One of the games I demoed at Gen Con that I’m most excited about is Fantasy Flight’s new Lord of the Rings card game. It’s a cooperative two-player game (or one-player solitaire game) that follows the “living card game” model used by Fantasy Flight’s Game of Thrones and Call of Cthulhu card games.
Each player chooses a fellowship of heroes and builds a deck of cards with beneficial things like magic swords, allies and Galadriel’s blessing. In the middle is a pile of quest cards and a deck of encounter cards, which are generally bad things like wights and orcs, but may also be locations you can travel to to gain some benefit. Each turn you turn over a pair of encounter cards, then work together to send your heroes in to deal with whatever monsters you find and fend off attacks. If you’re successful, you gain quest tokens. Each quest takes a certain number of tokens to complete. Complete them all and win the game.
Working against you is the threat meter. Certain actions increase the threat meter, and enemy attacks do as well. If the threat meter hits 50 before you accomplish your quest, Sauron’s minions find you and you lose. One mechanic I particularly like is that your starting threat level is based on the strength of your heroes. You can bring out the big guns and build a team with Aragorn, Gandalf and Elrond, but the Dark Lord will surely notice, and you’ll be starting the game with a terribly high threat level. If you use three unassuming hobbitses, well, who would ever think they could derail Sauron’s plans? It’s a clever way to incorporate one of the main themes of the trilogy into the game.
Cards like allies and magic items are played by spending resource tokens. Each hero generates one resource per turn of a given type: Leadership, Lore, Spirit or Tactics. Resource tokens accrue turn by turn, so you may need to save up for more powerful effects. For instance, Aragorn generates Leadership. If you have a card with a Leadership cost of 5, you’d have to save five turns’ worth of tokens to play it. You can also combine resources from two of your heroes, if you had a second Leadership generator, and some cards also boost your resource production. Finally, there are neutral cards that can be played with any type of resource. It should make for interesting deck building.
A starter set will run you $40 and comes with 216 cards, along with a game board, some tokens and other bits and pieces — enough for two players to jump right in. It’s a non-random set of cards, since it’s a living card game. You get everything you need to play, and there are enough cards to build various combinations of heroes, quests and encounters. Later expansion packs (also non-random) will add new cards so you can expand or change your deck and enjoy new twists and variations of the same game.
I was actually all set to buy this at Gen Con, I was that impressed, but it turns out it won’t be out until later this year. Here’s the official site.