The forces of darkness are slowly rising as the fell lord's malice begins to crystalize. The dark lord Sauron searches once more for his ring of power, and few in the realm of Middle-earth may stand against him. But you, brave warriors, do you perhaps have the strength, tenacity, and willful resolve to fight against a near-invincible foe? To keep hope alive in the face of hopeless odds? Such is the burden laid at the feet of players as they dive into The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, a living card game by Fantasy Flight Games, which just saw a reprint of its classic version this past January. Fantasy Flight Games provided us with a review copy to check out, and so take hope, hold fast to your friends, and let's dive in!
How Do You Play Lord Of The Rings: The Card Game?
Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is a cooperative "Living Card Game" (which we'll define in a bit), where each player takes on the role of a series of heroes from and inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. In it, players work together to face off against the game itself, fighting dark threats that loom in the form of enemies, maladies, and other bad luck. To play the game, each player creates a deck focused around a series of Heroes. These powerful characters include classics like Gimli, Legolas, Éowyn, and Aragorn, as well as characters created by Fantasy Flight Games to fit into their LOTR world and diversify the character pool a bit. Each Hero has stats including their attack strength, defense strength, and willpower, and each belongs to one of four spheres of influence: Leadership, Lore, Spirit, and Tactics. These Heroes serve as a kind of guiding light for the deck you'll then go on to build to actually play the game.
Once you've settled on a set number of heroes (usually two or three), you'll build a deck of at least 50 cards based around their spheres of influence. These decks include cards like allies, who you can bring into the game to help you accomplish your goals, attachment cards like weapons, armor, and more, and one-time use event cards that offer an in-the-moment benefit.
Once your deck is constructed, you and your teammates face off against a deck of quest cards which lay out your adventure. Paired with an encounter deck, these quest cards will lay out the adventure as it unfolds in front of you. And here the game truly shines, as you have to balance your resources to achieve your goals. For instance, the encounter deck may place a series of enemies in front of you, who will damage you and raise the overall threat of the encounter (when the threat rises too high, you lose!), so you have to deal with those enemies. But you also have to make progress on each quest, dedicating some of your heroes and resources to placing "progress" tokens on the quest. With a lot of push and pull between quest progression and immediate threat removal, you'll find yourself relying on your cool equipment cards, hearty ally cards, and the help of your teammates to overcome the game.
What Kind Of Game Is The Lord Of The Rings Card Game?
Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, much like Arkham Horror: The Card Game which we recently reviewed, is what Fantasy Flight calls a Living Card Game. What's a Living Card Game? It's similar to a traditional collectible card game like Magic: The Gathering or Pokemon, in that players build decks and shuffle, draw, and play cards, but you always know exactly what you're buying when you purchase a set or deck of cards for the game. Each set of a Living Card Game, whether it's a core set or expansions, contains the exact same cards as every other core set like it. This means you don't have to go hunting through blind booster packs looking for some rare card you need for your deck, as it's all there ready and in-hand when you purchase a Living Card Game product.
Lord of the Rings: The Card Game was originally released over ten years ago, in 2011, and has since seen a lot of expansions to the game. With 16 larger expansions, countless one-off adventures, and over 50 smaller decks of cards that make up "adventure cycles," this game can feel a bit overwhelming. But this revised core set is meant to be played as an introduction into the game, and all those previous releases still work with this new revised release.
What's New In The Lord of the Rings Card Game Revised Core Set?
There aren't a ton of changes from the previous edition and The Lord of the Rings Card Game revised core set, but there are a few key differences. First, the previous version of the core set only had enough cards and content to support two players. A four-player game was possible, but you'd need to buy a second core set. Now, the new Revised Core Set has enough material in it for four players to take up arms against the dark lord. Along with that increased player count, there's also a new campaign mode. This campaign mode allows the quests in the core box to be played sequentially, with the results of one quest impacting the start of the next. To help facilitate that campaign flow, the game contains brand new campaign, boon, and burden cards.
What Are Our Final Thoughts On The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game Revised Core Set?
We've been playing The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game since it first released in 2011, and have for a long time been big fans of its easy-to-understand, but difficult to master gameplay. This is not, by any means, an easy cooperative game. But it rewards careful deck construction and clever card play, and the artwork on the cards has always been stunning. Now, with this new Revised Core Set, we're thrilled with the changes they've made to bring this game to wider audiences. This reprint, which comes packed (like Arkham Horror's reprint did, as well) better organized, allowing players to jump into the gameplay faster. And the new campaign mode, while not terribly deep, is a fun wrinkle on a system we know and love around here.
Should I Buy The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game Revised Core Set?
If you're looking for a cooperative gaming experience that is challenging but fair with moments of high thrills, and/or if you're a diehard Tolkien fan, you should absolutely give The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game Revised Core Set a try. If you're looking for a game that's solely focused on combat (this game sees you balance all aspects of your character's strengths and weaknesses, and doesn't just focus on combat), or you're looking for a trading card game where you could crack open packs to find valuable cards inside, this may not be the game for you.
The copy of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game Revised Core Set used in this review was provided by the publisher.