Before you start playing, you should decide who will play the Free Peoples and who will play the Shadow. Then, get the game ready to play by following these steps.


Place the game board on a suitable surface, possibly large enough to leave some room along the sides of the board (to place discarded cards and eliminated pieces and to roll dice).


Place the Ring-bearers figure on Rivendell, its starting point.


Place the Fellowship Progress counter on Step 0 of the Fellowship Track, with the “Hidden” side up. The Corruption counter is also placed on Step 0 of the same track.


Place all Companion cards in the Guide of the Fellowship Box, with the Gandalf the Grey Character card on top, as he is the starting Guide of the Fellowship. Set aside the cards for Aragorn – Heir to Isildur, Gandalf the White, and Gollum for later use.


Place all the Companion figures and their counters in the The Fellowship of the Ring Box. Set aside the Gollum figure for later use.


Place the three Elven Ring counters in the Free Peoples’ Elven Rings Box of the game board with the “Ring” side up.


Set aside all Shadow Minion cards (the Witch-king, Saruman, and the Mouth of Sauron) and the corresponding figures for later use.


Separate the Free Peoples and Shadow Event cards into Character and Strategy decks according to the back of each card, shuffle them separately, and place them on the corresponding areas of the game board.


Put the standard Hunt tiles (beige) in a cup or other opaque container: this is the Hunt Pool. Set aside the special Hunt tiles (blue and red) for later use.


Give seven red Shadow Action dice to the Shadow player and four blue Free Peoples Action dice to the Free Peoples player. Set aside the remaining Action dice for later use. Set aside the five Combat dice.


Place the Political counter for each Free Peoples Nation on its starting point on the Political Track. All of the Free Peoples Nations’ Political counters except for that of the Elves are placed with the “Passive” side up. The Political counters of the Elves and all the Shadow Army Nations are placed with the “Active” side up. As indicated by the symbols on the track, place the Rohan, the North, the Elven, and the Dwarven Nations’ Political counters in the top box, place the Gondor and Southron/Easterling Political counters in the second box from the top, and finally place the Sauron and Isengard Political counters in the third box from the top—immediately above the “At War” box.


Sort all the plastic figures by their color and their type and follow the Army Setup diagram on pages 16-17 to place each Nation’s initial Army units and Leaders. Set aside any remaining figures to use as reinforcements, paying attention not to mix them with pieces eliminated from play as the game progresses. Set aside the Army counters for use later in the game.

Keep all the remaining components in the box; they will be used later in the game.