“The hobbit felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by magic moving through him, a fierce and jealous love, the desire of the hearts of dwarves. Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains… and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.”
    –The Hobbit

We recently had the privilege to announce the upcoming release of The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game . The response has been fantastic, and today we'll take a look at how this first Saga Expansion fits into the rest of the game.

As a Saga Expansion, The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill introduces three scenarios drawn directly from the classic story by J.R.R. Tolkien, as well as a host of new heroes and player cards. Players can use any of their other The Lord of the Rings cards while playing through the scenarios from The Hobbit , and most of the expansion's cards can be used in any other deck, for any scenario, but The Hobbit also introduces five unique cards specifically designed for the expansion’s scenarios. These include Bilbo Baggins ( The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill , 1), an event with the Baggins sphere of influence, and the new treasure cards. These cards are only intended for use in The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill and a second Saga Expansion, slated to arrive in late 2012, that will relate the second and final half of Bilbo’s adventures.

For more information about how these expansion-specific cards make The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill a unique and engaging experience within Middle-earth, we turn to the expansion’s lead developer, Caleb Grace.

Caleb Grace on Bilbo, the Baggins sphere, and elven blades:

While we were working on The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill Saga Expansion, one of the design team's top goals was to bring J.R.R. Tolkien’s story to life with the same unique mix of charm and peril found in The Hobbit. In his classic novel, Tolkien draws his reader into his fantastic world by exploring it through the eyes of Bilbo Baggins. We felt that the play experience of our Saga Expansion should follow suit. While Bilbo Baggins (The Hunt for Gollum, 1) already entered The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game as a playable hero, we wanted Bilbo to be more central to the events of The Hobbit. It wasn’t enough for Bilbo to pass around his card draw; we wanted each player to be able to take turns controlling the story’s central character, so we decided to create a new Bilbo Baggins hero that would be playable only in The Hobbit.

Adding another hero to the starting mix created some resource complications. How do you balance the game for a player who generates a base of four resources? And if Bilbo is just another hero, granting another resource, how is he special? Ultimately, we decided the best way to make Bilbo special was to add a new sphere of influence to the game: the Baggins sphere. By giving the Hobbit his own sphere of influence and giving players opportunities to gain benefits from using his resources within each scenario, we hoped players would feel like they’re reliving Bilbo’s adventures right alongside him.

Just like in the book, the unlikely burglar can either help or hinder his companions. As a free fourth hero, he boosts his controller’s strength, but because the players will lose the game if he leaves play, Bilbo can force players to play more cautiously. Meanwhile, his Baggins sphere resources allowed us to recapture some of the ways Bilbo influenced the company’s adventures, and they really make him stand out. His resources can be used to help the heroes on their journey at different times throughout the scenarios in The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill. Because these resources are so pivotal, we didn’t want players to use cards like Steward of Gondor (Core Set, 26) to gain more, or some of the most unique elements of the quests could be rendered insignificant. Thus, we added the line, “Bilbo Baggins cannot gain resources from player card effects.” This makes sure that deciding when and where to spend his Baggins sphere resources will remain an interesting part of the game.

Meanwhile, the design team had long been eager to explore the idea of treasures in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, and The Hobbit seemed like the perfect place to introduce this new card type. Part of the appeal of the game’s scenarios is that they string together to tell a larger story. Each individual scenario your heroes undertake is but a part of the overall narrative. Still, it can be difficult to build continuity between the different chapters of that story when you can change cards, even heroes, along the way. We wanted to present players with incentive to change their approach to deck-building and game-play, and treasure cards gave us an answer; in order to include these powerful artifacts in their deck, players must first discover them in a specific scenario. After that, so long as players use the same heroes who found them, they can use those treasures in subsequent, related scenarios. These treasure cards represent some of the most famous artifacts in Middle-earth, like the elven swords that Bilbo, Gandalf, and Thorin found in the troll’s cave. Accordingly, they have strong abilities in that make them well worth the effort to discover and play in later scenarios.

Thanks, Caleb!

The whole design team has put a tremendous amount of time, energy, and love into The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill to bring it as close to Bilbo’s adventures as possible.

While you wait for The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill to be released, keep checking back to our website for more spoilers, designer insights, and strategy. The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill is scheduled to arrive in the third quarter of 2012!

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is a cooperative card game that puts 1-2 players (or up to four with an additional Core Set) in control of the most powerful characters and artifacts of Middle-earth. Players will select heroes, gather allies, acquire artifacts, and coordinate their efforts to face Middle-earth’s most dangerous fiends. The Living Card Game format allows players to customize their gaming experience with monthly Adventure Pack expansions to the core game.

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