Spotlight on Games > War Games > Variants
Variant rules for the SPI board game
Fri Feb 26 13:52:13 PST 1999

Overview of the Variant
In issue 17 of The Space Gamer magazine David Ritchie described the game as "adequate, but nothing more". This is an attempt to provide something more, as well as to answer some puzzling questions about this game.

Making combat more detailed and giving character ratings similar to War of the Ring and fantasy role-playing games seemed to be one way of increasing the "fantasy flavor" of the game. Now wounds are more realistic, and what's more, the ability to rally is separate from the ability to combat. Also, character combat should be enlivened by the more varied CRT. No longer is Sauron hopeless in attacking Elendil or Gil-Galad at -2, nor is the Ringwraith certain to harm Baldrim with impunity at +1.

A leader losing all his associated combat units occurs quite often with poor Baldrim (who doesn't appear in any of the novels). It leads to an "ahistorical" strategy of having him run as far from Mordor as possible. These rules simulate what such a force-less leader would likely do -- jump right in and fight with his allies.

The Rally Table is extended as Elendil and Gil-Galad can each reach a rally rating of 12 using magic weapons while Isildur can reach 10. Sauron, at 13 at night, is given an Automatic rally ability.

All those mysterious rough hexes are finally explained. This rule may allow an army to head to the hills and hide or recoup, perhaps introducing novel strategies.

New rules are added to reflect the loss of Westernesse leaders. Cirdan was Lord of the Grey Havens and probably possessed Narya, one of the Three Rings, at this time. Anarion was King of Gondor and defender of Osgiliath. The deaths of these leaders would tend to demoralize their forces.

Rules are added giving Sauron the ability to close the Mordor gates.

Since Sauron often has too few magic points to give the Beast everything (cost: 48 MP), the Beast is often left far from Mordor, flightless, and unable to attack, in short, easy prey for Gil-Galad or Elendil. New rules are meant to install more realism and give the Beast a chance. He is after all worth 15 DP's.

New rules try to add realism to the situation of archers being charged by fanatical orcs. In such a situation, it seems likely that the archers would fire at the orcs unless the orcs are being diverted by a friendly unit.

I wrote these rules a very long time ago, so let me know what you think. Maybe you can suggest further improvements.

4.3 (addition)
Terrain TypeMP cost to enter or crossEffect on Combat
Rough+2+2 to defender's Armored Protection Rating

7.175 (change) Combat units with missile capability that are adjacent to enemy units in the Friendly Combat Phase must attack one of the adjacent enemy units with missile fire, UNLESS all enemy units adjacent to the unit in question will be attacked in the Melee Combat Segment. One of these latter attacks may be made by the melee capability of the same unit if it possesses both missile and melee strength, for example, an "Ee--" unit.

7.22 (change) Delete the entire paragraph and substitute: Each leader possesses the following ratings: Combat, Morale, Endurance, and Ring Rating.
Ring Rating0004
Ring Rating42234

7.221 (addition) To engage in Leader Combat, each leader totals his Combat and Morale ratings minus any wounds to his endurance. The defending leader subtracts his total from that of the attacker (phasing leader) to obtain a Combat Differential. The phasing player rolls one die and cross-references the roll with the Combat Differential on the Leader Combat Results Table.

7.222 (addition) The result of Leader Combat is applied immediately in the form of lost Endurance points. If the number of lost points ever equals the leader's Endurance, he is considered dead and removed from the board.

7.241 (addition) In the case of Mortal Combat (22.0), leaders may attack any number of times in a given phase.

7.26 (change) Delete existing table and replace with
Die Roll-4-3-2-1012345

8.1 (change) Delete all up to "Magic Leaders..."

8.11 (addition) Leaders may only stack with units of their own nationality (exception: 8.25). Leaders may not stack or pass over enemy combat units at any time. There is no effect, good or bad, if a leader is alone in a hex.

8.25 (addition) Should all the combat units of a leader's nationality be destroyed, the leader may stack with any allied combat unit. (Exception: Elves may not stack with dwarves.) However, such a leader may not form special formations or rally.

8.331 (change) The rally rating is determined by adding a leader's Combat and Morale Ratings. If the leader has wounds to his endurance and these wounds exceed the leader's Combat rating, subtract the difference from the Rally Rating.

8.3311 Example: Normally, Baldrim has a Rally Rating of 6 (3+3). However, he has 5 wounds to his Endurance. These wounds exceed his Combat Rating with the difference being 2. Thus, his Rally Rating becomes 4 (6-2).

8.37 (addition) Continuation of the Leader Rally Table:
Leader Rating Dice Roll Needed to Rally
9 3-11
10 3-12
11 3-12
12 3-12
13 Automatic

14.3 (addition) There are six other Westernesse units included in the countermix. They may be used to alter the strength of the Westernesse side and can be brought on, in any amount the players agree to, on or after game-turn 3. Their rules for entrance are identical to those found in 14.2. The units are

1 Men (B-3-W)
5 Elves Archers (e-2-X)

16.6-16.64 (change) Delete and replace with below:

16.6 (change) THE RING OF POWER The One Ring, which Sauron wore during the battle had been forged by him and was the holding receptacle of much of his power. With it, he hoped to control the elves, dwarves, and men who held the three, seven, and nine rings. Although this play met with mixed results, the One Ring was still very formidable in its own right.

16.61 (change) If Sauron loses the ring, (see 22.0), add 20 points to his side's current Demoralization Level and subtract 4 from his current Morale for all purposes. Finally, immediately subtract 10 points from the number of Magic Capability Points still availalbe to Sauron.

16.62 (change) If Sauron recovers the ring (see 22.0), all the effects of 16.61 are reversed.

16.63 (change) The ability of each character to take off the ring is measured by his Ring Rating.

16.631 (addition) Sauron's Ring Rating is 0. He may not take off the ring, but there is no reason for him to do so. If the Ringwraith or Gorgol recover it, he returns it to Sauron as quickly as possible by moving both counters into the same hex. Or, if Sauron is dead, the highest ranking Sauron leader wears wit with an increase of 2 in Morale.

16.632 (addition) The only reason for Westernesse leaders to have Ring Ratings is to check whether the ring may be thrown into Mt. Orodruin.

16.633 (addition) To remove the ring, the player controlling the leader in question rolls 1 die during the Joint Rally Phase. If the number on the die is less than or equal to the leader's Ring Rating, the ring is removed. If the character wishes to destroy the ring, he need only be in the center Orodruin hex and not be wearing the ring. Destruction occurs only in the Joint Rally Phase.

16.69 (addition) If a Westernesse leader fails to remove the ring in 3 attempts, 2 is added to his Morale and he becomes evil. This character may do one of two things. (1) If his Basic Morale is lower than 4 (wounds to endurance subtract from Combat before affecting Morale), he becomes a Servant to Sauron and is under control of the Sauron Player. Otherwise, he is played by a third player and each turn that passes after the first battle, all of one type of Sauron unit comes under his control in the following order: Ringwraith, Wargs, Goblins, Trolls, Slaves, Orcs, Gorgol.

17.11 (addition) The Beast, when not in possession of Horn Attack or Death Breath has an Attack Rating of C for melee combat and a Combat Rating of 9 for leader/individual combat.

18.1 (addition) If Sauron is inside Mordor, he may choose to close the Gates of Morannon. Only if the gates are open, may movement and melee combat may take place through them. Missile combat may occur only on the part of the units inside Mordor. The gates must remain in the same position throughout the game-turn.

19.211 (addition) When Narsil is destroyed by missile or melee combat or by Death Breath, the shards remain to be used by any Numenorean leader (Elendil, Isildur or Anarion).

19.212 (addition) There are no longer any benefits from carrying the shards of Narsil, except that 1 is added to the Combat Rating of a Numenorean leader bearing the shards during leader/individual combat ONLY.

20.2 (change) Amend he last sentence beginning "If Elendil, Isildur ...": If any Westernesse leader is killed, his original number of Rally Points are added to the current Demoralization total.

20.21 (change) Supersedes the second sentence of 20.2 in the case of Narsil only: If Narsil is reduced to shards, add 10 points to the Westernesse Demoralization Level. If the shards are destroyed as per 19.21, add 10 more points to this total.

22.0 (addition) Mortal Combat During any Combat Phase in which a phasing leader is within 4 hexes of an opposing leader, the phasing leader may challenge his opponent to Mortal Combat.

22.1 (addition) If the opposing leader accepts, he moves to his front lines or as near to the challenging leader as possible during his next movement phase. If the leader is able to occupy the same hex as the challenging leader, Mortal Combat ensues during the Leader Combat Segment of that turn. If the leader is unable to occupy the same hex as the challenging leader, then during his movement phase, the challenging leader moves into the same hex and Mortal Combat occurs. In any case, both leaders attempt to move into the other's hex until one is successful.

22.2 (addition) Combat is handled just as specified in 7.2 except that both leaders attack simultaneously, applying wounds to endurance only at the end of each round of combat. Also, combat continues until one (or both) are dead. Leaders are not allowed to stop combat until at least one has been removed from the board.

22.3 (addition) Leaders need not accept challenges, but thepenalty for avoiding a challenge is to have his side's current Demoralization Level increased by his current number of Rally Points. Also, he may not rally in that turn.

22.4 (addition) Challenges may only be issued to Leaders whose summed Combat and Morale Ratings differ by 3 or less from the challenging leader. For example, as they begin the game, Isildur could conceivably challenge Gorgol, but Elendil could not.

Expanded Game
If a decisive victory is not gained by either player, then an Expansion Game can be played. This game postulates that neither Sauron nor the Western Alliance would ever be satisfied with less than total victory.

To simulate the rematch, the map is rotated 90 degrees so that the arrow, pointing west, now points north. The mountains extend from the hex numbers 0801, 0901, and 1001 to hex numbers 0823, 0924, and 1023. They also cover the hexes from 1023 to 2923, 1022 to 2922, and 1021 to 2921. The Gate of Morannon now exists on the hex path between hexes 0722 and 1120. The six hexes in the mountains on each side of the path are fortifications. In them, the Sauron player may place his 3 catapults and as many men as stacking restrictions allow. Units may never move directly from the path to the wall, but may use the stairways in hexes 0920-1019 and 1122-0923.

The Black Tower of Barad-dur is located in hex 1608 and the 6 hexes surrounding it. Mt. Orodruin lies in hex 2218 and the 6 hexes surrounding it. A road connects the two, going from 1609 to 1611 to 2214 to 2217. The road continues... [To Be Added]

All Combat leaders are restored except for dead leaders and special items. The latter retain status from the previous part of the game. Leaders, if only wounded, regain full status and magic capability points. Any killed Sauron leaders are replaced by leaders exactly the same as Gorgol. Should Baldrim be killed, he is replaced with a dwarven leader with 1 less morale point. If any of the Numenoreans are killed, they are replaced by their sons.

[More to be added]