Posted by: markfender | January 27, 2016

LotR LCG Part 2

Yesterday I talked about the cool stuff in the Lord of the Rings LCG. Today, it’s the bad stuff.

lotr storageFor one, there’s the glut. Fantasy Flight has never been shy about making expansions and there’s a ton of them for LotR. Now, this does mean you’ve got more quests to go on, but it also starts to become a nightmare to store. Because you’ve got to keep your quests separated and your encounter decks separated…and that’s before you consider how to store the cards that actually make up your deck.

With all those expansions, Fantasy Flight smartly reuses the encounter decks. If they decide to publish a new spider-themed quest, for instance, they’ll give you new quest and encounter cards, but they’ll also reuse the previous Spider encounter sub-decks. This does mean, however, that if you buy the latest pack and don’t have access to earlier packs, you might not be able to play that quest. The packaging makes that pretty clear, but, you know, it could be a problem.

Luckily, there’s a fairly decent solution to all this…buy the packs in the order they came out. This will gradually expand your game while also making sure you have access to everything you’ll need to play with what you own. It’s a popular game (I’m assuming…they keep coming out with expansions) so there’s quite a back catalog, which can certainly be intimidating on its own. But the slow accumulation of sets in order can help with that.

That glut has other downsides, though. Because, while there’s more and more cards to play with, they keep returning to the same well. There’s like four different versions of Aragorn at this point. And while it’s cool to see the character’s evolution (since he gets a new thematic ability every time), it also means that everyone’s options are lessened when deckbuilding. Because two people can’t both bring Aragorn, even if it’s a different version of Aragorn. At this point, there’s like 70+ heroes, but a lot of repeats. So, it can mean a lot more coordination between players before playing to make sure everyone can play their deck legally. It gets even more annoying when they make ally cards for some of the heroes, meaning that someone could be playing with Legolas as their hero, which makes that Legolas ally card in your deck unplayable. I mean, there’s only so many members of the Fellowship to remake.

I’d almost prefer that the game wasn’t LotR themed so that FFG had more room to create original characters instead of just remaking the same old ones. I mean, sure, they would lose that sweet, sweet license. And you do lose some thematic tension that way (We had a game the other day where we were traveling through the Caradhas mountains, losing several heroes along the way. After the game ended, we decided that Grima Wormtongue (who was one of our heroes) had convinced everyone else to eat those particular dead heroes, which seems like something he would do. That story wouldn’t have happened in a property that everyone’s not as familiar with). And since they only have one card game based on an original property, it’s obviously not something they’re terribly interested in doing. But I would be fine with a Midnight-themed version of this game (to pick a property that FFG owns).

Another issue is that some of the quests aren’t all that fun. In fact, I’d say that the quests in the main box are some of the worst ones in the game. It took FFG a bit to really get how to make a good quest. They’ve made print on demand “Nightmare” versions of all the early quests to make them better, which is nice. But that also means there’s more cards to buy if you’re a completist. And, as the card pool for players has deepened, players have gotten some better tools in dealing with quests. This means that the quests have gotten harder and harder as the game has progressed. In fact, sometimes you need to bring a very specific deck to beat a particular challenge. This is both good and bad. It’s good because it keeps the game challenging and makes you really think about deckbuilding. On the other hand, I sort of prefer building a deck and then seeing how it does, rather than building a deck to take on one specific challenge. And it can be frustrating to bring your current fav deck to a quest and get your ass handed to you because the quest was built around a mechanic that punishes your current fav deck. With most other games, you build decks based on the current card pool and your local meta. But the “meta” for LotR changes every game.

Now, I think all of these downsides are fairly minor, with the biggest downside really depending on your budget and storage solution. It’s still a good game. Just not quite perfect.

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