|The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game | Published 23 May 2011|
by Nate French
Hello travelers! Welcome to my first designer journal for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. In this entry, I invite you to join me as we look at three player archetypes.
At this point, you might be scratching your head, asking yourself, what’s a player archetype? Well, it’s kind of like a gaming personality profile, or a psychographic, that encapsulates what a player is hoping for in a game experience. These archetypes are useful as design tools when we’re trying to evaluate cards, as we ask each other questions like, “Which player type is going to like this card the most?” and “Do we have enough cards for players of type _____?” These archetypes are also useful for players when discussing the game, their decks, their play groups, and the results of specific game sessions. In short, they are metaphoric categories that help in discussing and formalizing the sometimes abstract and competing desires that cause people to play games.
To keep the discussion thematic, I’m going to cast each player archetype as a character from Middle-earth. Starting with...
Bilbo -- “It’s all about the story...”
In The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins was swept up in an adventure that changed his life as well as his perception of the world. Many of us had a similar experience the first time we read his story. Bilbo is also a chronicler of both his own travels and of the history of Middle-earth, and he loves to spin and listen to tales of any sort. The Bilbo player, then, is driven by a strong desire for adventure and storytelling.
Being a part of an exciting, cohesive narrative that is strongly evocative of J.R.R. Tolkien’s writing is the ultimate goal when a Bilbo player sits down to play the game. He has a strong affection for Middle-earth, and wants to experience a rich, thematic adventure in that world. The art, the flavor text, and the story that unfolds as the game progresses are the most important elements of his play experience. Bilbo will often build theme decks, designed around a very specific aspect of Tolkien’s work, such as “The Three Hunters,” or “The Elves of the Golden Wood.” When such a player is in his element, the game may take on a feel that resembles that of a role playing game, using the cards as prompts to tell a story of epic adventure. The Bilbo player’s decisions are driven by a sense of what makes for the most satisfying story, rather than looking for the most elaborate combo, or the surest path to victory. He seeks a tale that can be told and retold for ages to come.
Pippin -- “Novelty seeker...”
With the blood of the Tooks in his veins, Pippin embodies a fascination with things he hasn’t seen before. His curiosity drew him to the well in Moria, and he could not resist the allure of the Palantir. This attraction to novelty is a fitting summation of the mindset and motivation of our next archetype, the Pippin player.
New card combinations, interesting mechanics, and novel game interactions will abound in a Pippin player’s deck. While he is playing the game, he’ll do things simply “to see what happens,” sometimes to the dismay of his companions. He’ll play decks that are less consistent and efficient than the Boromir player, but his decks will inevitably have some interesting twist that, when it goes off, will leave the rest of the table in astonishment. Even if his deck backfires 9 times out of 10, the one time it does work will give the Pippin player all the satisfaction he needs. After which his insatiable curiosity leads him to try out different decks in an unending quest of discovery.
Boromir -- “Victory at any cost!”
In The Fellowship of the Ring, Boromir was consumed by a desire to seize the Ring, and use it to lead the armies of Gondor to a victory against Sauron. This single-minded, all consuming focus on winning–at any cost–is the mindset and motivation of our final archetype, the Boromir player.
Boromir always aims to have the strongest, most efficient decks, and he’ll use the most powerful strategies to defeat a scenario. He doesn’t really care about theme, as long as it stays out of the way of his victory. Card mechanics are judged solely by their power and utility. He is having the most fun when he is playing with power, and winning in the process.
An interesting corollary to the Boromir player profile is that, while he enjoys winning, he enjoys winning against a worthy opponent even more. This is because he sees each win as an accomplishment, a foe vanquished on the battlefield, and the bigger the vanquished foe, the bigger the accomplishment. To that end, the Boromir player is continually drawn to more and more challenging scenarios, always eager to prove that he is up for the challenge.
Hybrid Players, Hybrid Groups
When thinking about these player archetypes, it is helpful to remember that they are not mutually exclusive. While you may sometimes encounter a player who is 100% Boromir, or a pure Bilbo who is solely into the game’s theme, many of us are hybrids. For instance, you might find a player who is strongly drawn to the game from a love of the source material (75% Bilbo), but he’s played a dozen other card games and also enjoys discovering new tricks and testing new decks (25% Pippin). It’s also possible that a single player might play the game for different reasons at different times, depending on his mood or preference on any given day.
Player archetypes can change based on group dynamics, and they also change the way a group experiences the game. It might be helpful to discuss your approach ahead of time and attempt a game session from a single perspective, so that all players are on the same page (or at least know what the others are hoping for): “Are we going to play this game as two “Bilbo types,” with hugely thematic decks, roleplaying and storytelling every step of the way? Are we both “Pippins,” with an elaborate combination that involves both decklists, that we’re going to try our hardest to set up and execute? Or are we two “Boromirs,” who are coming at the quest with min-maxed decks, pristine play, and the goal of getting the best possible score?” Mixed groups can make the game even more interesting, if at times more challenging: a Boromir type is trying his darnedest to win, but he has his work cut out for him with his Pippin companion, who keeps dredging up more and more trouble... The combinations are many, and providing the cards so that players can continue to explore the game from each of these perspectives is an important part of our goal as designers.
So that’s all for this entry in my designer journal. I’m curious to see how you, our new community of players, identify yourselves within these three archetypes. Are you mostly Boromir with a little Pippin, purely Bilbo, or an equal mix of all three? Does your player profile differ or change when you are playing solo and when you are playing in a group? I’m looking forward to reading your responses on our forums. Till then, “the Road goes ever on and on...”
The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is a cooperative card game that puts 1-2 players (or up to four with an additional Core Set) in control of the most powerful characters and artifacts of Middle-earth. Players will select heroes, gather allies, acquire artifacts, and coordinate their efforts to face Middle-earth’s most dangerous fiends. The Living Card Game format allows players to customize their gaming experience with monthly Adventure Pack expansions to the core game.
I think I am 55% Bilbo, 35% Boromir and 10% Pippin!
@Gibby - Don't hold your breath. The other LCGs have been wanting/waiting for this for awhile with no word. Though I'd be ecstatic to be proven wrong.
40% Bilbo, 60% Pippin. I lose a lot. But whatever.
This game needs a pack completing the core set to 3 copies of each player card badly.
I tried to build my first deck - tournament legal as it's a good indicator of what the designers deem reasonable for a balanced game - but failed horribly. Using two spheres, I had to include lots of cards I didn't want to, both from a Timmy and Spike perspective (Bilbo and Boromir). Sure, with a few expansions out this will get better and I am looking forward to them, but publishing this article now smells of hypocrisy.
I don't find having to buy the core set multiple times and adequate answer. Not only pricewise, but also in terms of unused cards.
Please FFG, do publish a core set supplement.
50% Pippin, 35% Boromir, 15% Bilbo
Gonna have to say, probably 75% Boromir and 25% Bilbo. I can't help it :(
I am definitely a Pippin-type character. Card combos and interesting mechanics are where it's at! Very interesting perspective Nate! It was a fun read.
I'm about 75% Bilbo, 20% Boromir, and 5% Pippen.
Purely Boromir gamers are probably not often drawn to co-op games. I like my decks to make sense story-wise. So, for example, I don't mix elves and dwarves among the heroes in my decks.
I like it best when good thematic combinations also lead to victory, and are also fun to play. I don't ask for much. ;)
What a fine article, Nate. Thanks. I'm always interested in the design process of games, especially those I love. In this game, I'm 90% Bilbo and 10% Boromir (more or less). Give me theme, art, storylines, adventure! Give me Middle Earth!
I would say I'm a 10% Bilbo and 90% Pipin.
Thanks for this article
Haha, an echo of "Timmy, Johnny, and Spike" as Mark Rosewater shaped them long ago for Magic the Gathering :)
A very sensitive view of players' expectations, even if it shouldn't be the end of all regarding design and development persperctives.
Very insightful article, thanks Nate. I would love to hear more about the design process for the game.