Score in LOTR LCG

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Scores in games are usually very important. It denotes who won and who lost, and determine how well you did. But when it comes to LOTR LCG, score really doesn’t play a big role. And that is even with the back page of the Core Set instruction manual devoted to this system. Yet mine remains blank to this day, and I have yet to encounter players who take a moment to calculate the score after their game has ended. While OCTGN players do have an keyboard shortcut for this, it is usually tacked on at the very end, or left out altogether. In this article I will go over the scoring system in the game, why it hurts some deckstyles, and some proposed variables that can be included to give an idea on how well your team did. I will not be proposing an all new scoring system, as that would require more minds than my own to balance and make sure that it is fair across all different deckstyles and scenarios.

The Scoring System

As a refresher to those that haven’t scored a game in a long time (including myself), I will go over the way that playthroughs are scored. The details of this can be traced back to the Core Set Manual for those that want a more detailed read (Rules of Play, Page 22).

To start with, scoring only happens when players win the game. If they are eliminated through threat, losing all heroes, or another quest effect, no scoring takes place. If any player does survive the scenario, then the score is calculated. The group score has several variables, some which are player dependent, while others are group or scenario dependent. Let’s go over each variable quickly:

Player dependent variables

Final Threat Level

This is a pretty obvious variable and one that is kept track of during the entire game. Upon defeating a scenario, each player starts their score with their final threat level. Should a player be defeated because they threated out, then their threat will be kept at the threat elimination level. So the threat of defeated players do not continue to rise beyond the elimination level during the refresh phase. There isn’t much wrong with this variable, and it is easy to keep track of. An easy way to lower your score on this front would be to bring some threat reduction in your deck, as well as having low starting threat heroes.

Penalty of Dead Heroes

Killing Sporfindel doesn’t hurt your score as much

If heroes were defeated during this game, their threat cost (unknown if printed, but since it isn’t stated, I don’t think that it is printed threat cost) is added to the score. This means that players who had to sacrifice a hero for the cause will suffer a penalty, but it is better than not winning at all. If a player is defeated through any other means, like raising their threat to the elimination level, all their heroes are considered defeated and add their starting threat to the score if the other players manage to win. This will cause a defeated player to massively increase score, which does make sense.

Damage on Alive Heroes

The final individual parameter is any damage that is left on heroes that have managed to survive until the end of the game. Each point of damage is one point in score, so this variable won’t have a ton of impact on your performance, but it does make the least sense out of these three parameters. More on that later. An easy way to prevent this from being a big influence on your score is to heal all damage on heroes with cards like Beorn’s Hospitality, Waters of Nimrodel (if damage outweighs the increase in threat), or smaller individual bumps of healing.

Group/scenario dependent variables

Victory Points

Huge drop in score if you manage to bring him down!

Victory points are earned on some cards, usually enemies and locations that are unique and/or very difficult. Overcoming these threat will lower your score by the amount on the card. These range from a single point on most cards, to up to 50 points for defeating the Balrog during Journey in the Dark. However, not all scenarios have cards with Victory points, and the points are more often used to make sure that the players don’t encounter the same enemy or location twice. Note that only cards in the Victory Display count their points, not in the discard pile if one happened to be a shadow effect.

Number of Rounds

Finally, one of the biggest impacts to your score is the number of rounds that it takes you to beat a scenario. There are some rare cases where you can beat a scenario in a single round (there is a hypothetical deck that can win Passage through Mirkwood with Tactics Legolas, but Assault on Osgiliath can also be won reliably in one round), but usually the game takes around 8 turns to be completed. This varies wildly between scenarios, as quests like Ghost of Framsburg, Battle of Pelennor Fields, and such will easily take more than 10 turns if you are not in an ideal world. For each round that you play the quest, you have to tally each complete round at the end of the refresh phase. Each round counts as 10 points towards your score.

The final group score is then calculated by adding up each player’s total of threat, penalty for dead heroes, and damage on remaining heroes. This gives a player subtotal. From this, the number of victory points in the victory display are deducted, and 10 points are added for each round that the players have completed. This gives a final group score, which tends to range between 70 and 150 for single players, but can vary wildly for multiplayer games. Each scenario has a different range depending on difficulty, victory points, length, and direct damage effects. Important to remember is that a LOW score is desired, as you want to end with a low threat, no defeated heroes, and no damage left on surviving heroes, while optimizing victory points, all in as few rounds as possible.

Why it doesn’t work

(According to me)

Reading how the scoring system is set up, you can probably see that I have mentioned a few flaws with this system. The system punishes some deck archetypes, while archetypes like Hobbits are given a massive boost by having low starting threat, low threat cost heroes, and few hitpoints to have damage on. This will immediately put Hobbit players on a lower score than most other archetypes. But the problem lies deeper than that in my opinion. The scoring system isn’t needed. Outside of the Core Set, I haven’t really seen players trying the same quest over and over with the same deck trying to reduce the score. Being a cooperative game, the real score is either winning or losing, and the reward was how you got to the victory or defeat. Victories give you memorable experiences that you can use for an easier time in the future, but also make for great stories. Defeats teach you how the encounter deck tries to make you lose, and you can adjust your deck to overcome that challenge. A measure for how well you won isn’t really needed in my opinion. I could see an excuse for this system if it also measured how bad you lost, as you can try to reduce that in order to inch towards a win. But if you are defeated, no score is calculated, and the parameters won’t give you much information for future reference.

One of the bigger problems I have with this system is that it punishes the playthroughs that are played with multiple people. Since all scores stack on top of each other, the easiest way to assure a low score is to play in true solo. This removes a lot of fun from the game if people really cared about score, and I’m glad to see that it has turned out the other way. This also messes a little with the reference frame of score per scenario, as scores with more people can also influence the number of cards you see with victory points, and more players can sometimes lead to longer games. A good example of this is Escape from Mount Gram or Foundations of Stone, where all players must be at the same stage before you can advance. In solo, this is no problem, as defeating the stage yourself means that you progress. Higher player counts will in these cases sometimes increase the number of rounds it takes before everyone can progress as a group. Scoring in this way tries to dissuade players from playing multiplayer. Which is why I will advise to only score solo games.

There are also problems with each individual parameter, though I have mostly covered them before. Final threat level is probably the one I understand most, as you can directly invest in your score by reducing your threat with player card effects. But it also rewards a low starting threat. This pushes people to Hobbits, or worse Spirit Glorfindel. Lower threat decks don’t often have the strength to win more difficult scenarios unless the scenario benefits you with threat reduction of its own (Trouble in Tharbad, Shadow and Flame) or if you have a powerful one-hero deck with the Grey Wanderer contract.

Threat cost of dead heroes makes it so that decks that run discardable heroes like Caldara, Boromir and Folco actually get a negative boost to their score for trying to use their abilities. Folco manages to cancel it out with his threat reduction effects, but the others just add a bunch of points to your score. You can try to revive these heroes with various effects, but they are often expensive and will rely on you running those cards in the first place.

When it comes to calculating damage on your surviving heroes, there are also several archetypes hurt this way. Core Set heroes like Gloin and Gimli work with having a lot of damage on the heroes to gain their benefit. With Gloin, you will be wanting to heal that damage over time, but not with Gimli, who would have to give up his massive attack buff. Other heroes like Erkenbrand and Beorn also tend to accumulate damage over time, and not all of it will be removed by the end of the game without playing one of the bigger healing effects like Beorn’s Hospitality. The damage on heroes also changes between quests. Some quests rarely have direct damage effects, while some like Desert Crossing try to make a lot of damage on your heroes, which pushes up your score. This will lead to scores at those quests ending up much higher on average.

I already covered the fact that victory points will be a good way to reduce your score, but it depends a lot on what quest you are playing. Many quests don’t even have cards with the Victory keyword, while others like Encounter at Amon Din push a lot of cards to the victory display upon completion. Players can also help their score this way with cards of their own that have victory points. Side-quests in particular will help here, since their 10 victory points will offset the 10 points in score that you will gain for stalling a round trying to beat the side-quest. So depending on the quest and the number of victory points obtainable in that quest, you can end up with a big difference in score.

This all leads to the problem that there is no set baseline for each scenario on what an average score would be. It all depends on the scenario you are playing, the mode in which you are playing, the number of players you bring, and the starting loadout of your heroes. And this is all assuming you beat the quest in the same number of rounds. This makes comparing scores very difficult and just leaves you with a number that doesn’t really mean a whole lot compared to any other playthrough you did, unless you are winning the scenario in the same way you did last time. But outside of the Core Set, this is usually not the case as you change up your deck and perhaps bring along another player. This gives the score no actual value and makes it a waste of time to track in my opinion.

Revised scoring system?

With all these negatives, there should be a way to improve the system, right? Well, I would encourage people to come up with their own scoring systems that you feel works better for general purposes. Perhaps devise a method for each individual quest focusing on the mechanics of that quest. Like bonus points for how many villagers you rescue during Encounter at Amon Din, or how many rounds you hold on to during the Black Gate Opens. But a single scoring system would be near impossible to create at this point thanks to the many different scenarios out there. This prevents you from making universal achievements that grant points to your score like “-3 points for each enemy defeated” while in quests like The Hills of Emyn Muil, you might not even find an enemy during your entire playthrough. Or how you won’t have to kill any enemies during Into Fangorn, as long as you can outquest the threat that they pose.

I do feel that there could be parameters that determine your score based on the final boardstate. If you defeated each enemy and have a clear staging area, you obviously did better than if you won by the skin of your teeth because you quested all out with 5 enemies engaged with you that would have lost you the game during that round if you wouldn’t have completed the quest. This sort of parameters could influence your score, but are again depending on the quest and the number of players. It is just very difficult to come up with something that each quest has on which you can base how well you did.

You can keep count of your victories on a shield, but I prefer a notebook or an Excel-file

But for now, I will suggest a binairy scoring system. 0 points if you lost the game, 1 point if you won the game. Nothing to scale that score with, just plain win or lose. As long as players don’t make 50 attempts at the Black Gate Opens, this should leave you win a maximum score about 50% of the time. You can also add these scores up over the course of a year and divide by the number of playthroughs you did that year. That leaves you with your win-percentage, which is a personal player score of you that year. You can cheat this by just playing 1 game of Passage through Mirkwood that year, but I don’t think people would give too much about that score if that is the case. This is the system I am using, and would encourage others to adopt in order to find out how many games you actually won that year. I log every playthrough in a notebook, allowing me to reflect on the past year during the final days of December. With that said, be on the lookout for my statistics towards the end of this month.

I may have sounded a little negative or critical on the game in this article, but it wasn’t really the intention. The scoring system is something from a bygone age where we only had the first cycle to play with. Since then, there has been a change in design philosophy when it comes to the game, causing the scoring system to be outdated. It is no wonder that the competative format of this game does not really use this system to determine the winner, as there are a ton of variables that depend on the decks you run and the cards you play.

I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on the scoring system and am interested in what your opinions are on the matter. Do you have any ideas on how to improve the system? Or do you actually like it? Let me know in the comments below!

This article was made as a request by the Master of the Annuminas Stone. If you also want a title and want to request articles like this concerning LOTR LCG, then feel free to check out this blog’s Patreon page. There you will find how you can request articles and find the many other benefits that come with being a part of the Palantir Guard.

3 thoughts on “Score in LOTR LCG

  1. I’ve experimented with a system where the score is based on the percentage of a “resource value” left at the end of the game. The resource value is the product of hero HP and “available threat” (50 – starting threat). That value goes to zero if all heroes die or if the game ends due to threat, so a positive value indicates a win and the percentage of the starting value indicates how “efficient” the win was.


  2. There should be more ways to even out your score. Say keep the+10 points per round, but then if you explore a location or defeat an enemy you get -3 (once per round). Or if you reveal a treachery you get -1 or -2…someway to show you’re enduring the difficulties. That would be much more tedious, but there would have to be more ways prove you are doing well against the encounter deck.


  3. I still use the old scoring system. But I do not use it to compare different decks to each other or to get as low a score as I can. What I do is I build a certain deck and I test it against the same scenario a couple of times. Then I compare the scores between each playthrough. This way I can see if my deck is consistent against that scenario only. I don’t care whether my score is high or low, but whether or not I beat it in around the same number of turns and with the same amount of threat and heroes damaged/wounded.

    So for me, the old scoring system is not about how well I did, but how consistent I can get through a scenario.

    For example, I played the Massing at Osgiliath scenario trice over the weekend. I had scores of 155, 153, 152. So I know that my deck is able to consistently beat this quest. Of course variations on this number can still happen. I can get much higher of lower, depending on the way the encounter deck behaves, But I still like to get averages.

    I record my scores in an excelsheet.


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