Updated: Sep 10, 2019
We've traversed the flood plains of the Isen, and the foothills of the Misty Mountains, we've even ventured deep into the Forest of Fangorn, but none of that is what we came for. We came in search of power, knowledge and heroes; brave and bold and boy do we have them!
Join me as we explore the player cards in the Voice of Isengard Deluxe Expansion for Lord of the Rings LCG.
Éomer - Éomer is a great addition to the tactics heavy Rohan team and he’s a powerhouse of attack especially when paired up with his steed Firefoot (The Dunland Trap). Éomer starts the game with 3 fight but whenever a character leaves play he gets +2 fight. Teamed up with the new Silvans that get the spotlight treatment in the Ringmaker Cycle, he can be boosted almost every round, but even within the Rohan cards there are plenty of options to boost his attack. Escort from Edoras, Westfold Outrider and Riddermark’s Finest can all leave play easily, while the traditional chump blocker, the Snowbourn Scout, was born just to power up Éomer.
Éomer might not offer much in the way of willpower but he’s not there to quest, he’s there to hit stuff. His traits lend themselves to a variety of attachments and, of course, a Horn of Gondor will help him generate a stack of resources to keep buying oblative allies.
Grima - Grima is an interesting hero, for a start he is a “hero” by the very loosest definition. His ability though “Lower the cost of the next card you play from your hand this round by 1. That card gains Doomed 1.” gives some much needed resource preservation to the Lore Sphere. He provides some solid quest and defence but requires some serious finesse to play well. Upgrading Grima with the Keys of Orthanc allows him to not only lower the cost of the next card he plays but to also generate resources too.
The last bit of good news here is that Grima benefits from the Rohan trait, meaning he can be just as helpful when using astonishing speed and take attachments such as Steed of the Mark to allow him to quest and defend. Using Grima well takes some thinking about but it can really pay off once you figure out the strategy. Of course other players at the table may not thank you for bringing him along.
Legacy of Númenor - Doomed 4! Ouch! This card adds a resource to every heroes pool, but the cost is pretty high.
Orthanc Guard - Like the messenger below this card is great with Grima or in quests where you know that you’re likely to face the Doomed keyword. 2 resources for 2 defence and 2 hp is pretty good regardless, it’s just a shame there are so few cards out there to combo with the Isengard trait.
Rohan Warhorse - This is the perfect attachment for any tactics hero. Tag it on to Legolas and make 4 progress a turn as well as killing two enemies. Interestingly mounts are restricted, allowing heroes to ride two at once should they choose, but also preventing dual wielding of weapons.
The Wizards's Voice - This is a souped up version of Feint that affects all players but at the cost of Doomed 3.
Westfold Outrider - This one is good value for the money, not only are his stats solid but he can pull enemies off other players or out of the staging area. Add in the fact that his leaving play powers up Eomer and you have a pretty good ally with the ability to really pull your ass out of the fire.
Deep Knowledge - Doomed 2 for 2 card draw for all players seems like a fair trade to me, especially if you use the Keys of Orthanc to generate an extra resource to boot.
Isengard Messenger - This is a great card if you’re running Grima, 2 resources for average stats but he gets a will boost each time you are affected by Doomed.
Power of Orthanc - At long last, the long awaited return of Condition Removal. Outside of the Miner of the Iron Hills there has been next to nothing that can shift unwanted attachments, finally we have some for the Spirit sphere. Shame it’s Doomed 2 but let’s be honest that is almost always preferable to being Caught in a Web.
Silver Lamp - This is an interesting card that causes shadow cards to be dealt face up. It has the downside of needing to be attached to a spirit hero and not being quite as good as a Burning Brand but it does really help you know what damage is coming your way in the combat phase.
Westfold Horse-breeder - After Westfold Horse-breeder enters play, search the top 10 cards of your deck for a Mount attachment and add it to your hand. This lass is weak at this point in the cycle with only a couple of mounts to choose from and only one within her sphere although she’ll achieve greatness in time.
Keys of Orthanc - After you are affected by Doomed exhaust this to gain a resource. The perfect attachment for a force fielding Grima, but also potentially handy in many other scenarios, certainly adds a silver lining to the bummer that is Doomed!
Saruman - The addition of Saruman completes the known Istari and presents an interesting alternative to Gandalf. Playing Saruman is cheaper and he has a higher fight value, but he also brings Doomed 3 with him. While in play Saruman can make an enemy or location count as out of play, which can be useful in many circumstances but it’s not as permanent a solution as Gandalf’s 4 damage, nor as versatile as choosing between lowering your threat, taking cards or dealing damage.
The Seeing-stone - Thematic, sure, but this one is severely limited in my opinion. Doomed 1 is bad news but then it only lets you search for another Doomed card. Great for retrieving Saruman or The Power of Orthanc, but it’s not going to do wonders for your threat.
As with all the Deluxe expansions, you need them if you want to play the current cycle of expansions, but this one has some great cards in it. Saruman completes the Istari triumvirate, the Power of Orthanc introduces some much needed condition removal and the introduction of the Doomed keyword allows players to leverage their threat as another resource in the game.
Éomer has been a notable absentee from the Rohan strategy and makes his debut here with a splash. Grima, while an unexpected hero, presents an interesting, albeit dangerous new path to walk, leveraging the doomed mechanic to prove his worth.
The scenarios are a mixed bag unfortunately. They are all fairly tough, the dunlendings are unyielding and punish you for drawing cards, while the huorns manage to bring a level of tedium to the game never before imagined. This expansion also brings the Time mechanic to the game, introducing a further layer of management and token shuffling to an already complex system. Not to mention it makes the game harder and more stressful.
However the cycle that follows introduces some fun quests and some of the hardest most frustrating ones I’ve ever played. This expansion and the subsequent quests suffer from a rules salad, there are so many cards in play giving bonuses, adding “if” and “when” statements, or having Time X instructions that it can be difficult to remember everything that’s going on.
So, my overall feeling is that the player cards are strong and across the cycle they really open up some interesting strategies but that the scenarios can be hit and miss and perhaps a little overwhelming even if you have as many plays under your belt as me.