Risk: Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition is a board game based upon the game Risk, set in Middle-earth. It was released in 2003. The board is divided into nine regions of Middle-earth taken from The Lord of the Rings.
The box contains: a rules manual; a map on a cardboard board, depicting the northwest area of Middle-earth at the end of the Third Age; playing pieces--two light-colored sets containing Elven Archers, Riders of Rohan, Eagles, and elven-style leader shields for good armies, and two dark-colored sets containing Orcs, Dark Riders, Cavetrolls, and orcish leader shields for evil armies; and, finally, a pewter replica of the One Ring.
Gameplay is similar to the original Risk, but there are additional cards (earned by entering "Sites of Power" with a leader piece) that give missions for leader pieces to accomplish, provide special bonuses, or cause "special events" to occur. These are called "Adventure cards" and like the "Territory cards" in standard Risk, they cannot be traded.
Strongholds (marked with Gold icons on the board), provide a defensive bonus and a reinforcement increase to their owners. At the start of each turn, place one extra army unit in each of your strongholds in addition to your regular reinforcements. When defending from a stronghold, the defender adds +1 to their highest die roll.
Leaders (3 shield-shaped pieces per team)are incredibly essential to the success of any team. The leaders add a defensive and offensive combat bonus; add +1 to your highest die roll when attacking or defending with a territory that contains a leader. Only one leader per territory allowed. The adventure cards can only be earned with a leader. Any player who loses all their leaders are allowed to place a new leader on any of their territories at the end of their next turn. Leader hunting is a very basic but very effective strategy for crippling an opponent in the very first round (it is always advisable to start both leaders in a stronghold). When defending with a leader in a stronghold, add a total of +2 to your highest die rolled; in this case, if your opponent is attacking without a leader, it might be in your best interest to roll only one defense die (you won't be able to kill more than one enemy unit per roll, but you will have a strong advantage in the percentage of victories (rolling anything 4 or higher cannot be beat by an attacker without a leader).
Ports (5 different territories on the Western edge of the map) can quickly take you from North to South or vice versa. Most port are connected to only the nearest other ports. Forodwaith is only connected to 1 other Port whereas Minhiriath is connected to 3 other Ports. This is like going from Brazil to North Africa or Alaska to Kamchatka, and works exactly like moving (attacking or fortifying through) any other 2 territories. Other than being located in strategically important areas, there is nothing else unique about Ports (except when certain adventure cards affect Ports).
One key difference is that the game itself is randomly time-limited by the Ring moving along the Fellowship's path at the end of each player's turn, its rate determined by dice rolls. The game ends when the Ring reaches the end of its path (the Mount Doom territory) and rolls higher than a 3 to move directly into the Cracks of Doom. The addition of a defined end point to the game is helpful in preventing a long and drawn out game of back-and-forth nonsense; the down-side of the defined end point is that the player who gets the last turn through random chance will likely be the winner by points only.
In a 2 or 3 player game, the winner is almost always determined by points being awarded to each player once the Ring reaches Mount Doom. At the end of the last turn, players count up all their points based on the territories (1 point each), strongholds (2 extra points each) and regions they control (2-7 points based on the Region Bonus), as well as what cards they have played during game. The player with the most points is the winner. Of course if any army is entirely defeated before the Ring reaches Mount Doom, that player has clearly lost!
In a 4 player game, you can follow the rules from the 2 or 3 player game or you can choose two additional options: Alliance Risk or Team Risk.
In "Alliance Risk", the two good armies play as a team and the two evil armies play as a team but they do not win as a team. The winner is the ONE player with the highest score on the team with the highest score. What makes the gameplay odd for this version is when one team is becoming hugely dominant, the weaker player (on the dominant team) must actually make alliances with the opposite team in order to have a chance to be the one player declared the winner.
In "Team Risk", the teams work together and either win or lose as a team. This is the version that can end in the very first turn and it receives much criticism for that fact (setup can take up to an hour with first-time players and then the game could end in 5 minutes). Fans of the Lord of the Rings franchise who are less interested in the mechanics of Standard Risk will likely enjoy this version the most because it more closely resembles the strategies of the forces of Middle Earth. In this version, the Fellowship path is the most important factor and must be cherished by both good and evil as their main priorities. At the end of each turn, if the Ring is in a territory controlled by evil, they have a chance to find the ring and win the game; roll two dice, add 1 if there's a leader in the same territory, add 1 if evil controls the entire region, if there's a leader and evil owns the entire region add 2 (the rules are ambiguous about whether this is intended to allow a max bonus of 2 or 4), if the total including bonuses equals or exceeds 12, the One Ring is found and evil wins. As the Ring progresses closer to Mount Doom, the regions where the Ring has been are no longer as important and the regions where it will be (especially Mordor) will become the most important areas of the game. Points do not matter in this version, only total destruction of the enemy or the fate of the One Ring will determine the winner of "Team Risk".
Regardless of how many people are playing, you may choose to not use the Lord of the Rings rules and simply play a standard global domination game. For first-time players of any Risk game, it would be advisable to start with just the Standard Global domination style game rather than jumping right into the full rules of Lord of the Rings Risk. Once you understand the basic mechanics of any standard Risk game, you can more easily learn the rest of the particulars of any other special interest Risk games like the Lord of the Rings Trilogy edition or the Star Wars editions, 2210 AD, Transformers Risk, etc.
Many fans were upset about the initial release of Risk: Lord of the Rings because it did not include the regions (continents) of Gondor and Mordor. This was odd because unlike normal Risk, in this game, certain players use "Forces of Evil" armies and others use "Forces of Good" armies: Gondor is the head "good" country and Mordor is the head "evil" country. It was thought that the "Trilogy Edition", to be released a year after the first, would be something of an add-on pack, including only Gondor and Mordor and intended to be lined up with existing Risk sets. However, the "Trilogy Edition" was actually a large super-map, containing all the original regions as well as Gondor and Mordor. As a result, fans that bought the original edition were left with "incomplete" Risk maps and would have to buy an entirely new game if they wanted the "full" version, although Hasbro did offer them an add on for a fee.
An Expansion Set for the game was released, but only in Europe. This set adds a board with the remaining areas of the map to include Gondor, Mordor and Haradwaith along with additional units and cards for all 4 players (yellow, green, black and red). Also included is a bonus 2-player game centered on the siege of Minas Tirith with the play area for that on the reverse side of the board. It was also released in 2003.