Two years ago for Christmas, I watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and got a core set for The Lord of the Rings living card game by Fantasy Flight Games. Since then, The Hobbit films and our beloved LCG have been the primary outlets for exploring my passion for J.R.R. Tolkien’s world of Middle-earth. Last year, I brought those two outlets together in my review of The Desolation of Smaug, which featured both literary excerpts and custom cards. As The Battle of (the) Five Armies opens this month, I want to reprise that combination, but this year, I would like your help!
This time, you get to create custom cards based on the film and have the chance to win a prize for doing so. It’s the first official contest here on the Master of Lore blog! I’ve finally found a good “friendly local gaming store” in my home city of Hong Kong and have secured a Chinese version of the core set. The prizes will be additional singles of core set cards according to availability and choice. Here’s the terms and conditions:
To enter, create a custom LOTR LCG card based on some element of Peter Jackson’s The Battle of the Five Armies film. These may be silly or serious, but should try to thematically represent an element of Jackson’s adaptation that diverges from or embellishes upon the books. Check out some of mine from last year’s Desolation of Smaug to get an idea of what I mean. Resources for creating custom cards are available here and here. When you’ve finished, send an email with your image attached to email@example.com.
I’ll choose winners to publish on my blog along with my review for The Battle of the Five Armies. All published participants can pick an event card from the core set to receive a Chinese version. Now is your chance to top up your decks to three copies of popular cards like Test of Will, Feint, Sneak Attack, or any other event you like. Plus, you’ll have a cool story to tell your fellow questers when you play a Chinese card and explain that it was “a major award” in Master of Lore’s first card design contest!
Entries are due by the end of your day on January 2. That should give me enough time to finish writing my review (it’s already stretching to Peter Jacksonian lengths) and you enough time to get the creative juices flowing and send in those cards!
In the meantime, to whet your appetite for the review, here’s my thoughts on the opening scene of the film. If you haven’t seen it yet, come back later if you don’t want things spoiled!
Howard Shore’s ominous Smaug theme builds through the opening titles leading us directly into the vengeance of the “last great fire-drake of the North” on Esgaroth. This is arguably the best sequence in the entire film. Jackson’s team has developed the sparsely drawn yet coolly evocative “grim-voiced and grim-faced” Bard the bowman of the book into a principled single parent. The choice pays off in a big way.
While Smaug is “enjoying the sport of town-baiting” and taunting Bard in classic movie villain fashion, his son Bain climbs the tower with the last black arrow made “from the forges of the true king under the Mountain”. In a scene that plays part William Tell and part Binding of Isaac, Bard steadies the fateful arrow on his son Bain’s shoulder, mixing medieval motifs in a most Tolkienesque fashion. As Bard releases the bowstring and the score tugs at our heartstrings, the bolt flies “straight for the hollow by the left breast” where it strikes in “barb, shaft, and feather” to slay the dragon. Smaug’s death throes are as beautiful and horrible as Tolkien’s prose description:
“With a shriek that deafened men, felled trees and split stone, Smaug shot spouting into the air, turned over and crashed down from on high in ruin. Full on the town he fell… There was a hiss, a gushing whirl, and then silence. And that was the end of Smaug and Esgaroth, but not of Bard.”
Come back in a week for the rest. Until then, happy questing!