Greetings from the Windlord! Forgive my extended absence; the duties of governing a kingdom have caught up with me. Welcome to the next installment in the Objective Opinions series in which I delve into the secrets of one of the most fascinating characters in The Lord of the Rings and an objective ally in The Voice of Isengard: Grìma!
Like Faramir in the previous cycle, Grìma can trace his origins to the brilliant mind of J.R.R. Tolkien. Not much is known of his beginnings; he was the son of Gálmód, a man of Rohan, and was born in the late Third Age. Saruman ensnared Grìma early in his life and convinced him to be a spy by promising him that Eowyn, niece to the king, would be his. Grìma dutifully spied on king Thèoden, reporting back to Saruman and poisoning the mind of the king. This continued until Gandalf the White, accompanied by Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, arrived and restored the king to his true self. Grìma had in his possession “many things which men had missed,” including the king’s sword, Herugrim. Grìma had to make a choice: fight for the Rohirrim, or flee. Grìma chose the latter option and fled to Saruman, dwelling with him in Orthanc. When Gandalf confronted Saruman, Grìma hurled a heavy object at him, which turned out to be a Palantìr, or Seeing Stone, which worked to Gandalf’s advantage and ruined Saruman’s ability to communicate with Sauron. Grìma was severely punished by Saruman for this act. Saruman eventually left Orthanc, taking Grìma with him.
After encountering Frodo Baggins and his companions on their return from Minas Tirith, Saruman and Grìma journeyed to the Shire ahead of the hobbits, and the wizard tyrannized the land’s inhabitants. He became increasingly cruel to Grìma, who in turn became increasingly akin to Gollum in appearance. His master referred to him as “Worm,” and forced him to kill Lotho Sackville-Baggins. The return of Frodo and his friends to the Shire foiled Saruman’s reign and spurred him, as well as Grìma, to the road again. Frodo attempted to console Grìma, and said that he did not have to follow the wizard. Saruman proceeded to insult his servant harshly, causing Grìma to slit his throat with a knife. Hobbits killed Grìma as he fled by firing arrows into him.
Grìma’s story is a tragic one. He was not of a “bad” or evil school of thought; he only wanted what was best for himself like so many other men. This selfish mindset was easy for Saruman to corrupt, especially with promises of great rewards. But in the end, Grìma saw that a life without Saruman was, indeed, the best, and acted accordingly. In some respects, he is responsible for ridding Middle-earth of a confirmed trouble maker, and for that he deserves some credit. Once again, Professor Tolkien fashioned an intriguing character that shall fascinate fans for years to come.
Theme Relevance: 5 out of 5
Secondhand Took here! Just wanted to quickly jump in here and give my 2 cents on Mr. Wormtongue. Grima represents one of Tolkien’s most interesting characters as far as “The Lord of the Rings” is concerned. Where his character has some moments of sympathy in the film (and the extended versions more so) you truly get a sense of his sad life in the novels. As The Windlord has stated, he was a man of Rohan. On one hand he wanted what was best for his people, a struggling nation that has fallen far from grace, but on the other hand he had his own wants and was, frankly, quite the survivalist. He is a product of some sad, poor choices and watching how his story ends is extremely bittersweet, the only reprieve being that he was able to act of his own will in his last moments. Fascinating character!
As far as utility is concerned, Grìma is certainly true to his character. His stats are decent (2 willpower, 1 attack, 2 defense, and 3 hit points) and leave really two options for usage: questing or defending. Questing is the more reliable choice. His willpower will certainly provide a much-needed boost in a scenario (The Fords of Isen) in which enemies will swarm from the encounter deck. Speaking of which, Grìma will be next to useless as far as destroying Dunlendings is concerned; his one attack is a last-ditch effort needed to barely succeed in sending a formidable warrior to the discard pile (Although it is enough to slay the notorious White Wizard Saruman; that should be a special rule for The Treason of Saruman box). My personal preferred usage for Grìma, however, is defending some of the weaker Dunlendings. This is usually a one-time thing, as nine out of ten times a shadow card will end up dealing Grìma two damage that puts him out of commission. For some reason, I derive pleasure from the thought of Grìma having to stand up to someone for once instead of snaking around them. Then I resign myself to having him quest for the remainder of the game. Whatever the case, Grìma is probably safest employed when questing, and that stands as his most common usage in my play.
Now we come to the textbox. Beyond the traditional bold text found on objective-allies, Grìma reads:
“Action: Exhaust Gríma to draw a card.”
In almost any other scenario besides The Fords of Isen, this effect would be undeniably useful. Having access to card draw at the expense of exhausting a character that is available from the start offers a way to increase the player(s)’s options, an appealing idea. However, The Fords of Isenmarks the first of several scenarios (and, indeed, a good portion of The Ring-maker Cycle) to punish players for having/drawing cards. Dunlendings gain threat, multiply, or even make an immediate attack upon a player drawing cards; the Dunlending Bandit, commonly referred to by players as “Mr. Loincloth,” gains attack points based on the number of cards in the engaged player’s hand. This is not to mention the various Condition attachment treacheries that have barbarous effects such as raising the players’ threat or dealing one point of damage every time the players draw cards. This is just the tip of the iceberg, mind you. Therefore, while having more options through card draw is better, I think Gríma would be happier without several suddenly-much-more-powerful Dunlendings snarling in his face. His (in my case reluctant) protectors would be much better off, as well. While he is helpful early on in the game, Gríma swiftly decreases in impact as the players gain strength. His ability is wisely left unused except in the most desperate hours.
Utility Rating: 2 out of 5
There you have it, folks; the objective-ally version of the infamous Gríma Wormtongue. In my personal experience, his protection in the scenario was the beginning of a long list of things I’d rather not do as a hero in this cycle (mainly aid Saruman the White in his corruption and his dastardly plans to harry the Quest of the Ring). Gríma, in both his objective-ally and hero forms, is not a character that I make use of often; however, I know of some who have built decks around him (see the Tales from the Cards blog for several noteworthy examples). Check back soon to read my review of Nalìr, the only Dwarf objective-ally released so far. Until then, “May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks!”