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Variant Rules for MECCG

Copyright Nigel Buckle and Joe Bisz ©2001

Edited by Nigel Buckle for The Guild Companion

This article covers all the official optional rules (except multiplayer and solo) published by Iron Crown Enterprises for MECCG along with many variant rules that players may find interesting. The variant rules can be used singly or in combination to make the game of MECCG fresh for even the most experienced player.

Official Optional Rules:

From Middle Earth: The Wizards

Burglaring A Hobbit may attempt to "burglar" at an untapped site. If you decide to make a burglary attempt, make a roll. If the result is greater than 5, the hobbit taps the site without facing the automatic-attack and may tap to play an item that is playable at that site. Otherwise, the hobbit faces the automatic-attack alone.

This rule is recreated in Middle Earth: The Dragons with the Burglary card.

Recently Visited Sites If a site is in the opponent's discard pile, the number of strikes and prowess for the site's automatic attack are increased by 1.

Tapping to Face Multiple Strikes A character can tap, take a 3 mod and face two strikes.

A similar effect is generated in Middle Earth: The Dragons with the Many Foes He Fought card.

Defending with Influence Often a card or an influence check requires the defending character to add his player's unused general influence to a roll. Instead of using his unused general influence, the defending player may chose to use the unused direct influence of a non-Wizard character in the same company.

Wizards as Starting Characters One of your starting characters may be your Wizard. For these purposes, his mind attribute is 12 (i.e. he requires 12 out of your 20 points of mind attributes of starting characters).

The following optional rules are normally used in tournament play:

Breaking Ties The weakest link method is used if players have an equal number of marshalling points at the Free Council. One corruption point is added to each non-Wizard character, and each non-Wizard character makes another corruption check. Marshalling Points are recounted and victory goes to the player with the new highest total, if there is still a tie another point of corruption is added and another corruption check made for each character. This process is continued until either a victor emerges or all non-Wizard characters are corrupted away, in which case settle the tie with a die roll.

Some tournaments do not use this optional rule and instead a tie is worth 3 tournament points to each player. It is best to check with the tournament organiser which method is to be used before play starts.

Special Movement to Gorgoroth A non-minion company may only move to or from a site in Gorgoroth by using one of the following:

  • Specific region movement from a site in Imlad Morgul
  • Specific region movement that passes through Nurn or Udun

Official Optional Rules:

From Middle Earth: The Lidless Eye

Stealing Items After Company Vs Company Combat, if all your opponent's company has only wounded characters you may attempt to "steal an item". To do this you must tap a character in the company involved in the combat and then you can force your opponent to discard an item of your choice in his company that was involved in the combat. If you have a manifestation of the item discarded in your hand you may play the item with the character you just tapped.

Unofficial Variant Rules

Variant 1:

Split your resource deck and hazard deck into 2 piles (using different colour sleeves is an option). Start the game drawing 4 cards from each pile.

In your turn you draw from the resource pile (when drawing cards and returning to hand size). In your opponent's turn you draw from the hazard pile.

Play with 2 discard piles, when you exhaust one deck you can sideboard 3 cards of the appropriate type (hazards for hazards etc.). You're not eligible to call the Council (in a 2 deck game) until you exhaust both decks at least once.

This changes the game significantly, suddenly hazard sites with a big card

draw become more dangerous as you're guaranteed to draw hazards. Similarly a resource speed deck will not be able to exhaust the hazard deck.

Variant 2:

As variant 1 but the Hazard deck is played face up - so you get a sneak peek at what hazards are coming at you, but of course so does your opponent.

Variant 3:

As variant 1 but the Resource deck is played face up.

With the resource pile face up, it's like having an extra card in your hand. For example during the org phase you can happily decide to move to Edoras, as you see the Riders of Rohan is the next card you will draw (of course your opponent sees it too).

Variant 4 (Highlander there can be only one):

In this variant you cannot use more than one copy of any card except Wizard/Ringwraith/Lidless Eye/Sauron and havens.

This variant really shakes up deck building as most players will use multiple copies of cards, especially resource events, hazard events and creatures.

Variant 5 (only for games using one alignment):

Players build a hazard deck of 25 cards (10 creature minimum) and a resource deck of 25 cards. However the resource deck cannot contain factions, allies or non-special items (except for minor items). Players also build an MP deck of 9 cards containing: 3 Factions, 4 non-special items worth at least 1 MP each, and 2 allies.

At the start of the game the 2 MP decks are shuffled to create one shared MP deck for the game, then the top 2 cards are revealed. Either player can play these cards as though they were in their hand. At the end of each turn one additional card is revealed.

Discarded cards that originated from the MP deck are placed at the bottom of the MP deck.

This variant really makes the game a race to collect resources as both players can see the available MP cards. Of course you can round out the MPs with miscellaneous MPs and special ring items (etc.) in your play deck.

Variant 6 (only when playing ringwraith against wizard/fallen wizard):

Hero characters cannot benefit from minion resources (but Orcs, Trolls and Half-Orcs can for Fallen Wizards).

Minion characters cannot benefit from hero resources.

Hero players cannot benefit from minion resources and minion players cannot benefit from hero resources.

Fallen Wizards are considered as hero players until their stage points exceed 12, then they are considered minion.

For example, a Fallen Wizard cannot use A Short Rest (hero resource) to draw additional cards if the SP total is 13 or more. And if a minion player plays Rumor of the One all ring items give an additional corruption point for all players (extra corruption is not a 'benefit') but only minion players' ring items are worth an additional MP point.

Variant 7:

Until a player reveals their wizard, ringwraith, Sauron or The Lidless Eye, their General Influence (GI) has an additional +5. This means there are 25 points of GI available at the start of the game, and 25 mind worth of characters can be played at the start. Once a wizard, ringwraith, Sauron or The Lidless Eye is played then the player's GI is immediately reduced by 5.

This allows for different starting companies (usually stronger) to be formed, altering the game. The reduction in GI once a wizard (etc.) is played means the play of the wizard (especially Fallen Wizards) needs careful thought.

Variant 8:

Each extra strike can be used to either give a prowess modifier of 1 (as in the normal rules) or to give an additional roll for the body check should the strike be successful.

The opposing player chooses which result to use in the case of multiple body check rolls.

This rule makes smaller companies more risky and boosts the power of creatures that provide multiple strikes. Orc and Troll characters are more likely to be discarded when you use this rule.

Variant 9 (Revisiting Sites):

Place tapped sites into a 'used' pile (rather than the discard pile) you can take sites from your used pile or your site deck but a site from the used pile comes into play tapped. Once you exhaust your play deck move all sites from the used pile to your site deck.

This variant allows you to revisit sites you've tapped, which makes sense thematically, but unless you have a way to untap the site or play resources at a tapped site it won't be much use.

Variant 10 (fixed starting hand):

Instead of a random draw you choose your starting hand. Perform the character draft as normal, then choose your initial 8 cards, then shuffle your play deck and determine who goes first.

Variant 11 (same alignment only):

Instead of simultaneously drafting characters, take it in turns to reveal a character. The player who revealed the first character will go second in the game.

Variant 12 (same alignment or for solo play no under-deep sites):

Build a resource deck as usual, but a shared hazard deck is used. Create six mini-hazard decks one for each region type (Coastal, Wilderness, Shadow-land, Dark Domain, Borderland and Free Domain) containing the mix of hazards below. Note the normal deck construction limits (3 cards, only one of each unique card) only apply to each mini deck rather than the decks considered as a whole (so all the decks could contain 2 copies of River for example).

Coastal: 6 creatures keyable to coastal sea, 6 other hazards (which can be coastal specific such as Drowning Seas and general hazards, such as corruption, River etc., and creatures keyed to sites or specific regions, or ahunt dragons, etc.)

Wilderness: 9 creatures keyable to wilderness or double wilderness, 3 creatures keyable to triple wilderness and 10 other hazards (see Coastal above).

Shadow-land: 7 creatures keyable to shadow-lands or double shadow-land, 7 other hazards.

Dark Domain: 5 creatures keyable to dark domains, 5 other hazards.

Border-land: 7 creatures keyable to border-lands, 7 other hazards.

Free Domain: 5 creatures keyable to Free Domains, 5 other hazards.

For this variant each player's hand size is 5 cards. Only region movement is allowed. When a company moves the controlling player draws cards from their deck (resource) as normal, but the hazard player puts aside their hand and draws a mini-hazard hand from the hazard decks, appropriate to the regions the company moved through. For example a company moves from Rivendell to Lorien passing through 3 wilderness and 1 border-land, the hazard player draws a mini hand of 4 cards, 3 from the wilderness deck, 1 from the border-land deck. If the usual hazard draw for a site exceeds the number of cards drawn, then the hazard player takes additional cards from any eligible deck.

For example a company at the Wind Throne (in a shadow-land) moves to Irerock, moving through Shadow-land & Wilderness. Two hazard cards are drawn, but the usual hazard draw for Irerock is 3 so the hazard player draws an additional card from either the shadow-land or wilderness deck (his choice). Any hazards not played are discarded to the discard pile of any deck that was drawn from this turn (face down). Likewise hazard short events are discarded in a similar manner. When a permanent event (such as a corruption card) is discarded then the current hazard player chooses which discard pile to place the card in.

When a deck is exhausted shuffle its corresponding discard pile and form a new deck.

A player can only Call the Council (or play Sudden Call for the Audience of Sauron) when they have exhausted their play deck and at least 2 hazard decks have been exhausted.

If a company remains at a site and does not move, then the hazard player takes a card from EACH deck to form their hazard hand for this turn.

This variant reduces the hazards that can be played (so large companies are very viable), but the chances are the hazards drawn can be played on the company moving, which makes for an interactive game. Moving through many regions increases the risk to the company, as well as moving to dangerous sites (those with a high hazard card draw). The 'difficulty' of the game can be adjusted by the choice of hazards used for the game.

Variant 13 (same alignment):

Each player constructs a 35 card hazard deck as normal (15 creature minimum) and a 15 card hazard sideboard. Each player builds a 15 card resource deck that contains no factions or items (just allies, events, characters and miscellaneous marshalling point cards) and a 15 card resource sideboard that has no such restriction (so items and factions can be included). Additionally 3 wizards/ringwraiths are added to the deck along with unused characters from the draft as usual.

Before the game starts create a map by placing all sites out grouped by region (only one copy of each site is used) and placing underneath each site (face up) a resource appropriate for the site:

Sites with greater items, a greater item, sites with major items a major item, sites with a faction, the faction, etc.

A player's small resource and large hazard deck are shuffled and used to form a deck but it's likely more hazards will be drawn than resources. When a company is at a site, it may play the resource under the site as though the card were in the active player's hand (after facing any automatic attacks). A site untaps at the end of the turn if its resource card remains unused. If a player fails to roll high enough to recruit a faction, the faction card remains under the site card and is not discarded (and the player may attempt to influence the faction again on a subsequent turn).

The Council can be called once a player has 25 or more marshalling points.

Variant 14:

This variant makes the game more of a puzzle or an exercise in deck construction. Instead of shuffling the deck each player chooses the order of his play deck, and your opponent may not cut your deck at the start of the game. This means you should know what your initial hand will be (the top 8 cards) and also what cards you will get in what order as the game progresses. Any hazard which causes an opponent's play deck to be shuffled are excluded from this variant for obvious reasons.

Players will probably want to avoid card effects that shuffle their play deck when playing this variant!

Variant 15 MECCG Boxed-Game Rules (Hero only):

This is a great and challenging way to play MECCG without actually having to make a deck, or even a sealed deck. The way this works is that there is one draw pile common to all players, and the game proceeds with as little as two or as many as

five (perhaps more, if you duplicate wizards) players playing at the same time. Standard middle earth rules apply, except where changed below:

Game Set-up

- One common "MP deck" (non-character cards worth Marshalling Points).

- One common "Play deck" (resources and hazards) and discard pile.

- One common "Roving Character deck."

- Each player gets 1 random Wizard, as well as a 5-card MP hand and 8-card Play hand. Effects that affect "hands" may affect either the Play hand or the MP hand but not both. For each player, place 8 random characters and 3 random minor items (legally startable) in draft pool. Roll dice; highest roller may choose to draft first or play first. Alternate turns drafting the character(s) and minor item(s) you want from the pool, until neither player wishes to draft any more.

- A map and a list of site names with item playability and other text is useful.

Game Rules

- If you bring into play or discard an MP card, draw another one immediately.

- During the end-of-turn phase you may discard 2 cards from your Play hand or MP hand.

- Company limit of 3.

- No side boarding.

- Any player may bring into play minor items from the discard pile as if in hand.

- If you are at a Haven, Free-hold, or Border-hold during any site phase, you may "free trade" an equal amount of resource cards in your Play hand or MP hand with any player at Haven, Free-hold, or Border-hold.

- During your organization phase, 1 character appears at random from the Roving Character Deck, and may be brought into play by any player as if in hand. The character is discarded at the end of your next organization phase.

(The top of the roving character pile gets turned over for all to see and if the current player doesn't have the ability or desire to add this character to his company for a turn, it stays face up for the next player to take a shot at him/her when it's his/her turn)

- As a hazard player, you only draw cards based on movement of player to your left. If you draw cards, you have first action of playing hazards; this action then moves to the hazard player on the right, who either plays or "passes" (with a minus 1 penalty to the hazard limit for each pass), upon which the action moves to next player, etc., until the hazard limit is used up or no more players wish to play hazards.

(All hazard players refill their hands at the normal times; that is, at the end of each movement hazard phase and during end-of-turn phase)

- If you have 20 MPs you may call the Council with no deck exhaust necessary. Each other player gets 1 more turn.

Card Errata

- Gandalf: If he taps to test a ring, the roll is at +1. CC from spells is +1.

- Radagast: The extra wilderness draw is limited to 1.

- Saruman: Any character in his company may "use" a Palantir. He may tap at any time to take a spell from the discard pile.

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