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.
 Thumb up

We must away, ere break of day (The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill - scenario #1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[General Thoughts]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your opinions on this scenario? Have you tried it with only core and hoobit cards? Do you find similarity with Conflict at the Carrock annoying?
Twitter Facebook
Subscribe sub options Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:33 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}