Han was back in town on a short business trip, and he came to play on 7 Mar 2009. We played Risk: Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition.
I think there are two versions of this game, and the one we played was the newer and more complex version. I'm not sure whether there are multiple rulesets. In the game we played, the good guys can win by delivering the One Ring to Mount Doom, and the bad guys can win by capturing the Ring. There is a ring in the game (nice gold coloured, with elven writing, very much like in the movie) representing the fellowship of the ring. It travels from The Shire to Mount Doom, a distance of 18 territories. The fellowship moves after every player's turn, but in some territories, a die needs to be rolled to decide whether it moves or not. Whenever the ring stops in a territory controlled by the bad guys, the bad guys can try to capture the ring by rolling 12 with 2 dice (or as low as 10 if certain conditions are met). So the good guys and the bad guys need to fight over the territories in the fellowship's path. That one of the main differences from regular Risk.
Then there are event / objective cards. You get to draw one at the end of your turn if during your turn you have captured a special territory. Some of these cards must be played immediately (and they don't always benefit you). Some of these are one-time special power cards, and can be played at your conveniece. Some are objectives that if you fulfill, give you some benefits.
And there are leaders. You get two at the start of the game. They give you a bonus in battle (add 1 to your highest die roll), and they are needed to fulfill objectives. If you lose all your leaders, you get a free one at the end of your turn. Some territories have strongholds. They give you a free soldier at the start of your turn, and when defending, you can add 1 to your highest die roll.
And that's about all the differences from the standard game. The rest is mostly like standard Risk.
The game can accommodate up to 4 players. Since we played a 2-player game, some territories are randomly designated as neutral territories, each defended by 2 neutral soldiers. The good guys (me) and bad guys (Han) get assigned some fixed territories at the start. Of course, it wouldn't be very true to the story if the good guys control Mordor at the start of the game, or the bad guys The Shire. For the remaining unclaimed territories, the players take turns to claim them.
The game has lots of die-rolling. I played it the same way I played Risk: Star Wars Original Trilogy Edition. I just attacked as much as I could to claim as many territories as possible on my turn, leaving my soldiers very very thinly spread, and knowing that my borders would be easily broken through, and that it would be hard to hold on to any control over any region (i.e. continent) until the start of my next turn. Because reinforcements are received at the start of your turn, you can always easily amass troops in one territory to break through your enemy's border.
I played the good guys, and in the first few rounds of the game I managed to control more territories than Han. That created a momentum that was hard for Han to reverse, because controlling more territories means getting more reinforcements, which in turn helps in conquering even more territories. I was also lucky to be able to get an extra reinforcement card early, and I had collected 3 eagle (the best type) reinforcement cards relatively early and used them to get 10 troops. The armies of the humans and elves spread across Middle Earth like they were the evil empire or the hordes of orcs. On Han's turns, he employed a similar tactic - attacking as much as possible and breaking through as many region controls as possible.
It was only Round 2 or 3, and I thought the momentum was well on my side to win the game by conquest. Then I drew an event card which gave the bad guys 10 free troops in one of their strongholds in Mordor. Oops... my previous conquest path stopped exactly in the territory next to that stronghold. If I had taken the stronghold, Han would not have received these 10 free troops. On Han's turn he made good use of these troops and launched a successful counter attack, leaving a swath of destruction. There are two such powerful event cards in the game, and the other one is for the good guys (getting 10 free troops in Minas Tirith if the good guys are holding it). It's a big dose of luck, and it is also thematic.
In the end, even that powerful event could not fully reverse the momentum that the good guys had. Han conceded defeat in I think Round 5 or 6, when he found that the reinforcements that he was getting was just too little, and he didn't have any good cards on hand that were helpful. So, the armies of the elves and humans had worn down the hordes of orcs and Uruk Hais and goblins and oliphaunts. And the fellowship of the ring was still leisurely strolling along the tourist trek. I guess in our version of the story the stars were the crazy battlefield commanders and not the lazy hobbits.
I think the game is still very much like Risk, but with enough differences to make things interesting. There is a lot of luck, so I would only play this with a light-hearted mindset. I think the game may be more interesting and slightly less "lucky" with more players. One thing that is more interesting are the rivers, bridges and mountain ridges that prevent / allow movement between territories. I'm not sure whether movement is really more restricted than Risk or these are just cosmetic, but my gut feel is Risk LOTR's movement between territories is more restricted.