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The Three Trials: Allies Review

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The Three Trials has been met with a strong reception from players so far, both in terms of the quest and the player cards. In my opinion, this has to be one of the most interesting, fun, and well designed quests I have seen so far for this game, and that is really a strong statement to make. The player cards are not quite as off-the-charts, if we’re talking about strict power level, but they do at least avoid dropping any duds. Instead, the cards introduce some new deck building options and support some old ones, which is a good balance. The 3 allies in The Three Trials pack support secrecy, Dunedain, and Silvan decks, and are as different as it is possible to be from one another.
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First Age OCTGN Update

Good news OCTGN users! The latest LOTR LCG version for OCTGN, which updates automatically when you launch the program, includes all relevant fixes to the First Age set. In order to make sure you see the correct images, you will need to make sure that you download the newest version of the custom image pack and re-install it. This will overwrite the old version. Enjoy!

 

Find it here under the OCTGN section!

Thorin and Company: The Lonely Mountain

There-He-Lay-by-Justin-Gerard With apologies for another hiatus, the journey continues. After Bilbo rescued his companions from giant spiders, the Wood-elves of Mirkwood captured the dwarves for trespassing. With the help of some luck and his invisibility-granting magic ring, Bilbo was able to rescue the dwarves from the Elvenking’s cells, and packed them into empty barrels ready to be sent down the Forest River to the men of Lake-town. Bilbo bobbed up and down on a barrel, wearing his ring, as the unsuspecting elves made a raft from the barrels and steered south-east. In Lake-town Thorin revealed himself as the rightful King under the Mountain, and was welcomed with songs and feasting. After recovering from their waterlogged journey and being resupplied, Thorin and Company set off for the final stage of their quest, determined to recover the treasure stolen by Smaug.

After a relatively mild battle with the spiders, I think this session report is the most thrilling of the quests in my journey through the Hobbit so far. The quest is played with a 53-card deck: the original deck (using the Burglar version of Bilbo), plus Sting and Bilbo’s Magic Ring. Orcrist is not added, since it was confiscated by the Elvenking while Thorin was his prisoner. Glamdring is not added, since Gandalf is not there, and I will not use Gandalf to deal damage or to attack during this quest. Since Gandalf confidently told Bilbo that there was more to him than anyone expects, his other abilities represent extraordinary moments of Bilbo’s resourcefulness (card draw), stealthiness (threat reduction), determination (willpower), and luck (defense).

GENERAL STRATEGIES

Smaug and the treasures he guards are what define this quest. Smaug is almost the only enemy in this quest, though two versions of him present different challenges. After a round of preparation (stage one), Smaug the Golden is the mostly sleeping dragon guarding the treasures. Whenever the players quest successfully at stage two, Smaug starts to wake up (by getting a progress token), and the first player tries to burgle a treasure by discarding cards that match the type, cost, and/or sphere of a random card from his deck. If the burgle attempt is unsuccessful, Smaug the Golden attacks the first player. If it’s successful, the first player gets one of the five Erebor treasures, but two threat get added to the staging area. Then comes a brilliant design decision: players can decide to stay at stage two for more treasures, facing mounting threat and increased likelihood that Smaug will awake, or can advance to stage three in an attempt to complete the quest and secure whatever treasure they’ve gotten so far. While it seems unthematic to restrict players in the next quest to the treasure discovered before Smaug was killed, it’s a great way to build tension in this quest. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by threat and end up dead because you wanted to try for one more treasure. Read more…

The Three Trials: Hero Review

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It seems to be the way of LOTR LCG that famine is quickly followed by feast. After a long, at times interminable, wait between the Voice of Isengard expansion and the first Adventure Pack of the Ring-maker cycle, we now have quickly been bestowed the second AP, The Three Trials! As always, a new expansion means a look at the player cards contained in this newest expansion, as I keep an eye out for how they expand or add to the card pool. Unlike last time around, when the hero was spoiled in advance, players came into The Three Trials not knowing quite what to expect, other than some speculation based on the cover art. As it turns out, this art is indeed the art for our newest hero: Idraen. She continues a now established history of female FFG-created heroes, adding to the ranks of Eleanor, Beravor, Caldara, and Mirlonde. I have expressed support for this path in the past, and my feelings have not changed one iota. In fact, FFG have really upped the ante this time around by including a full page of story text adding some background flavor to Idraen. This is a great touch and helps to make players feel more connected to a brand new character. Now, I wish that the designers would go back and add a similar story for the other created heroes, although that is undoubtedly just a pipe dream. For now, though, we have an interesting new Dunedain hero to build decks around. Let’s investigate further…
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Dwarrowdelf Campaign: Introduction

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Lately, I’ve been thinking about theme and to what degree a sense of adventure is really built into the play experience. I’ve seen some that have played or tried the game argue that LOTR LCG is nothing more than a glorified puzzle, with little to no theme, or at least the theme is overshadowed by the need to continually build decks out of disparate pieces to beat each scenario. Needless to say, I disagree with this view and feel that this game is rich with theme and great stories that you can talk about long after a particular scenario is over. Of course, a card game like this brings with it some necessary abstraction. After all, we are not playing a Middle Earth simulator or in-depth RPG campaign. So it is perfectly possible for people to bring what they want to it or to experience it in quite different ways, with some perhaps truly encountering the game as merely an exercise in mechanics and solving puzzles. On the other hand, some players will build stories and scenes in their minds as they play, drinking in every last detail, piece of artwork, and word of flavor text as the world of Tolkien opens before them. Personally, I fall somewhere in between. There are certainly times where I find myself simply boiling the game down to X’s and O’s and figuring out my best move step by step. On the other hand, I do have many moments where a certain situation in the game evokes a story or imagery in my head.
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First Age Deck: Strength of Will

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To start off our week’s content, we have a little something for you First Age players out there. I asked players on the First Age page to share any decks that they were particularly proud of, thought were interesting, or just wanted to make available for other players to see for any reason. A reader, Pengolodh, took me up on that offer and here is his deck. The response to First Age has been amazing so far, and it’s gratifying to see people getting so much enjoyment out of it. Read more…

The Dunland Trap: Events Review

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It is time to finish off player card review of The Dunland Trap. It’s hard to believe after the long drought, but the second AP of the Ring-maker cycle, The Three Trials, is due to hit stores just one week from now, on July 24 (this is the U.S. date, at least). That means that before you know it, it will be time to review the player cards of a new AP. It’s likely that this fast pace will continue for the rest of the cycle, which means that these reviews will keep coming fast and furious. Before we get ahead of ourselves though, what do the events of The Dunland Trap have to offer?
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