A Preview of The Flame of the West Saga Expansion
"They met the Prince Imrahil, and he called to them: 'Whither now, Mithrandir? The Rohirrim are fighting on the fields of Gondor! We must gather all the strength that we can find.'"
–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
How do you prepare yourselves for an adventure that's as epic as The Battle of the Pelennor Fields scenario? You gather all the strength that you can find.
In our last preview of The Flame of the West Saga Expansion for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, developer Caleb Grace revealed how The Battle of the Pelennor Fields recreates one of the largest and most memorable battles ever put to page. He looked at its different stages and movements—as well as the ways they add greater significance to your adventures in earlier scenarios, both in The Flame of the West and in The Land of Shadow. Aragorn's arrival may be hastened or delayed. You may see Mordor's forces reinforced by the Haradrim and Oliphaunts that survived Faramir's ambush. And, of course, you'll come face-to-face with a punishing new version of The Witch-king (The Flame of the West, 79).
So as you aim to rally the Free Peoples against such overwhelming forces, we are happy to reveal a few of the player cards you'll find in the expansion!
Withstand the Siege
The siege of Minas Tirith is central to the drama of The Battle of The Pelennor Fields, and there's a siege mentality running through many of the player cards from The Flame of the West. In fact, it's so prevalent that the Tactics and Spirit spheres are given special weight, reflecting the need not only for strength of arms, but also the very resolve to stand and hold the walls.
Fans of the Tactics sphere will find a new Rohan ally along with the event Sterner Than Steel (The Flame of the West, 8) and the attachment Golden Shield (The Flame of the West, 10), both of which introduce powerful combat-focused Response abilities. Sterner Than Steel allows you to exhaust a Weapon or Armor card attached to your defending character to cancel a shadow effect just triggered. Along with the new Willpower provided by the Tactics Éowyn (The Flame of the West, 2) included in the expansion, this card goes a long way toward strengthening the mono-Tactics decks that may have previously strugged with questing and unfortunate shadow reveals.
At the same time, you can also generate some truly monumental Defense Strength from your Rohan heroes by exhausting Golden Shield. Combined with Sterner Than Steel, it's enough to grant you the courage you need to block The Witch-king with Tactics Théoden (The Morgul Vale, 134) or Éowyn. Since you can cancel a deadly shadow effect, you know you'll suffer no more than one damage on either hero.
Meanwhile, Spirit players gain a couple of Gondor-themed cards in the form of Livery of the Tower (The Flame of the West, 11) and Desperate Defense (The Flame of the West, 9). A suit of Armor that's always as good as you need it to be—provided you have the resources—the Livery of the Tower is an excellent option for any Gondor character looking to fill a Restricted attachment slot. While it doesn't grant the extra Defense Strength or Hit Points that many other suits of Armor may grant, its potent Response ability can save the life of a hero like Boromir (The Dead Marshes, 95) not only while he's defending, but also while he's being stabbed in the back by treachery effects or being pelted by Archery damage. Just think—what if Boromir had been wearing Livery of the Tower when he encountered Saruman's Uruk-hai? It's likely he'd be leading the defense of Minas Tirith.
On the other hand, since extra Defense Strength goes a long way toward reducing the amount of resources you need to sink into your Livery's Response effect, you may wish to add a few copies of Desperate Defense to both increase your Sentinel character's chances of shrugging off all damage, but also to ready that character—either to defend again or to launch a counterattack.
Three and a Half Heroes
While events and attachments of The Flame of the West are grand, they're no substitute for the heroes and allies who ride forth to meet the Dark Lord's minions on the field of battle. We met two of these heroes in our announcement of the Saga Expansion, Aragorn (The Flame of the West, 1) and Éowyn, but we can still look forward to meeting another one and a half of the expansion's heroes.
About that one-half hero? That's just a bit of fancy accounting for the unique ability of the new Prince Imrahil ally (The Flame of the West, 5). Just as he and his forces rescued the fallen Faramir, bringing him back to Minas Tirith to be healed, so can Prince Imrahil rescue your fellowship should it ever lose a hero.
There's no good that ever comes from losing a hero—unless, perhaps, it's the intentional discard of Caldara (The Blood of Gondor, 107)—but Prince Imrahil's ability is the best way you'll find of mitigating the loss. Not only will you continue to generate three heroes' worth of resources, but you'll continue to have three heroes to target with attachments like the Livery of the Tower and Unexpected Courage (Core Set, 57). And, of course, Prince Imrahil can also help you balance your three-pronged efforts to quest, defend, and attack.
The thing to remember with Prince Imrahil, though, is that he's meant to be your back-up plan. If your primary plan is successful enough, you'll never need to use Prince Imrahil's ability. And that would be okay, especially if one of your heroes is as resolute and helpful a defender as the expansion's new Spirit version of Beregond (The Flame of the West, 3).
Just as he does with his Tactics version (Heirs of Númenor, 1), Beregond arrives as a Sentinel character with zero Willpower, one Attack Strength, four Defense Strength, and four Hit Points. However, that's where the similarities end. His new Spirit hero ability is drastically different than his Tactics ability, even though they're naturally both focused on defending. Spirit Beregond trades in his two-resource discount on Weapons and Armor in favor of a new Response ability that plays into the Spirit sphere's traditional strengths in threat reduction:
"Response: After Beregond defends an attack and takes no damage, reduce the defending player's threat by 1. (Limit once per round."
Notably, since Beregond's Sentinel allows him to defend attacks directed toward your teammates, he can help reduce their threats, as well as your own. And that's an important thing to remember while the forces of Mordor are racing at you in waves and there's no telling when Aragorn or the Rohirrim might arrive. In such moments, it's not just vital that you keep your shield held high; you must also keep yourself steeled against the insidious seeds of despair.
The White City Must Not Fall
For generations, Minas Tirith and Gondor have stood as the first line of defense against the evils of Mordor. They must not fall.
Can you stand fast against the Dark Lord's armies? Can you help win The Battle of the Pelennor Fields? You'll soon have your chance to find out! The Flame of the West Saga Expansion is on its way to retailers, and now is the time to gather your strength. Pre-order your copy, and steel yourself for one of the most epic battles in all of card gaming!