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Monday, August 18, 2014

Lord of the Rings LCG: The Three Trials Review Part 1

The Lord of the Rings: LCG by Fantasy Flight Games has built a growing following over the fast few years, largely based on the variety and replay value of their releases. To date there have been 45-55 different quests released, depending on whether you count the Gencon and Nightmare decks. This gives players an incredible array of challenges to overcome and to revisit later with different decks and different groups of players.

However, the existing adventure packs and deluxe releases are simply too numerous to retroactively review. Instead we'll now be focusing on the expansions as they are released. Today, that means we'll be reviewing "The Three Trials" expansion, which is the second adventure pack to be released in The Ring-Maker cycle (which started with the "Voice of Isengard" deluxe box and the "Dunland Trap" adventure pack).

I'm pretty excited that this is the first adventure pack review for the Outpost, because in my opinion The Three Trials is an awesome expansion.


Let's start of with one of the most anticipated elements of any expansion pack: the hero! For this release the Spirit sphere adds a hero named Idraen. This card follows a longstanding practice of Fantasy Flight Games to introduce custom characters, especially custom female characters (let's face it: the four main Hobbit/Lord of the Rings books lacked gender diversity). FFG went the extra mile this time and included a full page of background story for Idraen (SPOILER ALERT: she eviscerates some bad guys). Now for the in-game impact.

I have a feeling that Idraen is going to get a lot of love. First of all, for us Spirit fans out there (it's my favorite sphere) she adds some much-needed combat punch. Until now Dunhere was the best option for Spirit players looking for a little fighting prowess. However, Idraen differs greatly from Dunhere because of the synergy she has with the rest of the Spirit sphere. Her ability allows her to commit to questing like all proper Spirit characters, but then she can ready and lend her weight to any ensuing combats. With a weapon attachment like Dagger of Westernesse she can be an incredible attacker, but she can also defend very well. In multi-player games I see Idraen defending against mid-size enemies and allowing ranged characters like Bard and Legolas to finish them off.

Her threat of 11 is a little worrisome, but the cliche Spirit Glorfindel makes an excellent mate for her. On top of that the Spirit sphere is known for threat reduction. Other possible downsides include a lack of powerful traits (the Dunedain, Ranger, and Scout traits are all underdeveloped), but I have a feeling that those traits will get some love in the future, which will make Idraen even better. All in all I see a ton of upside for Idraen.

Player Cards

The release is still fresh, and subsequent cards may change my attitude about certain player cards, but I still feel comfortable giving a quick highlight reel of the Three Trials player cards I think are going to make an impact.

Elven Mail - once again the Silvan/Noldor traits get some love, being treated to a 2-cost attachment that gives the attached hero +2 hit points, and also granting Sentinel. The obvious candidate for this attachment is Elrohir, but heroes like Elrond and Lore-findel could also benefit.

Warden of Arnor - right now there is only one hero this card can attach to, Idraen. If this card is drawn early in the game it can be great, possibly adding six or more progress over the course of the game. But its value diminishes in single player games (with less encounter deck draw) and if it gets drawn late in the game.

Leaf Brooch - Secrecy fans rejoice! This card is a huge step forward for those looking to make secrecy work. Now players can incorporate non-secrecy cards far more easily into their decks. This one is an essential card in secrecy's ongoing development as a game mechanic.

Noiseless Movement - another boost to secrecy, but this card will also find use in Hobbit decks with relatively weak combat power and with players who may not want to engage certain enemies.

That's it for now, stay tuned for the Quest review and my final grade for The Three Trials adventure pack!

***Card images courtesy of the Hall of Beorn Card Search

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