I shall be telling this with a sighSomewhere ages and ages hence:Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by,And that has made all the difference.—Bilbo Baggins
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t Bilbo who penned those immortal lines, but it seems like something he might have written so I’m just rolling with it.
Today marks the start of a new series that I’m calling Path Less Traveled. While my ongoing Thematic Nightmare series is more likely to appeal to grizzled old veterans such as myself, it’s not as accessible to those who are just starting on their journey into the wide world of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. That’s okay with me—after all, there are dozens of LotR LCG blogs, podcasts, and YouTube channels out there with years of excellent content directed specifically at new players.
They can follow along with the meta as it evolved by watching Mitch and Matthew’s Progression Series on YouTube (either the old one or the reboot series). For those more inclined towards the written word, Warden of Arnor’s The Line Unbroken series also follows each quest in order of release. Whenever someone mentions that they’re new to the game on the subreddit or one of the online forums, it’s pretty much inevitable that Beorn’s Path will come up in the conversation. For good reason, too—Beorn does an excellent job of describing his thought processes as he leads you through the first cycle (and first Deluxe) of the game.
But there’s a bit of a problem
Now that The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game has been going for several years, it has a lot of content available for new players to choose from—but more importantly, it has a lot of unavailable content as well. The Shadows of Mirkwood cycle was out of print for at least six months, only recently receiving a reprint. Dwarrowdelf is still unavailable (although hopefully a fresh print run is coming soon). Many new players of the game are faced with a difficult decision: Do I wait for the old content to come back in print so I can play everything in order, or do I just buy one of the newer cycles and hope for the best?
Today, there isn’t much in the way of guidance for these players. It’s often pointed out that the quests get harder as you go, so Easy Mode is a common recommendation. But because most of the veterans played the game in order of release, nobody seems sure just how well things would work out if you happened to skip around. Would the later cycles be too hard with a small card pool? Do you really have to use Easy Mode to win? Which would be the best “next purchase” after the Core Set if Shadows of Mirkwood and Khazad-Dûm are unavailable?
I intend to answer these questions
That’s what Path Less Traveled is going to be all about. In this series, I will be playing through some of the newer quests as if I were starting out fresh, with nothing but a single Core Set and a deckbox full of dreams. I will address some of the challenges that new players would face if they made an unconventional choice for their first purchase after the Core, and attempt to answer some of the questions that seem to keep cropping up for the modern new player.
To help myself get started, these are the guidelines I intend to follow:
- I will be using only a single copy of the Core Set. Nobody is excited about spending $40 on a bunch of surplus cards for their second purchase, so I’m going to stick with just one Core.
- I won’t use player cards from Adventure Packs later than the current quest. I am, however, willing to use cards from previous Adventure Packs within the same cycle as I see fit, because otherwise I might end up with a bunch of dead player cards (see Elladan + Elrohir as an obvious example, or Haradrim Spear).
- I only need a single victory. Unlike my Thematic Nightmare series, where my target is to win 3 of 5 games, in this series I’m only interested in scoring a single victory and reporting how many tries it took.
- If normal mode is too hard, I’ll try easy mode. I’ll give normal mode a go first, but I’m not going to be shy about switching over to easy mode if that’s likely to be more fun. Easy mode is likely an important tool for players with smaller card pools to get the most out of this game.
- I’m not forcing myself to build 50 card decks. The rulebook states that 50 cards is the minimum number of cards required for a tournament deck. With a small card pool, though, that can mean putting in a few filler cards. Instead, I’m going to follow in Beorn’s sizable paw-prints on this one and not worry about making early-game decks tournament-legal.
- I’m not building thematic decks. As much as I love thematic decks, there’s simply not enough cards in a small card pool to pull them off with any consistency.
It’s also worth calling out that I don’t intend to play this series in any particular order. I’ll do the quests within any given cycle in the proper sequence, but I may jump around between different boxes as suits my fancy.
I’m ready to blaze a trail
With these guidelines in my back pocket, I have everything I need to take my first steps into Path Less Traveled. I’m sure I’ll adapt the series as I go along, since these are largely uncharted waters, but I’m excited to get started on this new journey with all of you!
And speaking of uncharted waters…