolls for the Hunt is to combine the Hunt with the movements of your Armies since Army units and Nazgûl in the Region with the Fellowship will result in two re-rolls. This is best explained with the two following examples:

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As the Fellowship is moving through the Goblin Gate you could try to dictate in which direction they will be heading by using your Nazgûl and your Moria and/or Dol Guldur Armies. By moving your Dol Guldur Army to the Old Forest Road you simultaneously have a good chance of getting many Hunt re-rolls and threaten both Dale and the Woodland Realm. However, if you move towards Lorien, either with a reinforced Moria Army, the Dol Guldur Army, or both, the Fellowship might head for the Old Forest Road, which is one region shorter and has the closeness of the Woodland Realm and Dale.

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This could in its turn be taken advantage of by sending the Easterlings from Rhûn to the Vale of the Carnen, from where you can strike against Dale as well as paving the Fellowship’s route with Army units in Northern Rhovanion. The combined might of the Dol Guldur garrison and the Easterlings from Rhûn should be enough to take Dale, threaten the Woodland Realm, and put some Nazgûl and some Army units on the Fellowship’s last known position, giving you both valuable Victory points and Hunt re-rolls.

No matter if you prefer putting many Action Dice in the Hunt box, and advance slowly but steadily on the military front, or if you go all out for the military Blitz, never underestimate the speed with which the Fellowship can move if forced to.

Written by Kristofer Bengtsson

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