Tag Archives: Caldara

FAQ News – Keeping it Real in a World Gone Digital

After many months of silence, and a general lack of new content for Lord of the Rings LCG, everything kicked off in the last few weeks of 2017.

We got an FAQ, which came with major errata to 3 Heroes and a selection of player-cards, the long-awaited release of a rather underwhelming Adventure Pack, the announcement of a new cycle, and the launch announcement for a digital re-invention of the game.

Although this blog has more-or-less shut-up-shop, it felt like this was a time worth offering a thought or two.

Get FAQ-ed

I hate errata. I think I need to begin there.

One of the big selling points of the LCG format has always been the predictability, the fact that everyone who buys the pack gets the same thing.

As soon as you change cards, that’s not the case anymore.

zigil-minerWe have a couple of new-ish players of LotR coming to our monthly meet-up at the FLGS – they’ve probably been coming along for 9 months (although I’m notoriously bad at time-frames), and are still picking up the cards. A little while back, we noticed that 2 of us have copies of Zigil Miner in play – except that mine comes from when Khazad Dum was originally printed in 2011, his was a reprint 6 years later- now we’ve got 2 copies of the same card, that have different abilities.

I only ever built a dedicated Zigil Miner deck once, it was fun enough to try for a change, but I never felt the need to use it to break every quest. The designers felt differently, and decided that the card needed to be changed.

For a competitive card game, the designers need to be constantly re-balancing the meta, to ensure the game remains fun and playable, to keep the tournament scene viable.

Master-of-LoreFor a co-op game though, that’s not the case. If a card is making the game too easy for you– DON’T USE IT! I’d be amazed if even 1% of LotR time is organised play, these changes just aren’t needed.

Even if you accept the concept of an errata-dealing FAQ, I feel like FFG has a history of breaking entirely the wrong card to deal with a “problem:”

Someone creates a 5-card combo to draw their entire deck? – let’s make Master of Lore completely useless to stop them doing it, and thereby remove pseudo-resource affects from a poor sphere with expensive cards!


FAQ 2017

With that context laid down, these card-by-card thoughts on someone of the standout changes probably won’t surprise you, but here goes.

Hama-ErrataSomeone is boring enough to spend all their resources every round on Thicket of Spears, constantly recycling with Hama? – let’s put a crushing limit on Hama (who was hardly overrunning the game to begin with) and remove the nearest thing Tactics have to viable card draw!

Boromir-ErrataBoromir certainly had potential to get very powerful. However, you still needed lots of threat reduction to use him much, and the really “game-breaking” effects came from people combo-ing him Steward of Gondor, Blood of Numenor, and Gondorian Fire – that’s right, a three-sphere combo which needs to be left for several rounds (rounds in which you’re spending virtually zero tactics resources) to actually make much difference. In applying the limit to Boromir, they’ve made him unable to fend off 2 or 3 attacks and at least launch 1 counter-attack in a desperate situation – the broken combo players will find another way to abuse the card-pool, but his utility for survival in a pinch is massively curtailed.

Caldara-ErrataCaldara decks could be a bit bonkers at times, but the only reactions I ever had from people playing opposite it was “wow that’s cool” and “now we can finally beat the stupid quest that’s been stomping on our faces and actually enjoy the game again.”

The Caldara deck is dead now, its demise blamed on Ally Imrahil (a 4-cost ally who I was sure I’d previously read didn’t work timing-wise) and Sword-Thain, which is also 4-cost card with a shortage of decent targets to play it on [they’re either too expensive (Jubayr, Sulien) or have appalling stats (Emery)]. Honestly, the amount of set-up the deck required meant that whilst it was powerful, it still wasn’t an auto-win. Whilst the designers seek to reassure us that we can still use her ability once, the whole play-style has been crushed: chucking all your big allies into the discard pile is fine if you think you will get multiple attempts to get them back, but if you’re limited to an absolute max of 4 per game, then all you’re doing is losing most of the best cards in your deck.

We-Are-Not-Idle-ErrataThe last one which really wound me up was We Are Not Idle – a card which could previously gain you a bit of resource acceleration now only triggers off of dwarf heroes, not dwarf characters. Once again, the logic stinks: yes, you can exhaust a million dwarves, get a million resources, and then ready them all with Lure of Moria, but if you’ve got that many dwarves in play, you’ve probably already got things sussed. Where this card previously had real value was in the early turns for generating the odd resource or two to get things moving. It can’t do that anymore.

As I said above, I don’t like errata, I don’t think it has a place in a cooperative game, unless there’s a card that’s literally broken (Ravens of the Mountains). Even then, it’s something that’s clarifying a common-sense interpretation (i.e. the way most people were playing it anyway). As a whole, I think this FAQ stinks with most, if not all, of the decisions they made being the wrong ones.

I also found the article justifying the FAQ particularly disingenuous – focusing on worst-case examples, and completely trivialising costs – ‘Eleanor with Doughty Ranger and Wingfoot can nullify treacheries as a card-type’ they say, ignoring the need to draw and play a multi-card combo, the impact of surge or doom, or the extra locations and enemies you end up with (remember Eleanor always draws a replacement). They also talk about We Are Not Idle allowing you to play every ally in your deck by turn 2 “when recurring this card” – as if recurring events is now something you can just do for free, by magic.


Too Late

attackondolguldur_coverAs a last note on the FAQ, there’s a question of timing. The game has got MUCH harder in recent times, as the designers build quests designed to tax the most powerful of decks. Our enjoyment of Mountain of Fire has been severely curtailed by not being able to get past the first scenario. Probably the way to finally get this to go away would be to throw Caldara at it, but ‘officially’ that’s no longer an option.

I have no intention of implementing any of the changes that this FAQ includes, and for home play that’s fine. It does cause problems for organised play though – sometime soon we’ll be gathering to play Attack on Dol Guldur (we had to cancel the FFG-imposed December date as they hadn’t sent it) – the GenCon quest that nobody beat. If they wanted us to play with these Nerfed decks, they could at least design quests that did something other than punch us in the face.



Once we’d had a chance to get over the shock of the FAQ it was December, and time for news. We’d been promised a “Big Announcement” and were all really hoping that this wasn’t it when they announced… the next Deluxe.


At least the art is nice

Now obviously, if you’re a fan of the game, and you want ongoing content, a new deluxe is nice, but it’s hardly a bomb announcement to end six months of silence.

Wilds of Rhovanion takes us north from Harad and off into the East. In one sense, this is obvious terrain for the game to go into – it’s sufficiently wild and off-the-beaten-track to accommodate the adventures that minor-league heroes should be having.

SpiderThat said, the expansion didn’t do a great deal to grab me. For one thing, the first two quests: Journey up the Anduin and Lost in Mirkwood look like fairly thinly-veiled re-hashes of the opening Core Set scenarios, except that by now the enemies have trebled in size, and hit for 5, twice in a round.

Assuming you make it through that slog fest, you can proceed to Dale, where Bard Son of Brand (not to be confused with his great-grandfather) joins Brand Son of Bain to flesh out the “Dale” trait – customise your decks with merchants who ship attachments around the wild lands of the east. Possibly there’s some mechanical interest in attachment manipulation and “Guarded” player cards, but thematically this just bored me.


The Future is Digital

screen-shot-1A day later, everything became clear. The Deluxe announcement was just to make sure that people didn’t think the game was dying. Obviously, they do that all the time, but it was probably even more likely in the face of the new announcement for Fantasy Flight’s first Digital LCG.

Rather than just another OCTGN re-hash, this is definitely its own game. Although you still have 3 heroes, decks are only 30-cards and the game is designed to break down into 10-20 minute sessions. There are just 2 phases: Planning and Adventure, and Sauron is an AI, with his own resources to spend on objectives, treacheries and enemies. Staging area and encounter-deck locations have been replaced with simply the place your party currently finds itself.

Combat is simplified – enemies and the hero they fight deal simultaneous damage (defence is no longer a thing). Resource matching is also thing of the past, with resources now being usable wherever – instead Hero spheres turn into deck-building requirements: cards now have “Levels” with level 1, 2 or 3 cards requiring the corresponding number of heroes in that sphere.


mainmenu-goodAll-in-all, it sounded interesting, although I did have a few major concerns. Firstly the platform: it’s Steam only, at least to begin with, which feels odd, as this seems to be a game that’s far more suited to tablet play than sitting down at a PC. The feeling seems to be that Android and iOS will follow, although I’ve not found a concrete source for that (I’ve read all the articles I could find from FFG, but not seen the video of the live-stream where they made the initial announcement).

It’s also unclear how exactly this will break down financially. It’s described as “free-to-play” but it’s unclear how the expanding card/adventure pool will work. There are some noble-sounding statements about “Valour” (points earned through game play) being “the heart of the game’s economy” but the break-down makes it sound like the Valour cards can be purchased with either Valour or real money, whilst the larger Hero packs sound like cash-only acquisitions.

Now obviously, FFG is making this game because they want to turn a profit, so I’m not expecting a completely free experience, but I’ll be watching closely to see just how much scope there is to play without paying through the nose. (assuming there’s an iOS version available…)


A Missed Opportunity?

The more I looked at the announcement information, the more I felt like they had missed an opportunity.

The Physical LCG…

I need to be less casual with my use of names, as there’s now The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (the thing I’ve been referring to as LotR LCG for years) and The Lord of the Rings Living Card Game (the new digital thing).

Anyway, the physical game feels increasingly bloated and old – there are too many cards: ancient Core Set cards with no plausible use in the modern day, powerful deck-definers, nerfed errata fodder, recently arrived non-entities that simply drown in the over-sized pool. The quests are increasingly fiddly, and too much of the difficulty feels like “hard for hard’s sake.”

I think this would have been the moment for a re-set. LotR LCG 2.0 – they could have timed it to coincide with the release of the upcoming Amazon series, and even borrowed a leaf out of Mansions of Madness’ book and have it partially app-driven, which would allow them to have the Sauron AI, or to reduce the book-keeping involved.

I’ve said similar things before, but right now, I really can’t see myself buying any more content for this game, beyond the 6th and final AP of the current cycle. I don’t care about Bard-son-of-Brand-son-of-Bain-son-of-Bard, and have no particular desire for yet another slog through Mirkwood with even bigger spiders (especially as Nightmare Passage Through Mirkwood is one of the few Nightmare Quests that actually feels worth playing rather than the original). Maybe they’ll announce that we’re finally getting a Thranduil hero and give him a sufficiently cool ability that they tempt me back in, but right now I’m quite happy playing Arkham and hoping it doesn’t get him with the errata-hammer any time soon. When I do feel the LotR itch again, I’ve plenty of content to wade through.

The Ins and Outs of Deck-Building – Part 2

Last week I started taking a look at the issue of deck-building, via my ultimately unsuccessful attempt at a quad-sphere Hobbit deck. Whilst that enterprise was unsuccessful, I’m still looking at the issue of deck-building, this time with a slightly different deck, before going on to look at some more general principles and tips.

In High Spirits

The other deck I’ve been inspired to build recently, is a mono-spirit one. Instantly, the one-spirit limitation puts some useful restrictions on what I can possibly include (unless I start getting carried away with Songs) so I was more optimistic about getting a compact build out of this one.

ArwenCaldaraThain The plan here is for something involving Hero-Arwen, Caldara, and Sword-Thain. Arwen makes it easy to put allies into your discard pile, and generates some money, Sword-Thain gives you a 4th Spirit Hero, so Caldara can return 3 allies instead of 2, and the combination of Arwen’s resource-generation and that extra hero make it easier to pay for Fortune or Fate to bring her back and go round again.

There are 12 unique allies in Spirit, of which one is Arwen, who can’t be in play at the same time as her Hero version. Out of the remaining 11, there are various good candidates for who to make the Hero although as Seastan noted on a recent Episode of Cardboard of the Rings, Dwalin is a good choice as you can use Well-Equipped to put Sword-Thain on him for free – an easy thing to set up if you’re using an Imladris Stargazer.

The first run at this deck then, felt like it should be a lot easier that trying to build a slightly schizophrenic quad-sphere: the deck has a clear idea of what it’s doing, and isn’t pulling in too many directions. Lots of Spirit Allies are the obvious starting point, including high-cost ones to maximise the benefit of Caldara-ing them into play, rather than paying normally. You also need some key glue cards like Sword Thain, Imladris Stargazer and Fortune or Fate, utility cards like Elven Light (Card-Draw), Dwarven Tomb (recycling) and the Spirit Staples such as Test of Will, Hasty Stroke, Elrond’s Counsel. Just sitting down and throwing things together, I came out with a first pass of 65 cards.

Damrod I managed to do some whittling just by leafing through a couple of times, but suddenly it became apparent that the “clear idea” this deck had wasn’t as clear as it might seem. I knew I needed lots of Spirit allies, but how many? As noted above, I put in lots of the high-cost characters to maximise the resource gain from Caldara, but I also needed some low-cost options for early rounds where I was playing normally. I’d chosen Frodo as my third hero, which also raised question-marks about how much threat control I needed. With defence taken care of, there was still the question of attack, which remained a slightly hazy area, depending on whether I was using the deck Solo (in which case it really needs to be able to handle combat) or multi-player, where it could be a question deck opposite a Tactics Aragorn and the Dunedain deck.

The large amount of discard involved in this deck, through cards like Zigil Miner, Well-Equipped, and even a copy of Emery, plus the repeatable draw from Arwen + Elven Light mean that I’m likely to see more cards than usual, and a slightly over-sized deck isn’t necessarily the end of the world. However, every extra card in the deck makes it roughly 1% less likely that I’ll have drawn my key card after Mulligan (with multiple ways to draw/discard, I think the Imladris Stargazer is probably the key card to set-up everything else).

I gave this a couple of runs in Khazad-Dum, 2-player: it managed to pull-off the discard for a Northern Tracker and a Lorien Guide, getting rid of a pair of watchful eyes that were attached to Caldara, before bringing her back for +2. As expected though, combat was a challenge, and the swarmy nature of all those little goblinses meant we were often in danger of getting overrun. I’m fairly confident of getting this into a decent shape with a bit more table-time, and whilst 50 is probably not likely to happen, at-least sub-60 should be doable

Slimming Techniques

BomburGoing back to the decks which bloat then, the question remains: how do you decide what to leave out?

Speaking as the person least equipped to answer this question, I think it’s important now that the card-pool has reached this size, to have a clear idea in mind of what do you want your deck to do? There is no “One Deck to Rule Them All” – you may be able to build a deck which is sufficiently good at something (such as getting allies out) that it manages to cover a lot of aspects of the game, but it will be doing it from a particular direction. The crucial second step of this process, is to recognise what your deck isn’t trying to do! To put all this another way, don’t just include something because it’s a “Good Card” – include it because it’s a Good Card for this deck.

You also need to think about your Resource Curve. Better Men and Bears than me have explained this concept in a lot of detail before, but it’s possible to state fairly simply: If you have one Hero in a particularly sphere, you need to think hard before you put a 4 or 5-cost card in of that sphere. Or before you put in loads and loads of 3-costers.

BeaconsThe next thing is probably the one I struggle most with, but there are times when you need to ask yourself, what is an unaffordable luxury? Something might seem like a really nice effect, but if you can’t really set it up, pay for it, or in other ways trigger it, then it’s probably time to think again. Ally Faramir and Sword That Was Broken on Aragron, are both great cards in a deck focused on spitting out dozens of cheap allies to swarm the quest with. If you’ve got a build which focuses on getting 2 or 3 big allies into play, you’ve potentially just spent a lot of money on a fairly limited effect.

Obviously, there is a certain amount of overlap between all these areas. The Galadhrim’s Greeting is a great card- who doesn’t love -6 threat (or -2 threat each for several of you). However, if you’ve only got a single spirit Hero, who is saving resources for cancellation, and trying to put out some key allies, are you really going to have 3 spare Spirit Resources to play it? It’s not doing what you want your deck to do, it doesn’t match your resource curve, and overall, it may well be an unaffordable luxury.

SpiritStaplesThe last thing I’d add, is that you need to make the hard choices. Despite all I’ve said above, it’s very rare that I build a deck with Spirit in that doesn’t have at least one copy of Galadhrim’s Greeting. And an Unexpected Courage or Two. And some Northern Trackers… Every time I touch on an area, or a sphere, there are a dozen other cards I just instinctively want to drop in alongside it. If you want to build effective decks for this game, you need to avoid my mistakes, and stay sharp.


RohanEvents As an aside, it’s worth mentioning the possibility of making deck-building decisions based on theme. Obviously there is a mechanical element to this: If you’ve got Celeborn in play, lots of Silvan Allies and lots of bouncing effects will make sense – it helps you maximise that +1/+1/+1 benefit. Equally though, you may choose to leave out the Warden of Healing, and include the Daughter of Nimrodel because she’s a better fit thematically, even if the Warden is more flexible (and in the same game as Hero Elrond, just plain better).


As noted at the start, I’m a terrible deck-builder, and probably the last person you should be taking advice from, but I hope this has been a helpful pair of articles, as a cautionary tale, if nothing else, offering hope to those of us without the skills to build like the masters. I’d be interested to know what strategies anyone else uses when building- how you decide what to leave out, and how you keep that deck trimmed.