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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Random thoughts about the game in general (player cards, player type, second core set)

Wojtek Wojcik
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Board Game Designer
I very much like designing games but I think I prefer to play them.
Metallum ... game I most proud of.
Microbadge: Terraforming MarsMicrobadge: Metallum fanMicrobadge: Podcast listenerMicrobadge: Plays Games With FamilyMicrobadge: 15 Year Geek Veteran
My blog mostly concentrates on session reports and thoughts about the scenarios but from time to time I do make more general observations. I am planning on gathering them in this Editorial sub-series. This first installment collects some of them that appeared through out my comments i promise that in the future I will make those shorter.

So you write about scenarios a lot, how about player cards?

I am curious what other people think but I am starting to think that most of the player cards we get in adventure packs are pretty weak (some frankly useless). This becomes even more of an issue if you are restricted to solo gaming as I am. This is not a huge issue for me as I am more into the new scenarios but still I would like some more interesting cards for underutilized spheres (lore and tactics in my case). I understand that part of an issue comes form the fact that I am only looking to build a single deck that is efficient against a scenario during multiple attempts. Some other players might be more interested just exploring the interactions between their cards and have tons of fun trying various possible combos even if those work only every now and then. Now after typing that I think that maybe the current model is ideal - cards for me (new scenario) and cards for combo players (say that each card means at least one attempt gives 9 attempts which is roughly the same as I am doing). Still I found some post by people that were so disappointed with quality and quantity of new player cards that they've quit playing the game (Khazad Dum contents was a deal breaker for quite a few it seems).

Cards "on paper" might look weaker/stronger then they actually are in a particular deck. Need to try several cards that I consider bad/not worthed and see if they are actually that bad or am I not seeing their full potential.

NOV 2012: This is a main weakness of my exploration of the game. I do not try all new player cards. I concentrate only on the scenarios and most player cards are only seen on paper.

Are you sure that you keep your rules straight?

Discussing the game on Polish message boards I discovered that I was counting my points wrong (starting with round 1 instead of zero and according to the rules you are supposed to tally a round only at its end). I was pretty sure that at this point I had all the rules down and I still discovered something. This is not a big deal as it only affects scoring which is not that important but ... it makes me think. What else am I missing or playing wrong? This is a major drawback of solo game (or if you only play games in the same group) - there is no one to correct you. In other games (CCGs/LCGs especially) you have tournaments, fairly regular plays with different people and that soon enough allows you to discover if you play something incorrectly. There is nothing like that in this game (at least for me) so I am left to hope spotting my mistakes during some discussions at the forums. Mind you I am not interested in the tourneys and even playing this game with others (well I would like to do the former but I don't see me finding time for that) but I think that getting all rules right for this game is important to get the difficulty level planned by the designer. On the positive note - my games are pretty though in most cases so I am satisfied with difficulty anyway even if I am slightly off at some things.

What kind of player am I?

Fantasy Flight prepared a list of players archetypes for this game at some point. They've given them some LOTR names but in short those are:
- Flavor player - builds his deck according to LOTR reality (e.g. will never use Frodo as he was not active/alive during official period of time).
- Combo player - enjoys finding synergies between the cards
- Must win player - enjoys winning and this is most important for him (or goes for the lowest score even at the risk of several losses before getting it).
I find my self in between those categories. I am not a hardcore LOTR fan and I do not care if cards are in accordance to book timeline but I do enjoy the stories that this game tells. I like to find combos and synergies and I am usually quite impressed with them but I do not actively seek/invent them and test them out - I am more of one card at the time guy who is often pleasantly surprised when two cards work in concert. Finally I do construct decks to win but I am more for consistency (high percentage) of wins then about high score or 100% success rate.

Musings on threat.

Threat is an excellent mechanic in this game introducing very hard and interesting choices. Do you go for better heros that will be able to do a lot of cool things latter ... the trade off is that enemies will start pounding at you from the turn one and will most of the time overwhelm you by killing your allies and wounding heroes. Then you are so weakened that treacheries will slowly kill you off unless you are very lucky. On the other hand ... if you choose only weak heroes you will have time to prepare but will lack the strength to take care of the stronger enemies. Of course it all depends on the scenario but as a general observation it seems to be correct.

So is second core set worthed?
Random thoughts:
- Using cards from two core sets gives your ("tournament legal") deck a huge boost.

- I started with merging two sets into a "tournament playable" pool of cards 3 copies of player cards. With two CS I am missing around 12 player (3 or 4 per sphere) cards to complete it. It was nice to obtain more copies of some of my favorite cards (feint, sneak attack come to mind). I felt pretty good getting the game "again" at this point.

- I packed all of the surplus cards, tokens and rules in one of the boxes in order to store them at the bottom of my closet. When I was closing the lid on this second box I saw so many components that I will not get to use and to tell the truth felt disappointed that so many things will be pretty much useless.

- Then the newly constructed card pool went into a "transport" deck box (it should hold close to 200 sleeved cards) followed by encounter cards and tokens (with d10s replacing threat counters). To my great disappointment I discovered that there is no space left in the box. I realized that now my game will not be as portable as it used to be with a single core set and the adventure packs will make it even worse. I am afraid that this will impact amount of plays. I will be hesitant to carry a huge box of cards with me just in case I have some free time to play it (so far it yielded +10 plays so not bad at all).

To sum up I have mixed feelings about the second core set - on one hand I am glad that my card poll increased as it makes deck building more interesting. On the other hand I feel that there is a great waste of space, cards and value here. This solves the problem of the third core set - I will not be getting it.

NOV 2012: After so many more plays I do think about getting missing cards. I will not buy the whole set though (even used) I want to find someone to share it with (preferebly a person who plays with more players and does not care about single cards but does want the extra cards, tokens etc.
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