Tuesday, November 22, 2011

On Promotional Decks and Losing

This August at Gencon, Fantasy Flight Games had a special tournament for their Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (LotR)with a promotional encounter deck named The Massing at Osgiliath. Reports came out shortly afterwards reporting that it was the most difficult encounter deck yet. While some of the players were shocked at the difficulty, I rejoiced. For as you may have gathered, I enjoy losing.

LotR is a cooperative game, where the players are trying to succeed at a quest. One to four quest cards make up the stages of the quest that the players have to make it through to win. Threats come from the encounter deck, which includes enemies, events and dangerous locations, which must be overcome to succeed. The rising danger in the game is measured by a player's threat level and if a player's threat reaches 50, that player loses. A player also loses if all of her heroes are killed.

LotR can already be a very difficult game to win (as a cooperative game should be), but The Massing at Osgiliath ramped up that difficulty. For anyone following the previous promotional decks that Fantasy Flight Games has released for its card games, this should not have been a surprise. The Wildling Deck and Circle of Spies deck for A Game of Thrones (AGoT) and the Yithian Deck for Call of Cthulhu are previous examples of near-unbeatable decks that Fantasy Flight Games has produced for promotional tournaments.

The joy of these decks comes in the rare instance in which they are beaten, through skill and luck. They a goal to reach, an obstacle to overcome. And are part of what make these games so much fun to play.

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