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The Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game (a.k.a. "LOTR TCG" or "LOTR") is a collectible card game produced by Decipher, Inc. Released November in 2001, it is based on Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy and J.R.R. Tolkien's novels. In addition to images taken from the films, in 2004 WETA Workshop produced artwork depicting characters and items from the novel absent from the films, for use on these decipher cards.

In 2002, the game won the Origins Awards for Best Trading Card Game of 2001 and Best Graphic Presentation of a Card Game 2001.

Game concept

It is a game for two or more players, each of whom uses their own deck consisting of equal numbers of Free Peoples and Shadow cards. On a player's turn they are considered to be the Free Peoples player and their Fellowship is active. He uses his Free Peoples cards to attempt to traverse the site-path and destroy the One Ring. Each of his or her opponents, the Shadow Players, uses their Shadow cards to prevent this by killing or corrupting the ring-bearer, or forcing the Fellowship to slow down. At the end of each turn, the position of Free Peoples player rotates to the next player in turn. The game is won by the first Free Peoples player to survive to the ninth, and final, site or the last player whose Fellowship is left alive.

An innovative mechanic called the twilight pool is used as a costing mechanism for cards. Each card has a numerical cost (which can be zero). When the Free Peoples player plays a card, tokens are added to the twilight pool equal to the cost of that card. The Shadow players, however, must remove twilight tokens equal to their cost to play their cards. Thus the larger more powerful the Fellowship the Free Peoples player plays, the greater the threat from the Shadow players.

Throughout a game, a player will play companions (or Free People characters) to help defend the ring-bearer. When it is his turn to play as the Shadow player, he then can play minions (or Shadow characters) to attack the opponents’ companions. The Free People's player (the defender) has the opportunity to choose which of his companions to bring

Deck strategies

As the game expanded; several basic deck strategies were identified and developed. As decks are separated into Shadow and Free People sides, the two sides are to some extent interchangeable.

For Free Peoples side, Tank decks try to play as much as possible and build up as many companions to combat the opponents Shadow side with force. Choke decks, the opposite of tank decks, try to put out as little twilight as possible, denying the opponent resources. Archery decks try to use "archery fire" to destroy the minions (Shadow characters) before they even have a chance to attack.

Beat down decks focus on making one or two minions very powerful, with the intention of destroying all of the companions one by one; eventually getting to the ring-bearer once all the companions are gone. Swarm decks have an opposite strategy: their goal is to play as many minions as possible as cheaply as possible. While one swarm minion might not be very powerful by itself, each minion is very cheap which allows many to be played, easily outnumbering the companions. While they did exist since the first sets, bomb decks have been gradually gaining popularity and have, in some ways, replaced beat-down decks. They combine strategies of both beat-down decks and swarm decks: instead of focusing on one or two powerful minions, they play several minions of medium strength. The goal of a bomb deck is to destroy the weaker companions, and then swarm the Free Peoples player out.

The movie years

For the first three years the game's releases followed the movies. A 365 base set was released each November containing material from the upcoming movie. These were followed by two 122-card expansions at four-month intervals. Each base set and the following two expansions formed a block named for that base set.

Cards were sold in eleven card booster packs consisting of one rare, three uncommon and seven common cards. In approximately one in six packs a common was replaced by a foiled version of a random card from that set. Each set also had two sixty-three card starter decks containing two copies of a promotional face card, three random rares and sixty fixed commons/uncommons (sets 5 and 6 had sixty card starters with three alternate image rares in place of the random rares).

Between the two expansions of the Return of the King block, an extra set, Reflections, was released. This consisted of 52 new cards, all foiled, half of which were designated rare plus and half rare. The new cards took material from all three films and material produced by Weta specifically for the game and did not belong to any block. Reflections boosters contained two of the new cards (with one R+ every 2.4 packs) and sixteen repackaged random cards from the first six sets. One of these old cards was always non-English.

Shadows and beyond

In November 2004 the new base set, Shadows, marked an overhaul to the game. All sets would now contain sixty each of rare, uncommon and common cards and a larger number of starter deck only cards. Shadows also had four, rather than two, different starter decks. The material used for the cards would also now cover the entire trilogy instead of being tied to the films' releases.

Additionally, a system of rotation was announced to be introduced to the game. Starting in March 2005 the entire Fellowship block will cease to be legal for use in the Standard tournament format. Then, each November the oldest block remaining will also be "rotated out". This helps keep the card pool down to a manageable size and means that new players don't have to buy old products, which can often be hard to find. It also keeps established players buying new cards.


To date seventeen sets have been released: (where two dates are listed, the first date refers to starter decks and the second to booster packs):

  1. The Fellowship of the Ring (November 6, 2001)
  2. Mines of Moria (March 6 & 13, 2002)
  3. Realms of the Elf-lords (June 19 & July 3, 2002)
  4. The Two Towers (November 6, 2002)
  5. Battle of Helm's Deep (March 12, 2003)
  6. Ents of Fangorn (July 2, 2003)
  7. The Return of the King (November 5, 2003)
  8. Siege of Gondor (March 10, 2004)
  9. Reflections (May 12, 2004)
  10. Mount Doom (July 14, 2004)
  11. Shadows (November 3, 2004)
  12. Black Rider (March 18, 2005)
  13. Bloodlines (August 12, 2005)
  14. Expanded Middle-earth Deluxe Draft Box (June 2006)
  15. The Hunters (June 2006)
  16. The Wraith Collection (August 2006)
  17. Rise of Saruman (March 1, 2007)
  18. Treachery and Deceit (June 15, 2007)
  19. Ages End (June 22, 2007)

These two sets was also planned, but they were never released:

  1. The Great Eye (Unknown)
  2. Shelob's Lair (Unknown)

In addition a number of boutique products have been released:

  • Oversized Cards (August 2001 - Summer 2003)
  • Promotional Cards (Spring 2002–Present)
  • The Fellowship of the Ring Anthology (July 23, 2003)
  • The Two Towers Anthology (February 25, 2004)
  • The Return of the King Anthology (September 2004)
  • The War of the Ring Anthology (September 2005)

An online version of the game was also available, but shut down on June 30, 2010.[1] Sales of digital cards for the game ended on June 30, 2007.[1]


Foreign Language Translated name
Czech Pán Prstenů: Karetní hra
French Le Seigneur des anneaux, jeu de cartes à collectionner
German Der Herr der Ringe Sammelkartenspiel
Spanish El Señor de los Anillos: Juego de cartas coleccionables


External links