Alternate Art: Hamburglar’s Turn

If you thought a Care Bears-themed alt art deck was ridiculous, you are in for a surprise. This deck is based on Brad Lee’s Burglar’s Turn Caldara Explainer deck. The description on RingsDB does an excellent job of explaining how the deck is played, so I won’t belabor the point here. Enjoy this absurd collection of visual puns. I cannot wait to bring Brad a copy of this at Con of the Rings 2023.

Allies

Events

Treasures

Posted in Aggro, Alternate-Art, Archetypes, Art, Cardboard of the Rings, Combo, Community, Con of the Rings, Contract, Events, Media, Series | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alternate Art: The Last Alliance of Bears and Trees

Among the decks I brought to Con of the Rings 2022, my favorite was a deck called The Last Alliance of Bears and Trees, designed by Shellin of Cardboard of the Rings. The mix of Beornings and Ents, in an aggressive and combo-filled deck, made for some entertaining multiplayer games. You can find the the deck list and description on RingsDB. I can think of no better way to pay tribute to Shellin’s excellent design than with a new alternate art deck.

Behold, a thing you never knew you needed: a Care Bear-themed alternate art deck. Enjoy!

Allies

Attachments

Events

Posted in A Long-extended Party, Aggro, Alternate-Art, Archetypes, Combo, Community, Con of the Rings, Events, Live Play, Multiplayer, Play Style, Series, Swarm, Theme | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Custom Cards: Forgotten Lore

Limited formats like the Bear Draft present a particular challenge to designing a balanced metagame. The card counts are skewed significantly by the overall size of pool and constraints on deck size. Common cards have only 3 copies in the draft so it is difficult (often impossible) for a player to to include multiple copies of staple cards like A Test of Will or Gondorian Shield in their deck. Moreover, some of the most powerful heroes in a constructed format simply do no work well in a limited format like draft.

One of the best examples of this is Erestor. Noldor decks rely on discarding cards to trigger various effects, as well as interacting with cards in the discard pile (see Elven-light). Erestor is arguably the best engine for a Noldor deck as he gives incredible card draw from the first turn, and his forced effect guarantees that cards like Elven-light and Lords of the Elder will be the discard pile. This is all well and good when you can construct a deck with 3 copies of staple zero and 1-cost cards, and lynchpin attachments like To the Sea, To the Sea!. A quick look at RingsDB will confirm that Erestor features in some of the most powerful decks the game.

Unfortunately, his power does not transfer so easily in a limited format like draft. It’s simply not practical to include multiple copies of critical Noldor attachments in the main draft pool. Even with signature cards it remains likely that a draft deck featuring Erestor lacks the essential ingredients which make a Noldor deck work. Add to this the problem that draft decks are smaller than their constructed counterparts and you introduce the problem of a draft deck built around Erestor running out of cards. Obviously, Will of the West can solve this problem, but that card is not generally useful enough to include in the main draft pool. A single copy as a signature card is probably too risky for most players to consider Erestor.

The above is supposition on my part, but I included Erestor in earlier versions of the draft pool and no one ever chose him as a starting hero, so it’s a reasonable conclusion. Since I’ve started tracking the deck lists that each player drafts, a general trend has emerged which is concerning. Lore is, by far, the least popular sphere in draft decks. Aside from Beravor hero, and staple cards like Daeron’s Runes and Warden of Healing, very few Lore cards end up in players draft decks. I can even see cases where players have drafted a few popular Lore cards early, then pivoted away from Lore and into other spheres as the draft progressed.

Even in a limited format like draft, the metagame for a game of this size is inherently complex. It would be disingenuous to say I understand all of the reasons for Lore’s lack of popularity in draft, but a thorough analysis of past deck lists does provide some clear patterns. Players like staple cards; cards with a clear purpose and consistent usefulness in the kinds of challenges a quest can present. This is why cards like Sneak Attack, Armored Destrier, Defender of Rammas, Feint, Steward of Gondor, A Test of Will, and Unexpected Courage are always drafted. To be fair, Lore has cards in the tier of staples, they all just overlap with each other. Looking at past draft decks, the only consistently drafted Lore cards feature two effects: Card Draw and Healing.

These are both powerful effects, to be sure, but they are both much closer to support effects and core pieces of a decks strategy. For those who would argue that card draw is not a support effect, remember that a draft deck is allowed to be 30 cards. With a six card starting hand, a player has already seen 20% of their deck before they even take a turn. This means that many powerful draft decks feature little if any card draw. Certainly, there are powerful draft decks built around repeatable draw effects like Beravor and Galadriel, it’s simply not as critical to making a powerful draft deck as it would be in constructed where the large deck brings different challenges.

Sphere balance issues were discussed in previous metagame articles on this site, and I’m not going to belabor the point any further here. Suffice it to say, Lore’s relative dearth of lynchpin strategic cards is only exacerbated in a format like draft. To that end, and inspired by my recent design of Seal of the Steward, I’ve decided to try to remedy the situation with a few custom cards. Unfortunately, there won’t be time to playlets these designs before this year’s Lure of Middle-earth, so they will have to wait until Con of the Rings in the fall, but I’m excited to use the Bear Draft to test out ideas on how to rebalance the card pool so that Lore is not left as the forgotten sphere.

Each of these cards is intended as a common card in the draft (3 copies each). I’m curious to hear the opinions of other players on these designs. Are there other effects you’d like to see Lore receive in a draft format? A reminder for those who would criticize these as overpowered, these are only intended for Bear Draft, so the balance issues that could arise from introducing them to a constructed environment simply don’t exist. That said, I tried to keep them in the spirit of the power levels of the official cards, and I’m fairly confident I’ve accomplished that goal.

Posted in Community, Con of the Rings, Custom Cards, Custom Cards, Draft, Events, Game Variant, Live Play, Lure of Middle Earth, Multiplayer, Play Style, RingsDB, Series | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

News: Celebrating a Decade of the Hall of Beorn

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Like many epic journeys, the first steps were inauspicious but I never could have imagined where they would take me. On January 4th, 2013, on a whim, I decided to record some of my musings about a new card game based on the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien. To say that the ensuing years have changed my life is an understatement.

From the humble beginnings of this blog, I went on to meet Ian, Derek, and Matthew, three lifelong friends. Our time on The Grey Company Podcast only deepened my enjoyment of this game and appreciation for its excellent community. I’ve had the privilege to be a guest on Cardboard of the Rings, and attend conventions like Gen Con, Con of the Rings, and Lure of Middle-earth. The Austin community has hosted dozens of fellowship events as well as a regular game night which ran uninterrupted until a global pandemic changed the nature of in-person interaction.

As a lover of travel, I have used this blog and various forums related to the game to connect with players from all around the world. It started with some fanciful writing and I ended up making new friends in Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Croatia, Japan, and many other countries. I am truly blessed by all of the warmth and hospitality shown to me by readers and fellow players all around the world.

The blog has led to some fascinating and serious discussions and readers are a vital reminder that not everywhere on the internet is a toxic cesspool. From the blog, I branched out to create a search engine and a Discord bot. I also created a draft format which I’ve run for several years, in both the US and in Germany. I eagerly await returning to Germany in February for Lure 2023. I will host the latest version of the Bear Draft, renew acquaintance with many fine players from around Europe, and make new friends as well. Gandalf truly was the wisest of wizards: you never know where the first step of an adventure is going to take you.

It is important to acknowledge and appreciate everyone who has made this decade so wonderful for me. It starts with the creators of the game: Nate, Lukas, Caleb, and Maxine. You, along with the artists, graphic designers, play testers, and support staff, have worked to create a game of monumental importance to me and thousands of other players. But a game cannot exist without players and there is no way to name all of the players and community members who have had an impact. The nature of these adventures is that we likely are not even be aware of the specific role that everyone has played, but I am grateful for each and every one of you.

I will end by encouraging everyone who reads this not to take beautiful things for granted. The community that we’ve built around this game is a rare and precious thing. It represents the blood, sweat, and tears of so many talented and generous folks, many of whom never receive proper credit for their labors. I salute and celebrate the fine people, over these last ten years, who have helped make this game such an important part of my life and the lives of countless others. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Posted in A Long-extended Party, Austin Community, Books, Community, Con of the Rings, Events, Fellowship Events, GenCon, Hall of Beorn Card Search, Legendarium, Live Play, Lure of Middle Earth, New Players, News, Patreon, Play Style, Series, The Grey Company | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Custom Card: Seal of the Steward

Card game balance is a delicate thing, especially when a game is first released. If the cards in a Core Set are too weak, quests will be too difficult and players will be bored with a lack of options. On the other hand, if the player cards are too strong, quests will be too easy and players will be bored because their choices are too obvious. Finding the sweet spot is what every designers aspires to; where the players have choices about which cards to include and the card pool is not overcrowded with obvious auto-includes or useless coasters.

For the most part, the Lord of the Rings LCG Core Set does a good job of striking this balance. One glaring exception is Steward of Gondor. It pays for itself immediately. It has no play restrictions (it can be played on any hero). It grants a useful trait. It generates more resources than any other single card effect, especially when you consider that it is repeatable. A first turn Steward of Gondor can easily net 20 resources or more over the course of a quest.

Steward of Gondor constrained every other resource acceleration and cost reduction effect in the entire card pool. It also warped the resource cost of Leadership allies, attachments, and events for half of the life of the game. It is far too powerful, and its power has caused ripples throughout the game. The nice thing about cooperative games is that players can choose whether or not to use an overpowered card. To that end, I limit my use of Steward to thematic Gondor decks or the kind of hyper-powered decks which are necessary for the most difficult Nightmare quests.

Normally, avoiding Steward of Gondor would be fine, but its existence presents additional challenges when building a draft pool. A limited draft pool makes resource acceleration that much more important, as players cannot automatically include 3 copies of their favorite cards. In various versions of the draft pool I’ve included Steward of Gondor as a common, with 3 copies. While this helps strengthen the draft, unique cards, especially ones as powerful as Steward, don’t fit well as commons cards. By all rights, Steward should be a rare card with only a single card in the draft pool. Denethor will still have a copy, as a signature card, but this makes complete thematic sense.

In the latest version of the Bear Draft, I’ve decided to make Steward of Gondor a rare card. By doing that, Leadership needs a common attachment to fill the resource acceleration role. With that in mind, I’ve designed a more balanced version of Steward called Seal of the Steward. It costs two, it is not unique, it does not grant the Gondor trait, and it only generates 1 resource per round. It is still a powerful card, one which can net many resources over the course of the quest. It is not, however, a broken card. It takes 3 rounds after you play it to even gain resources beyond the initial cost.

Rumor has it that something like this card was actually initially considered for the Core Set. If this is true, it is understandable why the designers might have decided to turn this design into Steward of Gondor. The Core Set quests are by no means easy. Without amazing luck, Escape from Dol Guldur is basically impossible with a single deck, even with the revised Core Set that gives you 3 copies of each player card. Giving the players a powerful form of resource acceleration makes sense when viewed through the lens of Core Set-only decks. However, a Living Card Game evolves and expands. A card which seemed reasonable when judged against other cards in the Core Set may become entirely unreasonable as the game grows and changes.

In any case, I will be able to test this design next year at the Lure of Middle-earth 2023. I’ve updated the list for Bear Draft v8 to include Seal of the Steward as a common (3x) card and Steward of Gondor as a rare (x1). I am confident that this will be an improvement for draft, especially because it is multiplayer and Steward is a unique card. It’s far too late for a card like this in the official card pool. All of the other cards have been designed and play-tested around the existence of Steward of Gondor.

This is true even today, with the testing of new cards for projects like A Long-extended Party. Even so, the popularity of community projects like ALeP and The Legacy of Fëanor proves that players are open to including fan-designed content in their games. Anything which improves your enjoyment of the standard version of the game should be a welcome addition. Anyone who is interested in using this card in their own games is encouraged to do so. Players are welcome to use both display and print (with bleed margin) versions of the card. Enjoy, and may your resources flow in abundance this holiday season!

Posted in A Long-extended Party, Community, Custom Cards, Draft, Events, Game Variant, Legacy of Feanor, Lure of Middle Earth, Series | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bear Draft v8

The Lure of Middle-earth is a convention which features events for both the Lord of the Rings LCG and the Middle-earth CCG. It is held in castle Stahleck in Bacharach Germany and will take place next year from February 24th through the 26th. After asking my eagle friends for a ride, I’m happy to say that I will be attending Lure in February. It’s exciting to return to the Rhineland and enjoy a weekend of games and camaraderie.

I look forward to reconnecting with folks I met three years ago, as well as making new friends in the European community. The last time I attended Lure was in 2019, where I hosted Bear Draft v5. The card pool has changed quite a bit in the ensuing three years, including new cards released by ALeP. With that in mind, here is an updated version of the Bear Draft that I will be hosting at Lure of Middle-earth 2023.

Overview

The Bear Draft is designed for 8 players, split into two teams of 4 players each. It consists of the following stages, in order. The draft consists for 4 stages, completed in order. In addition to drafting their player decks, each time will use the dynamic encounter sets to create a quest which another (randomly selected) team will have to play. The quests will be built from The Mines of Moria, and Escape from Khazad-dûm custom scenario kits. The dynamic quests have a good difficulty level for draft decks, as opposed to many official quests with specific deck-building requirements which can be difficult with a draft deck.

Draft Stages

1. Hero Draft: 40 total heroes, 1 pack of 5 heroes per player. A single round, at the end of which each player has drafted 5 heroes.

2. Player Card Draft: 448 total cards, 4 packs of 14 cards per player. Four rounds, at the end of which each player has drafted 56 player cards. The minimum player deck size is 30 cards.

3. Add Signature Cards and Gandalf: Each hero has 3-6 optional signature cards. Players may add any or all signature cards for each of their starting heroes to their deck. Also, players may add 1 copy of Core Set Gandalf to their deck.

4. Quest Draft: 7 distinct encounter sets (5 cards each), one stage 2 and one stage 3. The simple rules are used for building quests from the custom scenario kits. Each team of two players will alternate drafting encounter sets from the custom scenario kits. Two copies of each custom scenario kit are used to allow multiple teams to include the same encounter set. However, a given team cannot draft two copies of the same encounter set. Once each team has drafted their 7 distinct encounter sets, they will then alternate choosing a stage 2 and stage 3 (stage 1 is the same for each team). The completed quests are then randomly assigned among the 8 teams (a team cannot be assigned the quest they built).

Hero Draft

There are 40 heroes in the draft pool, 10 from each sphere. They each include 3-6 signature cards. These cards represent characters, weapons, armor, mounts, titles, and thematic events which are associated with that hero. Signature cards are optional, but they often help to build a viable deck around a given hero.

Leadership Heroes

HeroLieutenant, CaptainWeapon, Armor, Mount, HeirloomsTitle, Song, Skill
AragornHalbaradSword that was Broken, Roheryn, Ring of Barahir, Celebrían’s StoneHeir of Valandil
Brand son of BainWiglafKing of Dale, Traffic from Dale
CelebornOrophinO Lórien!, Feigned Voices
Rowan (ALeP)Mariner’s CompassRanger Provisions, Woodman’s Outpost (ALeP)
Sam GamgeeBill the Pony, Rosie CottonHobbit Cloak
DenethorFaramir (Core)Rod of the StewardHeir of Mardil, Steward of Gondor, Visionary Leadership, Wealth of Gondor
GimliLegolasDwarven Shield, Ring MailThe Day’s Rising, Khazâd! Khazâd!, Unlikely Friendship
AmarthiúlEldahirSword of NúmenorDescendants of Kings
Gildor InglorionErestor, Harlond Lookout (ALeP)Gildor’s Counsel
ThéodredCeorlNeed Drives Them, Gaining Strength

Tactics Heroes

HeroLieutenantWeapon, Armor, Mount, EquipmentTitle, Song, Skill
BeornGiant BearBeorn’s Welcome (ALeP)Beorn’s Rage
ÉomerGrimboldGúthwinë, Firefoot
BeregondPippinSpear of the Citadel, Raven-winged Helm
MerryPippinDagger of WesternesseUnseen Strike
Glorfindel (ALeP)Rivendell Blade, AsfalothRevealed in Wrath
Prince ImrahilBoromirPrince of Dol Amroth, Gondorian Discipline
ÉowynMerryWindfolaForth Erolingas!
HirgonDéorwineThe Red ArrowFierce Defense
Grimbeorn the OldBeorn, Birna (ALeP), Beorning Skin-changerWar AxeBeorn’s Welcome (ALeP), Beorn’s Rage
BoromirTireless Thoroughbred, Golden BeltCaptain of Gondor

Spirit Heroes

HeroLieutenantWeapon, Armor, Mount, EquipmentTitle, Song, Skill
DúnhereGrimboldSpear of the MarkUnseen Strike
Frodo BagginsSam GamgeeHobbit PonyFree to Choose
GaladrielHaldir of LórienMirror of Galadriel, Nenya
Arwen UndómielLindirSteed of Imladris, Silver Harp
LanwynGavin, Minas Tirith Lampwright x2
Círdan the ShipwrightGaldor from the HavensNaryaLords of the Eldar
LegolasGimliMirkwood Long-knife x2
Dain IronfootBofur (Spirit Ally)Ring of ThrorKing Under the Mountain
LothírielDamrod, Knight of Belfalas x2
Thengel (ALeP)Théodwyn (ALeP)Horn of the Mark, Light-footed Steed

Lore Heroes

HeroSignatureWeapon, Armor, Mount, EquipmentTitle, Song
BeravorSúlienKeen Longbow, Dúnedain Pipe
BifurDoriLegacy of Durin, Ancestral Knowledge
ElrondGlorfindelVilyaElrond’s Counsel
Celedor (ALeP)AnbornAmbush, Poisoned Stakes
Haldir of LórienRúmilBow of the GaladhrimNoiseless Movement
ThurindirThalionLegacy BladeGather Information
FaramirMablungRanger Spear x2
DamrodFaramir (Lore Ally)Ithilien PitInterrogation
RadagastGwaihirRadagast’s StaffGwaihir’s Debt
PippinMerryFast Hitch, Half-pint (ALeP)

For the hero draft, each of the 8 players will receive one pack consisting of 5 random heroes. The heroes will be drafted in a single round. Each player will draft one hero from their pack, placing it facedown in their draft pile. Once each player has selected a hero, they will pass the remaining cards in their pack clockwise to the next player. This continues until all of the heroes are drafted. Each player will end this stage having drafted 5 heroes.

Player Card Draft

There are 448 player cards in the draft pool, consisting of cards from each sphere as well as neutral cards. These 448 player can be further broken down into three categories, based on the number of copies of each card. There are 192 Common player cards, with 3 copies of each card. There are 176 Uncommon player cards, with 2 copies of each card. Finally, there are 80 Rare player cards, with 1 copy of each card.

Players will draft player cards in 4 rounds. During each round, each player takes one pack of 14 cards. They select one card to draft, placing it facedown in front of them. Once each player has selected a card from their pack, all players will then pass the remaining cards in their pack to the player sitting next to them. The direction cards are passed depends on the round. In rounds 1 and 3, cards are passed clockwise. In rounds 2 and 4, cards are passed counter-clockwise. A round continues as long as cards remain in a pack. Once a pack is finished the next round is started, until four rounds of player cards are complete.

Neutral Cards

Allies

Common (x3)Uncommon (x2)Rare (x1)
Envoy of PelargirDefender of the NaithTreebeard
Ranger of CardolanGrey CompanionWilyador

Attachments

Common (x3)Uncommon (x2)Rare (x1)
Magic RingResourcefulSword-thain

Events

Common (x3)Uncommon (x2)Rare (x1)
A Good HarvestHidden CacheHost of Galadhrim

Player Side Quests

Common (x3)Uncommon (x2)Rare (x1)
Gather Information
The Storm Comes

Leadership Cards

Allies

Common (x3)Uncommon (x2)Rare (x1)
Errand-riderLongbeard ElderAngbor the Fearless
Warrior of LossarnachVeteran of OsgiliathCéorl
Naith GuideWandering ExileErestor
Warden of Helm’s DeepGreenwood ArcherGaladriel
Weather Hills WatchmanDúnedain WatcherFaramir
Deeping Bowman (ALeP)Redwater SentryGimli
Soldier of GondorWarden of the HavensOrophin
Pelargir Ship CaptainBalin (ALeP)
Chieftain of the Skies (ALeP)

Attachments

Common (x3)Uncommon (x2)Rare (x1)
Seal of the StewardDúnedain MarkSteward of Gondor
CramDúnedain WarningHeir of Mardil
Armored DestrierDúnedain RemedyKing Under the Mountain
Valiant SwordAncestral ArmorCelebrían’s Stone
Hauberk of MailElessar (ALeP)
Woodmen’s Outpost (ALeP)

Events

Common (x3)Uncommon (x2)Rare (x1)
Sneak AttackCampfire TalesGrim Resolve
Valiant SacrificeTimely AidLure of Moria
A Very Good TaleLegacy of NúmenorFeigned Voices
Man the WallsCaptain’s Wisdom
For Gondor!
Salvaged Supplies (ALeP)

Player Side Quests

Common (x3)Uncommon (x2)Rare (x1)
Prepare for Battle

Tactics Cards

Allies

Common (x3)Uncommon (x2)Rare (x1)
Knights of the SwanGaladhon ArcherPippin
Defender of RammasBeorning Skin-changerBofur
Westfold OutriderWarrior of DaleMeneldor
Derndingle WarriorVassal of the WindwardBoromir
Marksman of LórienWinged GuardianLegolas
Veteran AxehandGiant BearGrimbold
Grip/Fang/Wolf (ALeP)Beorning GuardianBeorn
Honour GuardBirna (ALeP)
Gondorian Spearman

Attachments

Common (x3)Uncommon (x2)Rare (x1)
Gondorian ShieldCitadel PlateCaptain of Gondor
Rohan WarhorseDagger of WesternesseFirefoot
Raiment of WarWar AxeArod
Warrior SwordSecret VigilGolden Shield
Round ShieldBeorn’s Welcome (ALeP)
Subdued (ALeP)

Events

Common (x3)Uncommon (x2)Rare (x1)
FeintProud HuntersBeorn’s Rage
Quick StrikeThe Wizards’s VoiceThe Eagles Are Coming!
Foe-hammerSterner Than SteelNeed Brooks No Delay (ALeP)
Behind Strong WallsBattle-fury
Hail of Stones
Hands Upon the Bow

Player Side Quests

Common (x3)Uncommon (x2)Rare (x1)
Keep Watch

Spirit Cards

Allies

Common (x3)Uncommon (x2)Rare (x1)
Galadriel’s HandmaidenNorth Realm LookoutArwen Undómiel
Escort from EdorasThe Riddermark’s FinestGlorfindel
Ethir SwordsmanZigil MinerHáma
Westfold Horse-breederWild StallionElfhelm
Imladris StargazerRhovanion OutriderSúlien
Bree-land Protector (ALeP)West Road TravellerDerufin
Rammas Lookout (ALeP)Elven JewelerGavin (ALeP)
Roving Herbmaster (ALeP)Théodwyn (ALeP)
Hunting Dogs (ALeP)

Attachments

Common (x3)Uncommon (x2)Rare (x1)
Ancient MathomSilver HarpLight of Valinor
MiruvorSilver LampTo the Sea! To the Sea!
Silver CircletSteed of ImladrisKing of Dale
Unexpected CourageSong of EärendilHorn of the Mark
Spare Hood and CloakElendilmir (ALeP)
Gift of Foresight (ALeP)

Events

Common (x3)Uncommon (x2)Rare (x1)
A Test of WillDesperate DefenseDefiant Challenge
Elven-lightDwarven TombLords of the Eldar
Hasty StrokeElrond’s CounselThe Muster of Rohan
The Galadhrim’s GreetingHeirs of Earendil
Reforged
Stand and Fight

Player Side Quests

Common (x3)Uncommon (x2)Rare (x1)
Double Back

Lore Cards

Allies

Common (x3)Uncommon (x2)Rare (x1)
Erebor HammersmithGaladhrim HealerGléowine
Warden of HealingEmyn Arnen RangerGaffer Gamgee
Galadhrim MinstrelLong Lake TraderIoreth
Anfalas HerdsmanSilvan TrackerQuickbeam
Miner of the Iron HillsIthilien TrackerElrond
Loyal HoundImladris CaregiverHenamarth Riversong
Deeping Defender (ALeP)Master of the ForgeAnborn
Mirkwood ExplorerMorwen Steelsheen (ALeP)
Mirkwood Hunter

Attachments

Common (x3)Uncommon (x2)Rare (x1)
Protector of LórienForest SnareGlamdring
Song of HealingKeen LongbowAsfaloth
Entangling NetsRanger SpikesElf-stone
Woodmen’s ClearingLeather BootsWingfoot
Poisoned StakesBox of Earth (ALeP)
Half-pint (ALeP)

Events

Common (x3)Uncommon (x2)Rare (x1)
Daeron’s RunesFar-sightedNoiseless Movement
Drinking SongDeep KnowledgeThe Tree People
Heed the DreamDistant StarsSpring the Trap (ALeP)
Lore of ImladrisOut of the Wild
The Hidden Way
Weep No More (ALeP)

Player Side Quests

Common (x3)Uncommon (x2)Rare (x1)
Scout Ahead
Posted in A Long-extended Party, Bear Draft, Community, Draft, Events, Game Variant, Live Play, Lure of Middle Earth, Multiplayer, Play Style, Series | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Alternate Art: All Heroes

This game boasts some of the best art of any card game, which is quite the feat given the number of card games created over the years. Like any hypothetical it is impossible to answer definitively, but I do often wonder whether a game with lesser art would have held my attention the way this game has. Nothing compares to seeing your favorite character represented with beautiful art and an interesting ability.

Visual art is always subjective, but all the more so with this game. It makes sense, given how many readers imagine characters visually. If art doesn’t match our mental image for a character it doesn’t matter how beautiful it is, our aesthetic for that character will reject that art. With that in mind, these alternate art cards represent (as best as I could find) representations of characters which match my aesthetic. Some cards use the official art, others use new art. Regardless, the promotional template showcases the art and makes the card text a secondary concern. As with all of my alternate art cards, printable versions can be downloaded from the Alternate Art page. I hope that readers can find art here which matches their aesthetic.

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Custom Cards: Rescuing the Outcasts

Designing the first cycle of an LCG is a most difficult task. The strategies and themes established in the Core Set need to be supported while simultaneously introducing new factions and expanding the identity of the spheres and traits. Because the Core Set and first cycle are created together, designers don’t even have a chance to see what kinds of decks players build. From the players’ perspective, the metagame evolves with the release of each Adventure Pack and Deluxe Expansion. The designers, however, can only evolve and adjust the metagame on a cycle by cycle cadence.

With all of these challenges, and the twists and turns a game takes, it is inevitable that some player cards don’t find a home in any particular archetype. Even more often, a card might “technically” fit into one or more archetypes, but later cards are released which fill the same exact spot in a deck but more effectively or efficiently. This creates “dead” cards in a metagame, but it is not always possible to know whether or not a card will be viable until well after that card was designed.

At this point, the cement of the official card pool is well dry. Community projects like A Long-extended Party are continuing to add new content, including new player cards, but this is supplemental to the official content. The player card metagame is established, and while there are new decks to discover and refine, most of the best archetypes are well known. This progression towards optimization means that “dead” player cards only become worse over time.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to take some of the least popular player cards from the first few cycles and redesign them. There have been other such attempts, and a search of this blog for “custom cards” will identity some such proposals by your ursine author. Rather than simply reduce card cost, or increase their power level, this exercise will be a bit different. For a few particularly weak cards (I’m looking at you, “Ravenhill Scout”), the changes were more extensive. For the most part, the biggest change you’ll notice is replacing one trait for another. The idea is that some of these cards are “dead” because they were designed for the wrong archetype.

For anyone with access to the Elves of Lórien starter deck (or the Sands of Harad expansion), Silverlode Archer is not going to see much play. The Greenwood Archer is just better, especially when paired with heroes like Galadriel featuring abilities which require them to exhaust. This doesn’t mean that the Silverlode Archer was necessarily a bad design immediately out of the Core Set. Few allies in the Core Set had ranged, and the extra willpower might have ended up relevant, if not for the eventual release of Celeborn.

Silvan decks don’t struggle with willpower, but many Silvan builds include two or three spheres, which makes every resource precious. The difference between 2 and 3 cost in a Silvan deck is huge. The action advantage of the Greenwood means that you can use Galadriel’s card draw or an event like Captain’s Wisdom (during the resource phase), then still benefit from that hero later in the round (to use Nenya, for example). These details of economy are what separates mediocre decks from great decks. At the risk of belaboring the point, there is a good reason why the Silvan starter deck does not include any copies of Silverlode Archer but it does include 3 copies of Greenwood Archer.

The point of this exercise is to ask the question, “what if the Silverlode Archer had been added to Gondor instead?”. Undoubtedly some purists will complain that “Gondor isn’t allowed to have ranged”. I understand this perspective, but it doesn’t have thematic relevance to the source material. The armies of Gondor certainly included archers, no city like Minas Tirith would have realistically been defended without them. The fact the designers chose not to give ranged to Gondor but did give it to Outlands is one of the quirks of the metagame that I will never quite understand. In any case, these are custom cards, not official errata. If you don’t like the idea of Gondor having archers feel free post your melee only manifesto in the comments below.

Some of these cards were playable before, and there presence here should not imply otherwise. The Longbeard Map-Maker is an effective ally. Frankly, any reasonably costed ally with the Dwarf trait is made playable by the existence of Leadership Dain. The ability always felt weird for Dwarves. Trading resources for a stat boost is something that makes much more thematic/mechanical sense for Gondor. Outside of Leadership/Lore decks with Steward, it’s unclear whether my version of the card would even see play in Gondor decks. At least, when building a Gondor deck, one would consider it. Dwarves are blessed with a multitude of excellent Lore allies, so losing this one is not going to notably impact either of their two main archetypes.

West Road Traveller is a perfectly good ally in Rohan, one that I’ve included in several decks. The community consensus of late is that the card is often cut in favor of other “discard from play” Rohan allies. The emergence of official cards like Horn of the Mark and ALeP cards like Thengel only makes West Road Traveller even more of an outsider as it lacks a built-in discard effect. Sure, you could perform deck-building gymnastics to “make the card work”, but its ability actually makes more sense as part of a Silvan deck.

The Silvan archetype is already powerful enough, so it certainly does not need the help. However, it would add to the toolbox nature of the archetype. The card is perfectly viable as part of Rohan, this change was more of a personal preference than a necessity to salvage an unplayable card. It is also nice to give Silvan decks a choice between Galadriel’s Handmaiden as that ally is currently found in almost every Silvan deck with Spirit.

In any case, these designs all represent my personal aesthetic. As such they are intended to foster discussion of this topic of “dead” cards and not to represent any universal rating of a card’s usefulness. What is dead to one player is not necessarily dead to another, especially as many new players do not have access to the full pool of cards. Making decks work with sub-optimal cards is a rite of passage for this game, one that everyone should experience so they can appreciate just how difficult the game was when it was first released.

Who knows, someone out there might swear by the original version of Ravenhill Scout. Some of these cards were never going to see play, so at least attempting to recast them in a useful role seems a noble effort. Hopefully these custom designs encourage players to dust off their copy of a “dead” card or two and re-imagine a world in which they fit perfectly somewhere other than in the bike spokes. Suggestions for cards which would benefit from a trait change or archetype-related tweak are welcome in the comments below.

For reference, here are the original official versions of these cards.

Posted in A Long-extended Party, Archetypes, Community, Custom Cards, Game Variant, Series, Theme, Tribal, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Alternate Art: La Llorona

As a child, I thought of Halloween as a fun night to dress up and gorge on candy. Like many holidays, there are much deeper cultural traditions underlying All Hallows’ Eve. In Mexico, Dia de los Muertos can be traced back to ancient Aztec ceremonies and beliefs. The echoes we hear from one tradition to another are an important reminder that we are interconnected. Each culture is not an island, isolated from all others. Instead, we build on, inspire, and are inspired by each other.

Mrs. Beorn is from Mexico and she has introduced many aspects of the Dia de los Muertos celebration to our household. One of my favorite elements of this celebration is the construction of an altar. Above you can see our altar for this year. We include photos, memorabilia, favorite foods, and anything which serves to remind us of our loved one who have passed on. By offering all of the things they most enjoyed in life, the idea is that their spirit will come back to visit us on the day that the boundary between the land of the dead and the land of the living is lifted. It’s a beautiful tradition, as the altar provides us with plenty of opportunity to recall fond memories of our loved ones.

On of the stories that is sometimes associated with the Day of the Dead is a tragic tale of a mother who loses her children. La Llorona (the crying woman) is as tragic as anything Tolkien wrote in the Silmarillion. It has deep roots in Mexican culture, and it’s first telling can be traced back to pre-Hispanic times. Those interested in the mythology and story-telling traditions of other cultures are strongly encouraged to look into any one of the various adaptations of this story.

In the spirit of the season, I decided to build an alt-art deck around the story of La Llorona. I borrowed the idea of a Grey Wanderer Galadriel deck from an excellent design by Some Sort called All Shall Love me and Despair. The central strategy remains intact, I’ve just added a few new tricks from the ALeP toolbox. The visual style makes for a dramatic theme.

The contract allows Galadriel to start with Nenya attached, and also grants her a Lore resource icon. Use the One Ring to fetch Well Preserved. Between that and the contract, healing Galadriel should not be a problem. All of the artifacts are gifts to be bestowed upon Galadriel, which will allow her to take undefended attacks. Your threat is sufficiently low that most combat can and should be be avoided. Focus on mustering enough willpower to quest successfully every turn. Elendilmir allows you to use Galadriel’s ability twice every round, which is helpful to offset the threat raise of the contract and The One Ring. The Master Ring is actually better here than A Test of Will, because it can be used to cancel an enemy which could cause problems, especially in the early critical rounds. You can find the complete deck list on RingsDB.

It was a labor of love to find the right art to capture the story and broader theme of Dia de los Muertos. I hope you enjoy the theme and art. If you have a moment this month, take an extra second to think about a lost friend or loved one. Happy memories of those we miss may be an ache, but they are ultimately medicine for the heart.

Allies

Attachments

Events

Posted in A Long-extended Party, Alternate-Art, Archetypes, Art, Books, Combo, Community, Media, Series, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, Theme | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Deck Spotlight: Bear Draft at Con of the Rings 2022

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to attend Con of the Rings 2022 and it was a wonderful experience. It was nice reconnecting with folks I haven’t seen all year, playing lots of games, and sharing some fun alt-art promotional cards. I brought the latest version of the Bear Draft to Con of the Rings 2022 and it was a joy to watch players participate in this novel format.

Work had me busy right up until the day before the convention, and unfortunately I forgot to pack the signature cards for each hero. This means that players were not able to bolster their starting heroes with critical supporting cards. My apologies for this oversight, sometimes the bear can be a bit fur-brained. In any case, the drafted decks did not disappoint and I commend the players for making do with even more extreme constraints. Congratulations to the winning team of Rolento and Truck. Their decks were excellent and their four round victory is unlikely to be beaten any time soon. I’ve listed each of the drafted decks below:

Rolento’s Draft Deck
Truck’s Draft Deck
Dominic Ford’s Draft Deck
Sabina Ford’s Draft Deck
Robb’s (SchadenfreudeNE) Draft Deck
Erik’s Draft Deck
Ben’s Draft Deck
Doug’s Draft Deck

The winning decks speak for themselves, but there are two other decks I’d like to highlight here. Sabina Ford was the youngest player, not only at this draft, but who has ever participated in one of my draft events. Even though the draft features a cooperative two player game, most players draft powerful solo decks. Sabina’s deck was one of the best support decks I’ve ever seen drafted; she certainly captured the spirit of fellowship at the heart of this game. This deck would be welcome in any multiplayer game.

Con of the Rings 2022 – Bear Draft – Sabina Ford

Hero (3)
 Haldir of Lórien
 Rowan
 Thurindir

Ally (22)
1x  Elrond (TRD)
2x  Envoy of Pelargir (HoN)
1x  Galadhrim Healer
2x  Imladris Caregiver
1x  Ioreth (SoCH)
2x  Long Lake Trader
2x  Mirkwood Explorer
2x  Mirkwood Hunter
2x  Naith Guide (TDT)
1x  Ranger of Cardolan
1x  Wandering Exile
3x  Warden of Healing
2x  Warden of Helm’s Deep

Attachment (6)
1x  Entangling Nets
1x  Forest Snare
2x  Half-pint
2x  Woodmen’s Clearing

Event (2)
2x  Lore of Imladris

The other deck that I want to highlight was built by Doug and is dear to this old bear’s heart. It often happens in the draft that certain archetypes or traits are ignored by most players. An attentive player can benefit by scooping up all of these cards as they are passed, and build a powerful draft deck. That is exactly what Doug has done here, with a powerful deck built around Beorning recursion effects and Thengel. This is an impressive deck list for a limited format, and I’m not just saying that because it features my favorite faction.


Con of the Rings 2022 – Bear Draft – Doug

Hero (3)
Arwen Undómiel
Grimbeorn the Old
 Thengel

Ally (14)
1x  Beorn (Core)
2x  Beorning Skin-changer
1x  Birna
1x  Derndingle Warrior
1x  Escort from Edoras (JtR)
1x  Giant Bear
1x  Grimbold
1x  Legolas (ToS)
1x  North Realm Lookout
1x  Rhovanion Outrider
1x  Súlien
1x  Wilyador
1x  Winged Guardian

Attachment (13)
1x  Ancient Mathom (JtR)
2x  Beorn’s Welcome
1x  Hauberk of Mail
1x  Horn of the Mark (TCoU)
1x  Light of Valinor (FoS)
2x  Raiment of War
1x  Silver Circlet
1x  Silver Harp
2x  Steed of Imladris
1x  War Axe (TCoU)

Event (12)
1x  A Test of Will (Core)
1x  Beorn’s Rage
1x  Desperate Defense (FotW)
1x  Elrond’s Counsel (WitW)
1x  Elven-light
1x  Feint (Core)
2x  Foe-hammer (OHaUH)
1x  Quick Strike (Core)
2x  Sterner than Steel
1x  The Galadhrim’s Greeting

A bear-sized thank you to everyone who participated. I promise that next year I won’t forgot the signature cards. As always, I will analyze the cards drafted and the winning deck, and make further tweaks to the draft pool. Also, ALeP should be announcing their second cycle soon, so I will have new player cards to include in next years draft. I cannot wait to see what surprises are in store for Bear Draft v8. Thanks to everyone at the convention, and all of my readers wherever you are. Collectively, you continue to make the community around the Lord of the Rings LCG the best there is.

Posted in A Long-extended Party, Aggro, Archetypes, Combo, Community, Con of the Rings, Deck Spotlight, Draft, Events, Game Variant, Live Play, Multiplayer, Play Style, RingsDB, Series, Support, Theme, Tribal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment