Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE CARD GAME

by Fantasy Flight Games

Published in 2011

The Lord of the Rings is a great mythology and many great games are hailing for it. This particular game is one of the Living Card Games launched by FFG - Living Card Game meaning a game that attempts to combine the deck building aspect of collectible card games to an option of knowing exactly what will you get each time you purchase a new product..
... and in my opinion this LCG delivers extremely well.





The base set comes with three quests, together forming a short "story" about endeavors of some of the Heroes of Middle-Earth. Each new set of cards gives the players another quest, and also boosts the existing player card decks with additional cards.






The quest I am going to play is not one of those from the base set, instead this is from the first booster pack:
"The Hunt for Gollum"

This quest starts with these words:
"Gandalf has requested your assistance in the search for the elusive creature known as Gollum. Your search begins in the Anduin Valley between Mirkwood forest and the Misty Mountains"

The three Heroes I have chosen for this quest are Aragorn, Théodred and Éowyn.
All the Heroes, and most of the other player cards are divided in four different spheres of influence; Leadership, Tactic, Spirit and Lore. Minding these spheres of influence is essential when building a deck - using multiple spheres widens the variety of cards that can be used, but it also makes it more complicated to manage resources.
In this quest I use two spheres: Aragorn and Théodred represent Leadership, while Éowyn represents Spirit.

High Leadership means that I'll probably have my resources secured, and Éowyn and her "high spirited" allies are good at solving quests. However I may find that my combat prowess is left somewhat lacking, and I'll have almost no healing abilities at all, so a great care must be used to avoid injuries...

The progress of the evil forces is measured in Threat. If threat reaches a level of 50, the game immediately ends. High threat also attracts more dangerous monsters to attack the Heroes.

THE HUNT BEGINS:

Goblintown Scavengers are spotted. These little monsters are not particularily dangerous, but they should be disposed of nonetheless.


Aragorn is granted a Dúnedain Mark, which will increase his offensive abilities.









Éowyn sets off to look for Gollum. Some progress is made, but then the Heroes feel themselves Pursued by Shadow. The level of threat rises...

The Scavengers attack Aragorn, who effortlessly fends off the attack.


A Guard of the Citadel is summoned to fight alongside the Heroes.

This warrior is not very effective in combat, but he can help Éowyn in her questing.






Théodred and Éovyn look for Gollum, and do find some signs of him. However, a flood rises from the Riverlands, increasing the threat level further.
This also concludes the first stage of the hunt. A very fast start for the heroes, but can they feel the Hunters from Mordor approaching..?

A NEW TERROR ABROAD

The party travels to the Banks of the River Anduin.
The traces of Gollum must be followed with extreme caution, lest they will be lost.






The Goblintown Scavengers attack the Guard of the Citadel. The Guard survives the attack, but he is wounded. Aragorn retaliates and slays the evil little creatures.


Théodred calls for a Snowbourn Scout, who arrives, bringing some information on the uncharted Banks of the Anduin.

Éovyn summons one of the skilled Westfold Horse-Breakers. In dire situations, these horsemen may provide critical assistance for the Heroes.





Anduin floods again. The progress of the Heroes and their party is slowed.
Many dangerous locations are waiting ahead.

And with the flood arrives a group of the dreaded Hunters from Mordor...
These creatures are not only deadly in combat, but they also tend to distract the Heroes making their questing significantly more difficult.

This hunt just became a lot more dangerous.






The Hunters make is nearly impossible for the Heroes to continue their search for Gollum.
Théodred, Éovyn, the Guard of the Citadel and the Westfold Horse-Breaker do their best to keep going, but the hunters thwart their attempts.
The Guard of the Citadel is pursued by the same Shadow that harassed the Heroes before, and so he is forced to retreat and leave the party for now...

Aragorn and the Snowbourn Scout engage in combat with the Hunters. The Scout is killed, while Aragorn attacks the beasts. But no matter how hard the Son of Arathorn presses on, he only manages to slighlty injure the Hunters...
This calls for the intervention of someone even more powerful than Aragorn...


But the help is near.

The Heroes all gather their resources and send a call for Gandalf. And sure enough, the wise old Wizard arrives and slays the Hunters.

After the way is clear, Gandalf leads the group onward, finally leaving the Banks of the Anduin behind.

A Treacherous Fog rises, hindering their process somewhat.






Gandalf leaves the hunting party, but the Heroes continue their quest with a renewed vigor. The Guard of the Citadel comes back and joins the party again, his injuries healed.

The hunt continues and the group reaches the West Bank of Anduin.

The Westfold Horse-Breaker displays some true Strength of Will and explores most of the area by himself.







The search goes on, but more enemies begin to appear. A flock of vicious Eastern Crows and a pack of Misty Mountain Goblins engage the party.

The Goblins kill a Snowbourn Scout that had just joined the group, and the Crows attack and injure Aragorn. And during all this commotion, Théodred loses the trail he had been following...
The party should quickly try to find the signs of Gollum again.

Éowyn recruits a skilled Lórien Guide to help the party in their hunt. More Eastern Crows appear.

The threat is reaching dangerous levels!

In the meantime, a furious battle rages: Aragorn engages the Goblins and - with the help of the Westfold Horse-Breaker - kills them. But the Goblins were much stronger than Aragorn originally thought, and so he is seriously wounded in the battle. The Horse-Breaker is also lost.

The Guard of the Citadel kills some of the Crows.



Aragorn earns another Dúnedain Mark, making him an even stronger combatant. Théodred finds the Signs of Gollum again, and the hunt may continue.

The rest of the Crows are slain. But they will come back... The Eastern Crows always do.

Yet another Snowbourn Scout and another Westfold Horse-Breaker arrive to join the party. A number of threatening locations loom at the distance, making the progress very slow. Time passes and the threat increases ever more.

Misty Mountain Goblins appear and kill the Snowbourn Scout. Aragorn cuts the Goblins down.


A Wandering Hobbit of the clan Took arrives and joins the group.









The Treacherous fog rises again, and with it comes Doom; the threat spikes up to a nearly unbearable level... The Heroes are running out of time, and Gollum is still nowhere to be seen.

Another pack of Hunters from Mordor arrive to seal the fate of this mission: The Evil is now too strong and the Heroes and their allies - no matter how courageous they are - must retreat and leave Gollum be.

The quest is failed!





CONCLUSION:

Yet another LotR:tcg played and failed. This game can sometimes be very difficult to play well. From the three quests of the base set one can get a good idea of the different difficulty levels of the game.
The first one of them is an introductionary scenario rather than a real challenge.
The second one is quite difficult, offering intriguing challenge for an unexperienced player and a decent challenge for an advanced player.
The third quest is an incredibly difficult challenge, requiring masterful deck building to even stand a chance of completing it (at least it seems that way to me, having never even come close of completing it!).

What I really appricite in this game, is its strategic depth. Below the elegant rules and beautifully illustrated cards, there really is going on a game that requires some surprisingly complex strategic thinking to be good at.

LotR:tcg can also be extremely ruthless: After making all the right decisions for 45 minutes, one bad decision may cause you to lose the game. I understand how this can break the game for someone (sometimes even I may get a bit frustrated when this happens), but really that just goes to show that a player should try to perfect their skills in order to avoid even the One Mistake.

Some sessions (like in some level this one played here) are affected by too much of bad luck. Yes, even with the high strategic level of this game, it still is just a card game, and that means there is a certain level of luck involved. One negative trait I have learner to deal with...

RATING: 9 /10

SOLO RATING: 9+ /10

An excellent strategy game that I would recommend to everyone who has the patience to read through the rather thich rules booklet. The plus sign in the solo rating doesn't mean that this game is somehow worse with two players that with one player - it is there to signify how extremely suitable I find The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game for solo gaming.