This guide is written with three and four player in mind; some of the statements (e.g. mono-tactics is necessary!) don’t really apply to two-player, or two-handed play. It’s also aimed at the beginner to either LotR or LotR multiplayer. The emergence of the Fellowship Quests (all of consistently high quality) has enabled a number of players to get exposure to the pick up games that are common in competitive LCGs.
Mostly Off-topic arranges semi-regular LotR multiplayer games in Patriot Games in Sheffield – check out our Facebook page for the events and feel free to come down irrespective of your experience of card pool.
All of that being said, multi-player is a different beast than solo; decks built for solo play will be weaker in multiplayer. Following this guide will help you focus on how to build decks designed to play across the table from your fellow adventurers!
- Use the resources available – read Tales from the Cards, Hall of Beorn, FFG Forum, LotR on Boardgame Geek, Cardboard of the Rings podcast, this very website etc
- Read the cards and think about what the rules mean; if there’s a lot of text spend a couple of minutes unpacking it.
- Know the timing windows, or have a handy reference; they take on more of an importance in multiplayer than solo
- You will want to be able to play something that improves your board state (attachment, ally) in the first two or three rounds
- You need to be able to bring something to the table with only 2 or 3 resources each round
- The more spheres the less resources you have to bring something to the table
- You can spread the “card roles” around the players and specialise your deck (see below for card roles); in practice the spheres tend to focus on particular “card roles” so you are going to want to focus on a sphere or two
- This also helps with the resource management constraints
- You may plan to play attachments onto other players’ heroes or they may also need those unique attachments; try to avoid making Steward of Gondor (for example) integral to your deck’s plan
- One thing to note is that unique means ‘no-one else may play a card with this name’ (Allies and Heroes with the same name still conflict). This is different from most LCGs and drives discussion around decks within LotR multiplayer
- Questing – high willpower or willpower buffs; in multiplayer it is not necessary for all players to be able to quest (Spirit is the traditional home of this, but Leadership can create very capable questing decks!)
- Attacking – high attack; in multiplayer it is not necessary for all players to be able to attack; Ranged characters are more important than in solo (Tactics)
- Defending – high defence; in multiplayer it is not necessary for all players to be able to defend; Sentinel becomes very important (Tactics)
- Healing – more important in multiplayer than in solo; one deck might have have this as an off-skill (Lore)
- Treachery Cancellation – a must for multiplayer (Spirit)
- Location control – In particular the ability to manage locations in the staging area, either negating their threat or clearing them a la Northern Tracker (distributed through Spirit, Lore)
- Card Draw – getting cards into hand provides options and can fuel discard costs (Lore)
- Readying – Action advantage means that fewer characters can perform the same level of activity as a horde of allies, typically to a better level. It it typically more efficient per resource spend than playing an ally as well (compare Unexpected Courage on, say Legolas, with playing a 2-cost tactics ally) (Distributed in Spirit and Lore, but Leadership has some effects)
- Resource Generation – Getting more resources per round speeds up play to build a stronger board presence more quickly. There is direct resource generation (more resource tokens per round) and improvements of efficiency (e.g. cost reducers and cheating allies in for free) (Leadership is the king) I consider this optional because a tightly built, lower-cost curve deck should play alright without resource generation
- Scry – Limited use in multiplayer compared to solo (where I would consider it a core skill) because you typically can’t scry enough cards down (Lore)
- Shadow Cancellation – Worth having around if the deck space can accommodate it but unlikely to substantially change the course of many games (Spirit, Leadership)
- Threat Reduction – I consider this optional on the basis that most decks are going to be playing three copies of core Gandalf and have the option there. If your deck is likely to rocket upwards in threat (e.g. lots of doomed cards, high starting threat, valour deck) then you may want to consider this to be mandatory (Spirit)
- If I need to see the card in the opening hand, then I go with three copies
- If I need to have that card because it is a mandatory off skill and that’s the only way I can do it, three copies (e.g. Test of Will for treachery cancellation)
- If it’s a low-cost non-unique that supports my deck core or off-skill, three copies
- If it’s a unique that I don’t need to see in my opening hand, two copies
- If it’s cool, in sphere but not supporting my chosen skills, no copies even though I-wish-I-could-find-a-way-to-play-it-because-it’s-just-so-cool-dammit!
- Focus on two spheres
- Focus on two skills
- If possible, talk to the other players to see what they’re bringing
- Aim for a low cost curve
- Read the cards and use the resources available so you know how they’ll impact the board state
- Have fun!
In LotR, cards can be categorised by the kind of effect they bring to the table. I would suggest your deck focuses on one of the core skills, a core skill and an off skill, or two off skills in more depth. An “off skill” is something that isn’t worth dedicating a deck to but needs to be somewhere at the table:
Mandatory Off Skills:
Optional Off Skills:
You’ll see that Tactics and Leadership provide the core skills whilst Lore and Spirit provide the “off skills”. However, this is the most general, broad brush section of this guide so treat with a pinch of salt. A mono-Lore deck that focuses on Healing and Draw is going to be very welcome in any 4-player game!
Cost Curve and Number of Copies
4 or 5 cost cards all have fantastic abilities. Some could even change a game from a loss to win. But how many times, with three or four cards being pulled from the encounter deck, are you sat on 5 resources in one sphere and not wishing you had Gandalf?
And those brilliant cards aren’t going to get played in the first turn. The encounter deck is pulling at least four cards out (very often more from that painful setup instruction “each player reveals a card from the encounter deck”).
Therefore a low cost curve is necessary (i.e. 0 – 2 resource cost cards); even more so in a dual-sphere resource deck. Look at the cards and ask yourself: on which round could I realistically play this? Expect to have used your resources in the first two or three rounds when working that out and you quickly see that the high cost cards may sit in hand most of the game.
If you have the ability to cheat allies out for little to no cost (e.g. elfstone, Elrond and Vilnya) then you can go for a higher cost curve, but bear in mind that you need to setup that combo and have time to play it. If you’re spanked at the time you’re getting setup then you’ll never really get to play it!
If you need to see something in your opening hand put three copies in. If you’ve got lots of three copy uniques then try to include some way to benefit from discarding them; or check with the other players if someone is bringing Eowyn.
My rules of thumb are:
I like mono-sphere Tactics and Leadership because I think that you can build very tight decks and with a bit of co-ordination with the other players you can have all the necessary bases covered to quite a deep way.
It makes resource management much easier and by playing the key attachments across the table you can really get the synergies going. It’s basically the closest to having 4-players-1-deck as you can get.
The risk is that everybody rocks up with the same mono-sphere (or similar) and that leads to the quests being very quickly unplayable.
Go for it! But don’t break the dual-sphere rule unless you have a way to cheat them in. Ents with Ally Treebeard are a good example of this because he gathers resources that can pay for the odd off-sphere Ent.
In fact, building a trait-based deck whilst observing the other suggestions here will likely lead to the strongest type of deck you can find! It also makes buying packs easier as you can check out a buying guide (at Tales from the Cards) and build towards that trait whilst protecting game theme as well.
As ever feel free to comment below with your thoughts and observations!