Con of the Rings 2019: Experiences and memories

Last week was Con of the Rings 2019, and like last year, I attended. There have been so many things going on during that week, that it was hard to keep up with. But in this recap article I will go over my games and the things I did during the entire week. Unlike last year, I did not keep a journal each day with my experiences of that day, but am recapping the week as a whole after the fact.

Again, I would like to thank everybody for making this con another amazing experience and I hope to see you all next year again! Special thanks go to the organizers of the event, who have been working their butts off to keep everything on track. This year’s article will be a little longer than last year’s, since I went to the Con early.

Tuesday 1st of October, pre-con Day 1

My con began a few days before the official start of the convention, with my flight leaving early on Tuesday. And with early, I mean really early, like 9 am (meaning I had to get up at 5…). Lucky for me, my mother and my brother live close to the airport, so I stayed their for the night so that I could quickly go to the airport the very next day. I wouldn’t be going alone, as my mother is a purser for the KLM (Dutch airliner) and had requested the flight to Minneapolis to drop me off. This meant that I could travel on standby, and wouldn’t have to pay a lot for my ticket. The downside to flying on standby is that you can only get on the airplane if there are seats that would otherwise be empty. This means that there is a chance that you are left behind if the plane is full, which is a risk I was willing to take.

Deckbuilding at 38.000 ft

So I went to the airport with my mother in the early morning, and after an endless line at customs, I got to the gate. We would be flying one of the newer Boeing 787-900 series, which for an aerospace nerd like myself is pretty fun. At the gate I heard that I could board the plane no problem, and was given a seat in the business class. Travelling for 8 hours was never so spacious to me. The seat was great and featured a mode where you could turn the seat into a fully fledged bed. Unfortunately, this was a day-flight, so sleeping was out of the question. However, it also meant enough space to do some last-minute tweaks to my decks during the flight. Obviously I had taken my decks and side-board with me in my carry-on, so I could resleeve some decks and make some trail runs with the cards I brought with me.

All the Dutch food I brought with me, ranging from the famous stroopwafels to gingerbread and more cookies!

That wasn’t all I did during the flight, I watched 2 movies, one of which was the Tolkien biopic that I hadn’t seen yet. I also brought my Switch with me to kill some time in case I would have ended up on a seat without in-flight entertainment. This made the flight easy to endure, and before long, we arrived in Minneapolis. In actual time, the flight had only taken 1.5 hours, but thanks to timezones, I was feeling like having dinner already, despite being almost noon in America. I got in line at immigration, and picked up my suitcase shortly after. Thankfully, all of the food was still accounted for. I wasn’t allowed on the shuttle to the airport with the crew, so a ride-share took me and another person travelling with the crew to the airport hotel.

At the hotel, I unloaded my stuff and repacked my bags. After a quick bite to eat and a fresh set of clothes, me and some of the crew met in the Mall of America, which was just a few blocks away from the hotel. Before grabbing dinner, I first went to do a bit of shopping and looking around. At the Barnes & Noble, I picked up a hardcover version of The Hobbit, which I didn’t actually own in English yet. They also had a variety of partygames for sale and I got to look up some books I had to bring back for friends. After dinner, I was really feeling the exhaustion of a full day of travel, including the early rise, and went back to the hotel to sleep at 6 pm (internal clock: 1 am).

Wednesday 2nd of October, pre-con Day 2

Just when you feel that you’ve adjusted well to the timezones and you wake up and feel rested….. it turns out to be 11.30 pm local time. No wonder I wake up at that time, as it is the usual time back home when I would wake up for work. But now I am well rested and the night hasn’t even started proper. After a few attempts of sleeping in, I gave up about 4.30 am local time. There was no point in trying for more sleep, so I got up and went to the gym that was open all day long. Obviously, there was no-one else there, which was nice. The pool didn’t open until 7, so I couldn’t cool off, but the workout got my blood pumping again at least, and after going back to the room, I repacked my bags for the days ahead.

The advantage of having my mother with me for the first few days was that she could bring some stuff back with her when she would leave on Thursday. This meant that I could send the books and clothes I bought at the mall with her, leaving more space in my luggage for things to pick up at the con. After breakfast, I went for another tour of the Mall of America, since I couldn’t have seen everything in one day yesterday. I stopped by the gamestore there and picked up Skulls, which is a popular partygame that is next to impossible to find in Europe, at least for me. I had to go back to the hotel at noon though, since I had agreed to meet The Purple Wizard there, who is a local player and friend of the blog. He stopped by the hotel for a few games, and we played all afternoon. We started out with 2 Nightmare games with pickup decks that we’ve brought beforehand. Nightmare Trouble in Tharbad was first. This quest isn’t too difficult in Nightmare mode, but it does try and waylay you by lowering your threat elimination level faster. It also requires you to kill Bellach before advancing the quest, which took a little while. I brought my Silvan deck and actually pulled off a Host of the Galadhrim with 6 allies. This dealt a lot more direct damage to enemies and allowed me to quest hard through the final stage.

The second game was more challenging, where we had to beat Nightmare The Three Trials. The quest is already difficult in 2 player normal mode, but Nightmare added more tougher enemies, and a casual +10 attack shadow effect if the defender wasn’t unique. To circumvent that effect from killing allies at my side, I brought my Fellowship Dwarf deck, which only runs unique characters. This deck performed well, and with ranged support helping across the table, we managed to clear the quest without it being too difficult.

The third and final quest of the day was a regular game of Celebrimbor’s Secret. I love this quest as you are forced to explore locations before the Orcs do, making it a race towards the mould. I brought my Haldan-location control deck in which I proxied 2 copies of the new Keen Longbow. I didn’t see any of them, but managed to play enough attachments on locations to keep the synergy going. The way that the damage mechanic in this quest works, meant that using the Woodmen’s Path wasn’t actually a good idea, but Elf-stone and especially Put off Pursuit were great in providing locations with an extra buffer of quest points. This saved us from having to destroy a location, since Put off Pursuit raised the quest points on that location by just enough to make it last until we could explore it.

After 3 successful games, I was starting to feel tired and hungry, so we all went to the hotel’s restaurant for a bite to eat (thanks KLM for the discount). After dinner, The Purple Wizard left for home, and I went back to my room. It had been a good warmup day for the Con, and I was starting to feel better adjusted to the timezone. Still, 8 pm was the last thing I saw before I went to sleep.

Thursday 3rd of October, Day 0

While not an official Con day, I will label Thursday as Day 0, since I did already go to the FFG center and met a large chunk of the more active community members that had arrived early. While my night hadn’t been a complete one, I woke closer to realistic local times that morning, and went to get breakfast at the hotel lobby. After that, I took a morning hike to the river and back. While the hike should have been 5 miles, I turned around halfway through, since the path was flooded. This was due to the large amount of rain that had been falling these past few days. Still, the weather was nice enough to walk around in the mud for a little while, and I got back to the hotel room afterwards. There I started to pack everything I needed for the next couple of days, and dumped the rest in my mother’s suitcase. She and the rest of the crew would be leaving for Amsterdam in the afternoon. I managed to get a lift from the airport hotel to the Fantasy Flight Gamecenter by TritonWreck, who is also a local. Thanks to the Discord community, I knew that there had already been a fair few people staying near the Center, and were playing games there. We got to the Center at around 2 pm and at that point the Con really started to me.

3p victory over Across the Ettenmoors

Various people were already playing games, mostly LOTR LCG. I exchanged some loot already with people there, just to unload patches on them so that I didn’t have to bring them back with me. In exchange, I got the 2019 GenCon kit and the COTR swag from TheChap. At my table, I was joined by Vardaen and his friend for our first game of the extraveganza quests we would play at the con. We played a 3p Normal mode game of Across the Ettenmoors, which wouldn’t be the last time I played that scenario this week. I brought my side-quest deck, since I knew it would be great against this quest. With 5 side-quests in the victory display and Thalion being a proper hero, I dare say that it was a smashing success.

Guess who just saw victory slip between his fingers…

But we were far from done for the day. I joined a group of community members in a game of Citadels. It had been a long time since I played that game, and despite not being assassinated even once, I didn’t manage to win thanks to an combination of people destroying my buildings and stealing my hand. Still, it was a great game and was a nice break from LOTR LCG, which would take the majority of the weekend.

A room full of friends, beer, wings, and games!

After our game of Citadels ended, we packed up our things and went to the BWW off-site pre-con party. It was in the same place as last year’s off-site party, and a lot of people gathered there. It was very crowded, but with the help of partygames, food, and name tags, we all had a good time. I myself joined in a massive group playing Just One. The game actually does scale well with more players than the box allows, since you might get more clues, but you can also get more conflicts with others, reducing the number of clues. Me and my jetlagged head even got a few answers correct, and we had a great time. Since I was leaving the party with Aaron, I had to wait until it was all over, before heading to the Flophouse where I would be staying for the rest of the Con. Once at the Flophouse, I saw that my bed from last year had already been claimed, so I took a mattress on the floor and settled in. Once I claimed my spot, I went to sleep right away, as it still felt like I had pulled an all-nighter.

Friday 4th of October, Day 1

Finally the Con was upon us, and the first day had begun early. While everybody at the Flophouse was still getting their breakfast fixed, the organizers assembled at the Con to get things ready. We soon followed and picked up our badges and our t-shirts when we arrived a little past 9 am. I sat down with a couple of people I drove in with, including Attrick, Secondhand Took, and bigfomlof. We sat down for a 4p game of Across the Ettenmoors again, which was one of the many quests available for prices that day. We lost our first game thanks to an unfortunate combo of surging cards and side-quests preventing us from playing cards. We reset and got our victory shortly afterwards with a 4p victory over the quest. We also got the first achievement of that quest, which was met if you never travelled to a Safe location. Questing hard and relying on Took’s mono-Lore deck to do some trickery carried us to victory with relative ease.

4p victory over Ettenmoors

I went to sit at a different table afterwards and tried for an achievement by playing with 4 people with different badge icons. My axe was pretty rare, so I was pulled at all day for some games with people trying to get that achievement. I sat down with Vardaen, Phil, and Edmund for 2 games, one Weather-Hills, and one Intruders in Chetwood, which we both unfortunately lost. Those quests are just terrible to attempt in 4 player, since they scale pretty hard with locations and side-quests. But the games were still fun, and despite not winning, I did see some more of my decks in play.

After having lunch and handing out some more swag to people, I came across ballin4nothin who got me the Black Riders playmat. We sat down for a game and were joined by Matt Holland. A quick 3p game of Ettenmoors (yes, again, it’s one of my favourite quests alright) was played where we absolutely dominated the encounter deck. I got my Dwarf Fellowship out turn 3, after which I was questing for enough to cover the team. We went for the second achievement of the quest, which required you to have a Trollspawn attack for at least 8 attack. This scaled with the damage on your characters, but we were “lucky” enough to have one of us damaged enough to make the enemy hit for 10. It didn’t say you had to survive the attack, so chumping was an easy way out. Victory soon followed.

3p victory over Ettenmoors

Besides the many games I played, there were also other events going on during the entire weekend. While I didn’t attend all of them, I did sit down for the Trivia segment by Chad from Cardboard of the Rings. The trivia was all about guessing the correct number of something, and the winner would get some awesome prices. Think alt arts, COTR swag from previous years, and much more. While the questions were very tough, I did manage to win an alt art Eowyn card near the end of the quiz with a correct estimation of something. I’m afraid to say that the actual question has escpaed my mind, but I believe the answer was 38. While the win wasn’t as glorious as my “GLEOWINE” win from last year, I’ll still take the alt art! I also won an alt art Galadriel in the Raffle around this time. While the prices are amazing for newer players looking to expand their collection for free, some older veterans with more complete collections and who weren’t interested in the CCG had less choice. Still, the extra Galadriel will find a nice new home with another European player some day.

After getting some dinner (or midnight snack, depending on your timezone), I sat down with the folks from Card Talk. I had been in contact with them for a while and was excited to finally get a game in with them. We settled on Treachery of Rhudaur, which was also one of the extraveganza quests of Friday. But a 4 player game of Rhudaur isn’t easy. We tried to go for the achievement of getting all 3 side-quests cleared in the first stage, but we were just a few points of progress short of clearing the third quest. We also got side-tracked with Seal the Tomb, so we had to take care of that first. Nevertheless, we powered on through, and with a little help of me playing Light the Beacons (gotta play those weird cards at conventions right?) we successfully defeated Thaurdir and won the quest. It was my first time playing the Caldara-Lothiriel-Cirdan deck, but I was very happy with the results. I quested hard enough, and managed to help out with combat through Narya and Jubayr.

My 11 players who took up Annuminas and unfortunately failed

To round out the day, the con organizers had decided to add Siege of Annuminas to the board. It was my first time playing an epic multiplayer quest, since I don’t have a playgroup large enough to play it that way (unless I go 12 handed…). We lost, but that wasn’t due to our group, who played a mono-Lore fellowship that kept a tight lid on the encounter deck. Victory Display, healing, traps, and many more tricks meant that the enemies stood no chance against us once we got set up. However, the other teams got overwhelmed by enemies and Annuminas got destroyed.

After that, we left the con for the day and headed back to the flophouse. We shared a ton of experiences and amazing plays of the day and were already talking about what we would play tomorrow. New quests would be available for playing, including some Sailing quests!

Saturday 5th of October, Day 2

While not the longest day of the Con, this day would drag on a little longer than yesterday thanks to the off-site party that we were having during the evening. We started the day by going to the con and finding the doors closed again. This has become somewhat of a tradition now, since last year we had to wait in the snow for a few minutes before we could enter the center. It was still cold outside, but a large hot chocolate resolved that. The first of three games I played today was a 4 player game with BardLee and two new players (husband and wife I suppose) of Fate of Numenor. This quest is largely forgotten between the amazing quests in the cycle, but it is more of a guessing game. With 4 players, we got hit with a lot of treacheries that meant adding more Lost Island locations to the staging area, until we had all but one in the staging area, a total of 10 locations, and 3 non-Lost Island locations. This is where I performed an amazing move with Sulién and Narya to trigger her ability twice. This meant that none of the locations in play contributed any threat to the staging area, negating 23 threat by herself. But that wasn’t even the best part of the game. We ended up having to shuffle the Shrine location together with 9 other Lost Islands and we then had to pick a location at random. But lady luck must have smiled upon us, because with just a 10% chance, we pulled the Shire to Morgoth on our very first attempt! This led to a swift victory and the end of this fun quest.

A ton of locations, each contributing no threat, and all getting explored with Northern Tracker

I moved to a different table afterwards for some more variation in my fellow players. I came to sit with mbogie, bigfomlof, and Ted from Card Talk, and we attempted a 4 player game of the Dread Realm. One of the achievements was to start with more reanimated dead, so we skipped that one and treid to beat the quest as normal. I again took the mantle of willpower and location control on me with my Lothiriel deck, while a Haldan deck helped me with that. A Dunedain deck engaged all the enemies, until they were engaged with 9 at a time, and could still handle everything! The final deck helped with Sentinel defense and Ranged support across the table, which is a good thing to bring to this quest with a lot of smaller enemies. Having cleared Keep Watch was great for this, as it meant that Reanimated Dead only hit for 1 attack, which made my life easier. We powered through the quest, and with the use of some Bulwarks of the West (Lothiriel’s allies are free anyways) we managed to defeat Daechanar. This led to an epic sprint to the finish before the castle collapsed on top of us. I pulled the Sulién trick again and quested us out of the dungeons in one turn. This happened to be the second achievement, which meant more raffle entries!

4p victory over Dread Realm, escaping in one turn.

And a good thing too that I had more raffle entries, since the very next raffle called me forward again. I had my eyes on one of the art prints in the case, and was very lucky that no-one else went for it. So now I have a full art print of the Mithlond Sea-watcher ally from the Grey Havens by Owen Weber. He also made various other cards for the game (including Thumb-Folco) and did some commissioned work for the swag from Cardboard of the Rings. With that art print in my bag, I could now sit down for my final game of the day. It was another attempt at Fate of Numenor, this time with McDog3, one of the Con organisers. It was just a 2 player game, which made it a lot faster than what I had played for the majority of the Con. We both took out our Fellowship decks (me with Dwarves, he with Gondor and various others). The extra ally you get in this quest also helped with getting to Fellowship quickly, which was a nice boost to us. With my Dwarves set up in 4 turns or something, we beat the scenario with ease. No Shrine on the first attempt though, we had to really work for it and didn’t see it until the 3rd attempt.

2 Fellowship decks taking the win against Fate of Numenor

Like I said, this was the final game for me of the day, but it was only 4 pm. I had agreed to volunteer behind the desk for three hours to help out anyone with questions. This allowed the con organizers to also have to play a game. The three hours flew by as there wasn’t too much to do. I started the sale of my patches, and many folks came by and completed their collection. The money I received will all go back into the blog, on top of the Patreon money that has made them possible in the first place. I got to log achievements, talk to various people I hadn’t seen yet, and take a breather after 1.5 days of convention. I’ll galdly do it again next year.

After the volunteer work was over, I grabbed a quick bite to eat before joining everyone at the off-site party that started at 7.30 pm. I walked to the site of the party to get some fresh air. It wasn’t too far, and when I got there, the room was already packed. We had a great time there guessing our names on stickers like last year. I also brought food from the Netherlands to be enjoyed by everyone. We talked, drank, ate, and partied for a few hours before we had to pack up. We couldn’t really go on any longer, since we would otherwise be hungover for the final day of the Con.

Off-site party!

Sunday 6th of October, Day 3

Today was the shortest day of the Con, at least to me, since I had to catch my flight to Amsterdam at 7 pm. But before that, I still had a couple of hours to play some LOTR LCG! I packed my bag in the morning at the flophouse as I wouldn’t come back there for at least another year. This way I would also have enough luggage space for any last-minute purchases or parcels needing to be shipped to Europe.

We got to the con on time, and I settled in the back. There were a bunch of high-level community members playing in that corner, and I got to get a few games in with Beorn. We played two games of Flight of the Stormcaller, and lost the first one. We were too ill-equipped to sail hard enough, and ended up off-course for too long. The second game went much more smoothly, and I got to play my Beorning-Eagles deck for the first time that week. We sailed well, and caught up to the Stormcaller on stage 2. The Stormcaller kept hitting treacheries for its progression, so we quested over the Stormcaller in 4 turns and won the game. It was nice talking to Beorn a bit more this Con, as we only got a few words in last year. To be able to now properly get a game in was great!

2p victory over Flight of the Stormcaller

To get some more Sailing quests under my belt, I played a 3 player game with BardLee and Mr Underhill of Voyage Across Belegaer. I don’t think we’ve ever been so in control of an encounter deck. We passed all our sailing tests with ease, and my Lothiriel deck was pumping out so much willpower that it didn’t really matter what came out of the encounter deck (though 2 Warships was a bit much near the end). Northern Trackers kept the locations at bay, and we quested through every stage in one turn. This led to a swift victory against the quest, and another chance to put our names on the poster!

3p victory over Voyage Across Belegaer

For my final game of the week, BardLee switched out for bgamerjoe. It was his first time at Con of the Rings, and I had to get a game in with him before I left. Mr Underhill stayed with us and we three went ahead for the Thing in the Depths. It was my last chance to bring out a deck I hadn’t played yet, so I got out my Tactics Imrahil deck. This meant little to no willpower from me, but a steady supply of damage and defenders. We got both achievements in that game, where we had to travel to the Helm of the Stormcaller on turn 1, and had to deal half of the hitpoints on the Thing in the Depths in damage in a single turn. We achieved both of those feats, which was quite astounding, considering that I tend to have a problem when playing against this quest. The Tentacles were tough, but we managed to hang on and win our game.

During the final raffle of the con at 4 pm, I won a 2018 Fellowship kit, which I already owned. But who am I to say no to a free alt art Eowyn and a Gandalf playmat! I’m sure that I can make someone in Europe very happy with those. This was the point where many people started to leave the Con. The final achievements were being completed and games were wrapped up. I left with a group of 4 others to the airport sharing a ride-share between the 5 of us. This made it very cheap to get to the airport all the way from Roseville. At the airport, I joined Beorn and Shoreless (2 minds behind the amazing Grey Company podcast) in line for security. This line took forever, and stretched all the way past the baggage counters, but it moved pretty quickly.

After we passed security, we grabbed a bite to eat before we three had to catch our flights. Luckily we had arrived at the airport on time, so there was no need to rush to the gate. After we had filled our belly with something other than fried food (which was a welcome change in diet), we went our separate ways. I arrived at my gate a little later than I would have liked, as they were already boarding some parts of the plane. Luckily the woman at the counter was happy to give me a seat (still flying standby mind you) in the back of the plane. While it was an isle seat, I did have the seat next to me (the window seat) as well, which meant I could somewhat stretch out (long guy, itty-bitty legspace…). I didn’t see any movies but tried to catch some sleep (failed) and then took out my Switch and killed the 7 hour flight that way.

Monday 7th of October, post-con Day 1

This day went by very quickly, since I arrived back in Amsterdam around 10 am. The night had been very short thanks to me flying towards the dawn. When I arrived at the airport, we had one of the longer taxing routes before we arrived at the gate. I got off the plane pretty quickly and headed to bagage pickup. Thanks to this flight being one where many people have connecting flights, there isn’t much baggage on the belt when I arrived there. This meant I could easily grab my bag and head to my mom’s place. After I got there, I slept for a few hours to catch up on sleep that I had missed from the flight over. At 15.00 I was awoken by my alarm and I went ahead to prepare my bags for the trip to my house in Rotterdam. Fortunately, it is only 40 minutes by car. After dinner I went to Rotterdam and unloaded my stuff there. Since the jetlag of 7 hours is now working in reverse, I had to start going to bed early. For the first night back, this wasn’t an issue, as I was exhausted. I went ahead and assembled all of the loot I had received while I was in Minneapolis. Cleaning some things up kept me awake until 21.00 when I crashed in my bed and got some good sleep after this amazing con.

The Haul

When going to Minneapolis and the FFG center, you cannot leave empty handed. During this week of travel, I received numerous things that were LOTR or game related. I also got some other things that I ordered beforehand or picked up at the mall, but those aren’t as interesting. Here is a list of everything I bought or received from others during the past week.

  • Con of the Rings green T-shirt with my screen name on the sleeve
  • Con of the Rings badge to keep with the one from last year
  • GenCon 2019 kit with alt art Bilbo, Bilbo+Gollum playmat, and The Mines of Moria competative POD scenario (Thanks Chad!)
  • Fellowship 2018 kit with alt art Eowyn, Gandalf playmat, and The Woodland Realm competative POD scenario (Raffle)
  • Art print of Mithlong Sea-Watcher by Owen Weber (Raffle)
  • Silver Dragonshield sleeves
  • 50 alt art heroes with art from Magali Villeneuve (Thanks Beorn!)
  • Hall of Beorn sticker and alt art player cards (Core Set ally Gandalf, Loyal Hound, Giant Bear, 3x Drinking Song) (Thanks Beorn!)
  • The Old Forest POD Scenario (Thanks CardTalkDave!)
  • Card Talk first player poker chip (Thanks CardTalkDave!)
  • Silver marker
  • GenCon Pin market metal pin (Thanks Rick Shurts!)
  • Skull and You’ve Got Crabs partygames
  • Deluxe hardcover version of The Hobbit
  • Bob Rossiel and Brossiel alt art heroes x6 (Thanks Splice!)
  • Con of the Rings 2019 exclusive wooden deckboxes
  • Cardboard of the Rings 2019 swag (Encounter mat with 4 wooden rings to keep track of threat, willpower, archery, etc)
  • Exclusive Con of the Rings wooden shipwheel for the encounter mat
  • Alt art Eowyn (Thanks Chad’s Trivia segment!)
  • Nightmare packs
    • Escape from Dol Guldur
    • Conflict at the Carrock
    • A Journey to Rhosgobel
    • The Dead Marshes
    • Return to Mirkwood
  • Alt art Galadriel (Raffle)
  • Heirs of Numenor playmat (Thanks oldtoby!)
  • Black Riders playmat (Thanks ballin4nothin!)

Hopefully I will see many of you next year again for Con of the Rings 2020. I will of course be making another recap article then and am looking forward to all of the great games I get to play with you all there. I hope everyone enjoys their Vision of the Palantir patches. I have seen several pictures already of people glueing them to deckboxes and binders. I am looking forward to designing next year’s loot as well, to be handed out to con-goers and supporters of the blog! If there is any interest in me sharing the decks I used at the con, please let me know, and I’ll see if I can upload a decklist or two on RingsDB for you to try out.

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