GTM #290 - War of the Ring TCG: Fire & Sword expansion
by Ares Games


War of the Ring TCG Fire & Swords box art by Ares Games

Playing with Fire… and Swords!

Concerning War of the Ring - The Card Game, and News about the upcoming Fire and Swords Expansion

If you haven’t tried it yet, War of the Ring - The Card Game allows players to create their own version of the dramatic conflict depicted in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. While inspired by the award-winning War of the Ring board game, the card game has taken on a life of its own, and even more so with the upcoming release of its second expansion, Fire and Swords.

War of the Rings TCG box art by Ares Games

The Base Game

War of the Ring - The Card Game was released in late 2022 to wide critical acclaim. Up to four players compete in two teams, the Shadow against the Free Peoples. Each player uses a card deck containing the characters, armies, items, and events of their factions (e.g. Elves, Rohan). Victory is achieved by defeating your opponent in combat on the critical locations from the Lord of the Rings. There are two types of the oversized location cards: Battlegrounds, where the armies of Middle-earth clashed, and Paths, the route the fellowship takes to reach Mount Doom. As a team game, War of the Ring - The Card Game shares qualities of both cooperative and competitive games. The rules are easy to learn, but the gameplay is deceptively deep – this is no filler card game, it’s the evening’s entertainment.

While it doesn’t hurt that the game is beautifully illustrated, the gameplay itself is highly thematic; the game text generally corresponds quite satisfyingly with the title of the card. The designer, Ian Brody, is a serious Tolkien nerd, and this comes through in the game.

 War of the Ring TCG Agains the Shadow box art by Ares Games

Against the Shadow

In 2023 the first expansion, Against the Shadow, was released. This expansion allows for a solo or cooperative experience; human players control the Free Peoples against an algorithmic Shadow bot (i.e. automa). When using this expansion, all of the Shadow cards in the base game are replaced by those included in this expansion, and a simple algorithm dictates the Shadow bot play.

Designer Ian Brody said about the expansion, “I felt that the game had far too much player interaction and hidden information to be able to use the identical components in both competitive team play and solo or coop play. By replacing the Shadow cards, we were able to create something specifically tailored to solo/coop play.”

 Fire & Swords card art

Fire and Swords

Fire and Swords, due to be released this Summer, includes 60 new faction cards as well as new paths and battlegrounds. Fire and Swords allows up to six players to play, but also contains scenarios for fewer players, including a 4-player “War in the North” scenario featuring many of the new cards and locations. While this is being released as the second expansion, in fact the cards in Fire and Swords have been under development from the very beginning (all the way back in 2016!). The designer wanted the base game to hew closely to the main narrative of the trilogy; he anticipated this expansion to include the rest of Middle-earth. So, for those of you who were wondering about the siege of Erebor, or the battle of Bywater – here they are.

New characters include Tolkien fan favorites, like Rosie Cotton, Tom Bombadil, and Círdan the Shipwright. Dovetailing neatly into the base game, Fire and Swords completes the scope of The Card Game to match that of the original War of the Ring board game. The game really takes on new dimensions when playing with a full table of six, as many of the strategies will subtly alter with the addition of two more players – a truly epic card game experience.

 Fire & Swords card art

Fire and Swords also introduces a new type of battleground – skirmishes – representing the smaller settlements and fortifications of the War of the Ring, places like the Fords of Isen and Bree. Three new factions are introduced: Northmen for the Free Peoples; and Easterlings and Ruffians for the Shadow.

Finally, solo/coop gamers will not have to purchase a separate expansion to the expansion! Fire and Swords will include copies of the Shadow faction cards for use with the Against the Shadow expansion.

Scenarios and Support

The base game includes several “scenarios” that allows it to be played with 2,3, and 4 players. It also includes a 2-player introductory scenario focusing on the first book of the trilogy, “The Fellowship of the Ring”.

In addition, the designer has created several other scenarios, available online as free PDFs, including: “The Two Towers,” “Return of the King”, and an “Expert Duel”. With the release of Fire and Swords, more scenarios are planned, including some for use in tournaments. According to the designer, “scenarios allow him a way of focusing on a certain aspect of the epic without losing the thematic grounding.” The addition of the faction cards and locations in Fire and Swords will provide plenty of new ways of playing.

 War of the Ring TCG set up

Looking Forward

Ares does not see the series morphing into a CCG or LCG; but hopes to build an “evergreen” product family, like the original War of the Ring board game. However, designer Ian Brody has admitted to already working on another expansion to War of the Ring - The Card Game, as well as a stand-alone Hobbit product with a similar but not identical system. But it appears both of ideas are a long way away from seeing commercial release. In the meantime, Fire and Swords will satisfy players looking to upsize their game.