“Old fool! This is my hour. Do you not know Death when you see it? Die now and curse in vain!”
–The Witch-king of Angmar, The Return of the King
Last week, developer Matt Newman provided insight into the origins, development, and future role of Easy Mode in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. Designed to make the game more accessible for new players, theme decks, and experimental play, Easy Mode is one of three different modes that allow players to face the game’s challenges at the level of difficulty that they prefer.
Easy Mode exists for every existing scenario, as does Standard Mode, in which players follow a scenario’s standard setup rules. Meanwhile, the game’s third mode, Nightmare Mode, was first introduced with the three Core Set Nightmare Decks that appeared in our The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game Season One 2013 Game Night Kits. These Nightmare Decks will soon be available via Print on Demand, and three more Nightmare Decks will release with the game’s Season Two Game Night Kits. Today, developer Matt Newman discusses the place of Nightmare Mode and the development of the deadly new twists and surprises you’ll discover in the Nightmare Decks for The Hunt for Gollum, Conflict at the Carrock, and A Journey to Rhosgobel.
Matt Newman on Nightmare Mode
In last week’s Second Breakfast article, I discussed how the cooperative nature of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game causes it to balance differently than our other Living Card Games® (LCGs), and I explained how we responded to players’ comments about the game’s balance by creating Easy Mode, giving players greater control over their play experiences. Today, I want to look at the other end of the difficulty spectrum and the work we’ve done to introduce Nightmare Decks into our Game Night Kits. These decks and their alternative encounter cards are designed to offer players surprising new play experiences as they return to their favorite old scenarios. Of course, they introduce deadly new challenges, but they also play up new themes and unexpected, new twists that really evolve these scenarios.
The Season Two 2013 Game Night Kit for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
In competitive card games, you and your deck are tested by the player sitting across from you. In The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, you and your deck are tested by a scenario’s encounter deck. Because you won’t know which encounter cards you’ll face at any time, the encounter deck may surprise you like a living opponent would, but it can’t respond to you in the same way. This means you may be able to devise highly specific, highly effective strategies to defeat its challenges. Then, to face new challenges, you need to face new encounter cards, and this generally means playing a new scenario.
Meanwhile, scenarios and their encounter decks cannot react to an evolving metagame in the same way a human opponent can. With competitive LCGs, when a single card or deck becomes so popular it dominates the playing field, the metagame can correct itself. Players can adopt new strategies to defeat popular decks, and new strategies emerge. Nightmare Mode gives us the chance to evolve older scenarios. Not only can we make them tougher, but we can make them more thematic and introduce new challenges that respond to popular player strategies.
I spent a lot of time browsing through forums, blogs, podcasts, and video play-throughs to see what strategies and decks players were using to defeat the game’s different scenarios, and the new encounter cards you’ll face in the game’s Nightmare Decks are a response to what I found. Players who think they know the best strategy to use to defeat a particular scenario may find themselves forced to rethink their play style. Overall, as the card pool grows and player tactics evolve, Nightmare Decks allow scenarios to evolve. A Nightmare Deck’s modification to its scenario’s encounter deck simulates the challenge you’d face against a living, breathing opponent who’s grown accustomed to your tricks.
A New Sense of Urgency
As an example, the Troll Lair that you can find in the Nightmare Deck for Conflict at the Carrock was designed to counter a particularly effective player strategy. In Conflict at the Carrock, players are faced with some very difficult Troll enemies, all of whom have an engagement cost of thirty-four. Players quickly found that one very good way to approach this scenario was to stay at Stage 1B, lowering their threat as much as possible, until they could take on each Troll one at a time. In Nightmare Mode, however, locations such as this Troll Lair hinder this strategy, and players may find themselves at Stage 2 much sooner than they planned, surrounded by Trolls, and with no hope of escape!
While we used Nightmare Mode to increase each scenario’s challenge, we also established a goal to use the new Nightmare Decks to introduce new elements or twists that build upon their scenarios’ foundations, turning them on their heels. Players may be surprised to see new victory conditions or even new quest stages, and while familiar elements will return, they may not always show up in the way you would expect.
For example, in The Hunt for Gollum, players send their heroes on travels through Mirkwood forest, looking for clues in order to find Gollum, hoping to find the strange creature before the forces of Mordor do. In the base scenario, the search is represented by the players’ ability to gather Clue objectives, but the scenario only establishes its sense of urgency through the game’s threat mechanic. In Nightmare Mode, though, the forces of Mordor actually gather Clues on their own, and if they get four, they pick up Gollum’s trail before the heroes, and the players lose. This truly pits the players in a race against the forces of Mordor and changes the way that players approach the game.
We hope that you’ll have a lot of fun facing and adapting to the new encounter cards in Nightmare Mode, and that you’ll have fun discovering each scenario’s new challenges and thematic twists!
To conquer the challenges of Nightmare Mode, you’ll need to muster Middle-earth’s greatest heroes and draw upon its riches resources. Even then, your quests won’t be easy!
Nightmare Decks for The Hunt for Gollum, Conflict at the Carrock, and A Journey to Rhosgobel will soon be available in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game Season Two 2013 Game Night Kits. If you’re interested in testing your mettle against these darker versions of existing scenarios, talk to your local retailer!