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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Season 2 Game Night Kit - sneak peek

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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Due to very fortunate turn of events I got a chance to look through the Season 2 Game Night kit for LOTR:LCG. What follows is just a summary of things that caught my eye. I was not able to play any of the nightmare decks so "reviews" of them are just based on quick look at the cards (I am also writing from memory so some things might be off).

Contents of the Game Night Kit
Pamphlets (tournament rules and how to use the game night kit)
Nightmare decks (for Hunt for Gollum, Conflict at the Carrock, A Journey to Rhosgobel)

First impressions of additional components
Poster - It seems to be roughly A3 size (2 x letter size paper). It has the same art as Glamdring treasure card from Hobbit Over and Under Hill. The art looks very nice in larger format and I think it would look nice on one's game cave wall. The poster comes folded so it would require some smoothing before hanging. It is ok, nice addition but nothing to write home about:
Board Game: The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game – The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill

Playmat - It is a wide rectangle made from mousepad-like material. It has the same art as Khazad-Dum expansion box. I have to say that in larger format this art looks even more impressive - it really brings up what Moria once was and is able to evoke both the ave and dread that dwarves might have felt when entering it.
Board Game: The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game – Khazad-dûm

Just to test the mat functionality I've lied down some cards on it according to my typical solo play area. I have to the following observations:
- It is very easy to exhaust cards (they rotate easily) and at the same time cards won't slide by them self, they rest in place.
- Width: roughly 3 rows of cards: staging area, cards engaged with a player and single row of player cards.
- Length: I was able to place 7 cards (without cramming them) in a row. This of course means that some allies (and attachments) would have to go to the second row (i.e. below the mat).
- I didn't see much problem with cards "blending" into the background too much.
- It rolls nicely and it should be easy to store/carry
As a whole the mat is very thematic and highly functional. Unfortunately it is just a bit too small to handle my full play area witch deducts half point:

Nightmare decks
Please note that impressions mentioned are based purely on single read through cards. It means that I am only speculating here.

In general each deck comes with 20 cards, one of witch is a quest card that has a constant effect(s).

Hunt for Gollum
Main trick is that now Mordor enemies will guard any clues unclaimed by heroes and if at any point they control 4 or more of them the players loose. As for particular encounter cards I remember three of them (each coming in few copies):
- In this scenario you look through more cards that you put in play. One enemy will enter play when you just "look" at him
- There was a location that would boost defence of Mordor enemies guarding clues.
- Enemy (warg) that summons other Mordor enemies.
The deck didn't seem so hard but of course I might be totally off on this. I have to say that my initial impressions are so-so but the fight for clues might become very interesting so who knows.

Conflict at the Carrock
It seems that this scenario was really reworked and I get the feeling that it will be even better than it was before. There were three main changes:
- If players do not put progress on a quest stage one will be placed there automatically. It means that you will not be able to linger too long in stage 1.
- We got new versions of named trolls. They have there own abilities but now boost other trolls when they are in Victory Display (i.e. dead). This means that a troll will get more dangerous the more others you have killed. I very much like this change because previously the 2 stage worked exactly other way around: it was hard at the begging but once you killed a troll or two it become easier. I like the new flow much, much better.
- Third stage was added with an additional (two headed) troll. His stats were not as impressive by them self (slightly stronger that other named trolls) but you need to remember that at this point you will have many trolls in Victory Display buffing him. Also he becomes more dangerous with more players (attacking current engaged player, engaging next player and attacking him).
As for cards:
- More unnamed trolls (again buffing other trolls when killed)
- Devilish location (Hives or something) that will damage every characters if you put progress on it! Be sure not to travel there unless you have some mass healing available (or Thor's key)!
This seems to be the most interesting quest change. It takes care of the standard way to deal with this quest (lingering in stage 1) but also should make the fight with the trolls more climactic. Very much looking forward to try this out.

A Journey to R.
I remember only one thing about general effect: Athelases from discard pile get shuffled to the encounter deck - which is great as it should make this quest much less random. I am sure there was some bad effect as well but I do not seem to recall it.
- Surge, some more surge and even more surge.
- Cards that remove ranger keywords, remove eagle keyword (i.e. prevent you from defending/attacking from "flayer" creature that damage Wilyador)
- Cards that further limit healing (enemy that prevents it totally, attachments that reduces any healing done to 1 HP)
- Some archer enemies that damage Wilyador when in play.
I was not impressed on paper. Although bringing back Athelas to the encounter deck is very nice the amount of surge seemed to be out of control.

All in all it is hard to judge those scenarios just from the cards but I have to say that I am very excited to try the new Carrock - it seems that it might become one of my top favorites scenarios in the nightmare version. Other two didn't impress me much.

One additional comment. Since nightmare decks are "print on demand" quality the card stock and the colors are quite different from the regular cards. For standard Gen Con scenarios this is not an issue as they form complete encounter deck but for Nightmare decks it is an issue as you need to mix them with a standard encounter cards fir a particular scenario. FFG suggests sleeving the encounter cards when playing nightmare but I have to say it is a bit annoying.

Final thoughts
In general I was very excited to get a chance to look through the game night kit and I secretly dreamed about getting it but ... after writing this review I am not so hot anymore. Nightmare decks are great way to refresh the old quests and I very much like that not only they address the difficulty but also try to make the quests more enjoyable by getting rid of things that were missed first time around. When judging the Game Night Kit though you have to take into account that you will be able to get those decks later on without any problem so they do not add much value to the kit (well you are getting them earlier). Taking the decks out of the picture you get a mat and a poster. Of the two only the mat seems attractive enough to compel me to try to seek out a Kit but to get it you really need to be on good terms with a gaming shop (officially the kits are not for resale) and probably pay an arm and a leg for it and this makes the mat alone just plain not worthed (especially that it is not ideal). So do not despair that you can't get it at the end of the day you are not missing much.
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