New LotR deluxe expansion announced!

Hey everybody!
Well, it was with some trepidation that I’d been waiting for the big announcement for Lord of the Rings this weekend, as I was beginning to feel like the sky was about to fall, and the game would be announced as ending. The whole Harad cycle seems to have been really stalled, and I’m sure it’s taken almost the whole year to get not very far with it (pack five has just been released, more than a year since the deluxe came out). While the big announcement has yet to be made (at the time of this writing), I’m so glad that I was wrong, and that another announcement was made yesterday for a brand new deluxe expansion for the game!

The Wilds of Rhovanion sounds just wonderful. In many ways, it feels like something of a return to the Lord of the Rings of the early days. Accompanying a band of refugees north from Harad to Dale, we go along the Anduin and through Mirkwood once again, before being given a quest by King Brand that leads us deep into the Iron Hills. The feel of the Shadows of Mirkwood and Dwarrowdelf cycles is definitely there for me as I read through the description, and I am hugely looking forward to getting my hot little hands on this expansion in the new year!

The player cards coming in this expansion seem to have a focus on Items, denoting the powerful trade links of Dale. It looks like it should be a really interesting box, with cards that allow you to move items among your fellowship and so forth. It’s already got me thinking about my decks, and going back over the Items of the game to see what I’ve been overlooking all these years!

Overall, very cool to see the game continuing like this, and I’m very happy to see we’re off to the north-east of the map, somewhere I’m not overly familiar with. It’s going to be a very exciting time for the game, I’m sure!

As regards the bigger announcement due later today, a lot of people seem to be under the impression we’re getting an app. I’m not entirely sure why, as the previous games from FFG to have such treatment tend to have an app to convert it from competitive to cooperative. Elder Sign has Omens, though, so maybe we will be getting another such thing? I’d prefer it be something for the physical game, if I had a choice, but I guess we’ll just have to see!

Magic Metamorphosis

Hey everybody!
Having a week off work means that I can take some time off and relax, especially since I’ve now finished my degree. It also means I can be around to see things like this come out much quicker than normal!

Mark Rosewater has got a new article up on the Wizards website, talking about upcoming changes to Magic the Gathering’s set structure and stuff – changes that will be happening from next spring, no less!

Back in 2015, we had the end of Tarkir block and Magic Origins, which together were the last three-set block and the last core set, respectively. Since then, Magic has been published in two-set blocks that have taken in Zendikar, Innistrad, Kaladesh and now, Amonkhet, with Ixalan coming later this year. Each of these five blocks is a large set followed by a small set, the idea being that two-set blocks wouldn’t allow for the kind of fatigue that three-set blocks had caused. However, it seems players are still upset with having small sets, no matter how big the block overall happens to be, so starting with the April 2018 set (currently named “Soup”, but which will be announced later this week, apparently!) Magic will be see three large sets published every year, which may or may not be linked by location. Intriguing…

The fourth set of the year is going to be a core set again, only with a difference. It still seems to be geared primarily towards newer players, but the idea is to include more reprints that will benefit all players without being straight-jacketed into the theme of a particular block. I always liked core sets, and was sorry to see them go (you can read all about my love of M12 here!) so I’m excited to see what this could bring!

The Gatewatch

The Gatewatch is going to be dialled back a little. This is kinda fine with me, as I like a good planeswalker but having so many Gideons running around right now is a little unnecessary. I think the idea of including different planeswalkers is good, though I do get why they wanted the Gatewatch in the first place, so it was never a huge deal for me either way. They’re also cutting back on the Masterpieces series, so that not every set will have them. I’m conflicted by this – I only ever opened one, Mana Confluence, and pretty much immediately sold it anyway. Paired with the return of core sets and the potential for reprints there, I’m not exactly distraught at the loss of Masterpieces. However, their presence in regular packs made people open more packs generally, and so card prices have been particularly good in sets where they’ve occurred. If fewer packs are going to be opened, then I’m a bit concerned that the cost of Standard will creep back up again, and I’ll be left with fewer cards for my money. Hm.

The article ends with the news that a new element of R&D is being formed to focus solely on the actual gameplay environments such as Standard and Draft, in the hope of not causing any bad seasons as seems to be happening right now.

It’s always good to see these sorts of articles, and I have nothing but gratitude and admiration for the guys at Wizards for being so communicative with their audience. It sounds like things are being shaken up mainly for Draft, but the two-year Standard (eight sets, total) is being retained after the feedback last year. I’m primarily interested in Magic for the theme and the worldbuilding, of course, so I’m much more interested in what this means for those aspects. It sounds like it will allow for greater flexibility to tell stories, as they can have one, two or three sets taking place on a particular plane, which can only be good for us, the players! The return of core sets could be great, so overall, I’m excited to see where we’re going next!

It is your destiny…

In keeping with recent years, FFG have been announcing a couple of interesting things they have in their pipeline prior to GenCon next week. Among the announcements, this one seems to be the biggest so far, which is a bit weird on the one hand, because it seems like such a small game. But on the other hand, it’s a huge thing for the company!

Years ago, Fantasy Flight Games published CCGs like many other games companies – A Game of Thrones and Call of Cthulhu were both collectible card games, sold in blind-buy booster packs. Then they went down the LCG route, providing all of the cards in one pack every month, which was a huge shift for the gaming community as a whole. But now, they’re going back to the collectible model with a dice game that looks significantly like one of those Dice Masters things, in a move that appears to be designed to get their product into the bigger retail stores.

Star Wars Destiny

Is it a good move? Well, of course – getting your product into a wider distribution market is increasing the chances of that product selling, so sure it is. Is it a good move for the company, who had previously been staunchly behind the LCG model? It feels decidedly weird, and the justification for that given in the article feels somewhat clunky, but there are people who like collectible games, so it can’t be denied that a lot of people will probably be really excited for this.

As a rule, I’m not really all that interested by these kinds of games, preferring card games to dice games, but it’s Star Wars, so I’ll likely pick up a couple of starters to see what it’s all about. The more interesting thing, to me, is seeing the artwork for both the Prequels and Episode VII. Given the way FFG usually operate, I imagine they may be paving the way for Prequel-themed games in the future? At any rate, seeing Count Dooku on a card from a game by FFG is really exciting.

What do you all think? Excited or unimpressed?