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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Foundation of Stone - Cthulhu in LOTR:LCG?

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.
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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]


- 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.

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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