Getting back to Mirkwood, part one

Hey everybody!
I’m having something of a card game renaissance lately, getting back into both Arkham Horror LCG and my all-time favourite game, Lord of the Rings LCG! I’ve rambled previously about these events, of course, and today will be a little more of a ramble, as I talk about revisiting three of the absolute classics of the game, the first half of the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle!

I’ve waxed lyrical about this game in a number of posts now, but I really can’t quite describe just how much joy I get from playing this game!

If you read my original look through the Mirkwood cycle linked above, you’ll know just how much I like to wax lyrical about this cycle. I wrote that back in 2014, but it all pretty much still stands up as true! The cycle is just so classic for me, and so quintessentially what this game is all about. This was released before the Saga expansions of course, when I think FFG didn’t have licence to produce games set to follow the books themselves, so had to work around that by producing these side-stories. We see this most clearly with the Dwarrowdelf cycle, of course, but even with things like the Dead Marshes here, we’re attempting to visit book locations while not telling the story of Frodo and Sam.

While I’ve been a huge fan of this cycle since I originally bought it, I don’t normally play Conflict at the Carrock or A Journey to Rhosgobel, as I like the cinematic feel of playing packs I, IV, V and VI in that order. Missing out the ‘side quests’ has become so normal for me that actually playing them this time has been a lot of fun! A Journey to Rhosgobel in particular was almost something of a discovery, as I’d forgotten so much of that scenario!

I was playing through them with my Elves deck, which is made up of a lot of cards from the Ringmaker cycle, something that I was curious to see whether it would have much of an effect on these comparatively older expansions. As it happens, the answer is no. Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a lot to be said for playing with a much more synergistic deck like all-elves or all-dwarves, as FFG have really made some great attempts to bring these cards together into often quite powerful archetypes, whereas trying to play with the wider synergies of the entire sphere could see you struggle, but I don’t think it makes things particularly easier to manage. My elven deck can allow Legolas and Glorfindel to become real powerhouses, of course, but I still managed to end up with Glorfindel Sacked! in Conflict at the Carrock, and I did still lose A Journey to Rhosgobel after having only discovered one Athelas plant.

I’m really thinking I might play Rhosgobel again, as I feel like I barely know that pack! It was a lot of fun – well, the whole playthrough was a lot of fun! But yeah, might get back to that one before I move on into the Hills of Emyn Muil


I’ve got the second half of these quests to play through as well, of course, but I’m also thinking about playing through on Nightmare mode before I move on to Khazad-dûm. It’s something I definitely don’t normally do, as I find a lot of the time, Nightmare mode feels like it breaks the original theme for the sake of making an otherwise really enjoyable game unnecessarily difficult. However, when I’ve previously looked through the cards for the Mirkwood Nightmares, I seem to recall they’re actually very thematic as well. Maybe I’m unjustly hating on Nightmare mode? Anyway. We shall see!

The Lord of the Rings LCG remains my all-time favourite game, and I am really looking forward to getting back into playing through some of my favourite quests, as well as playing the newer scenarios that I have yet to experience! Stay tuned!

Returning to Middle Earth!

Hey everybody!
So, after my last blog, I was really feeling the need to get back into Middle Earth, and playing some Lord of the Rings LCG once again. It’s without a doubt my favourite game, so when I had some spare time last Sunday, I dusted off my elves deck and took a turn through the first two scenarios in the core set.

My goodness me, what a wonderful time was had!

I’d forgotten how good the elves were to play, having not had a game with that deck since 2016, when I had made a brief attempt to get playing this game again, and made a new Dúnedain deck. The elven strategy is to gain benefits from discarding cards; some of those benefits can be quite handy, and one of the most notable from my games at the weekend was that of Erestor, allowing me to cycle through my deck a lot more efficiently.

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I feel like I have become a much better card-game-player since I started getting into Magic all those years ago, as the whole Magic scene better-prepares you for building decks etc than any other game I’ve ever come across.

The Wilds of Rhovanion

While I’m currently thinking that I’m going to try and play my way through the game from the start, cycle by cycle, the reason for me writing this blog today is that I have now taken delivery of both the latest (last?) deluxe expansion, and the first pack in the linked cycle! I’ve talked briefly about this before, but I do have the strong feeling that this latest expansion is bringing the game a whole lot closer to the early days of the Mirkwood cycle, when I really fell in love with it and obsessed over it.

The three scenarios take us along the Anduin once again, through Mirkwood Forest, and then under the Lonely Mountain on a quest for King Brand, who appears as one of the new heroes. The expansion has a really nice feel to it, and the Dale theme among the player cards does appear to be one that could be a lot of fun to work with. I’ve previously tried an Outlands human deck, but felt it was a little bland – the Men of Dale could be the men I’ve been looking for all these years! Ahem…

What’s really exciting about this latest expansion in the fact we’re re-using encounter sets from the core set – only a couple, but they’re there once again! It’s something I’ve wondered if they’d ever do for a long time now, and while it is only the core set encounters, I am left wondering how far they could feasibly take this in the game. Expansions of expansions are always a very dubious prospect, as it requires a player to have more than just the core set, but given that each cycle has required its deluxe expansion in order to function, it would really only be expanding on that theme…

Of course, I’m not going to get into the whole “is this the final cycle?” question just now.

The Wilds of Rhovanion
While I did say earlier that I was going to attempt to play my way steadily through all of the released content for the game, I might just have a sneaky game with this expansion at the weekend, perhaps make up a new deck especially for the occasion, and see whether the old magic still pervades the latest offerings for the game. And then I’ll get stuck into The Hunt for Gollum!


So what is my elven deck, you might be asking yourselves. Well, it’s something that I built a number of years ago, somewhat following on from this pair of articles on the FFG website, here and here. So, in the spirit of sharing, let me show you…

Glorfindel (spirit)
Elrond (lore)
Legolas (tactics)

Leadership:
Erestor
Orophin
Naith Guide

Tactics:
Rúmil
Galadhon Archer
Marksman of Lórien
Arod
Bow of the Galadhrim
Rivendell Blade (2)
Blade of Gondolin
Unseen Strike
Hands Upon the Bow
Quick Strike
Pursuing the Enemy
Rain of Arrows

Spirit:
Arwen Undómiel
Imladris Stargazer
Lórien Guide
Light of Valinor (2)
The Favor of the Lady (2)
Elrond’s Counsel (2)
The Galadhrim’s Greeting (2)
Fair and Perilous (2)
A Test of Will (2)
Island amid Perils
Children of the Sea

Lore:
Henamarth Riversong
Haldir of Lórien
Gildor Inglorion
Galdor of the Havens
Galadhrim Healer
Mirkwood Runner
Silvan Tracker
Asfaloth
Elf-stone (2)
Protector of Lórien
The Tree People
Lórien’s Wealth (2)
Leave no Trace

Neutral:
Vilya
Keen as Lances

The are, for sure, a number of cards in this deck that I think have been included more for theme than for actual utility – one of those themes being that the art is by Magali Villeneuve… But anyway! I think it’ll be useful to run through the deck soon and look at some of these cards, such as the very expensive Gildor Inglorion, and replace them with cards that might be better-placed overall. I play Lord of the Rings pretty much exclusively solo with one deck, so all card spaces are at a premium for me. Having cards in there just because the art is nice, or something, is not a good idea. But I don’t want to break the theme too much – it is an elven deck, and I want to have something that works off this theme overall.

 

It feels so good to be back in Middle Earth right now!

Catching up with the world

Hey everybody!
It’s been a while since I’ve caught up with the wider goings-on of the world, it seems, having been focused almost exclusively on the world of Warhammer for quite some time here on this blog, so I thought I’d take some time today to have a look at what else has been going on, and share some musings with you all here! You know you love it.

My mate Tony sent me the trailer for Dark Phoenix last week, which was a total shock as I hadn’t been aware that Fox were continuing their X-Men reboot past Apocalypse. I really like those movies, even if the third one fell a little flat, and the trailer here looks to be along similar lines as the existing trilogy, so I’m really looking forward to this one. Hopefully it’ll continue the theme and be a really classy film, overall. I suppose it can’t be any worse than the last time they tried to do the Dark Phoenix storyline, though…

Looking at some of the info online around the film, it seems like the cosmic elements of the original Dark Phoenix comic book are being introduced in this film, which is an interesting slant. Previous X-Men films have always tried to take a very grounded, real-world approach to things, so it’ll be interesting to see if that can be maintained while also including the Shi’ar. I guess we’ll see in February! While it seems the reception of this trailer hasn’t been particularly stellar, though, I am looking forward to seeing the movie.

I don’t get to read a great deal of comic books these days, though have always been more a DC boy when it comes to the original source material. I think I might try and get into that again once I’ve finished reading the current tome I’m enjoying, the fourth CJ Sansom historical novel Revelation. I’ve been reading those books since Christmas, and they’re really quite enjoyable! If a little weighty…

Anyway!

My wife is a huge Harry Potter fan (I do enjoy the franchise as well, though have always preferred the novels to any attempt at visual media), and has been excitedly talking about the upcoming second Fantastic Beasts film. I did enjoy the first one, I thought it was really interesting to explore the magical world in another locale from a British boarding school, and 1920s New York was a lot of fun. The surprise link to the Gellert Grindelwald storyline was nicely done, and I was somewhat excited at the idea of seeing a series of these films – while I wasn’t a fan of the Harry Potter films themselves, I think that was due to the fact I vastly preferred the books. We watched the trailer for the second film the other day, and it does look like it should be another exciting installment, at any rate!

Of course, there is the whole Nagini casting controversy, and I’m not about to get into that, but suffice it to say, I do feel sometimes that these things get blown too much out of proportion. If the actress cast in the role is happy with the ethnic choices made, then I think she’s better qualified than me to make that sort of judgment. So let’s see how the film turns out when it’s released in November…

The Wilds of Rhovanion

Let’s turn to games now – and I want to start with Lord of the Rings LCG. I’ve often mentioned this game on my blog here as my all-time favourite, and while that accolade hasn’t changed, I haven’t played this game for the longest time. Indeed, I haven’t even caught up with the latest deluxe/cycle yet, still having not properly played the game past The Lost Realm. I really, really love this game though, and the latest preview for the fourth adventure pack in the new cycle has gotten me really keen to get back into it.

I have previously played this game with the other half, and she didn’t mind it too much due to the co-op nature of things, so I’m wondering if I might try and re-introduce it at some point soon. Though it would be no big deal if it didn’t go down too well – I absolutely love the original Shadows of Mirkwood cycle, and am fairly chomping at the bit to try my hand at some of those quests once again! I do need to try and catch up with the releases though, and see what I have waiting for me to discover. I feel like the Ered Mithrin cycle may well be the game’s last, in light of how much the e-version of the game is being pushed, so I think it’s something of a priority to get everything before it’s too late!

Arkham Horror LCG

I also tried to introduce the Arkham Horror LCG a short while ago, but that one didn’t go down quite as well. I was also surprised at how much more difficult that game becomes with an additional player in the mix – I do enjoy the universe, for sure, but I think, all things considered, I might leave off with this game when the current cycle ends. I’ve not been good at playing this one, sadly, so while I’ve been buying the new packs as they’ve been released, I actually haven’t played anything beyond the core set. Definitely need to get my act together on that front!!

The Autumn is one of my favourite times of year, not only because the countryside looks great with all the leaf-changes going on, but because I have fond memories of gaming – both with regular tabletop games, and getting into Warhammer 40k. I don’t know if I’ll get to explore anything too intense like that old favourite, Runebound, but I think it’s definitely high-time I looked at something beyond the grim darkness of the 41st millennium.

Heroes of Terrinoth

Speaking of Runebound and the Terrinoth universe, there has been a new preview up for the upcoming Heroes of Terrinoth co-op card game, which continues to excite me! It feels like this game is going to be something of an enjoyable fantasy game, and the fact that it’s co-op should mean it’ll be a lot of fun, so I’m cautiously hopeful it will live up to my expectations. It seems like it should be a nice return to those sorts of hero-driven Terrinoth games like Descent and Runebound, rather than the faction-driven Runewars and Rune Age. Not that those games aren’t a lot of fun, of course, but I do prefer the older style, personally!

When it was originally previewed, I thought it was going to be another LCG, which had initially excited me, but now I’m quite glad we’re not going to be getting that particular model for this one. I think the endless demand for more adventure packs could prove to wear quite thin with this sort of game, as the danger of getting bland, generic quests becomes too real. Lord of the Rings has surprised me in some respect by managing to sustain itself to become the juggernaut of an LCG that it is, though I think that is more due to the fact that it is working within an established lore, rather than anything else. Terrinoth is no Middle Earth, and burnout is a real possibility. I’d also be happy to see one small-box expansion per year for such a smaller-scale card game, depending on how interesting the core set turns out to be. FFG have previously expanded their games unto death, of course, but I do like to think that maybe we could get one game that isn’t expanded for the sake of it. In that respect, their Blood Bowl: Team Manager game was actually really well-implemented…

I’m not sure how much mileage this game will have, and part of me does worry it could tank like FFG’s Warhammer Quest game, but I do find myself hoping that in actual fact we get something that is enjoyable and fun, and it’s another of these games I find myself hoping that I can bring to the table with the other half. I’ve previously bemoaned the fact that boardgames have felt a little like they’re trying to appeal too much to the mass-market, following the board game renaissance and whatnot, but in this instance, I think it might actually be a good thing. I suppose we’ll see when it comes out!

The next expansion to Magic: the Gathering is going to be released on Friday, Guilds of Ravnica, and while I haven’t even had much of a chance to explore M19 yet, I am quite intrigued by some of the cards I’d seen during preview season for the upcoming set. While there isn’t any Rakdos in this set, it does have Dimir, another favourite of the Guilds for me, and I was interested by the fact that I found a lot of the Boros cards to look fun this time around. I’ll most likely be picking up some cards and seeing what can be done with them soon, of course, as I do like to stay somewhat current.

It’s a shame that Magic didn’t go down too well with the other half, as it’s a game that I do enjoy to a fairly large degree, but I think co-op games definitely hold more sway when it comes to gaming with the wife. Which is fine, really, as there are definitely more co-op games I enjoy than competitive ones!

Did you guys realise Spellslingers is back for season 5 already?! I sure didn’t expect to see that come round quite so soon! It’s funny, because I don’t know a lot of these people, but the show is so good that it really doesn’t matter all that much. Sure, it felt better in the early days when he played with people like Rob Simpson, but it’s still so much fun due to Sean being such a great person in general. It’ll be interesting to see how well this collection of guests knows the game, as I always feel those are the better episodes for me. Season 4 had some good content in that regard, so here’s hoping!

On the subject of MtG youtube content, I think I also need to catch up with Game Knights. Another show I sometimes find myself harkening back to “the good old days” when they had their friends on playing genuinely interesting decks rather than the more paid-promotion style things, it’s nevertheless a very entertaining show and I can definitely recommend it still!

But what is one of my blogs if I didn’t talk about Warhammer 40k at least a little bit?! You’ll be pleased to know that I’m progressing fairly well with my Van Saar gang for Necromunda, having been inspired to get going with it following my local GW announcing a specialist games night once more. For a while, none of the specialist games were allowed to be played in-store, for a very odd reason, so I’m glad to see that come back as it means I’ll be able to finally get round to trying the game out! I’ve been buying everything for this game so far, so I’m looking forward to seeing if my purchases have been worthwhile!

While I’ve not been painting a great deal of late, I have been slowly moving back towards my Tau army ideas, primarily following the Kill Team stuff. I’ll be picking up the Tau expansion soon after next weekend, I’m sure, as I’ve been excitedly putting together a Tau list that I want to try out soon. It does include a few Pathfinders, so I want to get round to painting up some of those so that I have the fully-painted team sorted and ready to go, of course!

I’ll probably come back here sometime soon for a proper painting progress catch-up though, so stay tuned for that!!

LCG News!

Wow, folks! Just, wow! Things seem to be getting a little bit crazy in the Living Card Game world at the minute, with FFG announcing the end of one of their most successful LCGs, Android Netrunner just days after the announcement of a new co-operative card games, Heroes of Terrinoth!

Android Netrunner

The news that Netrunner is ending is quite the shock, I have to say. I’d always been under the impression that it was one of their biggest product lines, and thought that would be too much to let it go. While the article, Jacking Out, makes it sound very much like the decision was made by FFG, and the game was just at the end of its natural run as a product, there are other quotes scattered around related news articles that refer to “the unfortunate news about the Netrunner license”, which makes it sound more like they’ve lost that license, rather than anything else. A lot has been made in the past of FFG wanting to focus more on their in-house IP, which we’re now seeing with the second-edition-style of Terrinoth games such as the RPG, so I can see why they’re looking at things like the Warhammer license and perhaps choosing not to renew (though what exactly happened there, we don’t know!) Star Wars is doing well for them, and I think A Game of Thrones will continue to be an earner, as well. But it still feels a bit odd that they’re just letting this one go, especially so soon after the rotation period.

Android Netrunner

I’m going to be sad to see Netrunner leave the stable, even though I stopped following the game after rotation. I’ve had a lot of fun with this game over the years, and I still remember the excitement of that very first game I had back in the summer of 2013. When I used to live in my flat, I had neighbours out the back who would hold a massive birthday party around the 4 July weekend every year, which would invariably go on into the small hours – Netrunner proved to be my coping mechanism for that, as I’d just settle down to a night of watching the Naked Gun trilogy, and (initially) sorted out my entire card pool into each faction (up until this point, I’d kept them sorted by expansion). Year after year, that 4 July weekend would be when I’d go through the card pool once again, and see about mixing up my decks for the coming months. It sounds a bit strange, but I came to really enjoy these times, all the same! Netrunner was the game with which I somehow managed to infect my entire local community with the LCG bug, and led to one of only two official tournaments in which I’ve competed. I don’t want to turn this into some kind of eulogy for the game, but I’ll be sad to see it go.

Heroes of Terrinoth

Going back to in-house IP brings us nicely on to the news from earlier in the week, where another co-operative card game has been announced: Heroes of Terrinoth. This game looks like it is strongly influenced by the mechanics of FFG’s Warhammer Quest card game, something that turned out to be a one-shot before the license went away back in 2015. While I wanted to like it, ultimately I wasn’t really a big fan of that iteration, I have to say, which makes me a little wary of saying this, but I’ve been waiting for a Terrinoth LCG for what feels like centuries!

It feels at first glance a bit like Arkham Horror LCG, with heroes coming from a specific class. However, with eight quests in the core set, and a focus on dungeon-delving to slay the monster and grab some loot, I think this is more akin to Descent: the Card Game, than anything else! Maybe that’s just me being immersed in these games from the start, though…

It’s definitely got the potential to be a lot of fun, at any rate, something that I think has been the hallmark of the first batch of Terrinoth games such as Descent. While FFG has looked more at the tribal feel of the setting through factional games like Runewars and Rune Age, I think it’s interesting that they’re returning to the hero-driven style with this new game. It seems to be an aspect that a lot of people appreciate – and I’m guessing that if they had introduced another factional-based game, it would have the potential to be too similar to Legend of the Five Rings. Building a deck as a hero rather than a warlord has that classic RPG feel, which I suppose is another of the hallmarks of Descent-era Terrinoth games. It’ll certainly be interesting to see where this game goes next, and if the tribes such as Uthuk Y’llan or Daqan Lords will make an appearance. It could be telling that the announcement article mentions the setting as Mennara, the entire world of which Terrinoth is only a part, so perhaps we’ll branch out beyond any of the other games FFG has yet produced?

While it isn’t another LCG, I’m guessing that the distribution model will be very much akin to it, with campaign boxes bringing more quests and the like, and potentially class-specific upgrade packs to further kit-out your decks. A huge negative for the Warhammer Quest game was its lack of replayability, but with eight quests off the bat, this should at least be better in that regard.

It’s worth pointing out, incidentally, that all mention of the deck-building card game Rune Age has been removed from the products pages now. You can still find it if you search for it, of course, but I wonder if they’re planning to quiety do away with that one now that they have the LCG on the horizon?

There’s also the State of the LCG article up on the website, which looks into how the Netrunner announcement will potentially affect the other games on the roster. L5R is naturally a big component of this right now, and while I’ve not been paying attention to the latest of the living card games, it does seem like this is perhaps their principal thrust for the time being. The approach of releasing all six packs for a cycle across six weeks, rather than the usual six months, I find really interesting, as it was always something of a contention for the games I used to follow really closely, waiting for that one sweet card that I knew was in pack six, and having to stand by while seeing other factions getting awesome stuff. Warhammer Invasion was always a pain for this, but to a lesser extent, I’ve also seen it a lot with Lord of the Rings, when a card would come out in pack six that would have made the experience with quest #3 so much easier!

It’s interesting to read how the designers think the other LCGs are doing right now, and seeing their priorities for the future. Arkham Horror and A Game of Thrones also seem to be pretty big for the company right now, and seeing the designer insight for all four of the games here was really interesting as showing just how unique each game is now being encouraged to be. While it strikes me as a little funny that A Game of Thrones seems to be morphing a little into its first edition, it’s cool to see such attention to the story being given in Arkham Horror. It’s also kinda fascinating to see the differences that each game is trying, with stuff like the Return to the Night of the Zealot box for Arkham Horror that seems to function almost as a Nightmare Deck deluxe, and the intro decks for each House in A Game of Thrones.

Lord of the Rings still troubles me a little, though I think there is still the potential there to keep going for a while. We’re poised on the brink of the Ered Mithrin Cycle, of course, which is exciting as it feels like we’re going back into the heartland of Middle Earth after being away for so long, but there’s a part of me that wonders, will this be the end? I think a lot of players have been guilty for a long time of thinking the end is nigh, but with the launch of the new digital edition, it does seem that this is more of a possibility now. With seven full expansion cycles, not to mention all of the Saga expansions and standalone decks, would this be the right time to draw the game to a close? The glimmer of hope, for me, is seeing Caleb’s thoughts about implementing campaign play with the game now that the main six-part Saga expansion era is over. Not that we should be reading so much into it these days, but perhaps something like a Return to the Night of the Zealot box could be coming, marking a return to some of the older scenarios to make them into a more cohesive campaign. I think it’s really exciting to see them return to some of the encounter sets from the Core Set in the upcoming deluxe expansion, so maybe this could be a thing once again?

Anyway, this has been a very long and rambling post about Living Card Games, so I think I’ll stop here. I’m curious to see what other people think, though, so do feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts!

The Ered Mithrin cycle

Hey everybody!
It’s been a while since I’ve done a game day blog, but it’s Tuesday, and there’s some really cool games news been announced, so I thought I’d write a little something talking about my favourite game, Lord of the Rings LCG!

The Wilds of Rhovanion was announced what feels like ages ago now (well it was four months back), and I was beginning to wonder just what the plan was for Lord of the Rings these days. Well, it looks like we’re still in for some wonderful content going forward, thanks to yesterday’s announcement of the eighth cycle for the game.

Journeying through Middle Earth on the eve of winter ticks a lot of boxes for me, make no mistake. Winter-themed fantasy is always a plus, and this particular quest is putting me in mind of the classic The Redhorn Gate, so I’m really chuffed!

The adventure pack seems to involve searching for a drake, to prevent any calamity falling the Haradrim tribe we’re trying to relocate. It sounds a bit odd, but I love it all the same – the focus is on something a lot more heroic, in many ways, without being all about the big boss fights. The weather is an important part of the quest, which I really like, as it’s something that has been talked about in years gone by in terms of adding weather cards to current quests to help mix things up. So that should be a nice addition!

As always, the art is beautiful, and we’ve got a real sense of LotR history here in getting Grimbeorn the Old as a hero! We last saw him in Conflict at the Carrock as an objective-ally card, so it’s really cool to get the big man as a hero to play in other scenarios now, as well! His ability is also really good, allowing him to attack back when he defends an attack. It’s always made sense to me that characters should be able to do both, as they’d be both defending and attacking as part of the same action, surely? Splitting these up has always really detracted from the game for me, but there we go.

I’m really happy to be seeing some more announcements for this game, and I’m looking forward to getting into the Wilderlands soon!

 

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!

The Voice of Isengard

Hey everybody!
Tuesday means just one thing here at spalanz.com, it’s game day! Today’s blog returns to Middle Earth, and the next deluxe expansion in the series of blogs I’ve been writing with my garbled thoughts on the Lord of the Rings LCG: today, we’re braving the Voice of Isengard!

The Voice of Isengard

The third deluxe expansion for Lord of the Rings LCG, The Voice of Isengard marks a bit of a turning point for me with this game. For the first three “seasons” of the game, I’d been playing fairly often, and have logged plenty of plays with all of the adventure packs up to this point. While there had been some odd moments where I’d thought my love for the game could have wavered (Watcher in the Water, I’m looking at you), I think the fourth deluxe marks a significant level of difficulty-increase, which in turn has seen me move away from the game to some degree. That’s not to say that I dislike this game by any means, and I still snap up the adventure packs and deluxe expansions upon their release. However, I find that I’m somewhat less inclined to actually sit down and play with them upon their release, and I actually have two cycles of cards that I haven’t yet played with, at the time I’m writing this.

I’ll probably come back to this point later in the blog; let’s actually take a look at the contents and the quests!

As always, there are two new heroes and a slew of new player cards in the box, as well as three new quests to play through that set up the following Ring-maker cycle. The player cards are headed up by the new Éomer and Gríma heroes, Éomer is actually pretty great, and quickly found his way into my Rohan deck as I began to re-tool it for spirit and tactics. He’s great for attacking, especially as how his ability gives him +2 attack when a character leaves play. Use an Escort from Edoras during the quest phase to buff your willpower, then he’ll leave and buff Éomer during the next attack phase – excellent! Ride to Ruin is another useful card to have if you have some cheap allies you don’t mind getting rid of! While probably not as deep as dwarves, the Rohan deck type is nevertheless rife with all manner of fantastic cards that work really well together.

The Voice of Isengard also brings the third and greatest Istari to the game: Saruman! Yes, I’m a big Saruman fan, I find him extremely compelling as a character, and had been looking forward to seeing him arrive. As the main game is set somewhere in the nebulous early part of Fellowship of the Ring, Saruman hasn’t actually fallen to evil, and so works fine as being a player card. However, he does showcase one of the new mechanics from this expansion, Doomed X. Whenever a card with this keyword enters play, each player raises his threat by X. These cards are usually quite powerful, and Saruman is definitely a prime example of this. With three willpower, five attack, four defense and four hit points for only three resources, Saruman is an exceptional ally. Furthermore, when he enters play, you get to remove a non-unique enemy or location in the staging area from the game for as long as he remains in play. Like the original Gandalf, Saruman does unfortunately leave play at the end of the round, but this effect can be incredibly useful, as you can get just enough time to set yourself up to deal with something potentially game-ending. The price is high, for sure – raising your threat by three can put you in a precarious position, so it’s not to be done lightly. But paired with some of those Valour cards from the Angmar Awakened cycle? He’s definitely got his place in decks, that’s for sure!

The encounter cards are varying degrees of awful, and most of them showcase the new Time X keyword. Whenever a card with Time X is revealed, you place resource tokens on it equal to X, and at the beginning of each refresh phase, you remove one counter. When there are no tokens left, something will happen, usually something terrible. There are also cards that remove tokens, which add to your woes! The mechanic lends a sense of urgency to the game, though, something that the designers said was a deliberate method of changing the meta, such as it is, for the game.

The Fords of Isen

The Voice of Isengard

The first scenario sees you trying to help a group of Rohirrim warriors defend the small Islet from fierce Dunlendings – more accurately, they’re protecting Gríma among them. The fact that there is a Gríma hero card in this box led to a similar situation to the Faramir business in Against the Shadow, though I must say I’ve never played with Gríma among my fellowship, so have never been too concerned by this!

The object of the quest is basically to outlast the awful encounter deck, and defeat the three stages of the quest. In addition to the Time X keyword on each quest card (the first of which can discard Gríma from play, causing you to lose at the first hurdle!) there are a significant number of effects that punish you for having cards in hand. This was another conscious decision by the designers, to combat strategies that had made it into the meta, and thematically reflects the hatred the Wild Men of Dunland have for the richer, more resourceful men of Rohan. I tend not to use too many card draw effects in my decks, but there are also a lot of mechanics in the encounter set that force you to draw cards, adding to the misery!

The Fords of Isen is a very urgent scenario, forcing you to breeze through it quickly or else die horribly, face down in the muck.

To Catch An Orc

The Voice of Isengard

The next scenario requires the players to capture the orc, Mugash, at the behest of Saruman himself. Mugash has been leading raids into the valley of Isengard, but Saruman believes he has vital intelligence about Mordor, and so wishes to question him. At the start of the scenario, you are forced to put the top 20 cards of your own deck aside – copies of Mugash’s Guard and a single copy of Mugash himself are then shuffled together, and distributed among these out-of-play player decks.

Over the course of the game, you will encounter locations with the Searches X keyword – this allows you to search through X cards of your out-of-play deck, as you try to find the leader of the Orc tribe. You also get to choose one of those cards to keep and discard the rest, while placing any enemies into the staging area. It’s an incredibly different-feeling quest, with something of a built-in timer in the form of giving you a smaller deck to start. The mechanics of finding Mugash are quite prescriptive, but overall I think they’re really effective for providing an interesting, and engaging scenario. While the encounter deck can still be quite awful, it doesn’t feel quite so bad somehow, and overall I think this is one of my favourites.

Into Fangorn

The Voice of Isengard

The final quest takes us into Fangorn Forest, and we get to see the Ents! Despite (presumably!) capturing Mugash in the last scenario, he has since escaped his bonds, and the players pursue him into the depths of Fangorn. The Forest is alive, however, and the Ents are not happy with the players’ intrusion.

This is another interesting scenario, with some very interesting mechanics. Mugash is now an Objective, and the players must capture him to win the game. If he is captured when you defeat the first stage, then you progress to the second stage and attempt to keep hold of the Orc chieftain while putting 12 progress there. If he has escaped into the encounter deck, you instead advance to stage three and remain there until you find him again, then advancing to stage two and keeping hold of him until the end. It reminds me of a few earlier scenarios, where the possibility of losing an Objective can make the game suddenly a lot more arduous.

However, the encounter deck itself is no picnic, filled as it is with the Huorn! The Ents of Fangorn have the Hinder keyword, which basically annoys the hell out of you. Rather than attacking, these enemies remove progress from the quest when they are engaged with you, and with high toughness and high wounds, these enemies are not going to be picked off quickly! Indeed, the whole quest seems designed to slow you down, while the quest cards themselves continue to make use of the Time X mechanic. It’s actually a pretty fun, thematic scenario, but my god is it disheartening to actually play through!


Each of the quests in Voice of Isengard has something different to offer, and each is highly thematic to play through. While it’s an expansion that I’d wanted for a long time, being such a fan of Saruman and this area of Middle Earth as a whole, I nevertheless found it to be a little less than satisfying, because there no longer felt like the option to just enjoy the quest, as you had to rush through or whatever. All quests in Lord of the Rings LCG have a race element to them, of course, as you attempt to outlast your threat reaching 50, but moreso than ever, we’re now being forced into a very specific play style if we want to go through these newer quests. I get that the more competitive elements of the community had been asking for this since the game released, but I do get the impression that a fundamental shift occurred somewhere here, whereby the main focus of development for Lord of the Rings LCG was no longer exploring Tolkien’s world in all of its glorious abundance, but instead on nuts-and-bolts mechanics of flipping cards over and mathematics.

I still play Lord of the Rings LCG, don’t get me wrong, and I still love it, but I don’t find myself returning to these newer quests nearly as often as I return for just one more stroll through Mirkwood or the Long Dark of Khazad-dûm.