Contest: Celebrating 8 Years

After the closing of a particularly challenging year, it’s a good time to catch my breath. It also happens to be the 8 year anniversary of the blog, so it’s the perfect excuse to celebrate with a new contest. Before I get to the contest, I just want to spend a moment to reflect in gratitude. Being a part of this game, and more specifically the community surrounding it, has brought so much joy to my life. Those who have replied here with encouraging comments, fans of the Podcast, Convention attendees, Patreon supporters, Discord friends – there are simply too many positive experiences to capture with words. From the bottom of this bear’s heart, thank you. Your support and friendship over these years means the world to me, particularly in difficult years like this last one.

Hobbits have a wonderful tradition of giving presents to their friends and family on their birthday. It reminds us the importance of thinking beyond ourselves and spreading generosity and joy. With that in mind, I’d like to celebrate 8 years of the blog by giving away several Lords of the Rings LCG Products. The list of prizes is as follows: Massing at Osgiliath (1 copy), Murder at the Prancing Pony (1 copy), The Land of Sorrow (2 copies), The Fortress of Nurn (2 copies), The Fortress of Nurn Preorder Promotion (1 copy), and The Hunt for the Dreadnaught (1 copy).

The rules of the contest are simple. Leave a comment below with your favorite article or deck from the blog’s history. You can leave as many comments as you want, but each person is entered into the contest only once. A month from now, I will draw 8 names in a random order. In order, the winners will get to pick from the remaining prizes. The Hall will ship your prize you, anywhere in the world, via Eagle delivery. Good luck to all who enter, and may 2021 be a happy and healthy year for everyone!

Posted in Community, Contest, Patreon, Series, Thanks, The Grey Company, Tribute | 32 Comments

Deck: 2020 – It’s a Trap!

Then Denethor leaped upon the table, and standing there wreathed in fire and smoke he took up the staff of his stewardship that lay at his feet and broke it on his knee. Casting the pieces into the blaze he bowed and laid himself on the table, clasping the palantír with both hands upon his breast. And it was said that ever after, if any man looked in that Stone, unless he had great strength of will to turn it to other purpose, he saw only two aged hands wither in flame.
—The Pyre of Denethor, The Return of the King

Editor’s Note: We tried to stop him, but the bear got into the mead a bit hard this time. It’s been cleaned up as best we could manage, but caveat lector: what follows can generously be classified a rant.

Well, that was unpleasant. Let’s never do that again. But wait, there’s more. The calendar rolls over and time marches on its inexorable path toward entropy. Forgive this morose bear, but it is difficult to look back on this year with any sort of fondness. In the annals of annorum, this was surely one of the worst.

What better way to commemorate such a travesty than in my usual ursine fashion, as a farcical deck. Per usual, find the list on RingsDB.Time will tell whether this year inspires a creative renaissance. It did not feel appropriate to create alternate art for this offal – the prospect of representing 2020 visually was unseemly. Those wishing to double down on the joke and build this for themselves are left to collect scraps from the table of official reprints, like plebeians after a particularly grotesque Bacchanal.

Ordinarily, winter is the time bears spend hibernating and I was looking forward to just such respite. This year taught us many lessons, one of which was that plans are made to be changed, or even exploded into small cough-inducing sputum. In a sense, 2020 can be seen as one prolonged stupefying hibernation. At last count, I read over 80 books this year. Do not mistake me – this is not some impressive achievement. It only stands as solemn testimony to all of the other things I did not do this year (fingers crossed for Con of the Rings 2021).

Pedants will doubtless question the inclusion of Denethor in this deck list. At best, Gondor’s hapless steward is no better than any other ally to be mustered by his short-lived successor (bit of a thematic chicken-or-the-egg paradox, that). Other times, he sits like a dead fish in your hand, wanting desperately to be anyone else. Anyone who could actually help quell the tide of evil building outside the walls. At worst he destroys himself instantly in an immolation of hubristic nihilism. I simply cannot think of a more fitting mascot for this year than a paranoid but ineffectual leader whose ultimate undoing is his own narcissism.

Strategy, these articles require strategy, don’t they? The one who smells like he lives out of doors (spoiler alert: he does) lays traps, which help to bring more traps. This year was nothing if not trap-laden. Astute readers should at this point start to sense a theme. The woodman/woodwoman/woodperson uses her ingenuity to find more fuel for the conflagration. Despite being essential to the engine that keeps the whole mad escapade running, her quiet competence is unsettling to the superstitious townsfolk. They will either reward her with burning at the stake – or 70% of the remuneration of her male counterparts. The princeling uses fascistic criteria to decide who among his friends will next be scarified for the needs of Capitalism, also known as combat phase ally mustering.

We placed the necessary word progress on that side thread, now back to the main thread. In retrospect, I made the classic mistake of hanging expectations on an arbitrary hook, one not attached to a load-bearing section of reality. In my naive bear-like mind, I thought that 2021 would bring some kind of change. Some difference to the soul-numbing sameness of this year. You see, I did not in fact want to spend the entire year isolating and reading books.

Like any self-respecting introvert, I enjoy my brief forays into the alien world of the “normals”. Not only do these adventures expose me to interesting ideas outside of my own headspace, but they provide much needed recharge to fuel further introspection. Instead, this year has been an unending series of half conversations, banal and repetitive. They take place only in my head.

If only I had listened to my Zen master as a young cub. Desire is the root of suffering, and my desire for the new year to bring some solace has only fueled my angst, now that this looks unlikely. Still, a bear can do naught but hope. Vaccines – for those actually willing to take them – offer one such glimpse of sunlight. These are countered by news that another mutation of the virus has begun spreading. The tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many others looked – for the briefest of moments – like they might spur some small improvement in social justice. Sadly, the economic fallout of the pandemic along with a historically contentious election have drawn people’s attention elsewhere. I do not discount the impact the pandemic has had on people’s lives and livelihoods but a society which does not treat its citizens equally is fundamentally without freedom for anyone. While we obsess over when things “go back to normal”, it’s easy to forget that “normal” means so people are still treated as less than.

Several books I read this year, specifically because I wanted a deeper understanding of the Black experience in America, in their own words. I can wholeheartedly recommend: Beloved, The Color Purple, Roots, and The Known World. These merely scratch the surface of a background for slavery and the civil rights movement, but they’re a good start. Frankly something like the above syllabus should be required reading in all American schools. Reading (or in some cases re-reading) these books was not only moving, but helped me have a more nuanced perspective of issues affecting Black people in America today.

Humor me, dear readers, while I make an aside inside of an already precarious narrative thread. One particularly salient detail of the civil rights struggle was unknown to me, and is essential to a deeper understanding of the history of Black people in America. Before emancipation, many Southern communities lacked any kind of official police force. Indeed, police and fire departments are precisely the kinds of thing one uses to measure when a society had “grown up”, so to speak. However, what many of these communities did have is rag-tag bands of poor, mostly uneducated White people, who served as slave catchers for the landed gentry.

As with any oppressive system, many slaves rebelled and ran away, therefore communities needed men who would hunt these slaves and return them to their owners. In the antebellum South, this is what “keeping the peace” meant. Setting aside for a moment the barbarity of a system where human beings own each other, there is a fundamental problem with using poor uneducated Whites as your de facto police force. The stories of brutality inflicted upon slaves and free Blacks by these men are horrific in nature. Murder, rape, mutilation, and kidnapping, all were regularly inflicted on Black members of Southern society at the hands of these “slave catchers”. The very men committing these atrocities were the ones who evolved into the police forces of these post-war Southern communities.

With emancipation, slaves were technically freed, but the system of oppression did not substantively change. The same barbaric slave catchers stayed on to coalesce into police forces while Jim Crow laws were enacted to systematically disenfranchise Black people. The Ku Klux Klan joined these former slave catchers on the police forces all across America. One common refrain heard this year:  “if Black people just obeyed police commands, they wouldn’t be hurt”. Not only is this demonstrably untrue, but it completely ignores the history of America.

The mentality of many of these police forces from their very inception has not been to protect and serve Black people, quite the contrary. As with many systems founded on false premises, these institutions are fundamentally incapable, as currently constructed, of carrying out their stated duties. For generations, those “keeping the peace” where operating from the perspective of “protecting White civility from the dangerous Blacks”. One only needs to look at procedures (“knee on the neck”, etc.) utilized by police forces across America, disproportionally aimed at Black Americans, to see how this mentality survives in 2020.

There is hope. I have to believe that we can be better as human beings. Better at recognizing the systems of inequality inculcated in our past. Better at righting wrongs and moving forward together. For my part, I want to specifically find ways to be more compassionate and take that extra moment to think about how someone else’s experience might be different from mine. Change really can be a series of small steps in the right direction, but we have to make those steps – we cannot wait on future generations to succeed where were have failed to even try.

I won’t mince words. This year was a dumpster fire. I don’t see 2021 being drastically different in the immediate term. The tiny spark of an optimist still alive inside of me is hoping that things eventually improve. Somehow, spilling words all willy-nilly on a page does bring a small catharsis. If nothing else, I can pretend that I am not alone in shaking my paws at the universe and wondering what the heck is going on, and when the sun will break through the clouds.

Posted in Community, Con of the Rings, Contract, Control, Decks, Discussion, RingsDB, Series, Theme, Tribal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

News: A Long-extended Party – Worthy of Remembrance

With a community as active and passionate as ours, it should come as no surprise that there would be a concerted effort to continue the game after the official releases end. I’m fortunate enough to have played a minor role in a community effort known as A Long-extended Party. For those who have been hibernating in a cave, A Long-extended party is an unofficial, fan-made project to extend the game with community-designed player cards and scenarios.

Between a day job as a laboring bear, and side projects like Hall of Beorn Card Search and the new Beorn Bot, I don’t have as much free time as I would like. I can tell you from my limited exposure to the project, there is an army of imminently talented folks working tirelessly to maintain the highest content quality. The efforts of everyone involved in the project are inspiring, and I think even skeptical fans are going to be impressed at the quality and scope of the work. Personally, I cannot wait to print out my own copies and start integrating these cards into my decks.

One of the particular focuses of the ALeP project is to bolster archetypes which, while popular in the community, many perceive to be diminished in power level. Many of these archetypes have existed since the beginning of the game, they have just languished in the shadows as newer shinier archetypes like Noldor and Dale came onto the scene.

A prime example of such an over-looked or under appreciated archetype is Rohan Sacrifice. The first cycle introduced this archetype with cards like (the unfortunately named) Ride to Ruin and allies like The Riddermark’s Finest and Westfold Horse-breaker. Spirit Théoden finally gave Rohan a way to reduce the cost of allies, making this strategy somewhat more viable. Even so, it is a steep price having to pay 1 for Ride to Ruin, in addition to the cost of having to draw, play, then discard an ally. Suffice it to say, even with support from cards like Gamling and Gúthwinë, this archetype still struggles to compete.

All of this might prompt one to ask: “why does it matter if the Rohan archetypes are sub par?”. Everyone has their own relationship to Tolkien’s legendarium, whether the books or the movies. Regardless of how you enjoy Tolkien’s work, the Rohirrim are at the heart of several of the most iconic moments. The battle of the Hornburg, the charge across the Pelennor Fields, Éowyn and Merry slaying the Witch-king – so many dramatic moments. For a faction with such an important role in the narratives, it seems reasonable to expect that their archetypes in the game would be viable relative to other lesser-known archetypes like Dale.

This brings us to Worthy of Remembrance, a card from the upcoming Children of Eorl deluxe expansion from ALeP. It not only fits perfectly into the Rohan Sacrifice archetype, but by providing direct damage, it supports Rohan’s Staging Area attack archetype as well. Because it can target any enemy in play, it provides welcome versatility in multiplayer games. The bonus for discarding a unique ally has me thinking of all kinds of fun combinations with allies like Éomund. This pairs particularly well with Thengel, a new hero who has already been spoiled from the same expansion. I hope that you enjoy the spoiler, and be sure to check out the ALeP blog for more exciting announcements.

A Long-extended party is an unofficial, fan-made project for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, a living card game by Fantasy Flight Games and is not endorsed, supported or affiliated by FFG. This project is entirely volunteer-driven, and the content created by ALeP is a non-commercial fan release, distributed without pay or profit, for the sole intent of private enjoyment by fans of the game.

 

Posted in A Long-extended Party, Control, Custom Cards, Game Variant, Legendarium, News, News, Tempo, The Lord of the Rings, Tribal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Play Report: A Weary Pilgrim Hunts the Dreadnaught

I just successfully completed a rousing game against The Hunt for the Dreadnaught scenario pack. I used an updated version of my alternate art fellowship deck, A Weary Pilgrim. This time the game was standard mode, but it will be interested to try it again in Hard Mode.

One of the nice details of these scenario packs is that each game mode is distinct from the next. For example, Easy Mode adds an additional resource to each hero’s resource pool and starts with a single copy of the Cobas Haven location in play. Additionally, the group has a once per game effect built into the setup card which deals 10 damage to non-unique enemy. This can be invaluable to help deal with an early ship engagement before your deck is setup.

Standard Mode has 2 random locations in play (3 if there are more then two players) and does not provide bonus resources. The players do still have access to the once per game direct damage effect, but I ended up not needing this effect as my deck had a fast start thanks to the ship I choose.

As expected, Hard Mode provides an unforgiving setup. Three copies of Tolfalas Landing start in play (with two additional copies of Wicked Cove for 3 and 4 player games) and the players do not receive bonus resources. On top of that, the players do not have access to the direct damage effect provided by Easy and Standard mode, and the players cannot reduce their threat by more than 1 each round. With the size of the ships in this quest, Hard Mode should provide quite a challenge to all but the most powerful decks.

Since I was playing true solo, I decide on Swan Ship of Dog Amroth as my ship objective. This was the perfect ship for a Fellowship deck, especially once that starts at 20 threat and features Secrecy cards. My goal is to get to 9 unique characters as quickly as possible so that I can reap the benefits of the boosted stats on the B side of the contract. Fortunately, this ship itself counts as a unique characters, so I’m starting with 4 characters in play before I even muster allies.

Luckily, I found a Timely Aid in my opening hand and I was able to put Glorfindel ally into play for the cost of 1 Leadership resources. Him, along with a Gaffer Gamgee (thanks to the extra Lore resource provided by the ship) were both exhausted for A Very Good Tale. After shuffling my deck, the top 5 cards of my deck only contained 1 ally, but that ally was the Hobbit version of Gandalf. By the second round, I was at 9 unique characters and my deck was ready for some serious nautical combat.

Because the Corsair deck is separate from the encounter deck, the only enemies revealed from the encounter deck are Ships with (mostly) high Threat values. This worked perfectly with Spirit Merry as I held him back from questing and he was able to reduce my threat considerably throughout the game. The limit placed on threat reduction when playing Hard Mode will mean that I have to retool this deck to include more copies of Elfhelm ally. I also might choose to wait on playing Gandalf until later in the game, though this is a difficult decision to make as he is an incredible ally with the Fellowship contract.

I played aggressively, engaging ships to keep archery out of the staging area and using the action advantage from my ship (and allies like Glorfindel) to keep the board clear of enemies. I was no necessarily in a hurry to get to stage 2 – in fact I took a couple of detours with side quests. Double Back is almost always worth it, especially in a quest with multiple threat raising effects. Turtling for a bit paid off as a timely appearance by Belfalas Shipyard allowed me to upgrade my ship. The upgrades are different for each ship, but mine gave an extra temporary resource boost and made my action advantage even more pronounced.

One particular highlight for this version of the deck was Red Book of Westmarch. Because of all of the combat, along with treacheries which punish exhausted characters, I didn’t want to send too many characters to the quest. The Red Book is perfect for this as I can send Sam, Pippin, and Gandalf for 14 (9 base willpower, +1 to each from Fellowship, +1 more to Sam and Pippin from the Book). Since Gandalf doesn’t exhaust to commit, this only involves exhausting 2 heroes and leaving everyone else back for Combat. If a high threat Ship is revealed, I not only get to lower my threat with Merry, but I can still exhaust Rosie Cotton to add her 4 (+1 from Fellowship, +1 from the Book) willpower to Sam Gamgee’s. This kind of quest control avoids all sorts of nasty weather and allowed me to put the necessary progress on stage 2 so that I could shuffle extra friendly Gondorian Warships into the encounter deck.

This quest was a blast to play solo, and it’s nice that I can ratchet the difficulty up to Hard Mode if I’m in a more masochistic mood. What I find truly exciting is the prospect of playing this in Epic Multiplayer Mode, as that mode is also supporting out of the box. I sincerely hope that FFG creates more of these scenario packs as the added player contract along with all of the various game modes makes them a welcome and significant addition to the game.

Posted in Community, Contract, Control, Play Report, Power, Theme | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alternate Art: The Old Elf and the Sea

Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.
—Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

After extensive research, the intrepid research hounds here at The Hall have determined our ideal demographic. Fans of Ernest Hemingway, N. C. Wyeth and J.R.R. Tolkien rejoice, we have the perfect article for you! The full deck can be found on RingsDB.

When it introduced contracts, the last cycle added a dramatic twist to the metagame. Now that we’ve had some time to play with them, I’ve been making of point of building different decks with each of the contracts. As my decks page will attest, I have a longtime interest in Secrecy decks, and decks with fewer than 3 heroes. The Grey Wanderer contract was just what this bear was looking for.

Single hero decks are a trickier than a honey badger on a bad day. Starting with Strider attached helps, as does the resource acceleration from the contract and Resourceful. Still, we have to ramp our allies quickly, and the loss of actions and resources from the other two heroes is a serious disadvantage.

As with a Hemingway novel, all is bittersweet. Our heroes face challenges, but there is hope. We quest from turn one with 6 willpower with good stats left over for combat. Our minuscule starting threat should allow us to avoid enemy engagement while we get setup. Once we have two allies in play, Narya becomes a powerhouse – especially since Círdan does not exhaust to quest. Don’t forget the Shipwright’s card draw, this combines well with our resource acceleration to help build an engine.

The temptation in a deck like this would be to go for the biggest generic allies we can find. Like sharks lured to the smell of a big fish, we can ignore all other considerations. Instead, this deck stays true to the nautical theme and is built around Noldor allies. Theme does not relegate a deck to being weak however, and there are some interesting combinations at play here.

Rivendell Minstrel allows us to fetch To the Sea, to the Sea! – an invaluable aid in launching our sailors into the waves. Glorfindel is perfect in an Noldor deck, doubly so in one featuring Narya. Not all of the ally choices are obvious, however. To call Harbor Master seldom-used is an understatement. This ally lives in the darkest holds of the card pool, never to see the light of day. In this deck, he actually stands a chance of being useful. Between the contract, Resourceful, and Steward of Gondor, there are multiple sources of resource acceleration. Each of this can boost the Harbor Master.

The other fisherman thought the Old Man was crazy for going out fishing alone. Likewise, this deck might seem a bit crazy in its premise. If you ever wondered whether it was possible to pay homage to a great American painter and a great American writer using nothing but a card game, now you know. I hope that you enjoy playing this mad experiment as much as I enjoyed building it. If you are interested in printing your own copy of the alternate art, please Contact The Hall. I wish you all smooth sailing through the holiday, and may you catch your dreams.

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Posted in Alternate-Art, Art, Books, Community, Contract, Decks, Legendarium, RingsDB, Solo, The Lord of the Rings, Theme, Tribal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Alternate Art: The Last Temptation of Boromir

‘Why are you so unfriendly?’ said Boromir. ‘I am a true man, neither thief nor tracker. I need your Ring: that you know now; but I give you my word that I do not desire to keep it. Will you not at least let me make trial of my plan? Lend me the Ring!’
—The Breaking of the Fellowship

One of the strengths of this game is how it allows you to recreate – even change – iconic moments from Tolkien’s books. However, scale can be problematic for many traditional decks as you will find your heroes surrounded by dozens of nameless generic allies. We can always hand wave away these extra characters as the background to the epic tales of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but they can at times detract from the theme that a deck is striving to recreate.

For players who play purely for the power and mechanics, the previous paragraph probably sounds like the deranged growling of a mad bear. If you don’t appreciate theme-first decks, this deck is most likely not for you. This deck makes thematic advantage of Forth The Three Hunters contract in that it allows us to focus on the two most important characters from this passage at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring: Boromir and Frodo. Sam Gamgee is included to round out the cast, and he fits the theme and narrative. Once he and Frodo escape down the river.

The full deck list can be found at RingsDB. The sideboard offers a traditional Steward of Gondor and Gondorian Fire build, but I’ve intentionally left that combination out of the main deck as I find it a bit boring. Besides, the relevant passage of the book is much more personal, and it related to the conflict which The One Ring ultimately causes between Frodo and Boromir.

This deck uses the first version of Boromir and the last version of Frodo and these heroes compliment each other perfectly. At first, it might seem odd to use Frodo’s ability on Boromir as the eldest son of Denethor only has 1 printed willpower. However, thanks to Golden Belt, Boromir will easily don 4 restricted attachments in this deck. Once each of our heroes are kitted out with gear and we flip to the B side of the contract, Boromir will be questing for at least 5. Suddenly, being able to ready him after questing seems quite a bit more appealing.

There is a poetry to the push and pull between Boromir’s ability raising our threat and Frodo’s ability lowering it. This deck represents many first for me, from a design standpoint. It is the first deck I’ve built with the player card version of The One Ring. Include me in the camp of players who prefer to use that card thematically. As much as it might be fun to imagine Hirluin the Fair becoming Hirluin the Not-so-Fair after he wields Sauron’s Ring, this is a card feels more appropriate to use thematically.

Fittingly, it is also the first deck I’ve ever made which centers it’s early game strategy around the valour-based effects. That might at first seem crazy, given that The One Ring lowers our threat elimination by 5. However, this deck includes multiple forms of threat reduction. Frodo’s ability is of course the lynch pin to keeping our threat right around 40, but with it we have Favor of the Valar and Secret Vigil. In multiplayer, this deck works great sitting across from a deck featuring Galadriel as one of its heroes.

The highlight of the valour strategy is definitely Pillars of the Kings. If you are lucky enough to find this card in your opening hand, you will often find that you can flip the contract to the B side at the end of the first round. One of my favorite combinations in this deck is using Pillars to draw into Open the Armory, which can then be used for it’s Valour Effect to put an expensive attachments like Ancestral Armor directly into play. Balancing at 40 threat can be precarious, but that fits the precarious nature of this battle of wills between Frodo and Boromir.

The ideal attachment allotment is a blue print of any Three Hunters deck, and first this build it is fairly intuitive. Frodo stats the game with The One Ring, which is restricted. This means that we only need to play 5 more restricted attachments to flip the contract. The cost reduction of A-side combined with zero cost attachments like Round Shield make this easier to accomplish than you might imagine.

Ideally, Boromir has a Golden Belt along with Raiment of War, Ancestral Armor, and a War Axe. If you need a more aggressive version of Boromir, substitute the Armor for a Valiant Sword. For the invincible version of Boromir, equip Gondorian Shield, Ancestral Armor, and Raiment of War. This also requires Golden Belt, but it transforms Boromir into a tank, with up to seven defense and 9 hit points. Not bad, for a deck which eschews Gondorian Fire and Blood of Númenor.

For Frodo, Red Book of Westmarch is the perfect compliment for his costly ability as it provides resources acceleration and fills a restricted slot. Beyond that, Celebrían’s Stone is another good option. In this deck, it serves as a sort of proxy for Phial of Galadriel, as there is no version of that card outside of Saga campaigns. Unless you really need the cancellation provided by The Master Ring, you will usually add Power of Command to your hand on setup. Between this, Celebrían’s Stone, Strider, Frodo will easily quest for more than 10 once you flip the contract.

The ideal assortment of Attachments on Sam depends on the quest. An attacking version of Sam loads up with Daggers of Westernesse. On the other hand, the gardener can be a stout defender, particularly against enemies with high engagement cost. In that case, load him with The gardener with Ancestral Armor, Gondorian Shield, Round Shield, Ring Mail, or Armored Destrier.

Some of the inclusions are purely for theme, and serve little purpose to the mechanics of the deck. A prime example is Horn of Gondor, which plays a critical role in the narrative of this chapter but does essentially nothing for a Three Hunters deck where you (hopefully) never lose characters. Still, it is a Restricted attachment which can be held by any heroes, so it’s not completely useless. Cards like Round Shield and Gondorian Shield are included to help flip to the B side of the contract quickly, feel free to replace them with more powerful attachments as necessary.

I quite enjoyed using the contract to help design a thematic deck to fit the narrative and I hope that you enjoy this snapshot of a very specific passage from The Lord of the Rings. Please contact the Hall if you are interested in printing your own version of the deck. I wish you all safe and happy holidays, and many wondrous adventures in Middle-earth!

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Posted in Aggro, Alternate-Art, Art, Books, Combo, Decks, The Lord of the Rings, Theme | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alternate Art: Gift of the First-Beorn

Continuing in my series of alternate art decks, I’m pleased to present another of Seastan’s creations: Gift of the First-Beorn. You can find the full deck list and strategy guide on RingsDB. The choice should come as little surprise to long-time readers, as it maximizes the strength’s of hero Beorn all while mitigating his weaknesses. I particularly enjoy imagining the reaction of enemies after seeing a bear resurrected over and over, all while mowing throw their ranks.

This deck features art from one of the most famous artists of Tolkien’s legendarium, the great John Howe. I hope that you enjoy Seastan’s ingenious deck and the beautiful art. If you are interested in printing the deck for yourself, please Contact the Hall.

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Posted in Alternate-Art, Art, Cardboard of the Rings, Community, Decks, Power, RingsDB | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alternate Art: Nouveau Hunters

Art Nouveau was a style of art, architecture, and crafts which came into prominence in the late 19th century. Even today, more than a century later, Alphonse Mucha is associated with the Art Nouveau. Unlike many artists from earlier movements, his style was commercially accepted. In fact, much of his work is from advertisements for various products.

Social media, with its false promise of “free”, has ushered in Big Brother-style “advertisements” where our online profile is exchanged as a kind of pseudo currency. It may be anachronistic, but when I look at Mucha’s gorgeous illustrations with their curving lines and immaculate composition, I feel nostalgic for a time when advertisements were simpler. I beg pardon, dear readers, for no one is here to read the confused mutterings of a grizzled bear. This deck proudly features art by Alphonse Mucha, and I hope that you enjoy the theme and style as much as I do.

As with all of my decks, you can find the deck list on RingsDB. A word of warning, for those who want to try out this deck: it is not intended for solo play. Alphonse Mucha almost exclusively chose women as the subjects of his art, and his subject matter stayed far away from martial combat. On the contrary, the organic lines of Art Nouveau harken to the Eldar of Tolkien’s Middle-earth. Beatific beings, surrounded by finely wrought items of exquisite taste. Naturally, I wanted this list to fit his style as much as possible, so this is decidedly not a combat deck.

While combat might not be its bailiwick, this deck is a powerhouse when it comes to the quest phase. Worst case scenario, it can quest for 8 on the first turn, 12 if you are blessed with Galadriel’s ring in your opening hand. Other than Unexpected Courage (intended to be played across the table on ranged or sentinel heroes), every attachment included is aimed at boosting this deck’s ability to quest. I’ve continued with my recent fascination of Three Hunters decks, so we again feature that contract.

Frankly, this deck does not need allies to perform its role. Flipping the contract to the B-side should be relatively easy in a mono-sphere deck with card draw effects aplenty. Once flipped, your heroes alone should approach 20 willpower without breaking a sweat. As with any respectable support deck, it features plenty of cancelation and threat reduction. The goal is to lower the threat of the more aggressive combat decks and use A Test of Will to avoid the worst treacheries. The fact that we get healing on the B-side of the contract is a nice bonus, especially when direct damage is one of the remaining weakness for most mono-Spirit decks.

As with any Three Hunters decks, the discount for the A-side of the contract will often leave you with extra resources to spare. In the early rounds, we’re not so much concerned with which restricted attachments our heroes receive, so distributing the less expensive attachments to quickly flip the contract is often the best plan. This strategy inevitable leaves us with extra resources by the middle game and is only compounded by the fact that we are mono-Sphere and Arwen transforms duplicate cards into extra resources. Have no fear, there are several late-game plans for these riches.

In multiplayer games with heavy combat, Shadows Give Way can turn an otherwise tense round into a leisurely walk in the park. Likewise, Light the Beacons will transform another player’s Beregond or (my favorite) Grimbeorn the Old into an invincible blocking machine. Depending on the quest, and the strengths of your partners’ decks, keep these late game bombs in mind as you play how to spend your resources. Finally, Arwen can donate to an Aragorn on the board, or any esteemed Noldor like Elrond and Erestor, who quite often show up in multiplayer games.

As I stated at the top, combat is not in any way the focus of this deck, but some quests have forced engagement effects so you nevertheless may need to deal with enemies from time to time. In a pinch, Lords of the Eldar empowers Arwen as a serviceable defender. Éowyn with Herugrim and Snowmane becomes an impressive attacker, especially once the contract has flipped. Ultimately, the goal is to survive, focus on our support role, and let the combat-focused decks do the dirty work.

Reach out and contact The Hall if you would like printable copies of this deck. I hope that you enjoy the inimitable Art Nouveau style of Alphonse Mucha. If you have any suggestions for artists to feature in future alternate art decks, please leave them in the comments below. Happy travels in Middle-earth!

Attachments

Events

Player Side Quests

Posted in Alternate-Art, Art, Decks, Mono-Sphere, Multiplayer, Theme | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Custom Cards: Filling in the Gaps

One of the biggest challenges with making thematic decks is that some characters are only available in hero form. Even with the new Bond of Friendship contract, there are four hero spots in your deck. This makes it almost impossible to create certain thematic decks (e.g. 9 Walkers of the Fellowship, or the 14 members of Quest for Erebor) without resorting to multiple decks.

With the release of The Fortress of Nurn, the game has come to a hiatus. Unfortunately, many of the hoped for unique allies were not included in the final cycle. This means the characters like Aragorn, Balin, Théoden, and Frodo can only be included in a deck as heroes. With that in mind, I’ve designed custom cards for many of these characters, along with alternate versions of a few members of the Fellowship which did receive ally versions. None of these cards are official, but I like to think that they fit within the themes and mechanics of the official cards.

I hope that you enjoy these custom cards. If you have your own ideas for how you would like to see these characters portrayed as allies, feel free to leave them in the comments. Happy adventures in Middle-earth!

Posted in Art, Custom Cards, Custom Cards, Game Variant, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, Theme, Tribal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Contest Winners: Carry on the Story

Last month, I started a contest to give away a set full art cards for The Mines of Moria and Escape from Khazad-dûm. The deadline has passed and I want to thank each and everyone who shared their favorite moments. I was happy to see that some of the moments were from conventions or other community events. It brings especial joy when you read a story and realize half way through that you witnessed at least part of that story first hand.

Without further ado, here are the winners of the Carry on the Story contest:

The Mines of Moria Preorder Promotion Full Art Cards have been won by Marc Lommert!

The Escape from Khazad-dûm Preorder Promotion Full Art Cards have been won by Zyg Jarczyk!

I have used the email addresses associated with your WordPress users to contact the winners. Obviously the speed of shipping will depend greatly on where in the world the winners are located, by my hope is to these shipped and on their way soon. Unfortunately, I do not have access to Eagles to delivery these prizes, so I am reliant on mortal logistics which are feeling the strain of the pandemic.

I have posted the stories submitted by the winners below, but I encourage everyone to go back to the original contest and check out all of the submissions. Thanks again to everyone who entered and don’t be discouraged if you didn’t win – I will be holding more contests in the future!

Marc Lommert’s favorite moment:

The highlights are simply too many. Playing Dream Chaser with 4 players was awesome. I loved playing a different angle in Ians First Age. Completing the Saga felt great, but so did beating Epic Multiplayer Dol Goldur PoD. I fear I just cannot pick a favorite quest, but I CAN pick a specific favorite moment. My Mulligan at The Watcher in the Water Solo.

Playing Secrecy Silvans with my this Deck (https://ringsdb.com/deck/view/208254) I managed to get this Mulligan:
– 1x Steward
– 1x Resourceful
– 2x Timely Aid
– 1x Light of Valinor
– 1x O’Lorien
– 1x A Very Good Tale

Played Steward at Denethor and Resourceful at Bifur. 2x Timely Aid brought me Legolas and Galadhrim Minstrel (which gave me Tree People). Played Light of Valinor on Glorfindel and attached O’Lorien to Denethor (although IMHO it should read “attach to a Silvan Hero”, but okay). I used A Very Good Tale to exhaust Legolas and the Minstrel to add Silvan Tracker and Galion to my Area. Then I took back the Minstrel with Tree People and there came Henamarth Riversong, which showed me there came a second location besides Stagnant Creek, so no combat at all the first round. Used O’Lorien to play the Minstrel again, with gave me second Very Good Tale. Exhausted Silvan Tracker and the Minstrel to grab Galadhrim Weaver and Greenwood defender.

Needless to say the first round was a peace of cake, and on top of everything my card draw for the second round was King Under the Mountain. Took me a few rounds to get the Song of Battle, but to be honest: the watcher didn’t stand a change…

Zyg Jarczyk’s favorite moment:

Well, with my on and off again play, I enjoy playing a quest for the first time, and not knowing what is coming. I try to not look at any spoilers and just enjoy the beating that is coming my way. Conflict at the Carrock.

Posted in Art, Community, Contest, Thanks | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments