It will come as a surprise to no one that as the Amazon Rings of Power program approaches, publishers and manufacturers of Tolkien-related products have been busy, preparing for a new wave of Lord of the Rings ‘buzz’ or awareness that must be the inevitable result of the Amazon release—regardless of its critical reception among Tolkien fans.
In the specific area of tabletop gaming, we have seen two large announcements in the last few weeks.
Ares Games has been producing tabletop games for some years now, including popular games like Battlestar Galactica or the Wings of Glory dogfighting miniatures game. Tolkien fans surely know them best for War of the Ring (2004; Second Edition, 2011), a massive board game for two players that pits the Free Peoples against the Shadow Armies.
While many find the game intimidatingly large and complex, it has gathered a large and enthusiastic following among board gamers. At the major gaming convention Gen Con (August 4–7), Ares demonstrated a new game to be released in November, [War of the Ring: The Card Game].
Unlike the Fantasy Flight Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth or Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (recently revised and republished), which are fully co-operative or solo games, in the War of the Ring card game:
- Up to 4 players compete in two teams, the Shadow against the Free Peoples, each player using a specific and different card deck representing the strengths and weaknesses of the different factions involved in the war.
- The Free Peoples desperately try to complete their quest to destroy the One Ring, while at the same time defending their homelands from the encroaching hordes of Sauron and from his evil allies.
- The Shadow players must strike quickly and decisively, before the Ring-bearers can complete their quest; or try to slowly corrupt Frodo, burdening him with wounds, toil, and the sorrow for the loss of his Companions.
The game should play in one or two hours (compared to the four hours or more required for the War of the Ring board game). The box contains about 165 cards (with 100 original illustrations by artists including John Howe) and 45 tokens, and should sell for $45. By comparison, the Fantasy Flight Lord of the Rings card game Core set contains about 300 cards and 150 tokens (plus four Threat Dials), but retails for about $70.
Ares Games does have the rulebook available now for downloading for those who are interested in more details.
On August 7, Games Workshop, Ltd., had a big announcement event for new products in their Middle-earth line of tabletop miniatures games.
The biggest news from this was the forthcoming release of The Battle for Osgiliath, a new starter set for their Middle-earth Strategy Battle Game that will replace the Battle of Pelennor Fields starter set released in 2018 (see my August 2018 article); people interested in the older product should buy it soon.
This new starter set will include a slightly revised rulebook (224 pages); 12 Warriors of Minas Tirith and 12 Rangers of Gondor, plus new sculpts for their leaders: Faramir, Madril, and Damrod; 24 Mordor orcs and a Mordor Troll, led by Gothmog, in two new sculpts—mounted and unmounted; four modular terrain pieces for the ruins of Osgiliath; a Scenario book, dice, range ruler, and some game tokens. Note that this adds up to 54 unpainted miniatures, compared to the 84 miniatures in the older product, reflecting the economics of our time.
On the other hand, this may be a slightly more “accessible” game for new players, lacking the more complex game play associated with the Witch-king in the earlier set.
No price has been announced: Games Workshop will have an unusual two-week pre-order window between September 10 and 26, 2022.
Also announced were four new “battlehost boxes”. These seem to be intended as a convenient way for the new players who have purchased the starter box to expand their armies, which has been a problem for GW customers in the past. The boxes—Mordor, Isengard, Minas Tirith, and Rohan—contain 32–48 (for Isengard) miniatures including leaders like Gandalf and Saruman. None of these are new sculpts, and so will be of less interest to longtime player/collectors.
Finally, there will be individual “mighty elven heroes” products: Glorfindel (mounted and unmounted), Rumil, Orophin, and Galadhrim guards. And there will be an Elrond product: on horse, on foot, and (tying into the Second Age at last), Elrond as the Herald of Gil-galad, bearing his banner.