Tag Archives: Rohan

Places We’ve Been – Voice of the Ringmaker

after a slightly longer pause than intended (I blame starting a new job), it’s time for the next installment in the Locations review.

the-voice-of-isengard-matt-stewart-watermarked

In the interests of full disclosure, I should let you all know that The Ringmaker cycle is probably my least favourite so far – I never really liked the time mechanic, the Dunlendings felt thematically off, and it failed to deliver on early promise of finally fleshing out the Rohan trait.

For this article though, I’ll do my best to put as many of those personal gripes as I can aside (I can’t promise 100% success), and focus on the locations of the cycle: how they worked, when they were hideously convoluted, and the positive aspects.

 

Taking the Hobbits to Isengard (gard, gard, gard…)

The Deluxe itself- Voice of Isengard – laid the foundation for 3 fairly distinct settings in the campaign: the plains around Isengard itself, the wild hills of Dunland, and dark and ominous forests. Interestingly, comparatively few of the locations from this box actually found their way into the later adventures, with the enemies and treacheries being the cards more commonly carried over.

broken-lands-locationOne of the few encounter sets which did show up repeatedly, was Broken Lands. First appearing in the Second Scenario, To Catch an Orc, it had 3 copies of 1 hideous location, the eponymous Broken Lands themselves. Whilst they only had 2 threat, they were a chunky 6 progress to explore, and has a passive effect which prevented progress being placed on locations in the staging area whilst they were in the staging area. The rest of the locations in that scenario were, actually, not that huge (average threat/progress of 3), but there was one – Methedras – which boosted the threat of all the others, and things could swiftly get out of control. Essentially, once you drew Broken Lands, you had to travel and clear it, before you drew another copy – in high-player counts, an early one of these basically meant instant location-lock.

The Woodland setting for into Fangorn kept threat on locations moderate, but required high numbers of progress to get anywhere.

The Ringmaker

Moving on into the cycle proper, the non-unique locations were generally not the central focus of the quests – although some, like The Three Trials, still hit you hard with the 3 non-unique, but only copy each Barrow locations, with an average threat of 3, and 8 progress required. Others like the Dunland Trap or The Antlered Crown spun on a quest-card mechanic that somewhat dwarfed the impact of individual cards in the staging area.

Trouble in Tharbad

decrepit-rooftopsEasily my favourite scenario of this cycle was Trouble in Tharbad – it got a bit of stick when it came out (especially from some of the power-gamers) for being too easy, but in my book, that was a significant part of its charm: this was a scenario that allowed enough scope for players to try different things out, rather than just charging full-tilt with an aggro deck at everything. (it’s worth remembering that this is around the time that the One-Boromir-to-rule-them-all deck first came to prominence).

Tharbad also had some brilliantly simple and thematic locations. The Decrepit Rooftops sent all the enemies back to the staging area (you are hiding on the roof), whilst the Streets of Tharbad gave all the enemies -20 engagement cost (what do you expect walking down the road in broad daylight?)

Bogged Down

finger-of-glanduinThe trouble with Tharbad is that it was followed up immediately with the absolute slog that is Nin-in-Eilph. The positive about this quest, is that it captured very well the feeling of trudging around in a swamp whilst hopelessly lost. The problem is that trudging around in a swamp whilst hopelessly lost is a fairly miserable experience – it isn’t really one which you want to recapture accurately! Finger of Glanduin acted like a reverse Northern Tracker, eating away the progress on locations, whilst Sinking Bog gave characters -1 to all their stats for each Item they had.

By the end of the cycle, the complexity was really starting to stack up. Celebrimbor’s Secret saw locations destroyed, which got them out of the staging area, but powered up some really nasty quest effects. The Antlered Crown was a fairly early experiment with separating the locations and (some of) the enemies into separate decks, it was a constant nightmare for attempting to keep track of all the different passive effects and triggers. Amongst all that, you had a pile of locations with time counters on, whose power to hurt you far outweighed their modest stats. As always, credit to the designers for their innovation, but by-and-large, these quests felt like a bit of a miss to me.

Number-crunching the Ringmaker cycle is slightly difficult. For one thing, the classic strategy of just about keeping your head above water until you can get a couple of Northern Trackers out and watch the locations go away was rarely viable in a quest that featured time, or in one which featured the Broken Lands. This was a cycle where you had to power quest every turn, take the big attacks on the chin, and be ready to hit back twice as hard. As such, the actual difficulty posed by the locations was probably greater than in a quest pre-time-mechanics where the average threat and progress values were the same. For that reason, the numbers generally look fairly reasonable: average threats around 3, with progress requirements probably nudging a bit closer to 4, it doesn’t look like a major step up from Against the Shadow, but it certainly had the potential to feel that way.

Giving hope to Men

idraenAt least the Ringmaker cycle did give some scope to allow the players to tech against all these nasty locations. A new hero, Idraen was probably the first to interact directly with locations, and her ability to ready after a location was explored allowed long-neglected cards like Strength of Will to make a come-back: if you can travel to a location which only needs 2 more progress, this card essentially allows her to explore it for free.

Along with Idraen, the first of the scouts, we got some early support for the scout trait, in the form of the Warden of Arnor attachement. Once attached to a questing scout Hero, this placed a progress token on the first location revealed every round.

StriderThis card always felt a bit lacklustre to me: it draws my mind back to a “Strider” custom hero I made several years ago, a Spirit version of Aragorn who acted as a Thalin for locations, placing 1 progress on each location revealed whilst he was questing. Given the size of modern locations, I really don’t think that the card would have been overpowered if it had done this, and my lack of enthusiasm is unlikely to change, but it is at least cheap enough that if you’ve got a scout who’s going to be questing every round, there’s little reason not to slap it on her.

Aside from these two, there wasn’t really a lot more on offer for dealing with locations: Ringmaker saw the rise of the Silvans, talented multi-taskers, and sneaky little blighters, but with little in the way of direction location control. It did lead to a bit of a revival for the Lorien Guide, who was good at whittling away active locations, but did little for the staging area.

Final Thoughts

Ringmaker is still the cycle I look back on with the least fondness, and was the point at which I first let slip my ongoing aim of beating all new quests at least once with 1, 2, 3 and 4 players. The locations are more irritating than intriguing, and apart from Tharbad, they didn’t particularly interest me.

However, the Scout trait got its start there, and this was probably the first time we really got focused location-control decks (3 Spirit Heroes + 3 Northern Trackers doesn’t count), and those can still be used 2 or 3 cycles later, with the hills of Dunland far behind us, so it wasn’t a dead loss.

That’s about all for today, but I’ll be back in a week or 2 to take a look at the locations in the Saga boxes which represented The Two Towers.

Arise now, Riders of Theoden

Just before Christmas, I finished re-reading the Lord of the Rings book, something I hadn’t done for a few years. As always, I was struck by just how powerfully written the chapters Ride of the Rohirrim and the Battle of the Pelennor are: the descent of those riders onto that field of battle, the glory and sacrifice that so many make: it leaves me feeling thoroughly inadequate as a word-smith, and reminded of just why so many regard Tolkien as a master of his craft.

Ride-to-Ruin It’s been a recurring theme over the past couple of years that I’ve been running this blog, but that is how I want playing a Rohan deck to feel – by all means, it can be costly, difficult, but it should be powerful and glorious. Too often in the past, Rohan has been a utility set of cards for questing and location management, but something which somehow fails to click into a broader archetype. The card “Ride to Ruin” is a well-established example of this: discarding a Rohan ally, and paying a single spirit resource to place 3 progress on a location is a solid effect. If the ally you chose is a Snowbourn Scout, and if someone has the Horn of Gondor, or Eomer and Imrahil are in the party, it can be far more of a gain than a cost as your inner Pippin watches the single stone start a bigger landslide…

But for all of that, it never feels impressive. The card never lives up to the name. It never feels in tune with the flavour text – “DEATH! RIDE! RIDE TO RUIN AND THE WORLD’S ENDING” – this should be the Hail Mary Pass of the card game – and all-or-nothing play.

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I can almost hear the music…

This sense of frustration has been around for a while – as I sit, mourning the fact that I will never have the time, money, or natural ability, to learn to play the Hardanger Fiddle – I have designed countless custom cards to fill the hole, or thought about how an existing card could be re-designed to fit better with the theme.

We all know, if we’re honest with ourselves, that Eomer is far from underpowered – the ability to get 5 attack (at least for a turn) without using a restricted attachment is solid, and once he gets Firefoot, the results can be devastating. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting more. As I re-read the passage where Eomer finds (he believes) the fallen corpse of his dead sister and, seized by the red-mist, single-handedly routs half the army of Harad, part of me thinks his ability should be “after a character leaves play, Eomer gets +2 attack until the end of the round (if the character is a Noble, Rohan character, he gets +4 attack instead, and does not exhaust to attack until the end of the round) (Limit once per round)”

It would be ridiculous – it would be beyond broken, especially with Eomund (actually, scratch that, apparently Eomund isn’t Noble…) but it would be awesome

Eomer-Front-Face

There is probably no deck that is reliably, consistently awesome to play- if it was too powerful, it would become dull, if underpowered, there will always be times when it fails. What I was hoping for though, was that we had now reached the point where it’s possible to build a couple of solid, mostly-Rohan decks that can take on a broad range of quests by themselves and have a good chance.

Santa Theoden, like his Tactics Counterpart, suffers from the fact that his stats are pulling in different directions, and it never really feels like you get your money’s worth – the fact that his threat cost exceeds the sum of his stats is a big negative in this respect, but the real issue is that he has stat points widely spread, and can’t get the action advantage to make use of them all: Sentinel makes you want to defend with him, but 2 defence / 4 hit-points is flimsy for a main-defender. Steed of the Mark does allow him to re-ready, so you can quest and fight, or attack and defend, but the resource each round is a high-cost. Likewise, whilst Theoden allows you to play those allies cheaply, to trigger their discard abilities, or to pay for events, this only really works until about turn 4, where you find that the lack of card-draw has left you with no more allies to play, and the deck stalls out.

Finally though, in the dying weeks of 2015, the Land of Shadow box arrived, and I was able to add what I hoped had been the missing ingredients. Weirdly, despite having waited so long for the box, there were only actually 2 cards that I was waiting for – Snowmane and Gamling. However, they looked like they might provide the tipping point for making the Spirit side of Rohan really click

Snowling For a one-off cost of 1 (rather than a round-by-round cost), and fetchable with a horse-breeder, Snowmane allows you to use Theoden for questing and combat, at which point, he can finally start to be useful – if you can get Herugrim in there it becomes nice and smashy. It does have the extra requirement that you quest successfully every round, but if this deck isn’t questing well, it probably isn’t doing anything.

Gamling on the other hand, provides the recycling you need for your discarded allies: For a significant, but not impossible investment of 3 (more likely 2 if he is the first ally of the round), you can retrieve an ally each round. As an ally, he’s going to contribute very little directly, but giving up that action can allow you to keep cycling someone like the Escort from Edoras for 4 willpower per round.

These are the cards I’d been waiting for all these months, and it was finally time to build a deck with them. I put aside all of the home-brewed cards, to see how an authentic Rohan experience felt in the modern day.

Mustering the Rohirrim

I decided on Theoden (Treason of Sarumann), Eowyn, and Theodred for the first deck.

I sat down for a while, threw some cards together, and found myself with a 75-card deck. I then reminded myself why I was building the deck, and took out all the homebrewed cards (mine and the ones made by the good people of the internet). After another couple of sifts through, I managed to get in down to 51 cards, which was as close as I was likely to get, whilst retaining allies, as much card draw as I could find in-sphere, and a bit of threat/location control.

For the first few outings, I paired the deck with a pre-existing Ent build I had, that used Beravor, Mablung and Beregond: the two decks meshed nicely, and we beat Passage of the Marshes on the second attempt.

Hill-TrollI then branched out solo, and went right back to basics: Passage Through Mirwkood. The draws were not kind to me, with 2 rounds in a row of Dol Guldur Orcs [the “2 damage to a questing character” really stings], at the end of which I limped home from even this rather tame challenge. I certainly didn’t feel ready for Journey Along the Anduin.

The main problem with the mostly spirit deck, is that it just requires too many moving pieces. You need Gamling to recycle your allies, and you need Herugrim to ever stand a chance of killing anything. You need Snowmane to get a decent action economy out of Theoden, and you also need some kind of card-draw to keep all the pieces working, and even when you’re done, you still can’t really fight against modern enemies (no character with more than 3 defence, and your best hero defender is also your only decent attacker).

 

Riding to War

Whilst some amount of solo capability would be nice, most of the time, I’ll be pairing the Spirit-ish deck with a more martial partner: using Eomer, Hama, and Imrahil (as noted in the past, Imrahil is my choice for most thematic non-Rohan hero in a Rohan deck).

Whilst I didn’t want to abandon the Rohan theme altogether, I did allow a broader sprinkling of things from outside the box: some Gondor allies, which allow Imrahil to power up the questing with Visionary Leadership were the main concession here. As Imrahil himself can take a Gondorian Shield to get a reasonably solid 4 defence, you won’t die quite so quickly to normal-sized enemies, whilst Eomer + Firefoot is always a good attacking option.

FoeHamaThe deck still has its struggles, of course. The most powerful, repeatable card-draw in Tactics is the Foe-Hama, but the deck doesn’t naturally lend itself to weapons (Eomer wants at least one of his restricted slots for a horse, we don’t have the staging-area capability to make use of Spear of the Mark, and threat is too high to get much mileage out of Dagger of Westernesse, so getting the initial cards to tee things up can be tricky.

 

Defensive?

I’ve mentioned several times the lack of good defence options in Rohan. I do use the Warden of Helm’s deep, who does a solid job for an ally if you can get him out, and some of the higher-cost unique allies have good stats, but overall the options are not spectacular.

Erkenbrand I’m aware that there is someone I haven’t mentioned up until now, Rohan’s defender in chief, Erkenbrand. 3 Defence, 4 hit-points and Sentinel makes him a more solid blocker than anyone else in Rohan, and the ability to cancel shadow-effects allows you to defend with a lot more confidence. Compared with Theodred, whose stats can probably best be described as “feeble” he seems to make a good case for inclusion.

The trouble with Erkenbrand though, is that his stats come at a cost: his threat is 2 higher than Theodred, which might not seem like a lot, but in a deck with Theoden and Eowyn, it is the difference between the Hill Troll coming to get you on turn 1, or having a few seconds’ breathing-space. Also, whilst Theodred’s statistics are woeful, the extra resource every round that the young prince brings can be vital when churning out allies at a rate of knots. Even the shadow-cancellation Erkenbrand offers is limited in its utility when neither deck has any healing, as it can only be used 3 times at most, with the 4th proving fatal.

There certainly is scope for getting good use out of Erkenbrand, but I don’t think it’s within the context of an all-Rohan set-up.

Still Left behind?

It’s also worth noting that whilst the Rohirrim were being (slowly) mustered, others have not lain idle: Ents are a thing now, as are Dunedain, whilst the Noldor have new tricks to play with your discard pile. All of this means that the newer quests continue to get harder. Battle of Carn Dum is probably the most brutal quest we’ve encountered so far, but even a slightly calmer modern-day offering like Treachery of Rhudaur (allegedly a mere 5) is a real challenge.

Mustering-the-Rohirrim

Why isn’t this card called “here now the horse and the rider?”

I’ll continue to experiment with the Rohan decks – if you can generate the resource acceleration, an Eowyn deck is a reasonable one in which to put Elven-Light for a little bit more card-draw (discard for a will-power boost, then pull it back to draw a card). Currently I’m using Ancient Mathom, which is yet another card that just requires a bit too much setting up (need to draw, have a location to attach it to [i.e. one that isn’t immune] then explore it, all for a one-off boost of 3 cards). Cards like Mustering the Rohirrim feel like they should have a place in this deck, but the fact that you only get 1 ally, not “any” is a bit too restrictive (compare The Eagles are Coming, or Ent Moot)

Ultimately, I expect I’ll end up swapping back in some of the custom cards – between some of the things I’ve brewed myself, and a guy on board-game geek who has re-tooled some of the Core Set / Mirkwood Cycle allies to bring them in line with a more contemporary power-curve, there are some decent options out there. I continue to hope though, for a few official cards to enable a deck that I want to take to Organised Play events…

Now-for-Wrath!-Now-for-Ruin!-Front-Face

Sacrifice

Over the past few weeks, I’d been thinking about the idea of Sacrifice in Lord of the Rings the Card-Game. Obviously, we already have a card or two that links directly to this theme – something like Valiant Sacrifice on a very literal level, as well as more oblique references, such as in an ability on a hero card like Caldara.

Although some people seem to have found some pretty powerful decks to build around her, Caldara’s ability has always struck me as a bit forced, and slightly too abstract – I’m not quite sure what she’s doing in the discard pile to make the allies appear, nor why the number of allies who respond to the call is so directly linked to the number of other Spirit Heroes you control. I wanted to come up with something, which could bring to the table a direct, discernible link between the sacrifice that was being made by the character, and the benefit being brought to the table.

To my mind, there are two iconic moments in Lord of the Rings which really capture this idea of self-sacrifice. They involve respectively, Mr & Mrs Future-Steward-of-Gondor, Faramir and Eowyn: Eowyn, when she stands between the Witch King and Theoden’s body, and Faramir, when he rides back out of Minas Tirith towards Osgiliath at Denethor’s command. Neither of them are under any illusions as to the harm likely to come to them, but they do it anyway, for love of the Uncle who raised her, or the City that he calls home.

Fan-made versions of Eowyn are fairly common, and always a tricky one to balance. On the one hand, a low will-power Eowyn makes no sense, but at the same time, a Tactics Hero with 4 willpower could easily be seen as breaking the game. Instead, I opted for an attachment. This takes the Lady of Edoras who we first see billowing so finely in the wind, and turns her into the shield-maiden of the Pelennor. On the one hand, she has not suddenly become a master-warrior – she is not about to drive off the entire army of Harad like her brother does when the red mist takes him, but nonetheless, she is able to accomplish deeds worthy of song by sheer force of will.

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The card as designed then, is a tactics attachment. It isn’t meant to be a combat fix for a mono-Spirit deck, nor does it guarantee willpower boosts for Tactics. It’s unique, and only attaches to Eowyn. In the first instance, it gives her +1 attack, taking her up to 2, which is hardly world-beating, but a recognition of the way she has steeled herself to reach this point. Where this card really comes into its own, is with the action: exhaust “Shield-maiden,” until the end of the round, Eowyn uses Willpower instead of attack or defence. At 4 attack (or defence) prior to weapons or armour being dealt out, Eowyn is the equal of almost any hero in the game (Beorn being the obvious exception), but this comes at a price- Forced: after “Shieldmaiden” exhausts, deal 1 damage to Eowyn. For a character with only 3 printed hit-points, this is not an ability to be used lightly- players have to choose carefully the right moment to trigger it.

Faramir’s sacrifice is, in some respects even more heroic. Unlike Eowyn, he is a seasoned fighter, who has fought the enemy before, and has no illusions about where his actions are likely to end. His is not an instinctive leap, but a measured decision taken in the council room. The existing hero version of Faramir gives him stats of 2, 2, 2, making him either a solid all-rounder in earlier quests, (or a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none in the later and more brutal encounters, depending on your perspective). I decided to stick with these – I did briefly consider knocking a hit-point off, in order to lower his threat cost, but decided that Spirit can afford it – a mono-spirit Gondor deck would still only be at 26, and with access to all the standard threat-lowering effects.

For the ability, I started off with something very simple – deal 1 damage to Faramir to deal 1 damage to an enemy in play. However, I decided this was a bit too powerful. For one thing, If the card wasn’t called “Faramir” (and thus ineligible for use in the ‘Morgul Vale’) it would allow you to take down the Nazgul of Minas Morgul in a single round. Additionally, it would allow him to quest for 2+ (The Gondor Trait is always ripe for willpower boosting), and still deal multiple points of damage to even an enemy with the highest defence.

The card below is a somewhat dialled back version of the idea- adding in the “exhaust” requirement knocks out any daft infinite loops, and making it X damage, instead of 1, stops it circumventing any damage cancellation effects. I wasn’t massively happy with the last line (the wording is a bit clunk), but I wanted to avoid anyone trying to deal 20 points of damage to a hero 1 point from death, in order to take down Smaug or a Balrog.

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For the flavour text on Faramir, I initially went for the version from the films – it’s slightly shorter and punchier, just a direct question to Faramir – “Is there a Captain who still has the courage to do his lord’s will. Of course, we know that Faramir does – as he says to Gandalf (films again), “This is the city of the men of Numenor – I would gladly give my life to defend her beauty.”

I know other people might think of other examples of moments of great self-sacrifice for the good of others in the film – Boromir at the end of Fellowship is an obvious one, but already captured brilliantly in the hero-card for The Dead Marshes. For those that like Hobbits, there’s probably something involving Sam they could think of (I usually read a book during the Sam and Frodo bits of the films). For me though, the Battle of the Pelennor was where I wanted to focus my energies, and I hope that these will make a valued addition to the defence of Minas Tirith.

Forth Eorlingas!

So, the Voice of Isengard arrived last week, and I’ve been having fun trying out the cards. The Doomed mechanic is crazy in solo-play – questing for 12 on turn 1, with Aragorn, Grima, Theodred, an Isengard Messanger at +2 willpower, and Hobbit Gandalf.

 

It also gave me the chance to finally build a mono-tactics Rohan deck.

Before I go any further, I need to be clear about this deck (as I wasn’t elsewhere, and people thought I’d gone slightly mad) – I had no foolish expectations of running this in solo. I paired it with one of two other decks, either Eowyn, Dunhere, Imrahil (although he’s not Rohan, his daughter will be, and he works well with the whole “leaving play” mechanic), or a more conventional Elrond, Mirlonde, Glorfindel deck for location management and healing.

ImageAgainst this background, the Rohan Tactics deck seemed like it should work well. I only had a few events – Foe Hammer, (admittedly, useless in Fords of Isen) Feint and Forth Eorlingas, but knew that I could recycle them with Hama, and also threw in the Book of Eldacar just to be on the safe side. Theoden generally helped out with the questing, although I gave him the first bits of action advantage I could muster, to join in the fight, and Eomer smashed things. I had 3x Dagger of Westernesse and 3x Spear of the Mark, either for my tactics heroes, or to throw across to Dunhere, along with 3x Rohan Warhorse for a bit of action advantage. The rest of the deck was filled out with cheap allies and Rohan allies – Westfold Outrider and Horseback Archer, Guthlaf, a few eagles, and Knights of the Swan – even without ever having three in play, the one-cost ally is great for Eomer.

I think it took 3 attempts each for the Fords of Isen and To Catch an Orc. Fords of Isen was won thanks to Elrond, and his wardens, with Mirlonde and the Silvan Trackers absorbing most of the direct damage. To Catch an Orc basically waited until we could get an opening-hand Asfaloth, and no Broken Lands to clutter up the staging area.

ImageEomer was fantastic – Mighty Prowess was a particular revelation, having been thrown in almost on a whim, but often proving vital for dealing with enemies on the other side of the table. Hama recycled dutifully, and contributed a bit of attack. Theoden did virtually nothing.

Don’t get me wrong, 3 willpower in tactics is significant, but once the other deck got powered up, it was providing far more. Sentinel is nice, but often Eomer would prefer a chump to leave play, and 2 defence, 4 hit points doesn’t make for great defence. 3 Attack is also pretty good, but there are so many other tactics heroes who can provide 3 attack with better accompanying benefits, or a lower threat cost. Legolas places progress, Bard reduces enemy defence, and Brand readies a character. All of these are ranged, and will cost you less in terms of starting threat. Although Theoden is eligible for Spear of the Mark and Forth Eorlingas, the same job can be done with Great Yew Bow and Dagger of Westernesse.

 

For the immediate problem, I dismantled the decks, and swiftly threw together a pair of decks – Eowyn/Eomer/Glorfindel on one side, and Dunhere/Elrond/Theodred on the other- with access to Elrond’s counsel on both sides, we were able to keep most things in the staging area, and did fairly well, but beyond any gameplay issues, it still irks me that a Mono-tactics, mono-Rohan deck isn’t more impressive. (Again, still talking about multi-player, not intending to risk solo.)

A lot of this stems back to the design of Theoden’s card itself. As pointed out on many occasions, you have to pay for his ability in threat points, and aside from making it easier to take tactics heroes to the Redhorn Gate, it’s rare that it will give you much benefit. Lastly, it makes no sense. As I’ve said before [link]– why are Thalin and Brand so inspired by Theoden’s arrival, but not Eowyn or Theodred? As a final insult, the card rubs salt in the wound with the flavour text. Does it say “Up Tactics heroes!” (tacticians?) no. It says “Up Eorlingas!”

On that basis, I went back to redesign the Theoden card. I’ve kept most of the basic stats, and the fine artwork from Magali Villeneuve. However, I wanted to re-cost it – 11 as the sum of the stats, rather than charging for the ability, and add a new ability.

ImageI decided to go for a two-part ability. A strong positive, but with a restriction. Generally, Theoden is a figure of inspiration for his people, so I wanted a will-power boost for Rohan characters. However, you can’t ignore the significance of the period where he fell under Grima’s false counsel, so I decided to add a negative reaction to Isengard characters, with the potential to debilitate him to the point where he becomes of no use.

The end result I think is fairly balanced – definitely more usable than the official version, and a true leader of Rohan, but still something that can cause difficulties if you’re not careful- or if someone is running a doomed deck. It seemed only fitting that having Grima around would be a problem. There’s a decision to be made here. If you build for it, he can be very powerful, but it isn’t just a no-brainer making all your other tactics heroes redundant.

 

 

This still left one issue- the Sentinel defender who can be wiped out by a single attack for six. The obvious thing seemed a shield, an armour attachment. I didn’t want to just make this a re-branding of Gondorian Shield, and I thought about having them stack, before I remembered that Beorn had already done something fairly similar.

ImageIn the end, this is what I went for. At its basic level, it’s a generic shield which can give anyone a bit of extra defence. However, it also represents the increased strength of the Rohirrim en masse. Like most armour up until now, it’s restricted, but not “1 per character,” so, if you want to make them a dedicated defender, it gives the potential for someone like Theoden to defend truly powerfully, either for his own people at Helm’s Deep, or before the walls of Minas Tirith.

When Gondor calls for aid, Rohan will answer!