This is a list of what are the best Lord of the Rings board games available in 2023.
Introduction to Best Lord of the Rings Board Games
Tolkien’s stories do not need a special introduction. A saga that started in the middle of the 20th century, reached its popularity peak with the trilogy movies, and later (and to a lesser extent) with The Hobbit movies. It’s no wonder that the father of modern fantasy has received numerous board game versions through the years.
You will notice that many games on the list are strictly for 2 players. I believe this restriction appears in Lord of the Rings naturally, as such is the story – there are two confronting sides after all. It’s something to keep in mind if you normally play in a larger group.
10. The Lord of the Rings (2000)
Players: 2-5, good with all numbers
Playing time: 60-90 minutes
Ages (complexity): 10+
Setting and objectives of The Lord of the Rings
This rather classic game from 2000 was designed by the world-famous Reiner Knizia. The name is both evocative and confusing at the same time (the title makes it hard to tell apart from other LotR games) and the gameplay setting doesn’t help, either.
This is a cooperative game in which the object is to get to Mordor and destroy the Ring while surviving the pressure from Sauron.
How is The Lord of the Rings played?
The gameplay is a mixture of hand management, and set collection, while the tests are resolved by rolling dice.
You must cooperatively make your way across four boards that represent the Fellowship’s path across the entire trilogy: Moria, Helm’s Deep, Shelob’s lair, and finally, Mordor. Traveling through the boards quickly will require clever use of cards, characters’ special abilities, and sometimes even the Ring.
If you are clumsy, you will raise the suspicion of Sauron, who’s on your heels at all times. This will increase the corruption level, which is, well, bad. If it raises too much, one of the characters or even the ring-bearer himself can get eliminated and you lose the game.
Lord of the Rings is a nice family-scaled version of the lore. It has a little bit of everything and is a fun and relatively quick way to experience the journey.
But it’s also a relatively old board, game, not nearly as refined as its modern competitors. The gameplay mechanics are a bit rough and repetitive, and frankly, the game is a bit too easy.
Main features of The Lord of the Rings
- A whole LotR story packed in an hour.
- Good fun for the whole family.
- Dated and hard to find in stores.
Should you buy The Lord of the Rings?
It’s not a question of whether you should buy the game, but more of “can you buy it”. Over 20 years have passed since it was released and it’s not in production anymore, obviously. The only way to obtain it is by finding a second-hand version.
I recommend it for collectors and/or if you can get a good deal on it.
9. Risk: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition
Players: 2-4, best with 4.
Playing time: 180 minutes per game.
Ages (complexity): 10+
Setting and objectives of Risk: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition
I’m sure you’re familiar with Risk. It’s as basic wargame as they come: you’ve got your map of the world with provinces and you move troops around it, combating others. Combat is resolved by comparing dice rolls and objectives are simple as well, like holding certain continents.
Your map is now Middle-earth, with regions such as Gondor, Mordor, Rohan, Andor, Rovanion, and others, replacing continents and further dividing down into provinces for a total of 64 of them.
On top of that, there are some new game mechanics, like leaders, power sites, and strongholds, that add more twists to it.
There is also the Fellowship present. It moves along its path into Mordor and acts as a timer, which marks the end of the game. Points are then added up, determining a winner.
How is Risk: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition played?
The Risk game mechanics are all in play, but with a couple of new additions:
- You begin your turn calculating reinforcements. These are based on the number of your provinces with added region bonuses and bonuses from province cards.
- Now you have the option to attack, with combat being solved by a simple dice throw. The attacker can attack with a maximum of three dice, while the defender can defend with a maximum of two dice, providing both have enough battalions to do that. Dice are then compared and battalions removed – ties go to the defender.
- If you conquered at least one territory, you get to draw a province card. If you conquered a Site of Power with your Leader, you draw an Adventure card, either containing Events, Missions, or Powers.
- After the turn, you move the Fellowship one province along its path.
On top of those, there are additional features:
- If a territory has a Stronghold (like Mines of Moria, Isengard, Helm’s Deep, Minas Tirith, etc.) it adds +1 to the highest die roll of the defender.
- If you capture a Site of Power (e.g. Hobbiton, Lothlorien, Weathertop, Osgiliath, Mount Doom, etc.) with your Leader, you get to draw an Adventure card.
- Leaders are placed on the map alongside regular battalions. They give +1 to the highest die roll, both when defending and attacking. This can be combined with Strongholds, giving +2 when defending.
When the Fellowship reaches Mount Doom and the Ring is destroyed, the game ends. Points are given for territories, strongholds, played adventure cards and regions held.
The game is best played with a player count of 4. This gives you the option to play in Teams – 2 good players vs. 2 evil players. It alters the victory conditions slightly, making them more in line with the LotR story:
- A new mechanic, Find the Ring is introduced. Whenever a ring (moving alongside the Fellowship path as before) is in a territory controlled by the evil forces, they get to throw dice, trying to find it. If they succeed, they win immediately.
- If the Ring reaches the end of the path and is thrown into Mount Doom, the good team wins.
This mode is easily the highlight of Risk: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition. This is how this game is meant to be played, as players try to escort the Fellowship or stop it.
Main features of Risk: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition
- Well-known Risk gameplay enhanced with Lord of The Rings elements.
- Added gameplay mechanics like the Fellowship and Find the Ring mini-game give it a LotR feel.
- It’s still Risk (with all its pros and cons).
Should you buy Risk: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition?
Although Risk is hated by elitist board gamers for its simplicity, it’s one of the most popular board games around. There is no shame in playing it – I’ve had dozens of hours of fun with it. And with the Lord of the Rings theme added to it, this makes one of the best Risk editions available.
Even though there are some more features added, the basics are the same and dice play a large part in it. You know best yourself if you hate or love Risk.
8. Hunt for the Ring
Players: 2-5, best with 2.
Playing time: 90-180 minutes per game.
Ages (complexity): 12+
Setting and objectives of Hunt for the Ring
Hunt for the Ring focuses on the first part of the journey, from Shire to Rivendell. One player plays as Frodo (and his companions), while up to four other players play as Nazguls, trying to hunt him down.
Frodo wins if he gets to his destination safely, while the Nazgul try to find in and corrupt him.
How is Hunt for the Ring played?
Hunt for the Ring is a hidden movement board game, where one player plays against all the others, who cooperate. The Frodo player marks his moves on a hidden board, while the rest are using the main board and trying to find clues, that will help them deduct Frodo’s location.
The game is split into two chapters. The first one covers the journey from Shire to Bree, and if Frodo is successful, the players can decide to play the second board, from Bree to Rivendell. In this chapter, Frodo uses a different method of movement – instead of direct control he draws cards from a journey deck and decides based on this.
Hunt for the Ring is all about playing hide-and-seek and it does a very good job at this. As is usual with these games, the atmosphere is very intense, particularly for the Frodo player. And, of course, everyone wants to play as Frodo, so the replay value is decent as well.
Main features of Hunt for the Ring
- Hidden movement with a strong thematic element.
- Great atmosphere.
- The second chapter mixes the game mechanics nicely, breathing some fresh air into the game.
Should you buy Hunt for the Ring?
If you’re looking for a relatively accessible hidden movement board game and you want it to be Lord of the Rings themed, then Hunt for the Ring is your game. It’s the best in this category.
But if you’re not too hung up on the theme, there are better hidden movement board games around. If you’re into more complex games, even LotR-themed.
7. The Battle of Five Armies
Playing time: 90-240 minutes
Ages (complexity): 12+
Setting and objectives of The Battle of Five Armies
The Battle of the Five Armies (Elves, Humans, and Dwarves against Orcs and Wargs) was one of the major military events in The Hobbit. But contrary to the title, this is a strictly two-player wargame, designed by the same guys as War of the Ring.
Objectives for winning the clash under Lonely Mountain are different for each side. Shadow Armies must control 10 victory points worth of settlements, while Free People must endure long enough for the Fate track to run out.
This translates into an asymmetrical game, with one side (mainly) on the offense and the other side defending itself. Free people get more hero characters, while Shadow Armies have the numbers advantage.
How is The Battle of Five Armies played?
Every round of the game goes through six phases, with the main one being the Action phase. Players roll all of their action dice and then take turns to perform actions on them. Six symbols (as the dice are six-sided) are possible:
- Army: can move or attack with your armies.
- Character: can move a character or attack with n character-led army.
- Event: draw or play cards.
- Muster: Place troops or heal them.
- Will of the West and Lidless Eye are faction-specific symbols. The former is a wild card symbol for the Free people, while the latter allows Shadow Armies to recruit or use Goblin armies.
- Muster/Army Combo
In, combat several elements are taken into consideration. Both sides can play cards to give them a special ability. Then a maximum of 5 dice is rolled for each army, according to the army’s strength. Every 5 or 6 is a hit and a damage token is placed on an army for each hit. If you get more damage tokens than there are units in your army, you must remove some (1 unit for every 2 tokens of damage).
On top of that, dice can be re-rolled based on the leadership score (those leadership tokens that we placed earlier).
Main features of The Battle of Five Armies:
- Asymmetric wargame with two, very well-balanced sides.
- Very thematic, it feels just like reading the Hobbit book.
- Even though it’s a long game, the gameplay is fast and flowing.
Should you buy The Battle of Five Armies?
There is no way around comparing The Battle of Five Armies with its predecessor, War of the Ring. It features very similar game mechanics and both are excellent two-player wargames.
Where they differ (besides the theme) is that the War of the Ring is slightly more complex and a lot easier to find in stores. I recommend War of the Ring, so go read the rest of the article.
6. War of the Ring: The Card Game
Players: 2-4, best with 4.
Playing time: 90-120 minutes per game.
Ages (complexity): 12+
Setting and objectives of War of the Ring: The Card Game
Our more recent entry only came out in 2022 and is yet to make a greater impact on the board game scene. Potentially, it can move higher up on the list in the future (or down).
Inspired by the War of the Ring (scroll further down), it too revolves around the conflict between Sauron and the Free people, with obvious goals. The destruction of the Ring, or by winning militarily as Sauron.
How is War of the Ring: The Card Game played?
The gameplay is team-based, therefore the ideal number of players is 4 (2 in each team). Each player represents a certain faction with a different card deck. Players take turns playing cards from their hands, representing characters, armies, items, and events from the lore.
These cards will help them get closer on their quest or hinder the other side. Of course, trying to find cards that work well with each other and with what your fellow team player is doing is key to victory.
Main features of War of the Ring: The Card Game
- Two-teams card game offers a fresh mechanic.
- Excellent card quality with stunning illustrations.
Should you buy War of the Ring: The Card Game?
War of the Ring: The Card Game was one of the most anticipated board games in 2022, particularly for Lor of the Rings fans. It approaches the lore from a new angle, as a team card player, using proven game mechanics from Quartermaster General as the foundation.
Recommended, especially, if you’re looking for something novel.
5. Middle-Earth Quest
Players: 2-4, best with 3.
Playing time: 180 minutes per game.
Ages (complexity): 12+
Setting and objectives of Middle-Earth Quest
If you’re tired that every game on our list is based on the trilogy or Hobbit, Middle Earth is something you might look into.
It’s set in the years after Bilbo’s journey and before Frodo’s and as a result, it gives a lot of options on how to approach it.
You play as one of the heroes (elf, Rohirrim, or a ranger), wandering around Middle-Earth and completing various quests, doing good. Alternatively, one player can play as Sauron, trying to advance his evil plot and hinder the players.
How is Middle-Earth Quest played?
So you’ve got a pretty open map and the game is set out as a one versus many. Freely wandering gameplay reminds a lot of Runebound, particularly as the heroes are a lot tougher than, for example, Frodo. They are quite badass and can take on the forces of evil themselves, producing epic battles.
Sauron, on the other hand, relies on spreading evil, corrupting heroes, overthrowing nations, and so on. His gameplay is quite challenging, especially if all three heroes are in play.
Middle-Earth Quest is a massive game, both time, rules, and components-wise. It requires a dedicated group of players, who are open-minded and can overlook some of the game’s shortcomings. In return, they will be rewarded with an epic adventure, with an ending not seen on the screens.
Main features of Middle-Earth Quest
- Epic open-world adventure.
- Takes place after Hobbit and before the trilogy.
- Strong heroes in an exciting story.
Should you buy Middle-Earth Quest?
If you’re looking for an open-world adventure, I recommend Middle-Earth Quest. It has a unique story to tell, it lets you explore it as you like, and it provides epic quests and battles.
The entry point is rather high, so it’s more of a gamer’s game or a collectors’ item these days.
4. Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation
Playing time: 30 minutes per duel.
Ages (complexity): 8+
Setting and objectives of Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation
Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation is a two-player only game, played on a simplified board of Middle-earth. You move pieces on the board and fight each other. Each piece is a Lord of the Rings character and has a strength factor and extra abilities.
The goal of the “good” side is to bring the Ring (either with Frodo or Sam) into Mordor, while the “bad” side tries to occupy the Shire.
How is Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation played?
The game is played on a square board. In one corner Mordor, in the other the Shire. In between, there are locations from Middle-earth: Arthedain, Cardolan, Enedwaith, Eregion, and Rhudaur on the Shire’s side. On Mordor’s side, there are Gondor, Dagorlad, Fangorn, Mirkwood, and Rohan.
Separating the two sides are the four mountain regions with limited movement (no sideways movement). The Fellowship side can avoid them by using the Tunnel of Moria, but if the Balrog catches them, they are in trouble. They can also use the River of Anduin for sideways movement on Sauron’s side of the map.
Each of the regions has a character limit and at the beginning of the game each player lays out his characters as he pleases. They are turned towards him, so only he knows their hidden identity. The other player will try to figure out the identities during the game.
Players then take turns to move their characters (taking into account their special abilities) and combat is resolved when they clash. Extra combat cards are then played by players – they are either text cards or strength cards. The text is resolved first. If that doesn’t give the winner, then the strengths of characters and strength cards are compared. The weaker character is removed from the game (if there’s a tie, both die).
The game is played until the victory conditions are met:
- Fellowship wins if Frodo moves into Mordor (even if Sauron’s characters are still there).
- Sauron wins if he gets three of his characters into the Shire or kills Frodo. (In some scenarios Sam can take over the Ring.)
Confrontation is a game that revolves heavily around its characters and their abilities (their abilities are relevant – i.e. Boromir sacrifices himself). Each of them is unique and it takes some time to understand how they work with each other and how best to implement them into your strategy. Each side has its own strengths and weaknesses and requires a different approach.
This is further complicated by the fact, that you don’t know who exactly you’re facing. In early turns you’ll probe the enemy, trying to get a feel of how he set up his army and where certain characters are.
When you’re familiar with the basics, you can play the Variant game. Just turn over character cards to use their alternate abilities. If even that is not enough, you can use mixed skills (standard + variant), so there’s no fear of running out of options.
Main features of Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation
- Asymmetric strategic duel with imprecise information and bluffing.
- The theme is well-implemented, both artistically and gameplay-wise.
- Can be hard to find for a reasonable price.
Should you buy Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation?
Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation is a great two-player game. It may look like it’s just about combat, but there is a strong LotR theme included (getting Frodo to Mordor) and it works great in combination with game mechanics. Game mechanics themselves offer an asymmetric battle between two well-balanced sides.
I think this is a great game for Lord of the Rings fans, looking for a short, but challenging duel.
3. The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
Playing time: 30-60 minutes
Ages (complexity): 12+
Setting and objectives of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
Next on the list is a living card game. Story-wise, it’s also set after events from Hobbit and before Frodo’s adventure.
It’s a cooperative game against the game. You can play alone or in a pair – you need another base game for that. In both cases, you’ll attempt to complete a scenario (3 included in the base game), drawing obstacles (enemies and locations) from the encounter deck and beating them on the way.
Scenarios are, of course, Lord of the Rings flavored with all its iconic glories: from narrative to heroes like Aragorn or Gimli, allies like Gandalf, locations like Mirkwood, enemies like orcs or Nazgul. The atmosphere along with the art is very immersive and you’ll feel Middle-earth coming alive around you.
As is usual with a living card game, plenty of new scenarios and decks are available as expansions.
How is The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game played?
The setup consists of preparing three decks:
- The quest deck is the one you have to complete with progress tokens. It contains a narrative and determines the contents of the second deck.
- The encounter deck is made of elements that stand in the way of players and the quest, mainly enemies and locations. It’s determined by the quest deck, so that it makes sense, story-wise.
- The player deck is the cards you play with. It consists of your heroes and things that help them: allies, items, tactical maneuvers, and spells. Heroes are in play automatically, while other cards must be paid for with resources to put into play. Setting up this deck is a game in itself and you can spend a lot of time just here.
The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is played in rounds, and in each round, players will tray to beat the enemies that confront them or contribute to advancing the quest by using their characters to fight and for special abilities.
When an area is cleared, the story advances, and new enemies are revealed, all the way to the final encounter.
Cards (either enemies or locations) are drawn to the staging area -> enemies must be defeated in combat, locations must be cleared with progress tokens -> extra progress tokens are placed on the main quest.
The game is won when all the main quest cards are completed (filled with progress tokens) and at least one player is alive.
Main features of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
- A living card game, perfectly set in a LotR world. Great narrative and great artwork.
- Combining your cards to beat the enemies or locations offers a very challenging puzzle, which reminded me of Mage Knight.
- Works excellently in solo mode.
- With all the scenarios and decks available to purchase, building your decks is a game of its own. This comes at a price, of course.
Should you buy The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game?
There are several high-profile living card games available, like Marvel Champions or Arkham Horror: The Card Game. I’m putting The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game right there beside them. If you’re looking for a living card game, make your pick based on the theme. Gameplay-wise, they’re all excellent.
Just beware, that you easily spend hundreds if not thousands on them. When buying, look for the Revised Core Set.
2. The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth
Players: 1-4, good with all numbers.
Playing time: 60-120 minutes per campaign chapter.
Ages (complexity): 10+
Setting and objectives of The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth
Journeys in the Middle-earth was one of the best games of 2019 and a signpost of what board games might look like in the future. It is designed around an accompanying app, which is essential to the gameplay.
At its core, it’s a cooperative adventure game. Players will take on roles of LotR characters (Bilbo, Legolas, Gimli, Aragorn, Elena, and Beravor) and embark on a campaign-structured journey. Each chapter of that campaign will offer a different set of map tiles, enemies, and objectives.
As players complete each of the chapters, they will unravel the big story and discover what their true purpose is. The game is set somewhere after the events in Hobbit and before the events of the Trilogy.
How is The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth played?
Every round of the game has three phases:
- Action phase
- Shadow phase
- Rally phase
During the action phase, players perform two actions. They can choose from Travel, Attack, and Interact. The same action can be performed twice.
Many of these actions require a test to be performed. A target number is given by the app and players draw cards from their decks, trying to fulfill it. The number of drawn cards is determined by the character’s skills. Items also affect this. Odds can be further turned in the player’s favor by using collected Inspiration tokens and building his deck during the game.
The Shadow phase is the time for the app to move enemies and attack with them, inflicting damage and fear on heroes. The Threat bar also increases in this phase – players lose if it fills up before the objectives are completed. This works as an internal timer, making sure players are under some pressure and don’t take forever to fulfill their objectives.
The final phase of a round is the Rally phase, where players reshuffle their decks and scout the first two cards of the deck, giving options to prepare one of them face-up.
Campaign and app
The campaign must be played from start to finish – you can’t select specific scenarios. You advance even if you don’t complete the objectives, and the consequences of your actions affect subsequent scenarios. In between scenarios, you can upgrade items and purchase new skills.
The app itself is a great tool that not only controls the enemy but also provides the narrative for the campaign, adapting it to your actions.
Main features of The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth :
- A fully app-driven board game makes pick-up, set-up, gameplay, and narrative a breeze.
- The player’s skill deck is a great alternative to dice.
- Evolving (story and characters) campaign.
Should you buy The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth?
Whether you like it or not, apps and board games are something that we see more and more. How the app is implemented, is the important part. You want the app to compliment the board, not substitute it. Out of all (i.e. Mansions of Madness Second Edition or Forgotten Waters), I think The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth has done one of the best jobs so far.
But don’t forget it’s not just about the app – the app is just one element of an otherwise excellent board game.
1. War of the Ring (Second Edition)
Playing time: 150-180 minutes
Ages (complexity): 14+
Setting and objectives of War of the Ring (Second Edition)
War of the Ring is the largest game on our list when it comes to setting. It covers the entire trilogy on a grand level: commanding and combating armies on the map of Middle-earth, while at the same time trying to escort the Fellowship to Mount Doom.
There are two ways to win this War of the Ring:
- Military victory, fighting with units on the map.
- Bringing the Ring to Mount Doom or corrupting the Fellowship to prevent that.
The two sides are highly asymmetrical, meaning that for Shadow Armies, the first goal will be more attainable, while Free People will normally try the Fellowship route while using armies as a distraction. Just like the story went.
How is War of the Ring (Second Edition) played?
Core game mechanics are very similar to Battle of the Five Armies: the phases are almost identical, as is the action and combat system, powered by dice.
But there are several unique elements:
- The nations the sides control are not all automatically at war at the beginning of the game. Instead, there is a political track that marks their current status. You can push them to war by using appropriate dice or with certain moves. The dark side’s nations are easier to force into war, while on the Free side, only Elves start with at-war status.
- The Fellowship track marks how far the Fellowship is on its journey and its corruption level. It’s a hidden movement mini-game in itself, with the Fellowship trying to sneak into Mordor, while the dark player tries to locate them and cause corruption. The composition of the Fellowship also changes as certain milestones are reached, parallel to the story.
The game requires you to balance your resources. As Free People, you will juggle between planning an effective Fellowship’s route to Mordor and allocating forces to distract the enemy.
Shadow Armies, on the other hand, are much stronger military speaking, but they must divert a certain number of Nazguls to prevent the Fellowship in its task. Which hampers their armies.
Main features of War of the Ring (Second Edition)
- Ultimate Lord of the Rings board game.
- Complex game with a lot of strategic options – with great theme implementation, art, and miniatures.
- Setting up and playing takes a lot of time, space, and dedication.
- Made with 2 players in mind.
Should you buy War of the Ring (Second Edition)?
If you’re looking for one game to rule them all, then this is it. It’s the best possible Lord of the Rings board game experience. But just like the books are vast, so is this game. It’s not something you bring out after family dinner. This one is for a pair of true hardcore Lord of the Rings fans.