The Story So Far – Part 1: Shadows of Mirkwood

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Hi all! Psychorocka here! Beorn recently invited me to write a guest article on the Hall of Beorn and I immediately accepted. Beorn has been an immeasurable asset to our community with all the various resources and insights into the game he has provided us with over the years so I am honored to be a part of this fantastic blog and help him out while he focuses on the new Arkham game.

My own personal blog Warriors of the West has been focused on providing turn by turn reports, Nightmare reviews and Nightmare spoilers thus far so I have decided to change things up a bit this time and write a lore article, but one with a bit of a twist! Rather than looking at elements of our beloved game and discussing how they fit within the universe and lore of Middle Earth I am going to be looking at and focusing on the actual story told by the developers within this game and will be treating it almost as though it is in fact canon to look at what we have achieved thus far in the game and the impact that has upon the events during The Lord of the Rings.

I feel as though the main focus of this game as far as the storytelling aspect is concerned is to build upon the fact that during those 17 years Frodo had the Ring in Bag End and Gandalf was investigating whether or not it was in fact the One Ring much more happened behind the scenes than we are aware of. Not only does this game explore what the Free peoples of Middle Earth were doing to prepare as they slowly became aware of the growing shadow in the East and the return of the Dark Lord but it also explores what else the Dark Lord or his agents were doing during this time other than simply searching for the Ring. The developers expand the story by using this time period we do not know all that much about and looking at all the various plausible what if’s they can think of:

    • What if our group of heroes had helped/replaced Aragorn capture Gollum and were also possibly instrumental in discovering the true nature of the evil hiding in Dol Guldur (facing a Nazgul in the process)?
    • What if our group of heroes had been tricked into helping a Black Numenorean Prince with his dark machinations and trap but then manage to foil that trap and rescue Faramir from certain death (facing a Nazgul yet again)?
    • What if our group of heroes unknowingly were the catalyst for not only Dunland being united as one tribe (then allowing Saruman to later convince them to go to war with Rohan) but also for helping Saruman catch the ideal specimen for creating/breeding Uruk-Hai as well as finding the ring-mould and ancient lore necessary for him to forge a ring of his own?
    • What if the Kingdom of Angmar nearly rose again during this time and our group of heroes narrowly stop that from happening and also put an end to not only a powerful Wraith Lord but also a seriously scary Dunedain traitor from the past who has become some sort of undying Necromancer?

Finally what if our heroes and a Gondorian Prince; Lord Calphon were unwittingly used by Sauron in an attempt for him to recover a powerful old relic of his lost during the drowning of Numenor but our heroes stop the relic from ever getting to him by defeating his Corsair minion: the Pirate Lord Captain Sahir?

These are the what ifs I am going to be looking at and exploring. Not only this but I am going to look at what ifs of my own! What if our group of heroes failed at any of these particular tasks and how would these failures change the events in The Lord of the Rings!
This is a big undertaking so I am going to do this as a series with a deluxe box and full cycle in each post. Lets start from the start with the Core Set and the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle. Before we do that however I will just quickly explain why I am not going to be including the first deluxe box  and second cycle (Khazad-Dum and Dwarrowdelf) in this series. During Khazad-Dum we discover the fate of Balin’s colony but then later in the Dwarrowdelf cycle during The Long Dark the group of heroes hope to perhaps meet up with Balin which does not make sense if we are already aware of his colony’s fate. This suggests that the group that undertakes the three quests from the Khazad-Dum box die or meet some other fate whilst attempting to escape from The Balrog during Flight from Moria and an entirely new group escort Arwen to Rivendell and then enter Moria to check it out for Elrond. It also does not make sense that Elrond asks us to investigate Moria after we literally just escaped it further hinting that the first group perishes. The Second group however does escape Moria and “defeats” the Balrog by pushing it down a dark hole. The Massive problem with this is that the fate of Balin’s Colony or exactly what Durin’s Bane actually is remains unknown to all in Middle Earth and is only discovered during the events of The Lord of the Rings. This deluxe box and cycle are definitely the weakest narrative wise as the story line just does not gel or make sense if you try to place it within that 17 year timeframe the game takes place in hence my decision to exclude it.

Core Set

Passage Through Mirkwood: During the very first quest of the game we start off in Mirkwood with the knowledge that there is a gathering menace in Dol Guldur thanks to one of King Thranduil’s patrols. A party of heroes (that’s us!) has been assembled and are tasked with carrying a message from Mirkwood to Lorien to warn Lady Galadriel of the imminent danger. Essentially the first quest is the party of heroes journeying through Mirkwood forest aiming at arriving somewhere along the banks of the Anduin.

Impact on Story: The “boss” spider we face at the end of this quest: Ungoliant’s Spawn is a descendant from the original giant spider that has literally unknown origins at one point even rivaled Morgoth himself: Ungoliant. The fact that we see such a large spider in Mirkwood shows that Shelob is not necessarily the last or even largest of Ungoliant’s line still alive. Our defeat of this impressive foe is perhaps integral to keeping the darkness in Southern Mirkwood at bay and keeping Thranduil’s kingdom safe until Dol Guldur is ultimately destroyed during The War of the Ring. We know that Sauron is well aware of Shelob’s existence and he in a way even sort of uses her to guard the pass of Cirith Ungol. Losing a few Orcs every now and then to satisfy her hunger is not much of a loss when he has countless Orcs serving him. Similarly the Ring Wraith Khamul (who would have been guarding/manning Dol Guldur at this time) may have been herding and using these spiders to keep Southern Mirkwood inaccessible and inhospitable to Elves.

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The Nightmare version of Ungoliant’s Spawn gives you a much better idea of just how big and nasty this foe truly is!

Journey along the Anduin: The second quest has us traveling down the Anduin river in an attempt to safely reach the forest of Lorien and deliver our message to Galadriel. This quest does not reveal much story wise and nothing overly exciting happens. We do have to fight a Hill Troll/s and various other nasty enemies and pursuers however in an area that is not usually this rife or abundant with agents of evil.

Impact on Story: The abundance of Sauron’s agents along the bank of the River only enforces the fact that he was searching for the ring as soon as he had the means to and was sending agents to the River Anduin where the ring had previously been lost by Isildur and is also where he thinks the Shire or Baggins may be as this is also where Hobbits once lived long ago.  These enemies are probably setting out from Dol Guldur which Sauron has sent Nazgul to fortify and reclaim. Among these enemies are Hill Trolls, Wolf Riders, Goblin Snipers and even an Orc Chieftain: Chieftain Ufthak! Some of these enemies may even be agents of Saruman who was also searching for the Ring at this time for his own devious plans.

Escape from Dol Guldur: The third and last quest of the Core Set sees us reach Lorien and deliver our message to Galadriel only to then be asked to investigate the area surrounding Dol Guldur. One of the heroes in our party is taken captive and it is up to us to rescue them! We take on the Nazgul of Dol Guldur and escape with our lives and the knowledge that Sauron is once again using Dol Guldur as one of his main bases of operation under the leadership of Khamul the Easterling.

Impact on Story: This quest does not add too much to the story but does indicate that our party of heroes were instrumental in discovering exactly what was going on in Dol Guldur and that Sauron has indeed retaken the fortress there. We face our first Nazgul and rescue our captured ally from certain death. My suspicion that the spiders are being used/herded by the Nazgul or Sauron himself is only strengthened by the inclusion of the various spider enemies in this quest.

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First Nazgul of the game! Khamul the Easterling perhaps?

Shadows of Mirkwood Cycle

The Hunt for Gollum: Now that the actual cycle has started and we move on from the core set the narrative shifts quite a bit and we are now being tasked by Gandalf to find Gollum somewhere in the Anduin Valley. Essentially the story of our game replaces Aragorn with a group of heroes in regards to Gollum’s eventual capture. This is actually fairly clever as Aragorn could not find Gollum for over ten years but eventually tracks and captures him in the Dead Marshes. After not finding Gollum for so long it makes sense that with the help of several other heroes he has more success. This particular quest is simply our group of heroes looking for tracks of Gollum along the banks of the River Anduin.

Impact on Story: This quest does not add much to the story at all and just has our heroes searching for clues of Gollum’s whereabouts.  The Hunters from Mordor and fact that enemies are also on the trail of Gollum however is very important as Sauron is hoping that tailing Gollum will lead him right to the ring. We are trying to catch him so that Gandalf can interrogate him and ascertain whether Frodo does indeed possess the one ring. Sauron is clearly one step ahead as he has already tortured and interrogated Gollum and knows that the Ring is somewhere known as The Shire in the hands of a Baggins. Sauron does not know the location of the Shire however and is searching the Banks of the Anduin instead (where hobbits once lived long ago). If Sauron had discovered the location of the Shire earlier than Gandalf returning there to warn Frodo and encourage him to leave Sauron very likely would have recovered the Ring and engulfed Middle Earth in darkness.

Conflict at the Carrock: While searching for Gollum our group of heroes hear rumors of a group of Trolls terrorizing the Valley. We eventually discover that the Trolls have been watching us from the Carrock and we are forced to do battle and destroy them with the help of Grimbeorn. It is really cool of the developers to include a descendant of Beorn who we get to fight alongside!

Impact on Story: A group of trolls venturing deep into an area that is normally fairly safe and is protected by the Beornings only expands the fact that Dol Guldur has clearly been established by Sauron’s forces as an important fortress and advance position and rallying point both for the upcoming War of the Ring as well as so that he can search for the ring.
It is close to the Anduin valley and the Growing Shadow is strengthening and encouraging all evil creatures to come out of the woodwork hence these Trolls being bold enough to openly enter and cause trouble in the valley. Their presence and threat is maybe even an attempt by Sauron to keep the Free People out of the Valley so that his agents can freely search for the Ring.

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A Journey to Rhosgobel: This quest is more of a brief interlude where we get to visit Rhosgobel, interact with Radagast and save an eagle. The eagle has been wounded during a battle with Goblins and the group of heroes decide to bring the Eagle to Radagast and then help him finds Athelas so that he can heal the Eagles wounds.

Impact on Story: Just more examples of the Growing Shadow encouraging all evil creatures to emerge from their dark holes and lairs to join Sauron’s ranks. Goblins in the Valley are bold enough to attack Eagles which is definitely not a good sign. The inclusion of the Spiders of Mirkwood and Dol Guldur Orcs encounter sets shows that even the area of Mirkwood that Rhosgobel is in has been infected/invaded by giant Spiders and agents of Sauron. This is not really surprising though given how close Rhosgobel is to Dol Guldur.

The Hills of Emyn Muil: This quest sees us exploring The Hills of Emyn Muil and its surrounding area back on Gollum’s trail. We essentially trudge through this region until we find his trail and follow him into the Dead Marshes. Not much really happens and it is just a slog-fest of locations.

Impact on Story: Not much at all happens here to further the story and we just see even more evidence of Sauron’s agents still tracking Gollum themselves and infesting this area of Middle Earth as well. The Nightmare version of this quest even features “Tunneling Nameless Ones” suggesting Sauron’s return and the Growing Shadow may have even awakened foes such as this one. Emyn Muil is a fair distance from Rhosgobel and The Carrock so our group of heroes must have spent a fair amount of time traveling to Emyn Muil after leaving Rhosgobel. Perhaps this cycle is not just meant to represent our heroes joining/replacing Aragorn at the end of his long search for Gollum but rather performing the long grueling 17 year or so search in its entirety!! It would be silly if this was the case though as it would give no time for all the other cycles to happen in this 17 year time frame as well. Due to this I am assuming that this cycle is just the end of the search for Gollum and takes place during the last few months before he was found.

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It is easily conceivable that if Sauron had some hand in waking or influencing the Watcher in the Water (it does go after the Ring Bearer after all!) he could do the same with similar beasts in the Emyn Muil region.

The Dead Marshes: In The Dead Marshes we finally hone in one Gollum and have the opportunity to catch him. He flees into The Dead Marshes in an attempt to escape our party of heroes but we close in and capture him at last.

Impact on Story: The Dead Marshes features the actual capture of Gollum that took place in February of TA 3017. Our party of heroes are responsible in place or Aragorn or alternatively alongside him. We are truly within Sauron’s Reach in The Dead Marshes due to its extremely close proximity to Mordor and in the Nightmare version of this quest we even have to fend off the dead spirits of the marshes who are perhaps increasingly active due to Sauron’s return.

Return to Mirkwood: In the final quest of this cycle we bring the captured Gollum back to Northern Mirkwood to be held and interrogated in Thranduil’s Palace. Right as we get close to Thranduil’s realm we are ambushed by a last group of enemies eager to seize Gollum for themselves.

Impact on Story: I find it interesting that Sauron’s agents were trying to seize Gollum for themselves as Sauron had already seized and interrogated Gollum before Aragorn/our heroes were able to. In the hands of the Free People however Gollum could reveal to them the location of the ring as well allowing them to beat Sauron to its location and discovery.  As well as this Gollum serves more purpose to Sauron free so that he can be followed and lead Sauron straight to the ring if he discovers its location himself. Sauron would have been desperate to stop Gollum falling into the clutches of Thranduil and he very soon thereafter succeeds at freeing him from Thranduil’s imprisonment via a large Orc ambush that kill Gollum’s guards while they are letting him climb trees in the nearby forest. Gandalf is able to interrogate Gollum before this happens though and sets off for The Shire eager to rouse Frodo to action now that he is certain he possesses the one ring.

We see Sauron’s desperation to stop Gollum from ever reaching Thranduil’s Realm in the fierce enemies pursuing us when playing this quest. Not only do we see Goblins,  Hill Trolls, more giant descendants of Ungoliant (Attercop, Attercop) and Bats trying to stop us  but in the Nightmare version there are also ambushing Orcs and pursuing Warg Riders as well. When playing this quest you can easily be overwhelmed or swarmed by the nastier foes that appear as well as the crazy threat gain from Gollum himself which then forces you to engage high engagement cost enemies as well.

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Perhaps more of Ungoliant’s children remain than we thought! These monsters almost rival Shelob in size!

Overall Thoughts

Main Storyline and Theme: Essentially the core set and first cycle focuses on the Elves of Mirkwood and Lorien realising the nature of the growing shadow in the East mostly due to the massing of foes in Dol Guldur, Southern Mirkwood and the Anduin Valley; that Sauron is once again  wholly active and is extending his spies and grip on Middle Earth, as well as the capture and interrogation of Gollum by Aragorn (which is instead performed by our group of heroes). We also face a Nazgul (most likely Khamul) in Dol Guldur and I assume report this back to Galadriel and Thranduil revealing that Sauron is using Dol Guldur once again as a secondary fortress and base of operations. He openly declared himself in Mordor in TA 2951  and immediately sent out Nazgul to retake Dol Guldur and Gollum is not captured by Aragorn/our group of heroes until 3017 so it admittedly would be a little strange that for some 60 years or so the Elven Kingdoms have not realised that Dol Guldur is being occupied by Nazgul. In the Third Age the elves mostly keep to themselves and their own borders though so it is conceivable that they would not be aware of the true nature of the darkness coming from Dol Guldur until this point.

Now we know that before Frodo left the Shire Aragorn captured Gollum in the Dead Marshes and led him back to Thranduil’s kingdom in Mirkwood for imprisonment. Aragorn finally finding Gollum and Gandalf then interrogating him was the final piece of information Gandalf needed to go into full on panic mode and deduce that the ring Frodo possesses is indeed the One Ring. Gandalf immediately sets out for the Shire (which was his next destination anyway) to perform a final test and to motivate Frodo to leave the Shire as soon as possible to deliver the Ring to Rivendell. I feel that rather than really expanding upon the lore and mythos this first cycle instead just further explores the pursuit and capture of Gollum by Aragorn and attributes this to our group of heroes instead. We visit some great areas such as The Carrock, The Dead Marshes, Emyn Muil and even Rhosgobel. I feel like the developers of the game were not really trying to do much story wise with the game at this point and so we have a bare bones story that does fit in with The Lord of the Rings universe but does not really expand upon it and instead just lets us do battle with iconic enemies (orcs, trolls, spiders, a nazgul etc), explore some of the more famous locations (mirkwood, anduin, dol guldur, dead marshes etc) and interact with some of the more notable characters (Gollum, Galadriel, Radagast, Thranduil etc). That being said it does do a great job of portraying the growing Shadow in the East and we see Sauron’s agents both searching for the Ring and also just getting more bold and aggressive in general such as the trolls coming down from the Mountains and the spiders infesting Mirkwood.

Impact failure would have had: Honestly the capture of Gollum does not seem too important. Gandalf was heading for the Shire with his final test for the ring anyway (Isildur’s scroll that discusses the inscriptions on the ring and how to make them appear) and the interrogation of Gollum only furthers his resolve and confirms his belief that it is in fact the One Ring. This means that even had Gollum eluded our clutches Gandalf still would have tested the ring in the Shire and realised it was the One Ring at that point. He in fact may have arrived at the Shire sooner had he not taken this detour! Ultimately I do not think that much would be different had Gollum not been captured and the events in The Lord of the Rings would have played out more or less the same. Its also worth looking at the fact that Sauron had agents tailing Gollum and was hoping he would lead him right to the ring but it is extremely doubtful that Gollum knew the location of the Shire so even had he not been captured by our heroes he still would not have led Sauron anywhere important. In future cycles this section will much more interesting as this is in my opinion the only cycle where failure does not have any serious ramifications and all the others feature especially important achievements that strongly influence future events and their outcomes!

Anything else of Note: Alright get your tinfoil hats out! I believe that this is the “final” deluxe and cycle before the events of The Lord of the Rings. Between Gandalf interrogating  Gollum and Frodo leaving the Shire there are only a few months which is nowhere near the time needed for all the stuff that takes place in the following cycles such as traveling large distances that we know would take several months and even traveling across the ocean as seen during the current cycle. This leads me to believe that the story really starts with the Third Cycle (also when the developers of this game began to focus far more on the story telling aspect of this game) and ends with the First Cycle. This way all the various cycles (Third Cycle onwards) can take place believably in the 17 year gap before Frodo leaves the Shire and the core set and first cycle then take place a few months before Frodo leaves the Shire and the real adventure begins!

Hope you enjoyed my breakdown of the story the developers give us in the core set and Shadows of Mirkwood cycle. These early expansions for the game don’t actually expand that much upon the story we know and love and mainly just provide us with great locales to explore and iconic enemies to battle. It is interesting however to look at how this game shows the growing Shadow in the East. We can see Nazgul and other various enemies searching for the Ring in the background whilst also trying to delay/destroy our group of heroes. Trolls have come out of the Mountains and have invaded the Anduin Valley  bringing chaos and strife with them and the forests of Mirkwood grow darker and more dangerous by the day.

Next time I will move onto Heirs of Numenor and the Third Cycle where the real story telling begins! I am quite excited to write the next article as I can theorize far more and talk about what our heroes really achieve behind the scenes and how critical it is to the eventual War of the Ring! Tune in next time to read about how our heroes save Faramir from certain death, take part in critical battles across Gondor, uncover a vast conspiracy within Minas Tirith itself and even help stop Cair Andros from being overrun and taken by Sauron’s forces!

Posted in Books, Discussion, History, Lore, Tolkien | 8 Comments

A new Power is rising

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He drew himself up then and began to declaim, as if he were making a speech long rehearsed.

The Elder Days are gone. The Middle Days are passing. The Younger Days are beginning. The time of the Elves is over, but our time is at hand: the world of Men, which we must rule. But we must have power, power to order all things as we will, for that good which only the Wise can see.

“And listen, Gandalf, my old friend and helper!”, he said, coming near and speaking now in a softer voice. “I said we, for we it may be, if you will join with me. a new Power is rising. Against it the old allies and policies will not avail us at all. There is no hope left in Elves and dying Númenor. This then is one choice before you, before us. We may join with that Power. It would be wise, Gandalf. There is hope that way. Its victory is at hand; and there will be rich reward for those who aided it. As the Power grows, its proved friends will also grow; and the Wise, such as you and I, may with patience come at last to direct its courses, to control it. We can bide our time, we can keep our thoughts in our hearts, deploring maybe evils done by the way, but approving the high and ultimate purpose: Knowledge, Rule, Order; all the things that we have so far striven in vain to accomplish, hindered rather than helped by our weak or idle friends. There need not be, there would not be, any real change in our designs, only in our means.”

“Saruman,” I said, “I have heard speeches of this kind before, but only in the mouths of emissaries sent from Mordor to deceive the ignorant. I cannot think that you brought me so far only to weary my ears.”

—Gandalf, The Council of Elrond, The Lord of the Rings (Book II, Chapter 2)

Posted in Books, Community, Lord of the Rings, Theme, Tolkien | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Arkham LCG Card Search and A Call For Support

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With the release of Arkham Horror: The Card Game almost nigh, I have been a busy bear. As some may have noticed, the Hall of Beorn card search has expanded to include both of Fantasy Flight’s Cooperative Living Card Games. You can find the Arkham Horror Card Search (still a work in progress) on its own section of the site. My apologies for letting things here hibernate for a bit, but life has simply become too busy to work on all of my projects at once. I have a few different articles in draft form, but writer’s block seems to haunt me with its inexorable visage whenever I sit down to prepare an article for release. This blog has always been an outlet for me to enjoy writing about a game that I love – turning writing into a burdensome obligation would defeat its entire purpose. My hope is that with a bit of time away from writing I can return rejuvenated, with fresh ideas and a new perspective.

I am joining in the effort to bring the Arkham Horror LCG to OCTGN, and my software development skills can be put to good use there. It would be a shame for this space to lay dormant while my travels take me elsewhere, so I want to reach out to the community to ask for help. If you have article ideas, deck lists, play reports, satirical rants against those who lust for power, or anything else which might be of interest to players, please contact me about being a guest contributor. There are so many strong voices within the community and we all benefit from a diversity in our media.

Traffic on the Hall of Beorn Card Search continues to grow – predictions of the game’s demise remain premature. However, Patreon donations have diminished to the point where there is a considerable shortfall to cover hosting costs each month. With the addition of support for the Arkham Horror LCG, traffic will only increase. For those who enjoy having access to a powerful and convenient card search engine for The Lord of the Rings, or will appreciate having those same features for Arkham Horror, I invite you to become a Patron. Even the smallest contributions can have a great impact when people rally together. I am humbled and grateful to all of my patrons for helping me to play a part in such a fine community.

Posted in Arkham Horror, Community, Hall of Beorn Card Search, News, OCTGN, Patreon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Redemption at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields!

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This week I rejoined Brandon, Sean and Chad on the Cardboard of the Rings Twitch for our second attempt at a four player game of the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. With power decks in hand, we narrowly held off the hosts of Mordor and tasted victory. I brought an updated version of my Aggro Caldara deck and it performed admirably. Be sure to check out the stream for a rousing victory and a most entertaining game.

Posted in Aggro, Cardboard of the Rings, Community, Fun, OCTGN, Strategy, The Grey Company, Twitch, Videos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Battle of the Pelennor Fields was a Massacre

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I was fortunate enough to join the guys from Cardboard of the Rings on Twitch for an epic game of The Battle of the Pelennor Fields. I brought one of my favorite support decks which features Beorn, Bifur and Mablung. This quest is brutally difficult and Minas Tirith ultimately fell to the armies of Sauron – but not before Beorn slew a War Mûmak with his own two paws. Despite the defeat, I had an absolute blast playing with everyone. We’ll try again next week, hopefully with more success.

Posted in Cardboard of the Rings, Community, Deck Lists, Multiplayer, OCTGN, Screenshot, Strategy, Twitch, Videos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Alternate Art: Zero is not Nothing

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As much as I enjoy making mono-sphere decks, there is always the temptation to go the other direction and include three or even all four spheres in a deck. There are so many good cards spread across spheres that it is often difficult to narrow your choices down. Thankfully, the card pool now has a wide variety of zero cost cards to make multi-sphere decks less risky of a proposition. What’s more, some of these cards (I’m looking at you A Very Good Tale and Daeron’s Runes) happen to be among the most potent cards in their respective spheres.

Assuming you already have the sphere match, zero-cost cards function as a sort of glue; they help to hold all of the pieces of a multi-sphere deck together. This is not to say that these cards aren’t also valuable in more focused decks with only one or two spheres, their low costs and high impact just makes them all the more important in a deck which is splitting its attention among many disparate facets of the game. With that in mind, I wanted to make a bit of a present for anyone else in the community who appreciates the value of free cards.

What follows are alternate art versions of just some of my favorite 0-cost cards. This follows in the tradition of my previous post with alternate art staples, only this time we focus on cards which can slot easily into a wide variety of decks – thanks to their bargain prices. It speaks volumes about the state of the meta-game that so many of these cards are at the heart of many of the game’s most popular decks. It remains to be seen whether newer entrées, cards like Dúnedain Remedy, will similarly become staples. I have long been a fan of cards with that kind of efficiency and versatility. As a bonus, I’ve included a few heroes at the end of the list, since many people enjoyed my alternate art hero cards inspired by the art of Magali Villeneuve. I hope that you enjoy these cards, and as always you can contact me if you are interested in printable versions. Don’t forget, you can’t always judge the value of a thing by how much it costs.

All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

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Posted in Art, Fun, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bear Draft v3: Card Pool

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Over the long weekend, the Austin LotR LCG group met and we had the opportunity to test the latest version of the Bear Draft. For the first time, we included the optional Signature Squad rules which I detailed in an earlier post. Being able to choose a General and receive 6 additional cards was a well-received tweak to the existing draft format. Players enjoyed being able to focus a strategy that was already present in their decks, or even add one that might have been lacking.

By it’s nature a draft pool is limited, so everyone is not going to be able to include 3 copies of each staple card in their deck. These constraints are a big part of the fun of draft – it forces you out of your comfort zone as a deck-builder and player. Still, players want to feel like their draft decks have some kind of strategic and thematic cohesion, and Signature Squads and Havens both allow for this.

argaladBecause of time constraints we decided not to include the optional Haven cards, but I hope to test those out in the near future. All told, we drafted a wide array of decks, including a staging area control deck built around Argalad. It was exciting to have my first exposure to this new hero be in a draft game.

The card pool for this game has slowly but steadily grown to the point where a limited format like draft is not nearly as difficult to play as it once was. In particular, the unique allies released in the last couple of Saga expansions have provided a notable improvement to the pool of available characters.

With so many characters appearing as both heroes and allies in multiple spheres, one important change to the games rules for draft is the uniqueness rule. Unique characters and attachments apply to each player rather than the entire group. This allows a player to play the Legolas ally while another player already controls the hero. With the number of duplicate unique cards in this game it would be very difficult to avoid this problem. In any case, the constraints of a limited card pool seem to more than make up for relaxing such a fundamental rule.

Before drafting player cards, we first drafted heroes. We took 1 copy of each hero printed to date, shuffled them up, and dealt out (mostly) even piles to each player. Since we didn’t want to eliminate any heroes, it was decided to allow for some players to receive larger piles than others. While this meant that some players ended up with one extra hero in their draft cards, it avoided having anyone’s favorite hero removed from the pool accidentally. With heroes drafted, we moved on to the main event of the Bear Draft, drafting the player cards.

glorfindel-allyWhat follows is a list of the player cards included in Bear Draft v3. Cards are divided into three rarities: common, uncommon and rare. Common cards have 3 total copies in the pool, uncommon cards have 2 copies and there is only a single copy of each rare care in the card pool. While this might at first seem too limiting for making a variety of decks, remember that Signature Squads and Havens both afford six additional cards for each player.

With 512 total player cards in the draft pool, cards are shuffled and built into 16 card “packs”. Players then receive 4 such packs and draft them over four successive rounds. To keep things interesting we alternate passing cards clockwise and counter-clockwise with each subsequent round. When all is said and done, players have 64 player cards drafted. From there each player has the chance to improve their decks through the optional rules which I’ve outlined in previous articles.

Gandalf-CoreOf their drafted heroes, each player will select up to 3 (so far no one has had the guts to run a 2 hero deck, but it may yet happen). With heroes selected, players can then choose a General and receive the Signature Squad for that General. Then, players can choose a Haven and receive its corresponding haven cards. Any of these bonus cards are optional, so players can include any or all of them in their decks. If they feel that there deck is strong enough, people can even opt out of receiving bonus cards entirely. Lastly, we gave each player the option of adding one copy of Core Set Gandalf and 1 resource Song card to their decks.

The minimum deck size for draft is 40 cards. We have found that this size is easy to meet with a starting pool of 64 cards plus bonus cards. In our latest draft, I even took a risk and fielded a 50 card deck which faired well. We chose a quest on the easier side of the difficulty scale, again because draft decks tend to be less powerful. That said, there is no reason why you could not play draft decks against a more difficult scenario, to truly put your drafting and building skills to the test. Variant game formats like draft are something which I’ve always enjoyed in card game, and its an enjoyment that seems to be shared by many in my local playgroup. I’m interested to hear other players’ perspectives on the card pool, rarities and bonus features of this exciting format. Those with interest in draft are encouraged to leave me comments and feedback below!

Leadership (120 total cards)

Common x3 (36 total cards)

ALLIES

Errand-rider Naith Guide Warrior of Lossarnach Dwarven Sellsword

ATTACHMENTS

Steward of Gondor Dúnedain Mark Dúnedain Warning Cram

EVENTS

Sneak Attack A Very Good Tale Gaining Strength Campfire Tales

Uncommon x2 (64 total cards)

ALLIES

Squire of the Citadel Weather Hills Watchman Warden of Helm’s Deep Pelargir Ship Captain
Herald of Anórien Snowbourn Scout Dúnedain Watcher Guardian of Arnor
Veteran of Osgiliath Longbeard Elder Silverlode Archer Son of Arnor
Gimli Faramir Orophin Galadriel

ATTACHMENTS

Hobbit Cloak Rod of the Steward Armored Destrier Visionary Leadership
Heir of Mardil King Under the Mountain Heir of Valandil O Lórien!

EVENTS

Captain’s Wisdom We Are Not Idle Feigned Voices Valiant Sacrifice
For Gondor! Tighten Our Belts Legacy of Númenor Anchor Watch

Rare x1 (20 total cards)

ALLIES

Halbarad Anborn Bill the Pony Glóin Fili
Forlong Erestor Ingold Ceorl Eldahir

ATTACHMENTS

Narvi’s Belt Dúnedain Signal Dúnedain Cache Celebrían’s Stone Sword that was Broken

EVENTS

Grim Resolve Lure of Moria Reinforcements Timely Aid Descendants of Kings

Tactics (120 total cards)

Common x3 (36 total cards)

ALLIES

Vassal of the Windlord Defender of Rammas Derndingle Warrior Knight of the Swan

ATTACHMENTS

Gondorian Shield Rohan Warhorse Dagger of Westernesse Raiment of War

EVENTS

Feint Quick Strike Hands Upon the Bow Sterner than Steel

Uncommon x2 (64 total cards)

ALLIES

Veteran Spearman Gondorian Spearman Honour Guard Westfold Outrider
Galadhon Archer Winged Guardian Booming Ent Fornost Bowman
Dúnedain Hunter Eagles of the Misty Mountains Erebor Battle Master Marksman of Lórien
Bofur Legolas Skinbark Grimbold

ATTACHMENTS

Captain of Gondor Blade of Gondolin Bow of the Galadhrim Rivendell Blade
Citadel Plate Spear of the Citadel Gondorian Fire Dwarven Axe

EVENTS

Foe-hammer Hold Your Ground! Behind Strong Walls Horn’s Cry
Boomed and Trumpeted The Eagles Are Coming! Skyward Volley Hail of Stones

Rare x1 (20 total cards)

ALLIES

Beorn Landroval Guthlaf Rúmil Gwaihir
Beechbone Farmer Maggot Boromir Déorwine Azain Silverbeard

ATTACHMENTS

Elven Mail Ring Mail Great Yew Bow Rivendell Bow Horn of Gondor

EVENTS

 Close Call  Straight Shot Hour of Wrath  Revealed in Wrath Thicket of Spears

Spirit (120 total cards)

Common x3 (36 total cards)

ALLIES

Galadriel’s Handmaiden Imladris Stargazer West Road Traveller Ethir Swordsman

ATTACHMENTS

Miruvor Unexpected Courage Ancient Mathom Light of Valinor

EVENTS

A Test of Will Hasty Stroke The Galadhrim’s Greeting Elven-light

Uncommon x2 (64 total cards)

ALLIES

Westfold Horse-breeder Escort from Edoras Zigil Miner Galadhrim Weaver
 Sailor of Lune Wandering Took Westfold Horse-breaker Northern Tracker
 Bofur Elven Jeweler Pelargir Shipwright Rhovanion Outrider
Arwen Undómiel Háma Lindir Elfhelm

ATTACHMENTS

Hobbit Pony Hobbit Pipe Silver Harp To the Sea, to the Sea!
Steed of Imladris Steed of the Mark Snowmane Blood of Númenor

EVENTS

Stand and Fight Fair and Perilous Dwarven Tomb Island Amid Peril
Tides of Fate Elwing’s Flight Free to Choose Elrond’s Counsel

Rare x1 (20 total cards)

ALLIES

Éomund Kili Dwalin Bilbo Baggins Sam Gamgee
Gamling Emery Damrod Prince Imrahil Glorfindel

ATTACHMENTS

Livery of the Tower Song of Earendil Silver Lamp Herugrim Ring of Barahir

EVENTS

Lords of the Eldar Scouting Party Will of the West Fortune or Fate Shadows Give Way

Lore (120 total cards)

Common x3 (36 total cards)

ALLIES

Erebor Hammersmith Warden of Healing Wandering Ent Anfalas Herdsman

ATTACHMENTS

Protector of Lórien Forest Snare Self Preservation Ranger Spikes

EVENTS

Daeron’s Runes Deep Knowledge Heed the Dream The Evening Star

Uncommon x2 (64 total cards)

ALLIES

Ithilien Tracker Daughter of the Nimrodel Galadhrim Minstrel Wellinghall Preserver
Ithilien Archer Sarn Ford Sentry Erebor Record-keeper Master of the Forge
Longbeard Map-maker Silvan Tracker Rivendell Minstrel Mirkwood Explorer
Gléowine Dori Elrond Quickbeam

ATTACHMENTS

Legacy of Durin Lembas A Burning Brand Entangling Net
Asfaloth Wingfoot Cloak of Lórien Ent Draught

EVENTS

Secret Paths Peace, and Thought Arrows from the Trees Distant Stars
Entmoot The Tree People Noiseless Movement Mithrandir’s Advice

Rare x1 (20 total cards)

ALLIES

Henamarth Riversong Gildor Inglorion Anborn (TBoG) Mablung Galdor of the Havens
Haldir of Lórien Bifur Barliman Butterbur Ghân-buri-Ghân Robin Smallburrow

ATTACHMENTS

Ranger Bow Fast Hitch Thror’s Key Expert Treasure-hunter Elf-stone

EVENTS

Quick Ears Take No Notice Word of Command Out of the Wild Advance Warning

Neutral (32 total cards)

Common x3 (9 total cards)

Envoy of Pelargir Resourceful A Good Harvest

Uncommon x2 (16 total cards)

Defender of the Naith Guardian of Rivendell Ered Luin Miner Ranger of Cardolan
Treebeard Elf-friend Sword-thain Hidden Cache

Rare x1 (7 total cards)

Saruman Radagast Good Meal Keys of Orthanc
Favor of the Valar Strider The Seeing-stone
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