Lore of the Rings, Part Two
Guest Writer Ian Martin on the Tales Told by The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
"Indeed there is a power in Rivendell to withstand the might of Mordor, for a while: and elsewhere other powers still dwell."
–Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring
Last week, guest writer Ian Martin shared his love for Campaign Mode in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, the ways that it allows you to interact with Frodo's story, and the ways that it charges each of your in-game decisions with additional weight. When you play in Campaign Mode, you don't just get to interact with Middle-earth's untold stories, you get to accompany Frodo for some of his most memorable adventures. You choose the Fellowship to accompany him and guide your heroes through challenges drawn straight from the pages of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. Additionally, just as the One Ring weighs upon Frodo's neck, each of your decisions hangs with you from scenario to scenario and shapes your ongoing trek toward Mordor.
But because The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is, in fact, a game, you gain the freedom to alter the course of the story. You can play a little "What if?" with your Fellowship composition and the choices you make. You can try to play as faithfully to the fiction as possible, supporting Frodo with a fellowship of Sam, Merry, and Pippin. Or you can explore what might have happened had some of Middle-earth's other heroes taken the Hobbits' places.
In his last article, Ian shared the results of his "Faithful Fellowship" and its adventures through The Black Riders. Today, he leads us into an alternate reality. Here, Frodo is accompanied not by his closest friends, but by some of Middle-earth's most powerful individuals… What, then, will happen when Ian plays through The Black Riders with this "Alternate Fellowship"?
The Alternate Fellowship: Aragorn, Gandalf, Glorfindel
Unlike the unassuming Hobbits I used in my other campaign, such powerful characters as Gandalf (The Road Darkens, 2), Aragorn (The Lost Realm, 1), and Glorfindel (Foundations of Stone, 101) are bound to draw the Eye of the Enemy.
This is beautifully and seamlessly represented in the game through the mechanic of threat and enemy engagement costs. My powerful trio here started at a healthy threat of thirty-one, easily enough to cause a good range of enemies to engage from the very first turn.
Taking on A Shadow of the Past, I felt this impact immediately as the potent Black Riders (The Black Riders, 39) had an engagement cost of thirty-five, which gave me only four rounds before I would come to their attention. With such a powerful team on my side, I decided to throw caution to the wind and engaged a Nazgûl the very first turn of the campaign! With the help of the boon, Mr. Underhill (The Black Riders, 17), I was able to throw the Black Rider off my scent long enough to catch him unawares with the unerring blades of Aragorn and Glorfindel.
Power must attract power, as the Gildor Inglorion boon (The Black Riders, 77) soon came flying off the encounter deck, and Frodo (The Black Riders, 1) used his special Fellowship resources to keep him around for the remainder of the game.
With this company in operation, even the fiercest Nazgûl melted before me like winter snows before the sun. At the end of this scenario, I chose the Gildor Inglorion boon to reflect this campaign’s focus on bringing together the most powerful of the Free Peoples. Since Gandalf was firmly by Frodo’s side this time, I didn’t choose the Gandalf’s Delay burden (The Black Riders, 78), as it would make sense that for this fellowship, the effects of Gandalf’s delayed arrival in the Shire would be merely temporary.
The Road to Weathertop
The Nine, however, are not enemies to be mocked lightly, and they soon redoubled their attempts to capture the Ring as I faced off against the A Knife in the Dark quest. In this scenario, Bill Ferny (The Black Riders, 51) is also a tricky foe, continually raising your threat as he informs on the heroes’ movements. Fortunately, the Tactics version of Aragorn provided me a handy solution to the problem Bill Ferny presented, and Aragorn used his ability to engage Bill Ferny after destroying another enemy. With Bill soon silenced for good, the stage was set for a fateful meeting near Weathertop.
There, The Witch-king (The Black Riders, 68) strode forth, ready to cut down hope itself, just as he had felled Pippin (The Black Riders, 4) in my last campaign. However, Aragorn met him without fear or hesitation. Yet even Gondor’s future king could not face such a foe alone, and I needed all the power I could muster to win the day. Glorfindel decided to inspire Aragorn with a Tale of Tinuviel (The Dread Realm, 146), and the Dúnedain was then able to both defend against The Witch-king’s attack and ready for the counter-attack, all while the Elf’s Willpower was added to his Attack and Defense Strengths. Aragorn pressed the counter-attack together with Gildor Inglorion and a Gandalf aglow with the Flame of Anor (The Road Darkens, 7), and The Witch-king was struck down. Having survived the battle without major loss, Gandalf gained the Tireless Ranger boon (The Black Riders, 18), perhaps learning a thing or two about the ways of the wild from his Dúnedain companion.
A Perilous Flight to the Ford
All that was left was the final ride to Rivendell and the Flight to the Ford. Right away, the heroes cut down several Fell Riders (The Black Riders, 63), making light of Nazgûl destruction and growing in confidence. Just as refuge seemed within reach, The Witch-king appeared once more with another of the Nine at his side.
Soon, I was running out of tricks and options in my hand and barely fending off the attacks. But salvation was near, as the active location was the Ford of Bruinen (The Black Riders, 59). I threw caution to the wind and threw all my characters recklessly into the quest, piling enough progress to clear the Ford and discard all the Nazgûl from play, as the waters washed them away!
Many Roads Converge
These two campaigns may both have ended with Frodo making it to Rivendell and the fateful Council of Elrond, but the paths were clearly different.
- On one side, a group of unassuming heroes lost one of their number, while seeing Sam rise to prominence through the Noble Hero boon (The Black Riders, 21) and Frodo continuing to make use of Mr. Underhill to dodge enemies.
- On the other, a powerful set of heroes avoided significant losses, with Gandalf becoming an even better defender with Skilled Ranger and the Gildor Inglorion boon playing a prominent role from the encounter deck.
It could be said that the Alternate Fellowship was more successful, arriving to Rivendell unscathed. And this fellowship certainly provided me the thrill of wielding great power. Yet the Faithful Fellowship's journey weaved a great tale of struggle, loss, and unexpected deliverance. In the end, which story is better might just have to be settled on your own table!
Time to Leave the Shire
We want to thank Ian for so beautifully illustrating the different types of experiences you might enjoy over the course of your The Lord of the Rings campaigns. And, of course, if you haven't already left the Shire, we invite you to embark upon one of the greatest fantasy journeys of all time.