Campaign Mode: Road to Isengard (Part 2)
After a lengthy hiatus, the official TftC campaign returns! When last we looked in on our heroes, they were busy fighting in one of the biggest and most important battles of the age: Helm’s Deep. It was a close affair, but Gandalf, Aragorn, Boromir, Glorfindel, and company were able to stave off the army of Saruman. Now it’s up to them to confront Saruman himself and put an end to the treachery of the white wizard. In Part 1 of this article, I explained the changes I made to my decks to prepare for the Road to Isengard scenario. This time, we’ll see how it actually plays out!
Part 3 – Session Report
Gandalf had convinced Theoden, king of Rohan, to ride forth in battle against the traitor Saruman. However, the treacherous white wizard had already unleashed his tremendous horde, and Theoden’s host was forced to make a stand at the fortress of Helm’s Deep. The defenders, led by Aragorn and Gandalf, faced overwhelming odds, as the endless army of the White Hand surged against the walls. With the front gate splintering under the enemy assault, the stalwart defenders received help from an unlikely quarter, as the diminutive Hobbit, Merry, and sister-daughter of the king, Eowyn, refused to accept their lot among the women, children, and elderly who had been sequestered in the caves behind Helm’s Deep for safety. Instead, they joined the defense, displaying uncommon bravery and tenacity in fighting against the foes of the Free Peoples.
The stalwart defense of the fortress was nearly undone by the diabolical arts of Saruman, as the great wall keeping the hordes out was blown to pieces. With the defenders falling back, a great ram was employed in an attempt to smash down the gates of the Hornburg. A ranger of the north known as Beravor had joined the cause and rallied with the others to try to stop this device. It was Glorfindel, though, who was nearly lost in a mad and heroic dash on his horse, Asfaloth, as he careened into the sieging forces, saving the fortress from being taken. Ultimately, it was the unexpected arrival of an army of Ents that won the day, as Saruman’s horde was caught between the stalwart defenders and the enraged force at their back.
The quest begins at stage 1 – Rouse the Ents. Here, the quest begins with a bit of a “mini-game”, as the quest phase is essentially skipped and players don’t collect resources or draw cards. Instead, players have the option of exhausting their heroes to try to recruit some of the objective ally Ents of Fangorn to their cause, and they can choose to advance when they wish. The catch is that the longer they stay on this stage, the more cards will be revealed when they do finally move on.
In terms of campaign mode, Mr. Underhill has been removed from the campaign pool. On the plus side, the Gandalf’s Delay, Weight of the Ring, and Eaten Alive! burdens are removed for this scenario. Saruman’s Voice is shuffled into the encounter deck.
* Note: Anytime during combat that I don’t mention the shadow card, it means that there was no effect.
* Each deck has a starting penalty of +2 due to the loss of Gandalf and Pippin.
The Battle of Helm’s Deep had been won and the host of Orcs and Men had been utterly destroyed, yet the treacherous wizard Saruman still sat in Isengard. Gandalf met with the others in council, discussing what should be done with their former ally.
“Let him sit in his tower and brood,” Boromir scoffed. “What harm can he do now without an army and without arms to do his bidding?”
“More harm than you might surmise, son of Gondor,” Gandalf said. “Only at our peril do we laugh lightly at one such as Saruman; he still has great power to do us ill.”
“That may be, but we should ride at once to Minas Tirith all the same,” Boromir continued. “The land of Rohan is saved and can now ride to our aid in the great battle to come.”
Theoden, the king of Rohan, sat thoughtfully.
“I would hear your counsel, Aragorn, son of Arathorn,” he said at last. “You carried Rohan forward at its time of need, and I would hear your thoughts now.”
Aragorn pulled the thin pipe from his lips.
“We will ride for Gondor…”
Boromir began to let out a shout of victory but stopped short as Aragorn continued.
“…but only after we deal with Saruman once and for all. We cannot leave such an enemy at our backs.”
Gandalf nodded approvingly.
“Good. Very good. But there is one more matter to attend to. Saruman may no longer have an army, but he still will have many foul creatures to defend him, and even fouler forces still on his side. If we are going to storm Isengard itself, we will need help.”
He turned to stare at the forest of trees that had appeared near Helm’s Deep, and the crowd of tree-like beings that stood almost motionless in front of it.
DECK ONE (Starting Threat – 27)
Heroes: Glorfindel, Boromir, Eowyn
Starting Hand: The White Council, Ethir Swordsman, Galadriel’s Handmaiden, Captain of Gondor, Elrond’s Counsel, Hama
Mulligan: Westfold Horse-Breaker, Gondorian Discipline, The Galadhrim’s Greeting, Rivendell Blade, Gondorian Shield, A Test of Will
Thoughts: The first hand was lacking the key attachments for this deck. With the exception of Light of Valinor, the mulligan hand is much better, giving me the crucial Gondorian Shield and A Test of Will for cancellation.
DECK TWO (Starting Threat – 32)
Heroes: Gandalf, Merry, Beravor
Starting Hand: Booming Ent, Steward of Gondor, Asfaloth, Anduril, Shadowfax, Boomed and Trumpeted
Thoughts: Shadowfax alone is worth keeping this hand, so I will sally forth!
ROUND 1 (0 threat in staging area, 0/- progress on 1B, 0 victory points, Active Location – None)
**Staging Area – Ent of Fangorn (x4)**
DECK ONE PREPARATION (First Player) – 27 Threat
Resources: Glorfindel – 0, Boromir – 0, Eowyn – 0, Aragorn – 0
Draw: Can’t draw cards during stage 1B
New Hand: Westfold Horse-Breaker, Gondorian Discipline, The Galadhrim’s Greeting, Rivendell Blade, Gondorian Shield, A Test of Will
Planning: I have no resources to play anything, thanks to the effect of stage 1B, which prevents players from collecting resources.
Resources: Glorfindel – 0, Boromir – 0, Eowyn – 0, Aragorn – 0
DECK TWO PREPARATION – 32 Threat
Resources: Gandalf – 0, Merry – 0, Beravor – 0
Draw: Can’t draw cards during stage 1B
New Hand: Booming Ent, Steward of Gondor, Asfaloth, Anduril, Shadowfax, Boomed and Trumpeted
Planning: I have no resources to play anything, thanks to the effect of stage 1B, which prevents players from collecting resources.
Resources: Gandalf – 0, Merry – 0, Beravor – 0
No characters can be committed to the quest and staging does not occur during stage 1B. Instead, each Ent of Fangorn has a Quest Action on it:
Exhaust a hero you control to discard the top card of the encounter deck. If that hero’s is greater than the discarded card’s , place 1 resource here. Then, if there are 3 resources here, discard them to take control of Ent of Fangorn. Any player may trigger this effect.
Deck 1 will go first, exhausting Glorfindel, Eowyn, Aragorn, and Boromir. Glorfindel and Eowyn are both successful, putting 2 resources on one of the Ents of Fangorn. Aragorn and Boromir are not as fortunate.
Deck 2 will then exhaust Gandalf, Merry, and Beravor. Gandalf hits, adding the final resource to one of the copies of Ent of Fangorn. Deck 2 removes the resources and takes control of this Ent. Beravor also is successful, while Merry is not. This means another Ent of Fangorn has a single resource. I could start using Boromir’s ability to try to gain the 2 resources I need to claim this second Ent, but Boromir only has 1 willpower, so I might end up driving Deck 1’s threat quite a bit before I’m successful. Instead, I’ll be happy with the Ent I persuaded and move to the end of the round.
“You came to our aid in this great battle!” Boromir shouted in the darkness, the semi-circle of tall figures staring at him without expression. “You must stand by our side once more to cast down Saruman!”
Endless moments passed as the Ents talked among themselves in their strange and interminable language. Finally, the one known as Treebeard turned to them.
“You must not be hasty,” he said, his voice rumbling. “I too want to face the one who betrayed us, but some of my kin feel it may be a step too far. Your impatient ways only make them more wary.”
Glorfindel stepped forward and laid a hand gently on Boromir’s shoulder.
“Fangorn…Eldest,” he began slowly. “We do not wish to press you or your kin unjustly…but the need is great. Saruman stands as a threat to you all, and the wounds that he dealt to the trees you love so dearly will be long in healing, if ever they can truly be healed.”
Treebeard listened respectfully to the Elf. Gandalf nodded and raised his voice as well.
“It is true that in the wide years of the world, too little thought has been spared for the forests and woods by those who should know better,” he said, his voice carrying through the night. “Yet until the darkness of the Enemy and the treachery of Saruman is defeated, none will know peace, whether made of flesh and blood or root and leaves.”
Treebeard returned to his kind and they spoke for another long spell of time as Boromir paced restlessly and Merry nodded off to sleep against Eowyn’s side. Finally, several of the tall figures turned and strode off into the forest that had appears. Others, however, including Treebeard himself, remained.
“And?” Boromir asked. “Where are they going?”
“Not all of my kin were convinced, and our ways allow each to choose his doom,” Treebeard explained. “Many of us though have chosen another fate. To march on Isengard…the last march of the Ents!”
1 resource is placed on Rouse the Ents. I will then choose to advance to the next stage, revealing one encounter card for each resource on the stage. I reveal Snaga (44 engagement cost, 1 threat, 3 attack, 1 defense, 3 hit points)[Peril. Archery 1.] and Deck One discards Asfaloth from hand. Breaking Isengard becomes the new quest stage. Saruman (50 engagement cost, 4 threat, 6 attack, 4 defense, 6 hit points) and Orthanc (2 threat, 1 quest point). Gates of Isengard (3 threat, 1 quest point) becomes the active location. Progress on the stage is made by exploring non-unique locations (5 in total need to be explored, which represents destroying them).
The host of Ents led by Gandalf and the other heroes arrived at the Gates of Isengard. They found Isengard closed and barred to the outside world, ready for an attack. The only way forward to the final confrontation with Saruman would be to plunge forward with brute strength.
ROUND 2 (7 threat in staging area, -/- progress on 2B, 0 victory points, Active Location – Gates of Isengard [0/1 quest points], 0/5 damage on 2B)
**Staging Area – Snaga, Saruman, Orthanc**
DECK TWO PREPARATION (First Player) – 33 Threat
Resources: Gandalf – 1, Merry – 1, Beravor – 1, Aragorn – 1
New Hand: Booming Ent, Steward of Gondor, Anduril, Shadowfax, Boomed and Trumpeted, Asfaloth
Planning: I will use all 3 resources to pay for Shadowfax on Gandalf. It’s a hefty outlay of resources, but that action advantage for Gandalf is always crucial. I could have used an Aragorn resource, but I want to save those to power his ability later.
Resources: Gandalf – 0, Merry – 0, Beravor – 0, Aragorn – 1
Gandalf finished examining the gates before them.
“Come, I would finish this in another way, but it appears that Saruman will not submit without bloodshed.”
With that, he jumped onto Shadowfax’s back and took his place at the head of the small force.
DECK ONE PREPARATION – 28 Threat
Resources: Glorfindel – 1, Boromir – 1, Eowyn – 1
Draw: Captain of Gondor
New Hand: Westfold Horse-Breaker, Gondorian Discipline, The Galadhrim’s Greeting, Rivendell Blade, Gondorian Shield, A Test of Will, Captain of Gondor
Planning: I will play Gondorian Shield on Boromir, setting up my key defender. I will also pay 2 for Westfold Horse-breaker in case I need some extra readying.
Resources: Glorfindel – 0, Boromir – 0, Eowyn – 0
Boromir grabbed his large shield resolutely and strode forward towards the gates, not even waiting for the rest to follow. He began banging loudly on the metal and stone of the fortifications, shouting for Saruman to show his face.
I need to quest quite heavily in the early going to overcome the high early threat in the staging area. In fact, since neither Saruman or Orthanc can leave the staging area at this point, I will need to summon quite a bit of willpower. Deck Two will commit Gandalf (4 willpower for Beyond All Hope, I will exhaust Shadowfax to ready), Beravor (2 willpower), Aragorn (2 willpower) and Merry (2 willpower) for a total of 10 willpower. Deck One will commit Eowyn (4 willpower) for a total of 4 willpower. This is a total of 14 willpower against 7 threat in the staging area, which should be sufficient to clear out the active location at least.
Card 1.1: Followed by Night [Peril. Surge.] – Fortunately, there are no enemies in the discard pile, so this treachery whiffs.
Card 1.2: Underground Armoury (4 threat, 3 quest points) – I’m not happy to see this one as its threat is quite high and it adds shadow cards to enemies. Hopefully, I can travel to it right away.
Card 2: Blast of Sorcery – I will have to deal 3 damage among characters committed to the quest. I will spread the damage between Eowyn (2/3 hit points), Beravor (3/4 hit points), and Merry (1/2 hit points), as Gandalf and Aragorn will need their hit points later for defensive purposes.
My 14 willpower against 11 threat yields 3 progress. Since I quested successfully, I will have to trigger the Orthanc effect, which is looking at the top 3 encounter cards and choosing one to reveal.
Out of Ring-wall of Isengard, Steaming Vent, and Open Pit, I will choose the Ring-wall (2 threat, 2 quest points), which seems the most innocuous option.
My progress is good enough to clear the Gates of Isengard, adding it to the victory display. I have to resolve its forced effect, which puts into play an enemy engaged with each player. I will choose a Snaga for each deck, as they are on the weaker side, although there will be some archery damage.
As Boromir stopped the clamor, all was silent for a moment. Then, a blast of energy erupted from Orthanc and slammed into the ground at the feet of Merry, Beravor, and Eowyn, who were all lifted off the ground. Gandalf rushed to their side, finding them bruised and battered, but not seriously hurt. At this attack, Treebeard and the other Ents roared with rage and charged forward, ripping the gates to pieces in mere moments. Their wrath was terrible to behold. As the party strode forward through the gates, Aragorn could hear some of the Ents gasping in dismay. What had once been a circle of beauty had been transformed into an ugly blight of metal and gears and the remains of what had once been trees.
I will travel to the Underground Armoury to avoid the extra shadow cards.
Deck One will engage the Snaga in the staging area, since Boromir is around to handle some of the defensive load.
Orcs began to issue forth from pits in the ground, climbing over the edges and assaulting them from all sides.
There are 3 points of archery to deal with, and I will place that damage on the Ent of Fangorn (1/4 hit points remaining).
Gandalf will defend for Deck Two, taking 1 damage from the shadow card (4/5 hit points). Boromir will defend the first Snaga for Deck One. However, the shadow card is Grima (et tu, Grima?), which causes the attack to go undefended. I will place the 3 damage on Glorfindel (2/5 hit points remaining). The second attack goes a little better for Boromir after readying (29 threat), as he takes no damage.
Deck Two will destroy its Snaga with an Ent of Fangorn (4 attack – 1 defense = 3 damage). Glorfindel will attack and destroy one of the copies of Snaga (4 attack from Valiant Warrior – 1 defense = 3 damage) engaged with Deck One.
Gandalf blocked the attack of the first Orc, but the creature started grappling with the wizard, pulling him from his horse and trying to prevent him from attacking back when he rose. Boromir moved to ward off the rest of the Orcs, but unbeknownst to the heroes, a small man with a sickly complexion appeared suddenly behind Glorfindel while he was distracted and sunk a dagger in his side. The man, Grima Wormtongue himself, quickly disappeared over the edge of one of the pits before he could be captured. Glorfindel fought off the pain and struck down one Orc, while the Ents began to swing their limbs to and fro, sending unfortunate Orcs screaming through the air.
ROUND 3 (8 threat in staging area, -/- progress on 2B, 1 victory point, Active Location – Underground Armoury [0/3 quest points], 0/5 damage on 2B)
**Staging Area – Saruman, Orthanc, Ring-wall of Isengard**
DECK ONE PREPARATION (First Player) – 30 Threat
Resources: Glorfindel – 1, Boromir – 1, Eowyn – 1, Aragorn – 2
Draw: Light of Valinor
New Hand: Gondorian Discipline, The Galadhrim’s Greeting, Rivendell Blade, A Test of Will, Captain of Gondor, Light of Valinor
Planning: Light of Valinor will definitely help with questing, so I will immediately attach it to Glorfindel. I will also play Captain of Gondor on Boromir.
Resources: Glorfindel – 0, Boromir – 0, Eowyn – 1, Aragorn – 2
Glorfindel and Boromir stood side-by-side, ready to face the enemy.
DECK TWO PREPARATION – 34 Threat
Resources: Gandalf – 1, Merry – 1, Beravor – 1
Draw: Warden of Healing
New Hand: Booming Ent, Steward of Gondor, Anduril, Boomed and Trumpeted, Asfaloth, Warden of Healing
Planning: I won’t play anything for now, as I need to save up some resources.
Resources: Gandalf – 1, Merry – 1, Beravor – 1
Deck One will commit Eowyn (4 willpower), Glorfindel (3 willpower), and Aragorn (2 willpower) for a total of 9. Deck Two will commit Gandalf (4 willpower, exhausting Shadowfax to ready), Merry (2 willpower), and Beravor (2 willpower) for a total of 8. This is a combined total of 17 willpower against 8 threat in the staging area.
Card 1: Saruman’s Orders – This treachery would basically return the Snaga engaged with Deck One to the staging area and reveal another encounter card. Instead, I’ll cancel this one with A Test of Will. This might seem like an odd choice, but basically what this allows me to do is face one fewer encounter card this round.
Card 2.1: Poisoned Vapour [Surge.] – …Perhaps I should have saved that cancellation. This treachery exhausts each damaged character and blanks their text box until the end of combat. This exhausts Glorfindel, the Ent of Fangorn, and Gandalf. And it surges!
Card 2.2: Blast of Sorcery – Another 3 damage has to be dealt among questing characters. I will place a damage on Eowyn (1/3 hit points), Glorfindel (1/5 hit points), and Beravor (2/4 hit points).
With a bunch of treacheries revealed, I have definitely quested successfully, which means it’s time to trigger the Orthanc effect. I must choose between Steaming Vent, Open Pit, and Poisoned Vapour. I will choose Open Pit (2 threat, 3 quest points), which punishes card draw with threat gain (sorry Beravor). My 17 willpower against 8 threat is good enough for 9 progress. This clears Underground Armoury, adding a damage to the quest stage (1/5 to go). The wizardry effect requires each player to exhaust one character, so Deck One will exhaust Westfold Horse-breaker, while Deck Two has no one left that can exhaust.
In the distance, a commanding yet melodious voice could be heard issuing commands from the high tower. Some of the Orcs moved forward to obey, but Eowyn moved to stand beside Boromir and Glorfindel, unsheathing a slender sword that gleamed in the light. There was something in her countenance that gave the Orcs pause and they stopped to warily consider their next move. This was just the opening they needed to charge, making a break forward. However, a strange greenish vapour began to emit from vents in the earth to either side. Glorfindel and Gandalf, who had both taken wounds, seemed to suffer the worst from it, but all felt the foul air scorch their lungs as they hurried forward. Through the vapour, another blast of Saruman’s magic rent the ground next to them. As fallen comrades were pulled to their feet and the party left the vapour behind, they saw that a group of Ents had reached into the ground and ripped pieces of an underground armoury from the darkness, sending Orcs hurtling through the air as they did so.
I will travel to the Ring-wall of Isengard.
Some of the Ents began to focus their attention on tearing down pieces of the wall surrounding Isengard, making it easier for the rest of the attacking force to enter from all sides.
There is 1 point of archery damage, which I will place on Beravor (1/4 hit points).
Boromir will defend against the Snaga’s attack, taking no damage.
I will ready Boromir (raising threat to 31), and have him attack back for 2 points of damage (3 attack – 1 defense = 2 points of damage).
An Orc tried to break through Boromir’s defenses, but simply rebounded off the large shield. The warrior struck back with a shattering blow that sent the Orc reeling backwards, though he somehow managed to stay on his feet.
ROUND 4 (8 threat in staging area, -/- progress on 2B, 1 victory point, Active Location – Ring-wall of Isengard [0/2 quest points], 1/5 damage on 2B)
**Staging Area – Saruman, Orthanc, Open Pit**
DECK TWO PREPARATION (First Player) – 35 Threat
Resources: Gandalf – 2, Merry – 2, Beravor – 2, Aragorn – 3
Draw: Dagger of Westernesse
New Hand: Booming Ent, Steward of Gondor, Anduril, Boomed and Trumpeted, Asfaloth, Warden of Healing, Dagger of Westernesse
Planning: There is a copy of Steward of Gondor on top of my deck, so I will take advantage of that fact to allow Gandalf to play it, attaching it to Beravor and immediately exhausting it to give her another 2 resources. I will then use up Beravor’s resources to play a Warden of Healing, which should help with all the damage on the table, as well as Asfaloth on Glorfindel. Warden of Healing will exhaust to heal a damage each from Gandalf (5/5 hit points) and Eowyn (2/3 hit points). I will then pay 2 from Merry for Booming Ent. Finally, I will exhaust Beravor to have Deck One draw a couple of cards, which does increase its threat due to the Open Pit effect.
Resources: Gandalf – 0, Merry – 0, Beravor – 0, Aragorn – 3
As the battle raged, a smaller group of support forces joined the advancing party, led by the mysterious ranger Beravor. Gandalf, impressed by her poise at the Battle of Helm’s Deep, had trusted her with a command. She directed healers to begin tending to the wounded, while the rest began to clear the area of Orcs, holding the rear as the others flew forward.
DECK ONE PREPARATION – 34 Threat
Resources: Glorfindel – 1, Boromir – 1, Eowyn – 1
Draw: Elrond’s Counsel
New Hand: Gondorian Discipline, The Galadhrim’s Greeting, Rivendell Blade, Elrond’s Counsel
Planning: The draw from Beravor yielded Hama and Feint, both of which will help with combat. For now, though, I will save my resources.
Resources: Glorfindel – 1, Boromir – 1, Eowyn – 1
Deck Two will commit Gandalf (4 willpower, exhausting Shadowfax to ready), Merry (2 willpower), and Aragorn (2 willpower) for a total of 8. Deck One will commit Eowyn (4 willpower) and Glorfindel (3 willpower) for a total of 7. This is a combined total of 15 against 8 threat in the staging area. If all else fails, I can use Asfaloth to clear the active location.
Card 1.1: Saruman’s Orders – This time the treachery goes through, returning the Snaga to the staging area and revealing another encounter card.
Card 1.2: Pursued by the Enemy [Doomed 1.] – There are no engaged enemies, thanks to the previous treachery, so this is just going to raise each deck’s threat (up to 35 and 36 respectively) and then surge.
Card 1.3: Isengard Orc (29 engagement cost, 1 threat, 2 attack, 1 defense, 3 hit points) [Peril. Archery 1.] – This forces either a random discard or another encounter card. I’ll of course take the random discard for Deck Two, which ends up being Dagger of Westernesse.
Card 2: Saruman’s Voice [Peril. Doomed 2.] – This is a nasty bit of burden business for Deck One, as it will start putting a hefty card tax on one hero’s actions. I will attach it to Eowyn, as she doesn’t participate in combat and hopefully I can just hold her back from questing in the future, at least as much as is possible. The doomed also drives up threat even more (to 37 and 38 respectively).
Deck One will use Elrond’s Counsel to lower its threat a bit (down to 34). My 15 willpower against 9 threat is good enough to quest successfully, which triggers the Orthanc effect. Choosing from two copies of Ring-wall of Isengard and a Lieutenant of Orthanc, I will definitely add one of the Ring-walls (2 threat, 2 quest points). The active location is cleared, discarding a random card from each player (Rivendell Blade from Deck One, Boomed and Trumpeted from Deck Two). I will then use Asfaloth to clear the newly added Ring-wall, causing another random discard (The Galadhrim’s Greeting from Deck One, Dagger of Westernesse from Deck Two). More importantly, there are now 3 damage tokens on stage 2B.
The battle raged as pursuing Orcs tried to break through Beravor’s rear guard, while wicked arrows harried the vanguard from all sides. Gandalf spotted a group of Orc archers hidden behind crumbled fortifications, peeking forth to loose arrows at them at opportune moments. Meanwhile, a group of Ents had torn a huge hole in the walls of Isengard. Glorfindel whistled for his horse, leaping astride it as it passed, and charged forward into a section of massed defenders and hasty barricades, smashing them aside. As the others moved closer to Orthanc, the voice on the air seemed to achieve a sudden clarity. It wasn’t giving orders this time, but instead was speaking to each of them in turn. Gandalf paused in alarm.
“Do not listen to his voice!” Gandalf shouted. “Saruman’s words may seem wise and true but they are laced with treachery.”
Some covered their ears, some threw themselves into the fray as a distraction. Eowyn, though, stood motionless for several moments.
“Daughter of Rohan, ever have I been a friend to your people,” the voice said reasonably. “You are far from home. But unlike your false companions, I would never say that your place is not here. You deserve not just to sit at the side of kings, but to wear the crown yourself. Put down your arms, come here and we can talk like Theoden and I did of old.”
She began to walk forward towards the tower, her sword limp at her side…
I will travel to Open Pit.
Deck One will engage the Snaga while Deck Two will engage the Isengard Orc.
The archery total is at 2, and I will place a damage each on Eowyn (1/3 hit points) and the Booming Ent (2/3 hit points).
Gandalf will defend against the Isengard Orc, taking no damage. Boromir will defend against the Snaga, taking no damage.
The Ent of Fangorn will easily take care of the Isengard Orc (4 attack – 1 defense = 3 damage), while Glorfindel will take care of the Snaga (4 attack – 1 defense = 3 damage).
Gandalf charged forward on Shadowfax, forcing the line of Orc archers from their hiding place. One cast aside his bow and slashed at the wizard with his sword, but the blow was ably parried. As the Orc raised his weapon to strike once more, it was sent flying through the air by the swinging limb of an Ent.
From the rear, one of the Snaga Orcs burst through the line, but Boromir somehow sensed the danger. He whirled and blocked the slash with his shield, then knocked it aside with his sword arm. It reeled back, right onto the waiting sword of Glorfindel, who had dismounted from his horse.
ROUND 5 (6 threat in staging area, -/- progress on 2B, 1 victory point, Active Location – Open Pit [0/3 quest points], 3/5 damage on 2B)
**Staging Area – Saruman, Orthanc**
DECK ONE PREPARATION (First Player) – 35 Threat
Resources: Glorfindel – 2, Boromir – 2, Eowyn – 2, Aragorn – 4
New Hand: Gondorian Discipline, Hama, Feint, Feint
Planning: There still aren’t many options here, as I mostly have events in hand. Beravor will exhaust to draw 2 cards for this deck, which turn out to be Arwen Undomiel and The White Council. That’s more like it! I will play Arwen for 2. This is a great draw, as she not only will add to my willpower and bump up defense, but she crucially gives Boromir sentinel, allowing him to defend for both sides of the board.
Resources: Glorfindel – 0, Boromir – 2, Eowyn – 2, Aragorn – 4
A cloaked figure appeared at Beravor’s side at the head of the rear guard. As the hood was drawn back, the figure had long black hair and the breathtaking Elven grace so reminiscent of Luthien the Fair. It was Arwen Undomiel, and she had accompanied the party once more to lend her wisdom bred of long years to the battle against the powerful and treacherous wizard.
DECK TWO PREPARATION – 39 Threat
Resources: Gandalf – 1, Merry – 1, Beravor – 3 (additional resources from Steward)
Draw: Derndingle Warrior
New Hand: Anduril, Derndingle Warrior
Planning: First, I will exhaust the Warden to heal a damage each from Eowyn (2/3 hit points) and Beravor (2/4 hit points). Then, I will pay 3 resources from Beravor to play Anduril on Aragorn.
Resources: Gandalf – 1, Merry – 1, Beravor – 0
Aragorn nodded at Arwen in recognition. He would not speak against her presence as he had in the past, experience and a newly won respect had taught him the folly of that. Instead, he turned forward and used Anduril to point towards the tower of Orthanc, leading the charge once more.
Deck One will commit Arwen (2 willpower, +1 defense and sentinel to Boromir), Aragorn (3 willpower), and Glorfindel (3 willpower) for a total of 8. Deck Two will commit Merry (2 willpower). This is a total of 10 willpower against 6 threat in the staging area.
Card 1: Machines of Isengard – The current wizardry effect on the active location increases the threat of each player by 2 (up to 37 and 41 respectively).
Card 2: Wolf of Isengard (25 engagement cost, 2 threat, 3 attack, 1 defense, 4 hit points) – The Wolf is one of the nastier enemies in the quest, as it either discards a card from hand (remember that Saruman can defeat the players during the last stage by removing all cards from their hand) or makes an additional attack if a wizardry effect is on its shadow card.
10 willpower against 8 threat is good for 2 progress on the active location. Since I quested successfully, the Orthanc effect triggers. Picking from Machines of Isengard, Underground Armoury, and Plain of Isengard, I will choose Plain of Isengard (2 threat, 3 quest points), since I will need a final location to clear. Finally, I will exhaust Asfaloth to put the last progress on Open Pit, clearing it and increasing the threat of each player by 2 once more (to 39 and 43 respectively). There is now 4 damage on stage 2B.
The Ents, working together with the rest of the sieging force, sent arrows and boulders down into the largest open pit. Orcish howls emitted from the dark as they were crushed beneath, and soon the pit was completely filled.
As the lead company charged forward, a strange sound began emanating from the pits and rents in the ground. Gandalf peeked over the edge to see the strange machines of Saruman churn into motion, gears drawing forth belching fire from the earth. Some of the Ents retreated fearfully from the flames. At the same time, war engines rolled forth, massive arrows aimed at the attacking army.
Meanwhile, the Orcs were beginning to fall back when howls echoed through the ring of Isengard. Huge wolves issued forth from the tower, tearing through whatever flesh was unfortunate to stand in their path.
I will travel to Plain of Isengard.
As Aragorn led the party past the last gashed in the earth, they found only a large plain filled with foes as the last barrier between them and Saruman in his tower.
Deck One will optionally engage the Wolf of Isengard, and Boromir will exhaust Captain of Gondor.
I will use Feint to stop the Wolf’s attack, so that I don’t have to deal with the consequences of the shadow card having a wizardry effect.
Glorfindel and Boromir will team up to destroy the Wolf of Isengard (8 attack – 1 defense = 7 damage).
The largest wolf tore through two men, tossing their lifeless forms carelessly aside. It then turned its gaze upon Boromir, the strongest of the warriors. Boromir lunged to the right, drawing the wolf to that side. As it leaped forward to fall upon him, Boromir quickly spun and pivoted to the left, leaving the creature momentarily off-balance. That moment of pause was all that was needed, as Boromir and Glorfindel fell upon it from both sides, sending it to the ground with a few precise strokes.
ROUND 6 (6 threat in staging area, -/- progress on 2B, 1 victory point, Active Location – Plain of Isengard [0/3 quest points], 4/5 damage on 2B)
**Staging Area – Saruman, Orthanc**
DECK TWO PREPARATION (First Player) – 44 Threat
Resources: Gandalf – 2, Merry – 2, Beravor – 3 (additional resources from Steward), Aragorn – 5
Draw: Steward of Gondor
New Hand: Derndingle Warrior, Steward of Gondor
Planning: First, I will pay 2 for Derndingle Warrior, then 2 for a copy of Warden of Healing that is on top of my deck. I will then use both copies of Warden of Healing, removing 2 damage from Beravor (4/4 hit points) and 1 each from Eowyn (3/3 hit points) and Glorfindel (2/5 hit points). Then, I will exhaust Beravor to get some more options into Deck Two’s hand, drawing Treebeard and Gandalf’s Staff. The latter is just the kind of tool I was looking for, so I will pay 2 from Gandalf’s pool to immediately attach it as my last bit of planning.
Resources: Gandalf – 0, Merry – 0, Beravor – 1, Aragorn – 5
As they approached closer to the tower, Gandalf sheathed his sword and grabbed his staff tightly with two hands, ready to face the worst that Saruman could offer. Beravor continued to direct the support behind the lines, shouting orders and warnings over the din of battles.
DECK ONE PREPARATION – 40 Threat
Resources: Glorfindel – 1, Boromir – 2, Eowyn – 3
Draw: Honour Guard
New Hand: Gondorian Discipline, Hama, Feint, Honour Guard
Planning: I will play Honour Guard to the table in a bid to help manage damage going forward. I will also get Hama to the table with an eye towards the final battle with Saruman.
Resources: Glorfindel – 0, Boromir – 0, Eowyn – 1
Theoden had been instructed to remain aloof from the worst of the fighting in order to heal wounds suffered at Helm’s Deep, despite his heated protests to the contrary. However, he had chosen this moment to indulge in a small bit of defiance, as members of his personal guard, led by Hama, joined the fray on his orders, ready to carry the king’s banner forward in his absence.
Deck Two will commit Gandalf (4 willpower, using Shadowfax to ready) and Aragorn (3 willpower) for a total of 7 willpower. Deck One will commit Arwen (2 willpower, +1 defense and sentinel to Boromir) and Glorfindel (3 willpower) for a total of 5 willpower. This is a total of 12 willpower against 6 threat in the staging area.
Card 1: Lieutenant of Orthanc (36 engagement cost, 3 threat, 4 attack, 3 defense, 5 hit points) – Not loving this draw so close to the final battle. The Lieutenant is the hardest enemy in the deck, but fortunately my heroes are fairly powered up at this point.
Card 2.1: Poisoned Vapour [Surge.] – This treachery really hurts. It exhausts Glorfindel, Booming Ent, Ent of Fangorn, and Merry. And for the final knife to the gut, the thing surges on top of it.
Card 2.2: Wolf of Isengard (25 engagement cost, 2 threat, 3 attack, 1 defense, 4 hit points) – Unfortunately all the enemies are showing up during the same turn that four of my characters have been exhausted by a single treachery. It looks like Boromir will be busy.
My 12 willpower against 11 threat is good for 1 progress. This triggers the Orthanc effect. I choose Blast of Sorcery from Machines of Isengard, Blast of Sorcery, and Pursued by the Enemy, since I have healers around to help deal with the damage. I will place 2 of the damage on Eowyn (1/3 hit points) and 1 on Glorfindel (1/5 hit points). Finally, I will exhaust Asfaloth to finish exploring Plain of Isengard, which causes each player to discard an ally from the wizardry effect. Deck Two will discard one of the copies of Warden of Healing, while Deck One will discard the Westfold Horse-breaker.
It was then that the heroes noticed Eowyn’s unnatural gait, her sword hanging uselessly at her side as she strode forward into the waiting arms of the enemy. On the plains before the tower was arrayed a large force of Orcs, led by a commander that was larger than the rest. A wolf was at his side, and he slapped it on its side, sending it cantering forward with blind ferocity. Aragorn and the others were forced to charge recklessly forward onto the open ground in order to meet the Orc force. As they did so, more poisonous vapour gushed forth from a hidden fissure, this time so thick that many fell to their knees, coughing violently with each breath.
More importantly, the quest stage now advances to 3 – The Voice of Saruman. Each player now draws 6 cards, and each player with more than 6 cards discards down to 6. Deck One draws Ethir Swordsman, The White Council, Galadriel’s Handmaiden, Ethir Swordsman, Galadriel’s Handmaiden, and The White Council. Deck Two draws Wizard Pipe, Derndingle Warrior, Entmoot, A Good Harvest, Flame of Anor, and Wellinghall Preserver. Deck One will discard The White Council and Galadriel’s Handmaiden to drop back to 6. Deck Two will discard Steward of Gondor and A Good Harvest to drop back to 6.
Saruman also has Saruman’s Staff attached, which causes Saruman to attack whenever a player draws cards (this does include the normal draw at the beginning of a turn). Traveling to Orthanc is how the first player can be considered engaged with Saruman in order to attack and damage him, which is necessary to win (players cannot win while Saruman has any hit points remaining). Of course, a player is eliminated if they run out of cards, so that’s something I will need to keep an eye on.
As they came closer to the tower, they could see Saruman himself standing at the top of the steps, holding his staff aloft. His voice grew more persistent.
“King of Gondor,” said the voice to Aragorn. “The rightful king. It’s time to take up your mantle. But why do you let a bedraggled wizard guide you, lead you, you who should be peerless. Come speak with me, and I will show you what you need to know to truly rule.”
Aragorn felt a pull against his will, and was surprised to find his sword arm lowering of its own volition. He steeled himself and raised it high in the air for all to see.
“Do not waste your breath, speaker of lies!” Aragorn shouted.
The spell over Eowyn seemed to be broken for a moment, but then her brow furrowed once more, a sign of a struggle deep within.
I won’t travel to Orthanc quite yet as I don’t have the manpower to face Saruman at the moment.
Deck Two will engage the Lieutenant of Orthanc while Deck One will engage the Wolf of Isengard (Captain of Gondor exhausts).
Gandalf will use his staff to discard the shadow card from Wolf of Isengard. He will then defend against the Lieutenant, taking no damage (4 attack – 4 defense = 0 damage). Deck Two will also use this moment to play Entmoot, pulling copies of Booming Ent and Wellinghall Preserver. On the other side of the board, Boromir will defend against the Wolf of Isengard, taking no damage.
I unfortunately don’t have the bodies to counter-attack against the Lieutenant of Orthanc, but Boromir (readies, raising threat to 41) and Hama will team up to take down the Wolf (6 attack – 1 defense = 5 damage).
Gandalf raised his staff in the air, and a white light burst forth from it, blinding the wolf enough that it swerved, bouncing harmlessly off Boromir’s shield. Hama caught it off guard with a quick sword slash, and Boromir cut out its legs from under it. The huge Orc commander followed closely on its heels. It seemed as if the Orc would challenge Aragorn, but after seeing the wizard’s display, he turned his stride towards Gandalf instead. The Orc’s sword curved wickedly towards the wizard’s unprotected head, but Gandalf blocked blow after blow with his staff, which never bent and would not break despite the tremendous strength of the foe. A quick strike from the staff sent the Orc commander to the ground unconscious.
ROUND 7 (6 threat in staging area, 0/15 progress on 3B, 1 victory point, Active Location – None)
**Staging Area – Saruman (with Staff), Orthanc**
DECK ONE PREPARATION (First Player) – 42 Threat
Resources: Glorfindel – 1, Boromir – 2, Eowyn – 3, Aragorn – 6
Draw: Gondorian Shield
New Hand: Gondorian Discipline, Feint, Ethir Swordsman, The White Council, Galadriel’s Handmaiden, Ethir Swordsman, Gondorian Shield
Planning: The first order of business is to defend the attack from Saruman for drawing a card. Boromir will defend, minus the bonus from Arwen, since I haven’t had a chance to exhaust her yet. Saruman receives 2 shadow cards and if any of them have a wizardry effect, it triggers. The first shadow card whiffs, but the second is Poisoned Vapours, which means I have to discard a non-objective attachment. I will get rid of Captain of Gondor, which is the least important at the moment. Boromir would take 2 damage from the attack (6 attack – 4 defense = 2 damage), but I will use Gondorian Discipline to cancel this damage.
For planning, my main priority is getting willpower on the board to quickly churn through the 15 quest points. To that end, I will play a copy of Ethir’s Swordsman.
Resources: Glorfindel – 0, Boromir – 1, Eowyn – 0, Aragorn – 6
With their commander laid low, the rest of the Orc force quickly crumbled before the assault. Now nothing stood before the heroes and the tower. Saruman stood waiting, betraying no sign of panic or fear. Arwen had to hold Eowyn back to stop her from rushing to the wizard’s side. The rest of the company stopped, unwilling to be too hasty or eager. Finally, though, Boromir stepped forward.
“Enough of this,” he exclaimed. “Let this end now!”
“Boromir, wait!” cried Gandalf.
He was already halfway up the stairs when Saurman raised his staff. Boromir stopped all at once, as if he had run into wall of stone. He dropped to his knees and began gasping for air.
“Your pride and arrogance should have ended you long before this, warrior of Gondor,” Saruman said mockingly. “You aren’t meant to be here, and I will soon remedy that!”
It was only Boromir’s force of will and long years of training and discipline that gave him the strength to fight against Saruman’s spell. He struggled to his feet and slowly backed down the stairs to join the others.
DECK TWO PREPARATION – 45 Threat
Resources: Gandalf – 1, Merry – 1, Beravor – 4 (additional resources from Steward)
Draw: The Three Hunters
New Hand: Treebeard, Wizard Pipe, Derndingle Warrior, Flame of Anor, Wellinghall Preserver, Booming Ent, Wellinghall Preserver, The Three Hunters
Planning: First, Gandalf will defend against Saruman’s attack. One of the shadow cards has a wizardry effect that deals 2 damage, which I will place on Booming Ent (1/3 hit points) and Beravor (3/4 hit points). Gandalf will take 2 damage (6 attack – 4 defense = 2 damage)(4/5 hit points), but Honour Guard exhausts to cancel one of those points of damage.
For planning, I will exhaust Gandalf’s Staff to add a resource to Gandalf. Then, I will pay 2 from Gandalf’s pool to play A Burning Brand from the top of my deck onto Gandalf himself. Next, I will pay 4 from Beravor to play Treebeard, who enters play exhausted. Finally, I will exhaust the remaining Warden to heal a damage each from Gandalf (5/5 hit points) and Eowyn (2/3 hit points).
Resources: Gandalf – 0, Merry – 1, Beravor – 0
“And you, lord of fools and sower of false hopes?” Saruman called out as Boromir retreated, turning his gaze upon Gandalf. “You may have changed the color of your robes, but do you really think that makes you a match for me?”
“I did not come all this way to bandy words with you,” Gandalf retorted. “I came here to give you one last chance to see reason.”
“Or what?” Saruman said.
His words were laced with a sudden venom, shed suddenly of any pleasing notes. Gandalf did not answer, letting the silence across the plain, punctuated by sounds of the Ent army destroying Isengard piece by piece, say everything he needed to. Saruman’s face twisted in a sudden fury and he let a burst of energy loose. A flame burst from atop Gandalf’s staff, and he used it to block the spell. Some of it lanced past his defenses, though, singing his robes. A nearby guard tried valiantly to come to the wizard’s aid, despite Gandalf’s protestations, and the energy leaped into his body, sending him to the ground. Finally, Gandalf cast aside the last bits of Saruman’s magic, and took several steps forward.
“Flame was ever a weapon against the darkness,” he said. “Don’t you remember, Saruman?”
He took his first steps upon the stairs.
“The Secret Fire. You used to serve it once.”
At that moment, Treebeard joined the party at the base of the tower, the victory over the defending forces scattered throughout Isengard nearly complete.
I want to quest through as quickly as possible so that I can end the scenario before Saruman can do some permanent damage. Deck One will commit Arwen (2 willpower, +1 defense and sentinel to Boromir), Glorfindel (3 willpower), Eowyn (4 willpower, discard Gondorian Shield to Saruman’s Voice), Aragorn (3 willpower), and Ethir Swordsman (2 willpower) for a total of 14 willpower. Deck Two will commit Merry (2 willpower) and Beravor (2 willpower) for a total of 4. This is a grand total of 18 willpower against 6 threat in the staging area.
Card 1: Blast of Sorcery – My old friend returns. I will deal 3 damage among questing characters, choosing to place 1 each on Arwen (1/2 hit points), Eowyn (1/3 hit points), and Beravor (2/4 hit points).
Card 2: Snaga (44 engagement cost, 1 threat, 3 attack, 1 defense, 3 hit points)[Peril. Archery 1.] – The “when revealed” effect discards Booming Ent from Deck Two’s hand, adding 2 threat to the Snaga.
There is 18 willpower against 9 threat in the staging area. This is a total of 9 progress on stage 3B. To fulfill the Orthanc effect, I will choose Open Pit (2 threat, 3 quest points) and add it to the staging area.
Gandalf’s first step upon the stairs seemed to steel the resolve of the rest of the company. One by one they joined him in defiance of Saruman. Eowyn broke from Arwen’s grip for a moment, but instead of rushing to stand by Saruman, she finally raised her sword up once more. A cruel smile crossed Saruman’s face, and he let forth a blast of energy once more. Rubble from the broken stairs peppered the party and cut their flesh with jagged edges, but they continued forward resolutely. With a gesture of his hand, several Orcs emerged from the tower and charged down the steps, a final reserve of Saruman’s once grand army.
I won’t travel to Orthanc yet, as I need to time the final battle for after full progress has been placed on the quest stage, so that I can win out during the combat phase. I also want Deck Two to be the first player at that point, as it will have the most damage potential.
Deck One will optionally engage the Snaga.
I will assign the 1 point of archery damage to Treebeard (4/5 hit points).
Boromir will defend against the Snaga (after readying, increasing threat to 43), taking no damage. Gandalf will defend against the Lieutenant of Orthanc, taking no damage
Glorfindel will attack and destroy the Snaga (4 attack – 1 defense = 3 damage). For Deck Two, Booming Ent and Ent of Fangorn will combine to destroy the Lieutenant of Mordor (9 attack – 3 defense = 6 damage).
As Boromir and Glorfindel plowed into the pack of Orcs, cutting them down like wheat before the scythe, the supposedly fallen Orc commander surprised the company, grappling Gandalf from behind. However, the wizard pressed the flame from his staff against the greenish skin of the Orc. The commander howled in pain and took several steps back, clutching his arm. Unbeknownst to him, he stumbled right into the path of two Ents. They picked the Orc commander up like a child’s toy and dashed him against the side of the tower.
ROUND 8 (8 threat in staging area, 9/15 progress on 3B, 1 victory point, Active Location – None)
**Staging Area – Saruman (with Staff), Orthanc, Open Pit**
DECK TWO PREPARATION (First Player) – 46 Threat
Resources: Gandalf – 1, Merry – 2, Beravor – 3 (additional resources from Steward), Aragorn – 7
Draw: The Three Hunters
New Hand: Wizard Pipe, Derndingle Warrior, Flame of Anor, Wellinghall Preserver, Wellinghall Preserver, The Three Hunters, The Three Hunters
Planning: First, Gandalf will defend against Saruman’s attack. One of the shadow cards has a wizardry effect that forces a character to exhaust, and I will choose Derndingle Warrior. Gandalf will take 2 damage (6 attack – 4 defense = 2 damage), but Honour Guard exhausts to cancel one of those points of damage (4/5 hit points).
For planning, I will play Derndingle Warrior using Merry’s resources and Wellinghall Preserver using Beravor’s resources. I will also exhaust Warden of Healing to remove 1 damage each from Gandalf (5/5 hit points) and Eowyn (2/3 hit points).
Resources: Gandalf – 1, Merry – 0, Beravor – 0, Aragorn – 7
Once more Saruman directed his ire at Gandalf, hot energy seeking its way around the wizard’s defenses. Gandalf grimaced as he summoned every ounce of his concentration, ultimately weathering the storm. Only the very observant would have noticed that the fingers holding his staff were charred and black. Behind Treebeard, the other Ents began to gather behind Treebeard, shaking Saruman’s concentration for a moment.
DECK ONE PREPARATION – 44 Threat
Resources: Glorfindel – 1, Boromir – 2, Eowyn – 1
New Hand: Feint, The White Council, Galadriel’s Handmaiden, Ethir Swordsman, Hama
Planning: Boromir will defend the attack from Saruman. One wizardry effect deals 2 damage, which I will place on Honour Guard (1/3 hit points). The effect deals 2 damage to Boromir (6 attack – 4 defense = 2 damage)(3/5 hit points).
For planning, I will pay 2 to play Galadriel’s Handmaiden, lowering Deck Two’s threat to 45.
Resources: Glorfindel – 0, Boromir – 2, Eowyn – 0
Boromir rushed forward, seeking to draw Saruman’s attention from Gandalf. The plan worked, as the charging warrior proved too tempting a target. The blast of fire would have killed Boromir at once if he didn’t have the presence of mind to throw his shield up in time. As it was, the force knocked him to the ground for a moment, but he pulled himself to his feet. The soldier next to him was not so lucky. He was motionless, scorch marks cutting through steel armor.
I need to place the last 6 progress on stage 2B so that I can put the needed damage on Saruman and win this round. At least that’s my plan. To that end, I need to send enough willpower to meet my goal, while leaving back enough attack power for Deck Two to deal with Saruman. Deck Two will commit Gandalf (4 willpower), Aragorn (3 willpower), and Merry (2 willpower) for a total of 9. Deck One will commit Glofindel (3 willpower), Eowyn (4 willpower, Hama discarded from Saruman’s Voice), Arwen (2 willpower, +1 defense and sentinel to Boromir), Ethir Swordsman (2 willpower), and Galadriel’s Handmaiden (2 willpower) for a total of 13. This is a grand total of 22 against 8 threat in the staging area. As a final coup de grace, I will play the fantastic Fellowship event, The Three Hunters, which has saved my bacon in the past.
I will choose to ready Aragorn, Gandalf, and Merry, and all of their stats will be boosted by 1 until the end of the round, which will prove invaluable for the battle against Saruman. This also means my total willpower is now 25.
Card 1.1: Followed by Night [Peril. Surge.] – This is absolutely terrible timing for this burden to show up, as it will put Lieutenant of Orthanc back into play from the discard pile, engaged with Deck Two. This will strain its ability to deal with Saruman.
Card 1.2: Isengard Orc (29 engagement cost, 1 threat, 2 attack, 1 defense, 3 hit points) – Deck Two will randomly discard Wellinghall Preserver from hand.
Card 2: Wolf of Isengard (25 engagement cost, 2 threat, 3 attack, 1 defense, 4 hit points) – Once again, the encounter deck proves that it is sentient, flooding the board with enemies when I can least afford it. Hopefully, I’ll have enough in the tank to see this through. As long as I can defend everything and put the needed damage no Saruman, that’s all that matters.
25 willpower against 11 threat is good for 14 progress. First, I will trigger the Orthanc effect, choosing Blast of Sorcery from Grima, Isengard Orc, and Blast of Sorcery. I will place 1 damage each on Hama (1/2 hit points), Wellinghall Preserver (2/3 hit points), and Derndingle Warrior (2/3 hit points). 14 progress places me at 23 progress on stage 2B, which is more than enough for victory if I can defeat Saruman.
A silent understanding and quick nod was all it took to send Aragorn and Gandalf racing up the stairs at separate angles. They knew it was risky to open themselves up to Saruman in this way, but it was better than being picked off one by one. This way, the treacherous wizard might be overwhelmed. The others took their cue, charging in their wake, even the diminutive Hobbit Merry, who had somehow gone unnoticed throughout much of the battle, but had been helping in his own way.
As if responding to their master’s desperation, the Orcs on the steps redoubled their efforts, fighting furiously to cut off the advance. Saruman unleashed spell after spell at the oncoming company, his once melodious voice now turned to shouts of hatred. Improbably, the Orc commander that had seemingly been slain had risen to his feet once more to join the attack.
Now is the time to finally travel to Orthanc.
Deck Two will engage the Isengard Orc, while Deck One will engage Wolf of Isengard.
I will assign the 1 point of archery damage to Derndingle Warrior (1/3 hit points).
Gandalf will defend against Saruman, taking 1 damage (6 attack – 5 defense = 1 damage)(4/5 hit points). The wizardry effect discards The Three Hunters from hand. Aragorn will defend against the Isengard Orc, taking no damage (2 attack – 4 defense = 0 damage). I will exhaust Anduril to have Aragorn strike back and destroy the Isengard Orc (5 attack – 1 defense = 4 damage). Treebeard will defend against the Lieutenant of Orthanc, taking 1 damage (4 attack – 3 defense = 1 damage)(3/5 hit points). Aragorn will ready Boromir using his ability, and then Boromir will defend the attack from Wolf of Isengard, taking no damage (3 attack – 5 defense = 0 damage). Since the shadow card has a wizardry effect, Deck One will discard a card from hand.
It’s time to make Saruman pay for his treachery! Deck Two will exhaust Merry (2 attack), Ent of Fangorn (4 attack), and Booming Ent (7 attack) for a total of 13 attack. This is enough to put 9 damage on Saruman, winning the game!
Gandalf got to grips with Saruman at last, swinging his staff in a long arc. However, Saruman’s staff had grown white hot with power and he fought off the blow, landing one of his own against Gandalf’s chest.
“Even at the end, you fail to understand the truth of Power,” Saruman said. “You may have your small victories, but it is as insects against the tide of the ocean; those without strength will be swept away.”
“That may be,” Gandalf replied. “But your part in the story is over.”
“It is still not too late Gandalf. Sauron would not be able to resist the temptation of our alliance; he would offer a place of pride at his side.”
“You know my answer.”
“Fool! You would choose this rabble, this band of simpletons who barely know the shape of their own noses over the wide wisdom of Sauron? The things we could learn, Gandalf!”
“There is something of import you could learn, Saruman, but it is not from the Enemy. It is from those you deride, those you dismiss…”
As the battle between Saruman and Gandalf continued, Aragorn sought to keep the Orcs from falling upon the wizard’s back. A smaller Orc sought to run him through with a jagged sword, but Aragorn easily parried the blow, quickly turning his blade to find the heart of the creature. Boromir found himself encircled by a small pack of wolves, but he moved with unending stamina, blocking each maw that tried to snatch at his flesh with that shield, now marked with dents and scratches of every kind. The Orc commander looked greedily to attack Aragorn and Boromir from behind, but Treebeard’s war cry was like the rumbling of the earth as he grabbed the large orc, holding him limply in one place as if he were a small rodent.
“…from the smallest amongst us,” finished Gandalf, looking past Saruman.
Saruman stared, grasping for comprehension for a moment, then he turned. But it was too late. Merry’s small dagger struck Saruman’s hand, knocking the staff from his grasp at last. Behind Merry were two large Ents, both of which were dotted with arrows and wearing expressions about as angry as an Ent would ever wear.
“You betrayed us, wizard!” one of them boomed. “You murdered our friends, cut them down. Perverted the forest for your machines!”
With that last word, the two Ents grasped for Saruman. He began to flee, and the arms like branches of the Ents propelled him forward to the top of the steps. He fell heavily, and when he came to his feet, his face was covered in blood and grime. He looked as if he were searching for one last cutting remark, one last moment of brilliant persuasion, but at the last, words failed him. Saruman turned and fled as quickly as he could through the open doorway of Orthanc before the Ents could pin him down. The doors closed shut just as he passed through. Seeing their master defeated, the remaining Orcs either fled or laid down their weapons and surrendered. Try as they might, no sword or shield or Entish limb was enough to allow the heroes to make a dent in the doors of the tower.
“It is no use, my friend,” Gandalf explained to Treebead. “This tower was made to endure the worst of cataclysms, and it has been bolstered by Saruman’s power.”
“Then what should we do, Gandalf?” rumbled the Ent.
“Let him stay in his tower for as long as he likes. His power is broken. His army is scattered. We will not have more to fear from him. If you could do one last favor though, friend, keep an eye on him. As long as you and your people are here to keep watch…”
“He will not leave without consequence, that I can promise,” said Treebeard.
“Good, good,” said Gandalf, smiling at last as he turned to face the others. “Now, Boromir. Aragorn. About that small matter of the White City…”
In terms of campaign resolution, I earn both the burden Saruman’s Voice for having a player with 3 or fewer cards in hand and the boon Palantir of Orthanc for having a player with 3 or more cards in hand.
Eowyn looked weary from the ordeal, but she had finally shaken off the effects of Saruman’s voice and done her part in the final battle. All, however, seemed haunted by Saruman’s words and promises of their inevitable defeat. There was too much truth amidst the lies for them to be easily dismissed.
As Aragorn searched the rubble and ruins around Orthanc, he came across a strange sphere, black as the deepest sea. It had been flung from the height of the tower by Grima Wormtongue himself, in a failed attempt to use it as a weapon. Of course, he did not understand its true significance, and Aragorn could hear shouts and curses from above as Saruman discovered just what had been jettisoned. Aragorn showed the orb to Gandalf, then put the artifact carefully away, until such time as it might prove useful…
Thus concludes the epic expansion The Treason of Saruman! I really quite enjoy The Road to Isengard scenario, as it provides a fitting conclusion to the box and an intriguing fight against Saruman that doesn’t just rely on pumping up an enemy with insane stats. The quest doesn’t necessarily ask for one specific answer, rather it requires decks to do many things well at once. Beravor, however, was quite helpful, even though I only used her ability a few times, to not only search for important cards, but also to counteract the way the scenario hates on players’ hands. Overall, the decks performed superbly once again, as they did versus Helm’s Deep, and I’m hopeful that they can continue to perform against tough scenarios. The Ents in particular proved quite useful to provide tons of attack power and hit points for a low cost. The combination of Gandalf and Boromir on either side of the table is really powerful as a set of defensive solutions, and having a solid defensive gameplan is so often the key to victory. All around, there is plenty of action advantage, between Shadowfax, Light of Valinor, and Boromir, which is another crucial part of beating tough scenarios. Neither deck really relies on spawning a huge army of allies, actually, and the onus is placed more on the heroes. However, the toughest challenge yet looms for these decks, when I pick them up for Flame of the West.
Next up, though, is The Land of Shadow expansion, which sees the official TftC campaign return to Frodo and his quest to destroy the Ring. This will pose the most difficult dilemma yet, not in terms of gameplay necessarily, but in terms of storytelling and deck building. In the books, Frodo’s journey is marked by relative solitude and stealth. However, I have the job of building two-handed decks involving many characters that can somehow still tell a similar story of a journey into Mordor in a satisfying way. At the same time, these decks also need to be able to handle some difficult scenarios. Wish me luck as I plot the next course for the campaign, and I hope you enjoyed this installment!