Now that you've designed your deck, the next thing to do is use it to play a game. You start this of course with the starting characters. There are two strategies to this. The first is to try to get the best characters out you can. This is not necessarily the best characters you have, your opponent has a good chance of playing those, instead it's the best characters that aren't quite good enough to be put in at startup. That way you can be sure you get them in the starting turn. However, this strategy has the disadvantage of letting your opponent take the better characters. The other strategy solves this. For that strategy, you put in the best characters you have, the ones you want to have out most: Frodo, Bilbo, Aragorn, Glorfindel, all the good ones that fit within 20 marshalling points. If you do this be sure to include two of some types of things, like Hobbits (Bilbo AND Frodo, not just one, or one of them and Sam, something of that sort) and warriors (a.k.a. Men, Dunedain, and some of the Elves). That way you can make sure you get some good characters in the beginning, since your opponent will probably do the same thing and therefore you'll both end up having to discard some characters but hopefully not all of them.
After you've gotten starting characters straightened out, the next step is the starting items. Pretty easy picks here, since there aren't that many good ones. I'd reccomend Cram, Thror's Map [Archivist's note: you can't start with a unique minor item], Athelas, Elven Cloak, and Healing Herbs as all being good choices. Though the choice of course is up to you. Thror's Map is good mostly if you're planning on using its ability of untapping sites later on, since it's Unique and your opponent may bring it out too. So this is more a matter of what type of strategy you're using in your resource/character deck.
Now it's time to start playing. In the next four issues I'll be covering more specific parts of play, so I'll just give you a few brief starting pointers here. Your first turn or two should be mostly occupied with getting everyone arranged how you want them, and possibly moving a company to Lorien or Grey Havens. In fact, you may want to move all your characters to Lorien while you're waiting for something to happen or some card to come up, because it's a more central location than Rivendell and nearer to more sites. Plus it gets them safe from Scorba Ahunt if your opponent feels like playing him. Next start working on your goal. If you're waiting for cards, go around to a few good 3-card-draw sites to try to get to what you're waiting for as fast as possible so you can begin. If you have any factions and you're waiting for something else go and play them, and for that matter any good items or characters as well. Once you've got the needed cards, start working on your goal, as I'll talk about in the appropriate issues coming in a few days.
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