A Call to Arms

A Preview of the Heroes from The Treason of Saruman

#LotRLCG

"Arise now, arise, Riders of Théoden!
Dire deeds awake, dark is it eastward.
Let horse be bridled, horn be sounded!
Forth Eorlingas!"

                                        –Théoden, The Two Towers

From its humble beginnings in the calm and quiet Shire, your journey has taken you through dark, enchanted woods; past the Dark Lord's undead servants; over the river Bruinen; and into the elegant, ageless halls of the Last Homely House, where Elven songs rang through the air, and the Elf-lord Elrond decided that you would accompany Frodo Baggins further along his path to Mount Doom. There, he is to destroy the One Ring, but there is much danger still ahead of you. Out of Rivendell, you journeyed into the mountains and then into the darkest mines of Moria. Terror set upon you, and for a moment, it looked as though your journey may have come to an untimely end. Still, you persevered and pushed forward. You made your way to Lórien and received tremenouds gifts from the Lady Galadriel before setting forth once more. Then, after you were set upon by fericous Uruks, Frodo disappeared with the Ring. Other companions were captured. All seemed lost…

This is the dire situation in which you find yourself at the beginning of The Treason of Saruman Saga Expansion for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. Your fellowship is broken. You have no way to aid Frodo along his journey. You have no way to ensure that the One Ring is destroyed or even to keep it from the hands of the Enemy. It's hard even to hope that your mission will prove successful, yet you have one critical piece of fortune in your favor. You travel with Aragorn (The Treason of Saruman, 1), Son of Arathorn, heir to the realm of Gondor, and the greatest tracker of the age. He reminds you that if you have to do without hope, you may yet be avenged.

In our last preview, we addressed how the first scenario in The Treason of Saruman challenges you to hunt down the Uruks that captured your friends and how your success and the choices you make along the way will impact the boons you might then carry forward through the rest of the campaign. Naturally, you need to recover your friends if you wish them to live and assist you through the rest of your trials, but even their recovery doesn't fully repair your fellowship. Frodo is gone, nowhere to be found. Without him, your quest to destroy the One Ring appears to be ended. It's hard to maintain morale. How will you be able to proceed with a fellowship that's not only battered, but also broken and short-handed?

Perhaps you can start by recruiting the aid of new heroes. At the beginning of the expansion's Helm's Deep scenario, those of you playing in Campaign Mode will have the opportunity to exchange hero cards without incurring a threat penalty, meaning this scenario introduces an excellent time for the two new heroes from The Treason of Saruman to lend their aid.

Developer Caleb Grace on the Heroes in The Treason of Saruman

While The Lord of the Rings is most commonly referred to as a fantasy trilogy, its author actually divided the saga into six books. Each Saga Box for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game revisits select events from one of these books, so when we decide which characters to include as heroes and allies our Saga expansions, it's important that we consider which characters were most central to that part of the story. While I reread the first part of The Two Towers in preparation for design work on The Treason of Saruman, it became clear to me that the people of Rohan and the Ents each needed to play a pivotal role in the expansion's address of the threat from Isengard. With two major peoples and two hero spots to fill, the obvious choice to give the players one Rohan hero and one Ent hero.

Of course, if you’re only going to do one hero apiece from such beloved fantasy cultures, then they should be the most important and iconic characters from their respective races. That is why the design team is proud to introduce the expansion's new versions of Théoden (The Treason of Saruman, 2) and Treebeard (The Treason of Saruman, 3)!

Théoden

The  Rohan trait is already well established in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game and features the unique theme of discarding allies you control to gain various benefits. These include everything from placing progress on locations to action advantage. But while these effects are fun to trigger, it can sometimes be difficult to afford replacements for the allies you're discarding, especially when most Rohan allies belong to the Spirit sphere, a sphere that does not have an abundance of resource acceleration. This is where Théoden comes into play; his ability to reduce the cost of the first Rohan ally you play from your hand each round by one (to a minimum of zero) takes much of the sting out of using those Rohan discard effects. More than that, though, it highlights the king’s ability to rally and unite his people by making it much easier to play a multi-sphere Rohan deck.

In the book, Théoden is an inspiration to his people, and they eagerly lay their swords at his feet. The people of Rohan love their king, and his soldiers don’t hesitate to ride into battle by his side. Allowing this new Théoden hero to more easily recruit Rohan allies was a fun way for the design team to combine his role as King of Rohan with the role of Rohan in the card game.

Still, there was a time where it looked like Théoden might sit idly by while Saruman's armies conquered his land. Were it not for the intervention of Gandalf the White, Saruman’s plot to subdue Rohan by weakening her king would have succeeded. Fortunately, Gandalf knew that Théoden would find his strength if he once again wielded his ancient blade, Herugrim (The Treason of Saruman, 10).

Every The Lord of the Rings fan remembers that transformative moment, and that is why it was important to the design team that we introduced Herugrim as a Weapon attachment in The Treason of Saruman to go along with the new Théoden hero. At a cost of three, Herugrim is on the more expensive end of the cost scale for attachments, but its ability is appropriately powerful:

Response: After attached hero is declared as an attacker, exhaust Herugrim to add attached hero’s Willpower to its Attack Strength for this attack.”

This effect was inspired by the connection between the ancestral blade and Théoden’s will to fight. To cement that connection just a little more, Herugrim also costs one fewer resource to play on Théoden. That’s a repeatable two-point attack bonus for only two resources – or a three-point attack bonus if attached to Tactics Théoden. Add some ways to ready Théoden, such as Unexpected Courage (Core Set, 57) or Steed of the Mark (The Morgul Vale, 139), and you’ve got a hero who can inspire his followers during each phase of the game.

Treebeard

Also destined to have a big impact on the game is our first ever Ent hero, Treebeard! One of the most unique and memorable characters in all of fantasy, Treebeard is primarily a gentle creature of great wisdom and compassion, but he can swat Orcs like flies and shatter stone walls with his bare hands when roused to anger. It was important to the design team that the Treebeard hero embrace this dichotomy. We wanted to find an ability that showcased just how terrifyingly powerful Treebeard really is while still preserving his gentle nature and the balance of the game. That is how we ultimately settled on a thirteen threat cost hero with strong attributes and an ability that can boost them even higher:

Action: Deal 1 damage to Treebeard to give him +1 Willpower and +1 Attack Strength until the end of the phase. (Limit 5 times per phase.)”

This ability, combined with his starting stats, make Treebeard a versatile hero who can quest, attack, or defend depending on your needs. For the thematic player, it can be incredibly satisfying to boost Treebeard’s Attack Strength to seven in order to squash an Orc enemy in one hit!

The idea that you would be able to deal damage to Treebeard in order to boost his Willpower and Attack Strength was inspired both out of necessity and from the source material. In the books, Treebeard himself explains that Ents do not like getting worked up, so it made sense that such an exertion would take its toll. Fortunately, Treebeard is a Lore hero, and that gives him access to the myriad of healing effects in that sphere. Not only that, but The Treason of Saruman comes with another iconic attachment that can help strengthen Treebeard: Ent Draught (The Treason of Saruman, 9)!

Again, fans of The Lords of the Rings will remember the magical effect that Ents' drink had on the young Hobbits, Merry and Pippin. Not only were they reinvigorated by the fresh water, but they each grew a little taller and hardier. Accordingly, when you attach Ent Draught to a character, that character gains two hit points. That can be great on Hobbit heroes, who tend to have low printed hit points, or it can be attached to Treebeard to allow him to trigger his effect more often. Since you need to control an Ent to play it, using the Treebeard hero is surest way to guarantee that you can play your Ent Draught as soon as you draw it.

We're proud of these new player cards and the ways they translate their source materials into new mechanics that offer new possibilities in the game, and we hope that you enjoy playing with them as much as we did during our time developing The Treason of Saruman!

Heed the Call to Arms

Théoden has risen. Treebeard has been roused to anger. In The Treason of Saruman, these heroes arrive to war against the fallen wizard Saruman and his army of Uruks and wild men. Will you take them into your fellowship? Will they help you claim vengeance? Will they give you new hope? Along with the new Fellowship-sphere Aragorn, these heroes offer you a wide range of exciting new ways to relive the classic events from The Lord of the Rings and to imagine all-new chapters in Middle-earth.

Heed the call to arms. Isengard's forces have massed, and The Treason of Saruman is nearly upon us. This third The Lord of the Rings Saga Expansion is due to arrive at retailers late next week!

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