The card game genre is among the most populated on the App Store, but most of those card games don’t resemble Fantasy Flight Games’ The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, the story-based single-player or cooperative living card game that works in ways very different from those of games like Hearthstone or Magic the Gathering. So, I was very happy to hear that Asmodee Digital is developing a digital version called The Lord of the Rings Living Card Game and that it might end up on mobile after it hits the PC. Why is that good news for someone who enjoys card games? The Lord of the Rings Living Card Game isn’t about buying packs by the dozen hoping to build a good enough deck to take on other players; instead, in this game you choose a set of three heroes, build your thirty-card deck, and take on the evil legions of Sauron instead of other players. Along the way, you get new cards that allow you to enhance your tactics.
The forces of Sauron will be controlled by the AI, and you—either solo or alongside another player—get to experience a journey that unfolds over multiple adventures of a narrative campaign. So, instead of just playing a competitive card game with a Lord of the Rings theme, you use cards to emulate the adventures that Tolkien describes and many more inspired by the world he created.
While the digital game will use the physical version of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game as inspiration, it will depart from it in notable ways. As designer Caleb Grace explains, the Living Card Game is, first of all, the first digital Living Card Game. A Living Card Game doesn’t have any randomness in any of the packs you unlock through gameplay; you can actually look at the contents of them and know what you’re getting. So those who hate that kind of monetization system should be happy with getting to play a Living Card Game instead.
One of the major differences between the physical version of the game and the digital one is that the digital will come with 10-20 minute play-sessions (versus 90 minute-long ones in the physical game), which also tells me that the developers are probably considering the constraints of mobile gaming as they develop the game. The other main change is that instead of using cards to represent your quests and the environments you’ll encounter, the Living Card Game will take advantage of the digital space to bring those quests and environments to life. And, of course, the digital version will have an actual AI programmed to play like a human opponent. There are other big differences between the two versions (fewer phases, different deckbuilding rules, etc), which should make it feel pretty different from the physical version.
The game will launch as free-to-play with plenty of additional content coming down the pipe (new card packs, campaigns, etc). And remember, you’ll always know what’s in the packs you buy since this is a Living Card Game. The game will go into PC Early Access first, but Asmodee Digital has told me that other platforms are possible. To be honest, I would be very surprised if the game doesn’t make it to mobile. What do you think about The Lord of the Rings Living Card Game?
Update: You can see the game streamed live for the first time tomorrow, so follow the instructions in the tweet below to get an early look.
— Fantasy Flight Interactive (@FFI_Games) December 11, 2017