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The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

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The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is a card-based game released by Fantasy Flight Games. The game is set during the seventeen year period between Bilbo's 111th birthday, and Frodo's departure from Bag End. The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game was first announced on 3 August 2010,[1] and was released on 20 April 2011.[2]

It is a Living Card Game, which differs from collectible card games in that each expansion is released in fixed packs with no randomness. There are, therefore, no "rare" or "common" cards which creates an even playing pool and a system that is easy to collect and fully playable with only the core set and any number of expansions.


[edit] Gameplay

Sample Player Card
The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is nearly unique in that it is one of the few cooperative Living Card Games. The players (1-4) work together to defeat the scenario and complete each quest. While the Core Set comes with pre-constructed decks, players are encouraged to create their own starting with up to three hero characters (who start in play) from the spheres of influence.

The player cards are represented through four "spheres", which relate to various spheres of influence seen in the source material. The four spheres are:

  • Tactics.png Tactics (combat, direct damage)
  • Leadership.png Leadership (resource management, global effects)
  • Spirit.png Spirit (willpower, cancellation effects)
  • Lore.png Lore (card draw effects, encounter deck manipulation)

Decks can be constructed using any combination of spheres, but there must be a "resource match" to play the cards from the various spheres. This is done by using the native sphere of the hero, or by giving the hero a new sphere through "song" cards and other effects. Player decks are then composed of varying numbers and combinations of player card types: Allies, Attachments, and Events. The minimum deck size is 50 cards with a maximum of 3 copies per card.

Once decks are constructed, the players choose a quest scenario and begin setup according to the quest cards. This is where the encounter deck is constructed and shuffled, representing the difficulties the players will face as they complete their quest.

The game is then played in rounds consisting of seven phases, some containing different steps.

sample play area from official site
  1. Resource Phase - players draw one card and each hero gains one resource
  2. Planning Phase - starting with the first player, each player may play Events, Attachments, or Allies from his hand
  3. Quest Phase - players commit characters to the quest, reveal encounter cards, and resolve
  4. Travel Phase - if there is no active location, players choose a revealed location and travel there
  5. Encounter Phase - players engage enemies from the staging area for combat
  6. Combat Phase - players defend enemy attacks, then attack enemies engaged with them.
  7. Refresh Phase - players ready all exhausted characters and increase their threat trackers by one

Many cards have different effects that can be triggered throughout a round of play to modify or circumvent these rules. Part of the enjoyment of the game is coming up with new ways of beating the various scenarios. Once the completion are requirements are met on the last quest phase (either quest progress, defeated enemies, or captured cards) then the players win. If all heroes are discarded or player threat level reaches 50, then the game is over and the players have lost.

[edit] Expansion Cycles

The producers release a monthly new set of 60-card expansions (called Adventure Packs), each related to a specific "cycle". The packs contain new players cards for each sphere, as well as a new quest tied to the corresponding deluxe expansion. The earlier cycles follow a loose series of events, but the more recent cycles, Against the Shadow being the first, have been released with a very tight story with printed narratives in each Adventure Pack.

The cards from these expansion sets cannot be used without the core product. Planned and published releases include:[3]

Shadows of Mirkwood Cycle (2011)

  • The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game - Core Set, followed by...
    • The Hunt for Gollum
    • Conflict at the Carrock
    • A Journey to Rhosgobel
    • The Hills of Emyn Muil
    • The Dead Marshes
    • Return to Mirkwood

This quest cycle follows the heroes as they pursue the creature Gollum through various locales in Middle-earth. It culminates in his capture and transport to Thranduil, mirroring the actions taken by Aragorn during his own hunt for Gollum.


Dwarrowdelf Cycle (2012)

  • The Lord of the Rings: Khazad-dûm Expansion, followed by...
    • The Redhorn Gate
    • Road to Rivendell
    • The Watcher in the Water
    • The Long Dark
    • Foundations of Stone
    • Shadow and Flame

The Dwarrowdelf cycle is a series of adventures in and around Moria. The heroes are there on various errands for Elrond, such as escorting Arwen to Lothlorien or investigating the odd number of orcs seen prowling about the Misty Mountains. Its finale is a conflict with Durin's Bane.

Against the Shadow Cycle (2012-2013)

  • Heirs of Númenor Expansion[4] Expansion, followed by...
    • The Steward's Fear
    • The Drúadan Forest
    • Encounter at Amon Dîn
    • Assault on Osgiliath
    • Blood of Gondor
    • The Morgul Vale

This cycle is set in Gondor prior to the finding of the Ring. The heroes assist a Gondorian Lord, Alcaron, in uncovering a series of plots set by servants of Sauron to undermine Gondor as he strengthens his armies in Mordor. Against the Shadow departs from the previous two cycles in that it has a tightly woven story that is carried from quest to quest via a narrative included along with the special rules for each scenario.

The Ring-maker Cycle (2014)

The Ring-maker Cycle takes an interesting twist on the story of Saruman before his announced treachery. In the opening quests of The Voice of Isengard, the heroes save a troubled Grima from a Dunlending attack and find themselves in the welcoming company of Saruman. The White Wizard tasks them with tracking down and catching a large orc named Mugash, who flees their capture until he is found in the final quest Into Fangorn.

The Angmar Awakened Cycle (2015)

  • The Lost Realm Expansion[10], followed by...
    • The Wastes of Eriador[11]
    • Escape from Mount Gram[12]
    • Across the Ettenmoors[13]
    • The Treachery of Rhudaur[14]
    • The Battle of Carn Dûm[15]
    • The Dread Realm[16]

The Angmar Awakened Cycle takes the players through what was once the lands of Arnor and Angmar. Many of the quests revolve around a number of Dúnedain characters.

The Dream Chaser Cycle (2016)

  • The Grey Havens[17], followed by...
    • Flight of the Stormcaller[18]
    • The Thing in the Depths[19]
    • Temple of the Deceived[20]
    • The Drowned Ruins[21]
    • A Storm on Cobas Haven[22]
    • The City of Corsairs[23]

The Dream Chaser cycle begins in the Grey Havens and makes sailing a major rule component. Throughout the cycle, players battle corsairs, explore ruins of Númenor, and lead an attack against Umbar.

The Haradrim Cycle (2016-2018)

  • The Sands of Harad[24], followed by...
    • The Mûmakil[25]
    • Race Across Harad[26]
    • Beneath the Sands[27]
    • The Black Serpent[28]
    • The Dungeons of Cirith Gurat[29]
    • The Crossings of Poros[30]

The Haradrim Cycle is the first cycle to continue directly where the previous cycle left off. The cycle begins by having the heroes stranded in Harad following the attack on Umbar. From here, the heroes explore Harad and join a quest alongside some of the native Haradrim.

Ered Mithrin Cycle (2018)

  • The Wilds of Rhovanion [31], followed by...
    • The Withered Heath [32]
    • Roam Across Rhovanion [33]
    • Fire in the Night [34]
    • The Ghost of Framsburg [35]
    • Mount Gundabad [36]
    • The Fate of Wilderland [37]

Like the Haradrim Cycle, the Ered Mithrin cycle also picks up where the previous one leaves off. The cycle follows the journey of a Haradrim tribe looking to find a home in the north of Middle Earth. Specifically, Dale and the Grey Mountains.

Vengeance of Mordor Cycle (2019)

  • A Shadow in the East [38], followed by...
    • ???
    • ???
    • ???
    • ???
    • ???
    • ???

[edit] Saga Expansions

Black Riders box

The game has also featured "Saga Expansions", which follow the events of the books directly, as opposed to the original, tangential quests set before The Lord of the Rings. Each expansion contains three scenarios following a different segment of Tolkien's works. The gameplay of these expansions differs from the usual cycles in that there is a "campaign mode" of sorts in each. For the Hobbit, this gives access to "treasure" cards if certain objectives are met in particular quests. The campaign mode for the Lord of the Rings saga expansions is more involved, and players earn access to both "boons" and "burdens." Furthermore, if a hero dies during the campaign, the players are not allowed to use that hero in future scenarios.

The first two cover the events of The Hobbit. After that, the Lord of the Rings saga expansions each correspond to one of the six books in The Lord of the Rings.

  • The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill (2012)
  • The Hobbit: On the Doorstep (2013)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Black Riders (2013)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Road Darkens (2014)[39]
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Treason of Saruman (23 April 2015)[40]
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Land of Shadow (19 Nov 2015)[41]
  • The Lord of the Rings: Flame of the West (4 Aug 2016)[42]
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Mountain of Fire (5 Oct 2017)[43]

[edit] Print-On-Demand Scenarios

Periodically, as special releases for the annual GenCon event, the designers will create standalone scenarios of especial difficulty. After the initial release at GenCon, they are then available from Fantasy Flight Games via their print-on-demand system.

  • The Massing at Osgiliath (2011)

In this scenario you are defending the city of Osgiliath from a massive horde of orcs an Easterlings attempting to take the city. The quest involves high numbers of enemies and effects that change depending on which side of the river Anduin you are on.

  • The Battle of Lake-town (2012)

Largely considered the most difficult quest currently in the game, this scenario recreates the battle against Smaug at Esgaroth. The players seek to defend the city and keep it from burning.

  • The Stone of Erech (2013)

This scenario sees a young Derufin running off to investigate the Stone of Erech and the heroes must go and save him, encountering the Army of the Dead along the way. The quest features the "spectral" keyword, which changes how the players attack enemies, as well as a time mechanic, through which the night deepens and the wights grow more powerful.

  • The Old Forest (2014)

Released at GenCon 2014, this scenario departs from the usual quests because it is not a (very difficult) standalone quest, but an addition to Campaign Mode. The Black Riders box did not include the Old Forest or the Barrow-downs and this deck, along with a second released as part of the 2014 Fellowship Event, will cover those chapters of the book.

  • Fog on the Barrow-downs (2014)[44]

Originally released as the feature of the Fellowship Event 2014, this quest fills in another gap in the Black Riders expansion. It allows players to reenact the events of the namesake chapter from the book. Players face wights and get trapped in barrow locations.

  • The Ruins of Belegost (2015)[45]

This scenario involves delving to what remains of Belegost in search of lost artifacts. The ruins are filled with many perils, including a fire breathing dragon named Naurlhûg.

  • Murder at the Prancing Pony (2015)[46]

Originally released as the feature of the Fellowship Event 2015, this quest involves solving a murder mystery when Barliman Butterbur finds a dead body at the Prancing Pony.

  • The Siege of Annúminas (2016)[47]

The scenario was the featured event of GenCon 2016 and the Fellowship Event 2016. This scenario has the players attempting to save Annúminas against the assaulting forces of Angmar. This scenario introduced "epic multiplayer mode" in which between three and twelve players play on three concurrent stages of the quest. It was released to retail in 2017.

  • Assault on Dol Guldur (2017)[48]

This scenario was the featured event of GenCon 2017 and the Fellowship Event 2017. Like Siege of Annúminas, it also supports epic multiplayer mode. In this scenario, the players take on the role the elves played in attacking Dol Guldur to defeat the Necromancer. It is not yet available from retailers.


  • The Wizard's Quest (2018)[49]


  • The Woodland Realm (2018) [50]

The Wizards Quest is to be featured at Gencon 2018 and The Woodland Realm is to be featured in the 2018 Fellowship Event.


  • The Mines of Moria (2019) [51]

The Mines of Moria is going to be featured at Gencon 2019

[edit] From the producers

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is a cooperative card game that puts 1-2 players (or up to four with two Core Sets!) in control of the most powerful characters and artifacts of Middle-earth. Players will select heroes, gather allies, acquire artifacts, and coordinate their efforts to face Middle-earth's most dangerous fiends. By cooperating to overcome the obstacles drawn from the encounter deck, you will complete the quest before you and claim victory!

The Core Set includes 216 cards that can be used to assemble a wide variety of decks right out of the box. Included are four perilous scenarios that, along with countless combinations of settings and enemies, offer near-limitless replayability. Additionally, players can build a party from a set of 16 hero cards, and focus their decks on any combination of four distinct spheres of influence: Leadership, Lore, Spirit, and Tactics. Each sphere offer unique benefits to the party, so choose wisely!

[edit] External links


  1. Fantasy Flight Games News at 4 August 2010)
  2. Fantasy Flight Games releases The Lord of the Rings Card Game at Middle-earth (accessed 15 May 2011)
  3. The Lord of the Rings Card Game: Products at (accessed 30 December 2011)
Licensed Collectible Card Games set in Middle-earth
  Middle-earth Collectible Card Game (1995-1998)
  The Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game (2001-2007)
  The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (2011-)