You know what the community needs? More proof of just how amazingly thematic the game is. So, for nearly a year, I have been playing the Lord of the Rings Saga Campaign. I have been capturing many of my plays on video. I have a set of successful plays recorded and ready to release to the community. I even have a few scenarios where I have multiple versions recorded and will release.
But what makes this different than other solo plays of the campaign?
There are two answers.
First, I am using the same deck through the whole thing. It’s a Hobbit Deck, using the Bond of Friendship contract. I love the deck and I love how there are tricks to help me through some of the sneakiest of scenarios. It is also sturdy enough to face some of the most challenging scenarios head on! (I’m looking at you, Journey to the Cross-Roads!) I also love how, when I had things line up in terms of theme, that certain scenarios were made easier. Spoiler alert: Sam with Sting makes Shelob much more tame.
Secondly, and this is what I am most proud of, each scenario has scenes from the movies edited in to it so that you can follow along with some of the most exciting parts of the source material in the game and see how it was represented in the movie. This has given me new respect for both the movies and, more importantly, for how the game represents some of the most seminole moments in the books. I have found scenes that represent characters entering play, leaving play, enemies entering play, ememies attacking, defending, questing, traveling, encounter cards entering the staging area, completing quest cards, exploring locations, and the list goes on and on. Now, I don’t interrupt every action in every scenario to bring a snippet from the movie. I try to keep the flow of the game play smooth and consistent.
The inspiration for this is from two places.
I have to give credit where credit is due. When I saw a few episodes of The Progression Series by Matthew and Mitch, whenever Gandalf entered play, Mitch cut the cartoon version of Gandalf saying, “I am Gandalf, and Gandalf means me!” whenever Gandalf entered play. I thought it was a great side bar to the game and added flavor.
My primary inspiration, though, lies in making videos. Actually, my passion for making videos is really why I started Card Talk. Yes I love the game, yes I love talking, but I love to edit the videos and I thought it was really a niche in the community that needed to be filled; a podcast that talked about the game on video. Actually, we only released videos for much of the first year because I wanted to stay true to the video format. Eventually I received enough messages from members of the commuity that they’d like to have audio shows, so now we do that, but know that video making was my first love.
It’s not that I’m an expert in the game. I’m no rules guru. I am not a spectacular deck builder nor am I a savant that has memorized the card pool and can immediately recognize card interactions. But what I do have is a passion for making videos about things I love. And I love this game and I love Tolkien’s world.
I’ve had this on my radar to do for the community for a long time. I wanted to finish (or at least play all) the saga scenarios live, with my friend. We were at The Battle of the Pelennor Field when the pandemic slowed our live plays to a halt. We were able to play through the Mountain of Fire box during a safe time in the pandemic when we were all vaccinated and outdoor play seemed reasonable. We still haven’t beaten Mount Doom, but we at least were able to play all the scenarios, so now I could work on this project. And I started it in May of last year.
Let me explain why almost a year later I am finally releasing this. First, I wanted to make sure that I got through the whole thing before I released it. I knew that my time was limited and this was going to take a while. I wanted to make sure that I could make releases regularly, so that meant I had to get through the whole thing before I released it.
Also, each video was produced in several parts. First, I had to play each scenario off camera to understand the triggers and make sure I could easily play through the game. Second, I had to record the winning play. For some of the scenarios, I won the first time I played on camera. For many, I played it at least twice to get a win, and for a few, I played many, many times to get a win for the camera. Once the win was captured, I then spent several hours editing the video clips into the play. Lastly, I would write my reflection about the play or about the behind the scenes stuff for the blog. Also, I didn’t want to get too far ahead because if I found a critical error in my play, I didn’t want future recordings to be invalidated. So most of the course of the campaign, I would be editing one video for a scenario and practicing for the next. Likely, I would only have two videos ready to edit at one time, and if I get too far ahead, I would spend time editing, catching up, so that I could play the next scenario.
Did I ever find an error that made me go back and have to rerecord a scenario? Yup. There are three scenarios (only two rules I broke) that I had to replay. It turns out that Thorongil can only be played on non-Fellowship, non-Baggins heroes. I played it on Frodo once and Aragorn once for some dramatic victories, but in the end, it was too much of a mistake for me to *not* replay them. But, I will release those videos for you to watch even though they aren’t part of the official Theatrical Campaign. And for the other, I missed a trigger on a location that totally changed the outcome of the game, so that was a bummer. But that play will also be released for you to see.
Lastly, there were a few rule conflicts that I worked out as best as I could based on input from other players. Most notably, how do you deal with earned boons in Bond of Friendship deck when the deck limit is set by the contract? Also, there are a few times when I know that I have to do really well on a particular scenario so that a future scenario is easier. For example, I do my best to maximize my success on The Siege of Gondor so that The Battle of the Pelennor Fields in a little easier. While I am giving an authenitic recording, I definitely am trying to play for victories that make my future plays easier and I did play a few of the scenarios for multiple victories to pick the best. I am not trying to “roll the dice” too much. That said, these plays aren’t perfect nor are they staged.
All of this is to say that I hope you enjoy this new presentation of what has always been the gold standard of game play within our community. It’s a campaign play through that’s recieved a glow up.
Next week we will start with the Black Riders box and the first scenario, Shadow of the Past. Please enjoy the video and the write-up that accompanies it. And check back each week for a new play and a new post!