Lord of the Rings

war of ring anniv 2

To celebrate the 5th anniversary of the 2nd Ed. publication of War of the Ring and the 60th anniversary of J.R.R Tolkein’s Return of the King Ares Games has announced they will be publishing an Anniversary Release of War of the Ring 2nd ed. It will consist of 205 hand painted figures, a larger board that will be hot foil stamped, and a unique hard cover strategy guide this is sure to be a beautiful work of art. It is set to be released in the Spring of 2016 and will be pre-order only due to the limited print run of 2,000 copies. Pre-orders will open on July 20th on the Ares Games website and will be limited to one copy per address.

War of the Ring Second Edition – designed by Roberto Di Meglio, Marco Maggi and Francesco Nepitello – is widely recognized as the best boardgame based upon the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. This new edition of the game will feature a set of 205 figures, hand painted in a high quality style; a hot-foil stamped game board, about 20% larger than the normal board included in Second Edition; a unique hardcover strategy guide, the “War of the Ring Companion”, written by Kristofer Bengttson and featuring beautiful artwork by John Howe. The game board, cards and rules will be updated to reflect all the changes introduced by the Second Edition and to incorporate the latest rulings and frequently asked questions.

How this release will compare to the Collectors Edition is a bit uncertain but it is sure to be very well made and a collectors item on it’s own. If you’d like to know more about this you can head over and read the release on Ares Games’ webiste.

warriors of middle earth

The classic fantasy epic Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien can be experienced in a very immersive way in Ares Games’ War of the Ring, an epic board game in which players can play through Tolkien’s grand saga as they take on the roles of either the Free People of Middle Earth or The Shadow (forces of Sauron).  To date, War of the Ring has had only one smaller expansion, Lords of Middle Earth, but now Ares Games has announced a second expansion for the game, Warriors of Middle Earth.

In the core game, many additional characters appear other than the Free Peoples and the armies of the Shadow, but have not been “playable.”  Now, this new expansion will include Ents, Dead Men of Dunharrow, Great Eagles of the Misty Mountains, Corsairs of Umbar, Wild Hilmen from Dunland, and Giant Spiders.  Each of these character and creature groups will feature miniatures and special abilities.

In Warriors of Middle Earth, new game mechanisms will be introduced to the game, including Faction Dice and Faction Events.  As in the core game and first expansion, Warriors of Middle Earth will be illustrated by John Howe.  This new expansion is set for release in the Q4 of 2015, in or around November.

For more information on this new expansion for War of the Ring, please visit Ares Games’ website here.

d&d 5th

You Say You Want a Revolution

In the last edition of Playing Roles, I discussed the close knit relationship board games have with roleplaying games (RPGs). These tabletop cousins are forever bonded by shared themes, mechanism, and sometimes even designers. I made the case that board game enthusiasts that enjoy narrative social experiences owe it to themselves to give roleplaying a try.

Today I want to talk about the next step, because there has arguably never better time to get started with roleplaying. It’s no exaggeration to say that RPGs are experiencing a boom time right now. Wizards of the Coast recently released Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition with a ruleset that is more welcoming to new players than ever before. Fantasy Flight Games is riding high with their recent Star Wars RPGs (Edge of the Empire and Age of Rebellion, with Force and Destiny coming soon) that centers around an intriguing new dice mechanism that is also new-player friendly. Other stalwarts of the genre, like The One Ring and Shadowrun have also been updated in the last few years creating convenient jumping-on points for newbies and veterans alike.

Slightly more obscure than these juggernauts are several rules systems that don’t have IPs or specific settings attached to them. These so-called generic systems are perfect for applying your own unique worlds or adapting your favorite movie, book, comic, etc. Two such games are Savage Worlds and Fate Core. I’ll be talking about these and the above-mentioned mainstream systems in future editions of Playing Roles.


Today We Celebrate Our Independence Day

The real revolution in RPGs is happening on an even smaller scale. Independent roleplaying games (indie RPGs) have never been more numerous or popular. Thanks to the widespread adoption of tablet devices, the rise of sites such as DriveThruRPG and RPGNow, and the influence of crowdfunding, the variety and availability of small press RPGs has never been better.

Why is that a good thing? The indie RPGs scene is where a lot of the most creative and innovative designs are coming from. These designers aren’t tied to licenses, established fan-bases, or any pre-conceived settings. Not only do most of these systems eschew the complexity and crunch of their mainstream brethren, but they typically ask for a minimal investment. Sometimes no investment at all. The confluence of simplicity, variety, and low cost represents, for my money, the best avenue for interested board gamers to jump on the roleplaying train.

So where to begin? There are literally hundreds of perfectly legitimate first RPGs. You can certainly begin with the big dogs. Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition has a great Starter Set that simplifies the core rulebook and even provides and adventure to get the players started right away. Many other popular RPGs have free basic rules and scenarios that significantly lower the barrier to entry.

That said, there’s nothing at all wrong with jumping in with both feet and buy one of those 500 page tomes full of rules and lore, as long as you’re prepared to take the time to learn these systems and are willing to make the investment. That’s a deal-breaker for many, especially those uncertain about roleplaying. For them and for all of you, I have just one word: Fiasco.

fiasco book

Some Men Just Want to Watch the World Burn

Fiasco by Bully Pulpit Games is a Coen Brothers movie come to life. It’s a rules-light system, not much more complicated than charades, putting humor and collaborative storytelling above dice and stat sheets. Fiasco even contains a built-in cooperative world building mechanism that does all the heavy-lifting when it comes to crafting the story. It’s a quirky dark humor system that plays enough like a party game that even non-gamers will enjoy it, all in an inexpensive softbound booklet that’s easy to read and teach. For those reasons, and many others, Fiasco is a top notch beginner RPG.

In Fiasco, players begin with a “playset”, which is a series of reference tables that contain setting elements unique to a specific scenario. These playsets help players define character relationships, establish locations and events, and establish other details in the scenario. Each of these elements is numbered 1-6 in their respective categories. To facilitate narrowing down the many options provided, a number of standard six-sided dice (4 per player) are then rolled and players take turns spending the dice to assign elements from the playset.

As dice are spent to create wacky connections between equally wacky characters, the Coen-esque flavor of the game starts to come alive. More dice are then used to add settings, motivations, items, and other narrative hooks. It’s quick, collaborative, simple, and doesn’t require anyone to spend endless hours crafting a story ahead of time. There’s no traditional gamemaster role in Fiasco, meaning there’s no pressure or preparation required to get a game rolling (no pun intended).

The actual game of Fiasco is essentially improv. Players interact in two-person scenes, letting the established relationships and their own wild imaginations dictate the flow of the narrative. It’s not about winning; it’s about telling a fun story and seeing how crazy things can get, and you don’t have to be an accomplished actor or storyteller to create really compelling scenes. All this builds to a pivotal event, the Tilt, which sets the stage for the inevitable Coen-esque everyone-loses endgame. Sometimes the best you can hope for is that your already emotionally scarred character narrowly avoids a burning building only to get hit by a car. Fiasco is devilishly funny and creates some of the most memorable group experiences you can imagine.

O Players, Where Art Thou?

Next time you reach for that copy of Say Anything or Cards Against Humanity, consider taking one of Fiasco’s playsets for a spin instead. It’s pressure-free roleplaying that requires little time or monetary investment from anyone involved, yet still embodies all the best parts of the hobby.  As a gateway RPG, you could hardly do better especially given then endless fan-made playsets. There’s something for everyone, and chances are you have all the elements you need to play the game in your home already: people, dice, scratch paper, and alcohol…okay that last one is more of a suggestion than a requirement. See you next time!

treason of saruman

Will you sit idle and feeble, spellbound to inaction by evil counsel? Or will you ride to war? Now is the time to act.

Fantasy Flight Games announces the release of the latest boxed saga expansion for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, The Treason of Saruman.  This expansion includes three new scenarios that take players on a journey through the first half of Tolkien’s epic novel, The Two Towers.  These scenarios can be played individually, or as part of the ongoing campaign that began with the saga expansion The Black Riders.


Three new heroes are also included in this expansion, including a Fellowship sphere version of Aragorn.  Additionally, the expansion includes thirty-three new player cards including new allies, events and attachments to each sphere.  The popular Mount trait introduced in the Foundations of Stone expansion is continued with the inclusion of Shadowfax and Arod, the famous horses belonging to Gandalf and Legolas, respectively.

In The Treason of Saruman, players can enlist the aid of the ents, powerful allies that are not easy to recruit.  The scenarios culminate in an encounter with Saruman himself, armed with the Saruman’s Staff artifact card and his innate Wizardry effect.  Even if Saruman is defeated, his foul stench may remain with the players as they continue on their quest with the Saruman’s Voice treachery card.

This new saga expansion is currently available, and one can learn much more about the details of this new release on FFG’s website here.

lost realm

Fantasy Flight offers up a bonanza of info regarding their new expansion to the LOTR LCG (now that’s a lot of letters!). The expansion, already briefly previewed by ACD Distribution, focuses on the evil-hunting bands of Dúnedain roaming the wilds of the North.

Per the preview:

Outside the peaceful villages of Bree-land, lies a land tainted by ancient evils. In the darkest, northern reaches of Eriador, the Witch-king of Angmar once ruled. His armies terrorized the region for nearly seven centuries, and though he no longer resides within Carn Dûm, there are other evils that have found their way to Angmar.

lost realm cards

The Expansion offers plenty of new characters, allies and scenarios. In keeping with the theme of the Dúnedain, many cards offer new mechanisms for engaging enemies and encouraging attack. A big example is the set’s Aragon card.

Some of Aragorn’s benefits are obvious. By offering a consistent and immediate means of pulling enemies away from your fellow players, Aragorn’s ability grants you new freedom in the construction of your deck and the selection of your heroes. You face less need than ever to include Ranged characters…in order to attack those enemies that engage your fellow players.

Finally, the preview takes an extended look at the Secret Vigil card, a example of how the set offers Dúnedain-flavored access to threat reduction.

Even as it offers Tactics players a range of new freedoms, The Lost Realm provides them with some limited, thematic means to explore an entirely new role – threat reduction. For a single resource, Secret Vigil (The Lost Realm, 12) can attach to an enemy and reduce its Threat Strength by one, making it easier to quest successfully so long as that enemy remains in the staging area. Then, once that enemy is destroyed, Secret Vigil reduces each player’s threat by an amount equal to the target enemy’s printed Threat Strength. When you consider that The Galadhrim’s Greeting(Core Set, 46) costs three resources for a table-wide threat reduction of two, you’ll be especially thankful for the Dúnedain and their Secret Vigil, especially when they eliminate an enemy as threatening as an Angmar Marauder (The Lost Realm, 44).

For fans of the LCG, this Expansion offers plenty of food for new deck building ideas. Take a closer look at Fantasy Flight Games’ preview here.


All you need is love…and intellectual property licenses.

Hot on the heels of a deluge of Love Letter licensed variants, AEG announces yet another one. This time based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

The author famously wrote

“There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.”

In the case of The Hobbit: Love Letter, what we find are that the familiar Love Letter roles have been replaced by Tolkien-esque characters, the first revealed of which is Tauriel (who strangely enough was not invented by Tolkien).

AEG is promising many twists and turns to differentiate this version from the base game, keep your eyes peeled as more details are bound to emerge soon.

The Hobbit: Love Letter releases in March, officially from both AEG and Cryptozoic Entertainment.

enchanted gold

Fantasy Flight Games has announced the English release of The Hobbit: Enchanted Gold. This game has been available Europe for a few months.

Publishers description below

Follow in the footsteps of Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit: Enchanted Gold, a two-player card game of treasure and adventure!

Both players travel across Middle-Earth, crossing the Misty Mountains and encountering Orcs, elves, spiders, and trolls, before facing the great dragon, Smaug, and participating in the Battle of the Five Armies. Along the way, Gandalf, Thorin, Beorn, and other allies help players grab their own share of loot and jewels!

Make the journey there and back again with The Hobbit: Enchanted Gold!

Ages 8+
2 players
20-30 minute play time


Android Netrunner: Upstalk

Beyond the reaches of Earth’s atmosphere, players will discover powerful fragments of pure coding, startling new ice, and a wealth of data that no one could have ever expected. What can happen in one-point-two seconds! Everything!

Upstalk is the first Data Pack in the Lunar Cycle for Android: Netrunner The Card Game. Its sixty cards (three copies each of twenty different cards) transport players to the moon and a life one-point-two seconds out of the ordinary.

ancestral home

Game of Thronse LCG: Ancestral Home

Advance your claim to the Iron Throne with Ancestral Home, the fourth Chapter Pack in the Conquest and Defiance cycle for A Game of Thrones: The Card Game!

Introducing sixty new cards (three copies each of twenty different cards), this Chapter Pack continues to support the Prized keyword, alongside the cycle’s themes of multi-House decks and Neutral Faction decks.

Whether you set sail with House Greyjoy, support the Prince of Dorne, or lend your strength to another Great House, you’ll find plenty to enjoy in this expansion.

road darkens

Lord of the Rings LCG: The Road Darkens Saga

The Road Darkens is the second Lord of the Rings Saga Expansion for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game.

Its 165 cards introduce three new scenarios to the game, along with two heroes, twenty-seven player cards (three copies each of nine different player cards), eight boons, and seven burdens. Together, these cards allow you to immerse yourself in some of the most pivotal moments of Middle-earth’s Third Age as you join Frodo Baggins and his companions on their all-important quest!

three trials

Lord of the Rings LCG: The Three Trials

The Three Trials is the second Adventure Pack in The Ring-maker cycle for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. In its new scenario, several of Middle-earth’s greatest heroes must undertake a series of three deadly trials. Can they defeat three ferocious Dunlending Guardian spirits, claim their Keys, and recover an ancient Dunlending artifact, the Antlered Crown?

Additionally, players receive a new hero and three copies of each player card, including two new Elven allies and support for the game’s Secrecy keyword.

battlelore dice

BattleLore Dice Pack

Players can keep the focus on battle with the BattleLore Dice Pack, an accessory for BattleLore Second Edition.

The dice in the BattleLore Dice Pack are an excellent resource for players looking to increase their focus on the game, rather than reach across the table for the dice to launch their attacks. By adding these eight dice to the four from BattleLore Second Edition, players will be able to quickly navigate even the largest battles!

darkness and light

Star Wars LCG: Darkness and Light

Players will find new tricks and ways to prove their devotion to the Force amid the ten objective sets in Darkness and Light, the final Force Pack in the Echoes of the Force cycle for Star Wars: The Card Game.

Experience the intrigue within Jabba’s Palace, or infiltrate the ruins of the Jedi Temple in search of survivors. Whether a player commands the Imperial Navy’s fighters or impersonates a deity in exchange for some native support, he’ll find plenty of options in Darkness and Light!