In its basic form, it is a game for two or more players, each choosing one of the five wizards to represent themselves. A turn in the game consists of one player wandering around Middle-earth with the help of famous characters of Middle-earth, trying to gather influence and power to aid in the battle against The Dark Lord, while the other player tries to harass, and ultimately kill his characters with specific hazard cards. Then, for each player's turn, the roles are switched. Each faction can also win by acquiring the One Ring after a complicated set of events.
Later expansions have added the possibility to take the role of a Ringwraith of Sauron (MELE), a corrupted wizard playing by his own rules (MEWH), the malevolent Balrog (MEBA), or even Sauron himself. The game is somewhat distinguished from most other CCG's with the use of two six-sided dice for a random factor and also by the actual map of Middle-earth, including regions your companies travel through, and site cards they visit.
MECCG won two Origins Awards: Best Card Game of 1995 for MECCG: The Wizards and Best Graphic Presentation of a Card Game or Expansion of 1996 for MECCG: The Dragons. The game's production ended in 1999, when ICE lost the license that allowed them to use the content of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. This license was later bought by Decipher, who used it to bring out another CCG. The game still has a relatively loyal and active fanbase of players though.
- The Wizards (METW) (1995): The first basic set, dealing with the good side, including most main characters from the books, like Gandalf, Frodo and Aragorn. Pretty straightforward gameplay with relatively simple marshalling point cards and hazard creatures.
- The Dragons (METD) (1996): The first expansion set for METW. As the name implies, deals mostly with dragons, their treasure and the northern regions.
- Dark Minions (MEDM) (1996): Adds many powerful hazard cards including more undead and introduces the agents - a subtle group of Sauron's servants, concentrating on intrigue and influence. Also adds an underground network of site cards, The Under-Deeps, which later becomes The Balrog's realm.
- The Lidless Eye (MELE) (1997): The second basic set. Adds the possibility to play as a Ringwraith of Sauron and arguably makes the game more complicated with all sorts of support and effect cards.
- Against the Shadow (MEAS) (1997): The first and only expansion to MELE, although it also contains hero cards. Mostly balances the game by adding hazards against the minion player and some support resources for the hero. Notable are the hazard creature versions of the five wizards.
- The White Hand (MEWH) (1997): Further complicates the game by adding a third faction, the corrupted Fallen-Wizard, whose player can use both hero and minion resources and characters, although with restrictions.
- The Balrog (MEBA) (1998): Adds a new sub-faction to the minions, Balrog, who mainly depends on the brute strength of his orcs and trolls. It is argued by the player base that since the production of MECCG ended after MEBA, the set remains a bit overpowered because it didn't get a "balancing set" published afterwards.