War of the Ring was, for me, one of those headache projects that attracted all manner of “assistant” Art Directors, each lobbying energetically for one pet graphic tidbit or another. That the game managed to survive this (and the ecclesiastical debates over what Tolkien really said on page umpty-ump) is a testament to the spirit of compromise and her handmaiden, Veiled Threat. The elaborate three-player game presented here was the subject of one such debate. — RAS
During the development of War of the Ring, the design team reached a decision to add a three-player game to the rules. As I was responsible for playtesting at the time, the job of coming up with feasible three-player rules was given to me. I outlined what I considered a workable set of rules in note form, and then gave it over to the playtesting team. The first week or two was spent arguing over whether or not some of the rules truly reflected what could have happened had Saruman been wiser, but after a while the playtesters settled down to the task of playbalancing the game. Unfortunately, when it came time to print the War of the Ring rules, it was .discovered that they ran slightly overlength, and the longer (and more complex) version that is included here was cut and changed into a much simpler game.
The discerning reader will notice that the design intentions seem to be at cross purposes in these rules. While some of the rules are meant to reflect historical or quasi-historical situations (such as Breaking the Staves of Power), others are meant strictly as playbalancing mechanisms. For instance, I will be the first to admit that I do not believe Saruman was intended to be as powerful as I have made him in the Three-Player Game, but in defense of his rating it must be pointed out that the Saruman Player has a good chance of being competitive if the following rules are used.
The War of the Ring would have gone much differently indeed if Saruman (see E.10), the greatest wizard of the White Council, had chosen a much wiser course of action. A very powerful being in his own right, Saruman (sometimes referred to as Curunir) secretly bred Ores at Isengard, and convinced the Dunlendings to join forces with him. It was only Gandalf’s timely escape when imprisoned at Isengard and his adroit subsequent actions that prevented Saruman from winning the Battle for Helm’s Deep, a battle which would have made Saruman controller of the central part of Middle Earth via his military might.
*The Three-Player Game assumes that Saruman had been a bit luckier and a bit more politic in his dealings with the Free Peoples and Sauron. Admittedly, it is most difficult for the Saruman Player to win the game because Saruman must wrest the Ring from the Ringbearer and then keep it from the other two Players, but the Saruman Player can make the play of the game most interesting with the various options presented below. In essence, the Saruman Player is challenged to be either the “kingmaker” of the War of the Ring, or, should the cards fall right, the ruler of Middle Earth.
The Dark Power or Saruman Player rolls the die to determine Gollum’s “allegiance” for the current Game-Turn. The Fellowship Player can also roll the die to resolve an attempt by a Character who has put on the Ring to remove it.
The Saruman Player draws an
Event Card, and may discard or play it or discard or play any other Event Card
he possesses, as desired. The Fellow ship Player then follows suit, and the
Dark Power Player finishes the Phase in like fashion.
At the end of the Phase, the Saruman Player may form an
The Saruman Player deploys any units that have been mobilized. Then the Saruman Player may move any Characters or combat units under his control. After all Movement has been completed, the Saruman Player conducts all Combats. Re member that Individual Combat occurs before Army Combat.
The Fellowship Player may roll the die to resolve Escape attempts by any of his Characters who are eligible for such. Then, the Fellowship Player may deploy any combat units that have been mobilized. After that, the Fellowship Player may move any of his Characters or combat units. When all Movement is complete, the Fellowship Player resolves any combats he may wish to occur.
The Dark Power Player repeats step V.3 in its entirety, substituting “Dark Power Player” for “Saruman Player.”
The Saruman Player advances the Game-Turn marker one space along the Game-Turn Record Track, signaling the passage of one Game-Turn.
Note that unless specifically stated in the ensuing rules, all rules for the Three-Player Game are the same as the rules for the Campaign Game. Also note that the term “Saruman” is used interchange ably with the term “Saruman Player,” and that the term “Sauron” is likewise used interchange ably with the term “Dark Power Player.”
The Saruman Player may form an
When Alliances are Declared. Alliances may only be declared in the Events Phase, and they must be declared after all cards are drawn.
“Lending” Units to Allies. Once
How to Control Allies’ Units. To control a unit normally controlled by a Player’s Ally, the Player must have a Character capable of leading combat units in Army Combat in the same hex as the Army units to be controlled. The Player simply moves the Character into the hex with the units to be con trolled, and may move the stack from there. Or, a Player may have more Strength Points than his Ally in the hex and thereby control his Ally’s units. These conditions must be satisfied as long as a Player that does not normally control a unit moves that particular unit (but need not be satisfied at the beginning of a Game-Turn).
Effect of Allied Stacks. Whenever a combat is being resolved in which the units in a given stack are not normally controlled by the same Player, a modification of one on the die-roll is adjudicated in favor of the Player with the non-Allied stack. That is, if an Allied stack is defending the Attacking Player adds one to his Army Combat die-roll while if an Allied stack is attacking, the Attacking Player subtracts one from his Army Combat die- roll. An Allied stack is defined as any stack that has units, Character or Army, that do not begin the game controlled by the same Player.
Fellowship Player. Saruman may continue to conduct Searches when he
and Sauron Both Possess Nazgul. If the two are Allied and each
possesses Nazgul, they must decide which of the Nazgul will make up the (up to)
three Nazgul that conduct the Search (i.e., Saruman has three Nazgul, the Dark
Power Player has none; Saruman has two Nazgul, the Dark Power Player has one;
etc.). If the two Allies can not agree by the end of five minutes, the
If Saruman should be in the same hex as the Ring- bearer when the Ringbearer is killed and the Fellowship Player is Allied with the Saruman Player, the Fellowship Player may opt to “give” the Ring to Saruman, rather than surrender it to some agent of the Dark Power Player or one of his own Characters. To do so, neither Gandalf nor Aragorn may be present in the same hex as the Ringbearer and Saruman, though other Characters controlled by the Fellowship Player may be present. Note that Saruman may not opt to “give” the Ring to a member of the Fellowship should he die; the winner of the entire Individual Combat obtains the Ring.
When one of the two Players in
Effects of a Dissolved
A Player may not Dissolve an
* If the Saruman Player gains control of the Ring and moves Saruman to Isengard, Saruman may begin to Control the Nazgul.
Restrictions on Controlling
the Nazgul. To Control the Nazgul, Saruman must put the Ring on. Before the
Game-Turn in which he may begin to Control the Nazgul, Saruman must spend one
full Game-Turn at Isengard (hex W2421) in which he does not engage in Army or
Individual Combat, and, obviously, does not move. He may Mind Battle, attempt
to Persuade a Fellowship Character, form an
How to Control the Nazgul. If Saruman has spent the previous Game-Turn at Isengard without moving or engaging in combat, he automatically will Control one Nazgul at the end of the Events Phase of that Game-Turn. If he spends another Game- Turn at Isengard in which he does not move, engage in Combat, Persuade a Fellowship Character, or engage in Mind Battle he will be able to Control one Nazgul more the next turn. On the fourth Game-Turn that he attempts to Control Nazgul, he will gain two Nazgul, and so on for all turns after the fourth. However, if Saruman fails to spend a turn in which he does not move or engage in Combat, the cycle must start again, with the spending of a complete Game-Turn at Isengard before another Nazgul maybe controlled.
Which Nazgul are Controlled. When Saruman fulfills the prerequisites for Controlling a Nazgul, the Dark Power Player gathers the Character Cards for the existing Nazgul and secretly arranges the Cards in order. The Saruman Player then picks a number from 1 to the number of Nazgul that there are (if all nine are in existence, I to 9), or, if he will Control two Nazgul this turn, two numbers from 1 to the number of the Nazgul. The Dark Power Player than counts off the cards, giving the Saruman Player the Character Cards he now controls. Note that the Lord of the Nazgul and Gothmog may be Controlled by Saruman.
Controlled Nazgul Leading Sauron’s Armies. If a Nazgul Leading an Army is Controlled by Saruman (i.e., the Lord of the Nazgul or Gothmog), the Dark Power Player rolls a die. On a roll of 1 through 3, the Nazgul and Army become Saruman’s, and are treated exactly as a normal Forces of Saruman piece; on a roll of 4 through 6, the Army remains loyal to Sauron. All combat units that formerly belonged to Sauron belong to Saruman as long as the stack is led by Saruman or a Saruman-Controlled Nazgul. The moment the stack is either leaderless or led by another Leader, the Army units become Sauron’s again.
Nazgul With Enemy Army Units. Should Nazgul find themselves in a situation in which all units in the stack are Enemy (e.g., a Controlled Nazgul that does not “bring” the Army with him), it immediately flies to Barad-dur (E1128) if controlled by the Dark Power Player, or to Isengard (W2421) if Controlled by Saruman.
If Saruman Loses the Ring. Should Saruman lose the Ring and not recover it by the end of two Game-Turns, Sauron begins to Control the (Saruman-Controlled) Nazgul exactly as the Saruman Player Controlled Nazgul from him. Note that Sauron may never Control any Army units that begin the game loyal to Saruman.
Additional Benefits for
Controlling the Nazgul. The Saruman Player wins the game if he Controls all
the Nazgul in existence, plus the Citadels of Isengard and Helm’s Deep, plus
the town of
Should Saruman obtain the Ring and then lose it to the Fellowship Player, the Saruman Player rolls for Gollum’s “allegiance,” and not the Dark Power Player. Of course, the Saruman Player may play all cards that pertain to Gollum exactly as if he were the Dark Power Player. If the Dark Power Player should regain the Ring but lose it before he can bring it back to Barad-dur, he again rolls for Gollum’s “allegiance.”
All restrictions and benefits for Wearing the Ring are exactly the same as in Section M, except for the following:
Chief of the Dunlendings. In the Three-Player Game, the chief of the Dunlendings is considered to have a Ring Rating of 3, and can Wear or bear the Ring. Unlike other Characters, he may voluntarily surrender the Ring to Saruman, but may not do so to any other Character.
Saruman. Saruman does not ever become a Semi Ringwraith (as this would seriously imbalance the game), but must still roll to take the Ring off. Like the Chief of the Dunlendings, he is considered to have a 3 Ring Rating for taking off the Ring. The only Character who can challenge Saruman to an Individual Combat that Saruman may not refuse is Gollum. Gandalf, the Nazgul, Boromir (through the “Boromir Attempts to Seize the Ring” Event Card), etc., must have the Saruman Player’s con sent before engaging in Individual Combat with Saruman.
Under no circumstances may Saruman be killed in Army Combat. The only way to kill him is by Individual Combat.
Effects of the Ring on Saruman in Army Combat. Generally, the Saruman Player may find it advantageous to have Saruman wear the Ring in Army Combat. However, if Saruman is in an Army Combat in which the stack he is Leading takes a 50% or greater loss, and either Aragorn possessing Anduril or Gandalf the White is in the stack that defeated Saruman’s stack, Saruman loses the Ring to one of these two Characters. If the Lord of the Nazgul is in a stack that defeats Saruman, Saruman must either surrender the Ring or engage in Individual Combat with the Lord of the Nazgul.
Effect of Reduction of Saruman’s Forces. If the Saruman Player ever possesses less than 30 (thirty) Strength Points, any Character may challenge Saruman to an Individual Combat that he cannot refuse.
* Within certain limits, Players may trade captives, Magic Cards, Event Cards and information among themselves. The term “barter” is interchangeable with the terms “deal” and “trade.”
Who May Engage in Barter. The Saruman Player is the only Player who may Barter with both other Players. The Fellowship Player may not Barter with the Dark Power Player, or vice-versa.
What May Be Traded. All Magic Cards with the exception of the Ring, all Event Cards, and all captives may be freely traded among eligible Players. The details of any and all deals is up to the individual Players.
Example. The Saruman Player has captured Gandalf the White, who has the Magic Cards for Galadriel’s Light, Elven Rope and Shadowfax. The Fellowship Player wishes to regain Gandalf the White, but does not have the Event Card to do so. The Saruman Player states that he will trade Gandalf the White for Glamdring (as it will aid him in Combat), Athelas, and Legolas and Faramir as captives. The Fellowship Player feels that he is being gypped, and counter-proposes Gandalf and his Magic Cards for Glamdring, Athelas, Legolas and the Event Card that allows Orcs to go into Battle Frenzy. After some utterings about unfairness, the Saruman Player agrees. Incidentally, Players may make deals involving future delivery of Cards or aid (i.e., “and a Hobbit to be named later”), but the Player who promises to deliver in the future is under no obligation to do so.
Information About Cards That May Be Exchanged Among Players. Players may not under any circumstances voluntarily show each other Cards that they or their Characters hold. When consummating a trade, all Cards must be placed face down before any of the Players picks up any of the Cards. Players may declare what they have in their hands, but may not show proof. Of course, Magic Cards revealed due to Combat, Event Cards (e.g., Palantirs) or by being discovered on Captured Characters will be known to two or three of the Players and will be verifiable to an extent.
Example. In the above example, the Fellowship Player could give the Saruman Player a “Misty Passes Open” Events Card, instead of the “Orcs in Battle Frenzy” Card, thereby cheating the Saruman Player. Of course, the Saruman Player could have substituted the Sting Magic Card (assuming he had it) for the Shadowfax Magic Card, to complete the double-cross. If it helps any, physical violence is against the rules, and the Player who initiates such has automatically lost the game.
How to Trade Magic Cards. Unlike Event Cards, which may be handed over, Magic Cards must be traded between Characters. When such a Card is to be traded, a Character of each Player involved in the deal must be in the same hex, and one of those Characters must possess the Magic Card to be traded (or any Magic Card, if one Player is gypping the other). Similarly, a Character to be re leased from captivity must be released from the hex in which that Character is being held captive, or escorted to an agreed upon rendezvous hex. Of course, a Character need not surrender a Magic Card or captive just because he moved to a given hex. Perfidy is not encouraged but is possible.
* In the Three-Player Game, Saruman may obtain Magic Cards other than the Palantir of Isengard, which he obtains at the start of the game. Also, Saruman and the Chief of the Dunlendings may use all Magic Items as outlined below.
When the Saruman Player May Obtain Magic Cards. Any time that a Magic hex is vacant of Enemy units (units of Allies do not count as Enemy units) at the end of a Saruman Player- Turn, the Saruman or Chief of the Dunlendings Character may attempt to gain a Magic Card. If the two are in the same hex, only one attempt may be made, but if the two are in separate Magic hexes, two attempts may be made.
How the Saruman Player Obtains Magic Cards. If Saruman or the Chief of the Dunlendings have fulfilled the above conditions, the Saruman Player rolls a die. On a 1 through 3, the Saruman Player gains a Magic Card from that hex. On a 4 through 6, the Magic Card remains there, and is fair game in succeeding Game-Turns. The Saruman Player rolls once for every Magic Card in the hex.
Anduril and Items Usable by Hobbits Only. Saruman may hold, but not use, these Cards. He may declare that he has such Cards but, as per Y.1, he may not show the Cards.
Shadowfax. Saruman may use the great horse, but the Chief of the Dunlendings may only “hold” the Magic Card for Shadowfax.
Nazgul Controlled by Saruman. Nazgul Con trolled by Saruman may never use or obtain Magic Cards.
What Saruman May Do with Magic Cards. Saruman may use Magic Cards
normally, and has no restriction on the number that he “carries,” but the Chief
of the Dunlendings may only “hold” three Magic Cards. The Saruman Player may
trade or give away Magic Cards (and most likely will dispose of those he cannot
use), but will only be able to give away a Magic Card if he has an
Saruman and the Dark Power Player Trades Involving Magic Cards. If Saruman trades or gives away a Card to the Dark Power Player, it is considered lost forever, unless the Dark Power Player at some point trades it back to Saruman. No Dark Power Player may ever use a Magic Card.
Obtaining Magic Cards by Individual Combat. If Saruman or the Chief of the Dunlendings is victorious in Individual Combat, he gains all Cards belonging to the defeated Character when all Individual Combats in that hex are over.
Any stack led by the Saruman
Character may pass through the
*To give the Saruman Player a fair chance, it is necessary to give the Saruman Character certain advantages, as the Saruman Player’s hopes of winning are pinned on that Character.
Individual Combat. Saruman may always refuse Individual Combat, unless he is the Ringbearer, and the Dark Power Player possesses a “Gollum Attempts to Seize the Ring” Events Card, and plays it; or the Saruman Player possesses fewer than 30 Strength Points on the game-map, in which case he may not refuse Individual Combat. Once engaged in Individual Combat, Saruman may not “break off” and escape from the Combat.
Army Combat. Aside from the advantages listed in X.4, Saruman may always automatically be placed at Isengard at the end of an Army Combat in which he takes greater loss in terms of percentage than the Enemy Player. Of course, if he is at Isengard, he may not take advantage of this rule. Aside from that, Saruman must first satisfy the conditions of X.4 before leaving the hex in which Army Combat was fought.
The Chief of the Dunlendings and Nazgul Con trolled by Saruman do not accrue any such benefits.
The Palantirs, which were originally used as a communications network for the Exiles of Numenor, were turned to evil uses by Sauron the Great and Saruman the Wise. Such was the power of those two beings that they could control a weaker mind and engage or distract a stronger mind. Sauron used the Palantir of Minas Ithil at his residence at Barad-dur to convince Denethor that Minas Tirith was doomed, and later to gain information from Pippin. But it was a two-way Palantir that he projected his mind through, for Aragorn was able to challenge Sauron and distract him from Frodo and Sam as they made for Orodrum. Some time in the Third Age Saruman discovered the original Palantir of Orthanc, and learned its uses. With it, he communicated with Sauron, and learned of its many uses.
How to Mind
Fellowship Characters at Isengard. Saruman does not lose the Palantir at Isengard to a Fellowship Character until defeated by Army Combat at Isengard (no Strength Points remaining).
Saruman the Wise had great persuasive powers, chief among which was the employment of his voice. For it was said that he could sway his most adamant enemies to his side by conversing with them, and he certainly impressed people after his power was broken by the Ents during the siege of Isengard. It can be conjectured that f Saruman had used the Palantir to influence weaker minds he would have turned some of the Fellowship Characters to his side.
How to Persuade a Fellowship Character. Any Game-Turn that Saruman is at Isengard, he may attempt to Persuade a Fellowship Character. To do so, both Saruman and the Fellowship Character to be Persuaded must be in the same hex as a Palantir. During that Game-Turn, Saruman may not attempt to Control the Nazgul or Mind Battle, but he may engage in Army or Individual Combat.
Procedure for Persuading a Fellowship Character. The Saruman Player states to the Fellowship Player that he is attempting to Persuade a Fellowship Character. The Fellowship Player determines whether or not there are any Fellowship Characters eligible for Persuasion, and, if not, Saruman has “wasted” the Events Phase. If there is a Character eligible, that Character must successfully make his Capture die-roll (Characters without Capture Ratings are assumed to have a Rating of 3), or else that Character will immediately begin moving towards Isengard, and will not stop unless another Fellowship Character enters the same hex at the end of the Fellowship Player- Turn, and the Persuaded Character makes his Escape die-roll (again, Characters without an Escape Rating are assumed to have one of 3). When the Persuaded Character reaches Isengard, he is considered Captured.
Characters That May Not Be Persuaded. Characters with a Movement Allowance of zero, Aragorn, Gandalf (either incarnation), Celeborn or the Ringbearer may not be Persuaded.
Escape From Isengard. The only way escape from Isengard may be made is by the “Eagles!” Event Card. Otherwise, the Saruman Player must free a Character or Isengard must be militarily conquered.
At some time during the beginning of the Third Age, five beings of great power came to Middle Earth. These were the Istari, known to the common folk as wizards. It was assumed that the Valar sent these beings to Middle Earth, and, indeed, the Istari themselves reinforced that opinion. Among the greatest of the Istari were Gandalf, known as Mithrandir, and Saruman, known as Curunir. At the beginning of the War of the Ring, Saruman was acknowledged to be the most powerful of the Istari, and was made head of the White Council. But after the defeat of Saruman s forces at the hands of the Ents and the Rohirrim, Gandalf the White became most powerful among wizards. He so sign by breaking Saruman’s power object, the Staff of Power.
The first time that Gandalf (either incarnation) and Saruman engage in Individual Combat, the loser (if he may come back — i.e., Gandalf the Grey would be able to return as Gandalf the White, and Saruman would be able to return if it were the first time that he had been killed, see Y.9) is considered to have had his Staff of Power bro ken by the winner. From then on, the loser always uses the C column when utilizing Sorcery, and may never become as proficient at Sorcery as he once was.
Hand and Eye Orcs. For Search purposes, all Hand Orcs (those Orcs with a White Hand on their shields on the back of the Search Cards) work for Saruman, and all Eye Orcs (all Orcs who do not have a White Hand on the back of the Search Cards) work for the Dark Power Player. If an Orc Search Card is turned during the Search Phase, determine which Player’s Ores are doing the Searching. That Player adjudicates all of the Search procedure, and need not inform the other Player of any results of the Search. All Hand Orcs head for Isengard (hex W2421) and are moved by the Saruman Player if they capture any Characters, and all Eye Orcs move towards Barad-dur (hex E1128) and are moved by the Dark Power Player if they capture any Characters.
Example. A Hand Ore Search Card is pulled. There is a stack of four Characters in an Area listed on the Search Card, so the Saruman Player proceeds to Search for those Characters. He discovers that Aragorn, Sam and Frodo are in that hex (Gandalf has evaded Search with the Elven Cloak), and successfully Captures Aragorn and Sam. The Orc counter is placed on the game-map with the two Captured Characters, and is in all ways considered to be a Saruman unit. Note that the Saruman Player need not inform the Dark Power Player that he has discovered Hobbits via Search; and if the Dark Power Player has not been mobilized, this decision could be very important indeed.
Nazgul Search. If both Players (Saruman and the Dark Power) possess
Nazgul, and the two do not have an
Note. If a Nazgul engages another Nazgul in Individual Combat, all Wounds scored by straight Individual Combat (as opposed to Sorcery) count as Wounds inflicted with a normal weapon on the Endurance Level Chart. In other words, a Nazgul may not be killed by another Nazgul unless the other Nazgul uses Sorcery. Incidentally, those Wounds inflicted by means other than Elven Swords or Sorcery can be “cured” from Nazgul Controlled by Saruman by removing them to Isengard.
Expenditure of Shadow Points During Search. Saruman never expends Shadow Points to Control Nazgul, and the Dark Power Player does not when engaging in Individual Combat as a result of Search.
At the beginning of the game, the
Dark Power Player may not attack any unit controlled by
the Saruman Player until the Saruman Player initiates an action offensive to
the Dark Power Player. Actions considered offensive to the Dark Power Player
include Mind Battle, Individual and Army Combat with a unit controlled by the
Dark Power Player,
Similarly, the Fellowship Player may not attack a unit controlled by Saruman until a Combat unit controlled by Saruman moves out of Isengard or Dunland, Mind Battle with Elrond and Galadriel is undertaken, a Fellowship Character is Captured or Persuaded, Gandalf’s Staff of Power is broken, or one of the other eight members of the Fellow ship is killed or an Alliance with the Dark Power Player is formed. Until one of the above events occurs, a unit belonging to the Saruman Player may not be attacked.
* Victory Conditions are included to give the Three-Player Game a purpose, and also to give the Players an idea of what the forces they are representing strove for in the War of the Ring. It is not always a guide to how well a Player can play the game, for we believe that is best measured by the enjoyment derived from the game.
Dark Power Player. To win the game, the Dark Power Player must have the Ring brought to the Barad-dur hex (El 128). Or, he may win a military victory by controlling the Citadels of Barad-dur, Durthang, Minas Morgul, Dol Guldur, Minas Tirith, Dol Amroth, Helm’s Deep and Isengard, plus the hexes containing Hobbiton and Thranduil’s Palace.
Fellowship Player. The Fellowship Player must destroy the Ring (see Section M) to win the game.
Saruman Player. The Saruman Player must Control all existing Nazgul
plus the Citadels of Isengard and Helm’s Deep, plus the town of
More than one Player may win the Three-Player Game, but it is unlikely that this will occur.