The Return of the King
|Ents of Fangorn||
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|Siege of Gondor|
|The Return of the King|
|Name||Return of the King|
|Platforms||Paper, LotR-O, GEMP, mLOTRO, Tabletop Simulator, Lackey, gccg|
Set 7, The Return of the King (or ROTK) is the third base set of the Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game, and the seventh set overall. It was released on November 5, 2003, one month before the film of the same name.
At this point, the relationship between New Line and Decipher had begun to break down, and the first sign of this was that Decipher was not provided with the same level of high-quality image support that they had enjoyed in the past. According to a former Decipher employee, this resulted in the art team needing to pirate the DVD from torrents which existed based on the version of the film submitted for the Oscars to bridge the gap. ROTK didn't suffer too badly in the dearth of images, but the strain began to be felt and was keenly evident in certain blurry and out-of-focus shots by the time of Siege of Gondor and Mount Doom.
Themes and Mechanics
With the defeat of Isengard and Dunland at Helm's Deep, the Free Peoples rally under Gondor at Minas Tirith to fend off the marching Sauron Besieger swarms, led by Ringwraith generals and vanguards. The main focus of the set are on the Besiegers vs the Knights, but there are new tools all around, in particular the Morgul Orcs, which are non-Nazgul minions under the Ringwraith banner.
As usual, the introduction of a new block comes paired with a new site path. The King Block site path suffers compared to the other two Movie Block site paths, particularly in feeling formulaic and samey from game to game.
Two new mechanics were introduced, the first being Initiative. At any given time, one side or the other is declared to "have initiative", which on its own does nothing but may trigger conditional effects on cards. By default, the Free Peoples player loses initiative if they have 3 or fewer cards in hand (although other card effects may alter this).
The second mechanic is Threats, which are essentially "deferred wounds". At any time, cards may add (or remove) threats, up to the current number of companions in the fellowship, and these threats take the form of wound tokens placed on the Dead Pile. If at any time a character enters the dead pile, those threat wounds are triggered, and the Free Peoples player must assign those wounds among companions before continuing. Threats were an effective counter to the (extremely common) treatment of "disposable" "speed bump" companions, which could now be very costly to utilize, if not game-ending on their own.
ROTK is also the first set to utilize an adjusted wording template for Conditions and Events. Support Area was added as a subtype for conditions, meaning that the words "Plays to your support area" are omitted from the card in lieu of a "Support Area" subtype on the card's type line. Gameplay is unaffected, but precious game text area is saved with this change. Events saw a similar transformation, with the phase action being moved to the type line instead of showing as a bold word in front of the game text.
This was the first base set to not introduce a new culture. Instead it focused on previously established cultures, especially Gondor, Raider, Ringwraith, and Sauron. Two prominent cultures from the previous block, Dunland and Isengard, do not appear in the set.
New unloaded keywords
Return of the King introduced two new unloaded keywords:
- Besieger, the Sauron minions marching on Minas Tirith
- Engine, the siege implements used on Sauron conditions
- The One Ring, The Ruling Ring (previously 1C2 and 4C2)
- Dagger Strike (previously 1C102)
- Defiance (previously 1C37)
- Desert Soldier (previously 4C220)
- Desert Spearman (previously 4C221)
- Elite Rider (previously 4C265)
- Have Patience (previously 4C93)
- Hobbit Sword (previously 1C299 and 4C306)
- Intimidate (previously 1C76)
- Noble Intentions (previously 1C304)
- Orc Butcher (previously 3C94)
- Orc Pursuer (previously 5C108)
- Their Power is in Terror (previously 1U226)
- Wizard Staff (previously 2C29)
- Preparations (7R12)
- Slaked Thirsts (7U14)
- Gandalf, Manager of Wizards (7R37)
- Terrible and Evil (7R50)
- Captured by the Ring (7C53)
- Gollum, Plotting Deceiver (7R58)
- Andúril, Flame of the West (7R79)
- Aragorn, Captain of Gondor (7C81)
- Derufin (7R87)
- Noble Leaders (7R112)
- Red Wrath (7U157)
- Morgul Brute (7R188)
- Morgul Destroyer (7U190)
- Out of Sight and Shot (7R204)
- The Witch-king, Morgul King (7R221)
- Éowyn's Sword, Dernhelm's Blade (7R230)
- Great Siege-towers (7U281)
- Merry, Swordthain (7R321)
- Pippin, Wearer of Black and Silver (7R324)
- Aragorn, Driven by Need (7P364)