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Playing MECCG
Hazard Play

Copyright © Nigel Buckle 2003

Introduction

Many articles have been written about MECCG that detail decks and possibly where to play the resources and how to use the hazards. However not much has been said about actually playing the game. In my opinion, a good deck is only half the battle; a good player using an un-tuned deck can often beat a weak player who has a strong deck.

Unlike some card games, MECCG has a hand-replenishing mechanic, and you draw cards in your movement phase and your opponent's. This means players often have to discard cards - and I believe that many players find this the most difficult part of the game.

The rest of this article is split into seven sections:

1. Hazard Play

2. Resource Play

3. Combat

4. Organisation, Site & End Phases

5. Character Draft

6. Sideboard

7. Tournaments

I'll cover part 1 (Hazard Play) this month.

1. Hazard Play

There are many different types of hazards, but I just group them all into four broad categories depending on their effect on the game at that particular time. A hazard can change categories from turn to turn. The categories are: Unplayable, Ineffectual, Risky and Effective. I define 'Unplayable' as being any/all hazards that you can't play (other than 'On-Guard' as a bluff), e.g. a creature that you can't play on the current company. 'Ineffectual' are hazards that can be played but won't have an immediate effect, such as a permanent event. 'Risky' are cards that have the potential to be effective but there is a danger that your opponent will benefit. The most obvious benefits are MPs from creature kills, but trophies give characters' attribute boosts and some hazard long or permanent events could hurt you. For example, playing 'Balance of Things' and your opponent playing corruption, or 'Minions Stir' and getting hit by your opponent's enhanced Orcs!

Unless your hazard deck is particularly specialist (with multiple cards needed), you want to use as much of the hazard limit each turn as you can to help get through your deck.

Ideally you would just play effective hazards taking you to the hazard limit. In reality, it is unlikely you'll be able to do this.

What I suggest is counting the number of effective hazards you have and see how much of the hazard limit remains. Then decide which of the remaining ineffective or risky hazards you intend to play.

Remember that the designation of the hazards is very fluid and can change from card play to card play. For example, Smaug may be unplayable on the moving company until you play 'Doors of Night', and 'Doors of Night' might look ineffective until you consider that putting it into play makes Smaug playable. However this combination uses two of the hazard limit and there is a danger that your opponent will use the 'Doors of Night' during your turn to help their hazard strategy! On the other hand, if your opponent is playing a 'Gates of Morning' strategy then the 'Doors of Night' is effective on its own (as playing it will remove the Gates).

Once you've decided what you intend to play, the next decision is what order to play them in. Sometimes this will be obvious (such as 'Doors of Night' then 'Smaug') but at other times it is not so clear-cut. I suggest you decide what you are intending to do with the hazards, then play them in a way to maximise the chances of it happening.

For example: Beorn & Hama are moving from Rivendell to Beorn's House (site path wwb using high pass). Beorn has cram and in the organisation phase Hama was moved from Beorn's DI to GI. After drawing cards you hold the following hazards:

cave drake, cave worm, ambusher, rank upon rank, power built by waiting, lure of expedience.

All are potentially effective except for the corruption card (as it's highly unlikely it will force a corruption check).

In this case, I'd assume my opponent intends to try to recruit the Beornings, probably using Beorn.

My goal would be to wound Beorn (just tapping him isn't good enough as the cram can be used to untap). The most likely way is to attack with the cave worm. However, if I play that first, my opponent could decide to risk Hama and save Beorn. The hazard limit is only two so I can't play all the hazards. Usually you want to play as many hazards as you can - hence I would do the following:

- play Power Built By Waiting (1 hazard left)

- tap Power Built (2 hazards left)

- play Cave Drake (attacking both characters, 1 hazard left)

- play Cave Worm (assuming Hama is tapped, so you can assign the strike to Beorn)

However, some players would consider this too risky - you are potentially giving up 2 kill points and, unless Beorn is wounded or killed, your opponent can simply discard the cram in the site phase to untap to play the faction. It's going to depend on the actual game, who has the most MPs and what type of cards you suspect your opponent has in hand. The other risk to playing the creatures is you give your opponent the opportunity to clear their hand of combat resource cards (like Risky Blow, Dodge and Block).

I tend to play hazards fairly aggressively and risk giving up the marshalling points - as long as the combat needs my opponent to roll dice and get a 7 or more, I'll usually play the creature. Eventually my opponent will fail the roll. Unless it's a hobbit, I believe it's actually better just to wound a character than kill a character. Once a character is dead, an item can be transferred and the influence they were using to be controlled is released (allowing you to play a replacement). A wounded character is pretty useless and you have to waste time moving back to a haven to heal (and wasting a further turn as a healed character becomes tapped). So in this example I'm hoping to wound at least one of the characters.

If you wished to play more conservatively, an equally reasonable plan to play the hazards in the above example could be:

- play Power Built By Waiting (1 hazard left)

- tap Power Built (2 hazards left)

- play Rank Upon Rank (1 hazard left)

- play Lure of Expedience on Beorn (no hazards left)

Or, if you wanted to setup your attack for next turn, don't tap the Power Built and hold off playing the Lure of Expedience - that way you can tap the Power Built next turn to increase the hazard limit to three. You know you'll be able to play the 'Ambusher' at least as the company's starting region is a borderland (the Anduin Vales).

As well as playing hazards you have to decide what cards you will discard. In MECCG, you have to make this decision at the end of each movement hazard phase (if you have more cards than your current hand size) and at the end of the turn. Additionally at the end of the turn, you can decide to discard a card. Unless you're playing a specialist deck, you should elect to take this opportunity to discard each turn. This means each turn you are faced with making multiple decisions about which cards to discard or hold - part of this decision will be based on your deck design. It's unlikely you'll want to discard key cards, but as a general rule I'll discard unwanted resources during (and at the end of) my turn and discard hazards during my opponent's turn. The reason I do this is any resources in my hand at the end of my turn are ineffective cards until my next turn and similarly any hazards in my hand at the start of my turn are ineffective cards. To win the game I don't have to play all my resources and hazards, but I do have to draw all the cards in my deck.

With resources, you usually discard the support cards rather than the MP cards - but with hazards the decision is less clear-cut. I'd recommend discarding hazards that you are unlikely to play in the next movement hazard phase (as you'll be holding those cards for multiple turns - clogging up your hand with unplayable cards).

I hope these examples show you the sorts of decisions a player has to make each turn when playing MECCG. Deciding which cards to play and in which order and which cards to discard gets easier with practice. Try to learn from your mistakes. If your hazards did not have the desired effect try to work out why. Was it the order they were played in, or did you overlook an important factor? It also helps to have a little knowledge of probability (or the odds of rolling two dice) so you can base your in-game decisions on the most likely result of the dice rolls.

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