Hirluin the Fair

When Fantasy Flight Games released the Heirs of Númenor deluxe expansion and promised the Against the Shadow cycle would focus on the kingdom of Gondor, the anticipation of many fans began peaking for a hero card of Faramir, a powerful Denethor ally, and a manly Gondorian synergy that could rival the Dáin-driven Dwarves.  Therefore, when Lead Developer Caleb Grace wrote a letter to fans in the announcement article for “The Steward’s Fear” enthusing about “the new Outlands trait”, many were confused.  Were Mr. Grace and his team trying to Brok Ironfist us with another FFG invention?  What is an Outlander?  Are we still talking about a race of Men in a Tolkien novel or a space Viking in a sci-fi movie?

The initial Outlands ally, the Hunter of Lamedon did little to answer these questions or stoke excitement, with his lame stats and (at the time) useless ability.  But once “The Steward’s Fear” hit, the full might of the Outlanders were upon us and the Dwarves have indeed found a challenger for most powerful deck archetype.  Today we’re going to travel to the outer fiefs of Gondor, confirming that these characters are a part of Tolkien’s legendarium and exploring their role in the professor’s lore.  Prepare to ford the seven rivers of Gondor and travel the long shore of the Bay of Belfalas.  The White Mountains rise to our north as we meet Hirluin the Fair, Forlong the Fat, the Lord of Morthond and the loyal, diverse, and yet ultimately inadequate allies of southern Gondor.  As Bergil says to Pippin in Return of the King, “The Captains of the Outlands are expected… Come with us and you will see!”

Click for a high resolution scan of this entry's featured card.

Click for a high resolution scan of this entry’s featured card.

EXPLORE THE LEGEND

And so the companies came and were hailed and cheered and passed through the Gate, men of the Outlands marching to defend the City of Gondor in a dark hour; but always too few, always less than hope looked for or need asked.

“Beregond y Pippin” by Unknown

This passage, taken from the first chapter of Book V of The Lord of the Rings, not only introduces Hirluin and the Outlanders to the reader in the narrative but, in my experience, perfectly captures the experience of playing an Outlands deck.  As the men of the Outlands arrive on the scene two-thirds of the way through The Lord of the Rings, we watch with Pippin as a cavalcade from the countryside converges on Minas Tirith to defend against Sauron’s assault from Mordor. As Pippin and his companion Bergil, the young son of Beregond, look on, we are given the roll call of these countries and characters, an awesome assortment of lands and leaders that bring forth key themes for the coming battle.

First of all, a main motif evoked by the Outlanders’ arrival is that of loyalty.  We’ve already discussed this at length in the For Gondor! article, so we’ll pass it more briefly here.  Yet it is worth noting that throughout the 3000 years of Gondor’s history since its founding, despite the fall of the Northern Kingdom and the steady contraction of the Southern Kingdom’s borders, these fiefs and their lords never ceased to pay homage and tribute to Minas Tirith, even in the Years of the Stewards.  In fact, in Appendix A we learn that Lord Denethor’s wife was an Outlander named Finduilas, the sister of Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth, whose untimely death 30 years before the War of the Ring contributed to Denethor’s “grim and silent” mood.

Denethor and Finduilas hold baby Boromir while Aragorn stands in the forefront (incognito under his alias Thorongil).

Yet we should not take this marriage alliance and show of unity as an indication that the Outlands were provinces of Men exactly alike to those of Gondor.  Another striking feature of the Outlands is the great racial and geographic diversity of their lands.  As we explored in the Hand of Castamir and Blood of Númenor articles, while Tolkien’s writing does project a racial hierarchy among Elves and Men, it is his villains who dogmatically take it as a caste system, while the heroes often have mixed race marriages and multicultural networks of friends and allies that secure and sustain one another.

“Imrahil” by Donato Giancola for ME:CCG

Perhaps this theme is best demonstrated in Tolkien’s contrasting descriptions of the people of Imrahil and Forlong.  The men of Imrahil in Dol Amroth are described as “tall” and “dark-haired” with “sea-grey eyes”.  There is some claim to Elvish blood in their line, perhaps dating to the wanderings of Nimrodel, and a few of their people still speak Sindarin on a daily basis.  On the other hand, Forlong’s people in Lossarnach are called “short and swarthy”, adjectives Tolkien usually reserves for evil men of the East and South, and their names come some from some pre-Númenorean Mannish speech.  Yet it is “old Forlong the Fat” who receives the greatest cheers from young Bergil as he rides into the city on his “big thick-limbed horse”.  Bergil tells Pippin that “his grandsire” lives in Lossarnach and so we see that as Gondor prepares to stand against the shadow, there is no discrimination, even among the elite Guard of the Citadel, against those Outlanders of “mingled blood” who are loyal to the ideals of free men.

“Forlong the Fat” by Alan Lee

Anfalas-Herdsman

“Anfalas Herdsman” by Blake Henriksen

But despite this loyalty and diversity, the main theme of the Outlanders’ arrival and participation in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields is that Gondor is too weak to stand alone.  As they file into the city, the jubilant fanfare of the Outlanders’ entry slowly gives way to disappointment and fear.  We are told the “hunters and herdsmen” of Anfalas come “scantily equipped”.  The “few grim hillmen” from Lamedon arrive “without a captain”.  And when the final count of the reinforcements is “less than three thousands full told”, we learn that “the onlookers stood silent” while “dust hung in the air” and “the evening was heavy”.  As the sun goes down behind Mount Mindolluin, the procession concludes with the ominous line: “Shadow came down on the City.”  Even Gandalf seems to despair as he welcomes Pippin back at night by saying simply, “The Darkness has begun.  There will be no dawn.”

Fonstad Gondor Map with Outlanders

Home of the Outlanders (click for larger version)

As the Battle of the Pelennor Fields unfolds, it is clear that the Outlanders are an insufficient force to support Gondor, setting up the arrival of the Rohirrim and the Grey Company as a classic Tolkien-esque eucatastrophic moment.

“The Battle of the Pelennor Fields” by Alan Lee

When the forces of Mordor attack, Forlong is “unhorsed” and hewn with axes while fighting alone.  The Lord of Morthond and his sons are “trampled to death” by a mûmakil as they are “leading their bowmen close to shoot at the eyes of the monster”.  And without a single detail about his death, we learn that “neither [would] Hirluin the fair return to Pinnath Gelin”.  While the valor of the Outlanders can not be questioned, in the end they could only amount to a forward guard that sacrificed their lives by holding out long enough for Aragorn and Éomer (and Imrahil) to win the day with their “fortune and the skill and might of their arms”.

After the battle, Hirluin, Forlong, and the Lord of Morthond are buried in the Mounds of Mundburg with the others who “had fallen, renowned and nameless, captain or soldier”.  Their final mention in The Lord of the Rings is in the song composed by a minstrel of Rohan about the great battle, committing his people to rest “with their league-fellows… under the grass in Gondor by the Great River”.

SHOWCASE THE ARTWORK

The artwork for Hirluin the Fair was painted by California based freelance illustrator Tony Foti, who has been quite prolific in the fantasy genre with some pretty notable credits to his name.  He is one of the few artists that has been published on hero cards including one of my favorite images in the entire game, the Strider portrait for Lore Aragorn.

Hirluin’s home is the Pinnath Gelin, or Green Hills, and he arrives for battle with “three hundreds of gallant green-clad men”.  In Mr. Foti’s piece, he is certainly looking gallant in his Gondorian helmet and I love the energy of the image created by the arrows in flight.  While it is the Lord of Morthond who shows up with bowmen, I think it’s a great look for Hirluin the Fair.

On his Facebook page, Mr. Foti said that his work on Hirluin the Fair is probably his last Lord of the Rings piece for a while as he is now working mainly on the Star Wars Card Game, including this illustration of Mara Jade, the wife of Luke Skywalker from the expanded universe novels.  Thanks for your gorgeous contributions to The Lord of the Rings and keep up the great work for FFG!

The only other artwork of Hirluin the Fair that I could find online is this piece by Czech artist Jan Pospíšil.  The armor and fur in this image are incredible and once again, Hirluin is accurately portrayed in green and looking gallant to the hilts!

What’s interesting is that this is not the first time that I’ve considered showcasing this image.  I actually found it a couple months ago while researching my Castamir article as a character image from a fan-made Gondor roleplaying game at the Total War Center.  However, as I was trying to find the original artist, I discovered that TWC had Photoshopped the name “Castamir the Usurper” on to the image and that Mr. Pospíšil had intended for this to be somebody called “Hirluin the Fair”.

5419220643_9f4518eef6

From the “Total War Center” website

I was really disappointed because I loved this portrait, but had to take a pass.  At the time, “The Steward’s Fear” wasn’t released yet and I had no idea that Hirluin was actually a Lord of the Rings character.  How cool to find this piece a second time and be able to feature it for you!

Finally, this next artwork showcase is dedicated to Board Game Geek user Zwerg whose excellent pictorial adventure pack reviews are topped only by his brilliant “Conflict at the Carrock” session report in which he re-enacted the entire scenario using Legos.  Zwerg, I think you’ll love this website.  It’s called Brick Tales and the creator, among other projects, has posted 33 chapters of The Lord of the Rings using only Legos and some quotes and summarizing from the novel.  First check out Brick Tales’ construction of the Outlands procession below, then go to the Lord of the Rings story site and follow Tolkien’s entire narrative.  I only hope that an hour from now, you’ll come back and finish reading my article!

“Captains of the Outlands” by Brick Tales

DISCUSS THE CARDS

So now we’ve seen that the Outlanders are not space aliens but a key part of Tolkien’s story of Gondor and the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.  But does Fantasy Flight’s design of these cards well represent the professor’s lore or, like the number of Outlanders that arrived to fight for Gondor, could a bit more be desired?

Before we take the themes of our lore review in turn, let’s first consider the choice of Hirluin the Fair as the main Outlands hero.  While seeing such an obscure character featured prominently is quite cool, thematically the obvious choice for this hero ability would have been Prince Imrahil.  He is undoubtedly the strongest of the Outlanders and the only one who is mentioned in the same breath with Aragorn and Éomer when discussing “fortune and the skill and might of arms”.  However, since Imrahil already has a hero card, I must applaud the decision to spotlight a new character rather than create a second version.  As for why Hirluin and not the more developed Forlong or Lord of Morthond Duinhir was chosen, I can only surmise that it is because these characters were already given treatment in the previous two incarnations of Lord of the Rings card games.  Therefore, while the choice of Hirluin as the Outlands superstar is still a bit odd, I appreciate FFG bringing a new character to light for me.  As I said in the artwork showcase, I didn’t even know he was a Tolkien character a few months ago and now I’ve learned all about his green-clad gallantry thanks to their efforts.  Kudos!  But how did our dear designers do incorporating the three Outlands themes discussed in our article?

Forlong

Firstly, with regards to loyalty, I think that only the Hunter of Lamedon plays well thematically.  This is because so far, he is the only Outlands ally that also features the Gondor trait.  From a gameplay point of view, I can understand why the designers would need to distinguish the traits, otherwise Outlands could eventually become excessively overpowered if all the (hopefully upcoming) Gondor buffs and synergies applied to them as well.  But from the standpoint of the lore however, the Outlands are Gondor; they have been for over 3000 years; and on the eve of total war, with Ithilien overrun and Anórien largely evacuated, they are the only lands besides Minas Tirith that can properly be considered Gondorian for the purpose of defense.  Again, while I see why the distinction was necessary for game design, I do hope that we will see some kind of event like Mutual Accord that could temporarily give Outlanders the Gondor trait as well.  Perhaps it could even be called something like Loyalty of the Southern Fiefs, though that might be a bit verbose for a card title!

On the second theme of diversity, the Outlanders score much higher marks.  Providing an ally from each different sphere, each boosting a different ability is perfect thematically.  I also think it’s awesome that Forlong is the same sphere as the Warrior of Lossarnach since he is the Lord of Lossarnach and I’d be thrilled to see Golasgil, the Lord of Anfalas, come out in the Lore sphere to match the Anfalas Herdsman.  Seeing all the colors on my board when the Outlands are up and running really drives home the idea of many races of Men coming together under one banner, the White Tree, to defend freedom against the Shadow!

Unfortunately, in my attempts at running this solo mono-Leadership Outlands deck against the first two Heirs of Númenor scenarios, I’ve seen rarely seen that loyal rainbow coalition emerge and instead have usually been smashed within a couple rounds.  That said, these have been wonderfully thematic beat downs!  I must return to the quote used to open this article.

And so the companies came and were hailed and cheered and passed through the Gate, men of the Outlands marching to defend the City of Gondor in a dark hour; but always too few, always less than hope looked for or need asked.

Argh! I hate this guy!

This is exactly how I feel as I prepare to take my Outlands deck to conquer the “Peril in Pelargir”.  I am cheering with each Outlands ally that I draw, hailing them as happy visions dance in my mind of a potential army of 15 Gandalf-level characters in play!  But unfortunately, it seems to be “always too few” and if just one Zealous Traitor infiltrates my ranks too soon, it is game over for Gondor.  As for “Into Ithilien”, the scene from the novel when a Mûmak tramples the Lord of Morthond into the dust has proven all too easy to re-enact at my card table, if I can actually survive the Southron Company in the first round!

Mumak Tramples Lord of Morthond

Thematic trampling!  (I actually never made it to stage 2B.)

Yet given the Outlanders’ inability to defend the realm without aid from Rohan or Aragorn’s Grey Company, I think this is thematically appropriate as well.  In The Lord of the Rings, the people of Gondor watching the Outlanders file into Minas Tirith hope for “ten times the number” and complain that “they are sparing only a tithe of their strength”.  If a player is able to muster more than a “tithe”, the Outlanders can be invincible.  But with the deck starting so slow, it’s probably better to partner with another player who can pick up the slack, especially at the beginning while the Outlands army is still marching in from the provinces!

Outlands Army

An unrealized vision, except for a “tithe”.

In eight attempts at “Peril in Pelargir”, I was able to muster a formidable army exactly twice. And I must say that when that happened, I was definitely shouting with child-Bergil-like glee as my Outlanders wiped the board of enemies and took out the final two stages of the scenario in one round each with obscenely ludicrous power.  “Hurrah!  Forlong!  Forlong!”  Thank you Outlands!

And with that exuberant cry, I will also say many thanks to you for reading (if you made it back from the Lego site) and wish you happy questing!  I leave you today with the encouraging words of Bergil as he parted from Pippin while the darkness gathered and the Outlanders prepared for war.  “Come again soon, I beg.  They will never overcome our Lord, and my father is very valiant.  Farewell and return!”

“Bergil” by Stefano Baldo for ME:CCG

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16 comments

  1. Landroval · · Reply

    Thank you very much for this article.

    I must say, when first saw the Hurluin and the Outlands trait, i thought it was just a made-up or loosely linked trait that FFG came up with to spread the better known races over a longer time period. Seeing this link to Gondor and the nature of the Outlanders as you describe makes the outlands deck a lot more interesting.

    Keep up the great work – i am a big card game player but not really a LOTR freak so i am always pleased to see new articles on your site.

    1. Thanks Landroval, I’m glad the articles are enriching your gameplay experience. Maybe you can give me some tips on a better Outlands deck if you have a chance because I’m a big LOTR freak but haven’t played a card game since the last Lord of the Rings TCG almost 10 years ago!

      Also, despite the fact that Outlands are definitely Tolkien, I think your instincts are right about FFG wanting to spread out the full-fledged Gondor trait over more time. Still, it’s been enjoyable for me to explore a lesser known region of Middle Earth.

  2. TalesfromtheCards · · Reply

    Fantastic article, as always. I’ve been trying to figure out thematic explanations for the Outlands allies, and why they boost their particular trait. Knights of the Swan makes sense for attack (being cavalry after all) and Warrior of Lossarnach boosting defense seems appropriate. Anfalas Herdsman stumped me for awhile, but then maybe I thought that since they are hunters and herdsman, they provide food/sustenance for the rest, boosting their health (hit points). Still can’t quite figure out the Ethir Swordsman though.

    Hirluin definitely struck me as an odd choice for the Outlands hero, as he possibly gets the least attention of the named Outlands characters

    1. Thanks Ian, cool ideas about the theme for the Swan Knights, Lossarnach Warrior, and Anfalas Herdsman.

      As for the Ethir Swordsman, the only other info I can find about Ethir Anduin is that the people are fisher-folk who sell at the market in Minas Tirith. Perhaps fisherman must be endowed with an extraordinary endurance which is reflected in their willpower boost?

      I agree that Hirluin is an odd choice. Maybe next time you get to chat with The Powers That Be at Fantasy Flight, you can ask about my guess as to why they picked him rather than Forlong or Duinhir as the hero. (On second thought, maybe not. There are probably more pressing questions that more people care about!)

  3. Vladimir · · Reply

    Isn’t that Czech artist’s name actually Pospisil (or Pospíšil, properly written) instead of Popisil? Because Pospíšil is quite common Czech surname.

    1. Why yes it is! After my gender confusion about Magali Villeneuve in my first post, this marks the second time I’ve needed correction on a European artist. I’ve updated the article; my apologies to Mr. Pospíšil; and thanks for the help!

  4. Glaurung · · Reply

    Was cool as always. Man you do amazing job about Tolkien lore. Im really happy in our community we have people like you .Keep going!

    About Outlands deck. The problem why you cannot win with your Outlands deck cose your starting threat is to high. Outlands deck need time to prepare but with 30 starting threat you put your heroes in the heart of battle straight away and you dont have time to prepare and lose all you recoures and cards just to survive. You should start at least around 24-28. Then you have time to prepare.
    Another problem card draw. You must to use lore in Outlands deck to make it work since you need draw a lot. your allies a weak they will die all the time so you need draw more of them. Thant why Beravur is one of the best heroes for Outlands deck.

    1. Thanks for the encouraging words and I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

      As for strategy, I was trying to use Lord of Morthond with a mono-Leadership deck that only had a starting threat of 25. But I only played Peril in Pelargir and Into Ithilien and not the other quests yet. I think that Into Ithilien is especially brutal with that Southron Company attacking for 5 in the first round if you can’t clear the Ithilien Road.

      Even with both Steward of Gondor and King Under the Mountain plus the right Outlanders, it usually took one or two rounds to get going and by then I often had a dead hero already. Perhaps I’ll have to forego Lord of Morthond and run Beravor instead. Do you have a decklist for the Outlanders you ran against the core set Nightmare scenarios in your YouTube video?

      1. Glaurung · ·

        Not really but the deck is really simple. I use a Tracker 1 idea just a bit change it. Tracker1 is a really good deck builder his another new deck with Legolas and the bow is also quite cool.

        So Beravur/Theodred/Hirluin. In the quest where you dont care about starting threat you can switch Theoderd to Imrahil.

        sneak attack, Gandlaf, all outlands allies,. Cram, Gondor healer, Piece and thought, Gaining strength, Faramir, Forlong, Steward of Gondor, Envoy of Pelargir, Errand-Rider, Snowbourn scout.. Almost all cards is 3 copies. Faramir is 2 copies and Forlong is 1. You also can add very good tale 3 copies to make it faster.
        Crazy powerful deck special in coop game. For solo is still ok to play. But in coop is broken. you can win everything even NM without a big problem.
        the strategy is simple. Your partner just protect you from begin to give you time build up your outlands army. When is done you just quest around 50 and kill around 25. in 2 3 rounds game is done. Is really boring and stupid. I still can play this deck solo but in cool is too broken.

  5. OnkelZorni · · Reply

    This article is amazing as usual. Thank you for all the work and research (and of course time!!!) you invest to create these masterpieces.

    1. No problem! It’s fun for me and the positive feedback definitely boosts my motivation. As I said in my Greetings and Goals article, I’m not a “master of lore” by any stretch of the imagination but I want to keep learning more and FFG’s exploration of the more obscure corners of Middle Earth like the Outlanders is providing a great opportunity to do just that!

  6. Great work as always! I love the map with the cards that illustrates where all of the characters are from. Very insightful and it really helps to visualize the concept of “Outlanders”

    1. Thanks Beano, great to “meet” you here. I usually try to create some kind of original visual content (custom card, family tree, etc.) for each article and making the map was simple and fun for this article.

      As I was doing so, I also noticed that some of the artwork features scenic backgrounds appropriate to the geography of their home region. Lossarnach is a fertile region called the “Vale of Flowers” which can be seen blossoming behind the Warrior. The Knights of the Swan are galloping from the sea-side fortress of Dol Amroth. The River Lefnui can be seen winding towards the Bay of Belfalas beside the Anfalas Herdsman. And of course the White Mountains rise behind the Hunter of Lamedon. Pretty cool!

      Thanks again and I’m looking forward to your “Great Wall of Endless Text” about the Encounter of Amon Dîn!

  7. Gobliin · · Reply

    I agree with you that all outlanders should have the gondor trait. The idea to give them the gondor and outlander trait could have been a great idea.

  8. […] fact, Éomer marries Imrahil’s daughter after The Lord of the Rings). Morwen hailed from Lossarnach and there it was that Théoden and his sister Théodwyn were born and raised, speaking Sindarin […]

  9. […] both political and physical, is essentially lost. Elsewhere, like Gondor, the many different subregions are well documented in maintained. In the North, it is mostly […]

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