Digital card games are on the rise. The success of Hearthstone has seen a larger movement toward this platform, with common comparison Magic: The Gathering following suit with its new Arena online game. The popular Elder Scrolls franchise recently launched its own digital card game as well. Now, Lord of the Rings has joined the digital card game ring. The Lord of the Rings Living Card Game is part classic card battle, part story progression. Fantasy Flight Interactive and Asmodee Digital have created an immersive and challenging solo strategy game.
The game proceeds through a series of levels, each part of an overarching story. Levels have objectives that can be completed to move on, or all enemies can be defeated. Certain objectives also offer rewards, so they are worth trying to complete if your playstyle supports it. Once you complete one of these objectives, you have the option to travel, which allows you to move on to the next stage. Beware when traveling, though, as enemies will attack you as you flee from them. These stages help tell the story of your adventure, and each level has story before the game begins. These bits of story are accompanied by art and voice acting. In fact, there is voice acting throughout, so keep your sound up.
Your health and characters carry over from level to level, so keeping your heroes alive and healed is important. Once a hero card is destroyed, I have not seen them again that game. Heroes always begin the game on your side of the field. You can summon other characters to aid your heroes using the cards in your deck. You will also be able to use equipment, maneuvers, and special abilities to help you defeat the forces of evil. Your hand and resources also stay the same, so be sure to think ahead a few turns. Gameplay is challenging and dynamic. It can be difficult to predict what the enemies will do, and Sauron is always growing in power. Keep an eye on his threat meter; you don’t want to be caught too off guard by his special abilities. Or more spiders. Really, there are a lot of spiders.
There are four types of cards, known as spheres, each supporting a different style of play: Leadership, Lore, Tactics, and Spirit. Most decks will choose a combination of three. These types are determined by the heroes you choose to play with. You start with a few free ones and then you can choose supplemental heroes to get with packs. Leadership, the sphere of Aragorn, is all about keeping your characters alive through the use of blocking and strategic maneuvers. Lore, the sphere of Arwen, also keeps your characters alive, but through the use of healing and evasive maneuvers. Tactics, the sphere of Gimli, wants to see your enemies suffer damage that your own characters avoid. These three spheres and heroes are all in your starting deck. The last sphere, Spirit, is available through purchase of Eowyn, and its main focus is helping to complete quests.
Honestly, I haven’t even been able to complete the first section of story. Even having run through it multiple times, the game goes differently each time, and it hasn’t gotten boring yet. A little frustrating—did I mention the spiders?—but still fun. I look forward to seeing the story progress and all the cards that will be added with future expansions. There are so many strategies still to try, and one of these days I will know the sweet taste of victory.
Looking for a way to dive back in to Middle Earth? Join your own story in this game when it releases, or join me in early access now.