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The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game» Forums » General

Subject: Does LOTR LCG meet these criteria? rss

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Steve Marano
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I apologize if this question has been addressed before, so if so feel free to point me to a thread where it's discussed...

I’m looking for card game with a fantasy RPG orientation and very solid solitaire play.
I’ve read through a ton of material here on BGG, and I’ve narrowed my choices down to the LOTR LCG and Thunderstone Advance, with a preference for the former. My rationale: IMHO they come closest to meeting the following criteria:

1) First and foremost, a fantasy-oriented game with a very satisfying solitaire option.
2) A game that could be set up and taken down quickly, or alternatively– if you wish to leave it set up to be played over the course of several game sessions - wouldn’t require you to dedicate an entire kitchen or dining room table to it. It was this criterion that made me limit my focus to card games (though I much prefer this type of game anyhow), and rule out games like D&D, Defenders of the Realm, and Mage Knight which rely more on tiles and/or miniatures.
3) A game with a casual to moderate level of complexity.
4) A game length of no more than one hour, or one that could be played in sessions of such length. It was primarily this criterion coupled with #2 above upon which I ruled out Mage Knight, a game that otherwise seemed very appealing due to its reportedly deep immersive fantasy experience and opportunity for deep, strategic play.
5) A game that has a reasonably deep strategic element, and enough depth and variability to justify repeated play over a reasonably long period of time. I’m not interested in something that entails little more than rolling dice and doing math. It was for this reason that – rightly or wrongly - I ruled out Pathfinder.
6) A game with a fairly heavy thematic element, that to a reasonable degree gives one the feeling of being immersed in a RPG.

So my questions:
A. Do the two games on my short list (LOTR LCG and Thunderstone Advance) meet these criteria?
B. Was I justified in ruling out the other games I mentioned above?
C. Are there games that meet these criteria that I have missed?

And the primary option I’m considering that I’d like to get some feedback on:
Purchase LOTR, specifically the core set in combination with the Black Riders Saga expansion, on the basis that this combination would come closest to conveying a strong sense of theme, while not being overly difficult to play in solitaire mode, particularly if I focused initially on Easy mode. Is this a reasonable conclusion? And if so, are there enough similarly-styled expansions that often such thematic content and justify making a long term investment (money and time) in this game system?
Any advice no matter how little on the above would be greatly appreciated.
 
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Rob Rob
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1-LotR is likely to take more than your hour requirement.

2-You might give some thought to The Pathfinder LCG as well.
 
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Nigel McNaughton
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The only one I think is iffy is the casual to moderate difficulty. Sometimes the game is just brutal. But at this point in the game there are now multiple levels of difficulty, so you can dial it up or down as needed.

You might also need to be lenient on theme if the idea of Sam , Theoden & Denethor ride off to defeat Smaug gets your hackles up. Though obviously you control this element of it.

Overall I think LOTR LCG matches pretty much all you are wanting out of the game here. I've never played Thunderstone so I can't compare the two.
 
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Wayne Walker
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I have never played Thunderstone, so my response is admittedly incomplete.

I really enjoy LOTR LCG, but it may not be what you are looking for, for the following reasons:

1) Solo play is unbalanced at times. I only have the core set and a few adventure packs. My solo experience has been somewhat uneven while the two-player rounds I have played have presented many more opportunities for working my way out of jams in the scenarios.

2) LOTR LCG does not feel very much like an RPG to me. The threat and questing mechanics are enjoyable, but I like them for the puzzles they present and not so much for their thematic contribution. Progression between scenarios is basically deckbuilding based on new cards available. If you like constructing MtG decks, you will like this (I do), if you don't, you won't.

For fantasy RPG feel, Mage Knight is really nice especially if you like the in-game deckbuilding. However, it fails criteria 2 and 4 that you presented.

I just watched the dice tower fantasy top 10 and heard some positive things about Thunderstone (Descent 2.0 also, but not solo I think). You may watch some youtube play of that.

I hope this helps. I am interested in other responses along this line for my own future benefit.
 
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Joe Oppedisano
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I'll focus more on LOTR than Thunderstone as I have only played someone else's Thunderstone once, and I own and have played LOTR numerous times when I first bought it.

My personal feeling about LOTR LCG is that it may not meet your criteria, specifically being on the casual side, especially when it comes to the solitaire options.

After the first quest, the second two quests are near impossible in solitaire and very frustrating to play, as they lead to regular losses (and very quick ones at that). The game really relies on deck construction for each quest. In other words, you'll need to spend time constructing decks and refining it to get through a quest, then construct a new deck for the next quest, as the conditions are very different.

In addition, I felt that most of the strategic elements of the game rested in deck construction rather than the game itself. Once you put a deck together, you're then left to hoping those cards come up when you need them. If they don't you lose and start over until the right cards come out.

It's really unfortunate, as I really want to like this game. The actual gameplay is smooth, and I love the theme. But for me, the game felt frustrating and unplayable. I wanted a game I could open and play and feel a sense of accomplishment, and this game just did not offer that for me. Now it just sits on my shelf.

I know other people have recommended looking at other people's constructed decks, or skipping the quests that come in the base game to some of the expansions that are easier. But I just can't get past the notion that the if the base game isn't workable, I'm not going to invest more time and money to get around it.


But to be more constructive, based on your criteria:

1. It's definitely complex strategically, but I believe most of that strategy lies outside of the game when you are constructing your deck.

2. It's not overly long to set up, but not much less than Thunderstone since you have to pull the right cards together for the Encounter Deck, get out the various tokens, etc. It's really more about how you organize your components.

3. Most games of LOTR won't take an hour, especially since you'll lose most of the ones from the 2nd and 3rd quests very quickly. Thunderstone wasn't very long, but to be honest, I didn't track the time with that one.

4. I think either game can be immersive thematically if you play them that way. Sometimes with LOTR I find myself focused more on the numbers (attack, shield, etc.) than the theme. So it's more about the player than the game. Thunderstone is very thematic and definitely creates the feeling of building heroes to attack the monsters.

I'm sure other, more knowledgeable people here will have a lot of experience with other games that might meet your criteria besides the two you mentioned. And obviously other people have very different views of LOTR, but hopefully my opinion will give you food for thought.
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Nigel McNaughton
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You are right, I missed the RPG comment. LOTR LCG has no character progression normally. Campaign mode has introduced a tiny little bit of it, but it's not deep if that is something that is vital you.
 
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Steve Marano
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I want to express my gratitude for these exceptionally quick and exceptionally helpful responses. The consensus - that LOTR does not meet the criteria I set out - is disappointing, but your candor will save me a lot of wasted time and money, and frustration.

On the flip side, I'm intrigued by the responses about Thunderstone.

I just wish there was another game (or Mage Knight variant) that offered the immersive and rewarding solo experience of Mage Knight without the huge investment in time (and table space!). Something that combined the depth and richness of Mage Knights with the accessibility of PathFinder. One can only dream - and hope that something like that is introduced on Kickstarter...
 
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Justin Davis
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MrTetsuo wrote:
There is very little replay value in any box or expansion (deluxe or otherwise) alone. You play with a pre constructed deck (much like a Magic, Netrunner, etc deck) against a specific quest deck. Once you a beat a quest a few times, there is not much reason to play it again. The fun, per say, will come from trying to successfully complete it, while you customize your deck in between games.


Strongly disagree with this. I consider LOTR LCG to be one of the most replay-able games out there, and every pack makes the game exponentially more replay-able, as it introduces more ways to beat older scenarios.

You'll play through each quest ~3-5 times the first time around, as you learn its ins and outs and clear it. Then you can try clearing it with a dwarf deck, a hobbit secrecy deck, maybe a 2-handed solo deck, and now maybe a silvan/scout deck.

I'm working my way through every quest with a couple all-purpose decks playing two-handed solo. When I finish them all I'll go through again with a Hobbit Secrecy deck and it'll feel completely different, with almost none of the same strategies or cards being used.
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Robbie M.
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ErrorJustin wrote:
MrTetsuo wrote:
There is very little replay value in any box or expansion (deluxe or otherwise) alone. You play with a pre constructed deck (much like a Magic, Netrunner, etc deck) against a specific quest deck. Once you a beat a quest a few times, there is not much reason to play it again. The fun, per say, will come from trying to successfully complete it, while you customize your deck in between games.


Strongly disagree with this. I consider LOTR LCG to be one of the most replay-able games out there, and every pack makes the game exponentially more replay-able, as it introduces more ways to beat older scenarios.

You'll play through each quest ~3-5 times the first time around, as you learn its ins and outs and clear it. Then you can try clearing it with a dwarf deck, a hobbit secrecy deck, maybe a 2-handed solo deck, and now maybe a silvan/scout deck.

I'm working my way through every quest with a couple all-purpose decks playing two-handed solo. When I finish them all I'll go through again with a Hobbit Secrecy deck and it'll feel completely different, with almost none of the same strategies or cards being used.

Agreed. To say there is little replay value is an opinion that I believe very few people will share...especially as your collection grows.
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David Williams
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smarano wrote:
I want to express my gratitude for these exceptionally quick and exceptionally helpful responses. The consensus - that LOTR does not meet the criteria I set out - is disappointing, but your candor will save me a lot of wasted time and money, and frustration.

On the flip side, I'm intrigued by the responses about Thunderstone.

I just wish there was another game (or Mage Knight variant) that offered the immersive and rewarding solo experience of Mage Knight without the huge investment in time (and table space!). Something that combined the depth and richness of Mage Knights with the accessibility of PathFinder. One can only dream - and hope that something like that is introduced on Kickstarter...


Don't write it off just yet. I would agree to some extent that the core set is a bit limited. However for solo play, with 12 heroes, you have a lot of combinations to try out. As someone recently arrived, with similar criteria to yourself (with the exception I prefer to play 2-player with my son, daughter or wife, though I like the odd solo adventure also) I will give my take on your points.

1. Obviously the game is fantasy themed, and the sheer number of solo players clearly proves it can be a great solo experience. I have bought the core set, both Hobbit sagas, and now the Black Riders. Even ignoring the Black Riders for now, I have LOADS of options - as you can see from my session reports I have beaten a few quests with my own thematically oriented decks using only these sets. If I was happy to make the game easier (and therefore play faster) I could make less thematic decks which would be more powerful, and if you're happy to play easy mode it would become even more of a casual game. I have made 2-deck combos which could be played solo 2-handed, for example 1 ranged offensive deck paired with a defensive support deck which was great fun 2-player and would also be fun to play 2-handed. The BR expansion adds Hobbit decks as an option I am yet to explore, for the moment I'm just dipping into this pack for the odd player card.

2. If you have your decks ready and tokens etc organised in bags, it's pretty quick. Also, if you're prepared to take a minute to jot down who has which attachments, which enemies are engaged etc, you could easily tidy it all down for taking up a small coffee table's worth of space. Some rubber bands might help keep the decks organised between sessions. Maybe take a photo of your setup and put everything into the box. I haven't tried this but I think it can be done. If you're playing the same quest with the same decks, your setup/takedown time will be a few minutes of shuffling, that's all.

3. Well my 14 and 16 kids have picked it up pretty fast. My wife struggled at first but after a couple of games she's getting a feel for it. The basic rules are not too bad if you play with the round chart in front of you, but there are definitely complexities. But since it's entirely up to you how seriously you take the game, you don't need to worry about these unless you are having problems and think you are crippling yourself, or making the game unsatisfyingly easy, by doing something seriously wrong. I wouldn't want to teach it to casual non-gamers who just want a quick game of something. Pandemic is much easier to teach as a co-op. I'd say it's moderately complex personally.

4. At first you will be slow, and 2-player can take a while if you discuss a lot. But I find solo play is quite fast as you don't spend time discussing with your partner. Most quests can be done in an hour or so I think, once you are familiar with any rules particular to that quest.

5. I think LotR meets this requirement in spades! However the strategy is not just in the game but in deck construction. If you're happy for some sessions to be spent planning your next adventure, choosing cards and agonising over character choices, then you might love this element of the game. For the actual quests there are definitely tactical tricks and strategies for each quest, and often multiple ways to approach a particular quest. So I think there is loads of replayability, but only if you immerse yourself in the world and enjoy deck building, setting yourself goals of either beating scenarios with decks using a certain theme, or taking the powergamey approach and trying to beat solo scores. Playing solo with preconstucted decks I did not find as satisfying, though I think it works fine for multi-player which is a more social experience and more casual.

6. The immersion comes from trying to construct thematic decks, and reflecting on the game afterwards. Just check out some of the session reports and you will see what I mean! The threat mechanic is particularly interesting and can really feel quite oppressive as you desperately seek a way to avoid fighting certain enemies. But most cards have direct quotes from the books, the cards mostly reference actual events in the books. Particularly in the Hobbit quests I think. In terms of progression, you 'level up' your character during the quest quite quickly, by equipping them with items and abilities. Anyone who says this isn't RPG-style is missing the wood for the trees, I think. In between quests, the Saga expansions (which seem to be what you're interested in anyway) do offer this. Sometimes there's a 'bonus' goal in 1 quest which unlocks treasures to add to your deck for subsequent quests. Black Riders takes this further with a more elaborate campaign mode, but I didn't try that out yet.


As for your play of buying Core & Black Riders, I think you could do that. However I would personally advise going for The Hobbit first, for a couple of reasons:

- Chronologically it comes first, if you complete The Hobbit, you can naturally move on to BR. If you complete BR, then your next logical expansion hasn't been released yet and you will probably return to The Hobbit anyway.

- It offers more than JUST dwarves, while (apart from a couple of cards) BR doesn't contain much that isn't useful for Hobbits, so far as I can tell. So Hobbit saga seems to mesh better with the core set, in my view so far. This is because it included 2 non-dwarf heroes, and a couple of Dwarf heroes which will work well outside of dedicated Dwarf decks. While it looks to me like the Hobbit heroes are probably not that useful outside of Hobbit decks.

So personally, I would advise going for The Hobbit first. If you get this with the core set, it offers plenty of card options which will help with the first 2 Core quests, and a reasonably thematic experience for the Hobbit quests even if you just follow the suggested deck in the rulebook.

Sorry for such a long post,

HTH
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Dominic B
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In my opinion you should give the Lord of the Rings a try and I would recommend at first to just buy the Core Set only.

I am a big fan of the game and maybe some of my opinions are very subjective but when I got into the game about two years ago I had similar thoughts than you and that is why I want to response to you. I was also looking for a game to play mainly solitairy and was thinking about Thunderstone, Mage Knight and the LOTR. I too read tons of stuff here and on other sites and watched playthroughs. I finally decided that I have to experience one of the games and not just think about them, ordered LOTR LCG (the one that seemed most appealing) and tried it out. I fell in love with the game and stuck with it.

Against other opinions I can say that the Core Set alone gave me hours of fun and entertainment before I even touched any of the expansions. You get from everything a bit in it. You get an easy quest to learn and explore the rules and feeling of the game, a harder quest which forces you to begin deckbuilding and at last the taste of the brutal kick-ass-mentality the game can have. I never felt that the game was incomplete right out of the box, but you have to consider that this is at heart a collectable game and expansions (and sooner or later the need for them) belong to the nature of this.

The theme is heavy and thick. Unfortunately LOTR is not an RPG-like game. I would have loved more RPG elements but it is more like an Action-Adventure with fixed character stats and just the possibility to buff your chars with different items. But nevertheless it feels like you can explore and experience a story with every new game, deck and quest. Maybe it's just me but it is possible with the game to dive deep into the theme and atmosphere and enjoy it.

For the strategic elements I have to say that I don't own Thunderstone but played it a couple of times and IMO the problem I have with deckbuilders in general is that they often feel like the game is played by itself with not much to decide. LOTR sometimes feels like a big puzzle, sometimes like a game of luck, but always do I have the feeling of decisions that can change the outcome significantly.
But as already mentioned above by others, to pre-construct and tune decks is a big part of the LOTR especially if your collection is growing. If you do not like deckbuilding before playing at all, you won't like the game. This also influences the factor of time and preperations you have to make with LOTR. Thunderstone is just setup and go, LOTR wants you to pre-build or at least tweak your decks. On the other hand this adds to the replay value.

Enough writing. Whatever game you choose I hope you have a lot of fun with it!
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Chris Gordy
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LOtR fits a couple of your criteria and not others.
- it is fantasy
- it can be played solo in an hour most times ONCE you get he flow of the game. It will take a few (3-7 maybe) for you to get the hang of the game. For a card game it does feel like it has quite a bit of a learning curve
- it can be saved for a later play through in a relative small amount of space
- set-up can be time consuming, but that is primarily due to deck construction. Setting up the actual encounter is not too bad, maybe 5-7 minutes depending on how you store your cards
- it is immersive, IMO, even if your decks are not necessarily thematically aligned with the source material
- it is NOT a role playing game, nor does it have role playing aspects other than there is an underlying story
- between session fun for some with the process of constructing decks (I know this is not fun for everyone, and you can get around this by trying out any of the decks listed here or over at card game DB)
- as mentioned above, there is a LOT of replay ability just by trying with different decks
- and finally my favorite positive of the game is the level of diversity. Almost every encounter deck feels different (which is why I have close to 75% of all expansions and adventure decks). You will different mechanics, different objectives, different strategies to beat, not just different creatures and different locations

As to Thunderstone Advance, here are my thoughts
- it is a fantasy themed game
- it is relatively easy to learn. If you are familiar Dominion, you will pick this up quickly
- there are some RPGs elements as you can level up heroes in the game. That said they are not elements that carry over between games
- it also is easy to set up depending on how you store your cards
- it can be set aside for mid session breaks (though cats seem to like the experience point pieces more than they cardboard tokens from LOTR)
- there is a level of replay ability, but I feel this comes through just by mixing up the cards used. I don't think it has the same level of diversity as LOTR as it feels like each play through is pretty much similar, just with different cards (which can lead to different strategies in game play, but still similar experiences). That said, it doesn't take a whole session of deck building to get a different play through, it takes two minutes of choosing other cards.
- most games can be completed in an hour

Hopefully that helps.

If you are truly looking for something that is more role playing, then I would also suggest Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. It has persistent character progression and a bit more of a story than Thunderstone (though I believe the card game story is still lighter than The Lord of the Rings as it doesn't come through in the game play as much - but there are great story summaries for each scenario that can be found here at BGG).

Hopefully that summary helps
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Ian Martin
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I'll weigh in here, although full disclosure here, I am completely biased here as I run a blog and participate in a podcast devoted to lotr lcg, so I completely love it.

Although I feel that the opinions of those who are warning you against lotr are completely valid, I'll offer my own contrasting view based on your criteria:

1 - Definitely fantasy. I, and many other people, find solo play completely satisfying. However, be aware that certain quests are much more difficult in solo play.
2 - Some quests require a bit more set up than others, but generally, if you're comparing this to a board game, set up and take down time is minimal.
3 - As others have mentioned, this game is hard, but I've found the experience really varies. Some players have found the game way too difficult for their tastes and quit pretty quickly. For my part, I got into the game with extremely limited experience with deck building and a card game of this sort. With a little patience and time spent though, I was able to defeat all the Core Set scenarios with just the Core Set cards.
4 - Time of play really depends on the quest. It can come in far shorter than an hour or can also run longer. Generally, solo play is much quicker than multiplayer for obvious reasons.
5 - There is a ton of depth and strategy to this game. I would disagree with those who say that the strategy is all in the deck building. If you hand a new player and an experienced player the exact same deck, I can guarantee that the more experienced player will have greater success over the course of a few games. That being said, deck building is definitely a big element. If the thought of deck building does not appeal to you at all, then this is probably not the game for your.
6 - This one is endlessly discussed. Some feel that this is just a puzzle game, while others feel LOTR LCG is dripping with theme. I've found that this one really depends on what you bring to the game.

As for your purchasing, Black Riders is a good option as it includes Campaign Mode rules, which is the closet lotr comes to an RPG-like feel.

I would recommend watching several play videos on YouTube to get a feel for how the game actually plays out.
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Joel Carr
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you might consider Assault on doomrock http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/149241/assault-doomrock

the downside on it is time... but for me i think it will rapidly become my solo game of choice.

In fact Mage knight was sold off not because it is not a stellar game, but play time and set up were too long.

Thunderstone advance can be fun solo... but did not capture me in terms of theme/story.. etc..

LOTR LCG is a blast, and frustrating at the same time. I have found is rather 'swingy' in terms of luck of the draw. However.. I also have really enjoyed the deck building, and fun synergies which arise between decks. I play two fisted solo. I always finish my session setting up the next encounter deck. randomly build decks in spare time between sessions and then sessions take for me about an hour.

I also do similar for PACG

As for soloing, I prefer LOTR for solo play. PACG for more people. Mage knight solo (two heck 3 player games take eternity at times). I also solo Myth(fun but does to meet criteria).. and am most looking forward to Assault on doomrock for solo play.





 
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Robbie M.
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I get it, different strokes and all that. But when you state:

MrTetsuo wrote:
There is very little replay value in any box or expansion (deluxe or otherwise) alone. You play with a pre constructed deck (much like a Magic, Netrunner, etc deck) against a specific quest deck. Once you a beat a quest a few times, there is not much reason to play it again.


it comes off like you are stating fact, not opinion.
It's all good, I'm sorry you didn't like the game as much as I did.
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Mike
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smarano wrote:
On the flip side, I'm intrigued by the responses about Thunderstone.


I own both games, and play Thunderstone Advance in both solitaire and multiplayer settings. If you go the Thunderstone route, I highly recommend getting Towers of Ruin, since it is the most solitaire-friendly. By this I mean that the solitaire game is well balanced and most cards do not rely on other players. If you like it, then consider picking up its direct expansion: Caverns of Bane.

The newer sets are heavily geared towards multiplayer, to the point that the solitaire rules are not even included in the rulebook anymore.
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Steve Marano
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I was away for a couple of days, and am just getting the chance to read all of the great additional advice.
I thank you, and curse you (just kidding) for that, as it has made my decision hard again (grin)...

I will definitely put LOTR back on the table for consideration and follow the advice here of reviewing game sessions and videos.

One additional question: it seems like most of the disadvantages of playing solo (e.g. added difficulty of many scenarios and reduced spectrum of playing options vis a vis multiplayer) can be overcome by playing with multiple decks. Is that really a viable and superior way of playing solo? Is it unwieldy? More accurately, do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?

And once again, thanks so much to all for such helpful and interesting advice. BGG remains my favorite Internet forum.

Steve in Jersey
 
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I'll throw my 2 cents in.
I've played LotR LCG maybe about 75 games; ~40 games with just the Core Set box alone. I've tried 2 games of Thunderstone Advance so while I've had experience with it, I'm no expert on the game. All games have been solo.

1a. Fantasy Theme: Both games are based on Fantasy obviously.
LotR is, as expected, based on the Lord of the Rings setting, story-wise taking place between the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. If you are even slightly a fan of the LotR, you will not be disappointed--the designers have done a superb job capturing the essence of the feel and nature of the theme.
T:A is built off a generic fantasy theme. You'll find some familiar and some unique monsters and creatures, and they've tried to create a story backdrop to the whole Thunderstone series. But unless you've been a fan following the cursory storyline from the first edition, there's not emotional investment to the theme because the setting is unknown.

1b. Solitaire Play: Both have official solitaire rules. See my comments in above under Fantasy gameplay for the gaming experience.
LotR was designed from the start as a solitaire game. It's super hard playing solo, but it's designed to be a solo/cooperative game. They have since published rules and guidelines on how to make the easier, and if you ever find the game needs more of a challenge, there are nightmare decks that will increase the difficulty.
T:A - Solitaire rules, as in many solo-playable games, are tacked on in addition to the main game. It's playable solo, but it was a meh experience for me.

2. Setup, tear down, etc.
LotR - Setting up each gaming session is very simple, ~5 minutes to get the 2 decks out and lay out scenario, your cards, and follow whatever setup instructions on each specific scenario. Tear down is equally as simple.
The biggest prep time is that you need a pre-constructed player deck and often with each scenario needing a unique deck strategy to beat it. It this deck construction is what ends up turning off a lot of players.
I don't consider deck construction as part of the game setup because you can keep a player deck ready for the next game you play, and as many similar games, players make deck construction as another activity to prepare well in advance before even playing a game. The Core Set comes with 4 minimum starter player decks and you can just start with them out of the box. I actually recommend that approach so you can learn the differences between the different types of decks and cards and once you're more familiar with the game, it's easier to know what cards you need in a player deck.
I've played the game in about a 2x4' space, but if you play 2 decks as many people like to do, you'll need more table space.
T:A - I don't remember how long the setup took, but it seemed like a long time as the game layout is a specific layout of different cards. This is a deck-building game, so you build your player deck as part of the game. But there's a specific set of instructions to follow to build the monster deck and you have to pick out a certain number of different types of cards for the village from which you build your player deck.
As with all deck building games, it's then a pain to sort out all the cards after playing.
They provide an actual board to layout the placement of all the cards. This takes up a lot of space in addition to needing space for your cards.

3. Complexity: I would rate both games of slightly-more-than-casual to moderate complexity but for different reasons. To sum up the difference, LotR starts simpler and gets more complex so it allows you to grow with it, while T:A has a steeper learning curve but once you've got the game play down, it remains the same.
LotR - The general rules and game phases are straight-forward and easy to follow and learn, which makes the game more easily approachable. The complexity comes in with specific card interactions which can lead to some ambiguity and confusion at first. The game really requires more dedication to "study" and develop your gameplay in knowing how analyze a scenario to develop a strategy in building a working deck to meet the challenge of a specific scenario. You can still play it casually without such in-depth analysis, but I don't think the theme and game would be as satisfying unless you do immerse yourself into the game.
T:A - The general rules seemed needlessly more complex as there are different actions available and how to carry out some of those actions. But it becomes easier once you learn the rules. Having a different card pool and monster deck each game changes the game play, but the basic rules remain the same for all game.

4. Game length.
LotR - Games generally play about an hour, less if you lose quicker, and if you're lucky to last, can go on a little longer.
T:A - As I've only played 2 games and first playing a game takes longer, I don't know how long an average game would take. I think it was about 2 hours each game (not including setup/teardown time). The game seemed to take a long time to "start" as you have to build up a viable player deck at the beginning of the game, but this is try of any deck building game.

5. Strategic element
LotR - There is definite strategic game play with card combinations, resource management, character management, and being prepared for whatever event comes up. Every scenario plays differently so it's not just more of the same; you need to figure out how to approach each new scenario. For example, combatting enemies are a big part of the game, but it isn't the only thing--you also have to manage your game to complete the quests, which sometimes means defeating a monster, other times it means just being able to survive long enough past a location or rescuing a hero.
T:A There's different card combinations in how to best combat but the game basically revolves around defeating enough monsters to get to the big boss at the end.

6. Fantasy Gameplay:While there is a fantasy theme in both games, how you experience this flavor coming out in the gameplay is very different. Neither can be classified as an RPG, but to compare the two games, I can extrapolate 2 major RPG elements for discussion: story development and character development.
LotR - Each game is about playing through and completing a scenario. You actually experience being as if you were with the party of characters going on an adventure in the LotR setting. Characters, locations, and enemies are both familiar and some unique are so true to form with fantasic artwork you can't help but be lured in and be immersed in the game play. This is a real hit and thrill for LotR fans.
While each scenario is a specific story, there isn't a campaign mode for the whole game. Each group and cycle of expansions very loosely follow a story line, but it's not relevant to gameplay. You can pretty much play expansions out of order. But it really easy to build a story while your playing each scenario as all the story elements are there in the scenario.
There is no character development. All characters are static.
T:A Maybe because I haven't tried enough Thunderstone games although I really tried to get into it. But it basically came down to going through the game mechanics. The generic fantasy flavor are there in the cards, but I didn't experience is as it playing through the game. What I said in point 1a. above about the fantasy theme holds true--there is a story background, but there is no story in the gameplay at all.
There is, however, a sense of character development as you can upgrade characters from 1 to level 3. They are just upgraded cards, however, and not true character customization. Characters are not unique so it's not you can immerse yourself in the game with the characters.

Summary: While neither game will fuller meet all your requirements, certainly not in the RPG criteria (but then I don't think any board/card game can anyway), I think LotR would be a more satisfying solitaire for you. It may or may not be my bias towards LotR as I've not had extensive playtime with T:A, but I would recommend LotR over T:A.

Happy Gaming.


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Susan F.
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smarano wrote:
So my questions:
A. Do the two games on my short list (LOTR LCG and Thunderstone Advance) meet these criteria


Two of my favourite games! I bought both this year, and have played both at least 30 times since purchasing. If you were looking to play two-player, I would highly recommend either. For solitaire play, though, I'd lean toward LOTR LCG. I pull it out regularly to play solo. Thunderstone not so much.

I went a different route than you're planning, so I can't comment specifically on The Black Riders as I don't have it yet. I started with the core set then bought the first six adventure packs. I tried to space them out, opening one at a time, tweaking decks and trying out the new adventures. Currently, I have a pair of decks for my husband and I that we're going to try to use to play through the whole set of adventures (three from the base game plus six from the adventure packs). Then I'll switch things up as I do most of our deck building. For solitaire play, I started by using one of the decks recommended in the forums here and tweaked it as I added each adventure pack. Now that I've learned how to play well (beating all but two scenarios solo - there are two that just don't scale down well, one of which is the third scenario in the core set), I have ideas that I want to try for my own decks. So, yes, I've spent about $100 on the game - and have every intention of spending more - but that has got me to over 50 plays, over 30 of which are solo and even if there was nothing else to buy, I could easily see getting another 50 plays out of this game. The key to me is getting a decent set/variety of scenarios as beating the same scenario over and over with different decks would eventually fall flat.

Thunderstone Advance (you'd want the Towers of Ruin set if you could get it; Worlds Collide would be okay; the Starter Set is not sufficient) is an awesome game, but whether or not it's possible to win a solitaire game is pretty much determined by the set of cards you pull at the beginning. That's because some sets of cards will require you to spend more time fine tuning your deck - while others let you blast into the dungeon quickly. In multiplayer, this is not at all an issue (and helps with replay value) as everyone is in the same boat. In solitaire play, you're essentially playing against a clock. Monsters are coming at you from the dungeon and every time you skip a turn to go shopping, one escapes. You win by beating more monsters than escape (counted by points - not actually by number of monsters). I found this frustrating in the co-op version of the game which operates on the same principle. Since my husband is happy to play 2-player with me, I'm unlikely to bother putting up with it in solitaire play when I have more satisfying alternatives.

In terms of your other criteria, LOTR is faster to set up and tear down than Thunderstone - assuming you keep your set fairly organized. Also, I'm assuming that some play sessions will be deck building and some actually playing. If you consider deck building part of set up, obviously that takes longer. (Once I build a deck, I keep it together between games until I need the cards for a different deck. If I want to go back to it later, I make a card list so that I can quickly reconstruct it.)

Since you never mentioned it, I'll point out that Ascension also has a solitaire mode (similar to Thunderstone's - play against a "clock" of fleeing cards). It's a much quicker game than either LOTR or Thunderstone - though I don't personally find it as satisfying from a strategic point of view. (To me, it's almost entirely tactical.)
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David Valadez
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A HUGE advantage LotR has over Thunderstone is the great online and podcast community. Every time a new episode of the Grey Company or Cardboard of the Rings is uploaded, I feel the need to tweak a couple of old decks and go through either the newer quests or maybe try a new concept with older quests. Seriously, I have to construct a Silvan deck soon and test run it with Hunt for Gollum to see how it fares. I don't know if Thunderstone has that kind of support, but there's a ton of resources for Lord of the Rings.
 
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Steve Marano
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These enthusiastic and thorough answers pretty much have convinced me that LOTR is worth pulling the trigger on. Would love to get a response to my previous question about the pros and cons of playing solo with multiple decks.
 
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I've played a fair amount of "two fisted solo". It's not all that difficult to do. The game works well solo, double solo, and two player. I highly recommend The Black Riders for the best in theme immersion.

The cons of multiple decks played solo are just the fiddliness of physically managing two hands of cards at once.
 
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Dr Johnson
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The pros of multiple decks is that the game is better balanced and one or two quests actually work better if you have them.

The downside is that there are large numbers of cards on the table and I always found it difficult to remember where I was and be able to analyse all of the card interactions.

A third option would be to use the "fellowship rules" which a fellow BGGer wrote and are in the files section. These simulate multiple decks in one hand so you can have more than 3 heroes but at reasonable threat.

By the way, I also think this game has a lot of replayability. As you gain more cards, you can form a number of different thematic decks, all of which can be used against quests.

Enjoy!
 
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Dominic B
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I played the game solo through the core set and the first cycle of adventure packs. I also tried out the feloowship variant rules which Dr Johnson mentioned above. Till the second cycle I switched entirelly to two handed solo because of all the recommendations made in various threads here and found my preferred playstyle with it.

Espeially the first adventures seem a lot more challenging solo. Furthermore I always felt that true soloing was more puzzly and required more careful deckbuilding and in-game ressource management. For me it always had a more competitive feel, you against the encounter deck with the need and joy to always tweak your deck a little more to find the "perfect" solo deck. It is the harsh fight of three heroes against a mighty enemy.

Two-handed solo seems a bit more balanced. But which really brought me into it was the desire to have more possibilities of tactical deck combinations (i.e. you finally can use abilites like "ranged" to help the other group of heroes out) and it lets me use more of all the fun cards and heroes at the same time. The decision was therefore mostly emotional for me. I wanted to bring more heroes to the field at the same time and wanted to build thematic decks which can support each other and work together.

I never got a problem with managing two hands at once but at the time I knew the rules already very good. I would recommend to start with true solo to understand the rules and timing of the game and then try out two handed. As I said both have a different feel to it and I guess it is a matter of personal taste which one you like more.

There is also a lot of fun in exploring the theme of the different playstyles and I recently began exploring the game this way, which means that there are scenarios when solo feels more thematic than two handed and on the other side I am planning know a three handed play of the "Battle of the five armies" quest from the second Hobbit expansion to make it more epic like in the book. There is even a very cool Sam Gamgee one hero solo deck posted here in the forums which gives you a new feeling of a lone hero.

I know I am a sucker for this game but I just can't underline enough how much story and theme the game can have if your into this.
 
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HenningK
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smarano wrote:
1) First and foremost, a fantasy-oriented game with a very satisfying solitaire option.


LotR: Check.
Thunderstone: Semi-check. I think the solo mode works, but it's weaker than multiplayer. But then again, I'm not a fan of Thunderstone to begin with.

smarano wrote:
2) A game that could be set up and taken down quickly, or alternatively– if you wish to leave it set up to be played over the course of several game sessions - wouldn’t require you to dedicate an entire kitchen or dining room table to it. It was this criterion that made me limit my focus to card games (though I much prefer this type of game anyhow), and rule out games like D&D, Defenders of the Realm, and Mage Knight which rely more on tiles and/or miniatures.


LotR: Check if you don't count the time to build decks before the actual game starts.
Thunderstone: Not-really-check. Setup and teardown is a bit annoying with all the piles to sort through. Leaving it set up also means you shouldn't mess with all the piles too much.

smarano wrote:
3) A game with a casual to moderate level of complexity.


LotR: No. This game is pretty complex; the first few games, you definitely will forget something. Also, it has numerous rules corner cases.
Thunderstone: Check.

smarano wrote:
4) A game length of no more than one hour, or one that could be played in sessions of such length. It was primarily this criterion coupled with #2 above upon which I ruled out Mage Knight, a game that otherwise seemed very appealing due to its reportedly deep immersive fantasy experience and opportunity for deep, strategic play.


LotR: Semi-check. Once you know what you are doing, a scenario will usually take 30-60 minutes, but occasionally can go to 2 hours.
Thunderstone: Check (not counting learning games which may take longer).

smarano wrote:
5) A game that has a reasonably deep strategic element, and enough depth and variability to justify repeated play over a reasonably long period of time. I’m not interested in something that entails little more than rolling dice and doing math. It was for this reason that – rightly or wrongly - I ruled out Pathfinder.


LotR: Check if you keep adding expansions.
Thunderstone: Check if you keep adding expansions.

smarano wrote:
6) A game with a fairly heavy thematic element, that to a reasonable degree gives one the feeling of being immersed in a RPG.


LotR: Semi-check. Very good storytelling and plot as far as card games go. Also has several ongoing scenarios that make it feel like a campaign. It is not an RPG however, you don't get experience or level up your characters, for example.
Thunderstone: Semi-check. Doesn't tell a story (except "kill all monsters in the dungeon"), but features an RPG-ish feeling where you can acquire equipment and heroes that gain experience and can level up. But there is no "campaign", you start with a blank slate every game.


I'm not sure how much my comments help you. Strictly going by your criteria doesn't spell out that I personally really enjoy LotR and dislike Thunderstone quite a bit. But I hope I gave you some useful information.
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