Lure of Middle Earth 2023: Experiences and Memories

After 3.5 years, I was finally able to attend another LOTR LCG convention again, this time on my side of the Atlantic Ocean. While I have been meaning to attend Lure of Middle Earth earlier, it never quite lined up with my schedule. Until this year! And having missed out on Con of the Rings the past 3 years had really put me in the mood to play some more games physically with players from all over Europe. So in this article, I go over the day-by-day experiences to show how the convention went and what sort of goodies I took home with me!

Before we begin, I’d like to thank everyone who attended and made the convention worth going back to in 2024! It felt great being back playing physical games after so long, and it was nice seeing some people I had met before again.

Preparation

Before the con started, I had a bunch of things to prepare, especially decks. I have recently acquired physical copies of the first AleP cycle, and I wanted to use those cards in my brand-new decks. So a few weeks of building and testing led to the following decks. I will admit that I net-decked a couple of them but made some adjustments so that I could have all the decks built at the same time. The decklists are as follows:

Aside from building the decks, I also had to assemble a sideboard of useful cards that I might need to swap in and out of the deck if I was facing a specific scenario. I took a small deck box for this and used the dividers that came with the 2020 Fellowship kit to split the cards in the sideboard a bit for easier access. I also included a deck of 14 cards in case I should ever need to bring Burglar’s Turn for a scenario (quite effective against quests like Helm’s Deep). Since I couldn’t decide which heroes to include in the sideboard, I just brought the entire binder with me. This gives me enough flexibility to swap heroes during the games to adjust to what my fellow players are bringing.

With all the decks tested and the rest of my stuff packed. It was just a matter of waiting until Friday.

Friday 24th of February, Con day 1

The benefit of Lure of Middle Earth is that it is in Germany, which means it is only 3.5 hours away by car, there is a train connection if I don’t feel like driving, and there’s no time difference! This helps to keep this article a bit shorter, too, since I usually have a few pre-con days if I go to the US because I have to get used to the time zone. Now all I needed to do was to schedule 1 day off from work and hop into the car to Germany. I’m glad I moved to the south of the Netherlands last year since that shaves off 1-1.5 hours from my journey. Still, 3.5 hours was a long sit by myself, especially since I am still feeling a bit weak from the treatments last year.

The journey to the convention was met with a lot of Dutch people going the exact same way, as it was the start of a regional holiday in our country, and a lot of people use the same route to go skiing in the Alps. So it was a bit busier than expected, but I had plenty of time to get to the con. 2 breaks halfway through the trip helped to break the monotony of the German Autobahn, and podcast episodes helped to keep me company on the trip. One thing for me to note for next year is to definitely bring someone along in the car to talk to; otherwise, it can be quite boring.

Main hall is usually full, but there’s a lot of other spaces to play

I arrived at the castle at around 14.25, which was just in time to catch the opening announcements. Afterwards, I went up to the room and discovered it was situated in the tower, up two flights of stairs. And medieval castles do not come with elevators for your luggage… With my recovering stamina, it was quite a hike, but at least there was plenty of space in the room, and the bathroom was also great to have on the same floor. After I unpacked and got my backpack together, I explored the castle a bit. Several rooms were dedicated to the MECCG, while the LCG was confined to the Tower Room (same tower, just 2 more stories up, yaaay, exercise) and half of the main hall. The main hall was a bit too crowded for my liking, so I settled in the dining hall, which was a lot cooler and less noisy. There I met up with Caleb (lead designer for LOTR LCG), Dan (Host of Hall of Beorn), and Dominic (one of the organizers of the convention). We talked for most of the afternoon and had dinner together.

The meals at Lure of Middle Earth are done quite differently than I am used to from Con of the Rings. There is a dedicated room to have all your meals and a specific time window in which food is served three times per day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) (Not enough for Hobbits, but enough for me). The food is included in the ticket price and is all-you-can-eat buffet of pretty decent quality. There isn’t a large selection for dinner, but there are vegetarian options for people who don’t eat meat or fish. For being included with your convention ticket, I was really happy with the quality of the meals, especially since they have to cook for a pretty large group.

Meal options day 1

The meals are also a good opportunity to sit down with people and talk about things other than the games you are playing. There’s a great vibe in the dining hall, and since people come from all over the world to this event, you can exchange experiences and your background with the game. Once you’ve had enough to eat and drink, you can then pick up your game again in the main hall or wherever you left off. I prefer this over the “eat when you can, even during the game” style of Con of the Rings. Sure, people go and have dinner outside of GameZenter, but not with most of the players at the same time.

After dinner, I got my first games in. I played the Oath to warm up a little and got to play a brand-new deck that I hadn’t even brought. Dan (from Hall of Beorn) had given me one of his alt art decks along with many more varieties of the Loyal Hound card. The deck itself was a Grey Wanderer Galadriel deck that I have played in the past, but it’s always fun to have new artwork and to have it ready to go whenever I need it. We won the game with 4 players, which included Dominic and Marc from Legacy of Feanor. Despite also living in the Netherlands, we had never met in person before, so it was great to sit down and play a game.

The second game we played worked a bit differently. During the convention, there are a host of different challenges to pick up and complete. These are not always quest-specific, like at Con of the Rings, but more generic, like playing with people of 4 different countries, or everyone must bring Dwarves, but Dain Ironfoot is not allowed in play. Things like that really spice up the games. For the second game I played, all players had to swap decks and play with a deck they hadn’t seen before. So I borrowed a deck from Dominic but discovered that it was a Bree deck with German textboxes. Now, I won’t say that I don’t speak German, but having to play a deck as complex as Bree when you are not too familiar with the mechanics and having it all be in a different language really confused me at some points. Luckily I could decipher a little bit (thank you highschool German lessons), and we were ready to face off against the quest.

4P victory over Caleb’s quest

This quest was something special, something never before seen until Lure. Caleb Grace had created some encounter cards in his spare time and made a homebrew scenario for the convention. He had printed out two copies and handed them out during the convention for people looking to play something new. The scenario is a summary of the Angmar Awakened cycle, where Thaurdir builds up his strength in a special staging area (think Flight of the Stormcaller), and players cannot interact with him until stage 4. So it is a race to get to stage 4 before Thaurdir can clear it and beat the game. This takes you past some new side-quests, the Orc War Party, a big Troll, and various other familiar sights of the Angmar cycle before you fight Thaurdir at Carn Dum. This was a really fun quest to play, especially because it was so new. Balance-wise, it was a bit rough around some of the edges, but that’s what you get when it hasn’t been playtested a ton.

I have asked Caleb about the scenario, and he confirmed my suspicion that the scenario is not to be released digitally. I should state that this is not official content and is not linked to FFG in any way. If it were to be published online and Caleb’s name would somehow be attached to it, Marvel might have to look for a new designer soon. So, see this as another reason why you should attend conventions like this, and hopefully, the quest will make a return at other conventions in the future.

When that game was done, it was pushing midnight, and I was pretty tired. Remember that I had driven for 3.5 hours on the same day. So it was up the stairs (uuuugh) to the room and go to bed. The beds are pretty decent and long enough for me to stretch my legs in, but they were quite hard, and with 7 people in the same room, it was also a bit of a snore-fest. I’m quite a light sleeper, so whenever someone comes into the room or snores too loud, I’d wake up. But eventually, I closed my eyes and dozed off for a few hours.

Saturday 25th of February, Con day 2

Dawn broke over the castle at 7, and at 8, the alarm of my neighbor went off. He was there with two younger kids who stayed in the room all day playing Terraria (having brought PC setup and all in the room), so there was no more sleep to be had after that. Luckily, breakfast is served until 9.30, and German bread is reason enough to wake up and go to the dining hall. After having had a pretty solid meal, I took a shower and packed the backpack for the second day. The morning saw me build a few new decks and retool some old ones. I also got a quick explanation of MECCG when I looked over some of the tables, though I didn’t play an actual game. It’s fun to see two different communities mix like this.

Not a bad area for some morning hike

In the morning, there were also various events, like a draft format and time reserved for Legacy of Feanor stuff. I personally didn’t attend these events, as I prefer to wander about and bump into people for some talks. Having had enough of the castle for a little while, I took a hike up the hill and to a vantage point overlooking Bacherach and the Rhein river. It’s weird to see the same river I cycled across daily in Rotterdam flow so much more swiftly here in Germany. The surrounding area is also really nice, with vineyards and small towns around the river valley. I have some fond memories of the area when I went there on holiday when I was little, so getting to experience that again hit me with nostalgia a bit. Unfortunately, rain drove me back into the castle, just in time for lunch.

Lunch consisted of several breakfast options as well as loaded pasta. You can really make up for all the calories you burn when walking around with the meals at the con. There are also vending machines, and you can purchase bottles of beer and soda at the reception if you are hungry/thirsty outside of the scheduled meals. I also advise anyone looking to attend to bring their own snacks if you feel 3 meals a day is not enough.

Some of the challenges

After lunch, I spent most of the afternoon in the main hall, having finally found a seat and a group to play with. I’ve played 2P Old Forest with my Dale deck, which got to some insane stats. Old Man Willow got knocked out by the fury of a dozen allies and their equipment. After that, was a game of the 7th Level in 3 player, where we took on a challenge to have 10 enemies engaged at a time and win the game. A dedicated Dunedain deck took most of the enemies, while Beornings took on any stragglers. I did my part by questing through the scenario and removing any unwanted encounter cards (anything that’s not an enemy) to the victory display. This earned me my second challenge of the weekend.

The next game was a 4 player game where we went for the challenge of having each player be from another country (The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland). We played Conflict at the Carrock but unfortunately got a pretty bad combo early on where one deck had 2 heroes sacked and then roasted slowly. So that was a bummer. The other three decks managed to get through the quest eventually, earning us another achievement.

By the time we finished, I wasn’t feeling 100% anymore. I had to take some time for myself and lie down a little. It sucks that I can’t keep going all weekend, but it is important not to burn yourself out when you have another day ahead of you, and you still have to drive all the way back home as well. So I just went to my room and listened to some music until dinner came around. This time we had a German version of spam along with mixed vegetables and mashed potatoes. I wasn’t too sure about the spam at the start, but it tasted a lot better than it looked. The pudding dessert was also great.

The evening was spent in the dining hall. It was quieter because most players went to the main hall for an Epic Multiplayer event of The Nine are Abroad. I had already played that back in January with the online crew, so I passed on that. Instead, I was invited for a 2 vs. 2 game of the LCG’s competitive format against Caleb. I had to make up for my previous loss against him at Con of the Rings 2018, so I brought one of my power decks to the table (Gandalf/Elrond Council of the Wise). For the scenario, I had, by chance, brought along one copy of Escape from Khazad-Dum that I had prepared earlier this morning. My initial intention was to sell the expansion or give it away. But I found myself without a scenario to play that morning, so I created one with the custom set. It was untested, so I was really hoping it would prove to be a big enough obstacle for my opponents so that my teammate and I could clear our quest first.

Sadly, that didn’t happen. My encounter deck did its thing well by providing an early location lock, followed by small increases in threat and preventing threat reduction. But sadly, they cleared the key locations and were able to lower their threat just in time. The Balrog at the end made things much closer than I had thought, but sadly he couldn’t kill any heroes at the final stage. Meanwhile, my teammate and I got hit by locations as well in the early game, which prevented us from placing progress on the main quest. Having characters exhausted all the time by spiders didn’t help, though we eventually got through it. We caught up to the final stage of the game when the opponents won, so it was a valiant effort! Not bad for my first take at building my own encounter deck.

I ended the night with a 4 player game of Massing At Osgiliath. However, by that time, I was pretty tired, and I get a bit cranky if I don’t have enough sleep. My apologies for the sour mood going into that game, but I honestly just wanted to go to bed and not have to deal with 12 enemies in the staging area at setup. Still, we had a relatively easy time getting through Osgiliath with a Gimli defending the board turn 1 and Eowyn busting up the Witch-King. A nice quick victory against a quest I otherwise rarely play. It was past midnight when we finished, and I could just think of one thing: my bed. And when you are this tired, you do not care how hard the bed is or if your neighbor snores.

Sunday 26th of February, Con day 3

Day 3 started with some beautiful weather outside. It had frozen during the night, and a thin layer of frost was covering the valley. Unfortunately, this included the uneven stones of the castle courtyard, so it was a bit tricky to get to the dining hall from the tower. After breakfast, I had another shower and cleaned up the mess that I had made in my corner of the room during the weekend. I managed to pack everything in the same suitcase and brought it to my car. It had been parked on the slope to the castle all weekend, so I was glad to find it exactly where I had left it and not at the bottom of the hill.

Your parking break better work here

With all that had happened so far this weekend, I decided that this was a good point to end it on. I didn’t want to wait until the afternoon and find that I didn’t have the energy to drive all the way home. And while it is amazing that attendees get free stuff at conventions like this, I really do not need more alt arts and playmats. I’m making some myself now, and I have to rotate which mats I’m using to see all the art. So I thanked the organizers for setting things up and took my leave. I really wish my stamina allowed for another day of games since there are plenty of people I didn’t get to interact with as much, but sometimes you have to make decisions like this. I’ll just take it as a reason to come back to the event next year!

Wish these were Vengeance of Mordor packs

After I finished packing everything, I went to the main hall for the daily announcements. I was informed that at 14.00 there would be a prize ceremony for everyone who had been working for the achievements. Once a certain number of achievements have been beaten, a new alt-art card is unlocked and handed out to the participants. Players would also get some exclusive items from the organizers, which included German copies of the Battle of Carn Dum adventure pack. FFG needed to clear out stock for these since the AP was included in the repackaged cycle, so several boxes full of APs were sitting in the main hall. So now I have more copies of Amarthiul, Beechbone, and Favor of the Valar!

The drive back was pretty uneventful. Driving on a Sunday means that there are far fewer trucks on the highway, and leaving in the late morning means that a portion of people are in church as well. This must have been why I didn’t see a soul when I left town and made my way to the highway. A good thing, too, since those roads are narrow and way too steep for a Dutchie, whose idea of going “uphill” is going up a dike of 5 meters. So that was a new experience for me 🙂

I got home at 14.15 after having made 2 bathroom breaks along the way. The trip back was much more relaxed, and I got to listen to the latest COTR episode before I hit the Dutch border again. Once I was home, it was time to unpack the bags and wash the car. I also finished writing this article, which leads me to the present!

The Haul

It’s not a convention if there’s no stuff for you to collect and buy! Lure of Middle Earth is a bit smaller in scale on this end than Con of the Rings, mostly because community creators tend to release their loot near the end of the year (or, in my case, delay it for a few months…). Not being attached to an FLGS also means that there aren’t any games to buy, but you can still use your money at the castle for more food and drinks. But with some community creators present and the organization refusing to let you go empty-handed, I still walked away with a few extra things:

  • Lure of Middle Earth promo card (worth 1 resource at the moment, but just wait 10 years to see this go crazy!)
  • A German copy of The Battle of Carn Dum
  • Beorn’s 2023 alt art set, including several copies of Loyal Hound, none of which can use their effects (you monster).
  • Beorn’s La Llorona alt art deck plus 4 extra copies of Galadriel from that set (3 of which have been handed out to others already)
  • Another different alt art Galadriel I exchanged with Marc from Legacy of Feanor
  • Signed copy of Warden of Annuminas by Caleb Grace (inside joke, but I do have the most valuable copy of that card in the world now)

Of course, I didn’t stay long enough for more prizes to be handed out, so I’m sure that I could have gotten a lot more. If you are also into MECCG, there are special items to get as well, so you get some different things than if you are just there for the LCG.

Lessons learned

As this was my first time attending this convention, there are a few things I would do differently next time I attend. Some things are just personal preferences, but other things can be helpful to you if you want to come to the con next year.

  • Avoid the tower when booking a room. Those stairs are killer, and it is much easier to stay in the main keep of the castle to access anything you need in the room without having to go outside.
  •  Bring fewer decks; bring scenarios instead. I didn’t play all my decks this event, so the space in my deck box would be better used for scenarios like Hunt for the Dreadnaught to bring to the table.
  • Bring custom scenario kits. I did bring one, but if you have an encounter deck made and can swap it with another player’s, you can have some awesome games that are difficult to reproduce digitally.
  • Bring a friend along. The journey to the convention can get a bit boring, and that way, you can more easily play some games.
  • Bring stuff to give away. This is always a good idea. If you have something you’ve worked on and can hand it out to people, then it makes the convention experience a lot better for everyone attending. I’m sorry the books weren’t ready for the convention, but I might have to make small things to hand out next year.
  • Come in on Thursday. There is no set schedule for Thursday, but it guarantees you enough space in the main hall to play games and gives you enough time to play more games on Friday!
  • Go all in on challenges. These are pretty fun to do, and there is a lot of choices early in the weekend. You can also design your own, though they have to be approved first.
  •  Bring snacks. Either just for yourself or to offer to people at the table. Cookies do well since they won’t dirty the cards you’re playing with.
  • Have some spare cash. You can get more food that way, including pizza and fries in the kitchen in the evening.
  • Bring some other games. This gives the weekend some variety if you can bring some party games for late at night.
  • Book enough time for your trip. This is especially true if you are flying in from more than 2 timezones away since jetlag can really sour your experience with the convention. Arrive early enough that you can adjust a little to the time difference so that you can attend events in the morning, as well as play games until late at night.
  •  Bring your walking shoes. There are some beautiful trails set out from the castle that will involve a pretty decent hike up and downhill. If you want some physical activity during your stay, there is plenty to do around Bacherach to work on your cardio.

Thanks again to everyone who made this an unforgettable experience for me. I hope to see you all again in 2024, as well as seeing many new players who might now want to attend the convention as well. I will also plan to go to Con of the Rings this year as well so that I can finally compare the two conventions in the same year and see which one I like better. Still, it’s always a good time at these conventions, and if you are a bit hesitant about attending, I hope that this article gave you some insights into what to expect. It can be scary at first, but the community is fantastic and will involve you with whatever is going on that day.

5 thoughts on “Lure of Middle Earth 2023: Experiences and Memories

  1. It was so great to see you, Daan. I look forward to seeing you at Con of the Rings later in the year, and I am most happy that your health is allowing you to attend conventions again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was really looking forward to attending the next LOTR LCG convention, but I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t make it this year. I’m glad that I was able to attend the convention on my side of the Atlantic Ocean, as it was a lot of fun playing games with other players. I took home some great goodies from the convention, including decks of cards and physical copies of the games!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. If you can’t get a friend for your car ride, get an audiobook to listen to. They’ve made my 5-7 hour car rides to visit family over the last 15 years quite nice. In the US, libraries will even let you check out ones to download to your phone. I would hope you have something similar available.

    Like

  4. This was an excellent summary Daan. Thanks so much for this. I will also echo Beorn in that it is so nice to see you out and doing well, enjoying the game and the community again. Take care.

    Like

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