Mae govannen! In this installment of Objective Opinions, I will discuss the relevance and merit of the first Dwarven objective-ally to appear in The Lord of the Rings: The Living Card Game: Nalìr, who appears in both the Trouble in Tharbad and The Nîn-in-Eilph adventure packs.
Took here! Quick SPOILER ALERT to those who have not finished The Ringmaker Cycle that began with The Voice of Isengard. If you wish to uncover the story through gameplay, you may wish to skim or skip the first paragraph. Otherwise continue on…
Nalìr is an FFG-created character of the Dwarvish race. He has no back story; he was released in the pre-FFG-created-history era of the game. However, bits and pieces can be scrounged from his behavior in the story. He loves his riches, like most dwarves, and broke his promise to Sauron’s servant, Bellach, in order to sell an important map at a higher price to our heroes. He is cunning; he managed to discover the location of a renowned elf-smith’s forge, Celebrimbor’s forge, without the aid of any elf or other being. He is also independent and obstinate – he does not accept the heroes’ aid in escaping an enraged Bellach until he realizes that it is the only option besides capture. After leading the heroes to their destination, he hurries back to Tharbad, the trading post on the river Greyflood. He is, essentially, the stereotypical dwarf: the independent and stubborn figure who sells to the highest bidder. His personality certainly fits the character of other dwarves. However, his actual lineage is more difficult to trace. Suffice to say that of the eight clans of dwarves – Longbeards, Firebeards, Broadbeams, Ironfists, Stiffbeards, Blacklocks, Stonefoots, and Petty-dwarves – Nalìr is most likely one of the Longbeards, or Durin’s Folk. I base this assumption mainly on geography; the town of Tharbad lies 175 miles west of the former home of Durin’s Folk, Moria (once called Khazad-dûm), and is about 200 miles away from the next nearest dwarven settlement (the Blue Mountains to the westernmost shores of Middle-earth). Therefore, Tharbad would have been a plausible place of retreat for any dwarf fleeing from the Balrog aroused in Moria. Nalìr, then, was one of very few dwarves (if any others joined him) to journey to that outpost, as most headed to the North and East with their leaders. Solitude would explain Nalìr’s gruff attitude. Much of Nalìr’s personality is accurately portrayed in the storyline of several adventure packs; however, his history is very much a mystery to us.
Theme Relevance: 2 out of 5.
Nalìr is certainly not the most powerful objective ally, but he is by no means the weakest. He possesses 0 willpower, 1 attack, 2 defense, and 3 hit points. Questing is automatically ruled out as a possible usage; neither will his one attack be of much use by itself. Defense is, therefore, his forte, and it can be utilized quite interestingly. Ring Mail is the one defense-boosting attachment that a player may attach to an ally (provided it has the Dwarf or Hobbit trait), and Nalìr can take advantage of it. Instead of 2 defense and 3 hit points he would then have 3 defense and 4 hit points, making him sturdier than many heroes in the game. One can even attach two copies of Ring Mail to him, boosting him to 4 defense and 5 hit points. This widens Nalìr’s utility threshold considerably, as he can (in his bolstered state) successfully defend any of the enemies in Trouble in Tharbad and The Nîn-in-Eilph. Another dwarven attachment, Dwarrowdelf Axe, can easily apply to Nalìr, boosting him to two attack and automatically damaging any enemy he attacks. However, Nalìr cannot have the luxury of both the axe and Ring Mail, as both are restricted; I would recommend two copies of Ring Mail over the axe. For the cost of four resources and access to the Tactics sphere, Nalìr can transform into a formidable 0/1/4/5 ally, stronger than many objective-allies.
Like all objective-allies, Nalìr does have his drawbacks (beyond the obvious bold text found at the bottom of the card). The first is present in his textbox, which reads:
“Forced: At the beginning of the refresh phase, raise your threat by 1 for each player in the game.”
At the very best, this means raising one’s threat by one additional point at the beginning of each round; at the very worst, it means raising one’s threat by four additional points each round. While Nalìr does rotate with the first player token, this threat gain will eventually take its toll. The average engagement cost for enemies in Trouble in Tharbad isn’t very high at 34; in the Nîn-in-Eilph the total is slightly less encouraging, with 33. On top of enemies, the threat elimination level in Trouble in Tharbad is constantly dropping, making what was at first an inconvenient situation game-threatening instead. Therefore, threat reduction is almost a must have, even beyond the quest effects that lower threat. Also in this scenario, encounter cards target Nalìr. Get That Dwarf! requires the enemy with the highest attack to make an immediate attack against Nalìr, which will almost always spend at least some of his hit points. The final quest stage forces to players to decide between raising everyone’s threat by three or having Nalìr defend an attack from Bellach, who possesses five attack. This is enough to destroy Nalìr if he does not have a defense boost. The risk of even controlling Nalìr runs high, and his rating suffers for it. It takes a great deal of resources to transform Nalìr into a strong defender, and even then, his risk of destruction is elevated by the cards targeting him. However, once boosted with attachments, he can be used as a defender to a certain but limited extent.
Utility Rating: 2 out of 5.
For the first to represent his race as an objective-ally, Nalìr proves mediocre; he is an expensive one both in terms of resources and threat, and he lacks thematic depth. Frankly, I have always deemed Nalìr an annoying objective-ally, simply because he offered little aid to my arsenal and his forced effect causes more harm than his stats provide help. Granted, I never did take advantage of Ring Mail or Dwarrowdelf Axe, and perhaps if I did I might not write him off so; as it is, he is closer to the bottom ranks of objective-allies in my eyes. If anyone has experienced more positive situations with or sees more potential in Nalìr, please share it in the comments. As for me, the Windlord, I must return to my eyrie and continue my duties as king (it is a tiring line of work). Until next time when I delve into the final objective-ally of the Ring-maker cycle, Chief Turch of the Dunlendings!