Journey Into Legend: a Lord of the Rings LCG review
by: Lester Crow
The recent release of the Lord of the Rings the Card Game by Nate French has the fantasy gaming community buzzing. Produced by Fantasy Flight Games, using their Living Card Game format, this newest attempt to capitalize on J.R.R. Tolkien’s brilliant epic has renewed my faith in games based on adaptations. The quality of the components included in the core box set are up to Fantasy Flight Games usual high standards.
Included in the box are over 200 incredibly illustrated cards with artwork by Tiziano Baracchi, Kevin Childress, Tony Foti and Tom Garden to name but a few. I dare say that The Lord of the Rings: LCG is the most lavishly illustrated collectable card game currently on the market. This artwork is what originally drew me to the game; however, upon playing it I’ve come to relish the challenges provided underneath these stunning visuals. There are several tracking tokens provided for the various information that must be monitored such as wounds, quest progress, and resources; however, it is the threat trackers that really caught my eye when I opened the box for the first time. These ingenious dials help players track their threat level which is just one of the many ways to be defeated by the game.
Unlike the majority of collectable card games The Lord of the Rings: LCG is a cooperative game wherein the players take on the rolls of adventuring heroes from J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novels in an attempt to defeat specific quests. The core set contains three of these quests. At first I thought that this would be limiting and would create a stagnant atmosphere rather quickly; however, I could hardly have been more incorrect. The game uses a modifiable encounter deck that provides random challenges which coincide with each of the quests. This creates a slightly different experience every time you play through a specific quest.
Not only can two friends sit down and enjoy a game together but an engaging solo experience can be found as well. The rules allow for 1-2 players with one core set or up to 4 with two core sets and it has been designed to scale up very well so that the challenges are sufficient to keep players on their toes no matter how many are undertaking the deadly quests.
One thing from the novels that was captured with near perfection has to be their sense of danger and hopelessness as this game is very difficult. I’ve played multiple games of the three quests contained within and have only managed to win a handful of times. It wasn’t until I dug in and built my first custom deck that I started to see more success but even then its been an adventure every time. An adventure whose outcome is never certain.
That brings me to my concerns with the game as it currently stands. It is quite obvious that this game was designed with expansions in mind and those expansions are to be released about once every month or so; however, the core set is rather limited when it comes to deck building options. There are four main spheres of influence that the players can call upon in an attempt to complete the quests. These are Leadership, Lore, Tactics, and Spirit, and players only generate resources from the spheres that their heroes represent. For example Aragorn is a Leadership hero and therefore generates Leadership resources which are the only resources that can be used to play Leadership sphere cards. This limitation along with the limited options and number of player specific cards makes the game extra challenging, which some may find frustrating.
I only anticipate this game becoming vastly more interesting as its depth and breadth expand with the release of the upcoming themed adventure packs. These Adventure packs promise to provide more options for players as well as new quests to undertake and new challenges to face. I give The Lord of the Rings the Card Game two severed goblin ears up and highly suggest it to fans of the novels and strategic card game fans alike.
88’s as in Adios