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Art and Speculation

by on January 27, 2014

Writing articles for TftC means that I am constantly on the hunt for Lord of the Rings artwork. Fortunately, there’s an amazing selection available out there, and encountering new pieces is a nice side benefit of blogging about LOTR LCG. The artwork for the game itself receives a ton of praise, which is well deserved, but there also is a world of Lord of the Rings art out there beyond the game. Today, I’ll soothe your Monday blues a bit by reviewing 5 beautiful pieces of art I’ve come across in my journeys through the web, along with some speculative thoughts about the game that are inspired by each.

#1 – The Lamp of the Valar

lamps of the valar

The artist for this one is the incomparable Ted Nasmith, and this particular image has been used for several versions of The Silmarillion. It depicts one of the lamps that the Valar (the “demigods” or “angels” of Tolkien’s world) used to light the world long before the First Age. Nasmith really captures the beauty, scale and otherworldliness of this era. While LOTR LCG necessarily focuses on the battle against Sauron and the foiling of his plans, I think there is room for a quest and/or cycle that places an emphasis on exploration of the ancient world instead. Imagine if the heroes have to embark on a journey to find some lost artifacts from the time when the Valar inhabited Middle-earth? I know that some of these characters and concepts are part of works that FFG doesn’t have the rights to, but there’s room for scenarios that touch on the glories and terrors of the past.

#2 – Maglor Hurls the Silmaril  

maglorThis is another fantastic piece of art from Nasmith, representing the final fate of one of the legendary Silmarils. Just as the One Ring defined the Second and Third Ages, the Silmarils defined the First Age. In most of Tolkien’s works, magical objects are not just powerful, but also deeply corrupting, and the Silmarils are certainly no exception. In this painting, we see one of the closing acts of the First Age, as Maglor, son of Feanor, hurls the last remaining Silmaril into the ocean (one had been taken into the sky by Earendil, and the other fell into fire along with Maedhros). For those who are not up on their First Age lore, the Silmarils were jewels created by an incredibly powerful elf, Feanor, and they were ultimately stolen by Sauron’s master, Morgoth. Feanor and his sons swore an oath to recover these Silmarils against the wishes of the Valar, and they ultimately ended up doing incredibly wicked deeds to recover these artifacts. In terms of LOTR LCG, I would love to see a cycle, or even a single quest, that involves the players getting their hands on an incredibly powerful, yet corrupting, item akin to a Silmaril, Ring of Power, or Arkenstone. This attachment would give a hero amazing power, far beyond any other attachment, but would have nasty effects that turn hero against hero and player against player. Then, players would be pitted against a big boss of fearsome might. They would ultimately have to choose whether to use the artifact of power to defeat this boss, at the risk of destroying themselves through infighting, or whether to cast it away and take on the boss without it. This would touch on a major theme of Tolkien’s works and introduce some interesting wrinkles into the cooperative structure.

#3 – Sleeping Sentry

sleepingsentryThis piece of art actually comes from the game itself. Tiziano Baracchi has created a beautiful painting here; it’s just a shame that it has been overshadowed by appearing on one of the most reviled encounter cards of all time. On the card itself, i’ts hard to see, but in the painting, we can see the gang of orcs ready to take advantage of the sentry’s unfortunately timed nap. Thematically, Sleeping Sentry has always made sense, it’s just its gameplay impact that has been controversial (dealing 1 damage to each exhausted character and exhausting all ready characters). In the future, it would be wonderful to see a powerful treachery like Sleeping Sentry include a thematically satisfying,  in-built means of countering it, aside from cancellation. Imagine for Sleeping Sentry, if players would have been able to designate two characters as sentries that could keep each other awake in anticipation of drawing this card (to be represented by: “if you have 2 ready characters, you may ignore this effect”). This prevents players from feeling like they are simply being kicked in the unmentionables by the encounter deck, and instead gives them some means of agency. With this change, if players draw such a card and get killed, it’s their own fault for being negligent!

#4 – Sauron


Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the artist for this particular piece, but it is an interesting representation of Sauron before he lost the power to change his form and appearance. An interesting facet of The Lord of the Rings is that Sauron himself never actually appears. In many ways, this is just good storytelling, as getting too close to an antagonist, particularly one that is supposed to be as powerful as Sauron, can ruin the mystery and dread that an antagonist possesses. Still, Sauron is an intriguing figure: a shapeshifter (in the past) and master of illusion and deception that is able to bring whole peoples under his sway. He brought down the mighty kingdom of Numenor just by playing on the fears and pride of its kings. He took the field of battle against the mightiest of heroes in the Battle of the Last Alliance. All this makes me infatuated with the idea of actually confronting Sauron one day in the game. I know this never happened in the story, but imagine the fear you would feel when Sauron himself hit the table! I feel that this would be the perfect swan song for the game when it is finally coming to a close: a showdown with Sauron for the ages.

#5 – Frodo Lives!


This painting, by Alan Lee, depicts Gorbag and Shagrat, the two orcs that come across Frodo’s body after he was poisoned by Shelob. Orcs are a fundamental part of Tolkien’s world, and they have been wholeheartedly adopted by countless fantasy authors as the go-to baddies of choice. However, readers get very few glimpses into the world of orcs in The Lord of the Rings, which is why I love the scene where Frodo and Sam have to blend into an orc formation in Mordor and are almost caught. This makes me think, and bear with me here because I’m about to shoot off into the outer limits of speculation, that an amazing scenario could be built around one player having to infiltrate an orc band (using a disguise, of course). Imagine having to act as an “enemy” and attack helpless villages or even take on other players. You could break your cover at any time, but if you do this too early, it would make the whole scenario incredibly difficult. Perhaps you could sabotage your orc “comrades”, but at the risk of discovery. This would make for a tense and gripping quest, and unlike anything LOTR LCG players have experienced so far.

That’s it for now. Perhaps the siren song of scenario creation is calling me once more… I hope you’ve enjoyed some brilliant art and some wild speculation. Until next time…


From → Wild Speculation

  1. Noccus permalink

    Great choices on the art.
    I love the first two pictures of the 1st age.

    And the quest idea you describe at point 5 is simply full of win!
    I want this to happen as a quest mechanic. It sounds awesome!
    FFG reads this blog, so make it happen Caleb!
    Listen to Ian here!

  2. faith_star83 permalink

    Very nice article! I am not really good when it comes to Middle-earth Lore, so I enjoyed your exploration. I also think you have some nice ideas for future quests / expansions…let’s hope Caleb from FFG reads this blog, too. I would love to infiltrate an orc camp in the near future!

  3. sweetnesswhachacha permalink

    Thanks for the art! There is so much for Tolkiens world, and so much of it is amazing!

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