Deck: The Lord of the Rings Tarot Deck & Card Game
Publisher: US Games Systems, Inc.
Developer: Terry Donaldson
Artist: Peter Pracownik
Overall Rating: 7/10
Cardstock: Easy enough to shuffle. Seems to stand up okay to heavy use – I have a couple of cards that are separating a little and most of the cards have nicked borders, but I’ve been using this deck for years, so that’s understandable.
Artwork: Back allows for reversals. Black borders. Card names on stonework border to the left. Short phrase or sentence on wood plank beneath the image (For example, the Fool depicts Gollum seated with a fish by a pool of water, with a waterfall in the background, and the sentence beneath him says “Gollum, by a pool of water, considers the many possibilities open to him”). Most artwork depicts scenes or figures from the Lord of the Rings, sometimes with pips superimposed. Artwork is detailed, like miniaturized paintings. Facial expressions are somewhat ambiguous, owing to the small size relative to the card. The two borders take up a lot of room. Some of the artwork is a little strangely proportioned, and Eowyn is oddly sexualized in a moment where she ought to be wearing battle armor. Some of the artwork, especially when it relates to Sauron or the One Ring, is more stylized and less of a “scene”, which interrupts the continuity of the artwork a little.
LWB: Pretty helpful. Gives a decent amount of information on both Majors and Minors. Some information on reversals for Majors (but not Minors). Meanings pretty consistent with traditional themes. Gives one spread example: Celtic Cross. Does not give much information on how to read tarot. Half the book is the weird card game you can also play. There is apparently also a companion book which does the work of bridging the little phrases on the cards with the meanings in the LWB, but I’ve only ever seen one, and that was in a second-hand shop (I bought it, of course!).
Likes: I’m a huge LOTR nerd, so I loved the theme. I don’t know if this is exactly how I would have done it if I were going to make a fan-art LOTR tarot deck, but I’m pretty happy with it. The fandom angle did help me get a better understanding of the meanings for the most part. I also really like the detail in the artwork, though I could see why those who dislike borders or have vision impairments would find it difficult. I’m ambivalent on the sentences at the bottom – I liked the idea when I bought this deck (it was my first one) but they don’t line up quite as well as I would like and sometimes they’re more unhelpful than helpful.
Dislikes: I wish the facial expressions were readable. I also kind of wish the deck included characters from the Hobbit and the Silmarillion, because the cards are all just the Fellowshippers over and over again, really. Too much border, not enough art. The awkwardness of the card game, which means there are little extra graphics on the cards. Not much information on tarot in general. I’m not crazy about the artwork style, even though I appreciate the detail – I would prefer more continuity and more realistic proportions in the figures.
Overall Recommendation: This would be a good deck for anyone who doesn’t mind borders and likes LOTR. Probably not a good idea for a beginner deck, though it worked out okay for me. The theme and art would probably make it a good choice for in-person readings somewhere like a fantasy fair, and it holds up well to repeated use. At $15 on Amazon it’s pretty inexpensive, and might make a good deck for someone on a budget. In general I like it (it’s one of my go-to’s in my admittedly small collection) but it’s certainly not for everyone.