Phlebas Sosostris
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Here is a review written by my son followed by my comments.

Lords of Middle Earth (War of the Ring Expansion) Ares Games 2012

Introduction

Lords of Middle Earth is the first 2nd edition expansion to War of the Ring. The expansion features six new characters and alternate versions of the Witch King, the Mouth of Sauron, and Gandalf. The eight miniatures include Aragorn and Gandalf the White. Certain characters come with their own unique dice which are not as good as normal action dice and can be removed permanently from play if particular results are rolled (eye and one other), and if the Witch-King or Gandalf the White are in play for evil and good respectively.

Time: One and a half to three hours.

Rings: New elven ring counters are included so the players know which ring belongs to which character (Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond) as the ring can now be used by the keepers for their unique abilities or for their original powers.

The New Characters:

Gothmog Lieutenant of Morgul

Gothmog adds an additional army leader to the game allowing the shadow player to focus his nazgul more on the hunt of the ring. He has his own unique die featuring two army actions, two muster actions, a draw card icon and an eye which may be used providing that the original version of the Witch King is not in play (see below). His key ability is that the shadow player may use a muster die to either place a Sauron regular in an army containing Gothmog or upgrade a regular to an elite making him great in siege attacks. One other key advantage is he does not count as a minion for Gandalf the White.

Balrog

The Balrog is an extremely powerful leader (leadership:3, adds two to the combat strength of the army) but is somewhat reluctant to leave its home in Moria; a balrog activation tile is included with the expansion with two sides nonactive and active; the tile may only be flipped to active using a replacement of the 'A Balrog Has Come' event or a balrog activate result on his own unique dice (eye,two balrog activate symbols, character, muster) is rolled. The Balrog should not be used in attacks far away from Moria because the free peoples may use a will of the west to kill the balrog if it is outside
Moria.

Elrond

Elrond is one of the three keepers of the Elven rings. He is a very limited leader not being able to leave Rivendell but does possess his own unique die (Eye, Army, two draw cards, palantir, muster). Elrond may use his Ring once to keep an action die he just used (not WW). All elites in Rivendell with Elrond count as leaders.

Galadriel

Like Elrond, Galadriel is one of the keepers of the Elven rings. She may not leave Lothlorien limiting her power in the game but has some valuable abilities. Her die has an eye, muster, palantir, two draw card symbols and a character. Her ring may be used to cancel a grey hunt tile with an eye and draw another. With Galadriel it is possible to muster in an under siege Lothlorien making her very hard to kill.


Gandalf Keeper of Narya

This new version of Gandalf has his own die and he is sufficently more powerful than the alternate Gandalf the Grey, however he may only use his die if he is guide of the fellowship. He opens up more military posibilities for the free peoples because if he is in a free peoples city/stronghold he may move that nation immediately to war if he uses his Elven ring. He may be upgraded to Gandalf the White.

Witch King Chief of the Ringwraiths

This variant of the Witch-King is more suited to hunting for the fellowship and possesses some extremely strong abilies to help him do so; if the shadow player plays a character event card and the Witch-King is in that region the shadow player may immediately draw another character event card and if the fellowship is declared in a region not containing a free people city or stronghold he may immediately go there. He does not count as a minion for Gandalf the White purposes and possesses a normal action die.

Mouth of Sauron Black Numenorean

This version of the Mouth of Sauron is stronger than its alternate form but is hard to get in play unless the fellowship player is using a military strategy. To muster him the fellowship must be in mordor or have at least one victory point. Once per turn he may use a muster to move an army he is with, also he may continue a siege battle for one round without reducing an elite making him ideal for siege combat. He has one normal action die.


Smeagol

The game explores what would happen if Gollum had joined the fellowship before the breaking of the fellowship. If one of the new Smeagol tiles is drawn for the hunt Smeagol becomes the new guide of the fellowship. Smeagol's level depends on the level of the previous guide. Smeagol comes as a mixed blessing because if he is removed Sauron gets the nasty "We Shall Get It" card.

Comparison with Twilight of the Third Age

Lords of Middle Earth features some of the characters in Twilight of the Third Age but overall is a sufficiently different expansion. The Lords of Middle Earth expansion features only new characters and has concentrated on making them both interesting and balanced.

Character changes

-Balrog only moves Elves and Dwarves on political track when mustered.
-Galadriel and Balrog do not have proper action dice
-Witchking chief of the Ringwraiths is not as powerful




Added complexity: At first it will seem to add a lot of complexity but it is easy to get used to.

Strategy Changes: Overall, the strategy will remain the same, although it is now more possible for the free peoples to achieve a military victory because of Gandalf's ring abilty. It is easier to assault Gondor and Lorien with the new shadow characters.

Rating:

Figures: 7/10

Aragorn and Gandalf figures are not great.

Replayability Added: 10/10

Quality: 10/10

Added Enjoyability: 10/10

9.5/10


There is a separate Treebeard promo mini-expansion which cannot be bought directly.

Treebeard (Mini Expansion)

Treebeard is a character which will rarely see play as often better things can be done with the muster die used to get him. Like the Balrog he must be activated this time with an ent card but he possesses none of the Balrog's mighty abilities; no leadership, adds one to the strength of an army if he is in Rohan, however, in desperate battles in control for Rohan he can prove a useful asset. He also counts as a companion for playing ent cards.


Comments by father

If you enjoy playing War of the Ring (2nd edition) but feel that it has become a little stale, this expansion adds some extra complications and strategies that freshens the game up. It is a fairly small expansion, however, and compared to the first edition expansion "Battles of middle earth" it is very limited.

Essentially, Ares have taken the character part of the old expansion and refined it. The limited action dice make for more choices. Once you have multiple in play, you can only use one a turn so they are much more limited. Also, often you get a draw cards action which is not very useful.

Ultimately, if you really like War of the Ring, you are going to buy this expansion and get some enjoyment out of it but don't expect too much.








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