“I warn you that peril is now both before you and behind you, and upon either side.”
    –Gildor Inglorion, The Fellowship of the Ring

It is nearly time for you to leave the Shire. The Shadow in the East continues to grow. Armies mass in Mordor amid fire and smoke. The Dark Lord’s malign influence spreads through the nations of Dwarves and Men and even into the hearts of wizards. His power increases, and only one thing stands between him and his conquest of Middle-earth: He needs his Ring. To find it, he has dispatched his Nine deathless servants, the Nazgûl. They have learned of the race of small-folk known as Hobbits, they have learned of the Shire, and they have even learned of the name…Baggins.

In The Black Riders Saga Expansion for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game , you and your friends gain the opportunity to accompany Frodo Baggins on his momentous journey out of the Shire. Can you help him carry the One Ring to safety? Or will you fall prey to the Dark Lord’s servants?

In earlier previews, lead developer Caleb Grace introduced us to the Saga Expansion’s new Campaign Mode and three of its Hobbit heroes . Today, he turns our attention to the task at hand – your flight from Bag End…

Lead Developer Caleb Grace on the Scenarios of The Black Riders

In this last design journal for The Lord of the Rings: The Black Riders Saga Expansion, I’d like to talk about its three new scenarios and some of the inspiration for them.

As exciting as it was creating new player cards based on the characters from the story, it’s the scenarios that really bring the adventure to life. Each one is meant to convey its story in such a way that fans can recognize moments from the book without feeling like they’ve been locked into a literal retelling. Players should have the option to recreate the actual events or to explore new paths to victory. This can be a difficult balance to strike, but I think the scenarios in The Black Riders do a good job. Beside telling an important part of the story, each scenario also has its own unique hook.

A Shadow of the Past

In the first scenario, A Shadow of the Past , the players must help Frodo travel safely from Bag End to Crickhollow in Buckland. I always liked this part of the story because it’s so full of suspense: Who are these riders in black? What will happen if they catch Frodo? Will he make it out of the Shire? Frodo and his companions did what they thought was the only sensible thing for them to do: they set out cross-country in order to avoid the Riders and hide from them whenever they could. This leg of their journey was a series of close calls before the Hobbits finally made it across the Brandywine River and threw off their pursuers.

Because I loved that suspense so much, I knew right from the start that I wanted to find a way to simulate that in The Black Riders . The answer was the scenario’s Hide tests and Hide X keyword. When an encounter card with the Hide X keyword is revealed from the encounter deck, the player who revealed that card must make a Hide test. If that player succeeds at the Hide test, then nothing happens and danger is avoided. But if that player fails the Hide test, then that player is in trouble!

Each quest stage shares the same first line of text: “When a player fails a Hide test, each Nazgûl enemy in the staging area engages that player.” This is bad news for that player because the Nazgûl in this scenario, Black Rider ( The Black Riders , 39), has this ability: Forced: After engaged player fails a Hide test, Black Rider makes an immediate attack.” That means if there is one or more Black Riders in the staging area when you fail a Hide test, those enemies will engage you and make immediate attacks against you. Then they’ll attack again during the combat phase. Once the Nazgûl get a sniff of The Ring, they won’t stop attacking until they’re defeated or they seize it from you, so it’s important to succeed at your Hide tests!

A Knife in the Dark

In the second scenario, A Knife in the Dark , Frodo’s journey takes the players through Bree and the surrounding countryside before reaching Weathertop. In this part of the book, the Ring-bearer and his companions didn’t know who they could trust. The Black Riders had already been spotted around Bree, and several of the town’s inhabitants were under their employ. It seemed that once again their only hope was to slip quietly into the surrounding wilderness in an attempt to throw off their pursuit. If they could make it to Weathertop, there was a chance they would find Gandalf there.

This scenario presented the exciting opportunity to visit three of the story’s iconic locations: The Prancing Pony , Midgewater, and Weathertop. Every fan of The Lord of the Rings will recognize these names and their significance in the story. The quest is shaped around the events that take place at each location.

Stage one starts the players in Bree where Black Riders have recently been seen and some of its less savory inhabitants are already under their employ. In order to advance, the players will first have to explore The Prancing Pony , where they may find some help: Response: After the players travel here, the first player puts 1 ally into play from his hand.” However, just like in the story, your stay at The Prancing Pony carries some danger as well: Forced: After The Prancing Pony leaves play, discard cards from the top of the encounter deck until X enemies have been discarded. X is the number of players in the game. Put each enemy discarded by this effect into play engaged with the first player.” Just like Frodo and his companions did, you’ll want to find a way to slip out of the inn unnoticed, or at least with as little fanfare as possible.

Midgewater and Weathertop each have their own unique benefits and dangers as well, but the biggest danger of all will be the final confrontation with The Witch-king and the other Nazgûl at the last stage.

In the book, Frodo’s journey nearly ended in a little dell at the base of Weathertop when he put on The One Ring and did combat with the Captain of the Nine Riders. He survived, but he might have avoided a lot of pain if he had resisted the urge to use The Ring. Of course, Frodo’s decision was made in the heat of the moment, and you will find yourself similarly pressed by some hard choices when you play this scenario. You’ll need to find your way to victory, but the number of Nazgûl enemies that you confront at the final stage will depend on the choices you make.

Flight to the Ford

The third scenario, Flight to the Ford , is a tense, two-stage quest that gets your heart pounding. This part of the story had me at the edge of my seat the first time I read it. I was so worried that Frodo would succumb to the evil wound that he received from the Witch-king at Weathertop that I couldn’t see how even Aragorn and Glorfindel could hold off all nine Nazgûl long enough to reach the Ford of Bruinen. And if they couldn’t bring Frodo to Rivendell in time for Elrond to heal him, he would become a wraith and The Ring would have been lost.

Because their only good option was to run, I wanted this scenario to be a race. It’s a race against time to save Frodo from a fate worse than death. As I considered ways to build this theme into the quest, I brainstormed with Nate French, and we devised a way to use a threat-tracker to represent Frodo’s life as it ticks away. Accordingly, the rules for this scenario instruct the players to set a “life-tracker” at “15” at the start of the game. Then, at the end of each round, the Ring-bearer has his life reduced by 1.

To illustrate the cause of Frodo’s peril, we made a Morgul objective called An Evil Wound ( The Black Riders , 57), that is attached to the Ring-bearer during Setup. The last line of An Evil Wound explains: “If the Ring-bearer’s life reaches zero, the players lose the game.” That gives you a limited amount of time to cross the Ford of Bruinen and make your way to Rivendell.

Playing this scenario in Campaign Mode will present you with some interesting choices as you race for the Ford. Several encounter cards will offer you a choice that can make it easier to reach Rivendell, but at the cost of adding a Burden to your campaign pool. It may help you to save Frodo’s life, but it may end up hurting you later!

By the time we finished developing the three scenarios in The Black Riders , I was really happy with how much fun each of them is to play separately and how well they tie together in Campaign Mode to bring the first part of The Lord of the Rings to life. I think fans of the game and the books are in for a real treat!

Thanks, Caleb!

The three scenarios of The Black Riders are filled with evocative art, deadly enemies, innovative mechanics, and a heavy air of menace and peril. Will you be able to keep Frodo and the Ring safe from harm? Will you find your way to Rivendell? Or will you fall prey to the Black Riders?

You can hear them shuffling their feet and sniffing at the air. They’re coming… In fact, if you’re headed to Gen Con Indy 2013, you’ll want to head to our retail booth Thursday morning to pick up your copy of The Lord of the Rings: 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.

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