Monday, February 28, 2011

The Next Obvious Step In The Lord Of The Rings TCG: The Two Towers Arrives!

The Good: Some very cool cards (especially rares), New affiliations
The Bad: Serious collectibility issue (foils), Still no Gollum!
The Basics: Despite not being able to make a master set from a booster box, The Two Towers is a strong product worthy of any gamer's time and money!

As I work my way through The Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game products, I find myself reminded why I enjoyed this game so much. For sure, the obvious reason would be it was based on one of the coolest and biggest movie franchises of all time (it's not like they did a successful Trading Card Game for it before the movies). In my case it was that there was finally a Trading Card Game to come along that I could simply read the directions to and I knew what I was doing. So many CCGs have poorly written rulebooks and even rather smart people might be baffled by how to play after reading the rulebook.

So, when The Two Towers was released, I was eager for the Trading Card Game expansion and, for the most part, it delivers along expectations. There are new affiliations (Rohan, Dunland), Gandalf returned to the game, and the Adventure Path was beefed up with new locations to challenge players. And it was good.

The Two Towers gaming cards continued The Lord Of The Rings TCG game with the The Two Towers Block (the second three sets of The Lord Of The Rings TCG cards, which focused pretty closely on the actions of the movies). This expansion reinvigorated the game by re-establishing all of the main characters as they appeared in The Two Towers. As well, this set marks the appearance of horselords and Southron Raiders in the game, making it a good one for shaking up one's deck. 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. However, Starter Decks for The Two Towers are fairly easy to come by.

Basics/Set Composition

The Two Towers was the fourth 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. Players might prefer that I describe the game instead as a strategy game that is like a Role-playing game with cards.

The Two Towers is a 365-card set focusing on characters, location, artifacts, villains and scenarios presented in the second The Lord Of The Rings film. This card set utilizes material from the film, encompassing the entirety of the movie. This allows for a very rich sense of the Middle Earth world to be presented. The set consists of 121 common cards, 121 uncommon cards, 121 rare cards and 2 starter deck exclusive cards, with all of the surviving Fellowship members being granted two cards each - usually a rare and a common or uncommon. For those who might not have been playing The Lord Of The Rings TCG before now, this is a great set to start with as it more or less reboots the game franchise.

The 365 card set features 2 One Ring, 38 Dunland, 17 Dwarven, 30 Elven, 21 Gandalf, 28 Gondor, 80 Isengard, 47 Raider, 37 Rohan, and 25 Shire Affiliation cards, and 40 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: 2 The One Ring (technically belonging to neither affiliation, it is a unique, powerful and necessary card with its own rules), 7 Ally (cards depicting supporting characters, like Guma and Treebeard), 3 Artifact (cards of rare/unique objects, like Gandalf's Staff or the Palantir Of Orthanc), 40 Companion (cards depicting primary characters and those who may join your customized Fellowship, like Eowyn or Aragorn), 60 Condition (cards illustrating long-term changes to Middle Earth that remain in play more than one turn, like a Fortress Never Fallen or having No Retreat from the Dunland hordes!), 90 Event (cards depicting temporary effects on players, like being given An Honorable Charge or suffering a Flanking Attack), 88 Minion (cards depicting villains used to obstruct your opponent, like Grima or a Southron Archer), 35 Possession (cards depicting objects used to enhance the natural strength or endurance of a character, like Lembas bread or Faramir's Cloak), and 40 Site (cards depicting locations in Middle Earth, they form the "board" for the game).

This set plays out the various events of The Two Towers, so there are no Ringwraith or Moria minions to menace the Fellowship, though there are legions of Uruk-Hai. 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.

Rules/Rule Changes

The rulebook for this game is forty pages long and the rules are essentially the same as they were when the set was released with The Fellowship Of The Ring (reviewed here!).

There are no rules changes in The Two Towers. There are, however, three new affiliations. The Dunland (the wild men who ally themselves with Saruman) appear as do the Raiders (the Olifant-riding archers from the South) to oppose the Fellowship player. These are governed by the standard rules for Shadow Players. To beef up the Fellowship, there is the Rohan affiliation which comes into play and the horselords make instantly valuable allies to the Fellowship players.


Players, collectors and fans of The Lord Of The Rings franchise will appreciate the image quality of the characters and scenarios from The Two Towers. The The Two Towers set features even more Elves, which is a great way to get ahead in the Archery phase, though it is somewhat balanced by the emerging Raiders affiliation. One of the biggest detractions would have to be the Dunland affiliation; I don't know anyone who likes playing these big, dumb humans who are pretty easily killed. Conversely, the Isengard Affiliation becomes an almost unbeatable powerhouse in this set!

And for the best card of the set, I'm going with 4R103 Treebeard, Earthborn. Despite being Unhasty (which means he acts last), this Treebeard is a powerful Ally who can kick some serious butt in the later portions of the game, when it helps to have something that powerful. He only costs four to play and his special skill is to rescue unbound Hobbits before they are discarded. Because Frodo can get very weak as the game goes on, Treebeard becomes an ideal card to play to continually rescue Sam, who can take up the Ring if your Frodo falls. As a result, this Treebeard can act like a double insurance policy by rescuing your last hope for staying in the game while taking out some of the more powerful adversaries late in the game!


Rares are evenly distributed in the booster packs, making only two starter decks necessary for those collecting a master set, as the Aragorn and Theodin decks each have a single card that cannot be found in the booster packs. Those starter decks remain some of the easiest to find, so completing a master set is not hampered by trying to find those!

These cards popped up in several other products, like The Two Towers Anthology boxed set, "Reflections" and The Two Towers Draft Packs. As a result, these cards have been devalued some because the supply is so high.

However, 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 365 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 to thousands of dollars to complete, dealers seem to only be able to get a couple hundred dollars for them, probably because many collectors didn't go for this gimmick from Decipher.


The Two Towers is a great way to get into The Lord Of The Rings TCG, providing an easy to learn, compelling and fun game that is generally easy to collect. Players will like the way this game gets shaken up by the new cards, collectors will like the opportunity to get something new. Investors might have to wait a long time to see if this set appreciates, but given its overproduction, it's a fair bet that only the foil set might.

This set culls material from the film The Two Towers, which is reviewed here!

This set was preceded by "Realms Of The Elf-Lords" (reviewed here!) and followed by "Battle Of Helm's Deep" (reviewed here!).

This is a set of The Lord Of The Rings gaming cards that I sell in my online store!  Check out my current inventory of them by clicking here!


For other card reviews, please be sure to visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

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

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