Lord of the Rings (LOTR) is an ambitious and engaging ‘Living Card Game’ which successfully immerses the player in the LOTR universe. The difficulty is pitched perfectly to challenge single player and co-operative games and it offers deeply rewarding moments when your configured deck sings and you finally overcome powerful foes – those that have played the game will know which creature I’m talking about.
Set-Up & Gameplay
The Lord of the Rings card game is centered around Mirkwood and the Anduin River, and the first quest pits you against the giant spiders of Mirkwood and the orcs of Dol Guldur. The rule book gives you single-sphere starting decks that play well together or serve solo play at the beginner level. In order to complete the scenario you have to travel to various locations, which is called questing, whilst holding back some of your characters to deal with and monsters and various dangers that appear from the threat deck.
In your turn you play cards, such as equipping armour and weapons, sending allies into the fray or healing your characters as well as questing and fighting your enemies. These encounters will be either instigated by players or enemies if their threat level matches or exceeds that of the player's threat trackers. As the quest continues, each player’s threat level rises and if it reaches a certain amount the adventure is over. Balancing this tension with combat and questing makes for an extremely immersive experience.
As you progress through the three quests, the difficulty increases and this leads to multiple play throughs. The synergy between certain cards and between players who have different spheres is the key to success and learning this gives a great sense of accomplishment.
- Spirit – Characters include Eowyn and show a strength of willpower.
- Tactics – Strong combatants belong to this sphere, such as Gimli and Legolas.
- Leadership – Includes charismatic characters, such as Aragorn, that inspire others.
- Lore – Includes characters with wisdom and experience, such as the high-elf Glorfindel.
Lord of the Rings - My Favourite Cards
- Gimli – Who deals out more damage in proportion to the wounds that are inflicted upon him.
- Beorn – Deals a huge amount of damage to your foes before being shuffled back into your deck.
- Gandalf – Can either reduce your threat level, enable you to draw three cards or deal a significant amount of damage to one enemy.
Lord of the Rings Components (Credit: Fantasy Flight Games)
Fantasy Flight always present a well-produced game with excellent components and the Lord of the Rings card game is no exception. If, like me, you are a LOTR fan you will drink in the evocative art-work and flavour text on the cards.
The symbology on the cards is clear and easy to understand and the threat tracker is a clever addition to the game – adding tension to your quests. If you wish to continue to buy adventure packs to expand your game, you will need to look into storage solutions but there are links on BoardGameGeek forums that can help with this.
Lord of the Rings is a popular one-player game but scales perfectly to two players and offers new strategies with ranged characters dispensing of the other player’s foes, for example. The opportunity to deck build through expansions enables one or two players to positively strut through the early quests which can be deeply satisfying.
Final Thoughts on the Lord of the Rings Card Game
The Lord of the Rings card game is a rich and immersive experience, which offers moments of triumph where you punch the air or high-five your partner. Becoming fluent in the game is tremendously satisfying and if you are a fan of Lord of the Rings, and can afford to purchase the many adventure packs, this serves as an excellent introduction.
Regular play opens up a whole word of deck-building, offering the opportunity to build ‘tribal’ decks (dwarf, elf, eagle decks etc.) and finding powerful combos within the extensive roster of cards. The decision to locate this game in the period between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings works well as an introduction to Middle Earth and those adventures are both available through expansions.
The game never overstays its welcome and time can fly as you are battling your way through Mirkwood Forest or journeying along the Anduin River. The only barrier is remembering all of the key-words, effects and stages of the game turns if you haven’t played for a while - viewing how to play videos can refresh your memory however.
Fantasy and Lord Of the Rings fans will adore the attention to detail and thematic ties in the game, for example the clever way in which Gandalf comes in and out of the quest and has game-changing powers that can aid you in times of great peril.
The Lord of the Rings card game will be staying on my shelf for a long time; I am currently playing through The Black Riders expansion with multi-sphere decks and am thoroughly enjoying it – the whole of Middle Earth awaits!