The Darkest Betrayal

Nightmare Decks for The Treason of Saruman Are Now Available

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"There is no knowing what he can do, or may choose to try. A wild beast cornered is not safe to approach. And Saruman has powers you do not guess. Beware of his voice!"
     –Gandalf, The Two Towers

In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo and his companions faced perils at every turn along their long, arduous road to Mordor. They were forced to overcome the obstacles presented by nature and countless foes. They suffered losses and endured tragedies. They enjoyed little respite, yet they persisted.

Still, of all the trials they survived and all the foes they fought, it is hard to imagine that any came closer to defeating them—and preventing the destruction of the One Ring—than the betrayal they suffered at the hands of Saruman and the Uruk-hai. The Nine were split. The Fellowship sundered. And the Free People suddenly had enemies to both the East and West of Gondor. Were it not for Gandalf's fateful return, the valor of the Men of Rohan, and the ability of two Hobbits to rouse an army of Ents to action, the Eye of Sauron may never have been lured away from Frodo's quiet footsteps, and his journey may have ended in early disaster.

Saruman's betrayal and the dramatic events to which it led lie at the heart of The Treason of Saruman Saga Expansion for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, and now three new Nightmare Decks make the White Wizard's treachery sting even sharper. The Treason of Saruman Nightmare Decks are three twenty-card collections of encounter cards, presented in a single package, that allow you to revisit the Saga Expansion's scenarios with all the added difficulty, extra theme, and surprising new twists of Nightmare Mode.

Developer Caleb Grace on The Treason of Saruman Nightmare Decks

What will you find when you play through The Treason of Saruman in the darker shadows of Nightmare Mode? Developer Caleb Grace offers a look.

The Uruk-hai

For me, the most interesting part of The Uruk-hai chapter in The Two Towers was getting to know the Orcs individually.

I thoroughly enjoy reading the exchanges between Uglúk and Grishnak. I also find it interesting to see what an effective leader Uglúk was, in his own Orc fashion. He managed to bring three different groups of Orcs together—Isengard, Mordor, and Moria—and lead them almost all the way back to Orthanc. He even had a plan for how to deal with the Riders of Rohan who pursued them; he knew there were Orcs waiting just inside the forest under the command of Mauhúr, another Uruk-hai of Isengard, and if his Orcs could reach the edge of the forest before the Riders surrounded them, there was a chance that Mauhúr’s counter-attack would drive them off.

There wasn’t room in The Treason of Saruman for this bit of the story, but one of the great advantages of developing our Nightmare Decks is that they give us the extra space we need to add these sorts of story elements.

When you setup The Uruk-hai scenario in Nightmare Mode, you are instructed to set Mauhúr (The Uruk-hai Nightmare Deck, 2) aside, out of play. Then, when you advance to Stage 2A, Mauhúr leaps into the staging area to ambush your characters and wreak havoc with the pursuit value.

In The Uruk-hai, the pursuit value represents the Three Hunters pursuit of the Orcs. The larger the pursuit value becomes, the more distance the Orcs put between themselves and their pursuers. Mauhúr adds to the drama of this chase by hastening the Orcs' passage to Isengard. Every time he attacks, you must increase the pursuit value by one. In fact, most of the encounter cards are going to either force you to increase the pursuit value or deal with the consequences. For example, the treachery card, Uglúk’s Command (The Uruk-hai Nightmare Deck, 8), reads: When Revealed: Either increase the pursuit value by 4, or Uglúk makes an immediate attack against you.” Since the players lose if the pursuit value reaches thirty, you will have to be careful about how often you increase it.

Helm's Deep

The battle of Helm’s Deep is already considered to be one of the most difficult and enjoyable scenarios in the game, so we didn’t add any new rules to the Nightmare version. Instead, we replaced the softer encounter cards with much more difficult ones. Cards that could be helpful like Postern Door (The Treason of Saruman, 40) were cut and replaced with cards like Hornburg Wall (Helm's Deep Nightmare Deck, 5), which gives each enemy in play Toughness 1. If the players allow all three copies of Hornburg Wall to remain in play at the same time, that means each enemy will have at least Toughness 3.

We also added tougher enemies to really put the players on the defensive. There are three copies of Host of Isengard (Helm's Deep Nightmare Deck, 2), a four Threat Strength, eight Attack Strength, and two Defense Strength Uruk-hai with eight Hit Points. It has Toughness 2 and gains this text while it is in the staging area: Forced: At the end of the round, place 1 progress on the current quest (bypassing any active location).” As you can imagine, the Host's Forced text, combined with his daunting combat stats, makes the decision of whether or not to engage this enemy a very difficult choice.

Fortunately for the players, we also included two copies of Glittering Caves (Helm's Deep Nightmare Deck, 6), a helpful location with only two Threat Strength and two Quest Points. While it is the active location, it gains this text: “Skip the combat phase. Forced: At the end of the round, add Glittering Caves to the victory display and raise each player’s threat by 2.”

In the books, many of the Rohirrim took shelter in the Glittering Caves after the Deeping Wall was breached and the Orcs of Isengard overran the valley. That is why the players cannot travel to Glittering Caves unless they are at Stage 4B. The decision of whether or not to hide in the caves also has to be tempered by the fact that all those enemies in the staging area will be waiting for you the next round when you ride out to fight them.

The Road to Isengard

The Road to Isengard was a really fun scenario to design because it gave the players a chance to be the aggressors and take control of angry Ents who want to smash Isengard into dust. Because we wanted the players to feel like they were stomping on Orcs and smashing walls, we deliberately made most of the enemies a little bit on the weak side. Their strength came mostly from Archery and other effects as opposed to raw stats.

This remains mostly true for the Nightmare version, though there are now three copies of the location card, Fortress of Isengard (The Road to Isengard Nightmare Deck, 5), which gives each Orc enemy a one-point bonus to its Threat, Attack, and Defense Strengths. Even just one of these locations can turn a wimpy Isengard Orc (The Treason of Saruman, 51) into a potential threat, but if you allows all three copies to be in play at the same time, then you’re in real trouble.

However, the main threat of the scenario still comes from Wizardry effects and from Saruman himself (The Treason of Saruman, 47). For example, the Wizardry trigger on Poisonous Shaft (The Road to Isengard Nightmare Deck, 4): “Each player discards a damaged character he controls.” This effect combos with all the Archery and other damage effects in the scenario, and if you’re not careful, it can force you to discard a damaged hero.

The White Wizard can also catch you off-guard with the treachery card, Traitor of Many Colors (The Road to Isengard Nightmare Deck, 6), which causes him to make an immediate attack during the quest phase. As before, if he is dealt a shadow card with a Wizardry effect, you must resolve that effect too, making Saruman a truly dangerous foe.

Powers You Cannot Guess

As one of the Istari, Saruman held powers that most Men and Hobbits and Dwarves could scarcely begin to imagine. And the betrayal of such an ally creates a dramatic change in the balance of power, one from which it is extremely difficult to recover. You recovered once when you played through The Treason of Saruman in Standard Mode. Can you recover again, but this time while playing in the desperate darkness of Nightmare Mode?

The Treason of Saruman Nightmare Decks are now available. Order your copy today!

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