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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Solo player buyers guide (for those that have only the 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.
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This post is in a sense a follow-up to my A guide for new LOTR:LCG solo players article. I assume that you played the core game enough times and you sure that you love the game. You are faced now with one overwhelming problem ... where to go from here? There are so many expansions! What to buy first? Can I pick and choose? If so what I should be getting first? First you might want to check how expansions for LOTR:LCG work (see How expansions for LOTR:LCG work) and when you already know that let us dive-in.

Below I post 3 ways to approach expanding LOTR:LCG. For each I present you with a list of pros and cons and a shopping list (you should stick to the order on the list). I strongly believe that in any case you should not buy multiple expansions (despite the savings on shipping) at the same time. First you should have played scenarios in previous ones at least 7-10 times. Remember you may burn out on the game at some point and without following the previous advice you would be left with expansions that you haven't even played!

My recommended purchase order
Go (mostly) in order of release skipping POD expansions and Nightmare decks.
- Scenarios will have the intended difficulty level
- You will play as intended/playtested by FFG
- First expansions are usually easy to get second hand (saving you decent amount of money)
- No need to buy skipped expansion later on when the old cards get a boost due to release of new cards (example: Rohan is getting a lot of new love in the The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game – The Voice of Isengard while before they were mostly restricted to first cycle and many of their cards could be considered weak without newer cards to interact with).
- You will get the complete set of player cards

- Some of the expansions might be harder to get especially if you want them new (depending on FFG reprints)
- Frustration with difficulty with some of the early scenarios in solo (Escape from Dol Guldur, A journey to Rhosghobel, Return to Mirkwood)
- If you are cult of the new member you might be annoyed by the fact that you are always behind (I am assuming that you will play each scenario at least several times before moving to the next)
- You will be quite close to the full collection which might turn you into collector (which is pricey!)

Shopping list:

Minimalist Route
I feel very strongly that the above is the way to go but since it generates a huge drag on your gaming budget I have another option. This list is designed in such a way to give you maximum "bang for your buck" and in short it states: Buy only the saga expansions, forget about the rest.

- Relatively cheap
- Quickly gets you up to speed with some of the current releases (which might be a huge thing for the cult of the new crowd)
- Best "use of your dollar" (as far as this games goes)
- Best if you are only interested in stories directly taken from J.R.R. Tolkien's

- You are pretty much stuck with playing 30-35 card decks
- You might be forced into playing easy mode
- You will not be able to get the full experience on some of the scenarios (example: with a limited card pool it is impossible to get more than 1-3 treasurers in Lonely Mountain scenario in second Hobbit box)
- You might get burn out on constantly seeing the same player cards as their variety will be limited (as will your deck building options)
- You will be tempted to buy an AP or two just to get some awesome card (and usually those will contain a scenario that will be unbeatable with your pool of cards so you will paying 15$ for couple of player cards)
- If you decide to get the rest of expansion those might turn out to be too easy with your extended card pool.
- Some of the scenarios might be a bit more tricky to manage (a lot of effects that you need to keep track of) without experience from previous releases.

Shopping list:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Hobbit saga: Over Hill and Under Hill, On the Doorstep
Saga box: The Black Riders (at the point of writing there are no more Saga's available but The Road Darkens should be out soon).

Option: After one or two Hobbit Sagas you could get a Khazad Dum expansion.

Pick and Choose way
This is the way that I bearly recommend because of its flaws (see below) but it might be something that people actually look for because of combination of its pros. Remember that this list (much more than others above) is geared toward solo players and is very subjective.

- Not as expensive as complete purchase list
- Decent player card pool
- Decent scenario pool
- Brings you closer to current releases faster

- Quite expensive
- Balance will be off (some scenarios will be too easy others too difficult with your card pool)
- Quite a few "dead" player cards (due to the fact that you will be missing some other cards that make them work - uncomplete themes/keyword pool)
- This is probably the most subjective list hence you might find that my recommendation are not ideal for the decks that you want to play.

Shopping list:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
NOTE: expansions in italic can be skipped if on tighter budget
Conflict at the Carrock
A Journey to Rhosgobel
The Dead Marshes
Hobbit saga 1:Over Hill and Under Hill
Return to Mirkwood
Deluxe box: Khazad-dûm
The Watcher in the Water
The Long Dark
Foundations of Stone
Hobbit saga 2: On the Doorstep
Saga box: The Black Riders (at the point of writing there are no more Saga's available but The Road Darkens should be out soon).

So this concludes my buying guide. Please feel free to comment, add your prefered purchase order and/or point out why I am wrong.

Why this post
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Seems to be a bit out of place at the end but I didn't want to interrupt the flow of my advice above. This post was directly inspired by mistakes done in a following buyers guide: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_GZgFQ9He4 (those include suggesting to buy expansions that are not playable without having some other boxes). Don't get me wrong I understand why creator made them and what was his intent but I think those are just not acceptable and the video should be updated or at least commented in order to save frustration to people that might follow its advice. I also have seen other buyers guides including: Tales of the cards and Couple vs Cardboard and while I consider both of them great, in my opinion they are not geared toward solo players. That is why I decided to create one that it is optimized for those of us that enjoy playing the game alone.
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