As the dark lord Sauron, your primary task is to capture the Cities and Strongholds of the Free Peoples for a total worth of ten Victory points. These can be found in different locations in Middle-earth and it is important that you plan which Victory points locations you are going after during the first turns of the game so you can build your strategy around it.


The most obvious victory points area is Gondor: Pelargir is only two Regions away from the Southrons and Easterlings in Umbar and Near Harad, and Minas Tirith is only three Regions away from Minas Morgul. These might seem as easy pickings if you strike fast and hard but in order to ensure that Gondor falls quickly you must bring both the Sauron and the Southron and Easterling nation to war.

Pelargir is most times an easy victory point since it is only a City but Minas Tirith can be a tough nut to crack. To reach it you must first take Osgiliath which (if defended by Gondor units) will activate Gondor and move the nation one step closer to war. A prudent Free Peoples player might have anticipated this, and already moved Gondor on the Political track to enable him to muster defenders in Minas Tirith before your Armies can besiege it. An early assault on Gondor also has the risk of coming to a halt as you run out of Elite units to keep the siege going. Here the Southron and Easterlings’ Elites can be used to support the siege but by doing so you forgo the possibility of moving the Southron and Easterlings along the coast to besiege Dol Amroth.

Before leaving Gondor it is also worth mentioning that an early assault, if successful, will prevent Strider from being recognised as the rightful heir to Isildur.


The second most obvious victory points area is Rohan. Helm’s Deep is only two regions away from Orthanc and then Edoras is only two additional regions away. A quick mustering of Isengard and Saruman will most often net you Helm’s Deep no later than at the end of the third turn of the game. If the assault on the great fortress of Helm’s Deep goes according to plan you can quickly continue on towards Edoras, and another Victory point. The problem here is if Gandalf the White has emerged in Fangorn or any Rohan region since with him comes the danger of the Ents launching their attacks on Orthanc. The Ents can be a powerful deterrent that can force you to keep quite a big Army holed up in Orthanc to protect Saruman from the potential Ent attack and the other part of your Army in Helm’s Deep just to keep it safe.

The reason I have called Gondor and Rohan the first and second most obvious targets for your Armies is that you tend to follow the book the first few times you play the game, this is only natural. However, after these initial tries the other possible Victory points locations become tempting to try.

The DEW-line

The most obvious of all the victory locations should be the DEW-line; this is the area in the northeast portion of the map where Dale, Erebor, and the Woodland Realm are situated closely together. Here a focused attack from Mordor, Dol Guldur and/or Rhûn should be able to capture five Victory points. By sending the Easterlings from North and South Rhûn into Dale and the Dol Guldur garrison and/or units from Mordor to the Old Forest Road you should be nicely situated to launch an assault on the Woodland Realm. If reinforcements are needed they can quickly be mustered in Dol Guldur and North Rhûn. Once the Woodland Realm has fallen Erebor should be easy pickings unless the Free Peoples player has managed to get the Dwarven nation to war. If this is the case the strategy is less foolproof. If the Elves or Dwarves are allowed to muster before their Strongholds are besieged they might prove too strong.


To the northwest lies three Victory points in the forms of the Shire and the Grey Havens. An assault launched from North Dunland, preferably fueled by the “Rage of the Dunlendings” Event Card, can easily recreate the scouring of the Shire and bring in another Victory point. The same can be achieved by some mustering in Angmar, possibly with the “Return of the Witch-king” card.

If you aim for the Grey Havens as well make sure you bring a large enough Army with some Elites to take both Settlements without needing reinforcements since it is a long way to the Grey Havens.

Lorien and Rivendell

Now we are left with the two Elven sanctuaries of Lorien and Rivendell, both can be reached from Moria but Lorien is closer and an attack on the Golden Wood can be supported from Dol Guldur. If you aim for Lorien do it quickly since this will rob the Fellowship of a much-needed haven to heal in. Rivendell is a bit tougher to capture as you need to muster some units before marching an Army there from Moria, or Angmar and Mount Gundabad. There is however an Event Card that is ideal for this. By playing “Monsters Roused” you get a force that with only very little support can take out the Elven Stronghold.


After having looked at the different Victory points locations let us see how we can plan the Shadow’s military campaign. First take a look at what Event Cards you draw at the beginning of the game. If you are lucky to draw some of the really nasty cards like “Wormtongue”, “Denethor’s Folly”, “Balrog of Moria”, or “Monsters Roused”, you might as well let them guide your decision as to where to strike first.

Observe what the Free Peoples player does; does he take Gandalf as a casualty early? Perhaps he is holding one (or more) of the "The Ents Awake" Event Cards? What Event Cards is he playing? What nations is he trying to activate? If the Free Peoples player plays a card like “Book of Mazarbul” you might want to stay away from the DEW-line since the Dwarves from Erebor can quickly become a threat to your plan. If he sends Strider to Edoras there might be a risk he is holding the “Dead Men of Dunharrow“ card and any Armies you send to southern Gondor could be in peril.

Try to keep your opponent guessing as to where you will strike, fake a build up at one of his Strongholds and then once he has recruited some troops there avoid it and strike where he is weaker. Remember that you have an almost unlimited number of troops, your opponent has not.

Most importantly, try to strike at the right time and at the right target, launching a big Army against Minas Tirith right after Aragorn has been crowned there and the Gondor Army there is composed of three Elites and five Regulars might prove an unwise decision while using the same Army to bypass Minas Tirith and strike at Edoras, which is only three regions away, instead could be just what is needed.

Remember to vary your strategies so your opponent doesn’t know where you will attack. If you went for Gondor and Rohan in your previous game try a new strategy the next time you play War of the Ring.

Written by Kristofer Bengtsson

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