The Lord of the Rings: LCG by Fantasy Flight Games is one of the newer card games on the market, having been around for "only" three-ish years. For a long time, players were limited in their deck construction possibilities by the small player card pool, which didn't leave a lot of options for players to defeat new scenarios. In fact, with rare exceptions, players would be handicapping themselves by sticking to certain themes.
However, in my opinion, we have now reached a point in the card pool where theme decks can not only be fun, but also effective in a variety of scenarios. In this series of articles we are going to analyze a number of subjects, including but not limited to:
1. What constitutes a "themed" deck?
2. Which themes are particularly effective?
3. Are there certain gameplay considerations that trump any thematic desires?
This article will attempt to answer the first question posed above: What exactly is a "themed" deck?
During a recent drubbing at the hands of the Siege at Cair Andros scenario, Steve and I had a brief conversation pertaining to themed decks. Basically, Steve made the remark "I love how certain players fall into certain themes. Like, Parker, I know you're going to bring Rohan to most of the quests we play."
Duh, this guy is awesome
It got me thinking about themed decks in general, and why certain traits and archetypes appeal to certain players.
Between The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings trilogy (books and movies), the appendices at the end of The Lord of the Rings, Unfinished Tales, and - to a lesser extent in terms of the game - The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien provided us fans with a wide array of different cultures, histories, and people to become enthralled with. I can only speak for myself, but when I read about Eomer and Theodred and Theoden, I have to remind myself that they're fictional characters, even though they seem just as real as any other historical figure from prior to 1066 C.E.
Wulf the Quarrelsome is an example that springs to mind
It is no wonder, therefore, that fans of the LotR:LCG would seek out ways to construct decks built around their favorite aspects of the Tolkien world. It's a rare game indeed when I'm not playing any Rohan or Gondor characters, as the two kingdoms of Men and the Dunedain - and Rohan in particular - are the most interesting elements of the trilogy to me. Much like my formal study of history, it's the ordinary people of Tolkein's world that fascinate me - the mortal men in whom Middle Earth must place their trust, with all the risks of greed, ambition, and hope for redemption that goes along with that trust.
This is, in many ways, the most obvious type of themed deck: one built around characters, heroes, and scenes that have inspired us. Racial/character themes that the game has fleshed out the most include Dwarves, Outlands (the fiefdoms of Gondor), Rohan, Gondor, Noldor, and Silvan. The card pool for these 'traits' (as they're called in-game) has developed to the point that each has a distinct identity. In the case of Dwarves and Rohan, there is enough variety to build sub-types of themed decks.
That said, this is a game, and there are other themes to be built upon that have little to do with Tolkien's cultures. Every player has a certain play style that appeals to them, and there are now enough cards out there to strategize around certain game mechanics.
Perhaps you enjoy building an army of allies that overwhelms any enemies that pop up. There are players who get a kick out of encounter deck manipulation, either through cancellation effects or deck scrying. There are very effective (often essential) decks built entirely around location management.
The point is, "theme" doesn't have to apply to the lore of Lord of the Rings. "Theme" can be something as simple as building a mono-sphere deck. At the end of the day, if your theme is "this deck's theme is that it's a blast to play" then you're doing it right. Hell, players have built decks around which artists they enjoy the most! This is why the game has appealed to players who are not devotees of Tolkien lore: the rules are great and there is sufficient variety in gameplay to keep players interested.
As this series moves forward we'll delve into certain traits and themes that pop up fairly often in player decks. We'll explore what makes these themes tick, and what weaknesses they'll encounter on the paths of Middle Earth.
Thanks for reading, as always, and be sure to check out our series of videos, as well as our twitter feed @WWPDFellowship.
***Card images courtesy of the excellent Hall of Beorn Card Search