Join Us for Second Breakfast in the Cells of Mount Gram
"It was deep, deep, dark, such as only goblins that have taken to living in the heart of the mountains can see through. The passages were crossed and tangled in all directions, but the goblins knew their way."
–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Greetings, fans of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game! The plates have been set, the tea has been poured, and we invite you to join us once again for Second Breakfast.
In their Second Breakfast series of articles, the game's developers spare a minute from their usual march to pause, sit, unleaf a cake of lembas, and recount old tales. While these articles often arrive as unpredictably as a certain Grey Wizard, we'll find them a bit more dependable throughout the Angmar Awakened cycle. As this cycle of Adventure Packs leads the game into an ancient and relatively undefined region of Middle-earth, lead developer Matthew Newman has been cooking up all manner of behind-the-scenes insights about how this region and its threats come to life within the cycle's new scenarios.
Last time, Matthew Newman started us upon our journey with a philosophical musing upon the visual design of the North and how the double-sided Time objective in The Wastes of Eriador was designed to add a chronological perspective to your heroes' journey across the region's vastness. Today, though, as Matt returns with more lembas and more tales, his words are a bit more urgent and more specifically addressed to the task at hand.
Today, you see, we find ourselves confined within the darkened cells of Mount Gram, and Matt's here to talk about the plan for getting out…
Lead Developer Matthew Newman on Escape from Mount Gram
This article is the second in a series in which we'll explore the world of Middle-earth by discussing some of the key areas of Arnor and Angmar that players can look forward to in the Angmar Awakened cycle. Previously, we showed off the northern wastes of Eriador, and the Wargs that inhabit that vast and barren wasteland. Now it’s time to take a look at one of my personal favorite scenarios, Escape from Mount Gram.
Not much is known about Mount Gram, but Tolkien did mention that it was home to a faction of goblins who once attacked the Shire. Their leader, Golfimbul, was slain by Bandobras Took in legendary fashion, and the Goblins retreated to their mountain lair. But in the Angmar Awakened cycle, the forces of Angmar stir in the north once more, and the Goblins of Mount Gram have rallied behind a new master – one who threatens to sweep through the North with dread and despair. In Escape from Mount Gram, our heroes experience this despair head-on after they are captured by these Goblins and brought deep into their dungeons.
Orchestrating Your Prison Break
While designing this quest, I was inspired by the different "prison break" sequences from a variety of video games. What makes these sequences so interesting is that we, as players, are used to a certain level of power, in the form of allies at our side and powerful weapons and artifacts in our hands. As soon as we are separated from our equipment and our comrades, and told that we must rely solely on our wits to survive, we are immediately struck with equal parts terror and excitement. Of course, in many of these sequences, the first thing we must do is race to find our stolen equipment and captured allies, in order to gain strength enough to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.
Escape from Mount Gram was designed to capture this prison break experience in card game form. To that end, the first thing you are instructed to do when setting up this scenario is to remove all of your allies, Items, Mounts, and Artifacts from your deck. That’s right, you heard me.
Your Goblin captors are not exactly going to throw you in a jail cell with your Rivendell Blade (Road to Rivendell, 31) sheathed at your side. Instead, the cards representing your friends and gear are all shuffled together into a separate deck called your “captured deck.” Then, once you've set all of those cards aside, you’re going to choose one hero to be your starting hero – just one – adding one of your other heroes to the very top of the captured deck, and the third (if you have three) is shuffled into the deck itself.
Then, as if that’s not bad enough, each of the players in a multiplayer game start apart, separated into their own staging areas. You’re completely alone, with only one hero and a deck that consists only of events, Skills, Songs, and Conditions. “How on Middle-earth am I supposed to survive that?” you must be thinking. That’s where the Capture X keyword comes in.
Many of the encounter cards in Escape from Mount Gram have the Capture X keyword. When these cards enter play, each of the players at that stage place the top X cards of their captured deck facedown underneath them. Whenever an enemy or location with captured cards beneath it leaves play, those cards are “rescued,” and placed in their owner’s hands. Some effects, like those on Prison Cell (Escape from Mount Gram, 46) and Dungeon Guard (Escape from Mount Gram, 44), even let you play one of those cards for free.
Imagine traveling to a prison cell where Faramir (Core Set, 14) is held captive; if you rescue him, you get to bring him into play for free. And, of course, if you are lucky enough to find your other heroes, you’re well on your way to victory!
Threats Look Different When You're All Alone
Enemies like the Dungeon Guard may seem like complete pushovers at first glance… until you realize you may have to quest successfully, defend against his attack, and destroy him all with just one hero. Unless your lone hero can find some way past this guard, you may never recover what he has captured from your deck!
Sometimes your best bet may be to sneak by as many enemies as you can until you’re no longer alone. It helps that in Stage 1A, you are instructed to set your starting threat to the threat cost of your sole starting hero. This gives you a lot more control over your situation. For example, choosing not to send any characters to the quest, and accepting the threat hit that you're about to receive, is not quite as scary when you only have ten or so starting threat.
Through clever action and risk management – and the skilled use of events – you must recover your allies and equipment, and meet up with the other players. Then, your prison break is truly underway! At that point, you and your friends must escape from Mount Gram together – or perish in the attempt.
That's about all the time I have for Second Breakfast today. Join us next time when we take a look at the dreadful Ettenmoors, a region with so many punishing enemies that we had to design a new five-hit-point hero for you just to compensate!
Start Plotting Your Escape
Old Bullroarer Took may have invented golf when he struck down Golfimbul, but Escape from Mount Gram is certainly no stroll across the greens. Its scenario is dark and wicked and, as Matt says, certain to force you to adjust your standard approach. You may manage to slip the shackles from your wrists and find your way into the Goblin tunnels outside your cell, but what then?
Start plotting your escape. Escape from Mount Gram is on its way. Head to your local retailer to pre-order your copy today!