Alternate Art: Aggro Outlands

Continuing in my series of alternate art decks, I’d like to present an Aggro Outlands deck which I keep in case of emergency. As listeners of the Grey Company podcast may recall, my view of Outlands was less than favorable when The Steward’s Fear was first released. Oft is time the salve, to the blunt the sting of extreme opinions.

The game has come a long way since the inception of Outlands, and my play style has naturally evolved and changed with the passing of years. During the Against the Shadow cycle, I was much more concerned with designing the cleverest most unique decks – all the more so as Battle and Siege threw the conventional archetypes in disarray.

These days, I typically only have time to play multiplayer games at my Austin LotR meetups, and what deck I play is much less of a priority. My primary concerns in selecting a deck for multiplayer are twofold. Above all, I want to avoid unique characters and attachments which will conflict with another player’s deck. This can be a logistical challenge, as the metagame often means that multiple players want to try out the new unique cards as they are released.

Aside from avoiding conflicting unique cards, my other concern in multiplayer games is to field decks which support the other players. Encounter card effects with text like “Each player does *something bad*” can be devastating in 3 and 4 player games. Not only does this make cancellation like A Test of Will and Eleanor that much more valuable, but it puts added pressure on any deck which does not excel at any facet of the game.

In all but the easiest quests, there will be rounds where there are one too many enemies in play, or the staging area is suddenly flooded with locations, or an ill-timed treachery pushes one players threat dangerously high. This is why a well-rounded deck with versatility is even more important with higher player counts. Solo favors unorthodox decks, where many turns will result in only a single encounter card revealed. Four-player games can be punishing to decks with gaps in their capabilities.

This is where the Aggro Outlands deck enters the discussion. This is probably the most pure aggro deck I’ve ever built, so nothing in the deck list should be too surprising. At its heart, it uses Erestor and Denethor as the engine of an ally swarm. All the way back in my Beorn’s Path articles, I discussed how powerful it can be to  pair card draw with resource acceleration in the same deck. Put simply, the goal here is to outrun the encounter deck.

To that end, we have a nice mix of 27 allies and 20 events. The events all either function as additional card draw or resource acceleration. The only attachment in the deck is 3 copies of Steward of Gondor. If another player absolutely needs Steward for their deck, this can easily be replaced with an event like Man the Walls, or Wealth of Gondor. If you include Man the Walls, make sure to play your Ethir Swordsman second during the planning phase (when possible), so that they can still quest.

The number of zero-cost cards in this deck coupled with the 3 extra cards per round granted by Erestor can lead to a sort of feedback loop. In an ideal round, you will drawing into more card draw, with which you can draw into more resource acceleration and allies. The goal is to play at least two allies ever turn. By the time Faramir shows up, you should have an army of allies ready to capitalize on the willpower boost.

Enough about strategy, you can here for the alternate art and the bear does not disappoint. Enjoy the art, and let me know what you think. As always, contact The Hall if you would like printable copies of these cards.

Allies

Attachments

Events

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Beorn 2020

For far too long, the needs of Skin-changers have been ignored in modern politics. This slight against multi-body beings is becoming unbearable. It is high time that someone addressed the needs to this historically under-represented group, and I’m just the bear for the job. It is with great pleasure that I am announcing my candidacy for the 2020 presidential election.

The Bear Party might be new on the political landscape, but we have hundreds of years of policy experience, with particular expertise in slaying trolls. Our platform is pro-creature and open to all who do not serve Dark Lords or Fallen Gods. Unlike some members of other political parties, we support an open immigration policy – even uninvited Dwarves are welcome. We envision a future where the free peoples band together in fellowship, against our common enemies of ignorance and xenophobia.

In these trying times, the first questions many voters have for a new candidate are about economic policy. The defense budget for 2019 was 716 Billion Dollars. Such a gross waste of money might be necessary for human begins to “defend” themselves, but we bears are gifted which natural defenses of extra thick hides and razor sharp claws. Additionally bears have a long-standing allegiance with the eagles, so drones will no longer be used to “spread freedom”.

These savings will be used to improve the woeful state of our health care system. We spend more than any other country on health care, and yet our average life expectancy is decreasing. Health care is a complicated issue, but clearly our privatized health care system is not working for many citizens. After months of hibernation, I am ready with answers to these tricky questions.

Infrastructure might not be an exciting subject for many voters, but we have cities without clean water. It is the government’s responsibility to ensure all citizens the opportunity to be successful in their adventures, and a functioning infrastructure is critical to that opportunity. In addition to clean water and air, the Bear Party platform includes government supplied honey for all citizens. Not only is it delicious, but honey provides numerous benefits to the immune system and is essential for growing cubs.

I encourage anyone who shares my vision of a brighter future to donate to my campaign. Check back here for exciting updates on my quest to reclaim our government from the clutches of usurpers, plutocrats, and sycophants.

This message was approved by the Bear Party Super Pack.

BEORN 2020 – FEEL THE FUR!

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Bear Draft v5 at Lure of Middle-earth 2019

In less than a week, I will pack my bags and head out from the Hall on an adventure. I’m heading to Castle Stahleck for the Lure of Middle-earth 2019 Convention. If I’m going to travel half way around the world to play the Lord of the Rings, it seems only fitting that I should update the Bear draft in honor of the occasion.

For those unfamiliar with this format, you might want to refer to previous articles about the Bear Draft. In short, this is a limited format of the game, where eight players will sit around a table and draft hero cards and player cards in order to build their decks. The players will be split up into teams, and we will then use the new dynamic encounter sets from The Wizard’s Quest and The Woodland Realm to have each team build quests for the opposing team. Teams will then play their drafted player decks again the opposing team’s quest, with the team who finishes fastest (in number of rounds) being declared the winners.

This will be the first test of this format with the new dynamic quests, and I’m excited to see how that plays out. I’m considering requiring players to reveal their starting heroes to the opposing team before the quests are built, as this can add a deeper level of strategy. At Con of the Rings last year I had a chance to play against a devilishly clever dynamic quest built by Caleb and Matt Newman, so these quests seem like a perfect fit for draft.

It would have been nice if the Ered Mithin cycle was further along by this point, but the release of The Ghost of Framsburg does mean that the draft pool includes two thirds of this cycle. Dale and Woodmen should be viable archetypes now, along with a personal favorite, Beornings. The new Spirit version of Dáin is finally officially available, along with the lost Dwarven ring of power: Ring of Thrór. I’m curious to see how viable a Dwarven digging deck is in a limited format like draft.

Other than an updated card pool, I took opportunity to streamline the signature card lists down to 3 cards per hero. This means that I can now offer players (at their option) the signature cards from each of their three starting heroes. In addition, I have added back Havens from v3 of the draft, which have likewise been trimmed down to 3 cards each. After drafting heroes and players cards and collecting signature cards for each of their starting heroes, players will have the option of selecting one haven as the “home base” for their deck. This gives the players three additional cards to add their decks.

Havens are not only thematic (and a nice call-back to the beloved Middle-earth CCG), but they solve a growing problem with such large card pool. The game now includes many trait-specific and archetype-specific cards. In the right deck, these cards are incredibly powerful, but they are often dead cards in any other deck. A draft pool which includes too many of these niche but powerful cards and not enough generic staple cards will lead to an awkward mix of powerful and weak decks. The goal is for everyone to have a chance to build a viable deck, even with the constraints of this limited format.

To this end, most trait specific cards are now Rare. This means that archetype defining cards like O Lórien! and Visionary Leadership now only have one copy each in the base card pool. This frees up space for more solid staple cards and ensures that each player has the chance to fill gaps in the decks which might be otherwise difficult to fill with archetype-appropriate cards. Even so, signature cards and havens allow players still build viable trait-specific decks.

Let’s use O Lórien! as an example of how this might work. After the hero draft, each player ends up with 8 heroes and they don’t to choose which of those will be their starting heroes. Still, this gives everyone an idea of cards they might want to be on the lookout for during the player cards draft.

If I draft Celeborn as one of my 8 heroes during the hero draft, I’m going to be on more likely to take powerful Silvan allies which come my way during the player draft. If I happen to see the one copy of O Lórien! in the player draft, it makes sense to go ahead and draft that – given the synergy it has with Celeborn. Still, it might be difficult to find one copy of an attachment in a 40 card deck (draft deck minimum size is smaller to account for the limited card pool). This is where signature cards and havens come into play. Celeborn’s signature cards are: Orophin, O Lorien!, and Feigned Voices.

These three cards are an excellent start to a viable Silvan deck, and gives me my second copy of O Lorien!. If I want to go all-in on the Silvan strategy, I can select The Naith as the starting haven for my party. This grants me the following cards: Galadriel (ally), O Lórien!, and Swift and Silent. This means that it is possible to draft a Silvan deck which three copies of O Lórien!

This comes with a couple of caveats. First of all, eacg haven can only be chosen by one player and players randomly determine the order in which they choose their havens. So it is possible that another player will have chosen your desired haven first. Also, each haven has requirements which must be met in order for a player to select it as their starting haven. The Naith, for instance, requires that a player has at least two heroes with the Noldor or Silvan trait.

Havens are a great way to supplement heroes with commonly paired attachments, so it is not a given in the above example that I would choose The Naith. It might make more sense to use your haven choice to supplement one of your other heroes.

For example, if one of your other heroes is Galadriel, it doesn’t make as much sense to choose The Naith as your haven. You can’t play ally Galadriel in a deck which already includes her as a hero, so one of your haven cards would be useless. Moreover, Galadriel is far less versatile without her ring, Nenya. I just so happens that the haven Caras Galadhon includes Nenya, Defender of the Naith, and Silvan Refugee. These cards not only support Galadriel, but they give you sentinel (otherwise lacking in most Silvan decks) and extra early game questing support.

Below are the lists of heroes, signature cards, havens and player cards for Bear Draft v5. I look forward to meeting players for around the world, and seeing how well this latest version of the draft performs. Happy travels, fellow adventurers!

Overview

Draft Pool: 512 player cards and 64 hero cards

  • 8 players
  • 1 hero draft round with an 8 card pack (8 heroes per player)
  • 4 player card draft rounds with 16 card packs (64 player cards per player)
    • 160 common player cards (5 per pack)
    • 256 uncommon player cards (8 per pack)
    • 96 rare player cards (3 per pack)

Each Sphere: 120 player cards

  • 36 common: 18 allies, 9 attachments, 9 events
  • 64 uncommon: 32 allies, 14 attachments, 14 events, 4 side quests
  • 20 rare: 10 allies, 5 attachments, 5 events

Neutral: 32

  • 16 common: 6 allies, 3 attachments, 4 events
  • 16 rare: 3 allies, 2 attachments, 2 events, 1 side quest

Each player receives (at their option):

  • 1 copy of Core Gandalf
  • 1 resource song (Battle, Kings, Travel, Wisdom)
  • The signature cards for each of their starting heroes
  • The haven cards from one haven (requirements must be met)

Heroes with Signature Cards

Leadership

Denethor: Faramir, Rod of the Steward, Wealth of Gondor
Hirluin the Fair: Forlong, Lord of Morthond, Men of the West
Sam Gamgee: Bill the Pony, Rosie Cotton, Hobbit Cloak
Théodred: Snowbourn Scout, Heir of Mardil, Gaining Strength
Balin: Dwarven Shield, Narvi’s Belt, We Are Not Idle
Thranduil: Greenwood Archer, Elvenking, Orcrist
Amarthiúl: Weather Hills Watchman, Heir of Valandil, Descendants of Kings
Erkenbrand: Armored Destrier, Day’s Rising x2
Brand son of Bain: Guardian of Esgaroth, Hauberk of Mail, Traffic from Dale
Elfhelm: Steed of Mark, Steed of the North, Rohan Warhorse
Khaliel: Kahliel’s Tribesman, Haradrim Spear, Kahliel’s Headdress
Boromir: Knight of the White Tower, Visionary Leadership, For Gondor!
Celeborn: Orophin, O Lorien!, Feigned Voices
Dáin Ironfoot: Hardy Leadership, King Under the Mountain, Durin’s Song
Aragorn: Arwen, Celebrian’s Stone, Captain’s Wisdom
Thorin Oakenshield: Glóin, Arkenstone, To me O my Kinsfolk

Tactics

Merry: Farmer Maggot, Dagger of Westernesse, Halfling Determination
Legolas: Galadhon Archer, Arod, Hands Upon the Bow
Hirgon: Gondorian Spearman, Knight of Minas Tirith, Red Arrow
Éowyn: Riddermark Knight, Windfola, Battle-fury
Beregond: Raven-winged Helm, Gondorian Shield, Behind Strong Walls
Brand Son of Bain: Warrior of Dale, Bow of Yew, Hour of Wrath
Éomer: Westfold Outrider, Firefoot, Guthwinë
Mablung: Dunedain Hunter, Followed, Wait No Longer
Bard the Bowman: Great Yew Bow, Black Arrow, Straight Shot
Boromir: Defender of Cair Andros, Captain of Gondor, Blade Mastery
Gimli: Erebor Battlemaster, Vigilant Guard, Khazad! Khazad!
Grimbeorn the Old: Beorning Skin-changer, Giant Bear, Beorn’s Rage
Prince Imrahil: Knight of Dol Amroth, Boromir, Captain of Gondor
Aragorn: Fornost Bowman, Sword that was Broken, Tireless Hunters
Beorn: Honour Guard, Horn’s Cry, Beorn’s Rage
Théoden: Elfhelm (Tactics), Snowmane, Herugrim

Spirit

Glorfindel: Light of Valinor, Asfaloth, Fair and Perilous
Merry: Hobbit Pony, Hobbit Pipe, Smoke Rings
Eleanor: Minas Tirith Lampwright, Damrod, Watchful Peace
Frodo Baggins: Sam Gamgee, Friend of Friends x2
Caldara: Emery, Prince Imrahil, Pelargir Shipwright
Arwen Undómiel: Glorfindel, To the Sea, To the Sea!, Elven-light
Bard son of Brand: North Realm Lookout, King of Dale, To Arms!
Éowyn: West Road Traveller, Windfola, Elven-light
Fastred: Rider of Rohan, Háma, Tides of Fate
Galadriel: Mirror of Galadriel, Nenya x2
Legolas: Woodland Courier, Mirkwood Long Knife, Island Amid Perils
Nori: Blue Mountain Trader, Bofur (Spirit), Untroubled by Darkness
Beregond: Blood of Numénor, Livery of the Tower, Desperate Defense
Dáin Ironfoot: Erebor Guard, Ring of Thror, Hidden Cache
Círdan the Shipwright: Narya x2, Lords of the Eldar
Théoden: Gamling, Herugrim, Snowmane

Lore

Pippin: Robin Smallburrow, Fast Hitch, Take No Notice
Bifur: Ered Nimrais Prospector, Longbeard Map Maker, Legacy of Durin
Denethor: Palantir, Dark Knowledge, Deep Knowledge
Ori: Erebor Record-keeper, Dori, Legacy of Durin
Thurindir: Thalion, Legacy Blade, Scout Ahead
Bilbo Baggins: Rivendell Minstrel; Fast Hitch; Peace, and Thought
Damrod: Anborn, Mablung, Poisoned Stakes
Galdor of the Havens: Lindon Navigator, The Long Defeat, Lorien’s Wealth
Haldir of Lórien: Lembas, Bow of the Galadhrim, Noiseless Movement
Beravor: Sarn Ford Sentry, Weather-stained Cloak, Quick Ears
Erestor: Galdor of the Havens, Protector of Lórien, Will of the West
Haldan: Mirkwood Hunter, Woodmen’s Path, The Hidden Way
Faramir: Guardian of Ithilien, Ranger Spear, Arrows from the Trees
Aragorn: Leather Boots, A Burning Brand, Wingfoot
Elrond: Imladris Caregiver, Vilya x2
Treebeard: Quickbeam, Ent Draught, Entmoot

Havens

Arnor

Annúminas
Requirements: 1 Dúnedain hero
Cards: Dúnedain Pathfinder, Northern Tracker, Warden of Annúminas

Archet
Requirements: 1 Dúnedain hero and 1 Player Side Quest
Cards: Thalion, The Storm Comes, Gather Information

Bree
Requirements: 2 Hobbit heroes
Cards: Barliman Butterbur, Leather Boots, Take No Notice

The East Road
Requirements: 1 Dúnedain or Hobbit hero and 1 Player Side Quest
Cards: East Road Ranger x2, The Road Goes Ever On

Fornost
Requirements: 1 Dúnedain or Hobbit hero
Tactics: Vigilant Dúnadan x2, Keep Watch

Weather Hills
Requirements: 1 Dúnedain hero
Cards: Halbarad, Heir of Valandil, Descendants of Kings

Erebor

The Gate of Erebor
Requirements: 1 Dwarf hero and 3 Dwarf allies
Cards: Kili, Fili, Untroubled by Darkness

Thráin’s Hall
Requirements: Dain Ironfoot or Thorin Oakenshield and 3 Dwarf allies
Cards: King Under the Mountain, The Arkenstone, Durin’s Song

Esgaroth

The Master’s Hall
Requirements: 1 Dale or Esgaroth hero and 3 Dale allies
Cards: Descendant of Girion, King of Dale, To Arms!

The Lake-town Quays
Requirements: 1 Dale or Esgaroth hero and 3 Item attachments
Leadership: Wiglaf, Ancestral Armor, Traffic from Dale

Fangorn

Derndingle
Requirements: 1 Ent hero or 3 Ent allies
Cards: Beechbone, Skinbark, Boomed and Trumpeted

Wellinghall
Requirements: 1 Ent hero or 3 Ent allies
Cards: Treebeard, Ent Draught, Entmoot

Gondor

Dol Amroth
Requirements: 1 Gondor hero and 2 Spirit heroes
Spirit: Prince Imrahil, Emery, Shadows Give Way

Drúadan Forest
Requirements: 1 Noble hero and 2 Lore heroes
Cards: Ghan-buri-ghan, Gléowine, Mithrandir’s Advice

Emyn Arnen
Requirements: 1 Gondor hero and 1 Ranger hero
Cards: Anborn, Emyn Arnen Ranger, Ithilien Pit

Houses of Healing
Requirements: Aragorn or 1 hero with the Gondor, Rohan, or Hobbit trait
Cards: Ioreth, Athelas, Houses of Healing

Osgiliath
Requirements: 1 Gondor hero and 1 Warrior hero
Cards: Boromir, Followed, Outmatched

Rammas Echor
Requirements: Hirgon hero or (1 Gondor hero and 1 Rohan hero)
Cards: Guthlaf, The Red Arrow, Oath of Eorl

The White Tower
Requirements: 1 Gondor hero and 3 Gondor allies
Cards: Denethor, Visionary Leadership, Wealth of Gondor

Imladris

Ettenmoors
Requirements: Aragorn hero
Cards: Celebrían’s Stone, Roheryn, Sword that was Broken

Fords of Bruinen
Requirements: 1 hero with the Noldor, Dúnedain or Hobbit trait
Cards: Glorfindel, Steed of Imladris, Fair and Perilous

Hall of Fire
Requirements: Elrond hero
Cards: Vilya, Guardian of Rivendell, Message from Elrond

House of Elrond
Requirements: 1 Noldor or Dúnedain hero
Cards: Elrond, Elladan, Elrohir

Khazad-dûm

Chamber of Mazarbul
Requirements: 1 Dwarf hero or 3 Dwarf allies
Cards: Bofur, Dwarrowdelf Axe, Ring Mail

Lindon

Ered Luin
Requirements: 2 Dwarf heroes
Cards: Ered Luin Miner, Ring of Thror, Well-equipped

The Grey Havens
Requirements: Círdan the Shipwright hero
Cards: Narya, Favor of the Valar, Silver Harp

Lune
Requirements: 1 Noldor hero and 3 Noldor allies
Cards: Lindir, To the Sea! To the Sea!, Lords of the Eldar

Mithlond
Requirements: 1 Noldor hero
Cards: Erestor, Warden of the Havens, Mariner’s Compass

Lothlórien

Hithaeglir
Requirements: 1 Noldor or Silvan hero
Cards: Rúmil, Elven Spear, Elven Mail

The Naith
Requirements: 2 Noldor or Silvan heroes
Cards: Galadriel, O Lórien!, Swift and Silent

Nimrodel
Requirements: 1 Noldor or Silvan hero
Cards: Silvan Tracker, Galadhrim Healer, Cloak of Lorien

Caras Galadhon
Requirements: Galadriel hero
Cards: Nenya, Defender of the Naith, Silvan Refugee

Mirkwood

The Carrock
Requirements: 1 Beorning hero or 3 Beorning allies
Cards: Beorn, Vigilant Guard, Beorn’s Rage

The Eyrie
Requirements: 3 Eagle allies
Cards: Gwaihir, Support of the Eagles, The Eagles are Coming

Elvenking’s Hall
Requirements: 1 Silvan hero or 3 Silvan allies
Cards: Galion, Quicker than Sight x2

Enchanted River
Requirements: 1 Silvan hero or 3 Silvan allies
Cards: Legolas, Arod, Pursuing the Enemy

Old Forest Road
Requirements: Haldan hero
Cards: Mirkwood Hunter, Forest Road Traveler, Woodmen’s Path

Rohan

Aglarond
Requirements: 1 Silvan hero and 1 Dwarf hero
Cards: Unlikely Friendship x3

Edoras
Requirements: 1 Rohan hero and 1 Leadership hero
Cards: Ceorl, Éothain, Guthwinë

Hornburg
Requirements: 1 Rohan hero and 1 Spirit hero
Cards: Gamling, Herugrim, Helm! Helm!

Westfold
Requirements: 1 Rohan hero and 1 Tactics hero
Cards: Grimbold, Déorwine, Firefoot

The Shire

Bag End
Requirements: 1 Hobbit hero
Cards: Bilbo Baggins, Hobbit Pipe, Small Target

Bagshot Row
Requirements: Sam Gamgee hero or ally
Cards: Rosie Cotton, Hobbit Cloak, Taste It Again!

Crickhollow
Requirements: 1 Hobbit hero or starting threat under 25
Cards: Leaf Brooch, Resourceful, Timely Aid

The Southfarthing
Requirements: 1 Hobbit hero and 1 Dwarf hero
Cards: Gandalf (Hobbit), Shadowfax, Glamdring

The Woody End
Requirements: 1 Dúnedain or Hobbit hero
Cards: Gildor Inglorion, Gildor’s Counsel x2

The South

Harad
Requirements: Kahliel hero
Cards: Southron Refugee, Kahliel’s Headress, The Storm Comes

Player Cards

Neutral

Common (x2)

Defender of the Naith Envoy of Pelargir Southron Refugee
Ered Luin Miner Guardian of Rivendell Favor of the Valar
Hidden Cache A Good Harvest

Rare

The Arkenstone Necklace of Girion Sword-thain
Ranger of Cardolan (x2) Treebeard (x2) Gandalf (Hobbit) (x2)
Magic Ring (x2) Open the Armory (x2) Resourceful (x2)
The Storm Comes

Leadership

Common (x3)

Allies
Errand Rider Naith Guide Andrath Guardsman
Warrior of Lossarnach Longbeard Elder Warden of Helm’s Deep
Attachments
Cram Ranger Provisions Steward of Gondor
Events
A Very Good Tale Man the Walls Campfire Tales

Uncommon (x2)

Allies
Dwarven Sellsword Snowbourn Scout Squire of the Citadel
Pelargir Ship Captain Greenwood Archer Herald of Anorien
Warden of the Havens Weather Hills Watchman Guardian of Arnor
Guardian of Esgaroth Khaliel’s Tribesman Veteran of Osgiliath
Knight of Dale Knight of the White Tower Longbeard Orc Slayer
Rewater Sentry
Attachments
Dúnedain Remedy Dúnedain Mark Dúnedain Signal
Dúnedain Warning Hauberk of Mail Dúnedain Cache
Armored Destrier
Events
Captain’s Wisdom Feigned Voices Gaining Strength
Tighten Our Belts Sneak Attack Valiant Sacrifice
For Gondor!
Side Quests
Prepare for Battle Send for Aid

Rare (x1)

Allies
Bill the Pony Rosie Cotton Ceorl
Galadriel Glóin Orophin
Erestor Faramir Gimli
Wiglaf
Attachments
The Elvenking Heir of Mardil O Lórien!
Orcrist Heir of Valandil King Under the Mountain
Visionary Leadership
Events
Lure of Moria Timely Aid Grim Resolve
Side Quests
One Two Three

Tactics

Common (x3)

Allies
Knights of the Swan Vassal of the Windlord Veteran Axehand
Defender of Rammas Derndingle Warrior Marksman of Lórien
Attachments
Warrior Sword Secret Vigil Raiment of War
Citadel Plate
Events
Feint Quick Strike

Uncommon (x2)

Allies
Dúnedain Hunter Gondorian Spearman Winged Guardian
Galadhon Archer Booming Ent Honour Guard
Mithlond Sea-watcher Beorning Skin-changer Westfold Outrider
Fornost Bowman Grimbold Meneldor
Warrior of Dale Eagles of the Misty Mountains Legolas
Giant Bear
Attachments
Bow of Yew Blade of Gondolin Bow of the Galadhrim
Dagger of Westerness Rivendell Blade Rohan Warhorse
Dwarven Axe Support of the Eagles Gondorian Shield
Events
Foe-hammer Proud Hunters Sterner than Steel
Behind Strong Walls Hands Upon the Bow Swift and Strong
Wait No Longer

Rare (x1)

Allies
Azain Silverbeard Bofur Skinbark
Boromir Rúmil Déorwine
Elfhelm Yazan Landroval
Beorn
Attachments
Gondorian Fire Captain of Gondor Followed
Golden Shield Outmatched Firefoot
Elven Mail
Events
Oath of Eorl Thicket of Spears
Side Quests
Keep Watch

Spirit

Common (x3)

Allies
Westfold Horse-breeder Ethir Swordsman Galadriel’s Handmaiden
Imladris Stargazer Long Lake Fisherman Zigil Miner
Attachments
Spare Hood and Cloak Ancient Mathom Miruvor
Events
A Test of Will Hasty Stroke The Galadhrim’s Greeting

Uncommon (x2)

Allies
Dúnedain Pathfinder Galadhrim Weaver Arwen Undómiel
Elven Jeweler Eregion Survivor Escort from Edoras
North Realm Lookout West Road Traveller Sailor of Lune
Wild Stallion Rider of Rohan Pelargir Shipwright
Rhovanion Outrider Erebor Guardsman Northern Tracker
Jubayr
Attachments
Light of Valinor Thror’s Key Steed of Imladris
Mirkwood Long-knife Silver Harp Unexpected Courage
Valiant Determination
Events
Elrond’s Counsel South Away Tides of Fate
Well-warned Desperate Defense Dwarven Tomb
Heirs of Eärendil Stand and Fight
Side Quests
Double Back

Rare (x1)

Allies
Dwalin Bofur Éomund
Háma Galion Lindir
Elfhelm Prince Imrahil Sulién
Glorfindel
Attachments
Blood of Numénor To the Sea! To the Sea! Snowmane
Windfola King of Dale
Events
Elven-light Fair and Perilous Untroubled by Darkness
Lords of the Eldar Shadows Give Way

Lore

Common (x3)

Allies
Anfalas Herdsman Erebor Hammersmith Galadhrim Minstrel
Master of the Forge Wandering Ent Warden of Healing
Attachments
Woodmen’s Clearing Entangling Nets Self Preservation
Events
Daeron’s Runes Heed the Dream Lore of Imladris

Uncommon (x2)

Allies
Ioreth Erebor Record-keeper Guardian of Ithilien
Henamarth Riversong Emyn Arnen Ranger Gléowine
Imladris Caregiver Long Lake Trader Miner of the Iron Hills
Quickbeam Daughter of the Nimrodel Ithilien Archer
Sarn Ford Sentry Silvan Tracker Wellinghall Preserver
Firyal
Attachments
Elf-stone Lembas Thror’s Map
Ranger Spear A Burning Brand Ranger Spikes
Forest Snare Protector of Lórien
Events
The Tree People Coney in a Trap Distant Stars
Mithrandir’s Advice Secret Paths Deep Knowledge
The Hidden Way
Side Quests
Scout Ahead

Rare (x1)

Allies
Ghân-buri-Ghân Mablung Robin Smallburrow
Bifur Dori Elrond
Leaflock Anborn Haldir of Lórien
Gildor Inglorion
Attachments
Leather Boots Legacy of Durin Fast Hitch
Asfaloth Wingfoot Map of Rhovanion
Ent Draught
Events
Entmoot Gildor’s Counsel Waters of the Nimrodel
Posted in Community, Draft, Game Variant, Lure of Middle Earth, Metagame, Multiplayer, Strategy, Theme | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alternate Art: Whispers in the Trees

While it’s nice to have the Ghost of Framsburg finally released, new players are still anxious to get their hands on reprints. I’ve designed another alternate art deck, to tide everyone over while they wait patiently for their critical missing packs to arrive. This deck is based on an updated version of my standard Silvan deck. It is called Whispers in the Trees, and I hope that you enjoy alternate art interpretations of some familiar faces.

As with any Silvan deck built around Galadriel and Celeborn, Silvan allies are the foundation of our strategy. In particular, low cost allies like Galion, Henemarth Riverson, and Galadhrim Weaver make excellent targets for our bounce effects. The variety of responses these allies provide when they enter plays makes this deck function as a sort of toolbox.

Need readying to use Galadriel’s ability and the power of Nenya? Bring Greenwood Archer into play. Is a quest throwing too many Doomed encounter cards your way? Galadriel’s Handmaiden will help bring your threat back down. Did you just discard the one card you were looking for after gazing too long in the Mirror of Galadriel? The Galadhrim Weaver can help shuffle that card back into your deck.

None of the attachments here should come as much of a surprise, though they have been updated to include The Elvenking and a few new weapons. Giving Silvan decks a repeatable way to return allies to hand makes the archetype that much more consistent. The two powerful Guarded weapons will require an extra effort to discover and wield. Once obtained however, they can transform Haldir into a formidable force in combat.

Lastly, events are a critical piece of any Silvan deck. Resources are scarce in any multi-sphere deck, and this one is no exception. Between The Tree People and Captain’s Wisdom, the aim is to be able to play  multiple allies on the same round. Having numerical advantage over the encounter deck is essential, as some of these allies will be returning to our hands in order to fuel other effects. We need must a sufficiently large host of elves, if we hope to defend our forest from intruders.

I hope that you enjoy these beautiful alternate art cards, and be sure to contact the Hall if your are interested in printing them for yourself. Happy travels!

Posted in Alternate-Art, Community, Fun, Tribal Deck | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alternate Art: The One Deck

It’s been about 8 months since Seastan posted The One Deck on RingsDB. Elrond (with Vilya) decks have been among the game’s most powerful ever since Shadow and Flame was released. Still, this deck is taking the archetype to a whole new level. Using the power of Elrond’s ring, this deck fields an army of powerful but expensive allies, at a speed which few other decks can math. Paired with card draw effects which help fetch Vilya as quickly as possible, this deck has beaten every quest in the game.

As a solo deck, the unique Harad allies feature prominently here. In addition, the new ally version of Glorfindel is a perfect fit with Noldor heroes like Arwen and events like Elven-light. As potent neutral allies, Core Set Gandalf and Treebeard are a natural fit for most decks, here they are that much easier to get into play. Elfhelm is an important addition for quests which multiple threat-raising effects, and ally Beorn is the perfect choice for quests which require defeating a powerful boss enemy.

The One Deck wants to be able to pay Vilya blind, in case we don’t draw Imladris Stargazer in the opening hand. With that in mind, the attachments here are limited. While not technically an attachment, Gather Information is here to help the deck find whichever card is most essential to defeat a quest. This deck is excellent at questing, so completing a side quest is not a problem.

The events here should come as a little surprise. Card draw, in the form of Heed the Dream and Elven light, allows you to find Vilya as soon as possible. With the number of game-ending treacheries, A Test of Will is an essential inclusion for any powerful deck.

I hope that you enjoy these alternate art cards. Contact the Hall if you are interested in printable versions of these cards.

Posted in Aggro, Alternate-Art, Community, Deck Lists | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Few, Key, Words

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to teach The Lord of the Rings LCG to a fair number of players. In the spectrum of design complexity, this game sits firmly on the opposite end from “beer and pretzels” or casual games. This is a good thing. Cooperative games with limited depth or little difficulty quickly become boring.

The depth and constantly evolving challenges presented by this game are major contributors to its longevity. Having designers who truly appreciate the theme of the source material is the critical factor in the games sustained excellence.  If the game had been too simplistic or trivial, it never would have survived through seven deluxe expansions and two saga campaigns, not to mention nightmare quests, Gen Con PODs and dynamic encounter decks!

All that is well and good, but this game has a steep learning curve. I am reminded of this every time I try to teach it to players who are familiar with more mainstream board games, but are neophytes when it comes to card games or deeper strategy games. Play style is personal and subjective. Some people are natural puzzle solvers, and enjoy the strategy (and math) that goes into optimal play. Others prefer their games to be light and fun, and dislike games that “bog down” with heavy mechanics. While it would be simple if every gamer was one of these two extremes, there are a great many people with a play style in the nebulous middle.

This is why execution is critical. A well designed game can still be approachable, even though it includes deeper strategy and aspects of heavier mechanics. While there are many aspects of The Lords of the Rings design which are excellent, it has some rough edges which can can catch new players and give them a negative play experience. An example of one of these rough edges is cards with a “wall of text”. When an effect is so complex that it requires a paragraph to explain, drawing that card becomes a moment of anxiety for new players.

A common class of this wall of text problem is encounter cards with the “search the encounter deck and discard pile” template. While it may seem helpful to have the exact effect of these cards spelled out, most of words in the template are just noise. When you are hunting through extraneous and repetitive words for the few pieces that matter reading is slowed and cognitive load is increased. This is particularly an issue with new players, who aren’t as familiar with the game’s patterns.

Looking at the ‘when revealed’ effect on Southron Support, for example, we can deconstruct it into the following critical pieces:

  1. Each player must perform the search
  2. The search is for a Harad enemy
  3. Each enemy is added (not revealed) to the staging area

There are a few extra pieces of information: namely that a player only has to add an enemy if they find one in the encounter deck or discard pile. In addition, the encounter deck is shuffled once the players are done searching. The revised player rules explain that any time the players search the encounter deck, they must shuffle the deck when they are done searching.

Readability is a tricky thing, particularly when game mechanics are involved. Words and phrases which make sense to some people are confusing to others. Replacing commonly repeated passages with keywords makes sense, but it can be taken too far. The goal is to remove the noise from these templates while retaining the essential mechanics of a card. Ideally, a new player’s first guess of what a card does should be the correct interpretation. With that said, my proposed templates are more sparse than the original cards because I am trying to avoid the wall of text which can make this game so intimidating.

Here is the simplified template:

Doomed 3.
When Revealed: Each player searches for and adds a Harad enemy.

Let’s look at how this template differs from the official one above. First of all, we’ve added  a kind of idiom to the above template, so it’s worth spending a few words to explain this. Templates already have Triggers like “Response:” and “When Revealed:” and of course keywords like “Doomed 3.”. One of the thing lacking in existing templates is a more succinct way describing card effects without using so many words. Phrases like “searches the encounter deck and discard pile for” are unnecessarily verbose and easily lead to a wall of text. I’m proposing effect keywords. These are one or two word phrases, which are printed in italics (but not in bold like Traits) and a short-hand for larger effects.

The full explanation for these effect keywords will be provided in the rules reference, but the idea is for them to be intuitive for new players and eventually become automatically understood by experienced players. In the above example “searches” is short for “searches the encounter deck and discard pile for”. As long as this short-hand is consistently used across all templates, players will quickly come to understand what “searching for an enemy/location/side quest” means, without having to read every single word on the card. Cleaner card templates make a card easier to scan, which actually improves reading retention. For a more literary perspective on these principles, see anything about Hemmingway, Ernest.

Three words later, we use another effect keyword, add, which addresses another tricky subtlety with the current template. Some effects cause encounter cards to be “added to the staging area” without first being “revealed”. Other effects, even if they involve the same “search” process, will first “reveal” an encounter card and then “add it to the staging area” (in the case of locations, enemies, and encounter side quests). This is an important distinction, as many encounter cards have “When Revealed:” triggers but these triggers are not always resolved when an encounter card enters play.

The key is whether or not the effect which adds a card to the staging area includes the word “reveal”. If it uses this critical word, then the “When Revealed:” trigger on that card is resolved. If the word “reveal” is omitted from the source effect, then the “When Revealed:” trigger on that card is ignored. Because this distinction between “revealing and adding” and “only adding” is so subtle, I’ve decided to make both idioms into effect keywords. So, in the proposed new template, a card which causes the When Revealed trigger on other encounter cards to be resolved will use the reveal or revealed effect keyword. Effects which simply add encounter cards to the staging area and ignore the “When Revealed:” trigger will use the add or added effect keyword.

These distinctions might seem like pedantic nitpicking to some. I argue that simplifying and clarifying language is essential to a game’s health. Put another way:

No matter how amazing a game is, if it is difficult to teach, it will always be a niche game. Limiting your player pool to only the most experienced or dedicated players is a major impediment to a game’s popularity.

I have more proposed changes to card templates, but in the spirit of concision and clarity I want to keep these articles short and sweet. I’m curious to hear from other players – particularly those who have taught the game to new players. Let me know what you think in the comments. We here at the Hall wish a warm and Happy New Year to all of the readers!

Posted in Community, Complexity, Digital LotR, Discussion, Key Concepts, New Players, Opinion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Making Every Card Count

Editor’s Note: This article is brought to you by a guest writer named Ulrik. I’d like to thank him for contributing this article about suggested changes to balance the early card pool.

Imagine this: when deck building for your upcoming adventure in Lord of the Rings: The Living Card Game, you have one slot left for your deck. You desperately need something that can handle locations in the staging area, and your choices have been narrowed down to either Northern Tracker or Power in the Earth.

Unless we have set upon ourselves harsh restrictions, everyone would – without hesitation – choose the Northern Tracker. Now, wouldn’t this deck building experience have been much more interesting if the choice between these two cards was more difficult? What if both cards were of roughly equivalent strength?

I am a casual player, quite satisfied with only owning a single copy of the Core set as well as the Mirkwood cycle. In such a limited pool of player cards, having the Northern Tracker always triumph over Power in the Earth greatly impacts the deck building aspect of the game. For me, one of the strengths of this game is the deck building aspect. Sorting the cards by type and cost, and then spending a considerable time pondering over which ones to include for the chosen scenario. This process is hampered by the huge discrepancy in power between Northern Tracker and Power in the Earth (or, for that matter, any other location control option in the Core Set and Shadows of Mirkwood cycle).

For that very reason, I have set myself upon the quest to try and re-balance the notoriously over-powered player cards, as well as tweak and boost the embarrassingly under-powered cards. My aim is for a more balanced power level of all the available player cards. The end goal is a situation where next time I am creating a deck to face the many perils of the Middle Earth, the choice between Northern Tracker and Power in the Earth is neither obvious nor easy. Ideally, they can stand roughly shoulder to shoulder in power level.

This is the quest, and the reason for this article. You are most welcome to join me. But first, a few rules to form the framework of this grand adventure:

  1. The overall power level of the player deck should preferably stay the same as before. Thus, by toning down for example Steward of Gondor, it is important to simultaneously level up weaker resource-accelerating cards to maintain an adequate power level and game balance.   
  2. I will only take into consideration the internal balance of the cards within the Core set and the Mirkwood cycle. For example: it does not matter if my altered version of Rain of Arrows is absolutely busted with Outlands or Ent decks, as those decks are not part of this limited environment.
  3. Some cards will still be stronger than others. The goal is not to make all cards identical, but to make the choice between cards to solve a given problem more interesting. For example: Erebor Hammersmith likely is a stronger card than Second Breakfast, but they are both within the realm of reasonably playable and interesting within their respective spheres. For this first session, I will focus on the worst offenders in terms of power level, whether under-powered or over-powered.
  4. Altering cards can be time consuming and difficult. Therefore, any changes should be as straightforward as possible. Most changes will be as simple as lowering or raising the cost of player cards, altering the stats of allies, and only very rarely will I alter any part of the card’s text. In those circumstances, the changes should be as small as possible. Personally I’ve done most changes easily enough with a scanner, a colour printer and some paper-friendly glue.
  5. To each their own. Choose freely whether to be inspired or disregard any or all of the ideas presented in this article. One of the great things about cooperative and solo games is that you can apply house rules without affecting the way that others play.

With all that said, let’s get the most obvious elephant in the room out of the way first. I’m looking at you, Steward of Gondor.

STEWARD OF GONDOR

The Steward of Gondor (or Consul of Gondor as I call it to bypass the thematic problems) is by many players admittedly problematic, as it is so strong it virtually warps the entire game experience around itself. The difference of having a Steward of Gondor in play or having to go by without it is often night and day. The card is so powerful; it even forces itself into decks which don’t include Leadership heroes! No, that simply won’t do!

My solution, as simple as possible: First I weaken Consul of Gondor so it only gives 1 resource per turn (instead of 2). That’s it. Now, the card is still strong, especially over a long game, but not ridiculously over-powered.

To offset the smaller income of resources given with the new version above, several formerly over-costed Leadership cards are made cheaper: Brok Ironfist down to 4, Longbeard Orc Slayer down to 3, Dúnedain Cache down to 1.

Furthermore, the formerly useless Parting Gifts receives an additional line of text, in that in addition to its usual effect, it also adds a free resource to the hero before any transferring of resources.

UNEXPECTED COURAGE

Another one of the super-powered cards, the Unexpected Courage is ironically one of the most expected cards to show up in any Spirit sphere deck. By doubling the cost of this alluring attachment from 2 to 4 however, it becomes less of an auto include. I think this cost better represents the card’s very powerful effect.

Again, to offset the decrease in power level from the former all-star card, other cards that offers readying effects are boosted: We Do Not Sleep has its cost lowered to 3, and Grim Resolve is lowered to 4. And as a side effect, other fairly costed cards like Westfold Horse-Breaker, Ever Vigilant and Common Cause will by themselves get a bit more playable with a somewhat less desirable Unexpected Courage.

NORTHERN TRACKER

If there is any ally that can ruin the challenge of an adventure, it is the Northern Tracker. You grab the game box from the shelf, clear the gaming table, sort all of the cards, spend half an hour or so to build your deck, and another half an hour preparing the encounter deck and some fitting background music, only to have the Northern Tracker totally dominate and trivialise the entire adventure within a couple of minutes.

Solution: Limit the skilled Tracker’s ability to place 1 progress on up to 2 locations each time he commits to a quest. Also, not that it really matters since he is almost always questing, but let’s lower the attack and defence values of the Northern Tracker to 1 each (instead of 2).

Now, with the Tracker pulled a bit down to earth, others need to step up to the challenge. First off, Power in the Earth subtracts -2 threat to the attached location (instead of -1), and Strength of Will places 3 progress (instead of 2).

Two more cards receives an additional line of text: Ride to Ruin (in addition to placing progress to a location, also deals 1 damage to each enemy in the staging area), Meneldor’s Flight (in addition to bouncing an Eagle back to your hand, also places 2 progress on any one location).

Finally, the formerly overlooked competition to Northern Tracker, Lórien Guide, gets +1 attack. This, along with the Silvan trait, should differentiate its to the now less combat proficient Tracker. This elven scout is probably still a weaker ally than the Dúnedain tracker, but now it’s a bit more of a contest.

SNEAK ATTACK

Now this is a tricky one. Sneak Attack by itself is not really problematic or overpowered. But since the very dawn of this game, Sneak Attack and Gandalf (and occasionally Beorn) have gone so tightly hand in hand, to the exclusion of almost any other ally. Squeezing as many uses as possible of old Gandalf has always been a strong and viable tactic. Too strong, I would argue, since it severely limits deck building options, which of course just won’t do.

Inspired by the digital version of this game, I have the come up with the following solution for Sneak Attack (which also further highlights just how unexpected the attack is): “Action: Look through the top of your deck until you find an ally card. Put that ally into play. At the end of the phase, if that ally is still in play, discard it.”

So the effect is still powerful, it is just that little extra matter of making sure what ally is on top of your deck. A task the formerly useless Keen-Eyed Took certainly can help out with (which, on a bit of a whim, I have boosted by +1 Attack value). Other choices include a fixed Gandalf’s Search which in my altered version costs 2, but allow the player to look at the top 4 cards of their deck, making it a quite nice tool indeed with this new version of Sneak Attack.

FEINT

Feint is another difficult card to change. It is not at all on the ludicrous power level of Steward of Gondor or Unexpected Courage. Plus, it’s quite an essential asset for the Tactics deck. The good thing is, that the Tactics sphere actually has quite a few similar cards, albeit much weaker so they used to all stand in the shadow of the all mighty Feint.

First off, let us grant a small price increase to Feint, from 1 to 2. In contrast, lower the cost of both Swift Strike and A Light in the Dark to 1 (from 2), and give A Thicket of Spears the following extra effect: “Also deal 3 damage to each enemy engaged with that player” (thematically representing the heroes each having a spear). Finally, the overly complicated Stand Together is changed to have the following ability (still at a cost of 0): “Combat Action: Choose a player. That player’s heroes each get +2 Defence this phase”. Getting two extra shields for a phase is surely a strong effect, yet, everyone knows the inherent risks of using heroes to defend.

From different spheres, but worthy of consideration, Beorn’s Hospitality is lowered to cost 3 (from 5), and Fortune or Fate is lowered to 4 (from 5). These changes offset the fact that heroes become more vulnerable when Feint is more expensive and somewhat less commonplace.

So, this was the first stage of our quest. Below you will find the cards discussed in this article. In future articles we can continue re-balancing player cards, even bringing our attention to the heroes. Until next time, farewell!

Posted in Card Lists, Community, Custom Cards, Discussion, Game Variant, Guest Author, Metagame, New Players, Opinion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments