Reinforcements Are on the Way
A Preview of Beneath the Sands for The Lord of the Rings
"He sank on one knee and presented the arrow to Théoden. 'Hail, Lord of the Rohirrim, friend of Gondor!' he said. 'Hirgon I am, errand-rider of Denethor, who bring you this token of war. Gondor is in great need.'"
–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
Beneath the Sands, the third Adventure Pack in the Haradrim cycle for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, arrives at retailers next Thursday, and it finds several of Middle-earth's greatest heroes in the midst of Harad, having already spent weeks traveling northward from the southern reaches of that hostile nation.
These heroes hope once again to see the shining walls of Gondor and to find their safety therein. But even though their journey has already led them through treacherous jungles and deserts, they still have hundreds of miles to go.
The land they cross is both strange and dangerous—littered with hostile patrols and natural predators. Our misplaced heroes would likely have perished numerous times were it not for the help of their new Haradrim friends. Even in Harad, the heroes found noble men and women willing to resist the Dark Lord and his forces. And, working together with these brave Haradrim, they have tamed several fearsome Mûmakil, and they rode the beasts hard to outpace the pack of Orcs and Wargs that nearly caught them.
Now the fates of these heroes and these Haradrim are closely entwined. They have fought side by side. They have shared food and drink. And the dangers that befall any one of them are dangers to them all.
Thus, when the heroes wake one morning to find that giant desert spiders have dragged some of their Haradrim allies into a network of caverns beneath the sands, they don't hesitate; they don their armor, grab their weapons, and plunge swiftly into the dark and unknown tunnels.
To the Rescue
This is the scenario of Beneath the Sands—the heroes race through darkened, underground tunnels in a desperate attempt to find and rescue their new friends and traveling companions.
Of course, in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, there are many heroes from which you can choose to send into the tunnels, and there are many ways you can have them go about their rescue attempt. The card pool has grown to allow a fantastic array of different fellowships and deck types.
You can explore the caverns with Dwarves, Dúnedain, Hobbits, or Noldor. You can marshal a team of Scouts or arm one or two heroes with an arsenal of Weapons, Armor, and healing effects. You can explore the depths of a single Trait and all it offers, or you can follow the example set by The Sands of Harad deluxe expansion and explore the strengths of a deck built around pairing your Traits.
Likewise, you can split your heroes across the different spheres of influence in order to take your pick of allies, events, and equipment. Or you can focus on a single sphere, committing yourself to its singular strengths and then racing forward along that narrow path.
It is this final approach that we explore today as Beneath the Sands lends a great new measure of flexibility to the Tactics sphere and its military drive.
Some of this flexibility derives from the introduction of the new side quest, Keep Watch (Beneath the Sands, 59), which hinders each attacking enemy and thereby increases the effectiveness of all our defenders. But even more of this new flexibility derives from the Adventure Pack's new Tactics hero, Hirgon (Beneath the Sands, 55), and his powerful Response ability.
"Response: After Hirgon quests successfully, play a Tactics ally from your hand, reducing its cost by 1 (to a minimum of 1). Then, you may raise your threat by 1 to give that ally +1 Attack Strength and +1 Defense Strength until the end of the round."
Played correctly, Hirgon's ability is effectively an extra resource each round, plus the chance to play an ally that can bypass all the potential treacheries it might otherwise encounter in the quest phase.
Moreover, if you have enough Tactics allies in your deck, Hirgon can help you decide the order in which you play them. For example, in Beneath the Sands, as your heroes weave through the scenario's labyrinthine nest of subterranean, spider-infested corridors, Hirgon can hold back your allies until you round the next corner—at the end of your quest phase—and then call forth a defender if a spider leaps out of the darkness. Or if you simply find another fork in your path, Hirgon might recruit an Ent like the Derndingle Warrior (Escape from Mount Gram, 31) so that it can join the group prior to the refresh phase.
Spiders and Warriors
With all the scenario's ebb and flow—as you find your way On Track (Beneath the Sands, 80) at some points and end up hopelessly Off Track (Beneath the Sands, 79) at others—Hirgon provides a natural response to the changing rhythms. Playing allies at the end of the quest phase allows you to take advantage of moments of relative safety to build up your forces incrementally, or react to immediate danger by playing an ally that might be able to survive the next spider's venom—or that may be willing to sacrifice itself for the greater good.
The scenario's ebb and flow also makes it an ideal adventure in which to experiment with side quests like Keep Watch, and the sample deck below makes use of both Hirgon and Keep Watch, pairing them both with Théoden (The Morgul Vale, 134) and Éowyn (The Flame of the West, 2) in a way that allows you to quickly build an army and surge forward through the tunnels, cutting down spiders at every turn!
Deck Created with CardGameDB.com The Lord of the Rings Deckbuilder
Total Cards: (46)
1x Azain Silverbeard (Flight of the Stormcaller)
1x Beechbone (The Battle of Carn Dûm)
1x Bofur (Over Hill and Under Hill)
1x Boromir (The Road Darkens)
3x Derndingle Warrior (Escape from Mount Gram)
3x Descendant of Thorondor (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
3x Eagles of the Misty Mountains (Return to Mirkwood)
1x Grimbold (The Flame of the West)
1x Gwaihir (Trouble in Tharbad)
3x Legolas (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Skinbark (The Land of Shadow)
1x Treebeard (The Antlered Crown)
3x Vassal of the Windlord (The Dead Marshes)
3x Vigilant Dunadan (The Sands of Harad)
3x Winged Guardian (The Hunt for Gollum)
3x Raiment of War (The Thing in the Depths)
3x Rivendell Blade (Road to Rivendell)
1x Favor of the Valar (The Battle of Carn Dûm)
1x Arod (The Treason of Saruman)
1x The Red Arrow (Beneath the Sands)
Side Quest: (3)
3x Keep Watch (Beneath the Sands)
With Thédoen, Éowyn, and Hirgon, you can start questing with a whopping eleven Willpower on the first turn. That's almost guaranteed to allow you to trigger Hirgon's ability and to set you up for success, again, on your next turn. The result is that you can quickly build up a force that has the Willpower, Defense Strength, and Attack Strength to handle just about anything the encounter deck can throw your way.
Card draw becomes critical. Even though Hirgon and The Red Arrow (Beneath the Sands, 58) give you the means to play on tempo even while recruiting powerful allies like Boromir and the Eagles of the Misty Mountains, you need to stay ahead of your draw, and this is where Legolas comes into play, as well as the deck's Weapon attachments, Rivendell Blade and Raiment of War, as they can be exhausted with Foe-hammer to grant you even more card draw.
Finally, once you've assembled your army, the deck allows you to charge boldly toward the scenario's end with three copies of the new event, Wait No Longer (The Mûmakil, 5). The Tactics sphere doesn't provide much in the way of cancellation, but it has plenty of muscle to overcome whatever monsters you may face.
The Brood Mother Awaits You
The tunnels of Beneath the Sands may be trickier and deadlier than you expect. Even with an army of Tactics allies at your back, you may find yourselves heading all in the wrong direction, and there's no telling just how many of the brood mother's progeny are lurking about in the dark.
The only things of which you can be certain are that your friends need your help, and it's better to march into the tunnels with an army at your back than to delve them by yourself.
Take Hirgon's advice and rally your troops. Beneath the Sands (MEC58) is headed to retailers next Thursday!