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8 best Lord of the Rings board games

One list to rule them all.

Just as one does not simply walk into Mordor, one does not simply pick a Lord of the Rings board game to play. JRR Tolkien’s world of Middle-Earth and its related adventures - The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy - are home to a number of fantastic tabletop games, spanning the breadth of the original books, Peter Jackson’s beloved movies and even filling the gaps between the familiar stories.

The sheer variety of Lord of the Rings board games means there’s a tabletop retelling of the fantasy epic to suit everyone. Prefer the cooperation of the Fellowship of the Ring as they make their way to Mordor? There’s a game for that. Prefer the sweeping battles between huge armies of The Two Towers and Return of the King? There’s a game for that, too. Prefer to poke around in parts of Middle-Earth that you haven’t seen before with characters outside of the familiar faces? Yep, you can do that too.

Best Lord of the Rings board games

While their gameplay may differ, what the best Lord of the Rings board games all share is their ability to bring the places, characters and stories of Middle-Earth to life on the tabletop, whether it’s through cinematic grandeur or immersive storytelling. From the smallest hobbit to the greatest mountain-dwelling dragon, every inch of Middle-Earth has been covered by one game or another - it’s just a case of finding the one that’s right for you.

So allow us to serve as your Smeagol as we guide you through the many Lord of the Rings board games out there, in the hope that you find the one game to rule them all.

1. The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

Form your own Fellowship and quest across Middle-Earth in this living card game

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game cards 2
The Lord of the Rings living card game lets players build their own deck of characters and items from across Middle-Earth.

Many Lord of the Rings board games retell the adventures of Frodo Baggins and the Fellowship of the Ring. That’s all well and good, but there’s a lot of Middle-Earth to explore outside of the places mentioned in Tolkien’s books.

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game ventures outside of the familiar tales of Bilbo, Frodo and the other heroes of Tolkien’s work in a co-op card game set between the events of The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring.

While many familiar faces make an appearance, The Lord of the Rings: TCG puts the players in control of their own adventure. They can form a party to adventure across Middle-Earth in one of various different scenarios, using their deck of characters, abilities and powerful items to overcome the foes that stand in their way. Players use their own cards to defeat the enemies and obstacles thrown up by the game’s own encounter deck, looking to complete objectives and finish their quest before Sauron’s influence grows too strong.

The living card game has been expanded by a number of expansions and even a revised core set over the years, resulting in an enormous wealth of adventures and customisation for players to dive into, spanning both familiar faces and locations from Tolkien’s books and brand new content original to the game.

One of the longest-running card games of recent years, and packed with theme and flavour for Lord of the Rings fans to enjoy, The Lord of the Rings LCG is the closest you’ll come to forming your own Fellowship to save the world.

2. War of the Ring

A Lord of the Rings board game that’s as epic as Tolkien’s books

War of the Ring takes hours to play, but it's among the most faithful Lord of the Rings board games fans can pick up.

War of the Ring is the ultimate Lord of the Rings board game. Where other games might focus just on a single part of Tolkien’s novels and the world of Middle-Earth, War of the Ring packs every last detail into an enormous, sprawling strategy game that’s as epic as the original books.

In War of the Ring, one (or more) players control the opposing forces of Sauron and the Free Peoples of Middle-Earth during the events of The Lord of the Rings. The Free Peoples - that’s the forces of men, elves, dwarves and more - must fend off Sauron’s advance from Mordor and Saruman’s growing might in Isengard, while also guiding the Fellowship of the Ring and the Ring-bearer across the whole of Middle-Earth to Mount Doom in order to destroy the Ring. The forces of evil, meanwhile, are trying to hunt down Frodo and overthrow the last strongholds of Middle-Earth’s inhabitants.

In motion, War of the Ring plays a bit like a souped-up version of Risk, with players rolling dice to determine their available actions and resolve battles between miniatures on the large map board. Cards can be played to call upon allies and trigger events - many of which pay homage to memorable moments from the books, making this easily the most faithful Lord of the Rings board game you can experience as a diehard fan.

Like rewatching the Extended Trilogy, War of the Ring isn’t short - expect to spend at least a handful of hours playing, and longer if you’re new - but it’s worth the time and effort it demands. If there’s one Lord of the Rings game to rule them all, this is probably it.

3. The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-Earth

Travel across Middle-Earth in an app-powered adventure

Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth board game gameplay
Journeys in Middle-Earth offers a light roleplaying experience, guided by a companion app.

From the There and Back Again of The Hobbit to Lord of the Rings’ three-book trek to Mordor, Middle-Earth is a place full of people going somewhere. Journeys in Middle-Earth makes those people the players, as they venture across familiar parts of Tolkien’s world in a number of individual scenarios that make up an RPG-style campaign.

As one of the most recent Lord of the Rings board games to hit the tabletop, Journeys in Middle-Earth features a companion app that serves as a game master for players during their adventures, controlling the behaviour of enemies, popping up events and allowing for interactions with the world similar to app games such as Mansions of Madness.

Unlike Mansions’ standalone horror stories, Journeys in Middle-Earth threads its individual sessions - which can focus more on exploration or combat, resulting in different gameplay experiences - together with the chance to level up characters by customising the cards in their custom decks of abilities, gain new equipment and items, and even recruit some allies based on players’ decisions along the way.

Taking place between The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring, players can pick from some familiar faces - including Bilbo, Aragorn and Legolas - or explore the world as original characters new to the lore. Regardless of who you pick, you can make them your own with unique job classes - why not make Bilbo a bard, or Aragorn a stealthy thief?

Journeys in Middle-Earth’s app makes it easy for beginners to pick up, offering a light roleplaying experience focused more on story and exploration than some of the other Lord of the Rings board games listed here. If you’re looking for a fresh story outside of Bilbo and Frodo’s familiar tales, this is a good place to start.

4. Hunt for the Ring

Avoid Ringwraiths as sneaky Hobbitses - or chase down the Ring-bearer as the Nazgul

Hunt for the Ring is split into two different chapters, and can be played as a prequel to War of the Ring.

If your favourite scene in Fellowship of the Ring is the bit where Frodo and his Hobbit companions flee the Ringwraiths on their way to Rivendell, Hunt for the Ring is the Lord of the Rings board game for you.

Hunt for the Ring takes a unique approach to Tolkien’s stories, foregoing epic battles and exploration of Middle-Earth for a tight, tense game of hide and seek. One player controls Frodo, who must sneak his way across the board without being detected by the other player’s Nazgul.

Not only is Hunt for the Ring distinct for its hidden-movement take on Frodo’s perilous escape, but it also becomes a game literally of two halves. In the first half, the player directly controls Frodo as he moves to Bree without being captured or corrupted by the One Ring. In the second half, the player switches control to Gandalf, who must protect the Ring-bearer from the chasing minions of Sauron, while Frodo moves along a path automatically - making it more of an escort mission.

Designed by War of the Ring co-creators Francesco Nepitello and Marco Maggi alongside Letters from Whitechapel and Whitehall Mystery designer Gabriele Mari, Hunt for the Ring offers a thematic take on the popular stealth-driven style of gameplay. What’s more, it can even be played as a prequel to War of the Ring, with the outcome of the game affecting the setup for the epic conclusion of the Fellowship’s journey. Even by itself, though, Hunt for the Ring is a one-of-a-kind Lord of the Rings board game that belongs in any fan’s collection.

5. The Lord of the Rings

Make your way to Mordor to destroy the Ring in Knizia’s co-op classic

The Lord of the Rings: The Board Game Anniversary Edition layout
Reiner Knizia's The Lord of the Rings was one of the earliest co-op games.

Designer Reiner Knizia’s The Lord of the Rings isn’t just notable for being one of the best board games based on Tolkien’s books out there. It also marked a seminal moment for co-op board gaming as a whole, arriving almost a full decade before Pandemic sparked the modern trend of games where players could collaborate rather than compete.

Knizia’s The Lord of the Rings loosely follows the original trilogy of novels, as players make their way from the Shire to Mount Doom in order to destroy the One Ring. Along the way, they’ll pass through a variety of iconic locations from Middle-Earth - just as Moria and Helm’s Deep - needing to push on despite the growing power of Sauron.

As Sauron’s power grows, the hobbits must resist his corruption by playing cards with matching symbols to advance across a number of tracks on the board, taking haven where they can. As Mordor draws closer, it becomes harder to find shelter from the Eye of Sauron, leading to a nail-biting finale in the last stretch to Mount Doom. As in the books, the Ring can be used to help - but also runs the risk of alerting Sauron to its location and corrupting the Ring-bearer.

The Lord of the Rings is less thematic than some of the other Lord of the Rings games on this list, but it’s no lesser as a result. The tense co-op challenge stands up more than 20 years after it first released, making for an enjoyable retelling of Frodo’s journey - if you can make it to the end, that is.

6. Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game

Or Lord of the Rings Warhammer, as everybody actually calls it

The Lord of the Rings: Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game movie board game battle scene
It's Warhammer, but it's Lord of the Rings - what else is there to say? | Image credit: Games Workshop

You’d be forgiven for not knowing what Warhammer maker Games Workshop’s Lord of the Rings-inspired miniatures game is actually called, given the number of names it’s had over the years. From its original release as The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game through to the three (3!) rechristenings it went through during Peter Jackson’s more recent trilogy of The Hobbit films, the game now known as the Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game is probably best just called “Lord of the Rings Warhammer”.

Taking its miniature designs directly from the Lord of the Rings - and later, The Hobbit - films, the Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game also draws heavily from the older Warhammer Fantasy Battle rules. Players control the forces of Middle-Earth, typically divided into the Free Peoples (that’s elves, dwarves, Gondor and Rohan and so on) and Sauron’s minions, as they clash over battlefields in the fantasy world.

There are some neat Lord of the Rings twists on the classic fantasy wargaming of Warhammer, including the option to play out specific moments from the films (and Tolkien’s books) in narrative scenarios. The long-running miniatures game even saw the release of a new supplement in late 2020, Quest of the Ringbearer, that allows players to play out the whole of the Lord of the Rings trilogy - from The Shire to Mount Doom - as a 28-scenario campaign. Even better, the rules let players create their own custom Fellowship of characters in place of the original nine companions, with the outcome of battles having an effect on later skirmishes.

Almost 20 years after it first hit tables, Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game continues to have a dedicated following among Tolkien fans and wargamers alike, with its detailed models, in-depth rules and epic battles some of the best Lord of the Rings gaming around. And what better time to re-listen to the audiobooks of the original novels than while you glue and paint your collection?

7. The Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation

It’s Good vs. Evil in this two-player Lord of the Rings board game

Lord Of The Rings The Confrontation board game
Anotehr Lord of the Rings board game from the prolific Reiner Knizia, The Confrontation takes its cues from two-player classic Stratego.

Once you get past the walking, talking trees (sorry, Ents), magical rings and armies of ghosts, The Lord of the Rings boils down to a timeless tale of good versus evil. The Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation puts this head-to-head battle at its heart in a straightforward but deeply strategic two-player game.

The Confrontation’s gameplay is somewhat similar to classic strategy game Stratego, with players unable to see which of their opponent’s nine pieces - in this case, the various characters of The Lord of the Rings - is on which space, representing the different locations across Middle-Earth.

When two pieces meet, they enter combat, using a combination of their fighting value and special ability to gain the advantage. For example, Frodo may slip away to an adjacent space using the One Ring’s invisibility. As well as the unique powers of the pieces themselves, each player can use cards from their hand to boost their unit’s strength dn trigger other effects.

Each player has a different aim, with the player controlling the Fellowship attempting to reach Mordor with Frodo in order to destroy the One Ring, while the Sauron player must eliminate the Ring-bearer or take over the Shire with three evil characters.

The Confrontation is the second The Lord of the Rings board game on this list from prolific designer Reiner Knizia, following his co-op adventure game. While the competitive strategy game offers a very different approach to Tolkien’s epic story, it shares its engrossing gameplay and engaging strategy, making it a favourite of players since its release.

8. Risk: The Lord Of The Rings

A Lord of the Rings version of the classic board game

Lord Of The Rings Risk game board
Risk: Lord of the Rings relocates the classic game of global conflict to the fantasy world of Middle-Earth.

A classic meets a classic in Risk: The Lord Of The Rings. But don’t disregard this as just another movie board game cash-in - after all, there’s Monopoly: The Lord of the Rings for that. Risk: The Lord of the Rings is one of the best spins on the historical strategy wargame.

The Lord of the Rings Risk makes perfect sense for a number of reasons. The sweeping scale of Middle-Earth maps neatly to the global conflict of the original Risk, with players’ warring nations replaced by the clashing forces of the Free Peoples (represented by elves, Riders of Rohan and eagles) and Sauron (commanding orcs, the Nazgûl and cave trolls).

Battles are resolved using Risk’s traditional dice rolls, with the addition of event cards to add an extra sense of Lord of the Rings’ epic adventure to sessions. While players fight over regions, the Ring moves from the Shire towards Mount Doom, with the game coming to an end if Frodo manages to destroy it before either side claims victory by domination.

Simply attaching The Lord of the Rings name to Risk even makes its infamous length feel a bit more natural, as you spend upwards of two or three hours commanding your units between Rivendell, Minas Tirith and Mordor. That’s just the right amount of time to stick one (or two) of the films on in the background as an atmospheric soundtrack.

While it may lack the complexity and in-depth theme of War of the Ring or the roleplaying-lite personalisation and player-driven storytelling of games such as Journeys in Middle-Earth, Risk: The Lord of the Rings is still a blast with a group of fellow Tolkien fans when you’re looking for something simple and fun to fill an evening. It’s the perfect accompaniment to your next Extended Edition marathon.

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