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SPI War of the Ring Board Game

Jan 2
2023/1/2 16:10:19 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

So I thought I would do an article on the War of the Ring Board Game by SPI, released in 1977. This has a lot of nostalgia for me as I played it when I was young and it was one of the first non-book Tolkien items I had, thus playing a big part in starting my collection.

There are a few different releases of this game and quite a few variations in packaging, making this quite interesting to collect. There is some ambiguity in what the definitive list of versions is, there are differences between the two main resources (the Tolkien Board Games site and Board Games Geek site), this is the list I have researched. This article will mainly look at the UK and US versions of the game.

The basic game encompasses the whole of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it covers both the character quest aspects alongside the large scale battle aspects. The basic version comes in a green box with the iconic scene of Gandalf and the Balrog (the image was done by the famous Tolkien artist Tim Kirk). It has a paper playing board. The UK basic version has no SPI logo in the bottom left corner of the box, the US basic version has a black SPI logo.

2C7BEE26-C2D2-42DA-BDD1-08257815050B.jpeg

The basic version was also produced in a white box with a Bakshi animated movie Fellowship image (although the game has nothing to do with the movie). There are 2 slightly different versions of this, the main version has white space of the left of the cover with some credits, the other version has some card images and no credits (this second version was published by Simpubs, the UK arm of SPI). Note: there may also be Italian and Japanese white box versions but I have never seen them (they are referenced on the Tolkien Board Games site).

413BDFA8-ABDC-4355-BAAE-B0A654C6A9F6.jpeg

There was also a Designers Edition of the game produced in the US. The game itself is identical but the game board is hard backed (instead of paperback). The box has the same front as the US edition (Gandalf and Balrog image with “Lord of the Rings” title in yellow and SPI logo in black), but it has differences on the sides and back, including a lot of bits highlighted in orange.

2BB0A82F-9CA8-4F81-B506-62D638C3381C.jpeg

There is also a Bakshi box version of the Designer Edition, which comes in exactly the same box as the main Bakshi version.

The game was also produced in a Tray version. This is also identical to the basic version but in a flatter plastic packaging. The cover for the tray is the same as the basic edition, Gandalf and Balrog image, but with the “Lord of the Rings” title in red and the SPI logo in red.

12AE00B8-D72C-41AA-867F-FA088BFFA218.jpeg

In 1991 the Polish company Encore produced an unofficial rip off Polish version of the game, Wojna o Pierscien. It is the same game however the aesthetics of the game were different. The box was very different, being red with a colourful image of the Fellowship. The playing area of the board is the same but the details surrounding it are different. The cards and playing pieces are also visually different.

9C9CD816-DA05-4B8F-9C80-82A311D8CB28.jpeg

As well as the War of the Ring game, SPI also produced 2 other Lord of the Rings mini games in the series.

The first is Gondor, which is a more detailed game covering the battle of Minas Tirith. This game comes in a large green box featuring an army of Orcs.

8C8EC8D6-E155-4EFA-956E-0365DFE46239.jpeg

There is also a bagged version of the game, I believe this was US only. The bag insert image is the same as the box version cover.

FA4F8AD0-CEE0-4C90-A878-0D76E3511AFF.jpeg

The Polish company Encore produced an unofficial rip off Polish version of the game, Bitwa na polach Pelennoru. It is the same game however the aesthetics of the game were different. The game came bagged, not boxed, and the cover was very different, being a white image of Minas Tirith. The playing area of the board is the same but the details surrounding it are different. The playing pieces are also visually different. There was also a 2nd edition produced with a different cover, stylised Orcs on Wargs.

20B19EA8-EA4D-4EB8-8F19-8EE4E73B5002.jpeg

The second mini game is Sauron, which is more detailed game covering the pre Lord of the Rings Battle of Dagorlad from the 2nd age. This game comes in a large box featuring an image of Sauron.

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There is also a bagged version of the game, I believe this was US only. The bag insert image is the same as the box version cover.

E9BDED70-1B61-40B2-AD8C-87C5559121EA.jpeg

All 3 of the games also came in a Games of Middle Earth boxed set. This game box features the Gandalf and Balrog image from the main game along with the 2 images from the other games in the bottom corners.

The UK version features a black “The Ring Trilogy” title, a white “War of the Ring” title and a black SPI logo. There is also an alternative box version which has a smaller Gandalf and Balrog image, a white “The Ring Trilogy” title, a red “War of the Ring” title and a black SPI logo. The US version a red “The Ring Trilogy” title, a white “War of the Ring” title and a red SPI logo.

E05C5931-34A6-4B84-A143-7A59A79D6ABA.jpeg

There is also a Tray version of the game produced. This is also identical to the basic version but in a flatter plastic packaging. The cover for the tray is the same as the basic edition, Gandalf and Balrog image, but with the “Lord of the Rings” title in red and the SPI logo in red.

00779E67-76CB-4801-820E-7D674431618F.jpeg

There are are quite a few magazines with articles about the game, including quite a few giving rule improvements and enhancements. I am only giving magazines with significant articles, there are others with smaller articles and reviews.

There are 2 magazines which feature the game on the cover.

Moves Issue 37 - February/March 1978
Extended 3 player rules
276B2B9E-D20B-42A7-B12C-88F1E440537E.jpeg

CE3ACF9F-ED70-407A-8B1A-743593324ACE.jpeg

Moves Issue 44 - April/May 1979
Play by mail variant
BE28F273-1859-4317-A1C0-EEBC9FE511BA.jpeg

18209F5A-4842-4A15-9471-D07704F886E7.jpeg

The following magazines have significant articles.

Moves Issue 39 - August/September 1978
Character variations
CC2F74DD-66D1-45EB-9FB3-ECA92C4180EC.jpeg

Moves Issue 40 - October/November 1978
Critique
7EB9639B-8DD4-47AC-9025-3BE7CF945209.jpeg

Campaign Issue 90
Rule additions

No article image

Fire & Movement Issue 7
Article and Designers Notes
9EBDD7CD-69D3-4726-91D1-14B8818E5D43.jpeg

Space Gamer Issue 18 (plus amendment from Issue 19)
Two to Five players variant
760FD438-D0A8-46EF-8311-F5BD28DFD62B.jpeg

Phoenix Issue 30
Variant
F6696CE6-21F8-4A13-84B2-876B7E0FBD68.jpeg

Dragon Magazine Issue 20 - November 1978
Hidden movement variant
6B111CF9-1BC2-4F8B-BDE6-CA9C38DE9FCD.jpeg

Ann Arbor Wargamer Issue 20
Rule clarifications

No article image

The following are the magazine adverts I have identified, these are all from US magazines.

Original Advert
997E45FB-578D-42B9-BE89-7EA3BA0DF431.jpeg
appears in:
Phoenix Issue 16 - November/December 1978
Strategy & Tactics - issues unknown

Small Bakshi Cover Advert
0E083276-4897-4B6D-9A83-513ECA66BE7D.jpeg
appears in:
Adventure Gaming - 1981

Large Bakshi Cover Advert
86DC666F-2D9D-4CF7-BDD4-5D973F2C2565.jpeg
appears in:
Ares Issue 12 - January 1982

Small Advert
ACDC1E13-D26F-440F-8570-3905A4FA63DC.jpeg
appears in:
Breakout Issue 10 - 1983

If you know of any other details about this game then please let me know.
Jan 2
2023/1/2 16:44:24 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
Thanks for this! It brings back a lot of fond memories from my later teens. I have at least two of the SPI games (with the original, non-Bakshi artwork) stashed away in a closet. I'll have to dig them out and look through them again in light of this post.

Carl
Jan 2
2023/1/2 16:49:35 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
Once again, I just learned a whole lot about an area of collecting I knew next to nothing about. Thanks AndyBirdUK
Jan 2
2023/1/2 17:09:08 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
As always, your review is fascinating. Thank you AndyBirdUK !
Jan 23 (edited)
2023/1/23 5:49:30 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
I have The Games of Middle Earth. Also The ICE Battle of the Five Armies. In the year leading up to the Tolkien Centenary (1992) the Tolkien magazine "Beyond Bree" published a series of articles on Tolkien-related items. These were published as "List of Tolkienalia", spiral bound with vinyl covers, 56 pages. (Now out of print.) It included 4 pages of descriptions of boardgames. I'll try to append the section on The Games of Middle Earth.
There were 3 boardgames of The Battle of the Five Armies: "a LORE product Div. of JMJ Enterprises (C) 1974 by Larry Smith, a 1976 game by TSR, also by Larry Smith, and the ICE game, 1984. Collectors might find the descriptions of interest.

10_63ce9886a3bd1.jpg 450X508 px
Jan 23
2023/1/23 14:19:04 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
I have just added an article on Battle of Five Armies games.

I don’t have a copy of the List of Tolkienalia, I would like to get hold of one.
Jan 24
2023/1/24 22:17:31 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
List of Tolkienalia (1992) has long been out-of-print. However The Tolkien Shop (in The Netherlands) has one copy for sale for 11.50 euros (https://www.tolkienshop.com/contents/en-uk/p453.html)
A copy is in the Tolkien Archives of Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL, USA, in the 1992 Tolkien Centenary Collection (https://archives.wheaton.edu/repositories/3/resources/479). There might be a copy in the Bodleian Library's Tolkien Collection, or in the archives of the Tolkien Society. Or maybe you could find one online.
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