Andrew C
United States
San Marcos
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Clearly, War of the Ring has enough reviews, session reports, and pictures to provide most folks ample information to make an informed purchase decision. But as a wargamer, I wasn’t quite sure how it would compare to my usual fare. This review will hopefully assist other wargamers to decide if War of the Ring is right for them.


Components:

Well, there are certainly enough pictures on the Geek to decide yourself. The figures are extremely well sculpted, though the colors are a bit garish. I’ve read some complaints that the figures (particularly those of the free peoples) are a bit hard to distinguish from each other. Any wargamer, used to distinguishing between hundreds of small counters with sometimes minute differences, will find it pretty easy. Once you note a particular characteristic of each figure they are easy to remember. For example, the cavalry, which presents the most problems, becomes easy to differentiate when you realize that Gondor’s horses have their tails tied in a knot, the elves have bows, the riders of Rohan have a large crest on the helm, etc.

The artwork is excellent throughout, though clearly artistic flair trumped functional considerations on the counters. They too are bit difficult to distinguish, but again, a wargamer’s attention to detail – not to mention tons of GMT’s little ziplocks - eliminate this as an issue.

My only real gripe with the components in the tiny font on the cards. For consistency, the developers used the card with the most text, and therefore the smallest font, as the standard for all the cards. I would rather they used a larger font on the majority of cards with less text, and let us struggle to read only those few with a lot of text.

Components Rating: 9 out of 10 (would be 10 with larger font on cards)


Rules/Mechanics:

Okay this is where the rubber meets the road. First, let me say that aside from some basic mechanics, I’m not going to explain all the rules because there are plenty of other reviews that do that. Instead, I’m going to review the key design element of the game (the action dice) and compare it to a common wargame mechanic: card driven wargames.

On the surface, the game plays a bit like a card-driven wargame, though dice are used to define a players options for the turn. To reflect Sauron’s greater initiative, the free peoples start with only 4 dice versus the shadow’s 7. Each army has the opportunity to add 2-3 dice by bringing additional commanders into play (Gandalf the White and Aragorn for the free peoples, Saruman, the Witch King, and the Mouth for Sauron for the shadow). The difference isn’t quite as large as it sounds as generally the shadow player designates some of his dice to the “hunt.”

After each player draws two cards and the shadow designates some of his die for the hunt for the ring, both players roll their action die, and then take turns using one die to initiate an action. The dice are used to muster new troops, move or attack with armies, play cards, or move the fellowship or other characters/commanders. This mechanic feels a lot like the card play in, say Barbarossa to Berlin, but feels a bit more limiting. In my opinion, the average card in a CDG is more flexible than a die, due to its “default” ability to be used as an OPS card. There really isn’t a similar mechanic in War of the Rings. I often felt constrained by the dice, much like the way your strategy is frequently constrained in Memoir by the cards (you want to respond to the attack on your left flank? Too bad you don’t have any left flank cards!)

One example from a recent game should help illuminate this issue. I went into the game with a plan to push the fellowship recklessly and see if I keep win with a ring toss into Mount Doom. I kept rolling muster and army die, which obviously didn’t support that aim, and mid-game I had to switch to a military goal of seizing four shadow VP’s (a none-to-easy task that was only accomplished due to the inexperience of my opponent.)

Now, in fairness, this can happen in B2B, or other CDGs, too. As the German, for example, if you don’t draw the Taifun or Nordlicht card early, you can’t attack Moscow or Leningrad, hindering your advance into northern Russia. But even without those cards, there will still be plenty of 4 or 5 OPS cards to mount an aggressive campaign. In WotR, I more often felt the prisoner of die.

Let me put it another way. I never feel like a card is wasted in B2B. Usually, I want to do too many things with it and have a hard time deciding. In WotR, I sometimes feel a die is a total waste because I can’t use it for what I want, and its purpose is useless to me (for example, getting a muster die when no countries are at war.)

Okay, enough of that. I don’t want to sound like I don’t like this game, because I do. It just has a different feel than most wargames – but I still consider WotR a wargame, more so even than Memoir 44.

Even given the constraints of the dice, this game allows a lot of freedom to decide your strategy. I haven’t played enough to test all the obvious ones, so I can’t comment on whether there are many potentially winning strategies or if there are only one or two winning ones. Still, the game leaves me wanting to play more so I can, for example, try a campaign led by the dwarves. That is a good thing. I look forward to a half dozen games of trying out completely different strategies, even if I get my butt handed to me each time. The theme and bits of the game are more than enough to keep me coming back for more.

Another interesting feature is the cards themselves. While they are not used to “drive” the game in the same way as in a CDG, they are pretty flexible with both an “event” type action and as a potential influence to combat. The use of cards to influence combat is a aspect of the game I particularly like (and is probably underused in B2B, though may be more prevalent in Paths of Glory). Cards, which can be played before a round of combat, can influence the die roll, cause a leader to be targeted, give a “first strike” ability, and many, many more options. With only six cards in your hand, the desire to use them in combat versus holding them for their event creates a lot of tension (in a good way!)

Rules/Mechanics: 8 out of 10


Summary/Judgement:

War of the Rings is an excellent game. As to whether a wargamer will like it, I think in most cases the answer is yes, particularly if you, like me, can enjoy a fantasy setting along with a historical one. There is a fair amount of “chrome” here, so if you are a Tolkien fan, its fun to see how the designer addressed the events in the book, a similar exercise to measuring a wargame’s “historiocity.” For example, if you enjoy seeing how a designer evaluated the combat effectiveness of the Panzer Lehr division versus the 101st airborne, or the initiative rating of Manstein versus Zhukov, you will probably also enjoy determining if the designer’s take on Sauruman’s or Gandalf’s special abilities matches your own expectation.

Overall: 9 out of 10


6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jim O'Neill (Established 1949)
Scotland
Motherwell
Graduate of Barlinnie
flag msg tools
VENI, VIDI, VISA - my reaction on entering my FLGS.
badge
Like a good red wine, I improve with age... and being laid.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
As a miniatures wargamer, the first thing I did was paint the figures. It adds so much to the game in ease of recognition. There is also the "Wow" when other players first see it set up.

Loved your review.

Jim
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Stephen Sekela
United States
Camp Lejeune
North Carolina
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Cleitus the Black wrote:


Let me put it another way. I never feel like a card is wasted in B2B. Usually, I want to do too many things with it and have a hard time deciding. In WotR, I sometimes feel a die is a total waste because I can’t use it for what I want, and its purpose is useless to me (for example, getting a muster die when no countries are at war.)


Cleitus -

One thing I would mention is that I don't feel the dice are quite as restrictive as you suggest. There are usually 2 or 3 different uses for each particular symbol. For instance - the muster die can also be used to play a card that may give you reinforcements, or the sword symbol can be used to allow an army with a leader (Nazgul or Companion) to attack, or allow an army with a leader to move, or allow you to play a certain card, or allow you to move your leaders. But yes - it's still true that your plans can be stimyed sometimes by the dice...

Good review - interesing comparisons.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew C
United States
San Marcos
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Zordren wrote:

One thing I would mention is that I don't feel the dice are quite as restrictive as you suggest. There are usually 2 or 3 different uses for each particular symbol. For instance - the muster die can also be used to play a card that may give you reinforcements


Stephen, good point, thank you. I still feel that, overall, the dice are a bit more restrictive that your average card in a CDG. In the scenario I described (my last WotR game) the alternative muster die ability to play a card wasn't much help as I was trying to move the fellowship.

All in all, the WotR is still a fantastic game and, recently, the game I am spending the most play time on exploring its nuances.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kevin Chapman
United States
Powhatan
Virginia
flag msg tools
Axis & Allies Developer and Playtester; War of the Ring Editor and Playtester
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Cleitus the Black wrote:
I still feel that, overall, the dice are a bit more restrictive that your average card in a CDG. In the scenario I described (my last WotR game) the alternative muster die ability to play a card wasn't much help as I was trying to move the fellowship.

Strider's Guide ability (Hide the Fellowship with any Action Die) can be a great help under these circumstances, if he is the Guide of the Fellowship. There are also more uses for Muster dice in the Expansion.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dave J McWeasely
United States
Louisville
Kentucky
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmb
Re: War of the Ring: A wargamer's review and comparison to a
I predict that as you get better at the game, that muster will seem more and more valuable to you. The differences between a brand-spankin-new WotR player, and an intermediate player, is not their ability to use the resources that fit their strategy, but rather to adapt their strategy to maximise their resources.

For example, a defense with prominent Dwarves can't be forced. Moving them to war early will just result in Dol Guldur squelching them before they get any wartime benefit. Dwarves play a prominent role with a lot of luck, Sauron incompotence, and / or Book of Mazurbul. Stepping into the game thinking "I'm going to go mad Dwarf" is a recipe for wasted actions. You have to meet your resources half way, and in return they'll meet you half way.

That in turn makes the replay value even higher, as when the Dwarves finally do beat back the hordes and do something crazy like sack Mount Gundabad, it makes victory even more sweet. That's why posting a session report with crazyness is the cool thing: like if Southron elephants end up taking Lorien. You get to explain what confluence of tactically-sound player actions ended up producing an apparent strategic absurdity, and the masses stand agog with wonder. arrrh
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew C
United States
San Marcos
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
MrWeasely wrote:
I predict that as you get better at the game, that muster will seem more and more valuable to you.


I can't argue with that.

MrWeasely wrote:
The differences between a brand-spankin-new WotR player, and an intermediate player, is not their ability to use the resources that fit their strategy, but rather to adapt their strategy to maximise their resources. For example, a defense with prominent Dwarves can't be forced.


I think that is exactly my point. The dice frequently define the strategy for the player. Most wargames, even CDG's, seem to support your choice of strategy, for better or for worse, but rarely do the card simply make your plans completely unworkable. In my (limited) experience with WotR, it seems that your are more often forced to choose your strategy based on the resources at hand (i.e. the dice roll results). In CDG's you can usually use your resources (the cards) the best you can to support your chosen strategy.

I think I'll just have to play more to see if my perception holds...darn it!


 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.