New update from FFG here:
“I am Aragorn son of Arathorn; and if by life or death I can save you, I will.”
–Aragorn, The Fellowship of the Ring
One of the traits that most distinguishes Tolkien’s noblest heroes and holds them firmly in our minds is their willingness to make sacrifices. In addition to Aragorn’s oath, Tolkien gave us several stunning examples of individuals becoming heroes through their actions. Gandalf buys the Fellowship time to flee the Balrog. Boromir redeems himself by racing to protect Merry and Pippin at the cost of his life. The armies massed at Minas Tirith ride to the Black Gate of Mordor with little hope but that they might buy Frodo some time for his quest with their deaths.
Similarly, The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game features myriad opportunities for players to make sacrifices for each other. Players recognize that they’re working together in this cooperative game and constantly make decisions for the good of the party, not just for themselves. Characters with Sentinel allow players to defend across the table, timely intercepting attacks that might be lethal to other heroes. Players can play attachments on heroes other than their own, letting other players accelerate their resources with Steward of Gondor (Core Set, 26) or Horn of Gondor (Core Set, 42) or giving them additional power to quest with Protector of Lorien (Core Set, 70).
The Hills of Emyn Muil
With the upcoming release of the fourth Adventure Pack in the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle, The Hills of Emyn Muil, players will have more reason to consider making sacrifices to protect the fellowship, and they’ll have more to gain from the sacrifices they make.
After A Journey to Rhosgobel, Gollum’s trail leads the heroes south, where it grows cold. Now, the heroes must explore the vast expanse of The Hills of Emyn Muil, in the hopes of rediscovering the trail and following it wherever the elusive creature has fled…
This scenario places a heavy emphasis on the fellowship’s ability to quickly and efficiently explore a number of locations as they fend off skirmishing enemies and look to catch sign of Gollum’s trail. As the journey grows long and the heroes grow tired, a new Leadership sphere event, Rear Guard (The Hills of Emyn Muil, 74) can help them renew their focus and redouble their Willpower.
Finding their way forward
It was the third evening since they had fled from the Company, as far as they could tell: they had almost lost count of the hours during which they had climbed and laboured among the barren slopes and stones of the Emyn Muil, sometimes retracing their steps because they could find no way forward, sometimes discovering that they had wandered in a circle back to where they had been hours before.
–The Two Towers
Frodo (Conflict at the Carrock, 25) and Samwise got lost for days in the barrens of the Emyn Muil, and the heroes of Middle-earth may face the same fate unless they draft a plan to navigate their way through the slopes and stones. Veterans of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game know they must act quickly to prevent the staging area from filling up with unexplored locations. If they don’t, their quest is quickly opposed by threats from all side, and their fellowships can make no progress forward.
The sacrifice of Rear Guard enables players to force their way past a threatening pile of locations and enemies. The more heroes committed to the quest, the more a single Rear Guard can help the fellowship near its goal. This can be particularly useful when encountering such deadly locations as Rauros Falls (The Hills of Emyn Muil, 87).
Because you’ll need a hero with the Leadership icon to pay for Rear Guard, some fun Leadership combinations may come to mind. The ubiquitous Snowbourn Scout (Core Set, 16) places a progress token on a location of his choice when he comes into play, and can then benefit the fellowship’s quest by serving as Rear Guard. Prince Imrahil (A Journey to Rhosgobel, 50) will stand the first time an ally leaves play each round, allowing him to combat enemies after questing–and to quest at an extra Willpower!
Or you can time your actions to gain the services of Faramir (Core Set, 14), using him to give an additional Willpower to all questing characters controlled by a single player, then benefitting from his sacrificial duty as Rear Guard. As a four-cost ally, Faramir may be too expensive to sacrifice so readily, but if he drops in for a Sneak Attack (Core Set, 23) and gives players the ability to exhaust him for his text before sacrificing him as a Rear Guard, then he gives a massive boost to the party’s Willpower for a mere two resources and two card draws.
Commit to the journey
As the saying goes, it’s not the destination that counts; it’s the journey. Prepare to enjoy the scenic vistas and to encounter the native wildlife of The Hills of Emyn Muil when this Adventure Pack releases later in the month. Until then, dig out your maps, find a guide, prepare your fellowship, and though you may hope that it won’t come to it… you may need to make some sacrifices.