Saturday, May 21, 2011

Shelob Erupts Into The Lord Of The Rings TCG In "Siege Of Gondor!"

The Good: Fun, Powerful new enemies and allies, Generally easy to learn, Rarity!
The Bad: Serious collectibility issues (foils), Minor playability issues
The Basics: An exceptional game takes on some of the most dangerous villains and powerful allies in "Siege Of Gondor!"

In The Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game there are very few sets that are difficult to play that I still enjoy enough to recommend. This essentially means (for me) that after the rule changes in "The Return Of The King" that made mass warfare in the game possible, it's harder for me to get on board new sets. Ironically, the set after the bulking came up is one of the best sets that Decipher created for The Lord Of The Rings TCG. That set was "Siege Of Gondor."

"Siege Of Gondor" provides some dangerous new adversaries and some decent companions to help balance the game. The images are very cool and despite the playability issues, this is one of the best sets Decipher released for The Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game!

Basics/Set Composition

"Siege Of Gondor" was the eighth 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.

"Siege Of Gondor" is a 122-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 - portions where Frodo falls prey to Shelob and Aragorn enlists the undead army - 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 2 starter deck exclusive cards, with many of the Fellowship being represented, including Gimli, Legolas, Merry and Pippin.

The 122 card set features 8 Dwarven, 5 Elven, 8 Gandalf, 9 Gollum, 18 Gondor, 18 Raider, 18 Ringwraith, 8 Rohan, 16 Sauron, and 10 Shire Affiliation cards, and 4 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: 16 Companion (cards depicting primary characters and those who may join your customized Fellowship, like the King Of The Dead or Gandalf), 22 Condition (cards illustrating long-term changes to Middle Earth that remain in play more than one turn, like Ringwraiths Streaming The Field or the Raiders forming a Line Of Defense), 28 Event (cards depicting temporary effects on players, like Gandalf admitting he is A Fool or being Mastered By Madness), 33 Minion (cards depicting villains used to obstruct your opponent, like Shelob or The Witch-King), 17 Possession (cards depicting objects used to enhance the natural strength or endurance of a character, like Shadowfax or Sting), and 4 Site (cards depicting locations in Middle Earth, they form the "board" for the game).

This set plays out the Siege Of Gondor, including the incapacitation of Frodo by Shelob and Aragorn getting the Oathbreakers to end the siege of Gondor. 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 they were altered for "The Return Of The King" (see link below).

The only additional rules in "Siege Of Gondor" is the addition of the new keyword "Enduring." Enduring minions now survive beyond a single phase, making them more dangerous to players because some of the biggest villains will be waiting for players the next round if they are not dispatched in the current one!.


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

But it is Shelob's appearance that gets my blood flowing and is the easy recommend of "Siege Of Gondor." Given that there are two, it's hard not to love 8R25 Shelob, Eater Of Light. This Gollum-Affiliation minion is powerful, comes into the game with surprisingly little cost and can easily defeat any players not outfitted with Galadrial's vial or heavy weaponry!


Rares are evenly distributed in the booster packs, making only two starter decks necessary for those collecting a master set, as the Merry and Pippin decks each have a single card that cannot be found in the booster packs.

These cards were not released in ANY other products, which keeps their value very high. As well, this set seems to have been shortprinted in the original run, making it one that was harder to get initially. The "Siege Of Gondor" cards did not even appear in The Return Of The King Anthology boxed set!

In addition to the regular cards being so rare, 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 122 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 "Siege Of Gondor" 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.

"Siege Of Gondor" remains my favorite component of the The Return Of The King block!

This set culls material from The Return Of The King, which is reviewed here!

This set was preceded by "The Return Of The King" (reviewed here!) and followed by "Reflections" (reviewed here!).

This is one of the sets of cards I sell in my online store! Please check out my current inventory by clicking here!


For other trading card game reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

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

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