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I am new to CCGs, but am looking to get into it (along with someone else I know). I'm not intending to play in tournaments, and I don't plan to spend a lot of $$$. My aim is just to get a stash of 500-1000 cards fairly cheap (either some starter packs or else a box of used cards from eBay) that will enable me and my friend to have fun playing some social games for a good while. Here's where I can use some advice from experienced players - which CCG should I pick? Here are the ones I have narrowed it down to:

Magic TG, LOTR TCG, or Middle Earth CCG?
My thoughts so far:

1. MAGIC THE GATHERING
I've downloaded the demo from Wizards of the Coast and have enjoyed it so far.
Advantages: (a) Readily available (large boxes of used cards are reasonably cheap on eBay); (b) Well established and proven; (c) the fantasy theme appeals to me

2. LORD OF THE RINGS: TRADING CARD GAME (LOTR TCG)
I don't know how the game-play compares in quality to Magic The Gathering. Comments?
Advantages: The LOTR theme appeals to me.
Disadvantages: Since it's relatively new, I imagine it is harder to get a large lot of used cards cheap?

3. MIDDLE EARTH CCG
Advantages: (a) Reviews suggest it has far more depth and strategy than LOTR TCG and Magic TG; (b) It is much more than a card game, and has qualities of role-playing and board games; (c) the LOTR theme appeals; (d) seems highly regarded?
Disadvantages: (a) Too hard to learn? (b) Games can be too complex and lengthy? (c) No longer in print, so harder to get a large lot of used cards cheap?

Any recommendation or thoughts on how the above compare? Would you recommend Middle Earth CCG to a newbie like me?

I've noticed a couple of sites that sell a "Challenge Deck Box" for US$35 with 10 decks of 110 cards each. Is this suitable for newbies to the game, or would it be too complex to learn with these decks? I'd gladly hear of any other suggestions where a newcomer like me should start, if I opt for Middle Earth CCG.

Thanks in advance for any advice or comments!
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Re:Do you recommend this game for a newbie? And are Challenge decks too difficult for beginners?
EndersGame (#479492),

I've recently gotten the Middle Earth CCG bug, after spotting about 600 cards in a thrft store, (approx $22). I was able to make two decks out of those that were playable. I've since traded here on the geek for four starter decks, and I'm looking to trade for a box of boosters. I'm also bidding for a dragons booster box. Total cost for this will be around 60 bucks, and I'll need a couple more of the "fixed sets" that came in starters only, (another $15 with shipping). So after all of that, I should have pretty much all I need to play the game for a long long time, with lots of variable strategies. The first game I've played, was against my 8 year old son, and he seemed to grasp what was going on pretty well. It is long, and a bit involved, though I'm not sure I'd use the term complex. Later sets did add to the complexity however.

The LotR CCG is supposed to be similar, but not as good, and as it is still available, you'll be involved in the "chase game" that is active CCGs. Magic, obviously the same. As for Redemption, being a non-christian, I wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole, and it seems to be a CCG for people whose parents have forbidden them to play Magic because they are pretending to be Wizards and casting spells and the like, which of course, inevitably leads to Satan worship and eternal damnation...
 
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Re:Do you recommend this game for a newbie? And are Challenge decks too difficult for beginners?
EndersGame (#479492),

METW is a flat out great game. One great thing the game has going for it, is that it is out of print. You can get complete sets relatively cheap, and then make decks from there. You don't need to worry about keeping up with the Joneses. Also, you can get some challenge decks (I think you can get a box of 10 for $35), to sample the game. The advantage of using the challenge decks is that you can try the game from the standpoint of good or evil. This can help you to decide whether you want to get sets after Dark Minions. They also give you an idea of how a constructed deck looks, and I believe the challenge decks come with some brief strategy points to get you started.

The other great thing about METW is unlike other games where playing extremely powerful cards is relatively easy, with few consequences, METW makes you weigh carefully the advantages vs. the disadvantages of playing cards. Got the One Ring? Sure, its powerful, but suddenly your party is running around with gobs of corruption, better hope your opponent is not playing a corruption hazard deck.

This game is dripping with theme. When constructing decks, it often makes sense to have a theme to maximize the benefit of cards. Which helps make the game that much more interesting. Gandalf and Saruman both trying to persuade the different factions of Gondor to follow their path to combat Sauron, etc.
 
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Re:Do you recommend this game for a newbie? And are Challenge decks too difficult for beginners?
EndersGame (#479492),

I would go for ME:TW as well. Not a surprising answer perhaps but still, there you have it.

The Challlenge decks are an excellent way of trying out the system before committing big time. You should start out with Hero vs. Hero and when you’re very comfortable with the rules you can try out the bad guys as well. The minions challenge decks are not as good as the hero ones but still allow you to try them out. An added benefit with the challenge decks are that they have several good rares included in them IIRC.

My recommendation would be to buy a case of the “Basic set”. That is either the limited or unlimited version of The Wizards or whatever the official name is. Then get a booster box or two of both “The Dragons” and “Dark Minions” expansions. All these sets should be fairly cheap on eBay or similar places. Now you have all Hero only sets and that’s all you really need. Sure there are some useful cards in the other sets as well, but to start with you won’t miss them.

Now start building decks and have fun. sauron
 
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Re:Do you recommend this game for a newbie? And are Challenge decks too difficult for beginners?
Doomfarer wrote:
Quote:
My recommendation would be to buy a case of the “Basic set”. That is either the limited or unlimited version of The Wizards or whatever the official name is.


Thanks for the replies so far! Could you clarify what you mean by the "Basic Set"? If I do order something, I just want to be sure I order the right thing! For instance, there is a "Wizards: Unlimited Booster Pack" listed here:
http://www.wholesalegaming.com/middleearth/wizardsunl/
But am I right in concluding that because it's a booster pack, it would require some other cards to start with?

The "Challenge Deck" includes 5 Wizard-Based preconstructed decks and 5 Ringwraith-Based preconstructed decks - am I understanding you right that the Ringwraith-based decks aren't worth getting for newbies?

Thanks again for all the input I've received, it's been most helpful, and I welcome any advice I can get!
 
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Re:Do you recommend this game for a newbie? And are Challenge decks too difficult for beginners?
I am not about to dismiss METW as it is my favourite CCG, and probably my favourite game. Yes, it is harder than some to learn, and you will need a map (must be one somewhere to download), but definitely go for it. I would get hold of either the starter set (no iudea how hard that is to find) or the prebuilt wizard decks.

I would also go for Magic, since you will find opponents much easier to find. Again, prebuilt decks is a great way to start.

Redemption just seemed to have very poor gameplay, so I only tried it once, but it must be dirt cheap by now.

Whatever you do, don't go mad on the spend, and enjoy what you have card wise.
 
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Re:Do you recommend this game for a newbie? And are Challenge decks too difficult for beginners?
EndersGame (#479492),

I had good luck on ebay. I found that the cheapest were non-complete sets of opened cards. Boosters tend to be more expensive than opened cards. Full sets are more expensive than almost-full sets (that you could complete, if you wanted).
 
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Re:Do you recommend this game for a newbie? And are Challenge decks too difficult for beginners?
MECCG is still my favorite card game, even though I have played about a dozen other CCGs extensively and I am a competitive Magic player.

However, I don't think you will appreiate MECCG unless you enjoy the Lord of the Ring novels. Only then will you understand the complexities of the game.

As a newbie just stick with the Wizard sets (Wizards, Dragon, Dark Minions)which have enormous entertainment value and many strategies.
BTW You do need a map, since using region cards slows the game down. I have a bunch of the official (?) maps used for tournament play. They are thin plastic material and long lasting, about the size of two sheets of letter paper. I will be willing to send you one for $5 paypal, although you can try downloading it from somewhere also, or even making you own.
 
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Re:Do you recommend this game for a newbie? And are Challenge decks too difficult for beginners?
Belisarius88 wrote:
Quote:
As a newbie just stick with the Wizard sets (Wizards, Dragon, Dark Minions)which have enormous entertainment value and many strategies.


I do apologize for my ignorance, but please what are the "Wizard Sets"?

One web-site describes the "Challenge Decks" as follows (see below) - are all of these classified as the "Wizard sets" you are referring to? Or are some of these not good for beginners?

Thanks for your help!

Quote:
10 Challenge Decks total per box

5 Wizard-Based preconstructed decks:
A - Stewards of Gondor (Saruman, with Orc & Troll hazards)
B - Release the Prisoners (Alatar, with Corruption & Undead hazards)
C - Dwarven Quest (Pallando, with Animal hazards)
D - Bargain Between Friends (Radagast, with Man hazards)
E - Return of the King (Gandalf, with General Creature hazards)

5 Ringwraith-Based preconstructed decks:
F - Spies and Traitors (Adunaphel, with Drake hazards)
G - Marauding Brood of Uglies (Dwar, with Wolf hazards)
H - Stealthy Tribe (Hoarmurath, with Undead hazards)
I - Morgul Rallying Cry (Witch-king, with Roadblock hazards)
J - Seducing Nations of Men (Indur, with Corruption & General Creature hazards)


 
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Re:Do you recommend this game for a newbie? And are Challenge decks too difficult for beginners?
EndersGame (#479797),

The way most CCGs work is that they put out a basic set and then start putting out expansions every 3 months-2 years. The expansions generally are not stand alone games. The first basic set that came out for this game is Middle Earth: The Wizards. That's what they mean by the "Wizards Set." Then there were two expansions for the game: Dragons and Dark Minion.

Then the company (ICE) put out what is almost a new game, a stand-alone game in which you play a Ringwraith (bad guy) rather than a Wizard (good guy). Then they put out expansion after this. At this point the game got rather complicated (you could play ring wraith versus wizard but this is complicated). See this article for an analysis of this:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/1927

I've just been playing with the original set, Middle Earth: The Wizards (also called METW). It's a great game just with this. The Dragons expansion is very cheap to buy online, so I'll probably pick that up at some point when I want some variety.

If you buy the challenge decks, you get 5 decks built from the first three expansions (decks for Wizards) and 5 decks made from the later expansions (not including the Balrog expansion, I'm fairly sure). If you want to stick to just the initial game, it doesn't make sense to buy the challenge decks. On the other hand, they are supposed to make for a very good game.

Make sense?
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Re:Do you recommend this game for a newbie? And are Challenge decks too difficult for beginners?
Thanks for the clarification, I think I understand it now as follows:

Original game: (playing as good guys)
The Wizards [ME:TW]” (called Hero Decks or “Wizards”)
Expansions: “Dragons” and “Dark Minions”

Later edition: (playing as bad guys)
Lidless Eye [ME:LE]” (called Minion Decks or “Ringwraiths”)
Expansions: “Against the Shadow” and “the White Hand”, and “the Balrog”

Have I got it right?

A few remaining questions, if I may:

1. Do the challenge decks include cards from the expansions?
If so, is it possible to remove these expansion cards from the challenge decks to simplify the game?

2. Are the Ringwraith challenge decks too difficult for beginners and not worth bothering with?
The Lidless Eye version of the game is virtually a stand-alone form of the game, and seems more complex and less satisfying, correct?

3. Several individuals have recommended the "Basic set" instead of the "Challenge Decks". I can't seem to find it available, however. What is the exact/official name of this "Basic set" or starter set that is referred to? And what does it include? I want to be sure that I buy the right product!

Thanks again for any responses, and I appreciate the comments made thus far!
EndersGame
 
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Re:Do you recommend this game for a newbie? And are Challenge decks too difficult for beginners?
EndersGame (#480206),

The "basic set" would be Middle Earth: The Wizards, consisting of the Starter decks. These are crucial, due to the "fixed sets" that were in them. These were five groups of cards that made each starter deck playable, (locations and items and characters that work together). AS I mentioned previously, I got 4 starters, plus around 500 cards, and don't have one of these fixed sets.

Let me point you to http://www.treebeard.com, which has an excellent set of information explaining the sets, giving advice for newcomers, etc.
 
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Re:Do you recommend this game for a newbie? And are Challenge decks too difficult for beginners?
Quote:
1. MAGIC THE GATHERING


I played Magic for a time. Whether or not it makes sense depends entirely on the format. Some game stores run draft leagues, which are reasonably sensible. But if you're just going to play pick-up games, you need to be aware it may be an immense money pit if people want to use all their cards.

I used to play back in Mirage/Visions/Weatherlight days. I thought those were great sets. But the group I played with had a lot of players from Arabian Knights/Unlimited days, and if I wanted to be competitive against those decks I would have had to have spent serious money on individual cards. So I quit instead - even though I thought and still think Magic is a great game, the issues with the huge numbers of cards out there are something you have to figure out how to deal with.

I haven't played in ages, but I understand that Magic was recently on an upwards power cycle, i.e., the new sets were always more powerful than the last. While this forces you to keep spending if you're doing open play, it also makes it a lot easier on newbies.

Reardless, Blue Moon is currently my substitute for my Magic fix. I highly recommend it.

Quote:
2. LORD OF THE RINGS: TRADING CARD GAME (LOTR TCG)


This game is crap. It is designed not for gameplay, but entirely to sell more cards. The theme is extremely thin. The images are nice, though.

The game out of the starter box isn't too bad, and actually is kinda fun in its own way. But replay value is non-existant, and once you start playing with people who have their own collections, things start going downhill very fast. The link between spending and winning is stronger here by far than in any other CCG I've played.

Quote:
3. MIDDLE EARTH CCG


Obviously, I love this game. I've probably spent more hours playing the Middle Earth CCG than any other game. Great theme, great game, and for a CCG, the rarities aren't going to kill you.

The Challenge Decks are a great intro to the game, although if you never buy Lidless Eye cards (which are expensive now, I guess), the 5 Ringwraith decks are not going to represent great value. While MECCG plays pretty well from just the Challenge decks, this is still a CCG and to get the most mileage out of it you'll want to do deck-building; otherwise I don't think you'll be getting your money's worth. So you'll want to plan on getting boosters. Middle Earth: The Wizards, The Dragons, and Dark Minions are the best sets IMHO.
 
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Re:Do you recommend this game for a newbie? And are Challenge decks too difficult for beginners?
Thank you for all the replies. I'll share some of my conclusions, in case it helps other newbies like me getting into this game.

Understanding the game and its expansions

The base game is "The Wizards", followed by the expansions “Dragons” and “Dark Minions”. You play a wizard, and decks are called Hero Decks or “Wizards”.

A later version is "The Lidless Eye", followed by expansions “Against the Shadow” and “the White Hand”, and “the Balrog”. You play a ringwraith, and decks are called Minion Decks or “Ringwraiths”. These are not as good as the base game "Wizards" and its first two expansions, and are more complex.

Where to start in buying/playing the game

1. A "2 Player Starter Set" contained two introductory decks (Gandalf & Saruman) was issued, but itwas somewhat simplified and didn't include all aspects of the game.

2. A "Starter Deck" of the base "Wizards" consists of:
a) 52 random cards (3 rares, 9 uncommons, 40 commons)
b) 24 fixed cards
See here: http://www.non.com/metw/tech/packorder.html
The 24 fixed cards will be one of 5 fixed sets as follows:
http://www.non.com/metw/lists/fixedpack.html
So essentially there are 5 different starter decks possible (with 52 random cards in each).
Booster sets will improve possibilities for deck building, but two different starter decks of the "Wizards" base game will already be enough to play and enjoy the basic version of the game with two players.

3. "Challenge Decks" are pre-constructed decks of 110 cards. Two kinds are available:
a) 5 Wizard-Based preconstructed decks (with cards from the "Wizards" base set and two expansions)
a) 5 Ringwraith-Based preconstructed decks (with cards from the "Ringwraith"/"Lidded Eye" base set and two expansions
The cards in these decks are described here: (scroll to bottom of page, and click on links)
http://www.meccg.net/netherlands/meccg/decks.html
The Wizard challenge decks are best, and although they are somewhat more complex than the "Starter Decks", they are still a good way for newcomers to get introduced to the game.

Is the above accurate do you think?
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Re:Do you recommend this game for a newbie? And are Challenge decks too difficult for beginners?
EndersGame wrote:
Do the Challenge Decks come with any rules?


Yes, actually some very good ones. You still need a bigger map than the one included but that can be downloaded for free from several places on the net. Just google for it.
 
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Re:Do you recommend this game for a newbie? And are Challenge decks too difficult for beginners?
Great, thanks! And if I just opted for the five Hero/Wizard Challenge decks to play with a friend, is the replay value of the game still quite high?
 
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Re:Do you recommend this game for a newbie? And are Challenge decks too difficult for beginners?
Doomfarer (#480845),

Quote:
EndersGame wrote:
Do the Challenge Decks come with any rules?

Yes, actually some very good ones.


Hmmm, are you sure about this? I thought the Challenge Decks came only with rules summaries. I remember it being a pretty good summary, but it might not be adequate.

However, I imagine the rules must be online somewhere. Perhaps the Lair of the Morgul-Rats?
 
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Re:Do you recommend this game for a newbie? And are Challenge decks too difficult for beginners?
cfarrell (#481043),

Yes the rules are online, though the examples don't have nay formatting, at least when I printed them out they didn't, which make them hellishly confusing, as you try to figure out which set of dudes leaves Jessica with 4 unused general influence.
 
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Re:Do you recommend this game for a newbie? And are Challenge decks too difficult for beginners?
Hmm...

Perhaps I only remember the Challenge decks rules as good as I already knew them?

Anyway, rules, maps and other stuff can be found here:

http://www.meccg.net/netherlands/meccg/index.html
 
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Alright, you all sucked me in.
All this talk about MECCG finally sucked me in. There's been times in the past where I've considered the game, but this thread pushed me over the edge. I bought a box of challenge decks on eBay. I'm not a CCG player, or a competitive gamer, but I'm a Tolkien fan and I like games set in Middle-Earth. This one has gotten enough thumbs up to justify the buy. Now to convince a few friends to try it out.

(btw, Chris Farrell, I suspect you and I live in the same [bay] area)
 
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