|New Evils in the Shadows of Mirkwood
Three New Nightmare Decks for The Lord of the Rings Are Now Available
|The Lord of the Rings - Print on Demand | Published 16 April 2014|
“Gollum is cunning, and the spies of the Enemy are many. The dark things that were driven out in the year of the Dragon’s fall have returned in greater numbers, and Mirkwood is again an evil place.”
–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
The evil things of Mirkwood have grown in power and number. Still, a few brave heroes have traveled its dark trails, crossed its enchanted streams, and fought off its foulest denizens. Now, as they journey east in pursuit of the strange creature known as Gollum, the fate of Middle-earth hangs upon their success, but the foes and challenges they must face are the stuff of nightmares…
Three new Nightmare Decks for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game are now available via FFG’s in-house manufacturing. Nightmare Decks for The Hills of Emyn Muil, The Dead Marshes, and Return to Mirkwood enhance their scenarios with new rules and new encounter cards that you exchange with cards from the standard scenarios.
What do you get from playing through the second half of the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle in Nightmare Mode? For starters, deadlier foes and darker locations greatly increase the challenge levels of these scenarios, and you’ll regard Aragorn with a newfound awe as you realize the full extent of the perils he faced during this efforts to track down Gollum, capture him, and bring him back to Gandalf the Grey.
Moreover, each of these three new Nightmare Decks further enhances its scenario’s thematic appeal, drawing you deeper into the valiant efforts of Middle-earth’s greatest heroes. And as these Nightmare Decks enhance the challenges and themes of their scenarios, they simultaneously add new twists and turns; it’s as if the Dark Lord himself were adapting his strategies to thwart those with which players have most commonly found success…
For more information about the horrifying perils that await you, developer Matt Newman previews the new challenges of the Nightmare Decks for The Hills of Emyn Muil, The Dead Marshes, and Return to Mirkwood.
A Word from the Developer
Tighten your belts, unsheathe your swords, and get ready for a truly nightmarish experience!
There are some deadly surprises in the Nightmare versions of The Hills of Emyn Muil, The Dead Marshes, and Return to Mirkwood, and I’d like to take a moment to describe some of the challenges players can expect to face in these new Nightmare Decks, as well as explain some of the design philosophy behind their new cards.
As I mentioned in my introduction to the first three Shadows of Mirkwood Nightmare Decks, each Nightmare Deck is designed not just to make its scenario more difficult, but also to build upon its existing themes, respond to player strategies, and update the encounter deck to be more consistent, atmospheric, and fun.
The Hills of Emyn Muil
The Nightmare version of The Hills of Emyn Muil builds upon this scenario’s foundation, providing players with a challenging location-heavy quest that requires a lot of Willpower, scouting ability, and treachery avoidance. Originally, to make their way through the scenario’s hazardous hills, players adjusted their decks by bringing allies like Northern Tracker (Core Set, 45) and The Riddermark’s Finest (The Hills of Emyn Muil, 77). However, this new and updated version of The Hills of Emyn Muil does more than simply add difficult locations to the encounter deck; players will find that their armies of allies will be slowed by the Emyn Muil’s many crags, and the hillsides, this time, are teeming with challenging enemies, including a creature from the very roots of the earth!
While the overall strategy for this nightmare scenario remains the same as its predecessor, this deck combats many reliable tricks players have grown accustomed to using, and the increased presence of enemies forces players to utilize new strategies. There are also several new Hazards for players to encounter, as players find themselves thrown into a horrible storm, not unlike the one Sam and Frodo took shelter from in these very hills.
The Dead Marshes
I had a lot of fun updating and revisiting The Dead Marshes for a truly nightmarish challenge. Nightmare scenarios are much like “what if” versions of their standard counterparts. In the Nightmare version of The Dead Marshes, we ask, “What if, during our heroes’ journey, they fought more than just bugs and worms? What if the dead really came to life and attacked them?” In this terrifying version of The Dead Marshes, players will find a host of tough and frightening Undead enemies, from Wights to dead men from ages past.
This scenario challenges players to capture Gollum, who hides in the staging area as long as possible, trying to slip out of the heroes’ grasp via Escape tests. Failing Escape tests means that Gollum slips farther and farther away, adding resource tokens to his card, until finally he escapes into the encounter deck. However, once Gollum slips into the encounter deck, many of the deck’s escape tests provide very little additional threat, and players who successfully defeated this scenario found that one of the best strategies for winning was to simply let Gollum get away, and then wait patiently for him to resurface later.
In the Nightmare version of The Dead Marshes, this strategy doesn’t work quite so well. A new location, The Mere of Dead Faces (The Dead Marshes Nightmare Deck, 2), collects resource tokens whenever Gollum isn’t in play. These then add to the Mere’s threat, and when Gollum enters play, the resource tokens from the Mere are added to him, ensuring that the scenario’s Escape tests are tense and important no matter when they occur.
Additionally, Gollum always enters play with at least two resource tokens on him, so the final Escape test players must succeed at will always have a chance of failure, especially while a card like Devilry of the Dark Land (The Dead Marshes Nightmare Deck, 10) remains in the encounter deck, which carries a whopping Escape value of “10”!
Return to Mirkwood
Once Middle-earth’s heroes had captured Gollum and set about returning him to Gandalf, Return to Mirkwood challenged players by saddling one of them with guard duty and then targeting that player with a host of very nasty effects. In addition to making this quest very difficult during solo play (when all the nastiest effects triggered against the same player), it added a new layer of depth to multiplayer games by forcing players to alternate guarding Gollum, or risk having one player overburdened and eliminated.
The Nightmare version of this quest further increases the burden of guarding Gollum by adding new Tantrum cards and a new Forced effect:
“At the beginning of the quest phase, the player who is guarding Gollum must either exhaust a hero he controls or resolve the ‘when revealed’ effect of the topmost Tantrum card in the encounter discard pile.”
This burden is of course lightened in a three- or four-player game, as players can pass Gollum around the table, as well as assist each other by attacking or defending enemies across the table… That is, until the players suffer the effects of Isolation (Return to Mirkwood Nightmare Deck, 7) and find themselves alone in the forest!
Finally, it wouldn’t be Mirkwood forest without Orcs from Dol Guldur hunting for Gollum, and horrible Spiders attempting to trap our heroes in webs. In Nightmare Mode, this quest should provide a level of challenge for any number of players that rivals the most difficult quests in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game to date!
I had a lot of fun revisiting the scenarios from the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle in these Nightmare Decks, and I hope that they excite you to return to your favorite scenarios in Nightmare Mode. As always, good luck on your travels in Middle-earth, and remember: Not all those who wander are lost!
It has been more than two years since Middle-earth’s heroes first made their forays into the Shadows of Mirkwood to capture Gollum, and in that time, the Dark Lord’s forces have grown stronger. Can you still find a way to capture Gollum and return him to Gandalf the Grey? Can you still bring hope to Middle-earth, even when the world around you appears like a nightmare?
The Lord of the Rings – Print on Demand scenarios are challenging standalone scenarios for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game that originally ran as special events at Gen Con Indy. They immerse 1-4 players in the thrills and perils of Middle-earth as their heroes undertake daring quests that pit them against some of the deadliest villains in Middle-earth.