The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game Review

The Lord of the Rings The Card Game – Revised Core Set - cover

Year: 2011 (new edition: 2022) | Players: 1-2 | Minutes: 60+ | Ages: 13+

This The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game review was made after playing the game eight times.

What is The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game?

In the 17 years between the disappearance of Bilbo Baggins and the start of Frodo Baggins’ adventures, something had to have happened, right? In The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, you will take on the role of heroes from the story’s universe and engage, discover and fight an assortment of enemies. You can also get expansion packs to experience many more stories directly from the books.

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game was designed by Nate French and is published by Fantasy Flight Games.

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game Gameplay

Lord of the Rings The Card Game review - fighting a tough troll

Three decks of cards are used to play Lord of the Rings. These are the Quest Deck, the Encounter Deck, and the Player Deck. After selecting which heroes each player is going to be using, a scenario is selected. This determines the number of cards in the Encounter Deck.

The Player Deck is used to set up the hands of the players controlling heroes. This includes ally, attachment, and event cards.  The attachment cards are items that the players can pick up and use. Ally cards are self explanatory and event cards illustrate maneuvers, tactics or spells that can be used by the players’ heroes.

The Encounter Deck includes villains, hazards, locations, and circumstances that stand in the way of the players successfully completing their quest. The contents of this deck are determined by which scenario the players have selected.

The final deck is the Quest Deck, which is what determines what will be found in the Encounter Deck. These are double sided cards that provide setup and story on side A, and then quest information on side B.

Once the setup is complete, you are ready to play. Each round of play happens in seven phases:

  1. Resources – Each hero gets one resource token added to their resource pool. These tokens are used to pay for cards in that hero’s sphere of influence. Players also draw a card during this phase.
  2. Planning – In this phase players can use resource tokens to play any chosen ally and attachment cards from their hands.
  3. Quest – In this phase, players attempt to make progress on the current stage of their quest. This is broken into further phases including committing characters, staging and quest resolution.
  4. Travel – During this phase, players may travel as a group to any one location.
  5. Encounter – This phase includes player engagement where the player chooses an enemy to engage, and player checks, where the game determines if the enemy engages them.
  6. Combat – In the combat phase enemies attack first. All enemies that are engaged from the previous phase attack and those attacks are resolved one at a time.
  7. Refresh – Any cards that were exhausted from the previous round are refreshed, and the player to the right of the first player is given the “First Player Token” and begins the next round, starting with Phase 1.

If all players are lost before the completion of the final stage of the scenario deck, then the team has lost. If at least one player survives, then victory is declared.

Hopefully that gives you an idea of how to play The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. If you want to learn more about the game’s rules, check out the official rulebook (PDF).

Lord of the Rings The Card Game review - Lore cards


  • Easily the best part of this game is adjusting to the enemies and locations that pop up. It creates great discussions between the players as you attempt to figure out the best way to approach the puzzle.
  • If you enjoy games that allow you to create your own decks, you’re probably going to love this game. With expansions, you can create wildly different decks and you will need to figure out which changes you need to make to take on the different scenarios.
  • The Lord of the Rings theme comes through even better than I was hoping. All of the characters, actions, and events that take place make sense and that art definitely helps to make the theme come through.
  • There’s actually a very nice flow to the game once you understand how each of the phases work. After about five games, I didn’t even have to look at the flowchart anymore.
  • Being able to play within the world without being required to play along storylines you already know brings both an element of excitement and suspense to an already established world.
  • The artwork on the cards is ridiculously nice. The character portraits, the locations, and the action scenes on the event cards all look fantastic. In my opinion, it’s some of the some of the best art in the board gaming world right now.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is equally good as a solo and as a two-player game.


  • This is a living card game, so the complete experience is more expensive than most other board games. This won’t be a problem for people who know that they will be investing in some of the expansions, but others might not be satisfied with only owning the base game.
  • If you are unsure if you will buy some of the expansions, be forewarned that the deck construction aspects of this game are not that great if you only own the base game.
  • I should also point out that you need two of the base sets to be able to play it with more than two players. That’s unfortunate since a lot of people won’t want to spend $60+ to play a card game with two or three of their friends.

Final Thoughts

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game has some similarities to Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game, but they’re not as similar as I expected. If you like the Lord of the Rings theme and enjoy deck building, then you can definitely own both.

Does my group enjoy this game? Well, six of us have played it (in teams of two) and we’ve all had a great time playing through the scenarios. I think I liked it the most since I happen to be the biggest LOTR fan in the group, but everyone enjoyed the mechanics and the way the designers created a legit adventure game in card game form.

I like the challenge that most of the scenarios present and I really enjoy the deck-construction aspect of the game. It has beautiful artwork, cool new storylines, and you can even play it on your own (a lot of people actually prefer to play it as a solo game). There isn’t a ton of replay value in the base game, though, which is why I recommend buying at least a couple of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game expansions with it if you know it’s a game you will enjoy.

Update 1: The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is now on the Best Co-op Games Ever list and it is one of the top two-player cooperative games.

Update 2: It’s also been added to our Best Art list!

Update 3: It’s also high up on the Best Adventure Games list!

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game Links

BGG | Amazon | Miniature Market


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