War of the Ring wasn’t the first game to use the intellectual property from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (LotR) trilogy, but it is arguably the game that dives deepest into Tolkien’s world. The game was released in 2004 by a trio of designers out of Italy — Roberto Di Meglio, Marco Maggi, and Francesco Nepitello — and was born out of a desire to create a game that simulated the struggle for control of Middle Earth. As Di Meglio said in a 2016 interview, “Lord of the Rings was a mass-market IP, and most games were very simple, family-oriented. We wanted something which could give us, as players, a full immersion in the LotR Trilogy, with all the details.”
An Anniversary Edition of this 2005 International Gamers Award winner was recently released by Ares Games. This limited edition features painted miniatures, a hardcover rulebook, an oversized game board, and several other nice touches.
This article has a brief photo tour of War of the Ring Anniversary Edition. Please excuse my below-average photography skills. I’m in love with this edition of the game, which I’ve taken to calling “my precious” (pun intended). If you’re interested in the history of the War of the Ring or a review, I recently wrote an article in Counter Magazine, which is available through the BGG store.
The box is enormous, weighing in at about 20 pounds. Outside of the main box is an elaborate slip cover, complete with beautiful embossing.
Remove the slip cover, and you get to the box, which is comes open from the front and closes via magnetic attraction. This is made from what is almost a felt-like material, and it also features a nice embossing.
Open it up and you start getting to the miniatures. The Free Peoples (i.e. the good guys) are in a blue tray. The Shadow Player (i.e. the supposed bad guys) are in a red tray. The fellowship characters and Nazgul are in a third tray not pictured.
The miniatures are well done. Some of them have more details than others, but here is a sampling (with pictures of the dice in the background).
My favorite touch — and I must admit up front that I’m a book collector — is the hard copy rulebook and companion, both of which can be found in a well-produced slip cover. The binding, paper quality, and other elements of the book are top notch, the sort of quality you’d expect to find in a collector’s edition of a book.
The game comes with four high-quality player aids. (Yes, you can — and should! — play this game with four players, although I admit that the best player count is two players.) The one imperfection I’ve caught so far is a typo on the back of the player aids.
If the book is my favorite feature, my second favorite is the bigger map. The map is enormous, and most regions can easily hold the ten figures that are allowed. Here’s a copy of the game set up for a four-player game.
Overall, I’m thrilled with the production quality. I haven’t checked the BGG forums to see if others have complaints, but I’m thrilled. I payed $389.00 for this — the most I’ve ever paid for a game — but I’d do it again. Realistically I won’t get this to the table that often — I’ve never been able to set it up, play it, and take it down in less than four hours — but it is also a fun trip to Middle Earth when I do.