Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ringwraiths Return To Give The Ents A Run For Their Money: "Ents Of Fangorn" TCG!

The Good: Fun, Powerful new enemies and allies, Easy to learn
The Bad: Serious collectibility issues (foils)
The Basics: Powerful cards come into play for both sides, making "Ents Of Fangorn" a great set to complicate the The Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game!

As The Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game progressed, players began to figure out new and different ways to torment their opponents in order to win the game, either as a player who survives to the end or as a Shadow player who managed to kill their opponent's Fellowship. Throughout the game, from The Fellowship Of The Ring set onward, one of the most powerful Shadow decks to assemble was a Ringwraith deck. Largely neglected since the second expansion, players who wanted to play Ringwraiths had waited to shake up their decks with new material.

That material came in the "Ents Of Fangorn" set. Beefing up the Shadow player's ability to utilize Ringwraiths again, Decipher wisely balanced the set with Ents who can roam as full members of the Fellowship! Thus, even though there are powerful enemies, the weakest characters now get some powerful reinforcements, which keeps the game interesting!

Basics/Set Composition

"Ents Of Fangorn" was the sixth set of The Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game cards created by Decipher to expand the gaming platform to fans of The Lord Of The Rings. Envisioned as a game played by two to four people, players created decks of cards utilizing their own version of the Fellowship and prepared to seed the adventure path with obstacles to thwart other players' Fellowship. For those unfamiliar with the concept, CCGs (or TCGs) are basically a strategy game that is like a Role-playing game with cards.

"Ents Of Fangorn" is a 128-card set focusing on characters, location, artifacts, villains and scenarios presented in the second The Lord Of The Rings film, mostly at the end of the movie. This card set utilizes material from the film - specifically the journeys of the hobbits (both Frodo and Sam and Merry and Pippen) while the Battle Of Helm's Deep was raging - presenting a playing environment that allows players to truly take advantage of the most powerful entities in Middle Earth. The set consists of 40 common cards, 40 uncommon cards, 40 rare cards and 8 starter deck exclusive cards, with many of the Fellowship being represented, including Aragorn, Gandalf, Merry and Pippen.

The 128 card set features 8 Dunland, 3 Dwarven, 12 Elven, 16 Gandalf, 11 Gollum, 12 Gondor, 20 Isengard, 2 Moria (yes, the Balrog makes a return!), 5 Raider, 8 Ringwraith, 8 Rohan, 11 Sauron, and 6 Shire Affiliation cards, and 6 Site cards. These are generally broken down evenly between Fellowship (your cards you play with) and Minion (cards you set upon your opponent) cards. Within the various affiliations, there are: 1 Ally (cards depicting supporting characters, in this case Elrond), 1 Artifact (cards depicting powerful, unique objects on Middle Earth, like the Ring Of Barahir), 20 Companion (cards depicting primary characters and those who may join your customized Fellowship, like Faramir or an Ent Horde), 27 Condition (cards illustrating long-term changes to Middle Earth that remain in play more than one turn, like men being Bound By Rage or the Ents becoming Enraged at Saruman), 25 Event (cards depicting temporary effects on players, like Gimli insisting Aragorn "Toss Me" or the Ents becoming Roused), 35 Minion (cards depicting villains used to obstruct your opponent, like Dunlending Footmen or The Witch-King), 11 Possession (cards depicting objects used to enhance the natural strength or endurance of a character, like the Troll's Chain or the Fell Beast the Ringwraiths now ride upon), and 6 Site (cards depicting locations in Middle Earth, they form the "board" for the game).

This set plays out the Ents plotline, including the destruction of Isengard by the Ents and Frodo and Sam being led by Gollum across the plains. The booster pack boxes are comprised of thirty-six packs per box with eleven cards per pack. The eleven cards are portioned out with seven common (six in packs that have a foil card), three uncommon, and one rare cards. A foil card replaces a single common in approximately six packs. The foils are simply reprints of the standard cards; there are no cards that are uniquely foils in this set.


At its most basic level, this is a board game where one constructs the board and pieces out of a selection of cards. The purpose of the game is to survive to the end of the ninth site in the Adventure Path, which (theoretically) indicates the end of the Ring Bearer's quest. The basic idea is to assemble a sixty card deck, lay out the board (Adventure Path) and play against an opponent. The deck is evenly split between Fellowship and Shadow cards, so players ought to have a hand that allows them to play and attempt to thwart their opponent at any given time.

This game uses a "payment" system where cards have a cost. The rulebook recommends something like poker chips or glass beads to establish the twilight pool and wound indicators and I've found small poker chips (not included) work very well for this.

It takes a great deal of time and energy to learn the game, but once one has played a few hands of it, it is a pretty easy concept for an adult to master and the challenge becomes assembling a strong fellowship and accompanying minion deck and being creative (and lucky) about how the cards are used.

Rules/Rule Changes

The rulebook for this game is forty pages long and the rules are essentially the same as they were when the set was released with The Fellowship Of The Ring (reviewed here!), though there were some additions in game text made with "Battle Of Helm's Deep" (link below) which help the game take on a larger sense of warfare.

There are no additional rules in "Ents Of Fangorn," though the set does bring back some old affiliations to help strengthen some sagging decks.


Players, collectors and fans of The Lord Of The Rings franchise will appreciate the image quality of the characters and scenarios from The Two Towers. The "Ents Of Fangorn" set features the decent ways to enhance the naturally strong Gandalf (which is where the Ents appear) and Ringwraith decks. The game beefs up the decks for players on both sides with "Ents Of Fangorn."

Ironically, for a set featuring Ents and Ringwraiths, the highlight of the deck is actually a Sauron Affiliation card. I know, I have a thing for powerful Minions, but with "Ents Of Fangorn," it's just too good; I can't pass up 6R106 Troll Of Udun! This Minion comes in from site six and above and bears the high cost of ten twilight tokens. The thing is, it is fierce (it strikes first) and if you can play another Troll first, its twilight cost is reduced to 6! For only six points, to have two big killers in play can devastate your opponent's Fellowship! It's hard no to get excited about that. This is a brutal killer and late in the game (site six and above), it is not unrealistic to expect to be able to bring in something this powerful in combination with another Troll.


Rares are evenly distributed in the booster packs, making only two starter decks necessary for those collecting a master set, as the Faramir and Witch-king decks each have a single card that cannot be found in the booster packs. As well, those moderately hard to find starter decks also have three (each) alternate image rares. The last six cards in the set reprint some of the best cards in the main set with alternate images. It's a clever idea, but it also means that the starter decks are completely fixed; there is no random rare in them, making booster boxes the essential way to make sets.

These cards popped up in several other products, though, slightly diluting their value as the supply was relatively high. The "Ents Of Fangorn" cards appeared in The Two Towers Anthology boxed set, "Reflections" and they were mixed into The Two Towers Draft Packs.

Given that, die-hard, obsessive collectors who want to spend a lifetime going from dealer to dealer on a vain search to complete something will thrill over the foil cards. All 128 cards are reprinted as foil cards and the foil sets are near impossible to complete and seem to be disproportionately less valuable than the master sets of non-foil cards. In other words, while the foil sets might take hundreds of dollars to complete, dealers seem to only be able to get in the low hundred dollars for them, probably because many collectors didn't go for this gimmick from Decipher.


I like the game turning toward the big and dangerous, it keeps life interesting and "Ents Of Fangorn" gives players some knockout choices for play for both the Fellowship and Shadow players. There is a nice sense of balance to this set and it lends itself well to players who want to play a sophisticated and complicated trading card game.

"Ents Of Fangorn" remains my favorite The Two Towers component of the first edition blocks!

This set culls material from The Two Towers, which is reviewed here!

This set was preceded by "Battle Of Helm's Deep" (reviewed here!) and followed by The Return Of The King (reviewed here!).


For other card reviews, please check out my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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