Another few weeks have gone by in the world of the Lord of the Rings LCG. There have been a few interesting highlights, including the announcement of Nightmare decks for Khazad-Dum, and a card preview on the Couple vs Cardboard blog, showing Eomer’s horse Firefoot, finally allowing some proper overspill of damage from your mounted characters onto unwary enemies.
On the other hand, we are still no nearer to having the Dunland Trap in our hands, and it’s been a while now since we had any new official content.
However, none of that really matters anymore, because these weekend sees probably the single most exciting release for the Lord of the Rings since the Core Set. It’s time to enter the world of the First Age!
People familiar with the wider community will have seen the previews and spoiler articles appearing on the Tales From the Cards blog over recent weeks and months. Fans of Cardboard of the Rings will also have heard Ian being interviewed in their most recent episode “Finfinfin” about the project in depth.
The whole project is now available:
- A whole new stack of heroes, allies, events and attachments, in not 4, but five spheres.
- A variety of new mechanics
- 3 complete quests, charting the adventures of Beren and Luthien in their quest to steal a Silmaril from Morgoth’s crown.
I’m aware that there’s a possibility that some people reading this have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about by now. If that’s you, then go and read the Silmarillion! In the meantime, I’ll offer a very brief (and fairly loose) summary.
The Silmarillion, compiled by Christopher Tolkien from JRR’s notes, tells the story of the earliest times on Middle Earth, the “First Age.” Unlike the withdrawn, Laissez-Faire types you might remember from Lord of the Rings, the Elves of the First Age are angry, interventionist types, getting involved in blood-feuds and sworn oaths, challenging Morgoth (Sauron’s old boss) to single combat and generally getting themselves killed in their rage. Men and Dwarves are also present, although they play a proportionally smaller role. On the evil side, there are still Orcs & Goblins Galore, but they are sprinkled in amongst Dragons, Balrogs (multiple, not just one of each) Monster Wolves and even a Vampire / Bat-woman (EVERYTHING in Fantasy is Derivative of Tolkien).
for the full experience, you need to head to Tales from the Cards, but just to whet your appetite, here are a few highlights.
Relentless is a new Keyword for the 1st age, and you’ll find it on enemies. An enemy with the relentless keyword cannot be prevented from attacking by player card effects.
You may wonder why this is such a big deal? Well, at the moment we basically have 2 types of enemies in Lord of the Rings. First of all, are the standard, generic enemies: Whilst they can overwhelm you in sheer number, any one enemy is probably fairly easy to deal with. You can use Feint, or Forest Snare, or Thicket of Spears (etc, etc)
Given the number of ways we now have to deal with enemies, the designers are increasingly forced to make the more powerful beasts immune to player card effects. This means that no matter what you do, the enemy will just exactly where you left it, doing its own thing. You have to die (or find a massive blocker) then you need to hit it back REALLY hard.
Now, obviously it’s only right that Smaug, The Witch King, The Balrog be powererful, and that you can’t just neutralise the grief they bring. However, playing this game is supposed to be about making decisions, and having those decisions produce consequences. Immune to player card effects takes away a lot of those decisions. It just becomes a question of how much can you boost attack and defence.
Relentless provides a good thematic middle-ground. This thing IS going to come and get you. It’s probably going to make a mess of you when it does. But that doesn’t mean you’re without options when it does. You can still try to damage it in the staging area, or reduce its defence. You could still attach traps to it, to ignore its threat, allow additional characters to attack it, or have it take damage each round. An enemy which is relentless isn’t going to be easy to deal with, but at least you will be making a choice.
Master of Doom
Next-up, I want to look at a couple of player cards, a new hero, and a unique weapon. They are Turin Turambar, and his sword Gurthang.
As I mentioned earlier, the 1st Age introduces a new sphere for players, the Mastery sphere. Mastery is designed to represent those mighty figures of the first who sought to master forces of incredible power to use against Morgoth, many of whom were ultimately mastered by the darkness themselves. Whilst Feanor is probably the most iconic example of a Mastery character, Turin comes in close behind, at least in my book.
Although he took many names and titles upon himself over the course of his life, Turin is most remembered as “Turambar” Master of Doom. This is a man who sought throughout his life, by physical violence, by battles of intellect, and ultimately by sheer force of will, to overcome the great Doom which had been lain upon him and his family.
At the very early stages of this project, I submitted a design for Turin which forced players to increase their threat by an additional 1 each round – not surprisingly, this turned out to be a crippling cost, and made the character almost impossible to balance – he either needed stats so high that you crushed the game in two or three rounds, or you’d just get threated out. The version Ian ultimately went for makes a lot more sense- and gives players an actual choice to make – you can destroy anything IF you can pay the price in threat.
The other ability just seemed perfect for Turin – until he willingly throws himself on his own (magic) sword, he survives any number of perils and trials, whilst his companions, willing or otherwise die like flies around him. Being able to throw an ally in front of any damage that would otherwise be dealt to him seemed like a perfect way of capturing this.
Turin is a fantasy hero of the old school, and no figure of this type would be complete without his weapon, in this case a dark-hearted sword, bearing some of the malice of its original creator, Eol the smith (also a mastery ally). Meaning “Iron of Death” Gurthang, in the hands of Turin brought terror to the Orcs of Angband, but it was a treacherous blade, and it stabbed Turin as he was being rescued by his friend Beleg, causing Turin to wrest the blade from his would-be rescuer in a blind panic, and kill him.
The card is every bit as powerful as Gurthang should be- it has the ability to destroy even the most mighty enemy, striking down Dragon or Balrog. However, its treachery remains, and you should be careful about triggering the response, as choosing to do so, could easily result in the death of your hero.
Again, this was one of the cards where I had a fair bit of input on the original design (although if I recall Ian fixed it by adding in the ‘shuffle’ requirement) and I like the powerful effect with high cost. My inability to operate OCTGN has been holding me back from doing much of the play-testing for this project, but over the next week, I’ll be putting together the mother of all ArtsCow orders, and getting ready for some serious first age gaming – I’d recommend you all head over to Tales of the Cards, find the expansion in your preferred format, and do the same. You can read a general introduction here or go straight to the downloads page here.