Downfall of the Lord of the Rings – Hardbop (ts27)

by James and Mark Nelson and a cast of thousands

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Hardbop Downfall is based on Coolbop Downfall which in turn was based on Downfall VII (Definitive) which was a creation of John Norris and Glover Rogerson. Other people who have made significant contributions to the design of Downfall over the years include Bryan Betts, Iain Bowen, Richard Egan, Martin Lewis, Hartley Patterson and John Wilman (and no doubt others whose contributions have been lost in the swirling mists of time). This version has been re-arranged and presented by Stephen Agar (May 1993) who has only really made substantive changes to the victory criteria.

0. This is a Diplomacy variant based around Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and all regular Diplomacy rules apply, save where amended below.


DWARVES: A(Erebor); A(Iron Hills); A(Blue Mountains)

ELVES: A(Imladris); A(Lorien); A(Elven Kings Hall); F(Gray Havens); Fellowship(Shire).

GONDOR: A(Minis Tirith); A(Belfalas); A(Lamedon); A(Lebennin); Faramir(Minis Tirith); Ranger(Bree); Gandalf(anywhere).

MORDOR: 2A(Barad-Dur); 2A(Minas Morgul); 2A(Ud?n); 2A(Nurn); A(Dol Guldur); A(South Rh?n); A(Gunabad); 3 x Easterling Armies(off-board); Sauron(Barad-Dur); Nazgul(any home s.c.).

ROHAN: A(Helms Deep); C(Edoras); C(Dunharrow).

SAURMAN: A(Isengard); A(Dunland); A(Khazad-D?m); Saurman(Isengard).

UMBAR: P(City of the Corsairs); A(Havens of Umbar); A(Harad).


2.1 There are a number of types of units in this variant: (a) ordinary Military Units (ie. armies and fleets); (b) Personality Units which represent Faramir, Sauron, Saruman, Gandalf, the Ranger, the Fellowship and the Nazgul and (c) Special Military Units which include Multiple Armies (eg. 2A, 3A), Easterling Armies, Cavalry, and Pirates. In the rules Military Unit means both ordinary Military Units and Special Military Units, while unit refers to all three types of unit.

2.2 Some units (Gandalf, Ranger, Nazgul, Cavalry) are permitted to move two spaces per turn. save where modified below, the following general rules apply to such units. The first move is simultaneous with normal movement and may interact with other units in the normal way, the second move takes place after retreats and such movement may only give and receive support from other units capable of moving two spaces. See the Summary of Move Sequence below. These units can only retreat one space if dislodged.


3.1 General Rules: Save where explicitly mentioned below, Personality Units generally move as a normal unit (though their whereabouts are not reported with the game report) and they have an intrinsic combat value of zero. They may move across land or sea without restriction and they may be convoyed as a regular army if wished. They may share a space with any other unit (Personality Unit or Military Unit), but cannot on their own affect the control of a supply centre. If they share the space with a unit of another player, or they pass through a space occupied by another unit, the players concerned are informed privately by the GM with the game report.

3.2 In addition to normal moves they may also be ordered to Lead a unit whose space they are sharing (eg. Faramir L A(Minas Tirith)-Anorien) with the effect that the activity being carried out by the unit in question will have +1 added to its strength (more than one Personality Units can lead the same unit with cumulative effect). They cannot give or receive support on their own account, but must act through the intermediary of the unit which they are leading.

3.3 A Personality Unit which leads another unit will have its position revealed. If a unit being lead by a Personality Unit is forced to retreat or is annihilated, then the Personality Unit will retreat with it or be annihilated with it (even though the Personality Unit may have a valid retreat available to itself). Personality Units do not retreat in any other circumstances. Personality Units may also be destroyed by any Military Unit with which they are sharing a space at the end of a turn, including Military Units which are built in a space occupied by a Personality Unit, provided that the Military Unit in question has orders to this effect, save that the Personality Unit cannot be destroyed if the Military Unit concerned has retreated into the space occupied by the Personality Unit. provided that the player concerned has had the foresight to so order. It is advisable for players to submit standing orders as to the destruction of any Personality Units they may encounter.

3.4 Sauron: Sauron’s moves are always reported in the game report and Sauron can only lead Mordor units. If Sauron is destroyed, Mordor is eliminated from the game and all its units stand as single armies in civil disorder.

3.5 Faramir: Faramir’s moves are only reported when he leads a unit and he can lead both Gondor and Rohan units (though in the case of the latter only with the specific permission of the Rohan player).

3.6 Saruman: Saruman’s moves are only reported when he leads a unit and he can only lead his own units. See also Special Build rules below.

3.7 Gandalf: Gandalf starts the game in any space elected by Gondor and he may move up to 2 spaces per turn and cross mountain ranges without penalty. Gandalf can only be destroyed if at the end of a turn he shares a space with a Multiple Army (including a single unit being led by a Personality Unit) and that player so orders. If Gandalf is destroyed he re-appears in 1-6 moves (determined randomly by the GM) in any space the Gondor player chooses. In addition to the above general rules, Gandalf’s position is also revealed if he uses any of his powers, which are:

  1. Gandalf may support a unit as if he were a normal unit himself;
  2. He may lead any Good or Neutral unit (+1 strength), though such units may only move one space per turn unless they are otherwise permitted to move two spaces;
  3. Gandalf may order any Good or Neutral unit (supersedes the order of the original player) if he shared a space with it at the end of the previous move, provided that neither Sauron nor Saruman is also present in the same space.
  4. Any unit he moves with, leads or supports, ignores the effect of the Nazgul.
  5. Gandalf may enter Khazad-Dum and destroy the Balrog (see below). he will then miss 1-6 seasons (determined randomly by the GM) before appearing in any space the Gondor player chooses. After reappearing the effect of Gandalf supporting or leading a unit is increased to +2.
  6. Gandalf will protect the Ranger and Fellowship units from being killed if he shares the same space as them and he is not killed himself.
  7. Gandalf may claim the Ring, but he may not carry or wear it.

3.8 Ranger: The Ranger unit may move up to 2 spaces per turn and may lead only Gondor or Rohan units. The Ranger can only be killed in the usual way by Military Units belonging to an evil player or any other player who has had one of his supply centres neutralized by the Ranger. In addition to the above general rules, the Ranger’s position is also revealed if he uses any of his powers, which are:

  1. The Ranger may neutralize any unoccupied non-fortress supply centre, in any season, simply by declaring it to be neutralized at the end of any move in which the Ranger occupies that supply centre. The centre in question becomes unowned and must be re-occupied in the normal way.
  2. The Ranger will protect the Fellowship from being killed if he shares the same space as it and he is not killed himself.
  3. If the Ranger enters Edoras he may on his subsequent move, move to Erech (which is only passable to the Ranger) through the Paths of the Dead (but not vice versa until he has walked it in the correct direction first). Having done this the

Ranger is turned into a double Personality Unit (+2 when leading), though the Ranger’s movement is reduced to one space per turn and the Ranger loses the ability to neutralize supply centres (though the ownership of any unclaimed supply centres which are neutral due to having been neutralized by the Ranger will immediately pass to Gondor at this point). Once the Ranger has walked the Paths of the Dead special build rules comes into operation (see below).

3.9 Fellowship: The Fellowship unit does not have the power to lead units. If the Fellowship enters Fangorn it may on the subsequent move march with the Ents to Isengard and destroy that areas’s fortification and any garrison or occupying Neutral or Evil Military Unit provided that neither Sauron, Saruman or the Nazgul are already there. If the Fellowship is successful then Isengard is no longer a supply centre and the Ents return to Fangorn automatically.

3.10 Nazgul: The Nazgul unit may move up to 2 spaces per turn (though it may never cross a sea/lake space) and may lead units in the control of the player who controls the Nazgul (initially Mordor – see the rules relating to Ring, below). The Nazgul cannot share a space with Gandalf: if both are ordered to the same space then Gandalf prevails and if Gandalf ends a move in the same space as the Nazgul, the Nazgul will retreat. The Nazgul can only be destroyed if at the end of a turn it shares a space with a Multiple Army (including a single unit being led by a Personality Unit) and that player so orders. If the Nazgul is annihilated it is rebuilt 2 moves later in any home supply centre of the player controlling it. Instead of moving or leading a unit the Nazgul may elect to paralyse with fear any Military Unit sharing a space with it or occupying an adjacent space, provided that the unit in question is not a Multiple Army or being Lead by a Personality Unit. A unit which is paralysed with fear may not move or give support, though it may receive support. In addition to the above general rules, the Nazgul’s position is also revealed if it uses its power to paralyse a unit with fear.


4.1 Multiple Armies: Originally only Mordor has Multiple Armies, though they may also come into existence if someone wears the Ring (which see). They may not split their strength into multiple supports or attacks. A single attack on a multiple unit cuts all supports being given by it. When retreating, Multiple Armies have the strength of a single army and once lost they may not be rebuilt. They count as one unit for the purposes of adjustments.

4.2 Easterling Armies: Mordor’s off-board Easterling Armies are in all respect conventional armies and they may enter the board on the first or subsequent moves at Nurn, Ered Lithui, North Rh?n and South Rh?n. Units cannot offer support if they are off-board, no units may move back off-board and no further units may be built off-board. Easterling Armies are affected by the rules relating to the Ring (see below).

4.3 Cavalry Units: Only Rohan may build Cavalry units. Rohan starts the game with two Cavalry units and may build an additional Cavalry unit when it reaches 6 centres and a further one for every four centres thereafter. Once built Cavalry units are not removed if the Rohan supply centre total drops below the numbers mentioned, though if destroyed they cannot be rebuilt until Rohan has sufficient centres to justify building a further Cavalry unit. Rohan may always have 2 Cavalry units provided it has 2 centres.

4.4 Cavalry units may move up to two spaces per turn, the second move cannot be made conditional on the success of the first move or on the moves of other units. Cavalry units may be supported by any unit on their first move, but only by Gandalf or other Cavalry units on their second move. Cavalry units must either spend their whole move either supporting or moving/standing, they cannot combine the two activities (though they can stand on the first move and move on the second or vice versa). If a Cavalry unit’s first order fails, then the second order will fail also (this applies to both moving or giving support).

4.5 Pirate Units: Only Umbar may build Pirate units and it may never own more than 3 at one time. Pirate units are amphibious and may move/retreat across both water and land without penalty. When a Pirate unit is at sea it may convoy like a regular Fleet. Umbar starts the game with two Pirate units and may build a third Pirate unit when it reaches 8 supply centres. Once built the third Pirate unit need not be removed if the Umbar supply centre total drops below 8 centres, though if destroyed it cannot be rebuilt until Umbar once again has 8 centres. Umbar may always have 2 Pirate units provided it has 2 centres.


5.1 Fortresses: Some supply centres are deemed to be Fortresses which means that they add one to the strength of any Military Unit or Personality Unit occupying them. The bonus effect of some Fortresses is only available in specific circumstances as detailed below.

5.2 Garrisons: Some Fortresses start the game with a Garrison which confers on that Fortress an intrinsic strength of 1 even when it is unoccupied. Garrisons may receive support like conventional units. Garrisons are destroyed if the centre is captured by a player other than its original owner. If the original owner of a Garrisoned Fortress recaptures it, then the Garrison is reconstituted, save where noted below. The bonus effect of some Garrisons is only available in specific circumstances as detailed below. A Garrisoned Fortress adds only 1 (and not 2) to the strength of any Military Unit or Personality Unit occupying it.

5.3 In the following list, the power which initially controls the Fortress and/or Garrison is shown in brackets:

  1. Fortresses (no Garrison): Barad-Dur (Mordor); Ud?n (Mordor); Dol Guldur (Mordor); Minas Morgul (Mordor); Minas Tirith (Gondor); Helm’s Deep (Rohan); Dunharrow (Rohan); Khazad-D?m (Saruman); Elven Kings Hall (Elves)
  2. Fortress/Garrisons: Iron Hills (Dwarves); Erebor (Dwarves); Blue Mountains (Dwarves); Imladris (Elves); Lorien (Elves); Isengard (Saruman)
  3. Special Cases: (a) Khazad-Dum and Helm’s Deep become Fortress/Garrisons (and build centres) for the Dwarves for as long as they are controlled by them. (b) The Shire is a Fortress for Good units only and is garrisoned against Evil units. If the Shire is taken by an Evil player both fortress and Garrison are destroyed forever preciousss (gollum). (c) Fangorn is a Fortress for Good players only. No Evil unit may enter Fangorn except when they are led by Sauron (in which case the Ents and the Fortress are destroyed forever and Fangorn becomes passable to all units).

5.4 Khazad-Dum: Any non-Saruman unit which successfully enters Khazad-Dum is annihilated by the Balrog, unless it is Gandalf, Sauron, or accompanied or led by Gandalf or Sauron. If Gandalf enters Khazad-Dum the Balrog itself is destroyed (see Gandalf). If Sauron enters Khazad-D?m the Balrog changes sides and now any non-Mordor unit entering Khazad-Dum is destroyed (though it remains a Saruman home centre until captured in an Autumn turn). The Ranger may pass through Khazad-D?m provided he doesn’t end his turn there.

5.5 The Hollin Gateway: Units in Azanulbizar cannot receive support for attacks on Khazad-Dum from units in Hollin or Rhudaur. Likewise units in Hollin or Rhudaur cannot receive support for attacks on Khazad-Dum from units in Azanulbizar.

5.6 Erech: This space is passable to the Ranger only.

5.7 Mountains & Marshes: The lines of Mountains marked on the map are impassable to all units except Gandalf, Sauron, Saruman and the Nazgul. Marshes are impassable to Armies and Cavalry units.


6.1 All Powers may build in their home supply centres without restriction as normal. However, the following is a list of special cases which should be noted:

6.2 Good players may not take control of home supply centres of other Good players for as long as the other Good player in question remains in the game. If a Good player occupies the home centre of another Good player in an autumn turn, control does not pass.

6.3 Gundabad starts the game as a neutral supply centre, although there is a Mordor army in it initially. It is not a home supply centre for any Power.

6.4 Saruman: Saruman may build in any centre occupied and owned by Saruman in a build season (provided no other Military Unit is there).

6.5 The Ranger: Once the Ranger has walked through the Paths of the Dead, Gondor may build in any centre occupied by the Ranger (whether owned by Gondor or not) in a build season (provided no other Military Unit is there).

6.6 Dwarf build centres: Khazad-D?m and Helms Deep become garrisoned Build centres for the Dwarves if controlled by them.

6.7 Fleets: The Elves and Gondor may own up to 2 Fleets, while Umbar may have as many Fleets as it wants. No other player may build more than one Fleet (unless they control the City of the Corsairs, see below).

6.8 City of the Corsairs: Any power controlling the City of the Corsairs (save Umbar) may build one Fleet there in addition to the above restrictions.


7.1 The Ring is a piece as opposed to a unit, it cannot move on its own accord. The Ring is hidden by the GM somewhere on the map more than three spaces away from the starting position of a Mordor unit. The GM may if he wishes inform Mordor, Saruman and Gondor where they think the Ring might be (eg. a list of 2-4 spaces), but none of these need be correct!

7.2 The Ring is claimed by the first unit to enter the space in which the Ring is hidden. In the event that more than one unit enters the space simultaneously, the order of priority in claiming the Ring is as follows: Sauron, fellowship, Gandalf, Ranger, Nazgul, Saruman, Faramir, normal unit.

7.3 The Ring may be carried by a unit during its normal movement and additionally at the end of a move it may be passed to any adjacent unit. If the unit carrying the Ring is dislodged then the Ring is left behind for the victorious unit to claim (save that the Fellowship may take the Ring with it when retreating).

7.4 No Good player may put on the Ring. Neutral or an Evil players may put on the Ring (but may never take it off) in the following circumstances and with the following effect:

  1. If Sauron puts on the Ring, Mordor wins the game (see Victory criteria).
  2. If a Dwarf unit or an Umbar unit puts on the Ring, then the unit concerned becomes a 2A, 2F or 2P as appropriate.
  3. If Saruman puts on the Ring then any of Saruman’s original three armies still in existence become 2As. Ordinary Saruman units may not put on the Ring unless Saruman has been destroyed, in which case the unit putting on the Ring becomes a 2A.

7.5 If any player other than Mordor puts on the Ring at any time then the following happens:

  1. All Mordor 2As become single Armies permanently.
  2. Mordor loses control of its Easterling Armies which stand unordered and loses control of its three off-board supply centres until the Ring wearer in question is eliminated in which case Mordor regains control of the three off-board centres and may rebuild Easterling Armies as appropriate.
  3. The Nazgul comes under the control of whoever wears the Ring and only reverts to Mordor if the Ring wearer is destroyed.

If any player puts on the Ring and subsequently loses it, they are eliminated from the game and their units will stand in civil disorder. The Ring may be destroyed by any player carrying (but not wearing) the Ring who takes it to Orodruin and orders its destruction (see Victory Criteria)


Players are initially defined as GOOD (Elves, Gondor, Rohan), NEUTRAL (Umbar, Dwarves, Saruman) and EVIL (Mordor). Good and Evil players remain so for the duration of the game. A Good unit can never support an Evil unit and vice versa. A neutral player remains neutral until (a) one of that Power’s units put on the Ring (in which case the Power becomes Evil), (b) that Power captures a home supply centre of a Good player (in which case the Power becomes Evil), or (c) that Power elects to become Good or Evil. Once a Neutral player becomes Good or Evil that alignment remains constant for the rest of the game.


In order to make adjudications simpler and to clarify the rules, the following is the sequence of events in a normal move [Autumn events are in square brackets]:

i. Neutral declarations of change of alignment;

ii. Normal movement: Military Units; Personality Units (first move where appropriate);

iii. Combat adjudications;

iv. Retreats;

v. Passing of the Ring;

vi. Gandalf, Ranger, Nazgul, Cavalry second moves and the Ents move to Isengard;

vii. Further combat adjudications stemming from second Cavalry moves;

viii. Further retreats stemming from second Cavalry moves;

ix. Passing of the Ring by Gandalf, Ranger, Nazgul & Cavalry after second moves;

[x. Adjustments – builds & removals;]

[xi. Neutral players become Evil if captured Good home s.c.]

xii. Personality Units may be destroyed if possible;

xiii. Destroying or Wearing of the Ring;


10.1 In this variant the role of game years in replaced with months with two turns per month, the first turn of the month being the Spring turn and the second turn of the month being the Autumn turn. The two turns are differentiated each month by putting “I” after the first turn and “II” after the second turn.

10.2 The months are taken from the Hobbit calendar as follows: Afteryule, Solmath, Rethe, Astron, Thrimidge, Forelithe, Afterlithe, Wedmath, Halimath, Winterfilth, Blotmath and Foreyule. The game starts in 3019 so the first turn is AFTERYULE I 3019, followed by AFTERYULE II 3019 (a build season), SOLMATH I 3019 etc.


Downfall is not a game where Victory criteria readily exist.

  1. Sauron certainly wins if he puts the Ring on, while all non-Mordor players win if the Ring is destroyed in Orodruin.
  2. Any Ring-wearing Power or Good Ring-carrying Power can win the game by controlling more than half the supply centres on the board and controlling more than half the units on the board (including Personality Units, hidden or not).
  3. Any Power which is neither wearing the Ring nor carrying it can win the game by controlling more than three-quarters of the supply centres on the board and controlling more than three-quarters of the units on the board (including Personality Units, hidden or not).
  4. All surviving players may unanimously agree on a draw at any time, but victory may not be conceded to any one player until the Ring has been worn by any player.


Amo Amon Sul And Andrast Anf Anfalas Ang Angmar Ano Anorien Adu Anduin Aza Azanulbizar Bar Barad-Dur Bel Belfalas Beo Beorn’s Marshes Blu Blue Mountains Bra Brandywine Bre Bree Bro Brownlands Cad Cardolan CDu Carn-Dum Crk Carrock Cel Celebrant CMi Central Mirkwood Cit City of the Corsairs Dag Dagorlad Dal Dale DMa Dead Marches Dol Dol Guldur DoS Desolation of Smaug Dru Druwaith Iaur Dld Dunland Dhw Dunharrow EEm East Emnet EWa Eastern Wastes Edo Edoras EKH Elven King’s Hall Emy Emyn Muil Ene Enedwaith Ent Entwash Erb Erebor ELi Ered Lithui Ech Erech Esg Esgaroth Ett Ettenmoors Fan Fangorn Far Far Harad Fli Forlindon Fnd Forlond Fch Forochel Fdw Forodwaith Fra Framsburg Gap Gap of Rohan Gla Gladden Fields Gor Gorgoroth GHa Grey Havens Gun Gundabad Gwa Gwaithlo Har Harlond HUm Havens of Umbar HDe Helms Deep Hrd Harad Hdw Haradwaith HPa High Pass Hol Hollin Iml Imladris Iro Iron Hills Ise Isengard Knd Khand KDu Khazad-Dum Lam Lamedon Leb Lebennin Lhu Lhun Lor Lorien Los Lossarnach Min Minhiriath MMo Minas Morgul MTi Minas Tirith Nen Nenuial NDo North Downs NHa Near Harad Nig Nuriag Nin Nindalf NIt North Ithilien NRh North Rhun Nrn Nurn OFo Old Ford OFR Old Forest Road Oro Orodruin Osg Osgiliath Por Poros Rhu Rhudaur RRu River Running Shi Shire SGo South Gondor SIt South Ithilien SMi Southern Mirkwood SRh South Rhun Sut Sutherland Udu Udun WEm West Emnet WWa Western Waste Wil Wilderland WHe Withered Heath Wol Wold

BAY Bay of Belfalas GoL Gulf of Lune ICE Ice Bay of Forochel SoN Sea of Nurn SoR Sea of Rhun SOU Southern Sea TOL Tolfalas WES Western Sea