Shall We Turn East or West?
Preview the Side Quests of The Lost Realm Expansion for The Lord of the Rings
“The day has come at last,” he said: “the day of choice which we have long delayed. What shall now become of our Company that has travelled so far in fellowship? Shall we turn west with Boromir and go to the wars of Gondor; or turn east to the Fear and Shadow; or shall we break our fellowship and go this way and that as each may choose? Whatever we do must be done soon.” –Aragorn, The Fellowship of the Ring
After a long journey north and west from the realm of Isengard, several of Middle-earth’s heroes draw near the realm of Arnor. Here, a number of Dúnedain rangers have long safeguarded the region’s simpler folk from the Orcs and other dangers of Angmar and the wilds further north.
The Lost Realm deluxe expansion for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is now just several weeks away, and it will soon transport us to the northern wilds of Eriador. When we first announced the expansion, we took a look at its Dúnedain Rangers and how they excel as hunters, offering players a number of advantages for engaging enemies. However, as the expansion introduces players to this new region of Middle-earth and explores its themes and conflicts, the Dúnedain and their trials are given shape in more than one way.
Today, developer Caleb Grace takes a look at how the expansion offers a dramatic new type of decision for players to make. Like the Rangers of the North, when you follow tracks that split and lead in two different directions, you must make your own decisions as to which you will follow. You are the secret protectors of the land; there is no one else to guide you. You can only hope that you make the right decisions.
Developer Caleb Grace on the Side Quests of The Lost Realm
The key to making a fun game is ensuring that players will have to make plenty of meaningful decisions. Many of these are already built into The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game by the demands the encounter deck puts upon your heroes: What ally do I play this turn? To which location do I travel? Should I optionally engage an enemy this round?
Still, as we started looking at The Lost Realm, the design team felt that we could add another choice that would give the game more of a “choose your own adventure” feel and strengthen the overall storytelling experience — the choice of where to quest. To address that issue, The Lost Realm deluxe expansion introduces side quests to the game.
In many video games and roleplaying games, side quests are optional adventures that you can choose to undertake while working toward larger goal. Often, they present you with a reward when you complete them. Side quests in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game work in a similar fashion, presenting you with new and exciting choices to make, as well meaningful consequences that can be either good or bad.
How Do Side Quests Work?
A side quest is a quest card with either an encounter card back, or a player card back.
- Encounter side quests are part of an encounter set and are shuffled into the encounter deck.
- Player side quests are included in a player’s deck and are played from a player’s hand.
Regardless of where it comes from, when a side quest enters play, it is placed in the staging area. If there is a side quest in the staging area at the beginning of the quest phase, the first player has to make a decision: Which quest will they attempt to complete in the quest phase?
The staging area doesn’t change, but the players can decide where they’ll want to place their progress. Do they continue trying to make progress on the main quest, or do they turn aside from their original goal in order to complete the side quest?
In order to make that decision truly meaningful, each side quest has a powerful effect that the players will have to examine carefully as they make their choice. An encounter side quest may have an incredibly detrimental effect on the overall game state if left uncompleted, but players may still choose to ignore them in favor of placing progress on the main quest. It is up to the players to determine what they feel is the right choice based on their own unique situation. In this way, one of the most exciting things about side quests is that they add a great deal of replayability to each scenario.
A great example of this concept is the encounter side quest, Make Camp (The Lost Realm, 55), which reads:
“Characters cannot be healed. “Response: After Make Camp is defeated, each player heals up to 3 damage from a hero he controls.”
The negative impact of this side quest can be very situational. If the players do not have many damaged characters, they will likely ignore this side quest in favor of placing progress on the main quest. On the other hand, if there are a lot of damaged characters in play, the players may feel a more desperate need to heal them and dedicate at least one round to defeating this side quest.
When they do complete Make Camp, they will also trigger its Response effect, allowing each player to heal one hero. Many of the side quests included in The Lost Realm have this type of reward effect for completing them because the design team saw it as a way to push the storytelling element of the game. Make Camp is the story of heroes who are exhausted from continuous exertion and need a safe place to rest. Until they find it, they must push themselves past their limits (as represented by not being able to heal), but when they do get a chance to sleep, they wake up feeling refreshed (as represented by healing damage).
Side Quests and Encounter Sets
Working to bring storytelling and gameplay together with side quests made designing the individual encounter sets more exciting than ever. Typically, while all of a scenario’s encounter sets add to the scenario’s challenges and feel, only the cards from the encounter set directly to the scenario are used to drive its story. By including a side quest in each of the six encounter sets that are used in The Lost Realm and the Angmar Awakened cycle, we were able to add new story elements with these encounter sets, too, making them stronger thematically as well as mechanically.
For example, take the Foul Weather encounter set, which is built around Make Camp. While the passive effect on Make Camp may be situational, it comes in an encounter set with eight total treachery cards, six of which deal damage to characters. In that light, Make Camp becomes the capstone for that set’s design, and the other side quests are similarly the capstones of the five other encounter sets in The Lost Realm.
Seal the Tomb (The Lost Realm, 63) is another great example:
“Forced: At the end of the refresh phase, discard the top 3 cards of the encounter deck. Return the topmost Undead enemy in the encounter discard pile to the staging area.”
This side quest introduces a plot twist as the heroes learn of countless undead rising from the grave. If left unchecked, Seal the Tomb can potentially add an additional enemy to the staging area every single round. That’s easily enough to overwhelm a greater number of parties, but if that isn’t bad enough, Seal the Tomb also gains strength from the other nine cards in the Cursed Dead encounter set. Naturally, it’s packed with Undead enemies, increasing the odds that there will be Undead enemies in the encounter discard pile. Also, it contains both the Dead Lord (The Lost Realm, 60) and Cursed Dead (The Lost Realm, 61), which become more aggressive if there are Undead enemies in the discard pile. That means that even though Seal the Tomb doesn’t offer them a beneficial Response effect, the players might still decide that it’s in their best interests to defeat it.
Player Side Quests
On the other hand, player side quests always offer you a reward when completed. That’s because in order to complete a side quest, you must first draw it into their hand and put it into play. Only then can you even attempt to complete it, and for every round you spend completing a side quest, you come no closer to defeating the scenario, even though your threat continues to climb. However, the benefit from completing a player side quest may prove to be worth the effort. The Lost Realm includes one such player side quest, Gather Information (The Lost Realm, 14):
“Response: After this stage is defeated, each player may search his deck for 1 card and add it to his hand. Each player shuffles his deck.”
Prior to The Lost Realm, there was only one card in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game that allowed you to search your entire deck for a card of your choice and add it to your hand. That card is Word of Command (The Long Dark, 84), it requires you to exhaust an Istari character, and it only allows you to search your deck for a card, not your teammates. When you defeat Gather Information, you and your friends all get to search your decks for any one card each and add those cards to your hands. That’s a very powerful effect. The question is whether or not you’ll be able to take an entire round away from the main quest in order to trigger it.
Choices are key to great games, and you’ll find that choice and many others awaiting you in The Lost Realm deluxe expansion!
Pre-order Your Copy Today
In a number of weeks, The Lost Realm deluxe expansion for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game will lead players deep into the intrigues of a dark and deadly adventure. From what terrifying evils have the Rangers of the North long guarded the simple folk of Bree and the Shire? You’ll soon have your chance to find out.
In the meantime, head to your local retailer today to pre-order your copy of The Lost Realm!