The Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game
The Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game (also known as "LOTR TCG") is a collectible card game produced by Decipher. Released November of 2001, it is based on both the book and Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings. Decipher also have the rights to produce such a game for The Hobbit but have not yet released any cards based on it. In addition to images taken from the films, in 2004 Weta Workshop produced artwork depicting characters and items from the novel absent from the films for use on cards.
It is a game for two or more players, each of whom uses their own deck consisting of equal numbers of Free Peoples and Shadow cards. On a player's turn they are considered to be the Free Peoples player and their Fellowship is active. He uses his Free Peoples cards to attempt to traverse the site-path and destroy the One Ring. Each of his or her opponents, the Shadow Players, use their Shadow cards to prevent this by killing or corrupting the ring-bearer, or forcing the Fellowship to slow down. At the end of each turn the position of Free Peoples player rotates to the next player in turn. The game is won by the first Free Peoples player to survive to the ninth, and final, site or the last player whose Fellowship is left alive.
An innovative mechanic called the twilight pool is used as a costing mechanism for cards. Each card has a numerical cost (which can be zero). When the Free Peoples player plays a card, tokens are added to the twilight pool equal to the cost of that card. The Shadow players, however, must remove twilight tokens equal to their cost to play their cards. Thus the larger more powerful the Fellowship the Free Peoples player plays, the greater the threat from the Shadow players.
The movie years
For the first three years the game's releases followed the movies. A 365 base set was released each November containing material from the upcoming movie. These were followed by two 122 card expansions at four month intervals. Each base set and the following two expansions formed a block named for that base set.
Cards were sold in eleven card booster packs consisting of one rare, three uncommon and seven common cards. In approximately one in six packs a common was replaced by a foiled version of a random card from that set. Each set also had two sixty-three card starter decks containing two copies of a promotional face card, three random rares and sixty fixed commons/uncommons (sets 5 and 6 had sixty card starters with three alternate image rares in place of the random rares).
Between the two expansions of The Return of the King block an extra set, Reflections, was released. This consisted of 52 new cards, all foiled, half of which were designated rare plus and half rare. The new cards took material from all three films and material produced by Weta specifically for the game and did not belong to any block. Reflections boosters contained two of the new cards (with one R+ every 2.4 packs) and sixteen repackaged random cards from the first six sets. One of these old cards was always non-English.
Shadows and beyond
In November 2004 the new base set, Shadows, marked an overhaul to the game. All sets would now contain sixty each of rare, uncommon and common cards and a larger number of starter deck only cards. Shadows also had four, rather than two, different starter decks. The material used for the cards would also now cover the entire trilogy instead of being tied to the films' releases.
Additionally, a system of rotation was announced to be introduced to the game. Starting in March 2005 the entire Fellowship block will cease to be legal for use in the Standard tournament format. Then, each November the oldest block remaining will also be "rotated out". This helps keep the card pool down to a manageable size and means that new players don't have to buy old products which can often be hard to find. It also keeps established players buying new cards.
To date nineteen sets have been released (were two dates are listed, the first date refers to starter decks and the second to booster packs):
- The Fellowship of the Ring (November 6, 2001)
- Mines of Moria (March 6, 2002)
- Realms of the Elf-lords (June 19 & July 3, 2002)
- The Two Towers (November 6, 2002)
- Battle of Helm's Deep (March 12, 2003)
- Ents of Fangorn (July 2, 2003)
- The Return of the King (November 5, 2003)
- Siege of Gondor (March 10, 2004)
- Reflections (May 12, 2004)
- Mount Doom (July 14, 2004)
- Shadows (November 3, 2004)
- Black Rider (March 18, 2005)
- Bloodlines (September 2005)
- The Hunters (November 2005)
- Rise of Saruman (March 2006)
- Treachery and Deceit (July 2006)
- The Great Eye (November 2006)
- Shelob's Lair (March 2007)
- Age's End (July 2007)
In addition a number of boutique products have been released:
- The Fellowship of the Ring Anthology (July 23, 2003)
- The Countdown Collection (August 25 - December 22, 2003)
- The Two Towers Anthology (February 25, 2004)
- The Weta Collection (July 23 - August 20, 2004)
- The Return of the King Anthology (September 2004)
An online version of the game is also available.