Tidings from the Windlord! Today I return to my objective-ally review series to evaluate the last objective ally to appear in the Against the Shadow cycle: the renowned Faramir himself! While the character plays an integral role throughout the tale, he is released as an objective-ally only in the fifth adventure pack of the series, The Blood of Gondor.
Faramir was created by J.R.R. Tolkien himself, and is a character with a lush history and conflict. Faramir was born in Third Age 2983, five years after his brother Boromir, both the sons of the last Steward of Gondor, Denethor. Denethor’s wife, Finduilas, died when Faramir was only five years old, leading to a strong bond between the two brothers. As the boys grew into men, they both became renowned warriors; however, Faramir had no love of war, and, unlike Boromir, would have rather spent his time with the wizard Gandalf. While this caused no dissension between the brothers, Denethor favored Boromir, and dismissed Faramir as a disgrace to the family. Both defended Gondor well, and Faramir became captain of the Ithilien Rangers during the War of the Ring. He earned both the respect and the love of his soldiers, who trusted him completely.
Faramir was directly involved in The Lord of the Rings when he captured Frodo and Sam as they traversed Ithilien. Like Boromir, he was tested by the lure of the Ring of Power, but succeeded where his brother had failed. Said he, “[I] would not take this thing, if it lay by the highway. Not were Minas Tirith falling in ruin and I alone could save her, so, using the weapon of the Dark Lord for her good and my glory. No, I do not wish for such triumphs.” When the rangers discovered Gollum in the Forbidden Pool, Faramir spared his life at Frodo’s request, and although he was reluctant to see them take the dangerous path of Cirith Ungol, he released them. Gandalf and Pippin, who had by this time reached Minas Tirith, hailed his tidings as good news. Faramir’s heroism was viewed as a betrayal by Denethor, who mourned Boromir’s recent death. Faramir attempted to regain his father’s favor by valiantly attempting to retake Osgiliath. He was stricken by the Black Breath, a deadly weapon of the Nazgûl, and brought back to Minas Tirith. Denethor became mad with grief. He attempted to burn Faramir alive and would have succeeded had not Gandalf and Pippin thwarted his actions. Faramir lived to be named Prince of Ithilen by Aragorn and married Eowyn, sister of Eomer, King of Rohan. The two dwelt in Ithilien and had one son, Elboron, who became Steward of Gondor and Prince of Ithilien after Faramir’s peaceful death in Fourth Age 82 at the age of 120.
Like most of Professor Tolkien’s creations, Faramir is a character with incredible depth. All he ever wanted was to be loved by his father, who favored his brother. Despite this, Faramir never felt anger toward Boromir and grieved to learn of his death. And most importantly of all, he proves his quality by allowing the Ring of Power, in the hands of two hobbits, to enter Mordor and be destroyed once and for all. He is a fine choice for an objective-ally and one who is absolutely thematic.
Thematic Relevance: 5 out of 5
It is easy to see that any iteration of Faramir has a large reputation to live up to; did the FFG designers do him justice? For all it’s worth, my vote is a yes. They did everything right, beginning with his stats. Faramir is 2/3/1/4, an impressive lineup making him more powerful than a fair chunk of the heroes in this game. While he is rather fragile for defending (that Black Breath really took its toll), he is a decent quester, contributing a solid two willpower. In The Blood of Gondor, a battle-oriented scenario calling for a very balanced or battle-focused deck, Faramir’s willpower is most welcome. Nonetheless, Faramir will be most helpful in retaliating against pesky enemies, offering a whopping three attack to any number of forces. His attack points could be the difference between wounding an enemy and destroying it. With four hit points, Faramir can also soak up a few points of archery damage, leaving our heroes at least healthy, if not altogether happy. Be wary, though; losing Faramir means losing the game.
All of this is impressive enough. However, it is Faramir’s textbox that really rounds out this fantastic piece of cardboard. Besides the standard traveling with the first player and that beloved bold text, it reads:
“Combat Action: Exhaust Faramir to turn 1 hidden card faceup. If that card is an enemy, deal 3 damage to it.”
For those who have long since put The Blood of Gondor behind them, I shall provide a refresher: hidden cards are drawn at the beginning of each quest phase and placed face down in front of the player(s). During the combat phase, each player has two options: turn over any hidden cards in the play area, or leave them face down and draw another. This becomes an increasingly difficult decision, as the players will have to reveal all of their hidden cards eventually, and amassing them could lead to disastrous consequences if there are numerous enemies (enemies are the only ones that remain in play if revealed). Faramir provides the ability to deal with just one of these cards at a time. If it’s a location or a treachery, that’s less stress for you. If it’s an enemy, you become closer to killing it or even destroy it outright, depending on its strength. It’s a win/win-bigger situation. Exhausting Faramir is a bit of a sacrifice at times, as it means leaving him ready for that sole purpose. However, I find the result worth the price. This, combined with Faramir’s respectable stats, leads to the highest utility rating yet.
Utility Rating: 5 out of 5
According my numbers, Faramir appears to be the *best* objective-ally thus far, earning perfect marks in both theme relevance and utility. Personally, I think he deserves it. He is one of my favorite characters of the books who truly proves the quality of an ordinary man and has some of the most poignant lines in The Lord of the Rings. Please share your thoughts on Faramir and on my take on him in our card game.
Check back soon to read about an infamous persona who is the first objective-ally in The Ring-maker cycle: Grìma!