Hi all! Rob, here, to talk about on of the many ways to come together to play The Lord of the Rings LCG: the pickup game! I’ve played with a couple of groups of players and I’ve seen quite a few ways of going about doing things. I’ve participated in games where one player (often the only one who has the game) brings some decks that he/she built and a scenario and kind of lets dictates what quest/deck combination that they are going to be playing that day. I’ve also been a part of a group that tries to plan ahead for the next week by selecting a scenario in advance and having everyone build and bring a deck specifically for that scenario. I’ve even played a full Bear Draft (as created by Dan from Hall of Beorn), which is an fun, on the fly alternative if someone has the card pool for it. Then, there is the kind of group that I play in now, where people show up with whatever decks that have built, choose a scenario at then spur of the moment, and then see what happens. This is essentially a pickup game.
It’s A Madhouse; A Madhouse
Now, there are some inherent challenges with LOTR LCG pickup games, as there is with anything that you just throw together seemingly at random while you hope for the best. First, there is the problem of uniqueness. We’ve got a ton of characters with multiple versions, whether there are two heroes, a hero and an ally, or even both two heroes and an ally(or vice-a-versa)! What if two decks depend on Steward of Gondor? And forget about sneaking in an ally Gandalf when your buddy just built a hero Gandalf deck and has been waiting all week to run it. Of course, that’s just trimming the surface. I just played a game last week where one of the cycled through 5 decks before he found a hero lineup that didn’t conflict, and even then I ended up with a dead ally Glorfindel in my hand.
Then, once you get all that situated, you’ve got to deal with the challenges of quest you vaguely remember because the reason somebody brought it out is because you haven’t played it in awhile. And accordingly, your chosen decks are probably not very well tuned to that specific quest. And even if they are, even if each of the decks were built specifically for that quest, you could still have trouble getting off the ground if the decks don’t partner up very well. Now, this is starting to sound like it could be utter chaos. However, have no fear, as there are many ways to deal with these issues. Below I have set forth a few tips based on my pickup game experiences to help players navigate these issue and successfully take down even the toughest quests that the game has to offer without having to lose the spontaneity and fun of a pickup game.
Tip #1: Be Prepared to Share
This first tip won’t necessarily make or break a game, but I think it’s worth bringing up: it’s best to build decks that don’t operate completely in isolation. Be prepared to spread the wealth across the table, in what ever way you can. If you’re using Steward, include some errand-riders and throw that coin you’re not using to someone else. If you’re running Spirit, be sure to lower someone else’s threat from time to time with the Galadhrim’s Greeting or make use of the Song of Earendil. If you’re the Lore player, try not to use all the card draw on yourself. And consider other players’ characters from time to time when you play those nifty attachments if it makes more sense for the success of all the players. Why do all this? You should do it because it promotes good will and makes the game really feel like a cooperative experience. Even if you lose, the energy of the game is just a lot more positive. Everyone has more fun when they can play more cards, so anyway you can help with that can go along way. I’m not saying don’t hold back for yourself when you’re saving up for that great play. I’m just saying that helping other decks work better than they can by themselves is a good thing that can really make each deck shine.
Tip #2: Be Flexible
This game has a habit of putting the players in precarious positions unexpectedly. You’re only ever one bad quest phase away from having almost all of your characters exhausted and multiple enemies coming down in engagement. So, the second tip is to be as flexible as you can with your builds. That is to say, have a plan B for your cards for when you lose your star hero to undefended damage, or that clutch attachment gets discarded by a shadow-effect. t. Bring some extra attachments and events to address some common needs that might pop up in what ever scenario you end up playing. that Have that side-board prepared so you can easily switch out any characters that you can’t run due to the uniqueness requirements. It also helps to have a backup hero or two for those heroes that aren’t specifically needed to make your deck work. You don’t want to be stuck not being able to run a whole deck simply because there’s a single hero incompatibility. You may even be free to switch out to a whole other sphere though cards in your side board, just in case the other players aren’t bringing enough of your backup sphere to the table.
Tip #3: Cover Your Basics
This is really two tips; while it’s nice to share in a multiplayer game, you don’t necessarily want top run a deck that can’t generate enough resources or card draw on it’s own to stay useful throughout the course of the game. Second, it’s a good idea to remember to include cards that represent the core strengths of your chosen spheres. For instance, if you’ve got a predominantly lore deck, bring some form of healing and maybe some card draw. For spirit, don’t leave home without some cancelation(which is especially clutch in multi-player games) and you probably want to be able to pull out some threat reduction. Now, this is not a hard fast rule as there are a lot of great builds that include the spheres that have a way of making headway without these things. However, you don’t want to feel like you’ve let you buddies down when someone across the table asks if you’ve brought any healing to an archery heavy quest and you have to sheepishly respond in the negative.
Tip #4: Playtest Your Decks
Now this is a hard one. I’ve met several players who doesn’t really touch the game too much outside of his/her time with the group. I’ve even been one of them from time to time as life’s demands have shifted on me. However, It’s pretty helpful to your groups chances of winning to actually try out your decks before you run them in the group. If you can find the time, it’s definitely worth experimenting with a given deck in a solo or 2-handed game and then making adjustments as necessary. And if you can, try tagging in your backup hero or even some of your side-board before you bring that shiny new deck to the table. Now, don’t be discouraged from playing if you fall into the category that doesn’t always have time to do this. I’ve found that decks that were put together 5 minutes before the game started can sometimes take the most chances and produce some interesting combos. Much of this can be contributed to the experience of the deck-builder, the fact that the other decks were, in fact, play-tested, and to a little bit of blind luck. I’ve also seen and have, myself, ran decks with this kind of preparation time which fell completely flat on their faces. Of course-if everyone were to show up with un-polished decks, the chances of getting smashed would increase dramatically. So, try not to let your team down by showing up unprepared, if you can help it.
Tip #5: Bring Multiple Decks
It really helps to bring more than one deck. I’d say 5 or 6 fully prepared decks – that is to say, decks that play well with others, have a sideboard and/or alternate hero choice, and that have been play-tested and tweaked – is about right. Now, you may be saying “Woah!!! That’s a lot to ask!!!” You’re right, this is a lot to ask, especially of a new player or someone who isn’t playing regularly outside of the group. However, while I realize that this kind of lineup can take awhile to develop, I do find that having this kind of quality variety makes it easy to get the most out of the limited time I have with my group. Then, no matter what scenario we end up playing or what other decks are ran by the other players, I always feel like I’m in the best position to fully contribute to the quest at hand. Plus, it gives you plenty of options if you feel like running something a little bit different on a given day. And as far as generating such a lineup? Just show up 15-20 minutes early whenever your group meets and put a build together or do a quick solo-playtest. Give it time and your collection will grow.
Bonus Tip: Switch it Out
My final suggestion, which doesn’t really have anything to do with pickup games per se, is to keep building and bringing new decks every once in awhile, once a month or more. Keep it fresh, try new heroes, run that 5 cost event that you never thought you’d be able to play. Combo the killing off of a hero with The Fall of Gil-Galad with a Fortune or Fate. Go crazy! Or not!! Go ahead and keep things simple if you want. But change it up from time to time. Yes, that means building a whole new deck complete with sideboard, play-testing the build, and making your final changes. Or, if you don’t want to do all that, find an interesting net-deck you’d like to try. Just do something different. Whatever you do, and however you do it, keep it fun.
As you can see, there is a lot you can do to make your multiplayer pickup games run as smoothly as possible. Of course, all this won’t keep you from getting trashed from time to time, but that’s part of the fun of a co-op game. When it comes down to it, all of these tips are about coming to a pickup game prepared for a pickup game doing it in a way that doesn’t make it a chore. Well, these are just my ideas; I’d love to hear your feedback. Have other tips to add, or don’t agree with my suggestions? Post it in the comments below. . Anyway, that’s it for now. Until next time, Happy Questing!!!
Check out the whole Multiplayer Meta series for more tips on how to make the most out of your multiplayer games!!!