I saved the world last night

Arkham was swarming with robed cultists, trying to bring down the end of the world. They were using the newspaper building to distract me with their depraved rituals, but I was able to foil their plans and ward the city against the blind idiot god coming down and destroying the world. Of course it was at the black cave, the nexus of their foul sorceries, where it all went down. The city was mad with anomalies erupting across neighbourhoods, but in the end it didn’t matter, because we live to fight anew. Azathoth has not claimed this world. For now.

Well folks, I had my second ever game of Arkham Horror (third edition) last night, and I somehow managed to win! I think it was almost entirely by accident, but I’m still claiming it as a success!

Arkham Horror third edition

Arkham Horror is still a long game, I think it took me close to 3 hours to play it, but that did include roughly 40 minutes of set-up time. I was really surprised, I think, by just how quickly I seemed to grasp the rules this time around – considering my only other game was in January 2021, I can hardly say I’m an expert but somehow things just seemed to flow better. The rhythm of what I can do as an investigator, for example, was quite easy to get into, and the structure of each round quickly became ingrained so that I was just able to play the game, rather than continually looking things up.

I think my investigator choice helped here, though. I was playing as Jenny Barnes and Dexter Drake, and both of them had ways to take an additional action very early on in the game. Jenny, with her pistols, was a combat beast, and Dexter was able to keep doom in check for as long as possible. I can’t say enough how much it helped to have those additional actions though, and I think that was probably how I was able to play it fairly quickly.

Learning Point #1: You cannot take the same action twice in each round! At least once I had Jenny move twice, or move, kill, move, which probably explains why it felt a lot easier this time around!

Arkham Horror third edition

Dexter was quite the beast at removing doom, as well, and I found it quite useful to send him into Anomalies to try to close those gates etc. Even when monsters found their way to him, he is able to evade them using his will attribute, making him quite impressive, I have to say! He’s a spellcaster, of course, but I found that spells just didn’t really come up for this game. He did pretty well as my clue gatherer, although I found that I had to focus his observation attribute to ensure he was able to spend the clues.

Learning Point #2: Focus tokens are only “spent” to re-roll dice, and not when you use that attribute! I was discarding the token when I took a Research action, but that doesn’t seem to be how it works!

As I’ve said, the structure of the game really seemed to flow this time around. It was useful having Jenny out hunting monsters, of course, because once the Action phase was done, there were often no monsters on the board to worry about. True, sometimes I was putting my investigators into a specific neighbourhood to get them to have an encounter there, in the hope of gathering clues – as such, once they had moved I found I was at a loss for the second (or third) action to take, and would just randomly focus an attribute, or get $1. Money is something I wasn’t really finding myself concerned with, as only a couple of encounters seemed to want me to have any, or didn’t really have any bad things happen if I didn’t spend any money.

Arkham Horror third edition

Now, I did wonder if I was playing it wrong at first, when I was using Jenny to attack monsters. If she is going on the hunt and actively engaging them, it seemed quite easy to kill them by having her roll 6 dice. Maybe I got lucky, of course, but nothing really seemed to be a problem for her – of course, by the mid-point in the game she was taking an additional action, re-rolling one of the dice, +1 to a dice, and so on, so her attack suite was quite formidable! Even the monsters with four health she was able to pretty much one-shot, so it wasn’t much trouble. It’s only in the monster phase that they attack the investigators, though, so the fact that nothing survived to get there worked really well.

Ultimately, though, there are only five pages of rules, which set things out really well and enable you to work out exactly what you’re supposed to be doing and when. While the game might look complicated, especially in terms of its table presence, but also the fact I said it takes 40 minutes to set up, it plays really well, and I’m actually surprised that I haven’t played this more since I originally got it out last year. There’s a reputation, though, for Arkham games to be quite sprawling, and stuff like second edition, or Eldritch Horror, even the LCG, come with that feel of “this is going to take all day!” when you play them.

Arkham Horror third edition

In comparison to second edition, I find third edition to be a real delight. The older game is one of the greats, don’t get me wrong, and you can really lose yourself in the mythos as you spend the whole evening playing. Games lasting 5 hours or more were quite common, and sometimes I quite enjoyed the fact that I could plan to play this thing all night. However, it does suffer from essentially being the same game each time, just with a different Ancient One and different investigators. The monsters are all the same, the encounters are all (mostly) the same, and so on. Adding in expansions does give you more monsters, more encounters, and more Ancient Ones, but you’re mostly doing the same thing each time. Later expansions tried to have different stuff going on as well, of course, but overall it’s very much the same premise.

Third Edition Arkham Horror is scenario-based, so whereas it could be said you’re playing the same scenario in the older game, here you’re tweaking almost everything to suit. The board layout is different, the monsters are different, the “mythos deck” / Codex is different, and so forth. You’re doing the same things, mechanically, but thematically you’re trying to accomplish different goals. I think having the scenario event deck is a great way to give more variety right out of the box, as otherwise you do only have 8 cards per neighbourhood, and we all know how stale that situation got for Second Edition. Having additional cards which get shuffled into the encounter deck when you’re investigating clues, which change given each scenario, is a great way to mix things up.

Arkham Horror third edition

I think this game is a great addition to the shelf, and in many respects it has improved on the last one. I sold all of my second edition stuff a few years ago, so no longer have it to play with regardless, but I remember it well enough that I can positively say this is a real step up. It makes the game a story, which was definitely missing from the last game – it could be really quite random and becomes really abstract by comparison. Sure, this game is still representative of battling the eldritch mysteries of the cosmos, but it isn’t quite so random. The monsters feel right for what you’re doing, for instance, and everything pulls together really well to tell a good story of what you’re trying to do. Having that narrative backdrop is really key, I think, and it’s probably a good portion of the success of the LCG, which is supreme at giving that kind of narrative.

I’m going to make a real effort to play more of this going forward, and I think before the end of the year I’m going to want to pick up at least the first expansion, which adds more of the same. I’m not entirely sure, of course, but I think there are more encounter cards as well as more investigators and so on, which is always a welcome bonus. After the Silver Twilight expansion that came out last year, I think there’s a feeling that the game might be finished already, which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing as sometimes Arkham Files games can go on quite a bit! While I always love to have more game to play and enjoy, there is that danger of just repeating the old game’s line of expansions, so we can look forward to the Dunwich expansion, the Innsmouth expansion, etc. As much as I like the idea of getting more game to play, expansions for the sake of it aren’t the way to do this. I think that having stuff that adds more to the game, without necessarily cluttering the experience, is the way to go, and from my limited knowledge of the expansions for this game, it seems that’s what we have here. Arkham Horror third edition is a traditional FFG board game, where we have the base game and one expansion per year. As I’m getting older, with far less time for these sorts of things, that is exactly the kind of schedule that I think the company should keep to!

Doom in the Jungle!

We’re back, folks! Yes, it’s only been a few short months since I left Ursula Downs and Lily Chen in the Mexican jungle, but I am finally getting back to The Forgotten Age campaign.

The City of Archives

Arkham Horror LCG

So, following on from the Heart of the Elders, I knew we would be in for some weirdness as we had been abducted by alien Yithians at the end of that scenario. Well, for this one the investigators are basically Yithians themselves for the duration! Our minds have been transplanted and we’re wandering around the archives with Yithians observing our behaviour in their never-ending thirst for knowledge. Somewhat based on The Shadow Out of Time, having a knowledge of that tale did give me something of an idea for what I would be in for, although I do still feel fairly adrift at the minute with the campaign, not knowing where I am headed etc!

The scenario is definitely interesting, giving us the Yithian investigator cards for the duration. To begin with, we cannot use any Item assets as we basically don’t understand how our new Yithian bodies work. Then, we can use items but we’re still stuck in these bodies, and our hand size is reduced as a result. There are cards that will discard from our decks, making us approach the brink all the quicker, and this becomes especially important near the end, as we need to be able to draw up to a hand of 10 or more cards to advance the final act of the scenario. Throughout, however, it’s interesting how the enemies are Aloof and leaving us be, and the main threat comes from the slew of encounter cards we’re drawing.

We also need to complete six tasks, which influences how well we will complete the scenario. I was able to complete four of them, all with Ursula Downs, though at the last minute, Ursula took too much horror and was eliminated! It worked out well for me, though, because she had the most cards to draw – Lily already had a few cards in hand, so was able to get to 10 without any major problems and so could advance the act without her buddy in arms.

At the end, we are able to restore our minds to our bodies, but Alejandro is nowhere to be seen – the dastardly villain! I was able to get 7 experience points, so have taken the time to upgrade both decks for the final two scenarios. I already have 11 points left from the last two scenarios, so I definitely need to spend some of this! Though I’m toying with the idea of throwing in a side quest, almost as a “we need to take some time out after all that outer body experience!” but thematically it doesn’t really fit, as my investigative duo are in the middle of getting to this Nexus…

The Depths of Yoth

Arkham Horror LCG

This one was a very peculiar scenario, but the more that I think about it, the more I think I really liked it! There’s only one Act card, and basically you are forced to repeat the same action over and over again – collect three clues per investigator, advance the Act deck, add a depth counter to the scenario card, then reset and go again. When you get to five depth counters, you’ve gone down far enough and you can reach the resolution. Obviously, there are nasty things in the encounter deck, some of them are particularly nasty and you can see how they are designed purely to wear down the investigators. It’s an interesting take on the usual type of scenario like this, where you’re having to get to a set point, but instead of discovering a specific location at a specific point in the game, as we’ve seen with other scenarios where the location is put in by the act or agenda deck (or is the reverse of one of those cards), here we’re almost wandering aimlessly through the caverns, trying to find the Nexus.

Of course, I didn’t bring any torches with me, so I guess it could be different if you chose different supplies at the start of this journey!

It was interesting, to me, because it’s a definite race against the Agenda deck, which is quite big this time around. All of that Vengeance and Yig’s Fury comes into play here, as it decides how far into the Agenda deck you begin. There is an actual Yig ancient one card involved here too, but fortunately I was able to get to the fifth depth counter before he appeared.

Shattered Aeons

Arkham Horror LCG

The finale is here, and it’s another interesting scenario. We’re at the Nexus, and almost for the whole scenario, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was trying to do. At one point, I had the option to join forces with Alejandro but, thinking back to my experiences with how he sold us out to the Yithians, I didn’t want to end the world just yet. It felt a bit like each time I was able to advance the Act deck, the goalposts shifted, and I had to do something different. However, the final stage became pretty much a race through time and space as Ursula strove to explore as many ‘shattered’ locations while Lily went around beating up cultists, and we were able to do pretty well to mend the tear in the fabric of time, and win the campaign!

Any scenario that uses the Dark Cult and Ancient Evils decks together is a winner in my book, and basically this final game was an exercise in stopping Cultists from winning, classic Lovecraft for sure. I was a bit surprised when we didn’t end up going to a specific other world, but instead there are locations such as Yuggoth, or the shores of Ry’leh. It fits with the theme of a tear in the fabric of time, or reality, or whatever, but up to now I suppose I have been somewhat expecting the finale to see us travel to an outer realm.

I do like Central America as a location, and it does evoke that kind of Indiana Jones vibe by having us exploring hidden temples and forgotten ruins in the Mesoamerican jungle. The surprise, for me, was how we ended up going back to Arkham for a few scenarios as well, but I suppose it is the name of the game! It’s definitely been a wild ride, this time around!

Now, I’m not sure why The Forgotten Age is seen as a bad campaign. I enjoyed myself, even if I did find some elements difficult, or I was unsure what I was supposed to be aiming for. I suppose it all adds an element of mystery that I think is probably what this game is all about – you shouldn’t know what to do from the off, and decisions like whether to join with Alejandro were based on my experiences with him in-game, rather than from any other reason. It all helps to tell a story that I think is really interesting – I may not have trusted Alejandro at first, but I thought it was important to keep him on side. When he betrayed us, it felt real, somehow!

I think the investigator team I took with me this time, Ursula Downs and Lily Chen, really worked well for me. Ursula is built for investigation, and I was able to assemble a really good deck around her over the course of the campaign. I think it really shows how quickly she was able to explore those locations and just win, in the end. What a beast! Lily was a different kettle of fish, I think the whole she’s-a-mystic-no-she’s-a-guardian thing was a bit weird, and made deckbuilding for her a bit awkward at times, as there were Mystic cards I would have loved to upgrade her into, but couldn’t. I’m sure I missed some auto-include cards, as well, but I ended up with quite a beefy deck which, in a scenario like Depths of Yoth which is mainly throwing treachery cards out, she didn’t have a lot to do. I feel as though she needs some specific cards that are right for her, whether that’s more multi-class cards that she’s allowed to level into, or something more bespoke still. It’s definitely an interesting character design, but while she is one of my favourites from the Arkham Files, I don’t see myself playing with her again in a hurry.

On that note, however, I suppose it’s time to give some thought as to what to go for next! Now, I am leaning very heavily into the Edge of the Earth campaign, as I’m excited to see what that has in store for us. The Scarlet Keys is due out in about a month’s time, though, so I could give myself a break from Arkham maybe, and try that one when it’s fresh? I have a Trish Scarborough deck still built from ages ago, though, and I’m kinda keen to get that to the table for a game, so I might have a think and see how much the urge to play is there. I might well start on another campaign in the coming days, anyway!

More games with Marvel Champions

I’ve been playing quite a lot of Marvel Champions since finally picking up the core set, and I’ve really been enjoying it! I’ve had maybe half a dozen games now, using all of the core heroes with all of the core Aspects in one form or another, predominantly against Rhino as the villain, although I have also tried my hand with Klaw for some variety. I’ve also been taking a look at the player cards provided in the box, and have done some small-scale deck modification, as far as can be done with the contents of one core set, and it’s been a lot of fun to try new things out.

Marvel Champions

Victory has not come easy, or often, which I think is an intriguing aspect of the game. It can sometimes be frustrating as I try to do stuff but it just doesn’t work out for me. However, the game isn’t particularly long, and whereas with something like Lord of the Rings, where there is probably as much set-up time, but it becomes a real grind to finish, which can sometimes be frustrating if you become location-locked or something, with Marvel Champions it seems that you realise that it’s almost over – and then it is. There’s no real hanging about, waiting for the inevitable end.

One game that I played, using Black Panther in a Leadership deck, was over in about 3 rounds, as I just had no way to deal with the 3-4 threat being added to the scheme, whereas the next one went on for a long time as I was able to get some momentum and heal up despite a lot of damage coming my way. That was really good, as it allowed me to explore quite a lot of the game, including the first time I got to see my Nemesis shuffled into the deck! Not that this is cause for celebration, of course!

Deckbuilding
Now, I’m not an expert with the game, so I don’t intend this to be some kind of guide for the uninitiated (as I’m pretty much only an acolyte, myself!) but let’s talk about how the deckbuilding works here. In Marvel Champions, you play a hero who comes with 15 of their “signature” cards, a bit like in Arkham Horror LCG but obviously on a bigger scale. There are four Aspects to the game, like Arkham classes or Lord of the Rings spheres, and you can only choose from one of the four to build your deck. Later expansions seem to have heroes who break away from this more, but on the whole, you’ll only be able to play with Justice, Leadership, Protection or Aggression cards. There are also Basic cards which can go into any deck. The 15 cards must always be included, then you can only include three copies of a card unless it is Unique, in which case you can only include one. Other cards will also have restrictions, such as “max 2 per deck”.

I find it really fascinating, because no hero is tied in to any specific Aspect. Of course, there will be Aspects to which heroes will lean, as shown by their 15 cards, but you could theoretically build a Hulk Leadership deck, for example. The core set suggests Aspects for each of the five heroes included, but I’ve switched it up a bit by using Black Panther for Leadership rather than his suggested Protection (he is a king, after all). Moving between Aspects could be as straightforward as taking out the Black Panther cards and swapping them for the Spider-Man cards, for example, and suddenly I have Spider-Man built for leading, and Black Panther could go off with a Justice deck.

Now, this is very basic of course, and naturally there will be cards in the 15 hero cards that would lead you on to a specific Aspect, either to bolster what is already there, or to shore up any weaknesses. I played a game with Captain Marvel and the suggested pre-built Aggression deck, and between having her own aggressive cards and those from the Aspect, I actually scored my first victory for the game! However, due to her having a lot of good cards that deal damage, it could lead her to Justice for the ability to remove threat while punching the villain, or (as I currently have her built) Protection, to heal up.

It is very interesting when you start to think about how the game would work with more than one hero, though. The different Aspects clearly work together to form a cohesive whole, and I think it’s a good thing that you can’t really build multi-class decks to dilute these effects – the best you can do is go to the opposite of your hero’s 15 cards, and try to multi-class it that way. However, victory isn’t always going to be easy, as I’ve seen with Spider-Man in a Justice deck. He can theoretically deal a lot of damage, and has the thwart shenanigans of Justice, yet each time I just lose whenever I play him!

Moving On
Going all-in with a game is always pretty exciting, but it does mean that you might be left with content that you just never get round to using. I think I may have mentioned this a while ago, when talking about big deliveries of Kickstarter games being an Event – it’s exciting, for sure, but daunting as well. I know from my experience with Arkham Horror, too. I collected everything when it came out, but didn’t really “properly” start playing until the winter of 2020, so was confronted with about 4 cycles of stuff! I don’t really want to be in the same position this time around, and indeed, it’s something that I’ve been kinda exploring with the Star Wars LCG as I’ve been trying to play that in order, to limit myself a bit.

Marvel Champions has expanded with roughly a big box expansion, four hero packs, and one scenario pack per wave, although the first and the next waves will contain six hero packs. We currently have 22 hero packs out there, spread across four full cycles of this formula. That’s a lot of stuff to play with, of course, but in looking through it, I’m getting more and more itchy palms, wanting more cards!

Now, I really like the fact that you can pick up a hero pack, and there will be a pre-built deck in there, along with one or two other cards that you can use for other aspects, or to tweak the one you have. It means that you don’t need to buy everything released in each wave, but instead you can just pick up a pack if you like, say, Thor, and you can shuffle up and play. Even if you don’t like Thor, you could still pick up that pack for a slew of new Aggression cards that you can use with your hero of choice. There will always be some cases, where you might want a Justice card that means you’re buying a pack like Thor to get it, for instance, but I don’t think that’s something that happens very often. On the whole, I think packaging the game like this is great, because it allows for much more casual gamers to pick it up and play, without spending a whole night evaluating cards to build a deck. Given Marvel’s mass-appeal, this is something the game clearly needed to have, and I think it’s something they tried to do with the Star Wars game by making deck building a decision about “which ten objectives do you want?”, but taken to the next level.

The campaign boxes come with five new scenarios, with new villains to fight, and two hero decks to use that have a thematic link. So for example, I really like the X-Men when it comes to Marvel, and could feasibly hold off buying any of the other things and get myself the new box when it comes out (sometime soon, I believe). I don’t need to worry too much about the other boxes or packs, because they might not be heroes I’m interested in.

That said, I have found myself looking at the first wave products, and I have bitten the bullet and asked my local games shop to get me the Captain America hero pack, and the Green Goblin scenario pack. I do like Captain America, and I am currently planning to get the Rise of Red Skull box at some point soon. I think that should give me a good spread of cards, along with the Ms Marvel hero deck, which I’m mainly planning to pick up for the Protection cards she has. I genuinely am a fan of X-Men, by the way, so I am seriously considering getting the new expansion, but I want to take this slow, and only buy stuff that I then play with. So I don’t want to pick up a whole bunch of new stuff only to find myself in the position where I’m not getting to enjoy the game.

It is interesting to me, though, how I seem to have quickly grasped the game, and so developed something of a need for greater card variety. I’m by no means bored, but I find myself wishing I could do other things when playing, and I think this is strongly shown with the Ms Marvel Protection cards. From looking at what the pack contains, there seems to be a fair number of cards that I like the sound of, and would work quite well in the sort of deck I’m thinking about.

As I said last time, I am definitely a happy sausage with this game, and I’m really surprised how long it has taken me to give in and get myself a copy!

Marvel Champions: it begins…

Last week, I started down the road of a brand new game, finally picking up a box of Marvel Champions. It’s almost three years old now, and has up until very recently just passed me by! After musing on it for a couple of days though, I decided that it was going to be worthwhile to pick up a copy – especially as my wife and I have recently been catching up with Phase Four of all the Marvel stuff on Disney+.

I’d decided that I was going to treat this as much as I could as a blind-buy, making no prior effort to learn how it plays or read up on any of the rules, instead going old-school and actually reading the rule book to learn how it plays. Novel, huh?

So, I excitedly picked up the core set (and £30 worth of sleeves), and set about learning the ropes.

Marvel Champions

The game plays a little bit like Lord of the Rings LCG, in that you’re playing against an encounter deck. I mean, you’re technically playing against a villain, who can attack your chosen hero, but the bulk of gameplay interactions seem to come from the encounter deck rather than anything else. The villain is trying to both complete his scheme and eliminate the heroes, while the heroes are trying to defeat the villain and stall his scheme. The core set comes with five heroes and three villains. This is, of course, a living card game, so there are a whole host of cards in the box to bulk this out.

Let’s start with the heroes. There are four spheres (I think they call them Aspects) from which you can choose to play, and each one has a significant bunch of cards here to support that. Each hero comes with fifteen signature cards, which to some extent will dictate the archetype that hero is leaning into, although heroes don’t seem to be tied in to any one Aspect. I have no real idea about how the deck building for Marvel Champions works just yet, because I’m trying to get to grips with how the game plays! But I believe you need to pick all of your cards from one of the four, and can’t mix. I’ll get to this in a future blog, when I have become more familiar with the game…

The villain is represented by a couple of cards, it seems, and similar to Marvel Legendary, you need to fight your way through a couple of iterations of the villain before you win. The villain has a scheme that he is trying to achieve, which seems to be somewhat similar to the quest deck in LotR (though if the scheme deck is completed, the heroes lose here). There is then the encounter deck, which is made up of sub-decks, again very similar to LotR. Here, though, it is less prescriptive, and I think you can choose what sub-decks to include alongside the villain’s main deck. I like this idea a lot, as I’ve read that further expansions have brought more and more of these sub-decks, which can change up how any villain plays.

Marvel Champions

The game round is actually really quite straightforward. You play cards and take actions, then the villain schemes and you draw encounter cards. During the hero phase, you play cards, discarding other cards to pay their cost. I must admit, I struggled with this early on because I didn’t want to discard those cards!! I also made a fairly silly mistake by discarding two of Spider-Man’s web-kick attack cards to play a third copy – the card deals 8 damage to the villain, so it’s pretty good!! Ah well. You can also take actions like attacking, or trying to thwart the villain’s scheme, by removing tokens from it. Hero cards are double-sided, with their alter-ego on the back. The side you end on will determine what the villain does when he activates.

In the villain phase, the villain will start off by adding a token to his scheme, providing a bit of a clock situation. Then, depending on whether you’re in your hero or alter-ego form, he will either attack or scheme. Attacking will deal damage, surprisingly, while scheming adds more tokens to the scheme. After that, you draw an encounter card and deal with that – either a minion, an attachment, a treachery or a side-scheme. Very LotR-like.

Side schemes don’t contribute their own threat level to the main scheme, in the way that Arkham Horror LCG counts the doom out on the table as a whole. That was a bit of a learning point for me during my first game, as I was a little worried that I was about to lose between the two schemes in play. However, side schemes here serve to basically annoy you, collecting threat each round but also contributing problems to you, such as drawing extra encounter cards or adding more threat to the main scheme. They’ll be in play until the heroes are able to thwart those as well, reducing them to 0 threat.

Marvel Champions

My first game was quite a surprise for me, as I was learning the ropes and whatnot. I think the first round had a bit of “is that it?!” to it, as I followed the rulebook to work out what I can do etc. I think it’s one of these games where you need to play it a lot with zero expectations of winning, as you try to get a grip on how your deck works and so on. Trying to evaluate cards for their utility – should I discard x to pay for y? – without really knowing what the game is about is always going to be fraught with analysis paralysis. But that’s okay, because you need to learn just what is going on, what is in your deck, and what you can do as a player. That’s going to take time, but hopefully I’ll be able to play it more and see just what it’s all about.

The other thing, of course, is that I was playing true solo, using Spider-Man against Rhino. There are going to be deficiencies when using just one deck, as you can’t cover every aspect of the game by yourself. I just don’t want to confuse the issue by trying to control two heroes just yet, and I want to get at least a basic understanding of the game before introducing it to Jemma.

The game did seem to be fairly quick to play as well – even my first game, where I was constantly back-and-to between my cards and the rulebook, only took about an hour. It seems like it is designed to be fairly light, fairly no-nonsense, yet still with enough tactical depth that you can really enjoy it as a game. It doesn’t play itself, of course, and you have a lot that you can do, but it doesn’t seem to be the kind of game that will take you a whole day to play. Not even a whole evening, really. Which I guess speaks to the fact it seems to be wanting to attract Marvel fans as well as card game fans.

Marvel Champions

In terms of learning the game by myself, though, it’s been a very interesting experience to go back to learning something by reading through the rulebook, and playing along step-by-step. I think I was strongly reminded of my first game with Rune Age, all those years ago, where I had followed the set-up instructions and it was time for my turn to begin, and I just sat there, not knowing what I’m supposed to do! Game rulebooks have improved since then, of course, and while there can be a lot of bumph to get through, designers are becoming clearer with how the course of a round is explained. I particularly like the fact that FFG have adopted as standard the two-book format of learn to play guides followed by rules references, so that the first book gives you everything you need to actually get going, but then the latter is there to explain some aspects, interactions, or complex cases as they come up.

I was surprised that I’ve been able to learn how to play this purely from reading the rulebook, which I realise is a fairly stupid thing to say because that’s the point of the rulebook, but still! So often these days, we seem to rely on watching videos on YouTube and someone else telling us how to play, someone else telling us how to build a deck and what the best ways of playing a game are. I have really enjoyed going old school on this, and learning to play from the rulebook, and learning how a deck works by actually playing it. It’s been a nice kind of bubble-game, almost, one that I’ve been able to get on with in my own time, and it’s been wonderful as a result!

Overall, I think I’m a very happy sausage with this game.

Marvellous!!

Hey everybody,
I’m very excited to announce that I’m now the proud owner of the Marvel Champions LCG! This is my excited face.

The game came out in 2019, and I suppose at the time I was busy with a newborn child so gaming wasn’t massively high on the agenda! However, I’d not really been that interested in picking up the game until I was looking into it a few weeks ago, when I was looking at the older Star Wars card games, and thinking about how a possible future card game could work. I was tentatively interested, but kept telling myself that I shouldn’t really get into another LCG. Marvel isn’t high on my list of fandoms, truth be told, either, and I had sold off my Marvel Legendary collection a while ago, thinking I don’t really need a Marvel game. Yet something kept nagging at the back of my mind.

Then my buddy Tony started talking about it earlier this week, and I did a little more digging. I have to say, the game sounds really quite impressive. I’ve only watched the preview video from FFG, and have otherwise steered clear of actual gameplay videos, instead reading a couple of general reviews and so on. It sounds like a really good game, with a lot of replayability and a lot to enjoy. It’s got me really keen – and so here we are!

I’ve decided, with this game, to make it a bit of a feature on the blog – I really am excited!

Something that has been running around my mind for a while now is how we tend to learn to play games nowadays. Back when I was playing games with my ex-girlfriend, we would sit down and take, potentially, a whole day to learn how a game works. Something like Arkham Horror was a weekend experience, playing real slow to make sure we were doing it right. Nowadays, though, you just type it into youtube or something, and away you go. However, I want to get “back to basics”, so to speak, and really try to discover the game by myself as far as possible first. So I’m really looking forward to this as I take the time to work through how the whole thing works.

I’ve also treated myself to some new sleeves for the game, too! For years, I have been using FFG sleeves, which I first bought for the Star Wars LCG and then bought massive amounts for both Marvel Legendary (weirdly!) and Lord of the Rings LCG. I’ve reused most of these since for Arkham Horror LCG, and Magic of course, but I don’t recall the last time I bought new sleeves for a game. So there’s more reason to be excited!

New sleeves, new game – it’s very exciting!

I’m also fairly impressed with myself, because I’m buying into a pre-existing game without going all-in from the off! From my somewhat limited meta research though, it seems like you don’t need to get everything for the game, as the model isn’t the same as other LCGs where the monthly packs provide an on-going narrative, but it’s closer to the older, competitive LCGs that basically boost your card pool, while providing playable heroes for your collection.

I’m looking forward to having a game that I can enjoy without trying to constantly meta-chase, and one that it might be nice to add to from time to time.

But for now, I have over 300 cards to sleeve…

Star Wars LCG: Imperial Navy deck

Hey everybody,
Following on from my blog earlier in the week about my Rebel Alliance deck for Star Wars LCG, I’m back to talk about the Imperial Navy today, and run through the deck to see what it’s trying to do during the game. For a brief run-down of deckbuilding in the Star Wars LCG, you can check out my Rebel blog, too!

So without further ado, let’s get to it!

The Ultimate Power x2
The General’s Imperative x2
Imperial Command
Lord Vader’s Command
Death and Despayre
Deploy the Fleet
Family Connections
Unstoppable Advance

This deck works frighteningly well, I have to say. It has worked out pretty well, really, that in my recent upsurge of playing with this game, my wife has been using the Imperial Navy and I’ve been playing with the much jankier Rebels! It’s not like the deck just runs itself, and I’m not trying to do the other half down at all, but Jemma isn’t really a Star Wars fan like me, and she isn’t all that into this sort of game, I don’t think, so it just works nicely that the deck is quite efficient for what it does.

Star Wars LCG

Let’s start at the top, with The Ultimate Power. This is the Tarkin set, and has a number of punishing cards in here. The objective itself cannot be targeted by more than two units, and Tarkin lowers the hit points of enemy objectives by 1. It also has the infamous Superlaser Blast card, which straight-up destroys an objective, just like that. You can see why there are two copies in the deck!

Star Wars LCG

The General’s Imperative gives us General Veers and Blizzard Force, and the objective itself increases the reserve when it is undamaged. Veers has the useful ability of granting Walker and Trooper units an additional unit damage icon, and there are a lot of Troopers across this deck so that will be quite handy! There are two AT-ST walkers with Shielding in the set, a Turbolaser Battery enhancement you can sacrifice to discard all enhancements from play (which can be devastating if played at the right time), and a Battle of Hoth fate card, which is a new card from the Hoth cycle that I really like for its flexibility, either damaging or healing Hoth objectives. I’m not convinced of the need for two copies of this set in the deck, if truth be told, but I’m keeping him in there for now.

Star Wars LCG

Unstoppable Advance gives Veers the big guns to play with – two AT-AT walkers and an AT-AT Assault Formation! The AT-AT walkers can blow up enhancements instead of their combat icons triggering, which can be useful because their objective damage is edge-dependent (and it’s thematic if you get them to blow up the Hoth shield generator this way). The Assault Formation, however, has three objective damage icons that you don’t need the edge for, and when it focuses to strike, you can damage each enemy Hoth objective. This and Tarkin can one-shot objectives by themselves! Shame it wasn’t Veers, for flavour, but never mind. The set also comes with Aggressive Assault, which allows you to damage each enemy objective if you control a Hoth objective – with only three in the deck, it’s a little more situational. But the set is very thematic, and really heavy-hitting, so I can’t ignore it for long!

Star Wars LCG

Imperial Command is the Admiral Motti set, and Motti himself effectively grants Elite to a unit. As he can be focused for two resources, this has an inherently good use, though if someone like Tarkin or Vader is being swamped in focus tokens, it can be a useful effect to use there, too. He comes with another resource-granting unit, and two Troopers to provide some good targets for the additional Trooper boosts in the game. However, Orbital Bombardment is the main draw for this set, an enhancement that grants each unit an additional objective damage icon. This will become very useful, as you’ll see!

Star Wars LCG

Lord Vader’s Command is the Darth Vader set, his first appearance in the Imperial Navy faction. The objective increases the cost of enemy events by 1, which can be annoying, and he comes with a card that can cancel enemy events, placing them on top of the deck. Effects like that, while annoying, aren’t quite so devastating here because your opponent will be drawing, potentially, 6 cards minimum, so the ability to know one of those cards and prepare for it isn’t so powerful as it is in a game like Magic, for instance, when you only draw one card per turn. There are two Probe Droid cards who deal damage to enemy objectives when they leave play, then Vader himself, who is of course Elite, and grants an additional objective damage icon to his fellow attackers. Very nice. Between Vader and Orbital Bombardment, then, we’ve got units dealing at least two points of objective damage in combat, not to mention whatever else they might have already on their card. And Tarkin very helpfully reduces the hit points on objectives – smashing!

Star Wars LCG

Death and Despayre brings out the big guns – the Devastator star destroyer, Lord Vader’s ship during A New Hope. This bruiser has the potential to deal four objective damage if you win the edge (two if you don’t), and two unit damage, and with the buffs already mentioned, you’d be one-shot blowing up objectives in a very short game! In addition, the Devastator allows you to pay 1 resource to increase the Death Star Dial when you destroy an enemy objective. But that’s not all, because there is another unit here who gives the same effect for two resources; and you get an enhancement that provides those two resources, just in case you need it. Another enhancement grants +3 hit points to your own objectives, and finally, there is a copy of the Heat of Battle fate card, allowing you to deal one damage to an enemy unit participating in this combat. It’s a really nice objective set, and works well with the other sets like Tarkin and Vader, both mechanically and thematically.

Star Wars LCG

Of course, the Devastator costs 6 resources, which is why Deploy the Fleet might come in handy, as the objective allows you to reduce the cost of a capital ship by 1 in return for damaging the objective itself (but that’s fine if you enhance it properly). If you don’t have the Devastator, that’s okay – there are two copies of Death Squadron Star Destroyer in here, which have three objective damage icons on them. Non edge-dependent damage icons, at that. And they have Shielding. There are additional cards in the set to make playing these expensive ships easier, but the fact that these star destroyers, coupled with any combination of Tarkin, Orbital Bombardment and Vader, will be blowing objectives up all over the place, it’s just brutal! And I have been on the receiving end of this before now, believe me!

Star Wars LCG

Lastly, Family Connections is the General Tagge objective set, and the one that came from later in the game’s history than the other cards in the deck. I’ve tried to make the decks interesting like this, while still sticking mainly to the earlier card pool for the time being. Tagge allows you to return Troopers to your hand rather than they leave play, so long as they cost 2 or less; this set has two, and Admiral Motti’s set also has two. The objective also allows you to place Shield tokens on each trooper you control when you refresh – there are an additional two Troopers who would benefit from this, which is a nice to have. The set also has the Imperial Discipline enhancement, which forces your opponent to damage an objective when a Trooper leaves play – yikes! I almost need to find more sacrifice outlets to trigger that! The big news though, is that Tagge himself also has two objective damage icons. Tarkin, Tagge, Vader, Orbital Bombardment = objective kill each round. It’s just brutal, I say!

This deck can become a thing of beauty when you see all of the internal synergies lining up to smash you in the face. With the way the game works, you get to draw a significant portion of your deck across the average game, as well, which works out really nicely with this kind of deck. It’s nice to see a lot of your deck, for sure, but it kinda doesn’t matter with a deck like the Rebels, where there are no real key pieces for victory. With a lot of synergies going on though, it’s really useful for the Imperial deck.

I’ve not really been playing with the other four decks that I’d built for the game, as we were only using the Empire and Rebels decks for our games thus far, but I might continue on with this look at the other decks anyway, as it has been fun to talk about them – mainly because I’m still just obsessed with this game right now!

Star Wars LCG: Rebel Alliance deck

Hey everybody,
I’ve been thinking about talking more in depth about my Star Wars LCG decks that I’m currently playing, so thought I’d do a bit of a write-up here today to showcase what I’m playing with, just because I really like this game and I really want to show that off! I started getting back into the game in April, when my wife agreed (somewhat reluctantly, perhaps!) to join me, so I put six decks together (one for each faction), and we started with Rebels vs Empire. We’ve basically stuck with those decks since, although I have tweaked them a bit since we first played, in an effort to try and make them play better.

Both the Rebels and Imperial decks are faction-pure, so there are no off-faction cards (or neutral cards, for that matter) included here. I’ve talked about this a little before, but I’m also limiting my deck-building options to the core set and first cycle for the time being, although both decks do have one objective set each from later in the game, mainly for flavour than for any other reason.

Briefly, deck-building in Star Wars LCG takes the form of objective sets (or “pods”) that are six-card sets you bring as a unit. Rather than building your deck in the traditional manner, therefore, you select ten (or more) objective sets and this creates your deck for you. You can only include a max of two copies of each set in the deck, although this does mean the usual restrictions around individual cards might be exceeded, and you end up with six copies of a certain card because it appeared in multiple sets. If this is confusing now, all will become clear when I come to talk about the decks!

Today, I’m going to talk about the Rebels deck.

Evacuation Procedure x2
The Rebel Fleet
Draw Their Fire
Mobilize the Squadrons
Decoy at Dantooine
Fleeing the Empire
Mission Briefing
Planning the Attack
The Defense of Yavin 4

It’s a very broad deck, and to some extent it does lack a certain consistency when being played.

Star Wars LCG

Evacuation Procedure is the only set to be included twice, and that’s mainly for Han Solo, I’m not going to lie! However, there are some really useful unit-leaves-play effects on the cards in this set, and the objective itself allows you to sacrifice units to remove focus tokens from stuff, so you can really make the most of those leaving play effects. You don’t just have to sacrifice the cards from this set of course, and there are plenty of chump cards throughout the deck that could also be used to trigger it.

Star Wars LCG

The Rebel Fleet is one of my favourite objective sets, as it includes Home One which is a great attacking unit that doesn’t require the edge to be effective. The objective itself can only be attacked by vehicles, giving it some evasion that can be useful. There’s a Y-Wing in here, which I enjoy, and the repair droid that can heal up Home One if needed. Target of Opportunity is possibly my favourite Fate card as well, as it allows you to get one point of damage on the objective you’re attacking, whether you win or lose the edge. Very nice, all-round useful cards in here.

Star Wars LCG

Draw Their Fire is the Ackbar set, but it’s not included here for the Admiral. Rather, there are a number of other cards that work well within the deck, such as X-Wing Escort that forces the enemy to discard a vehicle when it leaves play (meaning there’s one less to target The Rebel Fleet). I have a chump X-Wing that could be sacrificed to Evacuation Procedure, and there’s a Fleet Command Centre which gives me 3 resources, plus a shield token when I refresh. Heroic Sacrifice allows me to sacrifice a vehicle to destroy an enemy vehicle, again clearing the field for The Rebel Fleet, as well as triggering Evacuation Procedure.

Star Wars LCG

Mobilize the Squadrons is here for two reasons: Rebel Assault and Trench Run. There are a couple of chump cards I can sacrifice to trigger the effects mentioned earlier, and a copy of Covering Fire which provides another sacrifice outlet, but Trench Run is the card that turns the Death Star Dial into an objective whose destruction can win me the game, and Rebel Assault just deals a flat two damage to either a unit or an objective. The objective itself is nice as well, because it allows me to clear an additional focus token from an objective or enhancement when I refresh; having 2 resources itself, this means I can always get the maximum efficiency from the card. Pretty much an auto-include for a Rebel deck, I think.

Star Wars LCG

Decoy at Dantooine is an interesting set, because it’s quite sneaky. The objective itself has the effect of decreasing the Death Star Dial by 1 when an objective I control leaves play, which goes some way to negating the advance of the Dark Side. There is also an enhancement in here that has the same effect, meaning that if both cards are out together, there is going to be some Dark Side stagnation when my objectives are blowing up. There are a couple of events that allow me to return units to my hand, which can be quite tricksy, and the Wookiee Navigator unit allows for the same objective to be targeted twice in a combat, if he survives. That’s some fairly interesting stuff going on there, though interestingly I find myself thinking it might be a good target to swap out when it comes to refining the deck, despite how good the ability to decrease the Death Star dial can be.

Star Wars LCG

Fleeing the Empire is a bit of a flavour include, really, as it’s the original Princess Leia objective which in itself is quite funny. Leia never really leaves play – if she does, she is captured by the Dark Side player at an objective of his choice. So when that objective is destroyed, she comes back to my hand, and can be played again, and so on. You’re My Only Hope allows me to sacrifice a unit (again, feeding into the Evacuation Procedure objective from earlier) to draw cards, and force my opponent to discard a card, so that’s useful here. Stolen Plans enhances an enemy objective and allows me to draw cards when the objective generates a resource, which can be quite useful (though I did come unstuck once when I was so focused on getting the value from that card that I left the objective in play with 1 hit point remaining, and lost the game in the next round!) It also has Twist of Fate, which is my least favourite Fate card, simply because I don’t like those kind of “gotcha!” moments.

Star Wars LCG

Mission Briefing is included in the deck, but I don’t really know why anymore. It has Mon Mothma, though, and the objective allows me to draw cards when my opponent’s turn begins, so it works well in some respects, but I would say this is definitely ripe for being rotated out.

Star Wars LCG

Planning the Attack increases my reserve value by 1 while it is undamaged, so works well with the Leia objective set which can get me a load of Shield tokens. Jan Dodonna lets me draw cards whenever a Yavin 4 card generates resources, limited to once per turn, but there are a lot of these cards in the deck so that should give me some value there. I’ve got two chumps for sacrificing purposes, another Twist of Fate, and an enhancement that gets me more resources, which is always useful.

Star Wars LCG

Finally, I have The Defense of Yavin 4, which includes a few more vehicles and another Rebel Assault card. The objective itself can reduce the cost of vehicles by discarding cards, which might be useful for getting rid of cards like Twist of Fate, which I don’t like using! But there aren’t very many expensive vehicle cards in the deck – but I suppose I could use this alternate cost to free up resources to pay for other stuff.

So all in all, it’s quite a flexible deck that has a variety of things going on. I don’t think there’s really one massive strategy in here that all the cards are working towards; rather, there are just many different things that I can do to enable me (hopefully!) to win! It’s the kind of hodge-podge deck that I like to play, which has a large variety of cards to do a large variety of things with. It definitely needs some refinement, and I think it could do with some more play before I make any further changes. But the important thing is the fun factor. It doesn’t have a Luke in here yet, as the Rebel Luke didn’t come until further in the game, but there is a nice combination of big names and some cannon fodder – which is really what playing Star Wars games is all about, isn’t it?

I’ll be looking at the Imperial deck in a similar way soon, so stay tuned for that!!

Star Wars LCG: The Hoth Cycle

I am so obsessed with the Star Wars LCG, it’s untrue. It’s a real shame that I never had the people around me who were into it back in the day, as I think it’s one of those games where, given the right sort of playgroup, you could have so much fun, re-enacting so many key moments from across the entirety of the original trilogy.

Something that I’ve been thinking about a lot in the last few weeks is how much I miss having a card game – or specifically, a living card game, that I would play regularly and tinker with my decks when we had a new release. I did this a lot with Lord of the Rings during its early days, and I remember doing a fair bit with my Netrunner decks too. But in other games, I would say 85% of the time, I was starting with a big card pool. Of course, coming back to the Star Wars card game four years too late runs really counter to this, as well, given that I have pretty much everything there will ever be for the game. I find myself yearning for a new Star Wars game that I can get my teeth into, in the hope that I can once again have this experience of meta-shifts over time.

But in an effort to re-capture some of this element, I’ve been playing the game with some decks that are built somewhat restricted to the early sets available. Both the Rebel and Empire decks that Jemma and I have been using are made predominantly from the core set with some Hoth cycle cards thrown in, and just one set that came later in the game that is used mainly for flavour, or to support the deck. In this way, I’m enjoying playing the game and getting to experience some meta-shifts as I’m thinking of introducing newer cycles every few months. In all honesty, Jemma and I aren’t really playing very often, so it could almost run in real time, with deck changes on an annual basis! But I thought I’d come here today to talk about this cracking game, and it’s first cycle. In the future, I think I’ll be doing a similar style of blog for all of the cycles – hopefully I’ll still be playing it by the time it comes round to the last one!!

The Hoth Cycle is mainly focused around the struggle between the Rebels and the Imperials, following the events of the movie. Of course, everybody gets cards throughout the cycle. The Jedi have some interesting support stuff, and a very interesting new version of Luke which predates the Pilot keyword by a couple of cycles.

This pre-Pilot is a theme for the Rebels, who can attach characters like Wedge to speeder unit cards for additional effects. There are a lot of really interesting interactions among the speeders in these objective sets, and the objectives themselves have the theme of control that is mirrored in the Empire’s sets, as both sides fight for control of the “ice cube”.

The very next cycle then gave us an additional Hoth objective set, featuring none other than General Riekkan, along with an objective that increases the Rebels’ Force icons in the Force struggle. Very handy, and always nice to see it when some older themes are given further support.

We also had a new, Rebel version of Han Solo, who allows you to search your deck for a card when he leaves play. Nothing too earth shattering there, if I’m honest. I think there are some fairly exciting deck prospects that present themselves from looking through the Rebel and Smuggler cards in conjunction.

Renegade Squadron was founded by Col Serra on the orders of Han Solo, the idea being to recruit an elite team of smugglers to assist with the Alliance’s “dreamers”. Their first action was during the evacuation of Yavin, and they played a significant part in the defence of Echo Base.

It’s natural, then, that they’ll feature in the Hoth cycle. It makes things very interesting by giving us more Hoth objectives that can be mixed in to a Rebel/Smuggler deck, which can be quite a popular build.

There is some really lovely synergy between the three objective sets. Col Serra himself buffs you during the Edge battle, and he cannot be damaged or focused during an engagement where you have the Edge. The objective itself allows you to put the top card of your deck into your Edge stack as well. There are a number of ways to dictate the flow of the battle as well, such as forcing characters to defend, or preventing characters from taking part in the battle. It should make for some pretty exciting deck options, for sure.

The interesting thing, though, is the synergy between Col Serra buffing the edge battle, and the Rebel objective Hoth Operations, which gives each speeder unit an icon to use in the edge battle if you control more Hoth objectives. It does certainly make for some interesting deck-building ideas for a Rebel/Smuggler deck, maybe when we’re a bit further into playing the game and want to mix things up more!!

Renegade Squadron wasn’t entirely forgotten, as a fourth objective set featured them in Imperial Entanglements, which has a lot of shenanigans as far as altering the flow of battle when you defend.

In addition to these gems, we have five neutral Hoth objective sets, which contain some very useful support cards, including a set built around shielding and stuff.

As might be expected, there are many Imperial cards that stand out for me as being very tasty. There’s an Imperial version of Darth Vader, there are cards for the Death Squadron he commands, and General Veers gets his own objective set. A very exciting set is that one at the bottom there with Colonel Starck, the guy who commands Blizzard 4 in Empire. For those of you who don’t know, Blizzard 4 is the walked Luke throws the bomb into after his snowspeeder has been downed. He’s a wonderful example of the way characters come to be, first being mentioned in a reference book and later having his story fleshed out.

The Empire have the Death Squadron, but for some reason the flagship, Executor, is in the Sith side, who otherwise get some Sithspawn creatures, some stormtroopers, and a Prophet of the Dark Side objective set. While it’s a bit weird, I think it’s great to see that already this game is really delving into the background for stuff, and a lot of cards make reference to stuff from the 90s, giving me some real nostalgia-bumps!

Finally, the Scum faction gets some mercenaries and Dengar. I think FFG had said the “story”, such as it can be said to exist here, was that the scum were getting ready to collect on Jabba’s bounty on Han Solo. Given that I don’t think Edge of Darkness was out for the most part of this cycle, so Scum in particular seem to get a really raw deal here – at least Smugglers have some good synergy with the Rebels!!

There we have it, anyway. The first cycle for the Star Wars LCG still drips in theme, for me, nine years after its release. I’m planning to look through all of the expansion cycles in due course (hopefully I’ll have picked up those final two packs by the time it comes to the last cycle!) so stay tuned for more!!

Almost there!

I am so close, you guys!

As I previously mentioned here on the blog, I’ve become obsessed again with Star Wars LCG, a game that I hadn’t really been playing while it was still actually a living card game. Because of that lack of table-time, I stopped collecting when the game shifted to include content from Rebels, which was a dumb move in retrospect, because that was the game’s penultimate cycle. For years, the game was just stored up in the loft, though, so it didn’t really bother me.

But this Easter, I somehow managed to convince Jemma it would be a good game to try, and we’ve played it twice, as Empire (her) vs Rebels (me), each of us winning a game.

In all honesty, I don’t think we’d even played it once before the obsession took root, though, and I began to search out those remaining Force packs…

In pretty short order, I’d snapped up almost all of the Opposition cycle, and the very final pack from the game. It didn’t seem so bad, after all! But no – I exhausted all of my online resources in the UK, and couldn’t find any more packs on this sceptred isle. Time to broaden the net!!

This past week, in the middle of sitting my health and safety exam, I took delivery of these beauties – two from the US, and two from Belgium (of all places!) I couldn’t believe it! I had begun to think that the Alliances cycle was a creature of myth, but I’ve now got 2/3 of that, and have finished off the Opposition cycle to boot!

That just leaves Aggressive Negotiations, which I have seen for sale recently, just for about double the RRP, and Allies of Necessity, the golden goose itself! I have tried for weeks to find the latter, particularly once I’d heard it was so rare in the wild, but it seems that I may never get to own that last piece of the puzzle.

If anybody knows where I might find copies of either of these packs, PLEASE let me know!! Until then, I think it’s time to get some more games in!!

Deck building in Middle Earth

Following on from yesterday’s post about my recent adventures in the shadow of Mordor, I thought I’d continue in that vein a little longer and waffle about my decks that I had built for the game, and share some observations on their performance, etc. I know that Lord of the Rings LCG isn’t a competitive game, and so it can seem a bit like it relies more on personal choice as to what you include in your deck, but nevertheless, I find this kind of thing interesting!

Both decks are tri-sphere, and so resource matching can be horrendous to manage at times! The first deck involves Aragorn (leadership), Legolas (tactics), and Glorfindel (spirit). I’ve got two attachments in the deck that go on Aragorn to give him the spirit and tactics icons, to help smooth that out, and there’s another attachment I’ve given to him that gives an extra resource each round. Nevertheless, it can be very tricky at times to get this moving in the right direction.

In a way, I do feel as though the resource match rule is the most punishing aspect of this game, as you need a total match, it’s not like the Star Wars LCG, where at least one resource needs to come from the relevant faction. Cards like Haldir, for instance, aren’t coming out until turn 4, whereas the encounter deck is at you straightaway, turn 1. I do often think about trying to implement a house rule of using the Star Wars matching system, but I think that could bring its own problems. The alternative that has also crossed my mind is having at least one free pass/starting with more than one resource token per hero when playing a tri-sphere deck.

Anyway, it’s beginning to sound like I’m complaining about the game, but this is a blog post about deck building!

Up until about 18 months ago, I played this game exclusively solo, with one deck of three heroes. However, since playing with two decks has opened up the multiplayer co-op aspect so much, I don’t think I’d ever go back! However, I think I’m still in that former mindset with using tri-sphere, and should probably think about shifting things around so that the two spirit heroes are together, and the two tactics heroes are together. Making decks dual-sphere decks are a lot easier to manage, of course, but I think that would potentially open up an issue as regards how the encounter deck targets the first player in the Vengeance of Mordor cycle.

See, having a good range of Ranged and Sentinel characters on both sides means (in theory, at least!) that I can attack and defend from both decks, no matter where the attacks are coming from. This is something that took me a while to get to grips with, if I’m honest, as the single deck approach meant those keywords were meaningless for me for so many years. As they tend to be in specific spheres, too, it would need careful planning to rearrange the decks, so for now I’m just plodding on!

In my Faramir deck, I have a spread of Song cards, the original Mirkwood Songs that grant different icons to the heroes they’re attached to. Now, invariably in this game, you’ll draw cards for the wrong hero, leaving one stuck with most of the tokens because you’re not drawing anything they can play. Perfect target for a Song, normally! I found it interesting in my last game, though, that no good target really presented himself, because I was drawing a good spread of cards so was managing fine – the best use I could put these Songs to was discarding for travel effects!

I suppose this is the interesting thing about this sort of card game, though. Due to shuffling your deck, your cards are randomised, so you never really know what you’re going to get next. Obvious, I know, but in practice this can mean you draw really well, or you only draw event cards whose triggers just aren’t coming up. Or you only draw leadership cards, meaning you end up with the Bank of Legolas or something.

This is why “search your deck” effects can be so useful, as not only do you have the chance to go look for exactly what you need, but you also (usually!) have to shuffle your deck afterwards. Any additional shuffle is usually very useful, I find – regardless of the fact that most of the game is often down to luck of the draw, it just feels good to shuffle your deck when you’re not drawing anything useful, because it feels like you’re going to change the game. Regardless of the fact that Galadhrim’s Greeting might well have been the next card you were going to draw, anyway!!

So, heroes having multiple spheres is very useful, the Ranged and Sentinel keywords are very useful, and being able to search for specific cards is very useful. The fourth “pillar” to all of this is, of course, getting multiple uses out of your characters, particularly heroes. Aragorn has this ability natively, of course, where you can pay one resource from his pool to ready him when he has committed to the quest. Given his all-round great stats, plus Sentinel, makes this really useful, but it does assume that you have the resources to pay for it. Light of Valinor is just made for Glorfindel, as it means the guy doesn’t exhaust to quest in the first place. Stuff like Leather Boots, which allow the attached to character to ready when a certain card is revealed from the encounter deck, is also really good, although somewhat situational. I mean, if Faramir has his boots on, and only enemies come out of the deck, you’re stuck with a Ranger character who can’t do anything to help out.

The gold standard in these types of cards is, of course, Unexpected Courage, which allows you to ready the attached hero, regardless of what has happened. I’m not sure a character can defend, then attack back, all that often, but this allows you to do that. (As another side note about the rules in general, I don’t understand why characters have to throw themselves in the line of fire without getting to retaliate. There should either be a kind of simultaneous combat, or a rule that allows a defender, if he survives the attack, to attack back before attackers are declared properly. But maybe that would skew things too much, as well).

The final subset of cards worth mentioning is not that well-represented in these decks, but I would say is still fairly important – the ‘cancel’ effect cards, and other generally playing-outside-the-rules. So cards such as A Test of Will, which cancels the when revealed effect of a card from the encounter deck, or the lore events that ignore the threat of a location or an enemy in the staging area, giving you some questing room. Direct damage cards are also useful, as they bypass the need for engaging enemies, though obviously there are Dúnedain cards that want you to be engaged. Tactics has a variety of cards that allow you to directly attack an enemy, which used to confuse me a bit because I thought I was engaging those enemies as well. Nope. Hands Upon the Bow, for example, let’s you attack someone at +1 to that attack, without the need for enduring an attack coming from that enemy first. It’s a really powerful effect, especially on a heavy-hitting hero tooled up with something like a Rivendell Blade, which reduces the defence on that enemy.

With all of these card types to take into account, along with a sprinkling of buffs and other one-time events, it’s no wonder I’m enjoying the game much more since I stopped playing just the one deck! In all honesty, playing two-handed has almost been like learning how to play the game anew, but it’s been really quite a great experience to see all of these effects and combos come out as I’ve done so! There will always be bad hands drawn, even after a mulligan, but sometimes, you get to draw Light of Valinor for Glorfindel in your opening hand three games in a row. And that, my friends, is glorious!!