Anthony BoydellUnited Kingdom
Last week, when a multi-player evening of games passed me by (partly a missing party and partly the effects of the relentless misery of January), my landlord and I decided to give Lord Of The Rings: The (Living) Card Game a turn. Richard had played through the first, entry-level, beginners scenario as a solo with success and this seemed a perfectly good place to start.
Without wishing to delve into a deep rules explanation, the LOTR:LCG is a deck-based affair with players ‘solving’ location cards and their parent ‘chapters’ by pitting their initiative against monsters and places – a surplus of which is good (solve-age ahoy – or, at least, progress toward it) and a deficit is bad (nothing happens, you hang around getting beaten up even more). The decks are a standard mix of one-off effects, people (to beat up / to be beaten up by monsters), artifacts and so-on and so-forth and so-far-so-ordinary.
What really makes it stand out for me is the mechanism by which monsters and locations are presented to the adventuring party – there is a deck of these, with various flavours/themes, and this is built from ‘bad guy’ sub-decks according to the requirements of the chapter eg. it might want trolls, orcs and forest (Mirkwood etc). Consequently, there is a) an enormous amount of thematic integration with the story – you’re travelling those familiar paths and visiting those familiar places and b) you get seriously walloped by all-and-sundry! This isn’t a game for those power D&D-ers who, armed to the foreskin with Vorpal blades, Paladinic armours and Shields of AC Zero degrees Kelvin, expect to romp through an entire campaign without getting a blister or even wheezing slightly, leaving a foamy dice-wake of Critical Hits behind them.
Party members bleed, they get killed (and the named ones don’t come back). Confidently surviving the intro story, we proceeded to get our sagging middle-Earth (and middle-aged) backsides kicked into the previous week by a couple of beast masters and a particularly beefy Hill Troll!
The usual post-match analysis (presumably from the Undying Lands or ‘wherever men go’ as their fate is hidden), allowed us to reflect upon alternative tactics...and our steaming entrails.
The additional bonus to this intriguing experience was a sudden urge to watch LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring on the Home Entertainment System and there followed three hours (sadly, NOT the extended version) of Peter Jacksons’ perfect-in-every-way masterpeace – who’d have thought the man who showed us a lawnmower chewing its way through a crowd of zombies would deliver the most evocative fantasy in filmic history?
He did, of course, go on to make King Kong though…and there ain’t no Livin’ Card Game foh that nonsense, sister! Hmmmm-hmmmm! (does that duck-neck-thrusty thing…with pursed lips…and hands-on-hips).
Afterword: Yesterday, a week later, both Carl and Iain proved unavailable for jouer-penser, so The Two Towers it was.