Celador is a creation of FFG, while the Ithilien Guardian is drawn directly from The Lord of the Rings, albeit not named thusly. As far as the Guardian is concerned, one might rightly conjecture that they are mere rangers of the Ithilien Forest on the eastern borders of Gondor, probably under the command of a captain (in this case Celador). These rangers, though small in number, endeavored to defend Gondor from its enemies in Mordor, keeping a stoic vigil over the woods. Gondorian rangers were brave and skilled warriors and trackers, traversing the paths unseen, as interpreted through their encounter card, which emerges randomly from the encounter deck. These rangers were wont to ambush parties of enemies in Ithilien, as the players discovered in the Into Ithilien scenario. It is thought that the Rangers of Ithilien were established in Third Age 2941, the year that their shelter, Henneth Annûn, was constructed. The only leader of the company named in Professor Tolkien’s lore is Faramir, son of Denethor, one of the most iconic characters of The Lord of the Rings saga. However, it is probable that Faramir wasn’t the only leader of the rangers, as they were spread out across a vast forest and carrying out several different missions simultaneously. Therefore, it is reasonable to conjecture that Faramir had lieutenants of sorts to take charge of smaller companies in his absence. Celador could be one such lieutenant charged with the ambush of Haradrim and others parties of enemies attempting to traverse Ithilien’s roads. Celador, like his captain, is willing to aid strangers (in this case, our heroes), but he puts his duty first. Therefore, although Celador is not a character drawn directly from Tolkien’s lore, he fits well into the world of Middle-earth and compliments the thematic aspects of the Ithilien Guardian.
Theme Relevance: 3 out of 5
Enough with theme; let’s get to the numbers. Both Celador and the Ithilien Ranger are well-rounded with 2/2/2/3 and 2/2/1/2 stats, respectively. Unlike most objective-allies, the players do not lose the game if either Celador or the Guardian leaves play, freeing up the usually precarious option of defending open to these objective-allies. However, the Guardian would not be an ideal defender, sporting only one defense and two hit points; he would be better suited for attacking or, in willpower-light decks, questing for a solid two. Celador is no Beregond, either, for although he has two defense and three hit points (usually good for defending an attack or two) he may not be the best defender. His text box reads:
“Forced: After players quest unsuccessfully or a character leaves play, deal 1 damage to Celador. If Celador leave play, remove him from the game.”
The former shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Nowadays, questing unsuccessfully is a more often occurrence in shinier, newer, harder scenarios. It’s the latter that poses a difficulty (depending on strategy; some folks may see Celador as an obstacle in the way of stage 2, and gleefully chump block three times in one round in order to dispense of him as swiftly as possible), as sacrificing puny allies has been a popular option since the days of the Core Set. The Heirs of Nùmenor expansion was certainly geared toward tougher enemies both to defend and to kill, making chump blocking an appealing way to deal with enemy attacks. Celador was obviously designed to discourage this and force players to cater their defending to his needs. This is, of course, assuming it works in favor of the player’s strategy, in this case avoiding stage 2, which one advances to if Celador is removed from play. If Celador lives, one advances to stage 3, bypassing stage 2 completely. As I mentioned before, some may see Celador’s Forced effect as a blessing; it really depends on player strategy. Once again, neither Celador nor the Ithilien Guardian are well suited for defense and would be better off attacking or questing.
Speaking of questing, we now reach an interesting point in this analysis. Unlike most other objective-allies, neither Celador nor the Ithilien Guardian are under the first player’s control until stage 3, when the quest card gives them to the first player. Celador enters the game in the staging area while two copies of the Ithilien Guardian are shuffled into the encounter deck and added to the staging area when drawn (they also surge). Both characters are considered committed to the quest while in the staging area. This is a most interesting aspect with both pros and cons. On the bright side, these characters are committed to the quest every round, allowing the players to commit less characters and therefore freeing up more characters for dealing with enemies. Additionally, the objective-allies in question can contribute to every type of quest, whether regular, battle, or siege. However, not having the ability to control Celador and the Ithilien Guardian poses a debatable situation for the players. Having the objective-allies quest is, most certainly, a helpful proposition, but sometimes the players could use a few more attack points or need just one more defender to avoid a devastating loss. Now, if the objective-allies were in the players hands, there would never be a problem. Yet the players do not have a choice and must advance to stage 3 before acquiring complete control over Celador and the Ithilien Guardian.
With that said, Celador and the Ithilien Guardian are quite useful once acquired, and will probably negate all negative effects of their remaining in the staging area. Besides, with their initial constant questing, they will help the players more than harm them. Moreover, Celador is uniquely designed, opening up several strategies for different types of players. For these reasons, Celador and the Ithilien Guardian earn a high utility rating.
Utility Rating: 4 out of 5
That completes my review of Celador and the ithilien Guardian, both headlining a new era of objective-allies. Please share your thoughts below. Until next time when I delve into the secrets of Lord Alcaron.