My dear Bagginses and Boffins, Tooks and Brandybucks, Grubbs, Chubbs, Hornblowers, Bolgers, Bracegirdles, and Proudfoots: welcome to the first post in COG Gaming’s running blog series covering our experiences with The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game from Fantasy Flight Games!
I love the Lord of the Rings: I’ve read all the books multiple times including the lost tales, short stories by Tolkien, books on Tolkien’s letters, essays on Tolkien’s writing and his life, and I even took a class during undergraduate that spent an entire semester reading and critically thinking about Tolkien’s works. One of my top games of all time…maybe even my #1…is War of the Rings 2nd Edition from Ares Games, which I hope to review (i.e. swoon over) soon, and I’m always on the lookout for more Tolkien-themed games that might have the mechanical gumption to stand up to my high expectations of the theme.
I’ve had my eye on this expansive and continuously growing card game for quite some time, and last week finally decided to take the plunge. For those who don’t know, The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (LOTR LCG) from Fantasy Flight Games is a collectible, cooperative card game that lets 1-4 players test their mettle against various scenarios provided by the game using customized, preconstructed decks. Unlike trading card games (TCGs), which many people in the industry agree is a defunct model for all but the most popular examples of the genre like Magic: The Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh, LOTR LCG is a living card game which means the core box contains everything 2 people need to play (technically everything for 4 people, but that’s unrealistic without some difficulty), and that additional expansion content is added via adventure decks which contain all the cards for that adventure in one package. Basically, there’s no need to buy booster packs to try and randomly get the best cards in a set, or to try and get the cards you really need: in an LCG you know exactly what you’re getting and how many of each, often drastically reducing the financial burden of collecting.
Part of the reason I waited to get into The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game was because approaching the game seemed a little difficult; there’s a ton of content already released for the game and even more in the works, so looking at what’s available and trying to figure out where to start and how to progress was extremely daunting. Now that I’ve started down the road of no return, my main point of what I hope will become a long-running, regular series on the COG Gaming blog is to relate to others what my various experiences with LOTR LCG are along the way, starting at ground zero. The articles will cover a gamut of topics including descriptions of gameplay sessions and my thoughts on those individual game experiences, deck building ideas and strategies I try along the way, and reviews of the major expansions and each adventure pack as we make our way through the enormous amount of content the game has to offer.
LOTR LCG has been out for a while so there are already some quite extraordinary resources out there for anyone really looking to get into the down-and-dirty of deck building or wanting to read in-depth guides on various aspects of the game (which I’ll link to often), so rather than regurgitate that content I’ll endeavor to provide a more personal narrative of my time progressing through the game and developing as a player. I hope current readers and newcomers alike will enjoy the content, which will be a bit different than my traditional review articles from the past year, and that people will find the information helpful, entertaining, and perhaps inspire them to engage in the conversations here and leave some comments on their own relevant experiences!
In addition to introducing the article series in this first post, I wanted to discuss what I purchased to start playing LOTR LCG and why. Like I said before, getting into LOTR can be a little daunting looking at the sheer number of content Fantasy Flight Games has produced for the series. There’s the base set with its numerous deluxe expansions and accompanying content packs (collectively called “cycles”) which follow your characters through events happening in and around the cracks of the events described in Tolkien’s literature, but there are also newer saga packs which let players faithfully follow in the well-known footsteps of our favorite heroes. Almost all of the cards across all the sets are compatible, so you’ve really got a lot of options to consider.
I knew I needed to buy the core set to start, but I wanted to get a couple of additional content packs so I’d have a few more cards to work with for when I start tinkering with deck builds, and so I wouldn’t need to worry about beating the 3 scenarios the base game comes with and then needing to wait on a bunch of new content to arrive. My first instinct was to go with the first set of adventure packs in the Shadows of Mirkwood Cycle, but much to my chagrin I discovered all but a couple of these are impossible to find right now because they’re in-between print runs. I could have, of course, played them out of order, but being the purist I am I quickly dismissed that idea since I wanted the extra cards not just for deck building, but for the scenarios. I also ruled out buying a second box of the base set, which many people do in order to get additional copies of certain powerful cards, because I knew I’d literally just be buying it for deck optimization rather than actual play value.
At that point I was lost since I didn’t really understand how the Saga expansions fit into the whole picture, but I luckily stumbled upon the website Tales From the Cards which has a few years worth of content at this point dedicated solely to LOTR LCG, and happens to have a very informative New Player Buying Guide that breaks down options for my very conundrum! The end of the article succinctly lists out what the author recommends, with most of the recommendations concerning which themed decks a prospective buyer might want to build, and the sets they’d want in order to get the best start for that deck. The recommendations themselves didn’t 100% fit what I wanted, but the article’s explanation of how the saga expansions are their own timelines that follow the books, but include cards which are nearly all compatible with the rest of the LOTR LCG, gave me an idea: why not start at the beginning of everything by getting the core set, plus the two saga expansions for The Hobbit? That way I’d have a good selection of extra cards for deck building that were recommended for numerous different kinds of themed decks, plus I’d have the entire Hobbit storyline to play through.
And thus, I’m now the owner of a core set with both The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill and The Hobbit: On the Doorstep! I still haven’t quite decided whether I’m going to try and only use decks with cards accurate to The Hobbit timeline, or whether once I’m done with those expansions if I’ll use characters from those expansions who technically aren’t around anymore during the trilogy’s timeline, but that’s a decision for another time!
Articles in the series so far:
Third Time’s Not the Charm Part 1