|A Hard Road
Lead Developer Caleb Grace Explores Saga Continuity in The Black Riders
|The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game | Published 10 July 2013|
“It seems to me now clear which is the road that we must take. The westward road seems easiest. Therefore it must be shunned. It will be watched. Too often the Elves have fled that way. Now at this last we must take a hard road, a road unforeseen.”
–Elrond, The Fellowship of the Ring
In our last preview of The Black Riders, I discussed the creation of the Boon and Burden card types and their place in Campaign Mode for The Lord of the Rings Saga Expansions. I also introduced the Permanent keyword and Setup instructions that you can find on some Boons and Burdens. Today, I’d like to highlight more of the exciting features Campaign Mode adds to The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. We’ll begin with another new card type: the campaign card.
The Campaign Card
Each two-sided campaign card serves to place its scenario in the context of the larger narrative. The idea for this card type was taken from the Setup cards for our Nightmare Decks, and I’m very excited about these cards because they let us do some important and creative things. First of all, they tell you what part of the Saga Expansion you’re playing. Second, they provide you with additional Setup instructions for the scenario. This is important because Boons and Burdens are not used outside of Campaign Mode and we needed these Setup instructions to let you know when to use them. Third, the Resolution instruction on the reverse side tells you the outcome of each scenario, including which Boons and/or Burdens you have earned. I especially like the Resolution aspect of the Campaign Card because it adds a new dimension to the scenario: it’s no longer just about winning or losing because you have to think ahead to the next scenario and consider: “How will my decisions in this scenario affect the next one?”
In addition to all of those features, each campaign card also provides extra space that we can use to add more flavor text and draw you deeper into the story. It allows us to give each scenario a sort of prelude and postlude. These extra bits of story text really strengthen the larger narrative.
The Campaign Log
Because you can earn Boons and Burdens from the Resolution of scenarios in Campaign Mode, you need a way to keep track of that information. That’s why we developed the Campaign Log.
Pages ten and eleven of the rules insert form a two-page spread that provides you with enough room to record all the necessary information for your campaign: the name of each player, each player’s chosen heroes, which scenarios you’ve completed, and what Boons and Burdens you’ve earned. There is even a notes section for you to record which heroes have cards with the Permanent keyword attached.
You update the Campaign Log at the end of each scenario, and you can then see the results of your progress throughout your campaign. Players who don’t wish to write in their rules insert or want to play more than one campaign can photocopy the Campaign Log or download it from our The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game support page.
There is one part of the Campaign Log that deserves special mention, here: the Fallen Heroes section. If a hero is in your discard pile at the end of a scenario, you add that hero’s name to the list of Fallen Heroes. This is the last, and perhaps most significant, part of Campaign Mode that I want to address: in order to preserve the narrative aspect of The Lord of the Rings Saga Expansions, we felt it was important that if a hero dies in Campaign Mode, then that hero should remain unplayable for the rest of that campaign. In this way, a hero’s death takes on real weight, and you are forced to think very carefully before making a decision that would endanger one of your heroes.
When the loss of a hero carries such significance, it spurs you to play differently. For example, imagine that you’re at the last stage of a scenario and you know that you could just sacrifice one of your heroes in order to win. Normally, you might make that sacrifice without flinching because winning was all that mattered. But in Campaign Mode, you need to reevaluate that decision by asking yourself some hard questions, among them: “Can my deck still work the way I want it to in the next scenario without this hero?”
I’m really proud of this innovation because fellowship and sacrifice are important elements of Tolkien’s epic. This rule clearly emphasizes the fellowship of heroes, and it offers players the chance to make real, meaningful sacrifices in their games.
Of course, it wouldn’t be any fun if losing a hero meant you played short-handed for the rest of the campaign, so you are allowed to replace your fallen hero with a new hero of your choice. However, we didn’t want to encourage players to choose to sacrifice one of their heroes in order to choose a different hero instead. It isn’t appropriate to “bump off” a hero just to fetch a replacement, so we added the “+1 threat” rule; each time a player changes heroes, all players in the campaign suffer a permanent one-point increase in their starting threat.
Nonetheless, you may voluntarily change heroes when you begin a scenario in Campaign Mode, but you and your teammates still suffer the permanent penalty to your starting threat. The advantage of switching voluntarily is that the hero who is removed from the starting line up is not added to the list of Fallen Heroes. This means that as new heroes are released with the game’s expansions, you will still have the opportunity to swap the heroes in your starting line up. You can use your new hero cards with minimal penalty.
The Road Goes Ever On
All of these innovations we added to Campaign Mode are meant to help you to immerse yourself into The Black Riders and future The Lord of the Rings Saga Expansions. It’s our goal that you will truly feel like you are stepping boldly into a grand adventure where your choices carry real consequences!
–Caleb Grace, Lead Developer The Black Riders
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.