The Lord of the Rings saga has always been popular, but perhaps never has it been as mainstream as it is now. A decade ago, the movie trilogy brought orcs, elves, and dwarves into theaters and then our living rooms. Later this year, the long delayed film based on The Hobbit will be released. The video game legacy for the Lord of the Rings saga is a lengthy one, culminating in last fall's War in the North game. For Tabletop Co-Op this month, we'll look at a card game based on Tolkien's magnificant setting.
The Lord of the Rings: the Card Game (hereafter abbreviated LotRCG) is published by Fantasy Flight. LotRCG is referred to as a living card game, a model for release that has become popular in recent years. Unlike collectable card games, like Magic: the Gathering, there are no blind packs or rarity systems. Instead, you know exactly what is in the box before you buy. The "living" part of the living card game comes from the regular supply of new releases every month or so that add to the experience. In essence, what you have is a base set, with a good deal of value, and then mini-expansions that can be purchased if and when you want to mix things up a bit.
Thankfully, the base set alone provides the complete experience for up to two players. Scenarios, an even dozen hero cards, and four different starter decks are available for use. There are three scenarios available, ranging from a fairly easy trek through the woods to a brutal rescue mission. In order to complete the scenarios, you'll need heroes. Each player can pick a set of three, which are grouped by similarity. Last, each player creates a deck, or uses one of the premade ones, selecting cards to complement the heroes chosen.
Heroes, and in most cases the decks tuned to go with them, are associated with a particular sphere. Legolas, a cunning fighter, is Tactics, while Aragorn's charisma and influence are Leadership. The other spheres are Lore, tied to intelligence and study, and Spirit, which represents willpower and courage. Some decks might exclusively specialize in one of these areas, while others might go for a balance. Adjusting the decks to fit your favorite heroes and your own particular playstyle is a large part of the fun.