Adventures in LCG - LOTR

Experiments in LCG gaming from a Co-operative game fan and recovering MtG-holic.

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Reviewing the Game

Dev Sodagar
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As you may recall from my earlier posts, I was rushing to work through as many of the adventures as I possibly could back when I returned to the UK with Mr G. The thing was it all turned into a bit of a blurred rush and missed the real story and Nightmare versions (for the ones that I have).

To this end I have decided to go back and start playing through the games from the beginning again. This time, I am looking to play through the basic version of the game. Of course, being me there is a whole decision tree involved:



I have been on this mission for some time now, playing a mix of decks, single/double fisting as the mood takes me. The progress has been slow however and at the time of writing, I have only made it as far as The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game – Conflict at the Carrock. The intention is to eventually catch up with the latest adventure packs (a feat that should become easier as I no longer intend to purchase Nightmare Mode versions).

I will be writing about each of the Adventures as I progress through this series, in much the same way as I had started to with the reviews for the adventures previously featured in this blog.
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Mon Sep 28, 2015 11:15 pm
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Solitaire Variants Round Up

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I originally got this game in large part to be able to play solitaire and have expressed in previous blogs some disappointment at how poorly the game scales for one. I decided to investigate an array of variants and am writing my thoughts on these variants here. For testing purposes I have used Journey along the Anduin. I know that this is not a particularly difficult quest but it is still one I often fail solo and nearly never fail with a partner. In addition to this, the quest stages nicely split out combat and questing to test the game for relative merits.


Ranged / Sentinel
There are a whole host of variants that rewrite rules for Sentinel & Ranged.

Solution for Solo decks "Ranged" and "Sentinel"
Splitting attack and defense for ranged and sentinel respectively. This is an interesting proposition however I am not convinced of the application.

Solo Balance Mod -- feedback welcome
This thread includes other rules but suggest Ranged can attack first and Sentinel is able to spend a resource to defend without exhausting. These are interesting ideas however I don't think they are really balanced quite right, they do make things a lot easier and I am inclined to suggest other options work better.
The other rules suggested focus on specific quests, I will ignore these as I am really looking for a solution that will scale to any quest.

Variant for Solo play
This thread suggests Ranged allows attacking monsters in the staging area (much like Dunhere's ability). This seems like a promising option that carries the theme as well as seeming reasonable. The sentinel seems less well though out, the ability to discard the first card drawn if it is an enemy. This seems far too powerful, I will test it but I suspect it will eliminate much of the combat from the game. The thread also suggests other ideas for using sentinels either as additional defenders as suggested elsewhere or else as being able to commit after revealing shadow cards.

CONCLUSION
I tend to think of Ranged as a more effective skill than Sentinel (the cost difference between Dunedain Cache and Dunedain Mark seems to support this). However in my testing I was finding the opposite, the only realistic Ranged weapon is nothing like as powerful as any of the Sentinel alternatives I encountered.
I used a different deck for these tests a lore / leadership deck with plenty of Dunedain, a touch of Haldir and some Faramir to really take advantage of the Ranged / Sentinel feats.

Ranged:
Splitting Attack - Being able to split attacks is a little too powerful in my mind to equate to normal ranged power. You only really need one to have the skill to be able to have a huge impact. It just allows a chunk of balancing.
1 Damage in Staging - This seems to be a good equivalent to throwing an attack across to another player. It's only occasionally useful but when you do use it - it can make a real difference.
Normal Attack to Staging - WAY too powerful.

Sentinel:
Splitting Defense - Much like splitting attack only more so, I found this made things too easy and didn't really reflect the limited use case of sentinel in the multiplayer game.
Defend without exhausting for 1 resource - This comes much closer to reflecting the limited use of sentinel. The resource has to be from the defending hero for this to be right.


4 Heroes

My first thought when looking into ways to make solo play just a little easier was to add a 4th Hero. Of course it turns out that this is a major way that others use as well. What surprised me is the array of solutions that people have found that use this. I am listing the ones I have found in time order starting with the oldest thread first:

Adding a 4th hero for solo play? & Solo Play with 4 Heroes?
These are fairly introductory threads that suggests using a forth hero. The opinions on it are mixed and the suggestion is pretty basic.

4 Hero solo variant idea.
This thread provides some interesting discussion on how to handle encounters and threat for 4 heroes. I will be exploring these options such as how many encounter cards to draw, how to calculate threat to start and what max threat to use.

A proposed solution to scaling issues in solo play.
Introduces an alternate way of adding a forth hero - using an ally (non-Gandalf) and possibly adding threat to account for it in some way such as casting cost. This will be an interesting idea to test.

Solo Play Variant that brought me to the game (zodmaniac´s way; )
Zodmaniac has an interesting layout: Using one hero and deck from each sphere, each deck contains all the cards of that sphere but only one copy of each. This eliminates the deck building aspect that Zodmaniac is not a fan of.

CONCLUSION
Using a normal Hero - I played with my normal deck however adding in Legolas as the fourth hero. This changes the feel of the game a lot. Not adding the lowest threat makes the game way too easy, adding the full threat quickly pushes the game to an unreasonable starting point. This is particularly apparent in Journey down the Anduin where you are suddenly faced with a Troll in the first turn and very little chance of surviving with all your characters or preparing a decent response. I feel like adding a fourth hero really is too drastic a change in game play and although seems an obvious balance mechanic, it is not an easy one to implement.
Using an ally - This is an interesting option I feel. I played this Eagles of the Misty Mountains as my starting Ally. It certainly made the starting Hill Troll a little less daunting however throughout the game I was plauged by bad luck as I was confronted with some of the hardest cards in the deck. I feel like this on it's own may not be enough to redress the balance of the game but it certainly helps.
Zodmaniac - I have only played this variant once (Journey down the Anduin) but it eliminates too many things that I enjoy in the game and generally does seem to make the game a little too easy for my tastes but if you are not into deck building, this variant may be an option.


Expanded Solo Variant v0.8
This is a pretty comprehensive change to gameplay. It's also discussed in:
Expanded solo variant is much more fun!
Provides some balancing ideas for it. The variant is quite complicated and although the variant strips some of the admin from dual fisting, it really doesn't make things overall easier for the player.


Other

Solo Deck-Building with 1 Core Set: 30-card decks
Suggests simply reducing the deck to 30 cards to increase control over what is drawn. The motivation used in the thread is guided by

My solo variants
A collection of small tweaks that can be chosen to adjust the difficulty. I love that this lays out a collection of simple rules and you can tailor your own difficulty in the way you use them.

"The Power of Choice" Solo Player Variants
This thread proposes a minor tweak - control of your starting hand to varying degrees. This is genius, it does

Fellowship rules -- A way for solo players to play 6 heroes
Dual fisting (playing as if you were two players) is an obvious way of playing solitaire, however it results in a lot of admin and maintenance and results in feeling more like book balancing than an adventure through unknown lands. This thread (and the linked rules [filepage=79104]file[/filepage]) offers a tweak that reduces this somewhat whilst still conveying most of the features of 2-player. I still find it is a little too heavy on the admin (with two threat counters), but it may suit some.

Ideas to make solo a hair easier.
This thread discusses an array of possible changes to make the game a bit easier. In summary (excluding ones named elsewhere in this post):
Smaller Deck
No Shadow cards (rulebook page 27)
Player Attacks first the optional engage (or +1/+1 optional engage)
Heroes start with attachments

CONCLUSION
Dual Fisting - I really REALLY don't enjoy playing this way. I find it very admin-y and not at all fun.
Dual Fisting variant - Still feels too admin-y.
Controlling Starting hand - I think using Journey along the Anduin is not a great test of this particular mod as it has such a specific starting hurdle and certainly when I played it nullified the shock of the starting Hill Troll. I think also this mod is highly dependent on whether you have played the quest before. Despite this I still think this option has some merit, especially if you have a couple of combos that really make the game easier. Of course this, like ignoring shadows, heavily impact the 'random' aspect of the game, making it much more predictable and using certain combinations - potentially waaay too powerful. I think I may try this one a few more times with other scenarios.
Smaller Deck - This is a viable option for people who are happy to play this way. It certainly made the starting games (mono-30 card decks) a lot easier to play. Now that there are a decent number of expansions out however I like to have a little more variety in my deck and doing this by only have one or two copies of cards I'd normally have three of seems to undermine the point of a smaller deck. In longer games it can also cause problems should you run out of draw although I have never encountered this.
No Shadow cards (rulebook page 27) - This certainly makes the game more controllable, and as I have the first edition of the rules. When I was first starting out in easy mode, this is how I played. Coming back to this play style however I find that it results in a very mathematical 'game-y' solution. You are drawing one card each staging and know exactly what will happen with the monsters... this isn't really the solution I want.
Player Attacks first the optional engage - This is just way too powerful.
+1/+1 against optional engage - A lot closer to reasonable, this was a huge boon against the Hill Troll but made little difference for most of the enemies. I think this is one that does a good job to help out more against tougher encounters.
Heroes start with attachments - This is somewhat like adding an ally but I feel that it is a little too powerful (particularly with the combinations that I use) However it is certainly an option if you play a deck that is light on Allies.
Each round gain 2 Resource per Hero - This is way too powerful. I rebuilt my deck with some really expensive cards and had no trouble getting them out making things far too easy.
Cannot duplicate Locations in staging area - I feel that this is a little niche and random. Thematically it makes sense - you are unlikely to revisit a location in most journeys and having played a game where Gladden Fields came out twice in succession I can certainly see the value of this variant however I feel that it doesn't really adjust the difficulty for solo games.
2 players when looking at your Deck, but 1 for Encounter Deck - This is too niche I think to really be of value although this is in part because I don't play this sort of deck.
Gain 2 cards per Turn - I liked this variant. It is possibly a little too powerful but as most of my cards are quite low cost this tends to ensure I always have something in my hand.
FFG Easy Mode - This certainly works for Journey along the Anduin, I'd like to try it with more Adventures before coming down with a decision however.


Default Deck Used
Unless otherwise stated this is the deck that I have used. Nothing special but a solid set of good cards, limited combo-ing aside from Dwarvish focus.

Hero (3) -
Dwalin KD 1
Gimli Core 1
Eowyn Core 1

Ally (21) -
Eagles of the Misty Mountains RtM 3
Vassal of the Windlord TDM 3
Horseback Archer Core 3
Veteran Axehand Core 3
Gandalf Core 3
Lorien Guide Core 3
Northern Tracker Core 3

Attachment (20) -
Unexpected Courage Core 2
Boots from Erebor KD 3
Ancient Mathom AJtR 3
Blade of Gondolin Core 3
Song of Battle TDM 3
Dwarrowdelf Axe KD 3
The Favor of the Lady Core 3

Event (9) -
Khazad! Khazad! KD 3
Untroubled by Darkness KD 3
The Galadhrim's Greeting Core 3


Overall:
Well where does all this leave us? How would I play solitaire? To be brutally honest, most of the time I still wouldn't. However... If I were to play solitaire I would use the following set up:
- Start with one ally
- Ranged does 1 damage to one enemy in staging
- Sentinel allows one resource from that hero to defend without exhausting

Nothing to complex, but gives just enough of a boost to redress some of the difficulties of solo play. I would also suggest playing easy modes of Adventures if the above is still not quite enough.
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Sun Mar 9, 2014 12:40 pm
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Other LotR Content

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Back when I first started, GeckoTH kindly commented, highlighting a few extra resources that I should check out... and I did, but many of them were spoiler heavy and didn't have a lot of meaning for someone so new to the game. At this point I have completed the first cycle and thought I would revisit some of these and add a few of my own.

Progression Series

First time around, I looked at Watch It Played, a series of videos done by Rodney. Since then I have become an increasingly big fan of the Cardboard of the Rings podcast and their progression series provides a video equivalent to what I am attempting at home. Playing through of every adventure using only the cards that are available upto that point in the series. The Cardboard of the Rings guys provide some great, often off topic info and opinions of the game and this series is a great watch for folks interested in watching the game being played.



Tales from the Cards
Although I didn't mention this site previously, I had checked it out. The reason I didn't mention it initially is that it seemed a little spoiler-ific and being very conscious of exposing myself to spoilers before really getting to grips with LotR:LCG. I still feel this way so I will wait for a few plays before digging into this site.

LotR LCG Database
An alternative to the CardGamesDB site reviewed below, this is my favorite card look up site for LotR. Simple and easy to navigate, it is well maintained and clear.

CardGameDB
This site was famously acquired by Fantasy Flight last year giving it legitimacy that is lacking on lotrlcg. Unfortunately much of the site seems rather poorly ordered and maintained - especially when compared to some of FFG's other properties. It can be a useful resource but I wouldn't call it a must and don't often go there myself.

Quest Log
Quest Log is a great idea... absolutely fantastic idea... completely ruined by poor execution. I have a hell of a time logging in, play logs don't record enough data for my tastes. The fact there is no integration with the CardGamesDB is frankly baffling, it would be fantastic to have a tool to cross reference deck constructions against game performance and seeing as both of these tools are at FFG's disposal, the lack of functionality is frustrating. I will stick to logging games in BGG until something better comes along.

Beorn's Path
This series provides a great introduction with some good ideas on how to move from the starting decks onto full custom decks. The advice is a little to explicit for my tastes, I prefer to discover things on my own. I will check it out once I am a bit further down the path.

Zwerg recommended I check out another blog:


Master of Lore
This is now one of my favorite blogs about anything (ranking alongside What If). I look forward to every post and although they can be few and far between, they are always worth the wait. If you are more of a thematic player, or are interested in learning a bit more about the universe then this blog is a must.
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Thu Feb 13, 2014 4:22 pm
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Lord of the Rings: The Hills of Emyn Muil - A Raggy Review

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I have done several Raggy Reviews in the past and this one will be using the same structure.

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Fri Jan 17, 2014 8:34 pm
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Lord of the Rings: A Journey to Rhosgobel - A Raggy Review

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I have done several Raggy Reviews in the past and this one will be using the same structure.

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This has to be my favorite Adventure Pack so far. All the reasons why are in the full review so check it out!
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Sat Jan 11, 2014 9:26 pm
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NOT a review this time!

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The last couple of blog posts have been rather bland redirects to reviews and the blogs before that have been promises of blogs to come making this a rather boring blog to read of late. I hope to address some of that in this post. For those that have been enjoying the reviews, I will be returning to them shortly - I have another 5 almost ready to go so they will be getting posted over the coming weeks.

This time I wanted to talk a little about a topic I have touched on before...



Solitaire Play
Solitaire Play was a big reason for me getting into LOTR: LCG to begin with. I live alone and only get to game with others once or twice a week. I had hoped to find a game I enjoyed playing on my own (a rather small subset of games that previously consisted of... 1 game: Arkham Horror).



The thing about Arkham Horror, as you are all no doubt aware, is that it is LONG... and much as I enjoy it, I am never able to get a full game out in a single sitting. Leaving the game out and set up is an option but realistically just a recipe for disaster.

Why did I think that LOTR would make a good Solitaire Game? Well it's co-operative so there is no need to change the game to insert some kind of AI (think Race for the Galaxy's solo play), the game is clearly highly narrative (as is Arkham Horror) and of course it is a short game. I have long been in love with the world of Middle Earth and whilst I have tended to struggle with the games set in the world, I am a fan of both the movies and books so hadn't given up all hope of a LotR game I'd really enjoy.

As you will have seen in my previous blog posts, I enjoy this game a great deal as a two player game (I would like to try with more than two sometime but not managed it yet). So why is it that a game that I enjoy so much two player is such a disappointment solitaire? I have felt, ever since progressing beyond the first two adventures, that the game simply doesn't scale well for single player. I also often feel that the mechanics can often obscure the theme and story that I want to be the focus of the game if I am to enjoy it solitaire.

So scaling is an issue in this game (at least in my opinion). The reason for this is two-fold. Firstly and most importantly, the game does very little to adjust the difficulty to account for the number of players. A great example of this in practice is Escape from Dol Guldur where on Hero is captured... irrespective of how many players. This of course makes perfect sense narratively however mechanically there are real problems with this. Taking out 33% of the heroes in a game is a horrific penalty and whilst 17% for a 2 player game doesn't seem like a lot less, there is a huge difference to the feel. Secondly there is a lot of cards that play off of the interaction with other players. This is only natural and a great strength of this as a Co-Operative Living Card Game, however it does eliminate a lot of options when building decks for solitaire.

So what options are there? Well the obvious solution is to double fist (play a two player game on your own - two sets of heroes, two decks, and of course double the administration). I have attempted this and whilst it fixes the scaling issues it does distort a few things. Obviously you are able to see both hands of cards so the 'hidden information' component of the game is eliminated additionally as I said above - you are doubling the administration and whilst this may not seem like a big point I find that it is really the biggest detractor as that bit of additional admin really throws you out of the story and leaves you focusing on the mechanics. I end up trying to rush the admin so I can actually play the game and this results in me 'gaming' instead of playing meaning I am thinking of it as a mechanical exercise, totally loosing the story and the feel of the adventure.

This is all heavily negative but it shouldn't be misconstrued, I do really love this game (as the fact I have a blog about it should testify!) however it didn't meet my every hope and that's a shame. I have avoided speculating on solutions in too much detail as I think realistically there is a lot that would need to change to make this a balanced solo experience. I have some ideas and I may write a follow up post discussing them (along with any I can shamelessly abduct from other gamers!).
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Wed Jan 8, 2014 8:35 pm
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Lord of the Rings: Conflict at the Carrock - A Raggy Review

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I have done several Raggy Reviews in the past and this one will be using the same structure.

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Sun Dec 29, 2013 7:44 pm
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Lord of the Rings: The Hunt for Gollum - A Raggy Review

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I have done several Raggy Reviews in the past and this one will be using the same structure.

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Sun Dec 22, 2013 11:37 pm
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Back once again with the ill behavior!

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Well folks,

It has been a while since I last posted on here, but it's all been for a good cause as Mr G and myself have been getting many games of LotR played and stocking up on material with which I can update this blog!

Now that the festive season is well and truly upon us, I am finished with work and ready to write up a few of my experiences, a bunch of reviews and even a session report or two! I'll be talking about the evolution of our decks and more! So stay tuned for a blizzard of blog posts in the coming couple of weeks!

For those of you that are curious exactly what I will be posting about... Mr G and myself have now played through the full Shadows of Mirkwood cycle and also The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game – Khazad-dûm so my reviews of these will all go up. More exciting to some of you will be the fact that we have also played the Passage through Mirkwood Nightmare Deck and will give some of my (and relay some of Mr G's) thoughts on amping up the difficulty!

So stay tuned! This blog may have been a little quiet of late but never fear, we're still here!
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Fri Dec 20, 2013 9:39 pm
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Bring on other players

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Before we get into the meat of today's article, I think I should talk about the blog. I am loving writing this blog however since getting back to the UK it is clear that a weekly schedule is simply not realistic. I am instead going to aim for a post at least once a month and if possible two/month. I have several blog posts that are in draft mode and assuming I can get enough games played, I should be able to manage this schedule.

So far I have been playing this game solitaire and much as I have enjoyed it, gaming is always more fun with others. And I got to a stage where I was torn between forging on with the solo play and roping in some schmucks to join my questing. Of course I could have 'double fisted' but really this is not a great solution and ends up confusing me and being a pretty unsatisfying experience in general. Originally I had bought this game to play with a particular friend but it seems that wasn't meant to be. Fortunately for me I have found another mark to take on the role of player 2:

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At this point I think I should take a step back and discuss why it is that I am so desperate to to find someone else to play with. First and foremost, I find board gaming (and card gaming) a social activity. I enjoy the discussion and table talk of gaming as much as the strategizing. The second, and less positive reason for wanting to play with another is simply that some of the missions seem nigh on impossible solo. A prime example is Escape from Dol Guldur. I understand that you are trying to jail break someone, but there is a HUGE difference between trying to play with 5 characters down from 6 and trying to play with 2 down from 3. And that isn't even getting into a 4 player game where I imagine that, aside from annoying the player that is one character down, it would really have little impact. I have tried this adventure several times solo and even using the easy variant, I am barely able to get past the first stage and never close to the end of the second.

We started off by playing through the Passage through Mirkwood with starting decks before taking a break and building decks to use going forward. I had left Mr G to choose his preference and he went with Leadership / Tactics for the monster fighting, leaving me to take on the Lore / Spirit questing side of things. This suited me perfectly having never really got on with the more combat focused decks that seemed to be very cumbersome on their own.

We took our shiny new decks and applied them on a Journey down the Anduin... the result was a comfortable victory with neither of us struggling particularly at any point although Cheiftain Uftak did prove a bit of an annoyance but he was soon dispatched with some help from Legolas.

Have made it to the end of that Quest we moved onto Escape from Dol Guldur. I have to admit that I had little confidence after my solo plays. We also rushed a little as Mr G was hoping to get home, however we started of ok until two Jailers came out and rather set us back. A series of treacheries lead to Eowyn's death and that made progress MUCH harder and effectively left me as a hinderance more than anything. We did eventually get Aragorn back, allowing us a little leeway but the toll of carrying the Objectives soon overloaded our threat and we lost. Getting to the third stage on our first play was very satisfying and does give me hope that I can eventually complete this quest although I still don't like the character loss mechanic it employs.
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Tue Oct 29, 2013 4:40 pm
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