Lidless Eye Preview

This is it, the final hours of the final day of the Second Age of the Middle-earth Card of the Day. I have done my best to bring enlightenment and a little entertainment to the minds of the 'net's MECCG players and know the three Heirs shall continue the legacy well. As Isildur I have fought to bring light to the people of Netdle-earth, have battled back the evil forces, and am soon departing on a journey over the sea. Yet evil still broods, Sauron grows more powerful, and there will be all kinds of excitement once Middle-earth: The Lidless Eye is released.

*** WARNING *** While I have agreed to release no specific information regarding mechanics and/or card text, some readers may find this article lessens the surprise factor once the set comes out. If you do not want any juicy info about this expansion, stop reading now.

"So, when will I be able to get some Lidless Eye?"
No specific release date has been announced. The closest estimate we have to go on is "June." If I had to be precise, I'd guess June 10th because that's the day I leave the country.

"How will it be packaged?"
Lidless Eye will be sold in starters and boosters at the same prices that The Wizards is sold at (SRP $9.95 and $2.95 US respectively). They have addressed several of the packaging concerns that have been raised and included a little window so you can see which fixed set you're getting and region cards have not been included. The rarity collation will work the same way it has (boosters will have 1 rare, 4 uncommons, 10 commons, starters 3/12/45 plus a 20 card fixed pack). Due to concerns raised, the rarity scheme will change with the next expansion. Look for more details later.

"So, what's it all about?"
We've been playing the good guys, the heroes, the wizards, since the game came out almost a year and a half ago. Sure, we got our chances to be evil and have some fun as the bad guys through our hazard portions, but now we can be evil through and through. In Lidless Eye you get to play a Ringwraith on a mission from Sauron to recover his ring. At your disposal are a host of Orc, Troll, Man, Dwarf, Elf, and Dunadan minions. They will adventure forth, either covertly, not suspected by the agents of good, or overtly as a screaming war band of rowdy warriors, ready to tear apart anything that gets in the way of the power of your Master.

Almost all of the mechanics from The Wizards will carry over to Lidless Eye. There are still companies, movement, factions, items, creatures and corruption, all that stuff you're used to. But it's from the other side. You find protection and healing at the Darkhavens, Minas Morgul, Dol Gildur, Carn Dum, and Geann a-Lisch. Dark-domains and Shadow-holds are to you as Free-domains and Border-lands are for the Enemies of Sauron. You have little to fear from your fellow Orcs, but look out for the Elf-lord Revealed in Wrath! The guards will easily let you pass through the doors of Barad-dur, but just TRY to get into Bag-end.

Still, there are just a few changes in the way the mechanics work.

"Can I use my old cards?"
Yes, Lidless Eye is fully compatible with The Wizards and other sets. You can play as a Ringwraith vs. a Ringwraith, a Ringwraith vs. a Wizard, or the old fashioned Wizard vs a Wizard. You can't use Wizard resources or sites, though, as the dark side sees them differently. Hazards from any set will work, though.

"What sorts of cards are in the set?"
Since this set is designed as an expansion that can be played completely without any other cards, there are some cards from previous sets that are included in Lidless Eye. A look at a card list (from the most recent Inquest magazine or the WWW) shows that there are a fair number of repeat hazards. Slayers, Cave-drakes, Twilight, Plague of Wights, and other cards which make up the core of several strategies are returning. Also, save about 5, the sites all appeared in earlier releases. Yet, aside from Ruins & Lairs, all of the sites are totally different. Remember, you're working for the bad guys now, so you've got friends where you had enemies before, and enemies in even the safest spots from previous games.

There are many resource duplicates as well. Several of the unique items (like The One Ring, some of the Dwarven Rings, Scroll of Isildur, etc.) appear again, though several of them work a little differently. Also, some of the vital resource events have been reprinted, though you may not catch them at first, due to the new names. You've already seen An Untimely Whisper, for instance.

"So if I've been playing for a while, why should I buy this set? I've already got all its cards."
Not so! While there are a fair number of repeats, there are tons of new cards. There are cards which work only for or against minion companies and new hazards that can hurt heroes or minions. There's even a card which lets you act as Sauron. EVIL. And all of the reprinted cards will have new art, so we can look forward to Cave-drakes and Twilights with more enticing artwork.

There will be lots of new twists on old cards. There are more rings, and they play a bigger part. There will also be some new ideas like non-unique characters. There are, though, a few card types which Lidless Eye doesn't touch on much like Offering and Capture Attempts.

"Will this be fun to play?"
Oh yes, especially if you like role playing. Now you can not only role play the heroic deeds of the good warriors and sages, you can role play the cowardice and commands of Orcs, the evil and corrupt whisperings of agents (to a greater extent than in Dark Minions), and generally act as an evil minion of Sauron (Vampire players, this may intrigue you). You can have Shagrat with a Whip keeping your Orc Brawlers in line. You can have your Ringwraith sneaking around executing people and orders. And you can have your companies go and gang up on your opponent's hero companies.

"Do the hero companies have a way of dealing with this threat?"
Yes. Someone who has not bought any Lidless Eye will be able to take his deck up against a minion deck. There are also creatures from the good side, Elves, Dunedain, and the like. The set mainly concentrates on Ringwraith vs. Ringwraith, though. The next expansion, Against the Shadow, will focus more on interaction between heroes and minions.

"I don't like the sound of Orcs and Elves working together. Has Tolkien's work been compromised?"
For a while there has been mistrust of this expansion brewing in the newsgroup. Let me assure you, any of this expansion could have been in something Tolkien wrote had he chosen to focus on the bad guys. The good folks at ICE have seen to it that all of the book realism has been kept. There are rules about certain races traveling together. A company of Orcs attacked by an Orc-watch doesn't stand as near a danger as a company of heroes attacked by the same Orc-watch. There are even rules to represent the Ringwraith's distrust of crossing water for Eru's sake! Reading over the rules and spoilers sent to me by ICE the only realism concerns that I could see are those unavoidable in a card game. Like the fact that it's technically POSSIBLE to wear more than 10 rings simultaneously or the fact that a dragon will accept a Leaf Brooch in stead of The Arkenstone. Someone would be hard pressed to find an "It couldn't have happened" complaint with this set.

"How will this set affect the game as a whole?"
In a very positive manner. Many of the old strategies, both hazard and resource, will still exist, though some have been made easier or harder. And many new strategies will spring up for minion players while there will be new elements to consider for anybody making a hazard portion. The fun is increased, the options are increased, and the complexity is increased (if you are a little confused about the rules, hold off on Lidless Eye with it's 96 page rule book). Plus, if you don't like something about Lidless Eye, your group can choose to disallow minion decks. I think that's unnecessary, though, and way less fun.

Specifically, some of the more game-breaking strategies have been hindered with Lidless Eye. Firstly, due to a slight change in mechanics, super speedy Indy Jones decks are no longer as powerful as they once were. Barring the use of a certain card, the Audience With Sauron is called once both players have cycled their decks, meaning a productive first few turns won't give you a landslide victory and a bad draw the first few turns won't kill your chances too badly. Also, Coastal Seas decks aren't too effective for minions, though there isn't much that will hinder this strategy from a hero side.

On the downside, minions may be at a slight disadvantage. Undead decks only get better, and since minions find themselves spending a lot of time in dark and shadow areas, they may take a beating uncompensated for by the new creatures that attack border and free areas.

Still, exactly how this set works out remains to be seen. I expect many of my speculations to be correct, but there are countless aspects which will only emerge through playing with the cards, and that's what the Heirs of Isildur are for, to inform you all of interesting stratagems regarding these cool new cards.

So this is it, the end of my final issue. I've had fun and learned some good bits of strategy and hope you have too. I look forward to new found time and journeys in far off lands while I hope you find enjoyment and new perspectives in the new blood coming to the Card of the Day seat. May your belly be always full and the hair grow long on your feet. Perhaps fate will cause us to meet again, a chance meeting, as we say in Middle-earth.

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Card names and text copyright 1996 by Iron Crown Enterprises, all rights reserved. This document copyright 1997 by Trevor Stone. Permission given to duplicate so long as no profit is made and the copyright notice is kept in tact, blah, blah, blah.