Sunday, August 21, 2011

Just Because It's Easy, Doesn't Mean It's Great: "The Wraith Collection" Is All Right.

The Good: Interesting concept, Powerful cards, Great images
The Bad: Only six cards! Cannot play the game with only this set.
The Basics: An interesting and fun set, though hardly limited, The Wraith Collection creatively expands The Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game!

As Decipher, Inc. was in the process of losing its most impressive licenses for trading card games, it began to innovate. Selling directly to its customer base, it attempted to use its online store to sell limited edition products that they could produce and turn around quickly. One such product was "The Enterprise Collection" another was "The Wraith Collection" for The Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game.

With "The Wraith Collection," Decipher actually got creative. The set might only have six cards, but they are foil cards and the image on each and every one is of a creature designed by WETA Workshop, the special effects company that worked on The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy. In other words, this set is not one that includes anything that was actually seen on the big screen! It is all conceptual computer-generated images and it makes for an interesting little set.

Basics/Set Composition

"The Wraith Collection" was the sixteenth set of The Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game cards created by Decipher. 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 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.

"The Wraith Collection" is a six card set focusing on villainous characters implied in the The Lord Of The Rings films (reviewed here!). This set is designed to expand the vision of Middle Earth and as a result is made up of minions who did not actually appear in the movies, but might as well have given the quality of the images on the cards! The set consists of 6 exclusive rare cards and it is sold as a complete set.

The 6 card foil set features 6 Wraith Affiliation cards. They are all Minion (cards you set upon your opponent) cards. They are all six Minions, which means they are characters, adversaries one plays against the current Fellowship player.

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.

Sites form the board for the game, known as the Adventure Path. Sites are seeded in accordance to the rules of bidding (all of this is clearly established in the rulebook, which is available in the starter decks). The rulebook clearly defines what each deck must possess in terms of numbers of the card types. But basically, one starts by laying out a board, determining which player goes first, then setting them off through a Fellowship Phase (wherein the current player adds any characters they can and moves to the next site), Shadow Phase (Shadow players seed Minions to set against the current player's Fellowship), Maneuver Phase, Archery Phase (archers fire and it becomes the first chance to try to take out enemies), Assignment Phase (villains target Fellowship Companions), Skirmish (they actually battle) and then Regroup.

This is a fairly complex trading card game, but it represents a level of gaming sophistication designed to appeal to younger adults and actually challenge them, which is a decent idea given the complexity of Middle Earth. The problem, of course, is that most people who would be most stimulated by this game do not have the time or effort/interest to learn to play it. As a result, the mid-teens that basically run the CCG players world seem to have had mixed impressions about this game. Many players seem to enjoy that cards have a "cost" to them, adding a sense of risk to playing many of the better cards.

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; it's not so much the function of a review to rehash all that as it is to evaluate it. The rules are fairly clear and the game basically follows the same format at laid out in the rulebooks that were updated in "Bloodlines" (reviewed here!).

There are no new rules in "The Wraith Collection." There are not even any new card types! This is just a pure expansion which continues the game, not alters it, making it great for players.


Players, collectors and fans of The Lord Of The Rings franchise will appreciate the image quality of the characters and scenarios from the films. The "The Wraith Collection" set features new adversaries, like corpses, wisps, and undead spirits to set upon one's adversary.

But the best of this set is 16R5 Spirit Of Dread. Sure, it costs seven to play, but beginning with the second Site, it can be brought into play and has a strength of fourteen, which means it can easily take out the most powerful members of virtually any Fellowship (even an Ent!) and with three vitality and the fact that it's enduring, it's seven shadow tokens well spent! As well, while it remains in play, Fellowship players cannot heal, if there is one other Wraith Affiliation minion around. And if you need to boost another Wraith, exert Spirit Of Dread and it'll add strength to another wraith! Powerful card!


This set is limited to the exclusive packs of six cards and was only originally available through the Decipher website. Prices have come down now on the secondary market, but this is widely available and it will likely take quite a bit of time to appreciate in value. At least it is easy to collect.


"The Wraith Collection" is decent, limited set for players, but collectors and investors will likely find it too simplistic to get excited about. It is a good, but not great, set.

This set was preceded by the "The Hunters" (reviewed here!) and followed by "Rise Of Saruman" (reviewed here!).


For other card reviews, please 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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