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War of the Ring- Trolls, Riders, and Dwarves, Oh My!
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Date: 08/27/04 08:08
Game Type: Other
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War of the Ring

Been a long time hasn't it? New raters, flashy CSS, a site suggestion forum; it's obvious we have some fun times ahead. This report was inspired from all of the recent reports on new games: Freelancer, Civilization 3, Zelda, fencing, etc. It's my greatest hope that you all like it and leave a comment at the end, although I warn you, this could be considered obnoxiously long. With the introduction out of the way I leave you to it.

I bought Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring a few weeks after it was released, and unsurprisingly for me, never really got that good at it. It features the two most obvious factions, the Free Peoples of Middle Earth and The Minions of Sauron. Because this is the first report on the game I'll try and give an adequate introduction; for those of you already aquainted with it or who simply want to jump in, go here.

Note: all unit introductions in quotes are from the War of the Ring website. I use them solely because I am lazy.

The Free Peoples of Middle Earth

The Free Peoples of Middle Earth, if compared to Starcraft, might find themselves a close fit to the Protoss. Their units are expensive, sturdy, and slow to produce. They enjoy the advantage of being nearly unstoppable in late game situations however, thanks to their vast reserve of healing spells and highly dependable warriors.

1. Gondor Swordsman

The Free People's cheap unit. They cost almost nothing to deploy (only 50 food- resources covered later) and can stand their own against all but the strongest of units. Does cutting damage.

2. Dwarf Axethrower

The short- and I stress, short- distance ranged unit. They have the same damage output as Gondor Swordsman, and less life, but with upgrades they excel as specialized units. "Razor Edge" allows these midgets to throw their axes and have them bounce from one target to the next, up to three in total. Think mutalisks here. The other upgrade, "Flaming Axe", well, you may belong here if you can't figure out what this does. (If you guessed that it adds a small damage bonus to their attacks and causes extra damage to buildings, you get a cookie.) Piercing damage.

3. Rider of Rohan

Fast moving ball-and-chain riders with moderate damage and life. Mainly used for hit and run attacks on bases. Blunt damage. I actually think Riders are too expensive for their usefulness; sure, they're fast and they look cool, but it's essentially a Gondor Swordsman for an ore cost of 30.

4. Elven Archer

The Free People's ranged unit. Cheap, with excellent starting range (that can upgraded further) and so-so damage. They are incredibly dangerous in moderate to large groups. The Elves major drawback is melee units. If even a weakened Orc is allowed to close on an archer it's almost certain doom for our pointy-eared hero. Can be upgraded to have cloaks that make them invisible while moving.

5. Beorning

The pricey melee/caster unit for the good guys. Think of him exactly as you would a druid of the claw, with two forms. In human form the beorning is weak (3 less damage than a Gondor Swordsman!) but can heal allied units with his Healing Herbs skill. He becomes the perfect match for Trolls in his bear form, where his attack damage gets upped to 17 and his life is doubled. He also has two similar abilities that knockback enemies after swiping them (in bear form of course). He does cutting damage.

6. Dwarven Shieldbreaker

Aside from having the coolest concept art of any unit in the game, the Shieldbreaker also has one of the coolest abilities. His "Shield Break" upgrade allows him to lower an enemy's armor temporarily while he battles with them, allowing even huge trolls to fall quickly without the aid of their thick skin. A group of shieldbreakers backed by archers and a beorning or two is a lethal combination for killing orcs. Blunt damage.

7. Ranger

"The ranger is primarily a detector unit. He has the ability to reveal the presence of camouflaged units like Haradrim Raiders and Elven Archers. Eagle Eye is a line of sight upgrade that will increase his detection range. Rangers can also get the Camouflage ability that allows them to move undetected in wooded areas. The Ranger can fight in melee combat, but is not a standard battle unit due to a relatively low number of hit points."

8. Elven Guide

Elven Guides are the essential spellcasters. They have outstanding range, 17 (starting archers only have 13), and okay damage (11). They're useless for any real battle though, considering they have only 160 life and 0 armor. Where they really shine is, believe it or not, spellcasting. They have three spells, Protection (think defense matrix), Dispel, and Light of Lothlorien. Dispel is the same from War3, a small area of effect radius that negates enemy magic within it. Light of Lothlorien is where it's at though. There's a slight period of channeling before the Guide drops a veil of light upon the battlefield, which damages all Minions within it. Great for crowd control. Piercing damage.

9. Huorn

"Huorns are siege units. They do massive damage against buildings and towers, and can also cause substantial damage to units. Huorns receive the Tree Form upgrade. When this is toggled on, a Huorn unit will "plant" itself in the ground. He is then surrounded by roots that can entangle enemy units and prevent their movement. In addition, while in Tree Form, a Huorn's regeneration rate is substantially increased." Blunt and siege damage.

The Minions of Sauron

In sharp contrast are The Minions of Sauron. These are the zerg. While the Free Peoples consist of a main alliance between Dwarves, Humans, and Elves, the Minions are composed almost exclusively of Orcs. If you've seen the movies or read the books you'll be able to guess that the Orcs, while individually weak, pack a punch when in force. In addition their bases can only be built upon corrupted land.

1. Orc Slasher

The standard Orc. Not strong, fast, or particulary smart, it manages to get the job done. It is much weaker than a Gondor Swordsman, with 40 less life and less armor. What Slashers excel in however, is group combat. Their attack rate is faster than that of most Free People units, and in large numbers they can be overwhelming, even against an equal force. Cutting damage.

2. Warg Rider

Weaker than Riders of Rohan, but cheaper and (I think, not sure) faster. Blunt damage.

3. Troll Bonecleaver

"The Troll Bonecleaver is the largest and strongest melee unit for the Minions of Sauron. An upgrade that allows the Bonecleaver to attack all enemy units in front of it will make this already fearsome beast a master of brutal melee combat." Blunt damage.

4. Troll Stonehurler

"A cousin to the Bonecleaver, the Stonehurler is a mighty beast that hurls massive boulders at its enemies. It can upgrade to using larger boulders that break and damage all units in the area of attack, making it a strong answer to attacking units and buildings from afar." Blunt and siege damage.

5. Goblin Spearman

The zerglings of War of the Ring. They are the cheapeast fighting unit, and also attack and move unbelievably fast. In terms of attack speed, think 2x as fast as most normal units. Match that with the fact that they are the fastest non-mounted unit, and you have a recipe for one Emeril-class dish. Bam! They are extremely dangerous in mobs, as the distraction they provide often allows archers or heavier melee units the time to organize themselves. Can be upgraded to move and attack faster. Cutting damage.

6. Goblin Slavemaster

"The Slavemaster is a unique unit with several roles. His presence allows the player to increase the army's population. In addition, the Slavemaster places War Posts on the terrain, which corrupt the land and allow Sauron's Minions to construct buildings on it, as well as gain a small amount of power from the corrupted land itself. Finally, the Slavemaster can bully Evil troops in battle with his whip, causing them to run faster and attack faster." Blunt damage.

7. Goblin Bowman

A weaker version of the *sighs* Elven Archer (let's out girlish giggle). Hmm. Let's see. Compared to it's Elven *sighs* counterpart the Orc Bowman has:

  • Less range (11 vs. 13)
  • Less damage (9 vs. 14)
  • Less life (125 vs. 180)

To make up for these overwhelming disadvantages the Bowman can be built nearly twice as fast as an archer, takes up less food, and is ridiculously cheaper. So much so that the Free People are the ones who actually recieve the short end of the stick. They can be upgraded to do fire damage against buildings, and have piercing damage.

8. Giant Spider


9. Wraith

Think of shades from War3. They are extremely cheap (in both senses of the word), serving as the casters of Sauron's army. They come with three available upgrades, "Darkness", which makes a target unit move more slowly; "Greater Perception", which increases the Wraith's line of sight/vision; and "Perpetual Darkness", which upgrades "Darkness" to blind a unit as well as slow it. Piercing damage, and the ability to see cloaked units.

10. Haradrim Raider

Deadly melee units that are fast and can be upgraded to remain cloaked while both moving and fighting. Because of this they serve as excellent assassination teams- going out across a map during a skirmish and quickly eliminating the other party's hero. Yes, hero, I'll get to that shortly. Cutting damage.

11. Urukhai

The badasses of the dark army. Though there is the noticeable lacking of them being an actual melee unit, they come equipped with a shortbow and some cool face paint, which I guess makes up for it. They are essentially a copy of the Elven archer, except with knockback! A passive ability, meaning no upgrade required, their knockback is amazing at getting rid of strong melee units in battle, or for displacing archers/casters who had found a good strategic area to rain down on the battlefield. Piercing damage.

Note: I left out "workers" as a unit type in both armies because I didn't feel it needed too much explanation.

With this nifty diagram you can see why I included each unit's damage type (the silver sword in the center denotes a hero) in the introduction. The game of rock, paper, scissors falls such that cutting (weak melee troops) beats piercing (archers) beats blunt (troll, beorning) beats cutting.


Taking a leaf out of Warcraft 3, War of the Ring also includes hero units. These are units with greater damage, armor, and life than lesser units (obviously), and all possess certain powers that require fate points to use. Fate points are recieved during fighting with your opponent, regardless of whether you're winning or losing. Most importantly, you do not retain fate points for the entire game. If, for example, your hero "buys" a move for two fate points, he/she will retain that ability for the rest of the game. You will need to replace those fate points afterwards with more fighting however. I believe you can carry a maximum of ten fate points at one time. I feel this introduction is dragging for long enough now, so if you're interested about the ten or so hereoes go check'em out here.

Heroes must be bought with fate points, and the more powerful ones are available at high tech levels.

Fate Powers

Fate powers are the alternative use of fate points if you're not into purchasing a hero. Each faction has five different fate powers- some range from temporarily blinding your opponent, to making your hero a god (albeit unable to resurrect), to protecting your units from ranged attacks. Each power is extremely useful in a tight spot, and so I normally use them instead of opting for a hero.


Resources are not very integral to War of the Ring. The two, food and ore, both begin in sufficient amounts at your main on nearly any map to play through a long game. The only time I've ever needed to really expand was when I played a famine type game, with dramatically less starting resources. Workers can harvest ore from ore piles and food from wells normally, but it behooves you to build the proper facility on top of them which gives you a harvesting bonus. Foundries can be placed atop ore piles, while mills are similarly placed upon wells.

Introductory Game

Now, finally, I bring you to the action. This first game was played on the map Sandbar, a very interesting four player map. Each start is linked to two others via a path on the far edge of the map, while a bridge connects each one to a central fighting area. In the middle of the map is a randomly assigned shrine, as well as four possible expansion points.

Note: I call this an introductory game because, well, my opponent is a computer set on the easiest setting. But keep in mind this is only to aid you, the reader, understand the simpler nuances of the game. It's certainly not because I suc- Carrying on.

Myself and the computer both randomed off in the beginning of this game, and to my pleasure I found myself starting off as the Free People. Construction immediately began on both a foundry and mill, and three workers were queued up. My goal was to start and end the game with a calvary rush- this is notoriously difficult to stop in the early stages of War of the Ring unless you've built a tower. Before even building a barracks I began upgrading my Town Hall to the next tier, which is the tech I needed to build my Riders of Rohan.

A barracks was started soon after and a camp I had made upgraded to war camp (camps provide supply for your army, a war camp provides even more for a nominal ore cost). When resources allowed I started making my first rider, whom I always deem "Scout Man". Kinkiness aside, he set off towards the middle of the map under my orders and found the map shrine.

Shrines are a cool feature in War of the Ring, each one bestoying a certain benefit or ability to your army. There is always at least one available on a map, and there are about fifteen in all of the game. Some do as you would guess (+ to attack or defense, etc.) but others are more powerful. One has the ability to reveal a large portion of the map for ten seconds before fading back to fog of war; another the power to both slow enemy units and lower their damage in battle. Shrines are not partial to sides however, so if you leave it and even one enemy unit comes close, the Shrine will instantly switch over. It's not uncommon in games for Shrines to be heavily defended, even towered on in order for one side to hold its benefit.

After the Rider of Rohan secured the shrine for my advantage I sent him on a counter-clockwise path around the map to find my opponent. With my luck he ended up finding it the last place he looked, right beneath my own base. As soon as I arrived I saw a Goblin Slavemaster placing a war post. I knew that by killing the slavemaster- thereby denying the orcs supply- I could achieve a huge advantage in the first few minutes of the game. I ordered the strike.

Things were going well initially. I mean, my rider was swinging his chain ball thing, the slavemaster was getting his doughy ass rolled, things were looking up. Until he whistled and called his buddies in. Two warg riders and a wraith came in to save their amigo, and my rider was told to return to base. I returned to my present duty, building an archer training camp, when the message that I'm under attack came up again. What the?

In all his brilliance my Rider had run about 20 feet before turning an about face into certain oblivion. I frantically grabbed Scout Man, not wanting to see him die, but it was inevitable. The lead warg rider gave him a malet to the head, and well, you know how these things go. First blood to The Minions.

Well I wasn't just going to let Scout Man's death go unanswered was I? Your damn right I wasn't!

Six new Riders had completed their training right around when my scout died, and I waited for two more to reinforce them before heading out. All Minion resistance accounted for at the time was two wargs and a wraith. There was a good chance this rush would win the game. After a quick break spent pondering Nature's beauty, we headed out, emotions running high.

As my eight men approached the Minion base I ordered them to slow to a steady canter. Ordering the rest to stay behind, I instructed a lone unit to go and test the waters. He was unfortunate enough to be clipped by a rock flung out of the fog of war.!

My now seven Riders of Rohan charged headlong into the fog of war and were met in kind by four warg riders, a wraith, and a troll stonehurler, troll stonehurler in elvish meaning OH GOD NO. Dancing my horsemen back and forth managed to stall death from wargs, but more often then not the troll would fire a freaking boulder from long distance and finish them off anyway. Finally the last warg fell, and with four remaining riders from the first party and four more I had ferried from my base, I closed in around the troll. The thing kept snarling and smelled plain awful, but there are few things a ball and chain can't fix up in a jiffy. See you in hell.

With the troll dead and eight riders still remaining, the game was mine. All that stood between me and total victory were roughly 400 or so workers.

Ok, here we go...

Making progresss...

Die already damn you...


Game Two

I hope you have a better grasp now on some of the weirder quirks War of the Ring offers: shrines... Yeah that's about it. This is a much better representation of a normal game. I set the computer this time around to Medium Setting (it may still sound like overkill, but the game grows exponentially more difficult from easy, to medium, to hard. I guess you could compare it to Diety level in Raider and .Praetor's Civ reports, with Hard being Sid). The computer and I both randomed again, playing on the map Cirith Udun.

My plan this time around (I found myself playing the Minions) was to tech, and therefore give you a longer and more fitting game to report. I started the same way as last game, with three of my four starting goblin workers making a foundry and the other a mill. Queue three more workers and Sunshine of Your Love. As the last one popped out I ordered him to begin construction of a Fortress of Mordor, the upgradable structure that houses all of your tech options within. When the fortress finished I sent the idle worker to gather more food, and another I had made set to work making two towers that would guard me while I upgraded the building.

I finished the towers just in time for a Free People raid, consisting of two Riders of Rohan and a Gondor Swordsman. Things were hairy for a minute as I tried to draw the horsemen away from my workers (who were being manhandled), using a cheap Goblin Spearman as bait. I was successful in distracting them, in the process probably saving four or five members of my workforce. One of the Riders following the spearman eventually fell to the arrows being constantly fired from my towers, and the other followed suit as my unit delivered the final blow to his weakened horse. As I turned to focus on the Gondor Swordsman, I saw him cowering in the corner getting whipped by two Slavemasters. This pleased me.

Sometime during the confrontation my Fortress of Mordor had reached level two (of five) and I immediately began the slow process of teching to level three. I ordered an idling worker to begin the construction of a third tower, which I knew I would be needing since the computer very rarely ever stops attacking you.

Three minutes of uneventful laboring later:

The teching was going smoothly. My Fortress of Mordor (this is beginning to sound dirty) had reached level 3 without interruption and I was faced with a decision. I could now begin hiring trolls to my cause, or I could go the way of the warg rider, backed with spiders and haradrim slayers for harassment. Trolls at this point in the game would be an expensive proposition, but wargs wouldn't really give me the power I needed to steamroll the Free Peoples late game. I began building a troll camp with these cute guys in mind:

By now I had sent a scouting slavemaster to the map shrine, which turned out to be the Wretched Sentinel. Not the most useful now that I was building the buffest Minion unit, but at least I wouldn't have to worry about armor upgrades for a while. When I had four trolls and eight spearmen (think of an ultra/crackling combo) I moved out. (I love the smoke effect in that picture =])

Upon reaching the 12:00 Free People base I took stock of my forces.

  • Lumbering beats- check.
  • Sharpened sticks- check.
  • Bad temperments- check.

I posistioned my goblin spearmen behind my trolls, and ordered the charge.

Things got messy as soon as my forces began crossing the bridge that lead towards the enemy base. Four riders of rohan, two rangers, some archers and a dwarven axethrower met with my unit, and the first major battle of the game unfolded. Upon analyzing the number of enemies I quickly broke my four trolls into two distinct groups. The first would stomp around and make noise in the middle while the other would sneak around the back and take care of the ranged foes. The spearmen were left to their own devices.

Some reinforcing archers showed up about halfway through the fight, but at that point I had the situation pretty much under my control. My spearmen endured some casualties, but the Free People really had no way of stopping my trolls on the bridge without the assistance of a beorning or two. When all the annoyances were dealt with, I left the bridge and entered the Free People base.


I don't know who the hell was responsible for programming computer AI over at Liquid Entertainment, but there they were. Six spanking-new towers, loaded with archers judging from the speed at which they were firing. The pleasant surprises didn't stop there however, no! There was also a Huorn! Now it's a party!


While my spearmen dived at all available enemy units like they were cheap hookers I directed my trolls to gang up on the Huorn. Despite the numerical disadvantage you'd be surprised how well this imbalanced POS took its blows. With four of the six towers raining down on their backs my trolls quickly fell, and I left the Free People base, now without an army, having brought only one tower to the red. Worth it? Hmmm...

The Free People's retaliation came swiftly, as I had it expected it would. The Huorn, now fully healed, raced in along with his posse, and began laying waste to the spearmen I had trained during the previous battle. Fortunately, I managed to surround him next to the towers with another troll that had conveniently popped out that moment. The Huorn died, as did the rest of the invaders.

Sorry if the .gif is a little confusing; the two squares at the bottom of the last image are the tops of my towers.

Resources were running a little low now, so I had very few to waste. With that in mind I decided I needed to take out the other base the very next attack before the Free People expanded. So naturally I began training these adorable little things:

Troll stonehurlers, the Minion siege unit.

With three trolls, two troll stonehurlers, and the required eight spearmen I set out to win the game. Unfortunately I hit some snags on the trip. The first encounter was with another huorn and three elven guides. Leaving the huorn alone for a moment I targeted the guides and brought them down with a vengeance- no Light of Lothrien for you! After that I simply turned my whole army's attention towards the huorn and he fell with no resistance. I took a few seconds to check on my army, but aside from a spearman that had been crushed my other units hadn't even taken damage. We moved out again, this time towards the northeastern natural. Free People City.

A spearman I had placed on point (a screen above the rest of my army) ran smack into nearly ten riders, and half that number in archers. What the hell!? My forward trolls crashed into the calvary like Blitz on Badme's mom, and the battle was joined. I smiled inwardly through the fight, noticing that my two stonehurlers were nearly a thousand times as effective as the archers. It almost seemed like each boulder thrown killed a rider...

There was a problem however. Just as it appeared my army would come out only moderately harmed, four dwarven shieldbreakers and Gimli trudged out of the fog of war and started whacking away at anything within reach. I immediately focused all of my attacks on Gimli, knowing that if I could take him out I could win the battle, but he stubbornly refused to die. His area of effect attack, Sunder, kept stunning my units and dealing damage every fifteen seconds, and the shieldbreakers had already killed two trolls... In the end I killed all the Free People units in sight with only one troll stonehurler remaining. Glancing at my resources I noticed both my well and ore pile would be collapsing in about five seconds. I was broke but I knew the computer was in trouble too now that I had taken down its expansion attempt.

Note: I'm sorry if any of that was confusing, but the nature of the battle made it such. There were units dancing in and out of the battle constantly, and it became hard to both micro and note the new units trudging in throughout. The only real armies you need to know of were my army, the army stationed at the expansion, and Gimli's escort.

The computer again retaliated. This attack was gigantic, so I guessed at the time this was the computer's last thrust. Time to disappoint this guy. The first wave was composed of Riders of Rohan, and they again bypassed my towers, choosing instead to beat down my workers. I would have none of that, though. Moving my trolls around the western end of my base, I made a sandwich, with riders in the middle. The rider's complement, some elven guides, arrived too late to be effective.

Alright. Get psyched. This was it.

I speedbuilt a new expansion on the opposite side of the map, setting up a mill, foundry, and the obligatory tower labyrinth. Afterwards I rebuilt my army to its normal size, with the usual complement of spearmen, trolls, and troll stonehurlers. Up until this point in the game I had not used one fate power or summoned a single hero, so my stack of fate points had become quite respectable.

I forgot to mention it earlier, but there is one more "super" fate power available to the two factions. Dag probably picked up on it. The Free Peoples of Middle Earth recieve a treant for seven fate points, and the The Minions of Sauron recieve, well, tell'em Dag:


Zoom in shot.

With the power of the strongest unit in the game at the forefront of my army, I wiped the rest of the Free Peoples of Middle Earth of the map.

End game

War of the Ring is a very fun game with some awesome Roleplaying potential (not that I'd ever do that). If you're looking for a strategy game similar in depth to Starcraft I'd advise saving your money. It's definitely an RTS, but it's dumbed down a little for the wide audience it has to deliver to. If you're a big fan of the movies or books I'd say get it however.

Thanks go to Badme for helping me out with some CSS problems, Blitz for proofreading and offering suggestions on what to improve, and Asmo and Wakiki for keeping a secret. Doing a report on a new game (save writing the introduction) was a lot of fun, and I'll probably be doing some more War of the Ring reports in the future if I get some positive feedback from this one. As for now, I'm leaving for Maine this Sunday, so do leave me some nice comments for when I get back ;)

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