Lord of the Rings:LCG - reviews and general thoughts

It all started with accepting 100 plays challenge and pledging to comment each play. Soon my thoughts outgrew the BGG comment format and also FFG's forum. I decided to post them in a form of a blog here. In time I got rid of session reports and replaced them with expansions reviews. Enjoy.

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Hobbit Saga expansion #1 - review from a dedicated player point of view.

Wojtek Wojcik
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Here is a review of the Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill box composed of quick looks at each scenario and player cards. Please note that this review is written from a perspective of a player that loves the game and has all the previous expansions. Another review from a core set only player point of view is coming.

We must away, ere break of day
6/10 - We meet the Carrock trolls again. Despite the major changes in their power the scenario has a very similar feel. If not for "one attacker rule" that really changes things around I would totally dismiss this one. As it stands it is ok.

Over the Misty Mountains Grim
5/10 - Very random stage two that can range from easy to outright deadly. After that stage three and fight with goblins seems so easy (although 4 enemies appearing in a single round is not unheard of). Nothing to write home about it.

Dungeons Deep and Caverns Dim
7/10 - Riddles work surprisingly well. Interactions between main quest and riddles are very interesting. Lacks climactic feel in stage 3.

Heroes
You get 3 heroes that have ability very centered around having multiple dwarves in play or on putting them into play. Those heroes also accent typical strength of each sphere to which they belong (leadership=more resources, spirit=lower threat, lore=more card draws). Overall I personally found them so-so as I do not play dwarves but I do see them as great additions to anyone playing dwarves. Beorn is an odd one here, new tactics hero that is immune to play card effects is far from being my favourite - I do like the fact that I can boost my heroes and observe some interaction between the cards and Breon gets away from this. I am sure that he can be useful in more way than one but he will not be joining any of my decks anytime soon.

Player Cards
Tactics - very strong cards that form a nice combo together - ally that can help you to draw weapons and two events that can generate tremendous effects from those weapons (direct damage or draw 3 cards)

Spirit - On the so-so side of things. Late adding of a character to the quest is far less efficient than scrying in solo play, attachments that is passed around exhausting one character to ready another is definitely interesting but far from straightforward to use. Ally that brings ally from other sphere into play is an interesting concept but nowadays leadership and spirit do not seem to mix well so I am giving it also an average rating for solo play (especially that both of them are unique).

Lore - Thror's map is a constant strider's path which is ok. Dori can save a hero from an unexpected damage or death but the is quite expensive and needs to be ready. Expecting Mischief is a direct damage card for lore which is interesting but needs scrying to work efficiently (note: it does not prevent surge).

Leadership - Very decent one time ready hero attachment, as for Killi/Fili duo my comments are the same - spirit and leadership do not mix well together at this point for solo. A Very Good Tale is a very interesting beast that once you have few allies in play can bring even more it is a bit hard to correctly evaluate for me but it seems on a stronger side of things.

Final Rating:
Scenarios are good but not great. They do feel thematic which I think was essential for saga expansion but from a purely gamer point of view they do not shine. Main problem here is that most of their key ideas are rehashed from previous expansions (Conflict at the Carrock, Foundation of stone, Watcher in the Water) and despite the fact that they do implement the same ideas better (I still prefer Foundation of Stone to Over the Misty though) or in some cases much better (riddles vs doors) it is hard to shake off the feeling of "been there, done that". Only the third scenario manages to deliver novel experience by major development of its main concept.

Treasures are interesting especially with a recent errata - still a bit of a let down considering my high expectation.

As for player card ... my main question is did dwarves needed another boost? Being probably the most well developed race (that only stubborn people like myself do not play) I would argue that answer is no. Certainly it is always nice to have more options (and the number of player cards and heroes does that very well) but I would wish that multitude of valuable strategies would be promoted instead of overdeveloping just one even further.

My final rating on the scenario is a bit better than the comments above show as I found this scenario working much better from a new player point of view that will get only core and this one. Since us, experienced players, will benefit from wider player base (more ideas, strategies , more FFG's resources on our game). I was very skeptical at first but I think FFG did pull this one off (barely but still) as an expansion both for core only and experienced players which is very hard to do.

How about you? What are your opinions on the 1st Hobbit as whole and/or particular scenarios?
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Sat Mar 16, 2013 6:00 am
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Dungeons Deep and Caverns Dim (The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill - scenario #3)

Wojtek Wojcik
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Here is a compilation of my session reports comments on the scenario. They where only slightly edited to fit this format better.

[Session Reports]

Date: 3 Mar 2013
Heroes (spheres): Aragorn (WitW), Frodo, Glorfindel (FoS) (spirit/lore)
Played twice, won once


- First time I was doing very well with a standard questing but I was a bit behind on answering riddles. I had 8 of 9 progress on that quest card. I had only few cards left in my deck so I knew that it is now or never. Unfortunately due to treachery I had to remove two progress tokens which was my doom. I attempted the final riddle and had to surrender the game.
- After initial play I was ready for the fact that my deck size was a crucial resource in this quest. I did not play any card drawing events and was really attentive when to choose riddles and when to pass them. I was able to finish initial stages with only four cards remaining in my deck. After that I quite quickly finished the game and won.

Date: 8 Mar 2013
Heroes (spheres): Aragorn (WitW), Frodo, Glorfindel (FoS) (spirit/lore)
Played twice, won once


Both of my plays went almost the same way as last time.
- First attempt was lost due to my deck running out (I needed 1 more correct guess on the riddle, unfortunately my last card was not an ally). I think I really should include will of the west to have a better chance of avoiding those kinds of losses.
- Had more luck with guessing (although this time I had trouble of out-questing stages one and three due to unfortunate timing of encounter cards). I think that this time treasures did helped me a bit to win (or at least win earlier).

Date: 10 Mar 2013
Heroes (spheres): Aragorn (WitW), Frodo, Glorfindel (FoS) (spirit/lore)
Played once, won once


I decided to play once more without treasures included. I also added Will of the West to my deck in order to save myself loosing once my deck runs out. I was surprised to score 116. Best so far.

Date: 10 Mar 2013
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Nori, Gimli (spirit/tactics)
Played twice, won both


Time to use core + hobbit cards to check how well will they fare against riddles.
General strategy was to send Eowyn and Nori for questing (and in dire I could keep Nori back to defend) and use Gimli (and after he is wounded help him with some defending allies) for fighting. In general that worked although I had to add bofur to the questing team and often other allies as well. I had much wilder luck (or deck composition) in terms of riddles - ranging from hitting 3 on 3 and having to pay 5 resources to find a match.

My scores were 115 and 135 (in the second case I had two treasures in my opening hand so I thought that I will break mt record but was unable to do as questing was slow and I almost got location locked at one point).

Date: 11 Mar 2013
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Nori, Gimli (spirit/tactics)
Played 4 times, lost all of them


After so many successful attempts I was shocked to discover that the quest was able to defeat me 4 times in a row in two different way.
- Attempt one. Turn two. 3 surging goblins mean that there are four of them in staging and they all come down to kill me. Using minor tricks (feints and spare hood and cloak mostly) I am able to fight them of for 3 more rounds before I loose all my heroes.
- Attempt two. I am doing fantastic. Round 4 and I am missing on progress token on stage two to proceed to stage 3. To beat my high score I spend 5 resource token on a riddle without finding single card. After that I am forced to answer another riddle. No luck and Bilbo dies.
- Attempt 3. See the first one. Only few turns later and I have few allies with me. Nevertheless nasty shadows and poor draws allow Goblins to kill my heroes.
- Attempt 4. I am doing ok with riddles (although Bilbo does has two wounds on them). Even better on the questing side (missing 1 progress token). Staging: Forced riddle forcing another riddle (resource pool on Bilbo shrinks to one resource). Another forced riddle (still one resources) and next forced riddle (guess the sphere, draw one card - fail, spend resource, fail - game over).

Date: Mar 2013
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Nori, Gimli (spirit/tactics)
Played 3 times, won once


After slight modification of my deck I attempted the scenario again.
- Both loses were caused by Bilbo being killed by Gollum. Unfortunately it seems to be impossible to construct the deck with a limited card pool so it can answer the riddles with more consistency. On the other hand I was able to deal with 3 Goblins attacking me at the same time with more ease than previously.
- Finally when I was getting really annoyed by the riddles I was able to win. I had few attempts that yielded two or more progress tokens. Once stage two was safe I progressed to stage 3. I had 3 enemies engaged with me and due to shadows I was unable to kill all of them until next round. After that one successful questing pushed to the end.


[General Thoughts]

With "full" card pool
I was a bit skeptical when approaching this scenario. The rules for riddles and setup gave me impression that this scenario is quite complicated and can be fiddly. Additionally as with Doors of Durin in Watcher in the Water I was a bit skeptical of the whole "guess the next card" mechanic.

Glad to report that initial impressions after playing the scenario are much better. What I liked:
- Despite using my "generic" deck riddles were fun and I was able to guess them most of the time (especially with additional resource or two from Bilbo). It seems that the number of card to draw was very carefully chosen.
- Both sides of the table (riddles and regular quest) created interesting decisions and interplay between them was crucial to success (when to settle for another card in staging and when to answer riddles)
- With 50 card decks there is a real time pressure - as once your deck will be depleted you can't answer riddles correctly.

What was missing:
- Final quest stage was kind of anticlimactic.

Removal of the treasures did increase my "guessing riddles skills" (as they were auto-failures for all of my answers). In general I also found very little use for them, most of the enemies I was able to kill with one stroke from Aragorn (some times with a little help from a minor ally) and additional resources/cards were nice but far from being crucial to the success of running away from goblin caverns.

This scenario hinges on the riddles - it is very fun and interesting mechanic that binds stages one and two together. Unfortunately outside of that the scenario seems a bit on the boring side. Additionally managing all active effects, surges, two quest cards does feel fiddly.

Core plus Hobbit cards
I have to say that deck building for this one with only core + hobbit cards was difficult - this resulted in much less consistent riddle guessing (I had to use ring few times to generate Bilbo some resources). The real problem comes in when you really have just one core set (as a reminder I have two), then your deck building skills will be put to the limit (as my regular recommendation of 30 card decks is out of the window in this scenario). I am not up for this challenge so I will not test it but my gut feeling tells me that you will really struggle with this one.

I made a weird discovery here - I was looking for another spirit hero (Eowyn was an easy pick) and found that in limited card pool there was nothing - Dunhere was useless as Goblins would engage me easily, Eleanor's ability is very weak here as most of the treacheries that you might be tempted to cancel prevent this. Additionally they both have just 1 will power which was just to few for my needs. I discovered that Nori nicely fit my needs by being decent defender (2 shields, 4HP) and quester (2WP). Although I had only one dwarf ally in my deck he worked quite well for this scenario.

Wow the scenario did show me my place after initial plays. Twice I was overwhelmed by goblins. In both cases it was fairly early on so there was little I could do but this shows that my deck is inefficient as many of the cards I hold are useless (added for riddles sake).

In terms of riddles my deck composition is also worthless. So many different values (too many zero cost cards), poor card type balance (too many attachments). I have to say that with restricted pool of cards is really difficult to compose a deck that will fare well against this one. I really might need something new here.

I kind of expected that with latest tweaks I will get much better results with riddles. They indeed are but mostly due to the fact that often I will get from some of them 2 progress tokens. Unfortunately I still fail many of them. I do see that sometimes it follows from the fact that I waste too many resource tokens just to get something right (instead of suffering one wound). This is especially true for the forced double riddle.

My final opinion on this scenario with only core plus hobbit cards settles on: too difficult, close to impossible to build very reliable deck.

What are your opinions on this scenario? Have you tried it only with core + hobbit cards? How do you like the riddle mechanic?
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Fri Mar 15, 2013 11:27 am
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Over the Misty Mountains Grim (The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill - scenario #2)

Wojtek Wojcik
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Before I will get into summarizing my opinions on the scenario let me note that I've tried to play it both as a regular expansion and also wanted to check if you can buy this after owning just the core set. I will do that for all the Hobbit scenarios. Reviews of particular scenarios will contain both those points of view but when I am ready I will create separate reviews of the whole "Hobbit" expansions from those two perspectives.

Here is a compilation of my session reports comments on the scenario. They where only slightly edited to fit this format better.

[Session Reports]

Date: 24 Feb 2013
Heroes (spheres): Gimli, Eleonr, Eowyn (spirit/tactics)
Played 4 times won 3 out of those


My core + hobbit deck went to second scenario. One important note here I got the treasures with another deck but still decided to use them with this one - this is technically not correct according to the rules but since I was already kind of bored with the first scenario I did not wanted to replay it next n times just to get the treasures the right way.

First attempt was fantastic (as it usually is) I had a though time dealing with Stone Giants (second one appeared right in the middle of killing the first) but was really surprised by the second stage. Not to spoil anything I had 3 enemies in staging after getting into stage 3. The fight with goblins was very intense and dangerous. It took me long time and huge losses (including death of Eleanor) but I become victorious.

Second attempt started very bad with two Stone Giants in staging area. Nevertheless slow build up while minimizing threat increase from failed questing allowed me to dispatch them. Once I was prepared for stage 3 it was much easier, despite few surprises from the Goblins.

Third one was a fail. This time I got 3 Stone Giants in staging. Once threat influx from failed questing pushed me over 40 they engaged me and discarded almost all my allies. After that their attack took my heroes and it was all over.

In fourth try I was able to get my best score. I had to kill only one stone giant and had a quick fight with the goblins.

Date: 28 Feb 2013
Heroes (spheres): Aragorn (WitW), Frodo, Glorfindel (FoS) (spirit/lore)
Played twice, won both


After my attempts with core cards only I went with my favorite (at least since FoS) hero/sphere combination. While I was building my deck I my initial confidence that I will destroy the quest took a slight hit. I was unsure about my deck composition will handle stage 1 very well. Note since with this deck I got the treasures I went ahead and included them in.

- First attempt was a bit tricky. I had to kill Stone Giants 3 times (one was brought back by A Suspicious Crow) which was surprisingly easy but still resulted in decent threat gain due to Frodo (I also skipped sending characters to quest once as due to shadow effect I knew that Boulder was coming - this was the time that another Giant showed up resulting in threat influx). Once I cleared all of this mess I went to stage two. This was fairly easy although goblins did surprise me a bit as after killing Great Goblin I had 2 surging goblins appear which made fighting them quite exciting.

- In the second attempt I got very lucky. Got two treasures in my opening hand which allowed me to arm myself very fast. Sacrificing quest phase I engaged the Stone Giant immediately (I was forced to do it anyway due to treachery) and was able to one shot kill him (using Aragorn, Bilbo and Glorfindel). After that I passed the stage 1 but due to being a bit too much on the safe side took me few rounds more than necessary. After that I had so many allies though that Goblins were quickly dispatched and I was able to finish the stage easily. I got my best score so far with 99 points.

Date: 2 Mar 2013
Heroes (spheres): Aragorn (WitW), Frodo, Glorfindel (FoS) (spirit/lore)
Played 3 times, won once


After winning easily last time I decided that I need to check the impact the treasures have on this scenario and I played without them.
- Twice I got destroyed in stage 2 overwhelmed by third or fourth Giant I had to face. I had to arm my self for quite a few rounds to be able to deal with the first one and usually next one would appear. In the meantime galloping Boulders would kill 2 or 3 allies slowing me down very much.
- After those defeats I rebuild my deck focusing much more on questing and purging some expensive lore cards. My deck worked much more efficiently and I was able to defeat stage one very fast. With this deck surging goblins were a bit more problematic but I was still able to defeat the scenario with a second best score of 90.


[General Thoughts]
I love the idea of two encounter decks switching between stages - it is very thematic and gives developers some major opportunities to mess with players. I think that this concept was better used in Foundation of Stone but here it also works quite well. In this particular case there is quite a disconnect between parts of the quests but on the other hand that is how it happened in the books.

I would love more temptation in stage 2 to spend Bilbo's resources so that final fight would result in more exciting fight. I have to say that once I was prepared for stage 3 it seemed much easier than meeting with the giants.

Stage two of this quest is much easier with more players, while stage three is more dangerous with more players. Still overall I think that as in the first hobbit scenario, us solo players are challenged more here.

In general my deck constructed from all expansions is much stronger than my previous core + hobbit deck but not by as wide of a margin as I imagined to. Stage two can still cause you troubles even if a single Stone Giant is not much of a problem now - it really depends on how cards come up and its difficulty can range from walk in the park to walk into Mordor through main gate.

I was really surprised how much more difficult stage two gotten without using treasures. Measly two more attack points had a huge impact on my ability to dispatch the giants in an efficient way. I have to say though that failures allowed me to start to think outside the box - why battle the stone giants if I can out-quest them. This had a huge impact on my success and also allows me to claim that on average I will fare quite well against this scenario. In general the less time spent in stage two the less chance for multiple giants that will usually lead to failure (especially if combined with several boulders).

As a complete aside I am still astound by the fact into how many assumptions on how to deal with the scenario I fall into and unfortunately only failures usually motivate me to analyze scenario and find new ways to tackle it.

What are your opinions on this scenario? Do you also find that stage two (giants) is much harder than stage three (goblins)? Have you also found that without treasures it much easier to out-quest stage two then to out-fight it?
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Tue Mar 5, 2013 10:24 am
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Why I do not play two-handed solo?

Wojtek Wojcik
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I've seen many posts and articles recommending playing two-handed solo games. While I see merits of this approach I do not use it and this post is here to explain why.

First things first
What is two handed solo play - in short the game follows the rules for two players (two sets of heroes, two player decks, two encounter cards per turn etc.) except that one person is controlling both decks. Only major difference between two handed and two player games is that in the first case the player sees both hands of cards and there is "no limit on communication" rule.

So why one would like to play the game this way?
Lower Difficulty
The first mention of two-handed play you will probably encounter is a recommendation from an experienced player to a new player complaining that the game is too difficult in solo mode. One of the answers will undoubtedly be "just play with two decks". I find that this advice is very risky because while it is generally easier to win core scenarios with more players (and hence two handed) it is much harder to play with multiple-players and even harder with multiple decks under your control (due to order of play in multi). Often huge difficulty with starting quests in solo mode are caused by a new player's lack of experience and familiarity with the rules (or his/hers expectations to win every time) and switch to two handed play might often lead to even more problems. So from a new player perspective I highly discourage playing in two handed solo mode unless you are very well versed in expandable card games and just want a very casual experience with LOTR.

For a more experienced players that want an easier time against the scenarios this seems at first as very decent possibility - you do not have to house-rule anything and you can get much higher win percentage. Well ... you do house rule the "limit on communication" rule, while many people find it against co-op spirit of the game or a bit weird, tacked-on etc. it is the rules book and if at some point tournament will start I am sure that FFG will try to enforce it in some way. On the other hand some scenarios become more difficult with more players (Massing at O. comes to mind first) so in general playing two handed will not bail you out. Because of this I find that this reason alone is too weak to warrant playing with two decks.

Optimal experience
One can often see comments from players that this game is optimal with two players. I tend to agree as this often indirectly confirmed by FGG (see some of the list decks published by developers, decks list in Hobbit, tournament rules). Some quests seem to be have never been tested in solo mode (Yes, I am talking about the Escape from Dol Guldur). In general I find this argument flawed in the sense that what is optimal for some players might be suboptimal for others. This is evident from the fact that some players find most quests too easy, too boring, too random while other claim those same scenarios too difficult, exciting and perfectly fine. There is some validity to claim that I want to play the game as it was intended and play tested but again this alone would not push me to two-handed camp.

Full experience
Playing solo makes certain cards (many examples here), keywords (sentinel, ranged), heroes (Barnd son of Bain) useless. At times it makes you do not use certain spheres at all (you can win whole Mirkwood cycle without playing single tactics card) playing as per regular rules. This is the strongest argument for playing two-handed and I have to admit that if anything will ever convince me to try it out it will be this. Yes playing solo makes certain cards more useful (Henemarth Riversong) but this is more of an exception than the rule. You do miss out a lot of strategy (decks synergies) and tactic options if you never play multiplayer or two-handed.

What is the price you pay to play this way?
Quite a lot added complexity
If you think that with more players rules and game flow does not change much it means that you have not played much this way or you prefer to play fast and loose. Order of play has a very profound effects on game play and card abilities (easiest to see is Theodred ability to generate resources - only every other round you can pass those resources to the second player). This game is not the most difficult in the world to play correctly but there are quite a few nuances and many of them come into play only with two or more decks.

Lot of table space
Solo this game can be played on fairly small table space. With two decks it requires double this amount. This is not an issue for most people but as I often take the game with me and play on various tables it is an issue for me.

Playing with two-hands is very fiddly
My deal breaker: By fiddly in this context I mean that is quite hard to keep track of all the effects that should be triggered/applied, could be applied and those that are not allowed to trigger because of other cards. It seems quite clear that processing many effects at the same time will lead to mistakes by missing a things or two. The game can be fiddly in solo mode as well you have ussually at least an event or two in your hand that can be played, 3-4 cards in your area with relevant effects (even more with irrelevant effects that you have to filter out) and at least 1 or 2 encounter cards to deal with this totals to 8 or more things that you need to consider, very close to my limit. In two-handed mode this is doubled (and some effects are more complicated with more players). This requires a very methodical approach of analyzing card by card or a very good filter (gained with experience) to keep things straight.

Other things to consider
Two decks - double the building time
I suffer from limited time available to devote to the game. In solo mode balance between time it takes to build a deck is more or less comparable with a single game (from me 1/2). Deck modifications are very quick in this setting. In two decks mode you need much more time to build two compatible decks while games are not much longer (from my limited experience). This shifts the game balance towards deck building which might be a good or bad thing depending on your preference.


My verdict and recommendation
As you already know from the post title I do not play two handed the benefit of more full game exploration is greatly overshadowed by drawback of having to keep track of so many things. Your mailage will of course vary and in fact this is main reason for writing this post (see questions at the end).

As for two handed recomandation, it is much better to find a friend that will play with you but if you really want "complete" experience while playing solo I recomend this post:
http://talesfromthecards.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/a-guide-to...
that might make your dive into two handed world easier.

How abut you? Do you play two-handed? What is the main reason for (not) doing so? What is annoying in this way of play? How different is two handed play from cooperative play?
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Sat Mar 2, 2013 6:00 am
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We must away, ere break of day (The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill - scenario #1)

Wojtek Wojcik
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Before I will get into summarizing my opinions on the scenario let me note that I've tried to play it both as a regular expansion and also wanted to check if you can buy this after owning just the core set. I will do that for all the Hobbit scenarios. Reviews of particular scenarios will contain those point of views but when I am ready I will create separate reviews of the whole "Hobbit" expansions from those two perspectives.

Here is a compilation of my session reports comments on the scenario. They where only slightly edited to fit this format better.

[Session Reports]
Date: 4 & 6 Feb 2013
Heroes (spheres): Glorfindel(FoS), Aragorn(WitW), Frodo (spirit/lore)
Played 4 times, won all of them


With a crew that managed to dispatch Balrog I went back in time to assist Bilbo in his journey. I did expect an easy sail to victory in this one I have to say that trolls did surprise me, especially due to so many characters being "frozen" due to sacks.
- I assumed that the quest will go the same route as Conflict at the Carrock so I went slow in first stage - to field many allies. I was a bit surprised that two trolls immediately engaged me and sacked two characters at the same time. It was good that Bilbo had tons of free resources ready and he summoned Gandalf on his own and Aragorn could reset threat. After that I slowly dispatched one troll after the other and won. BTW: troll key was discarded before stage two and I had to look up what to do in such case in Unofficial FAQ.
- Now that I knew that trolls can be very dangerous I took even longer time in stage 1. I was planing to spend even more but went to stage 2 by accident. This time even more characters were sacked (due to treachery). This time Gandalf again summoned using Bilbo's resources was crucial to winning as with so many sacked characters fighting trolls would took me long time (and I even might have failed). BTW: troll key was discarded as shadow
After that I played two more times two interesting observations:
- If troll camp comes up in stage 1 (or early in stage 2) and you let it lie there until stage two it becomes much easier as you can constantly remove sacks. BTW: Troll key was one before last card in the encounter deck hence it was impossible to get treasures
- Took 20 turns to win but finally got the treasures

Date: 10 Feb 2013
Heroes (spheres): Glorfindel(FoS), Gimli, Eleonr (spirit/tactics)
Played 1 time, won

As you can read in comments bellow I've made a major rule mistake (overlooking troll's passive abilities) becouse of this I replaced Aragorn with Gimli and decided that Frodo is fairly weak in this scenario as well so I swapped him with Eleonor. The only reason for her was to be able to cancel treachery that forced me to discard attachments (as I was relaying on them to make Gimli very strong so he could kill a troll single handed).

My attempt went just as planed. I was constantly lowering my threat (greeting and Elrond's Counsel) and gave two dwarven axes to Gimli. With the help of Khazad Khazad and Heavy Stroke Gimli was able to one shot dispatch the troll that was blocking me from multiple attackers and after that the rest was a piece of cake (although there were so many locations in staging that I was pretty much location locked at this point). I was able to obtain my best score.

Date: 20 Feb 2013
Heroes (spheres): Glorfindel(FoS), Gimli, Eleonr (spirit/tactics)
Played twice, won both


In both games played out very similar. Very long stage one when I was amassing attachments and tactics cards for Gimli so he could one shot kill trolls. In both cases after a while I got 4 (or so) location in staging as I was questing minimally in order not to pass stage one to early. Then I would throw almost all my characters to quest and moved to stage two. After that I killed the trolls with ease and win this way next round.

This location lock possibility is very strong especially that I need to find troll camp (and keep it in staging) before progressing to stage 2 (just in case Gimli gets sacked).

Date: 22 & 23 Feb 2013
Heroes (spheres): Gimli, Eleonr, Eowyn (spirit/tactics)
Played 4 times won 3 out of those


After my last resolution to play the game using core and hobbit cards only I went ahead and did that. I replaced Glorfindel with Eowyn (since he was mostly questing anyway) and had to rebuild my deck from the ground up. I discovered that all new (hobbit) tactics cards made into my deck and only one of the spirit ones. I didn't take any of the new heroes (for some reason I am not too keen on the dwarven deck). All the games went through the same pattern:
- Slow build up in stage 1. Goals is to build sizable force, get Troll Camp in Staging area
- Quick (one or two rounds) battle with the trolls.

I've lost one attempt due to threat rising above 50 due to:
- Not getting any threat reduction
- Great threat influx before I was able to brake location lock I got myself into in stage 1
- Gandalf was needed for few rounds to help with the above

[General Thoughts]

Initial
Let me say that I personally do not like this scenario so you can better understand following comments and take them with a grain of salt:
- I was so excited with treasure mechanics (even reading the hobbit rules) and the way to get them is basically a poorly worded, random (let us hope it is not a shadow or one of the last cards in the encounter deck), unexciting mess of a concept. I still like the cards and look forward to using them in next scenarios but ...
- Strategy and general feel of this scenario is almost identical to Conflict
- Graphics are terrible on some of the cards. And what is worse it seems like they could not decide between cartoon-y not so serious one (trolls), realistic "serious" fantasy drawings (Gandalf images) and some weird stuff (ex.: Thror's Map)
- Poor balance with a number of players (seems so much easier with more players than solo). One would hope that developers learned they lesson with the Conflict since they are so close.
- Each troll is so much like the other (with a very slight upgrade)

Just to counterbalance my rant above are some good points:
- Like the concept of Bilbo as a crucial hero (a bit more interesting that escorting Arwen, although those scenarios were so much better)
- New Sack mechanic is better then previous one. Even if it really hammers solo players.
- It is excellent to see two ways to deal with the quest: Confusing trolls until daylight (making encounter deck run out due to excessive questing) or fighting them.
- This scenario might be not so bad if you use only core set with this box provided that you use all Galadhrims Greetings and/or resource acceleration. Then you can go slowly on stage one. I still think that trolls will kill solo players but it might be very much doable multiplayer. I am a bit tempted to try it out in such restricted card pool.

Judging on this scenario (and the art on player cards) it seems that this expansion was rushed to make it on time for the film. I really hope that other scenarios do prove me wrong otherwise this will be first time regretting a purchase.


After few plays
I was shocked to discover (reading a rules question somewhere) that I made a significant rules mistake during my last plays of the scenario. I somehow missed the effects that troll have on each other ("only one attacker" was the one that mattered for me). It invalidated all my plays before (except the last one where I did not kill any trolls just damaged one to get the key and made the deck run out). I decided that I need a new deck to be able to kill the trolls (it was fairly easy with the old deck to make encounter cards run out but to tell the truth that made the scenario fairly boring).

- This quest is much harder than I gave it credit for in my first attempt. It is much easier to out-quest the trolls then to kill them. I think this makes this quest much less new player (core set + Hobbit) friendly. Killing the trolls requires atypical strategy of a single strong attacker.
- Missing a rule is a very big deal for me. I hate it! Unfortunately I think one is bound to make a mistake or two. For solo players (at least those who obsess about playing correctly as do I) this is a big deal as you do not have another players to correct you. The only thing that can help you is to read rules questions and comments from others or post something yourself (in hopes that someone will see a mistake).

At this point I am fairly sure that I could easily win this one with only core heroes (Glorfindel out, Eowyn in). Still so many crucial cards are from expansions (Khazad Khazad, Heavy Stroke being the most important) that it is really difficult to see how my deck would fare without them - only option is to test it. This is my plan now - we shall see if core + hobbit can handle this.

Final
This scenario is definitely beatable solo with just core and hobbit cards. Mind you I do not play any "thematic" decks so I can not comment about this but as far as just cards go it is possible (and not as hard as I thought before). Trolls put up a decent fight so it never feels very easy (despite high win percentage ~ 90%). One thing that I discovered in my plays that without any expansions spirit is not as strong in willpower as I remember it - still it outclass all other spheres in questing as Northern Tracker and Lorien Guide can get you out of location locks.

Another interesting thing is that tactics got great cards in the first Hobbit box - not only are they working together (ally that looks for weapons in your deck and cards that gives you additional benefits for weapons including card draw which is huge and direct damage which is nice).

Getting treasures is much harder without expansion cards as you lack the power to quest through the stage two while fighting 2 or 3 trolls at the same time. You still can be lucky and get them but I would not count on it in solo.

Additional Note: I did use cards from two core sets but I guess you could limit your deck size to get similar results with just one core.

27 Feb 2012 Note:
As you can see my opinions on the scenario very much changed during my plays. Ultimately I found it satisfying but not great. Major knocks against it are:
- Rehash of theme from Conflict at the Carrock that requires similar strategy.
- Strange art style at some of the cards
- Poor balance with respect to number of players
- Wasted concept of treasure cards (as they are very luck depnded, almost impossible to get with only hobbit plus core cards in solo mode)
Some highlights:
- Playable with hobbit and core cards
- Fight with trolls requires very specific approach
- Going slow on stage one can be dangerous due to location locks


What are your opinions on this scenario? Have you tried it with only core and hoobit cards? Do you find similarity with Conflict at the Carrock annoying?
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Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:33 am
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Summary of my opinions on Dwarrowdelf cycle

Wojtek Wojcik
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Here is a review of the whole cycle composed of quick looks at each adventure pack and some general thoughts.

The Redhorn Gate -
Scenario - 9/10 - Excellent thematic quest that will almost literally chill you to the bone. Must play in my opinion, one of the best quests so far.
Hero - Elrohir - Quite weak on his own but once combined with his brother his utility greatly increases. Not great solo IMHO
Player Cards - Start of Secrecy looked strong but now that we know its finale most of those cards are just plain weak. Just one great card for me here - Bofur, not only next dwarf but very strong (and potentially cheap) spirit ally.

Road to Rivendel -
Scenario - 3/10 - Fairly lengthy and quite boring scenario with two insta-kill treacheries/shadows
Hero - Elladan - Quite weak on his own but once combined with his brother his utility greatly increases. Not great solo IMHO
Player Cards - Rohan gets some love (although more towards multi-player), dwarves get two decent cards. We start to see that elves will be strong in this one. Tactics is the only sphere that gets a very decent selection. We see the worst card ever in this one - The End Comes.

The Watcher in the Water -
Scenario - 8/10 - Very good scenario that presents with two radically different ways to deal with it. It can be frustrating at times but in the end it delivers a great experience.
Hero - Aragorn (lore) - first redesign of a hero. Great one at that! Read my post on this card if you need more info.
Player Cards - Elves (especially Noldor) get much love in this one (especially with tremendous spirit cards). One good dwarven card beside that the rest seem to be very corner case.

Long Dark -
Scenario - 7/10 - Quite easy solo which is a nice change of pace, still can be fun at times. Nothing earth shattering here although it can be very hard in multi-player mode (>2 players).
Hero - Hama - Tremendous tactics hero. Can indefinitely lock down single enemy (using feint).
Player Cards - Finally some major dwarven boost in this one. Outside of this only Warden of healing seems to be good in general.


Foundation of stone -
Scenario - 9/10 - Good and quite novel quest (two separate encounter decks and random/separating stages). It is a bit wekaer solo and this keeps me from giving it a 10.
Hero - Glorfindel (spirit) - one of the best heroes so far period.
Player Cards - Great spirit and Lore cards. Weaker for other spheres.


Shadow and Falme -
Scenario - 8/10 - Interesting and challenging quest. Very worth of cycle finale if a bit restricted on possible strategies.
Hero - Elrond - another excellent addition to heroes "family".
Player Cards - Some excellent cards in this one (Spirit seems to be on weaker side). Lore gets 3 cards again. Vilya that is Elrond specific is one hell of a card.

Overall Opinion I was a bit underwhelmed with Khazad Dum deluxe expansion mostly due to many praises that I have read while still plying Shadows of Mirkwood cycle because of that my expectations on the second cycle were much lower. This time I was in for a great surprise!

I find that this cycle is strong as far as scenarios go with a quite interesting mechanics introduced/explored. Many of them I do hope to see returning in a new implementation in the future. I am a bit sad that some of them seem better in multi-player mode but I found them enjoyable solo nevertheless and that's what really counts.

As for "themed" player cards my opinion are as follows:
- Dwarves do get some very good cards but not as many as one would expect from the cycle theme.
- Surprisingly elves show up very strong in the player cards in adventure packs. I would not go as far as to say that elvish decks are the best ones out there but they do have very very strong heroes and decent card synergies
- Secrecy is pretty much useless - especially in solo play. Some cards can be useful outside secrecy (especially if played using vilya)

If you like powerful heroes this cycle is for you. Four very strong heroes are in this packs (and in multi-player all of them are great).

Is this cycle better than Shadows of Mirkwood? My short answer is yes - mostly due to tremendous scenarios and fantastic heroes. I would say that on average player cards are better in first cycle though so this is not "by a land slide" preference.

How about you? What are your feelings on the cycle? Particular scenarios? Card combinations? Preference vs the first cycle?
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Sat Feb 9, 2013 6:00 am
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Shadow and Flame - Will all your base belong to Balrog?

Wojtek Wojcik
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Malopolska
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Here is a compilation of my session reports comments on the scenario. They where only slightly edited to fit this format better.

[Session Reports]

Date: 30 Jan 2013
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn/Glorfindel(FoS), Aragorn(WitW), Frodo (spirit/lore)
Played 2 times - lost once, won once


Here is the short report on my first attempts against the final adventure pack in the Dwarrowdelf cycle
- As usual I went in blind (I have not read any encounter or quest cards) using my Eowyn, Frodo, lore Aragorn deck. I have to admit that initial threat influx (due to Fordo constantly canceling damage from Durin's Bane) was worrying me but on the other hand the reserve (starting at zero and being able to drop it down) was huge enough that I decided that I should be able to withstand it for many turns. My hand size was very decent but at this time Counter-Spell came up essentially locking my events (although in retrospect I should have just let it activate). On the other hand my fellowship was growing steadily with new allies coming into play. Most of the cards coming from the encounter deck were not too threatening so I felt like I had this scenario. Slowly I passed stage one and two and realized what I have to do to win. I calculated my attack strength and realized that I would be putting 1 wound per round on Durin's Bane (at the beginning I forgot his regenerate ability) - was sure to loose at this point. Sure enough - my threat was high enough that I had to stop using Frodo and started to loose allies each round. Few enemies from the encounter deck sealed my fate.
- With knowledge from the previous attempt I've redesigned my deck swapping Eowyn for spirit Glorfindel and adding more fighting strength to my deck (Rumors of the Earth, Hasty Stroke, Infighting were gone, Mirkwwod runner, Light of Valinor and more copies of unique allies came in). Frodo was again converting Durin's Bane's attacks to threat while I was taking more cards in and fielding more and more allies. I've had 13 attacks strength ready (after questing) so I was dealing some pain back to Bane (hahaha). Even with a Giant Cave troll coming up from the encounter deck I was able to progress ahead and keep the staging area clear (except of the Balrog). I had to start sacrifice questing allies since my threat was high again but getting rid of the Balrog was quite easy at this point.

Date: 31 Jan 2013
Heroes (spheres): Glorfindel(FoS), Aragorn(WitW), Frodo (spirit/lore)
Played 6 times - won only once


After my initial success I was fairly confident in my deck ... well ... the Balrog had different opinion on it. I was massacred is so many ways that I am really at loss on how to beat this scenario solo. Here is the sampling on how I was defeated
- First turn Fiery Sword caused huge threat influx (Frodo) and I was unable to contain my threat and lost
- Two Giant Cave Trolls in row followed by three locations lead to staging lock, huge threat gain and ultimate loss despite two Gandalfs
- Twice early Giant Cave Troll slowed me down heavily first by sitting in staging and then by eating precious allies so I was too weak for a final showdown with mr. Bane
- First turn whiplash starved me as far as cards go and reduced me to draw one play one which is just too weak.
- I almost have won two of the failed attempts - I needed 3 in two cards but failed in one and I surrendered one attempt while I should have sacrificed Frodo and go for the mr. Banes throat in the other

In the mean time I did a lot of back and forward tweaking (adding Zigil Miner and removing it, increasing and decreasing and increasing again the card draw, removing Hasty stroke and bringing it back, changing the amount of unique cards etc). After my final play I made few more radical changes but to tell the truth it will be very hard to attain more than 30% win rate with this one. Unless I change my approach completely which might be necessary.

Date: 1,2 & 3 Jan 2013
Heroes (spheres): Glorfindel(FoS), Aragorn(WitW), Frodo (spirit/lore)
Played 6 times - won ALL of them


I have to say that last time I was starting to be flustered with this scenario. I couldn't understand why my deck was doing so bad against Balrog despite what seemed like a sound strategy. I made quite few changes after my last failed attempt but to tell the truth I did not expect a dramatic improvement (and had few more ideas in stock) I was in for a surprise. My next 6 plays with this new deck were all successful. In retrospect I understand that those few changes made my deck more efficient but to tell the truth it is hard to get why I went from 20% win percentage to 100% with few cards. Here are brief summary of my plays:
- Most of the games ended with my heroes being down to 1-2HP and my threat in upper 40s despite reset
- Most of the games took around 14-15 turns that is a lot.
- My best score was 125 and worst one 222.
- I was able to kill 2 Giant Cave Trolls in one of the games although it was a close call
- I almost quit one game but decided to go on and won - that was a lesson from last time when I did concede a game and only after collecting cards I realized that I could have won.
- I was almost location locked once. Last minute Northern Trackers saved the game for me (I was digging for them hard).

[General Thoughts]

Initial
This is a though quest I have to say. To tell the truth I do not see at this point how to deal with it without Fordo and major threat reduction (unless you keep stopping Balrog from attacking using Feint+Hama combo). I guess one would need a host of cheap allies that are constantly sacrificed to block Bane but then resource generation to put stronger cards would be required.

Major point for which I like this quest that it puts constant pressure and does not follow typical scenario of going slow on stage one to arm yourself and then speed through the rest. I find this refreshing and interesting. Quest stages are fairly uninteresting but I do like how the developers handled "destruction" of the Balrog.

After few plays
Wow, this is hard! I've sensed it with my last session although its success did hidden it a bit. Constant onslaught of Bane supported by Trolls and even Goblin Swordsman is really hard to withstand - especially that at the same time you need huge attack strength to deal some pain back. This scenario is not Escape from Dol Guldur hard but it is a very close second.

At this point I am a bit flustered with my inability to stabilize on a decent deck so I can't objectively rate the scenario it self.

Final
Ufff that was one hell of a meeting with Balrog. Plays with my final deck were very interesting, tense and result was down to the wire. As such I think of this scenario very highly - this was the second scenario in history that did put my deckbuilding skills to a very intense test. I even had a look at some posted decks for inspiration but ultimately went with my own construction (although next iteration would take some suggestions in). So in my mind this scenario is great.

Despite that I will not be giving it a high rating. Why you ask? Mostly because I see only two ways to deal with it (Frodo, Lore Aragorn combo which I did and some kind of feint recycle with Hama). Scenario is just too hard on regular decks (you would have to pump out almost two allies per turn to succeeded I guess). I might wrong on this but this is my gut feeling. Let me point out some of the strengths:
- It brakes the typical mold of the scenarios - stall the game to gear up, field ton of allies and only then tear through a quest
- There are no boom you are dead treacheries (although some of them are much worse then others)
- You can both loose by location/enemies lock and great pounding
- Most of general purpose decks are weak against it

For me this was a worthy finale to the second cycle of adventure packs - it was a grand finale indeed. I do not see myself returning to this one often but boy am I glad to have played it and proud to win my share.

In general this scenario should be avoided by all casual players while it should put more experienced players skills to the test. For this kind of players it is a must!

What are your opinions on this scenario? What other methods of dealing with Balrog have you found? What win percenatge you were able to obtain?
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Wed Feb 6, 2013 6:00 am
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Foundation of Stone - Cthulhu in LOTR:LCG?

Wojtek Wojcik
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Kraków(Cracow)
Malopolska
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Here is a compilation of my session reports comments on the scenario. They where only slightly edited to fit this format better.

[Session Reports]

Date: 20 Jan 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Aragorn (lore), Frodo (spirit/lore)
Played 1 time - won (almost)


I was so excited to quickly go through the Long Dark that later same day I went ahead to try the next adventure pack - FoS. Single attempt was successful (well not really I played Aragorn reset wrong so for a moment I had 50 threat, I was unsure about timing and didn't have rules with me but it was a minor thing as I could have reset threat round earlier so it was mostly ok). Here are some initial observations:
- Start of the scenario was very easy. Since the new encounter cards are left out of the game at the beginning (brilliant idea that should be used more often) I was moving quite fast despite some treacheries hitting me quite hard (surge, discard an ally etc.).
- Once I went to stage 4 (choosing stage at random is very thematic and very fun). At first new encounter deck didn't seem so hard and I was able to proceed to stage 5 quite easily - despite nameless creatures starting to show up.
- Stage 5 showed me my place. Here the encounter deck forced me to shuffle two heroes into my deck. With the effect of this stage this meant that I was barely making any progress. At the same time Elder Nameless things started to attack one after the other (I had 3 of them). Luckily I had quite a few resources on Aragorn so I was able to summon Gandalf twice to dispatch them. Once I was able to draw one of my missing heroes (by the end of the game I had only 3 cards left in my deck) I was able to finish the quest.

Scenario played: Foundation of Stone
Date: 20 Jan 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Aragorn (lore), Frodo (spirit/lore)
Played 3 times (won twice)


Since I knew what to expect in the quest (I try to go blind when playing first time) I decided to go slow on stages one and two and go down to stage 4 with a decent force. I also decided to try other stage 4 cards (I have not read them) in turn instead of random draw.
- Fairly easy attempt - I've drawn the longest stage 4 card but since it does not have any other consequences it was not so though. Also encounter deck was fairly light on me.
- This time I was thrown to the nameless lair - 4 cards from the encounter deck was quite brutal esspecially that I've had one hero (Eowyn) shuffled to my deck. My ultimate death came in stage 5 though and was dealt by two Moria bats - I have no ranged charachters so I had no chance to block them and only Gandalf could kill them - suffice to say it didn't happen
- Stage 4 was the one that forces you to discard your hand. It was though as I was prepared for anything that encounter deck could have thrown at me. Luckily I had quite a few resources and was able to rebuild my hand fairly efficiently (Gleowine in play)

Scenario played: Foundation of Stone
Date: 24 Jan 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Aragorn (lore), Frodo (spirit/lore)
Played twice, won twice


I was seriously thinking about building mono Spirit deck (replacing Aragorn with the new Glorfindel) but I decided that I would miss Lore resources so I stayed with my old deck but made few tweaks:
- Gone: The Galadhrim's Greeting, Burning Brand some other expansive Lore cards
- Reason: Aragorn should be enough to lower the threat, Frodo always defending, Too few Lore resources
- Added: Daeron's Runes, Imladris Stargazer, Infighting
- Reason: Shorter deck and faster card cycle, choosing the cards to draw and manipulate the strength of Nameless creatures, since I do not have ranged characters to take care of Bats ... let me use infighting to get rid of them

I was surprised on how much my drawing abilities increased with those small changes. Mostly due to runes and freeing up lore resources for Wealth of Lothorien. Stargazer while great in theory was not as useful as now I am a bit short on Spirit resources.

With this deck I tend to play much slower as it is fairly easy to get cards I always stay "one more round" in stage one to get "one more ally" out. On the other hand I feel that my deck is much more resilient on whatever encounter deck can throw at me.

Attempts were fun but fairly uneventful.

Date: 27 Jan 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Aragorn (lore), Frodo (spirit/lore)
Played 4 times, won all of them


With my newly tweaked deck I went for few more plays. All of them went through the same progression: Slow progression through stage one while gathering resources to field as many allies as possible and be prepared for anything that stage 4 will throw at me.

Interesting points:
- In one of the games I had a huge struggle against Namless ones. I killed 3 ancient ones and two regular ones. Two of those were killed using Gandalf. I was able to kill one bat and one regular Namless using infightings (one regular one was very powerful = 7)
- Few times my deck was almost depleted by the end
- I would almost always reset my threat just before getting to stage 4 so bats would not engage me
- Once I've had two heroes shuffled into my deck but was still able to pull the win as I was almost at the end at this point.

[General Thoughts]

Initial

- I like the thematic feel of the river smashing you way down.

- I love the idea of different encounter decks for different stages. BRILLIANT, should be used more often!

- Random stage 4 is fun and brings nice narrative (I am eager to be surprised what else is there as I have not looked at the other ones).

- Since I am playing solo I missed the thing that seems the most exciting about this scenario - splitting the party in stage 4. I think it would work tremendously and seems very thematic. With four I sure that there are interesting decisions on who should join who first.

- I am not a Tolkien buff at all so for me the Namless things felt a bit weird and out of place ... but maybe that is what designers were going for?

- Last stage can be hard and I really was feeling like clawing my way up.

After few plays

I have to say that so far I find my initial comments on the scenario right on the money. One new thing here: Each version of stage 4 brings different challenge which is great as you have to be ready for anything:
- Many encounter cards at once (up to 4)
- Long stage (17 progress)
- Loss of resources
- Discarding your hand.

Final
I stand by all my points I've made before. This is a great scenario and I like many things (thematic feel, random stage 4, 2 separate encounter decks), the drawback for solo players is this one though:
This is second in a row scenario (if not more) that I think is much better multiplayer. I am sure that it is very hard for typical support/fight deck combinations but this sure creates some tense moments and exciting decisions that are missing in pure solo.

As a solo adventure it is fairly easy in my opinion (won 8 out of 10) but still very fun due to new concepts and several ways to approach it.

What are your opinions on this scenario? Is the thematic strangness of nameless creatures bothering you?
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Sat Feb 2, 2013 6:00 am
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A guide for new LOTR:LCG solo players

Wojtek Wojcik
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Welcome
First of all welcome to the game. So what is this guide about? Really its just something that I would have loved to read before diving into this game - how to approach it. I made some sections hidden so you could really concentrate on what you might need and read other stuff only if you find it interesting.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
Intro - know who I am so you could understand how I am writing this.
I will not be reviewing the game. I assume that if you are reading this you already found several of those (if not look here on BGG) and you are wandering on how to approach this "giant of a game".

Just to be brief. I've had almost no LCG/CCG experience I've known the concept, played few games here or there with pre-constructed decks (3x times Magic, 1x Warhammer Invasion). I was intrigued by this kind of games (as I do like card games in general ex. RFTG, Dominion, Settlers Card Games) but quickly realized that if you do not have a friend that is into them as much as you are pretty much collecting cards not playing them. Here the LOTR:LCG comes into the picture.

I was introduced to this game by a friend. I've enjoyed it very much but got it only few months later. Possibility of solo play really made it for me as I realized that this game will not suffer from the syndrome above, I immediately got really hooked and played the game more than 200 times in under 9 months. I am playing game in order it was released and I am slowly catching up although I am still behind the new releases. All things below are based on my approach and things I've learned by trial and error (or maybe read somewhere).


First things first

One thing that is intimidating about this game is the amount of expansions it has. So my first and most important advice is: Forget about them! You do not need them to enjoy the game.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Core set should be enough for you to enjoy the system and deckbuilding enough to warrant expansions. You might be tempted to get the game and few expansions to save on shipping but to tell the truth I would recommend to get the base game only. There is no guarantee that you will love the game as much as I do so do not risk it. It will also make it easier to follow the advice below without being tempted to go ahead to the new stuff without getting full value from the core set.


Here are first steps that I would recommend:

- Watch the tutorial on FFG website (or here LINK) - it shows the basics and is fun/short enough for you to enjoy and give a general sense on how the game plays that will be helpful in next step.

- Read the rules
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Don't be be intimidated by the amount of rule questions that are here in BGG. Rules are written very clearly and although they might seem like a lot they are not much harder than typical semi-complex board game. Most of the rules questions are about some corner cases that you will not encounter for a long time.


- Download (and preferably print out) this (Universal Head THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE CARD GAME Rules Summary & Reference) Rules Summary & Reference. Read through it and now you are ready for your first game.

- Take Leadership pre-constructed deck from the game and prepare Passage through Mirkwood scenario. Play it. Consult the reference or the rules if you encounter any problems. If you do not find answers just make a ruling and continue. No matter if you win or loose play it again. Try to concentrate on turn flow (either use reference or the one in the rules) see if any new questions will come up and deal with them as before.

Second look

Unless you were unlucky you should have won at least one of the games (if not do not worry and play few more times or carry on). Time to enjoy the next steps in your journey.

- Re-read the rules and check if you were playing correctly

- Play Passage through Mirkwood scenario with pre-constructed Spirit, Lore and Tactics sphere decks. Play at least twice with each deck. You should be able to beat the scenario at least once with Spirit and possibly Lore. With Tactics it might not work!

- Watch fantastic video series "Watch it Played" LINK on LOTR:LCG. Presenter goes through Passage scenario, makes several errors on the way but those are corrected.

Fun and Structure

At this point you should have all the basics down so it is time to explore the game further.

- Visit NinjaDorg's scenarios file page (Ninjadorg's LOTR: LCG scenarios) and download his first scenario The Old Forest. I recommend printing it out on a single sheet (you do not need to cut it)

- Play through the above scenario with few of the decks and see if you can beat it (might be easy or hard depending on your deck and luck)

- Download and print out excellent Clarified Turn Sequence (Clarified Turn Sequence and Quick Reference w/ FAQs) reference. Read it carefully.

- Play Passage scenario two more times with your favorite sphere following each step in the Clarified Turn Sequence reference and observing closely when you can and can't play actions and what effect it has on the game.

- Download Unofficial Comprehensive Card List and Unofficial FAQ (Comprehensive Card List and Unofficial FAQ). It should answer most of the question you might have about particular cards.

Deck building

Now we get to the very important part of the game - deck building.

- Take three favorite heroes from two spheres (I recommend that you choose Theodred, Eowyn and some other hero from either Leadership or Spirit). Take all the cards from chosen spheres add 3 Gandalf cards, go through them and put aside around 20 cards that:
You consider too expensive (cost 5 or higher except Gandalf should be a warning sign)
You consider weak (both in stats and ability)
Always take out all the copies of a card that you consider not so great


- Play through Old Forest Scenario few times with this deck. Observe what works and what does not. After each play you should either:
Remove copies of a card that you find unable to play (even if it sounds awesome)
Add copiers of a card that you removed before but now you see usage for (example: you can add more expensive cards if you see a lot of resources on your heroes that you do not use)
Consider switching out one of the starting heroes for a different one form the two spheres.


On your way

That is pretty much all you need me for but before you go your own way let me give you some advice on how to proceed from here:

Forget about the tournament legal deck "rule". Play with 30 or 35 card decks (it makes deck building with core only more interesting, it lowers the difficulty level) until (and if) you buy few expansions.

What to play next
Spoiler (click to reveal)
- Play second scenario from the core set. Be prepared for though time and do it many times. One hint here: keep your starting threat low and adjust your deck often!

- Play through all other NinjaDorg's scenarios. Those are excellent introduction to the game (see the link above)

- Try some other custom quests. Many of them should be fun (you might try Feonix's one). List of custom scenarios with ratings is kept here (The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game - Adventure Database)

- Third scenario of the core set is very hard solo. See for your self why once you have the second scenario (which I consider being one of the best) beten several tiles.


Community
Spoiler (click to reveal)
- Ask rules question if unsure (I recommend BGG forums for LOTR:LCG as best resource, FFG LOTR:LCG forums as a second one). People will answer and help you out but do check out Unofficial Comprehensive Card List and Unofficial FAQ first as it will keep you covered many a times.

- If you feel like it you can read some strategy/deckbuilding articles (look here at BGG for example or check out. I do not recommend reading discussions, session reports on the scenarios that you have not played. I find that feeling of discovering a scenario without prior information tremendously fun. If you played a scenario go ahead and post your thoughts about it. People will jump in most of the time.

- Do not worry that you can't jump into some conversations on-line (as many are about new stuff). There are plenty of people starting from the core set at the similar time as you and more eperienced players are often very patient and even interested in core set discussions.

- Only active podcast (http://cardboardoftherings.com/) is full of spoilers so I only listen to episodes about the adventure packs I've already played but your mileage may vary. I very much recommend now defunct podcast (http://thefellowshipofthecards.com/) that mostly deals with the Tolkien lore in the game.

- Keep a log of your plays - it is fun to look back at that (FFG quest log is ok, BBG record a play functionality is also decent)

- Try to find a friend or two to play it with. The game is even better multiplayer.

- There is a way to play the game on-line. I personally do not do this (as I want to get of the computer in my free time) but you can investigate. You can find video introduction here on BGG in video section.

- Use lotrlcg.com or cardgamedb.com to lookup cards on-line. The second one is tremendous as it has many strategy articles, deckbuilder/deck and many other features. First one is basic and easy to use.

- Do not use decks that you find on-line unless you hate deck building


Expansions
Spoiler (click to reveal)
- Do not buy expansion before you play the base game and custom scenarios many times (personal recommendation at least 40 plays)

- Do not skip expansions if you decide to follow down the rabbit hole. You might be excited about particular part of Middle Earth so you will be tempted to do this but difficulty level of this game rises with each expansion pack so you will be up for frustrating times. Virtually all expansions have at least one good player card and most of the scenarios are very fun.


Thank you for your attention and good luck!

If you found any mistake, have some comments on my recommendations or have your own - please let me know in comments below or in PM.
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Sat Jan 26, 2013 6:00 am
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Long dark - Will it be really that long and that dark?

Wojtek Wojcik
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[Session Report]

Date: 20 Jan 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Aragorn (lore), Frodo (spirit/lore)
Played 10 times - won 9 out of those


Since I played the scenario 10 times in one seating details on particular attempts are a bit hazy so I will only touch on the most memorable moments:
- The one that I lost - The most dangerous card in this encounter set is a location that prevents you from putting progress on it unless you pass an orientation test. In this particular attempt I was very low on cards (spiders!) and didn't even attempt to get rid of it. This meant that I had a huge drag on my questing (-4 at least) and had to use torch often just to avoid total disaster. This combined with 3 huge swings from cave troll (he got nasty shadow effects) that had to be absorbed by Frodo pushed me over 50 (despite that I've already reset my threat with Aragorn). After this attempt I've adjusted my deck by adding more card drawing abilities (wealth of Lorien, Gleowin) for some less useful cards (Protector of Lorien and some healing lore card).
- The one I've almost lost - I was sure that I am location locked but this time I've had enough cards in my hand and was quite lucky with the torch. I was also able to use Riversong combined with Northern Tracker and Twisting Passage is staging to discard nasty cards from the top of the encounter deck. Once I was able to pass the test on Twisting Passage (I've used 5 or so cards) I was in high 40 as far as threat goes (again after already reseting it) but after that I was able to finish the quest.
- After optimizing my deck I was able to win fairly easily and quickly with a consistent results. Most of those attempts were fun despite the fact that I was not particularly threaten by the encounter deck.
- In two of my games I was in serious fighting situation. Almost always Frodo would defend (even twice if equipped with Fast Hitch and boosted by Arwen). I was able to win those fights although I usually has my threat rise quite substantially (Fordo + shadows boosting attack strength).

[General Thoughts]

This was first time ever (since I've decided to play each scenario 10 or more times) to finish one during single long session. As you can gather from this I've really enjoyed my attempts. Here are some random thoughts.
- Orientation test mechanic did work fairly well although was not that threatening in single player mode (few encounter cards in play at the time). I could afford to let the tests fail most of the time as consequences were weak (ex: discard a card, add a card to staging). There were few exceptions:
You need to past the test to get rid of Twisting Passage location which will be a must for most of the decks (unless you can pull enormous will power).
Foul Air can really reduce your party down if you fail the test. Good thing (for my deck) is that you can cancel when raveled effect to ignore it entirely
Goblin Warlord will force you to discard an ally. Can be deadly at the start of the game.

- This scenario forces you to have a good card drawing abilities. Mostly to take care of the above effects. What is fun - spiders put huge drag on your hand forcing you to discard 4 cards!
- Long Dark is fairly easy with one player. Many shadows, encounter cards etc. scale with the numbers of players and tend to be very weak in solo. Also as it is location heavy it is much easier to avoid location lock (especially with the torch).

Overall I did like the quest. It was nice to be able to win fairly easily for a change. This scenario will not be returning to your table very much because of that but this nice casual sort of scenarios that should appear from time to time in adventure packs. It is good occasionally not to worry about every single card in your deck and just go through the adventure and have fun.

What are your opinions on this scenario? Do you like the orientation mechanism? Are my theoretical observations that this is much harder multi-player correct or am I completely wrong here?
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Mon Jan 21, 2013 8:50 am
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