With the Lord of the Rings: Adventure Card Game Asmodee Digital is expanding its the ever-growing library of digital board game adaptions with one of the flagship living card games by Fantasy Flight Games. In a heavily contested market with games like Hearthstone, Gwent and new additions like Riot’s recently announced Legends of Runeterra, the Lord of the Rings: Adventure Card Game tries to find it’s placed with a purely player versus environment and narrative approach to the digital card game genre.
Nearly a decade ago Fantasy Flight Games introduced The Lord of the Rings: Card Game to the board game audience. A so-called living card game with no random card packs like Magic: The Gathering and other games in the genre. The base game was expanded with so-called cycles, narrative-focused expansions and adventure packs, including new stories and themes, challenges, mechanics and a set amount of new cards to expand your decks.
The Lord of the Rings: Adventure Card Game follows a similar style. Don’t let yourself be fooled by the look of the game, different from other digital card games, you don’t find your usual player versus player-focused modes in the game. Instead, it offers it’s narrative focused PvE adventures as a single player or a cooperative experience with a friend. The game comes with a tutorial campaign teaching you the grasp of the game’s mechanics and how deck building works, two campaigns with 3 difficulties and numerous challenges and additional encounters to test your decks.
Card decks in the game are made of 30 cards based on 3 heroes. Each hero associates with a different sphere of influence, Leadership, Lore, Spirit or Tactics, each having a focus on different objectives and cards in the game and dictates what kind of cards you can use in your deck. For example, Lore heroes emphasize intellect, wisdom, and knowledge, which help you to overcome hazards during your adventures and including more lore heroes in your deck, makes it possible to use stronger and special lore cards as well. Besides heroes, you encounter ally cards, which function similar to heroes and assist you in combat or overcoming hazards. Both heroes and allies have an attack, willpower, and a health attribute. The second type of cards are attachments, which can be equipment like weapons and armor or enhance your heroes and allies with special abilities. The last type of cards is event cards, which are usually played immediately and are then discarded, that act reactionary or in preparation of hurdles in the game. The game comes with some premade decks but teaches the players early on how to make their own decks to overcome the challenges in the game.
As mentioned earlier, the game comes with two fully-fledged campaigns, containing five adventures each. Each adventure includes a fully voiced narrative introduction and voiced intermissions, building up the atmosphere from the start. The campaigns and missions feature a lot of known and popular characters from The Lord of the Rings books but are not based directly on the story. Some feel like little side stories others more like fan fiction, as certain characters didn’t meet in The Lord of the Rings or would not have at certain points in the book’s stories. Nevertheless, they are well presented. Before diving into an adventure, players can choose one of three difficulty levels, which reward you with different amounts of Fellowship, a currency that lets you new cards and cosmetics, like emotes, alternative card artworks and more. Players should also keep in mind to check the unique challenges each adventure comes with, which net you even more Fellowship and might let you overthink your approach to the adventure.
Adventures themselves contain multiple locations, in which players have to overcome different objectives before they can move on, such as killing a certain amount of enemies, finding missing party members or overcoming hazards put it in your way by Sauron, who controls the enemy deck.
It is up to the player to manage his resources, each hero produces one each turn, to react to Sauron’s schemes and minions. A feature unique to The Lord of the Rings: Adventure Card games are the fate and thread meters. Each of your heroes generates a certain amount of threat at the start of the game that fills up a meter on the right side of the board and Sauron himself can also affect the threat meter with cards in his deck. If the threat meter reaches fifty, your quest fails. But even before that, the threat meter can make your life difficult. At certain thresholds, Sauron can trigger so-called threat events, which are unique to each adventure. They are single-use effects that can introduce new enemies to the board, buff certain enemies, give Sauron resources to use or affect your side of the board in different ways. On the left side of the board, however, is the fate meter. It works quite similar to the threat meter as it has unique one-time effects at certain thresholds, but for the player. However, the fate meter starts at 0 and can only be filled by spending willpower from heroes, allies and certain other cards in the player’s deck.
Controls on the Switch feel good, except some iffy cycling through the various elements of the board, like switching through the center part to both meters and selecting certain filters during deck building. Though I was very surprised that there was no touch control support during handheld play on the Switch. This is something I really hope to be implemented in a future update, as I wouldn’t be surprised to see the game being released on mobile systems as well later on.
Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game (Nintendo Switch)
As a fan of board game version, I very much enjoyed my time with The Lord of the Rings: Adventure Card Game and I’m looking forward to more cards, heroes, and adventures. It catches the adventurous feel of the living card game and makes good changes to the core gameplay systems to make it work as a video game. As of the time of the review, no DLC was available on the Nintendo eShop, but the PC version already got some hero packs, including heroes and new thematic cards. It will be interesting to see if the digital version will get the same amount of support as the living card game and how new mechanics will be introduced through updates. Fans of digital card games that seek for not just another Hearthstone or Magic clone should give The Lord of the Rings: Adventure Card Game and it’s player versus environment approach to the genre a chance, as well as people who are familiar with the board game version of the game.