I LOVED the Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game made by decipher inc. I played it from the beginning and had a lot of fond memories from those years.
I’m sad to see it go, but need it have been this way?
How it could have been…
Mount Doom should have been set 9 and reflections should have wrapped everything up as set 10 (sorry, this still bugs me to this day).
Now, the original movie sets weren’t perfect, we should all admit that. The game was just getting started, there were some mistakes from usless (men of harad) to too powerful (greenleaf). From Shadows onward decipher should have declared that it was a whole new game and made it LOTR 2E (sort of). They could have then rebuilt the game from the ground up and make it easier for new players to get involved. The “standard” or “third age” of play would include everything in from shadows onward. There would also be a “classic” or “first age” tournaments and games involving everything from sets 1-10. (2nd age involving all cards? only time would tell)
With the advent of a “new” LOTR, decipher could decide whether to implement rotation or not and actually design the game and sets to rotate.
Now what kind of changes would be in LOTR 2E?
1) Alt ring-bearers might be a little more in line with the story. I mean… GIMLI? Boromir? Gandalf? Sure the latter 2 touched it for a few seconds but that makes them ring-bearers? Heck let’s make a RB version for every character (especially 2nd Elf on the Left – he’s awesome) Isildur, Bilbo, Smeagol, Frodo and Sam are the only ones that have any right to be RB. So… why not make some cross-culture versions? How about a dwarf culture Bilbo? Of course this would mean that instead of referring to races, a lotLOT of new freep cards would have to go by culture symbol instead (however this would also head off problems with cards such as Ted and Stranger). Isildur of course should be a gondor and/or elf culture RB – though Sam could bear it for elves too maybe (he likes ’em you know). You could have a gandy cultured bilbo etc etc… This would allow for some great deck snyergy and some new strategies without violating the game’s heart.
2) Ok, now I will admit I like the way sites were redone but still… Seems like there should have been something done (such as region restrictions or encouragment) to make it really seem like you were travelling middle-earth. Also, site manipulation should be very limited. But the return to terrain was awesome.
3) Recinding old rules? Yes I think maybe the rule of 4 should be removed and cards just built better so it wouldn’t be a problem. And if you keep making cards like Cirdan etc, then you should also allow all players to look at all discard piles. Update, tweak or change the rules for the new edition.
4) Hunter- A neat idea but poorly executed. A complete and total on/off just doesn’t seem very fun. I would vote that with hunter, you get a bonus for a cost. Something like “exert to make character str+X where x = hunter X”.
5) Followers- Hey look! We’ll take out one card type that was pretty much broken (Allies) and replace it with an even MORE unblanced. This one should take more time and testing. Right now I’d make them as a card that plays on a companion with something like “Retreat (X) (at the start of the fellowship phase, you may pay the retreat cost to return this follower to your hand.” Although the “pocket” buff of their current form works nice with shadow. Maybe either make 2 different mechanics for them or make shadow followers another card type like “servant” or something. A neat idea but this really needed more work.
Now each culture should be clearly defined and have a different feel to it (much like the affliations in ST). Note that these are guidelines, not really hard and fast rules. When I reference key ___ that means that that culture is the best at it, not that no other culture can do that thing. For instance, Elves should be the best archers (have the easiest ways to make archers, have the most archers, etc). Doesn’t mean Dwarves won’t play around with archery, but in doing so they will pay a bit more than the elves.
Keywords: Damage+, Muster
Key Terrains: Mountain, Underground
Key Phases: Fellowship, Skirmish
Key Cards: Possessions, Events
Possessions, Damage, drawing and more possessions. Basically every dwarf should be stacked with a small armory (and have some ways to protect their possessions, though doing so will cost them). Their damage bonuses should be sky high and a good deal of their cards should key off those bonuses. (i.e. BRC but better balanced) They should also be able to draw up cards like crack addicts (but you might have too many cards in hand by the end, or have to discard some as a cost). Also their cards should grant them different bonuses depending on whether they are at a mountain or underground (example: This axe gives you str+2 at a mt but damg+1 under) They don’t care about anything else, they just barrel through the armies of Mordor to site 9.
Keywords: Archer, Hunter
Key Terrains: Forest, River
Key Phases: Archery, Regroup
Key Cards: Artifacts, Conditions
Archery and discard. What do I mean? Besides the obvious (they are big in the archery phase), they should also be like the Bajorans and key off the discard pile. Cards get bigger and better as certain targets pile up in the discard pile, and they should also be the best (if not sole culture) at retrieving goods from discard. Also they should have little to none strength bonuses and instead focus on the “Voodoo” aspect (making minions weaker). They might have some followers but their biggest support comes from conditions and artifacts (to represent how old their culture is).
Key Terrains: N/A
Key Phases: Fellowship, Maneuver
Key Cards: Events
Mix and destory. Like in the beginning, the gandalf culture should focus on getting bonuses and buffs from having multiple cultures working together. It should probably also be treated like the Romulans and given the ability to really mess with an opponent’s strategy (though have difficulty in getting its own set up – no Saved From the Fire), and sometimes doing so might mess up yourself (like sleep).
Keywords: Defender+, Enduring
Key Terrains: Battleground, River
Key Phases: Maneuver, Assignment
Key Cards: Conditions, Possessions
Hmmm… tough call on whether to subdivide this culture like ST does with the federation. They should probably focus on a “leadership” theme whereby having certain companions out (Aragorn… Isildur… etc) your other companions get stronger, “inspired” to fight. This culture should probably be the first or second largest in followers and tokens with a targeted anti-condition and special ability bent. They should also be the best defenders+1 etc in the game with an emphasis on Assignment phases and Maneuver.
Keywords: Muster, Hunter
Key Terrains: Plains, Battleground
Key Phases: Skirmish, Regroup
Accomplish a lot with a little. The companions shouldn’t need but 2-3 possessions on them to do a lot of damage (and one of those should be a horse). They should also be the best at dropping cards when your opponent leasts expects it. They also should have an “army” style of play whereby you can stock more than 9 companions in a deck and play all of them (they get discarded, removed etc to make room for another). While they do use some events, most of the cards should be built around playing everything else like an event.
Key Terrains: Dwelling, Forest
Key Phases: Fellowship, Regroup
Key Cards: Followers, Events
Now these guys should just plain be fun. They don’t have much in the way of keywords but are just plain sneaky, avoiding skirmishes, bouncing minions around… Basically they should bend the rules of the game, play it in an unconventional way. Also they should be the anti-burden and resistence strategy. Of course, the community is always willing to come together (hence their heavy followers) and you’ll never know just quite what the little guys will pull off next (emphasis on events). They should probably also have the best health of any freep and some of the greatest healing.
Key Terrains: Marsh, Underground
Key Phases: depends…
Key Cards: any
This should not only be the premiere path-finding culture, but this guy should also help you with your shadow. He might not always help your fellowship (unless your hobbits?) but he can help set up a great shadow hand. Though doing so might cost you…
Now what about some cross-culture and sub culture goodness?
Knights- Can be almost anyone (gondor, elf, knight, pippin?) and works off the keyword rather than the culture. The fortification structure was fine, maybe make some possessions? Oh, and they get bigger as the minions do? (become more ‘valiant’)
Rangers- Mostly gondor, though you should be able to blend elves with them smoothly. 2nd to gollum in pathfinding and can do some neat tricks with roaming minions.
Ents- Big, bad with a synergy (if not just making them a part of the culture) with hobbits. And if your opponent disrupts your goals (kills a condition etc) they might get angry…
You’ll notice that rather than key phases, I put down “anti” This means what they play well against (imagine current nazgul and conditions). Also, rather than put down what their “key cards” are, I listed what they ‘like’ (i.e. wraith = burdens)
Forget the new culture shit. The old should have remained with some tweaks.
Keywords: Fierce, Enduring
Key Terrains: Forest, Dwelling
This culture probably needed the least alterations. Forget morcs and that crap, this culture should be all about the nazgul and wraiths. Also, they should be the anti-possession culture (remember all blades perish) with a heavy focus on the discard pile as well and excellent at retrieving (since they have few, if any, non-unique minions). Also, I loved the twilight nazgul strategies of old. They should majorly key off burdens and resistences and be able to “get to” the ring-bearer no matter how big the fellowship is.
Keywords: Damage+, Hunter
Key Terrains: Battleground, River
Likes: Site Control
The Uruk-hai had only appeared in one other culture in one set the entire game and suddenly it was decided they should be their own culture. Bull. They should be Isengard, very anti-condition, beatdown with their damage (may not overwhelm but they will wear you out) with an emphasis on health and healing (keeping their guys alive).
Keywords: Archer, Muster
Key Terrains: Mountain, Underground
Ok, now that the orcs were starting to show up everywhere something really should be done about that. But rather than remaking a whole new culture, I think maybe they should have been blended into the Sauron culture with different sub-strategies (like gondor? the Federation again?). Wargs, site-control, swarms archery, etc. Yes I like Moria, but it really was a one block pony. Yes I think that even trolls and the balrog could/should be part of the Sauron culture. This culture should also have the most followers and deal the best with freep followers.
Keywords: Lurker, Archer
Key Terrains: Plains, Dwelling
LIke gandalf, this culture should be best at messing with an opponent’s strategy but having trouble setting up their own. Dunland was also a one-block pony so they shouldn’t bother coming back. The raiders themselves were almost getting to be a joke with all their little subdivisions keywords; you could call it the culture of 3 cultures. Rather than trying to keep these cultures within cultures, I say just drop the keywords and stick with game text that blends certain cards together (i.e. instead of labeling a minion “easterling” you’d just put “this guy likes burdens”) instead of forcing others apart.
Likes: The Ring
If you don’t want to make the nazgul hit the ring-bearer regardless of fellowship size, then gollum definitely should. This little guy ought to be tricky and even more headahce inducing than hobbits. Ninja Gollum, for whatever it’s faults, was unique and cool.
Oh well… it would have been my aim that with these changes, the game would have been able to survive until Peter Jackson finally made the Hobbit movie and the game would get a 2nd life. Farewell LOTR:TCG, thanks for all the memories.
P.S. General LOTR tips and strategies are discussed here.