All players start out as Free Peoples of Middle-earth on a journey to Mount Doom with the hopes of destroying the One Ring so it won't fall into the evil hands of Sauron. The Journey is represented by the playing of cards from your hand onto the Journey Pile (discard pile). The players as a group reach Mount Doom (i.e., the round ends) as soon as one player has run out of cards. Along the way, players will be influenced by the forces in Middle-earth, and some may be pulled by the Dark Forces to join Sauron in his attempt to gain control of the Ring. This is represented by playing Dark Forces cards and earning Dark Points.
Players earn Victory Points in their journey, representing bravery and their dedication to the cause of either Gandalf or Sauron. At the end of the game, the player or players with the most Victory Points is the winner. Three rounds constitute a game. Each round represents one of the three books in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy.