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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Polish version of LOTR:LCG is no more. What does it mean (if anything) for the game?

Wojtek Wojcik
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I very much like designing games but I think I prefer to play them.
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Galakta, Polish publisher of LOTR:LCG decided to discontinue localized version of the game. From their statement it follows that for a while they were losing money of each expansion and they had to make this tough decision as current situation was endangering the company. They are still considering some other various options for continuing PL version but nothing they tried so far seems to be possible.
Board Game: The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

They will still distribute the English edition of the game.

So what?
This is of course a huge deal for Polish LOTR:LCG community several forums are full of discussions. Let us be honest though - in the larger scope of things Polish market for boardgames is still relatively small (we are on the 9th place as far as visits on BGGs goes, whatever this may mean). Nevertheless is this news something that users outside of Poland should worry about? Is this sign of weakness of the game? What were the main reasons that the game was discontinued? Well I do not know but that does not prevent me from speculating.

1. Sales.
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Form Galakta's statements and comments it seems that core set (had 2 or 3 reprints) and first cycle were selling very well but after that each next expansions was less and less popular. This trend was not broken even by the big boxes or saga boxes (at least not significantly).

First thing is not very surprising. Interest in almost every game dwindles over time (with MTG or classic games being only counterexamples). The last bit is a huge deal for me. I was so excited for the Saga expansions that seemed to be great entry points for new players failed to attract their attention in Poland. How it looks internationally (I know that users that keep track their collection here are just a small part of all players of LOTR:LCG but I guess that the trends in the whole community are similar):
BGG Users owning:
LOTR Core set - 12800
Return to Mirkwood - 2745
Khazad-dûm - 3175
The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill - 2098
Shadow and Flame - 1584
Heirs of Númenor - 1482
Morgul Vale - 581
Black Riders - 980

From this data I see two thing:
A. Game is still very healthy.
B. The downward trend is clearly visible. More and more people leave the game and Saga expansions do very little to counteract this.

Maybe this is the publisher fault - they failed to get the message across to the more casual players. Maybe this ours (fans) fault when we missed opportunity to use those expansions to get new blood in. Or maybe there is nothing that can be done, it is LCG format issue (i.e. Trent Hamm was right [blogpost=16034][/blogpost] and I was wrong: LOTR in light of ' A Critical Look at the Idea of a "Living Card Game" ' article

2. Release schedule and number of products
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Shear number of products available discourages players from trying the game. On one of the conventions in Poland I introduced a couple to the game. I had a little bit of downtime so decided to help them out (they were learning from the rules). They played the game and enjoyed it greatly, then they went to the stand to possibly buy the game. Seeing the number of expansions they resigned.

[RANT MODE ON] The releases for LOTR are so confusing and so crazy fast that it boggles my mind! You do not believe me? Compare the list of releases for LOTR: LCG (as per BGG entry of the game) to the one for AGOT:LCG (again BGG entry). You know what? AGOT:LCG is running for 6 years now and LOTR:LCG for 3. You would have not guessed that based on the number of products for both games. We had several people on the forums that bought something that they could not use. Some diving into POD right after core set and so on.

As I see it FFG is flooding the market with LOTR:LCG products. I do not know what is the reason for this? Is license going to expire soon so they want to put as much as products are possible before that happens? Or maybe its more the case: look what another cool idea we have. Let us put it out now! This way we have regular releases, saga releases, POD scenarios, Nightmare decks. What's next? POD player card packs? POD alternative versions of "old" heroes? Simarilion core set?

Who has time to play all of those scenarios more than once or twice?

3. Price of the game
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I believe that one of the reasons why Polish players were not able to support the game was the price. We are still economically far behind US or Western Europe so it is clear that buying the game was much more challenging for our budgets that it might be for other players in more developed countries. This does not seem to translate directly into the success or failure of English edition ... except of the fact that it is sold all over the world. This is more of an observation than anything - I understand that the game just can't be much cheaper.

Conclusions (sort of):
Hardcore fans are in the golden age of the game. The game is a huge success for FFG and they put out product after product after product. A lot of content is released for the game and there are no immediate signs on the horizon (although end of Polish version is a small warning sign of what my happen with English version in couple of years). If you are more like me i.e. (just) a fan LOTR:LCG the situation is more tricky. We are approaching a breaking point of decision:
- Do we change into hardcore fans (possibly by sacrificing our other interests) and continue to play/buy the game.
- Realize that we are collecting more cards that we can play in years to come and stop buying expansions or shift to only Saga's from now on.
The second choice though means also slow drift away from the community.

As for me I have not decided yet. I am not opposed to mixing ENG and PL so I will not be selling my Polish version (I even hope to be able to buy singles from core set cheaply) ... but when I am done with playing the third cycle (I am 1/3 in) I will open Balck Riders and check how the second saga is for me. I will probably get Voice of Isengard PL (the last expansion in Polish version) and then make my choice.
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