Roberto Di Meglio,
Marco Maggi,
Francesco Nepitello


International Gamers
Awards 2005

G@mebox Star



G@mebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

Der Ringkrieg is the latest product of a series of Tolkien board games which were released due to the "Lord of the Rings revival" following the movies by Peter Jackson.

However, different than quite a few other games on the topic, this game was truly one of my eye catchers on the game convention in Essen in 2004. Due to the fact that the board is twice as big as it is in a "standard" game, this was not really a miracle. But that was not the only reason for my attention. Especially the large amount of game pieces, representing the different armies, and the beautiful design of the board was something very attractive to me. So I was very anxious to know if the rules and the game play could fulfil my high expectations.

To be honest right at the beginning: In this review I can only give a rough overview and I cannot explain the rules in detail. 23 large rule pages are hard to manage and it took me and my fellows a few hours to start our first game. Fortunately the game comes along with easy starter rules to learn some of the major game elements. There are over 240 plastic figures, so - as you can imagine - there is a lot of combat in the game. It can be best played with two players (one playing the Free Nations and the other Sauron and his companions). If you are playing with three or four players, the armies of the two forces are divided between the players and there are some minor changes in game play, but the game basically remains the same. So in my opinion it is really a two person game with an option to involve two more players into the game.


There are two ways to win the game. First there is the military option: The Free Nation's player has to capture towns and fortresses with a value of four from the shadow player, while Sauron and his companions have to be more successful and must occupy places from the Free Nations with a value of ten or more. Next to this military possibility there is the One Ring. The Free Nations try to reach Mount Doom with the Fellowship to destroy the One Ring and force victory. Meanwhile the shadow player hunts the Ring and tries to catch it.

The board shows the complete map of Middle Earth and is divided into a lot of regions. Some regions have villages or towns and in the most important military locations like Edoras or Minas Tirith, there are fortresses. In all these regions the players can recruit new troops. In addition to this towns and fortresses give an advantage in combat, especially the fortresses are extremely difficult to capture.

At the beginning of the game the armies are set up as it is described in the rules. Naturally the Free Nation's player starts with the biggest forces in Gondor and Rohan, while the shadow player has a great force in Isengart and in Mordor. More troops of both players are at the far ends of Middle Earth in Harad, the Shire and in the northern parts. They normally are moved to the central points during the game.


The Fellowship starts the journey in Imladris at Elronds house. At the beginning all nine fellows are united and move together. During the game they can be separated by the Free Nations players by will or by other incidences. Beyond it members of the Fellowship even can be killed.

Each round of the game has the following phases that are done by both sides simultaneously:

  1. Drawing event cards
  2. Fellowship phase
  3. Hunt allocation
  4. Action Roll
  5. Action Resolution
  6. Victory Check

  1. The round starts with the drawing of two new event cards. Each event card has two functions. On the one hand it can be used for a lot of different actions that are described in detail on the cards. For example there are some cards to raise a greater amount of armies than it is normally possible in phase 5. Or it is something to damage your opponent, for example to break up the Fellowship of the Ring. On the other hand, each card can be used in combat giving some sort of fight bonus. Once a card is played, it is out of the game, so only one function of each card can be used.
  2. In the Fellowship phase the Free Nation's player can reveal the position of the Fellowship, which is normally hidden. This is done to cure the Fellowship from corruption from the One Ring or to activate a nation that is currently not very interested to enter the war. For this purpose it is necessary to be in the nation's stronghold or city. While the Fellowship is hidden, the distance the Fellowship has moved from their last revealed place is counted in a specific field on the board.
  3. The shadow player then decides how many of his action dice he wants to spend for hunting the Fellowship. These dice are being put aside and are not rolled in the next phase. So if he goes for a strong hunt, he does not have many other possibilities to act this round. Note that the shadow player starts with 7 dice and the player of the Free Nations with 4 dice. By bringing new or changed character (for example Gandalf, the White) into the game, the number of dice can be increased during the game.
  4. Then both players roll with their remaining dice. The dice have special symbols, representing the different actions. Sauron puts all dice with an eye aside to the hunt box. These dice increase the amount of dice from the preceding phase.
  5. In the following phase the players alternately do their actions that were rolled with the dice:
    • With a person action as the result of a die one can move a single person (e.g. Gandalf or Gimli), the Fellowship or persons together with a whole army in same region over the board.

      Recruiting actions are for raising new armies. What is really important in the game is the fact that there is only a limited number of new army pieces for the Free Nations player. Defeated pieces are put aside and can no longer be recruited. However if the shadow player looses a piece, it is returned to his supply, guaranteeing him an unlimited number of armies.

    • Army actions can be used to move an army (without a person) or to begin a battle by moving an army in the same region as an opponent army. The fight is quite simple. Normally each player rolls with a dice for each of his army pieces up to a maximum of five dice. Each 5 or 6 on a dice is a hit. Elite pieces can take two damages. If there are persons or leaders in the army, the player can roll a dice again, which was no hit, for every leader or person. There are special bonuses for defending armies in town and fortresses. At the beginning of each round the players can place a card to improve their power or to weaken his opponent. The fight goes on until one army is distinguished or if one player retreats. If one player retreats into a fortress, the fight lasts only one single fighting round, giving the defending player a big advantage.
    • Furthermore, there are combined recruiting and army actions giving the player the opportunity to choose between these possibilities.
    • Event actions can only be used to play a card. Note that the cards can also be played with a different action, if the symbol on the card is the same as the dice result.
    At the end, when all players have finished their actions that were rolled, the hunt for the Fellowship begins. For this a hunt card is drawn for each dice from the shadow player in the hunt box. Most of these cards produce corruption and some can reveal the position of the Fellowship. With a corruption of twelve or more the Fellowship looses its fight and the shadow player wins the game.
  6. The round ends with checking if one player has won the game.

There are more detailed rules but these are impossible to describe in this review. So - for example - there is the element of politics. Some nations, especially of the Free Nations, are not very interested in the war and must be forced with a recruiting dice or with a visit of a Fellowship member to enter the war. In a normal game it is quite usual that not all nations have entered war at the end of the game.


In my opinion Der Ringkrieg is a very good game giving two players a lot of fun. The story and the game play is surprisingly close to the books, which should especially appeal to Tolkien fans. The first one or two games are a little bit complex, but once you have understood the rules totally and don't have to look into the rulebook every 5 minutes, it is possible to play the game quite entertainingly. The strategic elements are not so strong that you have to wait half an hour or so for your opponent to do his turn, but instead a quite fluent gameplay is ensured. This is mainly due to the fact that the dice results in phase 5 are done alternately.

A little bit disappointing is the design of the army pieces. Especially the armies of the Free Nation's player are too similar to distinguish them at first sight. However, for recruiting purposes it is very important if a piece is an elven horseman or a cavalry from Gondor. I would suggest to paint the pieces or at least to mark the base of the miniature in some colour. Another point of criticism are the thin lines on the board that represent the borders of the regions and the nations. During the game there are occasions when there is a lot of pieces on the board and it is sometimes very hard to see where the armies stand exactly. However, apart from these minor points of criticism, I am very happy with the game.

If you love games like Axis and Allies and / or are a fan of Tolkien: Go for it!

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany