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Subject: A Guide to the Game and Expansions rss

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Kal Goran
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So I've been eying this for a bit, and as a Tolkien fan I'm decidedly interested. I'm also seeing that while a lot of the game is out of print, FF is in the middle of reprinting most everything.

Ultimately I'm trying to figure out potential path's into the game, both for solo play and with a friend via Tabletop Sim (gotta check how much is in that though).

As I understand it, the core set expands via Adventure packs into the Mirkwood cycle, that's between the Hobbit and the trilogy. Thematically that doesn't have as much appeal as some of the other expansions but I'm curious what you guys recommend.

Beyond that, I'm seeing Deluxe expansions, that appear to have a host of Adventure Pack's tied to them, and Saga expansions, which appear to be standalone chapters of the main storyline, and apparently have a campaign mode?

A playthrough of the entire series is interesting, especially if the campaign mode is compelling, but I also like the idea of more theoretical side stories. While I love Tolkien I don't feel the need to confine the game strictly to canon, and some of the deluxe expansions are really interesting-Khazad Dum sounds awesome, exploring Numenor in Grey Havens would be great, getting into the North and the Dunedain would be really interesting. So the big question there is how necessary the Adventure packs are. It sounds like the deluxe packs are really a Launchpad into the larger series with the adventure packs continuing them. This is cool, but means a somewhat hefty investment up front to see a single "arc". Is that correct?

If so, how much "story" do these arcs offer, and how easy is it to play in a campaign style for a cohesive story? Would the Saga boxes be better on that front, if they're standalone and could be tackled one at a time?

Thanks for any and all feedback guys.
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Dale Stephenson
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The saga forms a cohesive story following the books. Generally speaking each cycle taken as a whole forms a cohesive story arc, and the current Harad cycle literally starts where the Dream-chaser cycle leaves off.

You must have the core set to play. All saga expansions and all deluxe expansions, plus the adventure packs from the first cycle, are playable with just the core set. All adventure packs after the first cycle require the corresponding deluxe.

In terms of a connected story, I'd list these:

1) Both Hobbit saga boxes are a connected story
2) The first two LOTR boxes are a connected story (plus two print-on-demand quests for the Old Forest and Barrow Downs). Those extend into two separate stories, just like the books, with Treason of Saruman and Flame of the West following Aragorn and Land of Shadow following Frodo -- the upcoming Mountain of Fire brings both threads back together.

3) The core set quests are loosely connected, but the connection doesn't really show up in the quests.

4) The Mirkwood adventure packs tell a specific story, though two of the APs (Rhosgobel and Carrock) are essentially side-quests from the hunt for Gollum.

5) The three Khazad-Dum packs tell a linked story, a journey through Moria.

6) The first two Dwarrowdelf packs tell a story of a trip from Lorien to Rivendell, the final four tell a story of another trip through Moria. The two trips are loosely connected by the text, but aren't really connected by place.

All following cycles the Deluxe + APs tell a connected story, though some quests are more clearly connected by place than others. For example, Morgul Vale clearly picks up where Blood of Gondor leaves off, but Encounter at Amon Din feels more like a side-quest that doesn't advance the plot.

In general I think the connection between story and quest becomes stronger as the game progresses. Note that to get the full story you should read the inserts, not just the abbreviated version you see on the quest cards. In addition to the pre-quest background, the quests have "Read this after you beat the quest" material.
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Josh Walton
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TheThreeLaws wrote:
So I've been eying this for a bit, and as a Tolkien fan I'm decidedly interested. I'm also seeing that while a lot of the game is out of print, FF is in the middle of reprinting most everything.

Ultimately I'm trying to figure out potential path's into the game, both for solo play and with a friend via Tabletop Sim (gotta check how much is in that though).

As I understand it, the core set expands via Adventure packs into the Mirkwood cycle, that's between the Hobbit and the trilogy. Thematically that doesn't have as much appeal as some of the other expansions but I'm curious what you guys recommend.


The "in-between" stories are actually really cool. The designers did a good job of extrapolating things that might have happened, or in some cases were tangentially mentioned in the actual trilogy.

TheThreeLaws wrote:
Beyond that, I'm seeing Deluxe expansions, that appear to have a host of Adventure Pack's tied to them, and Saga expansions, which appear to be standalone chapters of the main storyline, and apparently have a campaign mode?

A playthrough of the entire series is interesting, especially if the campaign mode is compelling, but I also like the idea of more theoretical side stories. While I love Tolkien I don't feel the need to confine the game strictly to canon, and some of the deluxe expansions are really interesting-Khazad Dum sounds awesome, exploring Numenor in Grey Havens would be great, getting into the North and the Dunedain would be really interesting. So the big question there is how necessary the Adventure packs are. It sounds like the deluxe packs are really a Launchpad into the larger series with the adventure packs continuing them. This is cool, but means a somewhat hefty investment up front to see a single "arc". Is that correct?


The deluxe expansions and they're ensuing Adventure Packs go hand in hand. A lot of the time some new mechanics or themes for the player cards are just introduced in the deluxe expansion, and then those themes are fully fleshed out over the course of the AP cycle. You're right that it's a big investment, but I think it would be better for example to get a deluxe and all it's AP's then say, getting 3 different deluxe expansions.

TheThreeLaws wrote:
If so, how much "story" do these arcs offer, and how easy is it to play in a campaign style for a cohesive story? Would the Saga boxes be better on that front, if they're standalone and could be tackled one at a time?


In the first couple of cycles the story is kinda thin. It's there but it doesn't really feel like you're missing out if you don't play them in order. Starting in the Heirs of Numenor there is an actual story that plays out in the included materials that is really well written and drives each quest to the next. No campaign per se, but still fun to play straight through just for the story's sake.

The Saga line does have the full on campaign mode where you earn both boons and burdens that carry over from quest to quest. If you're looking for a more progressive style of play where you feel like you're getting stronger RPG-style, a story, and don't want to spend as much money the sagas are probably the way to go. That said, you asked earlier how important the Adventure packs are, and I would say very important just because the more cards you have to build decks with, the greater your chances of success. But either way I think you could have fun if you only bought the sagas.

No matter which way you go or even mix and match it's always fun to be playing this game!
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Fluss Burrito
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Take a look into "the tales of years" campaign here on bgg it is epic.
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FlussBurrito wrote:
Take a look into "the tales of years" campaign here on bgg it is epic.


Where do you find that?
 
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Kal Goran
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This I assume https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1214867/tale-years-mega-cam...

What 3 packs are Khazad-Dum? For some reason I'd seen those linked to Dwarrowdelf so I'm a bit confused.

So, Heirs of Numenor is good? I love the concept. Grey Havens also sounded good. Even though Khazad-Dum is earlier and has less explicit story the concept is great, and I'd heard some good things about the mechanics and theme of the arc.
 
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Dale Stephenson
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TheThreeLaws wrote:
This I assume https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1214867/tale-years-mega-cam...

What 3 packs are Khazad-Dum? For some reason I'd seen those linked to Dwarrowdelf so I'm a bit confused.


My fault -- I mean to write the 3 Khazad-Dum *quests*. Khazad-Dum is the Deluxe connected to the Dwarrowdelf cycle of Adventure packs, but the Dwarrowdelf storyline isn't an extension of the Khazad-Dum storyline.

Quote:
So, Heirs of Numenor is good? I love the concept. Grey Havens also sounded good. Even though Khazad-Dum is earlier and has less explicit story the concept is great, and I'd heard some good things about the mechanics and theme of the arc.


Heirs of Numenor has a good, connected story, and it has some fine player cards -- but out of all the cycles, I think Heirs of Numenor/Against the Shadow are the biggest departure from "normal" questing. For that reason, I wouldn't recommend a new player choose it as their first cycle. But it's certainly worth doing somewhere along the journey. Except Morgul Vale .
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Kal Goran
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Ahhhh ok that makes sense. So Khazad-Dum and Dwarrowdelf are connected just not a single continuous story. Cool.

Ok, so if I were to buy the core set, one Deluxe, and accompanying adventure packs, and looking for an engaging experience (ie, narrative story is good, but evocative setting and emergent story via mechanics is also awesome), what might be the best to go with?
 
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Dale Stephenson
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TheThreeLaws wrote:
Ahhhh ok that makes sense. So Khazad-Dum and Dwarrowdelf are connected just not a single continuous story. Cool.

Ok, so if I were to buy the core set, one Deluxe, and accompanying adventure packs, and looking for an engaging experience (ie, narrative story is good, but evocative setting and emergent story via mechanics is also awesome), what might be the best to go with?


Really depends on what you like most and dislike most. If you haven't played even the core set, you might not even *know* what you like or dislike the most.

For example, in some respects I think Voice of Isengard + Ringmaker cycle is the best cycle -- I think it has the most interesting storyline, it's got the basics of the Silvan deck archetype (Celeborn/Galadriel/Haldir are all in that cycle) and it gives us the first few Ents, including the ludicrously awesome Treebeard ally. But if your favorite core set hero is Beravor for her game-winning card draw, you'll find parts of the cycle to be very, very frustrating. And the "Time" mechanic adds some fiddliness and works against decks that want to turtle up and build a massive army.

If you like the idea of going through Moria and building an army of dwarves, maybe Khazad-Dum/Dwarrowdelf is the cycle you want. If you like the idea of playing Dunedain while fighting evil orcs and ghosts out of Angmar, then Lost Realm/Angmar Awakens is a great place to go. There's no wrong choices here, cost permitting I like them all.
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Kal Goran
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Good to know, thanks! Ideally I'd grab them all but money is the limiting factor, even within board gaming allowances as it were.

Buddy has it so I'll play with him in TTS and see what grabs me. Thanks again for the responses!
 
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Dr Johnson
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Be aware that if you get the later cycles (anything after Heirs of Numenor inclusive) the difficulty rises significantly. I think start with Hunt of Gollum or Khazad Dum to begin with as these were slightly easier.
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Kal Goran
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Good to know. That prompts a question--I'm aware there are "easy mode" rules that have been published. Obviously this isn't going to be the ideal way to play the game, but I'd possibly rather a pack that is more appealing and start in easy mode before graduating to normal difficulty, assuming Easy Mode is well designed and still engaging enough. I'm mostly interested for the experiences and stories generated, not a crazy challenge, but obviously challenge can create great stories.

So, any thoughts on easy mode, as an introductory mode for harder (but more appealing) expansions?
 
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Dale Stephenson
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If you think a quest is going to be too hard for you in normal mode, there's absolutely no shame in using easy mode. If you beat it too easily for your taste, play it again in normal mode. (And for some quests, beating it on easy mode even with a large card pool is no cinch.)

Whether a particular quest is "too easy" depends on a lot of things -- the difficulty of the quest, the quality of the deck(s) against that particular quest, luck of the draw, and especially how difficult the player wants it to be. There are people who won't play any normal mode because they're confident their uber-deck(s) will crush it.
 
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