Random Rant: How many core sets for multiplayer?

Hi, all! Rob, here, with my first Random Rant to debunk what I feel is one of the most insidious myths surrounding our beloved game: that you can’t play The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game with more than 2 players without buying 2 (or even 3!) core sets. I’m here to demonstrate why this is simply not true and how it just presents an unnecessary barrier to new players who want to get into the game, but who generally only play with a group and don’t want two copies of the same game. Rest assured, a 3 or 4-player group only needs one copy of the core set to enjoy this wonderful game.

The Problem

According to the Fantasy Flight Games website: “The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is a cooperative card game that puts 1-2 players (or up to four with an additional Core Set) in control of the most powerful characters and artifacts of Middle-earth.” This statement, which is repeated in numerous places on the Fantasy Flight Games website, makes it sound like you can’t play the game with more than two players without at least 2 core sets. This misleading information suddenly makes a $40 initial investment look like an $80 investment if you have a gaming group of 3 or 4. I hate to think of how many potential players have stayed away from the game based on just this presumed requirement. If you fall into this category of gamers, read on. In the following paragraphs, I will be setting the record straight.

The Game Already Scales for Four

The first thing to note is that the game scales to 4 players right out of the box. The game comes with 4 starter-decks. The rules in the core set cover 3 and 4 player games for all 3 of the included scenarios. There are no separate rules for multiplayer games, the game just scales through additional card draw from the encounter deck. Furthermore, every scenario that has been released to date includes support for 4 players. What I mean is, if the quest card says to put out one enemy per player, there are at least 4 enemies of the required type(s); if each player needs to go to a different stage X there are exactly 4 of that stage included in the scenario. The game is purposefully built to play with up 4 players. There is no need to have extras of any of the encounter cards in either the core set or from any of the expansions. There just isn’t.

Tournament Decks Aren’t Necessary

Okay, so I use tournament size decks of 50+ cards. Everyone I’ve ever played with has done the same. However, new players that are opening the core set for the first time don’t need to bog themselves down with worries about playing with decks built to size for an essentially non-existent and definitely non-supported play format. What new players need are tight, focused decks that play well together and show off the strengths and weaknesses of the different spheres. This is exactly what the pre-built decks in the core set do. People have complained that it can be hard to beat some of the scenarios with just one of the pre-built decks in the core set. This is true. However, I’ve found that in 3 or 4 player games, having each player run a deck that’s straight out of the box is an excellent way to enjoy the games first 3 scenarios.

But What About Deck Building?

Now, this is an interesting point. Unfortunately, the decision to include 4 tight, 30 card decks in the core set means that there are not 3 of each player card included in that first box. This is highlighted even more by the fact that every other player card in the game, with the exception of boons and treasures, comes in threes. Even the cards that are limited to one per deck come in sets of 3. So, while some players choose to buy 2 or even 3 copies of the core set to remedy this problem, proxies, while not always the most satisfying solution, are a cost efficient way to deal with this problem. As the group gains additional expansions to the game, the deck building options will increase, and the lack of three-of’s in the core set will seem far less impactful. So, even though some of the most clutch cards in the game that come from the core set didn’t come in threes, it is by no means necessary to buy more than one core set to play with three or four. Eventually, there will be enough cards in a given player’s pool for everyone to have solid, 50 card decks that can readily accept the challenges presented by a variety of quest

Remember: It’s Only Cardboard

Finally, we come to the decision by the designers of the game that is the most puzzling. At some point it was decided that, even though the game clearly can support 4 players right out of the box, and that 4 pre-build decks are included, the core set would only come with components for 2 players. I truly hope that FFG didn’t do this solely to solicit more money out of the players by unnecessarily encouraging them to buy multiples of the core set. However, regardless of the reason, the problem of limited components is readily handled by having 2 to 4 ten-sided dice and perhaps a reserve of D6’s to cover any lack of tokens. There is no need to purchase a second core set just for some extra threat counters and resource tokens.

A Caveat

By now, it should be clear that you don’t need a core set. However, that is not to say that I don’t find value in having 1 or more additional core sets. I for one, am a completionist, so I was really bugged by not having 3 of each player card and not enough components for 4 players. So I have multiple core sets. I also want to support this great game, so I don’t mind buying an additional copy of expansion packs that have some of my favorite player cards. Buy all means, buy additional core sets!!! That being said, I don’t want anyone to stay away from this game because they wrongly believe that they need to buy two copies of the core set just able to introduce a fun and truly engaging experience to their established gaming group!

Final Thoughts

Well, I hope that I’ve given some food for thought and that I have helped to qualm any fears that some soon-to-be new players may have about taking the plunge into facing Middle-Earths greatest challenges with friends. It’s a great game and there is much fun to be had. You won’t regret it! Well, that’s it for today’s Random Rant. Feel free to comment below and let me know what you think. Until next time, Happy Questing everybody!

Check out the Random Rants page of this blog for more musings about multiplayer in Middle-Earth!!!

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