This post isn’t really about the game, rather it’s about the community of the game since a significant change is occurring therein.
If you haven’t been paying attention to the news emanating from Cardboard of the Rings, the big occurrence is the end of the ‘First Age’ of CotR, marked by the departure of three of the hosts. As Cardboard of the Rings has actually been running since slightly before the game was even released and has been pretty central to a lot of the online community for as long as I’ve been aware of it, this is a momentous occasion which deserves to be marked. And as I write a blog about the game, I unlike so many other people have an easy means by which to broadcast my thoughts on it to more of the community.
It’s strange to think back on it now, but when I was first really getting into the game Cardboard of the Rings didn’t grab me particularly. Back then I had a definite preference for the Grey Company if I was going to listen to a podcast for various reasons. Since I started on blogs and the Progression Series before looking into the podcasts I was more drawn to the podcast with three bloggers and a Progression Series host, whereas everyone on CotR didn’t make any other community content as far as I was aware; the Grey Company’s more focused and informative style appealed to me as I wanted to learn about the game; and of course there was the simple point that if I wanted to catch up on the backlog, for Grey Company that was about twenty ~1 hour episodes, whereas for CotR it was about seventy episodes often more like 3 hours long. Back then it was an easy decision for me to make, though I did still go and listen to a few choice episodes of CotR – developer interviews, the Magali Villeneuve interview and the episode with Ian talking about his First Age expansion.
On a more objective level of course there are obviously functional differences between the two podcasts. As Brandon noted himself, the Grey Company is often a better place for strategic insights etc whereas Cardboard of the Rings is more focused on purely having fun with the game, and to a large extent it was just a bunch of friends getting together and chatting about the game (with all the random tangents that entailed). The great personality of Cardboard of the Rings, that feeling of just friendly hanging out, was why even when I wasn’t listening to the podcast I still diligently followed the CotR twitch streams.
Over time of course I came round to CotR. I continued watching twitch streams, I started listening to episodes, and when they set up their Discord I jumped right on it. That last point I feel speaks significantly to the positives of Cardboard of the Rings. One could argue that the casual, friendly, haphazard style of CotR damages its ability to be informative, but if so then conversely it really helped to build a community around it. I imagine this game would still have a great community regardless, but CotR has worked fantastically as something of a centrepiece to the community. It’s brought so many people together – they talked about that a fair bit on the final episode of the First Age from their own perspectives of all the people they’ve met as a result of doing the podcast, but it’s had a similar effect on all sorts of people in the community as well. That might to my mind be CotR’s greatest and most impressive achievement. Certainly the most heartwarming, evidenced by all the people getting very emotional about the departure of these three hosts.
Cardboard of the Rings has really been something special through its First Age. It’s easy enough to observe that it kind of scooped up an advantage by being the first LotR LCG podcast, but that only goes so far, and it wouldn’t have survived and gained so much popularity if it wasn’t doing a lot of things right. If they hadn’t done a great job of managing the balance of personalities, kept coming up with interesting ideas, maintained the infectious enthusiasm and generally just made themselves such big friends to the community – if they hadn’t done all those things, chances are at some point they would’ve just burned out and quit or they wouldn’t have attracted such an audience. Brandon may be a ridiculous goofball who seems like he has no business being in charge of anything but he created something amazing; and while once again a judgemental listener could question what gives this particular selection of randomers of variable and perhaps dubious skill at the game the authority to speak on it, but more mature reflection would indicate that in a lot of ways they were just the right sort of people, and the people not getting that would almost certainly be less interesting to listen to.
Given that they’re calling this the end of the First Age, I considered coming up with some sort of analogy to the end of the First Age of Middle Earth in the Silmarillion, but I’m turning down that idea as identifying the departing hosts with characters would run into the problem that the characters who depart from the narrative at the end of the First Age don’t necessarily get particularly happy endings. The ones who spring to mind would be Maedhros, Maglor and Earendil, and while Maedhros and Maglor are great characters, their stories don’t end particularly well for them, and I’d rather wish the departing hosts well.
So instead let’s be more straightforward, and just as I toasted CotR in my congratulations message when they reached 100 episodes (literally, I got myself a drink, chinked it against another glass at the end of my message and then drank it during a CotR twitch) I will now raise a glass to the end of the First Age. Here’s to Brandon, Brian and Sean. Thank you for everything you’ve done for the community of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (*WHICH* is a Living Card Game by Fantasy Flight Games), good luck to you in everything you move on to now, and don’t be strangers.
And now let’s look forward to the oncoming Second Age, which I’m sure will continue to be fantastic.