FFG Second Breakfast Series: Escape from Mount Gram

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In the second of a series of articles, Fantasy Flight Games designer Matthew Newman discusses the design and game elements in the second scenario of the Angmar Awakened cycle of the Lord of the Rings Living Card Game. The Lost Realm deluxe expansion and the scenarios of the Angmar Awakened cycle explore the north of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth which encompasses Eriador and the lands that once belonged to the Kingdom of Arnor, the sister kingdom of Gondor, established by Elendil and Isildur in the lands between the Misty Mountains and the Blue Mountains, before the kingdom declined and was destroyed by the Witch-King of Angmar. A land of desolate moors, mountains, trolls, orcs and wargs, and considered by the inhabitants of the Shire and Bree to be haunted, it is a natural setting for the LOTR LCG to explore.

Mount Gram, at the northern end of the Misty Mountains is an orc stronghold mentioned in the Appendices to the LOTR and in The Hobbit. Newman, in using this location, has designed a game based on ‘prison break’ video game sequences in card form. At the beginning of the scenario, you have been captured by orcs and taken to the Mt. Gram dungeons. You task is to escape. Sounds easy, but wait; you get no allies, items, mounts or artifacts at the beginning of the game. They are all shuffled into a separate ‘Captured Deck’ and cannot be used until liberated. In addition, you get only one hero to start. Any other heroes are included in the Captured Deck—one on top, any others shuffled in with the rest of the cards. And, in a multiplayer game, each player starts as if they are playing solo, with their own staging area to struggle against, unable to help each other. So, you are all alone with one hero and only a deck of skills, events, songs and condition cards to draw from.
If this seems daunting, there is a silver lining. Many of the encounter deck cards have the “Capture X” keyword. This allows you add X cards underneath the encounter card. Defeating an enemy or exploring a location with the Capture keyword lets you take the cards and place them in your hand—with certain events, you can even put them into play immediately.
Newman says that one of fun, but tense, aspects of the game will be balancing your actions with only one hero available. This can be daunting, but starting with only one hero means that you start with a very low threat level. Starting at this level can makes it possible to reserve your strength for combat rather than exhausting during the quest phase—the increase in the threat level is still low enough that the player is not in immediate danger of triggering disaster if they take some damage during the quest phase.
Ultimately “through clever action and risk management—and the skilled use of events—you must recover your allies and equipment and meet up with the other players”, at which point the real prison break is underway, and the difficulty increases as the players seek final escape from Mt. Gram. All in all, this promises to be a tense, but exciting addition to the LOTR LCG storyline and scenarios.

Escape from Mt Gram is available for pre-order. The complete article is available here.