Copyright © Nigel Buckle 2003
Many articles, which have been written about MECCG, 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 untuned 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 opponents'. This means players often have to discard cards - and I believe it is this that many players find difficult.
This article is split into seven sections:
1. Hazard Play [Last month]
2. Resource Play
4. Organisation, Site & End Phases
5. Character Draft
Part 1 was covered last month. This month, we look at resource play.
2. Resource Play
There are really 3 types of resource - MP cards, Characters & support cards. MP cards are the most important. You need a balanced set of these to win the game. Furthermore many also give additional benefits once in play. Characters are really a special type of MP card, as most give MPs. However, you usually need untapped characters to play other MP cards, etc. The other types of card are very varied but they all 'support' your characters (etc.) rather than provide MPs directly.
Playing of characters and MP cards are discussed in other sections (it might seem odd to cover MP cards in the organisation phase section  but you usually decide what you are going to play in the site phase before moving.
Of these support cards, most have quite severe playability restrictions. Some can only be played in certain phases (such as long events), some need a specific character (usually untapped), others require cards to already be in play, and some have multiple requirements.
When building the deck you will have included support cards for a reason, and this should help you play the deck.
Unlike hazards, there are few restrictions on the number of resources you can play, but many restrictions on the resources you can play at any point.
To maximize your collection of Marshalling Points (which will win you the game) you need untapped characters. The play of support resources during your turn will usually be to either keep characters untapped, or keep them alive. Unless a support resource is critical to your deck strategy (such as Paths of the Dead in an Aragorn/Army of the Dead deck) then if you can't play the resource this turn (or possibly in your next turn) you should seriously consider discarding it. Discarding playable cards is a waste – so really you should look to play most of the support cards you can each turn. This isn't the whole picture though – even if you've decided which cards you are going to play you need to consider when you play them and in what order.
When I play I try to have a short-term goal for the company for the turn and tailor the play of support resources to further that goal. Using the example from the last article, but this time from the perspective of the resource player:
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. Your short-term (this turn) goal is to play the Beornings as a faction – preferably using Beorn. Beorn has Cram.
After drawing cards you hold the following resources:
Beornings, A Friend or Three, Bridge, Risky Blow, Fog
During the movement hazard phase you cannot actually play any of these resources, and during the site phase you can only play the Beornings & A Friend or Three (to help the attempt). However all this can change when/if your opponent plays hazards.
You are not going to be able to play the Fog (as it's a long-event and you've passed that point and in any case it needs Gates of Morning in play which currently is not). This makes this card the prime candidate for a discard, as it's unlikely you can use it next turn either.
Say your opponent plays the cards in the manner I suggested in the last article (remember you won't know what hazards are going to be played) and the first card played is
Power Build By Waiting
This has the potential to increase the hazard limit. With the resources in hand, there is nothing that can be played in response to this (or following the resolution of this card).
Your opponent then taps the Power Built to increase the hazard limit back to 2, again nothing you can play.
Then your opponent plays a Cave Drake with a prowess of 10, keyed to the double wilderness and attacking both characters. Now you could play Risky Blow – but this needs some thought. Your opponent has enough hazard limit to play one more card, and you need Beorn untapped to play the Beornings (but you have the Cram, allowing you to untap Beorn by discarding the Cram). There is also an MP available from the creature if you manage to kill it. Hama is the weaker of the characters with a prowess of 4, but if Beorn elects to face his strike without tapping (taking a –3 modifier) then his prowess would be 4 as well.
What you decide to do will depend on the actual game, how many MPs you have, if you are ahead of your opponent or not, and what hazards you've seen played.
One possibility is to tap Hama to face one strike, and elect for Beorn to take his strike untapped and not play resources – leaving you in a fairly reasonable state for facing the last hazard. Or you could choose to use the Risky Blow.
I'd resolve Hama's strike first (tapping him, as he's worth no MPs and is unlikely to be able to influence the Beornings). Depending on the result of that combat, then a decision can be made about Beorn. If Hama defeats the strike, then it is likely you can defeat the Cave Drake for a marshalling point, in that case I would then either tap Beorn and hope to roll a 4 (to get the points) or tap Beorn and play Risky Blow, guaranteeing the Cave Drake is defeated.
Given my opponent has played and tapped Power Built I'd expect the hazard limit to be used – and also given Cave Drake is a relatively weak creature (when played against this particular company), I'd expect a bigger creature to be played next, maybe an Assassin or similar. Hence I'd risk the low roll and save the Risky Blow.
Assume you manage to defeat the Cave Drake, then your opponent plays Cave Worm prowess 16, keyed to High Pass. Now we have a problem as both characters are tapped, your opponent assigns the strike to Beorn, who now has an effective prowess of 6 (as he's tapped).
You have several options:
- Just resolve the combat, expecting Beorn to lose but hopefully only be wounded
- Play Risky Blow on Beorn (taking his effective prowess to 9) and hope you don't
fail, as Risky Blow reduces the character's body - increasing the probability of dying
- Discard the Cram, tap Beorn and play Risky Blow (taking his effective prowess to 10)
I'd probably use the second option and hope for an average or better roll. If Beorn can survive the attack unwounded you can then discard the Cram in the site phase to untap him and then play the Beornings.
Whatever the outcome of the combat and the subsequent site phase, I would discard the Fog (unless there were other equally unplayable characters/hazards in hand) to draw the maximum number of cards for the next turn (and help me get through my deck).
During the movement/hazard phase (and the start of the site phase if your opponent has a card played 'on-guard'), you need to determine what your opponent's goal is with the hazards being played. If you can work out what the intention of the hazards are for this turn, you are in a much better position to make decisions about what resources to play (and the order to play them). Try to put yourself in your opponent's shoes and think what you would want to do with your hazards in that case. In the example above, it's fairly obvious that Beorn needs to be stopped and Hama is relatively irrelevant (other than being another character available to fight creatures), so you suspect your opponent is trying to tap/wound/eliminate Beorn and you need to play your resources to prevent this happening.
Same example, with different hazards:
This time the first card your opponent plays is River. Do you immediately tap Beorn to cancel the River? I would not do so – River stops your company doing anything in the site phase – but if Beorn is tapped (and you can't untap him) then it's unlikely you'll be doing anything in the site phase anyway.
Next hazard is a Lure of Nature. At this point the hazard limit is used up and there is a River on play at the site and Beorn has 3 corruption points (2 from the Lure and 1 from the Cram) and needs to make 2 corruption checks (one for each wilderness traveled through). At this point, I would tap Beorn to cancel the River, and then untap him with the Cram – this reduces the corruption to 2. I would then make the first corruption check, tapping Hama in support – automatically passing it, then play A Friend or Three to pass the second check. Then in the site phase I can play the Beornings. Not a bad turn, 2 resources cleared out of my hand (Beornings, A Friend or Three) and I can discard the Fog at the end of the Turn. I do have a problem next turn – the Lure of Nature needs to be removed.
Final example - same company, different hazards:
The first card your opponent plays is Lure of Nature, the second card is an on-guard card. Now you have 2 corruption checks to make for Beorn (as the example above) and no idea what the on-guard card is. It could be a bluff; it certainly will not be a creature (that can be played) as the site has no automatic attack. Worst case, it is either a hazard to reduce the chance of recruiting the Beornings (such as Foolish Words) or possibly a Lure of Power to try to eliminate Beorn.
Whatever the on-guard card is, you need to deal with the corruption checks first. I'd tap Hama to support the first check (takes it down to a 2), then assuming Beorn passes, you need to make a decision about the second – either play the A Friend or 3 to pass the check and hope the on-guard card is not Foolish Words (or Lure of Power) or hope to roll more than 3 not playing any support cards. Again this decision is going to be influenced by the status of the game and what hazards you've seen played already.
I believe that the resources that let you look at your opponent's hand (Secret News, etc) are very under-rated/utilized by players. In the example above, had I been able to see my opponent's hand prior to hazards being played, I would have a much better idea what the on-guard card is – making my decision much easier.
As with hazard play - making these resource decisions gets easier with practice. Try to keep your resource deck relatively simple to play (without too many cards requiring other cards to play or needing to be held for specific turns/sites) and learn from your mistakes. You should also try to learn from your opponent (if they are more experienced/skilled) - watch how they play their resources and try to think if you would have played them that way too. Take time to learn the odds of rolling 2 dice - it's easier to make decisions about combat and corruption checks (and influence attempts for that matter) if you have a grasp of the chance of you getting the result you need. If your game relies on you rolling 7's or better on average in a game and your opponent relies on rolling just 6's then chances are you'll lose. Similarly if you have to roll many dice in a game (because of your opponent's hazards) but your opponent does not - then the chance of you getting a 'bad' roll increases as you are making more rolls.
I hope this article has given you some insight into playing MECCG. Remember it is just a game so the ultimate goal should be to have fun. For many players it's just as enjoyable to have a theme deck (where characters do get wounded etc) than play a killer tournament deck that is tuned to win.