A Heavy Burden

A Look at the Burdens and Boons in The Land of Shadow

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"Frodo seemed to be weary, weary to the point of exhaustion. He said nothing, indeed he hardly spoke at all; and he did not complain, but he walked like one who carries a load, the weight of which is ever increasing."
     –J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

The Land of Shadow Saga Expansion for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game allows players to accompany the remarkable Hobbit Frodo Baggins (The Land of Shadow, 1) for three new scenarios pulled directly from the second half of The Two Towers. In previous previews, we've explored the profound impact that the expansion's double-sided Gollum card has upon these scenarios, and we've looked at how the expansion gives new life to the Rangers of Ithilien with its two new heroes and a handful of other player cards.

Still, Saga Expansions add much more to your play experiences than their scenarios and player cards; in Campaign Mode, they offer you the chance to relive the Fellowship's epic journey, and all the decisions you make along your way will carry with you, either as weights that drag you down, or as inspirations that may give you strength.

In The Lord of the Rings Saga Expansions, these consequences are tracked in your quest log, and they are given physical form in the shape of boons and burdens, cards entirely unique to Campaign Mode. And just as the decisions that Frodo made in the first half of The Fellowship of the Ring helped to shape his journey, even to the fires of Mount Doom, so will the boons and burdens that you earn steer the course of your campaign. Today, then, developer Caleb Grace looks at more of these boons and burdens, exploring how the decisions that you make within the shadows of the Ephel Dúath can either refresh you or wear you down as you prepare for the final legs of your journey.

Developer Caleb Grace on the Boons and Burdens of The Land of Shadow

The three adventures in The Land of Shadow Saga Expansion bring Frodo and the One Ring closer to Mordor and further from help and friends. To help accent the feelings of danger and isolation that the Ring-bearer felt as he drew nearer to the Black Land, The Land of Shadow includes twice as many different burdens as boons.

These start by adding new focus to the unique tension that controlling the Ring-bearer creates in The Land of Shadow. After turning aside from Frodo’s journey to follow Aragorn in The Treason of Saruman, it was exciting to focus on the Ring-bearer again and to see how both he and his circumstances have changed.

A Heavy Burden

Here, in the second half of The Two Towers, one of the biggest themes is the weight that Frodo feels as the Ring seems to drag him down with each step toward Mordor. That’s why one of the two burdens in the box is called A Heavy Burden (The Land of Shadow, 52). This objective burden is attached to the Ring-bearer at the beginning of the expansion's third scenario, Shelob’s Lair, and it forces the first player to make a difficult choice each round:

Forced: At the beginning of the planning phase, either raise each player’s threat by 1, or exhaust the Ring-bearer.”

Up to this point, in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, Frodo has been a valuable fourth hero who could be relied on to quest, defend, or attack each round. But as the Ring-bearer drew closer to the end of his quest, he had to rely more and more on his companions to help him along, and that is what this burden represents. Either your companions will have to share in your threat gain, or the Ring-bearer will have to exhaust and hope that the other characters can make enough progress without his help.

The Searching Eye

The other burden in the box presents an equal danger for all players. The Searching Eye (The Land of Shadow, 15) is a treachery burden with a player card back. At the beginning of The Passage of the Marshes, the expansion's first scenario, each player shuffles one copy into his or her deck. Then, just like the burden Poisoned Counsels (The Treason of Saruman, 21) from The Treason of Saruman, this burden has an effect that triggers when you draw it into your hand:

Forced: After you draw this card, either exhaust each hero you control, or reveal the top card of the encounter deck.”

This burden is meant to capture the memorable moment from The Two Towers in which Frodo, Sam, and Gollum shrink in terror as the clouds overheard break for a moment, and they see a Nazgûl soaring overhead, mounted atop a fell, winged beast. The art on the card really helps sell the moment, and the ability recreates the tension that Frodo feels as he realizes there's really no safe place for him to hide. So long as The Searching Eye is in your deck, you feel that suspense building each time you draw a card.

Brace of Coneys

Not everything in The Land of Shadow is bleak. Frodo found help in the most unlikely places, and from the most unlikely of companions. One of my favorite moments from The Two Towers is when Sméagol brings Sam and Frodo two rabbits that he has killed. It’s an incredibly generous gift for the two half-starved Hobbits, especially considering Sméagol could have eaten the rabbits himself without ever telling them. That act of generosity inspired the single boon card for this box: Brace of Coneys (The Land of Shadow, 14).

Planning Action: Add Brace of Coneys to the victory display to (choose 2): heal up to 2 damage from a hero, add 2 resources to a hero’s pool, choose a player to draw 2 cards, or reduce a player’s threat by 2.”

This effect is structured in such a way that the players can show generosity toward each other in the same way that Sméagol showed generosity toward the Hobbits. Only the player who controls the Ring-bearer can play Brace of Coneys, but he can choose to resolve whichever two effects are most likely to help the whole group continue further along their journey to Mount Doom.

The Weight of the Ring

In The Land of Shadow, you'll find a Frodo Baggins changed by his journey, and you'll find a One Ring that plays a different role than it did in the scenarios of The Black Riders. In fact, as Frodo never actually wore the Ring in The Two Towers, The Land of Shadow presents a Frodo who has truly come to understand the dangers it presents, even as he is exhausted by the effort it takes to resist its temptations. Still, simply as the bearer of the Ring, Frodo gains power, and in The Land of Shadow, Frodo Baggins can spend one Fellowship resource and exhaust The One Ring (The Land of Shadow, 63) to gain two Willpower and two Attack Strength until the end of the round.

However, even though you won't find the Ring the same source of temptation as it was in The Black Riders, it is still a tremendous burden, and Frodo is still very much in peril as its bearer. Accordingly, any power that he draws from it is always accompanied by risk. There's always a chance that exhausting the One Ring may draw the attention of a Morgul Wraith (The Land of Shadow, 53), especially since these enemies are always listening for the Call of the Ring (The Land of Shadow, 54).

With its enemies, treachery cards, burdens, and boons, The Land of Shadow ensures that your adventures in Campaign Mode continue to build upon your previous struggles and continue to set you up for the final legs of your epic journey to Mount Doom. As you march further into the shadows of the Mountains of Ash, you'll find your adventures change their tone to match that of the final half of The Two Towers, and you'll find the decisions you need to make are as difficult and as critical as they have ever been!

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