MECCG, the Middle-earth Collectible Card Game, is a game that allows the player to tell his own stories within the realms of J.R.R Tolkien's Middle-earth. The game premiered in the last quarter of 1996 with the base set, Middle-earth: The Wizards. Since the initial release ICE (Iron Crown Enterprises) has expanded the game with one new stand alone set Middle-earth: The Lidless Eye & five expansion sets giving the player the option to either play the part of one of the five Wizards (Gandalf, Saruman, Radagast, Alatar or Pallando), or one of the nine Ringwraiths, even Sauron himself if the fancy takes you. You can also decide to play the part of one of the Wizards having been corrupted from his initial goals or ravage the Underdeeps of Middle-earth in the form of Morgoth's Balrog. The limits of the game seem now to be little other than one's imagination.
The basic concept of play in Middle-earth is that a player guides a company of characters in an effort to gather resources. While the player is traveling around Middle-earth in an effort to gather resources his opponent is playing hazards on him in order to hinder or stop the player from interacting in the world of Middle-earth. Players who wish to travel Middle-earth by building their decks from ME: The Wizards are creating Hero Decks, whilst those players whose decks are built from ME: The Lidless Eye are using Minion Decks. The Hero and Minion decks each have their own set of characters and resources available to them, but they all can choose from any of the available hazards in the game. The additional rules found in ME: The Lidless Eye are not hard to master and with all the expansions currently available to the new player, neither choice will limit the options available to the player in building a deck.
With these two base sets the question begs which should the novice start with, Middle-earth: The Wizards or Middle-earth: The Lidless Eye? To me the novice should consider starting with Middle-earth: The Wizards, because it contains fewer rules for the new player to master. The introduction of ME: The Lidless Eye made some additions to the existing rules. These additions were all done in order to incorporate the play of Ringwraiths and their servants into the game.
The first set, Middle-earth: The Wizards is aptly named, because as a player you will take the role of one of the Wizards, Gandalf, Radagast, Saruman, Alatar, or Pallando, sent to Middle-earth to aid the Free People's in their fight against the Shadow. It would be a simple task to construct a deck with all the heroes of the fellowship, such as Frodo, Sam, and Aragorn, and set forth to destroy the One Ring at Mount Doom.
In ME: The Lidless Eye the player can either be one of the Nine Nazgul or he or she can bring forth Sauron during the course of the game. Along with striking fear into the peoples of Middle-earth with one of the Ringwraiths, the player can put together a fierce company of orcs, trolls, and agents of Sauron, in order to retrieve items for the Dark Lord or retrieve his most precious possession, The One Ring.
The first of the expansions was Middle-earth: Dragons. This expansion dealt with the the legendary Dragons of Middle-earth. This expansion was released prior to the Lidless Eye, and it only contains resources that aid the player of a Hero Deck, but the hazards can be used by a player with either a Hero or a Minion Deck. The expansion gives the player of a Hero Deck the ability to gather items hoarded by the Dragons of Middle-earth to aid their cause with the free peoples.
The Dark Minions expansion soon followed as the next expansion. There are two key features in the Dark Minions expansion, the Agents of Sauron and the Underdeeps. The introduction of the Agents adds another dimension to the hazard strategy of both Hero and Minion decks. Agents are individuals devoted to the shadow and a player may place them throughout Middle-earth in order to hinder and thwart the other player. The other new element introduced to the game is the Underdeeps. The Underdeeps represent those hidden places that were carved out in the time of Morgoth.
The third expansion for the MECCG is Against the Shadow. This is an expansion was produced in order to support ME: The Lidless Eye and is an essential part of any minion player. Against the Shadow does contain resources for the player using a Hero deck and there are some good hazards available in Against the Shadow, but its main focus is improving the resource mix for the player using a Minion deck.
The fourth expansion was the White Hand, and this expansion allows a player to become one of the Fallen Wizards. Included in the Fallen Wizard expansion are cards for both the Hero and Minion decks, but primarily it contains resources that are specific to the Fallen Wizard. The Fallen Wizard can use both Hero and Minion resources and characters, however, the Fallen Wizard player does not always gain the same amount of reward from accomplishing deeds in Middle-earth, as his counterpart would receive from doing the same deed. This aside, the flexibility and just the ability to play a Fallen Wizard are sufficient incentive to start with the White Hand expansion after purchasing one of the base sets.
Finally, the most recent expansion is The Balrog. With this the player takes the part of Morgoth's old lieutenant prowling the labyrinths of the Underdeeps and gathering his forces to take control of Arda for himself. The Balrog player is considered to be playing a minion deck and uses the appropriate cards from the previous sets. The Balrog expansion contains resources and hazards for both the Hero or Minion player though it also contains resources specific to the Balrog himself.
Without going in to the mechanics of the game system I hope this will give those that don't play the game some idea of what it's about, and who knows it might even convince some of you to go out and buy it! I promise you: If you are a Tolkien fan you'll learn to love the game.
Who knows maybe we'll se you at one of our tournaments in the future...