Start time: 2PM ET – 4/22/2021
Nate, Caleb and MJ are on stream and introducing themselves.
FFG Marketing Manager Kasey Pulkrabek: Where did the idea for Lord of the Rings LCG come from?
Nate: “The idea originally came from watching CCG players at tournaments…doing goldfishing. Shuffling up…playing hands against an imaginary opponent. Watching this, this is how the idea of where a game that could be played co-op, or solo, came from.”
Nate: “We made a couple demo decks and a scenario…demoed it [at GenCon] to thousands of players, got that feedback, and I think that’s where we got it to where it needed to be to be successful.”
Nate: “There’s a card in the core set called Gandalf’s map. There’s a card…I don’t know if it’s the font or something, but Corey drew the game, and read it off as ‘Gandalf’s Mad,’ and it became an in-office meme.”
MJ: “We have a lot of fun at Fantasy Flight. What sticks out to me most for LOTR is that it was a fun game to play, so whenever we were playtesting, we were just having fun. Working…but having a ton of fun doing it. Me and Caleb we were singing while we were playing, because we had a lot of inside jokes. We had a lot of joke art briefs…Aragorn standing on a boat…’I never thought I’d be on a boat.'”
Caleb: “We had all these jokes, we still do them…like Master of Lore…’OBEY YOUR MASTER’ [Metallica]. And Jeremy Zwirn gives us the stinkeye. So my story is another font issue…graphic design…production would have a different version. This happened with the second Hobbit box…somewhere the font went back, and we got a whole bunch of cards with the Arkenstone with no text…we had to open up however many copies in that run…thousands of copies…with a little note explaining what happened.”
Nate: “Those fonts are a mess, to this day I’ll be typing something…and it’ll be a dollar sign or something.”
Caleb: “Once you use the LOTR font, your dollar sign is replaced by the crown of Sauron.”
How is building a co-op experience different than other games you’ve worked on?
Nate: “The idea of competition and challenge. The challenge is primarily from your opponent. The game is just at tool to interact with that opponent. With a co-op game you have to design for a wide swath of challenge levels. So finding ways to engage people will all sorts of skill levels was one of the biggest shifts for working with this game.”
What was your experience with keeping players interested, but also finding fun new challenges for people playing the game?
MJ: “Nate had done the first three nightmare decks for the core set. So they were like…let’s do nightmare mode for everything. Caleb couldn’t do that by himself. So they brought me on board thankfully. Not only to make it harder…but give veteran players a new experience. The way Nate described it to me was dovetailed from what he was just explaining. We’ve reacted sort of to what strategies you’ve included in your deck, and we know what you’re going to do, and are one step ahead of you.”
What was it like being the lead developer on the game for nine years?
Caleb: “Being on the game for so long, every day, I woke up, and thought ‘I got to make LOTR today.’ People would ask me ‘do you ever get tired of working on it?’ No, no. I get to interact with my favorite characters, be creative with so many wonderful people. LOTR has one of the most fantastic communities built up around it. It was a difficult decision…to sunset the game after nine years. I’m lead on Marvel Champions now and I love working with Michael Boggs now…but there’s something special about Lord of the Rings.
I might be putting you on the spot here Nate, but do you have one more story?
Nate: “It won’t be a humorous story. But when I kind of realized the game was doing what we set out to do. We had a tournament at the FFG Center, it was a GoT tournament, Michael Hurley, he was one of our executives at the time. The next day, he was like ‘hey Nate, I really wanted to play some more cards, and I played the LOTR prototype,’ and he told me a story of what was going on in his games. And I was like wow, that was what we wanted to do. Make a game someone could turn to when they didn’t have someone to play with.”
Caleb: “I remember Andrew Navaro sharing a similar story. He was playing the second scenario in the core set. And you can’t engage the enemies because in the story you’re on a raft in t he river. And he was like wow this is really going to work…the story it tells…the mechanics pull you in. That was feedback I was happy to get. You’re at the Prancing Pony, and you’re tracking down a murder suspect…or you’re in the Ruins of Belegost and you’re being stalked by a dragon…that sense of dread.”
MJ: “To build off of that. It’s remarkable and to your credit, Caleb, that we were able to still make scenarios (after nine years)…that still felt different. How many scenarios? Over 100?
Caleb: “112 last time I checked! You blew my mind with the Flight of the Stormcaller, everyone loved Flight of the Stormcaller. I actually built a scenario that was a straight-up ripoff of yours when I made Race Across Harad]. Tyler helped out too. Nate and I got to jam on the very last one.”
Nate: (Smirking) “I was out of ideas after that first cycle.”
That’s it goodbye everyone! Check out the 10th Anniversary Achievement List on the support section of the Fantasy Flight website.