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5 Things I Wish I Would’ve Known When I Started Playing LOTR LCG

by on January 3, 2013

resource tokens

Let’s face it, The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game can be a very frustrating experience for new players. I remember bashing my brains against the Hill Troll quite a few times when the Core Set first came out, rage quitting over and over again when trying to beat Escape from Dol Guldur solo, and being mushed into a fine paste by Louis, Morris, Rupert, and Stuart during the Conflict at the Carrock scenario. Thankfully, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, this is a game that you get better at the more you play, and nowadays my moments of defeat are tempered with the knowledge that I will eventually beat whatever scenario I’m facing with the right strategy and right deck. This makes difficult quests feel welcome instead of making me want to set my card collection on fire. It reminds me of when I was first learning to play guitar. During that time, figuring out how to get my fingers to stretch or be in the right places at the right times could be incredibly frustrating. Now, after many years of playing, there are still songs or techniques that I find difficult to learn, yet I don’t feel as overwhelmed because I have an understanding based on experience that mastery is just a matter of practice (and I have a toolkit upon which to draw). The same could be said of this game. Therefore, while I would by no means say I’m the best player around (which is a hard thing to measure with this game anyway), there are a few tidbits of wisdom won through experience which I would like to share with those who are new or fairly new to the game to ease your transition and that immediate barrier of frustration. The following is a list of the 5 things I wish I would have known when I first started playing LOTR LCG. For those who are experienced with the game already, please read on as well and see where you agree, disagree, or would like to add to my list.

#5) Some rules are easy to miss at first

We all make mistakes when learning to play a game (or any new activity really), and there is no shame in that. I made plenty in the beginning, and in order to save you that same trouble of figuring out later that you have been misinterpreting rules, here are some commonly made errors. These are based on my own and others’ experiences. They may seem simple in retrospect, but you would be surprised at how often they come up when first learning the game.

– Yes, if you do not commit characters to a quest, the threat in the staging area still applies and it will count as failing the quest for that round.

– Damage from undefended attacks must be placed on heroes. You cannot put the damage on one of your allies instead. For this reason, you should almost never take an undefended attack if you can avoid it. You may think you have available hit points on your heroes to soak it up, but many shadow effects boost the attack strength of enemies and often get nastier if an attack is undefended. There are times where I strategically take an undefended attack, but those moments are rare.

– When revealing cards as part of the set-up, all effects (including treacheries) are applied, if possible.

– Don’t forget that you can always mulligan your starting hand. Knowing when to mulligan or not is a very important part of the game. You should know ahead of time what card or cards you need to have in your initial hand in order to have the best chance of success. If that card or cards is not there, then you should probably mulligan.

– Progress tokens always go on the active location. You almost never are allowed to put them straight onto the quest card if there is an active location (if you are able to do this, a card will tell you so directly). On the other hand, enemy effects that remove progress tokens only do so from the quest card itself, not the active location (again, unless it directly says otherwise).

– When you complete a quest stage, it finishes right then and there, no matter what phase you are in, and you have to move to the next quest stage and resolve its effects immediately. This can hurt you if you are not prepared (see #2 in this list).

– The threat of engaged enemies and the active location does not count towards the total threat during quest resolution.

#4) Know your action windows

This sounds fairly basic, but not understanding exactly when action windows occur and what opportunities they provide is a common mistake that new players (and even those with a few games under their belt) can sometimes make. An action window is when players are allowed to play event cards and take actions. One of the most important action windows happens right after the staging step (when cards are revealed off the encounter deck) and before a quest is resolved. A common mistake of newer players is to play event cards too early, such as at the very beginning of the quest phase. For example, take a card like Astonishing Speed, which boosts the willpower of all Rohan characters by 2.

astonishing speed

You may play this card before you commit characters to the quest, which will allow you to know exactly how much willpower you are committing (including the boost). This is a perfectly valid move. However, you can instead wait to play Astonishing Speed until after you know exactly how much threat is in the staging area and before quest resolution happens. The benefit of this approach is that if you have made what you judge to be an acceptable amount of progress, you can save Astonishing Speed for an instance when you really need to use it. In general, it is better to play such global buffing cards only when you know you need to use them, rather than play them blindly in the hopes that they will be necessary (of course, in some instances it will be obvious that you need to play them no matter what). This particular action window is also important for such cards as Radagast’s Cunning or Secret Paths, which allow you to cancel the threat of an enemy or location respectively for the duration of a phase. There is absolutely no benefit to playing these at the beginning of the quest phase when you don’t know what the highest threat will be. Instead wait until the action window right before quest resolution, and then you can use these cards to take out what you now know to be the worst enemy or location in terms of threat.

Another quirk to be aware of is that there is an action window at the end of the refresh phase (after characters have readied) but before the round ends. This is usually not as important a window but it is something that new players often miss. So, for example, you can use this window to exhaust a readied Gandalf to play Word of Command (which requires you to exhaust an Istari character to pick out one card from your deck) right before he pops out of play. Study the action window chart at the back of the rulebook until you know it by heart. Know that there are certain times during the round (like most of the combat phase and planning) where you can take actions at will.

*Addendum: On the issue of action windows, the provided chart at the back of the rulebook is a pretty good resource, but I find it easiest to state things in terms of when you can’t take actions. The following instances are when you cannot take player actions (and keep in mind you can only play ally and attachments cards during the planning phase, in the specified player order):

– While players are placing resources and drawing cards (usually doesn’t come into play)

– While you are drawing encounter cards from the deck during staging (you have action windows before and after)

– While you are calculating quest resolution (but you have a convenient action window right before that you can use)

– While you are traveling to a location (you have action windows before and after the actual act of traveling)

– While you are optionally engaging enemies (you have action windows before and after)

– While engagement checks are being made (you have action windows before and after)

– While shadow cards are being dealt (you have action windows before and after)

– While you refresh all cards, raise threat by 1, and pass the first player token (you have action windows before and after, including right before the round officially ends)

Everything else is fair game for you to take actions!

#3) Don’t always chump block

The quintessential chump blocker

The quintessential chump blocker

One of the first strategies that players discover in this game is to sacrifice cheap, low-powered allies in order to soak up enemy attacks. This is no doubt a useful strategy as it keeps your more powerful heroes readied and avoids the danger that a nasty shadow effect might tear through one of your defending hero’s defense and hit points and kill them. It is a viable and useful approach no matter how long you have been playing the game, with some variation as to how much particular players employ chump blockers. My word of advice though is not to let this strategy become an automatic reflex. One of the keys to winning most scenarios is to build up a pool of allies for questing and combat in order to gain a numbers advantage over the encounter deck, and if you are constantly sacrificing these allies, then you will forever be working your way back up from scratch. Furthermore, a chump blocker used now is one that you can’t use later when you may really need it. Granted, I have won quite a few games using a limited number of allies and mostly just my heroes, but it is better to get in the habit of thinking strategically about when to sacrifice and when to use a hero to defend. You should always have one hero as a dedicated defender, and arm them with attachments to limit the dangers of defending (Burning Brand, Dunedain Warning, Citadel Plate, etc.). Great natural candidates are any hero with a starting defense of 2 or more (3 or 4 is best).

That being said, this game is all about calculated, managed risk and defending is the epitome of this. If you do not feel confident that a hero may survive a given attack because of known shadow effects (attack boosts for the enemy are the most common danger), and you have no possible way to cancel potential effects, then by all means throw that ally to the wargs! However, the point I’m trying to  convey is that you need to build up the capability of your heroes to absorb attacks, so that you can build up enough of a base of allies to be victorious. If you can throw an Unexpected Courage or Fast Hitch on your hero defender, so much the better as they will be able to handle multiple attacks per round. To sum up, let me put it this way, that flimsy West Road Traveller may make a tempting chump blocker, but then you have lost 2 willpower every round for the rest of the game. If you can prevent that for an acceptable level of risk, do so.

#2) Pace yourself

When I first started playing this game, I wanted to put as many cards into play each turn as possible, and use up as much of my resources as I could. LOTR LCG is a bit scary in that you never know what will come off the encounter deck in a particular round (usually), and the game can swing in dramatic ways. It is tempting to just put everything out on the table whenever you are able to in the hopes that this will keep you safe. Resist that urge. It is sometimes better to play absolutely nothing even when you have available resources and playable cards, if it means that you will be able to save up for a combo or better card later. The simplest example is to imagine that you have only one Leadership character, a Dunedain Warning in hand that costs 1 resource, and a Steward of Gondor that costs 2 resources. You can play that Dunedain Warning to increase one of your hero’s defense by 1 for the whole game, definitely a good thing, but that choice means you will be unable to play the Steward of Gondor the following turn. In most cases, it is wiser to hold off on playing the Warning and save up for the Steward of Gondor, which will give you a powerful resource advantage for the rest of the game (and allow you to play the Warning on that same turn if you so choose). This is a simple example, but it does illustrate my point because the reality of the game puts us in the position of making difficult choices. What if a nasty enemy comes up on the turn you are saving up for the Steward, you have no allies in play as blockers, and you find yourself really needing that extra point of defense from the Dunedain Warning this turn? That is always a possibility, and your job is to have a contingency plan in place or be comfortable with an acceptable level of risk in order to build a stronger basis for victory. Another situation is that you may have a few cards in your hand that are playable but not immediately useful, in which case I advise you to save your resources. Maybe you will draw a strong 3, 4, or 5 cost card on your next turn and you will be glad you have the resources to immediately play it.

Pacing also applies to how fast you progress through quest stages. The immediate impulse is to simply barrel as quickly as possible through each quest stage. This is necessary and valuable in some scenarios. In other scenarios, you will jump straight into your own demise if you do this. Conflict at the Carrock comes to mind, where the powerful trolls will rush you before you are ready if you progress too fast. Another example is the first quest of the Khazad-Dum box, Into the Pit, where on the third stage heroes do not gain resources. If you are not prepared for that lack of resources and for the final push, you may suffer greatly. Knowing when to build your power and when to move ahead as fast as possible is a key skill to develop.

#1) All that glitters is not gold… (aka Learn to appreciate the less flashy cards)

Certain cards in this game immediately jump out at you as powerful when you first encounter them: Steward of Gondor, Unexpected Courage, A Test of Will, etc. Others may appear to be not quite as useful or even look quite useless at first glance. Looks can be deceiving, however, and those seemingly pointless cards can be your best friends in the long run. I definitely fell victim at first to the tendency to overlook cards that seemed weak at first glance, and immediately dismissed some that I now swear by. Certain cards have very subtle effects that may be easy to ignore because they will not win you the game by themselves. However, the consistent use of several such cards throughout the course of a game may in fact win you the game. Radagast’s Cunning and Secret Paths are two cards that you will see me mention in this blog a lot as they are two cards that I include in almost every deck that includes Lore. Radagast’s Cunning allows you to cancel the threat of one enemy in the staging area during questing, while Secret Paths does the same thing for a location of your choice.

Rabbit sleigh not included

Rabbit sleigh not included

When I first got the game, I hardly ever used these two cards other than the first few games when I was trying everything. On the face of it, these two cards are not that powerful, being limited to a one-time use and merely canceling the threat of a location/enemy, not disposing of it permanently. But take another look and they are very cheap, costing only 1 resource token, can be played after staging since they are events (meaning you can pick out the highest threat location/enemy), and essentially give you the equivalent of an extra 2-5 willpower for questing (depending on what you can cancel in the staging area). You can’t ever miss on them because if nothing worth canceling comes up, then simply hold onto these cards for another turn. Another example of an under-appreciated card is Strider’s Path, which for a cost of 1 allows you to travel to a location as soon as it is revealed (without resolving the travel effect). At first glance, this may seem useful only for ignoring travel effects, which is a fairly hit-or-miss proposition and probably not worthy of inclusion in a deck in place of other cards. However, the real value of this card is in clearing a potentially high-threat location out of the staging area before the quest resolves. Use of these three cards could allow you to progress much more quickly through quest stages (when appropriate), meaning you will be on your way to victory while another deck is getting swamped with enemies, locations, and treacheries.

You will notice that Lore has a lot of these subtle-yet-powerful cards, and it is the sphere that is perhaps most low-key in its effects (with Tactics being the most straightforward). However, this phenomenon is not limited to Lore. A recent Spirit card, A Watchful Peace, provides another illustration of this concept. It costs only 1 and allows you to put a location that leaves play back on top of the encounter deck. Someone might ask, why the heck would you want to do that? Besides regaining the benefits of a location that gives you some kind of positive effect, there are three other reasons even if the location is negative: 1) it allows you to know at least 1 of the cards that will come up next round during staging (caveat: remember this is true only if there will be no combat on the round this card is played, as shadow cards dealt that round will draw this location first), 2) it means that you are replacing a potential enemy or treachery with a location (generally locations are the least nasty of the 3 types, but again there must be no combat that round for this to work), and 3) it can guarantee that if there is combat during the round it is played that at least one of the shadow cards will be harmless (if that location has no shadow effects). While I am not saying this is the most powerful card effect in the game, you will become a much better player once you understand these core tenets:

* The more you know what will come off the encounter deck, the better prepared you will be. Put another way, usually the devil you know is always better than the unknown in this game (in that you won’t be caught surprised).

* Learning how to manage the player deck will make you a good player. Learning how to manage the encounter deck will make you a great player. Cards that do the former will leap out at you. Cards that do the latter will often appear less glamorous, but don’t shortchange them.


I hope new players have found this article useful. I hope veteran players will contribute their own insights and bits of wisdom in the comments below for newer players (and everyone) to benefit from.


  1. This was an excellent article. I am relatively new and while I’ve learned some of these things the hard way I learned some great tips. One of the most confusing aspects of this game, for me anyway, is deck building. Are you planning to tackle that in the future? An article like this one, covering some principles and examples, would be appreciated by the newcomer like me! Anyway, great job on this article.

  2. Thanks Jerry. I will doing a Deck Building 101 series in the near future, so keep an eye out for that. For now, you can take a look at the two deck spotlight articles I’ve posted (Rohan and Eagles), to get some idea of how I go about building decks. I also don’t hesitate to point you in the direction of a few articles about deck building from CardGameDB: Unfortunately, it looks like the series hasn’t been continued, but there are some good insights there.

    • Thanks for the resources and I look forward to your series. I’ll check out your other posts as well.

  3. RollingSherman permalink

    This article was great and I have a feeling it is going to save me a lot of pain. I just got the core set for Christmas and have only played one game so far, so I know I have a lot of mistakes in my future. I am looking forward to my content on here and this has become one of my favorite sources of info for the game. Thanks!

  4. Thaddeus permalink

    Nice article.
    In regard to #4: Astonishing Speed only lasts for the Phase. To get the benefit for Questing, you actually need to wait until after staging is complete.

    A Watchful Peace should pair well with the upcoming Hobbit-themed card that makes an enemy attack another enemy if it doesn’t have a Shadow Effect.

  5. Let me clarify #4 a bit. There are two main action windows during the Quest Phase (there is also an action window after quest resolution, but this is not important for our purposes here): 1) players can take actions while committing characters to the quest, 2) they can take actions after staging. With a card like Astonishing Speed, playing it during either window will give you the benefit for the whole phase (meaning it will apply during quest resolution), and either window is a valid time to play it. When I first started playing the game, I mostly made use of the first action window, and what I want to point out to newer players is that generally the second action window after staging is the better one to use as you have a better idea of what you are facing at that point.

  6. @Thaddeus: That is a good combo: Watchful Peace + Small Target (I believe that’s what that Hobbit-themed card is called), I hadn’t thought of that.

  7. mekros permalink

    Great article man. The timing was perfect. I had just finish building a heavy Tatics deck to accompany the Questing Rohans with some alterations. Thinking a play test against PtM would be fun. Nope. Dude, I got my @$$ handed to me. TWICE!! I was so disappointed. It hurt. However, I learned a lot. Then, after reading your always interesting insight, I incorporated a whole lot more Lore Sphere for some control. Learning how to mess with the encounter deck is my main area of focus currently. Also learning how to defended with my heroes, mainly Boromir. He’s a beast.

    Thanks man. Once again you have imparted great wisdom.


    • Glad it was helpful. Passage Through Mirkwood, despite being the “easy” quest, can still slap you hard if the wrong cards come up. One of the fun things about this game is experimenting and how your thoughts about cards and spheres change over time. Its hard to believe, but once upon a time, Lore was my least favorite sphere, now I swear by it!

      • Thaddeus permalink

        Yeah, I still play Passage Through Mirkwood a lot. Mostly because it’s the best scenario for teaching the game, as it doesn’t have a lot of complicated quirks and isn’t overwhelmingly hard. I’ll also use it to help “test drive” a deck idea; if the deck struggles with Passage through Mirkwood then it goes to the chopping block.

  8. Great article, I especially appreciate your mention of under-utilized and overlooked cards. The more high-threat enemies and locations we get in the new scenarios, the more valuable cards like Radagast’s Cunning, Strider’s Path and Secret Paths become.

    You’ve help inspire me to start my own Lord of the Rings LCG blog:

    Please give it a look at tell me what you think.

  9. chlorine permalink

    Thanks for this very interesting articles, and all the others. Please keep up with the good work!

    I have a question about actions during the quest phase. I’m not sure I understand what you mean at some points. The turn sequence in the rule book lists the following for the quest phase:
    – commit characters to quest
    – reveal encounter deck cards
    – player actions
    – resolve questing
    – player actions

    So it seems to me that it is not possible to make actions _during the quest phase_ before the encounter deck cards are revealed? So in fact, cards such as astonishing speed can _only_ be played after the encounter cards are revealed, and not before or after at choice, as you seem to say if I understand correctly?

    This is an important distinction to me atm because I’m wondering if I can use Sneak Attack to put Gandalf into play during the quest phase. If I understand correctly the action sequence, I _can_ put him into play but after I have committed characters to the quest (and revealed encounter cards), so I cannot commit him to the quest, which is a shame 😦
    (but then I guess this card is called Sneak Attack and not Sneak Questing for a reason…)

    • Great question. This is something that can be a bit confusing, which is why I wanted to mention the issue of action windows in this article. What makes the turn sequence guide in the rulebook a bit misleading is that it says “player actions” at some points, making it seem like these are the only times you have action windows. However, the key is in the color coding. Any step that is coded green means that, according to the rulebook, “Any players can take actions generally, or between the game steps stated in the rules.” Since the step of players committing characters to the quest is green, this allows players to take player actions during this time. In fact, only the steps that are coded red prevent player actions. The reason why it says “player actions” in some parts is just that those are times where nothing else is happening, but you still have the opportunity to take actions if you want. For peace of mind, this is further confirmed on pg.14 of the rulebook regarding the quest phase: “This phase is broken into three steps: 1) commit characters, 2) staging, and 3) quest resolution. Players have the opportunity to take actions and play event cards at the end of the each step.” So that means feel free to Sneak Quest Gandalf in as much as you want! I’m glad you asked for clarification about this, as others may have been wondering the same thing.

      • chlorine permalink

        Thank you very much for the quick and helpful reply! 🙂
        I can’t believe I missed the explanations for the red and green steps in the turn sequence!
        It is good to have some more explanations than these, though, because I find the rulebook confusing on this topic. As I understand it “Players can take actions generally” is somewhat contradictory with “Players have the opportunity to take actions and play event cards at the end of the each step.”

        Anyway, I’m still a fairly new player so I guess everything will make more and more sense as I go along. Now on to find a way to beat Journey down the Anduin!

      • However, if Gandalf is sneak attacking at the end of the 1) commit character part, we still don’t know what cards will come up. However, if we sneak attack before 3) quest resolution or after 2) staging, he won’t be able to commit to the quest… (And because of sneak attack, he’ll return to the hand just after the quest resolving.) What do you think?

        • TalesfromtheCards permalink

          Correct. When sneaking Gandalf in, you either have to do it during the commit characters step, when you won’t know what will come up, or after staging, when he won’t be able to commit to the quest. Sneaking Gandalf in after staging is thus only useful if you want to use his 4 damage to take out an enemy that was revealed during staging to take its threat out before quest resolution.

  10. Oh yeah, there is a lot to learn when you start. Generally, one of the first things new players need to realize is that this game is different and needs more investment than most games to give satisfaction. Get to know quests, take time to build your deck and don’t give up, allow yourself to lose in order to make victories sweeter.

  11. Amba permalink

    Really enjoy this site and your comments.

    But i have to make sure i understand you right.

    “- Yes, if you do not commit characters to a quest, the threat in the staging area still applies and it will count as failing the quest for that round.”

    Do you actually mean by that you have to raise your threat level anytime you do not commit any characters to a quest? This sounds a little too tough to me. I tried to find this in the german and english rulebook but did not succeed.(If its there please point out to me)

    Or do you want to emphasize that if you do not commit anybody to the quest, the quest is failed, so if e.g. in terms of Card 101(Core Set) Dungeon Jailor being in the game, his action is to be triggered,while the threat level remains untouched.

    Thanks for a reply

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks for reading! You would both raise your threat level and count as failing the quest. You always follow all the steps of the quest phase, no matter how many characters you commit or even if you commit none at all. So that means after making your choice about committing characters, you move onto staging, and then quest resolution (adding up willpower vs. threat in the staging area). If you committed no characters, your willpower counts as 0 for the purpose of quest resolution. This does make things tougher, but also is a core part of the game as you always have to worry about managing the threat in the staging area.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Here’s a link to the official FAQ which addresses this question (along with many others):

      Check out page 6 for the section that addresses this particular issue

      • Amba permalink

        Thanks for the quick reply.

        This truely makes the game a lot harder. We played accordingly for a while today. I played a true spirit deck in order to be able to face all the threat in every round but it is very hard to do anything else. Since i had a teammate, he was able to focus on other stuff, while i took care of the threat. But i can hardly imagine how it is like e.g. to play solo with a straight tactics deck. Your heroes have very low willpower and almost all your allies dont have any.

        So in case there are 2-3 Locations in the game you dont have any chance to beat that except with the use of legolas which would take forever. Even if you commited to a quest you per se would not be able to succed in it.
        Hereby i do not doubt your comment about the rule, i*m just astonished how it commits to game balance. Looks to me that it might be impossible to play most of the missions (which dont focus on fighting) without the use of Eowyn in your deck or your teammates.


        • Thaddeus permalink

          The vast majority of quests cannot be done in solo play with a mono-sphere Tactics deck. I’ve seen some sight this as a weakness of the game, but I rather strongly disagree. Solo play with mono Tactics is pretty specific and the game would lose a lot of flavor if the spheres were functionally interchangeable.

          However, the Heirs of Numenor quests are a major change in that they have quest stages where in questing is done with Attack or Defense instead of Willpower. I’ve done well with a mono sphere tactics deck against those.

  12. Amba permalink

    Well, seeing all this from your perspective does make sense. I just always thought for balance reasons it would be faire if you have equal chance to finish any quest with each sphere, but it does make it more interesting if you have to sort of ponder on it. We didnt reach the heirs yet, wanted to finish the regular game and khazad-first. But it turns out to be harder than expected, which is also very much fun 🙂
    Another question:
    As far as i understood youre able to adjust your decks with all the cards included in the scenario packs and expansion sets. How about the cards in the hobbit expansions. Are they includable too? There is another instance of gandalf in it for example. Could i use both version of the card in one deck?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Almost all of the cards in the hobbit expansions are fair game to include in decks that you are using against non-hobbit scenarios. The only exceptions are the Bilbo Baggins hero card(s) that come with the expansions, and the special treasure cards that are part of the expansions as well. For Gandalf, you can include both copies in one deck, though technically the “tournament” deck-building rules state that you can only have 3 copies of a card “by title”, so you could only include 3 copies total of any version of Gandalf. The other restriction is that since Gandalf is unique, you could only have one version out on the table at a time.

  13. Brian H. permalink

    Excellent material! Thanks very much for your clarifications and insights. I’ve read a number of your blog entries today. I will definitely be reading the rest and following along.

    I purchased the core set this weekend and have been playing through the provided, mono-themed decks against the Mirkwood scenario to learn about the cards. I can see I’m going to need more balance for regular success, and am looking forward to your Deck Building 101 articles.

    I have a games group with three regular members. To start, will two sets be enough to build three reasonable decks?

    If the other members like the game, we will likely purchase some expansions. I see your recommendations in the Buying Guide. Thanks again for the valuable advice!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks for reading! I think two sets should give you a good start, and then you can go from there depending on how your group likes it. Sounds like you have a good plan and have fun!

  14. Gobliin permalink

    Great tips.

  15. rob h. permalink

    very cool article and blog! i wanted to buy the core set, but i have been hearing people say you really should buy a few more card sets or expansions to really enjoy the game. so let me ask everyone; what should i buy with the lotr lcg core set? at my board gaming group a few guys were playing this game and they felt like the thorin an his “kin” (family of dwarves) make the game easier an a little more fun. again what should i buy with the core set…. i have no idea. thanks in advance.

    • Thaddeus permalink

      I’d probably jump in with the most current stuff. Core Set + Heirs of Numenor deluxe expansion and the current Adventure Packs. The first two, The Steward’s Fear and The Druadan Forest, are out now. (Although, The Druadan Forest has some lack-luster player cards and is a tough quest, maybe skip that one if money is tight.) If there are particular characters or races from Middle-Earth that you are interested in, then some other specific recommendations could be made.

  16. chris permalink

    Great article, i was wondering if you can kill an enemy whilst in defense mode. In the combat phase when an enemy attacks you. Or can you only kill an enemy when you attack the enemy in the combat phase?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Normally, you can only kill an enemy after it attacks, when players have a chance to declare attackers and resolve these attacks. There are certain effects that allow you attack enemies outside this step, such as Quick Attack, which you can use to attack and possibly destroy an enemy before it ever attacks you. There are also effects that allow you to deal damage when you are defending an enemy attack. The Gondorian Spearman, for example, deals 1 damage whenever it defends. If this is enough to destroy an enemy, then its attack never resolves. Note that if this occurs, then the shadow effect it was dealt has no effect either.

  17. Jonny permalink

    This is probably a stupid question…but no-one seems to be able to answer it….right say you have 4 enemies that you must engage…and you have 2 hero cards and an ally…then you declare all your heros and allies as defenders (thats 3) then you have one enemy card left over…do you declare that as redundant or do you declare it an undefended attack?

    So like its 3 against 4…

    I found myself in a situation fighting over the odds and was obliterated calling undefended attacks!

    Please help…

    Great Article by the way…very appreciated!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! Hi Jonny, in that situation, you have to take the last attack undefended. Managing your characters and actions is therefore one of the biggest aspects of this game.

  18. Francesco permalink

    Thanks for this great post. Very clear and very informed! For myself, I thought I had understood the system of action windows, but now I have a serious doubt.
    Say I am playing with one or more other players. The quest-reveal stage is red, so it cannot be interrupted by actions. Encounter cards are drawn continuously, one per player, and each “When revealed” effect is resolved immediately, before the next card is revealed. But that seems to mean that if I have e.g. “A Test of Will” in hand I cannot play it to cancel the “When revealed” effect of the first card, but only of the last one… Is that correct?
    I have never played it like that, I must admit…

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks Francesco. To answer your question, the action windows only restrict cards with the “action” word on it. By contrast, a card like “A Test of Will” has “response” on it, which means it can be played whenever the condition on the card is triggered (in the case of A Test of Will, its condition is whenever a card with a “when revealed” effect is revealed). Responses allow you to play cards even when there is no action window, as long as the condition for the response has been met. Hope that helps!

      • Francesco permalink

        Thanks for your answer! That solves my doubts completely. Indeed, I discussed the point a bit with my fellows players and we came to the same conclusions. My error was that I’d always more or less assumed that playing an event card from my hand was itself an “action”. I never payed any attention to the difference between Events with the Action keyword and Events/Responses. Now it makes perfect sense, but perhaps the topic should be made a little more clear in the Rule Book or have a dedicated FAQ…

  19. My friend and I played the first quest maaany months ago just to check out the game (I buy games even though I don’t have enough friends/time to play them for fear of them going out of print and not being able to find them when I do have the resources to enjoy them) after I first bought it. I feel that I remember it got a little bumpy but we beat it. Tonight we revisited it because we had completely forgotten everything about the game. We got demolished. We used the pre-built tactics and lore decks. We ended up having so many locations that we couldn’t get enough willpower when questing to move forward. My friend’s Legolas plus that blade attachment to get a few progress tokens helped occasionally but not enough before our threat was too high, causing us to lose.

    So anyways. Was a bit of a bummer. I don’t expect to win on the first go around with games or anything like that. But I felt like a quest with a difficulty rating of 1 shouldn’t have been such a hopeless endeavour

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Unfortunately, the pre-built decks aren’t very good, and that combination of mono-lore and mono-tactics will tend to have a lot of trouble generating enough willpower to advance. I suggest trying mono-spirit and mono-leadership together instead as a starting point. From there, you should try to do some basic custom decks. Combine two of the starter decks and remove the cards that seem least useful to you to get down to 40 or 50. Take a glance through my Core Set deck building article and Beorn’s Path over at Hopefully, these tips will help you out. Just know that your experience is fairly typical and this game has a fairly steep learning curve. It does get easier with experience though.Good luck!

  20. honeyralmond permalink

    One other rule mistake that I’ve seen people on BGG make: They count the threat of engaged enemies and the active location towards the threat they need to handle during quest resolution. This makes the game harder than it already is, and can be a major source of frustration.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s definitely a good one! I’ll add a note to this article here to help players avoid making this mistake.

  21. Efrén permalink

    Thank you so much for this article! 😀 IT’s very useful and exhaustive. A real help. I am starting to play and can’t help the sensation it’s terribly difficult to win! I will keep on trying and apply your advices 🙂 Thanks! Great blog!

  22. Penegolodh permalink

    When I first got back into playing, I took a look at this article and discovered a few things I’d been playing incorrectly! Thanks for the tips and the blog. If you’re looking at this, happy two-year anniversary!

  23. Hi! Thanks again for a great article. One quibble, though:

    “On the other hand, enemy effects that remove progress tokens only do so from the quest card itself, not the active location (again, unless it directly says otherwise).”

    This seems to be wrong; the official FAQ says:

    “(1.27) Bypass the active location The only time an active location does not act as a buffer for progress to be placed on a quest is when card text specifically instructs the players to “bypass” the active location.”

    So effects that remove progress tokens from an active quest will remove them from the active location first.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      It’s not necessarily the most intuitive, but the particular case of removing progress is addressed in the FAQ:

      “(1.05) Removing Progress Tokens from Quests
      When a card effect removes progress tokens from a
      quest or quest card, the effect applies specifically to the
      quest card, and never to the active location.”

      • But then 1.27 says that that should only happen when the card specifically instructs players to “bypass” the active location.

        Let’s take an example. The text for Misty Mountain Goblins is:

        “Forced: After Mist Mountain Goblins attacks, remove one progress token from the current quest.”

        Going by 1.05, that would always remove progress from the quest. Going by 1.27, that wording doesn’t specifically instruct players to “bypass” the active location, so that would remove progress from the active location first.

        I’m confused.

  24. Really enjoy your blog here! Just bought the Core Set and Treason of Saruman this week. I have a quick newbie question for you as well. When deck-building, can you include “0” cost cards for a sphere from which you have no heroes? In other words, could I include a “0” cost Tactics event in a Leadership & Lore deck? I can’t find anything that will tell me whether you just have to have the resources from that sphere to play it, or if you also need a hero from that sphere to play the card.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Hi David. You can include “0” cost cards for a sphere from which you have no heroes, but you can’t play them. In order to play a card of any cost from a sphere, including “0” cost, you have to have a resource match, meaning a hero that matches that sphere.

  25. rotkrox1521 permalink

    Hi, great article and great blog! I now realize I played my 1st game almost completely wrong… I have a question about actions taken during the refresh phase. If I were to exhaust a character or attachment during the refresh phase, does he/she then remain exhausted for the next round, starting with the resource phase?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Correct. Readying happens at the beginning of the refresh phase, before the action window for that phase, so any characters exhausted during that window will be exhausted for the next round.

      • honey.r.almond permalink

        That being said, there is an action window at the end of the Combat phase, right before the Refresh phase, so you could play your action then.

  26. – Yes, if you do not commit characters to a quest, the threat in the staging area still applies and it will count as failing the quest for that round.

    OMG that makes such a big difference. I just got the game today and tried out a solo match. Once I got to the final quest stage (which had a 0) and had only locations out all I could think of was, “this seem easy, why would I bother questing or traveling, whatever” and thought the game seemed to take a pretty easy turn.

    As someone with dreams of their own LCG-ish style game someday FF rulebooks have given me a lot of lessons of what not to do (like learn which things are easy for players to overlook and then make sure you emphasize them more than once).

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Glad the article was useful for you! I think the newer LCG’s have taken a better approach by splitting the rules into a “learn to play” guide and then a comprehensive “rules reference”.

  27. Patrick Wullaert permalink

    Hi there, and thanks a lot for all the valuable information you offer here. I’m a relatively new player, having tried only solo play so far. Some scenarios feel very hard that way and I’d like to have a go at them two-handed. I started today, but there’s a few things I’m puzzled about :
    – when a card, e.g. an event card, you’ve played as the first player targets all cards of a certain type *in play*, does *in play* then mean just the current first player’s cards, or are all players’ cards affected ?
    – when nothing like ‘in play’ is mentioned, e.g. Leadership Boromir’s effect (+1 attack for Gondor allies), is this applied to all cards, including those of other players ?
    I’d be most grateful for some elaboration on this.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      In both cases, such effects apply to all such cards that are in play. If an effect only applies to your cards/allies, it will say something like “allies you control” or “attachments you control”.

      • Patrick Wullaert permalink

        Many thanks for the clarification ! I really appreciate it. Many things I’ve learned already from your blog. It’s a real treasure trove for the starting player as well as – I’m sure – the much more experienced. Looking forward to reading the many articles and comments I didn’t get to yet.

  28. I think you should add one more instance to list when you cannot take player actions: when you are commiting characters to the quest. There is only action window before and after that. Am I right?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      You are correct. All characters are committed by a player simultaneously. You can take actions just before and after committing characters, however.

  29. George permalink

    Hello! First of all, congrats on the great work! It’s super-impressive and helpful. I recently picked up the core set with my gf, and needless to say, we are hooked! In the spirit of “stupid starter mistakes” these are couple of ours, hope they can help someone else out:

    1) Allies and attachments can ONLY BE PLAYED during SETUP. Not after.

    2) Players can optionally engage MAXIMUM ONE ENEMY per round. Everybody else has to go through normal engagement checks.

    I know they are obvious in the rules, but we missed them.

    Keep up the good work!

  30. ‘Mulligan’

    You’ve used this word several times across the website and I really have no idea what it means. I’ve looked in OED and found the following definitions, none of which really seem to make sense in this context:

    1. N. Amer. 1. Also more fully mulligan stew. A stew made from odds and ends of food. Also fig.: a mixture, jumble, hotchpotch
    2. Originally: a railway carriage which transports food to workers. Later: a railway carriage which transports workers to and from work.
    2. Golf colloq. An extra stroke allowed after a poor shot (esp. a tee-shot) in a friendly game, not counted on the score card.

    If someone could help explain this word and the way it’s being used here to me that would be really appreciated. I assume it’s a bit of jargon that used fairly commonly in CCG/LCG circles.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Hi Lee. I guess the dictionary isn’t up on its card game definitions! To answer your question, a mulligan in a card game like this basically refers to a “second chance” to draw your opening hand. In some games, this may take the form of putting back some cards and drawing new ones to replace them. In LOTR LCG, when you “take a mulligan” on your opening hand, that means you shuffle the 6 cards in your opening hand back into your deck, and draw a new set of 6. Basically, this helps compensate for drawing a really bad opening hand.

      • Thaddeus permalink

        It’s based on the golf term. It essentially means getting a “do over”. The LotR LCG is something of a rarity in that it has “taking a mulligan on your opening hand” as an official game rule.

  31. Thanks both for your explanations. Being able to officially redraw the cards once is certainly an interesting official rule!

    I’m really enjoying exploring your site and learning a lot about the game – thanks for all your effort and hard work, it’s a brilliant resource.

  32. New game owner experiencing that frustration you mentioned. Thank you so much for this write-up!

  33. Johnny McRae permalink

    Loving this blog and is a great resource for newbies just getting into this (cant believe it took me 7 years…) Anyways, I know this question doesnt really pertain to this article (maybe #5 easy rules to miss) but was hoping you could shed some light. Taking the scenario ‘Passage through Mirkwood’ for example…why does the encounter icon have a Tree icon in the ring and the other two: spider, orc smaller next to it. And when you flip it over there is only the Tree. Do I play all 3 in the encounter deck or just the Tree encounters?

    Cant seem to find any answer on the rulebook or BGG. Thanks!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Hey Johnny, better later than never getting into this great game! And thanks for reading the blog. You use all three encounter sets that are shown. The big Tree icon just represents the icon for the overall quest, and the other icons represent the other encounter sets you should include for that quest. Hope this helps!

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