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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Khazad-dum scenario 1 - Into the Pit - Warm welcome in the mines of Moria?

Wojtek Wojcik
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Here is a compilation of my comments on the scenario, note that they were made some time ago and I have not edited them much so they tell a story of how my view point changed (but my current opinion may differ). They are presented chronologically in each section.

[Session Reports]

Date: 29 Oct 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Frodo, Theodred (spirit/leadership)
Played 5 times - Won, lost twice, tweaked my deck and won twice


First play seemed like doomed cause from the start ... on the very first card from encounter deck (sudden pitfall?) I lost Frodo. I decided to carry on just to get a feel for the scenario. It was though but slowly my fellowship grew and despite missing the hero I was making a progress. I was a bit scared when the second scenario card instructed me to look for Patrol Leader but he seemed fairly harmless and the boon of discarding new enemies drawn from the encounter deck solidified this felling. Sure enough it was not so ... his swing killed one of my Northern Trackers (with a little help from shadow card) and my killing attack was canceled by his ability. I calculated my chances and saw that I will not be able to kill him in one go next time around as one of my attackers would have to stand down to defend. Two swings in turn meant two chances that some damage will be be cancelled. Luckily for me I draw Gandalf and with his help I was able to kill the orc (no cancel this time). Last stage surprised me again with no resources generation but Theodred skill helped me to get few crucial cards out and I won. I was about to declare the scenario easy (well wining with only two heroes from the start made me fell confident) when next to plays happened:

First loss was due to the threat dial exploding ... treacheries and enemies kept my team down to only heroes and the amount of damage that had to be converted by Frodo to threat soon enough put me into high 40s. At the same time locations kept piling up (I was unwilling to explore Zigil Shaft using its threat raising ability and unable to overcome it in the staging area) and I made no progress ... 50 was reached soon enough.

Second one was lost by enemies chopping my team into pieces. I told you about the boon of discarding enemies in stage two? Well it turns out that enemies can show up from shadow effects as well - I had 3 goblin swordsman show up this way and this combined with Patrol Leader resistance to damage ...

After those two tries I spotted 2 cards that were littering my deck (song of kings and dunedain mark) so I replaced them with more useful stuff (added 2 more copies of Elfhelm, 3x Zigil Miner and Lorien Guide). This made resource demand of my deck more balanced (more spirit cards since I have two heroes from this sphere) and in the evening I made two more attempts and this time was more successful.

I would call this attempt - slow and steady way through the mines. I was able to menage my threat quite well and cancel some nasty shadow cards/treacheries with hasty stroke/strength of will.

Next one was probably my favorite play of this scenario. I would entitle it: "Everything goes well until ...". It was going extremely well I had ton of resources, quite a number of allies in play. I was about to take down the patrol leader when his attack shadow effect killed two of my heroes (Frodo was discarded as a defender and than Theodred had to die as a result of undefended attack). What was even worse damage from my attack was again canceled by Patrol Leader. I was about to quit ... but for the last time I looked at my hand, the table. I had ton of cards but half of them was unplayable anymore with Theodred gone but I had Gandalf in hand and ton of resources on my last hero (Eowyn had a Steward of Gondor attached). I had last chance ... play Gandalf and instant kill the Leader. It was cancelled of course but this time normal attack went through. Next it was a race to exit (well race up to find the book). Of course enemies started to pop up from the encounter deck and watchful eyes that were placed on Eowyn. Next turn though I was able to complete this very exciting play and congratulate myself on the win and best score despite two dead heroes.

Date: 29 Oct 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Frodo, Theodred (spirit/leadership)
Played 5 times - Won 3 times, lost twice


Last time I went overboard with describing how my plays want so this time I will keep it short.
LOST:
- Thread exploded (although I kept playing and my final threat level would be 48)
- Enemies overwhelmed me. I had 3 goblin swordsmen (their shadow effect is strong) and Patrol leader engaged at one time. At this point it didn't matter that I had 5 or so allies in my fellowship. I made a mistake here of traveling to Khazad Bridge and was unable to explore it next
WON:
I will not comment much here. The deck works quite good although I should consider few more cards that can put progress tokens on locations in the staging area (ex.: replace Zigil Miner with Ridermarch Finest) to be able to move through stage one faster if I do not draw Northern Tracker or Snowburn Scout).

[General Thoughts]

Short thoughts:
- I have a strange felling about this scenario's difficulty. I won it twice despite loosing heroes. I lost it twice despite avoiding the worst treacheries.
- I guess it follows from the fact that in this scenario is very dangerous if you draw too many enemies at the same time. This in turns follows from the shadow effects which are frequent and quite brutal (discard defender) /annoying (cancel damage on this enemy). This makes relatively weak enemies (as Goblin Swordsman) quite powerful and unpredictable at times.
- I want to bash instant kill treacheries (especially sudden pitfall) but due to my experiences I am not ready to do it yet.
- I love some treacheries that force you keep strong guys ready (exhausted hero at the end of combat=another card from the encounter deck, exhaust character and see if he is not strong enough you have to discard him).
All in all I like this scenario even if it is a bit too swingy for my taste.

Here I planned to put my final thoughts on the scenario but it is hard. Why? Because I do not like it so much but I can't seem to pin down why. Maybe bullet list will help:
The Good:
- Excellent and thematic first stage - you need to enter through a gate, visit the first chamber and traverse the bridge.
- Nasty treacheries that you have to take into account when planing your quest phase (ex.: The one that forces you to exhaust a character and by flip of a card check if he dies can be easily avoided by committing all characters but if you get an enemy instead? By a similar token sudden pitfall forces you to send some disposable characters on the quest not to loose your strong quester with same trade off)
The Bad:
- Although the scenario really tries to tell a story of entering the mines, grabbing a goblin and looking for a book for some reason it all feels a bit forcefully put together.
- Nasty, instant kill shadow effects (sudden pitfall, goblin enemies get +3 - they all are, +2 when last player is attacked - I always am solo) ... I can see how to try to deal with nasty treacheries but here there is little you can do against shadow (there is only so many hasty strokes you can draw ... except see final remarks bellow*)
- Stage 3 (and a second one once you get its start under control) are a bit boring to tell the truth. Yeah resource ban at the end seems hard but usualy at this point you do not need much anyway as you racing to the end.

*I wonder if this scenario would play better with lore sphere. I can see several cards that would work great (Denathor, burning brand, Riversong, strider path, forest snare etc.). Especially Denathor's skill could offset some nasty strings of enemies and their deadly shadow effects while spirit would take care of location and questing. Yes I guess it would work better but two of my points of criticism would still stay the same.
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Mon Dec 10, 2012 6:00 am
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Summary of my opinions on Shadow of Mirkwood cycle

Wojtek Wojcik
Poland
Kraków(Cracow)
Malopolska
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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 Hunt for Gollum -
Scenario - 6/10 - Nice thematic introduction to the whole cycle. Not too easy, not hard. One of the few which gives players great impact on encounter deck output.
Hero - Bilbo Baggins - Very nice passive effect even if stats are less then impressive.
Player Cards - Great introductions to the Song cyle (first song and minstrel). First Dunedain card. Start of Eagle cylce for tactics is just ok at this point.

Conflict at the Carrock -
Scenario - 7/10 - Thematic detour seems a bit weak. Scenario is a very challenging one until you figure out how to approach it. After that it feels a bit like one trick pony but still can make you sweat.
Hero - Frodo Baggins - Very strong hero, decent stats and ability to convert damage to threat is very strong for Spirit center decks.
Player Cards - New song, Dunedain Warning and burning brand are worth mentioning. Rest is so so. Rohan and Eagles are still very weak at this point.

A Journey to Rhosghobel -
Scenario - 8/10 - I like it mostly for the fact that most standard decks are not as strong against this one. You need a good splash of Lore to have a decent win ratio.
Hero - Prince Imrahil - Good stats and ability. For some reason though I do not seem to be using him much. He seems better in multiplayer.
Player Cards - Excellent spirit cards (Ancient Mathom and Escort from Edoras). Eagle decks start to take initial shape (also due to Radagast). Lore gets his strongest fighter.

The Hills of Emyn Muil -
Scenario - 3/10 - Fairly weak scenario. Probably easiest solo (location lock is more probable in the multiplayer game). Although we return to looking for Gollum story here is quite weak.
Hero - Brand son of Bain - very weak hero, despite his stats, especially for solo. Although 2 will power is good for tactics his ability then goes to waste.
Player Cards - Continue of the song cycle is always good. Decent Rohan cards and another fighter for Lore. Eagles are getting half decent. Many cards that only make sense in multiplayer.

The Dead Marshes -
Scenario - 7/10 - Search for Gollum finally is back for good. Interesting "keep your eyes" on the price mechanics with escape tests. Fairly easy though.
Hero - Boromir - Another tactics hero. Decent stats and two abilities. One very useful and one very thematic (and life saving at times).
Player Cards - Conclusion of song cycle (two of them). Good mix of cards for all spheres.

Return to Mirkwood -
Scenario - 8/10 - VERY hard solo but avoids typical approach of stalling the game to build your team. Really thematic - feels like a mad escape.
Hero - Dain Ironfoot - Corner stone of dwarven decks. Makes many of KD cycle cards great.
Player Cards - Eagle cycle concluded and decks based on the become playable. Good end of Rohan cycle and very fine cards for Lore.


Overall Opinion
It is a good cycle. There is only one excellent scenario but almost all the rest are good. As far as player cards there are quite a few that are useless (especially solo) but several that are very powerful/useful (songs, Dunedain attachments and others). As far as heroes go three are very good and only one is weak.

As for themed player cards my opinion are as follows:
- Eagle decks are not developed enough in my opinion. You miss some more middle tier allies. I do see them becoming more powerful in the future (Vassal of the Windlord and Winged Guardian seem to be very strong for Heirs of Numenor). As far as events go they are ok.
- Rohan decks seem to look a bit better (at least on paper as I have not tried it much). There is a decent set of allies available and you can even add Rohan trait to other characters. Such deck is oriented towards exploring locations and questing.
- Dunedain attachments are good period.
- Songs are useful especially if you are into tri-sphere decks.

I often see recommendation to new player to skip Shadows of Mirkwood cycle and going straight for Khazda Dum. In my opinion you do miss out going this route.
You will loose:
- Very good heroes.
- Some very strong player cards and your deck building options are limited greatly (no songs).
- Decent scenarios.
You will gain:
+ You play the game closer to current realeses

I have not played the whole Dwarrowdelf cycle yet so look for the comparison in the future.

How about you? What are your feelings on the cycle? Particular scenarios?
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Sat Dec 8, 2012 6:00 am
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Return to Mirkwood - Will you return safely?

Wojtek Wojcik
Poland
Kraków(Cracow)
Malopolska
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I very much like designing games but I think I prefer to play them.
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Metallum ... game I most proud of.
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Microbadge: Terraforming MarsMicrobadge: Metallum fanMicrobadge: Podcast listenerMicrobadge: Plays Games With FamilyMicrobadge: 15 Year Geek Veteran
Here is a compilation of my comments on the scenario, note that they were made some time ago and I have not edited them much so they tell a story of how my view point changed (but my current opinion may differ). They are presented chronologically in each section.

[Session Reports]

Date: 25 Sep 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Frodo, Theodred (spirit/leadership)
Played 5 times - first two losses and then 3 wins


Great experience continues! When I saw a rating difficulty 7 on this scenario I first thought that after great success with The Dead Marches nothing will stop me. I adjusted my deck a bit (to be more universal since I didn't knew what to expect) and prepared the encounter cards. BAAAM second card threat goes up 8 points, turn later great 8 attack spiders engage me ... I am dead before going to stage 3 as threat skyrockets once I need to defend the spiders with Frodo). "Oh no!" - my killer deck defeated so easily? This can't be! Bring it on again! This time I fare much better though the constant threat rise is though. This time I go to the stage three and can't believe my eyes - I am not allowed to play cards! Soon I am swamped with enemies and locations in the staging area ... I am barely keeping up with opposing threat and the progress on the quest is just too slow. The main spider from Passage through Mirkwood appears - threat goes up - enemies go down from staging ... I am dead. WOW! I am desperate at this point ... is this another escape from Dol Guldur experience? Luckily before putting the cards to the box I examine my hand and cards in front of me ... why do I keep so many Dunedain warnings and marks? Those are close to useless. Back to the deck drawing board. Remove those cards and few others, more allies in. Next three tries and all won! Great tense games with tension rising all the way ... well read next time when I will write some more about the quest (spoiler: it is brilliant!!!).

Date: 27 Sep 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Frodo, Theodred (spirit/leadership)
Played 3 times - all wins


RtM become my favorite scenario just beating out The Journey Down the Anduin (which is harder for me so in the long run it might regain its spot as a favorite). So what do I like about it do much:
- Pacing, pacing and once more pacing - This scenario forces you to sprint (not run but sprint) there is no time to wait and build up your "fellowship". Crazy fast threat rise fells like an avalanche running down just at your heels. You are out of breath and still need to accelerate.
- What is even better that you are running towards the most difficult stage (stage 3 - no cards can be played) and here you just wish you have stayed in the previous stage a bit longer to be more prepared but a glance at your threat dial proves that you didn't have time to do that.
- As you can gather from the above the quest feels so thematic - enemies are just behind you, Gollum does his share to slow your progress and puts you in even more danger - you are out of breath from running and still have to face enemies and if Attercop, Attercop appears - your allies will have to stay behind and die just to allow others to escape towards safety.

Date: 30 Sep 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Frodo, Theodred (spirit/leadership)
Played 2 times - 1 loss and 1 win


After my several wins in a row I got cocky. I decided to let two undefended attacks go to Gollum (bringing him down to 1 HP) instead of slowing my progress and sure enough it costed me the game (bats engaged me and killed Gollum with forced effect). This was a reminder that despite my very good deck this scenario is hard and it punishes bad decisions severely. I was more cautious next time and despite though times manged to win my 10th attempt. I still love this scenario but just to try to be objective I will try to point few of its weaker points in this comment:
- Solo vs Muti-player - I am almost exclusively solo player (official rules) and I see that this scenario is easier at some points (stage two has no effect) and harder at other (there is no possibility to "share" the threat that Gollum generates, stage 3 is brutal solo). In general I think it is much harder solo which might make this scenario far less exciting with more players.
- Using "tournament legal deck rules" the treacheries that forces you to discard 10 cards are almost good (give you more options for dwarven tomb). If playing with more optimal deck (say 30 cards) those might be more dangerous.
- As usual I fell that you have to play spirit in solo games of it (threat reduction gives you more time, you need to quest fast and hard, test of will is really really good). This is if you read my comments on regular basis a constant complaint from my part - it might just mean that I am too attached to this sphere, I do not try to beat scenarios with other combinations and so on ... but still if you want consistent wins against this scenario it is almost a must which is disappointing.
- Last step of the scenario seems a bit anticlimactic. Yeah, on paper it looks dangerous - all enemies engage you. In my experience though there are rarely any enemies in the staging area at this point and the step is so short that you finish it in the next round so even if some monsters do appear in next staging step they do not have a chance to attack you as the game is done before that.

[General Thoughts]
I am usually mechanics over theme (but I need both to enjoy a game) person but when both of them come together then there is a great chance for me to find gaming gems. This scenario proved to me LOTR:LCG can raise to that with a right scenario. With the previous one (The Dead Marches) was great in terms of mechanics and though decisions you were forced to make but lacked a bit in the theme. In Return to Mirkwood mechanics are a bit weaker but give you the excellent theme of running away from a pursuit while guarding an unwilling prisoner and in all it succeeded in delivering (not much but still) better gaming experience. For the future I am hoping for both kinds (better mechanics or stronger theme) scenarios though and from time to time this it would be excellent when those two could combine to crate a gem.

DEC 2012 comment:
I've red several comments from solo players are cursing this scenario as too difficult/un-winnable with one player. This was not my experience as I farily early on found a deck that deals with it quite well. I guess it is one of this scenario that needs a specific build and will destroy most of the general purpose decks. I recommend to try to build a deck against this scenario - you will enjoy it greatly.
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Fri Dec 7, 2012 6:00 am
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The Dead Marches - Track or not to track?

Wojtek Wojcik
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Here is a compilation of my comments on the scenario, note that they were made some time ago and I have not edited them much so they tell a story of how my view point changed (but my current opinion may differ). They are presented chronologically in each section.

[Session Reports]
2012-09-16
Heroes(spheres): Eowyn, Frodo, Theodred (Spirit/Leadership)
Played once - won.


I very much like decisions that this quest forces you to make - which characters you will hold back and which will be send to quest. Those though and delicious dilemmas make this scenario great fun as you constantly need to balance the two risks (fail to quest vs fail to prevent from running away) and sometimes the threat deck will add an additional risk in front of you - now you are almost sure that you will fail at something. I praised the mechanic of this quest enough and I definitely recommend it but at the same time I have to say that in my first play those mechanics definitely made the theme take the back seat. I hope that once I play it few more times then the "cat and mouse chase" with Gollum will be more apparent to me.

2012-09-21/22/23
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Frodo, Theodred (spirit/leadership)
Played 9 times and won all of them


This was a nice and pleasant weekend in The Dead Marches. I've spent the most time playing the game since my initial excitement just after getting it and it was really fun. I've played the scenario with the same deck as before twice and found out that two or three cards do not get played so often. I was shocked to discover that Sneak Attack was one of them but after moment of reflection I've swapped it for some more allies. All attempts after that were played with this improved deck. Here are some random thoughts:
- I am still learning how to play my cards well. As an example: at first I was playing unexpected courage on Thedored thinking he will quest (generate a resource) and then attack. Next game I was playing it on Frodo thinking I first need to be able to defend against a monster before I will attack it. Finally after few more games I realized that Eowyn is the best target for unexpected courage - she can both quest and guard/track Gollum at the same time and Frodo and Theodred can both be ready for combat if needed. Now it seems so obvious but I am glad that I am still improving in this game.
- Games with high score were the most exciting ones. My deck was not totally ready for dealing with two (or more) low engagement cost enemies at the very beginning (before fielding tons of allies) and it required clever tactics and hue threat gain at start which made every further step dangerous.
- As I said before playing this scenario is fun because it forces you to make though choices (as you will almost surely fail some escape tests).
- Consistent wins are nice change of pace. In this scenario I got 10/10 win ratio. In other case I thought that win percentage above 60% is great here it was fun hopping for winning all attempts.

[General Thoughts]
This was the first quest that I played without any prior knowledge on what to expect. This is definitely the way to play them as you get surprised by the challenges and you get a fun "I don't know what's coming next" felling. On the other hand I am strangely disappointed that I manged to beat it on first try. It would be so much more exciting to rebuild my deck after initial fail (especially because that I was "flying blind"). I guess my complaint is that I would like the scenarios to force me to rebuild my deck and change my approach every time. I of course understand that some people will try to play through all scenarios with one deck, so maybe this is just an expectations issue but still this is where I stand so far.

After a longer period during which I played the game a bit less I am glad to be back in a full swing. LOTR:LCG is hugely dependent on the quality of scenarios prepared by FFG - boring one can limit your enjoyment and even make you less excited about the game in general and great one ... suffice to say I got my copy of Khazad-dûm today. Of course I understand that one's enjoyment depends on the personal preference and what gets me excited might be most boring to others so FFG is in a difficult spot here but in general as far as I can see they do a fairly good job at "keeping all those balls in the air".
I also would like to stress that part of what keeps me playing the game after so many sessions is the fact that I am still learning it. I am forced to question my choices of the cards (like removing sneak attack) and my tactical strategies of playing cards. This is one of the reasons (next to its expandable nature) that this game has such an amazing re-playability.
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Thu Dec 6, 2012 6:00 am
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The Hills of Emyn Muil - Ready for some deadly sightseeing?

Wojtek Wojcik
Poland
Kraków(Cracow)
Malopolska
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I very much like designing games but I think I prefer to play them.
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Metallum ... game I most proud of.
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Microbadge: Terraforming MarsMicrobadge: Metallum fanMicrobadge: Podcast listenerMicrobadge: Plays Games With FamilyMicrobadge: 15 Year Geek Veteran
Here is a compilation of my comments on the scenario, note that they were made some time ago and I have not edited them much so they tell a story of how my view point changed (but my current opinion may differ). They are presented chronologically in each section.

[Session Reports]
2012-09-01 Played: 2. Spirit/Leadership deck (Eowyn, Frodo, Theodred) - won once, lost once.

Finally I broke a dry spell that kept me away from LOTR:LCG for more then a month (mainly caused by our summer holidays) and went to journey to the hills of Emyn Muil. From various sources (my first play was around the time this expansion was released so I was still listening/reading comments back then) I knew that this scenario is location heavy so I prepared a team/deck ready for it. It worked quite well in my first attempt and I beat the scenario by round 8 (I had 19 VPs on turn 5 and needed 3 more to find the final one). I deemed the quest fairly easy at this point but decided that I want to see some more of it and tried again. It started even better then before but then boom ... around round four I drew an avalanche (Treachery - all characters committed to the quest receive 2 wounds) followed by (as there were no locations in the staging area) by necromancer reach (1 wound to each exhausted character). This killed Eowyn and almost all allies (except Faramir who was waiting to boost will power). I was sure that I am dead at this point but decided to press on. Surely enough next turn proved me right - I had to reveal 3 cards from the encounter deck (second one had surge) revealing two enemies and another Necromancer's Reach - with Theodred dead and two enemies that would destroy my remaining forces fast I concluded the game. I am planing to play the scenario few more times as I haven't seen many cards at all yet. I am also considering swaping Leadership for some healing from Lore as I need more ways than just the Test of Will to counter nasty treacheries or their effects. This quest is not so great but mainly due to the fact that is very similar to Hunt for Gollum (there you were hunting for clues here you are looking for additional victory points).

2012-09-06
Heroes/Spheres: Eowyn, Frodo, Theodred (Spirit/Leadership)
Played: 4 times
Results: 3 won and 1 lost


I decided to play few more times with my already constructed deck just to see how it will do. As expected I did fairly well on most of my attempts although I did loose once and did not menage to beat my score (although each time I was closer to it). At times it was a bit frustrating that I was missing one or two victory points and for several turns I was just waiting for them to show up. As a side note: On Polish LOTR:LCG forum I saw a comment from one of the user claiming that he always play the game while listening to the soundtrack of the Peter Jackson movies. I decided to do the same (I own an audio casette with soundtrack from the first movie ! ) and I have to say it did increase my enjoyment of the game especially when "a danger music" was playing when I was drawing from the encounter deck!

2012-09-09
Heroes/Spheres: Eowyn, Frodo, Dunhere (Mono Spirit)
Played: 4 times
Results: 2 won and 2 lost


After playing 6 times with my Spirit Leadership deck I knew that it would do fairly well against this scenario so I decided to change my deck in order to explore new grounds. Instinct told me that Spirit/Lore combo would do even better here but I saw an opportunity that I did not explore for a long time - playing with a mono sphere deck. In this scenario spirit was an obvious choice so I went with it. I enjoyed this scenario with this deck even more despite the fact that it was less efficient then my previous deck. In fact I saw much more interesting decisions this time around and if fact I could have avoided one of my losses with an optimal play. I enjoyed the first attempt the most when I managed to win despite the fact that Eowyn was killed fairly early on. In another notable game I was overrun by enemies in the staging area (despite the fact that encounter deck in this game is very enemy light).

[General Thoughts]
I am a bit disappointed with this quest and I am bit afraid of the game interest in the long run if this trend continues - mainly due to the fact that puts pressure on you not in some interesting way but using blunt force (it seems that some cards should have written on them - kill your characters unless you play test of will). On the other hand I was quick to write of the A Journey to Rhosgobel so maybe the fault is in my deck design - maybe I should add heroes with more hit points instead of relaying on countering bad draws from encounter deck. This is will be interesting to see. Anyway let me continue with my original thought - I really hope that in subsequent scenarios FFG will find creative ways to make them hard instead of hitting you with harder and harder instant (almost) kill cards as this makes tactical part of the game a bit dull and frustrating. I would much rather see some impending doom slowly approaching and thinking hard on how to avoid it - instead of drawing "BOOM YOU ARE DEAD" cards.

In his comment FFG's forum user richsabre called this scenario the most linear one and that got me thinking about it some more. From what I saw so far from the game I agree totally with his assessment. I would even go so far as to say that this scenario lacks any story arc and or progressions. In other adventure packs when you flip the scenario card you are often faced with a tempo change, need for change of strategy and so on. This gives you the feel that you are indeed on a journey and you arrived at the turning point. In "The Hills of Emyn Muil" you have none of that - you do not get see the story in your actions - you are randomly traveling from one location to the next hoping to visit just enough of them to "win". It is just not that satisfying or interesting as it does not tell a story.

As mentioned before this scenario lacks a lot in terms of telling a story but sometimes the encounter deck will make up for it. Still, I think that designers/developers could have done better with this scenario but it can be engaging with a bit of help from Lady (Un)Luck and the encounter deck. That is why it is good to play each scenario several times even if you don't like it so much on your first tries.
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Wed Dec 5, 2012 6:00 am
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A Journey to Rhosgobel - Healing a wounded eagle? Anyone?

Wojtek Wojcik
Poland
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Malopolska
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Here is a compilation of my comments on the scenario, note that they were made some time ago and I have not edited them much so they tell a story of how my view point changed (but my current opinion may differ). They are presented chronologically in each section.

[Session Reports]
2012-07-12 Played : 2 Lore/Leadership deck led by Bilbo, Beravor and Gloin

I've had a lot of hopes for this scenario. I was looking forward to finally completely changing my deck in order to heal the eagle and for the first time I was disappointed in the scenario. Most of the lore healing cards can not be used to help the eagle, you need a decent questing power as your patient is receiving wounds very fast ... and you need ton of luck to find "the cure". After my two plays I was about to say that my previous deck would deal with this scenario better than the new one despite the lack of healing cards. Luckily after some careful consideration I am convinced that I need lore to win this scenario with a decent regularity.

2012-07-18 Played: 4 Win twice lost twice. Lore/Spirit deck led by Denethor, Glorfindel and Eowyn

After my initial disappointment with the quest I decided to change my heroes, deck and strategy. I decided to try to complete the quest as fast as possible hoping to pickup just enough (two) good cards from my hands (Lore of Imladris) or from encounter deck (Athelas). I decided to exchange heroes with card drawing capabilities (Bilbo, Berevor) for cards providing it (Lorien's Wealth, Ancient Mathom + Erebor Hammersmith, Gleowine). Now my heroes had better stats and other useful abilities (especially Denethor's encounter deck control was useful at the beginning). I liked the quest much better this time as
- I discovered that lore is an interesting (and powerful) sphere
- Without leadership (and its resource generation abilities) choices of which cards to play are more interesting
- Same thing with the increased number of cards in hand (due to card drawing abilities)

2012-07-23 Played:5 Win three times lost twice. Lore/Spirit deck led by Denethor, Glorfindel and Eowyn

Through out my plays I adjusted the deck a bit (added one lore ranged character as I was plagued with bats and crows in one of the games and added Hasty Stroke as shadow effects in this scenario tend to be brutal - those two replaced some rarely used cards). In one of the attempts I decided to try to finish step one in one turn but the actual cost of this move (or its risk in general) was to high and I finally failed. Out of all games I mostly enjoyed the one in which I got highest score (but still managed to win) - it was exciting battle on the verge of loosing (I actually lost Glorfindel) with some creative plays and risky maneuvers.

[General Thoughts]
I am starting to see weakness in the card pool/scenario design of this game. Namely Spirit sphere seams to be almost a must have in solo plays. I would like to see other spheres becoming more appealing (don't even get me started on Tactics and solo) or scenarios that require you to use strengths of other spheres. This is why I think Journey to Rhosgobel was a disappointment as in my mind it was promising just that and delivered it only partially. Anyway I will still play this scenario few times before writing it off.

I like how the change of spheres, changes the way the game plays. Although I still think that this scenario is not perfect for forcing you into different path/play style (as it seems that again you are forced into choosing Spirit) it is interesting change from other scenarios.

NOTE: At this point I mostly found the format for my play comments and I think it will make those post also more readable.
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Tue Dec 4, 2012 6:00 am
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Conflict at the Carrock - you thought that one troll was hard?

Wojtek Wojcik
Poland
Kraków(Cracow)
Malopolska
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I very much like designing games but I think I prefer to play them.
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Metallum ... game I most proud of.
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Microbadge: Terraforming MarsMicrobadge: Metallum fanMicrobadge: Podcast listenerMicrobadge: Plays Games With FamilyMicrobadge: 15 Year Geek Veteran
Here is a compilation of my comments on the scenario, note that they were made some time ago and I have not edited them much so they tell a story of how my view point changed (but my current opinion may differ). They are presented chronologically in each section.

[Session Reports]
2012-07-01 Played: 3. Spirit/leadership deck led by Eowyn, Dunhere and Theodred. Won three times.
I was able to defeat Conflict at the Carrock three times in the row using my battle tested deck. At first I was a bit disappointed that I did not have to rebuild my deck times and times again before succeeding with the scenario. Now that I had some time to reflect on it all three tries required very careful play and the encounter deck did put a lot of pressure on me (be it in the danger that mass attack of trolls or enormous threat that accumulated in the staging area). This is my second favorite scenario (just bellow Journey down the Anduin) now and I hope to replay it few more times although I can see it would be much harder without any of the used spheres - spirit (threat reduction, questing) and leadership (allies, resource type)

2012-07-04 Played: 3 Eowyn. Dunhere, Theodred spirit/leadership deck
I am glad that I decided to replay CatC again after my 3 successful runs against it last time. This time the scenario bared its fangs against me and showed me what it can do. First started in a pretty standard way I fielded tons of allies and was slowing down my progress on the quest as much as possible but there was one thing different - I could not draw any threat reduction cards (despite the fact that I managed to draw 4 or 6 additional cards due to valiant sacrifices). Also the threat deck attacked me in a sneaky way accelerating threat increase in few ways. Then it suddenly allowed me to go to the second stage (to tell the truth I was risking it before I was afraid of additional threat increase if I quested with not enough). Then the trolls came down. I actually would succeeded defending and slaying them in 3 rounds or so (I had so many allies after all that I was not scared of loosing some of them) ... but there is one trick to the trolls attacking all at once - your threat goes up whopping 12 points. This was the end for my party.

Win was not much different then before.

Third attempt was interesting again as this time encounter deck managed to kill me (not me not drawing right cards as in the first case). Dunhere was sacked on first turn, next the standard troll came up. Those two things combined meant that I was behind in resource generation. I was not able to field enough allies as I had to use resources on threat reduction. When I was finally tricked into the second stage I had only few guys on my side and the regular troll still engaged. I killed it with sneak attacking Gandalf but had to engage another troll (otherwise I would have to quest with all team just to stay equal with staging area) but this still left me with no force to kill buffed up troll and not enough quest power to take care of the Carrock. I gave up when left with two enemies (troll and snake) engaged threat at 33 and no allies (Dunhere was still sacked). FUN TIMES!


[General Thoughts]
Unfortunately I allowed guys from the Cardboard of the Rings podcast to spoil the scenarios for me (I stated to listen just when I got the game). Despite the fact that I enjoyed listening to it I decided against doing that in order to explore scenarios on my own. This seems to be a huge problem with discussions on the game. Many of the scenarios relay on surprise factor and if it gets spoiled you loose two or three plays before gaining experience required to rebuild your deck and those first games might be really really fun as you tweak and re-tweak your deck.
One thing that starts to annoy me are difficulty levels of the scenarios. Those are really off as far as solo plays goes. How can be Escape from Dul Guldur that is famous for being almost un-beatable solo be on the same difficulty level as Conflict at the Carrock that I manged to best with my (strong but still) regular deck?

Nov 2012: As you can see from my second session report ... I still had problems with the scenario after that initial comment and generally rate it quite favorably
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Mon Dec 3, 2012 6:00 am
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Hunt for Gollum - can we find a great scenario here?

Wojtek Wojcik
Poland
Kraków(Cracow)
Malopolska
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I very much like designing games but I think I prefer to play them.
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Metallum ... game I most proud of.
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Microbadge: Terraforming MarsMicrobadge: Metallum fanMicrobadge: Podcast listenerMicrobadge: Plays Games With FamilyMicrobadge: 15 Year Geek Veteran
Here is a compilation of my comments on the scenario, note that they were made some time ago and I have not edited them much so they tell a story of how my view point changed (but my current opinion may differ). They are presented chronologically in each section.

[Session Reports]
- Hunt for Gollum is an interesting scenario with a distinct flavor then the ones found in core set. Great addition to the game.
- This scenario seems to scale best from the ones that I tried. It will be equally hard for different number of players (note: this is based on my feel as I only tried it solo)
- I like the flow of the scenario it is paced quite well.

[General Thoughts]
- This time I discovered that at times it is hard to keep all the rules/effects straight (your own cards, staging area, quest cards) - this affects mostly solo players. Despite the fact I tried to concentrate on all those thighs I am sure missed one or two effects.

- I have not tried the players cards from Hunt for Gollum but based on the scenario alone I am recommending it to all players.

- Using cards from two core sets gives your ("tournament legal") deck a huge boost.

Nov 2012 comment: Ultimately it seems that scenario is forgettable. I do not feel any urge to return to it after playing so many others. I did liked to read my comments from the past though at it seems that at the time it was a fun one so I would still recommend it if you like to play in order of release.
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Sun Dec 2, 2012 6:00 am
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NinjaDorg's Scenarios - from a golden age of custom quests.

Wojtek Wojcik
Poland
Kraków(Cracow)
Malopolska
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I very much like designing games but I think I prefer to play them.
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Here is a compilation of my comments on the scenario, note that they were made some time ago and I have not edited them much so they tell a story of how my view point changed (but my current opinion may differ). They are presented chronologically in each section.

[Session Reports]
NinjaDorg's Scenario 1 - The Old Forest
NinjaDorg's Scenario 2 - The Lost Road
NinjaDorg's Scenario 3 - Forgotten Ruins
NinjaDorg's Scenario 4 - The Elven Assembly
NinjaDorg's Scenario 5 - Ungoliant's Lair
NinjaDorg's Scenario 6 - Branching Paths

Scenario 1 - Tactics/Spirit deck - As far as I remember it seems to be similar to Forgotten Ruins in terms on how difficult enemies come out etc.

Scenario 2 - Glorfindel (mono lore deck) - nice idea with a single hero. Fun and can be hard.

Pacing of Forgotten Ruins is just ideal for new players, it gives you time to prepare before attacking you hard (with Spawn and later with Nazgul), it teaches you to time completing the stages right, shows importance of allies and lower threat. I consider it to be easier then Journey down the Anduin and would recommend it for all players that finished Passage through Mirkwood.

The Elven Assembly was very easy to beat and never posed a real threat (although I was fairly lucky with my draws of the Orks that happen few times in the quest).

Ungoliant's Lair - This is what I call a one trick pony scenarios. There is a certain mechanic/restriction built to the scenario and if you are surprised by it on first try it is likely that you will loose. Once you are familiar with it then it is much easier to succeed and scenario becomes much easier.

Branching Paths - explores the concept that I find very interesting namely that your choices at the end of the scenario impact what stage you will face next. This particular quest did not fully explore the potential of this approach (as choices were quite easy) but showed that it can be done and can be very interesting.


[General Thoughts]
I played two previous custom scenarios by NinjaDorg's some time ago and I liked them quite a bit. Now I am ready to form an initial opinion on the whole series (I am still planing on trying the following scenarios as well to see how they differ). This series of scenarios should be recommended to all new players (some of them even before Passage through Mirkwood), I really think that will teach important game concepts without tossing new players into the deep water right away (I am looking at you Journey down the Anduin). There is a drawback to this namely NinjaDorg's scenarios get much easier with increased player card pool much faster then the original ones that still propose a decent challenge.

Again I want to reiterate that FFGs scenarios seem to handle repeat plays much better then the custom ones while the latter are much better suited for new players. I love the fact that people do create those as it greatly increases longevity of the game. Kudos to all people that develop them.

Nov 2012: I have not tried other custom scenarios but I am glad to see that people still develop them. It is great to know that Feonix (who created few respected ones) got a job at FFG to work on LOTR:LCG full time. Once I do catch up with current releases I might try few more custom scenarios.
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Sat Dec 1, 2012 6:00 am
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Core set - did FFG did it right?

Wojtek Wojcik
Poland
Kraków(Cracow)
Malopolska
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I very much like designing games but I think I prefer to play them.
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Metallum ... game I most proud of.
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NOTE: This is new (NOV 2012) content written for this blog.

Can this be considered a standalone product?

This is one of the questions that bug me from the beginning of my adventure with LOTR:LCG. At first glance it looks good: you get +200 cards, ton of tokens. Yeah you do get a card game for a price of board game but this nothing new in todays market and in fact looking at the variety of cards you get (+100 different cards) you are in for a bargain.

Second glance is far less optimistic: you get only three scenarios (and really only two if you play solo as we all know what Escape from Dul Guldur does to solo players) in the box and since the game is scenario oriented the question about replayability pops up right away. More or less at the some time you realize that if you want to play the game adhering to all intended rules ("tournament" legal deck with up to 3 copies of each card) you might have to buy two additional copies of the core set.

So what FFG could do to mitigate those negative observations?
1. Provide players with official print and play scenarios on their website. Look at all the custom scenarios our fellow players were able to create using only cards from the core set, I am sure that FFG could have added at least three scenarios of their own.
2. Second issue is more complex. On one hand we call for standalone product - hence we need variety of cards (and decent price) on the other hand we want all the cards in 3 copies. FFG faced this problem and decided to go more toward standalone product. For us, dedicated players, we are left with a dilemma - do we really need the missing cards? Most of us would gladly pay for an upgrade/collector pack but FFG apparently think that would loose money on it.

In my opinion in the end it is almost a standalone product - you can get a lot of plays from it (+40 in my case). You can do a decent deck building with it (if you forget about the "tournament legal" decks) and get a lot of fun trying to combine the spheres. But those two issues were not/could not be addressed and hence the "almost".

What do you think about the scenarios in the core?

Passage through Mirkwood - This scenario had to be there. You need to introduce players to the game with a relative ease. Yeah it it might have been a bit easier on solo players but maybe it is just fine (additional challenge might be healthy solo).

Journey down the Anduin - I just love it. It is so much harder than the previous one. Pre constructed decks do fail most of the time here (although with 2 players this is doable). I love its pacing, strong start, though middle and grand finale. I see my self returning to it several times. One of my top 3 scenarios so far.

Escape from Dul Guldur - Here I am on the fence. Did FFG made it so difficult on purpose to keep players coming back? Or they didn't test it solo? Either way for me as a solo player I can't decide: it is frustrating like nothing else in this game but at the same it feels like holy grail quest that I am hoping to find (i.e. be able to beat) one day.

Do player cards from core age well?

Short answer is yes. Many of them still form a corner stones of good decks. I would even say that newer cards are on average much weaker than many of the original ones.
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Thu Nov 29, 2012 6:00 pm
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