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There's so much I love about how Caleb's designed this box.

I thought that the battle at the Black Gate and Mount Doom might be combined into the final quest, but to accommodate solo players Frodo's story might get short shrift (after a Ringbearer-focused Gorgoroth quest, perhaps Frodo would be in a separate area like the Riddle area in Dungeons Deep and Caverns Dim). This approach is so much better. It allows both quests to tell their own rich stories, and I expect Epic Multiplayer Mode allows the Aragorn team to (like in the books) make things more difficult for themselves but easier for Frodo.

Slight digression: what I care most about in the Saga expansions is being able to relive LotR's story, which means I sometimes change the number of players during a campaign, to better reflect the story (in the Flame of the West, the first two quests are solo with my Grey Company deck, and the third quest is played with three players, adding a Gondor deck and a Rohan deck). I hope it will be possible in Epic Multiplayer Mode for teams to have different numbers of players: I'd like to play Frodo solo, with Aragorn's team having perhaps three players. That would likely mean that the Frodo player has to wait each round for the Aragorn players to finish, but for me that would be the ultimate way to recreate the story.

Last of the Company will work well on Sam, since it can lower an enemy's threat by the attached hero's willpower. It looks like it's intended only for The Tower of Cirith Ungol, so we probably won't have the option of playing through the campaign with an alternate Ring-bearer. The first player token doesn't rotate during that quest (except perhaps after Frodo is rescued), which avoids the awkwardness of (for example) losing your only leadership hero in a multiplayer game.

Aragorn has all the traits (including Gondor!) except Ranger. This is the first character we've seen with more than three traits (which is relevant for the upcoming The Free Peoples card), and also the only Aragorn without the Ranger trait. It fits thematically, since Aragorn is now a captain going to war, but it could be a problem for anyone who put the Forewarned boon on Aragorn (unless they gave him Tireless Ranger as well). The boon has the Permanent keyword, so you can't shift it to another hero, but I don't think you can attach it to Aragorn if he doesn't have the Ranger trait.

I love that we're getting ally versions of the twins, and they have amazing art. I expect several combinations of the twins will work well. One of the most interesting might be hero Elrohir with ally Elladan. A Lore hero helps with the card draw to find Elladan early, and hero Elrohir can be an excellent defender (although he might want Tactics for Elven Mail or Spirit for ally Arwen). I expect it would be difficult to consistently get Elladan into play round one or two, however, and early defense can be crucial. Hero Elladan with ally Elrohir seems lower risk but lower reward, since ally Elrohir isn't an amazing defender (though Narya and ally Arwen can certainly help). Playing both ally versions is probably only great if the quest has a decent number of Orc enemies.

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Whenever the main quest has the dire keyword, your threat elimination level is increased to "99," but you cannot reduce your threat by more than one each round by non-boon player card effects.

Three Golden Hairs and Brace of Coneys are the only Boon cards so far that can reduce threat, so it might be worth keeping them for the final quests. Hero Galadriel and ally Elfhelm might be useful in these quests. I hope that it will be possible to use a secrecy approach for Mount Doom: thematically, I'd like to minimize combat for Frodo and Sam. Orc Disguise likely helps with that, and in Epic Multiplayer Mode Aragorn's team might be able to reduce Frodo's threat or draw enemies away from Frodo. The spoiled treachery can increase threat by 10, so I expect that the quest will punish high threat (aside from enemy engagement) well before 99. Neither A Test of Will nor The Black Riders version of Frodo can cancel the first treachery each round during stage one, so Fortitude tests (and deciding whether to exhaust the One Ring) will be important. I wonder whether Fortitude tests depend primarily on Willpower or something else (perhaps partly resources, since this version of Frodo can gain resources). I also wonder whether the Wraith on Wings burden will be used in the Frodo quests or in the Aragorn quest. I expect that there will be no more than four Nazgûl enemies in the encounter decks during the last two quests, since the quests happen simultaneously and there are only eight Nazgûl remaining.

I am super excited about this expansion, and looking forward to playing the complete saga campaign.

Edited by Estel Edain

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The article didn't say that there's no spirit Aragorn in this box.

Wait... Where is Gollum and Smeagol? Don't tell me that he just appear on the box cover.

A little disappointed for the Epic mode for the last two quests, I assume they should be one like the quest in Hobbit saga, and scouring for Shire is the last one to make the story complete, maybe the pod mode is better for scouring for Shire because the company of Samwise is better to be object ally other than player card ally.

Thanks all the designers for making the whole saga done, great job!

Sure we looking for more pods for the wonderful chapter which didn't show up in the saga box like Old Forest.

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4 hours ago, Authraw said:

Any guesses on who the remaining characters in the box might be?

I've been puzzling over it since the news article came out, so I decided to write a blog post about it, if anyone's interested:

https://darklingdoor.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/spoiler-alert-the-mountain-of-fire/

100% agree with your list. Hero leadership Eomer and tactics ally Meneldor are pretty save bets (when  if not now :D). Leadership ally Bergil fits great with other Gondor allies and he can always have "can't (attack or) defend" if it seems to inappropriate to have him chump-block/participate in fighting as a child. Tactics Sam indeed seems a little odd as he most likely would keep his stats and tactics would be about to get a lot of willpower with him and new Eowyn lately. Maybe they could Sam have a planning action to lower his willpower in exchange for a attack/defense boost, what would show that Sam's fearsomeness isn't because of his great combat-skills, but because of his enormous courage.

 

4 minutes ago, PigsAreOurEquals said:

Do we know a release date yet?

Article states 3rd quarter of 2017. Probably with a (pre-)release at Gen Con.

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19 hours ago, Authraw said:

Any guesses on who the remaining characters in the box might be?

I've been puzzling over it since the news article came out, so I decided to write a blog post about it, if anyone's interested:

https://darklingdoor.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/spoiler-alert-the-mountain-of-fire/

Thanks for the detailed look into the possibilities. It got me reflecting, and I posted a detailed comment in response.

In summary, I noticed that Saga heroes almost always share a racial trait with any ally that shares their sphere in the same release. This is an ironclad rule since Treason of Saruman. (Road Darkens doesn't have any neutral allies. Bill the Pony and Barliman Butterbur are technically exceptions, but they interact with the hobbit trait. The only clear exception is way back in the first Saga expansion, with Beorn and Bofur.) If this rule is followed in The Mountain of Fire, I predict that we will get Leadership Éomer and Tactics Gwaihir heroes, with Leadership Elfhelm and Tactics Meneldor allies. Elfhelm's the most questionable, since we already have him twice (though not in Saga). I could see him being replaced by someone from Gondor: perhaps Húrin the Tall, Angbor the Fearless, Bergil, or even Pippin. Hirgon could also work, as someone who might interact with the Rohan trait, though he dies before the Battle of Pelennor Fields.

Alternatively, if Caleb decides to repeat a saga hero for the first time (Flame of the West repeated a core set hero, at least partly because Spirit Éowyn was not great at her big moment of killing the Witch-king; I think Leadership Sam should work well for Cirith Ungol), we could get Leadership Éomer and Tactics Sam heroes, with Leadership Merry and Tactics Pippin allies. Merry would share the Rohan trait with Éomer, and Pippin would share the Hobbit trait with Sam.

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I agree with the consensus on Leadership Eomer as a hero.  The article text about going into battle with Aragorn, Gandalf, Imrahil, and Eomer requires some version of Eomer since he has no core or saga version.  The idea of pairing a leadership Rohan Merry ally with him is clever, though given his absence at the black gate seems an odd fit for this box.  (A leadership Rohan Merry hero would totally rock for Scouring of the Shire, though.) . Unfortunately, aside from Eomer there's no named Rohirrim at the black gate, I believe, so reaching back for a past captain would be the only option if matching the trait.  Elfhelm already has an ally, Dunhere was dead, Theodred was dead, Erkenbrand was left in Rohan -- I'm not seeing a likely suspect for a Rohan ally, even aside from the heavy spirit lean of Rohan decks.

The article also mentions "other cards to help you raise your spirits and evade the evils around you."  I'm guessing that's code for willpower boost and raising engagement cost, but maybe there's another encounter discarding effect of some sort coming.

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3 hours ago, dalestephenson said:

given his absence at the black gate seems an odd fit for this box

We already have Saga versions of all the named characters at the Black Gate except Éomer and the Eagles. Authraw mentioned this quote in his blog post:

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There was Gandalf as chief herald, and Aragorn with the sons of Elrond, and Éomer of Rohan, and Imrahil; and Legolas and Gimli and Peregrin were bidden to go also, so that all the enemies of Mordor should have a witness.

Gandalf is in Road Darkens (and Core), Aragorn is the Fellowship hero, the twins are in this box, Imrahil is in Flame of the West, Legolas and Gimli are in Treason of Saruman (and Core), and Pippin is in Black Riders.  Aside from that quote, the only named characters at the Black Gate are Mablung (who avoided the ambush, and is in Land of Shadow), Beregond (in Flame of the West), and Gwaihir, Landroval, and Meneldor. I don't expect any saga-repeating characters (with the possible exception of Pippin) to appear in Mountain of Fire, and I don't expect us to get three Eagles in this box, so I think it's likely that we'll get a character who wasn't at the Black Gate. That also fits with Gamling and Skinbark appearing in The Land of Shadow. Elfhelm and Húrin are the two most important remaining characters: both had important roles in the battle of Pelennor Fields, are both were left with command in Minas Tirith while Aragorn went to the Black Gate. Elfhelm has the advantage of matching Éomer's trait, but the disadvantage of having already appeared twice in the game (while we haven't seen Húrin). Bergil plays a smaller military role, but a significant role in the story.

I also think that a Leadership Merry hero would be great for Scouring in the Shire. I hadn't noticed "other cards to help you raise your spirits and evade the evils around you," and I'm excited about it. Orc Disguise probably fits into evading the evils around you, but I hope there are a couple of other attachments or events that support a minimal ally, minimal combat approach for Frodo and Sam. Perhaps we'll get a card related to the stars. Sam sings about them in the tower, Frodo calls out "Hail, brightest of stars" (in Elvish) while escaping the Watchers when leaving the tower, and Sam (who mentions that he would ask Galadriel for light and water, then finds them) sees a star that strengthens him:

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Far above the Ephel Dúath in the West the night-sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope; for then he was thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his masters, ceased to trouble him. He crawled back into the brambles and laid himself by Frodo’s side, and putting away all fear he cast himself into a deep untroubled sleep.

 

Edited by Estel Edain

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It's fair to say that the named people known to be at the black gate are few in number, and with the exception of the eagles and Eomer are already represented as saga heroes or allies.  There's precious few other named people who *could've* been at the black gate.  For that reason, I think it's certainly plausible that the remaining characters could dip into people we know were not there.

However, I think that choosing a *Merry* ally would be very odd, unless the other missing ally is Pippin.  I think a leadership Merry is as thematic as humanly (hobbitly?) possible for Scouring of the Shire, but for the Black Gate he wasn't allowed there *and Pippin was*.  If we get a single hobbit ally for this box, it has to be Pippin.  (If we get a single hobbit hero, it has to be Sam, even though two sphered heroes for the same character would be unprecedented for saga.)

Now if you have Leadership Rohan Merry ally with Leadership Eomer, and Tactics Gondor Pippin ally with Tactics Hurin hero (or Tactics Pippin with Tactics Sam), you can make the affiliation work -- but then there's no room for Eagles, and I think there really *has* to be Eagles here.  If tactics is Gwaihir + Meneldor, that leaves one missing ally and I don't think it can be Merry, much as I'd love him.

If it's not Merry, and it *is* Rohan, I would still expect to exclude dead Rohirrim, so no Dunhere or Theodred.  But I don't agree Elfhelm becomes the obvious choice.  Yes, he's got an important job and has actual speaking lines (unlike Hurin), but he's got an ally version already and being left in charge of the Riders at Gondor isn't substantially more important than being left in charge of the Riders at Rohan -- Erkenbrand doesn't have an ally version yet and has not appeared yet in the saga.  But if going out on a limb for a Rohan ally, I'd plump for Widfara.  He's just a rider, but in the context of LOTR Elfhelm and Erkenbrand are just as much bit players as he, and he does have actual lines (unlike Hurin).  As a bonus, he has no existing card and actually *could* have been at the Black Gates as a warrior.  Finally, his "weather wise" role would make him a scout and justify giving a cool ability.

Having said all that, Bergil is certainly the second-most prominent free peoples character in the LOTR to have no card anywhere, IMO.  (First would be Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, but I'm not going to hold my breath for her card.)

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I agree that we won't get Merry unless we get Pippin, and it seems unlikely that we get no eagles. Éomer and Gwaihir heroes with Merry and Pippin allies might work, although obviously Gwaihir and Pippin wouldn't match traits.

Widfara to me would feel a bit anticlimactic in the final saga box. I think Erkenbrand was crowded out of the saga because there were arguably more important Rohan characters at Helm's Deep (Háma and Gamling), and the quest focuses on the defense, not the reinforcements. At Pelennor Fields, the main Rohan commanders (under Théoden) were Éomer, Elfhelm, and Grimbold, and Elfhelm is more present in the story than Erkenbrand is. Also, Elfhelm was fighting in Anórien while Aragorn went to the Black Gate. Ally Elfhelm is not a weak card, but is niche, so I could see us getting another version.

All that said, I would not be at all surprised to see Caleb break the matching trait rule and give us a Leadership Gondor ally together with Éomer, especially since Rohan and Gondor are fully allied at this point. Pippin is certainly possible, though it might feel weird to get Pippin without Merry. Bergil and Húrin are, in my mind, the other likely candidates.

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