Board Game Lists · Board Gaming · Solo Gaming · Top Ten List

Top 10 Solo Games – 2017

I had posed a few ideas for a Top __ List to cover this month and the overwhelming majority were interested in a solo list. This is, by no means, a definitive list. I finally played Friday for the first time a few weeks ago and my only Onirim experiences have been via the app. I’ve played Mage Knight a grand total of two times, which is the same number as my Terraforming Mars solo plays and one more time than my Scythe plays. Like any list, these are pretty much capable of being in flux at any point in time.

#10 – Chrononauts – This one is going to be one of the bigger surprises on the list. Believe me, I didn’t expect to like this one as much as a solo game. Friday is threatening to knock it out of the Top 10 for me, as I really love a deckbuilder game, but at least for this year I will keep this where I originally planned to place the game. It provides a fun and challenging puzzle, given you have to align the timeline for eight different travelers in the time it takes to go through the deck once. I’ve gotten to 7 of them one time, and most times end with 5-6 getting aligned. This is a hard, fast, rewarding solo experience. I wish it was a little more Doctor Who-ish in feel, which is why I can’t wait to finally get around to the Doctor Who 2nd Edition Solo Game…

#9 – Terraforming Mars – I had my doubts about this as a solo game, but my first two plays have dispelled those doubts. This is a solid game, and one that has a ton of potential for replay. It will feel repetitive to some players because, in essence, you are trying to accomplish the same exact objective every play. The trick comes in how to maximize the usefulness of those cards you get, which is less than half the deck on both of the plays I’ve done. You could probably do a back-to-back session using the rest of the deck for the second game for an interesting and challenging experience. This will likely rise by the end of 2018 once I log more plays.

#8 – Sherwood’s Legacy – I really need to break this one back out to determine where this really sits on the list. It was a really fun game in a tower defense style. I played with the easy rules of ignoring the Wanted system and barely managed to pull it off. It is probably the easiest and least luck-dependent of the three Legacy games from Lynnvander so far, making it a perfect puzzle to play through. I’ve been really pleased with all three of those Legacy games, and this is the game for those who want to be able to plan out their turns in advance to maximize their efficiency.

#7 – Scythe – I really, really love the Automa system that has been implemented in a handful of titles. This one has a fairly steep learning curve for the movement, but I think I got it down and played it right. I squeaked out a win by a single point thanks to an extra turn I hadn’t expected to get – this one will provide a great challenge and variety thanks to the various factions in the base game. I can only imagine how that will increase with the Wind Gambit expansion coming in December. I need to make a point of getting this one back on the table soon because this was a great experience and probably a game that will move up further once I play it some more.

#6 – Yeomen: The 9 Card Agincourt Game – This is a gem of a game that every solo gamer should print out and play. It is fast, challenging, and a lot of fun. There aren’t a lot of things to print and cut, making it a fast thing to get ready for the table. The rules might be a bit of a challenge for the first play, but after a while it really starts to click. This is a fantastic solo game that can be knocked out, every time, in under 15 minutes once you get the game’s rules down. I can’t recommend this one enough – unfortunately, this is probably going to drop hard once Scythe, Terraforming Mars, and others get some more plays at the table.

#5 – Mage Knight Board Game – This is the solo game to end all solo games, or so I have heard. And with two plays logged, I can see the great appeal here. The biggest detractor to this game is the time it takes to setup, play, and tear down the game. There is one other game on this list that comes close to the time, and it has a little easier ruleset and a more appealing overall theme for me. I really love the progression of the character, though, making this my one and only “dungeon crawl” style of game on the list. The former RPG-lover in me craves that kind of experience at times and this one certainly delivers.

#4 – Viticulture: Essential Edition – If you read my review of this one solo, this placement won’t come as any surprise. Actually, it might be a little undervalued. This one was one of two games to really catch me off-guard this year in terms of how much I enjoyed the solo experience (with the other being Chrononauts). Worker placement is really my wife’s mechanic, although I do enjoy playing them. So when this one hooked me completely for play after play, I had to pay attention. Easily the best game to pick up if you want a game that plays well for 1-6 players, and I’ve heard the expansion makes the game experience even better.

#3 – Race for the Galaxy – I think nostalgia for my early years of playing this game solo has it holding on to a higher spot than it deserves; however, it could equally be argued to hold this spot because it is always a fun and challenging experience. This was the game that led me down the path of solo gaming, eventually leading to my decision to get rid of my video gaming systems. In the past year or so since that decision, I’ve found so many great games. Yet I always know that I can grab this one, set it up, and that dreaded robot will force me to fight for every point needed to defeat it. On easy…

#2 – Albion’s Legacy – I will admit that the theme of the game appeals to me far more than it might for others, boosting this game up at least a few slots higher than it might deserve on merit alone. Yet at its core this is still a solid exploration/questing game that provides crushingly difficult challenges every step of the way. It takes some time to set up, but nothing quite as extreme as Mage Knight. This one has a play time of around two or three hours to run through a quest, even though it has a time limit of ten rounds. There is so much Arthurian lore interwoven through this game that it makes me giddy inside every time I play it. Only one theme could excite me more, which leads me to…

#1 – Lord of the Rings: The Card Game – Boom! That is the sound of this list exploding in the past month. I had owned and played this game in the summer of 2016 and eventually parted with it rather than purchase expansion content for it. After all, the Core Set can only be played so many times before it grows stale and begs to be expanded. I reclaimed the game and, since I got it back, I have logged 18 solo plays, taught a friend who then purchased a core set, starting writing a strategy series about the core set, built and rebuilt half a dozen decks, signed up for the 2017 Fellowship Event in December, and agreed to quest regularly in the game with the friend who I taught the game to. I’ve played it five times this weekend and I’m itching to reset and play a sixth time. And I still haven’t expanded the game beyond the core…something that will be changing in the next few days. If I had found the Black Riders deluxe expansion local (or online) then I would have already picked that up because this game is consuming my solo play time in a good way. It is only fitting, after all, that my favorite solo game is a Lord of the Rings themed game. My favorite 2-player game (and by extension overall favorite) is a Lord of the Rings game as well, and I don’t see either of them losing their thrones any time soon. Yes, the Core Set alone has its limits and its flaws. But if there is one game I will gladly dive into for the long haul, it is this one.

A Few Speculations on Games that Could Appear Here in 2018

Arkham Horror: The Card Game would be a very likely candidate to make this list if I picked it up. I imagine it would have the same note as the Lord of the Rings game, in that it needs to be expanded to keep it fresh and interesting. The game takes a different approach than Lord of the Rings while keeping some familiar mechanics and does some great things. It is probably, mechanically, a better game. But theme is king when comparing the two and I just love Lord of the Rings a ton more than the Lovecraftian mythos. But this would very likely be a top five, if not top three game if I picked it up for solo play.

Nations is a game that caught my attention when I played it with two others, and I’ve heard it has a really solid solo play. There are times when you just want to sit down and do some civilization building, and this would be one that I could see contending if I picked it up. The problem is that price tag is too high for the game. If it came with the game and the expansion for $100, I might be convinced.

Lisboa is a game I really loved my first play of. I know nothing about its solo version of the game, but I am nevertheless excited to test it out if/when the game enters my collection. It is a game I was excited about picking up eventually, and knowing that others are enjoying the solo play makes me have high hopes for this one.

Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain is a game I have been super-excited for. Being a COIN game, it has a solid system behind it. I haven’t tried a COIN game yet. Not many of them interest me with their theme. However, I have decided that will not prevent me from wanting to pick this up to play alone and with others. Will running three factions via their flowcharts make the experience clunky, or will it provide the fascinating and challenging gameplay that I am hoping for? I hope to find out in 2018, which is when I will realistically be looking to finally snag a copy of this one before it goes out of print.

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Board Gaming · Lord of the Rings LCG

LotR LCG Strategy: Constructing a Deck without Knowing the Next Quest

Welcome to what is the third post in a semi-planned series of posts outlining some beginner-level strategies to help you get started in the Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game. In a game that already has so much additional content out there, it can feel overwhelming to know how to begin and, even, how to get started with learning the game. Deck construction is a key component to the game, and even the Core Set itself will encourage you to explore this path with the small selection of cards in the pool. Before you even consider purchasing more content for the game, you’ll likely want to get familiar with how the game plays AND how to construct a deck in order to combat the scenarios you’ll encounter.

Why listen to me when I am a beginner, too? Because I love to deckbuild, and I am at a starting level of this game like you. I’m not five years into playing and looking back on things. I don’t know much of the cardpool that is out there in current meta play, I just know the cards in this core set really well after building dozens of decks and running through Journey Down the Anduin more times than I care to share.

So without any more ado, I will dive right into the topic that many of you are probably really curious to know: how to construct a deck that is capable of faring well against many quests. This isn’t a way to build that One Deck to Rule Them All which can win every quest out there, but rather how to build the foundation for a successful deck.

What spheres do you want to use?

This is one of the more important questions to consider. At best, you will max out at using three of the spheres; however, I would definitely encourage avoiding even making a deck using three spheres. Why? Because resources in this game are going to come at a premium price if you have each hero belonging to a unique sphere. Consider this: each turn you gain one resource on every hero. Those resources can be used only to pay for cards in their sphere or to pay for the only neutral card in the Core Set. That means anything costing 3 or more resources is either going to require you to play nothing for a good chunk of the game or they will simply sit and clog up your hand. Yes, there are ways to gain extra resources, but in general you’ll get a lot better mileage when running only two spheres.

What Tactics can offer – This sphere excels at dealing damage, taking hits, and influencing enemy attacks. This is a fantastic sphere if you are playing with another person, and when paired with the right sphere it is also quite feasible for solo play. This sphere is very weak at questing, though, so it will need the other hero or two to be strong in that area.

What Lore can offer – This sphere provides ways to heal damage, draw cards, and some mitigation of threat in the staging area. Like the Tactics sphere, this one really shines in a 2-player game because it brings a lot of ways to dig into your decks for needed cards and ways to reduce what the encounter deck has thrown at you. This sphere isn’t very good with damage dealing, making it a sensible partner with Tactics.

What Spirit can offer – This sphere really shines at questing, and also offers good ways to reduce your threat track and to cancel the nastier effects that an encounter deck reveals. There are allies that can help to burn through locations, both active and those clogged in the staging area and is my must-have sphere in any solo deck. This sphere, like Lore, isn’t so great at attacking but is also not great at defending. Spirit and Lore make a fun deck to run, but not one that will progress quickly through piles of enemies that appear.

What Leadership can offer – This sphere provides ways to generate resources, making it a great partner for any sphere. They are reasonably good at questing, attacking, and defending which makes them a jack-of-all-trades sort of sphere in the Core Set. But while they are good at all of those, they do not excel at any of them so – although they are arguably the best sphere to use if running mono-sphere – they definitely benefit from pairing with one of the other spheres.

The vital things to include in a deck

Questing – Without high willpower, or other acceptable ways of dealing with what is in the staging area, there is little hope to find consistent success with any deck you make. This is the reason why Eowyn is, for me, pretty much an auto-include in any deck I construct. Her ability to quest for 4+ each round is simply too good in the Core Set to be ignored. Other good options include Aragorn because he can ready after questing, Faramir to boost all questing characters, the Northern Tracker to put tokens on locations that clog in the staging area, the Lorien Guide to auto-add tokens to the active location, and the Snowborn Scout for their effect when entering play. Attachments such as Favor of the Lady and Celebrian’s Stone are also fantastic to include in a deck.

Attack power – Few quests can be completed if you have a board full of enemies either engaged with you or in the staging area. The former will continue to damage you and/or require you to dedicate blockers each round instead of using them in other ways. The latter will require you to have insane amounts of willpower in order to progress through locations and the quest cards. Legolas and Glorfindel are the two strongest base attack heroes in the game. Other excellent cards include Beorn, For Gondor! to boost attack for all characters, Blade Mastery to boost one attack, Quick Strike to deal damage before an enemy, as well as Blade of Gondolin and Dwarven Axe to attach to heroes to boost their power.

Defense power – Enemies strike first, which means you have to be able to defend what is thrown at you. Heroes like Denethor are great for his high defense, and there are some like Gimli and Beravor who have a solid defense stat. Gimli in particular is nice to defend early so he can get his attack boosted. A popular line of thinking is to put out a host of cheap allies who can exist solely to defend. No one does this better than the Gondoran Spearman who deals a damage as he defends, but allies like Guard of the Citadel, Snowborn Scout, Wandering Took, and others can serve in that capacity. Beorn and Gandalf are both excellent blockers but are expensive. Cards such as Protector of Lorien to boost defense, Swift Strike to deal damage while defending, Citadel Plate to take more damage, and Feint to cancel an attack are all worthwhile to include.

The other stuff – This is where everything that doesn’t fit nicely into one of the three main categories can fit, and this is going to depend on your spheres used. If you are using Leadership, you will want cards like Ever Vigilant to ready characters, Sneak Attack to get out an expensive card for a turn, and Steward of Gondor for resource generation. If you are using Tactics, you’ll want to include Blade Mastery, Quick Strike, Feint, and Swift Strike to manipulate the attack/defense phases of the game. You’d also want attachments like the Horn of Gondor to boost resources as your cheap allies die. If running Lore, then cards like Lore of Indralis and Daughter of the Nimrodel to heal damage, Gleowine and Lorien’s Wealth for card draw. You may also consider Forest Snare, Secret Paths, and Radagast’s Cunning for their ability to mitigate the impact of certain enemies and locations. For Spirit, cards like Hasty Stroke and A Test of Will are vital to cancel encounter deck effects. The Galadhrim’s Greeting is a great way to reduce threat, and Unexpected Courage allows you to ready a hero each turn so you can use them for more things every round.

Putting things together into a deck

For the purposes of an all-around deck, I feel that Spirit and Leadership will make a great pairing because it can handle a little bit of everything. However, in the interest of undoing my dependency of Eowyn I am going to have us build a slightly different deck here:

Heroes:

Aragorn
Dunhere
Theodred

Theodred and Aragorn will quest each round, with Dunhere holding back to be able to defend or attack an enemy in the staging area. With a 28 starting threat, this should allow him to chip away at a few enemies early in the game. Aragorn can gain the resource from Theodred in order to ready again if needed, and Theodred could also add a resource to Dunhere in order to boost that spirit generation as needed.

Allies:

Brok Ironfist x 1
Faramir x 2
Gandalf x 3 (If playing two players with the same core, reduce a Gandalf and increase a Silverlode Archer)
Guard of the Citadel x 3
Longbeard Orc Slayer x 2
Lorien Guide x 2
Northern Tracker x 2
Silverlode Archer x 1
Snowbourne Scout x 3

Attachments:

Celebrian’s Stone x 1
Power in the Earth x 1
Steward of Gondor x 2
The Favor of the Lady x 2
Unexpected Courage x 1

Event:

A Light in the Dark x 1
A Test of Will x 2
Common Cause x 2
Dwarven Tomb x 1
Ever Vigilant x 2
For Gondor! x 2
Grim Resolve x 1
Hasty Stroke x 2
Sneak Attack x 2
Stand and Fight x 2
Strength of Will x 2
The Galadhrim’s Greeting x 2
Valiant Sacrifice x 2
Will of the West x 1

Cards to look for in a starting hand:

Sneak Attack + Gandalf – This combo would let you get a Gandalf out immediately, either to drop some damage on an enemy on the board or to drop your threat, allowing even more time to get set up before the big nasties have to engage with you.

Steward of Gondor – This is an excellent resource generator, and getting this Turn 1 onto Dunhere will allow you to be able to afford a lot more of the Spirit items early in the game, such as Lorien Guides and Northern Trackers to help with the questing and location resolution.

Unexpected Courage – Getting this onto Theodred early would allow you to quest with 2-3 heroes and have 2-3 ready after the questing phase. Or, putting it on Aragorn will allow you to quest, defend, and attack with him every turn.

Celebrian’s Stone OR The Favor of the Lady – Either of these are great additions, and putting one of them onto Aragorn will boost his questing ability. The Stone, in addition, will allow him to spend on either Spirit or Leadership cards which would make him become the ideal candidate for a later play of Steward of Gondor.

****

Okay, so there is a fairly basic deck to start with. Want to make questing a little easier? Sub Dunhere out for Eowyn. It will leave you needing to get allies out in order to defend so Aragorn can attack them (unless you get an Unexpected Courage right away) but you’ll be able to chew right through a ton of locations and quests. I’ve built it myself and will run this through the first two quests in the Core Set three times each solo and then I’ll report on my results in the final post in this series for the month.

By all means, feel free to throw this together as well and let me know how it worked for you!

Here are the other two planned posts for this month, as well as a few other bonus posts that I plan to make in December regarding this game:

Strategy Post #1: First Steps After Purchasing a Core Set
Strategy Post #2: Evaluating the Core Set Heroes
Strategy Post #3: Constructing a Deck without Knowing the Next Quest
Strategy Post #4: Constructing a Deck to Defeat a Specific Quest
Bonus Post #5: Where to Go After the Core Set?
Bonus Posts #6 & 7: The Fellowship Event

Board Gaming · Lord of the Rings LCG

LotR LCG Strategy: Evaluating the Core Set Heroes

Welcome to what is going to be the first in a semi-planned series of posts outlining some beginner-level strategies to help you get started in the Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game. In a game that already has so much additional content out there, it can feel overwhelming to know how to begin and, even, how to get started with learning the game. Deck construction is a key component to the game, and even the Core Set itself will encourage you to explore this path with the small selection of cards in the pool. Before you even consider purchasing more content for the game, you’ll likely want to get familiar with how the game plays AND how to construct a deck in order to combat the scenarios you’ll encounter.

Why listen to me when I am a beginner, too? Because I love to deckbuild, and I am at a starting level of this game like you. I’m not five years into playing and looking back on things. I don’t know much of the cardpool that is out there in current meta play, I just know the cards in this core set really well after building dozens of decks and running through Journey Down the Anduin more times than I care to share.

So without any more ado, I will dive right into the twelve heroes that come in the core set, looking at them each in turn and then considering some synergies between certain heroes and their abilities.

The Tactics Sphere Heroes

 

 

 

Gimli – This dwarf is one of the early stars of the Core Set for heroes, simply because he is so beefy. His five health, combined with the increase in his damage output as he takes more damage, allows him to contribute to defending early in the game and to mercilessly slaughtering the tougher enemies later in the game. He even has reasonable willpower for questing, allowing you to plunk down progress tokens when there isn’t any visible threat to deal with. His biggest drawback is the threat of 11, which isn’t horrible for what you can have out of him but is still on the high end.

Legolas – There are three important things to note on Legolas’ card: Ranged, 3 Attack, and his ability to place progress tokens when helping defeat an enemy. That 3 attack is really nice, and helps make up for his unimpressive willpower and defense. He’ll often be a hero you keep back along with a dedicated blocker, allowing Legolas to cut through swaths of enemies via the only efficient way that Tactics can quest in this Core Set. Ranged is a keyword that is nearly meaningless in a solo game playing with one deck, but as soon as you add another player it can become important because it allows him to attack an enemy that is engaged with another player.

Thalin – His willpower is his weakest stat, but it is probably the one you’ll use him for the most often because of his ability to deal damage to enemies as they are revealed. That means anything with one health dies instantly, something very important in certain scenarios as we’ll discuss in the fourth post. His defense is better than Legolas, allowing him to take hits a little better, but he seems to be really only worth including if you plan to quest with him every round.

The Lore Sphere Heroes

 

 

Beravor – Her stats are solid. As a very well-rounded hero, this alone would make her stand out. Her threat is a little on the high side, but it is one less than Gimli (who is identical apart from health) and two less than Aragorn (whose attack is one higher) so in comparison that actually isn’t a bad cost. Where she shines, and why so many people are thrilled to use her in their decks, is for her action to draw cards. Being able to dig in your deck is no small benefit, allowing you to get that event, ally, or attachment you really need. She can be held back until the end of the round in case you need a defender or a boost to an attack more than a card. They have errata’d the text on her to make that ability once per round, but even with that change she’s definitely one of the more useful heroes in the Core Set.

Denethor – There are three things I really like about Denethor, and they are why I usually add him into a deck when I want Lore: his low threat, his 3 defense, and his ability to peek at the encounter deck. He is perfect for sitting back while the other heroes quest, leaving you a capable defender if an enemy gets revealed. In those best-case scenarios where an enemy never appears, his ability allows you to see the top card of the encounter deck and either put it on the top or the bottom of the deck. This is not only useful at the end of a round so you could possibly plan on what comes next, but it also could allow you to peek ahead of dealing shadow cards when the enemies attack. More often than not, the card I see goes right back on top but then I can plan my questing and combat phases for the next round based on that information. Better to deal with the threat you know is coming than to risk revealing something even nastier, right?

Glorfindel – The knee-jerk reaction is that this guy is a great hero. Five health. Three willpower. The ability to heal. Three attack. If you need a quester and don’t want to include Eowyn or Aragorn, then he is a good replacement. But that threat is so high, and his ability is one that I find I rarely make use of during a game. That one resource could be put toward a card in my hand, or saving up for those expensive cards in my hand. Lore has a lot of cards that allow you to heal, including some ally cards that will let you do that every round once they are in play. So he ends up being that hero who is really only in there if you don’t use Aragorn or Eowyn instead, either of whom I would include over him. I suppose if you are running Tactics/Lore…

The Leadership Sphere Heroes

 

 

Aragorn – This is arguably the best hero in the entire Core Set. His stats are all excellent. His threat can be an issue, but if you pair him with two lower-threat heroes then it isn’t as much of a detriment. His ability to ready by paying a resource is invaluable, allowing him to quest and attack, or to quest and defend. In a solo game his Sentinel keyword is useless, but in a multiplayer game that adds even more benefit to bringing him in a deck because he can take an attack directed at another player. As you will see in the next article, there are also some very specific cards that synergize with Aragorn in this Core Set so that raises his value even more. If you are including Leadership in a deck, he is the hero you probably want to be using.

Gloin – In a deck with lots of healing, this dwarf might actually become useful. As it stands, he is one of the other heroes that never sees the chance to appear in one of my decks because he is, overall, unremarkable. Sure, his stats themselves aren’t horrible. And his response isn’t a bad one, really. You get resources for every point of damage he suffers. But the limitation is that its usefulness caps at around 3 unless you have healing or a way to take additional damage. His problem is that he just isn’t as good with ability or stats as some of the other choices for the same, or very close, threat in your deck.

Theodred – The real reason why Gloin is left behind is because of Theodred. Yes, his stats are a little worse for one threat less. But where this guy wins is his response to add a resource to the pool of a hero who is committed to the quest. Which, guess what? It gives you the resource to ready Aragorn. This combo right here, as I’ll discuss soon, is what makes Theodred a fantastic hero to field when you want to use two Leadership heroes. Plus he also is handy to have when you need to boost your resource generation of a specific sphere in order to play an expensive card.

The Spirit Sphere Heroes

 

 

Dunhere – Welcome to the sphere of mostly unimpressive stats. His low threat is a great thing, but the real reason you’re going to want to consider him in your lineup is because of that ability. Normally you have to engage an enemy in order to attack it, which means it will get a chance to hit you first. Not with Dunhere on your side! He can sock an enemy for 3 when attacking alone, which is enough to deal with some of the lesser enemies you might see in an encounter deck. It isn’t a spectacular ability, but it definitely works well in a deck designed to keep threat really low.

Eleanor – I will be the first to admit that I do not use her nearly as much as I should, and I think the problem is because I play solo. Denethor is great to keep back until late in a round because he excels at blocking with that 3 defense. Eleanor’s 2 isn’t bad, but there are too many chances she’s going to take some damage if left to defend. But that ability, allowing you to cancel the effect of a card revealed from the encounter deck, can be huge. She might not be designed for solo play, but I could see her being very welcome in any multiplayer game you might play.

Eowyn – If I were to log my decks that I built, not counting mono-sphere decks, I am almost certain Eowyn would be on every one of them. And why not? As a solo player, it is hard to beat her 4 willpower each questing phase. Not to mention her ability to boost that by a point if I need it to advance that quest, clear a location, or to avoid an increase in threat. Every deck I build in the core set begins with her and with very good reason. Just don’t put any unnecessary damage on her – encounter cards getting revealed can kill her off and leave you floundering to scrape by the last leg of a quest. Trust me on that.

A few basic pairings

Aragorn + Theodred + Eowyn – As I mentioned already, these two have some excellent synergy because they can both quest each round and then Aragorn can essentially ready for free. Or not, if he isn’t needed. Throwing the two of these with Eowyn can lead to a deck that is able to blaze past almost anything quest-wise. Just be sure to field lots of cheap allies to block so Aragorn can attack when needed.

Legolas + Denethor + Eowyn – I’ve grown less fond of tri-sphere decks lately because it can be hard to afford cards, and this grouping would be no different. Where they have synergy, though, is in having a strong attacker, a strong defender, and a strong quester for a starting threat of only 26. Most decks I make start between 28-31, so having those few extra rounds to set your board up for whatever is flipped is a great benefit. Plus consider Legolas’ excellent addition to questing whenever he attacks.

Eleanor + Denethor + Beravor – This wouldn’t be as great in a solo situation, but if you want a strong support deck to field when playing with friends this is where it is at. You can cancel treacheries, peek ahead at the encounter deck, and help whoever is in need to draw cards. If you want to go all-in on playing a supportive role you might really enjoy this deck. The card pool for Lore and Spirit also help to support that idea. And I actually find that one of my favorite dual-sphere combos to play solo is Lore and Spirit, just not with this trio. You guessed it, swap out Eleanor of Eowyn and you have one of my favorite solo combos for a slow, but steady, progression that is very dependent on some card draws for certain quests.

Gimli + Legolas + Aragorn – On the other side of things, maybe you like going all out and being able to attack and defend at will. This would actually pair really well with the above deck for two players running through the Core Set together, as this gives you both Sentinel and Ranged to help pull off any threats that go after the support deck. The biggest problem with this deck is the starting threat of 32, which means there are a lot of nasty enemies that won’t just sit and wait for you to be ready for them. Meaning you need to not only draw that card you need in an opening hand, but also be able to hold off until you have the resources to play it.

So there you have it, a brief evaluation of each of the heroes in the core set, some of my thoughts on them, and four pairings that you could take and test against the Core Set scenarios. How would I build the deck at this point? For a dual-sphere deck, throw all of the cards in both spheres together, add in three Gandalf cards (or two if building a second deck to use), and run with that. Pay attention to the cards you always try to play as those should definitely stay in the deck. Also pay attention to the cards that seem to always sit in your hand, either because they aren’t ever useful or are too expensive. Those are likely good candidates to trim from the deck.

Running three spheres in a deck and don’t want to deckbuild yet? Grab two of each card in those spheres and some Gandalfs and see how that plays with the same parameters as before. Even if the deck is too large, this will let you see a great number of cards during game situations to see how they perform. At this point, that is the most important thing you’re wanting to find: how useful are these cards?

I’d love to hear if you try out one of these decks going through Journey Through Mirkwood. Got a combination of heroes from the Core Set that you prefer? Comment below and let me know what that is as well!

Here are the other two planned posts for this month, as well as a few other bonus posts that I plan to make in December regarding this game:

Strategy Post #1: First Steps After Purchasing a Core Set
Strategy Post #2: Evaluating the Core Set Heroes
Strategy Post #3: Constructing a Deck without Knowing the Next Quest
Strategy Post #4: Constructing a Deck to Defeat a Specific Quest
Bonus Post #5: Where to Go After the Core Set?
Bonus Posts #6 & 7: The Fellowship Event

Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Lignum (Second Edition)

Thank you for checking review #36 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

**Note: A review copy of this game was provided in exchange for an honest review. The below opinions remain our own based upon our impressions and reactions to the game.

An Overview of Lignum (Second Edition)

Lignum is a game designed by Alexander Huemer and is published by Capstone Games. The box states that it can play 2-4 players and has a 90-120 minute play time.

Starting with a limited amount of resources and workers, you set out to run your lumber mill as efficiently as possible. Savvy investments and proper planning will ensure that your mill will be the most profitable. Be cautious, however, for competition is fierce! You will need to secure the best cutting areas, make use of limited contract workers, and continually update and replace your equipment. Your competitors are not the only thing to worry about as you will also need to store enough firewood and food to survive the harsh winters.

Lignum is a strategic optimization game that portrays the logging industry in the 19th century. Each round, players travel to the nearby forest, picking up tools and hiring workers along the way. After felling timber, players must decide how to transport their wood to their sawmills and if the wood should be processed or sold immediately, all the while optimizing their entire processing chain.

The second edition of Lignum also includes the “Joinery & Buildings” expansion. In this expansion, players can visit two additional locations along the supply path. Players may now acquire special buildings that give them unique, special abilities for the remainder of the game. Additionally, players can acquire joiners to help generate more income each round; if those joiners are supplied with the appropriate wood, players can earn extra money at the end of the game!

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

There are only a few changes in setup for this player count. The starting wood supply in the center will have (2) firewood placed on four of the spaces and (3) firewood placed on the other two spaces, along with a player’s token going onto these two spaces so that each player will cut in a (3) wood area for the first round. The tokens placed along the track each round will consist of (2) X tokens, (2) rafts, (1) cart, (1) sled, (2) food, (1) money, (1) saw, and (3) random orange “building” tokens. These are randomly distributed throughout the empty spaces around the board track each round, and the big inclusion would be those X tokens which essentially shrink the board by two spaces.

Six bearers, eight cutters, and three sawyers are placed on their respective places on the board. Two task cards are placed face-up, and four planned work cards are used. If using the Joiners expansion, six random building tiles are also placed face-up along the board.

The game is played over the course of two years, with each year being broken into the four seasons. Spring, Summer, and Fall are all played in an identical manner. Players start by secretly selecting one of six areas where they will cut wood that season, revealing them at the same time and putting those tokens in the associated area. If there is food in the area, they get that food immediately – however, if two or more people select the same area the food is divided equally with any leftover remaining on the space. After that the players take turns moving their foreman around the board along the numbered track, taking the action associated with the space. This ranges from taking the token on the space and getting its reward (or putting it in their supply), hiring workers, planning work for future seasons, gaining tasks that provide a bonus at the end of the game if completed, and buying/selling goods.

After that comes the cutting phase, where players use their woodcutters to chop wood in their chosen location. The first player to reach the end of the track cuts first, etc. so if two players chose the same spot there is strong incentive to jump ahead in the previous phase in order to cut the desired wood. That cut wood is placed on the player’s supply area of the board. Then players can assign their bearers to transport the wood from the supply down to either the cutting or the selling area of their board. Then, players can assign sawyers to cut the wood (but they need a 1-time use saw token per sawyer) and either place it into the firewood storage space or into the selling space. Players then can assign wood to task cards, sell wood for money, and then wood remaining in the sale area advances one step along the drying track.

In winter, a lot less happens. Each player takes a wood of their choice and adds it to their supply. Then, they can use their colored meeple to either cut two firewood, transport wood from their supply to the cutting/selling area (but only if they have a sled), or to cut one piece of wood. In the second year only they can then assign wood to a task card. After that comes the time to pay the required food and firewood to feed and heat, which is determined by a 1st Year and a 2nd Year winter card chosen at the start of the game. Any wood or food that cannot be paid will cost 3 money per unit the player is short. Loans can be taken to help pay this debt, but must be paid back (with interest) at the end of the game.

After both years are played there is one final selling phase and then players tally up their money. The player with the most money will win.

My Thoughts

 I’m all for variability in a game, and this has ample changes to allow a fresh experience from play-to-play and, to an extent, even within the game itself. There are five different Winter cards for each year, each card having two different sides. So your amount of food and wood will change each time you play. The task cards only have a few out at a time, and those only change when a person buys them. There is the variable reseeding of the forest areas between rounds. There are only a certain number of the planned work cards used each game, and only a certain number of the buildings used from the Joiners mini-expansion. And then, round to round, the position in which the tokens appear will be different. So there is a lot of freshness to be found even at the round level in optimizing your path in order to grab what you want first or get to the end before your opponents so you can cut first.

 The planned work actions are a fantastic mechanism in the game. There are only a few available for the game, so you can’t always count on a certain strategy being available but you’ll know from the start what you can use. These can be really powerful, such as getting food when shipping wood down the river. Food is usually in short supply, so any action that can provide food is a great one. You have three tokens to use, allowing you to plan either one, two, or three seasons in advance to use that action. But each season you can only use this space once, meaning you if you want to do two of the actions in the same season you need to go there two seasons ahead of time and drop a 2, then next season go and drop the 1 on the other card you want to execute. But some cards don’t do anything if used in winter, and if you’re like me and accidentally ship your logs down river in the Fall with a planned work action they won’t arrive until the Spring rather than the Winter because the river freezes in Winter. It is certainly possible to ignore the planned work and do well. It is also possible to do a little bit of it, using just your 1 token to plan for the next season. But this system rewards those players who are able to think 2-3 seasons ahead and plan accordingly. And I love that!

 The worker placement aspect of this game was what initially got me interested, as you are all traveling along the same 18-22 spaces on the board. Some spaces, such as where you hire workers, have enough space for everyone to stop there. Many of the spaces hold only one foreman, and most of them have a 1-time use token on there which means the first person to stop there gets it. Which means if you stop there, someone else is able to jump ahead of you, which brings about the internal debate on whether you need that item on the way or if you need that one six spaces down the path to make sure no one else takes it. You can jump ahead as far as you’d like with your move, but once you go there you can’t travel back. If you’re a fan of aggressive play, you can go as far as to take a spot you know the other person needs in order to force them to buy that food they are short on, and so forth, but at the risk that they might leapfrog you and get to that spot you really wanted. It all works magnificently, especially since the tokens will appear in a different location each turn, meaning that food you need might be near the very end and so you really have to agonize over when to start jumping ahead and how far you need to go to be sure to get that spot.

 It is a process to chop the wood, move it to the cutting area, and saw it down into the more useful pieces. This makes me appreciate the whole process, but also provides a great set of mechanics in the game. You need various numbers of each type of worker, although you may not need all of them on a given round. There are ways to be more efficient with moving the wood, although some come at the cost of a delayed delivery. You also have to provide saws for the sawyers to use, making it even more costly to do. You also have your colored meeple to account for, which I forget to account for more times than not and end up overspending. Did I mention that hired workers are only there for that season, which means every season you need to hire more if you want to do that action again! I really enjoy this aspect of the game.

 Money = victory points. And unlike a game like Five Tribes (which uses money as points), they final scores are usually low. Our average scores are 57-58 with the absolute highs coming on our last play: 69 for me and 80 for her. Most come around the 45-55 range, which means that every dollar usually counts. I haven’t won a game yet, but my first two games were lost by a combined total of 3 points. Yes, 3 points. You try telling me that my bad habit of hiring a worker I don’t need wasn’t a difference maker. This game forces you to be thrifty because it is not only a challenge to make money, but your essential actions of hiring workers, buying food, and buying saws all cost you money. Want a task card that can score you 18-23 points? It costs you money. Want to use a planned work action that someone else is already on? It costs you money! You start with 5 money, and for the first few seasons you’ll over between 0-10 pretty regularly. After all, it is quite the process to get that wood cut, moved, sawed, dried, and sold for a big profit! All of which feels like it pays off at the end of the game.

 The Joiner mini-expansion is an easy expansion to include. I left it out for our first two plays to learn the base game and understand it. After playing with the expansion, though, I see no reason to ever leave it out. Even when teaching new players, because it honestly does not add to the complexity of the game while opening at least one path to higher scoring. And a player, like my wife did, can completely ignore the expansion content and do just fine. It adds two more stops along the path. Easy to add, easy to learn, and it definitely enriches the game. Do yourself a favor and just learn it with your first game. You won’t regret it, as it adds in seamlessly.

 You can play this game and do well without paying attention to other players. You can have a great experience even if you intentionally avoid taking the things they need. However, your game will get better if you take note of their needs and try to disrupt them. Our last game as lost because I didn’t realize she had her wood set up to be able to pick up and score two additional task cards in the final seasons of the game. Her three completed tasks blew past my one task + triple joiner combo and I didn’t see it coming. Don’t want a multiplayer solitaire game? Good, because this is a game where paying attention to the other players can make a big difference. I would gladly have spent one money to prevent her scoring an extra 20+ from that last task card!

 I need to find a way to have myself not be the banker in this game, as I could see it really slowing things down in a game with more players. I’m very interested in the new insert that Meeple Realty just announced for the game, as it might make the distribution of money/wood/food an easier process. The game is a bit fiddly, but never in a way that really detracts from the game experience. If anything it adds to the experience of seeing the wood progress from area to area, and going from cut wood to sawed wood, etc.

 If you dislike a game where feeding and heating are a mandatory requirement, a mechanic seen in games like Agricola, then you won’t be a fan of it here. Overall, this never feels out of place, however, it definitely has a chance of slowing you down in your money-making engine because you need to get wood for year-end heating while also getting wood to sell for profit. You need food, and there are only two spaces each season that get food tokens and two spaces in the wood-cutting area that get food cubes added per placement card. It can become a hard thing to gain, making you have to consider purchasing food in the Fall rather than lose 3 coins per food you are short. So while it is a requirement each year, I did find it easier to accomplish overall than Agricola.

 Let’s face it, the color scheme of the game isn’t spectacular unless you really love browns and greens. The board and components don’t pop when on the table but, as far as I am concerned, they don’t have to. The color schemes make sense in terms of the theme. But if you need a pretty-looking game than this one might end up leaving you disappointed.

 On behalf of my wife: she doesn’t like how long the drying process takes. See, before the wood gets to the spots where you can sell them at an added profit, it has to take a season to advance to a spot that is the same as when it enters the selling area. So that wood you need to get to the +2 area for your task card really takes 3 seasons to get there. As for me, I think this is fine as it stands but my wife wasn’t a big fan of that initial “add no value” drying space. I think she should just get some huts and then she can zoom those right along as she pleases.

Final Verdict 

This game has hit me in a way that few games accomplish. I fell in love with this game from the first play, and I can’t stop thinking about Lignum. I am pretty sure that, if I had no restraint on time, this is the game I’d be pulling out almost every time someone asked what game I wanted to play. And I am still trying to wrap my head around the full scope of strategy that this game has to offer.

There is so much going on in this game, yet it all ties together in a manner that feels like it should be easy. I still find myself failing in my attempts to plan work effectively, wishing I had a certain token still available or choosing to do an action in the wrong season so that I don’t reap the rewards in time. Yet rather than being a source of frustration, this actually has me excited to try again and do better the next time I play.

Victory in the game has eluded me, something that could be a source of frustration as well. Yet I find myself enjoying the experience even when I lose. Most of the time I don’t lose badly – my first two games I lost by a combined total of 3 points – but the last game we played I got crushed by her clever planning that I didn’t see coming. I obliterated my previous high score only to watch her take things a notch above even that.

Lignum is that perfect game that provides a fulfilling game experience, although I’d always be willing to reset and play again after finishing. This is the sort of game to play when you only have time or the desire to play one game. I’d gladly travel to a game day to play this and nothing else and consider it time well-spent. It plays reasonably well for the timeframe – our latest game took around 90 minutes for the two of us – which means it could even be played on a weeknight after the little one goes to bed.

It can be hard to read through the positive excitement written in many reviews out there, so let’s be completely transparent for a moment about Lignum. I’ve played a lot of great new games this year. I’ve reviewed three dozen games so far and, looking at that list, I’d put this above any one of them. Yes, even my much-loved Kingdom Builder and my newer-loved Mystic Vale. Both of those games will appear on my year-end Top 10 list, but neither will be as high as Lignum. There is a very real chance that this game is in my Top 3. It is that excellent of a game.

Edward at Heavy Cardboard likes to state “Theme schmeme” and I agree – don’t let a lack of interest in woodcutting put you off from a game that is excellent mechanically. There are a lot of great, tense moments throughout the game. This is one that, when it hits the table, leaves me feeling satisfied. It plays well with two, and we’ve tried it with three and enjoyed that experience as well. I imagine it scales just as fine with four, being a great game to add to your collection because it can be used for any of the advertised player counts.

If you like euro games and either enjoy heavier games, or want to try something that is mechanically different than an Uwe Rosenberg game but similar in weight, this would be an excellent choice. I’ve played two excellent games from Capstone this year, and this one secured them as one of my top publishers. There are other games they produce that don’t play 2-players, but I intend to at least play, if not own, them all at some point in time.

Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/220300/cardboard-clas

Board Game Lists · Board Gaming · First Impressions

New-to-Me First Impressions 10/16/17 – 11/15/17

I began this a few months ago and really enjoyed going through and providing these impressions. The thought was to give some coverage to those games that I may not play enough times to review, or which may never quite make it to a review due to the number of games played and the time it takes to review a game. So here are some brief first impressions of games I recently got my first plays with. I’m also including a “Replay rating” for each game on a scale of 1-10. 1 would be “I’d rather sit out and watch others play games than play this again” and 10 being “Save me a seat, I’d gladly play this any time!”

A Feast for Odin – My wife is a huge Uwe Rosenberg fan, so when we had a chance to get this with the Meeple Realty insert in exchange for a few games collecting dust on our shelves, I had to jump on that opportunity. We both enjoy Patchwork. I love just about anything Viking themed. And she loves both Worker Placement and Rosenberg games. This all sounds like a recipe for success, and my first play was solo and left me wanting to pull it back out again. Then, of course, the next game on this list came along again and blew all other games off to the side, so it hasn’t hit the table again yet. But I plan to change that tonight when sitting down to a game with my wife… In terms of the game itself, I really liked the puzzle aspect of the boards and that spaces used 1-4 workers depending on which part of the board you go to. Part of me questions, with how open the game is, how much replay value there really is here but for now I am eager to dive right in some more. 7/10

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game– This isn’t new to me, per say, but it recently reentered my collection. When I first had the game, I was resistant to expand the game beyond the core set so I traded it away to a friend. Now that the game has returned, and vaulted up to be my favorite solo game in my collection (with good reason!), I have changed my tune a little on the expandable game. Instead of seeing it as an endless money grab, I see it as a way to continue to freshen the experience of a game I really, really enjoy playing. My recent shift in thinking from “play more new games!” to “replay favorites” was partially inspired by this game, along with many others. There are so many options in this game, and now that there are Saga sets out there I have a great idea where to begin expanding into this game. 10/10

Imperial Settlers – I picked this one up on a whim, passing over some games that I almost-immediately regretted not buying. I stuck it out and set this game up to try as a solo play and discovered that there was a nice, tight engine builder in this card-based game. So I set it up again and played a second time that day, having fun once more as I played through the solo mode (which will end up growing stale eventually). The good news is that I think this is my type of game with engine building via cards. 7/10

Photosynthesis – Sometimes the environment in which you game can have a real impact on the experience of the game. That was very much the case when my wife taught me this game. I know, for a fact, that my experience was impacted in a negative way that had nothing to do with the game itself, and so this is very high on my “I need to play that again” list even though my first play left me feeling “meh” about it. 5/10

Arkham Horror: The Card Game– Lord of the Rings 2.0 is what some might call this, and mechanically there are some really striking similarities. But the two games, theme not considered, are vastly different in approach. Lord of the Rings is designed mostly to be played a single scenario at a time, whereas Arkham Horror is supposed to be a campaign of X scenarios strung together. They both require deck construction, but Arkham Horror’s approach is smaller and more streamlined in a sense because you each have an unique investigator rather than fielding a trio of heroes. If you love the constructing of decks and fine-tuning them in the fires of challenge, you’ll dig Lord of the Rings. If you prefer a game where the narrative is as important as the gameplay and where the deck construction is easier and less impactful, then Arkham Horror is for you. My wife would probably prefer the design of Arkham Horror more, and honestly if there are two games that would be worth my money to expand, it would be this and Lord of the Rings because they are both soloable. If Lord of the Rings didn’t exist, this might have a shot at being at the top of my solo list if I played it solo. As it stands, I’d choose Lord of the Rings because I love the deck construction and the theme more than the fine-tuned mechanics and strong narrative. But in all honesty, I’d have a blast with either one. 9/10

Trajan – I think I am firmly on the path to becoming a Feld fan, as this is the third Feld game I have played and the third one I really enjoyed. I am pretty sure this is a game I’ll like even better than Castles of Burgundy, which is still a really fun game, but I found the decisions in this one were fantastic. I’d really love to play this one again, as I think it takes a full game to really understand and enjoy that personal mancala mechanic. 9/10

Between Two Cities– Stonemaier Games delivers yet again on a pleasant gaming experience. It won’t be the heavyweight in a collection that a Scythe or Viticulture would be in rankings, but this is one I could see being a great addition to a game collection. It has some unique takes on tile laying and end-game scoring to determine the winner. I just so happened to be in the highest scoring city overall as well as have the top 2nd-highest scoring city. We used the Capitals expansion, which I’m sure enhances the base experience but this is one I’d really love to try with 2 or playing solo before purchasing. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem likely so onto the Christmas list it goes… 8/10

Queendomino – A part of me groaned when my wife came home with this game. I enjoy Kingdomino for what it is: a very light and fast filler game. I was expecting more of the same in this one, making it a game that I would be willing to play but never really want to play. What I wasn’t prepared for was just how much was added, mechanically, to this version of the game. It has a new terrain type. It has up to three additional optional actions that can be done on a turn. This took the predecessor and, rather than giving us more of the same, it took the game to a new level of complexity. It is still a simple enough game, but there are a lot more interesting decisions to be made over the course of the game. Which means this is a game that I am actually okay with owning and playing. 7/10

Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game – This was one I was eager to try since it was a brand new LCG and so the barrier to entry would be relatively low. A small card pool is a great time to plunge into a game like this. And yes, it was a lot of fun. I liked a lot of the things the game did mechanically. The fate, which determines how long a character is on the board, is outstanding. However, this game had two strikes against it: it didn’t blow me away quite like Netrunner did, and it is an LCG. If I’m going to collect an LCG, it makes the most sense to have it be the cooperative, soloable ones out there. Unless my wife gets hooked on one of the more competitive ones, I’ll never have a chance to hone a deck and improve my skill in an LCG like Netrunner or Legend of Five Rings. 6/10

Friday – Anyone who has paid attention to my taste in game mechanics knows by now that I am a pretty big fan of deckbuilding games. I also happen to play a reasonable amount of solo games – not usually because I prefer to solo a game but because my wife isn’t available at the time so I play a game on my own. I’ve been meaning to try this solo-only game for a while and, after a few plays, I find that this is a really solid and challenging game. There is a line between risk and reward that has to be balanced well, and it can be real easy to fall on the wrong side of that line. I don’t know if this would be a game I would want to play often, so it may not enter my collection, but it is definitely a very solid solo game with a small box. 7/10

Board Gaming · Lord of the Rings LCG

LotR LCG Strategy: First Steps After Purchasing a Core Set

Welcome to what is going to be the first in a semi-planned series of posts outlining some beginner-level strategies to help you get started in the Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game. In a game that already has so much additional content out there, it can feel overwhelming to know how to begin and, even, how to get started with learning the game. Deck construction is a key component to the game, and even the Core Set itself will encourage you to explore this path with the small selection of cards in the pool. Before you even consider purchasing more content for the game, you’ll likely want to get familiar with how the game plays AND how to construct a deck in order to combat the scenarios you’ll encounter.

That leads us to the question: what do you do first after opening the game? Where should you get started as a newbie to the Lord of the Rings: LCG? The answer will apply whether you are playing solo or playing with another player…

Play through the Passage Through Mirkwood quest with each preconstructed deck

The very best way to gain an understanding of the various cards in this core set would be to try each of them out. This is best accomplished by running through the first scenario – one that can provide enough challenge to test the deck but not enough to create confusion and frustration. Each mono-sphere deck is capable of making it through this quest, although some will be more likely to succeed than others. This will let you see the strengths and weaknesses of each trio of heroes for the sphere and learn what some of the cards in each sphere can accomplish. For example:

Tactics is really good at killing things and surviving attacks, but isn’t so great at questing

If you are going to lose with one of the four decks, this is the one that will probably lose. And it isn’t through any real fault of this sphere – they will be more than capable of handling any enemies that spawn and they do have ways of getting some quest tokens onto the board. But they are heavy on attachments and on events that affect attack, defense, or the ability to attack. There are only a handful of allies in the deck, and none of them really add to the questing power of your group. Being able to see the deck in action, and witness both its strengths and its shortcomings, will pay off when it comes time to construct a deck. You’ll be able to know that this sphere will need to be paired with a sphere that is excellent at questing.

After you’ve played through the quest with the faction, take some time to look through the rest of the cards in the deck and see what cards didn’t come out over the course of the quest. Doing this now, while the playthrough is fresh in your mind, will help you to see and evaluate how that could have possibly functioned if you had drawn that card. Especially in a losing situation, being able to look for a card where you say “If I had this in my hand, I could have overcome X and then I might have won” is valuable because that will help you to identify those cards that you’ll want to consider including in a deck.

The Gandalf cards

The one sphere-less card in the core set is Gandalf, a very powerful ally card. You’ll find later, when constructing decks, that this is the one auto-include card in every deck. If you are playing solo and using one deck, you’ll want to include three copies in your deck. If you are building two decks, you’ll want two in each deck. It is that good. There can be some value in adding the Gandalf card to these four decks as you test them, as it will allow you to not only see how his card can be a big benefit but also help you to preplan for the cost needed to play him in a deck.

However, his card can also detract from the experience of seeing how a particular sphere functions and its ability to operate independently. There is a good argument to include him at this point, and a good argument to be had for leaving him out. Which is why I’d probably suggest putting only one copy in the mono-sphere deck. This will give you a chance to see him in action if you draw him, but will also not clog the deck down with multiple copies of the card. But if you feel inclined to do so, you can leave him out entirely or put in 2-3 copies.

The Next Steps

The next thing you are going to want to do is to construct a deck of your own, putting two spheres together in order to create a larger, more versatile deck. This is the area that I will be looking at in the next few posts, all of which I am going to aim to create this month. Here are the other three planned posts, as well as a few other bonus posts that I plan to make in December regarding this game:

Strategy Post #2: Evaluating the Heroes – In this post I will look at all twelve heroes in the Core Set and discuss a little bit about them, their abilities, and give some thoughts on solid pairings of heroes in a dual-sphere deck.

Strategy Post #3: Constructing a Deck without Knowing the Next Quest – In this post I will go over some strategies on how I would blindly construct a deck that is suited to tackle a quest without knowing what dangers are lurking in the specific quest. In other words, what general things should a deck have in order to have a fighting chance against most quests?

Strategy Post #4: Constructing a Deck to Defeat a Specific Quest – I’ll take a look at specifically building a deck to tackle known threats in the second Core Set quest: Journey Down the Anduin. We’ll cover what those cards are that you need to plan on dealing with and some possible counters that exist in the Core Set.

Bonus Post #5: Where to Go After the Core Set? – I’ll look at the various suggestions that are frequently presented to the newer player and evaluate what those have to offer. Since I’ve not purchased anything other than the Core Set myself, this will present the thoughts of a newer player trying to weigh the pros/cons of each possible path of purchase.

Bonus Posts #6 & 7: The Fellowship Event – December is coming, which means the 2017 Fellowship is arriving soon at local game stores. I’ll take a look at a possible deck using just the Core Set, as well as possible low-cost purchases to expand a deck construction beyond just the Core for the event. Then, after my event on December 17th I will come back with an impressions/reaction post based on participating in my first Fellowship Event.

Board Gaming

A New Feature Approaches

I’ve had a revelation lately, not the kind of thing that one must take lightly.

It is one my wife, when she reads this, will probably approve of and even be thankful for this revelation. You see, it was all sparked by a simple question via text yesterday asking me what games I’ve been wanting. My mind started to race as I listed a bunch of games and then she amended the request to which games at Barnes & Noble I might want since that was the likely shopping place. After some struggle, not knowing for sure what games Barnes & Noble might actually have on their shelves, she turned it toward Amazon.

I was ecstatic and immediately was able to list half a dozen games at a reasonable price range, and vowed to get around to putting together a list for her ease of use with future requests. After all, ’tis the season when non-gamers are going to ask her what her gamer husband wants for Christmas and, like any loving wife, she’ll tell them board games.

This list went through several pre-draft phases. It went from having a few games to having a ton of games, then back down to a more selective list. And through this process I realized something: while there are some new games I want, I am finding myself wanting a good number of expansions for games in my collection.

I can hear her initial groan right now. My wife is, in general, not a big fan of expansions. But I hope she’s willing to hear me out.

This year has been a tremendous year for me in terms of playing new games. I came into 2017 having played well under 100 modern board games and I’ve played 151 unique titles so far this year across 563 plays. However, only 33 of those games have been played 6 or more times, and only 9 have hit the 10+ play mark. I’ve been hitting quantity, and it was an important goal to have, but I think the time has come to focus more on repeat plays of a game. Becoming a reviewer has been a blessing in getting to try out and review newer games, but at the sacrifice that I always feel the need to move on to the next game in the review queue rather than continue to explore and enjoy a game I’m really digging at the moment.

I’ll still be playing new games and reviewing games that show up; however, I want to change part of my focus and dive in a little deeper. I want to get 10-20 plays of a game and really understand the intricacies of the game. I want to discover what games will hold up over the test of many plays and remain a game I desire to keep playing again and again. If a game fails to excite me after that many plays, it is probably ready to leave our collection.

Later this month you’ll see a new review or two as usual. You’ll see, by reader demand, a Top 10 list of solo games. But you’ll also start to see something completely different: strategy articles. I want to dig deeper into games, and as I do so I will share some strategies to help you see a game in a different light. They might be in the flavor of writing articles about strategies to pursue using each side in War of the Ring. It might be strategies considering board state and placement in a game like Kingdom Builder. To begin, I will start exploring how to get started in the Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game. As a relative beginner myself, I hope to help others interested in the game ease into the Core Set, explore what each faction in there can do, cover some deckbuilding strategies I’ve found success with, and possibly run through how I try and conquer the second Scenario in that Core Set.

I’m excited to dive deeper into games, and potentially to even reach out and interview some of the designers of these excellent games that I really enjoy playing time and again. Those games, after all, are what become the “forever games” on a shelf and would be ones I’d consider essentials to try for a collection.

 

Curious as to some of those eventual games/expansions on my Christmas wish list? These should provide, to some extent, an idea of some of those games that I plan to expand and therefore play in greater depth moving forward (which makes them good candidates for an eventual strategy focus on the blog). As a parting gift, here are what I believe will be some of those making the final cut of each, in no particular order:

* Lisboa
* The Ruhr: A Story of Coal Trade
* Charterstone
* Above and Below
* Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
* Raiders of the North Sea

 

Expansions:

* Tuscany: Essential Edition (for Viticulture)
* Mystic Vale: Vale of Magic
* Android: Netrunner – Terminal Directive
* Kingdom Builder: Marshlands
* Scythe: Invaders from Afar
* Scythe: The Wind Gambit
* Terraforming Mars: Hellas and Elysium
* Lord of the Rings LCG: The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill
* Lord of the Rings LCG: The Hobbit: On the Doorstep
* Lord of the Rings LCG: The Black Riders
* Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn: The Law of the Lions
* Ashes; Rise of the Phoenixborn: The Song of the Soaksend
* Barony: Sorcery