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The Lord of the Rings TCG Wiki: Rulebooks

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In the Lord of the Rings TCG, Rulebooks were collections of, well, rules that outlined both general and specific guidelines of how the game was to be played. Though there were several flavors of each type of rulebook, each iteration composed Decipher's last word at any given era. There were three general types of rulebooks: Starter Rulebooks included with Starter Packs that included an overview of the game rules and some simplified concessions; Deluxe Rulebooks included with Deluxe starter packs that had a more complete explanation of the game rules; and the Comprehensive Rules that combined the Starter and Deluxe rulebooks and collected all the various specific rulings and clarifications that were made for individual cards.

Each physical rulebook had an electronic counterpart in the form of a *.pdf that Decipher distributed on their website. They did not keep an archive, but rather replaced old rulebooks as the new ones became the authority (which of course makes sense from a marketing standpoint as you'd want to convince your players that the most recent iteration of the game is the only one worth playing). However, dedicated fans managed to keep copies of the *.pdf's, and it was only through their diligence that the libraries below are filled.

Starter Rulebooks

There was one Starter Rulebook for each set that included the bare minimum of explanation of game rules for the cards released with the two Starter Packs for that set. It is a good starting point for new players, but be advised that some of the rules were simplified for use of those packs (for instance, if a player was ever decked, that player could shuffle their discard pile into a new deck once per game, a concept that has absolutely no equivalent in regular play).

Unlike the other types of rulebooks, the Starter Rulebook's form and function did not change over the course of the game's lifetime.

DO NOT update the links below to the wiki versions; some of the wiki versions are not working, I have changed the broken links to my personal dropbox –TelTura

Since Dropbox has altered the way they permit access to public files, I have moved all dropbox links to Google Drive. –teltura

Deluxe Rulebooks

Deluxe Rulebooks were released with each Deluxe Starter Set, which itself included a Starter Pack and Booster Packs, so conceivably the new purchaser could have any card from that particular set. The Deluxe Rulebooks therefore went over every normal rule and for all intents and purposes represented the baseline for “how to play the game”.

Comprehensive Rulebooks

As time went on over the lifetime of the game, Decipher had to make more and more specific rulings over specific card wordings, combinations, or mechanics. Sometimes a card would need to be reworded, clarified, or in some circumstances even modified from its original form (called thereafter an errata). Sometime around the release of The Two Towers Decipher released a rulebook that was a combination of the Starter Rulebook, Deluxe Rulebook, and all the metagame erratas and card rulings. In its first incarnation, this amalgamation was dubbed the QuickStart Tutorial Rulebook, which admittedly did not at all reflect what it actually was.

With the release of Return of the King, QuickStart was renamed the Comprehensive Rulebook, which was a much better description of what it contained, and version 2.0 of that guide was released online. It is unclear whether physical copies were ever officially packed with product, but it is at least obvious that this rulebook was intended to be the be-all end-all that could be referenced during high-end tournament disputes.

Version 3.0 was released sometime around Reflections, and version 4.0 with Shadows. Version 4.0 was the last version officially released by Decipher, and from that point on it was the job of the Current Rulings Documents to contain any further rulings after that point. A Wiki version of version 4.0 can be found at Comprehensive Rules 4-0.

Current Rulings Documents

It became immediately obvious following the official release of the game that the Starter and Deluxe Rulebooks were inadequate at explaining every facet of the game, and indeed this is a problem with TCGs in general; since there are so many cards, and so many combinations, not every pitfall could be discovered through playtesting alone. Decipher therefore began releasing an FAQ document on their website that covered problems as they cropped up; these documents became the source for the absolute latest changes, since it could be updated daily if needed.

At first, the FAQ documents only held clarifications (such as “the discard pile must be face up”) that were not explicitly stated in the first few versions of the starter rulebooks. With the release of The Two Towers and the new Standard and Open play formats, it became expedient to maintain an X-list and R-list of banned or restricted cards, and so the latest changes to these lists also became the domain of the FAQ document.

When the QuickStart rulebook became rebranded as the Comprehensive Rules, the FAQ document was also renamed, becoming the Current Rulings Document. It still held to the same update rules as before, and in between Comprehensive Rules releases, the CRD held the latest and greatest updates to the rules of the game. Whenever a new Comprehensive Rules was released, the content of all previous CRDs was reprinted inside, making the old documents obsolete.

Some of the CRD rulings were released after the Comprehensive Rules version 4.0, and so never made it into an official release of the Comprehensive Rules, but would have been if a version 5.0 had ever been made, and so they are viewed just as “canon”. As the CRD was never versioned, the CRD's are all differentiated by the date of their release. This means that the most recent version of the CRD was released 13 August 2007, and represented the very final word that Decipher ever released concerning game rules. All of the known FAQ and CRD documents are linked below, and a wiki version of the most recent (Aug 2007) can be found at Current Rulings Document.

Official Tournament Guidelines

Some details of structured play that were more about ensuring fair play than specific mechanics were compiled into the Official Tournament Guidelines. This includes things such as draft procedures, pairing instructions, playtime length, and other details that for non-tournament play were usually up to gentleman's agreements between the players. This document's rulings were never incorporated into the Comprehensive Rules due to their ancillary nature.

One notable ruling is for Mulligan (“redrawing your hand”), which has since been widely adopted for casual play by the community.

rulebooks.txt · Last modified: 2020/06/07 04:57 (external edit)

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