24 February 2018

Solitaire Dead CCG: Middle-Earth The Wizards

I started my first game of Middle-Earth: The Wizards (METW) tonight and already I'm hooked.  As I've said before, the best CCGs are ones that play well solo even if ostensibly designed for multiplayer games.  The METW CCG is definitely one of those, playing extremely well solo using a set of solitaire rules included in the basic rulebook.

Like Mythos and Quest for the Grail, two other questing-type games, a "normal" multiplayer game of METW is built around the general concept that each player represents the good guys on his or her respective turn, while throwing obstacles in the opponents' paths during their turns.  This dichotomy works well in the solo-player's favor, as the game cards are already designed to be split into discrete "us" and "them" decks.  Play then progresses fairly normally, with certain triggers then resulting in hazard deck draws.  I find one of the most satisfying aspects of these games is finding the most devious way to apply hazard cards against my own hero cards; it really makes any eventual win that much more worth it.

What sets METW apart from many other CCGs is the exceptional starter deck.  The publisher put considerable effort in ensuring the game played well straight from the starter.  The inaugural game shown used the contents of only one starter and five booster packs.

The first screenshot shows the second turn.  Trying to get to the Wind Throne, my company of heroes has to endure attacks from Wargs and an Abductor before being driven back to their starting point by a snowstorm!

The second shot shows a few turns later, after recruiting Rangers at Henneth Annun and picking up a mail hauberk at Sarn Goriwing.  The company is trying for the Wind Throne again, seeking the Dreams of Lore.  Unfortunately, poor Merry was wounded by Orcs; hopefully he'll survive the trip to the Wind Throne and back to Lorien.

The METW CCG really evokes a strong narrative, like the two previously mentioned CCGs, which is the final and probably most important ingredient in a good solo game.

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