“Now we will return to Bilbo and the dwarves.”
–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
With The Hobbit: On the Doorstep due to arrive at retailers next week, lead developer Caleb Grace concludes his series of previews with a look at the Saga Expansion’s deck lists. As one might expect, deck-building is different in a cooperative game than it is in a competitive one, and Caleb shares the goals he had while creating the deck lists, explores some of his favorite card interactions, and explains how the decks fit into his enjoyment of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game.
Lead Developer Caleb Grace on the Deck Lists from On the Doorstep
In my last preview of The Hobbit: On the Doorstep, I explained how I built two Dwarf–themed player decks that I used while playtesting the expansion’s scenarios. It is important to me that players who purchase both of the Saga Expansions for The Hobbit find everything they need to build decks that are both fun to play and capable of defeating each scenario. With that in mind, I built both of the decks listed in the box with only the cards from one Core Set, The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill, and The Hobbit: On the Doorstep.
I enjoyed playing each of these decks during playtesting. I didn’t win every time, but I always felt like the decks gave me a real chance at success. That’s the sweet spot for me: If I win every time, then the game loses some of its tension. However, if I lose every game, then I start to get discouraged or frustrated. But if the game is close and the outcome is always in question, then I find myself excited and nervous as each encounter card is drawn. I cross my fingers before revealing an attacking enemy’s shadow card. I hope that I draw the card I need at the start of the turn. I have to think about each choice before I make it. For me, those elements of action and suspense are what makes The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game such a great game, and I wanted to share deck lists in On the Doorstep that could provide each player who tried them with a similar experience.
Fighters and Questers
The decks are each built around two spheres: The first pairs up Tactics and Lore while the second uses Leadership and Spirit. The Tactics and Lore deck uses the heroes Gimli (Core Set, 4), Bombur (On the Doorstep, 5), and Ori (Over Hill and Under Hill, 5). My favorite part of playing this deck was putting a Dwarf ally into play on my first turn to count five Dwarf characters under my control at the beginning of the next planning phase…thanks to Bombur! That would allow me to draw an extra card with Ori’s ability, and the extra card draw is important to this deck because it helps set up the different combos that make it really fun to play.
My favorite combo with this deck would have to be exhausting a Weapon attachment to play Goblin-cleaver (Over Hill and Under Hill, 16) to destroy an enemy engaged with me without even attacking it. If it ever happened that Ori’s extra card draw wasn’t enough to help me draw the cards I needed fast enough, I could also play Bofur (Over Hill and Under Hill, 8) and use his ability to search for a Weapon attachment. If I ever ended up with more cards in my hand than I could play, then I could discard them with Protector of Lórien (Core Set, 70) to gain extra Willpower or Defense Strength.
The Leadership and Spirit deck uses the heroes Thorin Oakenshield (Over Hill and Under Hill, 2), Balin (On the Doorstep, 2), and Nori (Over Hill and Under Hill, 3). It usually didn’t bring an ally into play on the first turn, but typically made up for the delay with a second turn Fili (Over Hill and Under Hill, 6), who would search the deck for his brother Kili (Over Hill and Under Hill, 7). Together, they could exhaust for A Very Good Tale (Over Hill and Under Hill, 14) to quickly increase the number of allies under my control. By the third turn, I could quest with up to seven characters and still leave Balin ready to defend with a resource in his pool to trigger his ability if necessary.
Another exciting feature of this deck is the inclusion of the attachment, King Under the Mountain (On the Doorstep, 18). The extra card draw it provides can help ensure that I always have good cards in my hand, but the discarded card can also prove useful if it’s a Dwarf ally. With a copy of To me! O my Kinsfolk! (On the Doorstep, 12) in my hand, I can bring that discarded Dwarf ally into play under my control for a phase.
The Right Dwarves for the Job
While each deck was fun to play on its own, they were the most fun when used together. Because all four spheres of influence (plus the Baggins sphere) are represented between the two decks, players found lots of complimentary cards and the ability to quest successfully, manage locations, defeat enemies, and lower their threat.
Paired together in games, the Leadership and Spirit player would typically do most of the questing while the Tactics and Lore player defended and destroyed the enemies revealed from the encounter deck. Not surprisingly, when I offered my friends their choice of decks to play, they would choose the Tactics and Lore deck, but I secretly preferred playing the Leadership and Spirit deck, anyway. Whichever you prefer, I hope you will enjoy experimenting with the deck lists provided in The Hobbit: On the Doorstep!
Whether you use the printed deck lists or build your own fellowships, you’ll soon have plenty of opportunity to experience adventures along Bilbo’s journey to the Lonely Mountain. The Hobbit: On the Doorstep arrives at retailers next week!