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Gen Con 2014 Wrap-up

by on August 19, 2014

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For the second year in a row, I made the pilgrimage to Indianapolis to attend Gen Con 2014, the biggest gaming convention around. Despite being sick as a dog the last two days of the Con and despite being stuck in the airport an extra night thanks to a cancelled flight, I still had a blast, which I suppose is a testament to the event. It is a bit strange to say that I go to Gen Con each year all for essentially one game: LOTR LCG, but this is also an accurate statement. Partially, I go to pick up the new releases, and hear the announcements about upcoming expansions. However, the main draw is the community itself. Whether it’s hanging out with my Grey Company co-hosts in person, a true fellowship if there ever was one, sharing jokes with the fine folks over at Cardboard of the Rings, or discussing all kinds of topics with other members of the LOTR LCG community, there’s really nothing quite like it. Here I’ll try to share some of the LOTR-centric highlights (and lowlights) of Gen Con 2014.

The Road Darkens

I’ll get the depressing part out of the way first. Yes, The Road Darkens was not at Gen Con 2014. We all expected it to be there, because generally Gen Con is a place for big box releases, and The Black Riders came out at last year’s Con. However, the stars did not align properly to bring The Road Darkens into the waiting arms of players. While myself and the rest of The Grey Company were obviously disappointed, especially after pre-planning some thematic Fellowship decks to use against the scenarios, we needed to pick ourselves up quickly and make sure to make the most of what was there. All I will say on the subject is that I’m sure everyone involved was disappointed not to have The Road Darkens at Gen Con, and although we will have to wait a bit longer, our patience shall surely be rewarded soon enough. I personally can’t wait to try out some Gandalf decks. You cannot pass!

Trouble in Tharbad [Spoilers]

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The one new release for The Lord of the Rings: The Card game at Gen Con 2014 was the Trouble in Tharbad Adventure Pack. The cards in this pack had been spoiled on CardGameDB and on FFG’s own site earlier in the week, so there weren’t any surprises here. However, I did get a chance to play this scenario in a 4-player game, which was enough to get a sampling of the quest, but not enough to form a solid opinion on it. This scenario does continue the trend, seen in The Dunland Trap and The Three Trials, of having innovative ways of advancing to the next quest stage or completing the game. In this case, the first stage has players exchange progress tokens for threat reduction, with players only being able to advance when all have had their threat reduced to 0! This certainly hits the right thematic note in terms of representing the heroes trying to shake pursuit and combines with an interesting timed effect that actually lowers the threat elimination level down from 50. The Core Set rulebook teased that the threat elimination level could be altered at some point, but this is the first chance to see that actually happen in a quest. I also really enjoyed the chance to explore a (ruined) city, rather than yet another wilderness setting. Trouble in Tharbad also is a quest where the accompanying hero, Haldir of Lorien, can actually do quite well in the scenario, and I was able to use  him to good effect to remove enemies from the staging area or to preemptively destroy foes engaged with other players. All in all, we were able to defeat the quest on our first attempt, suggesting that it is perhaps on the easier side of the equation, although one game isn’t a big enough sample size to say this with any certainty, and I need to try it out solo soon as well.

The Old Forest [Spoilers]

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Did I say that Trouble in Tharbad was the only new release for LOTR LCG at Gen Con? That isn’t quite accurate, as Gen Con is a unique and special time for the game as each year we get a special quest that is designed just for the convention. The tradition began with Massing at Osgiliath, continued with Battle of Lake-town and The Stone of Erech, and found a new addition this year with The Old Forest. This latter scenario adds a new twist from the previous year’s creations in that it is actually designed to fit within the Campaign Mode of the Lord of the Rings Saga Expansions, fitting between Shadow of the Past and A Knife in the Dark, and set to receive a follow-up in October’s Fellowship event. Still, The Old Forest had a reputation to uphold as Gen Con’s scenarios are notorious for their difficulty…

My first encounter with The Old Forest was at the Cardboard of the Rings listener event. In a 4-player game, we took a set of decks that was not designed with anything particular in mind and did quite well until we reached the final stage, where we were quickly stomped into the dirt of the forest by Old Man Willow. This quest is a location-heavy scenario, to a greater extent than we have seen recently. Upon hearing that this year’s Gen Con quest would be based on the Hobbits’ encounter with the Old Forest, I speculated that it would be filled with locations and might focus on replicating the heroes getting lost in some way. Unfortunately, I ran out of time in my Gen Con preparations and didn’t get a chance to build a dedicated location control deck. My suspicions proved to be correct, with most of the quest consisting of 4 different stage 2 quest cards. In order to advance to stage 3 and the final showdown with Old Man Willow, players have to explore a certain number of victory points worth of locations. Until they do so, a new stage 2 is revealed each turn with a variety of effects (exhausting a hero during planning, removing a location from the victory display, etc.). Overall, I feel like this is a location-heavy quest done right, with just enough enemies to make things feel menacing and Old Man Willow himself can be devastating, since he sits in the staging area and attacks all players, raising the threat of the defender each time he does so. This one really gives the feel of getting lost in the Old Forest, and of course, Tom Bombadil finally makes an appearance in the game!

After the first loss, myself, Dan from Hall of Beorn, and friend of the podcast, Matt H., tackled the quest once more in a 3-player game during our actual scheduled Fellowship event. I had furiously designed a special location control deck in the hotel before the event, and my fellows brought something more suitable as well. Our preparations paid off, as we kept the locations much more under control this time around, but the constant flood of a particularly troublesome enemy that attacks the first player when the active location is explored, Old Man Willow pounding our characters into rubble, along with some threat boosting effects that placed us on the verge of threating out made things look quite bleak. I was pretty much certain that defeat was just ahead, and contemplated calling the game if things got much worse. Still, we kept clawing away with all the tricks at our disposal and it all came down to one big quest push. If we got just enough progress, we would win, if not, we would threat out and lose. With a bit of luck, some fortunate cards in hand, and an all-in quest commitment, we emerged victorious! Seeing what the designers come up with each year for Gen Con is surely a highlight of the event, and this story is a perfect example of why.

NIGHTMARE DWARROWDELF

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Oh, did I say that Trouble in Tharbad and The Old Forest were the only new LOTR LCG releases at Gen Con? Funny that. Still distraught over The Road Darkens not being available at Gen Con, developer Matt Newman brightened our day when he let us know that the first three Nightmare packs of the Dwarrowdelf cycle were there. Although I had bought Trouble in Tharbad earlier in the day, these packs were apparently placed in an out-of-the-way location and I completely missed them! The next day, we were able to procure our copies, and although I haven’t yet gotten an opportunity to touch the Nightmare versions of The Redhorn Gate, Road to Rivendell, and The Watcher in the Water, I should have some news on that front soon! While Nightmare isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (or shot of strong liquor), I love the Nightmare scenarios and relish the chance to try these out earlier than I expected.

IN-FLIGHT REPORT

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The In-flight Report is where Fantasy Flight Games reports on how they have done in a given year, and makes announcements about upcoming releases. LOTR LCG usually gets a spot in these announcements, which should be a clear indication as to the attention the game is given by the company. Anyone who believes this game is headed towards some impending demise should immediately forget that notion. Between Saga Expansions, the regular cycles, event-specific scenarios, and Nightmare releases, this game gets a ton of content and love, although not always at the rate that everyone would like!

Despite a flurry of exciting announcements for other games, my attention was firmly planted on Lord of the Rings. Treason of Saruman was announced as the third Saga Expansion, with Aragorn as the Fellowship hero, rather than Frodo. In this way, the events of this box will firmly focus on Aragorn’s adventures in the Two Towers rather than those of Frodo’s, which follows the book structure perfectly. In addition, The Lost Realm was announced as the next deluxe expansion, which will take the game to the northern realm of Arnor, and include a Tactics version of Aragorn, as well as support for the Dunedain trait and a new side quest mechanic. This will be followed by the Angmar Awakened cycle. I have to say that I am more excited for this setting than any other setting of the game. The idea of a “lost realm” and the long history of the North always intrigued me as a reader, and who can argue with the cool factor of the Dunedain? Great times lie ahead for this game.

CONCLUSION

That about does it for Gen Con 2014, as we now transition back to reality. The next few months should see the Ring-maker cycle come to a close, and then it looks like we’ll be hit with a flood of goodness between Treason of Saruman and The Lost Realm. It’s never been a better time to be an LOTR LCG fan. If you have any questions about the Gen Con experience or what was at Gen Con, feel free to ask me below. If you’ve never made the trip, consider booking it for next year!

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12 Comments
  1. Luis Fernández permalink

    I have a big question in my head since the announce of the old forest for GenCon. How does this quest function like a saga quest? When do you have to play? Must/Can you then add Frodo and the one ring to the team?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Luis Fernández permalink

      Ok, I saw very late that the place is between 1st and 2nd Quest. How about Frodo?

      • TalesfromtheCards permalink

        It would function like the other Saga quests, so you would add in Frodo as well as any other boons/burdens earned up to that point. I haven’t tried it in Campaign Mode yet, but once the Barrow-downs scenario is out, I want to do a big run-through of the Black Riders including the 2 new scenarios.

  2. Alex permalink

    Thanks for update!

    Sad to see the new pack is easy.

    Where in the gen con pack difficulty scale do you think old Forrest fits in?

    I would rate lake town as hardest, then massing and stone of erch as quite a bit easier. Hoping this quest is more like the first two and not like SOE.

    Thanks!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      It’s hard to peg, especially since I’ve only played it 3 or 4 player. Once I get some additional games in, I think I’ll have a better idea.

  3. Do you think the alternate art Leadership Aragorn will be available retail later on or was it solely a Gen Con promo?

    • I think he’s included with the October Fellowship Event pack. Get in touch with your local game shop!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Unfortunately, based on the other games, I don’t think the alt art cards ever go retail. If you can’t get one from a fellowship event, then I’m sure some will turn up on ebay. Hopefully, they won’t go for anything ridiculous.

  4. Ian permalink

    Great stuff! I am also sad the road darkens was not there. I saw the decks you guys used posted on beorns site. There was a deck with TRD cards in it. We’re they just printed ones of the spoilers ffg showed? Is that legal in doing the events? I’ve never done that before so I am curious. Last ffg gencon event I did was when call of cuthulu was big

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      We built decks in advance anticipating that Road Darkens would be there. However, once we saw it wasn’t, we had to sub out some of those TRD cards and sub in others. At last year’s FFG event, they had people write down their deck lists. This time around, they didn’t do anything like that. Either way, both times I’ve gone, they’ve been pretty hands-off in terms of policing decks, which makes sense since it’s not really a tournament. So I don’t think people playing with proxies would be a big deal.

  5. Pengolodh permalink

    I’m not positive that you’ll read this soon, but I’ll go ahead and ask my question anyway. Is Fellowship Frodo used when playing The Old Forest?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Fellowship Frodo can be used for The Old Forest, but you are not required to use him unless you are playing Campaign Mode.

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