The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, Review

Game OverviewMany games have emerged during the last decade with the words “Lord of the Rings” in their name from traditional board games to Monopoly: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition and Risk: The Lord of the Rings. The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is a Living Card Game (LGG). In Living Card Games, a system invented by Fantasy Flight Games, all cards of the game become available in packets, that contain all the cards published in the set in contrast to Trading Card Games in which expansions become available in small packages, called “booster packs” that contain some random cards from the set. That means that with TCGs one has to buy countless boosters in order to find specific cards and thus spend much money whereas on LCGs you just have to buy the appropriate expansions that contain the cards and that’s all. This system has proven to be quite successful taking into account the economic difficulties many countries have run to the last few years. This review is about the core set of the game which contains four 30-card starter decks and components for two players. Expansions of the game, called “adventure packs” come out every month and so far two cycles of expansions have been published, “Shadows of Mirkwood” and “Dwarrowdelf”, along with a deluxe expansion called “Khazad-dûm”. Adventure packs contain 60 cards that include a new scenario, a new hero, three copies of nine new player cards from all spheres and new encounter cards. But what are heroes, player decks, encounter decks and spheres?The Lord of the Rings: The Card game is a cooperative game based on the renowned trilogy novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings. One to four players travel through the lands of Middle-Earth trying to complete dangerous quests and defeat the ancient evil Dark Lord, Sauron. Each player controls 1-3 heroes that become available from the start of the game and each has a deck of cards, that can be played by spending resources that belong to a specific sphere. There are four spheres: “Lore” which emphasizes the potential of the hero’s mind, “Tactics” which emphasizes a hero’s martial prowess, “Spirit” which emphasizes the strength of a hero’s will and “Leadership” which emphasizes the charismatic and inspirational influence of a hero. Each sphere provides a unique style of play and you can include in your deck cards belonging to more than one sphere, providing that you use appropriate heroes as well as they are the source of resources. The player decks comprise of Allies that come to aid your heroes, events influencing the course of the adventure, and attachment cards.At the beginning of the game you decide which of the three scenarios included in the game you are going to play. Each scenario has different difficulty and is represented by quest cards that provide the storyline of the scenario. Each scenario consists of a sequential deck of quest cards and goes along with specific threats (unexplored locations, enemies, treachery and objectives) represented by specific encounter sets. Each scenario requires two or three encounter sets that are shuffled to form the encounter deck.The game starts by setting the threat level of each player (depends on the heroes used) and by shuffling the player and encounter decks. In the course of the game the threat level will eventually rise and when it reaches level 50, the player is eliminated. The rest of the players continue the adventure and if at least one survives till the end of the quest, the whole group of players is considered to have accomplished the quest. The first quest card is revealed and each player draws 6 cards. Then the game continues in rounds, consisting of the following phases:
Resources are gathered from heroes and one card is drawn from the player deck.
Planning. Each player can use resources and play cards such as Allies and Attachments.
Quest. Each player decides which characters (heroes or Allies) they will send to the quest. Then cards equal to the number of players are revealed from the encounter deck and positioned on the staging area. Total willpower of the heroes is compared to the total threat strength of cards in the staging area and if willpower is greater, players have successfully quested and some progress tokens are placed on the quest card. A specific number of tokens are required in each quest for it to be completed.
Travel. Players may travel as a group to a location on the staging area, making it an active location and no longer contributing with its threat level upon questing. Progress tokens are placed there first after successfully questing until the location is fully explored.
Encounter. Players may engage enemy creatures on the staging area and then engagement checks are made to see if any enemies engage the players. Engaged enemies are moved from the staging area and placed in front of the engaging player.
Combat. Enemies then attack the players first and then players attack enemies. Characters may either commit to a quest, defend or attack enemies. Each of these actions require the character to exhaust (turn sideways). Characters may also exhaust when using an ability that requires them to do so.
Refresh. All exhausted characters become ready (moved to their normal upright position). Each player increases his threat by 1, and the first player passes the first player token to the next player clockwise on his left. That player becomes the new first player. Play then proceeds to the resource phase of the next round.
But enough with gameplay aspects. Now is the moment of truth. Does the game hold up to our expectations?First ImpressionsUpon opening the game box, I realized that it was simply too big for what it contained. Actual contents require only the middle one-third of the box, while the two other thirds are covered with cardboard pieces. Overcoming the initial frustration I began opening the small packages containing cards and the cardboard sheets with tokens and the threat counters. Upon observing the components I realized how much attention to detail was given during design. Fantasy Flight has proven in the course of years that where looks matter, it can make the difference and this game is no exception. All cards are exquisitely beautiful and detailed.And then comes the rulebook. I have to admit that it seemed pretty intimidating to read through the 32 page manual but taking into account that many pages are example illustrations, things have been a bit easier than anticipated. But let’s go through our usual rating categories:Components:As mentioned earlier, cards couldn’t be better designed. Images of all cards are awesome, tokens are sturdy and the threat trackers are just superb. The only complain I had is about the number of players that can play the game. While four 30-card decks are included in the box, allowing four players to play, only 2 threat counters are included. I think that it would be appropriate to give full components for four players as only two threat counters would be required. Of course one can easily track threat in a piece of paper but it still seems a bit awkward. Fantasy Flight preferred profit over efficiency stating in the rulebook that “a one to two player game can be played using only the contents of this core set. (Up to four players can play the game cooperatively with a second copy of the core set.)” 9/10Gameplay:Gameplay is well thought of. The game has a lot of depth and allows many different strategies giving players the privilege of adjusting their decks as they please even combining different spheres in them and play according to their style. The game provides absolute immersion, through the beautiful artwork and interesting text on cards, not only quest cards that describe the mission of the party of adventurers but character and enemy cards too. Players are constantly faced with important decisions such as: Which characters should I use to commit to quests, which to defend or attack? Maybe I could use the character’s special ability instead. I was really impressed by the duration of the first few games until all players felt comfortably regarding the rules. The game box states a playing time of 60 minutes but be prepared to play a lot longer in the first games. Everyone who is not intimidated by complex rules and long gameplay and is a fan of the book will simply love this game and never be bored to play it. 8/10Learning Curve:All that is required to learn the game is go once through the rules and play the game once. That could take a while though. It is recommended that one of the players who likes to read rules should just do that and then explain the game to the others while playing the first (easier scenario). Merely stating the game rules will be intimidating and won’t serve much as the rules are pretty extensive and will be soon forgotten without the in-game experience. The sequence of phases is shown in the last pages of the rulebook along with the timing when players can take actions which will prove quite useful. 6/10Theme:The game quests take place during a timespan of 17 years: from when Bilbo celebrates his 111th birthday (and Frodo’s 33rd) to days just prior to Frodo’s leaving the Shire. However the scenarios are not retelling the story of the books but instead they describe new adventures throughout Middle-Earth history. That may be seen as a positive or negative point to players and is clearly a matter of character. I personally find this idea refreshing and more intriguing. Game artwork along with detailed texting and the appearance of well-known heroes such as Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli makes the theme of the game always present in every action players make. 9/10Replayability:Replayability is another strong point of this game. While new adventure packs are released each month, keeping up the interest in the game, even the core set with it’s 3 scenarios is pretty interesting as you will always want to replay scenarios to achieve better scores (lower scores are better!) and accomplish quests in fewer rounds. So replayability is at its best here. 9/10Fun:The game is much fun, though not in a way that will amuse you or make you laugh. Most times you will be struggling to make the right decisions about what actions to take or talk to your fellow mates about the right strategy to advance in the game. I think most fun comes out of the fact that this is a cooperative game. This is accomplished with an intuitive way though, allowing enough space for player cooperation and allowing players to make their own decisions too. I had a lot of fun playing this game 8/10Pros:
Beautiful artwork and high quality material
Each game is different as encounter and player decks are shuffled
Theme is implemented most efficiently
Full deck customization
All cards become available in adventure packs (LCG system)
Cons:
Learning curve is a bit slow (complex rules)
Playing time can be several hours especially for the first game
Components could be included for all 4 players with minimum additions
Overall: 8.2Find out more about this game at:http://www.boardgamemaniac.com/Games/By-Genre/Customizable-Games/LCG/The-Lord-of-the-Rings-The-Card-Game-l97.html

Live Dealer Casinos – A Fad Or the Future?

There have been online casinos around for a long time, with each of them offering various versions of roulette, blackjack, baccarat, and poker with random number generators. With the evolution of new technologies, casinos now have the ability to offer games with real dealers in a live casino environment. This new ability has all of us looking at online casinos and wondering if the new live dealer casinos are fads or the future of online casinos.There are a lot of advantages to playing roulette or blackjack in a live dealer casino. One of the most important advantages is the social networking that can be made through chatting with the dealers or the other players. This kind of interaction can’t be found while playing RNG games, and will only be found either playing in a brick and mortar casino or in an online live dealer casino. It is always nice to join a game and have the dealer greet you by name, or to be able to converse with the other players at the table.Another great advantage to the live dealer casinos is the ability to see the game as it is being played real time. You can watch as the cards are being shuffled and dealt when playing live blackjack, or watch as the roulette wheel spins and the number comes up when playing live roulette. Real people are dealing the cards or spinning the roulette wheel, real people that you can see and hear. When you have the ability to watch these actions, it means that you can be sure that the final result is authentic. I don’t know about you, but I find it comforting to watch to roulette ball as it drops into the number wheel, and then hear the croupier call out the number, as it is happening.Some casinos, such as LuckyLive Casino or DublinBet Casino, have cameras set up in real brick and mortar casinos, like the FitzWilliam Club in Dublin, Ireland. The dealers at these casinos work for the casinos and are filmed live as they are working. You will see other players at the roulette table or sitting at the blackjack table, and you can hear the noise of the live casino in the background. This feed is then streamed into your computer through software, such as Distance Gaming Software. The images that you see on your computer are real time, with virtually no lag time whatsoever.There are some casinos, such as Celtic Casino or Europa Casino, that film the games from a studio with live dealers in a casino setting. Since this is all filmed in a studio, there won’t be any of the background noise that you will find at other live dealer casinos. Although the dealers are in a studio environment, you can rest easy that all of the dealers are thoroughly trained to the standards of the dealers who work in Las Vegas or Monte Carlo. They are all professional, courteous, and extremely competent casino dealers.Whether you decide to play in a live dealer casino that is filmed from a real brick and mortar casino or from a studio, you will find the same level of professionalism that you will find at any casino around the world. The graphics are excellent and the technology just keeps getting better. You will find casinos that do not require any download, and some live dealer casinos offer instant flash casinos which can be played almost immediately. One thing that all of the live dealer casinos can offer is the realistic experience of playing at a live casino without leaving the comfort of your own home. So, grab a beverage of your choice and play some live roulette or live blackjack in one of the new live dealer casinos. You won’t be disappointed. Good luck to you!

The Workings of the Typical Internet Casino Explored

It is said that – going by current statistics – we have more people playing casino games over the Internet than in brick and mortar casinos. This is remarkable, because less than ten years ago, the Internet casino concept was still at its infancy – an idea whose feasibility was still a subject of debate. Few of us could foresee a day when Internet-based casinos would threaten the very existence of traditional brick and mortar casinos. But that is exactly what has happened; in a situation where many traditional brick and mortar stores are forced to downsize, or otherwise adapt to the new serious challenge, actually threat, which is the Internet casino.In order to understand how this phenomenal success of the Internet-based casino has come to be, it would be a good idea to explore the workings of such online casinos, as they are more popularly known.And as it turns out, the online casino works along the same lines as the traditional brick and mortar casino, with the only difference being that it is based on the Internet (so that the players actually play the various games on their computers, through their Internet connections).As with any other type of casino, most of the games played in the Internet casino are, more or less, betting games. These are games of chance to a certain degree, with the degree to which success depends on luck varying from game to game – so that in a game like online bingo, success is almost entirely a matter of luck; whereas in a game like online poker, success seems to be more a matter of strategy than a matter of luck. The typical Internet casino online will tend to have a number of games on offer, with what can be termed as the top Internet casino normally offering pretty much what one would expect in a top, traditional brick and mortar casino.In most of the games offered in online casinos, the participants get to play against one another. There are of course those games where one gets to bet against the ‘house’ but those where people play against one another seem to be the most popular. The greatest advantage of the Internet casino online comes up when we look at the these games where players get to play against one another where, as it turns out, people from entirely different parts of the world can get to play together in real time. Thanks to the many things the Internet has made possible, this no longer seems like a big deal. But for those of us who were there before the coming of these technologies, such things are simply amazing. This bring together of people from different parts of the world – and also makes it possible for people who would most definitely never have gotten to play together, in the traditional order of things, to do so.Starting to play in a typical Internet casino is quite easy, in fact easier, than getting to play in a traditional brick and mortar casino. The first step in this direction is usually to identify one such casino where one can play. Most people conduct Internet searches, on terms such as ‘top Internet casino,’ ‘best Internet casino’ or simply ‘Internet casino’ in their search for a nice casino at which to register and start playing. Most people, it would seem, identify the top Internet casino establishments at which to play through Internet search results, or through referrals by friends.Having identified the Internet casino at which to be playing, the next step is usually to register with it. This is usually an easy process of filling a simple form (which typically completely un-intrusive). At this stage, no money is actually required from you – just basic details, which can be useful in sending prize money should one come to earn something, which is naturally what everyone joining a casino hopes for.It is after registration that the typical online casino will require for you to load some money into your playing account in order to start playing. Some top Internet casino establishments will, however, load the first sum of money into your: to give you something that is akin to a ‘free sampling’ of their offerings, after whose exhaustion – and if you like what you got – you can proceed to add money into the account. The aforementioned strategy is usually accomplished through what are termed as a ‘no deposit casino bonus’, like where a casino offering poker and bingo gives what is termed as ‘no deposit poker bonus’ or ‘no deposit bingo bonus’.After registering and subsequently loading money into the online casino account, one can proceed to start playing the games on offer there. As previously mentioned, one could be playing against other people (some most probably worlds away) or playing against the ‘house’ that is, the casino establishment.Contrary to what many of us fear, the typical Internet casino will tend to be very liberal in its dispensation of justly won prize money. It is not likely to attempt to withhold the money – seeing that it has a reputation to protect. And there is no surer way to ruin the reputation of a casino, whether Internet-based or otherwise, than to make it come to be seen as one that plays games with justly won money. After all, the objective of joining a casino is to win (and get prize money). So if a casino withholds winnings, what would be the point of joining it? It is with this kind of thinking in mind that most Internet casino managers will actually go a long way to ensure that the winners of various games on offer actually get their rightfully won prize money.