Trapped in The Land of Shadow
A Look at the New Heroes and Player Cards from The Land of Shadow
"Four tall Men stood there. Two had spears in their hands with broad bright heads. Two had great bows, almost of their own height, and great quivers of long green-feathered arrows. All had swords at their sides, and were clad in green and brown of varied hues, as if better to walk unseen in the glades of Ithilien."
–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
The Lord of the Rings Saga Expansions for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game are designed to carry you through the pages of Tolkien's fantasy epic as faithfully as possible. Among other things, this means that their scenarios allow you to stand alongside the novels' central characters while you fend off such iconic and memorable threats as the Nazgûl, Durin's Bane, and the armies of Isengard. It also means that each Saga Expansion's heroes and player cards are shaped to reflect the forces acting against Mordor within the section of the novels that inspired its scenarios.
In our first preview of The Land of Shadow Saga Expansion, developer Caleb Grace offered a closer look at how it gives life to Gollum. The Land of Shadow presents three new scenarios pulled directly from the second half of The Two Towers, and Gollum (or Sméagol) is arguably the most influential character throughout the second half of that novel. Accordingly, the developers created a double-sided Gollum card that can act as either enemy or objective-ally and whose ubiquitous presence will frame your adventures in the barren and wild lands just outside of Mordor.
Still, while Gollum may carry more drama with him than any other character in The Land of Shadow, you'll likely be happier to travel with the expansion's new heroes. Both of the heroes who offer their blades to your service and to that of Frodo Baggins (The Land of Shadow, 1) are, as it turns out, Gondorian Rangers. While they're every bit as clever and sneaky as Gollum, neither is likely to creep away from your Fellowship in the night, mutter to himself about how much he hates you, or try to squeeze the life out of you by wrapping his long, thing fingers about your neck.
The Rangers of Ithilien
"They were Rangers of Ithilien; for they were descended from folk who lived in Ithilien at one time, before it was overrun. From such men the Lord Denethor chose his forayers, who crossed the Anduin secretly (how or where, they would not say) to harry the Orcs and other enemies that roamed between the Ephel Dúath and the River."
–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
Several of the Rangers of Ithilien that Frodo and Sam encountered in The Two Towers arrive in The Land of Shadow, led by their Captain, Faramir (The Land of Shadow, 2).
In The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, these Rangers are every bit as skilled and stealthy as in the novel. It is their job to make swift and silent strikes against the foes that travel the eastern shores of the Anduin, so they excel at engaging their foes and trapping them in snares. Of course, they also benefit greatly from the leadership of Faramir, who allows you to ready one of your allies when you engage an enemy. Although this ability is limited to once per phase, it still grants you the freedom to commit to the quest in great numbers, secure in the knowledge that if you should have to engage an enemy, you'll be able to ready an ally to defend against its attack.
Alternatively, Faramir's ability may allow you to ready an ally to make use of it in other ways than as a defender. You can ready Gléowine (Core Set, 62) in order to exhaust him for additional card draw. You could ready and exhaust a Warden of Healing (The Long Dark, 83) to heal your characters. Or you could ready and exhaust a Zigil Miner (Khazad-dûm, 9) to delve for resources, setting yourself up to pay for future allies, events, and attachments.
Finally, as you might expect, Faramir's ability works well with the cards from The Land of Shadow. Of the four Rangers the expansion delivers, two are allies, and like the Hobbits whom they met in the wilds of Ithilien, these Men of Gondor possess abilities that interact with the engagement costs of the enemies they face.
When he enters play, Mablung (The Land of Shadow, 5) can increase the engagement cost of one enemy by five until the end of the round. Then, he allows you to engage that enemy or return it to the staging area. If you engage it, you could trigger the abilities of such heroes as Faramir, Pippin (The Black Riders, 4), or Sam Gamgee (The Black Riders, 2). Alternatively, if you increase the enemy's engagement cost and send it back to the staging area, you might be able to quest past it for a round, without having to worry about it attacking you.
Meanwhile, Anborn (The Land of Shadow, 4) makes his second appearance in the game, this time as a Leadership ally who can exhaust as a Response to increase an enemy's engagement cost by five when it is added to the staging area. As a kicker, he can strike it with an arrow for a point of damage, softening it up for the eventual kill. Then, if you engage that enemy later in the round, Faramir could ready Anborn, who could join in the attack and make a significant contribution with his three Attack Strength.
Indeed, backed by Faramir's skills as Captain of Gondor and his ability to ready an ally, Anborn may prove to be an extremely valuable companion along your road to Mordor, especially when your Fellowship travels In the Shadows (The Land of Shadow, 12) and keeps its threat low so that you can Ambush (The Land of Shadow, 9) your foes, rather than find yourselves caught by surprise.
Like most Trap cards in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, Ambush plays into the staging area and then attaches to first eligible enemy to enter the staging area. Then, once attached, it allows you to take advantage of its powerful Combat Action:
"Combat Action: The engaged player discards Ambush to declare an attack against the attached enemy."
It's worth noting that one of Ambush's greatest benefits is nearly invisible and only becomes clear when you look more closely at the game's timing structure. Enemies engage you during the Engagement Phase. Then they attack you during the Combat Phase. However, if you have a card such as Ambush that grants you a Combat Action, you can take that action prior to the enemy's attack. If you destroy an enemy with that attack, then you no longer need to keep characters ready to defend against that enemy. This is the logic that makes Quick Strike (Core Set, 35) such a powerful event. Ambush functions similarly, but it's even more powerful because it allows you to declare more than one character to participate in the attack. Accordingly, Ambush is priced at two resources rather than the one that Quick Strike costs, but you can alter the terms of that comparison by playing with the new Lore hero, Damrod (The Land of Shadow, 3).
Damrod lowers the cost of the first Trap card that you play each round by one, to a minimum of zero, meaning that he allows you to play your Ambush for the same cost of one resource that you would pay for a Quick Strike. However, Damrod's not done there; he also helps you set up your next Trap whenever the first is sprung:
"Response: After a Trap card you control is attached to an enemy, draw 1 card."
All of the game's Trap cards introduce novel means to gain control over a scenario's enemies. Even so, you'll still need to gather the strength of arms to slay the foes you snare, and you'll still need to steel your will for the quests that lie ahead of you. Accordingly, Damrod's Response ability plays extremely well with a Trap-focused deck as he ensures that the time you spend setting your Traps doesn't hinder your ability to draw into and muster your deck's allies, Weapons, and other cards. Each Trap becomes, essentially, a free draw as well as an extremely cost-efficient means of foiling your enemies.
Together, Damrod and Faramir provide the backbone of a solid Ranger deck – one that could very well lead you through the forests of Ithilien, up through the Ephel Dúath, and into the land of Mordor. Of course, they also partner very well with the Hobbits from The Black Riders, Pippin and Sam Gamgee, who grant you even more advantages for adjusting enemies' engagement costs and engaging them. In many ways, it's a truly appropriate partnership. After all, Faramir demonstrated tremendous wisdom when he captured, questioned, and released Frodo to his task. Had he gone with Sam and Frodo, would Faramir have been able to resist the One Ring's lure? The novels may not give us the chance to explore that question, but it's one you will soon be able to explore with The Land of Shadow!
The Burden of Isildur's Bane
If you haven't already pre-ordered your copy of The Land of Shadow, head to your local retailer today!
This fourth The Lord of the Rings Saga Expansion for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is on its way, along with all the options it presents you. Will you task Faramir, Damrod, and the Rangers of Ithilien to accompany Frodo Baggins along the final legs of his journey? Would such a company call the Eye of Sauron upon your efforts, or would it help ease the Hobbit's burden? You'll soon have the chance to find out.
In the meantime, keep your eyes open for more previews, including a look at the expansion's new boon and burdens!