Tolkien’s world is filled with wondrous beings, bastions of hope and places filled with a benevolent force that can lift up even the most weary and fatigued traveller. Even so, there are corners of his world, nooks and crannies and tunnels and deep places where shadows still dwell. The evil of Middle Earth and all that represent it have brought about, in this Took’s opinion, some of the most captivating and at times terrifying artwork. Specifically I want to take the time and just highlight some of my favorite artwork in the LOTR: LCG that falls under the above statement. Let’s begin.
Massing in the Deep, illustrated by Noah Bradley (one of my favorite illustrator’s by the way) is the piece that first came to my mind when coming up with this article. I really wish that encounter cards had more room for flavor text, especially Massing despite the fact that it also has a shadow effect. But that artwork just drips with theme, and further immerses you into the woes of the game. You see before you a large, crag-like stone wall with jagged shadows dancing about, an eerie red light from an unknown source projecting them. There is a sense of inevitability in this piece, which plays very much in line with the card itself which could turn a good situation into a bad one, and a bad one to an impossible one.
Next up is Followed by Night, illustrated by Jasper Sandner from the Road to Rivendell AP. One of the repeated elements about Gollum, depicted in this card, are his pale eyes that pierce through the darkness. From the Hobbit to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, many characters in the novel have encountered these pale eyes and seen the hunger, anger, and evil that they reveal. Jasper Sandner does a marvelous job of making Gollum look altogether menacing and frightening. Every shade of color in this image is twisted into something unpleasant. What should be lush green grass instead looks sickly, as if it will soon wilt. The moonlight, though it thankfully reveals Gollum to his soon to be victims, also reveals a sinister forest, packed with gnarled and barren branches. Then of course there are the eyes, an almost pure pale white that is truly unsettling if you take the time to look at it long enough. This might be one of my favorites.
Jumping ahead a bit is Nazgul of Minas Morgul from The Morgul Vale AP and illustrated by Jake Murray. This is less subtle than the previous card and that is precisely the point. Much about this depiction of a Nazgul is a little over the top. It’s violent, excessive and it plays right into the image of a Nazgul coming down on you at full speed on his black stallion. The ghostly, yet vibrant red light behind the figure and stark contrast create a looming, overwhelming feeling that offers no escape while the detail on the stallion and the Nazgul’s brandished sword stick out above all. It’s a different kind of terrifying.
The Haunted Keep, illustrated by Dimitri Bielak, is another one of my favorites. If I had a nightmare about a haunted tower, this would be precisely it. I like it because it isn’t over the top, not that it would be bad otherwise, but the feeling of Angmar is one of forgotten evils and waking ghosts. Everything about Angmar is dead or dying, unlike depictions of Moria or Mordor where Evil is beginning to thrive. Here everything is barren and no one is within miles of where you stand. And yet, beneath the pale green sky is a tower, seemingly uninhabited, except for the strange orange glow illuminating from some of its windows. Something is awake.
Crystal Sully‘s Hunting Pack, from the Wastes of Eriador AP, gives me the same feeling as Followed by Night which depicted Gollum. And like Followed by Night, Hunting Pack really gives that sense of dread with the use of the Wargs’ eyes. The Wargs themselves are fairly motionless, not very animated. You don’t see wide open jaws or a Warg in a full howl. Instead you see these large, monstrous creatures that are pretty much statuesque, except for the eyes. The eyes are definitely not still, and they can see you, and you can imagine watching those hulking figures slowly move towards you, though you may not notice since you were so fixated on those pools of piercing pale light.
In an interest of time I want to cover one last card, and it may seem like an odd selection. Hailing from the Saga Box: On the Doorstep, the Fat Spider, pictured above and illustrated by Piya Wannachaiwong, scares me not because of the alien green light, or the grusesome details on the spider’s skin but it’s the subject itself. Now I’m not particularly scared of spiders, but I would definitely run (or faint) upon seeing this. What is off-putting about this particular spider is it’s abodomen, a backside that’s so large it almost looks unreal. There’s no way a spider like this could possibly exist or should possibly exist. It works perfectly for the subject matter since spiders such as this one, in Tolkien’s world, could potentially descend from that unholiest of creatures, Ungoliant, a spawn of the shadows who’s unkown origins raise more questions and adds to the fear that these newer spiders present. This creature would be beyond someone’s scope of knowledge and imagine many individuals being in a state of denial even while looking upon it. That can be down-right chilling.
I hope you enjoyed this quick little overview of some of my favorite dark pieces of art in this wonderful game. Though we should all focus and enjoy the good parts of Middle Earth, it doesn’t mean the evil stuff can’t be fascinating to look upon, as is the case with these amazing works of art done by very talented artists. I wish I had more time to cover more but I wanted to get a good variety in before I had to head out the door. So please, feel free to chime in below on what some of your favorite pieces of art are that lean towards the Shadow. What about them do you enjoy, or do you not enjoy them at all?
As always thanks for reading!
– The Secondhand Took
This article covered the art of the game in a broader sense. If you’d like to see the work of specific artists then check out my Art Page for more!