Friday, November 30, 2012

Fili, Brother to Kili

I was getting really excited about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey coming out in December. Then I heard that they are showing the first 9 minutes of Star Trek Into Darkness during the trailers and my excitement went through the roof.

To help temper my anticipation, I've started making The Hobbit TCG Dream Cards. Here's my first pass, let me know what you think!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Play LOTR TCG Online For Free with Gemp-LOTR

Guest post by Evelyn Robinson

Do you find yourself wanting to play LOTR TCG at times when there is nobody about to play with? This can be highly frustrating. Fortunately there is a solution, as an online version of the game is available that allows LOTR TCG fans to play against enthusiasts from all over the world. It is known as Gemp-LOTR and according to site officials, there are usually around one hundred and forty people playing it during any given week. Development of the game began in summer 2011 and soon afterwards, the first version was released, which only included cards from the Fellowship of the Ring set. The current version features all cards released and there are plans to add new features. Unlike previous online LOTR platforms, Gemp-LOTR is completely browser-based. No downloads are required and players can even log in from some mobile phones. It is the most popular online LOTR TCG environment, with nearly two hundred active players, and offers both casual gaming and competitive playing in the form of leagues.

Deck Builder and Card Merchant
In addition to providing players with the option to play using all cards that have been released, Gemp-LOTR also offers the option of using a deck builder in order to create a pack. You can choose to play with ‘my cards’, which means that only the virtual cards that you have collected will be available, or you can choose a limited pool of cards. Another nice touch to Gemp-LOTR is the ‘card merchant’ function, which enables you to buy virtual cards using virtual currency. You are given two hundred virtual gold coins when you first register and fifty gold coins on your first login of every week after that. The only other way to gain gold coins is to sell cards. Boosters can be bought for ten gold coins, the exception being reflections boosters, which cost twenty gold coins. Starter decks are priced at twenty-five gold coins and don’t contain random rare cards like the physical starter decks contained. Ents of Fangorn and Battle of Helm’s Deep starter decks cost thirty-five gold coins each and contain three fixed rares. The price of single cards changes over time. Foil cards can be sold for double the price of non-foil versions of the cards. Four non-foil versions of a card can also be traded in return for a foil version but when you do this, you have to pay an additional fee of four gold coins. This might sound quite complicated but it is easy to pick up.

There are various different leagues available for online players to enter, which adds a competitive element to the game. Sometimes prizes are even given out to the winners, improving motivation to win and upping the excitement levels. There are three varieties of league: collector’s leagues, sealed deck leagues and constructed leagues. In collector’s leagues, players are only permitted to play using cards that are part of their ‘my cards’ collection. A constructed league allows them to play using all cards that are legal in that league format and in a sealed deck league, they can only use a limited set of cards. They can be single cards, starter decks or booster packs. All players get the same booster packs and single cards, though card pool can vary for each player due to different contents of booster packs and also possibly different starter decks being given. Each participant builds a deck using only the cards from this limited pool.

Overall Impression
The main downside to Gemp-LOTR is that playing online can never replace the pleasure of playing with actual physical cards. There is something satisfying about holding cards in your hand that is impossible to simulate. Playing with virtual cards is comparable to only reading the free books that come with eBook readers as a means of saving on books. Sure you might not have to fork out for the physical items and it will be more convenient but it still can’t compare to the real thing. Gemp-LOTR is however a good way of enabling yourself to have a game of LOTR TCG when you are unable to play in real life. It might not quite be able to replicate the excitement of playing with an actual pack of cards but it is still a lot of fun.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sealed League

I've recently started playing Magic: the Gathering again as, sadly, there just is not enough interest in Lord of the Rings to get a consistent game going.

The good news is that it's introduced me to many formats, one of which I think is particularly good for the remaining and dedicated LotR TCG Fan Base.

The format is called Sealed League and works like this: At the beginning of the league, everyone opens 6 packs. You are paired up with one opponent each week and play on your own time. At the end of two weeks, you open up a new pack and change your deck accordingly. At the end of four weeks, you open up another pack, and so on.

This works great for Lord of the Rings players since it lets you spend a minimal amount to play (1 Sealed Deck and 6 boosters costs less than $10 these days). And it also lets you play in an environment where everyone is on the same playing level, and does not need to be present all at the same time.

If you've got 3 or 4 friends who want to play, but it's hard to get them all together at the same time, give this format a shot!

Monday, October 08, 2012

What Would You Make The Hobbit TCG Look Like?

With the upcoming Hobbit movies which are sure to be a box office phenomena, it's no surprise that there are already a line of Hobbit games planned as well.

For the visitors of this blog though, we've already got a great game that could easily be molded to fit the storyline of the Hobbit.

We've even got some cards that are already made! With musts like


There's even some sites that are already made:

So how would you mold the Lord of the Rings TCG rules to play The Hobbit?

Perhaps send Bilbo and some Dwarven Companions along the site path, battling Gollum and some trolls?


And possibly the most important question: What would Smaug look like? 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

LOTR TCG Rules Explained - Episode 3: Threats

Beginning in The Return of the King Block, the new concept of "threats" was introduced.

Threats were literally extra wounds that the Free Peoples' player was forced to distribute amongst their companions each time a character died.

Threats were generally a way to prevent the Free Peoples' player from throwing in 'chump' companions designed to absorb many archery wounds or go up against massive minions with no real consequence (i.e. sending Pippin to be demolished by the Balrog). Now in addition to losing the companion, additional wounds had to be distributed to the remaining companions.

The Shadow player could add threats using various cards, such as the Morgul Destroyer:

When threats were added, the Free Peoples' player would place wound tokens upon their dead pile (next to their discard pile), and once a companion died they would then distribute that many tokens among their companions.

One caveat: There is a maximum number of threats equal to the number of companions in play.

In addition to being a stellar complement to any Shadow archery deck, there were many cards, such as the Destroyer, that were able to use threats to their advantage, including The Witch King:

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

LOTR TCG Rules Explained - Episode 2: New Site Path Rules

Players who haven't played since the Movie Block (everything before the Shadows expansion) may be confused to see sites with no site number on them in the new sets.

Starting in Shadows, the way that sites were played changed. Now, instead of having 9 set sites and only being able to play the site with the appropriate number each time your opponent moved to the next site, you have a set of sites you can choose from, and play the site you want to play next.

This increased the strategy of the game significantly as you could now choose to play a site whose text benefits your Shadow side if your opponent is ahead of you and moving to a new site. You could also choose the site with the highest Shadow number to give you the maximum number of tokens if you have a lot of minions to play. 

Site manipulation also became very popular using cards like Ulaire Nelya, to give your Shadow side extra benefits, or to set up a better Fellowship phase for yourself when it became your turn:

The rules for the new adventure deck are simple: 
  • You still only get 9 sites in your adventure deck.
  • You cannot have more than one copy of any given site in your adventure deck.
  • You can have no more than 3 sites with the same Shadow number in your adventure deck.
  • The 3rd site and the 6th site on the adventure path automatically gain the keyword Sanctuary.
One of the most exciting changes was the introduction of old sites with the new freedom to play them at any point in the site path, not just site 1:

Monday, July 16, 2012

LOTR TCG Rules Explained - Episode 1: Controlling/Liberating Sites

I've been getting questions from some of the blog's followers lately that inspired me to start doing a deeper dive into the rules of the game. Much like the Starter Deck series, my hope is that this will give me even more inspiration to post more content here, and give my readers more reasons to come back!

Today I wanted to take a look at Controlling and Liberating sites.

Site control was introduced in the Two Towers Block, but became more popular with the release of Siege of Gondor.

Essentially, site control is a tactic the Shadow Player can use to do various, powerful things called out by specific cards. For example, once you control a site, you can activate Gorgoroth Assassin's text to assign him to an unbound companion.

You take control of a site by using a card like Siege Troop.

Physically, when the Shadow Player controls a site, they take the first available site on the Site Path and place it in their Support Area.

For example, if Player 1 is at Site 5 and Player 2 is at Site 4, and Player 1 uses Siege Troop to control a site, they take Site 1 from the Site Path and move it to their Support Area. Note that if a player's Site Marker is still on Site 1, it can't be controlled. The gametext of that site can no longer be used, although it's keywords are still active (i.e. it is still a battleground).

Finally, the Free Peoples' player can liberate a site using a card like Helm! Helm!

Sites must be liberated from highest site number to lowest site number. When the site is liberated, put it back on the Site Path.

As an interesting aside, when I worked at Decipher during the summer of 2002, we were playtesting The Two Towers and creating the control mechanic. There was originally going to be an auto-win condition, saying that if a player controlled more than 5 sites, they won the game (or if I recall correctly, if a Shadow Player could spot 5 controlled sites, the Ring-Bearer was corrupted). We opted to not introduce a new rule, which I think made the mechanic less popular. Leave a comment to let me know what you think!

Monday, June 04, 2012

Starter Deck Vs Series Episode 1: The Grey Wizard vs King in Exile

Well it's been another long period between posts as life has gotten in the way of posting! But a big 'THANK YOU' to those who continue to read my blog, and a big 'WELCOME' to all the people who have stumbled upon my blog in the past few months and sent me kind words. I hope those who I've sent free cards to are enjoying them!

I thought I'd start a new 'series' which will both be fun for beginners, old-timers, and also help me with inspiration for more posts. This series will be a comparison between various starter decks. If you're a new player, this could help you decide which deck to buy, if you're an old player, please comment and let me know what you think!

What could be more fitting for the first post than the first set of starter decks from the Fellowship of the Ring set?

Each starter deck has several differences: the site paths, the premium cards included (most notably your starting companions, usually), and the minions.

Today, we'll focus on the premium Aragorn, King in Exile vs the premium Gandalf, the Grey Wizard.

Off the bat, they are pretty similar. Same cost, same vitality. Aragorn wins out by one on strength.

Aragorn wins out on keywords, being a Ranger. 

It's the game text that really makes a difference here. 

In the starter deck alone, Aragorn's text is not very helpful. Few of the Fellowship of the Ring companions have the Aragorn signet, and the chances of getting one in your starter deck, then drawing it, and playing it are slim; all to get rid of one wound.

Similarly, Gandalf's text only comes in handy only if you've gotten a Gandalf signet companion in your starter and drawn him during the game. But when you do, saving two twilight could be a big win for your strategy.

In constructed, the story changes significantly. You can build your deck around a signet. In this instance, it really depends: are you planning to having a bloody battle on the way to Site 9? Or are you planning to choke twilight from your opponent and avoid skirmishes altogether?

Being that I've always been one to fight, and given the great Fellowship of the Ring companions with the Aragorn signet including Arwen, Daughter of Elrond, Sam, Son of Hamfast, and Merry, From O'er the Brandywine, Aragorn wins on the gamtext.

So there you have it, our first winner of the Starter Deck Vs Series is: Aragorn, King in Exile, over Gandalf, The Grey Wizard!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Single Player/Endurance Format

Let's start with a sad truth: There just aren't that many people playing Lord of the Rings TCG anymore! You're lucky to be able to find another person to play with period. Finding someone to play with on a regular basis (or often enough to feed your wildly growing addiction) is impossible.

At least that's how I felt.

So I decided to solve my problem by trying out some new ways to play Lord of the Rings TCG in a single player mode. Thus the birth of the Endurance Format.

As with the normal format, you represent the Fellowship and have a Ring-Bearer (any one of your choice) and one additional Companion (any one of your choice). You start at Site 1 (any one of your choice).

You have a draw deck that consists of 30 Fellowship cards (they must be unique/only one copy per deck, and may not contain any Companion cards).

You draw 4 cards to start.

Each turn, during the "Fellowship Phase" you may play 1 card from hand. In Endurance Format, you ignore all costs of cards.

When you move to the next site, you randomly choose a site from any site 2.

There is a Shadow Deck that consists of 60 minions (they must be unique/only one copy per deck).

You shuffle the deck and play the top 2 minions from that deck.

You then move to the maneuver phase, the archery phase, and then the skirmish phase as your would in Normal Format.

Ignore all Maneuver and Archery text on minions, but you still calculate the minion archery total and apply wounds to your fellowship.

If you have any Free People's Maneuver, Archery, or Skirmish events in hand you may play them at the appropriate time for free.

During the Assignment phase, if there are more minions than companions (which there quickly will be) you assign them however you choose.

When you have finished the Skirmish phase, if your Fellowship has survived, you move on to the Regroup phase as normal. You do not discard any minions (unless you have a Regroup event or action that allows you to do so).

You may then draw 2 cards, and proceed on to Site 3. There is no limit to the number of cards you can have in your hand, and there is still Initiative.

You then repeat the process, getting another Fellowship phase. Except this time, you play 3 minions. At Site 4, you play 4, and so on, until you have reached Site 9.


This format is titled 'Endurance' as a nod to video games with an 'Endurance' format where they just send bad guys at you until you can't take it anymore.

It's certainly not the same as the Lord of the Rings TCG you know and love, but it's a fun variant, and opens up a different world of strategies and deck types. What dynamic duo of companions lasts the longest? What cards help you survive the longest? How tough do you want to make your 'Minion Deck'? Try it out, and leave a comment to let me know what you think!

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