Players: 1 to 2
Game Length: 60 minutes
Best enjoyed: With 2 players up for a multi-session adventure in Middle Earth
The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (which I’ll call LotR:TCG from now on to save on typing that out every time) is a solo or co-operative game for up to 2 players where you will be leading a group of heroes in an effort to save Middle Earth from the forces of Sauron! You’ll select your heroes and create a deck of 50 cards then use these to complete a variety of quests, preparing your heroes by equipping weapons and recruiting allies, as well as using other powerful abilities.
Each turn of the game, you will reveal new threats, whether they are enemies stalking your party, locations looming in the distance or nasty instant effects. You’ll need to commit some of your party to negating the threat of the enemies and locations, while also making sure to keep a few back to fight any enemies who engage your party directly. Over the course of the game you’ll make progress on your current Quest – the rules of which are printed on the Quest Cards – and hopefully make it through intact. If all your heroes die or your Threat Level gets too high, you fail the quest!
LotR:TCG is one of the first, and most successful, games in Fantasy Flight Games’ stable of ‘Living Card Games’, where new cards for the game are gradually released in sets of 60 or so cards. The Living Card Game format works particularly well for this game, as each pack of cards includes an entirely new quest for you to tackle in addition to the expected additional cards to tweak your decks.
As a prebuilt deck game, you’ll need to put effort into LotR:TCG before sitting down to play to get the most out of it. The game gives you starter decks to work with, but some of the quests will be virtually impossible with the starter decks alone, and you’ll need to start building your own if you’re going to stand a chance beyond the first quest.
While you can play LotR:TCG on your own, and the game is balanced to allow this, you’ll definitely get the most out of it by playing with someone else. This can create an unusual dynamic – both players will need to be invested in the game and building their own decks for the game to be enjoyable. If your gaming partner doesn’t match your own enthusiasm, it’s easy to end up in a situation where you are providing both decks and directing all of your partner’s moves, which is not a recipe for satisfying play.
If you want to start playing LotR:TCG, don’t be overwhelmed by the number of card releases you may have missed! This is ultimately a co-operative game, so you don’t need to be ‘competitive’ and pick up every pack like you might need to in a more adversarial Living Card Game such as Android: Netrunner.
It’s best to start with the base set, which includes three quests, cards to build some basic decks and other essential components. If you enjoy the game after playing the base set, your best choice is to pick up the most recent Deluxe Expansion, then work through the set of 6 packs that have been released (or are currently being released) that are compatible with that expansion. At the time of writing, the current Deluxe Expansion is The Lost Realm and its set is Angmar Awakened.
The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is an engaging game where there is a constant stream of new content to be enjoyed. If you and a friend are willing to put the effort into deck construction and go on the journey through Middle Earth together, The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is a thoroughly enjoyable game well worth investigating.