Box Cover

War in Middle Earth

I remember when my brother and I first found this game, way back in the late '80s.  We were big fans of The Lord of the Rings and I was excited to be able to play a game that let me explore Middle Earth.  Of course, since this was 1988, the level of detail of the world was minimal.  Not to mention our computers weren't state-of-the-art even for the time—we were running it in a CGA emulator on computers with old Hercules monochrome cards, and didn't even have mice or hard drives!

Still, I had always wondered about distant places on the map—Arnor, Angmar, Rhűn, Harad, and so on—and now you could select an area to zoom in on and take a look at them.  That was very cool, even if the result wasn't spectacular since they all looked about the same: rocks, trees, maybe a city in the background, or what have you.  Even the deepest depths of Mirkwood looked like open fields with a few trees.  Still, it was all right for the time.  It wasn't like today where you can play Lord of the Rings Online and explore Middle Earth in detail from a first-person perspective (even if LOTRO's maps are distorted).

Ah, notalgia.  Anyhow, I came back to this game years later and explored it more carefully, with a (much) more capable PC.  Aaron Willis had a fan site which showed most of the items you can find, what they do, and where to find them.  That site's gone now, so I've created this one to pick up where his left off, and help others who might discover this game and be puzzled what to do with it.  At the bottom you'll find a table of the findable items similar to Aaron's, and in the Downloads section is a copy of the game map that shows where all the findable items are—that I know of.

Box Rear Cover

Rather than tell you everything about how to play the game, I'll offer my pointers about things the manual doesn't explain.  First off, what's the deal with these findable items?  Some are things like weapons or potions, while others activate units.  You start the game with only two units you can order around besides the proto-Fellowship (Frodo, Sam, and Pippin—yes, Merry's not there yet; like in the book, he's waiting for you in Buckland).  But if you can collect the Red Arrow and bring it to Edoras, you'll activate Rohan and be able to direct all its units.  That sort of thing.

War in Middle Earth was released on a number of different platforms: the ZX Spectrum, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, MS-DOS, Commodore Amiga, Apple IIGS, and Atari ST.  Some of the particulars of the game, especially its graphics, differed between platforms, but everything I mention here will pertain to the DOS version: it's the one I know, and the only one I've played.

If you're new to this game, it's been described as a mix of strategic and RPG (Role-Playing Game).  However, to my mind there's very little RPG to this game; it's mostly strategic.  It does have the added dynamic that your strategic actions are mostly a means to an end: getting the Ring to Mount Doom.  One of the few RPG-like elements is that you can see and (very crudely) direct individual characters at the animation level.  The game is played at three levels:

  1. The map level gives you an overview and lets you zoom in on any area you want to see; it's shown below
  2. The campaign level shows you an area and lets you direct units to new locations; you can zoom in or out from here
  3. The animation level lets you watch a given unit camping or walking across the screen, and you can zoom out
At the animation level you can have a character Take, Put down, or Use an item, and that's about it.  The game also takes you there if you run into an NPC who wants to talk, but they simply talk at you, telling you a rumor about an item in the game, or giving you warnings about the Dark Lord, as if you needed to be warned.  You can't ask them questions or otherwise interact with NPCs.  Even with characters you control, all you can do is have them go somewhere (at the campaign level) or do things with items (at the animation level).  That's it.

Also I should mention that the graphics of individual characters are somewhat disappointing.  The Hobbits all look alike; the Men are all smiling all the time.  Trolls actually look friendly, and Balrogs look like anthropomorphic hedgehogs.  Dunlendings, Easterlings, and Southrons all look identical (and lame), and the nazgűl are on foot, even though it shows a black rider right on the box cover.  Also the nazgűl, barrow wights, Dead Men of Dunharrow, and Sauron himself all look alike, just in different colors.  This is probably to be expected of a game from this time period, which had to fit on floppy disk (and low-density 5Ľ" disk at that), so space was at a premium, but still I should caution you not to get your hopes up about the graphics.

Map of northwest Middle Earth as shown in the game

Victory Conditions

There are two ways to win or lose the game, respectively.

You win if:
- You get the Ring to Mount Doom
- You kill Sauron

You lose if:
- The computer takes the Ring to Barad Dűr
- The computer takes at least 3 of your 5 main cities: Minas Tirith, Edoras, Hornburg, Lórien, Thranduil's Palace

You might recognize killing Sauron as the more difficult item; in fact, it's pretty much just plain impossible without using an exploit.  However, it is a valid victory condition.

I think that the second defeat condition is for if Sauron ever occupies three of those cities, not that he has to continue to hold them.  So I don't think you could follow around behind him and reoccupy cities to stay in the game.

Deaths in the Party

If everyone in the ringbearer's party is killed, a nazgűl will come immeditately to the site, grab the ring, and make a beeline for Barad Dűr.  Intercepting him to take the ring is difficult or impossible, since units will try to avoid him if they get close.  However if the ringbearer is killed and other party members remain, one of them will pick it up and continue on, so it's crucial to never leave the ringbearer unaccompanied.


Proto-Fellowship attacked by a Nazgűl

Combat shows in two ways.  Fights between armies happen in a boring screen at the campaign level where you see the numbers of units on either side, but don't get to actually watch or direct the fighting.  Fights between just a few people (mainly, the Fellowship vs. nazgűl or other monsters) take place at the animation level where you can see them "drunkenly waving swords at each other" as Michal hilariously put it. (So that's what was in the Black Flasks!)  In either case you can give your individual units or party members orders to: Charge, Engage, Withdraw, or Retreat.  Not too exciting, but these options can keep you alive.

You can avoid the ringbearer putting on the Ring by having him withdraw or retreat, but I think that with the ring on he's a stronger fighter—except against nazgűl and possibly wights.  More importantly, if you're up against something serious like nazgűl, a balrog, or trolls, you can save most of the party by having them all retreat except one, such as poor Sam here.  Once you've told the other party members to retreat, the last one is stuck in combat, fighting to the death...generally, his death.  This means you want to keep multiple individuals in the Fellowship, and as you go along, take note of the most expendable member so you know who to sacrifice when the need arises.  Remember, the fate of Middle Earth is in your hands.


Force-Marching troops

There's a very big exploit in the game.  I'm not a big fan of game cheats, but this one can be a lot of fun.  If you really want a challenge or just prefer to play the game as it was intended, you'll want to ignore this.

The exploit allows you to give send orders to friendly units you don't control; players online have called this "force-marching".  To do it, move a unit you do control onto one you don't.  Press G, then click on the group, and it will display the units in the group.  Now click on the unit you don't control; the cursor will change (see pic at right), and you can give it a destination.  This works on units you don't control yet, so you can move a lot of Gondor's troops up to Minas Tirith where they'll be needed, without having to bring the Scepter to Denethor.  Once they arrive where you sent them they just sit there; you can't send them somewhere else without force-marching them again.

Much more spectacularly, you can also move units you're never supposed to control, mainly the Ents and Huorns, which makes this a very powerful exploit indeed.  Harlequin says he likes to have the Ents attack Minas Morgul, something he describes as "the front door approach", but personally I've found better uses for them.  Like anyone else they're not too good at assaulting fortresses held by overwhelming numbers; however they're well-nigh invincible behind fortifications.  Send the huorns to Minas Tirith and they'll hold off wave after wave of enemy attacks, though they will succumb eventually.  Ents and huorns together at Minas Tirith might just defeat everything Sauron can throw at it.  Using the treefolk this way should buy you plenty of time to get the Fellowship to Mount Doom.

As you might expect, the exploit doesn't work on the Forces of Evil.

Quirks / Other bugs

A unit can't have more than one of any type of item in the game.  So, for instance, Aragorn is carrying an Ancient Sword, so if the Fellowship goes to Ost-in-Edhil (east of "OSTANEHIL" on the PDF map, which actually shows the location of Tharbad) and he picks up the Ancient Sword there, it'll simply disappear.  Instead, have another party member (maybe Boromir) pick up the sword.  Likewise if you have, say, Éomer gathering useful items for you, if he picks up a Black Flask and then picks up another one, the second will be lost.

People have also reported buggy behavior with military units; I haven't verified these myself, but I should mention them.  When you have an army composed of multiple types/groups (like if you've gathered whatever troops you can at Minas Tirith), supposedly your units will take more casualties per number of opponents.  Also, when you see that two military units have met up and one asks the other to join, supposedly if you say yes, you lose men when the forces combine.  (Yet you'll lose more in combat by having separate units!  So what're you supposed to do anyway?  I haven't puzzled this one out yet.  I generally let them join so I'll have fewer but larger units.)

My biggest frustration with the game is that units don't always follow the directions you give them.  Tell the party to go east, it goes southwest.  Tell it to go west, it goes south!  Tell it to go south to get off the road, it goes east along the road, following the nazgűl you were trying to get away from until you catch up with it and have a fight you specifically told it to avoid.  Argh!  (I think sometimes there's simply a several-second delay between when you give the order and when the unit changes direction, but that doesn't seem to be all there is to it.)  Sometimes you have to tell a unit several times before it goes where you want it to.  It seems to do better with directions to places farther away, but when you're trying to evade the nazgűl early in the game, you want to avoid giving the party a distant destination, because it will automatically seek the fastest way there: i.e., along the roads.

So yes, you can find yourself in a spot where you don't want to give directions somewhere near lest the unit go the wrong way, yet you don't dare give it directions far away for the same reason.  It's just something you have to deal with from time to time.

Opening Strategy

When the game begins, your first order of business is to get off the road, just like in the book and the movie.  Fortunately the game opens on the proto-Fellowship at Hobbiton, so you don't have to go searching for it.  Send it somewhere offroad, which can be tricky because the UI is very clunky and doesn't always work right, as mentioned above.  So keep close tabs on the party early on until it's moving cross-country.

Once the party's in open country, consider where you want it to go.  Buckland is a good choice, because there are lots of goodies in that area and it's on your way toward Rivendell.  There are other possibilities though.  You might consider going to Annúminas to get the Scepter, or places west to pick up potions or mithril (though that's a long detour and time is precious), or up to Mount Gram to get the Red Arrow, a mithril shirt, and a flask.  I generally avoid all that for now and try to make my way to Buckland, avoiding the Black, uh, Walkers as best I can.

If you do pick up healing potions, try not to use them before you reach Rivendell, since everyone will be healed there for free anyway.
Get off the road!
(Frodo voice) Get off the road!

Getting to Rivendell

Now that the party has a destination to keep it occupied, you can look to strategic concerns.  You have a number of friendly units, but only two that you can control at the start of the game: Faramir in northeast Gondor, and Éomer in northern Rohan.  Éomer moves much faster than Faramir, since he's cavalry.  There are several possibilities for them, but you'll have to make a choice: once they're doing one thing, there won't be time for them to do another.  You have to decide what's most important before sending them off.

If you want to use the exploit, you'll probably want to send Faramir down to the area around Osgiliath and have him force-march the troops there to Minas Tirith, then head south and force-march all the available troops in southern Gondor—Pelargir, Linhir, and Dol Amroth—to the capital as well.  That way they can be there in time to defend the city.  Meanwhile there are a couple options for Éomer.  He can force-march Denethor and/or Théoden to Lórien so Gondor and/or Rohan will mobilize when the party reaches there.  You may not want to move Denethor though; you run the risk of having him (and his 1500 infantry) still on the way home while Minas Tirith is under attack.  You could have Éomer ride for Dale, Erebor, and Thranduil's Palace and force-march some of them south.  You may not want to send them all though: Thranduil's Palace is one of the cities that can lose you the game, and once Sauron activates he will send some Easterlings that way.  They usually don't arrive before the end of the game, but still you might want to leave either the elves, dwarves, or men there to defend the place.

Faramir and (especially) Éomer are handy for rounding up and delivering items, whether you're using the exploit or not.  If you're not using the exploit, one of them, ideally Éomer, can pick up the Dwarven Ring or Silver Orb and take it to Erebor or Thranduil so you can send reinforcements to Minas Tirith.  Remember that it takes them (especially the Dwarves) a long time to reach Gondor, so don't delay if you want them to come to the White City.  Éomer could swing around to Ost-in-Edhil and pick up the Ancient Sword for someone (other than Aragorn) to use.  Alternatively you can send Faramir or Éomer to Rivendell; they'll be there by the time the Fellowship is ready to set out after its two-month rest, and will give the party extra protection.  You could have them stop in Lórien and pick up the items there along the way.

Barrow Wight

Only once Éomer and Faramir are started on their first errand should you start adjusting the game speed (T command).  It has three settings: Normal (the default), Hasty, and Very Hasty.  I find I spend most of my time at Hasty over the course of a game.  Normal is ideal when you want to make sure to give an order before anything else happens, but most of the time it's just too slow.  Very Hasty is very fast indeed: I use it when there will be a significant lag before I'm ready to give anyone any further orders, mainly when I have everyone on their way somewhere but it will be several days' journey before any of them arrive.

Next up, check in on the proto-Fellowship.  Eventually you'll want to make your way to Buckland, where you'll pick up Merry, another important/expendable party member.  Then head a bit east into the Old Forest, along the road this time, and pick up the Gnarled Staff which is on the path.  Next, head for Tom Bombadil's House and have one of the hobbits other than Frodo pick up the Elven Blade, since he has one already.  You may want to head north a little into the Barrow Downs and pick up yet another Elven Blade for another member of the party, though that increases the risk of being attacked by a barrow wight, and which can cost you another party member (at right).  Either way, next head for Bree, where you'll meet Aragorn.

At some point, the nazgűl will stop prowling the Shire area and Weathertop, and head for the Ford of Bruinen to lay a trap for you.  Until that time, keep to the west.  Either before or after Buckland you may want to pick up the Black Flask in Tuckborough, the Blue Potion at Michel Delving, and/or the Scepter of Annúminas, if there's time.  If you're feeling extra ambitious, maybe run up to Mount Gram to grab the goodies there, though that's risky.  You can take a gamble and send an expendable party member (say, Merry) up to Mt. Gram in the hopes he can bring the items to Rivendell, but there's a good chance he'll be attacked along the way.  It'll help if he's armed, of course, but then you're diverting a valuable weapon as well as a party member away from the main mission.

Don't forget to keep checking in with Faramir and Éomer; you want them running errands for you in the time you have available.  If you want them to be somewhere far away, give them the destination before you reach Rivendell.  You'll be resting there for two months and can't give orders during that time, but your units will continue moving so if you tell them to head for Rivendell they'll be there when you're ready to set out.  They can bring you items they've picked up (such as the Dwarven Hammer) and can even escort the Fellowship, as mentioned earlier.

Once the nazgűl have left the area (or at least once they're not close to Bree), head there, where you'll meet with Aragorn.  If you're not using the exploit and you don't have the Scepter you may want to go northwest to pick it up, especially if the nazgűl haven't gone east yet.  It's very helpful to mobilize Gondor early, if you can.  Once you have the Scepter or are just ready to move on, your next destination is Rivendell, as in the book and movie.  How you get there will depend on the current location of the nazgűl and on what your strategy is.  You could send the party up to Mount Gram to collect the items there, but I generally don't.  The Red Arrow is much less important than the Scepter, since Rohan will mobilize automatically once Gandalf meets Théoden, whether he has the Arrow or not (having the Arrow will let you mobilize Rohan without Gandalf), and a black flask and suit of mithril aren't really worth the detour.  I've also tried taking the party around the forest, to come down to Rivendell from the north so as to avoid the ambush at Bruinen, but you're often attacked in the Trollshaws by, you guessed it, trolls.

Merry facing the Nazgűl alone at the Ford of Bruinen

Another option, if the nazgűl are still around, is to simply head north or south and parallel the Great East Road.  This is a fast way of getting there, but it can be hazardous for the reason mentioned above, that you're trying to stay off the road and the computer will sometimes send the party the wrong direction, and possibly try to put you on the road to travel faster.  If the nazgűl have all left, of course, you can simply take the road.  Either way, make for the Last Bridge.  From there, head for the Ford of Buinen, where the nazgűl are lying in wait.

Just inside the forest, you'll meet Glorfindel; agree to follow him.  When you reach the Ford, the nazgűl will ambush you, which would totally end the game, except...Elrond appears out of nowhere and takes them to the cleaners.  He's basically invincible, so have all your party members withdraw from combat and watch as he takes out the nazgűl one by one.  (Note: if for some reason you're headed for the Ford of Bruinen from the north or south, be sure to go first to the Last Bridge and follow the road east so as to pick up Glorfindel—otherwise Elrond may not make it to the Ford in time, which would put you on the wrong end of a rather uneven fight, as you see here.  If you meet Glorfindel and say not to follow him, he'll travel ahead of you and be attacked by a pair of trolls at the Ford.  He'll win, but still, for some reason Elrond doesn't know you're coming until a bit too late, and he probably won't arrive in time to help you.)

From Rivendell to Mordor

First thing to do is stop the Fellowship leaving Rivendell immediately—or send it back—and have someone, probably the Ringbearer, pick up the suit of mithril.  If Éomer or Faramir brought items to Rivendell, have them drop the items and have Fellowship members pick them up (maybe give Frodo the glowing vial and Sam the coil of rope, for instance).  Also give Gandalf the staff, if you grabbed it back in the Old Forest, to make him stronger in combat.  Next, you must decide how to cross the Misty Mountains.  You have four basic options.

    Goblin Town and vicinity
  1. You could follow in Bilbo's footsteps and go straight across through Goblin Town, but as in the book and the movie, that isn't a good option because it's now being watched.  The Fellowship will likely be attacked and scattered, with at least one party member lost.  (If this happens, you can have everyone finish the trip across individually and gather on the east side of the mountains.)  Also this option won't let you activate Gollum, if that's important to you.

  2. An easier way would be the Redhorn Pass (aka the pass at Caradhras), which the Fellowship tried and failed to use in the book and movie.  Don't worry, you won't have to go through Morîa.  This may be your best approach if the items at Lórien are still there.

  3. You can cross directly over the mountains without using a pass.  Units in the game can cross mountains, but it's very slow, as you'd expect.  Getting them to go into the mountains can be tricky: I often have to tell a unit several times before it will go in.  I don't know if this is related to the weirdness of giving precise orders mentioned above, or if it's done on purpose to model the difficulty of crossing mountains without a road, and the ease of getting lost in high country (or both).

  4. Lastly, you could do what the Fellowship originally intended: follow the mountains south and cross through the Gap of Rohan.  This might be a good option if you've had the items from Lórien delivered to Rivendell.  If you plan to do this you could force-march Théoden and/or Denethor to Hornburg to help activate them sooner, assuming you're using the exploit.
Once on the other side, it's crucial you send at least Gandalf to Derndingle to mobilize the Ents and Huorns of Fangorn.  You could split him off from the Fellowship and have everyone else follow Gollum, if you feel time is of the essence.  If you're coming at Fangorn from the north and don't have the goodies from Lórien, you might stop there on your way to pick them up, but they're not terribly important.  Once Gandalf reaches Derndingle he will rile up the treefolk automatically.  The Ents will set off for Isengard to ruin Saruman's day, and the Huorns will go to Hornburg and defend it from all comers.  Somehow this doesn't entirely neutralize Saruman; he will still field some armies later on, but they'll be insignificant if you aren't using the exploit.  If you are using the exploit you can have Gandalf follow the Ents to Isengard and force-march them somewhere; Isengard is unimportant from this point on.

Eastern Gondor and western Mordor

Now send Gandalf to Edoras; when he meets Théoden that will wake him up, and Rohan will mobilize shortly.  You don't need the Red Arrow for this so long as you have Gandalf.  If you won't be moving the Huorns via the exploit, move all the Rohirrim out of Hornburg, since the Huorns will defend the place on their own; send those troops to Edoras or Minas Tirith, or use them however you see fit.  If you have the Scepter of Annúminas, take it to Denethor at Minas Tirith (or wherever you may have sent him using the exploit), and bring up troops toward the capital as fast as you can.  The more distant units won't make it in time—you could gather them in Pelargir instead, which might help delay the Corsairs and Southrons.

Meanwhile, the Fellowship has to make its way into Mordor somehow.  Knocking on the door at Minas Morgul or the Morannon is obviously out.  The other two options I know of are to cross the mountains or go around them; I don't think you can take the pass at Cirith Ungol in the game, even though it seems to show on the map.  Going around the mountains can work, but it's perilous: you run a big risk of encountering deadly opponents in Mordor such as balrogs.  As Kizor put it on CPRG Addict's review below, "Rhűn is enemy territory. Dagorlad is a plain, and the enemy can fly."  The first time I won the game I did it that way, but next time I was killed by a balrog somewhat shy of Mount Doom.  Going over the mountains is probably your best bet, though it's difficult and frustrating as I've mentioned above; the Fellowship usually takes quite a bit of prodding to enter the mountains, then a bit more to keep going—though I can't say I blame them!

Once you're in Mordor you still have the problem that Mount Doom is guarded by 5000 orcs.  For this you have two options.  You can gather a big force, send it across the mountains and launch a big frontal assault on Mt. Doom, or you can sit on the edge of the mountains and wait.  That force will eventually set off to attack the Free Peoples.  The problem with the first option is pretty obvious; the trouble with the second is that by the time the army leaves Mt. Doom, you may have already lost Minas Tirith and Edoras and be about to lose a third city, thereby losing the game.  But once the place is unguarded you can stroll right up and toss the Ring into the Fire.  Oh, and make sure you go to Mt. Doom and not Barad Dűr like I did once by mistake.

Bits and Pieces

Save Game

Saving the Game

You can save or restore the game by going up to the map level and clicking on the scroll icon (or pressing A).  You can only have one saved game at a time.


If you travel to Hollin Gate, you'll activate Gollum, who might come in handy later.  It seems that sometimes you can give him orders, while other times you can't; this might be done to model his untrustworthiness.  Once activated he will trail the party; you might be able to use him to get through Morîa if you feel like living dangerously, or he'll follow you over the Redhorn.  If you go south toward the Gap of Rohan, he'll wander off and cross through Morîa.  You can have him meet up with the party later if you want.  It seems that he won't join the Fellowship as long as Gandalf is with it, but he can lead the others (presumably as a guide) if Gandalf is gone.  The party will then be very good at evading encounters, I've read, but of course it'll be without Gandalf's firepower if you run into combat.

Aragorn in combat with Dead Men of Dunharrow

The Dead Men of Dunharrow

One day I noticed that Dunharrow was included in the map, and identified in a pop-up if you click there, so I got the bright idea that maybe you can use Aragorn to mobilize the Army of the Dead, just as Gandalf mobilizes the Ents and Huorns.  Unfortunately the game doesn't do that; the dead men are treated as wandering monsters found in that region.  I sent Aragorn through there and he was attacked by them.  I even had Aragorn get the Ancient Sword from Ost-in-Edhil and then go down there, but he evaded or was attacked by various groups of the dead.  You can't Use the Ancient Sword to enlist them like you use the Scepter to wake Gondor, either.  So don't bother with this one.

Die, Gandalf!

If Gandalf is killed, he will revive some time later in Lórien as Gandalf' (the apostrophe is presumably to show that he's now Gandalf the White).  I don't know if Gandalf' (the White) is more powerful than Gandalf (the Grey), but I would assume so since that's what happened in the story.

Defending your Fortresses

If you lose three of your five main cities, you lose the game.  Here's a quick rundown of what you're looking at.

Keyboard Commands

You can control the game almost entirely with the mouse, but it's a lot easier if you use the keyboard as well.

A Archive (save/restore game)
G Go (send a unit somewhere)
M Magnify (zoom in)
O Take / Put down / Use Object
P Pause the game
Q Quiet (sound) on/off
S Status of active unit(s)
T Time (game speed)
U Up a level (zoom out)
X EXit game


The Game Itself:  MS-DOS (900KB) Apple IIGS (824KB) Amiga (1.1MKB)
The Game Manual (6.7MB)
The Game Manual, reprographics version (6.6MB) (what's this?)
Copy Protection Answers (1KB)
Full-size Game Map, with corrections (2.3MB)
Full-size Game Map (original), with Quick Start Guide (1MB)
Cropped Game Map showing locations of Items (1.3MB)

War in Middle Earth Save Game Editor by Aaron Willis - Lets you edit the map, map tiles, images, animations, and texts

Aaron Willis's Site

I never properly archived his War in Middle Earth site, but I did print some of its pages back in 2013.  These are scans of those old printouts, plus a copy of the home page from an Internet archive.

Page 1 - Item List
Page 2 - Strategy & Important Items
Page 3 - Defending Tips

Reviews and Solutions

Atari Magazine Review   (archived)
CPRG Addict Review   (archived)
Games That We Rent Review   (archived)
The House of Games Review   (archived)
One Last Sketch Review   (archived)
Lemon Amiga Solution   (archived)

How to Run the Game

The MS-DOS version of the game, above, is installed and ready to play—just unzip it to a folder and run from there.  You'll probably need to run the game in DOSBox (or an Apple or Amiga emulator, if you're using one of those versions).  For the DOS version, if you're a Windows user, I recommend also installing D-Fend Reloaded.  It's a front end for DOSBox, which can be set it up to make it easy to open War in Middle Earth (and any other DOS games you want to run) with settings that work well for the game.  Linux users can use DBGL, and there are front ends for the Mac but I've never tried them.  As for the Apple and Amiga versions, I don't know, haven't tried them; they're here for the sake of completeness.

Items in the Game

Years ago (at least through mid-2013), Aaron Willis hosted a War in Middle Earth fan site decorated with lots of graphics from the game, and featuring what I thought was an inspiring table of the items you can pick up and where to find them.  I used that information as a starting point to create the map showing where to find these items, above.  Aaron's site seems to be gone now, but I've created a table based on his, including the same information and more.  "Usable" here refers to whether the item is something you can Take, Put Down, or Use at the animation level.  Items that aren't "Usable" are things like weapons and armor that are used automatically as needed.  Note that I'm not 100% certain of everything here, especially what's in the Purpose/Notes column, plus there may be a few items out there I haven't managed to discover.  If you find any corrections or additions, please let me know.

ItemWhat it IsWhere to Find ItUsable  Purpose / Notes
Elven BladeElven BladeC4: Tom Bombadil's House
C4: Barrow Downs
No Weapon (good for Hobbits).

Seems to be a stand-in for both Sting, and the Daggers of Westernesse from the Barrow Downs.
Ancient SwordAncient SwordD4: South of Ost-in-EdhilNo Weapon.

Seems to be patterned on Narsil (which Aragorn carries in the game), and/or Glamdring and Orcrist.  Like in the books, the Sword that was Broken was a much more functional weapon than it was made to look in the movies; presumably it was broken much closer to the tip.  Maybe it was reduced from a bastard sword to (effectively) an arming sword.
Gnarled StaffGnarled StaffC4: East of Buckland
(on path through the Old Forest)
No Weapon (best for Gandalf, presumably).

It's presumably based on Gandalf's staff; I read online somewhere that it might also make Gandalf more powerful, but I don't know.  Possibly—and this is just speculation—the staff makes Gandalf (the Grey) equal to Gandalf' (the White), assuming the latter is actually stronger.
Dwarven HammerDwarven HammerB7: North of EreborNo Weapon (good for Gimli).

Oddly enough, there isn't a bow or something available for Legolas, maybe because the game doesn't show ranged weapons being used.
Mithril MailMithril MailB2: Belegost
B3: Rivendell
B5: South of Mt. Gram
No Armor.

Mithril is very strong yet light, and makes excellent mail that can be worn under ordinary clothing.
Blue PotionBlue PotionC3: North of White Towers
C3: Grey Mountains
C3: Michel Delving
E3: Town SW of Tharbad
Yes Healing Potion.
Black FlaskBlack FlaskB5: South of Mt. Gram
C2: Forlond
C3: Tuckborough
Yes Strength Potion—increases how much damage you do in combat.
Scepter of AnnúminasScepter of AnnúminasB3: West of AnnúminasYes Give to Denethor to mobilize Gondor.

The "Sceptre" was kept at Rivendell in the books, but in the game it's out in the open near Annúminas.
Red ArrowRed ArrowB5: South of Mount GramYes Give to Théoden to mobilize Rohan.

The Red Arrow was used by Gondor to summon aid from its ally Rohan. In the books, it was sent from Gondor to Rohan, but in the game it's found abandoned near Mt. Gram.
Silver OrbSilver OrbA5: Ruin east of Mount GundabadYes Give to Thranduil to mobilize the Elves.

As far as I know, it's an artifact or jewel made up for the game, with no specific reference from the books.
Dwarven Ring of PowerDwarven RingD6: North of Dol GuldurYes Give to Dáin to mobilize the Dwarves. (Note: Dáin should be pronounced "day-in" or "dine", not "dane" as in the Hobbit movies.)

This was the last of the Dwarven Rings to be reclaimed by Sauron. In the game, Thráin hid it in the woods before his capture.  You can't wield it as a Ring of Power . . . which is probably just as well.
PalantírPalantírC2: South of ForlondYes Tells you the rumors you hear from NPCs in the game.  Each use seems to have a slight chance of activating Saruman (and therefore also Rohan).  You don't really want this to happen because it's better to get the Ents and Huorns to fight Saruman so the Rohirrim will be free to defend against Sauron.

Pretty much worthless since you have to go far out of your way to get the palantír and you get rumors for free randomly anyway (and the rumors are mostly about where to find items, which are shown on the cropped map in the Downloads section above).
Glowing VialGlowing VialD5: Lórien
(Caras Galadhon)
E3: Small town SW of Tharbad
Yes Healing (of some kind)?

At first I assumed this was the "Phial" of Galadriel given to Frodo, but there's another Glowing Vial out in the southwest and this seems to give some kind of healing instead of driving off evil.  Maybe it functions as both a blue potion and a black flask (i.e., it heals and gives strength simultaneously)?

Another thought that occurs is that the Middle Earth Map and Quick Start Guide, above, mention that characters have attributes of Energy, Determination, Steadfastness, Virtue, Bravery, and Strength—perhaps this tops up all those stats.
Coil of RopeCoil of RopeD5: Lórien
(Caras Galadhon)
Yes I don't know what it does; it doesn't seem to help you cross mountains like I would have expected.  Even though it's available when you tell a character to use an object, you can't actually use this anywhere, as far as I can tell, including in and on approach to mountains; whenever and wherever I've tried, it just tells me there's no need to use it there.  It also seemingly can't be used on (or by) Gollum—I've tried—so I don't know what it's for.  This is, of course, a copy of the elven rope given to Samwise by Galadriel, so I'm confused why it doesn't assist with travel through rough country.
Elven CloakElven CloakD5: Lórien
(Caras Galadhon)
No Makes it easier to evade enemies and monsters, or so I've read online.

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