The Fellowship player takes the 9 Fellowship character tiles in the white pieces, and the 9 Fellowship Combat cards.
The Sauron player takes the 9 evil character tiles in the black pieces, and the 9 Sauron Combat cards.
In the Classic game, the characters all show the One Ring symbol.
The board is placed so the Shire is pointing at the Fellowship player and Mordor is pointing at the Sauron player.
The Fellowship player places 4 characters in the Shire, and each of his remaining 5 in one of the 5 regions in front of the Shire.
The Sauron player places 4 characters in Mordor, and each of his remaining 5 in one of the five regions in front of Mordor.
All characters are placed with their hidden side facing the opponent.
It is recommended that 2 games are played, with players each playing a side. The winner of each game receives one point for each of his characters still on the board at the end of the game.
After 2 games the player with the highest point total in the overall winner.
The Sauron player takes the first turn, then play alternates.
A player must move one of his characters forward to an adjacent region.
Characters can never move sideways in the mountains, not even with the use of special abilities.
Each player may never have more than four characters each in the Shire or Mordor, only one in each mountain region, and up to 2 in all other regions.
A character may never move into or through a region that already holds the maximum number of his own characters.
A player may shuffle his characters in a region at any time to confuse his opponent.
The Fellowship player only may move characters from Mirkwood to Fangorn or Fangorn to Rohan. This is considered a forward move. Forward movement in the opposite direction is not allowed.
The Fellowship player only may move characters forward through the Tunnel of Moria from Eregion into Fangorn (but never in the opposite direction) even if retreating.
If the Sauron player reveals the Balrog in the Caradhras region at this time, the character is instantly defeated.
If a character is moved into a region occupied by one or more characters, it is the attacker in a battle.
If there are 2 or more unrevealed opponents in the region, the attacker randomly chooses which will be his opponent for the battle. Otherwise the attacker may choose a specific enemy character that is already revealed in the region.
Reveal Characters Both players reveal their character.
Resolve Character Abilities The Fellowship player reads and resolves any special ability first , followed by the Sauron player. (Exception: the Warg). Some Fellowship characters may retreat at the start of the battle. A character can never retreat into a region occupied by an enemy, sideways in the mountains, backwards through Moria or upstream against the Anduin, or into a region with the maximum number of characters in it.
Play Cards Both players secretly select a remaining Combat card and they are revealed simultaneously. Text cards always take effect before Strength cards. If both players reveal Text cards, the Sauron player’s card is read and resolved first.
Compare Strengths If the battle is still on, the Strength number of each player’s Strength card is added to the Strength value of the character. The character with the lowest total is defeated. If there is a tie, both are defeated.
When a character is defeated it is placed face up by the game board.
Used Combat cards are discarded face up by the board. When all 9 Combat cards have been used, both players take all of their cards back.
After a battle, if there are still additional enemies in the region, another begins, until all are resolved. A player’s turn does not end until all battles are resolved and only Fellowship or Sauron characters (or none at all) occupy each region.
At the end of a battle or after a retreat, any revealed non-defeated characters are hidden from the opponent again.
The Fellowship player wins immediately if Frodo enters Mordor, even if there are Sauron characters there.
The Sauron player wins immediately if he has either 3 characters in the Shire or if Frodo (classic version) is defeated.
If a player is unable to move a character forward during his turn he loses immediately.
In the variant game the characters are switched to the side showing the Star symbol.
The Sauron player wins immediately if the Witch King enters the Shire, even if there are Fellowship characters there.
A defeated Frodo can make Sam the new Ringbearer.
Sam is revealed at this time. If Sam is not on the board when Frodo is defeated, the Sauron player immediately wins. When Sam is the Ringbearer, the Fellowship player wins immediately if Sam enters Mordor, even if there are Sauron characters there. If Sam as the Ringbearer is defeated, the Sauron player immediately wins.
Each player chooses which characters he wishes to field.
Once chosen they are revealed to the other player, who may use the character tokens as a reminder. Alternatively, character choices may not be revealed before the game.
Players choose 2 Special cards for the game, or each player chooses a number between 0 and 4, then picks that number of his opponent’s Special cards for his opponent to use. The Special cards are not subject to the Combat card rules. Each Special card may only be used once per game.