“The Sword of Elendil was forged anew by Elvish smiths, and on its blade was traced a device of seven stars set between the crescent Moon and the rayed Sun, and about them was written many runes; for Aragorn son of Arathorn was going to war upon the marches of Mordor.”
    –J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

In our earlier previews of The Road Darkens Saga Expansion for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game , lead developer Caleb Grace revealed the identity of its new hero and provided an overview of its three action-packed scenarios . However, as a Saga Expansion, The Road Darkens offers you an experience that goes well beyond its 165 cards and three scenarios; it allows you to continue along your road to Mordor and Mount Doom!

As with each The Lord of the Rings Saga Expansion, The Road Darkens immerses you in selected events drawn straight from the novels. You can play through any scenario individually, or you can link them together in Campaign Mode. In Campaign Mode, these scenarios allow you to appreciate the perils and hardships faced by Frodo and his companions even more fully. Each scenario becomes part of a much larger, fantastic narrative arc, and the decisions you make in one scenario carry throughout all the rest.

If you slip the One Ring onto your finger at any point, the decision may come back to haunt you all the rest of your days…

Today, Caleb turns our attention to several of the new cards that heighten the connections between The Road Darkens and the other The Lord of the Rings Saga Expansions.

Lead Developer Caleb Grace on the Boons in The Road Darkens

One of the things that made The Lord of the Rings: The Road Darkens particularly exciting for the design team was that it was our first opportunity to expand on the Campaign Mode that we introduced in The Black Riders Saga Expansion.

The idea of Campaign Mode is that it links all the different The Lord of the Rings Saga Expansion scenarios into one epic adventure in which your every decision matters. To make this happen, Campaign Mode introduced three new card types to the game: boons, burdens, and campaign cards. Boons represent those things that provide the heroes with advantages along their travels, be they items, allies, or skills. Burdens can represent any type of persistent evil that harries the heroes on their way. And campaign cards are double-sided cards that serve to place each scenario within the larger campaign. They often include additional Setup instructions on the front side for use when playing a scenario in Campaign Mode, as well as Resolution effects on the reverse side that describe the outcome of the adventure.

As you might expect, The Road Darkens introduces more of each of these types of cards, adding new advantages and perils to your campaign. It features eight new boons, seven burdens, and three new campaign cards (one for each scenario), and I am happy to share that the boons in this Saga box are all truly iconic! Between the Fellowship’s separate stays in Rivendell and Lothlórien, they received some very memorable boons. After all, it’s not every day that the sword that cut the One Ring from Sauron’s hand is reforged and renamed. When Elrond presented Anduril to Aragorn before the Company set out from Rivendell, you knew the blade was going to be something truly powerful. Now, you will also have your opportunity to wield Anduril ( The Road Darkens , 14)!

When we were adapting what could possibly be the most legendary sword in fantasy fiction, we wanted to make sure it was nothing short of awesome. So we came up with an ability worthy of Elendil’s legacy:

“Attached hero gets +1 Willpower, +1 Attack, and +1 Defense.
Response: After an attack in which the attached hero defended resolves, exhaust Anduril to target the enemy that just attacked. Declare attached hero as an attacker against that enemy (and resolve the attack).”

As a The Lord of the Rings fanboy, I love so many things about this card, but the aspect that I might love best is the way that it just naturally combos with the Core Set Aragorn ( Core Set , 1). Aragorn can take full advantage of its various attribute boosts by questing for three Willpower during the Quest phase, using his ability to ready himself, and defending an enemy attack with three Defense Strength during the Combat phase. Then, after resolving the enemy attack, he can trigger Anduril’s Response to counter-attack with four Attack Strength. Better yet, when Aragorn wields Anduril, the fact that he has the Sentinel keyword doesn’t just mean that he can defend against enemies engaged with your teammate, it also allows him to use Anduril’s Response to attack those enemies!

Anduril’s ability was partly inspired by the Response effect we had developed earlier for Sting ( The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill , 20). Although not of the same lineage as Anduril, Sting is nonetheless a legendary blade in its own right, and the Treasure card we created is one of which we’re particularly proud. In fact, the design team liked that ability so much that we brought it back for the new Sting boon ( The Road Darkens , 11)!

It made sense to the design team to keep its original ability since the blade was handed down from Bilbo to Frodo. It also helps to create a sense of continuity in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. Even more, it’s such a cool effect:

“Attached hero gets +1 Willpower, +1 Attack, and +1 Defense.
Response: After attached hero exhausts to defend an attack, discard the top card of the encounter deck. Deal damage to the attacking enemy equal to the discarded card’s threat strength.”

The original idea for the card came from the transforming effect it had on Bilbo Baggins. The first time Bilbo had to use the elven dagger to defend himself, he discovered a fierce courage that he never knew he had. Interestingly, the blade seemed to have the same effect on his nephew, Frodo, who found himself leaping at a cave troll in Moria and stabbing it in the foot just in time to chase it away! (By the way, we happen to believe that Magali Villeneuve did a magnificent job of capturing this moment on the art for the card!)

The boon version of Sting is meant to capture the fierce and unexpected effect the blade has on Hobbits. It’s possible to declare the attached Hobbit as a defender against an enemy with three Hit Points and discard a card with three Threat Strength from the top of the encounter deck in order to destroy it before its attack even resolves! It’s also possible that the Response will deal no damage. However, in that case, the additional point of Defense Strength can still help prevent the attached Hobbit from taking too much damage.

One of my favorite things to do with Sting is actually to attach it to Sam Gamgee ( The Black Riders , 2). His ability to ready after engaging an enemy with higher engagement cost than your threat means that he can quest for four Willpower and later be used to defend or attack. I particularly like this combo since it was Sam who wielded Sting in Shelob’s Lair and the Tower of Cirith Ungol.

Two other Treasure cards make a comeback in The Road Darkens : Mithril Shirt ( The Road Darkens , 12) and Glamdring ( The Road Darkens , 13)!

These iconic artifacts have retained their original effects as well, though they may have an even greater impact in your adventures in The Lord of the Rings Saga Expansion since you’ll be able to use them for fifteen more scenarios!

One of the coolest things about each of these four boons is that you earn them before you even set out from Rivendell in the first scenario, The Ring Goes South . But that’s okay because your heroes are going to need them to deal with some of the trouble they will face on their way!

Time to Leave The Last Homely House

The time has nearly come to set forth from The Last Homely House. The Road Darkens is due to arrive at retailers late next week. However, as you wait, keep your eyes open for our final preview, in which Caleb reveals some of the new burdens that may haunt you along your journeys!

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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