“At last, when I had given up the chase and turned to other parts, Gollum was found. My friend returned out of great perils bringing the miserable creature with him.”
–Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring
To capture the wicked creature known as Gollum, the heroes of Middle-earth have scoured forest trails for clues, fought their way past fearsome trolls, saved a dying eagle to renew their alliance with the noble creatures, traversed the rocky crags of Emyn Muil, and pushed deep into the Dead Marshes. Now that they have Gollum bound and guarded, they need to Return to Mirkwood, to haul him to King Thranduil’s halls. There, Gandalf hopes Gollum will reveal secrets about Sauron’s Ruling Ring that could provide the heroes with a chance to stave off the gathering shadow…
However, the Dark Lord’s influence extends far beyond the lands of Mordor. His agents and other wicked creatures hunt for Gollum within the forests of Mirkwood, ever closing upon the heroes’ heels. With his crying, his curses, and his tantrums, Gollum draws the lurking predators nearer even as he makes life miserable for his captors.
A fearsome racket
Return to Mirkwood forces a player to escort Gollum each turn, and it is a thankless task. Gollum’s fits and tantrums make life miserable for your weary fellowship. Left unattended for even an instant, Gollum lashes out in rage. He bites, and his fury can also result in Wasted Provisions (Return to Mirkwood, 137). Still, there’s a deadlier risk from Gollum’s rage; his noisome fits draw the forest’s predators to your fellowship.
While your fellowship pushes through Mirkwood forest, a number of predators aim directly for Gollum and the player whose heroes escort him. Mirkwood Bats (Return to Mirkwood, 138) swarm about Gollum and his escorts, ripping into them with tooth and claw. One of the hallmarks of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is that each new scenario reinvents the play experience and gives different characters and cards their chances to shine. Mirkwood Bats may soon make Thalin (Core Set, 6) a Return to Mirkwood all-star.
Another predator also rushes directly at the source of the miserable wailing and moaning. The dread Attercop, Attercop (Return to Mirkwood, 139) poses a tremendous threat to the heroes and allies defending Gollum. The knowledge Gollum holds may provide the edge Gandalf and the forces of good need to stave off the evils of Mordor, but how many will die to the Attercop, Attercop to carry this knowledge to Thranduil’s halls?
The great eagles
Not all is darkness along the Return to Mirkwood. The eagles once again lend their aid, further reinforcing Tactics-based decks. The Support of the Eagles (Return to Mirkwood, 120) provides a dramatic boost to an Eagle strategy. While the Winged Guardian (The Hunt for Gollum, 4) makes an excellent defender and the Vassal of the Windlord (The Dead Marshes, 98) makes an excellent attacker, these noble allies return to the air after they swoop in to aid your fellowship. Though you can pay a resource to retain the aid of the Winged Guardian, Support of the Eagles provides a more far-reaching solution. Instead of using the Winged Guardian for its four Defense strength or the Vassal of the Windlord for its three Attack strength, you can exhaust Support of the Eagles to gain the advantages of the Wind Guardian’s tremendous toughness or the Vassal of the Windlord’s ferocity. Whichever boost you trigger remains active until the end of the phase, so Boromir (The Dead Marshes, 95) could ready himself to make use of the bonus several times, as could any hero with Unexpected Courage (Core Set, 57).
Support of the Eagles is not an inexpensive card, nor is it one that functions on its own, but it represents an exciting maturation of the card pool for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. New decks, driven by powerful combinations, are becoming increasingly viable.
Look for the Support of the Eagles to aid fellowships in their struggles against Mirkwood Bats, the fearsome Attercop, Attercop, and the other perils of Return to Mirkwood.