Last Updated on January 5, 2023
Dark forces are swirling and a great evil stalks the land. Orcs, goblins, and other vile creatures are marauding in force. The dark lord Sauron is gaining power. But amidst the darkness stands a band of heroes, ready to do battle. This can mean only one thing: The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is back with the Revised Core Set.
Choose different heroes from Middle Earth, recruit eager allies and fight the forces of evil. Have you got what it takes to win? Read on and check out our The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game review of the Revised Core Set (Henceforth called LOTR LCG (Revised)).
Brief Overview of LOTR LCG (Revised)
LOTR LCG (Revised) is a cooperative card game that brings the world of Tolkien to life in the form of an immersive, exceedingly difficult card game. It can be played by 1-4 players, but is much better in solitaire mode or in 2-player mode. It includes a campaign mode which, though fun, doesn’t add a whole lot to the overall experience.
When playing the game, you will undertake a key quest, alone or with other players. In order to conquer the quest you must beat savage enemies, defend against surprise attacks and equip your heroes with allies and extra powers. This game takes luck, strategy, skill, and a good deck of cards. Losing happens often and winning is all the more rewarding for its rarity.
LOTR LCG (Revised) is a living card game so there will be many expansions included after the base game. Over time you will improve and customize your deck to give you the best chance of beating each quest. Deck customization is one of the highlights of the game.
Versions & Expansions
LOTR LCG (Revised) is a living card game so expansions are being released all the time. There are far too many to list, and any list will be out of date as soon as it is published. But each expansion offers new quests and new cards.
The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (2011)
The one version worth discussing here is the original. Released way back in 2011, it has been a fan favorite ever since. It’s essentially the same as LoTR LCG (Revised), but with some key differences. There is no campaign mode. The rule book isn’t as clear. The artwork isn’t as good. Only 2 players can play.
But that’s about it. For the most part, these games are identical. Even the quests in the base game are the same. If you are familiar with this version, LoTR LCG (Revised) just offers an updated, improved experience.
Unboxing LoTR LCG (Revised)
When you open the game you will find the following components.
- 1 Rulebook
- 1 Learn to play Guide
- 12 Hero Cards
- 188 Player Cards
- 84 Encounter Cards
- 10 Quest Cards
- 3 Campaign Cards
- 16 Boon and Burden Cards
- 57 Resource Tokens
- 66 Damage Tokens
- 66 Progress Tokens
- 4 Threat Trackers
- 1 First Player Token
While the rulebook and learn-to-play guide are pretty long, they also include a lot of visuals and illustrations to help you. So as long as you pay close attention they’re quite intuitive and easy to follow.
The artwork is fantastic. Of course, Lord of the Rings has been around for so long and tons of artwork and imagery already exists, so the creators have a lot of inspiration to draw from. And they execute it really well. Each unique illustration is high quality and captures the theme perfectly.
The cards are great too. The cards are the central focus of the game and they combine succinct information with dazzling artwork. Given that the rules are relatively convoluted, the cards do an excellent job of clearly communicating what they can do and when they can do it.
There is no central map in the game. Given it is fundamentally a card game this isn’t surprising. But it does make it harder to imagine your heroes traveling across Middle Earth, one of the most epic maps ever created.
This means the cards bear a lot of responsibility in immersing you in the world of Middle Earth. Luckily, they are up to the task.
How to Play LoTR LCG (Revised)
Each game of LoTR LCG (Revised) involves taking on a quest. Choose 1 of 3 different quests. Beat each quest by earning the required amount of progress tokens and eliminating all enemies in your path.
If you gain the required progress tokens and achieve all the designated tasks, you win. If your threat counter goes above 50, or all your heroes are slain, you lose. In campaign mode, you must play all of the quests in order.
Overview of Decks and Cards
Quest Deck and Hero Cards
The quest is chosen from the Quest Deck. Each quest includes a number of stages, with 1 card representing a stage. All stages need to be overcome to beat the quest. The main characters you will control are your heroes. You will choose 1-3 per quest.
The Encounter Deck includes all of the enemies, dangers and places that you must overcome and defeat in order to beat the quest. There are three types.
- Enemy cards must be defeated in battle.
- Location cards are dangerous places you must travel to.
- Treachery cards take immediate effect and offer very nasty surprises along the way.
Cards from the encounter deck are first played in the staging area, then moved to the active playing area.
The player deck includes all of the cards that will help you on your journey. There are three types.
- Attachment cards allow you to equip weapons, armor, or other benefits.
- Ally cards allow you to recruit a friend to aid your cause.
- Event cards allow you to execute special events at certain times.
Cards from the player deck are first played in your hand and then, once paid for, added to the active playing area.
Shuffle player and encounter decks. Place your heroes in front of you. Add your hero’s threat count onto your threat counter. Place the damage, progress, and resource tokens next to the encounter deck.
Place the chosen quest cards in the correct order next to the encounter deck and follow the unique scenario setup on the back of the first quest card. Randomly determine the first player and draw 6 cards from the player deck.
The structure of each round
Every round, there are 7 different phases that must be completed sequentially. Once the round is completed, start again at phase 1.
- Resource Phase – This phase is very simple. Give each hero 1 resource token and draw a card from the deck, adding it to your hand
- Planning Phase – Purchase attachments and ally cards from your hand. Pay the correct amount of resource tokens and equip attachments, recruit allies or play events cards.
- Quest Phase – Commit characters to the quest. Once they are committed they cannot help you for the rest of the round. One encounter card is drawn per player and your committed characters try to beat them, based on card stats.
- Travel Phase – Move a location card from the staging area to the play area and try to overcome its threat.
- Encounter Phase – Choose to engage your enemy if you are strong enough. Or, you may have to face your enemy if their threat level is high enough. No fighting yet though.
- Combat Phase – In this phase, enemies attack first. Once all of their attacks have been resolved you can attack. If either you or your enemy’s cards are slain at this point, they are removed from the game.
- Refresh Phase – All committed cards return to being ready. The threat level is increased by 1 for each player. The next round begins. Continue until you beat all three quest cards, the enemy slays all of your heroes or your threat level reaches 50.
Your First Game of LoTR LCG (Revised)
When playing LoTR LCG (Revised), it is very important to walk before you can run. Keep the rulebook nearby because it will need to be consulted often. There are a lot of moving parts for each round which can seem overwhelming at first, but once you’ve mastered the round sequence it will become much easier.
Make sure to start with the Mirkwood quest first. It’s the ‘easiest’ quest but is by no means a walk in the park. You have very little chance of beating the other 2 quests if you haven’t played the game before. They offer an intense challenge – even for experienced players.
Mirkwood will allow you to learn the mechanics of the game, and practice different strategies, without destroying you the moment you make a mistake.
One of the best parts of the game is deck building. But don’t worry about this at first. The best thing to do is copy one of the starter decks that are outlined in the Learn to Play Guide.
This is a nicely balanced, ready-made deck that won’t let you down. As you gain experience, you can modify this starter deck, or even try and build your own deck from scratch.
Pros & Cons
- Incredible artwork
- Easy to understand but difficult to master
- Deck Customizability
First off, the game is beautiful. Given that you spend a lot of time looking at cards it is pretty important that they look good and communicate their use effectively.
LoTR LCG (Revised) achieves this easily. If you are a fan of Tolkien’s lore and the world of Middle Earth, then you are going to love the artwork in this game. Each card is unique. The theme is on point. Excellent work.
LoTR LCG (Revised) is an easy game to learn. Beginners can pick up the essential mechanics in minutes and each card clearly explains what it can and will do.
But, knowing how to play and knowing how to win are entirely different concepts. Winning needs a strong understanding of the deck, lots of tactical decision making and an overall strategy to carry you through.
A great feature of LoTR LCG (Revised) is the deck’s customizability. This is especially true as you master the game and will inevitably want to experiment with different strategies. Combine different powers and attachments with different heroes for devastating effect.
- Too much luck involved
- Frustratingly difficult
- Campaign mode is pretty weak
Every time you draw a card there is an element of luck involved. Given that one unlucky draw can literally eliminate you from the game, whereas a lucky draw would have meant victory, the luck factor can be extremely frustrating.
You’ve powered up your hero, you’re ready for a final attack, and then bam! You draw a treachery card that puts that very hero out of action and scuppers your entire strategy.
LoTR LCG (Revised) can be a very difficult game, although it is easier with more players. In solitaire mode, victory is likely in the easiest quests but can feel almost impossible in the harder ones. You will need to execute the perfect game AND draw the best cards in order to stand any chance of beating the quest.
Given one of the main additions to this revised version is the campaign, it’s not particularly inspiring. It just doesn’t really flow thematically or as a storyline. It doesn’t add to the individual quests.
It makes the game easier as you can carry benefits over. But it doesn’t add any real character progression or build an overall narrative.
Lord of the Rings: The Card Game Review (TL;DR)
LoTR LCG (Revised) is a cooperative Living Card Game that is easy to learn but very difficult to master. It immerses you in the world of Middle Earth through captivating imagery and excellent mechanics. It can be frustratingly difficult but is immensely rewarding when you win.
LoTR LCG (Revised) allows you to build and customize your decks over time. As you become more experienced, you can experiment with different combinations. If you’re looking for a difficult, yet excellent card game steeped in Tolkien lore, this game could be for you.
LoTR LCG (Revised) is not an easy game. It can be frustratingly difficult. When you draw the wrong card it can feel like the universe is conspiring against you. But if you’re looking for a challenge, this game is excellent. It rewards you for creating a well-balanced deck and playing your cards at the opportune moment.
The deck building is one of the best parts of the game. You can just use starter decks, which is recommended for beginners. But as you become more familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of particular cards and strategies, you can create some awesome combos. There are a lot of different strategies and combos you can use which make the game very replayable.
If you’re looking for a challenging, cooperative card game or if you love Tolkien, then you should definitely give this game a go.
We hope you enjoyed our Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (Revised Core Set) review! Have you tried this game or the previous version of the LOTR LCG? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear from you.