The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game Review

lord of the rings: the card game review

Year Published: 2011 | Number of Players: 1-4 | Game Length: 60+ minutes

Before we get into our The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game review, it’s important to point out that I honestly didn’t plan on buying this game. I already own Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game, another Fantasy Flight game, and had heard that this was similar. Well, being an LOTR fan, I’m glad I gave it a shot…

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.

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

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game Gameplay

beautiful lotr cardsThree 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 each of the four decks.

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.

LOTR card game review

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 draw a card.
  2. Planning – In this phase players play any chosen ally and attachment cards from their hand, using resource tokens.
  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).

Check out The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game at AMAZON


  • This is a beautiful game and perfect for anyone who loves the world of Lord of the Rings. 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 Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is unique in its cooperative aspect. Having this dimension to the game makes it incredibly enjoyable if you are playing with two or more other people, but still maintains its integrity as a solo 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 building aspects of this game are not that great if you only own the base game.
  • We 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 we had expected. If you like the Lord of the Rings theme and enjoy deck building, then you can definitely own both.

Now, did we enjoy this game? Well, six of us played it (in teams of two) and most of us had a great time going through a few of the scenarios. I think I liked it the most since I happen to be the biggest LOTR fan in the group.

The game has beautiful artwork, cool new storylines, and you can even play it on your own (some 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 we 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. It’s not currently in our favorite co-op games list, but it is one of our top two-player co-ops.

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game Links

BoardGameGeek | Amazon | CoolStuffInc | eBay

Thanks for taking the time to read our The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game review!

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