I'm the biggest fan of The Lord of the Rings (and hoard an extensive collection of books, coins, swords, etc.) and am looking forward to this game.
The art looks beautiful, but there is something in the cards that grabs my attention... has anyone else noticed that most of the effects seem to be in the order of +1 or -1? Basically, adding or subtracting ones.
I don't want the game to be an exercise in maths, what I'm looking forward is a game dripping with theme and flavour. If a character dies, I want to see why his/her death was heroic, rather than 'well, that was a -1 too many'.
Just my thoughts. I'll wait and see.
Like you, I am a tremendous Lord of the Rings fan. I have been since I began to read the books 18 years ago. While I have had some initial concerns with the game the recent previews and articles from FFG have really quelled them. I am at a point where I cannot wait to get my hands on the cards.
When taking a look at a game depicting the Lord of the Rings (or any work of literature or video media for that matter) you have to realize that at some point it will come down to a game of mathematics (that is not the best way to put that, but I believe you can understand what I am saying). How does one depict the flow of battle, and adventure with cardboard art depicting characters and places in Middle Earth? The Strength bonuses (+1 and -1 as you say), are one way. Another way is to use dice to determine the outcome of a battle, but then you just run into the same situation that you are presenting with the +1/-1: "I rolled a 4 when I needed to roll a 5. Damn now Aragorn is dead!".
Now, what may seem like a very easy solution to the problem might be to give the bonuses/penalties on cards bigger numbers (+5/-5 instead), but then you run into the problem of an ever increasing power creep. And, really, +5/-5 is not any different that +1/-1 when all cards have bonuses like that.
Another solution that may not be apparent at first is to give cards other mechanics than just pumps. Of course we do not have even a close to complete list of cards available in the core set, but we can already see many cards that will add more to the game than just +1/-1. Take a look at cards such as Forest Snare, Sneak Attack, Longbeard Orc Slayer, and Daughter of Nimrodel. These are just a few examples of cards that can do alot in the game as well as flesh the theme of Middle Earth out, and they do it in forms other than "+1/-1".
One other thing to look at is that each of the heroes we have seen so far have multiple "Vitality" (I am not sure what the term is going to be called, but this will work for now). Many heroes have 3 Vitality. Gimli has 5! Having characters receiving wounds (and healing them) throughout the course of multiple battles and quest scenarios is going to give it far more complexity than just "Oh crap I am short 1 strength...Eowyn died!"
You say you are wanting a game that is "dripping with theme and flavour". Take a close look at the card art, the quest progression, the characters, and the game mechanics that we know so far and I believe you going to see much, much more than just a game of mathematics. Yes the combat and quest calculations will come down to mathematics. But, like the Lord of the Rings, it is everything that goes on in the progress of the quest that makes the story!
The best wishes to your continuing journey in Middle Earth!