WWI: LotR Risk

By science, I hate losing so much.

The Elements: It's like the Risk you know and love, except you will hate it. There are several major rule changes, including, but not limited to, a maximum time limit on the game and the game being restricted to 4 players.

The Crux: If you are unfamiliar with Risk, you have territories containing armies. You wish to conquer all the other players. You do this by attacking with up to 3 troops (rolling 3 dice) against a defender who can defend with up to 2 troops (rolling 2 dice). Defenders win ties. At the beginning of your turns, you get troops for the number of territories you control and extra troops for any complete continents you control. If you take a terriorty during your turn, you receive cards which can be turned in for additional armies.

The Countenance: In all fairness to the game, there are major major internal changes from traditional risk that I was not prepared for.

My initial plan of blocking in Mordor
was terrible because of terrible defense.
First was the addition of the hero or champion unit. This unit moves with your troops and adds one to the roll of any dice. This seriously threw me for a loop, because it's possible for an attacker to roll high enough (i.e. 7) that the defender can't defend the territory. Now there are 11 territories (out of 44? 45?) that have 'fortresses' in them that do the same things for the defender, but using my favorite traditional strategy like Irkutsk/Yakutsk will get you murdered.

Because the attacker rolls 3 dice AND adds to the highest die with a champion, defenders around most of the board are at a serious disadvantage, except in the case where a champion is on a fortress, raising the highest die by 2!

Things do not look good for team yellow.
I was completely unprepared for this rules change, which turns the traditional odds on their head. Defense in any territory without a fortress is a poor option.

The other changes include the addition of the one ring. Each turn it travels along its path to Mount Doom, and when it reaches the target, the game is over and victory points are tallied. This leads to a shorter game than traditional Risk.

There are also a selection of mission cards, that have certain special effects. Some of these are played immediately, some are held and played at an appropriate time, still others are mission cards and are played when your hero reaches a specific target.

The effects of these cards can be fairly large. One gave me 10 extra units on a fortress (which I managed to immediately lose against a set of defenders). Others allow you to prevent movement across bridges, have the number of troops in a territory cut in half, stop the ring on its journey and other effects.

The Genre: This is a traditional table top board game with a modern twist and a lord of the rings theme.

The Detritus: Having played through this game, I can certainly tell you that my strategy would be much different next time. It is difficult to defend large territory due to the huge advantage attackers get. One of the players said, "You only get two champions", which is true, but in nearly every game of risk I've ever played, the majority of play involves one or two large armies at several points in the game. The odds are swung way towards the attackers advantage.

The Final Counsel: This is a very different game than traditional Risk. This is not necessarily a negative thing. The game is suited for more aggressive players, and the time limit ensures that the game doesn't run on forever. It's safer to sit down and play when you have a few hours. It is limited to 4 players, instead of the traditional six, which is a downside.

I guess the thing that struck me most about it, is that even though you play it like Risk, the drastically different odds make it a different game. Perhaps if it didn't have the name 'Risk' attached, I would have had more positive feelings about it, instead I expected one thing, and got another. (What other company has done that with a favored brand lately? Hmmm. . .)

LotR: Risk is available in toy and hobby shops everywhere.


  1. I've got an older LOTR RISK with a smaller board. No fortress rules but there is the ring.

  2. I've got that one too. It doesn't include the southern section as it came out before the second and third films, and they seemed to think that there would be spoilers involved in including Mordor and Gondor?


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