The layout of this game is very similar to a couple of other deck-building games that we've played. L.O.T.R. the deck-building game closely resembles Ascension and Star Realms, although it is not nearly as aggressive as either of those. As a game released by Cryptozoic, you can already bet that it's a lighter game. Aside from your starter cards, the game carries several other card types such as Maneuver, Ally, Artifact, Location, Fortune, Enemy, and Corruption cards. Like some other deck-builders, it works on a path along with additional maneuver cards known as Valor cards that sit at the end of the path and grant 2 additional power. Everything in this game is based on power which acts as a form of currency that you use to purchase other cards from the path. You have to be careful, because you can also gain corruption cards which equal a -1 victory point (per corruption card you have) by the end of the game. As you purchase better cards from the path to build your deck, you have another primary task in this game that you want to complete as soon as possible and that is defeating the archenemies. The archenemies are the ones that are worth the most victory points by the end of the game and they also have the most ruthless attacks that the players must resolve once they are revealed. They have their own separate stack at the end of the path and are revealed one at a time as the previous one is defeated (purchased). Like all other deck-building games, you purchase cards and play them throughout the game resolving their abilities/actions listed on each one. When either all of the archenemies are defeated or the main deck is depleted, the game is over and the players score their victory points to determine the winner.
There are a lot of different mechanics to deck-building games that separate them from one another, but I have to say one thing that stands out the most to me in this one is the artwork (photography) on each of the cards. This, in my opinion is one of the biggest things that this game has going for it. You just can't ignore the quality of the pictures and how well it contributes to the quality and theme of the game. As far as the gameplay and mechanics, this is absolutely a game that I would recommend for new comers to deck-builders or tabletop games in general. It could be a great gateway game for people that are learning deck-building games or even people who are a little more experienced. In my opinion, the factors that go into making a deck-builder more light-weight are the least amount of restrictions possible. 1) In this game, you can split up your power in the main path making it much more distributable without the need of another card granting you the ability to do so. 2) This is not player elimination, it's about defeating the archenemies. 3) There are a lot more cards in this that provide cooperative actions for everyone at the table. 4) I've never played a deck-building game that overall allows you to build up your deck faster. 5) The actions on most of the cards are far easier to understand and carry out than other deck-builders. It does offer a separate stack of archenemy cards that produce a mechanic called Impossible Mode which is a very aggressive version of this game if more serious gamers are wanting a challenge. Although we have played impossible mode and it is so ruthless that it tends to remove some of the fun in the game for us. (Claire says "it makes you hate your life") All in all, since it is far lighter-weight, it's the kind of deck-building game you would introduce to friends that have either never played deck-building or are huge fans of Lord of the Rings. The photography on the cards is excellent, the gameplay is light, but still very diverse and well executed, the quality of the instructions are very well written and straight forward. Look this one up if you are wanting a lighter weight fantasy-driven deck-building game.
L.O.T.R. Deck-Building Game
Overall Meeple Rating: 7/10
Have any thoughts or questions? Leave a comment below.