Lord of the Rings fans are eager to get their hands on War of the Ring - The Card Game, the new non-collectible game based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy, releasing just in time for the holidays. War of the Ring - The Card Game can be played by 2 – 4 players, with a playing time of about 90 minutes.

Designed by Ian Brody, with Roberto Di Meglio and Karin Weston-Brody, War of the Ring - The Card Game includes 120 game cards, which will form the players’ decks; 14 oversized battlegrounds, like Helm’s Deep, where the armies of Middle Earth clash; and 27 path cards, upon which the fellowship makes its way to Mordor to complete the quest to destroy the One Ring. Also included are player aids and tokens, along with the rules. The cards contain original illustrations from renowned Tolkien artists like John Howe and many others.

War of the Ring - The Card Game: new game based in the Lord of the Rings trilogy .

This card game is inspired by the award-winning epic board game War of the Ring. War of the Ring players will find many familiar concepts – for example, balancing the allocation of resources between the fellowship’s progress and the defense of Free Peoples homelands. Of all things, though, the most important feature carried over from the board game is its epic nature, worthy of the scope of Tolkien’s literary fantasy – condensed down to a card game.

How does the game work?

As you might expect, the game pits the Free Peoples against the Shadow. The four-player “Trilogy” game will provide the most complete experience, allowing teammates to work together to achieve victory – two Free Peoples players against two Shadow players. Each player has a unique deck of cards comprised of characters, armies, items, and special events; all based on the books.

The game progresses through nine or fewer rounds. At the beginning of each round, one battleground and one path card are activated. During each round, players take turns playing cards to attempt to win the combats that will be resolved on the battleground and path at the end of the round. Winning combat is how you gain victory points. Sometimes you’ll play cards to your “reserve area”, which will allow it to fight in a future round, or do something cool.

Like most card games, much of the game play information is written onto the cards themselves. This helps players start having fun very quickly, as the rules can be taught in just a few minutes, although the first game may be a bit slower going as players familiarize themselves with the cards.

Some of the Free Players cards of War of the Ring: The Card Game.

Do I need 4 players?

Absolutely not. Included are rules for a 2-player duel, as well as a 2-player learning game covering the narrative of just the first book, "The Fellowship of the Ring". You may also play the 4-player trilogy game with just 2 or 3, but some players may find it a bit unwieldy.

In addition, the designers have announced that playtesting is in the works for a 3-player game (2-on-1) as well as a 1 or 2-person solo/cooperative version. These might or might not make it into the box, but will be available on their website. The designer has also hinted that there would be more scenarios to come in the future, focusing on specific sections of the story, some to be released online and others to appear in the planned expansion.

Will I like it?

Like the boardgame, War of the Ring: The Card Game is an epic depiction of the struggle for Middle Earth. It’s loaded with theme and satisfyingly validating against Tolkien’s work. It takes much less time to setup and play than the boardgame, but is comparatively long as a card game, with a typical 4-player game lasting less than two hours.

WotR - The Card Game: Shadow cards.

Card and strategy game players will appreciate the card interplay and tactical nuances of the epic battles. This game will also be of interest to gamers who enjoy team play, since it simultaneously provides both a competitive and a cooperative experience. Lord of the Rings fans will appreciate the faithfulness to the literature and the great card art. And finally, it’s obviously a must have for War of the Ring fans, who will appreciate the similarity of the experience, presented in a new medium.

An expansion that will accommodate up to 6 players is scheduled to be released in late 2023.

This preview article was originally published by Game Trade Magazine, issue 271 (July 2022).

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