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Subject: The Tale of Years - Mega-Campaign Mode for LOTR LCG rss

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Changes are huge and may be too heavy to be all listed here, though the general spirit of the thing is continued in version 4.1. The best I can do is copy / paste here the "Designer's Note" (basically our note on the process behind TotY, from version 0 to the last 4.1).

Let it be known that the rules contain a full example of campaign flow that might help you understand all the concepts we tried to introduce (albeit ficonal).

You can follow the TotY adventures of a Dale Fellowship I'm currently running against the current cycle -- here.

DESIGNERS’ NOTES

Welcome to the Tale of Years Campaign Mode, a fan-made Campaign Mode for The Lord of the Rings The Card Game. These campaign rules aim at reinforcing the narrative aspect of the game. FFG and the official design team did a great a job with the Saga Expansion campaign mode and we’ve always wanted to expand the experience to standard Deluxe and Cycle releases.

Our variant is basically a victory point variant. In The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, you can collect victory points by defeating encounter cards or playing cards with the victory keyword. Over the years since the game’s creation in 2011, much grunting has occurred that those victory points had little to no impact on the game experience (though the “victory display” now exists as a in-game player card mechanics, but fuels on cards worth no victory points). We’ve seen lots of ideas on how those victory points can be used by the players earning them, much of them not to our tastes.

We thus started with the same base idea of this campaign mode: you will be able to spend those victory points to beneficial effects.
We took our inspiration directly from the official saga campaign mode to define what how the campaign would flow. As we intended our campaign mode to remain as generic as possible, we kept the generic rules about players deck (they must be tournament-legal), heroes line-up, and Fallen Heroes.

However, we had to think about how to give the players breath between quests. As today, there are dozens of quests available (more than a hundred!) and running a campaign through all of them can be a deadly experience to a group of heroes, especially when applying the threat penalty on Fallen Heroes as they accumulate. As we tied the quests together in a global chronology we introduced the “narrative pauses” as defined by Ian Martin at Tales From the Cards. For example, just after escorting Arwen in the Redhorn Gate and the Road to Rivendell, you actually reach Rivendell: this is a narrative pause. The narrative pauses are quite the equivalent of those “the players can change their heroes without incurring any threat penalty” that can be found on some Saga expansion campaign cards, and hold exactly the same ability, as well as healing a damage on each of your heroes.
Resorting to those narrative pauses allowed us not to engage into a full design of campaign cards, boons, burdens we feared would be too much of a daunting task, having only the resources of amateur development. This led us, during the early steps of creation and play-testing of our Tale of Years campaign rules, to try and make it unnecessary for players to print new cards when playing campaign mode. New ideas coming in (even uncalled) during development, we eventually enriched the variant with those Boons & Burdens as well as the addition of three new card types: Gift, Haven and Presence cards. We kept all those fully optional and the players can continue to enjoy Tale of the Years without the need of a printer.

Wrapping in a single package the official rules about Fallen Heroes and again some comments of Ian Martin about the loss of unique player cards during a quest, we introduced the “dead pile”. The dead pile basically expands on the Fallen Heroes system by applying it to every unique destroyed Allies and unique Attachments discarded from play. Lost unique cards remain lost from one quest to the next, unless retrieved by the players.
We also added persistency of damage on heroes (which was already a thing in the “Expert mode” you can find in the Core Set rulebooks) and the persistency of Condition attachments coming from the encounter deck from one quest to the next. You hate those Condition treacheries right? Now they remain attached to your heroes!
Fallen Heroes, the dead pile, and persistent damage and Condition attachments gave us enough to fuel the generic custom cards & victory point spending system we suggest in this mode. It lets you get rid of those damage and Condition attachments at a given price.
Of course, the Tale of Years variant only makes sense if the players include enough unique cards! The players must include at least 6 non-Istari unique cards in their decks, with at least 3 different titles. For example, I’m playing a Gondorian Ranger deck with Mablung ally (2 copies), Steward of Gondor (3 copies), Gandalf ally (3 copies) and Anborn ally (2 copies). My deck is legal, as it contains 7 non-Istari unique cards, with at least 3 different titles.

Early on, the players could pool and spend nearly every victory point they earned to beneficial effects. But the recent development of the game has forced us to review thoroughly how the victory points system works, especially with the distortion between the number of victory points that were available in the first cycles, now scarcer in the most recent quests. The introduction of player side quests (usually worth 1 victory point) and encounter side quests to the game (worth 10 victory points, which is the scoring equivalent of the additional turn you need to complete the said side quest) further unbalanced our system (as you really can pile victory points on side quest-friendly or side quest-heavy quests).

The Arkham Horror LCG campaign system partly helped us resolve this issue by introducing the “experience point” as a new campaign mode value. Experience points are earned during the resolution of every quest, based on its difficulty (I used the Quest Companion’s user difficulty to assess it, not the official difficulty) and for each 10 victory points (or part thereof) the players earn.
One beneficial aspect is that the experience points are somewhat tied to the victory points, but can also be tied to other game effects and events, such as… losing a quest.

We have long been puzzled on how to include losses in the campaign flow, and how to smoothen a bit those rage quests that would seem unbeatable with the deck restrictions imposed or self-inflicted negative campaign mode effects (or unbeatable no matter what!). That’s where the Grace of the Valar variant comes in. The Grace of the Valar variant, designed by Chris Stanford (called Seastan) (https://community.fantasyflightgames.com/topic/271926-easy-m...) helps players beat harder quests by giving them an edge in the form of card(s) draw or additional resource(s), a number of which you increasingly get with the number of losses against that quest you record in your campaign log. As any idea we find elegant and feel would enhance our own variant, we decide to include it as part of the experience point system. Since we already had our own campaign framework running, we did not include per se the Valar tokens, and the eliminated players get some experience point to spend instead (just as they would a Grace of the Valar token).

Introducing a way to manage losses in the campaign flow really helped us correcting a caveat of the previous rule version of the campaign. Penalties incurred by replacing a Fallen Hero now only apply to the controlling player. This is to make the situation a bit less awkward where it was more cost-efficient to sacrifice a player’s all 3 heroes, and only get +1 threat penalty as per single elimination rule, instead of a +3 you would get for changing heroes (we hope it’s fixed, though I suspect someone will find another caveat in the current system!).
Note that the Grace of the Valar variant also introduces a measure of the player’s performance. The number of the Grace of the Valar tokens used throughout the whole campaign determines the player’s campaign score: of course, the more you use, the less performance. It’s also much more elegant than our version of recording scoring of every loss, because by our previous scoring system, the further you managed to resist the encounter deck the more punished you were in terms of scoring, which doesn’t make sense. Now, the players add 10 to the global score of the campaign for each experience point received by an eliminated player (even if it is unspent).

From version 3 of Tale of the Years, the “generic” campaign mode (where you can include any scenario into your own custom campaign) is abandoned. Chronology of the Westlands is now the basic mode of the variant, as we found most players using our variant were following it. As a consequence, we have abandoned the over-tying of scenarios to the chronology given in the appendixes, and lifted all restrictions on playable player cards. It’s highly more flexible now than it was before, also more sandboxy while still in a chronological framework the players appreciate.

We also have included rules pertaining to Guarded (X) player cards. As I’ve said a lot on the forums & CotR Discord channel, I’m not a big fan of the mechanics, so maybe I was a bit biased designing that rule, but I’m having a lot of fun with it and I hope that less-skeptical players than I am about Guarded (X) card will also like this rule. Basically, if a player plays a Guarded (X) card and finally takes control of it during a quest, he is considered to have “found” it (you know, just as the Treasures in the Hobbit Saga Expansions). In subsequent quests, the card loses its Guarded (X) keyword and can now be played like any other player cards (once you have “found” Glamdring, I suspect you won’t let it escape again under a Goblin Runner or a Spider Den), but it also gains “Limit 1 per deck” (just as the Black Arrow: after all, those are very rare artifacts right?).

I really enjoy the Guarded (X) player cards as a part of the Tale of Years variant, as I have been trying for years to add optional rules where you could find some more “Treasures” like Nimphelos, Oropher Gray Cloak, Eorl’s Spear, etc. I even had an embryonal document about that called “The Road Goes Ever On, an Expansion for Tale of Years”. But I now feel like it’s fully covered by the Guarded (X) keyword and that potential expansion has been ditched that altogether.

With the clear separation between victory and experience points, the players can now save experience points at the end of each scenario, we fear less the accumulation of victory points! In precedent versions, after the players had made any purchase, unspent points were lost. It led to awkward situations, as you could sometimes get lots of victory points during an easy scenario, no card in the dead pile, no damage to heal, and lose a hero on the next scenario, with no victory points and no way to bring it back. It adds for more flexibility and decision-making for the players. Being able to save experience points also allowed us to separate campaign actions you can do during either Setup and Resolution of each quest. It adds a bit more strategical thinking: for example, you can heal your heroes during the Resolution of a scenario but not during the Setup. You might want to weigh the pros and cons of tackling the next scenario with damaged heroes because once you’ve proceeded to the Setup of that next scenario, you cannot go back on that decision.

As you now save experience points, the narrative pauses no longer fully heal your heroes, but instead, you can heal 1 damage on each of your heroes for free (which is already an equivalent of 3 experience points per player).

The POD quests and how they could fit in our variant has always been a real pain, and we tried our best including them at the point in the chronology where we feel they make the “most sense” (it’s highly subjective). Again, the Arkham Horror LCG gave us a different solution. Those quests are still part of the chronology but: (a) they are fully optional (players can decide not to play them as part of the chronology) (b) If the players desire so, they can be played at any point of their campaign (move them around in the chronology as you like if you think they do not make sense where we placed them) (c) those quests are identified with a gold background. If the players win it on their first attempt, they get twice the reward of experience points!

Finally, a word on the custom Boons, Burdens, Haven and Presence cards we propose. The main point of those cards have always been to reinforce the interaction of the players with the dead pile. But from version 3, we felt the variant was still missing some of that interaction, so we added some more burden cards (6 to be precise) and 2 Boons to further customize and enrich your adventures in Middle-Earth. Those cards are an attempt at reinforcing the dead pile mechanics, as well as introducing a sort of corruption effect from the encounter deck.

We could have included iconic allies or objectives allies we’ve seen in the cycles, like Wilyador, Gildor, etc. But we feared it’d be too strong a stance in the narrative from our part (and would again probably require designing Boons for each cycle, falling back to the design of a full campaign mode for each cycle). The Return of the King appendixes gave us the solution: our Boon/Burden system would be centered around the five Istari (ok, that also gave us an excuse to introduce the Blue Wizards!), which are probably the more “generic” characters in Middle-Earth (meaning that you could virtually encounter them anywhere, from Lindon to Rhûn and from Forochel to the Harad). The players can earn Istari Boon and events tied to them, but should beware the corrupting power of the encounter deck!
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Awesome. I'm a beginner with this so have a few quick questions:

I'm assuming the v3 cards are compatible with this new version and we don't need to print them all again, correct? If there are just additions to the custom cards, which are the new ones?

Also, I'm trying to wrap my mind around the Grace of Valar-like system upon losing a quest. It makes sense to give experience points upon an elimination to give the player a slightly better edge each time. But I don't understand why the global score would go up for a loss (10 x the 2xp). Isn't a higher global score at the end good? So taking losses would actually benefit the end score rather than harm it. Or am I thinking of this backwards and a low global score is better?

Thanks.
 
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tomservo6 wrote:
Awesome. I'm a beginner with this so have a few quick questions:

I'm assuming the v3 cards are compatible with this new version and we don't need to print them all again, correct? If there are just additions to the custom cards, which are the new ones?


There has been some re-wording, but nothing that would prevent your from using v3 cards. So you can keep them and print the additional ones separately.

Quote:

Also, I'm trying to wrap my mind around the Grace of Valar-like system upon losing a quest. It makes sense to give experience points upon an elimination to give the player a slightly better edge each time. But I don't understand why the global score would go up for a loss (10 x the 2xp). Isn't a higher global score at the end good? So taking losses would actually benefit the end score rather than harm it. Or am I thinking of this backwards and a low global score is better?

Thanks.


A low global score is better in this game.

Be sure you are using the official correct scoring system, which I believe was changed in the very first FAQ a long time ago.

If you have an early Core Set, the scoring rules in the rulebook might be wrong.
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I plan on playing through using the progression method as mentioned in the FAQ - limiting the heroes and cards I use for each quest to that expansion and narratively-prior expansions.

I enjoy the meta-game aspect of opening up more options as I progress in a campaign, similar to an RPG. Also, I think having most all of the heroes and cards available at the very beginning is too complex and overwhelming for a new player like me. I'd much rather be eased into the system and have the sandboxy gameplay slowly open. A more practical reason is that I am still slowly purchasing all of the expansions in chronological narrative order. This means I can go ahead and start on the campaign without worrying that I'm depriving myself of card choices from later campaigns I don't yet own.

Playing this way, is this going to greatly increase the odds several quests in that I will find myself dead in the water and unable to continue the campaign at all? If my pool of heroes, especially at the beginning, is small, it seems that if some go in the dead pile, I would quickly run out of other heroes to replace them with. I also couldn't pull them out of the dead pile without the resolution stage, which would be harder to reach with less living heroes. Maybe I'm overlooking something, however.

Are my assumptions correct? If so, Is there an existing rule, or maybe a suggested house rule, that would help this theoretical disadvantage?
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First, about product availability: you might want to grab what you can and not restrict yourself by chronological order, because availability of older cycle is quite random, and you don't want the newer cycle to become unavailable by the time the old ones get reprinted.

Swallowing the whole card pool is too much for a new player, definitely. But if you don't have every product in the game, I'd say simply restrict yourself to what you have, it's ok.

If you have access to everything in the game, then I don't recommend "progression mode" (this is how the community call what you're discribing). Regarding player card, I would opt for a "cycle progression mode", meaning you don't add player cards to your pool product by product, but cycle by cycle.

That's because the designers have admitted the player cards inside a cycle are designed as a whole, and their dispatching in APs is more or less random.

That said.

Concerning Tale of Years, it doesn't matter if you don't reach Resolution, it means that you have lost and so you retrieve everything that went to the dead pile during the just-failed attempt. See rule 32.

Finally, just run the campaign playing all the quests Easy Mode.

This game is so moddable, just have fun with it, don't sweat it!
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Vladislav Nikolaenko
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Hi.

Thanks you for v4!
The last page of cards pdf is landscape, not portrait as others.
 
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Indeed.
Is that a problem?
 
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Vladislav Nikolaenko
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In fact, no problem. I have now printed out, and the sizes of the cards are the same. Yesterday I thought that the sizes would be different.
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Looks fantastic and thank you for sharing! When uploading the cards to a website that allows you to design and print your own playing cards, I received the message that the jpg's are "low quality", which I guess means the resolution is low? Are the cards available at a higher resolution/DPI?
 
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Vladislav Nikolaenko
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Can I change composition of the desk after failed attempt of the quest?
 
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Yes, there is no restriction on swapping cards between quests or attempts at quest.
 
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Jacek Wieszaczewski
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I really like the whole idea and need to start the campaign one day when I manage to collect all the scenarios.

One thing I definitely would tinker with is the ordering of the scenarios. Of course the source of the problem is first two cycles, when designers didn't think about building a coherent storyline much. This gives us two separate trips to Moria, hunt for Gollum stopped for some other random adventures and so on.

When trying to do something for the timeline to make sense, I also looked at maps of Middle-Earth, so that there is as little useless travel as possible. What I arrived at was:
1. We start with 6 Hobbit scenarios, + Battle of Lake-Town
2. Then, as we are near Mirkwood, we can do core set & Mirkwood things. Not hunt for Gollum, as this is to be done just before Lord of the Rings, but the rest. Looking at the map, the most logical order is Passage - Carrock - Anduin - Rhosgobel - Dol Guldur
3. Then we get the only serious "teleport". Heroes appear in Pelargir, doing Against the Shadow and Ringmaker.
4. The second, a bit less serious, teleport happens. But even the FFG storyline has one here, from Isengard to Angmar. Here we need less travel, just to Mirkwood. From there we can take Arwen and (Redhorn + Road) get her to Rivendell.
5. Elrond sends us to Moria. Once! Watcher - Into The Pit - Long Dark - Foundations - Seventh Level - Flight - Shadow and Flame (after escaping Moria in Flight, heroes find out that it is too cold outside and decide to go back and fight Balrog instead of freezing to death).
6. Now things get easy, as we just need to follow FFG storyline. At the moment, all the way to Dale cycle ending.
7. Once this is done, there are 4 hunt for Gollum scenarios and then LotR saga.

What do you think about this ordering?
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This was roughly the ordering we chose in v1.

We abandoned because it was (sometimes) not coherent with quests' backstories (don't ask me for details, can't remember) and because it could be confusing for some players.

We had also placed the Ring Maker cycle circa 3000 (the time around which Saruman falls to the darkness according to the Appendixes), and articulate the all Against the Shadow cycle with the event of TA 3017 and 3018 in Gondor leading to the War of the Ring.

The Core Set campaign was set around the time of Gandalf and the White Council exploration of Dol Guldur, and Dwarrowdelf/Khazad-Dûm mixed pretty much as you did in one single campaign.

It was all fine and running, except placement of those quests in this "historical" chronology drastically limited the number of characters you could use. This was not so much annoying for the Core Set / KD / Dwarrowdelf thing, but started becoming one of Ring-Maker, as much TA characters were still not born (or at least teenagers) at that time.

Overall, we felt it was too much of a bias, especially since the timeline has been so coherent since the start of Against the Shadow. So overall, it's just the first 18 quests that are a bit shambolic, which is ok.

I like your inclusion of the two Mirkwood "side quests" as part of the Core Set narrative arc though, very clever!
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Eric Dumouchel
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Thank you very much for the campaign mode. Our gaming group love what you done to the game! Any chance we could get Tom Bombadil in the campaign pool?
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I'm not a strong advocate of having Tom Bombadil and Goldberry outside the Old Forest. However, it's a card game, and just like we're getting the One Ring in player card, I think we might get Tom and his wife at some point. It will be interesting to see what they do with him, and if they come with a thematic idea. I feel like the Encounter keyword isn't a bad idea for them.

If the game closes before this happens, I'll certainly do it though.
 
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