“Still we fight on, holding all the west shores of Anduin; and those who shelter behind us give us praise if ever they hear our name: much praise but little help.”
–Boromir, The Fellowship of the Ring
Heirs of Númenor is nearly here! The second deluxe expansion for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, Heirs of Númenor transports Middle-earth’s heroes to the battle-tested realm of Gondor, the Bulwark of the West.
Bordering the lands of Shadow, Gondor is the first line of defense for the free folk, and the Men of Gondor must remain ever vigilant. Today, lead developer Lukas Litzsinger reflects on the importance of capturing Gondor’s spirit of battle and the lengthy design process that eventually led to the expansion’s Battle and Siege quest keywords.
Lukas Litzsinger on the Brewing Storm
Gondor is a land at war, and I knew that Heirs of Númenor needed to reflect this. Questing in Gondor is different than questing under the eaves of Mirkwood or the long dark of Khazad-dûm. It is more confrontational, and while strength of spirit will always be important, the Men of Gondor, like Boromir (Heirs of Númenor, 2), value strength of arms above all else.
As some of you may remember from my write-up about the design of the Khazad-dûm expansion, I wanted to present an active portrayal of Moria’s darkness. At one point, while I was trying to figure out how Middle-earth’s heroes would interact with the darkness that surrounds them, I considered the addition of a new “darkness” token.
When I set out to design Heirs of Númenor, I knew I wanted some way to represent the larger struggles taking place in this region of Middle-earth. Perhaps not surprisingly, one of my initial ideas involved a new type of token – the “soldier” token. They were part of my early efforts to emphasize the region’s battles and the capture or destruction of key locations. Players would need to defeat all the Soldiers on locations that had the “Garrison” keyword – committing attack strength to clear them out – before they could destroy the location. Soldier tokens also interacted with the game and cards in other ways, but the whole idea ran into some hurdles, the biggest being the requisite rules. The complexity of adding another token to the game was not to be taken lightly, and I wanted any new mechanic to feel intuitive and simple. After several attempts to streamline “soldiers,” I gave up on the idea and focused on a different mechanic: “battles.”
These “battles” were different than the new Battle keyword that shows up on some of the new quest cards. It was really another sort of test. When a battle was initiated, players exhausted heroes to add their strength to the battle. Then you flipped cards from the encounter deck based on the size of the battle. Some cards added strength to the Gondorian side; more cards added strength to Mordor’s side. If the total attack strength of the Gondorian cards and heroes exceeded Mordor’s, the battle was won. Otherwise, the battle was lost. To make it interesting, some effects depended upon the margin of victory or defeat in the battle.
Ultimately, though, this just didn’t feel right for a mechanic that would help define an entire box and the cycle to follow it. If these battles were too frequent, it was impossible to both make progress on quests and win battles; if they were too infrequent, they were either low-impact or too punishing. Thankfully, I finally came to the realization that these battles were really just trying to usurp questing, and I realized that the best way forward would be to integrate them into the questing directly. It seems like an obvious solution, and really it was. The idea of “stat replacement” had been banging around my head ever since I started working on the game, and Heirs of Númenor was the natural place to implement it.
Of course, the simple mechanics of Battle and Siege quests do not always have simple ramifications. Tactics characters are more attuned to the trappings of war, and are excellent at progressing their way through a battle. With several warriors in play, you will often find that the presence of the Battle keyword allows you to make extra progress toward the quest! Siege, however, requires all characters to rally together in a desperate defense. Any progress made during a Siege will be hard fought, indeed. Together, these keywords combine with quest stages that bear neither keyword to create different play patterns, and they force players to be more flexible with how they assign their characters to quest, attack, and defend in any given round.
I hope that you enjoy playing with these new keywords. Sharpen your blades, there is a storm brewing!
Distilled to their essence over the course of development, the Battle and Siege keywords capture the spirit of a land at war while providing players with dynamic new challenges. How will your heroes fare when their quests lead them into the hearts of Sieges and desperate Battles against the forces of Mordor?
Keep your eyes open for more news about Heirs of Númenor. The storm begins next week!