Posted by: Zach Smith | August 31, 2011

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

Design by:   Nate French
Published by:   Fantasy Flight Games 
1 – 2 Players, 1 – 1 1/2 hours
Review by:   Zach Smith


I recently picked up a copy of The Lord of the Rings living card game in a Boardgamegeek trade.  I really did not have any expectations for this game, but I have been blown away at how great this game is.  So far, this is my favorite game of 2011.  Here is a quick review of the game after my first few plays.

Gameplay summary:  This is the first cooperative living card game from Fantasy Flight.  Each player chooses three heroes and a corresponding deck of cards.  The game comes with pre-constructed decks, but they can be entirely customized by the player.  The base game comes with three quests the players choose from, and each has a different difficulty level.  There is also a collection of decks of cards that incorporate all the enemies and bad events the players will face as they work together to complete the quest.  Games last between 30-90 minutes.  Fantasy Flight is currently releasing Adventures Decks to expand the game with more quests, heroes, and cards.  The upcoming decks will continue a running narrative begun in the core game.   The game can be played with 1-2 players.

Components:  High quality cardboard chits and cards with beautiful Middle-earth art.  Just what one would expect from Fantasy Flight.


Like any good cooperative game, Lord of the Rings is very challenging.  The more difficult quests require strong cooperation and tactics.  The game is full of tough decisions.  Every turn the players must deliberate over how to use their heroes and when to play  just the right card from their hand.  It is quite tempting to blow all your cards too early in the game.

Each deck plays differently, and the option to customize the decks gives the game lots of  replayability.  It is fun to construct decks to achieve success in a given quest.  My wife cannot wait to build an all elf deck!

For Tolkien fans, this game is a thorough exploration of Middle-earth.  The art, text, and quests have all been lovingly crafted, and they will be a joy to anyone who likes Tolkien’s world.  The quests in the core game take place in the years before the Lord of the Rings novels, and I look forward to seeing the quests in future expansions.

As I stated previously, this is my favorite game of 2011 so far.  As a bonus, my wife really enjoys the game as well, so this will likely become our two player game of choice.  I cannot wait to purchase some Adventure Decks and try out the new quests, heroes, and cards.  As a Tolkien fan, I enjoy War of the Ring, but its long gameplay length keeps it from getting played very often.  Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is the total package – fantastic mechanics and perfect length.  Precious!


  1. As has been noted elsewhere, the game is playable with up to four players out of the box in a limited way, although you will need to provide your own “threat meters” for the extra players, and you’ll be limited to the “starter” decks.

    If you enjoy the game, probably a good idea to buy a second core set to allow more copies of some very useful cards, as well as allowing two people to build mixed decks that overlap to some extent (for example, two players each having Spirit sphere heroes). Some people even buy three sets to allow for every “single” card in the set to have three copies, but I think this is only important if you’re a completist or plan to play with four players regularly with a single set. The expansion sets will all have three of each player card so no need to buy more than one of those unless you plan to play with four often.

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