PART 1: How did it come to this…
Once again…the world is changing. I feel it in the water…I feel in the air…I see it in the rise of the second expansion set of The Two Towers: The Battle of Helm’s Deep. Yet before all that we already know is lost in a sea of new cards, rules and strategies…let us reflect at length upon that great “wind” of change that was The Two Towers Premiere Expansion set and understand how it transformed the very essence of the card game, how it in fact did change the course of playing and in no doubt gave rise to new and more formidable strategic archetypes.
In understanding how The Two Towers enhanced the game from The Fellowship of The Ring expansions, we must first observe one undeniable truth: The Fellowship of the Ring TCG is based upon the idealism of CULTURE; how the forces of Middle-Earth were represented in terms of style, function and motivation and goal-orientation.
When the game was in its infancy, this major design tactic influenced the game in such a subtle way, many players did not utilize it as a definite opportunity in terms of deck-design and meta-game strategy. This concept of “cooperative” cultural strength became greatly enhanced as it was continued throughout the release of The Fellowship of the Ring expansion sets: The Mines of Moria and Realms of the Elf-Lords.
Grounded in this cultural identity, the game successfully mirrored the flavor and feel of how “strength” was found in the great “differences” within the cultures of Hobbit, Elf, Dwarf and Man represented in the 9 Companions of the Fellowship. Many of you know that this is also true of the archetypal (and nearly unbeatable) Fellowship strategies of the TCG as well. Large cooperative Fellowships, drawing upon their combined strengths and resources, worked together very well in protecting Frodo by exercising options not necessarily available in one singular culture.
Yet again, as seen in the great literary work of the “Fellowship”, this ideal of a mixed cultural advantage was no longer the issue as the “Breaking of the Fellowship” forced these companions, in essence these cultures, to reconcile with the fact that their goals no longer are influenced by the underlying quest of the ring as Frodo and Sam, or Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli encountered new allies, new threats, new cultures and the overwhelming sense of the oncoming war upon Middle-Earth.
Therefore, The Two Towers TCG changed the fundamental mentality of this cultural based strategy by offering a new and more clarified approach to deck-design and strategy: strength through cultural isolationism. Many of the cards from this expansion focus on the power that can be produced by honing the sheer aspect of the culture through its advantages, resources and ideals.
PART 2: This is your world too!
Now that we have a better understanding of the “hows” and “whys” of The Two Towers Premier Expansion, let us step back and take a look at how a focused cultural approach has given rise to an even stronger, more effective and highly concentrated set of goals, controls and opportunities in this larger and more strategically complex playing environment:
CULTURES: DUNLAND, DWARVEN and ELVEN
This is the first of three new cultures introduced into the game, adding to the overall cultural diversity also found within the Shadow forces which threaten Middle Earth.
Cultural Strength: Numbers…sheer numbers. Like the Moria Culture of the “Fellowship” sets, this culture is heavily based upon the swarm tactic: force in numbers to overwhelm the companions in the Fellowship. Unlike Moria, many of these Dunlendings such as DUNLENDING MADMAN (4C12) and DUNLENDING ROBBER (4C16) increase in strength and become FIERCE after successful skirmishes. Enhanced with incredible possession destruction and the ability to negate roaming penalties as early as SITE 3, Dunland minions are indeed a very powerful culture, incredibly focused and highly effective against possession based Fellowships – which is in the nature of their overall culture: looting and pillaging.
Related Support Cards:
A. Hides (4R19) – Dunland minions have one severe weakness: low vitality. Archery will decimate their numbers before they have a chance to skirmish and activate their special abilities. This possession can either be discarded to use or can utilize the spending of 2 twilight tokens in order to prevent the one wound which would not only kill your minion, but could quite possibly eliminate the one advantage you may have had in that particular skirmish; overwhelming numbers, fierce skirmishing or possession destruction.
B. Dark Fury (4C7) – Sanctuary is no longer safe for the Fellowship as this event adds +2 strength to any Dunland minion – or a surprise +4 at a Sanctuary!
Represented by either Gimli: Lockbearer or Gimli: Unbidden Guest, the Dwarven culture is probably the only one best utilized when splashed into an overall Fellowship strategy. Since Gimli is the only Dwarf representing the Dwarven culture as a whole in The Two Towers, his cultural support is minimal, but by no means insignificant.
Cultural Strength: Many Dwarven culture cards are based around 2 different strategies: card cycling and strength adding – either to Gimli, another Dwarf, or to another companion, preferably Legolas.
Related Support Cards:
A. Khazad Ai-menu (4C51) – Make a Dwarf strength +2 (or strength +3 and damage +1 if you spot Legolas). This card of course represents the ever-growing friendship and admiration Gimli feels toward his very first elf-friend Legolas and how they protect each other in this time of war.
B. My Axe is Notched (4U52) – One of the most enjoyable Dwarven cards in this expansion as it simulates the classic Uruk-slaying competition between Legolas and Gimli and how that competitive nature adds to Gimli’s inherent combative skills.
The Elves in this expansion have truly returned to their honed mastery of warfare. Almost every single card in this culture depends upon a focused Elven compansionship (usually at least 3 or more) working together to accomplish not just victory, but the total decimation of all Shadow forces, supplies and resources – as seen in the days of the Second Age. Most notably, the Elven Forces of the Galadhrim sent forth from Lorien charge into the forefront with incredible SKIRMISH abilities, complimented with a host of weapons, event cards and conditions increasing overall success in combat.
Cultural Strength: Success in this culture can only be truly achieved by adopting the Elven ideal of isolationism; a belief system which the Elves embraced to achieve the highest nature of progress for their race – including the crafting of weapons and mastering the art of war. Cards such as SUPPORTING FIRE (4C83), SWORD-WALL (4R84 and KILLING FIELD (4R72) all represent this philosophy as you a required to spot 3 or more Elves in order to achieve very specific goals ranging from site liberation to preying upon the weakness of wounded enemies.
Related Support Cards:
A. HALDIR, Emissary of the Galadhrim (4C71) – While no opponent controls a site, Haldir is strength +2. And, following the Elven cultural strategy, spot Haldir at a battleground site and exert another Elf to liberate a site – preserving Haldir’s strength bonus while keeping your opponent from gaining the advantage of site control.
B. Alliance Reforged (4R58) – Draw a card for each Elf companion you spot. Utilizing 3 or more Elven companions, this is an incredible tactical advantage to prepare your hand either for massive skirmishing or for defensive maneuvers.
WOW! I think that’s about enough so far. Let’s take this opportunity to digest all of this information and I’ll return soon with reviews of the remaining 6 cultures which round out The Two Towers premiere expansion.
More to come…
Lao of Gondor