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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Hobbit Saga expansion #1 - review from a core set only player perspective. Can this be the first expansion to buy?

Wojtek Wojcik
Poland
Kraków(Cracow)
Malopolska
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NOTE: There is another expansion that I would recommend to get as a first one to buy: Black Riders review for Core Set players (unless you love dwarves but hate hobbits in which case read on )

There are quite a lot of players that do have just a core set and play the game every now and then using original scenarios and possibly some custom ones. The game is perfectly playable this way. Most of those players do not play this often enough to warrant buying monthly expansion packs. Here the hobbit comes into the picture as FFG suggested that this box should be fully playable when combined with just a core set. Is this really the case? If so is it worth to buy it? I will try to answer those questions in this article.

Two notes:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
1. Methodology: I played each scenario with 50 card decks composed from two core sets and hobbit box cards. In most cases (except the third scenario for which I have separate discussion) a player owning only one core set and hobbit should be able to construct decks that will perform in a similar way using 35 card limit.
2. It is very hard for me to judge how hard those scenarios are for players that have played this game few dozens of times. With 250+ games under my belt certain strategies, combos and tactical plays are fairly easy to spot and might make scenarios easier to deal with it. Please do keep this in mind when reading my comments on the difficulty.


We must away, ere break of day
8/10 - In this scenario you will encounter there very nasty enemies and you will need to prepare for this. I think that this scenario is very interesting as it gives you two option to deal with it (path of traveler and path of warrior). It might be hard and interesting trying to figure out how to deal with such tremendous enemies (in a sense of their abilities, not necessary stats). You will need several attempts to discover some of those things so be prepared for some initial beatings.

Getting treasures in this scenario was made much more reliable and frankly more interesting due to latest FAQ/Errata.

Over the Misty Mountains Grim
8/10 - Two very different (but excellent as far as theme goes) challenges await you in this one. Start of this scenario might feel a bit like Journey down the Anduin but the challenges it offers make it very different. You might find that first part of the quest tends to be very hard at times (there are some instant-party-kill card combinations in the encounter deck). Second part should really appeal to you if you like some fair but intensive fighting.

You should use treasures in you deck in this one otherwise you are at a great disadvantage.

Dungeons Deep and Caverns Dim
7/10 - This scenario is very very interesting. Riddle mechanic forces the player to make many interesting choices. Unfortunately I am afraid that core plus hobbit card pool is too limited to deal with this scenario on a fairly regular basis especially that limiting deck size is almost not an option. It will (more often than not) be an exercise in frustration as answering riddles will be hard. In some games you will get very lucky and win easily but most of the time Bilbo will perish. I still think that it will feel close and exciting so I am not totally bashing this scenario.

Heroes
You will get additional hero for each of the spheres which is very good as it will give you more choices no matter which decks you like to play. Three of them are very much oriented towards dwarven decks but your card pool is barely able to make use of that. Beorn could be very handy to initially stabilize the fighting situation on the board (by defending and then attacking) which might be very helpful for some of the scenarios (Anduin comes to mind). Overall I think that heroes in this box alone are far from being worth on its own but they do increase your options and round out the spheres nicely.

Player Cards
You get three cards per sphere (each in 3 copies), new version of Gandalf and one card from Baggins sphere. In general I would say that tactics got the best cards (which is very good as it is the weakest of the spheres in core set). Leadership cards are also nice. Lore and Spirit cards are ok.

It is worth noting that Fili/Kili combination reinforces Spirit/Leadership decks that were fairly strong solo in the core set.

Final Rating:
Here are the greatest strengths of this box:
- Interesting new scenarios extending game life
- Good selection of player cards

Treasure concept linking all three scenarios together is good but a bit weaker than what I expected from it.

Ultimately I think this is good expansion for core only players as it will not only give player new scenarios but also allows for new strategies (dwarves, stronger tactics) for old quests. I would even go as far as to say that is better in this light as those players will not see rehashes of some of the ideas and will probably find scenarios much more fresh and engaging. So if you want to extend the life of LOTR:LCG without spending tons of money on regular adventure packs this box is the way to go (much much better than Khazad Dum in this respect).

How about you? Is this the first expansion that you bought? If so is your opinion similar to mine?
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