By Trignifty

Decipher Trading Cards are here, and they’re definitely big. The game is played with two or more people, each with their own playing deck. These players are in the same situation as Frodo Baggins was when he began his quest and face the same challenges. The set that is currently out now correlates with the first installment, The Fellowship of the Ring, in that it is set from the time period of Frodo leaving Hobbiton to the breaking of the Fellowship at Amon Hen. Each player has their own fellowship, the characters denoted with a card per being. Each player is susceptible to attacks from minions held by their opponents designed to hinder competing fellowships. As the fellowships progress, these minions become more numerous. The first fellowship to reach the first finishing site (in this case, Amon Hen) wins the game.

There are three basic card types: site cards, Free People’s cards and Shadow cards. There is also a One Ring card, which is different from the other card types. Site Cards are representative of the progress of the game (where the fellowships are at). Free People’s Cards denote the Fellowship members, as well as artifacts, allies, possessions, events and conditions meant to help the fellowship. These cards are denoted with a blue circle in the upper left corner and a number. Shadow Cards are representative of evil forces including: minions, artifacts, events, conditions and possessions designed to hinder opposing fellowships. The layout of Free People’s and Shadow cards is essentially the same, with actual information, of course, differing. Ally, Companion and Minion cards basically consist of a title, culture (elven, dwarven, etc.), twilight cost, strength number, vitality number, site number, conditions of use and a quote/bit of information on the character. Item cards consist of a title, twilight cost, culture, strength bonus, conditions of use and a quote/bit of information about the item.

Characters can be hurt, healed and killed. Injuries depend upon the strength of the character versus the strength of attacks set against them. Wound tokens are placed one at a time on these characters. Characters may be healed, however, one wound at a time. This usually occurs at a sanctuary. When wounds exceed a character’s vitality, that character automatically dies. Dead companions are placed in a different pile from the discard pile, aptly named the Dead Pile. To play a card in general, twilight tokens (beads work well), must be placed in a twilight pool. The number of tokens that must be placed in the twilight pool correlates with the twilight number in the upper left corner of the card that a player wishes to play. For example, if a player wished to use a card that had a twilight number of 3, they would have to add three twilight tokens to the pile before they could play it. However, when a Shadow Card is played, that player must take away tokens from the twilight pool correlating of course to the card’s twilight number. A Shadow Card may not be played if there are not enough tokens in the twilight pool to be taken away.

All players must bring a total of at least 71 cards to the game: Frodo, as well as a One Ring Card. A 60-card draw deck and a 9-card adventure pack (site cards). Players should also have a good supply of wound tokens, twilight tokens and a marker to mark their progress. Play moves in a clockwise rotation, with some actions moving counterclockwise. Whenever players move, they must add a twilight token for every member of their fellowship and provide the next site card if it has not already been laid down by another player.

Whenever it is not a player’s turn, they are in what is known as a ‘Shadow Phase’. In this phase, they may play any shadow cards in any order. After all players have completed the Shadow Phase, game progresses to a Maneuvering Phase. In this phase players have the chance to, amazingly enough, maneuver. When all players have passed consecutively, play moves to the Archery Phase. In this phase players can perform any archery actions that their cards will allow. Shadow players add up all their minion archers and the Free People’s player counts up all of their archers to reach an archery total. After this, any assignment actions can be performed. In the Skirmish Phase, a fight ensues between the minions and the fellowship ‘in action’ at the time. Each skirmish must be resolved and each one gets its own phase. The Free People’s player decides which order the skirmishes are resolved. To resolve the skirmishes, the total strength of the Shadow side is compared to the total strength of the Free People’s side. The side with the most strength wins (ties go to Shadow side). In the Regrouping Phase, the Free People’s player decides whether to relinquish his/her turn or to keep going.

To win the game, a player must have either Frodo or Sam and reach the ninth site first. If Frodo is killed and Sam is not present (or if Frodo and Sam are both killed) a player automatically loses. Similarly, if the Ring Bearer is corrupted, that player automatically loses.

Information obtained from: http://www.decipher.com/lordoftherings/rules/rulesROTEL.pdf

Same information can also be found in the instruction manual that comes with the Starter Packs