Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Lord Of The Rings TCG Continues With The Overproduced "Mines Of Moria!"

The Good: Some very cool cards (especially rares), Compelling theme
The Bad: Terribly overproduced, Serious collectibility issue (foils)
The Basics: Just decent enough to recommend, "Mines Of Moria" continues the Lord Of The Rings TCG with some dangerous new adversaries!

As far as I am concerned, it took a while before Decipher, Inc. produced a perfect set of The Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game cards. The reason is quite simple: even with smaller sets to assemble than the first, the foil sets are over six times harder to complete, leaving true collectors hunting . . . well, quite possibly for a lifetime. This is not to say that it was a bad game or not worth collecting. Indeed, many fans collected the cards just to see early images from the Extended Edition of The Fellowship Of The Ring (reviewed here!) and that was pretty clever on the part of Decipher.

"Mines Of Moria" gaming continued the The Lord Of The Rings TCG game and indicated how future expansions in the The Fellowship Of The Ring Block (the first three sets of The Lord Of The Rings TCG cards, which focused pretty closely on the actions of the movies) would be organized. This expansion set fleshed out the time spent by the Fellowship trapped underground in the Mines Of Moria and beefs up those looking to play with Dwarf-heavy decks. As well, the cheap, disposable legions of Moria Goblins are fleshed out in this set, making it a great one for opposing players with. The Starter Decks come with rulebooks and they are pretty much essential to getting started, as well as completing one's set. The booster boxes, though, do not have the Starter Deck exclusive cards, nor the rulebooks.

Basics/Set Composition

"Mines Of Moria" was the second set of The Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game cards created by Decipher to expand the gaming platform to fans of The Lord Of The Rings. Envisioned as a game played by two to four people, players created decks of cards utilizing their own version of the Fellowship and prepared to seed the adventure path with obstacles to thwart other players' Fellowship. For those unfamiliar with the concept, CCGs (or TCGs) are basically a late-teen oriented product designed to capitalize on the youthful desire to play with the acknowledged maturity of the target audience. The initial idea of the customizable card game was to allow young adults and adults to play in a way that was as free and imaginative as playing with action figures, but without the stigma of being a twenty-five year-old zapping a friend's toys with mouth-created sound effects. The result is something that is a midpoint between the freedom and creativity of action-figure free play and the structured rules and rigidity of a board game.

Players might prefer that I describe the game instead as a strategy game that is like a Role-playing game with cards. The break here is that the characters, artifacts, and scenarios are all already conceived by others. The original concept was to find a way to make play socially acceptable for an older audience and it generally worked.

"Mines Of Moria" is a 122-card set focusing on characters, location, artifacts, villains and scenarios presented in the first The Lord Of The Rings film. Released following The Fellowship Of The Ring set, this card set utilizes material from the film - specifically the middle of the movie - presenting a playing environment that brings players into the bowels of Middle Earth. The set consists of 40 common cards, 40 uncommon cards, 40 rare cards and 2 starter deck exclusive cards, with no main characters being presented, save common versions of the four hobbits.

The 122 card set features 16 Dwarven, 5 Elven, 11 Gandalf, 8 Gondor, 10 Isengard, 26 Moria, 12 Ringwraith, 9 Sauron, and 19 Shire Affiliation cards, and 6 Site cards. These are generally broken down evenly between Fellowship (your cards you play with) and Minion (cards you set upon your opponent) cards. Within the various affiliations, there are: 5 Ally (cards depicting supporting characters, like Hugin and Bilbo Baggins), 3 Artifact (cards of rare/unique objects, like the Mithril Coat or a Whip Of Many Thongs), 8 Companion (cards depicting primary characters and those who may join your customized Fellowship, like Gloin or Gimli), 30 Condition (cards illustrating long-term changes to Middle Earth that remain in play more than one turn, like The Demands Of The Sackville-Baggins' or the Endurance Of Dwarves), 36 Event (cards depicting temporary effects on players, like the elves ability to Release The Angry Flood or Gandalf yelling "You Shall Not Pass!"), 24 Minion (cards depicting villains used to obstruct your opponent, like the the Balrog or a Goblin Bowman), 10 Possession (cards depicting objects used to enhance the natural strength or endurance of a character, like Dwarven Bracers or the Shield Of Boromir), and 6 Site (cards depicting locations in Middle Earth, they form the "board" for the game).

This set plays out the battles in Moria with incredible detail and allows players to truly menace their opponents. The booster pack boxes are comprised of thirty-six packs per box with eleven cards per pack. The eleven cards are portioned out with seven common (six in packs that have a foil card), three uncommon, and one rare cards. A foil card replaces a single common in approximately six packs. The foils are simply reprints of the standard cards; there are no cards that are uniquely foils in this set.


At its most basic level, this is a board game where one constructs the board and pieces out of a selection of cards. The purpose of the game is to survive to the end of the ninth site in the Adventure Path, which (theoretically) indicates the end of the Ring Bearer's quest. The basic idea is to assemble a sixty card deck, lay out the board (Adventure Path) and play against an opponent. The deck is evenly split between Fellowship and Shadow cards, so players ought to have a hand that allows them to play and attempt to thwart their opponent at any given time.

This game uses a "payment" system where cards have a cost. The rulebook recommends something like poker chips or glass beads to establish the twilight pool and wound indicators and I've found small poker chips (not included) work very well for this.

It takes a great deal of time and energy to learn the game, but once one has played a few hands of it, it is a pretty easy concept for an adult to master and the challenge becomes assembling a strong fellowship and accompanying minion deck and being creative (and lucky) about how the cards from one's hand are used. It is played identical to the layout for The Fellowship Of The Ring set (see link below).

Rules/Rule Changes

The rulebook for this game is forty pages long; it's not so much the function of a review to rehash all that as it is to evaluate it. The rules are exceptionally clear.

The only thing close to a rule change in "Mines Of Moria" are the addition of the Artifact cards. Essentially these are treated as Possessions, but only one may be in play at any time. That makes sense considering they are unique items.


Players, collectors and fans of The Lord Of The Rings franchise will appreciate the image quality of the characters and scenarios from The Fellowship Of The Ring. The "Mines Of Moria" set features the decent ways to enhance the naturally weak Hobbit decks and provides a sharp new Gimli, as well as the last Gandalf (only in the Starter Decks) for a few sets. The set also features several of the Black Riders and the tentacled creature from outside Moria! This set continues with some of the biggest characters and scenarios in Middle Earth and it does so with larger images than many other trading card game cards have.

But to pick a highlight, I would have to go with The Balrog. This is the badass of the "Mines Of Moria" set and there are, in fact, two of them available. The rare Balrog, 2R52 Balrog, Flame Of Udun is an expensive to play card, but well worth it for the destructive capability. Moreover, it is not likely to be taken down by pretty much any Fellowship, making it pretty much guaranteed to kill at least one opponent each time it is played! Plus, it looks amazing in its foil version!


Rares are evenly distributed in the booster packs, making only two starter decks necessary for those collecting a master set, as the Gimli and Gandalf decks each have a single card that cannot be found in the booster packs.

Moreover, these cards seemed to pop up in every possible product that followed, from other sets' starter decks to anthology products. Availability of these cards, then has driven demand down on everything but the foil cards.

Beyond that, die-hard, obsessive collectors who want to spend a lifetime going from dealer to dealer on a vain search to complete something will thrill over the foil cards. All 122 cards are reprinted as foil cards and the foil sets are near impossible to complete and seem to be disproportionately less valuable than the master sets of non-foil cards. In other words, while the foil sets might take hundreds of dollars to complete, dealers seem to only be able to get in the low hundred dollars for them, probably because many collectors didn't go for this gimmick from Decipher.


Fun but fairly overproduced, "Mines Of Moria" is good if it can be found inexpensively and has some decent cards for beefing up a deck, but is hard to get wild about as an investment set.

This set was preceded by "The Fellowship Of The Ring" (reviewed here!) and followed by "Realms Of The Elf-Lords" (reviewed here!)

I sell cards from this set of The Lord Of The Rings TCG in my store. Check out my current inventory by clicking here!


For other gaming card reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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