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Let’s Go Sailing: 5 Things We Know About The Grey Havens Expansion

by on August 28, 2015

boat

A couple of days ago, Fantasy Flight Games decided to drop an absolute bomb on us all, announcing that the next deluxe expansion will take us to The Grey Havens and beyond. Indeed, we are headed onto the very seas themselves, exploring uncharted waters and lands thought lost. While we are not even halfway through the current Angmar Awakened cycle, it’s safe to say that the excitement level for The Grey Havens has reached mammoth proportions. It seems appropriate to take a moment to run through the announcement article with a careful eye, marveling at the obvious awesomeness but also searching for those minute details that may have gone unnoticed.

card fan

5. Lindon Navigator 

We’ve got a brand new Noldor ally spoiled from the Lore sphere. The Lindon Navigator has 2 willpower, 1 attack, 1 defense, and 2 hit points, all for only 2 cost, which is fantastic value. If that wasn’t enough, the Navigator can quest without exhausting, potentially getting some use out of that 1 point of attack, and can even quest while exhausted! This is the first time that I can recall that a character can actually perform a major action while exhausted (with the exception of a hero using Anduril in campaign mode). It would be interesting to use her for something like A Very Good Tale or to trigger something that interacts with the Scout trait and then still use her for questing. The one downside is that if she commits to a quest, you have to discard a card at the end of the quest phase to keep her in play. However, if you’re playing Noldor, you’re probably going to include a bunch of card draw anyway.

dawn-star

4. Ships Ahoy!

Anything involving ships, pirates, and sailing gets a big thumbs up from me. Ever since the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game had a box set and adventure path following nautical adventures, I’ve been dreaming of the chance to do the same in LOTR LCG…and that day will soon arrive! According to the announcement article, every quest involving sailing will have players choose a ship, with a solo player choosing two ships. This seems like a lot of fun, not only because you’ll have your very own ship to call your own, but because each has its own strengths, weaknesses, and special ability. The Dawn Star, for example, has sentinel and 4 defense. More importantly, it has a tough drawback in raising your starting threat by 3, but a great ability in that you get to draw an additional card at the beginning of each turn. It’s like having Bilbo in ship form, without having to hollow the old Hobbit out and throw him in the ocean (sorry for that mental image). The Silver Wing, by contrast, is an attacking option, with 4 attack and ranged. It actually lowers your starting threat by 3 and increases your hero’s attack by 1. It is a bit flimsier, though, in terms of defense and hit points. Which ship you choose will largely be determined by the deck you are running, but I’m sure players will also develop favorites over time. What is cool about this new card type is that it almost functions like an agenda in A Game of Thrones LCG, subtly altering your style of play, while saddling you with penalties and bonuses. Of course, the ships will also play an active role as well!

light-cruiser

3. You sunk my battleship!

Of course, the new ship mechanic isn’t just all about fun and games. It looks like ship battles will also be an important new feature, as the encounter deck will be featuring fearsome ships of their own (by the way, I absolutely love the enemy ship template). The Light Cruiser featured in the article has 4 threat, 6 attack, and 5 defense with 7 hit points. This is a tough enemy, but it is not a conventional one, and there will be some special considerations for how to deal with it:

Your Ship can only defend against enemy Ships (and is, in fact, the only thing that can defend against enemy Ships), so if you are engaged with a Ship-Enemy and use your Ship to quest or attack, you’ll find your Ship taking tons of damage!

This means that managing enemy ships will be crucial, as will managing the actions of your own ship(s), as you will need to be able to defend against them, but might also need your ship(s) for other purposes as well. I’m glad that this distinction was made. Thematically, it would have been absurd to have a Snowbourn Scout (or any character) chump block against a naval vessel. It really bothers me when cards games are so abstract that they blur the distinctions between vehicles and people and different areas in a way that interferes with my ability to construct a logical narrative. The way the rules for The Grey Havens seem to be written, this is not the case, and ships have their own interactions with each other, while the boarding keyword allows enemy ships to bring their own normal enemies to bear.

2. Quest Name Revealed: Voyage Across Belegaer

The spoiled quest card, entitled The Star’s Guidance, reveals a few things. One is the sailing keyword, not yet described in terms of how it actually works. However, the Dream-chaser does reference sailing tests, and characters being committed to sailing tests, so make of that what you will. Second is reference to the concept of being “off-course” with some accompanying nifty icons. Third is that this quest seems to involve multiple branching quest stages, as you are instructed to look at the top 2 stages of the quest deck and advance to one of your choice (if you are “on-course”). Most importantly, though, the name of one of the quests is there: Voyage Across Belegaer. The name Belegaer refers to the great ocean to the west of Middle-earth. In Elder Days, crossing this ocean would eventually lead you to Aman, home of the Valar and Valinor. However, after the destruction of Numenor, Belegaer became much larger as Aman was removed from the world, and it was said that its waters now reached strange new lands in the west. We never learn more of these strange new lands, but as Tolkien’s world is meant to be an ancient predecessor to our own, it can be inferred that these were meant to represent the Americas. Leaving that aside, the name of this scenario must mean that we shall be traveling across this great ocean to destinations unknown. The announcement article does mention that exploration will be a key component of this deluxe expansion and the cycle that follows, including the ruins of Numenor itself. This is hugely exciting for me, as I have long felt that ancient relics and ruins left over from the First and Second Ages provide a perfect setting for adventure. That sense of wonder at days long past creeps in constantly at the edges of the main narrative of The Lord of the Rings. I remember, for example, wondering at the crumbling ruins along the path to Rivendell as a kid, and what stories were behind them. This game will now place a focus on exploration in a way that hasn’t really been the case before.

cirdan-the-shipwright

1. The Bearded One (a.k.a. Cirdan) Has Arrived!

Finally, we know one of the heroes of The Grey Havens, and it is Cirdan himself, one of the major remaining characters that had not yet been seen in the game. Although Cirdan plays next to no role in The Lord of the Rings text itself, he is actually quite an important and ancient Elf. In fact, he is one of the oldest beings in all of Middle-earth, and could possibly have awoken with the first of the Elves (meaning he has no parents…aside from Illuvatar). This age is reflected in the fact that he is one of the few Elves with a beard, and the artist on this card has really gone all out, placing the rightful amount of attention on this magnificent specimen of a beard…Sorry, I was lost for a moment. As a card itself, Cirdan is definitely not a disappointment. He has strong stats, with 4 willpower, 2 attack, and 2 defense. His willpower puts him as an equal to Eowyn and Galadriel, with an advantage over the latter in that he can participate right away without any attachments. The starting threat of 12 is definitely high, and some might argue that his attack and defense might go to waste, but easy access to Light of Valinor and/or Unexpected Courage counters this argument. As for his ability, he gets to draw an additional card during the resource phase, with one of the two drawn during this time being discarded. This is absolutely fantastic. Passive card draw that works from the very first turn without having to do anything else is amazing, and this will bring great card draw to Spirit. Having to discard one may seem like a disadvantage, and in certain situations it will be, but this seeming weakness also turns out to be a boon. The announcement article states that certain cards will increase in power with each copy of that card in the discard pile and some will become more powerful depending on which card is on top of the discard pile. Cirdan seems like one of the best options around for setting up either. Beyond that aspect, discarded cards can also be accessed through Dwarven Tomb and Stand and Fight, making it possible to access both cards drawn. He also will work well with a hero like Caldara, who draws from the discard pile for her own ability. All of this is to say that Cirdan looks set to be a major force, and his appearance has fueled speculation that Narya may come along too.

All things considered, the game just keeps getting better and better, and I’m already practicing my nautical lingo for the expected quarter four release of The Grey Havens. So batten down the hatches and prepare to weigh anchor, we’re sailing for the horizon!

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22 Comments
  1. Cirdan’s ability isn’t card draw since you still have to discard 1 card and end up with the same number of cards you had before. His ability is card selection.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      It’s card draw in the technical sense that it literally says “draw an additional card”, meaning that any effects that key off of drawing a card will trigger. I definitely see your point, but when you get to see more cards, regardless of whether you need to discard one, I would argue that’s card draw, as the primary point of card draw in most cases is to get to the most optimal cards as fast as possible. Getting a large quantity of cards in hand is usually a secondary purpose unless you’re trying to fuel something in particular (like Protector of Lorien).

      • In magic they make a distinction between cards that increase your hand size, and cards that increase your card quality. Card draw is used for cards that increase your hand size. I would argue that this distinction is important.

        • Nusse permalink

          LotR is a coop game as opposed to Magic. Your hand size might affect the way your opponent plays in Magic, but with a few Dunlending exceptions, the Encounter deck will play the same whatever your hand size.
          It might not be technically card draw (even though it is since the text says “draw an additonal card”), but it lets you get faster to the cards you need.

          Besides, the spirit sphere is undoubtedly the sphere that uses the discard pile the most (Stand & Fight, Dwarven Tomb, Caldara…) so you could argue that putting a card in your discard pile is a form of draw.

          • The encounter deck plays the same regardless of your hand size, but your ability to respond to the encounter deck is increased by having a larger hand size. So card advantage is still a significant factor in how well you can deal with the encounter deck. Getting faster to the card you need isn’t card advantage in itself. A card that loots is one that gives you card selection, not card advantage.

            Putting a card into your discard pile still isn’t card draw since you then need to get it from the discard pile into play. Using a card to get a card from the discard pile doesn’t give you card advantage since you netted zero cards. It gives you card selection. Only if you can get it for free by say exhausting an ally or through a put in play effect would it give you card advantage.

            Card advantage is still very important to this game because the encounter deck uses surge and put into play effects to run faster than your deck.

  2. Azurelius permalink

    I didn’t think to look at the name of the quest – Voyage Across Belegaer sounds awesome!

    The combination of sailing tests being mentioned and Lindon Navigator’s ability wording makes me think sailing tests will be something you have to commit characters to before question, but that’s just speculation.

    (Aside, feel free to ignore: I really like speculation. Any thoughts on who the second hero might be? My best guess is Gildor.)

    • Azurelius permalink

      By which I mean questing, not question, and Galdor, not Gildor (though, maybe…)

  3. Gwaihir the Windlord permalink

    I could not control myself when I read the article announcing The Grey Havens. I have always wondered if any of our ventures would take us to the Sea, and just when I was beginning to lose hope the designers sprang it on us. Perhaps we’ll get to delve much deeper (pun unintended) into the waters of Middle-earth and beyond. Will we sail south toward Harad? North past Arnor? WEST TO VALINOR?! Well, maybe we’d only make it to the Enchanted Isles or Tol Eressëa, but an eagle can dream . . .

    (Note: The Bearded One is awe-inspiring. Perhaps Ilùvatar gave him a beard to represent the depth of his wisdom.)

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      He definitely needs some grooming attachments to keep that thing in shape!

  4. PhilKav permalink

    I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who thought of Pathfinder’s Skull & Shackles when I saw this. Certainly seems like a very interesting expansion. Personally, I would have preferred some sort of spy mission in Umbar/Harad rather then following some Gondorian noble’s dream to the ruins of Númenor but I guess we’ll see how it plays out.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I actually haven’t had a chance to play Skulls & Shackles (I have the other two PACG sets), even though I was interested in it because I love nautical/pirate themes. But getting something along those lines in this game is even better.

  5. Gizlivadi permalink

    I am so stoked for this expansion! The Sea is an important element in Tolkien’s world, and whenever I read about it (or actually go to the beach) I feel that same nostalgia and a sort of peaceful, contemplative hollowness in my heart, similar to the sea-longing of the elves. An elf-focused expansion with a Belegaer theme sounds like one of the best ideas the designers have had for this game in a while.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I know exactly what you mean! It’s for that reason that the beach is my favorite place to be in the world. I too have the sea-longing.

  6. Erebor Record Keeper permalink

    Quite the beard! Now that may be an elf that even a dwarf can respect!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Heh. Yes, he may just get honorary membership in the Dwarf club.

  7. Maeglas permalink

    Just thinking about it, it would be great if an AP focussed on the mystery surrounding Arvedui, the last King of Arnor. After all, it was Cirdan who sent him the ship that was eventually lost in the ice together with the King and the palantíri of Amon Sûl and Annúminas.

    • Kjeld permalink

      That would be fantastic! And a good opportunity to work some more palantiri lore and gameplay. They’re such a major force in Middle Earth, especially in the 3rd age, (they might even be the last of Feanor’s artifacts!), and yet they’ve only made a few slight appearances in the game. The Palantir player card is interesting, but sees play only as a niche strategy. Would be interesting to see them worked into an encounter deck more explicitly so that players of all strategies have a chance to interact with the legendary seeing stones!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That would definitely be fascinating, as it’s one of those mysteries of Middle-earth that Tolkien left us with.

  8. For those people who like to make thematic decks, no hobbits!! (Unless it’s one of those crazy Bucklanders).

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Curious Brandybuck says, “Ahoy, mateys!”

  9. ishallcallusting permalink

    Of all the expansions so far this has the most potential and excitement. From what they have already previewed they should deliver on most of that vast potential.

    This fact was perfectly captured in the “I’m on a boat” graphic at the beginning of the article, which was basically the best thing ever.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      This could definitely be the best box yet. Can’t wait!

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