While we originally intended to continue with our DnD campaign last night, one of our players couldn’t make it. Instead, we played the Lord of the Rings Living Card Game.

I absolutely adore card games, whether it’s Magic the Gathering, Spades, or anything in between. With that in mind, I really enjoyed the LotR LCG, even though it took a few rounds before I started getting into it. The night began with a quick run through the general rules, and then it was on to the game proper.  Things moved slowly at first as we went step-by-step through each of the different phases, but we picked up the rhythm fairly quickly.   Once we got into it, I could see the appeal: teamwork is essential, taking risks is essential, and just a little bit of luck is essential, too.

I’m not going to get into the finer points of the rules, but suffice it to say they appear much more complicated than they actually are. You’re better off just playing the game and learning as you go, rather than reading the included guide cover to cover.  I’d suggest skimming over the parts in the manual that cover the seven phases just to get the words bouncing around in your head, but I would recommend learning as you go as much as possible. With that in mind, Fantasy Flight Games (the makers of the LotR LCG) has an excellent series of tutorial videos that will explain everything, just in case you like to go over the rules start to finish prior to playing.

Once you get into the style of the game and are able to complete whole turns without having to refer back to the manual, things really open up. The necessary strategies and planning appear to you naturally, and in the end it’s just like Magic the Gathering: once you get how the underlying mechanics work, all you need are the words printed on the cards.  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this as an introductory game to someone new to the genre, but you don’t need much experience under your belt to understand it and enjoy it. That being said, it pulls mechanical inspiration from a few different titles, so having some experience with a variety of table-top and card games will go a long way towards decreasing the learning curve.  Best of all, even with a couple of extended breaks, our learning game took only two and a half hours.  Based on what Svenn told us (he plays a mage in our DnD campaign), a typical game could be concluded in as little as one to one and a half hours, so long as everyone knows what they’re doing.

Unlike its brethren, it’s quite affordable, selling for just under $30 on Amazon. The expansions are comparatively inexpensive as well, coming in at around $17 each. This low price of entry allows just about anyone to get up and running with the core game and an expansion or two, as opposed to something like Arkham Horror which can quickly approach the $100 mark once you include an expansion that has an additional board in it.

What it all comes down to is this: I’d highly recommend picking this one up, even if you aren’t into Lord of the Rings. It makes for a great addition to any gaming cabinet.