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Adventuring in the First Age Part 1

by on June 2, 2014

A Great Doom

 

Next week, I will be releasing the fan expansion, First Age, which allows players to take the LOTR LCG mechanics and gameplay they know and love into an earlier time in Middle-earth. Players will have three options for playing First Age: print and play, OCTGN, and CardWarden, which will hopefully give a broad range of players access to these new quests and cards. My overriding goal throughout the creation of this expansion has been a desire to share my passion for the legendary stories in The Silmarillion and to impart each player and encounter card with the the aura, darkness, and wonder of the First Age. I know that some players tend to be a bit skeptical of custom expansions for understandable reasons, and I have worked to uphold the highest quality with the help of proofreaders, playtesters, and card creators. In this article, I hope to spoil a few cards and share a few glimpses into the design process, which I hope will be interesting not only for those who are interested in First Age, but also those players who are intrigued by design in general.

Choice

As a player, I really appreciate encounter cards and quests that provide players with choice. From a gameplay perspective, this adds extra layers of strategy instead of simply being smashed over the head by the game. From a thematic perspective, what is a story and a journey but a series of choices? This is holds even more true for the First Age, where we see mighty characters laid low by the choices they make, and those who are supposed to ostensibly be the “good guys” make the decision to commit unspeakable acts of evil in pursuit of their goals. I have partially represented this aspect of The Silmarillion through the Corruption mechanic, but I also wanted to interweave Corruption with choice. A good example of this is the enemy, Crazed Thrall, from the first scenario, The Isle of Werewolves.

 

Crazed-Thrall-Front-Face

 

This enemy represents a captive and thrall of Sauron/Morgoth, perhaps one that has been driven mad by dark experiments. The players are presented with a choice: destroy this pesky enemy that will attract nastiness as long as he remains in play, or take the time to stop and attempt to reason with, persuade, or even free this poor creature. Doing so of course will delay the heroes’ task, and this can be deadly in this particular quest where players are racing to free their fellows from the pits of Sauron before they are devoured. Which path will you take? It’s up to you, but taking the easy way of death and destruction may pave the way towards a fall into darkness.

Power

Both the villains and heroes of the First Age are more powerful than those of the Third Age, which reflects a general theme of Tolkien, which is the gradual fading of the world over time. The biggest hurdle when initially conceptualizing this expansion was how to reflect this power without breaking the game in terms of either making it too easy or too hard. Initially, I thought that I would simply bump up the stats of heroes, allies, and enemies and call it a day. However, not only was this lacking in creativity, it also made the game harder to balance and would just lead to more math calculations on the part of players for little gain. Instead, I decided to grant First Age heroes an advantage in terms of lower threat cost and stronger abilities. For example, Thingol, often held to be one of the strongest people in Middle-earth during the First Age, as well as one of the most complex, posed an interesting card design challenge. The first version had a much different power, which I ultimately changed to this current version, where Thingol gets to set aside a portion of his deck that can be accessed when enemies engage. This represents Thingol’s construction of Menegroth and store of arms to prepare for invasion. Overall, this is quite a powerful ability to go along with Thingol’s low threat of 7, which is even lower than the First Age standard thanks to his in-built penalty (he doesn’t get along with the House of Feanor!).  Fear not, though, this doesn’t mean you’ll be able to breeze through quests, as the three scenarios in this expansion pose quite a challenge for even experienced players.

Thingol-Front-Face

 

By presenting players with both choice and power that is sometimes double-edged, the First Age expansion aims to impart the flavor of this unique era of Middle-earth.

That’s all for now, but stay tuned for more First Age spoilers as the release date approaches!

 

 

 

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17 Comments
  1. Does “cancel all progress” mean on the current quest, or on locations too?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Good question. It applies to locations too. Literally all progress that would have been place is canceled.

  2. I’m incredibly excited to play through your designs. I love the corruption mechanic and hope that it really captures the rash and often immature decisions that were made in The Silmarillion. Love the disdain between Thingol / Feanor!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks, I’m glad you like corruption!

  3. wehehe permalink

    It looks great !

    I like the idea of playing the powerfull elves of the fist ages. I specially have weakness for Feanor… I always loved this character. Will we have the pleasure to use it as a playable hero?

    On the other hand, you will publish the images directly, or you’ll share the link on a card-printing page (like printerstudio or artscow) ?

    Thank you very much for sharing your work to everybody. (And sorry if they are any mistakes in my writing, I’m catalan)

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! I plan on making PDF versions of all the cards available, so people can print them out and play if they so desire. I’ll probably also share a link for either printerstudio or artscow since I plan on printing out a set for myself anyway.

  4. Looking forward to this! Hope it’ll be easy to get it printed via artscow or similar sites to get a good close match to existing cards.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      More than likely, I’ll be sharing a link to artscow so that people can get them printed out if they want.

  5. Adrian permalink

    Can’t wait to play this. Question…Thingol’s power…do you choose the 10 cards for the deck? Or is it random? Also, do you make another if that is finished?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Good question. I’ve re-worded Thingol a bit to make it clearer, but you will be taking the top 10 cards of your deck to form the separate deck. Once that runs out, there’s no more. Basically, this gives some extra draw to your deck and makes your regular deck smaller.

      • Kjeld permalink

        The revised text on Thingol drastically reduces his power. I remember that the original version you could pick the 10 cards, meaning that I was able to put all the combat response events (like Dark Heart of the Smith or Feint) into this separate deck, when they would come into my hand precisely at the moment of need and no sooner. Now it just accelerates card draw in a more random fashion. I can imagine situations in which, depending on which cards were assigned to the set-aside deck, Thingol’s power could actually hurt you.

        • TalesfromtheCards permalink

          Yeah, I definitely hear you. I like the thematic element of storing weapons for the time of need and strategically having to pick what goes in there. The change was an intentional nerf to stop it from being too overpowered. However, keep in mind that this is still in final playtesting as I try to push it to its logical limits. If I find the game balance remains intact, then I may revert it to the previous version.

      • wehehe permalink

        Maybe if the card just says “Take the top 10 cards of your deck…” it will be absolutely clear.

  6. Adrian permalink

    Hmmm 🙂 he would be much stronger if you could choose
    Hope you’ll choose printer studio for the print, that’s where I plan on doing them. Either way, I don’t mind adjusting them for card printing…it’s the least I can do for such an awesome set.

    P.S. just LOVE the art work, I can only imagine how much you’ve searched.

  7. nwillmott permalink

    I’ve just started getting into LotR LCG. I bought the core set back in 2012, but couldn’t get my head around it, and so lent it to a friend. Took it back 2 weeks ago and can’t believe what I’ve been missing! Your pages have been invaluable to my understanding of the mechanics and I love reading all your articles on deckbuilding and strategy…BUT…

    …The First Age? Oh my god! My wish has come true! I can’t wait to take a look at what you’ve created and I can’t imagine the amount of time this endeavour has taken. Thanks.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! I’m glad you enjoy the site and that you’ve given the game a second chance, it’s well worth it!

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