Con of the Rings 2018: Experiences and memories

Back in early July, the team behind the Con of the Rings came forward and announced that they would be starting a Kickstarter to see if they could host a convention about the cardgame in the Fantasy Flight Center. With overwhelming support, the goal was met in a matter of days, and the tickets sold out months before the Con started. I was quick to respond and bought a 3-day pass soon after the annoucement. The community quickly started to offer their homes, and I was offered a place to stay at Fishbaugh’s place. He is a part of the Cardboard of the Rings team and has the tedious task of fixing the recordings of the podcast and scoop out any technical errors. I am still very grateful to him for his hospitality, saving me the trouble of finding a hotel and transportation.

As October drew near, I started planning my flights and planned some things to do outside the Con. I had already prepared my 8 decks for the con and assembled my side-board a week in advance, giving me plenty of time to test the decks and make some final changes. I also packed the exclusive Vision of the Palantir swag (see different article), and some mats and alt arts that I needed to hand over at the Con.

Thursday

On Thursday morning, I took the flight from Amsterdam to Minneapolis. With the way timezones work, I would only be flying for 2.5 hours, before arriving in Minnesota around 11 am. The flight went great, despite me flying on standby. Having family work at the airline meant that I got to be on the front row of the economy comfort zone, giving me enough legspace for the flight over to the US, which isn’t bad for a guy my length.

When I arrived at MSP, I got through customs without a hitch, just one question and I could go through. I got picked up by Fishbaugh from the airport and we drove to his place. There I found that some packages I ordered had already been delivered, allowing me to unpack them immediately; felt like Christmas. After getting settled in and dropping off my stuff, we drove to the Mall of America, which is a weird concept for me as a European. I just couldn’t imagine seeing a themepark in the middle of a shopping mall. At the mall we met up with a couple of other guys who were either local or arrived in Minneapolis a bit earlier and had nothing else to do for today. I met Morten there, who had an excellent exchange with Bipolarbear where Danish beer and candy were exchanged for a ton of Nightmare packs and a Collectors edition.

After having walked through the mall, the six of us grabbed a bite to eat and then went for some quick sightseeing in St. Paul. The cathedral was great, and the story behind the shrines in the back was a new thing to me, having only been to European cathedrals before. But after the religious pilgramidge, there came the board-/cardgame pilgramidge to the FFG center. I was amazed at how much product there was actually available, since I rarely see LOTR LCG in stock at my FLGS. We met up with Aturuslash and Mr Trench, who were doing an attempt at Pelennor Fields. Once that ended in a near tableflip, we broke the group in two and played Downforce and Arkham Horror. Since I have no idea how Arkham worked, I got into Downforce and really enjoyed it, despite winning third and fifth place and finishing dead-last in the overall game. Let’s just say it was a warmup game.IMG_20181012_121356[1]

With our first game documented, we headed out to Insight Brewery at 6 where we would meet with a bunch of people who arrived in Minneapolis during the day. At this time, I started to dose off, as 6 pm meant 1 am to me. Luckily, some pizza and beer did me good and I lasted another 3.5 hours before I really started to dose off. Let’s just say that as soon as I got to bed, I slept like a log.

Friday

But sleeping and jetlag don’t go hand in hand, so I woke up to a morning in the Netherlands, but when I looked at the alarm clock here, it was just 2.11 am… great. Luckily I am used to sleeping in, so I slept for another 3 hours before being fully awake and ready for the con. I ended up doing some blog work and packing my bag for the con, so that I would be able to immediately get started after I had a shower and breakfast.

Foreign showers are weird, as this one only had a setting for temperature, but not water pressure, meaning that once you stood underneath the shower and turned on the water, you’d be met with a freezing flow of water. Silver linings, you are immediately awake. While I went to get breakfast, I got to know the folks who arrived either early in the same morning, or late the previous night and were also staying at Fishbaugh’s. After exchanging swag and food, we got ready to head out to the FFG center and start the Con!

It was great seeing so many people that were already busy when games when we arrived. Even before the Con had started, these people were playing a game of Epic Multiplayer Siege of Annuminas, which is a great way to start your weekend off. Once the Con had officially opened, I got my badge and immediately joined the line to get my hands on the Fellowship 2016 and 2018 kits, as well as the new Roam Across Rhovanion Adventure pack. This pack still had some unspoiled cards in it, so as soon as I had dropped my stuff at a nearby table, we did some hot takes for Cardboard of the Rings. It was great seeing some of these cards for the first time and getting to tape our initial reactions to them. I got to do the Ancestral Armor card, which will be spotlighted in an upcoming First Impressions article. I also was impressed by the South Away! card, which I quickly added to my Haldan deck.

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3 Black Riders engaged, but we managed to jump onto the Buckleberry Ferry

After the Hot takes, it was time to get some games started. By this time, the Con had officially opened, so the Saga scenarios of The Fellowship of the Ring were available to quest against in order to unlock achievements and get additional raffle entries. I sat down with Secondhand Took and we decided to play the very first Saga scenario: A Shadow of the Past.  I brought my mono-spirit Silvan deck, while Took brought a standard Hobbit deck, which is a great deck to bring to this quest. We ended up making it to the Ferry and beating the quest as the first group at the Con. This not only meant that we got the additional raffle entries, but also that we got to sign our names next to the quest. This was the start of the Saga for the entire group, and I am glad to have been a part of it.

IMG_20181012_184215-1.jpgAfter the Con had been kicked off, I got to play a number of other games with folks as well. We attempted to try Roam Across Rhovanion in 4 players, but when half the group went to go to the Bear Draft, we needed something else to keep us occupied. Luckily, around this time the Con of the Rings Swag was announced. The swag from this year was a Broken Token box with enough space to hold a lot of tokens for the game. But since giving an empty box isn’t really a gift, they also added custom progress, resource, and damage tokens to the swag. These were all hand-stained by Splice, who did a great job getting this swag together. Once I received the swag, I opened it and constructed the box. I had a bunch of tokens already, and my dice bag was overflowing. So I added my new Scythe coins, as well as Vision of the Palantir tokens to the box. It held everything pretty well, so I am very happy to get the box. My thanks to everyone who was involved with the design and realisation of the swag this year.

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Perfect setup for South Away

Roam Across Rhovanion was continued when the players of the Bear Draft returned. However, we got soundly beaten due to location lock and getting continuously exhausted due to treacheries. So we decided to do the two Collectors Edition quests instead. I haven’t really played these quests before, but I did see a few videos on the quests. Since the quests aren’t considered to be too difficult, I brought my Haldan deck and went to work with the locations in the scenarios. We first played Caves of Nibin-Dum with 3 players (bipolarbear, Peaceandthought, and me) and managed to beat the quest pretty soundly. I like the different encounter card layout, but it can get confusing at times. The Haldan deck worked well and we managed to do a South Away on a location with 4 attachments on the very first turn.

After we beat Caves of Nibin-Dum, the group wanted to beat the first scenario of that box as well: The Oath. From what I understand, it is a pretty easy quest, but you never know if you’re going to win. I still lose on occasion to Passage through Mirkwood. For this game, a fourth player joined us, so we were a full party, ready to take down the Goblins. I again did my location shenanigans with Haldan, and must say that it worked great. With 3 other decks ready to handle combat, I was free to swap loations, clear some in the staging area, and contribute to the quest in that way. We won, and I was very happy with how the decks worked out together with the rest. Since I am not looking to get the Collectors Edition in the near future, it was good to have been given a taste of these two quests, since they won’t be available outside the CE box in regular releases.20181012_233903.jpg

As the final quest of the day, we wanted to do something non-saga, and also a quest that wasn’t too difficult. So we decided to do a quick game of Across the Ettenmoors with 3 players that evening. Note that at this time I was getting really tired and was awake on mere sugar alone. I brought my mono-spirit deck again, and we managed to pull through to the end. Since I will be doing an article on Across the Ettenmoors soon, I got a bit more experience with the quest, giving me enough things to talk about in the review article that should be coming out soon.

That ended the first day at the con, I was really starting to doze off, so when I got back to the Flophouse, I went straight to bed and slept right away.

Saturday

I slept pretty soundly that night, only waking up at 4 am, and after a few more hours I was ready to face another day of playing the game. When breakfast was over, we jumped back into the car and drove to the FFG Center, arriving there around 11 am. After the initial setup, the Con was open again and the Two Towers quests were now available for completing in order to receive raffle prices. There were also other events scheduled during the day, such as a developer Q&A and a trivia segment. Besides the physical card game, there were now also booths from FFI (digital card game) and the artist who designed the card backs for the digital game. During the afternoon, I went over to her stand and ordered a 5×7 print of my personal favourite card back, the intertwining staffs of the 5 wizards. Since that particular print was not available at the time, I was told to get back to her the next day as she would do a print run for anything she didn’t have in stock.

With the Saga’s now available up to Road to Isengard, I sat down with TheChad20181013_204904.jpg and we played a few games of Helm’s Deep. While our initial attempt with a Rohan/Gondor deck and a Silvan Ranged support deck (because Haldir did show up at Helm’s Deep after all) failed, we reworked our decks and tried again. This time, I went back to the mono-spirit deck that I used to beat A Shadow of the Past with. We got pretty far through the quest, but we had to remove tokens from the objective a couple of times. During our game, the interview with Caleb happened, but we didn’t pay much attention to it, as our game was getting tense towards the end. We managed to beat the quest but not before progressing to stage 4, after which we immediately transitioned to stage 5 because of the objective. This was a bummer, as there was one achievement for never getting to stage 4. On the plus side, we did get hit with 3 copies of Devilry of Saruman, so we did get the other achievement, adding two entries to the raffle for the both of us.

After the victory at Helms Deep, it was time for the trivia questions. These were a lot of fun, and some were really challenging. However, I did manage to win the very first round of questions, giving me the option to choose from a variety of prices. I picked a full set of Nightmare cards for the Hobbit saga. While I have no intention of going back to those quests, the completionist in me really liked having the complete set, plus the fact that the packs are hard to come by back home, especially at the low cost of free! I was banned for the rest of the regular questions, which was fine, as I would have otherwise cleared them out. The questions really required a good sense of understanding of the card pool, which was great. For the final few rounds, everyone got to join in again and guess a card that was drawn from a pile. We would slowly get hints to the cards, narrowing down the mystery card, however, everyone only got 1 guess. When the final card came around, all we knew was that it was a unique, two-cost ally. After the initial guess of Rosie Cotton by Splice (because of course he guessed that), I threw my hat in the ring and cried out Gleowine. And what do you know, it was correct! I had managed to win 2 prices during the trivia, which was great. The only thing left was a chance to play with or against lead developer Caleb Grace for the Wizard’s Quest or the Woodland Realm. This was scheduled soon after, so I finished my current game and met up with the other winners.

The game against Caleb was a lot of fun, I was in the opposing team, so we got to taste the horrible encounter deck he had made for the Woodland Realm scenario. I brought my Haldan deck for location control while my partner brought a Hobbit-Ranger deck to handle enemies. Obviously we got beaten by Caleb and Thaurdir who were playing a Caldara deck and a Direct Damage deck. But as this was a game against Caleb himself, I still consider it a win. We were rewarded with a copy of alt art Aragorn, which I asked him to sign as well. That card goes straight into my collection as one of the most prized possessions.

To make up for my loss yesterday against Roam Across Rhovanion, I sat down with Sappidus for a two-player game, using my two Silvan decks. They synergized pretty well with each other, getting Hithlain out pretty quickly and having all Silvans boosted by Celeborn. With the slight adjustment of the encounter sets (there is an error on the quest card, the symbols in the rulesheet are correct) we managed to beat the quest. We got close to losing, as the final quest stage isn’t really fit for Silvan decks and we got a bit swarmed with locations. But with Tactics Imrahil throwing down a Beorn during the Combat phase, we were victorious in the end. The quest is a lot of fun, but I do recommend it in 2-3 players. Also be careful that the quest can drag on for a while, it certainly isn’t a quick one.20181014_004619.jpg

To end the day, I wanted to play a game with the other 2 European players who were at the Con. Mortendall and Brinx have both been excellent contributors to the blog, and we wanted to have a game with at least the three of us. When we decided to attempt the Uruk-Hai quest, we were joined by Devaresh, which was great, since that quest requires a lot of players so that you can overcome being down a hero. There was an objective to beat the Uruk-Hai with both Legolas and Gimli in different decks, so I borrowed a Gimli deck I saw in use yesterday by bipolarbear. We managed to beat the scenario with all captives alive and well. Gimli actually managed to one-shot Ugluk, and the rest of the team did great at keeping the pursuit value low while keeping willpower high. This gave us an additional raffle entry for the next day.

By the time we had finished the Uruk-Hai quest, the off-site party at Buffalo Wild Wings had already begun. So we packed our things and drove to the site, which wasn’t too far from the FFG Center. There we had a great game of guessing what character/object/location from the Tolkien Universe we were. I actually won a fair number of stickers, some which were pretty hard to guess. At the party, I also brought some traditional Dutch food, which I hope you guys liked. As the night went on, more game like Werewords and Skull got played, until we started to leave around midnight. I again went straight to bed, as the jetlag still had me confused at what time it actually was.image2.jpg

Sunday

Having actually slept all night, I woke up with multiple messages from folks in the area that it was actually snowing. Having come from The Netherlands, where it was still warm enough to walk around in a t-shirt, this was really weird. Luckily the snow had already disappeared before I would have to take the plane home, so it wouldn’t get delayed by that. Since I was going to go straight to the airport from the FFG Center, I had to pack my suitcase as well and bring it with me. This meant that I had to pack my handluggage at the Center, along with anything else I would buy/win that day.Afbeelding kan het volgende bevatten: 7 mensen, lachende mensen, staande mensen en buiten

After arriving at the Center at around 10 am, we were stuck before a closed door. So we had to survive for a little while in the freezing snow before the doors were opened to us. I went to get a hot beverage straight after I got in, since it not only warmed me up, but also sooths the throat a little. Having spoken a foreign language all weekend at the top of my lungs (especially last night at the off-site party) had left my voice a bit damaged. After I finished the drink, I went to see the artist about the print I ordered yesterday. She had gone to the printer in the meantime and would do another round that day if anyone had any requests. We talked a while about the potential of making the card backs into official sleeves, and she said that she would talk to FFI about it. So perhaps we will see the art on official sleeves in the near future, which I think is great.

Having no-one really to play a game with, and having no interest in attempting the Return of the King scenarios from the saga, I started creating some encounter decks with the encounter sets from both the Woodland Realm and the Wizard’s Quest. It was great seeing these combo’s that you could use to cripple your opponents. And having seen yesterday what sort of combinations you can pull off against different decks, I wanted to explore it a bit further. But when I got ready to play a game with an encounter deck I made myself, I was approached by WingfootRanger to try his version of LOTR LCG in a draft format. Since you should always agree to try these sorts of new things while you are at a convention like this, I agreed and sat down with 7 others to make decks.

For this draft I received 5 heroes with who I had to build a deck. Erestor, Arwen, and Spirit Theoden were my picks, as they synergized well with each other. Leadership Boromir and Mablung got left behind, as they were not as functional with the other heroes. I ended up making a Noldor-Rohan questing deck that used a lot of willpower and standard Noldor shenanigans to get through a quest. The full picture of my deck can be found below. I really enjoyed the draft format and want to thank WingfootRanger for hosting this event. After the decks had been built, I joined 3 other players and we went up against Fog on the Barrow Downs. While this is by no means an easy quest, I wanted to give it a try, and perhaps we could even win some of the achievements on the list for that quest.

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Draft deck: Noldor/Rohan synergy

 

The game went well, as we had a good mix of willpower and attack strength to deal with the Wights. However, we got caught off guard by a second Barrow at the final stage, which led to our defeat in the end. This was too bad, but I was still glad that we got to try the quest with these drafted decks. The decks performed really well together and were something different than I usually play (besides focusing on willpower and location control). The game also lasted pretty long, giving me a proper insight in how the quest goes. I’ve picked up the pack myself at the con, so I should give it another try some day.

At 4 pm, I got ready to leave. I had already packed my stuff and swapped my cards with things to do on the plane in my hand luggage. I stayed until the final raffle, where I actually won something. When I came up to the counter, I saw the digital card game card backs, and picked them right away. They also came with a Leaf of Lorien sticker, which went straight on the back of my laptop. After saying my goodbyes to the people I have had the most contact with during the Con, I left the FFG Center and went with bipolarbear and Mortendall to the airport. Since their flights left around the same time as mine, we shared a ride and got to the airport on time. There I said goodbye to Mortendall who had to go to a different terminal, while me and bipolarbear went through TSA check. We hung out at my gate for a while until bipolarbear had to leave for his own flight too. I gave him some of the digital game card sleeves that I had double, and we said our goodbyes. Flying standby, I had no idea if I could get on the direct flight to Amsterdam. But luckily there were 70 open seats, so I got on the flight no problem. After a meal, I went to close my eyes, but to no avail. I can’t sleep on airplanes, so this meant pulling an all nighter as well.

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All games of LOTR LCG I got in during the weekend

Monday

At this point, you lose all knowledge of time and space and you are just focused on getting home and crashing into your bed. Since I can’t sleep on airplanes, I didn’t even bother and spent the night watching movies and giving my new heroes some of the new card backs. The plane landed at 10 am local time, which meant that by 10.30 I was in the bus home, and crashed in my bed at my parent’s house around 11. I slept for roughly 4-5 hours, and got the rest of the day to get a grip of myself and calm down a little bit. I managed to make a great picture of all the loot I picked up at the Con, and did some planning for the rest of the week. Tomorrow I’ll go to my actual house and reorganise everything I brought with me.

The Haul

The big haul of my trip over here barely fitted in my suitcase, but I’ll give a rundown of all the things I bought and won. I would like to thank the people who handed me stuff and I would like to thank the organization for letting me win 2 raffle prizes on top of 2 trivia prizes.

  • Pokemon Mug: Eon Latios & Latias
  • Umbreon and Espeon deckbox
  • Giant Sleeping Umbreon
  • Scythe metal coins that I can also use for resources in other games
  • Scythe realistic resources to make the game more immersive
  • 8 nightmare packs
    • Journey Along the Anduin
    • The Hills of Emyn Muil
    • The Druadan Forest
    • Encounter at Amon Din
    • Escape from Mount Gram
    • Temple of the Deceived
    • Over Hill and Under Hill
    • On the Doorstep
  • The epic swag of the Con: a Broken Token box filled with hand-stained tokens for the game
  • Gen Con quest 2018 with Alt Art Glorfindel with thanks to TheChad for holding it back for me
  • Fellowship kit 2018 with Gandalf mat and Alt Art Eowyn
  • Fellowship kit 2016 with Eowyn vs Witch-king mat and Alt Art Faramir
  • Fog on the Barrow Downs with a copy of Alt Art Aragorn
  • I won a ticket to play against Caleb for a game of Woodland Realm and Wiz. Quest. He ended up giving me an extra copy of Alt Art Aragorn, signed by him.
  • A set of 12 card backs from the digital game, designed by Emily Dillhunt. I now use them as sleeves for particular heroes, and hope she gets the licence from FFI to make sleeves of her own.
  • A Leaf of Lorien sticker by Emily Dillhunt
  • A 5×7 inch print of the Order of the Istari card back from the digital card game
  • Roam Across Rhovanion Adventure Pack
  • 2 metal spot D6 dice
  • Rubber deckbox band, to keep every loose card I had together
  • 3 packs of LOTR TCG cards, thanks to bipolarbear for handing those to me.

The picture below shows all the loot in one place, but not the great memories and friendships we made during these couple of days. I would like to take this time and place in the article to thank everyone who made this Con possible, and to all attendee’s for making it a big succes. Can’t wait for next year, as it will be even better. I also didn’t get the chance to play with all of you, so I guess that is another reason to go back right?

Hopefully I will see you guys next time, in the meantime, I hope you enjoyed the article and I hope you enjoy the swag you may have gotten from me. Till next time!

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