Saturday, June 25, 2011

The End Arrives For The Lord Of The Rings TCG With "Mount Doom."

The Good: A few, decent stronger characters, Resolves the game
The Bad: Light on companions, Usual collectibility issues (foils)
The Basics: A good, but not fabulous, set finishes off the first incarnation of The Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game with "Mount Doom."

All good things come to an end, as they say. In this case, The Lord Of The Rings trading card game had a pretty obvious end in sight as the film trilogy was coming to an end and there was the enduring question of how long the merchandising could persist without the actual films being produced. To prepare for the end of the set, Decipher, Inc., which developed the game, released "Mount Doom."

"Mount Doom" ushers the end of the first series of The Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game cards before the series was rebooted a few months later with "Shadows." Had it truly ended here, the legacy of the game probably would have been that this game was one that players loved and had to adapt to as the game - like the film franchise - became bigger than anticipated. Gamers who enjoyed the small, easy-to-learn mechanic soon had to adapt to cards that allowed for a larger sense of warfare, just as there were escalating battles in the film series up through The Return Of The King.

Basics/Set Composition

"Mount Doom" was the tenth 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 strategy game that is like a Role-playing game with cards.

"Mount Doom" is a 122-card set focusing on characters, location, artifacts, villains and scenarios presented in the third The Lord Of The Rings film, mostly at the end of the movie. This card set utilizes material from the film - portions where the One Ring is finally destroyed and the elves ultimately leave Middle Earth - presenting a playing environment that allows players to truly take advantage of the most powerful entities in Middle Earth. The set consists of 40 common cards, 40 uncommon cards, 40 rare cards and 2 starter deck exclusive cards, with many of the Fellowship being represented, including Aragorn, Frodo and Sam.

The 122 card set features 3 Dwarven, 10 Elven, 5 Gandalf, 6 Gollum, 10 Gondor, 1 Isengard, 17 Raider, 19 Ringwraith, 3 Rohan, 29 Sauron, and 15 Shire Affiliation cards, and 4 Site cards. These are generally broken down evenly between Fellowship (your cards you play with) and Shadow (cards you set upon your opponent) cards, though there are a few more Shadow cards in this deck than Fellowship ones. Within the various affiliations, there are: 1 Artifact (unique items in Middle Earth, like the Phial of Galadriel), 15 Companion (cards depicting primary characters and those who may join your customized Fellowship, like Aragorn or Eowyn), 28 Condition (cards illustrating long-term changes to Middle Earth that remain in play more than one turn, like Dwarven Memories Of Darkness or the Raiders letting loose a Rallying Call), 28 Event (cards depicting temporary effects on players, like a Gathering Wind or being Beaten Back by Sauron's forces), 42 Minion (cards depicting villains used to obstruct your opponent, like Shelob or Shagrat), 4 Possession (cards depicting objects used to enhance the natural strength or endurance of a character, like Gorbag's Sword or Orc Armor), and 4 Site (cards depicting locations in Middle Earth, they form the "board" for the game).

This set plays out the resolution of The Return Of The King and provides a few images of the final incarnations of character like Eowyn, Arwen and Aragorn. 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 are used.

Rules/Rule Changes

There is no rule book with booster boxes of "Mount Doom," so one needs to have prior knowledge in order to play the game out of the box. The cards are written such that the rules as updated in "The Siege Of Gondor" (reviewed here!) apply. There are no new rules in "Mount Doom."


Players, collectors and fans of The Lord Of The Rings franchise will appreciate the image quality of the characters and scenarios from The Return Of The King. The "Mount Doom" set features the decent ways to enhance the much-neglected Sauron affiliation, giving it a final kick as the game comes to an end. There are powerful villains throughout, though, like Gothmog and a new Shelob.

But it is 10R25 Aragorn, Elessar Telcontar that rules the "Mount Doom" set. Gifted with an additional point of strength, Aragorn finally has a fighting chance against the legions of adversaries that could be set upon him. He costs five to play, but with a 9 for strength, most players will only want to play with this Aragorn from this point on!


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

These starter deck cards were not released in the boxes nor in The Return Of The King Anthology boxed set. Still, it was one of the more rare sets and there was only a single pack of "Mount Doom" cards in the Anthology boxed sets.

In addition to the regular cards being so rare, 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.


"Mount Doom" is an adequate set and a decent way to end the "first edition" of The Lord Of The Rings trading card game. It is not, however, a grand exit. Instead, it is a closing of this chapter and there is the general sense that the developers at Decipher were already looking toward the next incarnation and were simply putting this series to rest with as little fanfare as possible. Objectively, then, this is a more average than extraordinary set.

This set culls material from The Return Of The King, which is reviewed here!

This set was preceded by "Reflections" (reviewed here!) and followed by "Shadows" (review pending).

This is one of the many sets of The Lord Of The Rings TCG cards I sell in my online store! Please check out my current inventory of sets and singles by clicking here!


For other 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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