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Subject: Lord of the Rings Card Game rss

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Ken H
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I played my first solitaire LotR LCG (Lord of the Rings Living Card Game). Read up on the rules before-hand, then started with the first scenario that came with the base game.

I have to say that I am not impressed so far.

First off, the process of moving through each round is not as simple as other LCGs, such as Arkham Horror. There are a bunch of phases that need to be learned via the hefty rule book. However, once you do a few rounds, though, it gets better.

Also, when you want to purchase a card (i.e. add an accessory, like a sword, to a character), it's not as simple as trading in your gold/resources to play the card, as it is in other LCGs. In LotR, each of the heroes has a stash of coin. They can only help each other out to buy a card if they are from the same "sphere". That is, a wizard (not an actual "sphere", but using "wizard" to get the point across) cannot help a fighter buy a suit of armor. Nor can the fighter help a wizard buy a spell. Fighter only can pool their money, wizards theirs, etc. Very strange.

Then, I don't like the card layout. The game suggests that when you add a sword or something to a character to place it underneath. But, when you do, you cannot see anything useful on the underneath card. For example, if the sword adds +1 to the attack, the game manufacturer should have added +1 to the border in a space that lines up with the original attack value on the hero's card... Would have made it easier to remind the players what each hero has. This was done in the game, "Terraforming Mars" and works well.

I also don't like the concept of the shadow attack. Not even sure what a shadow attack is thematically, but in the game, it's there to add a randomizer effect to the monster attack. I prefer the AH chaos token bag better. Just my opinion, as is this entire post.

Lastly, in my first game I chose three warriors as my heroes that all shared the same sphere ("Tactics"). Then, I chose the easiest form of the first scenario. After 90 minutes, I was still stuck on the first card in the quest. I cannot often get "progress tokens" which allows me to advance the quest. There is a special ability on one of my heroes that occasionally works to gain progress tokens, but one needs to be patient.

After reading online, I see that people do not recommend using the pre-made "Tactics" deck for solitaire play as it doesn't have the ability to advance the quest easily. Wow. Now, I know that I am a noobie, but I expect the game manufacturer to at least ensure that noobies don't end up having a nearly-broken game on their first try...

So, I will restart with a different deck (the game comes with 3 pre-made suggested decks) and go again. But, my first impression is not good.

Lastly lastly, thus far, I haven't been able to "get into" the theme. Unlike Arkham Horror, where the tension builds and the story unfolds as the players advance, in LotR LCG, the story is fairly light weight and simple. Of course, this might have to do with the fact that I am mostly stuck on the first card, but I found myself just flipping cards to get through the next step. That is, the story was lost on me. At least for now.

As of now and as a result of my thoughts/experiences listed above, my ranking for this game is mediocre.
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Patrik Severinsson
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I can't tell if you are trolling or being serious...
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Terence Aries
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I would suggest not writing a review based on a single play. Especially not with a game over 3 in weight.

I do agree that the suggested starter decks are rather useless, a multisphere deck would be much better. For those I would suggest this link:
https://hallofbeorn.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/beorns-path-par...

Which takes the core set and builds decks to beat the core quests with.

Different spheres paying only for their own spheres isn’t weird though, that has literally been a staple of CG’s since MtG started it all. Resource management is a key part of the deckbuilding.

The Arkham Horror LCG takes a lot of lessons learned in the making of this game of course.

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Ken H
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I am serious, to the first responder.

Thanks for the recommendation to the second. I gave this a try using Leadership deck and the game flows much better. I made it through the Mirkwood scenario losing only an ally and one hero. Not too bad.

I had fun, too.

Still, in my opinion, the core set needs to be good and unbroken stand-alone. And the Tactics deck is nearly broken.
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Patrick
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I disagree that the starter decks are useless, they are difficult in solo play but pairing them in 2p makes them work better. Also they allow the player to learn the card pool gradually instead of having to read every card and deckbuild out of the box.

Re: LotrLCG is too complex/fiddly and not enough story compared to AHLCG, as Terence noted the latter was designed based on the lessons learned from the former, so this should be no surprise. Furthermore you are comparing a 6 yo scenario with something from last year, if you compare it with the saga expansions or more recent scenarios (Heirs of Númenor to present), I think you'll find the story more compelling.

The game uses spheres instead of classes for managing resources, this is a design decision and has held up very well over 6 years.

Yes, the Tactics deck is terrible for solo play. Tactics as a sphere is terrible for solo play for several cycles of material. The designers of the game did not adequately consider how many consumers would play solo (this has been admitted and acknowledged by FFG), so sorry about that.

Re: shadow effect v. Chaos bag, the former seems to allow for a lot more flexibility of effect than the latter, but, again AH came later and streamlined many of the fiddly bits of LotR.

Glad you decided to give it another shot, xanalor's "back to basics" deck is a real great build for the core set, might be worth checking out.
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Dale Stephenson
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You are correct to say that selecting the Tactics deck and attempting to defeat Passage of Mirkwood with it can be a frustrating, uninspiring experience.

You are incorrect if you think playing the Tactics deck against Passage of Mirkwood is a good gauge of what the game will be like if you continue in the game. I think this would have been better as a session report rather than a review.

Addressing specific points:

1) Bunch of phases that need to be learned -- absolutely true. LOTR has a number of phases which need to be learned. Veteran players will also learn when the action windows are learned and the ordering of passive/forced/response effects. There is subtleties and complexities to the rules--if you're looking for a streamlined game with fewer complexities, another game (or the upcoming digital game) may be more to your taste.

2) Spending restricted by spheres -- absolutely true, and a contributor to the variety of experience. Your combination of spheres will affect both what cards you can put in your deck and what *cost* of cards will go in it. As a result, the spheres of the heroes you control matter much more than they would if all resources were just money that could be used to buy anything (or at most, require a single resource of the right color), and the decks are more varied than they would be in a simpler arrangement. Perhaps it would work better for you if you didn't think of them as "money"--while you may be able to pool money to buy "Citadel Plate", you can't buy "Steward of Gondor" or "Unexpected Courage" or "A Test of Will" with money. And attracting allies isn't precisely the same as buying them with money -- heroes can combine their resources to play the neutral sphere Gandalf, but Gandalf can't thematically be bought with money.

3) You are correct that if attachments typically altered one basic stat that a simple indicator on the border would make that more immediately obvious. But most attachments *don't* do that. Dwarven Axe, for example, gives +1 attack to non-dwarves and +2 attack to dwarves. Unexpected Courage and Steward of Gondor don't alter any basic stats. Of the 13 attachments in the core set only 2 are a straight stat-buffer (Citadel Plate and The Favor of the Lady), and the vast, vast majority of the attachments in expansions are also not simple. In practice, you'll know what the attachments you put in your deck do, and so all you *really* need to know is that they are actually attached to your hero. They are collectively too varied in effect to *not* know what they do, but be able to pick it up from printing on the border.

4) The shadow effect has the effect of making combat defense unpredictable. If you play without shadows (explicitly given as an option in the rulebook) then you know exactly what will happen each and every time you defend. This would be simpler, but not necessarily better -- but if you prefer it that way, the rulebook allows you to play that way. It will render some cards useless, of course. I don't know how the chaos bag in AH works, but I strongly suspect it doesn't contain the *hundreds* of different shadow effects possible across the entire game, and would necessarily reduce variety.

5)Yes, winning solo with the tactics deck against Passage is very difficult. With the exception of some quests in the Against the Shadow cycle, winning solo with *any* three tactics heroes will be difficult to impossible, at least until Tactics Theoden and Tactics Eowyn join your card pool. There is one good thing that playing the tactics deck against Passage should teach you -- you need willpower to succeed!

6) Whether you find the theme immersive or not is very personal, but also quest dependent. There's not much to the first quest, precisely because it's the first quest. Some later quests and especially the saga expansions have a much tighter connection between the mechanics of a quest and the underlying story. But the basic structure of questing, fighting, and winning by placing progress and/or killing specific enemies are practically universal among them. If the mechanics of doing that override the names and beautiful artwork for you, you may not feel a strong thematic pull. In my case, playing with LOTR characters, seeing LOTR artwork, and placing the quests in a specific Middle Earth context help me feel the theme, but YMMV.


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Jim Hansen
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This is an interesting and valuable snapshot in time of your opinion on the game. Unfortunately, if a game does not make a good first impression, many people will not find the time and energy to give it a second try. I would love to see your reflections on this review after you have had a chance to explore it more (assuming you do explore it more).

While I love the game and disagree with several of your points, I readily concede that the core set is deeply flawed by today's standards. One can only guess at how many gamers just like you played a solo game with the tactics deck and never gave it a second try.
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Jeremy Yoder
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This isn't so much a review, as it is a blog entry about your experience learning the game. There have been many games I've been "meh" the first time I played it, but after diving in, I find much more. (In fact, LotR LCG is one of them.)

Yes, it feels fiddly while learning, but it no longer feels that way to me. Rather, those components make it more complex and thematic than the sum of their parts, while vastly increasing replayability, to the point that for me, Arkham LCG, though strong in story, felt mechanically quaint and bland.

I'm not saying you're guaranteed to like the game. In fact, if you dive in, you may end up disliking it even more, especially if you just want to play and not deal with deck construction, which is truly half the game in LotR. (Not so with Arkham, which is a big reason many love it.) Nor would I fault you if your eyes glazed over at how big the LotR FAQ is, which highlights how vast the game has become.

Regardless of where you ultimately fall, one play reviews always make me think of this post: Would your father ebay your bike?

Anyway, I hope you enjoy exploring LotR, but it's certainly no crime if you choose to bow out as it can be a "go big or go home" kind of game.
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Javier Martínez
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John85 wrote:
I disagree that the starter decks are useless, they are difficult in solo play but pairing them in 2p makes them work better.

I actually had a lot of fun trying to build a solo deck with only the core box set. I love hard games ( specially those which erase you like it was nothing and you are left speechless ) and the challenge of beating every core set quest in solo (using only core set cards)was perhaps one of the hardest challenges I've ever done in board gaming.
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My opinion and rating for this game has gone up over time. I've been playing for over a year-and-a-half.

It might help to ponder the term 'Living Card Game'. Its ever-growing card pool, amazing quests to play against, and player community help make this game compelling for the long term.

Players can read the stories in the rules sheets, progress through adventures in the various cycles, and play through the books in campaign mode. When I played the The Grey Havens I could practically taste the salt water and hear the ropes singing in the wind.

All that said, the core set does a good job of introducing the game in my opinion. This is a serious card game with depth. The framework of the game is actually quite simple but the game does have a learning curve. There is an official FAQ which is very helpful, and plenty of information in the various forums.
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secoAce -
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I think you're missing the point of the pre-constructed mono-sphere player decks. Yes, the Core box really only gives you an introduction to the game and at first glance may not provide a complete game in of itself, but each of the mono-sphere decks are not SUPPOSE to be equal. If they were and you were able to win easily, then there's no reason to have distinct spheres.

As you've discovered, the Tactics deck is weak against the core box scenarios, while the leadership deal better equipped you to handle the game. Do you know why?

The point in first trying out each sphere separately is so you first learn the differences between them, that each have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. When you understand the sphere differences and learn how to play them and when to use them, that leads you to better understand how to start constructing multi-sphere decks customized with what you want to meet the specific challenges of the scenario you're playing.

LotR:LCG is not a casual game. It's not a game anyone can just pick up once a while to play a filler game. Yes, it can be said of any game that the better you know it, the better you can master it, but this game in particular really requires in-depth familiarity with your player cards to know how to best construct your decks. This study and pre-game deck construction is what turns off a lot of players, but then that may just be not your type of game. But for those that are fully into the game and especially the Middle Earth lore, it's a deeply immersive and satisfying game.
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Richard Anderson
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Hi there,

I struggled at first with just the core set cards. Check this link to BGG user Xantor’s killer core deck (BGG site). It helped me get to grips with the rules, understand deck construction and have fun.

Core Set Killer deck

Regards,

Hoo McHoo



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Stephen Say
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Frost15 wrote:
John85 wrote:
I disagree that the starter decks are useless, they are difficult in solo play but pairing them in 2p makes them work better.

I actually had a lot of fun trying to build a solo deck with only the core box set. I love hard games ( specially those which erase you like it was nothing and you are left speechless ) and the challenge of beating every core set quest in solo (using only core set cards)was perhaps one of the hardest challenges I've ever done in board gaming.


This made me laugh hard - 'erase you like it was nothing and you are left speechless' - this game can be so brutal. Many times I have sat there after turning over a treachery/shadow card and ended up with my head in my hands going 'I don't believe it' or 'wtf - did that just really happen' - but I cannot get enough of this game.

I played it (poorly ) solo for a while and then one of my friends also got the bug (because I wouldn't shut up about it) and we now play every Monday and I look forward to it so much.

I actually think I played the tactics deck for the first scenario - as I initially thought the best approach was 'lets beat things up' and then promptly got smashed - but I am so emotionally linked into the LoTR theme from the books of my childhood that I didn't care and just started again.

I haven't been playing too long and we are currently part way the Dwarrowdelf cycle and the Watcher in the Water AP - just before Christmas we tried it twice in the space of about 45 minutes after one evening we had spent playing against the Road to Rivendell and were annihilated!

Love this game.

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John Hitchens
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The reason I have made all the Session reports lately is to show that Mono Sphere Core Sets CAN beat the Passage through Mirkwood and Journey Down the Anduin. As I became a better player, it got easier

I have found that none of my friends like the game, so I am constantly playing solo. They find it too hard. I like it as a puzzle game, sort of like Freecell
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Doc H
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It does seem a little odd to offer an analysis after one play.

Sauron and friends beat me the first twelve times I played the first quest, which I now snicker at because in retrospect it became easier the more I learned about the cards and the relationships that can exist between them.

(Although I can agree with the OP that AH does pull you in a little bit faster).

If I had only one game in my collection, this would be it. And Tuesday evenings are formally called "Tolkien Tuesdays" because my brother and I escape our wives for a couple of hours and enter Middle-Earth. Usually thought, we now beat Sauron and then return to our wives.
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Ken H
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OP here.

Thank you for all the responses to my initial "review", which perhaps should have been better placed as a "session" or game play blog.

Great feedback, great discussion (from my point of view at least) and encouraging words of advice from all.

I don't disagree with any comments. Have still only played two "sessions", so not much more to add except that after seeing the passion for the game that many of you obviously have, I am convinced that this game is more than initially meets the eye.

As such, I plan to keep this LCG on my gaming table and see if it grows on me.
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Marty Kane
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I was lucky enough to have a friend bring his copy over and introduce me to the game. He and I are both big LotR fans in general. We played a three-player game with my wife, each using one of the mono-sphere decks from the base game. That was nice because the quests were not overly difficult and we got good advice about how things worked.

So when I got my own copy and played it solo I was geared up to like it. I tried each of the spheres solo against the first quest. I too was super frustrated when I tried to take mono-tactics against even the cake walk Mirkwood quest.

Others have mentioned and linked to the "Back to Basics" deck and I highly recommend just building it as-is. Read the strategy tips too if you want. Playing that deck makes the core set quests really fun, and challenging in a good way. It illuminates the possibilities of different combinations of cards, and really highlights the bases one need to cover when building a well-rounded deck. It made me fall in love with solo play, which I still play a lot (I'm 100+ plays, 5 saga expansions, and 3 deluxe expansions in).

There's also a really good two-handed variant, which is also a fun way to play solo. It's also nice because if a friend does come over you can just hand them the other deck and you're ready to go.

The additional expansions open up thematic deck possibilities that I really like. I have an all-Hobbit deck that is fun. I have a dwarf deck that is truly bonkers amazing (the original deck design I coped is called "Disgusting Dwarf Barf").

Check out this site for lots of cool deck ideas. You can program in which adventure packs you own and it will tell you whether you own the cards to make a given deck or not: http://ringsdb.com
 
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John Berry

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kenh1967 wrote:

Then, I don't like the card layout. The game suggests that when you add a sword or something to a character to place it underneath. But, when you do, you cannot see anything useful on the underneath card. For example, if the sword adds +1 to the attack, the game manufacturer should have added +1 to the border in a space that lines up with the original attack value on the hero's card... Would have made it easier to remind the players what each hero has. This was done in the game, "Terraforming Mars" and works well.


I highly recommend attaching cards like so:
Then you can read the additional attributes clearly.

Only downside is that this can create a battle for table space (check out my fully kitted out Bilbo!)


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Carla
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secoAce wrote:

As you've discovered, the Tactics deck is weak against the core box scenarios, while the leadership deal better equipped you to handle the game. Do you know why?


This is a brilliant point, thank you for this. Please could you tell me why Tactics is weak and Leadership better? I would like to know what characteristics I'm looking out for when I try these mono-decks in the learning phase, so that I really, truly learn.

I haven't started playing yet, so it might be too early for me to understand the explanation, but could you tell me what it is I'm meant to learn about the spheres of influence by playing through the core set? In basic terms, of course?
 
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It's really pretty simple. I will lay out a basic theory and then talk more directly about that scenario.

Theory: Fighting is not (directly) what accomplishes the goal of the game. Most quests are won by questing. Tactics specializes in fighting at the expense of questing capability. Every sphere can fight some but none as well as tactics.

Specifics: The major problem the mono-tactics core deck has with the introduction scenario is that it starts out at a very low willpower score and has only one permanent way to increase the amount of willpower they can quest with (Beorn, who costs a heavy 6 resources). It has the tools to deal with all the enemies in the deck with relative ease however if it doesn't quest hard enough to clear locations, and you start getting more locations, then it becomes even harder to get enough willpower to clear locations, and soon you arn't able to successfully quest at all as these locations pile up in the staging area. Now they do have a couple things to help out with this situation but understanding just how to best exploit them isn't something you'd expect of someone just learning the cards.
--Legolass's ability can help make up for your slugish questing, particularly with blades of gondolin. Unfortunately, this ability tends to go off after the travel phase so you won't immediately be able to travel to the location you cleared. Also, this requires you to draw and kill enemies which takes a bit of luck and setup.
--Tactics can more afford to send it's heroes questing recklessly without paying as much attention to defense owing to their high health pools to absorb undefended attacks and high attack allies to help them kill enemies. Unfortunately, this can really bite you in the tail when certain shadow cards punish you for letting attacks go undefended. This is still actually the best way to go for tactics in this scenario but it's easy to understand why a new player might feel that they need to block every attack when every undefended attack has a slight risk of instant game over.
 
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Juan Valdez
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Velensk wrote:
It has the tools to deal with all the enemies in the deck with relative ease...


Yes.

It's definitely possible to beat the first scenario with pure core Tactics, but play on normal mode instead of easy mode. All those extra enemies help the questing!
 
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