R&D Blog - Towering Trials

By Matt Hyra

The world is changing.

Who now has the strength to stand against the armies of Isengard and Mordor?

To stand against the might of Sauron and Saruman and the union of the two towers?

That question will soon be answered with the upcoming release of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Deck-building Game. And by “upcoming” I mean that we will be demoing the game at Gen Con. With real cards. King Théoden makes his debut as a playable Hero!

Topping even that news… we will have an extremely limited number of copies of Two Towers available for sale there, air shipped direct from the factory. Get yours a few weeks before your friends!

Building on the first release in the series, The Fellowship of the Ring, I took on the lead designer role for Two Towers. My goal was to make Two Towers work incredibly well mixed with Fellowship, while adding some new elements that allowed Two Towers to stand on its own.

The Wall

To make this game unique, we have introduced a “Wall of Helm’s Deep” deck. Really, it’s just called “The Wall.” There’s only one wall in the Two Towers, so why waste the extra words? The Wall deck consists of 26 cards. There are 10 different cards by name in the deck, so you will find a few copies of some cards.

The Wall deck is created at the start of the game by removing one special card (which I will get to in a minute) and then shuffling the remaining 25. Then you remove 5 cards for each player fewer than five playing in the game. So if three people are playing, you remove 10 Wall Cards, leaving 15. In a five-player game, you don’t remove any of the cards. Then you place that special card back into the deck and reshuffle it. The Wall deck is then placed behind the stacks of Valors and Corruptions (or something).

The Wall Cards are drawn by players during Ambushes and Group Ambushes. You don’t want to draw these cards. There are various bad things that happen to you when you draw Wall Cards.

Drawing Wall Cards reduces the size of The Wall deck. If The Wall deck is depleted, the game ends prematurely, but you still count points and determine a winner. However, if The Wall deck is depleted in Impossible Mode, the game ends and all players lose the game!

To avoid drawing a Wall Card, you must play a Defense card before you see the Wall Card. You can’t wait to see what you would draw and then decide. Once you draw a Wall Card, it happens to you. In Impossible Mode, a bit of co-operation might be required to keep The Wall standing. In Impossible Mode, you can play Defense cards to protect the player to your right from Ambushes in the Path. And just the Path… you can’t protect them from Group Ambushes. Not only are you protecting The Wall when you help out another player, but you are also preventing The Wall from becoming Breached. Remember that special Wall Card I mentioned during set-up? Here it is:

You really don’t want to be the player responsible for allowing The Wall to become Breached. The Breached card sticks to you if you draw it. All other Wall Cards are just resolved and discarded. You don’t put them into your deck. There are some ways to repair The Wall a bit by putting discarded Wall Cards back on the bottom of The Wall deck, but once the Breached card has been drawn there is no getting rid of it. You can’t “un-Breach” The Wall. And after The Wall has been Breached, some Ambush effects get a bit nastier for everyone.

The Wall provides an external variable and really shakes up the Ambushes, as you never know what you’re going to get. In Fellowship, sometimes you wouldn’t bother defending against an Ambush, as you could see the text and know that you would be unaffected by it. With The Wall deck, you don’t have that luxury. The Wall deck provides plenty of extra tension with every flip of a new card into the Path. Can you protect The Wall at Helm’s Deep? You better…

Combining Sets

When combining Fellowship and Two Towers, you could just shuffle both main decks together, but that will dilute some of the card combos and shuffling that many cards together will be quite a feat! Once your two sets are mixed together, separating them again will be a daunting task. Here are other ways to create a main deck out of your mix of the two sets.

Plan #1: The next time you set up to play, just create piles of the different card types until you hit the following counts:

  1. Allies: 30

  2. Enemies: 30

  3. Artifacts: 30

  4. Maneuvers: 15

  5. Locations: 5

  6. Fortunes: 5

Once you hit a listed count, discard additional cards of that type until you have hit each different card count. That creates a random 115 card main deck in the standard proportions. There may be more cards from one set or the other, but that’s okay.

Plan #2: Shuffle the 220+ deck, then split it in half. Play one game using one half of the deck and a second game using the other half of the deck. Choose starting Heroes for the second game based on points scored in game #1, with the lowest scorer choosing first. You will have some idea of what kind of cards you might see in game #2 based on what you saw in game #1, as none of them will be used in game #2. Combine your scores between the two games to determine the match winner.

Use a different set of Archenemies and Starting Heroes for each game.

A Less Random Plan

The preferred method of combining sets involves choosing card types by set. Combining these sets of card types then creates a standard sized main deck and keeps the card synergies intact, while also creating new and exciting ones! This method does require a bit of sorting before and after each game, however.

For your first combined set game experience, we recommend:


Fellowship  Two Towers
Artifacts Allies
Maneuvers Enemies
Fortunes Locations
Archenemies Heroes

Whenever you use the The Two Towers’ Enemies, Archenemies, and/or Artifacts, keep The Wall deck handy, as it allows you to resolve their Ambushes. If you aren’t playing with any of those card types, you need not play with The Wall deck. Just ignore any text that references The Wall if you aren’t using it.

Naturally, you will want to play your first several games with just Two Towers to see all of the new combos and interactions. Come see all it has to offer at Gen Con this coming weekend! And if you do demo it, be sure to head over to the Cryptozoic Forums afterwards to post some first impressions for those who couldn’t make the trip.

See you there!

Matt_Hyra's picture Matt Hyra

Matt Hyra has been designing games for 20 years, and has been Cryptozoic Entertainment's lead board game designer since its beginning in 2010. Some of Matt's recent games include Rick and Morty: The Pickle Rick Game, Epic Spell Wars: Panic at the Pleasure Palace, and DC Deck-Building Game: Rebirth.