29 August, 2012

Card-based Delays

Back to work and things are flying by at ludicrous speed since the summer break. I even missed the anniversary of my first post! No worries, though. We'll celebrate the anniversary of the first actual episode next week. But what has been keeping me occupied, away from BYF, besides the Summer Festival and the general insanity of life? Cards, of course! And not just any cards, but fancy cards with lovely illustrations of Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, and Men, and in-depth rules and impossibly hard quests.

I'm talking, of course, about The Lord of the Rings the living card game.

So, to preface, I've been chipping away at the task of minimizing video games in my life for probably the last year or so. Having a baby helps expedite things. The reason for this is because I wanted to be more productive and try some new things, rather than just crack on the same grind of game after game. The former was sacrificed to the latter, as the 'new things' I've been getting heavily into are tabletop games. Still, it does feel nice to not have to keep up with proverbial Jones' as every new, flashy game gets released.

Anyways, since my resolution, I'd been looking for a deep cooperative game to take part in. Board games like Catan and Ticket to Ride are great, but I wanted something a little more extensive that I could enjoy collecting and (possibly) play with my wife in a non-competitive way. Lo, I recalled that a Lord of the Rings card game had been released last year and that it was cooperative. I started my search.

Long story short, reviews were mixed but largely positive. LOTR LCG also has a thriving internet community, so there were plenty of play-through videos and reviews to give a rough idea of the game and how it plays.; Fantasy Flight also put out a well-produced instructional video to help with the rules. But you never really know what a game is like or how you will receive it before you actually try it. Luckily, the aforementioned community has developed a set for the Octgn engine. I will leave that link there for you to discover what that's about.

To keep things brief, I am a little crazy over this game. As a game system, it's a bit convoluted and complicated. Then again, the only point of comparison I have is Magic: The Gathering fifteen years ago when I played it, so other card games could be just as complex these days. All of that is easily overcome with a few play throughs. The true joy of the game, not unlike LOTRO, is enjoying  what the game designers have done with the intellectual property. Rule Number 1 for any good Tolkien-based product is that it is Tolkien-based, not Peter Jackson-based. The card game is just that; the designers interpretation of the text.

Also like LOTRO, they have mined the books (both The Hobbit and Rings) for great card ideas. One of my favorites, if only nominally is We Do Not Sleep, which is a card affecting Rohirrim characters and drawn from a quote by Gandalf about the Horse-lords. There is a tonne of great stuff like that and FFG have been largely successful in capturing the "feel" of most of the cards.

The quests are made the same way; locales or events otherwise just mentioned in the books have, again like LOTRO, been drilled into and some fun scenarios have been created such as The Hunt for Gollum. In this your heroes must go into Mirkwood and along the Anduin and, of course, hunt for Gollum. The encounter deck (the bad guys) is cleverly done because it represents the random nature of the adventure and so shuffled into it, in this example, are Clue cards that you must collect to progress the quest. Likewise, the Enemy is looking for the little blighter as well and so there are enemies specifically designed to intercept clues and disrupt your quest.

To try and keep this little review short I'll only use one example, but there are many more quest packs with lots of clever play mechanics to showcase. The art is great, the heroes we all love have card abilities that (mostly) make sense, the release schedule is consistant in both timing and quality, and, again, the community is great. There are a number of well made sites for you to have a look at if you're interested, or just track me down on Octgn and play a game with me some time.

It will help you while the time before episode 20! Stay tuned and thanks for sticking with Beneath Your Feet.


  1. A while back I was really curious about this card game too, glad to hear it's enjoyable! I remember watching a demo of play and it did look pretty complicated, but maybe I'll have to give it a go. The art does look really nice, and like you said, it's great that it's based on the book rather than the films.

    1. It's enjoyable solo, but way more fun with a partner, so if you can convince Mr. Mantle or a friend to play you'll get a lot more out of it.

    2. Oh, and let me know if you play on Octgn. We can have a go.

  2. check out the game replays i have on my blog im a big fan of the card game as well but it is insanely difficult to win

    1. Thanks, Hudson! I'll check it out immediately.