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Fantasy Flight Games announces new LCG: Lord of the Rings!

Posted by Denny Koch on August 10, 2010

Fantasy Flight Games recently added a new game to the very successful “Living Card Games” family: The Lord of the Rings Living Card Game.

Together with A Game of Thrones, Warhammer Invasion, and Call of Cthulhu, Lord of the Rings will be the fourth card game which will be published in the new LCG distribution format.

What is a Living Card Game?

Living Card Games are customizable dueling card games where players build their own individual decks (of their favorite faction, strategy, sub-theme, focus etc.) and pitch these decks into battle against their opponents’ decks. Deckbuilding, improving and refining the deck is as important as playing the game itself. Players get into the game by buying a Core Pack and then improve their decks by buying monthly expansions which add new cards, new themes, new tactics, and sometimes even new factions or rules to the game.

The card artworks are really nice!

In contrast to a Collectible Card Game (for example Magic: The Gathering), where players buy regular published randomized booster packs without knowing the exact contents of a game, the contents of the expansions for Living Card Games are public knowledge. There are no more “rare” cards which must be hunted by spending hundreds of Dollars for “blind buying” booster packs.

Instead, new contents are added regularly and you can decide in advance whether you need an expansion and whether it adds valuable content to your specific deck and deckbuilding strategy or whether you can skip an add-on. In the end, LCG players will buy all expansions anyway, “just to have them”, but the distribution model is much cheaper than buying lots of booster packs without ever getting the rare cards you are hunting for.

Besides from the distribution model, there is no difference between a Living Card Game and a Collectible Card Game. The card games published so far are all very good and very unique in their game mechanics. I think Lord of the Rings will be a very great addition to the line-up and won’t interfere with the other LCGs.

Plans for the Lord of the Rings LCG

The game layout

In contrast to the other the LCGs, Lord of the Rings will be a 2-player cooperative LCG. A 4-player variant will be possible by using 2 Core Packs. The Core Pack will be released for $39,95 (publishing date yet unknown). The cards will include the famous heroes from the books, artefacts, allies, attachments, weapons and an encounter deck which contains the foes and dangers the players will oppose.

There are only few information available about how the game will work in detail, but I think FFG will publish an introduction video (as they did for their other 3 LCGs). The Core Set will include 216 Cards and will allow for assembling various decks right out of the box (in contrast to the pre-built decks in the A Game of Thrones and Warhammer Invasion Core Packs).

The game appears to be scenario-driven; the Core Packs includes 4 scenarios and offers “near-endless replayability”, according to FFG. Add-Ons will add more stuff regularly in monthly 60-card “Adventure Packs“. The game focuses on four spheres of influence: Leadership, Lore, Spirit, and Tactics. How you build your decks and on which sphere your focus lies is entirely up to you.

Check out the FFG Micro Site for more information. So far, the artworks and design looks really cool, but I expect nothing less from FFG. Their other three LCGs are all great and I like them all.

Posted in Fantasy Games A-Z, Living Card Games, Lord of the Rings, News and Releases | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Game of Thrones LCG: Chapter Packs

Posted by Denny Koch on August 4, 2010

A Game of Thrones is a Living Card Game by Fantasy Flight Games. This means, it’s a highly customizable dueling card game where players build their individual card decks and battle their opponent’s decks.

Players buy a Core Set or starter pack which provides them with the first cards needed to build their custom decks and then add more cards by buying monthly expansions.

The Best of Two Worlds

The only difference between a “Living Card Game” and a “Collectible Card Game” (Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh) is the distribution model.

While the classic Collectible Card Games add more contents in the form of randomized “booster packs” with unknown contents, the contents of expansions for Living Card Games are public knowledge, you don’t buy the pig in the sack. Many players are addicted to CCG, just because of the thrill of not knowing what’s inside the next booster pack they buy and the adrenaline rush they feel when hunting for an especially rare card. The downside of this is that CCGs are an incredibly expensive hobby because you have to spend hundreds of Dollars if you need a specific rare card while you get 85 copies of the same cheap card by buying randomized boosters. This is the main reason why players drop out of CCGs, they can’t keep track with new rare cards, and if you are a competetive player, you are almost forced to be up-to-date.

Chapter Packs and Deluxe Expansions

LCGs have a different distribution model. They add new content each month (in A Game of Thrones, these expansions are called Chapter Packs), but each chapter pack contains the same cards. There are no more rare cards and all players have access to all cards anytime. It isn’t your purse and hunting skill which decides the quality of your deck, but your deckbuilding skills alone.

Each Chapter Pack adds additional cards for all six factions and neutral cards, characters, events, support cards, plot cards. In addition, they often introduce new effects, new keywords, new mechanics which allow building of theme decks or decks representing lesser houses or groups, for example the Night’s Watch, House Tully, or the Dothraki.

Chapter packs belong to thematic story cycles and are published monthly. The first packs consisted of 40 fixed cards and cost about 6-7 $. Since it is allowed to have 3 copies of each card in a deck, players often bought several copies of a Chapter Pack (which was still cheaper than buying entire booster stands, but not the idea behind the Living Card Game).

In 2010, Fantasy Flight games listened to the player’s wishes and changed the format of the expansions for all three Living card games (Call of Cthulhu, Warhammer Invasion, A Game of Thrones). They now contain 60 cards with 3 copies of each card. This leads to a slightly higher retain price, but with around 10$, they are still affordable once a month.

Besides the monthly chapter packs, once in a while FFG publishes Deluxe Expansions. These are shipped in a larger box (similar to the Core Set) and contain additional factions and larger add-ons for themed decks.

Ownership of the Core Pack is always required.

List of Chapter Packs (CP) and Expansions

  • Core Set

De Luxe Expansions

    Chapter Pack "The Wildling Horde"

  • Kings of the Sea, adding House Greyjoy as a new major faction
  • Princes of the Sun, adding House Martell as a new major faction
  • Lords of Winter, concentrating on House Stark, adding new characters and deckbuilding strategies
  • Kings of the Storm, concentrating on House Baratheon, Storm’s End and the three brothers Robert, Stannis, and Renly, includes two new theme decks (Power Rush and Knights of the Realm) (not yet published)

Chapter Pack Subcollection: A Clash of Arms

  • CP1: The War of the Five Kings
  • CP2: Ancient Enemies
  • CP3: Sacred Bonds
  • CP4: Epic Battles
  • CP5: Battle of Ruby Ford
  • CP6: Calling the Banners

Chapter Pack Subcollection: A Time of Ravens

  • CP7: A Song of Summer
  • CP8: The Winds of Winter
  • CP9: A Change of Seasons
  • CP10: The Raven’s Song
  • CP11: Refugees of War
  • CP12: Scattered Armies

Chapter Pack Subcollection: King’s Landing

  • CP13: City of Secrets
  • CP14: A Time of Trials
  • CP15: The Tower of the Hand
  • CP16: Tales from the Red Keep
  • CP17: Secrets and Spies
  • CP18: The Battle of Blackwater Bay

Chapter Pack Subcollection: Defenders of the North

  • CP19: Wolves of the North, focus on Night’s Watch and the Wall
  • CP20: Beyond the Wall, adds Free Folk and creatures from the woods beyond the Wall
  • CP21: A Sword in the Darkness, new version of Jon Snow, adds Stallward Shield and Orell the Eagle
  • CP22: The Wildling Horde, adds forces of Wildlings
  • CP23: A King in the North, adds Margery Tyrell (Baratheon), Osha (Stark)
  • CP24: Return of the Others, adds Others, Mance Rayder, Melisandre, Old Bear Mormont, Balerion the Black

Chapter Pack Subcollection: Brotherhood without Banners

With this subcollection, FFG changed the format to 60 cards per Chapter pack. The cycle introduces the “Neutral house card”  and allows deckbuilding without a house affiliation.

  • CP25: Illyrio’s Gift, features characters Barric Dondarrion, Edric Dayne, Rakharo
  • CP26: Rituals of R’hllor, Melisandre of Asshai and Stannis, a new sect of zealots
  • CP27: Mountains of the Moon, mountain clansmen
  • CP28: A Song of Silence
  • CP29: Of Snakes and Sand
  • CP30: Dreatfort Betrayal

Chapter Pack Subcollection: Secrets of Oldtown

  • CP31: Gates of the Citadel
  • CP32: Forging the Chain
  • CP33: Called by the Conclave

Posted in A Game of Thrones, Fantasy Games A-Z, Living Card Games | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Warhammer Invasion LCG: Battle Packs

Posted by Denny Koch on July 27, 2010

Jump to “List of Battle Packs”

Warhammer Invasion is a “Living Card Game” (LCG) by Fantasy Flight Games. This means, it’s a collectible, customizable dueling card game where players build their individual card decks and battle other opponents’ decks.

The Best of Two Worlds

The only difference to a “Collectible Card Game” (CCG) – for example Magic: The Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh-, is the distribution model for additional cards. In contrast to the classic Collectible Card Games, you don’t blind-buy randomized booster packs with unknown contents. Instead of that, you buy  monthly expansions called “Battle Packs” with fixed contents which are public knowledge. You don’t have to “hunt” for very rare cards anymore, probably spending hundreds of $ on blind-buying random booster packs.

Each Battle Pack adds some cards to each faction and some neutral cards and most of them deal with a specific aspect of the game (for example new sub-themes like Skaven, combat effects, keywords, locations, spells..). If you want more cards for your deck, you  can check out which Battle Pack offers the best contents for you and your specific playing style and strategy. If you want to counter a specific weakness of your deck, or if you need tools against a certain opponent, or if you want to create a theme deck with a certain focal point or strategy, you can check out which Battle Pack includes cards that will provide the desired effects to optimize your personal deck.

Ultimately, you will buy all expansion packs nevertheless, just to be more flexible and to “own them all” because also in a LCG the collectible aspect is quite addictive, but at least you don’t have to spend $100 in search for one rare card while getting 85 copies of the same cheap card in return. There’s simply more bang for your buck in the LCG format.

In a LCG, you always know what you get for your money, but you can still profit from the basic concept of deck building by choosing “your” favorite cards. The only difference to a CCG is that no cards are “rare” cards anymore, all players have access to the same cards and expansion packs and all cards have fixed prices. So it all comes down to your deckbuilding strategies, your gameplay and your choices of which characters, items, or events you take into the battle.

Core Set and Battle Packs

A Dark Elf from the Assault on Ulthuan de Luxe expansion

In 2009, Fantasy Flight Games released a “Core Set” which contained 4 pre-built decks (220 cards) and all components you need for the game (4 Capitals / strongholds, resource markers, burn tokens, damage tokens, a full-colored rulebook). The Core Pack includes 4 of the 6 factions; the last two factions (High Elves and Dark Elves) can be added to the game with a large De Luxe expansion, containing Capital boards and starter decks for the last two factions.

Players can get a first impression of the game by playing the Core Pack, by choosing one of the 4 balanced pre-built faction decks and by learning about their strengths and weaknesses. If they like the game and decide that they want to delve deeper into the hobby, they decide which factions or strategies they want to utilize in the future and start deck building by supplementing the core game with Battle Packs.

New Battle Packs are released regularly (roughly one per month). They belong to “Story cycles” which add more flavor to the game, add races, creatures, buildings, and weapons from the Warhammer Fantasy universe and allow for deep customization. Since their contents are fixed, players know what they get in advance and can decide whether a specific Battle Pack would be a good addition for their decks.

The first 6 Battle Packs (Corruption Cycle) consist of 20 different cards, 2 copies each (for a total of 40 cards). Since players tend to build decks containing multiple copies of a single card (the game allows for a maximum of three copies per card), they often bought each Battle Pack two times. This is somewhat contra productive to the “lower costs compared to a CCG” concept of a Living Card Game, so with the second story cycle, Fantasy Flight Games changed the contents of Battle Packs to 20 unique cards in triplicate copy (for a total of 60 cards), starting with the Enemy Cycle.

Battle Packs are not too expensive ($6-10 Dollars, depending on the shop) and can be bought in various game shops and from amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, or amazon.de.

List of Battle Packs (BP) and Deluxe Expansions

  • Core Set

De Luxe Expansions:

  • Assault on Ulthua (Dark Elves & High Elves)
  • March of the Damned (neutral forces, Lizardmen, Vampire Counts, new keywords “Savage” and “Necromancy”)

The Corruption Cycle:

  • BP1: The Skavenblight Thread, introduces the Skaven
  • BP2: Path of the Zealot, adds zealots of Order
  • BP3: Tooth and Claw, adds Rat Ogres of Moulder clan
  • BP4: The Deathmaster’s Dance, adds Deathmaster Sniktch
  • BP5: The Warpstone Chronicles, focus on ancient relics of the Old World
  • BP6: Arcane Fire, focus on spells and arcane magic

The Enemy Cycle:

  • BP7: The Burning of Derricksburg, Battle for the town of Derricksburg
  • BP8: The Fall of Karak Grimaz, Orcs attacking the Dwarven hold
  • BP9: The Silent Forge, High Elves discover the Dark Elves’ secret forge
  • BP10: Redemption of A Mage, adds powerful Dwarves runes, “Mage” and “Knight” keywords for the Empire
  • BP11: The Fourth Waystone
  • BP12: Bleeding Sun

The Morrslieb Cycle:

  • BP13: Omens of Ruin
  • BP14: The Chaos Moon
  • BP15: The Twin Tailed Comet
  • BP16: Signs in the Stars

Excel Sheets, called “Spoiler Lists” are available for all Battle Packs. Check out the Warhammer Invasion File Section on Boardgamegeek!

Posted in Fantasy Games A-Z, Living Card Games, Warhammer, Warhammer Inv., Warhammer Invasion | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Review: Call of Cthulhu – The Card Game (LCG) Core Set

Posted by Denny Koch on May 31, 2010

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Published in: 2008
Designers: Eric M. Lang, Nate French
Topic: Fantasy / H.P. Lovecraft Universe
Game Type: Living Card Game (LCG)
Contents: 1 rulebook, 140 faction cards, 15 neutral cards, 6 Cthulhu miniatures, 1 mounted mapboard, 24 Story markers

HFC Game-O-Meter: D


Our Rating (1-10):

Graphic Presentation: 10
Rules: 6
Playability:
7
Replay Value:
6

Overall Rating: 7

Important! This review deals with the Core Set exclusively – and the question of how suitable it is as a standalone game played “out of the box”. It doesn’t rate the entire CoC LCG game system (Core Sets+expansions) or the general gameplay of the CoC LCG, only the contents of the Core Set “as is”!

PRO Introductory game for a LCG system that can be played “out of the box” without purchasing further cards, components are of a high quality, great artwork, Lovecraftian atmosphere, short playing time, 7 very different factions…
CONTRA …which cannot be exploited with the 20 cards per faction contained in the core set, no custom deck building, balancing issues with some combinations, official FAQ required (card errata, clarifications)

Introduction

Call of Cthulhu – The Card Game is an offspring of the Call of Cthulhu franchise. Initially, it was a Collectible Card Game where players had to buy random booster packs in order to build and improve their decks. In 2008, publisher Fantasy Flight Games decided to change the game concept into a “Living Card Game” where players still build and improve their individual card decks, but they don’t have to spend large amounts of money in buying randomized card packs with unknown contents in search for the rarest and most powerful cards.

Instead, the game is supplemented by the monthly release of “Asylum Packs” which contain cards for all seven factions as well as neutral cards. Their contents are fixed and public knowledge, so all players have access to all cards all the time. This provides for fair chances in deck building because there are no more “rare” cards as secret weapons and whether your deck is a success or an epic failure depends on your deck building skills and on how many Asylum Packs you buy.

If you want to start with Call of Cthulhu – The Card Game, you only have to buy the “Core Set” first, which serves as a starter pack. You can play it “out of the box” without buying further cards, if you want to get an impression of the game and if you want to decide whether you like the game concept. If you are a casual player and only want to play the game from time to time with friends or family members, you could probably be content with the Core Set alone, without ever buying any add-ons. It contains 20 cards for each of the 7 factions in the game, and 15 additional neutral cards which are divided between the two players. You simply choose two factions of your choice, combine their cards to a deck, add 7 neutral cards and you are ready to fight your opponent, who does the same. Combining 2 factions and fighting 2 other factions allows for 21 different decks with 105 different combat constellations.

This review deals with the Core Pack and how deep the gaming experience with the basic starter set – without any additional cards! – really is. It doesn’t deal with the “Call of Cthulhu – The Card Game” system in general!

If you are interested in more details about the Call of Cthulhu LCG, the game mechanics, Asylum Packs, and basic gameplay, please check out our introductory article: An Introduction to Call of Cthulhu – The Card Game (LCG). I won’t repeat the basics here, but concentrate on reviewing the Core Set and its value as a standalone game.

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Introduction to Call of Cthulhu – The Card Game (LCG)

Posted by Denny Koch on May 13, 2010

Call of Cthulhu – The Card Game is a Living Card Game (LCG) by Fantasy Flight Games. It is the successor of Call of Cthulhu – the Collectible Card Game (CCG) which was discontinued when the new format was introduced in 2008.

What’s the difference between a Living Card Game and a Collectible Card Game?

The main game concept is identical: players choose factions and then try to build a powerful deck which will “beat” other players’ decks. This genre is known as “Dueling Card Games“. Depending on the game, you have to follow a basic ruleset for constructing your deck (a minimum or maximum number of cards, a point or cost system, allowed number of copies in one deck), but apart from this, you are free to build and explore the “ultimate deck“.

In contrast to a traditional Collectible Card Game or Trading Card Game (Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, Marvel Vs, The Lord of the Rings TCG, Pokemon), the Living Card Game breaks away from the Collectible Card Game model.

A Magic Booster, containing 15 random cards

In a Collectible Card Game, you have to buy booster packs if you want to improve your deck and if you want to find rare and powerful cards. You don’t know the specific contents of a booster pack, though, so it can happen that you have to spend $100 for a very rare card while finding 85 copies of a cheap card. Since most game systems regularly publish new booster packs, you have to spend a huge amount of money if you want to stay up-to-date and if you want to improve your deck and counter other players’ new cards.

This “blind buy” purchase model is the most problematic aspect of Collectible Card Games. The collecting and the thrill of buying new booster packs without knowing what’s inside can be somewhat addictive, so often players are forced to quit the hobby because they cannot keep up the pace and spend too much money in buying useless boosters with multiple copies of cheap cards they already possess. If you want to play competitive, you are forced to invest your money in booster packs or to pay tremendous prices for specific cards sold on eBay.

A Living Card Game (LCG) offers a new card distribution model. Instead of selling randomized booster packs, cards are sold in fixed add-on packs. The contents of such a pack are public knowledge and fixed. In Call of Cthulhu, these add-ons are called “Asylum Packs”. They are published monthly and belong to certain “story cycles” with focus on different aspects of the game: focus on certain battle types (terror, combat, arcane, investigation), characters, locations, or skills. You don’t have to buy all Asylum Packs, if you don’t want to. Instead, you can choose which packs would really improve your factions or your deck or your strategy – and which are worthloss for your individual style.

Most players buy all Asylum Packs nevertheless, just to “have them all”, but this doesn’t hurt as much as buying booster packs. One Asylum Pack costs about 7-11 $, depending on the shop where you buy them, and that’s it. You don’t have to hunt a rare card anymore, you simply order the Asylum Pack with your favorite card on amazon or buy it in your local game store. Even if you are a hardcore competetive player who duels on tournaments, you don’t have to buy more than three copies of each Asylum Pack because you aren’t allowed more than 3 copies of each card in a single deck. If you play Highlander format (“there can be only one”, no more than one copy of each card per game), one of each Asylum Packs is more than enough. Publisher FFG even listened to their fans – the newer Asylum Packs contain three copies of each card, so there’s absolutely no need to buy more than one copy of each Asylum Pack any more.

Besides from the different distribution model, a LCG still offers the same dynamic customizable game play as a CCG. You can customize and build your perfect deck, but without the blind purchase model. In the end, the LCG model gives you the best of both worlds.

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Posted in Call of Cthulhu LCG, Fantasy Games A-Z, Games A-Z, Living Card Games | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »