Hall or Nothing Productions Ltd: The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game - Conflict at the Carrock Review

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game - Conflict at the Carrock Review

Disappointing solo single deck experience

'Conflict at the Carrock' arrived from Maelstrom Games last night. Anyone who has ordered this from them along with at least one other item will want to split their order as it is their policy to send out everything at once. For me this meant I’d apparently have to wait five months before they sent me any of the LOTR expansion packs. Good job I phoned them.

Or was it?

I’m not trying to rip on this game – I love it, I’m an addict. Anyone who’s read my session reports or seen my fan scenarios will attest to that. So perhaps when it fails it fails harder because my expectations are so much higher. And as much as I advocate the game, in the interest of sharing, and to help manage expectations, well, here we go...

All in all this one makes for a very disappointing solo experience. That’s solo with a single deck by the way. I will probably only play this solo with two decks from now on.

First of all, as discussed elsewhere there are apparently only two stages in the scenario, the second stage just forgets to tell you that it’s over when you’ve won. Those of us who wanted a narrative resolution to the scenarios will be even more disappointed with this sense of “Was that it? Did I win?”

Secondly, some of the hero cards are perplexingly rubbish. “Great, this attachment gives me the ‘Rohan’ trait. Now what?” What’s next – an attachment with the ‘Boring’ trait?

“Cool ‘Born Aloft’ – now I can, um, give one of my enemies an... undefended attack...” Okay I'm being facetious here, and there are a couple of decent cards too to be fair. The Songs and Dunedain cards continue to provide their uses and Burning Brand makes Denethor redonculously tough.

As a huge fan of the art in this game so far I have to say I'm slightly less impressed with some of this set. The Bee locations are a bit garish and the trolls themselves look a bit lame, sort of cartoonish and unthreatening.

Then there’s Frodo. Well, to be honest I’m ambivalent about him. He’s not exactly rubbish, but he doesn’t seem to fill a role well because his damage absorption ability is only useful if you have major threat reduction on tap.

And finally, there’s the solo experience of the scenario itself...

I purposefully didn't look at any of the encounter cards to keep the "surprise" element going, which may or may not have been a mistake. So I set up the game, prepped my deck (Leadership/Lore/Spirit - Aragorn, Denethor, Eowyn) and started out. I built up my forces fairly slowly in stage 1, and even managed to get Old Grimbeorn on my side, which was quite exciting in itself - like bagging one of the Rangers in Massing at Osgiliath only even more awesomer. Once I had a good force going I went into stage 2 with 38 Threat...

In stage 2, four trolls are placed in the staging area and they engage with you at Threat level 34 or higher. One of the troll's card effects is "Raise your threat by 3 for each Troll you are engaged with."

So instant death for me and game over in a flash. Boo hoo, whatever, tons of others have already made this error – so I set up again and learnt from my mistake: I should have read the cards first.

Next game I stayed on stage 1 building my forces up. And then the semi- ridiculous 'Banks of Anduin' Location came in (goes to top of encounter deck “when it leaves play”). And with Denthor and Henemarth in play, since I knew what was coming every turn I'd just commit Eowyn to quest and build and build and build. Got my entire deck into play, with 3 Galadrim Greetings, 3 Sneak Attacks on Gandalf, 3 Stand and Fights on Gandalf, and 3 actual Gandalfs for massive threat reduction, and a threat level of about 14 when I finally moved on to stage 2.... The docile trolls didn’t stand a chance as I chopped them all to bits one by one.

Some might call that a perfect storm of cards or just good luck, I have to say it was really quite boring and it took a long time to play out, which I was determined to do even with the foregone conclusion that the game could not stop me from the moment the ‘Banks’ turned up.

Banks of Anduin is a suspicious card in solo play.

I already had to remove Will of the West from my games due to it being hugely over-powered. Now do I have to remove Gandalfs, Greetings, S&F, and Sneak Attacks too? Then would it swing the other way and become unwinnable??

Now, this was only a solo single deck play through, and the game already falters in catering for just one deck (see Dol Guldur) so hopefully I’ll get to see the scenario really shine with two or more players - particularly since the Banks card serves its purpose more readily in multiplayer games.

The idea of a ruck with 4 trolls seems like great fun and I really want to enjoy this scenario, particularly in light of how easy Hunt for Gollum turned out to be. And the cards provided will make for cool new scenarios too – I can’t wait to put Morris, Stuart and co into a different and more dynamic scenario. Luckily I have a multiplayer session lined up soon so fingers crossed I can report back later with better news on the multiplayer experience...

(EDIT - After numerous games I'm sorry to say it's also not great in multiplayer either.  Hopefully will be able to design a scenario that will make use of all those new Trolls soon...) 


bruto said...

Hey ninjadorg,

thx for all your nice work and so on CR and LOTR. I am playing both and enjoying it. It's also a big fun to read your reviews.

I played yesterday with four players the Carrock. And I liked it!
We took for each player a mono deck with almost all card out there (no songs, no bards). We had all pretty bad luck with card drawing and could not get our main mechanics running. After a while we got overwhelmed by locations (yes, the northern tracker was hidden in the deck...). And then the trolls came.

Suddenly (eleanor was exhausted already) we draw a "frightened beast" wich gave us +25!!! threat to all except my wife with some eagles in game.
Since we had not much time left we decided to cheat and ignored the card.
We won quite close with 48,49, and such in threats.
It was a nice game.

Question: in your solo decks are you building according to the rules a 50 cards mimimum deck? Then i dont see why the will of the west is so strong? But i just had some few solo games.

just my few cents.
Keep on posting!


Ninjadorg said...

Hey Bruto,

Glad you enjoy the blog, and thanks for posting!
I always play to 50 card minimum decks. If you plan your deck for a lot of ‘card draw’, combining Lore and Spirit can become unstoppable. In the worst case scenario you can draw your entire deck and use Will of the Wests to recycle Galadrim’s Greetings keeping your threat at 0 so nothing engages or stops you.
This can potentially make for long, drawn out and very dull games, even moreso in two player games - you know you’re going to win, it’s just a matter of when. Like with Carrock if you get plenty of threat reduction going, you can just sit and build up to destroy the trolls with very little effort. I’m glad you and your group found a way to enjoy it though, because I do love this game – I just have very high hopes for it.


bruto said...

Hey ninjadorg,

thx, i will try your ideas soon!

i have not been too much into deck optimization since i am still left with new scenarios which we play as 3 or 4 players. i like, that solo games are quite short and then you can try out things. if you play with 4 players the game gets quite long (ofc not compared with the wow board game or 7 people playing talisman ;-) ), but the player interactions are nice and beautifully correspond to something real. I really love that part.

I like winning, but it could be a bit harder in multiplayer. The harder the game the more you enjoy winning. Like in space hulk: death angel.

let's see how the game evolves also with the big Khazad-Dum expansion.

i am digressing, next post will be in topic. ;-)


Ninjadorg said...

No worries mate, all your comments are greatly appreciated. :)
We had a 3 player session recently and rather embarrassingly got our arses whupped by the Anduin Journey...

Anonymous said...

Stand and Fight does not work with Gandalf. I thought that it did for some time. But, alas, it does not.

Ninjadorg said...

Yeah, you can't use Stand and Fight with Gandalf anymore (this session was posted before FFG 'clarified' that rule).