As we look ahead to the Christmas and New Year holidays, many websites and blogs are doing “year in review” type articles, and I’m no different. In my opinion, 2015 was the best year yet for our beloved card game. The developers have taken the structure of LOTR:LCG to a whole new level. This year alone saw the introduction of side quests, cards that manipulate the victory display, cards that attach to quests, and even cards that interact directly with your physical threat dial. So, without further ado, here’s my personal favorites of 2015.
This is a challenging one, as we had so many to choose from this year: seven adventure packs, one deluxe expansion, two saga boxes, and two print on demand quests. (That’s eighteen quests, for those of you who are counting.) For me, The Ruins of Belegost, the GenCon quest, really takes the cake. Although very challenging, it is not all that complicated to set up and take down, and I thoroughly enjoy every play of it since, depending on what treasures you find, it plays out very differently. This one is going to see a lot of play at my table for years to come.
Once again, there are a lot of choices here, and they are made more difficult by the fact that so many of them are so powerful! However, the nod goes to Spirit Theoden. Rohan was a fun faction to play before he arrived, but it was challenging to get everything working because some of the early Rohan allies were steeply priced. In addition, since most Rohan cards are in the Tactics and Spirit spheres, which are not known for their resource acceleration, it was difficult to get those allies out unless you splashed in Leadership. Spirit Theoden has given us an elegant way to play around these weaknesses, giving a blanket 1-resource discount to one Rohan ally played each round, and that one tweak has sent Rohan into top-tier status.
This one is easy for me: Cursed Dead, first found in the Lost Realm deluxe expansion. Each one is so easy to get rid of, but kill too many, and you’ll soon be swarmed with more spirits that you can shake a sword/bow/axe at. I love all kinds of zombie/undead action, and Cursed Dead is a great way to represent hordes of baddies rising from the grave again…and again…and again! Sure these nasty spirits have caused me to lose many a game, but it always felt right. “Gah! I’ve been swarmed by the souls of the damned! There’s too many of them!”
He found his way into many of my decks, and I was always happy to see him. That’s right folks, it’s everybody’s favorite brinksmanship ally: the Dunedain Hunter! Put him into play for free, discard a few cards from the encounter deck, hope you get an enemy, and pray the enemy isn’t too difficult to deal with. He’s introduced a great risk/reward mechanic into our favorite card game, one that was sorely lacking before. And heck, even if you don’t get an enemy, Horn of Gondor goes off. Toot toot! Someone is getting a resource.
From the Treason of Saruman, the best location of 2015 is Eastemnet. The Uruk-Hai is a brutal quest, and it’s awesome to clear a location, only to find…well, gold, apparently. (Just hidden in the grass?! The Rohirrim don’t seem to think it valuable.) But seriously, one resource on each hero you control is such a relief, especially when you’re down a few heroes already. Thanks for making life easier for us, Eastemnet!
Despite its depressing title, my favorite attachment this year is the 1-cost Lore attachment The Long Defeat. It’s the first player card that can attach to a quest card, and once that quest is cleared, each player can either draw two cards or heal up to five damage. That’s incredibly valuable, and as such, The Long Defeat has made its way into every Lore deck I run, right alongside other Lore staples like Warden of Healing and Daeron’s Runes. In multiplayer games, I like to place this on a player side quest that I think would be really valuable to clear, as it makes it even more likely that the first player will choose it. (My default choice is to place it on Double Back. Then you get to drop your threat by five and choose the best option on the Long Defeat.) Once I play this card, I can see the other players visibly relax, as if to say, “Okay. We’re good. There are option here, and they aren’t all bad.”
This card resulted in more flipped tables for me than I care to admit this year, and maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment, but the award for Favorite Treachery of 2015 goes to Devilry of Saruman. Not only does it almost always clear the location in the quest (very bad in Helm’s Deep!), but it also blanks each character’s text box until the end of the round. I like to think of this as everyone suffers a concussion from the gunpowder blast, so no one can really do much of anything for the rest of the round. Flavor home run, because…well, who was really expecting gunpowder in Middle Earth on their first read-through of The Two Towers? No one!
Art aside (it’s incredible, by the way), the strongest event released this year, and my current favorite, is the Lore event The Door is Closed! Though it takes more setup than A Test of Will, it does provide another form of cancellation by banishing your most-hated cards to the victory display. You’ll still have to take your licks while getting the combo set up, either with None Return or Leave No Trace, but it is oh-so-worth-it when a second copy of the same card shows up, everyone groans, but then you wag your finger and in your sassiest voice shout, “Nuh-uh! No sir! THE DOOR IS CLOSED!” High fives all around.
Hands down, the most bang for my buck this year was The Land of Shadow, the fourth Saga expansion in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which covers the second half of The Two Towers. Not only did the quests rock, but the player cards (check them out!) fleshed out Ents, Rohan, Hobbits, and Trap decks that much further. I’ve never seen a large or small expansion offer so many awesome cards as this one: Snowmane, Damrod, Damrod…I could go on and on.
Favorite LOTR:LCG Experience of 2015
I was fortunate enough to play a lot this year, which I am very thankful for. So I have a lot of options to choose from. And as much as I like sitting down to play with the developers at the Fantasy Flight Games Center, or attending the Fellowship event each year, my favorite LOTR:LCG experience this year was beginning a Saga campaign with my wife. We have enjoyed many nights journeying through The Black Riders, The Old Forest, Fog on the Barrow Downs, and The Road Darkens, and now we are poised to enter the Treason of Saruman together. It’s been an amazing experience, and she has commented that she now feels like she knows the game much better than she did, simply because we’ve played so much. The experience of eight attempts playing Fog on the Barrow Downs cemented her understanding of the rules like nothing else could, and we enjoyed every loss (and our one win!). I cannot wait to continue our journey during the holiday. The Quest must not fail!
Well, there you have it. With such a strong 2015, and with our beloved game in such good hands, I think we are have an amazing 2016 ahead of us. Until next time, mára mesta: good journeys!