Anticipating Angmar Awakened: The Heroes

With the release of The Road Darkens and the conclusion of The Ring-maker cycle, 2014 ended with a feeding frenzy of new content. Now, as players are getting caught up on new scenarios and deck-building possibilities, FFG has begun whetting our appetite for the next expansions. The saga continues with the first half of The Two Towers in The Treason of Saruman while The Lost Realm promises to take us on original adventures into the North of Middle-earth.

Lost-Realm-CoverWhile any fan of the LOTR LCG has to be positively stoked for the upcoming Battle of Helm’s Deep, I always find that the fringes and footnotes of Tolkien’s world fleshed out in the deluxe expansions are more appealing to my sensibilities. Therefore, as we gear up to enter the “Wastes of Eriador” with new side quests, the Valour trigger, and an “Encounter” keyword on our player cards, I want to look forward to some of the new characters, locations, and lore that I hope we will explore in the new cycle. Welcome to the first installment of “Anticipating Angmar Awakened“!

New mechanics for the upcoming cycle: "Encounter" keyword, side quests, and the Valour trigger

New mechanics for the upcoming cycle: “Encounter” keyword, side quests, and the Valour trigger

Without question, the most exciting speculation preceding any new release is about the hero cards. The announcement article for The Lost Realm has already promised us “two new Dúnedain heroes”, the first of which has already been spoiled as a Tactics version of Aragorn. With his Fellowship version coming in The Treason of Saruman, Aragorn is now only a Spirit incarnation away from being the first hero to be represented in every sphere of our game (Baggins not included). But who could the other Dúnedain be?

Aragorn fatigue?

Aragorn fatigue?

"Halbarad" by Quinton Hoover

“Halbarad” by Quinton Hoover

The most obvious choice is Halbarad, captain of the Grey Company. I know the producers of a certain podcast who wouldn’t object! Halbarad appears in The Return of the King, leading a contingent of thirty Rangers with tidings from Rivendell for Aragorn. Aragorn is overjoyed to see Halbarad, embraces him warmly, and calls him “my kinsman” throughout their interactions. When he arrives, Halbarad is described as being “tall, a dark standing shadow” and speaks with a “clear voice” as he raises his “palm outward, in token of peace”.

It is this “dour-handed Ranger” and his Grey Company who brave the Paths of the Dead with Aragorn and he would be an ideal Leadership hero in our game. I am hoping he has an ability that interacts with the Signal cards from the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle. Perhaps Halbarad can fetch Signals from the deck, transfer them freely once per phase, or (in keeping with the new Dúnedain archetype) boost their effects when an enemy is engaged. We’ve already seen Ranger Summons, a new Signal event which confirms the trait is getting more development. A Halbarad hero that brings some choice and synergy to our cache of Dúnedain attachments would be an amazing start to the cycle!

While Halbarad is unlikely to be the only Dúnedain hero that we get in the Angmar Awakened cycle, he is certain to be the only one lifted directly from Tolkien’s lore. Besides Aragorn and him, no other Rangers of the North are named in The Lord of the Rings. Any other Dúnedain will therefore have to be FFG inventions like Beravor and Idraen. This could prove quite interesting though, especially if we are given some background for the character like the short story we received with Idraen. It would also be rewarding for lore junkies to see the designers continue to mine the Appendices for obscure character names from earlier history (as they did for the mono-sphere Record attachments and “Steward’s Fear” villains). In the line of Chieftains recorded in Appendix A, we see that the Dúnedain often reused names of their forefathers and all begin with “Ara-“, an Elvish prefix meaning “royal”. Could an Arahael or Araglas hero be on the horizon? I wouldn’t be disappointed!

“A Ranger of the North” by AlasseaEarello (2011)

"Black Rider and the Gaffer" by Stephen Hickman (1998)

“Black Rider and the Gaffer” by Stephen Hickman (1998)

Beyond the Dúnedain, the latest spoiler article also promises that we will be seeing some new Hobbit characters. The quintessential “simple folk” who “know little of the lands beyond [their] bounds”, the hobbits of the Shire are among those protected by the Rangers’ tireless efforts in the Northern wastes. Unlike the Dúnedain who only have one named character left without a card, Tolkien has provided dozens of hobbits who are possible candidates for cardboard treatment. From old Will Whitfoot the Mayor to crotchety Ted Sandyman the Miller, there are plenty of hobbits to choose from. Maybe Sam’s old Gaffer Hamfast Gamgee will even make an appearance at some point.

The hobbit I’m most interested in seeing as a hero card, however, is not Sam’s father but his eventual father-in-law Farmer Tom Cotton. As the hobbits are returning to the Shire at the end of The Return of the King, they discover one by one that several of their old neighbors have joined with “the new Chief” and are posing as “Gate-keepers” and “Shirrifs” under Sharkey’s regime. Sam suggests they take shelter with Tom Cotton, who was “always a stout fellow”. Sure enough, when they reach his home, they find the farmer “itching for trouble” and eager to fight back. As the final battle of the War of the Ring takes place in the scouring of the Shire, the “uppish” Farmer Cotton plays a prominent role, sharing intelligence, helping muster “nearly two hundred” armed hobbits, and staging the act of civil disobedience (breaking curfew) that sparks the final confrontation with the Chief’s men.

"Scouring of the Shire" by Greg and Tim Hildebrandt

“Scouring of the Shire” by Greg and Tim Hildebrandt (1985)

While the “fame and fortune of the Cottons dates from this time”, it can be safely assumed that in the era of our card game Farmer Cotton’s latent skills in the Leadership and Tactics spheres are just waiting for the opportunity to shine. This fits perfectly with the Hobbit deck archetype developed in The Black Riders in which the unassuming residents of the Shire rise to the occasion when encountering greater threats. Given his role in the Battle of Bywater, a Farmer Cotton hero that somehow scries the encounter deck, brings allies into play, or interacts with the staging area would be a thematic home run. Maybe we’ll even see his only daughter Rosie Cotton as an ally that gives a boost to Sam!

Sam and Rosie Cotton from Peter Jackson's The Return of the King

Sam and Rosie Cotton from Peter Jackson’s The Return of the King

Beyond the “new Dúnedain, Hobbits, and Scouts” teaser, we have no further clues about who our upcoming heroes might be yet, and certainly the designers won’t limit themselves to characters who live in the North. That said, there is one more resident of Eriador who I’d love to see come out in this cycle. That is the wisest Elf in all of Middle-earth, Círdan the Shipwright.

"Círdan" by Quinton Hoover

“Círdan” by Quinton Hoover

I really don’t think there is any way this cycle can go by without giving us a Círdan hero card. Dwelling in the Grey Havens throughout the Second and Third Age, Círdan is also the oldest Elf in all of Middle-earth. In fact, it is quite possible that he is one of the original Elves created by Ilúvatar who awoke near Lake Cuivíenen before the Sun marked time! When he appears on the final page of The Lord of the Rings, we are told that he is “grey and old” with a long beard — signs of aging not described for any other Elf. Yet despite his epic age (or perhaps because of it), Círdan’s eyes are “keen as stars”. A member of the White Council and a fierce warrior in the older days of Middle-earth, Círdan is actually my most anticipated card in the upcoming cycle. In fact, now that we have Galadriel, Gwaihir, and Treebeard, I imagine that many players have him near the top of their wish list of characters we haven’t seen yet.

Círdan from the First Age Expansion by Ian Martin

Círdan from the First Age Expansion by Ian Martin

Círdan’s hero card should have an ability that is subtle yet powerful, like that of Galadriel. At the time of our game, Círdan is no longer actively involved in the affairs of Middle-earth, but throughout history he often provided a safe shelter near the sea during times of war and made wise choices (such as entrusting Gandalf with Narya, the Ring of Fire) that directed the fates of the Free Peoples. As such, Círdan would be an ideal hero for the Lore sphere and I think that Ian’s version of Círdan from his custom First Age expansion would be an awesome model for FFG to follow.

One point of curiosity for me is what trait FFG will assign to Círdan. So far all of our Elves have been either Noldor or Silvan but Círdan is neither. He is Sindar, one of the “Grey-elves” who did not go to Valinor in the First Age. The history of the different races of Elves can get complicated, but it is sufficient for us to note that while the Sindar are more closely related to Silvan Wood-elves than they are to the Noldor (both Teleri), they are not the same. Because Círdan’s people settled along the sea, they came to be called the Falathrim or “Coast-elves”. I will be interested to see if FFG misapplies the Silvan trait to Círdan (as they did for Legolas who is also Sindar, not Silvan) or whether they create a new Elven trait for our fabled Keeper of the Havens. Whatever the case, I can’t wait to see him on the table!

“The Sundering of the Elves” from Tolkien Gateway

With the The Lost Realm expected to drop in “Q1 2015” and currently listed as “At the Printer”, it could be weeks or months until we finally face the “dangers of the North”, but sometimes the anticipation is better than the arrival. In the meantime, what do you think about my hopes for our upcoming heroes? And which unprinted character are you currently anticipating the most as you look forward to our new expansions? Vote in the poll and comment below!

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13 comments

  1. Estel Edain · · Reply

    I love anticipating possible heroes, and Halbarad, Farmer Tom, and Cirdan are all great choices (especially since Cirdan will very likely come with Narya). I voted for Gamling, since I’m not sure we’ll get him as a hero, but I would love to have him for Helm’s Deep. (For two players, the heroes would be Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Theoden, Eomer, Hama and Gamling, since Erkenbrand and Gandalf only came at the end.) Thranduil is another hero I’m looking forward to, though we might get him in a cycle focused on Erebor and Dale.

    1. I should have added Thranduil to the poll! I think you are right though, they will have to save at least one new character for the next cycle and the eastern Wilds seems like the only place edge of the world we won’t have explored yet. I hope you get your Gamling before Helm’s Deep!

  2. Pengolodh · · Reply

    Superb article, sir! I personally am hoping for a Halbarad character. The rangers of the North have always intrigued me and I am looking forward to articles on that topic! Having a Tom Cotton hero would be fun. I especially enjoyed the “Scouring of the Shire” picture. I laughed out loud when I saw it. Cirdan is top of my list as well. An Erestor remake would be welcome as well. The current version of him seems expensive to me. As for The Treason of Saruman, I am hoping for a Grimbold, Gamling, or Quickbeam hero (as for the last, though, a powerful ally would be sufficient). Looking forward to fighting both at Helm’s Deep and the North!
    P.S: What is the correct pronunciation of Idraen? It would be really helpful. Thanks again!

    1. My hopes are high for Halabarad as well, though as I was writing, I did find my enthusiasm for Tolman Cotton peaking! If for no other reason, I’d love to see an FFG’s artist take on the character. There’s really nothing out there that I could find. That Hildebrandt piece is pretty hysterical, isn’t it?

      As for pronouncing Idraen, I don’t profess to be an expert, but I can take a guess. In Appendix E, Tolkien writes that “ae” is a diphthong (meaning it is pronounced as one syllable). Also, he says “there is nothing in English closely corresponding to “ae”, “oe”, “eu”; “ae” and “oe” may be pronounced as “ai”, “oi”. Tolkien also says that “in words of two syllables [the stress] falls in practically all cases on the first syllable”.

      Based on that, I’d say that Idraen’s name is pronounced as “ID-rain” (not “id-RAY-in” or “id-RAIN”).

      1. Pengolodh · ·

        Thanks for the response! I’ve been saying it incorrectly for so long I’ve gotten used to it…

  3. Gwaihir the Windlord · · Reply

    This article has made me more pumped than ever to get this cycle started! Your poll is an amazing idea, and while I would like to see all of them as characters at some point, I chose other and commented Bergil. True, he wouldn’t make a very stellar hero, but I think he would make a great ally (Tactics or Spirit; he loves to fight, but has a big heart). Also, Celebrian would make a nice addition to the game. Granted, she doesn’t quite fit the time period criteria, but there have been some pretty interesting custom cards (see Dor Cuarthol blog). However, I have always been deeply intrigued by the happenings in the North. Both Loth-lorièn and Rivendell withstood attacks from the Enemy, and Dale and Erebor took a hard beating as well. Why not a Thorin Oakenshield III, as mentioned in the Appendices? There are so many opportunities to delve deeper into Tolkien’s world, and I hope FFG takes advantage of every one of them.

    1. Great ideas on other original heroes that we haven’t seen yet have a basis in the lore. I forgot about Bergil! He should definitely come along at some point.

      I have to say that I’m a little bit nervous for where the game is going to go once it has exhausted the legendarium for original heroes. I remember a Team Covenant interview in which Caleb and Matt said they are actually excited for that point, because they expect to see multiple versions of every hero.

      Still, there are only so many regions of Middle-earth to explore and I think that with this cycle we’ll be covering the last obvious one. Maybe, as you suggest, we will switch up the time period a bit, going earlier or later (as we did with The Hobbit box) in order to get characters like Celebrían and quests that feature the defense of Lothlórien or Rivendell.

      By all accounts, the game is only growing in popularity so here’s hoping that we will not only have a blast with the cycle but find out just how far beyond the FFG designers can take us!

  4. Again, amazing post and some fine suggestions. Besides the obvious Hero Halbarad, i really hope for a hero version of Gildor Ignolion. I think he would perfectly fit in this region and make a great new hero for the Noldor trait.

    1. Ah yes! The latest spoiler article did indicate the Noldor would be getting some love in this cycle. As I recall, Gildor frequented the Tower Hills in the North to look into the palantir. Good call!

  5. I love the Dunedain (and their secret war with Angmar) so I look foreward to this cycle. It’s one the most fascinating unexplored pieces of tolkien lore.

    From the looks of it, northern rangers are going to be themed around luring all enemies to engange with them instead of other players. Thematically very approriate. But right now, having all enemies engage with you is rather suicidal, so I’m expecting for some attack-cancellation/reducement and/or readying effects. Perhaps Halbarad can ready as a response to engaging an enemy or reduce attack like the new Aragorn?

    If I’m correct, that would give Elladan and Elrohir amazing synergy with a northern ranger deck, which seems double appropriate.

    1. Your hopes have been fulfilled! The Halbarad hero is going to make an excellent pairing with Elladan and Elrohir. Bring on The Lost Realm!

  6. I´m looking forward to a quad sphere Aragorn whit the new tactics version and his unique Attachments (stone, sword and ring), and if it would be useful to play such a deck that goes around the king of men.

    1. Yes, the Super Aragorn deck may be the first to build when The Lost Realm finally becomes unlost in the ports of China and the West Coast!

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