The Road to Doom

A Preview of the Scenarios from The Mountain of Fire
 

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"If this be jest, then it is too bitter for laughter. Nay, it is the last move in a great jeopardy, and for one side or the other it will bring the end of the game."
     –Aragorn, The Return of the King

The Return of the King is a fantasy tale of undeniably epic proportions.

Strewn throughout its pages, you'll find mortal warriors thrust in battle against undying sorcerers. You'll find armies of good and evil readying themselves for the final battles at the end of an age. And you'll find heroes drawn into conflicts they cannot hope to win, but that serve only to beat them like a hammer forges a blade, making it sharper and truer with every blow.

As the tale draws near its climax, the choices these heroes must make are pushed to the story's fore—even ahead of the physical dramas unfolding all around them.

Two Hobbits grapple with their fatigue and limited courage and the mercy they show the twisted creature known as Gollum as they sneak through the heart of enemy territory—all while burdened with the weight of the world's single most valuable and powerful item.

Simultaneously, the last and greatest leaders of Gondor, Rohan, and the Free Peoples march to the Enemy's Black Gate, the northern entrance to his lands. There, these heroes don't hope to win their battle against the enemy's overwhelming numbers—they only hope to buy whatever margin of time they can for their Hobbit friends to succeed in their task.

And these are the events you'll find yourself revisiting when you join Frodo Baggins (The Mountain of Fire, 1) and Aragorn (The Mountain of Fire, 2) for the three new scenarios from The Mountain of Fire.

The End of an Age. The End of a Saga.

In The Return of the King, Frodo, Aragorn, Gandalf, and the Free Peoples ultimately prevailed over the Dark Lord, and with Sauron's demise, Middle-earth transitioned from its Third Age into its Fourth.

Soon, The Mountain of Fire will allow you to enjoy the apocalyptic struggles from The Return of the King in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. The Saga Expansion comes as the sixth in the larger The Lord of the Rings Saga, and although you don't need to have picked up any of the other Saga Expansions in order to enjoy the action of The Mountain of Fire, there's more to the expansion for you if you have—if you do.

As the three final chapters in your ongoing Saga campaign, The Mountain of Fire builds upon all that you've previously experienced and accomplished. You'll enter its scenarios with all the Boons and Burdens you've collected as a result of the choices you've made, the enemies you've faced, the enemies you've defeated, and the companions you've lost. And if you've still got the single-use Boons from The Road Darkens or the other Saga Expansions, they just may help you endure the epic trials ahead of you.

Your journeys through The Mountain of Fire begin just outside The Tower of Cirith Ungol.

Like the other Saga Expansions for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, The Mountain of Fire draws directly from selected events in The Lord of the Rings and uses those as the basis for your adventures. Accordingly, in The Tower of Cirith Ungol, you start play with the Ring-bearer missing, having been abducted and carried roughly away by the Orcs of Cirith Ungol. It is your job—as it was Sam Gamgee's in the novels—to sneak quietly past the Orcs, rescue Frodo, and make a hasty exit.

Throughout this scenario, you'll need to take great pains to remain unobserved. You are, after all, moving through the Dark Lord's home realm, and should your Threat race upward, it would draw his ireful gaze straight toward you. Accordingly, you'll need to deal with The Two Watchers (The Mountain of Fire, 71) quickly if you want to keep your Threat low and avoid drawing any unnecessary attention.

Then, once your heroes are back on the road to Mount Doom, you'll have found your way into an endgame that is truly epic, apocalyptic, and Dire!

New Ways to Be a Hero

Typically, you can play The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game in either of two ways—cooperative or solo. And you can play either of these ways in any of three different modes—Standard, Easy, or Nightmare. Saga Expansions, however, present you another way to enjoy your adventures; they link them together in Campaign Mode as the various chapters of a larger narrative.

So it is that The Lord of the Rings Saga for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game offers you a tremendous range of play opportunities—as solo or cooperative experiences, as standalone adventures or bound together in Campaign Mode, and in any of three different difficulty levels.

At the end of your journey, though, even as the Dire keyword allows you to push your Threat all the way to "99," The Mountain of Fire uses its last two adventures to present yet another way to experience the game and its ability to evoke the drama, tension, and heroism of Tolkien's Middle-earth. This final option is summarized in the expansion's rules for Epic Multiplayer Mode.

Arguably, The Black Gate Opens is the expansion's second scenario, and Mount Doom is its third and final adventure. But the two are meant to go together hand-in-hand. After all, in The Return of the King, their events take place simultaneously, and they are united by purpose and by the cast of characters they follow—the scattered remnants of the Nine Walkers who left The Last Homely House so many hundreds of miles back to the west and the north, so many lifetimes ago.

Still, the events they follow are too different to be tied together in a single scenario, and any attempt to force them into the same quest would make light of the epic trials the protagonists endure in the different circumstances. How could you have a host of Orcs and Uruks and Trolls lining up to battle the armies of Gondor while still making you feel as though you're attempting to stay beneath Sauron's notice as you climb the road to the fiery pits of Mount Doom? The challenges are too different, and the encounter sets need to be too different to see these events united by a single scenario.

And yet they're too intricately bound by the narrative arc of The Return of the King to see them completely divorced. Tolkien makes it clear that if it were not for the decision that Aragorn and Gandalf made to confront the host of Mordor at the Black Gates—along with all the Princes and Captains that rode with them—Sauron's eye would not have been drawn away from the softly padding footsteps of the Hobbits on their journey.

This is why The Mountain of Fire introduces Epic Multiplayer Mode as the solution to this dilemma.

To be clear, you can play the last two scenarios separately. You can even play them as standalone adventures. But as a standalone adventure, The Black Gates Open has a very unique place in the game. You cannot win the scenario. You can only make the most of your valiant last stand, fighting back the forces as evil as long as you can, until the last of your number is felled. If you take it as a standalone adventure, you will find a great deal of replayability in your effort to aim for a new personal best—can you survive a seventh round? Or an eighth? Or a ninth? But as part of your Saga Campaign, you'll find that each round you can beat back the Warriors of Rhûn (The Mountain of Fire, 35) and the Gorgoroth Hill-trolls (The Mountain of Fire, 33) is another round your Hobbits have on their road to Mount Doom in the Saga's final chapter.

And in Epic Multiplayer Mode, you play both of these final chapters simultaneously, feeling the tension build as one player races toward Mount Doom while the other hopes to hold The Eye of Sauron (The Mountain of Fire, 82) as long as possible, despite the fact that doing so makes each enemy in play a greater threat and more eager to attack. Moreover, forcing Sauron to keep his gaze upon you is no easy task, and doing so requires you to raise your threat by three points at the end of the round—after you've already raised your threat normally—meaning that new threat elimination level of ninety-nine won't feel so far away as you'd like. Nor will those Nazgûl of Mordor (The Mountain of Fire, 32) with their engagement costs of sixty-six.

But while there's no shortage of treacheries and enemies—or even deadly and thematic objective cards—to make these final adventures feel truly "epic" when played in Epic Multiplayer Mode, it is likely the "multiplayer" that's most keenly reinforced.

Without the sense of fellowship that defined so much of The Lord of the Rings, you don't feel the same pangs of loss with each sacrifice you or your allies make at the Black Gate. You don't feel the same burden of responsibility—to destroy the One Ring not only for the cause of good, but for all your friends and family—and for everyone you love and would spare from the Dark Lord's wrath.

By placing your games side-by-side, Epic Multiplayer Mode infuses them both with another level of meaning—the noble bonds of love, respect, friendship, and duty that made heroes out of Hobbits and made true kings out of travel-worn rangers.

You Carry the Fate of All Middle-earth

In The Mountain of Fire, you and your heroes accompany Frodo Baggins as he carries the One Ring to Mount Doom. Your actions determine whether he succeeds or falters. You and your heroes ride with Aragorn to the Black Gate. And your actions determine how long you'll be able to pull the Dark Lord's gaze away from the only fires that can destroy the Ring upon which hangs the fate of all Middle-earth.

These are dark and heavy times. Times for heroes to rise up to the fullest of their potential. Dire times. Epic times. The defining moments at the end of an age.

What will come of these events when you play through The Mountain of Fire? Whatever comes, you can expect it will be a worthy tribute to one of the greatest fantasy adventures of all time.

Prepare yourself for the epic adventures at the end of The Lord of the Rings Saga for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. Head to your local retailer to pre-order your copy of The Mountain of Fire (MEC62)!

 

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