News for February 2012
Heroes in The Redhorn Gate, Part One
A spotlight on the heroes of The Lord of The Rings: The Card Game
The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game | Published 06 February 2012

Aragorn was the tallest of the Company, but Boromir, little less in height, was broader and heavier in build. He led the way, and Aragorn followed him. Slowly they moved off, and were soon toiling heavily. In places the snow was breast-high, and often Boromir seemed to be swimming or burrowing with his great arms rather than walking.
    Legolas watched them for a while with a smile upon his lips, and then he turned to the others. “The strongest must seek a way, say you? But I say: let a ploughman plough, but choose an otter for swimming, and for running over grass and leaf, or over snow – an Elf.”

   –The Fellowship of the Ring

With the completion of the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle and the release of Khazad-dûm, players now have far more heroes from which to choose as they build their fellowships, but how do you decide which to include? Are there any hard and fast rules about the best ways to combine heroes from different spheres? Have you ever wondered why The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game limits players to three heroes in the first place?

Let’s start by addressing the last of these questions first. While it’s true that players can choose to run fewer than three heroes, it’s generally not advised.

The rule of three

A two-hero fellowship (or even a solitary hero) may be able to make progress toward the quest for a period of time, while slipping beneath the notice of any enemies in the staging area, but eventually the mounting threats of locations and enemies are likely to catch up to a small party. The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is intentionally balanced for three heroes.

The game’s designer, Nate French, explains:

Three is a really strong number for game design. It presents possibilities for different approaches to games that can appeal to different types of players. When you play a game, having to focus on three options can lead you to a balanced approach that works like a tripod leaning equally upon all three sides (a tri-sphere deck, with one hero from each of three different spheres), or you may take a split focus between a major sphere with support from a minor sphere (a deck with two Spirit heroes, and one Tactics hero, for instance). Still another option exists, and you can focus all your efforts on a single point of interest (a focused, monosphere deck).

Having only two options for heroes would be too limiting in possibilities; it creates situations that are all an either/or or a perfect mix. Four options, on the other hand, would start to enter the territory of allowing players to do “everything” right out of the gate, which would lessen the meaning and impact of selecting heroes in the first place.

Another nice aspect of having three heroes in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is that you have three major points of focus each turn: questing, defending, and attacking. With three heroes, your hero base can cover the three main points of the game. With four options, you would start getting to the point where you’re trying to spin too many plates at once. Card games are filled with constantly shifting rules as cards enter and leave play, and adding another multiplier can just prove overwhelming.

Split or focused spheres?

Nate offers both a nice definition of the challenges The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game offers fellowships and a similarly succinct definition of the various approaches players may take to building their fellowships. Each turn players need to divide their fellowship’s attentions between questing, defending, and attacking, and as they consider how best to meet those demands, players can choose to combine two or three spheres of influence, or rely upon the strengths of a single sphere.

Of course, your concerns for deck construction will be slightly different if you’re building for solitary play than if you’re building for multiplayer games. In multiplayer games, players can split the game’s three main tasks (questing, defending, and attacking) between the two decks, so that one player may be responsible for questing while the other may do the dirty work of defending and attacking. In solitary play, however, one fellowship must balance all three tasks.

Many players have long noted they’ve met with greater success when running at least two spheres, whether split between multiple players or combining heroes from different spheres in a solitary deck. This is because the spheres each excel at different aspects of the game (and different tasks). While there are no hard and fast rules about combining the spheres of influence, strong decks must have plans built into them to commit Willpower to the quest, defend and destroy enemies, draw cards, generate resources, and survive the nastiest Treachery cards the encounter deck can throw at them.

Typically, Spirit cards provide high Willpower and efficient means of canceling Treachery effects, Lore cards provide excellent card draw, Leadership provides resource acceleration, and Tactics provides you the means of surviving and quickly defeating even the nastiest enemies. If you draw upon the strongest and most appropriate cards for your deck’s theme from two or three of these spheres, you can gain the traditional benefits of both (or all three) spheres, and you may be able to focus your deck even more keenly than if you hewed to just one sphere.

Ploughmen to plough, otters to swim

While a deck’s “personality” may be most clearly expressed in a multiplayer game, even single-player decks can express dramatically different approaches to the game, starting with their selection of heroes.

QUESTER: Dúnhere (Core Set, 9), Éowyn (Core Set, 7), Theodred (Core Set, 2)
Starting threat: 24

A quester focuses on committing as much Willpower as possible to the quest, while facing as little resistance as possible. Éowyn and Théodred quest each turn, while Dúnhere skirmishes enemies in the staging area. Cards that reduce threat, such as The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set, 46) and Gandalf (Core Set, 73), are key to the success of this deck as they allow Dúnhere to attack without ever first having to face an attack.

FIGHTER: Éowyn, Gimli (Core Set, 4), Legolas (Core Set, 5)
Starting threat: 29

Unlike the quester, the fighter doesn’t shy away from getting down and dirty in combat. While Éowyn focuses on the quest, Gimli can take some hits and gets stronger for them. Legolas rewards you for fighting by adding progress tokens each time he helps defeat an enemy. An Unexpected Courage (Core Set, 57) on Gimli makes him a formidable combatant, and a couple copies of Blade of Gondolin (Core Set, 39) make felling foes even more rewarding.

SAGE: Beravor (Core Set, 12), Bifur (Khazad-dûm, 2), Bilbo (The Hunt for Gollum, 1)
Starting threat: 26

Knowledge is power, and knowledge in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is best represented by the cards and options in your hand. This focused trio of Lore heroes provides tremendous card draw, and you can add to it with Gléowine (Core Set, 62). The Lore sphere features a great number of cards to reduce the threat in the staging area and can convert card draw into Willpower via Protector of Lorien (Core Set, 70), but you’ll probably want to include some Songs to splash cards from other spheres.

PROTECTOR: Boromir (The Dead Marshes, 95), Eleanor (Core Set, 8), Frodo (Conflict at the Carrock, 25)
Starting threat: 25

This fellowship plays its low starting threat against the optional threat increases it can trigger from Boromir and Frodo to gain extra actions. As with the quester, the protector benefits tremendously from cards that reduce threat, allowing Boromir to quest, defend, and attack every turn. Cards you play to boost Boromir, such as Blade of Gondolin and The Favor of the Lady (Core Set, 55), provide tremendous rewards as he can use them all every turn.

JACK OF ALL TRADES: Aragorn (Core Set, 1), Beravor, Frodo
Starting threat: 29

Starting with three spheres, this fellowship can do a little bit of everything. Aragorn allows you to play Steward of Gondor (Core Set, 26) to accelerate your resources, while Beravor accelerates your card draw. You’ll have a lot of options in your hand every turn, and Aragorn and Frodo provide you with action advantage. Aragorn can pay resources to ready himself after committing to the quest, and Frodo can serve as a “defender” even while exhausted, absorbing damage as threat in times of need.

Looking ahead

Are you wondering how these archetypes may change with the release of The Redhorn Gate and the subsequent Adventure Packs from the Dwarrowdelf cycle? Next week, Part Two of this series takes a look at the impact Secrecy is likely to have upon your starting fellowships. Then, in two weeks, Part Three takes a closer look at multiplayer roles and the new hero from The Redhorn Gate!

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is a cooperative card game that puts 1-2 players (or up to four with an additional Core Set) in control of the most powerful characters and artifacts of Middle-earth. Players will select heroes, gather allies, acquire artifacts, and coordinate their efforts to face Middle-earth’s most dangerous fiends. The Living Card Game format allows players to customize their gaming experience with monthly Adventure Pack expansions to the core game.

    
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