Middle Earth is calling. I have always had a soft spot for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The ropey animated film caught my imagination as a child but what truly invested me in Tolkien’s world was reading the book just before being wowed by Peter Jackson’s amazing trilogy. At its heart it’s a simple tale of good versus evil with heroes struggling to free themselves from an unstoppable corruption. Tales of powerful wizards, mysterious elves and tough dwarves battling cruel orcs are the stuff of epic fantasy but for me it is the humans that I always found the most fascinating. Characters like brave Boromir whose honourable motives are twisted against him are far more interesting than the superhuman elves and the demise of the monstrous Gollum is heart breaking. There is an obvious message about how we must remain steadfast in the face of corruption but to me there is a certain subtext that says we are all vulnerable to it no matter how pure we may think we are.
So how does all that relate to the tabletop? Can all this heroic survival in the face of doom be condensed into a deck of cards? It turns out that the answer is yes. Not The Fellowship of the Ring Top Trumps but the Lord of the Rings Living Card Game from Fantasy Flight which seems to be filling my head constantly when I should be working. The game lets you pick a team of heroes (including favourites like Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli), assemble a bunch of allies, equipment and assists (represented by the player deck) and go up against all kinds of monsters and treacheries. As you progress you have to commit characters to questing or fighting and manage a limited pool of resources to combat random draws from the dreaded encounter deck. It’s tense.
A key part of this game is deck-building and this is where a lot of my day-dreaming time has been taken up with. Like other deckbuilders (eg. Magic or Hearthstone) trying to work out powerful card combinations is key to getting through encounters. However also like those other games there are a never-ending amount of cards to purchase but thanks to the Living Card Game model they are in specified sets and not random packs which means you can get the ones you want. My inner collector needs satisfaction and currently there are 30 expansions to get and deciding which is taxing my brain as well as my wallet. Payday can’t come round soon enough. I want you Boromir!
What seems like a simple card-driven game is actually a rabbit hole of complexity. I have the same feelings for Android: Netrunner but this is dependent on having another player and I have stopped asking my wife to go through a 45 minute cyberpunk face-off. The beauty of the Lord of the Rings is that it’s you versus the game so you can play it solo or take the place of other players, building even more decks in the process. Plus you can stop to admire the artwork as waves of orcs drive your threat skyhigh. So far I have rinsed the Core Set and the spiders of Mirkwood, the endless Anduin River and the horrors of Dol Guldur are well and truly conquered. I cant wait to add to my collection and try a whole new set of horrors. Onward heroes!