Peter Cooper
United Kingdom
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Mage Wars: Beastmaster's Pet
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This is a review of The Return of The King Deck-Building Game, but I will refer to other deck-building games using the Cerberus engine made by Cryptozoic.

Somehow, Cryptozoic have made one set of basic rules, but different play styles for each game. At the moment, this is my favourite of all of them.

This is a stand alone game, so you don't need the others in the series to be able to play it (The Fellowship of the Ring and the Two Towers). If you do own the others, my recommendation would be not to mix them, as the Wall in Two Towers is supported by cards in that game (rather than just by bricks and mortar), and the journey of the Ring needs cards from this game.

The heroes' special cards that help them play in a certain way are generally nothing special, which is good. However, any card that helps you at the start of the game is powerful ("But I can carry you" lets you put a card you gain on top of your deck). Merry and Pippin's starting card is hobbit sized - whereas Eowyn's starting card has the ability to be the best in the game, reducing the cost of defeating an arch-enemy and defending against an attack from the next one. Gandalf's card looks like rubbish unless you have a way of revealing your next cards before you use it.

The cards in the main deck are, generally, a little more complicated than ones from the earlier games, and some have negatives (like destroying a random card in your discard pile, or destroying the card you are playing if the top card of your deck is even).

There is an auto-win combo - if you have played Aragorn the King, The Crown of the King and Arwen (there are 2 Arwens) then you win the game. This is, in my opinion, the only really negative comment I have about the game.

There are some immensely powerful cards, (probably not as powerful as some in the Two Towers or Fellowship), and some even more powerful combinations. Siege towers are brilliant, and they enable you to build up power to take down Arch enemies. There are cards that help your opponents.

Thematically, everything seems to works. The characteristics of each card seems to fit the personality of the bit of the story it represents. ("That still only counts as one" for example, is only used once, then destroyed). Courage is also more powerful when used with some supporting cards. One location enables courage to be discarded as a defence card, while another card gives points for every 2 courage cards you have in your hand.

The Journey of the Ring map is very thematic, and we were eager to try and destroy the ring before we faced the final enemy, the level five Eye of Sauron, which cost 25 power to defeat and end the game, or 15 power if you have already destroyed the ring. The need to destroy the ring results in players delaying defeating some of the earlier arch enemies until the ring had made some progress along the path.

The journey map is an excellent mechanic, and, in my opinion, is better than the Wall mechanic in the Two Towers.

I would heartily recommend this game to anyone who likes deck-building games, and particularly to people who have the other Lord of the Rings games.
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Mik Svellov
Denmark
Copenhagen N
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Stephanie Baynes wrote:
Merry and Pippin's starting card is hobbit sized

???
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Peter Cooper
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Great Dane wrote:
Stephanie Baynes wrote:
Merry and Pippin's starting card is hobbit sized

???


Not very powerful.
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Misha Nosiara
Australia
Como
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Thanks for the review. Picked it up today. The only disappointment on scanning the rules was a lack of a true Epic version, using cards from all three games. The ones they propose seem like afterthoughts. I was hoping for rules to play a campaign using cards from all sets, in 3 linked games.
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The Fiend
United States
Avon Lake
Ohio
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Quote:
Thanks for the review. Picked it up today. The only disappointment on scanning the rules was a lack of a true Epic version, using cards from all three games. The ones they propose seem like afterthoughts. I was hoping for rules to play a campaign using cards from all sets, in 3 linked games.


Cardinal Biggles, fetch the comfy chair and then check out Danny Stevens "Grand Campaign" in the forum of The Fellowship".
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