|Boromir's Guide to Deck Construction, Part One
A Lord of the Rings: The Card Game spotlight on successful solo play
|The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game | Published 09 January 2012|
“Believe not that in the land of Gondor the blood of Númenor is spent, nor all its pride and dignity forgotten. By our valour the wild folk of the East are still restrained, and the terror of Morgul kept at bay; and thus alone are peace and freedom maintained in the lands behind us, bulwark of the West.”
–Boromir, The Fellowship of the Ring
One of the reasons The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game has entertained so many fans and enjoyed a great deal of success is because it appeals to people across a range of player archetypes–Bilbo, Pippin, and Boromir alike. The game’s narrative structure makes it easy to find a story in every game. Because it’s a Living Card Game, novelty seekers can find new cards to try in their decks and new challenges to face with each monthly release, and enough of the scenarios and their enemies pose sufficient threat to challenge the hardcore Boromirs, who seek glory through conquest. In fact, some of us are still waiting for the combination of cards that will allow us to beat Escape from Dol Guldur solo with a measure of consistency.
The lone traveler’s journey
The game has also found a good measure of success due to its rich solitaire play, but while confronting the challenges of Middle-earth may lead to memorable game experiences, they can also frustrate players with less experience in games with deck construction. The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is unique among these games in that players compete against the forces of Shadow, as controlled by an encounter deck and its artificial intelligence. Still, the encounter deck has its fair share of devious tricks and an arsenal of deadly weapons. Accordingly, it is no simple thing to master the encounter deck and succeed at your quests.
Now that the Khazad-dûm Expansion has arrived, players will face a whole host of new challenges, and some have already wondered how they will fare against the goblin hordes of Moria.
Today, then, we begin a three-part series of deck-building tutorials aimed at the new solo player, but one that should contain helpful information (and reminders) for players of all experience levels.
Sharpening your blade
There’s much to be said for the decisions you make while playing a game, but we begin any conversation about success in a card game by looking at the deck.
While players may find many different card combinations and ways to approach the challenges before them, there are a number of larger, universal concerns that touch upon deck-building in any game, including The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. No matter the scenario you intend to conquer, you’ll want to consider how your deck may provide you with action advantage, card advantage, and resource acceleration. Additionally, every card designer at some point talks about “synergy,” and it’s important to be able to recognize whether or not your deck is filled with synergies between cards, or if it’s a combination of 50 cards all seeking to do their own thing. Meanwhile, each card game introduces its own game-specific concerns, and in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, it’s always worth trying to maintain as low a starting threat as possible, and including some means of reducing it should it start to rise.
Today, we’ll go into a bit more depth about action advantage and card advantage.
Action advantage refers, generally, to the idea that you can do more than your opponent each turn. In a head-to-head game, like A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, you might gain action advantage through “board control” or a stronger “board position.” In short, if you have more and stronger characters on the table than your opponent, you’re more likely to win challenges and the game. In The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, your heroes are limited in what they can do by the number of times they can exhaust. Do you choose to quest with your hero, defend, attack, or exhaust to use a special ability? Each of these is an “action,” and the more actions you can take, the better.
Part of the solution is to include allies. A lot of allies. Many successful decks are almost half full of allies. Allies who can quest allow your heroes to attack or defend. Allies who block enemies for your heroes allow your heroes to quest or attack. Allies are good and help you gain action advantage.
Another part of the solution is to build your deck around heroes who can ready themselves. Aragorn (Core Set, 1), Prince Imrahil (A Journey to Rhosgobel, 50), and Boromir (The Dead Marshes, 95) all come to your fellowship with built-in means of readying themselves. Still, there are other means of readying your heroes. Spirit heroes can help others find Unexpected Courage (Core Set, 57) or recruit a Westfold Horse-Breaker (The Hunt for Gollum, 6), and now, with the release of Khazad-dûm, your Dwarf heroes can get a boost from the Erebor Record Keeper (Khazad-dûm, 11).
Khazad-dûm introduces another card that clever players may use to find action advantage, Ever Onward (Khazad-dûm, 5). Certainly not the most glamorous of cards, Ever Onward may appear at first glance as though it’s merely a safety net. However, if you know you won’t fall deeper into threat by failing at your quest, Ever Onward can afford you a single turn in which for three-cost, all your characters remain ready to confront the enemies with which they are engaged, allowing you to withhold them from questing and assign them, instead, to defense and attack.
You can even find action advantage from cards that don’t provide you with extra actions but can let you “cheat” around the need to take actions. For example, Dúnhere (Core Set, 9) and Quick Strike (Core Set, 35) can let you attack enemies without first having to defend against them. They can save you the need to heal your characters later, prevent nasty shadow effects from resolving, and free you to focus on questing successfully.
Card advantage comes primarily in four forms. One is card draw. The more cards you can draw, the more options you hold in your hands. Another is subtler but no less effective, and that is the ability to do more with fewer cards. The final routes to card advantage are search and recursion.
There are only a handful of cards in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game that accelerate card draw, and the best of them are ubiquitous among top players. Beravor (Core Set, 12) almost always receives the first copy (or two, or three) of Unexpected Courage when she’s present in the party. While it may seem like a waste of an action to exhaust her to draw cards rather than quest, defend, or attack, nothing could be further from the truth. Card draw is the backbone of versatility. The more cards you hold in your hand, the likelier you’ll be able to find the perfect response to any threat. Furthermore, if another of your heroes is a Protector of Lórien (Core Set, 70), you can convert Beravor’s card draw directly into extra Willpower toward the quest. Bilbo (The Hunt for Gollum, 1), Gléowine (Core Set, 62), and Ancient Mathom (A Journey to Rhosgobel, 56) also provide excellent card draw, as can Gandalf (Core Set, 73), when he isn’t busy wounding enemies or lowering your threat.
Gandalf’s versatility serves as an excellent illustration of the second type of card advantage. Not only is he a powerful ally with tremendous benefits while questing, defending, or attacking, but he also offers your party the pick of his three exceptional abilities whenever he comes into play. At five cost, he’s not cheap, but the combination of Gandalf and Sneak Attack (Core Set, 23), both reduces the wizard’s cost and allows you to play him more times. This combination offers classic card advantage. Dwalin (Khazad-dûm, 1) offers similar card advantage with his ability to reduce your threat each time he defeats an Orc. The mines of Moria are filled with Orcs, after all, and if you can boost his strength, Dwalin can both clear away your enemies and control your threat, saving you a card slot you might otherwise spend on The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set, 46).
Finally, cards that search your deck, reorder the cards on top of your deck, or pull other cards out of your discard pile may not provide you with more options in your hand, but they may ensure you hold the right cards. Dwarven Tomb (Core Set, 53) can be as good as any Spirit card in your discard pile. Gildor Inglorion (The Hills of Emyn Muil, 79) is good not only for his excellent statistics; his ability to manipulate the top three cards of your deck can help you find the cards you need earlier than you would otherwise. Gildor’s search ability can also ensure the success of your Zigil Miner (Khazad-dûm, 9), leading to rapid resource acceleration… a fundamental of deck-building at which we will take a look next week!
Next week: We’ll explore the importance of resource acceleration and synergy, and we’ll look at more cards from Khazad-dûm and The Redhorn Gate!
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.
Great article and a must for newcomers to the world of the LCG like me.
one more thing to add.you guys at fantasy flight are doing an Amazing job with lotr and agot. the amount of thought and planning that goes into these. and to release something every month. to make a fun, balanced, challenging game and to make it appeal to a varety of players. hats off to you guys. genius. and thank you Nate French.
by the way. if you don't have massing at osgiliath- get it! this is not a plug for fantasy. you'll hate me at first(probably the first dozen games or so.)
I liked the premade decks they'd give you with agot when you bought the deluxe expansions. gave you a feel of how a deck should be built. (i wish they sill would, especially for new players or casual players. maybe fantasy could do it for lotr. ) how it needed to be balanced(resource, allies, events, attachments.) I liked the point in this article- Synergy. think of a theme. (themes aren't always the most effective but they make the game more interesting and fun.) or look at the scenarios. do i need to do alot of questing. do i need to get rid of alot of enemies. how strong are the enemies.( if you're doing a quest with hardly any orcs- would you put in a 4 pt. orc slayer?- no.) make the cards work together with a purpose you have in mind for the scenario. massing at osgiliath seemed impossible the first few times soloing. but once you get the feel of the scenario straight in your head you begin to understand what you got to do. still very challenging. but it then becomes fun. dol guldur on the other hand. i only bother with that 2 player. still waiting for the cards.
roll on next week...back to tasty previews
I mostly play solo game cose is really challenge and interesting. But then sometimes when you play 2 players game is get feelings the game is to easy........ In 3 players game is like a walk in the park. So I happy Khazad-Dum Change it!
Funny. Last night I played solo again and got smashed by the encounter deck (and it was only Flies and Spiders). I was just complaining to my brother today about how I don't have the skills to make good decks. Of course, having more than the Core Set would be a great boon as well . . .
.......I hoped for a preview of Redhorn Gate......
Great article, thanks.
Having played a little bit now I'm really looking forward to playing some solo games to get a better 'feel' for the strategies. Any help/tips for solo play are greatly appreciated.
Also, any chance of hints or guidelines on writing our own scenario's? I think this would add a great deal of replayability to the game - not that it's really lacking anyway.
Not sure if it was deliberate, but I like how Tiziano made Boromir resemble Eddard Stark as he appears in his Tower of the Hand version. ^_^
I'm really enjoying building decks for this game, and insight to the basics of deckbuilding are always appreciated. Couple more unique card interactions and maybe some color-combination suggestions would be appreciated!
GO GREEN-PURPLE CONTROL!!!