With Halloween behind us it’s now that special time of year when friends and family gather together, sometimes after traveling great distances, to spend some time among each other. It’s a special time of year, often one to which many look forward. However, I think many of us have experienced in one way or another that relative or close family friend that just doesn’t click. Maybe their opinions are a little out of left field, maybe they’re a little short on manners. In my experience this particular person is usually well intentioned and generally a good person, the problem is that they try too hard to be accepted, they try too hard to make themselves stand out saying “look at what I’ve done.” November’s Hero of the Month often reminds me of that person, though this person’s tragic tale goes a bit deeper than a couple poor life choices or other modern day problems. That character is Grima Wormtongue.
I hope my comparison of Grima to that family member during the Holidays doesn’t trivialize Grima as a character. He is a fascinating and tragic individual who’s role in the Lord of the Rings, although very minor as far as his appearance goes, created shockwaves that drastically altered how things played out. He is a shady individual, who’s resourcefulness is unfortunately joined with darker forces by the time we are introduced to him in the novels. He is able to get information in and out of Rohan easily and undetected, and he does all of this right beside the King of the Realm, as he is King Theoden’s chief advisor. Before we get into how this relates to his card, let’s dive a little bit more into the Lore overview:
Grima is the Chief Advisor to Theoden, the King of Rohan. Rohan is a nation of peoples who’s love and skill on horseback is practically unrivaled throughout Middle Earth. They are a fledgling kingdom compared to that of Gondor and Rohan’s strength, by the time we see them in the novels, is waining. They, like Gondor, are neighbors to a great evil. Their particular issue however is that evil has yet to reveal itself and is working dark deeds from within, a la Grima Wormtongue. Using disinformation and other trickery he misleads Theoden, weakening him politically and physically (it’s alluded that he used poisons). He does so because he is in service to Saruman of Isengard, their close neighbor and until this point a major ally. But alas, Grima is a lover not a fighter. His allegiance to Saruman was chiefly fueled by Saruman’s promise of Eowyn, neice to the King, when all was said and done. As misguided as his affections may have been it’s tragic how one’s longing for another can lead to the betrayal of an entire nation. Grima’s allegiance to Saruman, however, isn’t ironclad and in the beginning of the novels he reveals to the Nazgul (who are eagerly hunting the Hobbits) the Shire’s location, something that Saruman did not do or he gave them wrong information. This not only sped the Nazgul along to where they needed to go but revealed to Mordor that Saruman had ulterior motives. This act alone causes so much harm/good that I wonder how the story would’ve shaped out if Grima had been truly loyal to either side. Anyway, enough of the lore, I have rambled enough. How does this relate to his card?
Grima is a Lore Hero with 9 starting threat. His stats are 2/1/2 with 3 Hitpoints. He has the Rohan and Isengard trait and his text reads as:
“Action: Lower the cost of the next card you play from your hand this round by 1. That card gains Doomed 1. (Limit once per round.)”
I want to cover his stats real quick before anything else. Grima’s starting threat is appropriate. Thematically it works with his shady dealings and mechanically it works well with his ability. If he had a lower threat I imagine you could run a little rampant with his cost reducing effect and I think having a starting threat of nine keeps him in check. His two willpower is nothing to be ashamed of either, allowing him to be a consistent contributor to questing. His one attack strength isn’t going to be doing much. Thematically this is a win since when given the option of fight or flight, Grima has often proven that flight is his go-to choice. I particularly like his defense of two. The stats in this game are often abstract, with the attack and defense strengths in particular not always relating to a mighty strength or a stalwart defense. In this case I see Grima’s two defense as an allusion to his ability to slip away from unpleasant threats. His three hitpoints are nothing major. They fit with his character. Any higher and he would seem like a warrior of Rohan and any lower he’d be like a Hobbit from the shire. Now, back to his ability.
As I stated in the beginning of this article, Grima is a surprisingly resourceful individual. His ability to communicate with Saruman, and even speak with the Nazgul without either Saruman or Theoden noticing, is astounding. He is a man that can get things done if he sets his mind to it, the only issue is that his goals at this point are a little tainted. As perfectly portrayed in his card text Grima can help you get that card into play for free or reduced by one cost (often meaning you will get that card out a turn or two earlier than expected) but it will come at a cost. The more Grima commits himself to lowering the cost of your cards, the more you yourself slip towards the evil path, with your threat rising higher and higher and the enemy slowly starting to notice you. His effect is even more noticeable in a multiplayer game, where other individuals are affected by your odd manner of getting cards out on the table while they are doing things the old fashion way. What I really enjoy about his ability is that it doesn’t require Grima to exhaust, as some of these abilities often do. This gives us a little more leeway with how we play Grima post-planning. That makes for not only a well designed Hero but a Hero that would be fun to play.
I have never used Grima. This month, like the month I chose Treebeard, will be an exercise in deckbuilding for me. Thankfully I have dappled a bit more into Lore since then and I am eager to see what combinations present themselves while I look through my binder in the coming days. Before I wrap this article up though I’ll cover a few cards that can go well with this unfortunate advisor of Rohan.
Ironically enough, King Theoden (the Spirit Version) goes very well with Grima’s ability. Together they can take a 5-cost ally, which is otherwise not playable until turns two or three, into an ally that can come in before the first quest phase and all without playing other cards to do so (unlike what the Silvan archetype can do). While we are on the subject of Silvan’s the Leadership Hero Celeborn could be a nice partner to Grima as well. With O Lorien! attached to Celeborn and Grima by his side more Silvans can be dumped onto the table, getting the Silvan engine up and running quicker than usual. LoreAgorn (however you spell it) is also a nice companion to Grima, again ironic given how different these two characters are. LoreAgorn’s once per game threat resetting ability is unique and can be very powerful in the right deck. In Grima’s case it can mitigate several turns of doubling up on our threat gain. Even better, LoreAgorn can be passed around with certain card effects allowing other players to heal the (threat)wounds caused by Grima’s actions.
As for allies, any high cost ally is a little bit better when viewed under the Grima Lens. Grima’s ability is amazing due to the fact that not only can he use his ability without exhausting but that it isn’t limited to a certain trait or sphere like similar effects. Even better, if you manage to pull off any other shenanigans to reduce the cost further, or if you simply use it on a one cost card then the card is free since it’s often these effects have the “to a minimum of 1” clause. I’m very glad to see that line stricken from Grima’s card. A specific ally that could work well with Grima is the Errand-Rider. He goes well in any deck that wants to abuse or mitigate where a player’s resources goes. Errand-Rider can help Grima’s ability sing when it may otherwise sink due to a lack of resources in another sphere.
Grima is a fascinating character, and in that light so is his Hero card. I enjoy everything about him from his ability, his stats, all the way down to his art and flavor text! I am only upset with the fact that I haven’t tried him before. Ideally I want to see what he can do for me in pure solo. For the past several months I have only played two-handed or true multiplayer and I’m starting to feel the pull of playing solo getting stronger, especially now after thinking about uses for Grima.
I know others have used him before and have used him often, specifically Ian from The Grey Company and Tales from the Cards. What do you all think? Have you used Grima? Is Grima a Hero worth using or someone to keep in the binder?
As always, thanks for reading!
-The Secondhand Took