A Preview of The City of Corsairs for The Lord of the Rings
"So it was that Gandalf took command of the last defence of the City of Gondor. Wherever he came men's hearts would lift again, and the winged shadows pass from memory. Tirelessly, he strode from Citadel to Gate, from north to south about the wall; and with him went the Prince of Dol Amroth in his shining mail."
–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
Fans of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, take heed! The shores of Umbar are nearly in sight, and the Corsair fleet approaches. Your time aboard the Dream-chaser has nearly come to an end—The City of Corsairs arrives at retailers later next week!
Over the course of five Adventure Packs, your heroes have sailed the Dream-chaser from the shores of The Grey Havens to a remote jungle isle. They have battled Undead, explored the sunken tunnels of an abandoned temple, and made their way back to Dol Amroth, where they helped to turn the tide of a massive naval battle. Now, the end of the Dream-chaser cycle finds them nearly within sight of the artifact they seek, but will this last stretch of their journey prove to be their undoing?
The Fight with the Stormcaller
There are four quest stages in The City of Corsairs, three of which follow your heroes' landing upon the shores of Umbar. But first you have to get there…
Although it uses four quest stages, the scenario from The City of Corsairs is divided into two larger halves—the first of which consists entirely of Stage 1, The Coast of Umbar. During setup, side 1A instructs you to set aside The City of Corsairs encounter set, which contains an assortment of enemies, locations, and treacheries that you might face should you make it to shore. But then the rest of The Coast of Umbar's setup instructions set the stage for a brutal gauntlet of treacherous Sailing tests, ship-to-ship combat, and Boarding actions.
As soon as you come within sight of Umbar, you'll find the Stormcaller (The City of Corsairs, 151) waiting for you. And while you've encountered the Ship before, in Flight of the Stormcaller, this time is different. With its engagement cost reduced to a mere twenty, the Stormcaller presents a significant threat right from the outset, especially while you have to sail through Rough Waters (The Grey Havens, 53) and tricky Corsair Waters (The City of Corsairs, 155).
In fact, your Sailing tests are about as important in this engagement as they have ever been. Throughout side 1B of The Coast of Umbar, you cannot place progress on The Coast of Umbar unless you are on-course.
This means you absolutely need to succeed at your Sailing tests unless your plan is to defeat the mighty Stormcaller. However, since the Stormcaller still features six Defense Strength and eighteen Hit Points, defeating it is no easy task, especially when its wily captain keeps leading you off-course at the end of each round; either you have to return the Stormcaller to the staging area or shift your heading off-course.
The result is a challenging and fluid first quest stage that offers punishing combat with Ships and Raiders, treacherous weather, and difficult choices about the number of characters you'll commit to each Sailing test. It's a good adventure for side quests, and you're likely to find yourself torn at times between your desire to sail as fast as possible for shore and the idea that you'll have more success defeating the Stormcaller in combat.
Either way, should you make your way to shore, you can expect another whole set of surprises as you change the whole shape of the encounter deck, swapping the Ships for city streets…
Inspiring Others in a Time of Need
How will you sail and fight your way past the Stormcaller and the rest of the Corsair fleet? The City of Corsairs allows you to respond to the scenario's difficult challenges by recruiting the Noble Warrior Prince Imrahil (The City of Corsairs, 138) and a number of powerful allies from the ranks of Gondor and the Dúnedain. Additionally, you'll find the Adventure Pack's player cards bringing a close to the Dream-chaser cycle and its focus on high-cost allies and events with bonus effects the group can trigger.
Like Súlien (The City of Corsairs, 142) and Hold the Line (The City of Corsairs, 140), these cards can strengthen your fellowship and improve your chances of success, even in the face of tremendous adversity.
One of an extremely limited number of allies with a base Willpower of three or more, Súlien appears made for questing. She's a Scout, which affords her access to a Mariner's Compass (The Grey Havens, 8) and the extra Willpower granted by Scouting Party (Temple of the Deceived, 63). However, as much as she can contribute when she commits to the quest, there may be times that your group would rather use her ability to reduce the threat of each location in the staging area.
"Action: Spend 1 [Lore] resource to exhaust Súlien. Then, each location in the staging area gets -1 [Threat Strength] until the end of the phase. Any player may trigger this action."
Provided someone in your group is running Lore, you may find Súlien capable of contributing far more than an effective three Willpower to the quest. And because she's unique and can be targeted by Sword-thain (The Dread Realm, 149), you could even make her a hero, then use Unexpected Courage (Core Set, 57) or any other readying effect to trigger her ability two or more times. In the right group, it's not unreasonable to think that Súlien with Sword-thain could reduce the total Threat Strength from locations to zero—every turn.
Meanwhile, Hold the Line may prove particularly valuable in The City of Corsairs. Few characters can withstand multiple attacks of five or more Attack Strength, and there are plenty of those to be found in the scenario. And the card's play cost of zero is particularly useful when so many of the scenario's Raiders will steal your resources when they engage you from the Corsair deck.
Of course, after you defend against a powerful enemy, you'll want to take it down as quickly as possible, and that requires ready attackers. Here, the group may be able to help you out by spending two Tactics resources. If your teammates help you with this, you can ready each defending character that takes no damage from the attack they blocked together, meaning that for just two Tactics resources, you can defend and then attack a single enemy with as many as three of your most powerful warriors.
Finally, your whole table will benefit from the leadership and Inspiring Presence (The City of Corsairs, 143) of a hero like Gandalf (The Road Darkens, 2), Elrond (Shadow and Flame, 128), or Círdan the Shipwright (The Grey Havens, 1).
For two Spirit resources, you choose a hero, and the card grants two bonus points of Defense Strength to every hero with a lower threat cost than your chosen hero until the end of the phase. Perhaps this allows Beregond (The Flame of the West, 3) to defend two powerful attacks and reduce a player's threat by two. Perhaps it allows Boromir (The Dead Marshes, 95) to make a final stand against a whole ship's worth of Corsair Raiders. Either way, as with most of the "kicker" events, Inspiring Presence gains more value the more players you have at the table, meaning that you can pursue strategies in your largest multiplayer games that you might not play in solo or even two-player games.
And that's not all that your leader's Inspiring Presence brings to the table. If the group is willing to kick in a couple of Leadership resources, the card also grants two bonus Attack Strength to every hero with a lower threat cost until the end of the phase. Again, this may allow Boromir to not only defend a ship from Corsairs, but then to press the attack. It may allow Aragorn (The Lost Realm, 1) to swiftly dispatch a number of foes, even from afar. It may even help a party of Hobbits, like Sam Gamgee (The Black Riders, 2) and Pippin (Encounter at Amon Dîn, 56), to fight above their station, as Hobbits are wont to do.
…And, really, in the end, what's more thematic than a number of Hobbits being inspired by a leader like Gandalf to fight their way to freedom in even the most adverse circumstances? Maybe it's the coast of Umbar, rather than the mines of Moria or the Pelennor fields, but the desperation and inspiration of The City of Corsairs are every bit as much a part of Middle-earth as you'll find in any chapter of The Lord of the Rings.
The Final Voyage of the Dream-chaser
Set sail aboard the Dream-chaser one last time when The City of Corsairs goes on sale at retailers later next week. This thrilling conclusion to the Dream-chaser cycle not only promises to test all your skills as soldiers and sailors, but it sets you up for the adventures to follow in The Sands of Harad.
Start preparing your ship and crew today. It's all non-stop action once the wind hits the sails!