Thursday, September 27, 2012

Lord of the Rings Online: The rise of Cothbert Defender of the Shire

Still trying to narrow down my choice of characters in Lord of the Rings Online I have take to rolling various classes I think I would like and taking them to 20 or so.

I had played the Guardian class before (the game's token tanking class) and had indeed had many races as well. Dwarf, Hobbit, Man and even Elf.

I had never gotten a Guardian too far so this time around, with a deeper more researched knowledge of the game, I wanted to level a Guardian and see if there was any of the ole "tanking flame" left in me. My stint as a tank in World of Warcraft had worn me thin and I had pretty much burned out on even trying one in any other game.

I knew that I needed at least one Hobbit on my roster so Guardian it was and Cothbert was born. With all my five year old account goodies and Riders of Rohan pre order stuff I knew I could make him look pretty cool. I have not been that enamored with the Burglar thus far so decided to put more time in on the tanking role.

I also wanted to do ALL quests in the Shire and not skip any and this was simply the best way. With my other characters I was bouncing around all over the place as there is a LOT to do in this game.

With my Captain and Warden now at level 17 I had some catching up to do but what is another 3-4 hours anyway? I had time to kill.

Cothbert at creation. So new and inexperienced:

The horrors of what happened at Archet and in the Shire to start his adventures made him quite battle hardened. He even lost an eye in the process. As such he is one of the less merry Hobbits you may see come out of the Shire.

His first foray into the wild unknown was not unlike any other Hobbit out there. He had to prove himself to the Bounders and to the citizens who of course didn't want to see any trouble. But Cothbert had it in him to be greater than Bilbo and so he went into the chest of his great grandfather, pulled out the armor handed down through generations and took it upon himself to seek out adventure. The inhabitants of the Shire had many duties to be done and were generally too lazy to do them.

No Hobbit can start an adventure without looking good and Cothbert certainly fit that bill.

The first thing he had to do was gain contacts. Insider information about where he could get into trouble and prove how heroic he was. The first stop was Michel Delving. He asked around but could only find work with the local Postmaster. So it was that Cothbert, the great Defender of the Shire, started out on his career doing the dangerous task of....delivering mail.

It was going to be a long year.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Middle Earth frenzy

It is that time again when I am once more struck by a serious addiction to all things Middle Earth. Short of playing the Games Workshop miniatures game again (I refuse to give them money) I have been spending time inside Lord of the Rings Online as I duo that game with my Guild Wars 2 time. I never had a huge grudge against LOTRO (as it is known among cool geeks) I just never really had the time to give it a serious chance. I was always either in there between a major MMO release or just to waste time. Kind of the way I treat Star Trek Online.

I like STO and LOTRO about the same but I find LOTRO is a good escape for someone wanting to play an MMO and actually feel like they are involved in the world. While Guild Wars 2 is awesome it is VERY action oriented. Sometimes I need to sit back and relax in game and just take in the "digital life" so to speak. Only 2 MMO's evoke that kind of response from me and those are Everquest 2 and Lord of the Rings Online. Since I love LOTR more of course I am back in there.

The fact that it is free to play helps, but I also find the LOTRO store easier to use and the game more fulfilling than EQ2 at this point. I had a good stint of LOTRO back in the day. I was in a good guild, I had good companions and things were fun. But slowly and surely other games siphoned off what was left of our great Kinship and we all faded out. I don't even have that account anymore, forgetting the email and the login and not knowing how to retrieve it I simply opened my second old account and upgraded it a few months ago.

 When you use the 5 year gifts like I have (even my second unplayed account was this old) you can level quite fast. I was greeted with 5 year presents and gift boxes and a nice free horse. So I have been spending a lot of time online in MMO's and I haven't even purchased Torchlight 2 OR Borderlands 2 yet. This is seriously demolishing my want to play any boardgames since all these games are top notch products I figure I will be busy until Christmas at least. Then of course the Hobbit will be out and well...I will probably be 100% in Lord of the Rings Online. Although Guild Wars 2 is full of action and casual play sometimes I miss tanks, healers and dps'ers. I refuse to go back to World of Warcraft since I feel I have simply out grown it. I hate the new talent trees and the latest expansion coming out does nothing for me really at this point. That is not to say sometime I may be there again since I have a year long sub until February but right now it is not my pace or style.

I want to explore all LOTRO offers and finally get a character up there to see if some of the faults of the game can be ignored.

I still find the same things wrong with LOTRO that I always have since the game launched:

- rubberbanding
- poor mob AI
- horrible interface
- classes that still are a little...bland

By the way speaking of add ons and the like check out this neat LOTRO Stat Checker site if you are a player:

I can get around that for the most part with plugins. I just hope that as I progress and want to run dungeons and the like that those same old clunky interface quirks do not ultimately do in my love of the game. For now I am having fun on the Brandywine server and just relaxing as I level a Captain of Gondor and a Warden. This is a tough call as I also find The Secret World a very good MMO as well. There are only so many hours a day however and right now the fee associated with Secret World stacked on top of my WoW year long lock in just will not allow me to spend that much a month.

I went from hating almost every MMO to really finding that GW2 and The Secret World have given me hope that some titles will not always be hideous. So that is my update. A lot of Tolkien lately and some GW2 mixed in with a boardgame when I have the chance. I will be joining a casual family Kinship on Brandywine I will update people on the status of this later.

I am also pretty pumped about the Riders of Rohan expansion. While Lord of the Rings Online has potential it has for the past 5 years stayed in a rather small focus compared to the sweeping drama of the books. I wanted to immediately visit Minas Tirith and all those places but for the years the online game has plodded along about as fast as a sloth when it comes to opening new content. Not anymore. With the upcoming Rohan expansion I am actually pretty excited. The Rohan trailer shows a nice dedication by Turbine to stay true to the lore and pump up the fans:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lord of the Rings LCG replay: Passage to Mirkwood Part 2

Ok back to the game I started earlier this week. As you can recall that play by play is located here:

Things were looking nice and quiet as our party progressed toward Mirkwood enroute to deliver a message to Galadriel. They had seen a Veteran Axehand perish at the fangs of a King Spider but most of the giant insects had been dispatched by Gimli and Legolass.


All the guys are up and moving on. I add my resource tokens and draw a card which is Silverlode Archer. That is the second one in my hand now and at 3 resources can be costly. I don't really have anything I want to play and Gloin cannot afford to play any allies this turn so I pass on my planning phase and head to the questing phase.

Again, as last turn I send Gloin and this time I send Gimli instead of Legolass. I know it is a risk but I need to get this progress moving and I want at least 4 questing points out there this turn. As it stands before the Encounter draw I am 4 up and I am hoping for a treachery card.

Well I do not get so lucky. I hate this card I get and it is the Black Forest Bats. When revealed I have to remove a character from questing as he is driven back. The worst part is that character does not ready as he is busy fighting swarms of bats. So I lost 2 questing points. The Bats have a threat of 1 so I do get a progress  token. I choose to remove Gimli from the questing.

The good news is that ONE progress token is enough to clear the Great Forest Web location and our Heroes are back on the main trail and onward toward the quest!

Here is our situation:

There is no where to travel to so it is on to the Combat Phases. The bats will engage and down they come to the staging area. I choose the Snowbourn Scout to defend and draw a Shadow Card. It is a treachery card and a nasty one that has no effect since this was a combat draw. If I had drawn it as a treachery card I would have had to discard ALL events from my hand. The Bats attack and the Rohan scout easily beats it aside (1 damage to 1 defense = a tie).

Now to attack and this is an easy choice. Legolass will attack and kill the bats, allowing me to place 2 progress tokens on the main quest. Halfway there now!

I refresh all characters and add one to my threat which is now 36. On to the next turn!


Ok things are really looking good. If you can clear the first stage of Passage to Mirkwood and have this few casualties chances are you may have this in the bag but we will see. I add my resources and draw my card which is a Steward of Gondor! HURRAY my luck could not get any better. Gloin will be playing this card and for the rest of the quest he is an honorary member of the Gondor Guard. This card allows Gloin to make a lot of money.... err sorry resources.  The best thing is you exhaust the ATTACHMENT not the character using the attachment. Big key thing to note there. So basically Gloin now makes 3 resources a turn. That is the card I needed to really kick this deck into high gear.

Legolass and Gimli save their money for a possible Gandalf play and we move to the questing phase. I send Gloin and Gimli off questing to scout the area and draw my encounter card. A band of Orcs! When revealed they deal 2 damage to a character! Stumbling into an ambush Gloin takes 2 damage and thus gains two resources due to his special ability. The threat on the orcs is 2 so I win questing by 2 and add two progress to the quest. 6 out of 8 but my dwarves are starting to get beat up. If all goes well however I will CLEAR that first stage of the quest this turn with a Legolass attack on the orcs that have 0 defense. That will be a kill and that is two more progress tokens.

The orcs will be engaging since their threat encounter level is 10 so down they come, charging at our party. I skip the travel phase as there are no locations out. For defense I put the Snowbourn Scout out there knowing he will die, but thanks to the Horn of Gondor Legolass will get a resource for it. I draw a Shadow Card and AGAIN no effect!

The orcs cut down the Snowbourn Scout in a spray of blood and Legolass prepares his twin blades. Legolass does three to the Orcs who have 3 Hit Points and no defense. DOWN THEY GO and I place 2 progress tokens closing out the first stage of the quest. The end is in site!

We come to a fork in the road and pick a direction. Only 2 quest points to pass this one and move on to stage 3. On to the next turn now. I refresh all cards and add one to my threat level.


The card I draw is FEINT which is a good card it stops the enemy from engaging for one turn. I decide to tuck that one away for safe keeping. With a lot of money and Gandalf in my hand I may decide to really push  this game toward the end. Gloin plays the Silverlode Archer, a good card because it has a questing point.

I save the rest of my resources and on we go to the quest phase. Lets push our luck. I send the Silverlode Archer, Gloin and Gimli on the questing for a total of 5 points. I will use Feint if I have to to cancel a nasty combat this turn.  The encounter card is Mountains of Mirkwood and I cannot believe my luck. With a threat level of and my questing of 5 I have gotten 3 progress tokens and CLEARED STAGE 2! There is no combat and no travel so I refresh and increase my threat by one.



In this scenario there are two possible endings and you must randomly choose one so I use the in game coin flip tool to determine where I will go. Heads will be Beorn's Path and tails will be Dont Leave the Path!

The answer is heads. It is Beorn's Path which is one that I have never gotten before. Interesting. This is a 10 step quest so it is not over yet folks. I now have 10 steps to clear and a high amount of threat going into phase 3.

I draw my card and it is Blade Mastery and add my resources. I tap Steward of Gondor to get 3 more resources on Gloin. I may have to play Gandalf just to lower my threat soon. Gloin spends 3 and plays another Silverlode Archer.

In the questing phase I send Gimli, 2 Silverlode Archers and Gloin. That is a total of 6 questing points and 2 threat is already on the stage so I am at 4 right now. Lets hope for a treachery card. No such luck but I do draw ANOTHER Mountains of Mirkwood. The threat is now 4 on the table to my 6 questing so I gain two progress tokens. Again no combat this turn.

All characters refresh and my threat climbs to 39.


I draw Sneak Attack. Now this is interesting because for ONE resource I can play a 5 resource card Gandalf. This is because Sneak Attack allows me to play one Ally from my hand but that Ally goes away at the end of the phase. However Gandalf always leaves anyway after he makes an appearance so this is a win win. I have a lot of resources as you can see below (the round black counters):

I play nothing this turn waiting for the evil creatures in the encounter deck so I move to the questing phase. On and on our party marches and I send two more Silverlode Archers, Gimli and Gloin again to scout ahead. The threat is mounting and now it is 4 on the table to my 6. More Orcs appear with a threat of 2 so this time my questing is evened out. Problem is these Orcs will deal two damage to someone. If I put this on the Archers one will die and reduce my quest total, thus raising my threat. I decide to keep it even and put the damage on Gimli. At 3 wounds Gimli is bleeding badly. I decide not to travel and we go to the encounter phase. The Shadow Card draw is a treachery card AGAIN I am lucky and the Orcs attack the Rohan Horse Archer doing a point of damage to him. Legolass strikes again, dealing 3 damage to the orcs in a scene all too famliar killing them and adding two more progress tokens to the quest. 4 of 10 now.

Combat ends, no enemies are left but threat looms ever near in the staging area. I refresh and increase my overall threat to 40. It is crunch time now.


I draw and give resources. Unfortunately I get Thicket of Spears and again I cannot use that card in this deck. Ah well lets move on to the questing phase. It is getting harder and harder to get the questing points to beat that threat of 4 but I know I have Gandalf and a Feint card still. I send everyone questing for a total of 7 and that includes Legolass. With Sneak Attack I can get Gandalf out if I need to. I draw yet ANOTHER Mountains of Mirkwood card. What a crap shuffle!. 7 to 6 gets me a progress token however and there is no combat. I will be forced to travel this turn I have to get that threat off the board.

I travel to the Mountains of Mirkwood during the travel phase and draw a card like it says and get the Hummerhorns, a giant Bee card that is one of the deadliest in the game. Their threat level is 40 and my threat is 40. When they attack they deal 5 damage to a hero and that means someone will die.

I cannot risk this so here we go. I use Sneak Attack at the end of the travel phase. I play Gandalf for one resource. I use Gandalf's ability to deal 4 damage to an enemy in play. He kills the Hummerhorns before they can engage.

According to sneak attack Gandalf must go back into my hand if still in play at the end of that Phase so back he goes. The good news is I get to keep him so I can still lower my threat. There is no combat so we go to the refresh phase and my threat climbs to 41.


I draw a Son of Arnor card. I play him with Gloin's resources. Gandalf makes another appearance and I play him for 5 resources and lower my threat by 5. Now at the end of this turn Gandalf will ride off, with more pressing things to do for a wizard of this stature. My threat is 36 now and I plan on sending Gandalf questing. This could easily clear the Mountains of Mirkwood and my extras will carry over.

During the questing phase I send both Silverlod Archers, Gandalf and ALL my heroes for a whopping total of 11. 4 threat is on the table already. I draw a card from the encounter deck.....

ANOTHER location, Forest Gate. 2 threat. That is a total of 11-6 = 5. This clears the Mountains of Mirkwood, allowing me to look at the top 5 cards in my deck and pick one, and the extra 2 go toward the quest. 7 out of 10 now.

I pick the Snowbourn Scout to put into my hand mainly for the reason that when I play him I get a progress token. Had to be done.

There is no combat, I refresh and with a hearty "Farewell!" Gandalf rides off. My threat goes up to 37. These locations are really pounding my ability to quest.


Phew this is a long one. My score will already be terrible with the new Fantasy Flight scoring system of adding 10 points per turn you take. That is 120 right there. Ok resource phase. I then draw Swift Strike so as far as combat goes I am set. I just need three more points to win this game. I play Snowbourn Scout. I add one progress token to a LOCATION (not quest) and I am at 7 out 10 still but I could travel to a location with a progress token on it to help close that out soon. I pick the Forest Gate to place this on as I may travel there hoping for a Gandalf draw (I have three in my deck).

During the questing phase I send out everyone. That is a total of 7 and the threat is already at 6. I draw a card. It is indeed the worst possible result: The UNGOLIANT SPAWN. Not only is this a deadly enemy but he MUST be killed now for this quest to succeed. He also increases the threat by 3 and subtracts one questing point from each quester. This hurts badly. My threat goes up 7. OUCH. And this ladies and gentleman is how easy it is to suddenly almost lose this game.

Current Threat: 44. At 50 I lose automatically. Now I have a choice to make. Do I go for a card draw and travel or simply try to kill the spawn with Legolass. Well Legolass went questing this turn and my heroes are off exploring so the allies will have to fight. In a risky move that will prolong the game (knowing my heroes must fight next turn and cannot quest) I travel to the Forest Gate and draw two cards. I get sneak attack and feint. This is good I can hold the spider off if I want next turn.

That is possibly the worst card I could get but now I know it is there and if I kill it I may be clear of it. I will engage the Spawn using Feint. I engage the Ungoliant Spawn and he comes down. I play Feint and the Spawn cannot attack. His shadow card however makes me exhaust a character. I choose to exhaust the Snowbourn Scout. During my Combat phase I strike back at him with Son of Arnor and a Rohan Archer doing 2 points of damage to him. I refresh all my cards and increase my threat to 45. The Heroes teeter on the brink of failure. This is about as close a game as you can get!


I draw Steward of Gondor and attach this to Legolass, giving him the Gondor Trait and letting him make more money. It costs Gloin 2 to play this but I have more than enough Resources.

I need Legolass to participate in the attack to get the kill and progress tokens. So he cannot quest. I send the  two Silverlode Archers and Gloin and Gimli questing. That is only a total of 6. I know you are wondering why do that when Gimli must fight! I decide to use Swift Strike later that will deal 2 automatic damage to the spawn giving him 4 wounds. This will let Legolass kill him alone. But we are getting ahead of oursleves. This could be close. I draw my Encounter Card. I draw Chieftain Uthak, perhaps the second worse card in the encounter deck. Things are not looking good. This is a 6 hit point killing machine Orc that will engage this turn. His threat is two so the questing is 6 to 6.

Somehow I knew this was going to happen. All the nasty cards near the end of the game. Now I am in deep trouble. I cant travel anywhere because a location is active. So it is on to combat. The Chieftain will engage and he comes down. We are now facing the two hardest enemies in the Encounter Deck. Luckily the two encounter cards I draw for the Shadow part are treachery and are discarded. I decide to feint Chief Uthak and make it so he cannot attack. I then defend with Snowbourn Scout against the Ungoliant Spawn and play Swift Strike, dealing 2 damage to the Spawn who then eats the valiant Scout for breakfast (Legolass gains a resource from Horn of Gondor).

It is time now to attack. Legolass, Son of Arnor and the Rohan Archer declare a strike on Ungoliant Spawn and do 3 damage. Ungoliant Spawn has a defense of 2 so that is 5 damage. The Spawn is DEAD! I place two progress tokens on Forest Gate.

My threat goes up one to 46 and we refresh for what will be a make or break turn I am afraid. With no way to really lower my threat unless I pull a Gandalf I am afraid this Orc Chieftain will sap my Questing ability unless I sacrifice an ally.


Still following me? Here we go. resource tokens galore on my heroes and I draw a card.

I get citadel plate which is perfect for Gimli, giving him 4 more hit points. I play that right away. Now I must be very careful and think about striking that Orc this turn with Blade Mastery (x2) and see if I can kill him without eating up my questing points.

I send Gloin and Gimli questing to at least get 4 points. Just hear me out I know I have a Chieftain there but lets see what happens. With two blade mastery cards I could get 9 total attack and that is enough to kill him. Lets see what I draw on the quest phase.

Dol Guldur Orcs. Great. 2 more threat. And Gimli takes the 2 damage they deal out in the ambush. Normally Gimli would be dead but his armor has given him 4 more hit points for a total of 9. I lose the questing phase and my threat goes up to 48. This is make or break.

The Chieftain attacks and gets a fury token, raising his combat skill to 5. He smashes the defending Rohan Archer who for so long had accompanied us. Legolass gets a resource point. I let the Dol Guldur Orcs attack and that goes undefended, I dump the damage on poor Gimli. He now has SEVEN wounds.

Now the brass tacks:

During my combat phase I attack with Legolass, both Silverlode Archers and Son of Arnor. I play both blade masteries on both the archers. This gives me a total of 11 attack. The Chieftains armor is 3. 8 get through and he is dead! I place two progress tokens and the Forest Gate is cleared with 1 so 1 carries over. I leave the Dol Guldur orcs alone.

We have now killed BOTH the nastiest cards in the deck. The main quest is at 8/10 steps. I am TWO STINKING POINTS FROM A WIN but now at 49 threat!


With weary minds and wounded comrades the quest draws near to a close. I get my resources and draw a card. I get Gondorian Spearman. Not much help to be honest. I play the spearman for 2 resources. It is questing time and time to see if I lose or win this game. I send EVERYONE questing in the hope I dont lose this phase.

I draw.....Necromancer's Pass...YET ANOTHER LOCATION that has 3 threat. My questing total is: 7 and the threat total is 7. THIS IS NOT OVER YET. I decide to travel to Necromancer's Pass and this makes me discard two cards. With pleasure I toss both Thicket of Spears cards.

With questing resolved the Dol Guldur orcs attack. The shadow card I draw gives them +1 combat this round. I assign the Gondorian Spearman to defend and he instantly deals 1 damage to the Orcs, but the Orcs slaughter him in a wave of steel. And yes Legolass gains a resource.

Time to attack now. With the Heroes out questing the allies step up. Son of Arnor attacks killing the weakened orcs.

With combat over we move to the refresh phase, and with no way to lower my threat it ticks over to 50 and I lose the game after 15 brutal turns where victory seemed certain. It was snatched from the clutches of my hands.

Looking back, the lack of threat reduction really hurt but I cant help but to think that if I did not have 2 Thickets of Spears in my hand I may have had two better cards. I will tweak this deck right away. I had some bad luck with the choice of the quest ending needing 10 more progress tokens. As it was I was two points away from winning but time just ran out. That Ungoliant Spawn pull killed me when it raised my threat by 7 also.

The irony of it all: GANDALF WAS THE NEXT CARD DRAW.

Now you see how evil fortunes can come and go in this game and as they come they will destroy you. As the quest moved on it got more and more perilous. I just lost to time itself!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

And then there was one...Guild Wars 2 update

Many of my readers may not know this but I have an issue with alts in MMO games. I want to have enough alts so that I can cross tradeskill and never have to worry about not having good weapons or gear. I also like to enchant my own items and mail them to other characters etc etc. In Everquest 1 I liked to 3 box (playing 3 accounts at once) for maximum XP grindage. In World of Warcraft I also two boxed so that I could AOE dungeons with my high level and low level alt. I also had an enchanter to send other characters pimp enchants.

Well with Guild Wars 2 the buck has pretty much stopped there. You see in GW2 it is possible to drop a tradeskill and then pick up another....then go BACK to your other tradeskill and not lose that previous progress. I know it sounds insane AMIRIGHT? I havent seen any other AAA title do that (at least ones that don't suck). Alas it is true and so with this game my alt festival comes to a screeching halt. That is not to say I don't have alts because I do. In fact I paid the cash to expand my character slots. I wanted to test EVERY class and make sure I liked what I wanted going forward. This means getting to at least level 11 and affording a couple of trait books which can set you back a good chunk of cash.

Now that the Trading Post is up I can easily make about 40-50 silver a day if I sell my stock of dye colors and garbage like that I could care less about. So it was I made alts and got them to a certain level of competency. A 13 rogue, a 15 warrior (two handed hammer spec), a 12 mesmer, a 12 ranger and a 22 engineer. Sprinkled in there somewhere is a 7 guardian I was unimpressed with.

All in all a whopping 84 hours of gameplay since launch and no signs of slowing down. You may notice that the 22nd level Engineer stands out. He is now my main. I cannot stop playing him as every level he gets neat new toys to incinerate and demolish enemies with like rocket turrets, flamethrowers land mines and even a rams head tool belt ejector thingy. He is also getting up there in leather armor crafting as well as his huntsman tradeskilling. I cleared 18-19 in fact simply by tradeskilling. At this point I figure if I am going to do all this tradeskilling and I can switch jobs why not have ONE pimped out character that can do everything.

I usually know I have a main when I log him in each night and play him for hours. Problem is in this game I can do that with every's just that much fun. My least liked, and this is odd for me, turned out to be the rogue. Stealth in Guild Wars 2 is a tricky thing and does not function like World of Warcraft. In short it takes all the fun out of a stealther. Unless it is permanent at higher levels losing the ability to sneak around and bushwack my enemies takes the fun out of it. I also don't like much of the dagger fighting mechanics. I will go back to him later and try again but for now explosions and guns do it for me.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Lord of the Rings Card Game and OCTGN online play

I have had several attempts at getting the online collectible card game client OCTGN up and running properly so since my latest addiction is the Fantasy Flight Lord of the Rings LCG (Living Card Game) I have been using this software extensively to play online and solitaire.

You can now read this article at my new blog here: