Welcome to the latest article of the Middle Earth Tour Project. This time we head down to Gondor to explore ‘The Heirs of Numenor’ Deluxe set, and then out into the lands of Anorien as we cover the ‘Against the Shadow’ cycle that was released through 2013. This was the fourth cycle of the LCG and the difficulty level of the Quests suddenly took a sharp step upwards with some very tough Encounter cards. I suppose that this was inevitable due to the increasing card pool and thus the power creep of possible deck design. It still made me examine the cards though! There was also far more of a coherent linking and thematic story through the cycle too which was a real triumph of design.
Heirs of Numenor Quests: Peril in Pelargir (Pelargir), Into Ithilien (Ithilien); The Siege of Cair Andros (Anorien/Ithilien).
Against the Shadow Quests: The Steward’s Fear (Minas Tirith); The Druadan Forest (Anorien); Encounter at Amon Din (Anorien), Assault on Osgiliath (Anorien/Ithilien); The Blood of Gondor (Ithilien); The Morgul Vale (Imlad Morgul).
Pelargir Quay: With this cycle, we finally had a switch in Location types as we got to explore City Locations like the markets and taverns of Pelargir and Minas Tirith, which made a refreshing change from endless forests, hills, and mines. This Tour Location is another example of the Tour allowing players to visit Saga Locations without playing Saga Quests as Pelargir is visited in ‘The Siege of Gondor’ Quest in ‘The Flame of the West’ Saga box. But both effects on the card are much more pleasant for the players, allowing a resource reduction of a few allies plus a chance to spend some of those saved resources on cargo brought into the port city by the ships at the quay.
Henneth Annun: This is another lovely Location to visit that features in the ‘The Land of Shadow’ Saga box set but this cycle is so tied up with Faramir and his Rangers that it deserves an additional appearance here. It certainly gives some nice resource bonus effects if you are playing a Gondor Ranger deck. This Tour Location also has the Haven keyword which we introduced in some other Tour Locations, such as Rhosgobel and Beorn’s Hall. The function of a Haven, to skip encounter and combat phases, was borrowed from the original Henneth Annun Saga Location text where they used the ‘Refuge’ keyword – and which was subsequently never used again!
Cair Andros: This was a really difficult Location to design as the ‘Siege of Cair Andros’ is so specifically a huge battle, rather than a Quest where characters move normally between Locations. In the end, we went for a more generic Location that actually CAN’T be used in that Quest, but can be used in other quests in the ‘Against the Shadow‘ cycle. As such, it’s not a Battleground Location like other Locations in this Quest but rewards a player that leaves an Ally to defend the Garrison. If that Ally has a high Defence, such as a ‘Defender of Rammas’, then the ‘sentinel’ type bonus can be very useful until players move to a different quest card or are overrun by enemies.
Apothecary: As we start the ‘Against the Shadow’ cycle, the players have now reached Gondor and the city of Minas Tirith. City Quests always feel very different from quests in the wilderness and we wanted to showcase that there are shops the players could visit in markets. Since Minas Tirith was known for their Houses of Healing, it seemed natural that an apothecary selling healing herbs and potions would be there too. And if you already have a Gondor Healer ally, such as Ioreth or Warden of Healing, they can stock up on supplies there and be used again in the same round if your characters are battered by the many Underworld thugs, bandits, or zealous traitors…
Stonewain Valley: It was finally time to give Rohan heroes some love on The Tour with a Location that already has a Nightmare version. This Tour version is much nicer of course and can be used in a few quests in Anorien. The Stonewain Valley was a long, straight valley deep within the Druadan Forest and where Theoden met the Wose chief Ghan-buri-Ghan. It might be a long road through the Valley with 5 quest points needed to explore it, but if you do have a few Mounts (and what good Rohan deck doesn’t?), then the journey should be a speedy one and you should put some progress on the current quest too.
Amon Din: We wanted to add this Location as ‘Amon Din’ doesn’t appear in ‘Encounter at Amon Din’! As it was perhaps the oldest of the beacon hills, originally used as a fortified outpost of Minas Tirith, this Tour Location plays on the relationship between Gondor and Rohan, allowing the forces of Gondor to muster and players an opportunity to possibly gain some allies or nice events. If you have enough resources, the heroes of Rohan can also come to their aid. The relatively high quest point total is because Amon Din is atop a tall hill, although this does grant a slightly longer Opportunity window too.
Osgiliath: This was another really difficult Tour Location to design as the ‘Assault on Osgiliath’ Quest is again so specifically a huge battle rather than a Quest where characters move normally between Locations. We decided on a more generic Tour Location, and one that again can’t be used in this Quest, but can be used in other Quests in the ‘Against the Shadow‘ cycle. As such, it’s not an actual ‘Osgiliath’ Location but one that is similar to ‘Cair Andros’ above. This Tour Location rewards a player that leaves Allies at the ruined city, which is at such a strategic position in Gondor, which will help to reduce the threat in the staging area.
Ithilien Woods: This is yet another Saga Location re-skin, this time from ‘The Land of Shadow’. The original Location was already quite nice for the player, but The Tour makes it more generic and applicable to any enemies so that it can be used in several Quests in the cycle. We also tied the bonuses exclusively to Gondor Rangers (which always sounds like a UK football team – playing ‘Mordor City’ perhaps?) to make it a bit more thematic. Here the Rangers are ready to ambush any enemies that follow players into the woods and ambush them with their Ranger bows. It’s also nice that there is no Opportunity window or ‘immunity to player card effects’ note, so that a player may use a few tricks to return to the Woods if needed…
Monument of the Moon: This was a REALLY hard Location to design – how do you make a ‘nice’ Location for a Quest set in the Morgul Vale? The design sees a relic from a bygone age, where Minas Morgul was called Minas Ithil or ‘Tower of the Rising Moon’ before being taken by the Witch-King. As such, it has a very short Opportunity window (the clouds will cover the Moon very quickly in Mordor), but it might push back the hordes of darkness and reminds Noldor characters of that more beautiful time. If you are playing ‘The Morgul Vale’ Quest, it also might just stop Faramir from being toast by removing some progress tokens from ‘To the Tower’ too…
Join us next time as The Tour heads west to Rohan and Isengard to explore some iconic Locations from ‘The Voice of Isengard’ Deluxe set, and then up to Enedwaith as we cover more Tour Locations in ‘The Ring-maker’ cycle…