Lord of the Rings:LCG - reviews and general thoughts

It all started with accepting 100 plays challenge and pledging to comment each play. Soon my thoughts outgrew the BGG comment format and also FFG's forum. I decided to post them in a form of a blog here. In time I got rid of session reports and replaced them with expansions reviews. Enjoy.
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A guide for new LOTR:LCG solo players

Wojtek Wojcik
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I very much like designing games but I also like to play games.
Metallum is my first game that will be premiered in Essen.
First of all welcome to the game. So what is this guide about? Really its just something that I would have loved to read before diving into this game - how to approach it. I made some sections hidden so you could really concentrate on what you might need and read other stuff only if you find it interesting.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
Intro - know who I am so you could understand how I am writing this.
I will not be reviewing the game. I assume that if you are reading this you already found several of those (if not look here on BGG) and you are wandering on how to approach this "giant of a game".

Just to be brief. I've had almost no LCG/CCG experience I've known the concept, played few games here or there with pre-constructed decks (3x times Magic, 1x Warhammer Invasion). I was intrigued by this kind of games (as I do like card games in general ex. RFTG, Dominion, Settlers Card Games) but quickly realized that if you do not have a friend that is into them as much as you are pretty much collecting cards not playing them. Here the LOTR:LCG comes into the picture.

I was introduced to this game by a friend. I've enjoyed it very much but got it only few months later. Possibility of solo play really made it for me as I realized that this game will not suffer from the syndrome above, I immediately got really hooked and played the game more than 200 times in under 9 months. I am playing game in order it was released and I am slowly catching up although I am still behind the new releases. All things below are based on my approach and things I've learned by trial and error (or maybe read somewhere).

First things first

One thing that is intimidating about this game is the amount of expansions it has. So my first and most important advice is: Forget about them! You do not need them to enjoy the game.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Core set should be enough for you to enjoy the system and deckbuilding enough to warrant expansions. You might be tempted to get the game and few expansions to save on shipping but to tell the truth I would recommend to get the base game only. There is no guarantee that you will love the game as much as I do so do not risk it. It will also make it easier to follow the advice below without being tempted to go ahead to the new stuff without getting full value from the core set.

Here are first steps that I would recommend:

- Watch the tutorial on FFG website (or here LINK) - it shows the basics and is fun/short enough for you to enjoy and give a general sense on how the game plays that will be helpful in next step.

- Read the rules
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Don't be be intimidated by the amount of rule questions that are here in BGG. Rules are written very clearly and although they might seem like a lot they are not much harder than typical semi-complex board game. Most of the rules questions are about some corner cases that you will not encounter for a long time.

- Download (and preferably print out) this (Universal Head THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE CARD GAME Rules Summary & Reference) Rules Summary & Reference. Read through it and now you are ready for your first game.

- Take Leadership pre-constructed deck from the game and prepare Passage through Mirkwood scenario. Play it. Consult the reference or the rules if you encounter any problems. If you do not find answers just make a ruling and continue. No matter if you win or loose play it again. Try to concentrate on turn flow (either use reference or the one in the rules) see if any new questions will come up and deal with them as before.

Second look

Unless you were unlucky you should have won at least one of the games (if not do not worry and play few more times or carry on). Time to enjoy the next steps in your journey.

- Re-read the rules and check if you were playing correctly

- Play Passage through Mirkwood scenario with pre-constructed Spirit, Lore and Tactics sphere decks. Play at least twice with each deck. You should be able to beat the scenario at least once with Spirit and possibly Lore. With Tactics it might not work!

- Watch fantastic video series "Watch it Played" LINK on LOTR:LCG. Presenter goes through Passage scenario, makes several errors on the way but those are corrected.

Fun and Structure

At this point you should have all the basics down so it is time to explore the game further.

- Visit NinjaDorg's scenarios file page (Ninjadorg's LOTR: LCG scenarios) and download his first scenario The Old Forest. I recommend printing it out on a single sheet (you do not need to cut it)

- Play through the above scenario with few of the decks and see if you can beat it (might be easy or hard depending on your deck and luck)

- Download and print out excellent Clarified Turn Sequence (Clarified Turn Sequence and Quick Reference w/ FAQs) reference. Read it carefully.

- Play Passage scenario two more times with your favorite sphere following each step in the Clarified Turn Sequence reference and observing closely when you can and can't play actions and what effect it has on the game.

- Download Unofficial Comprehensive Card List and Unofficial FAQ (Comprehensive Card List and Unofficial FAQ). It should answer most of the question you might have about particular cards.

Deck building

Now we get to the very important part of the game - deck building.

- Take three favorite heroes from two spheres (I recommend that you choose Theodred, Eowyn and some other hero from either Leadership or Spirit). Take all the cards from chosen spheres add 3 Gandalf cards, go through them and put aside around 20 cards that:
You consider too expensive (cost 5 or higher except Gandalf should be a warning sign)
You consider weak (both in stats and ability)
Always take out all the copies of a card that you consider not so great

- Play through Old Forest Scenario few times with this deck. Observe what works and what does not. After each play you should either:
Remove copies of a card that you find unable to play (even if it sounds awesome)
Add copiers of a card that you removed before but now you see usage for (example: you can add more expensive cards if you see a lot of resources on your heroes that you do not use)
Consider switching out one of the starting heroes for a different one form the two spheres.

On your way

That is pretty much all you need me for but before you go your own way let me give you some advice on how to proceed from here:

Forget about the tournament legal deck "rule". Play with 30 or 35 card decks (it makes deck building with core only more interesting, it lowers the difficulty level) until (and if) you buy few expansions.

What to play next
Spoiler (click to reveal)
- Play second scenario from the core set. Be prepared for though time and do it many times. One hint here: keep your starting threat low and adjust your deck often!

- Play through all other NinjaDorg's scenarios. Those are excellent introduction to the game (see the link above)

- Try some other custom quests. Many of them should be fun (you might try Feonix's one). List of custom scenarios with ratings is kept here (The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game - Adventure Database)

- Third scenario of the core set is very hard solo. See for your self why once you have the second scenario (which I consider being one of the best) beten several tiles.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
- Ask rules question if unsure (I recommend BGG forums for LOTR:LCG as best resource, FFG LOTR:LCG forums as a second one). People will answer and help you out but do check out Unofficial Comprehensive Card List and Unofficial FAQ first as it will keep you covered many a times.

- If you feel like it you can read some strategy/deckbuilding articles (look here at BGG for example or check out. I do not recommend reading discussions, session reports on the scenarios that you have not played. I find that feeling of discovering a scenario without prior information tremendously fun. If you played a scenario go ahead and post your thoughts about it. People will jump in most of the time.

- Do not worry that you can't jump into some conversations on-line (as many are about new stuff). There are plenty of people starting from the core set at the similar time as you and more eperienced players are often very patient and even interested in core set discussions.

- Only active podcast (http://cardboardoftherings.com/) is full of spoilers so I only listen to episodes about the adventure packs I've already played but your mileage may vary. I very much recommend now defunct podcast (http://thefellowshipofthecards.com/) that mostly deals with the Tolkien lore in the game.

- Keep a log of your plays - it is fun to look back at that (FFG quest log is ok, BBG record a play functionality is also decent)

- Try to find a friend or two to play it with. The game is even better multiplayer.

- There is a way to play the game on-line. I personally do not do this (as I want to get of the computer in my free time) but you can investigate. You can find video introduction here on BGG in video section.

- Use lotrlcg.com or cardgamedb.com to lookup cards on-line. The second one is tremendous as it has many strategy articles, deckbuilder/deck and many other features. First one is basic and easy to use.

- Do not use decks that you find on-line unless you hate deck building

Spoiler (click to reveal)
- Do not buy expansion before you play the base game and custom scenarios many times (personal recommendation at least 40 plays)

- Do not skip expansions if you decide to follow down the rabbit hole. You might be excited about particular part of Middle Earth so you will be tempted to do this but difficulty level of this game rises with each expansion pack so you will be up for frustrating times. Virtually all expansions have at least one good player card and most of the scenarios are very fun.

Thank you for your attention and good luck!

If you found any mistake, have some comments on my recommendations or have your own - please let me know in comments below or in PM.
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