Copyright Nigel Buckle ©2003
Edited by Nicholas H.M. Caldwell for The Guild Companion
Many articles 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.
The rest of this article is split into six
- Resource Play
- Hazard Play
- Untap, Organisation, Long Event, Site& End Phases
- Character Draft
Parts 1,2 & 3 have been covered in
previous months. This month, we will look at the Untap, Organisation, Long
Event, Site & End Phases.
In this phase, you untap your characters,
or heal those wounded. It's worth remembering that you untap your agents
(played as hazards) during this phase too.
There are a number of things you can do:
- Play or discard a character
- Shift your characters between being controlled
by general influence and being controlled by direct influence
- Reorganize your characters at the same
Dark/Haven into any number of companies
- Split your characters into different companies
(all but one must move)
- Attempt to remove corruption cards
Attempt to remove other hazard permanent events
played on characters (if applicable)
- Play appropriate resources
- Transfer items between your characters at the
same site (a corruption check is required for the character giving up an item)
- Store items or other applicable resources from
your companies at a Dark/Haven site or at sites specified on the card (a
corruption check is required for the character giving up an item)
Finally, you have to select a new site for
those companies you wish to move.
Play or discard a character/Shift your
characters between GI & DI:
Usually you want to play characters if you
can, however you might not want to if your General Influence is going to be
reduced too much. I try to keep at least 4 GI free, to give some protection
from hazards that benefit from low General Influence (such as Call of Home,
Muster Disperses, News of Doom, etc.) and also influence attempts from your
opponent (either by an agent or by a wizard or ringwraith). You may want to
free up a character's DI if you plan to use it in the turn.
You need to consider how many companies
you're likely to be using when designing the deck - most will have at least 2,
and some have more.
You might want to change the composition of
your companies, either to move characters around to get a better balance of
skills or to deal with a hazard, or if you think you're at a stage where you
can start another company. The number of companies is limited by the number of
characters you have. You don't really want to have single character companies
as your opponent gets a hazard per character to a minimum of 2 (so a single
character company gives your opponent an advantage). Often you'll be deciding
between either a big company or two smaller companies - which you do will
depend on your deck design. On the face of it, two companies are better than
one as you've doubled your chance to obtain marshalling points. However some
decks are designed to do multiple things in the site phase (such as use Lucky
Search or play resources that don't require an untapped site, or attack your
opponent, etc.) so the more characters you have in the company the better. Also
it's not often that your opponent can play more than 4 or 5 effective hazards,
so a large company is unlikely to have your opponent playing hazards up to the
limit - but 2 small companies give your opponent the chance to refill their
hand (with more hazards) between their respective movement/hazard phases. It's
going to also depend on your opponent's hazard strategy - some strategies need
a big hazard limit to work effectively, and some can benefit from multiple
small limits (play enhancers on one company, and then the creatures that
benefit on the other).
Attempt to remove
corruption cards/other hazard permanent events
You should always attempt to remove hazards
if you can - some hazards just require a roll, some require the character to
tap. The former you should always attempt, the latter you need to decide if the
hazard really needs removing or the character really needs to be untapped. With
corruption you can always elect to try to remove the hazard without tapping
(and taking a -3 penalty to the roll), again the decision to take the penalty
or tap needs some thought.
Saying that, if you have a hazard that
isn't really affecting a character (such as Foolish Words on a character you
don't intend to use for an influence attempt) then you could decide to leave
the hazard alone. Once it's discarded there's a danger your opponent can
retrieve the hazard and play it on a character where it will have a bigger
Some resources need to be played in the
organisation phase - there is little reason not to play all such resources you
have in your hand (for example: "Belegaer", "Fair Travels in ...", etc). If
nothing else it gets the card out of your hand and getting through your deck is
The only time I wouldn't do so is if your
opponent is likely to benefit more than you from the play of the card. There
are other resources that could be played in the organisation phase too. Again,
unless there is some sort of penalty (such as requiring a character to tap)
there's little reason not to play these as well, and in some cases it's
preferable to play them outside of the movement/hazard phase.
For example, if you intend to remove a
Nazgul Permanent event (with a Marvels Told/Voices of Malice), if you do it in
the organisation phase there's nothing your opponent can do to respond. Do it
during the movement/hazard phase and they could respond by tapping the Nazgul
for the effect or to sideboard.
You need to consider carefully the play of
environment cards. Twilight can be played at anytime, by either player - and if
you play a card that allows your opponent to respond with a Twilight and it's
outside the movement/hazard phase then they're getting that card play for
'free' (not counting against the hazard limit). However if your opponent was
going to play a Doors of Night, playing environment cards outside of the
movement/hazard phase stops that.
Normally you only want to do this if a
character needs the item, or you want to remove a source of corruption from a
character (because you plan to play another item later in the turn for
example). Remember the character giving up the item has to make a corruption
check, so there is a risk doing this. Storing things is generally better than
transferring them, as the item/event is then relatively safe from being
discarded (and some events need to be stored to gain the MPs or the effect) -
however be aware that some hazards can target stored cards (such as "Neither so
Ancient Nor so Potent")
This part of the phase is very important;
this is where you (in effect) plan for the rest of the turn. Knowledge of your
deck is vital - you need to know what sites your deck is designed to use, and
there is nothing more annoying for a player than having an opponent spend an
age sorting through their site deck trying to decide what they are going to do
this turn. Ideally you'll have resources in hand that will dictate what site(s)
you wish to move to this turn; if you've got the Rangers of the North then you
probably want to move to Bree to play them, if you've got a greater item then
you need to visit a greater item site to play it. Some decks allow you to play
cards at 'unexpected' sites - such as using "Lucky Search" to play items, or
"Black Rain" to gain rings.
But what do you do if you have no playable
resources in hand? This might be because you can't reach the right site from
your current site (such as holding the Southrons when you're more than 4
regions away from The Southron Oasis and you're not at the site's nearest haven
to use starter movement), or you just don't have MP cards in your hand. In this
case, you have a number of options:
Stay put - you'd only want to do this if
moving the company is an unnecessary risk or you have something you can play at
your current site, as you're not going to draw cards for movement.
Move to a haven - this means you can heal
next turn (and play characters) and hopefully be in a situation to move next
turn, even by starter movement which allows you to move more than 4 regions
(unless you're playing Balrog or Fallen Wizard).
Move to a non-haven site - this might be
for a favourable card draw, or in the hope you draw a playable resource. If
it's for the latter reason, you're better off moving to a site where you could
play a number of your resources rather than one specific one, as the chances of
you drawing exactly the right resource aren't high (unless your deck is nearly
exhausted). For example if your deck has 2 greater items and 3 major items it's
better to move to a greater item site as there are 5 items in the deck you
could play there - if you moved to a major item site you could only play a
major item, not a greater. Of course if you drew a major item then you'd be
'wasting' a greater item site - but I believe it's better to do that and
actually do something in the turn (and score some MPs) than do nothing.
Of course a specific deck might have a plan
that overrides these guidelines. If you're playing a deck that needs your
companies to move far away from the starting sites, then you might want to move
immediately to the next haven even with a playable resource in hand, rather
than get distracted and move in the wrong direction, and waste time later in
the game. Or it might be you have a deck that needs specific cards played
before you want to risk moving (such as 4 hobbits needing a "Stealth"), but
these are likely to be the exception and you'd be aware of this, as it's an integral
part of the deck building process.
As well as selecting a site you should
consider what regions you want the companies to move through (unless you're
using starter movement). Normally you want to reduce the variety of regions you
move through as that limits the types of hazard your opponent can play. There
are exceptions to this - if you've seen double and triple wilderness creatures
being played you might want to avoid moving through many wilderness regions,
similarly if you've had a Lure of Nature played, or you've seen hazards that
target particular regions you might want to avoid those (such as Shadowlands if
you've seen "Seized by Terror"). Again some decks will dictate what you do here
- with a Radagast speed deck you may decide to move through 4 wildernesses when
you could get to the site with a shorter route.
You have to follow this sequence (unlike
the organisation phase when the order isn't so rigid):
- Remove all of your resource long-events
already in play
- Play any new resource long-event cards.
- Remove all of your opponent's hazard
This is what makes resource long-events
rather weak - you have to play them in the long-event phase and they hang
around for a turn to help your opponent. When you draw a long-event (resource)
you have to hold it until your next Long-Event phase to play it. For this
reason I recommend not playing with resource Long-Events unless it is very
beneficial for the deck. Some decks are built around long-events (such as
You have to decide if your company intends
to enter the site. You only want to do this if you have a resource that you can
play at the site this turn, your opponent can only reveal an 'On-guard' card if
you enter the site and you only have to face the automatic attack (and an
agent) if you enter the site. Consider the risks of facing the automatic attack
- there's little point entering the site if it's likely all your untapped
characters will have to tap (or be wounded/killed) by the automatic attack as you
won't be in a position to play anything in the site phase.
If you have more untapped characters than
the automatic attack has strikes you need to decide which characters will face
the strikes (and which if any will take a -3 modifier and remain untapped).
This decision is going to depend on the prowess of the characters, what support
resources you have in hand and what you intend to do in the site. If you want
to play a faction then you're probably going to want to keep your character
with the largest unused DI untapped (or the character with the most bonuses to
recruiting the faction).
If you're in a position where you have a
choice of what to play at the site then you should pick the resource that gives
you the most benefit. If it's a choice of items then the item that gives the
most MPs is probably the best bet - although you might want an item for the
effect it has, rather than just the MPs (such as a weapon), but you have to
weigh up the risk of corruption if the items have different corruption points.
Also uniqueness needs consideration, if you have a unique item and a non-unique
item you might want to play the unique item first to prevent your opponent
playing it before you. Finally you need to consider the victory conditions for
the end of the game, you need a balance of types of MPs - so even if you could
play another item for more MPs it might be better to get the ally to stop your
opponent doubling that category. Again the decision about what you play in the
site phase will depend on the deck.
In this phase you get the opportunity to
discard a card and then draw back to your hand size. Note it's in this order -
often players return to their hand size (following card play in the site phase)
then discard, then draw. This is illegal; you have to discard before drawing
Unless you have a 'perfect' hand, you
should take this free discard - you should take every opportunity to move
through your deck you're given. Some players don't do this because they can't
decide what card to discard. I've covered this decision making earlier, but to
recap you should discard a card that you don't anticipate being able to play
next turn or the turn after - unless it's critical for the deck.
Note some cards give you more possible
actions in the end phase - such as "Safe from the Shadow" which allows you to
store items/events in the end phase.
Finally it's during this phase of your turn
that you have to decide to call the council to end the game (if you're playing
Hero or Fallen Wizard).