May 29

Lord of the Rings Deck Building Game


I have been quite lucky recently and received a copy of the Lord of the Rings Deck Building Game (or LOTR DBG for the sake of my fingers). Being as short as I am and the potential chance to play a character appropriate to my height, I wrangled in my husband to give this game a bash!

One does not simply walk into a Deck Building Game…

Who could resist such a pun? Anyway, what is a Deck Building Game? Well the term all started


with Dominion. You started with a fixed number of starting cards. they could be gold coins, or (in the case of the Lord of the Rings game) power. You build up power/gold coins/points and you can buy other cards which each have a value. You buy those cards, and they get added to your deck. Over time there will be some kind of end condition to the game (certain cards are depleted usually). Then either each of the cards, or some cards you have purchased, will have a victory point value. The person with the most wins!


In LOTR DBG the goal is to collect cards with power and use the eventual emptying your hand to gain a vast amount of power to defeat the big bad guys. You gain cards buy purchasing them, with the power you have accumulated  from the path (5 cards that are revealed from the top of the main deck). Interesting point with LOTR DBG is nearly every single card counts as victory points (except the starting cards). If you accumulated enough power – you can then defeat the big bad arch enemies  They count for far more victory points than your average card and usually have some kind of better than average effect.

lurtzYou must defeat all the arch enemies before the main deck runs dry – else you “lose” (you don’t really, you could add up your victory points and decide who is the winner, but that doesn’t sound right does it?). The game really ends when the final arch enemy, Lurtz (the big bad face painted Uruk Hai that shoots Boromir then gets decapitated by Aragorn) is defeated.

You play one of the members of the Fellowship of the Ring, and is chosen at random from the Hero pile. Each hero has a special card they include in their deck which gives them a bit of a boost up from the regular starting cards you get which is 6 Courage (which give you +1 power, but no victory points) and 3 despair (which gives you no power AND no victory points).  From there each player draws five cards from their newly formed deck and choose who goes first.

Of course there are further mechanics to take into account. As you take cards from the path they are replaced, and some of those cards have the Ambush mechanic, these can have quite devastating effects on your game plan. You plan out your turn, get a nice game plan in place for your next turn, suddenly an opponent takes a card from the path and an ambush happens, forcing you to discard two cards. Yeouch! There are cards you can pick up that can help prevent ambush effects, and you will be thrilled when you have one in hand that stops something ruining your well planned turn!

Of course hardened gamers may find the challenge a little bit too easy, and instead want to make this slightly more difficult for themselves. Thankfully Cryptozoic already thought of you guys and included an “impossible” mode setting you can switch on. These cards have much harder archenemies which can make the game so much more difficult to beat! I haven’t quite plucked up to open up this impossible mode, considering it has a nice big warning “STOP” message written all over it warning you to only try this when you are ready!

Artwork and quality

All the images used on the cards are stills from the Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring movie lotraragornby some person named Peter Jackson. So visually it all looks really rather nice. The pictures really do fit to the theme and really make the game so much more fun. None of the cards feel cheap or flimsy and really hold up well to regular use. The back of the cards even feature part of the beautiful drawing of the middle-earth map, so there is always something lovely to look at. The instruction book is nicely laid out and easy to follow. The rules have been kept very light and easy to grasp, and only once or twice have we come across situations where we weren’t sure what to do but were easily able to decide what the most sensible thing to do is.


The one thing that truly scared me about picking up games like this, even from a well respected publisher like Cryptozoic, was the idea of buying a mediocre game that has Lord of the Rings splashed over the top to make it sell regardless of how good it really was. I was worried that the flavour of Lord of the Rings wouldn’t be in there and instead I would be presented with a terrible game with a couple of pictures of Frodo.

As such I am thrilled to say this game isn’t some horrible cheap throw out product with the Lord of the Rings title on it, but is actually a brilliant game. The flavour and feel of Lord of the Rings is everywhere and really does look and Knowing that it is based on the Cryptozoic ‘Cerberus’ engine we can expect more and more games based on this template and I am almost certain there will be a second and third copy of this game, based on the storyline.



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