Return of the Cards

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August 11, 2015 by Jake

Hail Fellowship! My blog post is going to be pretty straightforward today as I haven’t gotten a lot of gaming done in lieu of deck building. I have taken a long and unexpected sabbatical from the Lord of the Rings card game that is about to end abruptly. Last weekend I tried playing the two-handed variant of the game after making a pair of Rohan themed decks. Playing the game “two-handed” refers to building two game decks and acting as your own second player. Like a fool of the Took I assumed this method would be too cumbersome and somewhat lonely, but to the contrary it provided a wealth of depth to an already voluminous strategy game. Having a lineup of six heroes to begin the game with was inspiring, not daunting, but would the additional tactical avenues prove insurmountable? All I can say is it went catastrophically and I still had a wicked time. The encounter deck for Journey Down the Anduin can turn from bad to worse at the drop of the hat, and if the wrong enemies appear at any point the deck exponentially begins to stack against the players. I had the ill luck of having to fight two Hill Trolls (only two in the entire deck and one starts in play) almost back to back. Every time I formulated a heavy swing forward the Encounter Deck deftly hamstrung my questing potential. The game lasted for hours, but I never lost heart. I think Ruby sensed the tension and came to lend her support, along with a strong reminder of why I don’t play on the living room floor anymore.

Ruby offering moral support while crushing my questing dwarf Thalin.

I eventually lost, but the constant barrage of challenge the adventure offered was enough to get me back in the saddle — thanks Eorlingas! I was so hyped up about the game that I later asked Megan if she would like to learn the game and play the introductory scenario together. Her initial impression was about what I expected it to be. I slowly went through the game’s many phases and as always tried to keep the victory condition of the game as the focus. I let Megan try her hand at the combat deck, which is a vital responsibility, but also a graspable concept to new players. While there is a fair amount of math in the game Megan took to it rather swimmingly. After a few rounds went by she was identifying the merits of different cards in her hand and measuring their values. She was able to account for and take full advantage of her heroes unique abilities, such as Eomer getting stronger after watching allies fall in battle (tactfully sacrificing her soldiers when needed) or eagerly utilizing Legolas’ ability to progress the quest forward as he slays foes. She did make a point to express her irritation that the artwork on Legolas’ card looked nothing like Orlando Bloom. Sorry Magali, I still prefer that card version!

Tall, dark, and immortal. Sorry ladies, but he is spoken for … by his Lorien bow. Dynamic art by Magali Villeneuve.

We completed the scenario in victory, but Megan decided the game wasn’t for her. I can appreciate that, it is a lot of statistics and complexity for a non-gamer, especially without strong roots in role playing or strategy games. I was happy to get to share it with her and with the experience she made the crowning achievement of trying every single game on my Challenge List! She has been so encouraging and I have loved being able to teach her so many of my favorites this year and create these memories. I will be making new decks to try playing the game solo with in the near future, and now every game on my list has been played at least three times! The month of September is going to be very full for us, so this month I will have to balance the desire to enjoy the extra daylight outdoors with the objective of squeezing a few extra games in to lighten the September milestones.

What about you readers? Are there games that you have completely sold to your friends and family that you didn’t think would go make it past the first session? Remain confidant and diligent when teaching more intricate board games, if you love something there is a good chance people you love will too.

Until next weekend brave Rohirrim! Don’t forget to hew the stone and break the door, and may your resource tokens always be plucky!

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