Hey everybody, I am now the furthest into the Saga that I have ever been! It’s only been, what, almost a decade since they came out? Having tried a couple of times with the Lord of the Rings LCG saga, though, I am finally committed to trying, at least, to make it through!
After evading the Black Riders and managing to get out of the Shire to Bree, we arrive at The Prancing Pony and immediately there is trouble afoot. This scenario is actually a nice balance somehow, as each of the three quest stages brings in something very different, meaning there is a definite sense of moving through the quest. We start the game with Bill Ferny in the staging area, an enemy with 3 threat that we cannot optionally engage. The Prancing Pony has the benefit of allowing the first player to put an ally card from their hand into play for free, but when it is explored we need to discard from the encounter deck until we find two enemies, and engage them. Ouch!
The second stage is the journey through Midgewater, where enemies cannot attack, take damage, or be engaged. With six quest points, the Midgewater location card can be an absolute pain to deal with, especially if you are turning over a lot of enemies. (There are a lot of treachery cards in this one, so it should never be completely insurmountable, but even so!) The quest itself, however, has us shuffling in one of the out-of-play Ring Wraith cards into the deck, a theme that runs through the whole encounter.
When we get to the third stage, Weathertop, not only does the Witch-King get added to the staging area, but every Nazgul enemy from the encounter deck and discard pile – potentially four Ring Wraiths, and a further two Black Riders. We don’t win the scenario until all Nazgul enemies are defeated, so this can be a huge pain!
Now, whether it was due to my excellent playing, whether the decks that I’m using are just good against this scenario, or maybe I was forgetting some rules, but I managed to defeat this on my first play through today. Don’t get me wrong, it was tough, especially when I was turning over treachery cards that were reducing my hero stats to 0, or killing folks with 0 willpower, or whatever else was going on! My strategy was to ignore Bill, and progress as quickly as possible through the game, but after the first scenario in the saga, I was wary of those Ring Wraiths and so was raising my threat or whatever else I had to do to avoid putting too many in there. My threat was managed pretty well though, with enough reduction that I don’t think it was a huge problem, overall. Again, maybe the decks I’m playing are just well-suited for this scenario?
I didn’t have the right spread of cards this time, so it didn’t feel quite like the well-oiled machine I had in the first scenario, where I almost felt like I was just playing one big deck with six heroes, they played together so well!
Once again, Aragorn was in full-on beast mode, as I had him with the necklace attachment that gives him +2 willpower and gives an extra resource, then I slapped Unexpected Courage on him so he could basically take part in each stage of the game. Legolas wasn’t quite the MVP he was last time, though armed with a Rivendell Blade he was giving enemies -2 defence when he attacked, which came in handy at the end against the Witch-King. I had Eowyn with a golden shield, meaning she could defend for 5, which almost nullified any single enemy’s attacks – a Shieldmaiden, indeed! However, I am seeing a couple of areas where I could make some tweaks to the decks, in particular I think the fact I have Frodo collecting Fellowship resources to almost no end makes me want to include more neutral cards to give him stuff to do.
As I said last time, I’m not scoring this “officially”, but I did end the game with 6VPs in the victory display, so that was good!
Next up, we have the Flight to the Ford scenario, where we have to struggle to get the now-stabbed Frodo to Rivendell. Should be interesting!
Hey everybody, I’m still on this massive Middle Earth kick at the minute, and have been delving through my LCG collection to look at all of the stuff that I have for the game. Among the masses of standalone scenarios and nightmare decks, I also have two of these custom scenario kits – Fantasy Flight produced four in total, with the first pair themed around Mirkwood and the next around Moria. They’re a bit odd, I’m not going to lie, but they’re also an interesting addition to the game.
A custom scenario kit is basically a bunch of encounter cards that gives you the opportunity to build a scenario to play. In the two that I have, there are cards mostly from early in the game’s run, but which have been shuffled around to create fourteen groups of five cards, as opposed to the encounter sets that we are familiar with. They have also been subtly changed, as the format for these kits is a little different to the more regular game. See, custom scenario kits originally came about for Gen Con 2018, and were designed to give Lord of the Rings LCG a competitive variant. In this way, you build an encounter deck and give it to your opponent, who then has to beat it quicker than you beat their encounter deck. So it isn’t a huge difference, as you’re still sitting down to play against an encounter deck rather than a person, but as a way of introducing a competitive variant of the game, I think it works pretty well.
The way you build a deck can largely be influenced by the quest card structure. To begin, there is a single quest card – 1A – to which you can then choose 2A and 3A to add to it. There are three copies of each in the kit, so you can create a number of variations on this. You then need to pick 35 encounter cards to make up the encounter deck. As I said above, instead of encounter sets there are numbered groups of five cards each, and the “quick start” rules allow you to pick seven of these sets to make up the deck. However, the encounter cards also have a cost on the bottom, and in the advanced rules you get 21 points to build the deck. There are some caveats though, in that you need a minimum of ten locations, ten enemies and ten treacheries, so if you’re building this for an opponent, you can’t front-load it with all the worst cards.
There are two sets, The Wizard’s Quest and The Woodland Realm, and the encounter sets from each are fully cross-compatible. I’m not sure, as I don’t have them, but I don’t believe the two Mirkwood sets are meant to be compatible with the Moria sets. While you can’t combine the quest cards, you can combine the encounter cards to create a massive pool of 28 sets of five cards to create your 35-card scenario.
These kits are designed to encourage competitive play, as the rules insert says, but cooperative play isn’t restricted here. While a lot of the encounter cards reference “your opponent” when choices have to be made, for example, the rules state that the first player in co-op must make that choice, going with the worst possible outcome for the group. I believe a lot of people use these things to deck-test, which is interesting, but otherwise they don’t seem to have a great deal of love, which seems a shame. Even though they’re mostly reprints of cards that have been changed up a bit, I still find them quite interesting and when time allows, I think I’ll be giving them a try with the co-op rules!
One of the reasons that I find them so interesting is because they basically fulfil one of my earliest crazy ideas for this game – mixing up the encounter sets. I think it was while we were still in the Shadows of Mirkwood mode, when I was playing and finding the game difficult in true solo, I used to think about taking some of my “favourite” encounter cards and building a quest out of them. I can’t really remember how this Frankenstein’s Monster of an encounter would look, in fact I think this was very much in the vein of shower thoughts, but I nevertheless used to wonder how it would work to take some of the sets that are challenging without the kind of “auto-lose” sets and see how I get on. I might yet do that with some of the stuff from Against the Shadow, which I know is quite fun to play around with. I don’t really know the other cycles well enough to try it, sadly!
Of course, all of that assumes I’ll have the time to spare for such hybrid gaming, given that I want to try to get through both the Angmar Awakened cycle, and the Saga boxes!
Hey everybody, It’s almost two years since I started to play the scenarios from The Lost Realm deluxe expansion for Lord of the Rings LCG, and in that time I don’t appear to have made any headway with the rest of the cycle! Despite some vague recollection that I had played it during the time leading up to the birth of the secondborn, looking at my boardgamegeek stats tells me otherwise. However, with a massive upsurge of interest in the game for me once again, I thought it was time that I got round to seeing through the cycle. I’ve mentioned this previously, of course, but I was an alpha playtester for Angmar Awakened, so have seen a lot of the cards (both encounter and player) in varying stages of draft, all text-only, so I’ve been looking forward to actually playing with the proper, full-art stuff!
The deluxe box introduced us to a Dúnedain theme as we embark on a quest to rescue Iârion from the fell wight Thaurdir. Having left the border fort of Amon Hen, we’re now into the snow-covered wilds of Angmar itself, and pursued by Wargs in the first adventure pack!
Seriously, these spectral wolves are the worst. They range from annoying beasts to horrific nightmarish things, and each time we advance the quest they come at us again! There is a very interesting day/night mechanic in the scenario, which inherently prevents engagement checks during the day, and then draws additional encounter cards at night, but the quest stages all interact with the time of day as well, and most of the encounter cards will have some additional effect if it is night, so there is a lot to keep track of.
I was using the same pair of Dúnedain-centric decks that I had built all those years ago to tackle this cycle, as I felt it would be thematic to do so. These were the very first decks that I had built to try out two-handed solo, and I do like the whole range of cards in there, it really felt like I was playing one massive fellowship towards the end, as I was playing cards across the board and making use of Ranged and Sentinel to really get the best out of them. That said, it does strike me as a bit weird having both decks as tri-sphere, with a Tactics/Spirit/Lore, and Leadership/Spirit/Lore mix. I’m currently thinking it would make more sense to have the two Spirit and the two Lore heroes in the same deck, for maximum efficiency. The only thing really stopping me doing that, for now, is not really knowing how things like Ranged and Sentinel are split across the spheres. They currently work fairly well together, so I don’t want to knock stuff out of sync by messing around just for neatness’ sake!
Anyway. I was really impressed with this pack, even if it was difficult. It’s still nice to see an encounter deck work well with itself, and the way this quest works to simulate the wargs coming at you during the night is really quite splendid at times! Of course, key is being able to keep your threat under control so they don’t all come at you at once, or being able to hit them while they’re still in the staging area. Luckily, this time, that was the strategy that was working for me.
I’m going to try and play more of this, and then do some write-ups as they happen, rather than waiting until I have played a few scenarios and risk forgetting what I’ve been doing! I’m also planning to make a start on the first of the Saga expansions soon, as well, so it’s going to be a very Tolkien-y time here on the blog for the foreseeable!!
Hey everybody, October has been and gone, and I can’t believe that we’re nearly at the end of the year already. Doesn’t seem like there’s much of 2022 left, so I think I need to get a bit of a move on if I’m going to complete the hobby goals that I had set for myself at the start of the year!
The month started really well, I thought, when I was able to finish off two projects that had been dragging on perhaps longer than intended – the Raider and the Tomb Blades. The Raider was really nice to work on, I have to say, and I have been thinking about getting to work on another one, though for now I’m working on a bunch of other stuff, but I could see myself getting back to the Dark Eldar soon enough!
The Tomb Blades were becoming very annoying, as they are quite difficult to paint when they’re fully-built, but thankfully they’re now done, so I just have the gauss blaster set to paint at some future date, then I’ll have all the Necron jetbikes I could ever want!
In a surprise move, though, I also painted two kill teams during the month, the Death Korps of Krieg and the Traitor Guard!
These models are all just wonderful, and I really enjoyed getting them finished during a week off. I think the success there was in picking fairly easy paint schemes. The objective, after all, was to get models painted so that I could play with them. I still haven’t actually played the game, of course, but it was really nice to actually get them finished!
The rest of the month was spent painting more Sisters – a Dominion Squad, a Palatine, an Imagifier, and the Penitent Engine. I think I have now finished painting the models from the launch box, which came out three years ago, so that’s good going, right?!
My painted Sisters army is now looking pretty impressive, even if I say so myself! I think that by painting it in stages as I have been doing, I’ve managed to do really well – hopefully I can keep chipping away at 5-10 models at a time, and I’ll get it all done in fairly short order!!
Going back to kill team, though, this month has been quite expensive for me as I have once more been buying models. I picked up the big Into the Dark box after going back and forth on it for a number of weeks – I think the desire for the terrain got me, especially when I realised that it can soon be used in regular 40k as well – but the lack of availability of the second space hulk-themed box has somewhat cooled me on that once again. I am very much in love with the Breacher models, I think they look tremendous, and I am looking forward to getting those painted up as well soon enough. I have also been digging into the backlog, and I’m vaguely thinking about getting the Elucidian Starstriders painted soon as well.
However, I also bought the big Ash Wastes box for Necromunda, and have been busy putting all of the new terrain together. We were quite lucky, and had some good weather during that week off that I mentioned, so I have been able to prime it all up as well. While I did initially think that I’d make a bit of a project of it, and try to get the stuff painted too, that has fallen somewhat by the wayside, as I’ve been working on all the other stuff this month. But still, it’s been great to actually get a good amount of stuff built and primed, so that I can then spend the winter working on actually painting it all up!
It hasn’t all been about the Warhammer, though!
After sharing my #shelfie a couple of weeks back, I’ve really been in the mood for more games, and have been enjoying something of a board game renaissance right now! I’ve really been into Lord of the Rings again, after playing the miniatures game with JP last week, so have been enjoying a return to the card game, getting two new decks built up to tackle some of that once more. I have a Silvan themed deck, and a sort-of Gondor themed deck, although both utilise elements that I’ve not really looked at before. The Gondor deck in particular is using Hobbits for the first time! I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I do like these sort of Fellowship type of decks – having played Dwarves and Rohan so much, I like playing decks where we can see more of the breadth of Middle Earth.
I am becoming a little obsessed with Middle Earth SBG though, so I need to watch myself there – I don’t think I have room in my house for many more models!
Runebound has been looming large in my mind for a couple of weeks now, as well, so I want to try to get that to the table soon. I haven’t played the game in years, so I feel almost like I need to plan it out so that I have enough time to actually devote to it!
It’s definitely good to get back into these other games though, as I do enjoy them a great deal. Hopefully there will be an influx of game posts here on the blog before the end of the year!
Hey everybody, Today is quite an exciting game day for me, as I wanted to tell you all about my first game of Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game (Lord of the Rings) that took place yesterday! This may well be a very rambling blog, as I attempt to recall what happened and how it all works, so apologies in advance for that! My buddy JP is a huge fan, and has been collecting the miniatures ever since the magazine that came out in, what, 2001? Back when the movies were being made and all of that excitement was going on. A couple of times now, he’s mentioned it to me and we’ve tried to arrange a game but never seemed to get round to it, but locally to us there is quite the tournament scene, and I think after he attended such an event at the weekend, it has whetted his appetite once more.
It’s a game that has been around since the movies came out, but recently has gone through a bit of a refresh, it seems, as GW is finally devoting more time to it as a proper game, rather than letting it languish somewhere on the website. Back in December, the game celebrated 20 years and, in some respects, has made it through three editions (although not in the way we know them from 40k). When the Hobbit movies came out, GW actually improved their miniature casting processes to be able to recreate the Dwarf characters, which is quite astounding really. Indeed, the consolidation of The Hobbit line, and The Lord of the Rings line, into Middle Earth as a whole in 2018 seems to have precipitated this change, and from what I can tell, it’s turning out to be a really nice game!
I am a huge Lord of the Rings fan, of course, and have long called the LCG my favourite game of all time, even if it is bloody hard to play at times! It was the movies that got me into this position though, and while I have read the books, at the risk of being blasted as a heathen, I do prefer the film trilogy. In that respect, this game seems like it is a perfect fit, really!
There are the three ways to play that we’re all familiar with from regular GW games – open, narrative, and matched play – and I’ve heard good things about all three, if I’m honest. Narrative play allows you to recreate scenes from the movies, and we played a game that was the Balin’s Tomb scene where the Fellowship are overrun with Moria Orcs before fleeing to face something even more terrible. Matched play sounds like it should be really good as well, though, as you can take an army that is organised somewhat like warbands surrounding a leader, so you pick a hero (and there are so many, you’re kinda spoilt for choice) and then pluck a band of fighters to go with them. Hopefully next time we play, we’re going to try that out.
The game is quite straightforward, really. There is something of an alternating activation, where one player moves all his guys, then the other player moves; then one player shoots, then the other player; then one player fights, and then the other player does. So there’s very little downtime between turns. Fighting is even more dynamic still, as you essentially roll off to see who actually gets to fight, so you might not be able to attack with each of your people as the flow of battle becomes so fluid.
It’s this fight mechanic that I find really interesting. A model will have an attacks characteristic, which determines how many dice you roll. Aragorn is rolling three dice, for instance. Opponents roll together, and whoever wins the roll off then gets to “strike blows”, as they are the aggressor. So they roll to wound, comparing their strength against the opposing fighter’s defence value in a table that initially gave me palpitations as I remembered 7th edition 40k! In the case of a tie for this roll off, each model has a fight value which is used to determine the winner. In the event of a further tie, you simply roll off and on a 1-3 the evil player wins, 4-6 the good player wins.
It’s good, because while you do run the risk of not actually killing stuff on your turn, it keeps you engaged throughout the whole game, and you generally aren’t spending a whole bunch of time sat back watching stuff happening to you.
There is a lot to like about the ruleset in general, though. It somehow feels a lot cleaner than games like 40k, which seems to favour a byzantine array of moving parts. Having magic happen in the movement phase is interesting, but it does mean that it cleans up things like having to sit out a psychic phase if you don’t have anything you can do. There isn’t a great variety of weapons, which means you aren’t forever making thousands of micro-decisions about what you’re trying to do, but instead the game is kept moving along at quite a pace. It’s good, because it means that you can focus on enjoying yourself, and not trying to remember the difference between an elf bow and a normal bow.
While everybody has the basic sort of movement and fight attributes, heroes also have three others – Might, Will and Fate. These are used a little bit like command points in 40k, where you can use Might points to perform specific “heroic” actions; Will points are used to cast or resist magical powers, and Fate points are used to dodge wounds. Generally, heroes have a set amount and, once they’re gone, they’re gone. However, Aragorn generates a point of Might each turn, and Gandalf generates a point of Will each turn, which is a nice way of showing their “special” status within the narrative. As I was playing with the Fellowship, I had a lot of options available to me, which I think was quite good as a new player, because it allowed me to play with the toybox as it were. I believe in matched play, where you have fewer heroes, things are a lot more different and you really need to think about what you’re trying to do on your turn.
Something that I really enjoy is the cinematic rules that have been incorporated. For example, Boromir has the Horn of Gondor, which he can blow whenever he is outnumbered in a fight, and it forces the enemy to take a courage test. Courage is a little bit like morale, but only comes up in specific circumstances and isn’t a whole industry with its own phase – you have a courage value, and to make the test you roll 2D6 and add your value, trying to equal or exceed 10. Simple, but nice and effective! If that courage test is failed, Boromir basically wins the fight and can strike blows without needing to roll off when he is surrounded by enemies!
There are just tons of these scattered throughout the rules, and it really makes the game something quite special. It’s based on the movies, and so does take a lot of its cues from there – if you’re a Tolkien purist, you might well dislike some aspects of it, but it isn’t meant to be using the books as a reference. There are some non-movie elements like the scouring of the Shire, however, though they’re few and far between.
Now, the miniatures range seems to be undergoing a bit of a refresh at the minute, as we’re seeing a lot of characters being released in plastic, and GW seem to be giving a lot more thought to the game in general, with battle boxes and battlehost boxes available to let you quickly start an army. From what I can tell, these battlehost boxes are actually incredibly good, because you don’t need to have a lot of models to be able to play a decently-sized game, which means the investment is much better. The main issue that I can see when perusing the Middle Earth section of the website, though, is just how old some of these models are. A lot of the heroes are old metal models that have not aged well at all, and kinda put me off wanting to buy any of them, if truth be told! It could just be the paint job, of course, but some of them do look a little bit cringe-worthy. Even so, I am very tempted to get one of these battlehost boxes!
For now, though, I’ve got my own plastic Fellowship that JP got me for Christmas last year. It may have taken ten months for me to take the bait, but he’s finally hooked me into this game, that’s for sure!
Lord of the Rings LCG is getting an eighth deluxe expansion pack, A Shadow in the East, and it sounds spectacular! We’re heading to Rhûn for this and the subsequent Vengeance of Mordor cycle, and I for one simply cannot wait!
The three quests that come in the expansion are all a little reminiscent of the Against the Shadow cycle, with their urban feel and sinister cults, but there is also the added feeling of the oppression of Mordor, with the idea of mysterious ruined temples built in honour of Sauron. Wow!
This has been great news, I have to say. It’s always exciting to see more come out for this game, which I have frequently said is my all-time favourite board/card game in my collection. We’re getting new quests of course, and we’re travelling to another new area of the map, so what’s not to like? Some very interesting new theme and mechanics coming on the cards we’ve seen spoiled so far – and we’re getting The One Ring once again!
I’m not sure whether this new Ring card will make it into my decks (although I’m also wondering whether it will be a stipulation of playing the quests?) as I’m a fairly cautious player at times, and reducing my threat elimination level by 5 to play with it seems a bit too much for me! But I’m sure, in time, I’ll try and experience how it changes things – especially seeing as how there will be new cards that interact with it, as well.
The first double-sided Hero card is here, too! I’m sure I’ve seen fans speculating about the possibility of a Sméagol/Gollum card for years, so I’m sure there are plenty of folks excited by this! With two cards shuffled into the encounter deck that give him a chance to flip to the Enemy side, I can see having the Ring’s ability to counter encounter cards in this way could be quite powerful! He’s otherwise quite decent-looking, and his cost is splendid! Reminds me of the Spirit Glorfindel from back in the day!
I’m really excited to see a new deluxe expansion – I’ve been concerned for a while now that The Wilds of Rhovanion would be the end of the game in its paper form, as it seems to have a real “last hurrah” feel to it. You can read more about that here, though! There is still some strong speculation online that the language used in the announcement feels a bit final – “it has all led to this” etc – plus the question of just what was happening within the time period the game is supposed to be following, leading many folks to think we could be in for news of the final expansion pack soon.
Previous LCGs from Fantasy Flight have come to an end when they have about this much content out there for them, of course. We’re coming to the end of the eighth cycle for the game, which has also included seven deluxe expansions and eight Saga deluxe expansions, as well as eleven standalone expansion packs, not to mention all of the Nightmare expansion packs! There is a heck of a lot of content out there right now for this game, and while the amount of content doesn’t always equal bloat for a game like this, there is nevertheless quite a high barrier to entry at this point, and I wonder if the designers might be feeling the need to draw things to a close. I guess we can but wait and see on this.
At least we’re in for more Lord of the Rings LCG for a while yet, and I cannot wait to see what we’re going to be up to in this upcoming cycle! I think it might be time to crack out some decks and see how far I can get once more!
It’s my birthday today, so for today’s game day, I thought I’d ramble for a bit about my favourite game of all, Lord of the Rings LCG from Fantasy Flight Games!
It’s my favourite for so many reasons, not all of them linked to how wonderful the game is to simply play, but also my memories of playing it over the last seven years. I’ve featured the game on my blog before as a game day extravaganza, but I’ve recently been playing more of it again, so I wanted to talk a bit about my enjoyment of these games, and see where I go from there!
I’ve been playing the Shadows of Mirkwood and Dwarrowdelf quests once more, which are some of my absolute all-time favourites. I’ve been trying to play them all, rather than going through those that I know I enjoy and skipping the others, and it has led to me almost rediscovering these early packs as if they were brand new! For instance, the last time I played A Journey to Rhosgobel prior to this most recent playthrough was 2012!
Getting to play these old favourites has really taken me back to my glory days of gaming, when I had so much more time for these sorts of things. In particular, I remember how excited I used to get to take delivery of the latest Adventure Pack, and would have tried it out within days (if not hours!) of getting it. I recall my first plays with The Dead Marshes being almost at the dead of night, as I just couldn’t wait to give it a go! Happy times, indeed.
As the game matured and evolved, though, I think that faded for me, as the quests seemed to get harder and harder almost on purpose. Some of those from the fourth cycle onwards (the Ringmaker cycle) felt a little like they were too much like a game, and not as much like an exploration of Middle Earth, and I seem to recall it was around this time that my attention waned somewhat. I’ve certainly never been as excited for the latest expansions to arrive since – although Sands of Harad was perhaps one exception!
I recently gave a couple of new scenarios a try, while still intending to play through the entire game from start to finish, and I think it surprised me at just how difficult things have become! Sands of Harad has been on my radar for a long while now, as I love the desert theme and whatnot, but I was a little surprised at how brutal the first quest was – having an automatic “you lose” if there are no progress tokens on a quest, as well as a proliferation of enemies to keep you pinned down and make questing difficult, seemed a far cry from the banks of the Anduin! The Nightmare decks for scenarios are supposed to represent an opponent tweaking his deck to give you a slightly tougher challenge, but I thought this was quite tough to begin with, so would hate to see how bad Nightmare mode makes this one!
I’ve been using an elven-themed deck, which features a lot of comparatively new cards from the Ringmaker cycle. I’ve previously talked about the deck here, and you can see the full breakdown in that blog also. However, I think I might need to include some of the newer-still cards if I’m to make it through these new scenarios!
Of course, my all-time favourite scenario remains The Hills of Emyn Muil. It’s widely dismissed by the internet community as being “too easy” and has been consigned to oblivion since 2011. But I would vehemently defend this as being the most thematic, Tolkien-esque expansion for the game that FFG has ever produced. Nowhere is the breadth of Middle Earth more clearly brought to the tabletop than in this expansion, as we wander almost lost and aimless through the expanse of Emyn Muil, desperately trying to pick up the trail of Gollum once again. It manages to capture the feel of the books, and even that of the movies, so amazingly well that I always look forward to playing this one. It might be easy to play as a game, but as a gameplay experience, it is just nothing short of wonderful.
The Dwarrowdelf cycle is one that I feel another special sort of kinship with, though I always feel like I need to play with my Dwarven deck whenever I head into the Mines of Moria. Part of that is a game reason, of course, as the deck includes a lot of cards designed to work with the Undergroundlocations within that cycle, but even so, there is a very strong theme here that comes from the fact that Dwarves were the first deck archetype to be really supported in the game.
The cycle is obviously FFG trying to tell the central story from Fellowship of the Ring, as the merry band of heroes travels through the Mines on their way to Lórien, from the time when the company didn’t have the licence to produce games based on the books themselves. While we’ve since had the Saga expansions that actually tell that tale, I still enjoy the Dwarrowdelf cycle for what it is: an attempt to tell an original tale within the framework of the novel itself. I like it, anyway, and I think I’ve returned to this cycle much more than I’ve attempted to play through the Saga expansion itself!
My recent playthrough of the three scenarios from Khazad-dûm this past weekend has shown that, between some luck and the amazing synergy that a Dwarven deck can build, the scenarios are nowhere near as difficult as they once were. I think it’s not so much the whole Dwarrowdelf cycle support for the theme, but also the two Hobbit Saga expansions that really helped to flesh out the archetype – the increased bonuses granted for having more than five Dwarf characters in play, combined with some of the cheaper generic Dwarves from the core set and early packs, really help to build the theme early on.
For reference, then, here’s my Dwarf deck that I enjoy:
The deck is one of my favourites, though as I said above, it can get on-line pretty quickly and make short work of some of these earlier scenarios. There are a lot of effects that trigger of specific location-types, which means I probably wouldn’t bring it out if I knew there were none of those locations coming in the deck. The return of Undergroundand Darklocations in the Ered Mithrin cycle has made me think once more about seeing how this deck fares with those newer scenarios, though, so I may well give it a go in the near future!
Lord of the Rings LCG may well be coming to the end of its life cycle soon, as it feels very much like FFG is winding down the game. It has grown significantly over the last 7 years, and it’s currently their longest-running card game still being produced, with a card pool that really shows that. While I do appreciate the fact that core set cards remain valid in decks built to take on the very latest expansions (the above example with Sands of Harad being a case in point), I think there is a general pervasive feeling that the game is coming to its end, with the current Ered Mithrin cycle feeling very much like one last hurrah through Middle Earth before it’s done. Seeing scenarios that re-use encounter sets from the core set, as well as returning to mechanics such as Undergroundand Darklocations, feels very much like a last ride through the fan favourites before calling it a day.
I will naturally be saddened to see the end of the game, should that come to pass, but I think, of all the games I own, this is one that I have kept coming back to, and will keep coming back to, time and time again. Not just for the wonderful memories it has given me, or the beautiful card art, or the breathtaking narrative each Adventure Pack brings, but just because it’s such a good game, overall. It’s a fantastic adventure game, while managing to be as under-stated as Tolkien could be.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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…
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…
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!
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.
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 Descentand 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 Questgame, 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!!