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Tabletop giant Fantasy Flight’s next project is a digital card game

The Lord of the Rings Living Card Game wants to catch the eye of Hearthstone fans

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Fantasy Flight Interactive, the newest digital studio within Asmodee North America, has just announced its first game. Called The Lord of the Rings Living Card Game, it’s a single-player and cooperative multiplayer card game based on the successful Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, released in 2011. It will be published by Asmodee Digital.

Digital card games like Hearthstone or The Elder Scrolls: Legends all rely on random packs. Living card games, such as the classic Netrunner and Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, don’t. Instead, LCGs use a sort of expansion model, with known sets of cards available to be purchased for a fixed price. The Lord of the Rings Living Card Game will bring that model to PC for the first time.

The new studio is headed by veteran AAA developer Tim Gerritsen, who you may remember as the studio director at Irrational Games and the chief executive officer of Human Head Studios. Gerritsen not only brings 25 years’ worth of digital experience to the project, he’s also an avid collector of tabletop games.

“I’ve always been a big tabletop fan,” Gerritsen told Polygon. “When I got out of college I wanted to get into tabletop games, but that was right after the big TSR [the original publisher of Dungeons & Dragons] crash. The whole tabletop industry was reeling.

“So, I applied to video game companies instead,” he added. “I’ve had my fair amount of success, but I’ve always been an enormous tabletop gamer. It’s always been my original, first love.”

Gerritsen said that The Lord of the Rings LCG won’t simply be a rehash of the tabletop version. In FFI’s game, the part of Sauron will be played by an artificial intelligence instead of a random deck of cards. Additionally, the game has been streamlined slightly. Much of the bookkeeping is done in the background, and one of the game’s four statistics — armor — has been folded into a new type of card called attachments. But, by and large, it’s the same kind of experience as the original card game.

The Lord of the Rings LCG will enter a crowded space when it launches into early access next year. But it will be the only robust single-player experience, and will even feature a cooperative multiplayer mode just like the original tabletop game. Additional card packs will be available for purchase, either with an in-game currency called “valor” or via microtransactions. Individual cards, called “favors,” will also be available. But whatever packs of cards you’re buying, you’ll always know what’s inside.

Gerritsen is enjoying the work of transforming the popular card game to digital. He said that the transition from AAA video game development has been easy so far, especially given the amount of freedom to experiment that FFG has given him. The new company is even based in his home town of Madison, Wisconsin.

“I feel like Fantasy Flight really is the AAA of tabletop games,” Gerritsen said. “So in a lot of ways, this isn’t a whole lot different from what I’ve was doing before.”

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