Weekly Evils – #21

Week in Review

Oops, i skipped Innsmouth. It was supposed to be time for a look at another three Innsmouth sets this week, instead i did Dunwich. Oh well. The project is drawing to an end anyways, soon enough we’ll have everything 🙂 With Dunwich and Naomi’s Crew now also in the bag, all that is left is three scenarios. One of which, Blood on the Altar, is also up since yesterday. So the next time we visit Dunwich, we finish up the campaign.
Next week: We are getting in too deep into Innsmouth 😉


I trust everyone found a good start into the new year? Over the holidays (of which i am currently counting the last remaining hours…) i unearthed the Lord of the Rings LCG from my gaming shelves. Was looking for a bit of a change of pace and also wanted to take a look at that game again now to see how it compares to Arkham.

And i got to say, it holds up very well. LotR is a really good game and doesn’t need to shy away from the comparison to its fellow LCGs. Deckbuilding is of course something you need to like to enjoy LotR, it is a much bigger piece of the game experience there than it is in Arkham. So i whipped up two quick decks with some of my favorite archetypes from that game (a tri-sphere Sylvan ally bouncing deck and a Galadriel centered mono-Spirit support deck) and played through a couple of scenarios.

Here are a couple of things that i took notice of, in no particular order:

  • Setup: Setting up a scenario in LotR takes like a third of the time than it does for Arkham scenarios. Just shuffle up the decks, maybe search for one or two set aside cards. Go. No building the location grid or setting aside the sometimes a dozen or so cards. Quick and painless. Of course that extra setup time goes into deck building…
  • Locations: On the other hand, that location grid is one of the best things that Arkham has over LotR. The amount of decision making that comes from moving around, positioning yourself relative to enemies, scenario goals and other players… all that is missing from LotR. In many ways, LotR is much more abstract than Arkham and locations are just things that you defeat. Marvel Champions actually goes back to something very similar with its schemes and side schemes, except even more streamlined and … well, dumbed down. Not a fan of what Marvel does there, but that’s maybe a topic for another day.
  • Threat: What Doom is for Arkham, Threat is for LotR. And sorry, but this one is just a plain win on all accounts for LotR. Doom is just a counter that ticks up and at certain intervals something happens when the agenda flips. Threat is a number that starts depending on your chosen heroes (because of course Sauron feels much more threatened by Aragorn than by Merry or Pippin) and has massive constant implications for the gameplay because it decides if players need to engage enemies or not. Fantastic system and there are a lot of ways to engage with it in the player cards with whole archetypes around it.
  • Campaign: This is of course the big one in Arkham’s favor. That feeling of playing through a whole campaign with your investigator and seeing them grow is amazing. LotR has standalone scenarios without any “growth” or persisting effects between quests. I do own the Saga boxes (a set of six expansions that retell the events of the book over eighteen scenarios) and they do offer a bit of this, but it still doesn’t hold a candle to Arkham’s way of improving your decks gradually over the course of a campaign.
  • Enemies: Going to have to give this one to LotR. Enemies in the two games work very differently. This could actually be it’s own article on the site, but i will try to keep it as brief as i can now. The encounter deck tries to do two things: stall the players to keep them from reaching their goal (defeat by doom) and/or deal horror/damage to the players (defeat by … well, defeat). Arkham goes about it in a way that i thought wasn’t very intuitive when i got into it. The main sources of damage and horror are treacheries. Meanwhile, the enemies are mostly stalling devices whose impact can be measured in actions spent to deal with them. There are exceptions, of course. But mostly, enemies will not get to attack much, instead their most important stats are usually the combination of fight value and health, determining if they go in one, two or more hits. As a result, they can often feel a bit samey. Again, exceptions exists and things like the engagement effects on Deep Ones are certainly a step towards breaking this trend. But looking at enemies in LotR, those just feel more impactful and dangerous from the start. They are the primary source of damage for allies and players and due to getting always the first attack in (and triggering that dreadful shadow card) they command much more respect. I also feel like there’s more variety in effects on LotR enemies than there is on Arkham enemies, with things shooting from the staging area, drumming up more enemy cards or doing nasty stuff on engagement or entering play. LotR also has a lot more enemies that require serious investment to take down, from Orkish heroes over Trolls to Oliphants.

To be continued.

I was going to write more here about treacheries, deckbuilding, flavor and some other game systems, but i realize now that this is already quite long for my weekly little column here. So i will break this up into two (or more? we’ll see) parts, continuing next week. See you then.

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