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CardShark Content - Patrick Sullivan (9/9/2003)

With the release date of the LOTR Online Trading Card Game fast approaching, I thought it might be fun to bring you in on a couple of cool features that have been incorporated into the game for tournament-level play (which is the main reason I plan on going Online).

When you currently play a game in the real physical world, you certainly don’t go through each and every phase vocally (unless you’re in one of those infamous Malboeuf/Josh showdowns). However, once in while you might pretend to be thinking over a Maneuver action just to shake up your opponent and let him believe you may be hanging on to a Secret Sentinels or a Defend it and Hope. And what Nazgul player doesn’t stage an occasional show when their Witch King is about to die in archery and you want the freeps player to think you have an All Blades Perish in your hand? These issues must also come out in the LOTR Online game through a preference function known as auto-pass.

In casual games you’ll probably keep auto-pass on to speed things up a bit. For instance if you and your opponent have no maneuver or archery actions you could possibly play, then once the shadow player ends his shadow phase, the free peoples player will be asked to assign minions. This is a very useful function that keeps things moving along rather then have both players click on pass twice each. However, this would immediately tell the freeps player that the shadow player does not have a BlingBling or a Relentless Charge in his hand. It would also tell the shadow player that Legolas isn’t holding on to a Double Shot or Company of Archers. So you would certainly want to keep your opponent guessing in tournament play, right? So quite simply, you would turn off auto-pass for various events.

The ultimate in mixing up your opponent would be to turn off auto-pass for each and every possible event and response there can be. Thus every time one of your Nazgul takes a wound, you would have to click on pass whether or not you have any All Blades Drawn in your hand or in your deck, for that matter. Your opponent will never know exactly what you DON’T have in your hand which could make a big difference. However, as you can probably already tell, this could add a lot of time to a timed game, so how do we account for this? Isn’t it an extremely easy stall tactic to just turn on auto-pass for all actions and take appropriate double moves when less than five minutes remain? This leads us to the second feature which is the ultimate anti-stall weapon ever created.

This feature does not have an actual name yet nor have the actual mechanics been worked out but let’s just call it the ‘chess clock’ for now. Now this feature isn’t nearly as significant as the auto-pass preference, but I actually think the notion of having a chess clock in LOTR is extremely interesting. Basically when a game does go to time, the winner will no longer be determined by resistance, site path, dead pile nor companions. Rather the chess clock tells all. For those of you unfamiliar with a chess clock, basically every time you complete an action or phase and it becomes the other player’s turn to do something, you ‘punch’ the clock and thus pass the play to your opponent. What the clock does is keep two separate timers going to see which player is taking more time to do stuff.

Now what I don’t know is how exactly this mechanic will work to determine the loser of a timed game. I would imagine one of three things will happen:

1. When time is called, you play until the regroup phase and then the player that used up more time on the clock will receive a timed loss.
2. When time is called, the play immediately stops and the player that has taken more time on the clock will receive a timed loss (I don’t think this will happen because it’s too easy to manipulate the last few minutes of a game).
3. Each player is given a certain amount of time on their clock at the beginning (say, 25-30 minutes) and if ever they use up all of their time, they immediately receive a timed-loss.
4. Each player is given a certain amount of time on their clock at the beginning (say, 25-30 minutes) and when the game goes to time, play until the regroup phase and the player (or culprit) that has used up more of their time would receive the timed loss.
5. Each player is given a certain amount of time on their clock at the beginning (say, 25-30 minutes) and when the game goes to time, the player (or culprit) that has used up more of their time would receive the timed loss.

I think the third option is the best. No player should ever use up more than 25 minutes of the game’s time in THEIR OWN PHASES. I think that the third option is very fair and would ensure that players don’t stall and get to know their decks really well. However, if we want to keep the notion of ‘play until the regroup phase’ then option 4 becomes the best one. The danger of option three is that some games will be called time before the 45 minute limit has expired. That is why option five might be a bit superior to option 3. Anyway you can see how much fun we can have with this chess clock. I almost think it’s viable in real-life physical play. Unfortunately it would add an enormous additional stress since you would then have to manage your own time in a countdown type of way. Although this is essentially no different than trying to get your game done in 45 minutes, it simply points the finger on who’s fault it is. Even the best Moria players should be able to play 8 sites worth of minions in 25 minutes.

So those are the two latest features that have been added to the LOTR Online Trading Card Game. Both features truly are meant for tournament play and you can certainly see why. Big cash prizes will be available for some of the tournaments that will be played Online including most likely a Premier Series and Continental Championship (Online being a separate continent for this purpose, although I think they should call it the Antarctic Continental Championship). So make sure and pick up your copy of the game when it becomes available.

Tune in to http://lotrtcg.decipher.com/ for more details about the game.

Thanks for reading!

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