We Hates Them!
A Preview of The Land of Shadow by Developer Caleb Grace
"Before Gollum could get up, he was on top of him. But he found Gollum more than he bargained for, even taken like that, suddenly, off his guard after a fall. Before Sam could get a hold, long legs and arms were wound round him pinning his arms, and a clinging grip, soft but horribly strong, was squeezing him like slowly tightening cords; clammy fingers were feeling for his throat."
–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
Separated from Gandalf, Aragorn, and his broken Fellowship, Frodo Baggins trudges slowly across the barren stone and slopes of the Emyn Muil. Soon, you will have your chance to join him, to navigate the treacherous lands that lie within the shadows of Mordor, to fight at his side, and to show mercy against pitiable wretches when such mercy is best given.
The Land of Shadow Saga Expansion for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is now on its way to retailers, and you'll soon be able to play through its three scenarios and confront the dangers of Mordor and the surrounding territories with its new Ranger heroes and player cards. Moreover, you'll encounter that strange and twisted creature known as Gollum…
In The Land of Shadow, though, you won't just encounter Gollum once. You'll encounter him multiple times. You'll even have your chances to tame him. In fact, you will need to tame him if you hope to find some smart and secret path into the heart of Mordor. Gollum and his alter-ego, Sméagol, played a major part in the second half of The Two Towers and a major part in the fates of Frodo Baggins, Sam Gamgee, and the One Ring. Accordingly, as this upcoming Saga Expansion allows you to share Frodo's adventures as faithfully as possible, you'll find that Gollum and Sméagol are absolutely central to its adventures, even if that means you can never sleep peacefully as you set camp along your way…
Today, developer Caleb Grace offers some insight into the role that Gollum and Sméagol play throughout the scenarios of The Land of Shadow.
Developer Caleb Grace on the Role of Gollum / Sméagol
There are few characters in literature as unique and memorable as Gollum. His personality is split between psychotic killer and pitiable creature, and both aspects play crucial roles in The Lord of the Rings. Thus, while we were designing the scenarios for The Land of Shadow Saga Expansion, we felt it was of paramount importance to find a way to translate Gollum's dual nature into the game, and the idea we came up with was a double-sided enemy / objective-ally card.
The double-sided card for Gollum and Sméagol is meant to represent the two split sides of this extremely troubled character that J.R.R. Tolkien created. The enemy side, Gollum (The Land of Shadow, 75), pursues Frodo in an effort to regain his “Precious” while the objective-ally side, Sméagol (The Land of Shadow, 76), follows Frodo to aid him in his quest to destroy it.
While Gollum will by no means be the strongest or deadliest foe that Frodo and the heroes encounter on their quest, his overriding lust for The One Ring (The Land of Shadow, 63) makes him dangerous nonetheless. First of all, he has the text: “Gollum engages the first player.” That means whenever the first player token is passed, and control of Frodo goes to the next player, Gollum follows the Ring-bearer and engages that player. Next, while Gollum may have only two Attack Strength, he gains real tenacity from the first of his two Forced effects:
“Forced: After Gollum engages the first player during the refresh phase, he makes an immediate attack.”
And while Gollum's still not the hardest-hitting enemy, this ability means tht in a multiplayer game, Gollum makes two attacks each round. The threat adds up.
On the flip side, Sméagol showed almost no aggression toward Frodo and Sam, but his resourcefulness and knowledge of Middle-earth proved invaluable. As a result, the Sméagol ally is essential to exploring certain locations, such as Haunted Mere (The Land of Shadow, 21) in The Passage of the Marshes and Sméagol's Secret Way (The Land of Shadow, 44) in Shelob’s Lair. Just as Frodo relied on Sméagol to lead him to Mordor, so will you need Sméagol to travel to these locations.
But to take control of Sméagol, you must first tame him. As you set up the first scenario in The Land of Shadow, The Passage of the Marshes, you are instructed to put the Gollum enemy into play engaged with the first player. In order to flip him to Sméagol, you and your teammates must do enough damage to defeat him. But defeating Gollum isn’t as easy as committing a total of seven Attack Strength to the effort in a single go. Stage 1B of the scenario reads:
“Forced: After a player declares any number of attackers against Gollum, discard the top card of the encounter deck. Gollum gets +X Defense Strength for this attack, where X is the discarded card’s Threat Strength.”
We added this effect at this stage because we felt that part of what made Gollum so interesting was how slippery and tenacious he could be. Tolkien made it pretty clear that if Frodo hadn’t been there with Sting, Gollum would’ve been able to overpower and kill Sam, even though the creature was unarmed and half-starved when Sam jumped him.
Another part of what makes Gollum / Sméagol such an interesting character is his unpredictability. Sam was never quite certain if Gollum was going to bring him food, or throttle him in his sleep. To help preserve that tension in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, we included two copies of the treachery We Hates Them! (The Land of Shadow, 55) in Gollum’s encounter set. When We Hates Them! is revealed from the encounter deck, the effect it introduces depends on which side of the Gollum card is in play. If the Gollum enemy is in play when the treachery is revealed, he makes an immediate attack. If the Sméagol objective-ally is in play, he switches to his Gollum personality. And if that happens, you will have to defeat Gollum again in order to regain control of Sméagol.
Meanwhile, though the One Ring's power wasn't explored the same way in The Two Towers as it was in The Fellowship of the Ring, it allowed Frodo to establish a real connection with Gollum, and even exert control over the creature. Accordingly, We Hates Them! also has text that reflects this power:
“The first player may spend 1 fellowship resource and exhaust The One Ring to cancel this effect.”
When we added this bit of text during the development process, everyone enjoyed how it allowed We Hates Them! and the scenarios from The Land of Shadow to continue playing with the duality and unpredictability of Gollum, but without forcing players into tiresome situations where they had to defeat Gollum over and over. And because it made sense thematically, it was a win-win all around.
Of course, exhausting the One Ring can bring hazards of its own, as players will discover when The Land of Shadow arrives at retailers…
The Taming of Sméagol
Will you be able to tame Sméagol when The Land of Shadow arrives at retailers? Will you trust him to guide you faithfully through the Mountains of Ash? Or will you lie awake at night, expecting betrayal? Will Gollum's personality overtake Sméagol's at the worst of times to sow chaos when you can't afford it? The two-sided Gollum / Sméagol card from The Land of Shadow is just one of the ways that you'll find its scenarios recreate the thrills and tension of the second half of The Two Towers.
The Land of Shadow is coming soon. Head to your local retailer to pre-order your copy. Then keep checking back for more previews of its scenarios, as well as its heroes and player cards!