LotR Retrek

Well no new shows this week (except Constantine) so I guess not much to do review wise.

Eh, I’ll talk about something of interest to almost NOBODY else.

(though if you’re on the message board, you can discuss interest here)

So AEG brought back doomtown, a CCG from way back during the golden 90s of the CCG boom.  And Upper Deck looks to bring back VS (the best Marvel vs DC card game ever done).  There seems to be rumors too that Cryptozoic is going to do an expandable card game to Lord of the Rings.  But there seems to be some kind of difficulties given that the post is several months old and there’s no response nor any on other topics I’ve scanned.  I don’t know what could be the hold up with Cryptozoic whether it’s a rights issue with the movies, or if they’re having problems with the gameplay.

If it’s gameplay… may I suggest bringing back a particularly classic decipher rendetion?  One that has several years of playtesting and refinement?  One of the few games that once sold out Magic?

LotR: TCG Retrek (the expandable card game)

No seriously, I would so love to see this game and its engine return to tables everywhere, that I will gladly forgo any compensation (other than 2 free copies) if these ideas are used by Cryptozoic.  All lawyers hear me?  I will NOT sue the company if they want to use any or all of this.  Just bring it back, guys.  That’s plenty reward for me.

The following are ideas and thoughts on the game resuming.  I’m not too attached to terms so by all means if you’ve got suggestions, toss them out.

Rules Update

One thing that I will defend about the LotR:TCG is that it was well built for multiplayer right out of the box and I’ve rarely played a game that captured such a blend of competition and cooperative.  Allies shift to enemies and back again so quickly you end up dropping grudges because there’s too much going on (unless there was some big play that somebody got you on, then that you might remember).  The game engine remains in good shape for shifting between 2 to more players.

Still, we need to be aware that we’ll be limited by the core 3 LotR movies’ materials alone.  So in order to better expand it to allow almost ANY property that has a journey-quest structure (I’m looking at you, Hobbit and Black Cauldron), the One Ring should become a part of a larger card type.  Say, “Quest Need” with the cards having subtypes on them (i.e. The One Ring).  Characters that can bear these types of cards are called Quest-bearers.  They’ll have a symbol on their card signaling this option as well as “subtype-bearer” in their gametext.  Each Quest Need may also having “Victory-” text on them which modify (positively or negatively) the basic victory condition of the game.  Which is:

Get your Quest-bearer to the final site on the path and have him or her survive to the end of the turn without being corrupted.

The standard turn sequence is: Fellowship (play your cards) – Shadow (opponents play theirs) – Maneuver (misc) – Archery (shoot!) – Assignment (pick a fight) – Skirmish (fight!) – Regroup (go again?).  Should keep as it’s pretty elegant.  Only 2 possible changes.  Put a “move” phase between fellowship and shadow.  Moving along the sites got crammed into the end of the fellowship and part of regroup phases which caused some rules headaches later on.  Giving it its own phase allows things to be streamlined.  I think the game could also use an “End” phase as regroup got kind of messy and it would allow some sequences to be more precisely codified.

As I’ve said before, Decipher had a bit of a problem showing the “home front” of Middle-earth, first with allies then with followers.  I think both concepts had their place but issues with balance.  First from both a thematic and balancing perspective, allies should be a Free Peoples type card, while followers are placed on the shadow side.  Second, when creating cards that deal with those two less common types, give the cards a second purpose so they’re not hand clogging if you’re not fighting someone with them.

Events were fun, but the very nature and design of the game pulled everything towards permanents like gravity.  So give every culture a method to spend or use events in alternate ways, usually on a permanent.  (I mean Galadriel, Lady Redeemed was horribly broken, but the idea of her – of using events in alternate ways – was solid.)

Allow the game to use flexible sites like it did from Shadows, on, but add a bit of limitation so there’s a sense of actual progress.  I think designating them as belonging to specific regions (with a few generic sites that could be placed “anywhere” for balance and deck building purposes) would be best.  Players might know the Bridge of Khazad-dum can only show up in region 2, but they don’t know if it will be site 4, 5 or 6.  But definitely bring back the terrain keywords and making them matter.  Maybe even make some new ones.  Ruins are visited as well as cities and town…

Completely overhaul initiative and site control.  How?  I don’t know.  I have some rough ideas.  But regardless the originals need work.  Threats were good though.  Bring threats in at the start of the game.

Cut down on unloaded keywords until there’s been thorough in-the-players-field testing.  Let soft-enforcement segregate large groupings.  If anything, use unloaded keywords to facilitate cross culture decks.  i.e. Ranger on both Elf & Gondor companions.  If you build a ranger deck, it’s probably going to be pretty blue and gray.  Knights would be Gondor & Rohan working together.  Valiant a combination of Rohan and… Shire? I guess.

As for actual themes of cultures…

DWARVES – Have a natural affinity for the loaded keyword, Damage + and love the terrains Underground & Mountain.  They love to draw cards (no rule of 4 in this edition of the game, please), so much that they may end up wasting plenty (discarding cards).  After drawing they then load up their companions with possessions and artifacts.  They aim to just plow through minions in their way, heedless of the burdens weighing on the quest-bearer or the larger threats.  Any dwarf asked is a dwarf summoned so there’s no allies, just companions.

ELVES – Have a natural affinity for the loaded keyword, Archer and love the terrains Forest & River.  They’re not ones to draw, but use their magic and powers to stack their deck and ensure certain outcomes.  Also instead of making themselves stronger, Elves reduce the strength of their enemies.  They do have many allies, but they are passing into the west and won’t stay around for long.

GANDALF – Should probably be the jack-of-all trades he was once before though his culture always seemed to be competing with elves for “most broken”.  I’m actually not sure what to do with him at the moment.

GONDOR – Has a natural affinity for the loaded keyword, Defender+ and loves the terrains Ruins & Town(/city?).  The power house of Middle-Earth, this culture can be the best in raw strength, but falters against the trails of the quest.  Their efforts have also made them the best at healing though they don’t do well with surprises.

SHIRE – Has a natural affinity for the loaded keyword, Toil and loves the terrains Dwelling & Marsh.  The power in hobbits is their kinship, as they strengthen each other and more permanent allies power on the companions, though the hobbits have more than a few tricks up their sleeves.  Their chipper spirits make them the best at easing burdens.

ROHAN – Still working on these guys.  Have some ideas but nothing solid.

(same with Gollum)

Now with Shadow cultures… yes I STILL hate the new ones that were put out in the last 2 blocks of the game.  HATE.  THEM.  While the Orc culture can be brought back and used in Hobbit-related blocks (it would make sense there), when it comes to LotR we have:

ISENGARD – Favors the loaded keyword Damage+ and the terrains River, Plains & Battleground.  2nd as far as followers go and does a lot of work in the Maneuver phase.  They also play possessions heavily and care about vitality.

SAURON – Favors the loaded keyword Fierce and the terrains Ruins, Mountain & Underground.  The shadow side with the most followers and follower love.  They are most dangerous during the archery phase and like to play debilitating conditions on the companions.

WRAITH – Favors the loaded keyword Toil and the terrains Forest, Mountain & Marsh.  This is the burden culture, one focused on corrupting the Quest-bearer regardless of the size and shape of the fellowship.  Some might ask: “Wait, I thought these were the fierce guys.”  Well thematically and for balance I believe it makes more sense to give Sauron’s minions Fierce and in exchange give the “voodoo” that Sauron/Orcs had to Wraiths to represent the fear that wraiths inspire in others.  So wraiths won’t be making themselves stronger, but others weaker, meaning they have increased chances to overwhelm, and so lose fierce as balance.  They favor the assignment phase.

RAIDER (EVIL MEN) – Still working on this one too but they’ll probably love the regroup phase and threats.

WILD – The “misc” shadow culture for all those that owe their allegiance to no one.  Like the Balrog, Watcher in the Water, Smaug, or stone giants.  No theme, designed to splash into other shadows now and then.

And that’s all for now.  If you know how to get in touch with Cryptozoic, let them know about this.  Heck I even have some cards mocked up for testing purposes (though not great graphically, if you’re good at that and want to help…).  If you’ve got your own ideas or suggestions, feel free to toss them out.


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