Fantasy Flight today announced A Shadow in the East, the eighth deluxe expansion for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is available for pre-order at your friendly local game store, or online through the Fantasy Flight website.

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A Shadow in the East will mark the start of the Vengeance of the Mordor cycle, a series of quests that takes players to the lands of Rhûn that rest in the shadow of Sauron’s domain. Players battle against the forces of Mordor and the corrupted souls who long for the dark days of Sauron’s rule to return. As with the deluxe expansions for the LOTR LCG, the set includes three original scenarios built from 156 cards, including two new heroes and 29 player cards.

A Shadow in the East introduces a new curious gameplay mechanic in the form of a single copy of The One Ring. The One Ring is an attachment, which you can place on any hero able to hold it. The dark power of the Ring reduces your threat elimination level by five. Historically, the One Ring was nothing more than a terrible burden. But this set introduces new Master cards that potentially give you some chance to tempt fate and draw upon its powers. The moment that The One Ring comes into play, you may search your deck and add one of these cards to your hand. The Master Ring, for instance, allows the Ring-bearer to exhaust The One Ring and raise your threat in order to cancel and discard an encounter card that you cannot bear to face at this time. Such powers can only be used by those who control The One Ring, and they come with a heavy price. If The One Ring leaves play for any reason, you lose the game. This is a complete flavour win once again – you are forced to protect the Ring-bearer at all costs.

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We always look forward to the newly unveiled heroes in a deluxe expansion for LOTR LCG, and this is an interesting and precious addition indeed. This time we get a a new, wholly unique, double-sided hero and enemy in the form of Sméagol – in first appearance in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. In order to remain free of the pull of The One Ring, Sméagol cannot have attachments, but he can still prove an invaluable guide for your party, letting you draw a card when you travel to a location if you’re willing to raise your threat. But he is not without his risks. To play Smeagol, you must shuffle two copies of Stinker into the encounter deck. If either copy of this card is revealed, the hero Sméagol flips and becomes Gollum, turning on the first player and engaging them in combat. He will continue to fight your heroes until he is defeated, at which point he flips back to Sméagol and returns to his master’s control, exhausted.

These are enormously thematic additions to the game, but in terms of whether or not Smeagol will see play, I’m a little skeptical. His stats are quite good and his threat on his own is very low. But if I know anything about LOTR LCG, it is almost a guarantee that you’ll draw Stinker at the exact moment when it will do you maximum harm.

Nonetheless, this set makes it clear that there is still enormous creativity in this Living Card Game, and the upcoming cycle looks like something to hold out for.

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