Wednesday, 3 August 2011

"And My Axe"

In a departure from my chat about the various technological games I am engaged in this is post about Lord of the Rings the Card Game from Fantasy Flight Games.(FFG)

LoTRtCG is a co-operative 'Living Card Game' (LCG), it has elements of Magic the Gathering (MtG) to it and is a bit like the co-operative boardgame as well - players choose a deck and play through a scenario with each other.  There is a mechanism to know how you are doing (quests and progress tokens) and automatic rules to decide who is attacked and by what (the threat meter).  The rules (so far) work extremely well, and as long as you keep the book to hand are fairly easy to follow once you have your head around them.  To aid with that Fantasy Flight have provided a full illustrated with examples rule book and also a series of You Tube videos which take you through the sequence of play and give examples of how it all works.  They are really handy when understanding everything.  In addition to that there are rules that are simply printed on the cards which are easy to follow.

The game can be played solo (which is quite tricky) or with up to 4 players.  There are 3 different quests provided with the core set have are increasingly difficult.  There are 4 player 'suits' - Spirit, Tactics, Leadershop and Lore - each of which have very different styles of play.  All in all there's quite a lot of variation just there.  Add to that that there is a set of ways to design tournament decks which allows you to create a deck of mixed 'suits'.  Of course you also get to control some heroes, 12 of which are provided with the core set.  Also in the core set are encounter cards which randomise what you face along the way (ranging from baddies to fight, things that happen or locations to visit.)

So why is it a Living Card Game?  Well, each month (or so) FFG are going to release an expansion, which will will provide a new quest (s), new cards for each suit, new heroes and encounter cards and other additions to game play.  These aren't like 'MtG' where you buy endless boosters to make up your collection, hoping to acquire rare cards.  Instead they provide a set list of cards to enhance the game in specific ways.  There are 6 expansions currently planned which tell the story of looking for Gollum.

The art work is beautiful and the card text well written.  The tokens are well designed and all things well put together.  It's worth mentioning that the game is based on the books, not the (excellent) movies, which might confuse some people when encountering the very powerful Glorfindel and not knowing who he is, but overall it probably doesn't matter much, you don't need to know.

This can be played as a random board game, or probably with a storytelling element, indeed when sacrificing one of your allies it's hard not to vocalise a "My dwarven miner valiantly gets in the way to save the life of Eowyn!"

There are a few issues discussed on forums about not having enough cards in the core set to make up a world beating tournament deck but that doesn't really worry me (yet at least) and FFG have openly said that they've made a game which is playable and fun with expansion coming in the future.  Lots of people talk about buying two or three sets to make a full deck, but that certainly isn't necessary for the casual player.

FFG makes a whole bundle of games, many of which I didn't know about and I think I will be investing in more of them as time goes on.  in the LCG range They are releasing a Star Wars Co-operative game next year and already have Game of Thrones, Cthulu & a Warhammer one, the latter three being Vs games, not co-op ones.  Not to mention that they also have a lot of big licenses (Conan, Battlestar Galactica and more) not to mention their own fine IP (Tannhauser & Mansions of Madness for example).

So far I am very impressed.  I've orded Hunt For Gollum (the first of the expansions) off the back of the experience so far and I am looking forward to more multiplayer action this weekend. 

It can be bought from various places including amazon and the excellent comic / games shop - Travelling Man