MECCG. The Middle Earth Collectible Card Game, a game that allows the player to write his own story within the realms of Middle Earth. The game premiered in the last quarter of 1996 with the base set, Middle Earth: The Wizards. Since the game's inception the MECCG has seen four expansions and the addition of Middle Earth: The Lidless Eye. Each product in the MECCG product line has brought with it a new dimension of play and expanded the options a player has to choose from when building his deck. All of these options can be a bit overwhelming to the new initiate who is eager to begin play. It is the goal of this first instalment of the Paths of Middle Earth to give the new player an idea of how the expansions and the two base sets are integrated together in the MECCG.
So which base set does the initiate start with, Middle Earth: The Wizards or Middle Earth: The Lidless Eye? The novice should consider starting with Middle Earth: The Wizards, because it contains fewer rules for the new player to master. There is only one set of rules that governs play - 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. Before going any further there are a few basic concepts that need to be imparted to the reader. 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.
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 fight the Shadow. In this role you will guide the heroes of Middle Earth in the Free Peoples' battle against the Shadow. This set contains many of the heroes that are familiar to fans of Middle Earth. 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. Middle Earth: The Wizards is definitely the set you would start with if you were eager to fight the Shadow!
While ME: The Wizards lets the player fight the war against the Shadow, ME: The Lidless Eye lets a player become the hand of Sauron in order to subjugate the Free Peoples of Middle Earth. In ME: The Lidless Eye the player can either be one of the Nine Nazgul or they 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 expansions each have a theme that defines them and they bolster the number of cards available to a person playing either a Hero Deck, from ME: The Wizards or a Minion Deck from ME: The Lidless Eye. The first expansion was Middle Earth: Dragons. This expansion dealt with the incorporating the legendary Dragons of Middle Earth into the game. This expansion came out before 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 Dragons 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. Even though there are no resources available in the Dragons expansion for the player of a Minion deck, they still can incorporate elements of the Dragon hazard strategy into their deck. The hazard strategy available from the Dragons expansion allows any player to occasionally bring a Dragon out of his lair with devastating effect. The Dark Minions expansion soon followed the Dragons, as the next expansion to the MECCG. 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. Minions are individuals devoted to the shadow and a player may place them throughout Middle Earth in order to hinder and thwart the other player. Overall the Dark Minions does not introduce many new universal hazards, rather it introduces the Agent to the MECCG and hazard cards that facilitate the effectiveness of the Agents. 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. Any player may send his company into these dark realms and if they can survive the dangers, the rewards that can be gained will be great. The Dark Minions was also released before ME: The Lidless Eye and the resources are devoted to the player using a Hero Deck.
The third expansion for the MECCG is Against the Shadow. This is an expansion which is almost devoted to the player that has delved into ME: The Lidless Eye. Against the Shadow is an important expansion for the player of a Minion Deck, because it introduces a plethora of utilitarian resource cards that are essential for the Minion Deck player. Anyone playing a Minion Deck should consider Against the Shadow as the number one expansion for expanding the Minion strategies. 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 latest expansion is 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. Playing a Fallen Wizard can be an immense amount of fun, because 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.