“When I call or whistle begin to come after me – you will see the way I go – but only in pairs, mind, about five minutes between each pair of you. Bombur is fattest and will do for two, he had better come alone and last.”
–Gandalf addressing Thorin & Co. outside of Beorn’s home, The Hobbit
In our last preview of The Hobbit: On the Doorstep, the second Saga Expansion for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, lead developer Caleb Grace provided insight into the creation of its three scenarios. Today, he turns his attention to the expansion’s player cards and previews two of its new heroes.
Lead Developer Caleb Grace on Player Cards for On the Doorstep
While I was developing the player cards for The Hobbit: On the Doorstep, my two main design goals were:
- Make it possible for fans of the book to play all of their favorite dwarves.
- Give new players all the cards they need to use those characters in decks that are fun to play.
As I discussed in my previous article, Bilbo Baggins’ Grand Adventure, these two goals steered my early design toward the idea of introducing the abilities that trigger “While you control at least 5 Dwarf characters.” What I didn’t reveal in that article was that the player cards in the The Hobbit: On the Doorstep were designed at the same time as the player cards in The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill. It wasn’t until all the player cards were designed that they were split between the two boxes. Therefore, even though each The Hobbit Saga Expansion is fun and playable on its own, the player cards really feel most like a complete set when both boxes are combined together, and with both boxes, players get all the cards they need to build truly fun, Hobbit-themed Dwarf decks.
Naturally, I wanted to see if I had met my design goals. Thus, when I was playtesting the scenarios in each box, I put myself in the position of a new player and built a deck using only the contents of a single Core Set plus the two Hobbit Saga Expansions. I built two Dwarf decks that each centered around controlling five Dwarf characters. I really enjoyed the advantages of the additional resource provided by Thorin (The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill, 2) and the additional card draw provided by Ori (The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill, 4), but I found it could sometimes be difficult to get five Dwarf characters into play. So I designed what may be my favorite hero card of all time – Bombur (The Hobbit: On the Doorstep, 5)!
In the book, Bombur always struck me as a pathetic character. He always seemed to be a detriment to the company. It was rare that he provided any real help. For example, after he fell in the enchanted river and wouldn’t wake up, the dwarves had to carry him through the forest for days, a burden made more exhausting by his impressive girth. In fact, the only thing we ever really learn about Bombur is that he is incredibly fat. And, in truth, that was all the knowledge I needed to create a hero that would compliment the rest of my design perfectly. Because Bombur is such a large dwarf he has the text: “When counting the number of Dwarf characters you control, Bombur counts as two.”
His ability always makes me chuckle, especially because it’s actually a very helpful one. Want those extra resources and card draw from Thorin and Ori as soon as possible? Just add Bombur to your starting line-up. That gives you two Lore resource tokens on your first turn, enough to play an Erebor Hammersmith (Core Set, 59) or a Miner of the Iron Hills (Core Set, 61), and, voila!, you control five Dwarf characters! Bombur also has a Defense Strength of two and five Hit Points, making him an excellent defender. Those stats also felt appropriate since the only constructive thing he ever did in the book was guard the ponies.
Making Every Shot Count
I did set one other important goal when I started designing the player cards for The Hobbit: On the Doorstep, and this one was very personal to me: I wanted to make a fitting and inspiring card for my childhood hero, Bard the Bowman. When I was a nine-year-old boy, his last stand against the dragon, Smaug, defined courage for me: after all of his companions had abandoned him and leapt from Lake Town into the Long Lake, only Bard remained to defend his city. Even as the flames raged around him, he fought to his last arrow and still had the composure necessary to target the one weak spot in Smaug’s armor.
I’m certain there’s a valuable lesson about tenacity in the face of overwhelming odds somewhere in there. There’s also rich material for a truly amazing fantasy hero, yet in all my years of gaming I’ve never come across one. So this was my chance give players a Bard worthy of his legend. Magali Villeneuve helped greatly with this since her artwork by itself makes for an incredible Bard the Bowman (The Hobbit: On the Doorstep, 3)!
Of course Bard the Bowman has the Ranged keyword, and the rest of his text reads, “When Bard the Bowman makes a ranged attack, the enemy he attacks gets -2 [Defense Strength] until the end of the phase.” Since it was his ability to hit the enemy where he was weakest that set Bard apart from the other archers, I thought it fitting that his ability would reduce his enemy’s defense.
Now, I know what some players are thinking: “That’s great if you’re playing multiplayer where you can make Ranged attacks, but he’s no good to me in a single player game.” Well, just keep reading. What good is a bowman without his bow, anyway?
The Right Tool for the Job
The last card I want to share in this preview is an attachment that single player and multiplayer fans of the game are both going to love: Great Yew Bow (The Hobbit: On the Doorstep, 14). This Weapon attachment gives new function to the Ranged keyword with its text: “Combat Action: Choose an enemy in the staging area. Exhaust Great Yew Bow and attached hero to make a ranged attack against that enemy. Declare attached hero as the attacker. No other attackers can be declared for this attack.”
Since its ability only allows the attached character to be declared as an attacker, Bard’s ability to reduce the target’s defense makes him the most logical candidate to take the shot. But that doesn’t mean he’s the only one who can take advantage of the bow. Players will almost certainly want to find out what Legolas can do with this impressive weapon. Either way, there’s something for everyone among the player cards in The Hobbit: On the Doorstep.
Players looking forward to using Bombur, Bard the Bowman, the Great Yew Bow, and the other new player cards from The Hobbit: On the Doorstep won’t have long to wait. The game’s second Saga Expansion is scheduled to arrive at retailers in the middle of next month!