Lord of the Rings LCG: Card Draw, Deck Thinning

November 26, 2013

Having not played a CCG or LCG in a while, when I first started playing the Lord of the Rings LCG, I was stumped about deck composition. Eventually I found a few good blogs that offer strategy tips, and my rule of thumb was simple: build decks that are roughly 50% allies, 25% events, and 25% attachments. Now I stray widely from that general rule, but when I’m building a brand new deck, I usually start with those ratios.

But early on, I still found I was running into problems. For instance, I would include three copies (the maximum legal number) of a card that was really important to my strategy. However, if I didn’t draw it in my opening hand or my mulligan hand, I would be despondent, my strategy wouldn’t get off the ground, and I’d lose. How can one overcome such a problem and the accompanying (incorrect) judgement that this game is mostly luck-based? Really, two techniques come to mind:

  • Card Drawing: Utilizing abilities that let you draw more than the required one card per turn, thus allowing you to increase your hand size and increase your options.
  • Deck Thinning: Utilizing abilities that let you hunt for certain cards, draw, or discard in order to decrease the size of your deck and thus increase the chances that you will pull the cards you need later.

There are a few things I’d like to say about how to achieve success when it comes to both of the techniques. First, I  almost always include three copies of a card in my deck. If I included it in a deck in the first place, I think it’s important to have, so why decrease my chances of drawing it by including less than three copies? Second, I play with as small a deck as possible. The “tournament legal” deck in LOTR:LCG is 50 cards. If I play with 51, I can get in three copies of 17 different cards. If I play with 60 cards, I can get in 20 different cards at three copies apiece, but my chances of drawing the card  I need at the right time are drastically reduced. Third, find a way to make multiple copies of unique cards relevant. This is why I love the ally Erestor, because I can essentially use his ability to get rid of extra copies of unique cards and fuel card draw at the same time. This gives value to previously “dead” cards.

One problem I’ve seen in co-op play is players who are afraid to discard in order to cycle through their deck. They pass over King Under the Mountain or A Very Good Tale because it forces discards. I think that’s a mistake. First off, if you have no card draw, you’ll never dig through your whole deck in one game anyway. Second, even if you drew your entire deck into your hand, you’d never have enough resources or time to put everything into play. So don’t sweat the small stuff: cycle through the deck and discard a bunch in order to gain an advantage on the encounter deck.

With all this in mind, here’s a mono-Leadership Outlands deck I built recently that utilizes every bit of card draw available to that sphere:

Heroes
Hirluin the Fair
Theodred
Balin
(Threat = 25)

Allies (27)
Gandalf x 3 (draw three cards upon entering play)
Erestor x 3 (once per round, may discard one card from hand to draw one card)
Forlong x 3
Anfalas Herdsman x 3
Hunter of Lamedon x 3 (upon entering play, discard top card of deck. If it is Outlands, put it in hand.)
Ethir Swordsman x 3
Knights of the Swan x 3
Warrior of Lossarnach x 3
Snowbourn Scout x 3
Envoy of Pelargir x 3 (if solo) OR Errand Rider x 3 (if multiplayer)

Attachments (9)
King Under the Mountain x 3 (Exhaust attachment to draw two cards. Put one in hand, discard the other.)
Lord of Morthond x 3 (Draw a card every time a Spirit, Lore, or Tactics ally is played.)
Steward of Gondor x 3

Events (15)
A Very Good Tale x 3 (Exhaust two characters. Add up their cost, then discard the top five cards of the deck. Place two allies in play whose cost does not exceed the cost of the two exhausted allies.)
Sneak Attack x 3
Strength of Arms x 3
Valiant Sacrifice x3 (When an ally leaves play, draw two cards.)

It’s very easy to draw through this deck in 5-6 turns. I never hesitate to sneak attack Gandalf into play in order to exhaust him to fuel A Very Good Tale. (Essentially you’re paying 1 resource to gain 5 threat reduction, 4 damage on an enemy, or 3 cards + two free Outlands allies.) The first time I trotted out this deck, I played this combo in the mid-game: Sneak Attack + Gandalf (3 cards) + A Very Good Tale + 2xValiant Sacrifice once Gandalf left play. That’s seven cards drawn into hand, 3 discarded from the top of the deck, and two brand new allies in play…all for the cost of three resources and two exhausted characters. (Interestingly, that’s drawing/discarding your way through 24% of your deck!)

Erestor is also critical in the mid-game, because he lets you sluff those extra unique attachments in exchange for more card draw.

Mid-game it’s not unusual to see this deck draw 1 card in the planning phase, draw/discard with King Under the Mountain, then play an Outlands character, which triggers Lord of Morthond, which allows 1 more card draw, and then get rid of/draw a card with Erestor. (That’s digging through 10% of the deck in one round.)

So, my final note to new players: draw cards, draw cards, draw cards! You can’t do nuthin’ if you ain’t got nuthin’ in your hand.


The (Missed) Games of the Year

January 18, 2012

Is 2011 done? What happened? Where’d it go? I feel like I’ve been so busy I didn’t even pay attention to what happened in the board gaming world this last year. So, you won’t be getting a game of the year nomination from me. Instead, here’s a list of all the games I meant to check out this year, but never got around to.

Super Dungeon Explore

This mash-up of board gaming, the Gauntlet video game, and excellent visual design make it a very attractive option. Of course, I don’t even have enough time to get around to check out the game, so I doubt I’m going to have the time to assemble, prime, and paint all the lovely minis. Sorry Super Dungeon Explore, maybe we’ll meet in 2012.

Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game

To illustrate just how far behind I am, this game came out in 2010. I enjoyed the mechanics of 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons when it first came out and thought a slimmed down version could make a for a fine board game. Well, apparently Wizards of the Coast have mind reading spells, because they too that thought and acted on it. And did it again and again. Of course, I have a spot for Ravenloft’s Gothic horror ever since fighting off worgs and dealing with gypsies as a youth at the computer in Strahd’s Possession so there’s only one option of the three games for me.

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

There’s just something about the feel of a deck of cards that I love, so I’m a sucker for card games. Whether it is the trying not to be sucked too deeply into Magic: The Gathering or shuffling Dominion expansions (which despite claiming to be not collectible game nearly is now), I’m always looking for something new to give a try. The LotR’s game is cooperative, which gives in an interesting twists compared to the other card game I play (although, when I first heard of it I was hoping to run a Sauran’s army deck and crush my enemies with a burning eye). I got a chance to play a few turns of the game once and it was enough to make me interested.

Quarriors!

This looks like a light fun game to pull out and play with friends between other games or as a warm up. With all the different colored dice and rolling, it’s probably not to bad for kids either.

Mansions of Madness

With about 50,000 Fantasy Flight Games quality parts, this box probably weighs 1.2 metric tons. In a lot ways, this is the game I want Arkham Horror to be, a focus on a single mystery and location, a touch of roleplaying (done in the right way), and some clever puzzles. A two (maybe more?) hour play time makes it a little on the long side for what it delivers and has kept me from jumping at it.

7 Wonders

John’s been raving about this game and I finally got a chance to play it over the holidays. My little sister received it as a Christmas gift and after one play, I loved it. The drafting mechanic is a whole lot of fun and being able to score victory points in a variety of ways makes for a number of different strategies. It’s a game I’d really like to dig into more and try to do some analysis to see if science is overpowered or if the wonders are really balanced.