This week saw the start of GenCon 2014, typically one of the biggest weekends in the gaming calendar. As thousands gather to demo, play, and buy the newest additions to the board game world, the news for Lord of the Rings fans has been a little bit mixed.
On the one hand, there was remarkably little in terms of actual new content: The Road Darkens, which is the second Saga expansion for the main Lord of the Rings story, and which will allow players to play through the second half of The Fellowship of the Ring, was not only absent, but it now has a 4th quarter of 2014 release date, meaning it will be months at the earliest before anyone can get their hands on the new cards.
In terms of new game announcements, there also seems to have been a bit of a blank – Fantasy Flight, who have historically been one of the big producers of Lord of the Rings games are currently focusing most of their energies on Star Wars, with ever more games and expansions appearing in that sector.
Despite all this, there was still some news for fans of the LCG, the next Saga expansion, and the next deluxe expansion, along with its attendant cycle of adventure packs.
The next Deluxe will be The Lost Realm focusing around Bree, the Shire, and further north, a theme which will be developed in the 2015 AP cycle “Angmar Awakened.” The Third Saga box will be The Treason of Saruman¸ and will focus on the events from the two towers around Rohan and Orthanc.
Whilst these are exciting enough as teasers, we know very little about these expansions as yet – The Grey Company and Cardboard of the Rings have posted photos of the box, inside a glass display case, but it’s difficult to make out much from the cards, the one thing we do know is that BOTH these big boxes will feature a new Aragorn hero. One Saga-specific Fellowship hero, and one of an un-confirmed sphere, but probably tactics (based on the combat-themed abilities which can be vaguely made out, and the reddish tinge to the background.)
This will leave us with no less than 4 total versions of Aragorn, putting him level with Bilbo (1 hero, 2 saga hero, 1 ally, forthcoming in The Road Darkens) and ahead of Frodo (1 hero, 2 saga hero), so I thought this might be a good time to provide a bit of a reminder of who exactly Aragorn is, and why he’s so important to the story of Lord of the Rings.
After the fall of Sauron at the end of the Second age, the realm of the men of Numenor was divided, with Isildur and his heirs ruling in the North, whilst his brother Anarion, and his heirs ruled the south. In Gondor, the line of Anarion lasted for roughly 2000 years, before it failed, and rule of the kingdom passed to the stewards for the next millennium. In the north Isildur’s heirs ruled the kingdoms of Arnor and Arthedain for only a little less time, before the kingdom fell, and the head of the house was reduced to the status of a chieftain.
It was into this line of chieftains of the northern Dunedain that Aragorn was born. His father Arathorn had just succeeded his father as the chieftain when Aragorn was born, and held the post for roughly 3 years before being slain by orc-arrows whilst riding with Elladan and Elrohir. The young boy Aragorn was given the name “Estel” meaning hope, and fostered in the house of Elrond, where his lineage and true identity were kept hidden from all, even himself, throughout his youth.
At the age of twenty, Aragorn’s true identity was revealed to him by Elrond, and (having briefly tried and failed to win the heart of Arwen) he spent the next thirty years, fighting in Gondor and Rohan, against various forces of the enemy. He was a captain of Gondor during the rule of the steward Ecthelion, father of Denethor, and won a great victory against the Corsairs of Umbar, under the name of Thorongil.
After this time, Aragorn and Arwen met for the second time, and fell in love. As one of the half-elven, Arwen had the choice between elven immortality, eventually sailing west into Valinor, or a mortal life, being parted beyond death and the end of the world from her people. Understandably a bit miffed at this prospect, Elrond told Aragorn that he would allow Arwen to wed no mortal man less than the king of the restored realms of Gondor and Arnor combined, which should provide a bit of perspective for anyone who ever thought their own father-in-law was a bit demanding.
In the years leading up the War of the Ring, Aragorn continued to range, and became ever more instrumental in the plans of the wise, leading Gandalf’s hunt for Gollum, and guarding the Shire and its oblivious residents from those who would seek to do them ill. It was in this guise that he was known, although little understood by the Breelanders who called him “Strider” in recognition of his long legs, and his ability to roam far and wide across the northern country, and this is the man whom the Hobbits first meet in the Prancing Pony.
As the Lord of the Rings unfolds, more is revealed of Aragorn, and by the end of Return of the King, he has been crowned as King Elessar (meaning Elfstone), the triumphant king of Gondor, who shows the truth of his claim by his healing hands as much as by his sword. He marries Arwen, and we are told that he rules fairly and wisely for 120 years, (although as George R. R. Martin notes, we are never told about his tax policy, or what he did about the remaining orcs) before laying down his life “an image of the splendour of the Kings of Men in glory undimmed before the breaking of the world.”
So there you have it, a brief summary of the life of Aragorn (read the appendices of Return of the King for more detail) and it is clear why he should be a big part of the Lord of the Rings gaming experience. However, with this new Fellowship hero, it means that for the saga box, you’ll actually have to take Aragorn out of your decks, as the rules prevent us from having two copies of a card with the same title in play at once.
Luckily for you, here at dor Cuarthol, we have dug up some old cards, and come up with just the solution to this problem, enabling you to continue Aragorn-ing to your heart’s content.