Now May I Make a Right Choice
A Preview of the Boons and Burdens from The Treason of Saruman
"Let me think!" said Aragorn. "And now may I make a right choice, and change the evil fate of this unhappy day!"
–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
Hard choices and hard roads lie in wait for fans of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. Frodo Baggins has disappeared, the Fellowship is broken, and Middle-earth's heroes must now seek a new path forward. In The Treason of Saruman, as in The Two Towers, your adventures turn away from Frodo's quest for a moment and, instead, follow the decisions made by Aragorn (The Treason of Saruman, 1) and the Three Hunters.
In our last preview, developer Caleb Grace offered a glimpse of the trials that lie before you. In the expansion's second scenario, your road leads to Helm's Deep, where you face a novel situation as the encounter deck tries to make progress on the quest and you must stop it. Before then, though, you must rescue your captive companions from the clutches of Saruman's Uruk-hai, and every choice you make will resonate not only throughout your hunt, but at the walls of Helm's Deep, and forward throughout the whole of your The Lord of the Rings Saga campaign.
With their boons and burdens, The Lord of the Rings Saga Expansions ensure that your decisions carry tremendous weight. While each Saga scenario offers a rewarding play experience in its own right, they gain momentum as you play through them in sequence, and your boons and burdens ensure that your past decisions have an impact upon your present and your future.
In today's preview, developer Caleb Grace explores the ways that these decisions and their importance may change in The Treason of Saruman, even as he reveals five of the expansion's new boons and burdens.
Developer Caleb Grace on the Boons and Burdens from The Treason of Saruman
One of the most important features of our The Lord of the Rings Saga Expansions are their boons and burdens. These campaign-specific cards help tie the events of each scenario together, both rewarding and punishing players for their choices along the way. In The Road Darkens Saga Expansion, players received a wealth of powerful boons from the Council of Elrond in Rivendell and the Lady of the Wood in Lórien. Those boons were earned automatically; players didn't need to meet any conditions to win them. The Treason of Saruman marks a shift in the way the players receive boons. As the narrative grows darker and more tense, it's appropriate that this change in tone is reflected in the ways that your choices will carry with you in Campaign Mode. Therefore, you'll find fewer boon cards in The Treason of Saruman, and they are also more difficult to earn.
For starters, when you set up the expansion's first scenario, The Uruk-hai, you must remove the boon cards Gildor Inglorion (The Black Riders, 77) and Mr. Underhill (The Black Riders, 17) from the campaign pool. There are two main reasons these boons are removed from the campaign pool: First, they were boons associated with Frodo Baggins, who is not featured in The Treason of Saruman. Second, the boons and burdens from The Lord of the Rings Saga Expansions are meant to tie you into the narrative, even as they serve a mechanical function. The design team felt that the boons would counteract their purpose were Gildor to appear at Isengard, or if Frodo were able to use his disguise as Mr. Underhill to prevent an enemy from attacking him, even as he walked along the footsteps of Mount Doom. So the decision was made to remove them from the campaign entirely. This decision also served to balance the number of boons and burdens to better reflect the dire nature of the heroes’ quest.
Even as you lose those boons, you gain an opportunity to earn some exciting new ones. There are four new Skill boons that you can earn at the end of The Uruk-hai: Intimidation (The Treason of Saruman, 15), Hands of a Healer (The Treason of Saruman, 16), Forewarned (The Treason of Saruman, 17), and Leader of Men (The Treason of Saruman, 18). Each of these boons can only be attached to a hero with the corresponding trait: Warrior, Healer, Ranger, or Noble. Notably, these are the same four traits that your heroes were able to gain via the boon attachments that you could earn at the end of A Knife in the Dark from The Black Riders Saga Expansion. Just as those boons allowed your characters to improve their talents, these new boon attachments represent another opportunity for your heroes to “level up” by earning powerful abilities to go along with their traits.
However, these boons won’t be handed out simply for defeating the scenario, like at the end of A Knife in the Dark. If you want to earn them, you will have to fare exceptionally well against The Uruk-hai. That may prove difficult, and some groups may choose to replay the scenario multiple times in order to earn the boons.
Will You Be Hindered by Poisoned Counsels?
On the flip side, it is easy to earn the new burden card, Poisoned Counsels (The Treason of Saruman, 21). This nasty little treachery has a player card back because it is shuffled into a player’s deck when it is earned. Then, if you draw it into your hand from the deck, Poisoned Counsels forces you to discard every other card in your hand. And all that is necessary to earn this burden is to spend a little time in Edoras, wrestling with Wormtoungue’s lies.
At the beginning of the scenario, Helm’s Deep, the players are faced with a choice: advance immediately to Stage 2A and face Saruman's armies, or spend a turn in Edoras to prepare their forces.
You may not want to earn the burden, but that free turn is hard to pass up. In addition to allowing you to skip the quest phase, Stage 1B allows each player to put an ally into play for free! Those extra allies can mean the difference between questing successfully or unsuccessfully during the first quest phase at Stage 2B. Also, it's entirely possible that you may never draw Poisoned Counsels. You'll only have one copy in a deck of at least fifty cards. There's no guarantee that you will ever see it, but if you do, it will definitely have an impact on the game.
The design team spent a lot of time developing these boons and burdens to give you the best possible Saga experience and to deliver on our promise to make decisions matter. Along with the challenges of your quests and the encounter deck, these boons and burdens should add some dramatic ups and downs to the course of your epic The Lord of the Rings campaign!
In your The Lord of the Rings campaign, as you continue along the road to Mordor and the fires of Mount Doom, you are accompanied by the consequences of the decisions you make. Will you make the right decisions? You will soon have your chance to find out. The Treason of Saruman is coming!