Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Lord Of The Rings Goes Out Perfectly With "Age's End!"

The Good: Interesting concept, Powerful cards, Great images, All foils, Easy to collect, Limited!
The Bad: None!
The Basics: The perfect set to cap off The Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game, "Age's End" has some beautiful foil cards for collectors!

From the perspective of any number of players and collectors, the downturn of Decipher, Inc., the gaming card company was rather abrupt. Sure, there had been rumors of the company floundering and late-to-market releases of easy sets the company was producing like "The Wraith Collection" (reviewed here!) but most of us had no idea how beleaguered the company actually was until it lost The Lord Of The Rings and Star Trek licenses in rapid succession. Indeed, it was rather suddenly that fans found out about the existence of "Age's End," the final The Lord Of The Rings gaming card set. At least, the company went out with a bang with this set, producing arguably the most simple and best limited edition set the company ever created.

With "Age's End," Decipher got quite creative. The limited edition set might only had forty cards, but they are all foil cards and the images are great, there is every major hero from the cinematic trilogy, as well as most of the major villains. In fact, there are two original Minion cards - two different Trolls designed by WETA! After looking through the set again, the only real omissions are all minor, though it would have been nice to have a final Sauron card! Sure, we can live without one, just like we can live without another Faramir, Saruman, or Elrond, but they sure would have been nice! This is, arguably, just nit-picking because I think this is a perfect set, even though there was no way to play the game with just this forty-card deck.

Basics/Set Composition

"Age's End" was the eighteenth and final 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.

"Age's End" is a forty card set focusing on characters, location, artifacts, villains and scenarios presented in the The Lord Of The Rings films. Released as the final set in a limited edition deck, this card set utilizes material from all three films as well as two cards created especially for this set. This presents a well-rounded playing environment from Middle Earth. The set consists of 40 premium rare foil cards, with the most popular characters being presented.

The 40 card foil set features 1 One Ring, 3 Dwarven, 3 Elven, 2 Gandalf, 2 Gollum, 4 Gondor, 2 Isengard, 6 Orc, 3 Rohan, 1 Sauron, 5 Shire, 1 Uruk-Hai, and 7 Wraith Affiliation 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: 1 One Ring (a unique card with properties governed by the text on the card), 13 Companion (cards depicting primary characters and those who may join your customized Fellowship, like Legolas or Aragorn or Eowyn), 9 Condition (cards illustrating long-term changes to Middle Earth that remain in play more than one turn, like Frodo seeing Wraiths In Twilight or the men of the Fellowship finding themselves Not Bound To His Fate), 2 Event (cards depicting temporary effects on players, like Sauron's Might or Gimli's body count revealed as "That's Two!"), and 15 Minion (cards depicting villains used to obstruct your opponent, like a Grima or the Balrog).

This set continues the game with a very broad sense of the Middle Earth universe as characterized by The Lord Of The Rings films. The boxes are comprised of six forty-card decks. Each deck has all of the same forty foil cards.


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.

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

There is no rulebook for this set. There were no rule changes and this set simply follows the rules as revised back in "The Hunters" (reviewed here!). There were no new game mechanics or rule changes in this set; 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 "Age's End" set features new adversaries, like trolls and tentacles to set upon one's opponent!

Easily the best of this set is 18P21 Watcher In The Water, Many-tentacled Creature. This minion card costs only four tokens to play and looks completely badass! With eleven points of strength is can pretty much eliminate any member of the Fellowship, including a mithril coat-wearing Frodo! As well, if played with the two accompanying Tentacles (Reaching and Strong) this can pretty easily decimate a Fellowship and leave your opponent in a very precarious position!

The WETA-designed troll cards are interesting and they are fun, but they are also more costly to play. They were a good idea and one that is well-executed for this set, but the Watcher is just that much better!


This set is limited to the exclusive packs of forty cards and was only originally available for a short time before Decipher lost the license. Prices have come down now on the secondary market, but they still command a decent price (about $50 for the foil set of forty cards) and the boxes of decks are getting harder to find. At least it is easy to collect. As the final set, this will always have some inherent value.


"Age's End" is decent, limited set for players. As well, collectors and investors will enjoy that this is the final hurrah for a pretty excellent gaming card line.

This set culls material from the The Lord Of The Rings Extended Edition Trilogy, reviewed here!

This is a set of gaming cards I proudly sell in my online store! For my current inventory of them, please click here!

This set was preceded by "Treachery & Deceit" (reviewed here!) and was not followed by anything!.


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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