A Dark Shadow under the Moon

When Denethor became Steward (2984) he proved a masterful lord, holding the rule of all things in his own hand. He said little. He listened to counsel, and then followed his own mind. He had married late (2976), taking as wife Finduilas, daughter of Adrahil of Dol Amroth. She was a lady of great beauty and gentle heart, but before twelve years had passed she died. Denethor loved her, in his fashion, more dearly than any other, unless it were the elder of the sons that she bore him. But it seemed to men that she withered in the guarded city, as a flower of the seaward vales set upon a barren rock. The shadow in the east filled her with horror, and she turned her eyes ever south to the sea that she missed.

After her death Denethor became more grim and silent than before, and would sit long alone in his tower deep in thought, foreseeing that the assault of Mordor would come in his time. It was afterwards believed that needing knowledge, but being proud, and trusting in his own strength of will, he dared to look in the palantír of the White Tower. None of the Stewards had dared to do this, nor even the kings Eärnil and Eärnur, after the fall of Minas Ithil when the palantír of Isildur came into the hands of the Enemy; for the Stone of Minas Tirith was the palantír of Anárion, most close in accord with the one that Sauron possessed.

In this way Denethor gained his great knowledge of things that passed in his realm, and far beyond his borders, at which men marvelled; but he bought the knowledge dearly, being aged before his time by his contest with the will of Sauron. Thus pride increased in Denethor together with despair, until he saw in all the deeds of that time only a single combat between the Lord of the White Tower and the Lord of the Barad-dûr, and mistrusted all others who resisted Sauron, unless they served himself alone.

The Lord of the Rings, Appendix I.iv

***

When Denethor discovered the power of the Seeing Stone, he immediately used it to his advantage. But now Denethor wants to make sure that the knowledge he gained about the Enemy through the Palantír of Anárion is reliable. As Sauron begins his offensive on Gondor, Denethor sends out a small group of warriors to infiltrate into the heart of Sauron’s realm and discover the fate of its sister stone, the Palantír of Minas Ithil.

In this scenario, a company has to infiltrate Barad-dûr and return to Minas Tirith to report to Denethor, while he tries to withstand the constant assaults on Minas Tirith.

You win the game when you have accomplished the following, before the Resource deck runs out a second time:

  • Store Fate of the Ithil Stone at Minas Tirith. (In order to do this you need to do, in order: discard a Lost Knowledge card at Minas Tirith, play Fate of the Ithil Stone, play Palantír of Minas Tirith, and play a Stolen Knowledge card at Barad-dûr.)
  • Palantír of Minas Tirith needs to be used at least once.

You automatically lose the game when any of the following occurs:

  • There is no company at Minas Tirith.
  • Denethor is killed or corrupted.
  • The Resource deck runs out a second time.

Special rules

There are several special rules in this scenario, detailed below.

Hazard Deck & the Five Nazgûl

  • The hazard deck should consist of exactly 40 cards. In addition you require also 5 Nazgûl hazards (or cards representing them).
  • To prepare the Hazard deck, shuffle the 40 cards and divide them into four piles of 10 cards each. Add 1 Nazgûl to the first three and 2 to the fourth pile and shuffle each pile individually. Stack these four piles to create the Hazard deck so that the fourth pile (containing 2 Nazgûl) is at the bottom.
  • Next, set the following seven Hazard cards aside: In Darkness Bind Them, No Way Forward, Siege, Shadow of Mordor, The Will of Sauron, Redoubled Force and Seized by Terror. These cards cannot be included in your Hazard deck, and will only be brought into play when a Nazgûl card is played. When a Nazgûl is drawn, place it in the Hazard area and immediately play the following hazard events:
    • Nazgûl 1: In Darkness Bind Them
    • Nazgûl 2: No Way Forward & Siege
    • Nazgûl 3: Shadow of Mordor
    • Nazgûl 4: The Will of Sauron
    • Nazgûl 5: Redoubled Force & Seized by Terror 
  • All these cards played by Nazgûl are considered Permanent-events (even if the text on the card states otherwise, as in the case of The Will of Sauron) and can only be discarded by resources you play, such as Marvels Told (ignore the text on the card if it states that they are discarded under specific circumstances, such as when a play deck runs out). When you discard any of these cards with a resource, discard them to the discard pile; if they are brought back in play at a later turn, they are played again as permanent-events, following these special rules.
  • The Nazgûl only serve to trigger the specific Event associated with them, and to modify the strength of Siege, as detailed below. Ignore the text on the Nazgûl cards themselves. The Nazgûl can never be discarded and no Resources that target Nazgûl can be used in this scenario. Place the Nazgûl cards at the top of the playing area to remind you of how many are in play; place the events they cause on top of them.
  • Siege and Seized by Terror can never be discarded once they are in play, and additional rules apply to them, as detailed below.

Siege

  • When the second Nazgûl is drawn, play Siege on Minas Tirith. It can never be discarded. For every additional Nazgûl that is played, Siege gains +1 strike, as follows:
    • 2nd Nazgûl: 3 strikes, 7 prowess
    • 3rd Nazgûl: 4 strikes, 7 prowess
    • 4th Nazgûl: 5 strikes, 7 prowess
    • 5th Nazgûl: 6 strikes, 7 prowess
  • Hazard long-events and short-events may increase the prowess and number of strikes of Siege. The attacks from Siege do not have to be defeated, just faced. If you ever have no company at Minas Tirith, you lose the game. Siege can never be discarded.
  • When in play, the factions Tower Guard of Minas Tirith, Men of Anórien, and Rangers of Ithilien can be tapped to remove one strike from Siege. When Rangers of Ithilien is in play it can also be tapped during the beginning of the Organization Phase to heal a single character at Henneth Annûn (from wounded to tapped, or tapped to untapped). No other factions can be brought into play.
  • The attack of Siege cannot be cancelled. Any cards (such as Dark Dealings or Torque of Hues) that would normally cancel the attack, only cancel a single strike of Siege.

Seized by Terror

  • When the fifth Nazgûl is drawn, play Seized by Terror (in addition to Redoubled Force). It is considered a Permanent-event and can never be discarded. It applies to the character with the highest prowess (if there is a tie, choose randomly between them) in any company that faces an attack during the Movement/Hazard Phase while travelling through a Shadow-land or Dark-domain. Resolve its effects after the attack has been resolved. As Boromir tells: We were outnumbered, for Mordor has allied itself with the Easterlings and the cruel Haradrim; but it was not by numbers that we were defeated. A power was there that we have not felt before. Some said that it could be seen, like a great black horseman, a dark shadow under the moon. Wherever he came a madness filled our foes, but fear fell on our boldest, so that horse and man gave way and fled.

Minas Tirith

  • Minas Tirith is a Haven in this scenario, but only for the purposes of healing, bringing characters into play, and for storing Fate of the Ithil Stone. You cannot use any other Haven.
  • Companies staying at Minas Tirith draw 2 Hazard cards during the Movement/Hazard Phase; if no other company is moving that turn, draw 6 Hazard cards for the company that stays at Minas Tirith instead. Companies moving to Minas Tirith draw 6, as usual.
  • Denethor can never leave Minas Tirith.
  • Minas Tirith is never discarded and untaps during the Untap Phase.

Other rules

  • You cannot play Gates of Morning. Doors of Night has to be included in the Hazard deck.
  • You can only use Dúnedan characters whose home-site is not in the north (Bree or Cameth Brin). Aside from Faramir, you can only have one additional character with a mind of 4 or more whose home site is not Minas Tirith, since Denethor mistrusted all others who resisted Sauron. Characters with a lower mind whose home site is not Minas Tirith can be used without restrictions, as long as they are Dúnedan and their home site is not Bree or Cameth Brin.
  • No Wizard can be used. You have 25 general influence.
  • The starting company consists of Denethor, Boromir, and Faramir, who all begin at Minas Tirith. The starting company can have two minor items.
  • The Resource deck cannot contain more than 35 cards.
  • Only Denethor can carry and use the Palantír. He can tap to use the Palantír; it does not need to be aligned.

Characters

Denethor, Boromir, and Faramir comprise your starting company. You can only include in your deck Dúnedan characters from the south, and only 1 Dúnedan with a mind of four or higher whose home site is not Minas Tirith. This means you have little to choose from. But whom you choose may determine what strategy you will have to take in completing the objectives of Fate of the Ithil Stone.

Nearly all the characters you can use are warriors. Most of them also have a low mind, which means you can have more of them in play (which is useful to face strikes during the Siege of Minas Tirith), but that also means they have low prowess and/or body. You’ll want to equip them with items so they stand a chance in battle!

Scouts will make this scenario easier. Companies with scouts can leave Minas Tirith more easily once Siege is in play, and some of the resources you will likely use (see below) also require scouts. Mablung, Anborn, Adrazar and Bergil are the only scouts you can use, and they aren’t the strongest warriors.

Ioreth can be useful too, because she is the only sage, besides Denethor himself. Resources like Marvels Told require a sage and force that sage to make a corruption check, and since Denethor will have high corruption points from the Palantír, it might be wise to let Ioreth perform such actions. She also gives a good healing bonus.

Note that all these characters have either no or very little direct influence. Unless you use resources to increase their direct influence, you will not be able to have very many characters in play at a single time, since Denethor, Boromir, and Faramir–your starting company and some of your strongest warriors–already need 13 general influence to control and collectively have only 4 direct influence.

Sites

The aim of this scenario is very specific: play Fate of the Ithil Stone and defend Minas Tirith. As a result, you do not have great use for most of the sites surrounding Minas Tirith, where your starting company begins.

You can play three factions in this scenario to help you defend Minas Tirith, and these can be played at either Henneth Annun or Minas Tirith. All the other faction sites surrounding Anorien are of limited use, although you may want to use some Border-holds to play allies like Noble Hound, which will help your heroes sneak into Barad-dur untapped.

Apart from that, you want a few sites where you can find weapons. Glittering Caves is the easiest for major items, but Gobel Mirlond and Haudh-in-Gwanur are not particularly challenging either (though you’ll have to be careful if In Darkness Bind Them is in play, and doubly so when Seized by Terror is also in play). Tolfalas is a good place to pick up a greater item.

Resources

The two most difficult things you need to accomplish in this scenario is to defend Minas Tirith and, especially, to get a company to enter Barad-dûr and play a Stolen Knowledge card.

To help you defend Minas Tirith, you will want not just strong warriors (who generally have a high mind, while you have little general influence), but also good weapons. Close to Minas Tirith you can find both major and greater items, and so you have access to the usual weapons: Sword of Gondolin, Glamdring, Orcrist, and so on. Dark Quarrels and Torque of Hues can be used to cancel an attack (or a strike of the Siege attack, as detailed above), and Risky Blow or Lucky Strike can help weaker warriors defend with less chance of being wounded.

The biggest challenge of completing the Fate of the Ithil Stone objectives, is to play a Stolen Knowledge card at Barad-dûr during the site phase. The hazard limit against your company will be high–Barad-dûr adds 2 to the limit, and some of the permanent-events triggered by the Nazgûl will raise this even further–and that automatic-attacks of the site are formidable as well. To have a character untapped after all that isn’t easy.

If you have scouts in your company, and your company is small, you could use Stealth to avoid all creature hazards, so you just have to face the automatic-attacks, but this will tap the scout. Forewarned is Forearmed seems like a really good way of minimising the danger of actually entering Barad-dûr, since it removes one automatic-attack, but keep in mind that the second automatic-attack can then not be cancelled (which could be a particularly big problem if Redoubled Force, which is triggered by the last Nazgûl, is already in play). You could, instead, rely on the old-and-trusted Dark Quarrels to cancel one or both automatic attacks.

Alternatively, you can use resources that untap your characters. Hundreds of Butterflies can then untap a character during the Movement/Hazard Phase, but this raises the hazard limit by 1. Cram lets you untap a character when you discard it, but, since it is an item, requires to be brought into play at an earlier turn. You can also use Block or Dodge to prevent a warrior from tapping when facing an attack without penalty.

In order to complete Fate of the Ithil Stone you need to play several cards in order. You will need, in order, a Lost Knowledge card, Fate of the Ithil Stone, Palantír of Minas Tirith, and a Stolen Knowledge card. For Lost Knowledge you can play Lost Tome, Forgotten Scrolls, or Memories Recalled. The latter two are easier in this scenario: Forgotten Scrolls can be played at Minas Tirith, and with Memories Recalled your character do not have to face a strike, though it requires a sage and would need to be played at the same time as Fate of the Ithil Stone, thus giving you a little less flexibility.

At Barad-dûr you have to play a Stolen Knowledge card. You have two options. Dark Numbers can be played after any Orc or Troll attack, such as the automatic attacks at Barad-dûr, but requires a Scout to tap. Knowledge of the Enemy can only be played at a Shadow-hold or Dark-hold, but can be played by any character. Aside from its requirement for Fate of the Ithil Stone, it can also be useful in this scenario to remove a hazard from play when it is discarded–which can come in handy if you want to permanently remove a particularly difficult hazard, such as one of the ones brought into play by the Nazgûls.

Since it can be difficult to bring out these cards in the right order, you could consider adding Far-sight to your deck. This card lets you search your deck for an item, but it also requires a sage, which means only Ioreth could do this (since Denethor cannot leave Minas Tirith).

To make travel safer, you could also consider using Fair Travels in Free-domains or Fair Travels in Shadow-lands. The latter is particularly useful once In Darkness Bind Them (which creates more Shadow-lands) is in play. Mountains of Shadow can also reduce the hazard limit when you travel from Henneth Annun to Barad-dur.

Hazard deck

This scenario is designed to get progressively harder. Keep that in mind when building the Hazard deck.

There are three main types of hazards that will make this game challenging: corruption, hazard creatures, and hazards that make movement more perilous.

For corruption I’ve only used two cards. Despair of the Heart is too thematic not to include, and will likely force many corruption checks when your companies get overrun by the forces of Mordor. If you plan to move only with small companies, Alone and Unadvised will make your game a lot more difficult. It gives 4 corruption points and forces corruption checks for every region the character travels through modified by the number of characters in his company. I’ve lost quite a few characters to this hazard! Finally, Bane of the Ithil Stone increases the corruption points of the Palantír, which will make it much more difficult to keep Denethor in play.

The scenario hazards (which are brought out by the Nazgûl cards, as detailed above) will make movement more difficult. In Darkness Bind Them makes the regions around Mordor more treacherous, No Way Forward reduces the number of regions you can travel through, and Shadow of Mordor increases the hazard limit against your moving companies. There are several additional hazards you can use to increase the difficulty. Since The Will of Sauron keeps long-events in play, it is good to use those. Morgul Night turns all Wilderness into Shadow-lands and all Shadow-lands into Dark-domains, while Clouds increase the prowess of all hazard creatures. Lost in Free-domains and Lost in Border-lands are good choices too, since you will travel through both region types regularly, but the former is particularly challenging, since it makes you lose a turn, effectively, and only requires a single Free-domain in the site path. For a very challenging game, you could also consider including Foul Fumes, which forces characters travelling through Shadow-lands or Dark-domains to return to their site of origin.

For creature hazards you have a wide range of choice. Thematically, it makes sense to focus on Orcs and Trolls. However, many of these can only be played in Shadow-lands and Dark-domains, and your companies will move often in other regions, especially early in the game. Orc-patrol, Orc-warriors, and Orc-warband can all be keyed to Wilderness and/or Border-holds (i.e. Rohan, Ithilien, and Harandor, where you can pick up items). There are also several Men hazards that suit this, such as Brigands, Ambusher, or Lawless Men. The Orc hazards that can only be played in Shadow-lands or Dark-domains are fiercer, though, and their range is considerably extended by Morgul Night. Orc-watch, Orc-guard, and Half-trolls of Far Harad will prove a decent challenge for your small companies trying to sneak into Gorgoroth. Use Night and Clouds to make all hazard creatures even more challenging against all your characters.

Finally, use hazards to make the sites themselves more perilous. Fell Winter adds an automatic-attack to Border-holds (particularly annoying if you were hoping to use those sites to play a Noble Hound). Doubled Vigilance makes it harder to enter the site, and Eye of Sauron, Arouse Denizens/Minions, Awaken Denizens/Minions, and Incite Denizens/Minions will make automatic-attacks more dangerous.

2 thoughts on “A Dark Shadow under the Moon

  1. Another great scenario I had a lot of fun playing. I don’t own Fate of the Ithil Stone (neat card!) but used a proxy. Game gets very challenging just trying to make sure you don’t miss anything once you have all those permanent event hazards out there. Shadow Over Morodor was tough (not sure I handled the amount on the hazard limit increase correctly with that card, it is vicious). Lost characters to corruption when ‘Alone & Unadvised’ and also lost a few games where Denethor either was corrupted or killed during the ‘Siege’. Very thematic and challenging – thank you for sharing these wonderful scenarios you’ve created!

  2. Thank you. This is indeed a very tough scenario, I’ve found, and Alone and Unadvised makes this a whole lot more difficult. I sometimes remove that card from my deck just to give me some chance of winning!

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