Gearing up for some spelunking…

With our heroes having captured Gollum and returned him to the halls of Thranduil, it is now time to turn our eyes towards the Mountains of Moria and Balin. Although I am sure that the Dwarves would appreciate help, they are going to want to explore this on their own for the most part. That means that it’s time to make some new decks. I am going to concentrate on Dwarves for the Khazad-Dum quests and will look at whether the party will change when we get into the Dwarrowdelf cycle.

One of the concerns is that, at this point, we only have six dwarves – Gloin, Gimli, Thalin, Dain, Dwalin, and Bifur. I like all of these except Gloin, but when I look at the other heroes, there are none that make sense thematically nor any that really fit in besides Beravor.  So I’m going to try and go with the six dwarves for the Khazad-Dum quests, but will probably swap out for the Elladan/Elohir brothers when I can.

I first looked at going with three tri-sphere decks but that just seemed to be handicapping the two decks unnecessarily. That means that I have Gimli and Thalin in one deck and Dain and Gloin in the other. We just have to figure out which deck gets Dwalin and which gets Bifur. Given that Thalin is going to quest for his enemy damaging ability while Gimli will be attacking as much as he can, it seems to me that Dwalin would make the best partner. Either Gimli or Dwalin could reasonably defend while the other would attack. That gives us a Tactics/Spirit deck and a Leadership/Lore deck with the Tactics/Spirit deck taking on the main attacking role and having a higher threat.

To make up the decks, I went back and looked at the various Dwarf allies and other attachments/events that help out Dwarves. For the Tactics/Spirit deck, I ended up with the following:

TACTICS/SPIRIT
ALLIES (11)
Gondorian Spearman x 3
Veteran Axehand (Dwarf) x 3
Zigil Miner (Dwarf) x 3
Gandalf x 2

ATTACHMENTS (18)
Dwarrowdelf Axe (Dwarf) x 3
Dwarven Axe (Dwarf) x 2
Citadel Plate x 2
Blade of Gondolin x 2
Ancient Mathom x 3
Favor of the Lady x 2
Unexpected Courage x 1
Power in the Earth x 2
Boots from Erebor x 1

EVENTS (21)
Quick Strike x 2
Khazad! Khazad! (Dwarf) x 3
Swift Strike x 1
Stand Together x 1
Feint x 2
Untroubled by Darkness x 3
Strength of Will x 2
Hasty Stroke x 2
Test of Will x 2
Galadhrim’s Greeting x 2
Dwarven Tomb x 1
There weren’t any real decisions to be made. Very event and attachment heavy but Citadel Plate (4), Gandalf (5), and Galadhrim’s Greeting (3) are the only cards that cost greater than 2 so it should be easy to get the attachments and allies out.

For the Leadership/Lore deck, I had a harder time as I had a bunch of cards that I wanted to keep. I managed to winnow it down to this set:

LEADERSHIP/LORE
ALLIES (14)
Longbeard Orc Slayer (Dwarf) x 2
Erebor Hammersmith (Dwarf) x 2
Miner of the Iron Hills (Dwarf) x 2
Longbeard Map-Maker (Dwarf) x 3
Erebor Record Keeper (Dwarf) x 3
Gandalf x 2

ATTACHMENTS (14)
Forest Snare x 2
Burning Brand x 3
Self Preservation x 1
Celebrian’s Stone x 1
Dunedain Warning x 3
Dunedain Mark x 3
Boots From Erebor x 1

EVENTS (22)
Durin’s Song (Dwarf) x 3
Campfire Tales x 3
Sneak Attack x 2
Ever Vigilant x 2
Common Cause x 2
Infighting x 3
Radagast’s Cunning x 2
Secret Paths x 2
Ancestral Knowledge (Dwarf) x 3

I’m not entirely happy with this deck, especially since the only Leadership ally that I have is Longbeard Orc Slayer. Luckily, Bifur has the resource smoothing to enable this. But this deck has a short leash in my mind.

Now off to explore the Caverns of Moria….

Getting back to Mirkwood

With Theoden heading back to Rohan, a surprising ally joins up in Dain Ironfoot.  We have Gollum firmly clasped and are making our way back to Thranduil’s court in Mirkwood.

The Leadership-Spirit side opens up with UnExpected Courage, A Test of Will, Strength of Will, West Road Traveller, Campfire Tales, and Dunedain Mark.  With Courage and the Traveller, this will be a good start.  Our opening threat is 27.

The Tactics-Lore side opens up with Longbeard Map-Maker, Horseback Archer, Strider’s Path, Daughter of the Nimrodel, Forest Snare, Protector of Lorien.  Not perfect, but Forest Snare should come in handy.  Our opening threat is 29.

TL takes control of Gandalf and Hammerhorns (Th:1) and Mountains of Mirkwood (Th:2) are revealed.

Turn 1

LS draws Northern Tracker while TL draws Quick Strike.  LS plays Campfire Tales and draws Celebrian’s Stone while TL draws Vassal of the Windlord.  Unexpected Courage is played on Dain while TL plays Protector of Lorien on Eowyn.

Eowyn (W:4), Dain (W:2) with UCourage played, Berevor (W:2) quest for a total of 8.  East Bight (Th:1) and Hill Troll (Th:1) are revealed for a total threat of 5, so 3 progress is made on the quest.  We travel to East Bight and Strength of Will is played with Eleanor exhausting to put 2 progress on it.

No enemies are engaged, so we have a peaceful trip.  LS threat becomes 28, TL becomes 30 and then 33 due to Gollum.

Turn 2

TL draws Mirkwood Runner while LS draws Sneak Attack.  West Road Traveller is played and East Bight and Mountains of Mirkwood are swapped.  Dunedain Mark is played on Gimli.

Eowyn (W:4), Dain with UnCourage (W:2), West Road Traveller (W:2), and Berevor (W:2) quest for 10.  Woodman’s Glade (Th:2) and Spider’s Ring (Th:3) are revealed for a total threat of 8.  Horseback Archer is discarded giving us 3 progress on the Mountains, exploring them.  Favour of the Lady and Gondorian Spearman are chosen from the cards for exploring the Mountains.  We again travel to East Bight.

The Hill Troll engages TL.  Gimli defends against the Troll and the Shadow card is Mirkwood Bats which does nothing, so he takes 4 damage.  LS threat becomes 29, TL becomes 34 and then 37 due to Gollum.

Turn 3

Another Favour of the Lady is drawn by LS while TL draws Secret Paths.  Northern Tracker is played by LS while LS plays the Forest Snare on the Hill Troll (locking him up for awhile!), Vassal of the Windlord and the Gondorian Spearman.

Eowyn (W:4), Dain with UnCourage (W:2), West Road Traveller (W:2), Northern Tracker (W:1 and 1 progress on Woodman’s Glade and the Spider’s Ring), and Beravor (W:2) quest for a total of 11.  Caught in a Web is revealed and Eleanor exhausts to discard that.  Wood Elf Path (Th:1) is revealed and Attercop, Attercop (Th:2) is also revealed!  (Doh! The Snare would look better on Attercop then the Troll at this point!).  We have 9 threat in the staging area, so Secret Paths is played on the Spider’s Ring, giving us 5 progress.  East Bight is explored and we get 1 progress on the Quest (for a total of 4).  I don’t travel as the locations are going to be explored by the Northern Tracker next round.

Attercop, Attercop engages TL since Gollum is there.  This puts a wrinkle in my plans but I should be able to get through it.  The Hill Troll gets a Shadow card but does not attack due to the Snare.  Gollum’s Bite was the shadow card so that is nice to see go away.  Attercop’s attack is defended by the Spearman (doing 1 damage to it) and the shadow card is Woodman’s Glade so the Spearman is killed without much fuss.  Gimli attacks (for 8 due to 4 damage, the Mark, and Dain) along with Denethor for 9 total which does 5 damage and kills Attercop!  I’ve had Attercop arrive too early in other plays with my son and totally ruin the quest, so the fact that I had both it and the Hill Troll and are still moving forward is great!

LS threat becomes 30, while TL becomes 41 due to Gollum.  Oh oh!  Hammerhorns are coming and my heroes can’t handle the Forced 5 damage.  I need a Gandalf (and perhaps a Sneak Attack!)

Turn 4

LS draws another Northern Tracker while LS draws another Mirkwood Runner.  Dang, no Gandalf!  Celebrian’s Stone is played on Eowyn while the Longbeard Map-Maker is played.

Dain with UnCourage (W:2), Eowyn (W:6), West Road Traveller (W:2), Northern Tracker (W:1 clearing the Woodman’s Glade and Spider’s Ring), Longbeard Map-Maker (W:2) and Beravor (W:2) quest for 15!  Mountains of Mirkwood (Th:2) and another Attercop (Th:2) is revealed.  Oh boy!  Strider’s Path is played on Mountains of Mirkwood making them the active location  and we get 11 progress.  That clears the Mountains (again!) and also clears the quest stage.  With the card draw from the Mountains, we get Infighting for TL and Gandalf for TL.  There is the Gandalf that we need, but I don’t have the resources for the Sneak Attack!  ARGGH!!!  Again, I don’t travel to any location.

Attercop again engagles TL due to Gollum being there.  The Hammerhorns also engage TL due to the high threat and Beravor takes the 5 damage and dies.  (NOTE: I thought about moving Gollum over to the LS player earlier to save threat, but I’m not sure that would have helped much, i.e. I’d have to pass him back and forth and the two Attercop’s would probably have ended up on the wrong side of the board.)

The Hill Troll can’t attack but has a Wood Elf Path as the shadow card.  Hammerhorns is defended by Denethor and Spiders’ Ring is revealed and has no effect.  No damage is taken by Denethor. The Vassal of the Windlords defends against Attercop and a Caught in a Web is the shadow card for no effect.  The Vassal is killed and then Gimli attacks for 8 doing 4 damage.

LS threat becomes 31, TL becomes 45 due to Gollum.  We need to move Gollum over pretty soon!

Turn 5

LS draws Hasty Stroke while TL draws a Horseback Archer.  Gandalf is now sneak attacked in, doing damage on the Attercop, killing it.  (Too late for Beravor!)  Favour of the Lady is played on Eowyn.

Eowyn (W:7), West Road Traveller (W:2), Northern Tracker (W:1), and Gandalf (W:4) quest for 14.  Gollum’s Anguish is revealed and Eleanor exhausts to discard that, revealing another Mountains of Mirkwood (Th: 2) in its stead.  Despair is also revealed but we have no progress on the quest, so it does nothing.  We have more than enough to complete the Escape Attempt stage.  We travel to the Wood Elf’s Path, allowing Gollum to now be guarded by the LS side.

Quick Strike is played and Gimli attacks the Hill Troll for 5 damage.  Infighting is then played and 3 of that damage goes to the Hammerhorns killing them.  The Hill Troll can’t attack, but the Brown Lands shadow card is discarded.

TL threat goes to 46, LS threat becomes 35 due to Gollum.

Turn 6

Astonishing Speed is drawn by LS while Henamarth Riversong is drawn by TL.  LS can’t play cards due to the stage, but Henamarth Riversong is played.  He is exhausted to see a Wasted Provisions.

Eowyn (W:7), Dain with UnCourage (W:2), West Road Traveller (W:2), Northern Tracker (W:1), and Longbeard Map-Maker (W:2) quest for a total of 14.  The Wasted Provisions is revealed, Eleanor exhausts to discard it, and another Hill Troll (Th:1) is revealed.  Mirkwood Bats (Th:1) is revealed and surges in a Goblin Sniper (Th:2).  Oops!  This many enemies wasn’t supposed to show up now!  We do 8 progress, exploring the Wood Elf’s Path and the Elvin King’s Halls stage.  Hmm, no way to take away willpower?  That would have been nice to allow the TL side to engage one or two of these enemies!

We are on the last stage which means that all of the enemies in play engage the LS side.  Oops!  Two Hill Trolls (luckily one of them is snared), a Goblin Sniper and Mirkwood Bats head over to the LS side.

The snared Hill Troll does no attack and Despair is revealed as its shadow card.  I take the Goblin Sniper undefended and the Woodman’s Glade is the do-nothing shadow card.  Gollum gets 2 damage.  Mirkwood Bats is also undefended and the Dry Watercourse is the do-nothing shadow card, so Gollum gets 1 more damage.  Dain defends the Hill Troll and a Wolf Rider is revealed.  Hasty Stroke is played removing that and Dain takes 3 damage.

TL threat goes to 47, LS threat goes to 39 due to Gollum.

Turn 7

Galadhrim’s Greeting is drawn by LS while Haldir of Lorien is drawn by TL.  LS plays Gandalf doing 4 damage to the Hill Troll, while TL plays Horseback Archer.

I can’t quest too many characters as I need to defend.  Eowyn (W:7), Henamarth Riversong (W:1)  and Longbeard Map-Maker (W:2) quest for 10.  I exhaust Denethor to see Mirkwood Bats and move that to the bottom.  Great Forest Web (Th:2) and Spiders’ Ring (Th:3) are revealed and we do 3 progress on the quest.

The snared Hill Troll has no attack.  The Goblin Sniper is defended by Eleanor and Gollum’s Anguish is revealed, so no damage is taken.  Kirkwood Bats is again undefended and Dry Watercourse is revealed so Gollum takes one more damage.  The 2nd Hill Troll is defended by Northern Tracker and another Dry Watercourse is revealed.  The Tracker dies an LS adds one to its threat due to the extra damage, taking them to 40.

Dain, Gandalf, and the Horseback Archer attack the Hill Troll for 5 killing it.  Dain readies with Unexpected Courage and attacks the Goblin Sniper killing it.

TL threat goes to 48, LS threat goes to 44 due to Gollum.

Turn 8

Hasty Stroke is drawn and Vassal of the Windlords.  Vassal of the Windlords is played and the Daughter of the Nimrodel is played.  She immediately exhausts healing Dain, just in case.  Another Northern Tracker is also played.  Denethor exhausts to see a Brown Lands and its 6 threat is immediately moved to the back.

Eowyn (W:7), Longbeard Map-Maker (W:2) and Henamarth Riversong (W:1) quest for 10.  Eyes of the Forest is revealed and it forces all events to be discarded.  That seems tame enough at this point, so it takes effect.  Great Forest Web (Th:2) is then revealed and we do one more progress on the quest.

We have the snared Hill Troll and the Mirkwood Bats left to defeat.  The Hill Troll can’t attack, but Eleanor will defend the Mirkwood Bats.  Wood Elf’s Path is the shadow card so the attack does no damage.  Dain attacks the Mirkwood Bats, killing them.  He then readies with Unexpected Courage and Dain, the Northern Tracker, the Horseback Archer, and the Vassal of the Windlord all pile on the Hill Troll, killing it.  The quest stage is explored and all the enemies are gone, so we are successful!

Conclusion

This was a tense ride.  When the 2nd Attercop, Attercop showed up, I was sure that I was going to lose.  And then when I defeated the 3rd stage just as all of those enemies showed up, I thought I was done for again.  Had I known that I’d get three enemies, I’d have quested a little slower.  But it worked out in the end and I have completed the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle!!  On to Khazad-Dum and a lot of Dwarves!

Arming for a Return to Mirkwood

  With the last scenario, Return to Mirkwood, upon us, there is one last set of cards.  This brings us some new questions and some hard decisions.  Especially when it comes to our new hero…

Hero

dain-ironfoot-rtm

Dain Ironfoot – As a Leadership hero, Dain shows that they saved the best for last.  He only has a willpower of 1, but he has attack of 2, defence of 3, and 5 hit points (for a threat of 11).  He makes a great defender and can attack in a pinch.  But his greatest asset is his ability – while ready, all Dwarf characters get +1 attack and +1 willpower.  If you can get Unexpected Courage on Dain, he becomes the ultimate buff card.  Commit him to the quest and then ready him and he’s adding 2 willpower himself, never mind the aid he gives the other dwarves on the table.  He can then defend quite well.  Is this enough to replace our current leadership hero Theodred?  I think so as Theodred’s ability to give out resources, although very nice, means that you’re always questing with him and the rest of his stats are not good enough to put Unexpected Courage on him.  The only problem is that it raises the overall threat of the Spirit/Leadership side, but I think we’ll live with that.

By the way, looking back at the heroes that we’ve seen, I’m going to look into an all-Leadership deck of Aragorn, Prince Imrahil, and Dain Ironfoot.  Possibly for a deck that would work in a three-hand game.

Leadership

Dunedain Signal – We get another Dunedain attachment and this one gives Sentinel to a hero.  That is a decent enough trait to gain for 1 resource, but I don’t think I’ll find a use for it in my decks.  Each deck has its role and we have allies on both sides that can defend and are sentinel if needed.

Dawn Take You All – An interesting Combat Action card that allows each player to remove one facedown shadow card.  With Burning Brand and Hasty Stroke, I’m not sure that this is needed, but it is only a cost of two so I can see it having some uses.

dawn-take-you-all-rtm

Tactics

We get two more Eagles cards and they now make all of the earlier Eagle cards make sense:

Eagles of the Misty Mountains – A decent enough ally in itself, with 2/2/2/4 stats, it only gets better as all of the other Eagles leave play.  The leaving Eagle goes facedown under this card giving it +1 attack and +1 defence.  The only problem is the high cost of 4 for this card, plus the high costs of the other eagles.

Support of the Eagles – For a cost of 3, this allows a Tactics hero (Gimli in our case) to get the support of an eagle ally (either attack or defence).  If you have a built-up Eagles of the Misty Mountains, that could be some serious support to your hero!  Unfortunately, the high cost of all of the Eagles cards just makes this hard to get going.  You’d definitely need more than one Tactics hero to be able to afford all of the Eagles, but I’m sure that if you did, it would be a strong deck.  Just not for our decks.

Spirit

West Road Traveller – Another questing specialist, you basically get 2 willpower for a cost of 2.  The response of being able to switch the active location could be useful, but I’m not sure how often that would come into play.  In any case, I think this card will take the place of the Riddermark’s Finest.  I was using that ally for questing and not for defence or attack, so West Road Traveller is better for that purpose.

west-road-traveller-rtm

Astonishing Speed – Another card that favours Rohan characters, this time by giving them +2 willpower.  I find this very similar to We Do Not Sleep.  Strangely enough, I said that if that card was worth 3 resources, it might be worth it and then we find this card.  When you add in that this card just gives extra willpower which might be used for things other than questing (Escape tests, for instance), I find this card to be more worth it.

Lore

Mirkwood Runner – An interesting card that has an attack of 2 but no defence, but if it attacks alone, then the enemy does not count its defence.  This is a pure attack card, which is rare for Lore, and it can be powerful against some enemies that have high defence – basically doing two damage against them.  For most decks, I could see this being an odd-card-out since you tend not to rely on Lore for attack.  For our deck, since Tactics/Lore is all about fighting the enemies that appear, there can be some use for this card.

mirkwood-runner-rtm

Rumour from the Earth – You get to look at the top card of the encounter deck, but since you don’t get to do anything with it, I don’t find that too useful.  It is nice to know what is coming, but if it’s a big “yucky” card, you need something or someone else to be able to discard or put it on the bottom of the deck.  And since those other cards allow you to look at the card in the first place, I’m not sure whether this card belongs in a deck.

Neutral

Shadow of the Past – This allows you to put the top card of the encounter discard onto the encounter deck, which can be good if you just lost something you needed – like Gollum in the last scenario!  But the quests where this is needed are few and far between, so I don’t see this as being that good of a card.

Recap

Spirit/Leadership – We’re going to switch out Theodred for Dain.  We’ll also swap out the two Riddermark’s Finest for two West Road Travellers.  I have never truly found a good use for A Light in the Dark, so I’ll swap those out for two Astonishing Speeds.  Lastly, I’m going to go down to one For Gondor! so that I can have one Dawn Take You All in the deck.

Lore/Tactics – I want to have two Mirkwood Runners in the deck, so out comes Gildor’s Counsel which just cost too much for its effect (revealing one less encounter card) and one Daughter of the Nimrodel.  It might be nice to have that healing, but the Mirkwood Runner just seems more appealing to me.

Gollum, You Go Now!

At first, I thought that this might be an easier quest than the others, but my son and I played it three times and got killed all three times.  Most of the time, it was “location lock” that killed us.  One of those three times, we managed to get through the location lock, but Gollum was lost and actually got in to the discard pile as a Shadow card.  Even though we thought we might be able to last (with Gandalf’s and Galadhrim’s Greetings) until we might get him again, we thought it would be far-fetched, so we gave up and started over.

For those of you who don’t know, “location lock” is where a buildup of locations arises in the staging area.  It generally happens in the first two turns when you haven’t gotten out your willpower extras and it tends to lead to a spiral out of hand – you have too many locations so you have to quest with everyone or lose the quest and go up in threat.  And if you lose, then you make no progress, so you can’t get rid of the locations, so you just keep adding threat in the staging area.  Repeat and rinse.

When you combine the need to quest with the need to do escape tests, this quest is very willpower heavy – even more so than I expected when I set up the decks.  As you will see below, when we did win the scenario, it was over very quickly because we were able to quest a ton right up front and handle the enemies that came up.

On to the details…

Opening Hands: Lore/Tactics – Vassal of the Windlords, Burning Brand, Radagast’s Cunning, Secret Paths, Strider’s Path x2.  This has almost everything we could want in terms of ability to handle threat in the staging area, so we’ll go with this hand.  Spirit/Leadership – For Gondor!, Gandalf, Dunedan Warning, Northern Tracker, Lorien Guide, Galadhrim’s Greeting.  This isn’t as good as I would want, but having the tracker, the guide, and Gandalf, means I will keep this hand.

Initial Setup: Despair is the first card drawn and it has no effect since we haven’t even started yet.  Impassable Bog is the second and it adds 1 threat to the staging area and it will stay in the staging area for a long time, due to its 12 progress requirements!

Turn 1

SL draws Riddermark’s Finest and TL draws another Burning Brand.  SL plays Riddermark’s Finest while TL plays Burning Brand on Denethor and Vassal of the Windlords as an ally.  Theoden, Eowyn, and Riddermark’s Finest quest for 6.

Pursued By Shadow is the first encounter card and we decided to accept it, even though that raises TL’s threat by four.  The next card is Lights of the Dead and Eleanor causes it to go away since we don’t want to do extra escape tests at this point.  Wargs takes its place and we do three progress on the quest.  For the escape test, we use Gimli and Beravor for four.  Wisp of the Pale Sheen is the first card and with an Escape of 4, it doesn’t matter that East Bight is the second card.  Gollum gets two resources on him.  No travel occurs, leaving the Bog in the staging area.

Denetor defends against the Wargs and the Shadow Card is Wolf Rider, so Wargs stays engaged against TL even though the shadow on Wolf Rider has no effect due to Burning Brand.

Turn 2

SL draw’s Dunedan Mark and TL draws Miner of the Iron Hills.  SL plays Gandalf and uses his damage ability to get rid of the Wargs.  Theoden, Eowyn, Riddermark’s Finest, and Gandalf quest for 10.

Giant Marsh Worm is revealed first which makes 2 threat in the staging area.  The next is Through the Night  and since this uses Attack for the escape test, we decide to go for it using the Eagles to look for Gollum.  The first escape card is Eastern Crows which gives us hope, but then Lights of the Dead comes up and we lose, adding a 3rd resource to Gollum.  We do quest successfully for 8 and SL discards the For Gondor! to make it 9 and we are past the first stage of the quest.  We then send Gimli and Beravor on the escape test but Impassable Bog and Fens and Mires come up and we need to add two more resources to Gollum.  Although he has 5 resources on him, we are confident that we can quest quickly next turn and then do the final escape test.

TL optionally engages the Giant Marsh Worm and defends with Denethor.  The shadow card is Evil Storm and Denethor takes the attack with no damage.

Turn 3

SL drew A Test of Will while TL draw’s Dwarven Axe.  TL plays Dwarven Axe on Gimli and SL plays Dunadan Mark on Gimli as well.  We quest with Gimli, Denethor, and Beravor for 5 and will be able to handle whatever comes up in the staging area.

Lights of the Dead is drawn and A Test of Will causes it to have no effect.  Next is the Brown Lands and Strider’s Path is used to immediately travel to it.  (We could also have used Secret Paths for the same effect).  We successfully quest for four progress.  Once goes on the Brown Lands and the other three end this stage.  We immediately jump to the final Escape test and SL is chosen to take the test.  Eowyn, Theoden, Eleanor, and Riddermark’s Finest all exhaust for 7.  We have five cards to draw and both sides can discard a card to bring it up to 9 if necessary.

First card: Wargs – escape 0

Second card: Wisp of a Pale Sheen – escape 4

Third card: Brown Lands – escape 0

Fourth card: Eastern Crows – escape 0

One card left and we have 3-5 points in hand.  It is still possible to lose as there are Escape 5 cards out there.  The mood is tense as we reveal the fifth card…

Heart of the Marshes – escape 1!

A total of 5 escape means that we have captured Gollum and made it through the Dead Marshes.  It is now time to head back through Mirkwood with our captive in hand.

Concluding Thoughts

Due to the nature of the escape tests, it is necessary to quest as fast as you can.  You don’t have the time that you do in other quest-heavy scenarios, i.e. Hills of Emyn Muil.You definitely do not want to let Gollum escape as you then have to wait until he comes up – and hope that he doesn’t end in the discard pile!  You also want to have treachery cancellation as those extra escape tests could also prove to be very detrimental.  The escape tests are somewhat luck-fests – we lost the three that we tried by quite a bit, but were overly successful in the last one.

One more scenario and I’ll be done the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle!

Arming for the Dead Marshes

Having caught the trail of Gollum in the Hills of Emyn Muil, it is now time to travel through the Dead Marshes.  Although the questing requirements of Emyn Muil are gone, the new mechanic of the Escape Test means that we still need to have high Willpower characters.  And since either player could be called upon to make an Escape test, we also need to ensure that we have willpower on both sides.  This will be a switch for our decks since we have given the questing skills to the Spirit/Leadership side.  We therefore need to look at the Lore/Tactics deck to ensure that we can have enough willpower.  This will also entail going back to the previous cards to see if there are any that we overlooked that might be useful now.  But first, let’s look at the new cards that came in this quest pack…

Hero

Tactics Boromir – A very interesting hero that I find very thematic.  He is a great fighter, having 3 attack, 2 defence, and 5 hit points and has a very interesting ability in being able to ready himself in exchange for threat.  His other action fits the LOTR Boromir where he can deal damage to every enemy if he gives himself up.  I can’t see that action being used too often, but his ability to ready at exchange for threat is very intriguing.  I am still sticking with Gimli as my favourite Tactics hero.

M1242

 

Leadership Cards

Dunedain Watcher – A jane-of-all-trades ally that can cancel shadow effects by discarding the ally.  She is a new type of chump blocker where you can use her to remove shadow effects if you didn’t have Hasty Stroke or some other shadow negation.  I will be adding her to my Spirit/Leadership deck just because of her usefulness and she’ll be taking the place of the Escort of Edoras.

M1243

Dunedain Cache – Adds ranged to a hero.  If you need ranged (Journey to Rhosgobel is a case in point), then this is a good card.  I do not need extra Ranged abilities for my decks, so it will not be used.

Tactic Cards

Vassal of the Windlord – A very cheap ally that provides 3 Ranged attack.  Like the other Eagles, he has to be discarded after a resolved attack, but since his cost of 1 is so cheap, he is just begging to be included.  I will oblige by including 3 copies instead of Blade Mastery which I just never used and did not appreciate seeing being drawn.

M1245

Song of Mocking – This is the first non-neutral song and it seems appropriate to be found in Tactics.  You can basically cause Hero A to soak up all the damage of Hero B.  I can see this being useful in some decks, but I don’t feel that it has a place in the current decks.

Spirit Cards

Elfhelm – A bit of an expensive ally with a cost of 4, he mitigates threat increases by one as long as he is ready.  This means that you won’t want to use him for questing or you won’t get the advantage of his ability.  He is like Northern Tracker stats-wise but is meant to be a Spirit attacker/defender.  Since our Spirit side isn’t intended to attack or defend, then he won’t be in our deck.

We Do Not Sleep – For a cost of 5, all Rohan characters do not exhaust to quest.  That is good for Eowyn, Lorien Guide, Northern Tracker (and Elfhelm as well!), but that’s a mighty high cost.  If it were 3, I think I would include it, but at a cost of 5, it’s just too expensive.

Lore Cards

Silvan Tracker – Like Dunedain Watcher, this is a jane-of-all-trades character that has the additional ability of healing one damage on all Silvan characters when refreshing.  That is useful if you had Silvan characters like Legolas, but since I don’t, I can’t see including her.

Fast Hitch – Only applying to Hobbit characters, this is an Unexpected Courage for them.  At this point, that is Bilbo or Frodo for heroes and Wandering Took or Keen-Eyed Took for allies.  If Bilbo only had a 2 willpower, I would immediately swap him in for Beravor and include this card.  I’ll have to look closely at other benefits that might sway the balance in favour of Bilbo.

Neutral Cards

Song of Battle – Gives a Tactics icon to a hero.  I have not found the Songs to be that useful since I’ve made the decks based on the heroes that I included.  I could see them being useful if you were running a three-sphere deck or even a mono-sphere deck.

Recap

I swapped out two Escort from Edoras for two Dunedain Watchers in the Spirit/Leadership deck and three Blade Mastery for three Vassal of the Windlord in the Lore/Tactics deck.  With an eye towards ensuring that the Lore/Tactics deck can handle Escape tests, I went back and looked at the cards that could give us some help.  Rivendell Minstrel and Longbeard Map-Maker are the two that stood out.  The Minstrel has 2 willpower and the Map-Maker allows you to spend Lore resources to add willpower.  I will drop a Gondorian Spearman and a Daughter of the Nimrodel to bring in two Map-Makers.

M1179

 

Defeating Emyn Muil – And I would walk 500 miles…

I finally carved some time out to play against The Hills of Emyn Muil.  Armed with my rebuilt decks, I headed out for an epic travel.

Opening Hands: For Spirit/Leadership, we drew Dunedain Quest x2, Power in the Earth, Campfire Tales, Dunedain Warning, Dunedain Mark.  I really want Lorien Guide or Northern Tracker, so this needs to be mulliganed.  The redraw is Light in the Dark, Ancient Mathom, Lorien Guide, Power in the Earth, Strength of Will, Gandalf.  For Lore/Tactics, we get Protector of Lorien, Radagast’s Cunning, Erebor Hammersmith, Self Preservation, Citadel Plate, Miner of the Iron Hills.  Since this deck is meant for taking on any enemies that show up, getting Citadel Plate is good and Radagast’s Cunning could prove useful, so we’ll keep this.

Turn 1

SL draws Silverlode Archer and TL draws Blade Mastery.

With Amon Hen and Amon Lhow in the staging area, we are facing 8 threat to begin with.  SL plays Power in the Earth on Amon Hen to reduce the threat by 1 and TL plays Protector of Lorien on Berevor.

We quest with Eowyn, Theoden (resource goes on Eowyn), Gimli, and Berevor for 9.  We reveal The Highlands (1 threat) and the Rockslide.  I debated long and hard on whether to avoid this treachery with Eleanor.  I really wanted to play Strength of Will and I’d need Eleanor ready to do that.  Two damage on those four characters is not good, but it only really hurts Eowyn.  I decide to risk taking the treachery and take the damage.  There is 8 threat in the staging area, so we do one progress on the quest.  We travel to Amon Lhow and play Strength of Will (exhausting Eleanor) to put 2 progress on it.

Turn 2

TL draws Dwarven Axe and SL draws Galadhrim’s Greeting.  TL plays Erebor Hammersmith and SL plays Lorien Guide.  We quest with Berevor, Gimli, Erebor Hammersmith, Theoden (resource on Gimli), Eowyn, Lorien Guide (progress on Amon Lhow) for a total of 11 willpower.  The Necromancer’s Reach is revealed and Eleanor exhausts to replace it with Pursued By Shadow which does nothing.  The other card is Chieftain Ufthak (2 threat).  We do 2 progress on Amon Lhow, putting it in our Victory pile, and 2 progress on the quest.  We then travel to Amon Hen.

Turn 3

SL draws Campfire Tales while TL draws another Radagast’s Cunning.  We play Campfire Tales to get Steward of Gondor (SL) and Miner of the Iron Hills (TL).  SL plays Ancient Mathom on Amon Hen and TL plays Citadel Plate on Gimli and also lays down the Miner of the Iron Hills.

We quest with Eowyn, Theodred (resource to Eowyn), Lorien Guide (progress on Amon Hen), Berevor, and Erebor Hammersmith for 9 willpower.  The Outer Ridge (2 threat) and Evil Storm is revealed.  Evil Storm does nothing, so we have 9 vs 5 and do 4 progress on Amon Hen, putting it in our victory pile.  We are half way to the victory point requirement!  SL draws Hasty Stroke, Escort from Edoras, and For Gondor! due to the Ancient Mathom.

We travel to the Outer Ridge and TL engages Chieftain Ufthak.  I decide to take an undefended attack and the shadow card is The North Stair which has no effect, so Gimli takes 3 damage putting him at 5.  Gimli, Denethor, and Miner of the Iron Hills attack for 9 which does 6 damage killing the Chieftain and giving us another 4 victory points.

Turn 4

SL draws Unexpected Courage and TL draws Horseback Archer.  We play Unexpected Courage on Gimli.

Questing is Berevor, Erebor Hammersmith, Theoden (resouce to Berevor), Eowyn, Lorien Guide (progress on Outer Ridge) for 9.  A Dol Goldur Beastmaster is revealed (2 threat) and the Slick Footing.  Eleanor exhausts to replace that with another Dol Goldur Beastmaster.  There is 6 threat in the staging area, so we complete The Outer Ridge (2 victory points for a total of 16) and add 2 progress on the quest.  We travel to the Highlands and reveal Slick Footing.  Since there are no progress on any locations, this does nothing.

TL engages one of the Beastmasters and Denethor defends.  The two shadow cards are Shores of Nen Hithoel and East Wall of Rohan.  Denethor takes no damage, but the Shores causes the Beastmaster to return to the staging area.  (NOTE: After the fact, I realized that I could have negated the shadow card with Hasty Stroke.  Oops!)

Turn 5

SL draws Snowbourn Scout and TL draws another Blade Mastery.  I have two Radagast’s Cunnings and I’m going to use them so I don’t need to quest with a lot.  I want to save the TL resources for attacking and defending.  We quest with Eowyn, Theodred (resource to Eowyn), and Lorien Guide (completing The Highlands 17 victory!) for a 6 willpower.  We reveal Slick Footing which surges since there are no locations in the staging area but has no effect otherwise, The Outer Ridge (2 threat), and Enchanted Stream (2 threat).  TL plays both Radagast’s Cunnings on the Beastmasters and win 6 vs 4, putting 2 progress on the quest.  We travel to the Outer Ridge.

TL engages a Beastmaster and defends with Denethor.  The shadow cards are Impassable Chasm and Treacherous Fog with do nothing so no damage is dealt.  Gimil then attacks, killing the Beastmaster.

Turn 6

TL draws Stand Together while SL draws another Snowbourn Scout.  TL plays Dwarven Axe on Gimli who is now a fantastic killing machine and SL plays both Snowbourn Scouts.  One progress goes on The Outer Ridge and the other progress goes on Enchanted Stream.  Berevor, Gimli (using Unexpected Courage to ready), Erebor Hammersmith, Eowyn, Theodred (resource to Gimli), and Lorien Guide (progress on the Outer Ridge which completes it and gives us 19 victory points) for 11 willpower.

Eastern Crows (1 threat) is revealed which surges to bring out Dol Goldur Orcs (2 threat) and then The Highlands (1 threat) is revealed.  Since the Outer Ridge was completed, there is only 8 threat in the staging area, instead of the 10 it could have been.  But we still do 3 progress on the quest.  We travel to the Highlands and the Lorien Guide next turn will complete it and give us the 20 victory points we need.  We just need to make it to the next turn.  The Highlands reveals an Eastern Crows which does not surge because it is not staging or setup (I had to go look this up in the rulebook to make sure).

SL plays Galadhrim’s Greeting on TL to reduce their threat to 29 which takes the Beastmaster out of the engagement concern.  TL optionally engages one of the Eastern Crows and then Dol Goldur Orcs also engages TL (Gimli takes the 2 damage) and the other Eastern Crows engages SL.

TL’s Crows are defended by Miner of the Iron Hills and the shadow is Dol Goldur Orcs which gives +1 attack.  The Miner takes 1 damage put stays alive.  Denethor defends the Dol Goldur Orcs and Orc Horse Thieves is revealed for no effect and no damage.  SL’s Crows are defended by a Snowbourn Scout and Enchanted Stream is the shadow, so the Scout defends and takes no damage.  Gimli attacks the Orcs and does 11 attack, so it is quite dead.  Eleanor attacks the Crows and kills it.

Turn 7

This turn is a formality, but SL draws Ancient Mathom and TL draws Secret Paths.  Questing with Lorien Guide puts a progress on the Highlands which completes it.  We now have 20 victory points and no Emyn Muil locations in play and 10 progress on the quest, so we have successfully defeated this quest and found Gollum’s trail.

Concluding Thoughts

This is obviously a questing-heavy scenario and I feel that my decks handled it quite well.  I tended to have more than enough willpower and even held back characters towards the end.  You just have to get through the first few rounds of questing and then I think any reasonable set of decks can win this quest.  I had a ton of cards that I didn’t bother to use and that Hasty Stroke never saw the light of day because there was never any danger.

Traveling to Emyn Muil…”I Want My Money Back!”

We are halfway done the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle and, after fighting some trolls and then helping an eagle, we are back on the hunt for Gollum.  Unfortunately, we have to head into the dreary hills of Emyn Muil and it is not all that it can be.

With the switch from needing healing power to needing travel and questing, it is time to take a relook at our decks and see how they stand.  And since I switched from a Spirit-Tactics/Lore-Leadership combo to a Spirit-Leadership/Lore-Tactics, this will also serve as a refresher in my decks.

Spirit-Leadership

Our heroes are currently Eowyn, Eleanor, and Theodred.  All three of them have proven their use and Eowyn is a must for the upcoming travel-heavy scenario.  Theodred is the Leadership hero and his resource generation has been nice.  Looking at the other three Leadership heroes – Aragorn, Gloin, Prince Imrahil – the only one that interests me is Imrahil but I think that Theodred’s lesser threat and resource is of more use.  We’ll stick with the same three heroes.

For the Allies, we’ll take the three Lorien Guide, two Northern Trackers, Faramir, two Snowbourn Scout, and two Gandalfs.  We’ll add two Escort from Edoras for the questing bonus and two Silverlode Archers in case an enemy drops to this side or to help with enemies on the other side (14).

For the attachments, we have Unexpected Courage, two Power in the Earth, two Favor of the Lady, Celebrian’s Stone, Steward of Gondor, two Dunedain Quest, two Dunedain Marks, two Dunedain Warnings, and two Ancient Mathoms (15).

For the events, we have two Test of Wills, two Hasty Strokes, two Galadhrim’s Greeting, two Strength of Wills, one Dwarven Tomb, two Light in the Darks, two Sneak Attacks, two For Gondor!, a Valiant Sacrifice, and three Campfire Tales (19).

That gives us 48 cards, so we have room for two more.  We’ll see if there are any interesting cards in the new encounter pack before we go back to the previous sets.

Lore-Tactics

With the previous quest being all about healing and this quest being all about travelling, this deck that is built for attacking and defending gets left with not a lot to do.  There are some tough enemies though – Chieftain Uftak is an example – and so we do not want to lose that capability, but we do want to provide for a little more support of the the Spirit-Leadership deck and treachery cancellation is something that will be important to look at.

Our heroes are Beravor, Denethor, and Gimli.  Legolas deserves a serious look with this quest as his ability to add progress to the current quest when defeating an enemy will help.  But Gimli’s ability to take out huge enemies in one blow, rather than taking multiple turns to defeat an enemy, still wins out in my books.

This was the deck that saw the biggest changes to bring healing ability in, so I expect some big tweaks here.

For allies, we have two Horseback Archers, three Gondorian Spearmen, three Daughters of the Nimrodel, two Erebor Hammersmiths, two Miner of the Iron Hills, two Haldir of Loriens, and two Gandalfs.  We did have three Winged Guardians, but I did not find them as useful as I thought and, being Tactics allies, they do not make the cut.  Instead, we will bring in Henamarth Riversong. (17)

For attachments, we have two Citadel Plates, two Dwarven Axes, a Horn of Gondor, two Blade of Gondolins, two Forest Snares, and three Burning Brands.  We had a Self-Preservation for healing and that is still useful, but we’ll also add two Protector of Loriens.  (15)

For events, we have two Feints, three Blade Mastery, a Swift Strike and two Quick Strikes, a Stand Together, two Radagast’s Cunning, two Secret Paths, and two Infighting. I’ve removed the Lore of Imladris as it served its purpose in the JtR quest but I do not want it going forward.  I also added two Strider’s Path to enable some quick travelling.  (17)

This gives us 49, we have room in this deck for a new card if there is one.

New Character Cards

The new hero is a Tactics Brand Son of Bain.  I find his stats comparable with Legolas but I rank him below the elf because his ability requires him to be attacking another player’s enemy.  I still put him as a the #3 Tactics hero, but he doesn’t unthrone Gimli.

M1219

The Leadership cards are Keen-Eyed Took and Rear Guard.  Rear Guard is a questing event that is sort of like Faramir while Keen-Eyed Took just doesn’t seem that useful to me, even if you include his leaving play ability that can work with another character.  Neither of these cards really appeals to me so they are not in the deck.

Tactics gives us two more Eagles cards.  The first is Descendant of Thorondor who is very appealing in that he does two damage to staging enemies when entering or leaving.  If his cost were 3 instead of 4, I’d seriously consider him.  In a deck with two or more Tactics heroes, he would probably be a good include, but with just Gimli and a desire for the Tactics attachments, his cost is too high.  Meneldor’s Flight allows you to return an Eagle ally to your hand.  Clarification showed that you could not use this action before the forced actions of the other eagle characters, so that made this card not as powerful as I first thought.  Since I am underwhelmed with the Eagle allies to begin with, this card is not useful.

For Spirit, we have more Rohan cards with The Riddermark’s Finest and Ride to Ruin.  I like Riddermark’s Finest as it is an ally with a cost of 2 and provides a questing and a little bit of attack, but also can be exhausted and discarded for two progress tokens.  For this quest, that could prove very helpful, so we complete the SL deck with two copies.  Ride to Ruin is a similar card where you can pay 1, discard a Rohan ally, and place three tokens on a location.  I’ll go with the Ally version over the Event version.

M1224

Lore gives us Gildor Inglorion an ally with good stats and an interesting card swapping ability.  At a cost of 5, he is quite expensive but I’ll think about him for later.  The more interesting card is Gildor’s Counsel which is an event that reduces the number of encounter cards revealed by 1.  For a cost of three, it is a bit expensive, but it could prove handy for a final push when Denethor’s ability to scry at the encounter deck has shown the next card that is coming up.  I’ll complete the TL deck with one copy.

The final card included in this pack is the last song Song of Travel which provides a Spirit icon.  I haven’t been using the Songs so far since I haven’t found resources to be scarce.