Ever since the game was first released, there has existed a cast of “missing” characters. The core set included nine recognizable heroes (Thalin, Eleanor and Beravor don’t count), and four unique allies (no, Henamarth Riversong and Brok Ironfist don’t count). This was a sizable number, all else considered. Yet still, it excluded the vast majority of major characters from both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
Fortunately, after three deluxe expansions, as many chapter pack cycles, and a handful of saga expansions, the number of characters represented has grown considerably. The aim of this article is twofold: to document the characters that have not yet received a hero or an ally card, and secondly to design thematically appropriate custom cards for these characters.
As the wife of Elrond, and mother of Elladan, Elrohir and Arwen, one might expect Celebrían to play a part in the story of the Lord of the Rings. However, long before the events of the Lord of the Rings, Celebrían sailed West to Valinor. In T.A. 2509, on a trip from Rivendell to Lórien, Celebrían was captured by a roaming band of Orcs in the Redhorn Pass. The foul creatures tortured her and she received a poisoned wound.
Although her sons bravely freed her, and her wound was healed by Elrond, Celebrían never truly recovered from the ordeal. This custom card is meant to reflect that inspiration that Celebrían provided to her people, and also the dangerous and fragile nature of her life in Middle-Earth.
One of the most powerful beings in all of Middle-Earth, Galadriel is the lady of Lórien and bearer of one of the three Elven rings of power. Along with Celeborn, she leads the Galladhrim in their fight to hold back the incursions of Sauron. Aided by Nenya, Galadriel maintains Lórien as one of the few remaining havens in Middle-Earth.
Galadriel has been represented in many different custom cards, in fact she is the default template for custom hero cards in Strange Eons. In most cases, Galadriel is represented as a Spirit hero, and this makes sense given her mysterious and almost spiritual qualities. In this case, I chose to focus on her knowledge and reputation for prescient visions of the future and so chose the Lore sphere. Compared to Elrond and Vilya, her ability may seem a bit subtle, or even weak, but combined with Nenya she can help protect her people from the most dangerous assaults by the Dark Lord.
Although he lead an army in the War of the last alliance of Men and Elves, and gave Narya to Gandalf upon the wizard’s arrive in Middle-Earth, Círdan is not widely known. As one of the Teleri, Círdan makes his home at the Grey Havens. From there, the shipwright helps the other Eldar depart Middle-Earth for the shores of Valinor in the West.
After Sauron was defeated in the War of the Last Alliance, Círdan only really interacts with other elves, which is reflected in his cost and his first ability. Círdan showed great wisdom when he recognized that Gandalf would need help in his fight against Sauron. His second ability represents this wisdom.
Until the War of the Last Alliance, Gil-Galad was king of the Noldor. Tragically, he fell in that battle against Sauron. As even Sam Gamgee can tell you though, the last King of the Elves and his famous spear Aeglos will forever live on in story and song. Elrond has said about the battle of Dagorlad, “we had the mastery: for the Spear of Gil-Galad and the Sword of Elendil, Aeglos and Narsil, none could withstand.”
Indeed, the fact that Gil-Galad fell in that battle, and his spear was never taken up again, was one of the reasons why Sauron feared know opposition in the War of the Ring. Ultimately, the Dark Lord’s overconfidence lead to his downfall, but his fear of Gil-Galad was well-founded. As one of the mightiest of the Noldor from the Third Age, I wanted his stats and abilities to reflect this strength. Gil-Galad’s starting threat is quite high, but armed with his spear he can become nearly invincible. More over, his ability to inspire the elves in his command is precisely what made him one of Sauron’s most feared enemies.
Certainly one of the lesser-known elves, Lindir is a lover of songs and poetry that is a part of the House of Elrond. Before the Council of Elrond, it is Lindir who compliments Bilbo on the quality of his poetry, though he does so with a rather back-handed compliment, saying:
“You know you are never tired of reciting your own verses”
As far as game mechanics are concerned, I have always really liked Rivendell Minstrel, and I wanted Lindir to be a character with a similar ability, but one that worked well in combination with the more generic Minstrel. More recently, Song cards seem to have fallen out of favor, especially with mono-sphere decks being more viable. Still, with the Ring-Maker cycle seeming to bring the focus to different deck archetypes, I hope that Songs cards have a resurgence in the meta-game.
The King of the elves of Mirkwood, and father of Legolas, Thranduil is a very different kind of leader than the others in Middle-Earth. With a legendary love of jewels, and a mistrust of Dwarves, Thranduil seems far less removed and noble than Elrond, Celeborn or Galadriel. Even so, he is a powerful and respected rules of his people. The defense of Mirkwood against the menace of the Necromancer in Dol Guldur was essential to give the Free Peoples time to prepare for the next battle with Sauron.
This version of Thranduil represents the morale boost that he provides to his people, and happens to fill a void that has always bothered me from a game-mechanics standpoint. I have always really liked the Silvan Tracker ally, but with many Silvan characters only possessing a single hit point, it remains difficult to put that card to good use. The forced effect on this version of Thranduil is a reflection of his hatred and mistrust of the Dwarves.
The wife of Denethor II, and the mother of Boromir and Faramir, Finduilas is another tragic figure in the back story of the Lord of the Rings. Sister to Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth, Finduilas is said to also possess the Elven-blood of that city. Sadly, the wife of the Steward never prospered in Minas Tirith; some even said that she withered in the guarded city.
With this card, I wanted to bolster the Spirit Gondor faction that has only recently come into being. Her ability is admittedly a minor one, but it helps keep threat under control in an archetype that lacks other thematic options. It also reflects the grief that she must have felt over the dangers that faced her family from Minas Morgul and the borders of Mordor. I suspect it was this grief which caused Finduilas to die at so young an age.
The brave son of Beregond, Bergil befriends Pippin during the Hobbit’s time in the White City. The boy acts as Pippin’s guide upon the Took’s arrival in Minas Tirith and they quickly become friends. Bergil serves as an errand-runner for the wardens of healing as well as helping his father.
It is in this second capacity that I wanted to make a fun and thematic card for Bergil. Beregond is a very powerful hero, but without weapon or armor attachments in your hand, you cannot take advantage of the guard’s true strength. This is where Bergil comes in. The ever dutiful son, Bergil can fetch armor or a weapon for his father, ensuring that Beregond is well prepared for any onslaught.
One of the true heroes of the Battle of the Hornburg, Erkenbrand is less acclaimed than some of the other Rohirrim but not by any lack of prowess. The arrival of Erkenbrand, along with Gandalf and a thousand infantry, turns the tide in The Battle of the Hornburg and saves the lives of Theoden, Aragorn and countless others.
I wanted Erkenbrand’s ability to represent this epic moment – showing up with aid at just the right time. As an added bonus, this plays well with the other “leaves play” effects that already exist in Rohan decks. For one thing, his ability be used to boost the strength of Éomer in combat. However the effect is particularly powerful if you are fortunate enough to find Éomund among the top five cards of your deck.
Another lesser-known figure among the men of the Westfold, Grimbold nonetheless fights with honor and distinction. It is he who bravely saves the fallen body of Theodred from being taken by the Uruk-hai in the Battle of the Fords of Isen. Indeed, if not for his tactical brilliance in that battle, all of the Rohirrim could easily have been routed.
As far as this card’s design is concerned, there were a couple of different goals. With its other Tactics heroes, Rohan already has plenty of attack power, so I wanted Grimbold to be more focused on defense. In addition, I have always been frustrated by the general lack of card drawing effects in Tactics.
That said, I didn’t want the card draw to be too powerful or efficient, or it would risk minimizing the value of Lore. In this case, the card drawing effect is powerful, but conditional, and it comes with the risk of threat gain. In a Tactics deck with already high starting threat this can be troublesome, but I believe that Tactics and Spirit is a natural pairing for Rohan.
A friend of Aragorn, and an important figure among the Dúnedain, Halbarad joins his captain after receiving word from Galadriel. An able fighter, Halbarad is slain, along with so many other brave men, in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Before this tragic ending, it was Halbarad, along with Elladan, Elrohir and the rest of the Grey Company, who helped Aragorn keep the North safe from the encroachment of Sauron.
I have always felt that the Signal cards are an underused theme, so I wanted this ally to be a fun way to encourage players to reevaluate those attachments. One of the useful, but under-utilized, effects of Signal attachments, is that they can be passed from one player to the next by paying a resource. In Leadership, having spare resources is not usually a difficult feat. I especially like the idea of a second player passing you control of the critical third Signal card, so that Halbarad can get ready for battle.
Never one to be hasty, Treebeard is ultimately one of the most important figures in the War of the Ring. In his own deliberate way, he ultimately convinces the other Ents to wage war against Saruman, a development for which the wizard is critically unprepared. The downfall of the renegade wizard represents a turning of the tide in the final war against Sauron.
I really like (and cannot claim to have originated) the idea of Ent allies coming into play exhausted. This is a great way to reflect their methodical process of deciding whether or not to take action. That said, once an Ent does decide to act, they are a most formidable opponent.
It doesn’t make sense for Ents to wield weapons, but I decided to take things a step further and prevent them from having attachments of any kind. While this might seem a tad bit extreme, the absurdity of an Ent wielding A Burning Brand was something that I really wanted to avoid. In particular, Treebeard cares most for the trees, so I wanted his other ability to reflect where his true motivation lies.
A younger, hastier Ent, Quickbeam befriends Merry and Pippin and is the first of the Ents to decide to attack Isengard. As the guardian of rowan trees, Quickbeam is particularly aggrieved at the wanton destruction of so many such groves, at the hands of Saruman’s Orcs.
There are some forest locations in the game with particularly troublesome travel effects, so I wanted Quickbeam’s ability to provide an elegant solution to visit such places. Ever since the errata of Thror’s Map, I have wanted a more balanced replacement. This card is an attempt to be thematically accurate to the Ents, but also fill a gap in the existing card pool.
The brother of Landroval, and greatest and swiftest among the Eagles at during the War of the Ring, Gwaihir is a being of power and majesty. Indeed, his name means Windlord in Sindarin, and he is said to be the swiftest of the Eagles of the North at the time of The Lord of the Rings.
While Landroval’s ability to save a hero is quite useful, I wanted Gwaihir to be more focused on boosting other eagles. Having an Eagle hero card has never quite made sense, as they seem far too removed from the daily events of Middle-Earth. However, when the Eagles do intercede in mortal affairs, they tend to do so as a group, with meaningful results. Being able to exhaust Gwaihir to boost all Eagle characters in play gives a huge boost to decks which feature this archetype.