When players begin their journey through Middle-earth, they’ll complete a brief tutorial that teaches them the basics of the game. After that, they’ll be awarded the Core Set of cards: 4 Heroes, one from each Sphere of Influence, as well as 42 other cards (2 copies each of 21 unique cards), enough to begin their adventure. Today, we’d like to show you those 4 initial Heroes in greater detail, outline some of the successful strategies they facilitate, and talk about what each Sphere of Influence represents. These cards are all a work-in-progress, subject to change as the game continues development.
First is Aragorn, Son of Arathorn and Gilraen. The Core Set Aragorn belongs to the Sphere of Leadership, highlighting the Ranger’s natural charisma and command. As a result, Aragorn facilitates strategies that focus on strength in numbers and the might of a unified Free Peoples.
The Leadership Sphere of Influence tends to favor the midgame in The Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game. Its effects often focus on accruing small advantages through events, attachments and allies that are undercosted but powerful.
Aragorn himself boasts impressive stats, with 2 Attack, 2 Willpower, and 11 Health, making him one of the most well-rounded Heroes available in the Core Set. The future king has no problem riding into battle against the toughest foes, but his 2 Willpower gives him the flexibility to progress the Objective at a rapid rate, as well. Of course, there’s a trade-off; Aragorn attracts the attention of Sauron’s army, and as a result his Threat Level is 11. Still, with the power he brings to the table, Aragorn will overcome any challenge he is presented.
His Power, too, ensures that he can make quick work of the Dark Lord’s forces. Once per round, a player can spend 1 Resource to ready Aragorn, preparing him for a second attack, more progress toward the Objective, or any other activation that might be necessary. Often, a player can spend their preparation phase equipping a character with weapons and attachments, loading them up for an alpha strike, only to have an enemy attack and exhaust that character in the first move of the round. With Aragorn, that will never be an issue—provided you save a resource to ready him again, of course.
The core set Leadership cards include versatile, efficiently-costed Allies that aid in combat and questing. The Guard of the Citadel has Guard and can protect a hero in a pinch or hold off Sauron’s front lines. Rohirrim Lancer brings some ranged capabilities to your team, and the Warden of Annúminas, at 3 resources, is a strong top to any deck’s curve. Gaining Strength, a Leadership event that costs 0, gives the player an extra Resource. It can even pair with Aragorn himself to give the Hero a surprise extra action.
Finally, Sneak Attack brings a random Ally into play. Any Ally brought into play with Sneak Attack gains Fleeting, so players will want to send them blazing into battle, maximizing the value they can get from that Ally before the depart the battle forever. Though hitting high-costed, powerful Allies is the dream scenario, at 1 cost, hitting any of the core Allies is good value.
Arwen, the Lady of Rivendell, is the Lore Hero included in the Core Set. As such, she gives the player access to a suite of cards that provide power through knowledge, learning, and self-improvement.
Arwen is well-suited to progressing the Objective, as her 3 Willpower will get the job done quick. Her ability, too, will surely aid any party in their quest—at the beginning of each upkeep, Arwen can heal any 1 damage from any character, bringing them back from the brink of defeat. Managing damage over a long Quest can be one of the most difficult tasks in LOTR LCG. Arwen is one of the best ways to mitigate damage over the course of your adventure. Though her combat stats, 1 attack and 9 health, aren’t as high as other Heroes’, she can still hold her own in a fight. At 9 Threat, Arwen is a solid character all around, and crucial to any team that wants to survive an extended fight.
The Lore cards in the Core Set represent a diverse arrangement of effects that reward careful planning. The Preparation Event Advance Warning costs 1 and exhausts the next enemy that Sauron plays, giving the player a jump on the enemy before it can make a move. Mithrandir’s Advice, another 1 cost event, draws 2 cards, giving the player more options for a discounted cost (combine it with Gaining Strength and cycle through 2 cards for free!).
The two Lore Allies included in the core set bring powerful effects to the fight. Imladris Caregiver, a 2 cost Ally with 1 Willpower, 0 Attack, and 2 Defense, heals a character for 2 when it enters play. Like Arwen, the Caregiver can be used to mitigate damage before a crucial Attack. Thanks to its 1 Willpower, the Caregiver can even contribute to completing the Objective once it’s on the field. Meanwhile, the 3-cost Ithilien Lookout provides some much-needed defensive capabilities for the Lore sphere. With 2 Attack and 3 Health, the Lookout is a solid fighter, and with 2 Willpower it can complete objectives just as well as many of the strongest heroes. As long as the Ithilien Lookout can stay alive, it can provide one of the best long-term advantages for the player’s party.
Keeping it alive—or any player-friendly character, for that matter—is easy with the help of Self-Preservation, the final Lore card in the Core Set. It’s an attachment that costs 2, and on each upkeep it heals 1 damage from the attached character, mimicking Arwen’s ability. Self-preservation is one of the strongest attachments in the Core Set, and when placed on a Hero in the first few rounds of a game it can heal upwards of 10 damage over the course of the Adventure. Sometimes the easiest way to last through a long, grueling Campaign is to mulligan aggressively for this 2-cost attachment.
The sphere of Spirit is represented by the Ring-bearer Frodo Baggins, a mild Hobbit who summoned his inner strength and rose to heroics when the time came. Compassionate, curious, and ultimately brave, Frodo represents the best that the Spirit Sphere of Influence has to offer.
His starting Threat will immediately catch any player’s attention. At 7, it is by far the lowest of any of the Core Heroes. There is a trade-off, of course. Frodo’s 1 Attack and 7 Health are easily trumped by many villains. Instead of fighting, the little Hobbit often takes to hiding, represented by the Stealth keyword that prevents enemies from targeting him first.
However, Frodo’s impressive base Willpower of 2 will complete most objectives quickly. When Sauron has 0 Resources, the Hobbit is truly allowed to shine; he gains +2 Willpower, putting the stat at a whopping 4. That’s enough to complete many Objectives in a single action! Overall, Frodo is an excellent addition to any team looking to race toward the Objective, or even a combat-focused Fellowship in need of a solo Objective clearer.
Many of the Spirit cards in the Core Set help to progress the Objective, too. Favor of the Lady is a 1-cost attachment that gives the attached character +1 Willpower, a stat that can otherwise be difficult to increase. Put it on a combat-oriented Hero to give them something to do on an empty board, or place it on Frodo and enjoy a 5 Willpower Hero.
If players still need help clearing the Objective, they may consider including Secret Paths in their deck, a Spirit event that costs 1. When played, this event applies 2 progress to an Objective, even bypassing restrictions like Guard in the process.
Similarly, the Ally Woodland Courier places 1 progress on an Objective when it enters play, further supplementing your party’s Willpower. With a Willpower of 2, the Courier can keep helping to complete the Objective after it’s played, even if its 0 Attack and 3 Health won’t contribute much to combat.
Though the next Spirit event doesn’t directly contribute to completing the Objective, it does help players by impeding Sauron’s progress. A Watchful Peace is a 2-cost Event that reduces a player’s Threat by 3. It’s an easy way for players to buy some extra time for their Heroes, and it can even save what would otherwise be a lost game, in some cases.
Finally, Wandering Took is a cheaply costed Hobbit ally that can provide players with an early-game play. At 1 Attack, 1 Willpower, and 2 Health, Wandering Took is a solid way to spend 1 resource. The mischievous Took deprives the Dark Lord of a resource when he enters play, slowing down Sauron’s progress and potentially even activating Frodo’s Willpower boost.
Finally, the sphere of Tactics is represented by the dwarf warrior Gimli. Appropriately, the lockbearer is one of the best fighters in the game and the marquee example of the Tactics’ sphere and its strategies, revolving around combat and battle. His base stats of 2 Attack and 12 Health make him a strong contender in any fight, but his Stalwart keyword and unique ability tip the scales in his favor. After he takes damage, Gimli gains +2 Attack until the end of the round. Further, thanks to Stalwart, he won’t exhaust the first time he’s attacked, giving players the opportunity to take full advantage of his stat boost. As a result, Gimli is an easy Hero to use, but tricky to master; players will want to activate him last to ensure they get the most out of his ability. In a pinch, the dwarf’s 1 willpower can even contribute progress to the Objective.
The Tactics cards in the Core Set include 2 Attachments, 2 Allies, and a powerful Event, all cards that help your Heroes turn the tide of battle against Sauron’s army. Galadhon Archer is a 1 cost Ally with Ranged and 1 Attack, 1 Health and 0 Willpower. When it Arrives, it deals 1 damage to an Enemy, clearing away small pests and finishing off wounded beasts. The Veteran Axehand hits a little harder—for 3 resources, the Dwarf Ally brings 2 Attack, 4 Health and 1 Willpower to the board. Rare are the Allies that can fight a three-power Enemy and live to tell the tale, but the Veteran Axehand counts itself among that privileged few.
The two Tactics attachments in the core set complement one another well. First is the Warrior Sword, a 1-cost weapon that gives the attached character +1 Attack. This small stat boost can make a world of difference, especially when placed on a fighter like Gimli. Conversely, the Round Shield, a 2-cost armor attachment, gives the attached character Block, allowing them to absorb the first point of damage they receive every time they take damage. With sword and shield in hand, any Hero can become a master combatant.
Finally, the Tactics event included in the Core Set provides players with a powerful counter to the largest of Sauron’s minions. Feint costs 1 and reduces the attack of a non-unique Enemy to 0 until the end of the phase. This card can provide a huge boon to a player’s team, weakening a troll just before a critical attack, a pesky Sentinel that stands in the way of the objective, or even an elite orc.
Though that covers all the Spheres of Influence in the game, there’s still one card we have yet to discuss, a powerful neutral ally that commands respect the second it Arrives on the field.
What would The Lord of the Rings be without Gandalf? The Grey Wizard is the only Neutral Ally in the core set and will no doubt see play in a wide assortment of decks. For 5 Resources, Gandalf enters play and triggers one of three powerful effects: Draw 3 cards, reduce your Threat by 3, or deal 3 damage to an Enemy. Best of all, the player gets to choose which of these effects occurs. After Gandalf’s splashy Arrival effect, the Istari contributes 4 Attack, 5 Health and 4 Willpower to the board, but not for long—his Fleeting ability dictates that he must leave play at the end of the round. This restriction, coupled with Gandalf’s high cost, make the wizard difficult to play correctly, but players who do will find the reward all too sweet. After all, a wizard is never late.
With these Heroes, Allies, Events, and Attachments at your disposal, you’ll have everything you need to begin your adventure through Middle-earth. What strategies will you employ on your Quest? To where shall you look for Heroes? Find out when The Lord of the Rings: Living Card Gameenters Early Access in Q1 2018.