The Battle of the Pelennor Fields
A Preview of The Flame of the West Saga Expansion
“See my friends, when I had mastered the Stone, I learned many things. A grave peril I saw coming unlooked-for upon Gondor from the South that will draw off great strength from the defense of Minas Tirith. If it is not countered swiftly, I deem that the City will be lost ere ten days be gone.”
–Aragorn, The Return of the King
Greetings, fans of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game!
Whether you have played your The Lord of the Rings campaign from The Black Riders through The Land of Shadow and are eager to continue with the next chapter, or whether you have just picked up your first Core Set and love how the game encapsulates all the fantasy and drama of Middle-earth, there's much for you to be excited about in The Flame of the West Saga Expansion.
After all, most of us who come to The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game are already fans of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and The Flame of the West, as a Saga Expansion, offers us the chance to participate as fully in the action as we could without finding our names written in the books. We get to join Aragorn and The Grey Company for three thrilling adventures drawn straight from the first half of The Return of the King.
Of course, there are new heroes and player cards, too, and fans were excited about the opportunity to make use of the new Tactics Éowyn (The Flame of the West, 2). But if we're being honest with ourselves, the majority of the cards are for the scenarios, and the majority of the Saga Expansion's purpose lies in recreating the events of The Return of the King. So how does the expansion do this? To get a better idea, we turn to developer Caleb Grace for a preview of the expansion's take on one of the greatest battles in all of fantasy.
Developer Caleb Grace on The Battle of the Pelennor Fields
When The Flame of the West Saga Expansion makes its way to retailers, you will have the opportunity to play a personal role in what is possibly the most exciting battle in fantasy fiction: The Battle of the Pelennor Fields. While it is not the end of The Lord of the Rings, it is the culmination of several story arcs and the highpoint of action in the series. Tolkien spends several chapters arranging the pieces and setting up the story so that when The Witch-king (The Flame of the West, 79) finally lays siege to the city, you know it’s going to be epic.
And that is exactly what we wanted to accomplish when we set out to design The Battle of the Pelennor Fields scenario. We wanted to make this quest the most epic scenario in the game. And we also wanted it to serve as the culmination of several other scenarios in Campaign Mode.
The Battle of the Pelennor Fields scenario actually encompasses both the siege of Minas Tirith and the battle upon the titular fields. The adventure is five stages long, with each stage representing a major event connected to the battle:
The Garrison of Gondor . Stage 1 represents the arrival of the Outland armies come to defend Minas Tirith. Side 1A takes care of all the Setup and side 1B gives players one round to prepare for the coming storm.
Retreat from Osgiliath . Stage 2 represents the fall of Osgiliath and the outer defenses. Side 2A has each player add an ally to the staging area and side 2B gives you the opportunity to rescue those allies or watch them be overrun by the pursuing armies of Mordor.
The White City Besieged . Stage 3 is the heart of the scenario. It represents the actual siege of Minas Tirith and requires the players to defend the city from endless waves of enemies led by The Witch-king. The city is represented by the Minas Tirith objective and if its "city strength" is reduced to zero the players lose the game. This stage has the Assault keyword, which prevents players from placing progress on the quest by any means other than by destroying enemies. It also prevents players from raising their threat when they quest unsuccessfully, instead players must assign damage to Minas Tirith equal to the difference between the Threat Strength in the staging area and the total Willpower committed to the quest.
Rohan has Come! Stage 4 brings the players a welcome reprieve. If they can survive the siege and advance to stage 4A, The Witch-king retreats and each player gets to put an ally into play for free. This represents the arrival of the Rohirrim, and stage 4B represents the cavalry charge over the besiegers. Instead of making progress on the quest, players assign progress and damage to enemies in play, but only for one round. Then the battle advances to the final stage.
Fighting in the Fields . Stage 5 is the actual battle on the Pelennor Fields. The siege is broken, but the battle rages on. The Witch-king reappears to turn hope into death, making two attacks each round. The players must make twenty progress and defeat the Morgul Lord once and for all in order to finally win the scenario. The Minas Tirith objective remains in play throughout this stage, so the players will continue to feel a sense of urgency as they watch its city strength draw closer to zero each round.
If that wasn’t enough, the scenario gets even bigger in Campaign Mode, tying in the results of several other scenarios! First of all, when your group sets up The Battle of the Pelennor Fields in Campaign Mode, the first player is required to set Aragorn (The Flame of the West, 1) aside, out of play. That’s because in the story, the siege of Minas Tirith begins while the Heir of Isildur is on his way to Pelargir. So instead of taking control of Aragorn at the beginning of the scenario, the first player adds The Corsair Fleet objective (The Flame of the West, 72) to the staging area and places a number of resource tokens on it. This number is determined by how many rounds it took the players to defeat the Corsairs in the previous scenario: The Siege of Gondor.
In that scenario, Aragorn leads The Grey Company to Pelargir where they battle the Corsairs of Umbar. At the end of that battle, Aragorn and his companions capture the Black Fleet and use the Corsair ships to sail up Anduin to Minas Tirith. Then, when you play The Battle of the Pelennor Fields in Campaign Mode, you, your friends, and all the heroes at Minas Tirith must endure the waves of Mordor's armies as they wait for Aragorn to travel up the river in his captured ships. And when the last resource token is finally removed from The Corsair Fleet, you can once again take control of Aragorn.
Just as in the books, the arrival of Isildur’s Heir can turn the tide of the battle. But that’s not the only thing that can tip the scales: The Witch-king also held forces in reserve. When the players advance to stage 5A in campaign mode, the campaign card instructs the players to add each Harad enemy recorded in the campaign log to the staging area. These are the same Harad enemies that the players were unable to defeat in Journey to the Cross-roads from The Land of Shadow. Because they were able to advance to The Black Gate (The Land of Shadow, 27) in that scenario, they can return now to attack you and your heroes at stage 5 of The Battle of the Pelennor Fields!
Every Decision Matters
Beyond the fact that they take you as close to the Nine Walkers and their stories as you can get with any game, the Saga Expansions for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game are remarkable for the ways they ensure that every decision you make has lasting consequences.
Through the first four Saga Expansions, these consequences have come primarily in the form of boons and burdens, as well as the inability to play with any characters that appear on your list of fallen heroes. Now, however, as we look forward to The Flame of the West, we see new weight and new dimensions to your decisions. Will Aragorn show up in time to aid the defense of Minas Tirith? Will the White City's defenders fall to the Haradrim who managed to survive Faramir's ambush?
You'll have your chance to make your decisions and to live with the outcomes when The Flame of the West arrives at retailers. This first Saga Expansion from The Return of the King is on its way, so be sure to pre-order your copy today!