Merry looked round in dismay and disgust. ‘Let’s get out!’ he said. ‘If I had known all the mischief he had caused, I should have stuffed my pouch down Saruman’s throat.’
‘No doubt, no doubt! But you did not, and so I am able to welcome you home.’ There standing at the door was Saruman himself, looking well-fed and well-pleased; his eyes gleamed with malice and amusement.
A sudden light broke on Frodo. ‘Sharkey!’ he cried.
Saruman laughed. ‘So you have heard the name, have you? All my people used to call me that in Isengard, I believe. A sign of affection, possibly. But evidently you did not expect to see me here.’
‘I did not,’ said Frodo. ‘But I might have guessed. A little mischief in a mean way: Gandalf warned me that you were still capable of it.’
‘Quite capable,’ said Saruman, ‘and more than a little. You made me laugh, you hobbit-lordlings, riding along with all those great people, so secure and so pleased with your little selves. You thought you had done very well out of it all, and could now just amble back and have a nice quiet time in the country. Saruman’s home could be all wrecked, and he could be turned out, but no one could touch yours. Oh no! Gandalf would look after your affairs.’
Saruman laughed again. ‘Not he! When his tools have done their task he drops them. But you must go dangling after him, dawdling and talking, and riding round twice as far as you needed. ‘‘Well,’’ thought I, ‘‘if they’re such fools, I will get ahead of them and teach them a lesson. One ill turn deserves another.’’ It would have been a sharper lesson, if only you had given me a little more time and more Men. Still I have already done much that you will find it hard to mend or undo in your lives. And it will be pleasant to think of that and set it against my injuries.’
The Return of the King, Book 6, Chapter 8
After Saruman and Wormtongue fled from Isengard, they travelled through the Gap of Isen towards the lands lying to the North West, and more specifically to the Shire, where Saruman established his rule with the help of local men.
In this scenario, you play with the fallen Saruman. You have to recruit men and factions in the lands surrounding the Shire, and turn Bag End into a Wizardhaven where you can continue the industry you started in Isengard.
In order to win this scenario, you need to accomplish the following aims within 15 turns:
- Control 10 MP total of Factions and Characters.
- Each Character that is not at The White Towers needs to carry at least one weapon, armour, shield, or helmet item.
- Have 5 MP worth of weapon, armour, shield, or helmet items in play (not stored).
- Play either Saruman’s Machinery or War Forges at Bag End, which means you first need to turn it into a Wizardhaven with Mischief in a Mean Way and then protect that Wizardhaven with Guarded Haven.
- Saruman has to be at the Wizardhaven Bag End at the end of the game, and at least one character needs to be at Bree.
If Saruman is killed, or you have to discard Bag End or Bree, or you run out of time, you automatically lose the game.
There are a few restrictions and variant rules in play in this scenario:
- Bag End is a Border-hold, and The Shire is a Border-land. Peace has left that region even before Saruman arrived.
- The only factions you can attempt to influence are Hobbits (at Bag End), Dunlendings (at Dunnish Clan-hold), and Hillmen (at Cameth Brin).
- You can only control Minion characters who are Men (no Orcs, Half-orcs, and Trolls, nor Elves or Dwarves).
- Apart from your starting characters (see below), all other characters can only be brought into play at their home site, unless another card (like A Chance Meeting) allows otherwise.
- You can only move in the following regions: Arthedain, Rhudaur, Hollin, Dunland, Enedwaith, Cardolan, and The Shire. You cannot travel to Rivendell.
- Saruman starts with 5 stage points, instead of the usual 3.
- Saruman’s Machinery, which is normally only playable at Isengard or The White Towers can be played at Bag End in this scenario.
- In addition to the cards that are not allowed in Fallen Wizard decks, the following cards may not be used: Cast from the Order, In the Grip of Ambition, Heart Grown Cold, Muster.
Isengard is your starting location, but you cannot stay there, as you have been driven out, and you can never return to it in this scenario. All the other sites that you can include in your location deck should be in one of the following regions: Arthedain, Rhudaur, Hollin, Dunland, Enedwaith, Cardolan, and The Shire. You can never travel to Rivendell. For The White Towers you have to use the Wizardhaven site.
Following the standard Fallen Wizard rules, you have to use Hero sites for all Border-holds and Free-holds, unless a stage resource forces you do to otherwise (see below). For Ruins & Lairs you can use either Hero or Minion sites, but note that you normally cannot play Hero resources at Minion sites or Minion resources at Hero sites!
Two of the sites in this region allow you to play Information (The Worthy Hills and Weathertop), which is not that useful in this scenario. You will need Bag End, Dunnish Clan-hold, and Cameth Brin to play Factions; the remaining sites will allow you to gather weapons and other items (only major and minor items, though, and a gold ring in Ost-in-Edhil).
You start the scenario with Saruman and Wormtongue (or a minion character of a similar strength, if you do not have Wormtongue). The characters you include in your resource deck all have to be Minion characters. All have to be Men, and all have to have a home site is in the above mentioned regions. I have used characters like Leamon and Perchen (both playable at Dunnish Clan Hold), Dunlending Spy and Bill Ferny (both playable at Bree), or Uchel and Deallus (both playable at Cameth Brin). No Orc or Troll characters can be used in this scenario. Your companies need to be covert companies.
Note that these are not particularly powerful characters—most of these have a rather lower prowess, and few have any special ability. You will, in other words, need good weapons, as well as resources that help you to avoid combat in the first place, if you want these characters to survive.
You have three main objectives in this scenario: recruit enough significant people to your cause, gather enough weapons to keep the people of the shire under your rule, and disrupt the peace of Bag End with the chaos of your industry.
To accomplish the first two you have one major disadvantage: all characters, factions, and items that have a MP value are worth only 1 MP, according to the rules for Fallen Wizards. Luckily, there are a few stage resources that will help you with this. Gatherer of Loyalties and Great Patron increase the value of Characters, Allies, and Factions, while Legacy of Smiths increases the value of items.
To add to this difficulty, you are severely limited in what you type of items you can play in the regions you can travel through. Minor items do not give you MPs, and there are only a few places where you can play major items: Ruined Signal Tower, Barrow-downs. In other words, don’t include many major items in your deck, because you will not be able to play them.
There are some stage resources that can help you with this, however. Plotting Ruin, which can be played when you have more than 7 stage points, lets you use Minion site cards for all Border-holds. With this card in play, you will be able to gain major items at both Cameth Brin and Dunnish Clan-hold, as well as recruit any character at Bree, and at the cost of a reasonable automatic attack (1 strike with 7 prowess against each character). Both The Forge-master and War-forges make it very easy to play minor items; if you play these both at a protected The White Towers, this site will prove very helpful: not only can your characters heal there, but they can also stock up on weapons! Use Fortress of the Towers to protect The White Towers.
Saruman’s Machinery (which in this scenario can be played both at The White Towers and Bag End if it has become a protected Wizardhaven) can also be used to fulfil this aim, but its usefulness will be limited. It allows you to play Technology at the site. These are (mostly) Minion items, but only one of these will be useful in this scenario: Mechanical Bow, a Major item of 1 MP, is a weapon.
Since you will have to play either War-forges or Saruman’s Machinery in Bag End, and those can only be played on a protected Wizardhaven, you will need to not only play Mischief in a Mean Way at Bag End (which turns it into a Wizardhaven), but also play Guarded Haven to then protect it.
Several of these stage resources can only be played when you have a certain number of stage points and some are dependent on other stage resources, and this can really slow you down. You might have a hand of only stage resources, but not be able to play a single one of them! It is a good idea therefore to include some additional stage resources that will increase your stage points so you can at least play stage resources like Legacy of Smiths (which needs 7 stage points) or Mischief in a Mean Way (which needs 10 stage points, and which you need to play both Guarded Haven and either War-forges or Saruman’s Machinery).
You can use Hidden Haven to turn one of the many Ruins & Lairs sites in these regions into a temporary Wizardhaven where your characters can heal (and which will temporarily boost your stage points by 1).
One of the focusses of the hazard deck is to make it difficult to gain factions and to force you to lose factions you have gained. It is therefore important to keep as much of Saruman’s direct and general influence free as possible. Thrall of the Voice and Wizard’s Myrmidon both help with this, and also give you 1 stage point each.
(Most of the Saruman-specific Stage Resources will likely not be of great use in this scenario. Many-coloured Robes lets you recycle Lordly Presence and First of the Order, which can help against corruption checks, if you choose to add corruption cards to your hazard deck—I didn’t. But Man of Skill, Saruman’s Ring, and The White Hand are likely of even less use.)
The only factions you can use in this scenario are Hobbits, Hillmen, and Dunlendings. The first two are normally worth only 1 MP, but this can be increased to 2 with Gatherer of Loyalties, as mentioned above. Since most Minion characters give but very few MP as well, and you need 10 MP to win, you will likely want to have at least two of these factions in play, so make sure you include some resources that help you in this, like Tempering Friendship, Old Friendship, New Friendship, or Persuasive Words. Influencing the Hobbits is perhaps trickiest, since that will tap the site that you need to keep in play to win this scenario.
Finally, most Minion characters have a decent body (and are thus not so easily killed), but have a weak prowess. The weapon items will help with this to some extent, but it is also not a bad strategy to avoid combat whenever you can. When you lose a character you do not just lose the MP that this character has, but possibly also the MP of the items he carries—a very frustrating way to lose, if this happens in turn 10!
Since Fallen Wizards are only tapped when corrupted, spells are an attractive option to help with combat. Vanishment and Kindling of the Spirit will be particularly helpful: the former cancels an attack, whereas the latter gives everyone in Saruman’s company +2 prowess. If Saruman passes the corruption test (at -2), he won’t even be tapped. Stealth, Trickery, Dark Quarrels, Ford, and similar resources will obviously also help.
Saruman is trying to control the Shire and its surrounding regions, but the inhabitants don’t let him take over easily—there is a lot of resistance, both in direct confrontation, and by discrediting Saruman’s propaganda. The hazard deck has therefore two main objectives: confront Saruman and his companies in direct combat, and reduce Saruman’s direct and general influence.
For creature hazards, I have mostly relied on Men: Arthadan Rangers and Dunlending Raiders are both playable in these regions. Sons of Kings and The Border-watch can be played at Border-holds and in the Shire. Other Men hazards playable in these regions include Lawless Men, Sellswords Between Charters, and Brigands. Since you have so many Men hazards, it makes sense to also include Rank Upon Rank, which increases the strike and prowess of such attacks.
There are a few non-Men hazards that you’d be likely to encounter in these regions, like Elves Upon Errantry, but also Wolves and other animals, perhaps also a minor Drakes, or a Giant, since your companies will mostly travel through Wilderness.
Whole Villages Roused, FEAR! FIRE! FOES!, and Fell Winter add automatic attacks to Border-holds. Incite Denizens normally adds an additional automatic attack to Border-holds (in this scenario Cameth Brin, Dunnish Clan-hold, Bree, and Bag End), but since you use the Hero Border-holds in this scenario (unless a stage resource forces you to use the Minion site cards for these, as mentioned above) which have no automatic attack, I have used it to add the automatic attack of the Minion sites to the Hero sites (similar to Whole Villages Roused).
To reduce Saruman’s influence, you can use Stormcrow (which reduces his direct influence of 12 to 8 in combination with Doors of Night), but also Power Relinquished to Artifice, a powerful hazard that increasingly reduces Saruman’s direct influence as well as his prowess as his stage points increase. Rebel-talk forces you control a character with general influence, which can be potent in combination with either Muster Disperses or Call of Home, which can make you lose a faction or a character. Finally, Fool’s Bane affects Saruman’s ability to influence factions, and, like Power Relinquished to Artifice, proportionate to his stage points. Echoes of the Song, a hazard that can be played only once during the game, reduces the stage points of a Fallen Wizard, and may therefore seem to work against the strategy of some of these hazards, but it can seriously thwart your plans when played at the right time, since several of the stage resources can only be played when you have a certain number of stage points.
Variant: Lobelia Sackville-Baggins’ Resistance
Lobelia Sackville-Baggins was imprisoned by Saruman’s men in a “dark and narrow cell”. When “Sharky’s” men arrive in Bag End, she put up a fight, and, I’d like to think, was involved, early on, in the resistance against Saruman, trying to persuade other Hobbits to put up a fight against the new oppressor. When Frodo released her, after Saruman’s defeat, “she had such a welcome, and there was such clapping and cheering when she appeared, leaning on Frodo’s arm but still clutching her umbrella, that she was quite touched, and drove away in tears” (The Return of the King, Book 6, Chapter 9).
In this variant, you add Lobelia Sackville-Baggins to the hazard deck. When this Agent card is drawn, you play it like a Permanent Event (which does not count against the hazard limit). She remains in play until Bag End is turned into a Wizardhaven with Mischief in a Mean Way.
As long as she is in play, the following rules apply:
- You have to use the Minion site for Bag End, but no items are playable at the site, since she makes sure all the spoons and other items are well guarded!
- The hazard limit for any company travelling to or from Bag End or through the Shire is increased by 1.
- Any character attempting to influence the Hobbit faction gains -5 in his influence attempt.
- Lobelia Sackville-Baggins cannot be killed or removed from the game, except by turning Bag End in a Wizardhaven, at which point she is imprisoned.