Quote

"There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark." - Aragorn,The Two Towers

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Quest 38: The Weather Hills

Victory on the 10th attempt!

The Recap

First Attempt: Brought a knife to a gun fight. This is not going to work!
Second Attempt: Need more healing!
Third Attempt: Doing well, but a bad block cost me it
Fourth Attempt: Location locked!
Fifth Attempt: That's just not going to work
Sixth Attempt: Total Missplay!
Seventh Attempt: Location Lock!
Eight: Missplay
Ninth: Stage 2, but threated out

After honestly a few months hiatis attempting this one, I came back to look at my notes and found the above journal of failure. The fifth attempt is a particular favorite of mine. This is actually what prompted my recent idea to netdeck for a bit and try out some of the great decks out there.

Weather hills does a great job attacking you in just about every way, especially with direct damage. While I know there must be (plenty of) non-Lore ways to tackle this one, the need to heal (often) should have you thinking along the lines of Lore unless you really want to buck the system and leave your mark on this world. I don't.

There are actually some really creative ways to make all that guaranteed damage work for you. Check out this forum topic on that. If I get in an experimental mode, I might want to try some of these out.

But I digress. Direct damage, punishment for exploring the active location, a (somewhat optional) clock on the final stage. Bring your A game to this one. Yet, with all that, it did not feel like the difficulty stamped out the fun for me. Is this my go-to for a relaxing session? No. But I wouldn't mind revising this one in the future to A) make a version of my personal deck work B) try some of the crazy "Yes, please damage my characters" possibilities.


The (Net)Deck

I Got an Elf-Stone Fir Y'Al by Seastan

Heroes
Damrod (The Land of Shadow)
Elrond (Shadow and Flame)
Mirlonde

Allies
Anaborn (The Blood of Gondor) x2

Firyal x3
Gelowine x1
Haldir of Lorien (Journey to  Rhosgobel) x1
Henamarth Riversong x1
Master of the Forge x3
Warden of Healing x2
Arwen Undomiel (Watcher in the Water) x3
Glorfindel (Flight of the Stormcaller) x1
Prince Imrahil (The Flame of the West) x2

Attachments
A Burning Brand x2
Elf-Stone x3
Entangling Nets x3
Forest Snare x2
Ranger Spikes x3
Steward of Gondor x3
The Fal of Gil-Galad x1
Unexpected Courage x2


Events
A Good Harvest x3
Daeron's Runes x3
Heed the Dream x3
Mithrandir's Advice x3


Sets Used
Core
Conflict at the Carrock
A Journey to Rhosgobel
The Watcher in the Water
The Long Dark
Foundations of Stone
Shadow and Flame
Heirs of Numenor
The Steward's Fear
The Druadan Forest
The Black Riders
The Blood of Gondor
The Dunland Trap
The Land of Shadow
Flight of the Stormcaller
The Flame of the West
Temple of the Deceived
The Mumakil

RingsDB Link

The deck I was hoping to succeed with also had the idea of traps, healing, and high willpower, but just wasn't pulling off the win. Seastan's deck still has some of that core heart behind it and seemed like the perfect netdeck to swap out for. And it has the bonus of using one of those sweet new Harad allies, Firyal.

There is a good strategy guide on the RingsDB listing which I recommend going over. I followed the initial steps and mullianged for A Good Harvest and Master of the Forge. Steward of Gondor came down pretty quickly and money was no object for the rest of the game. I did not end up killing of Mirlonde,  thus promoting Prince Imrahil, but there were a few times I kept her in mind as a damage soak for that purpose. It just never got that bad.

The deck took the win on the first try. With that, it did not feel totally overpowered. I had to put thought into my questing and engagement phases. And there were situations I saw in the previous attempts that may have put this deck into a bind. The deck struck that balance of being a blast to play, being strong enough to win, and yet being able to allow the encounter deck to still have tricks up its sleeve.


The Journey

Set Up
My opening hand had Firyal, Warden of Healing, two Elf-stones, and two copies of Ranger Spikes. That is not a bad showing! I was tempted to keep it, but Seastan highly recommends trying to land a Steward of Gondor ASAP and I had no way of pulling that out/off. My mulligan had A Good Harvest and Master of the Forge, which would help me get the Steward in good time, and Firyal was back. Time to party.

Round 1

Master of the Forge comes down but is only able to score me some Entangling Nets. Still not a bad play this round, so down the nets go. Henamarth Riversong also drops and helps me see I have a Tragic Discovery on the horizon. Mirlonde and Damrod quest to break through the active location, triggering an Angmar Captain to come out off the orc deck and get caught in my nets. He's still a force to be reckoned with and I decide to keep him in the staging area for now.

Round 2
Master of the Forge is able to dig up Steward of Gondor, which promptly goes on Elrond. I go against a Cornered Orc, letting Mirlonde take some damage during one of the attacks, and emerge the victor. Man, even with a relatively weak enemy, a double attack is just rough.

Round 3
Firyal hits the table and proves her worth right away, allowing me to avoid a side quest (Make Camp) this round. A Burning Brand goes on Elrond, who was already designated as my main blocker for the game anyway. The Angmar Captain comes down to play, being pretty neutered by his nets and the Brand.

Round 4
Not much of note this round, except the demise of the Captain.

Round 5
Gleowine -> Daeron's Runes -> Mithrandir's Advice -> Daeron's Runes makes me thankful I am not being punished for card draw in this quest. And then I heeded that dream to snatch Prince Imrahil. Strangely, I Elf-Stoned Haldir in this round instead of the Prince. I have no remembrance of this decision. A cornered orc, which I knew was coming (Thanks, Henamarth!) gets entangled in some nets and is just kind of pathetic. He dies.

Round 6
Ally Arwen joins the party. I Head the Dream again into Daeron's Runes into a Forest Snare. Warden of Healing begins undoing the little bit of damage done so far (mainly to Damron and Mirlonde). I finally use Elf-Stone to put Prince Imrahil into play, kill the final enemy I need to advance to stage 2, and now the race begins!

Round 7
I opt to remove a resource from Savage Counter-Attack instead of revealing another card, but only make 8 progress on the quest. Not going all-in yet.

Round 8
Draw my second copy of A Good Harvest, which allows me to slam down the two Unexpected Courages I've been keeping in hand and attach them to Elrond.  I put The Fall of Gil-Galad onto Mirlonde, just in case, but Warden is doing a good job keeping damage at bay. 20 willpower still only nets me 7 progress on the quest, but the end is in sight.

Round 9
Opting to remove a resource form Savage Counter-Attack for the third time puts me in the danger zone. Do any encounter effects just remove a resource? I don't think so, but it still feels risky. I go all-in for the quest, nothing crazy comes up, and victory is mine!


Final Scoring
8 Completed Rounds x80: 80
Ending Threat: 42
Total Damage on Heroes: 0
Threat of Defeated Heroes: 0
Victory Display: -3
Total Score: 119

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Quest 37: Intruders in Chetwood


Victory on the Fourth Attempt!

The Deck

After trying out an amateur Caldara deck (next time I'll just steal with zeal from the big boys), I decided to throw a little firepower at the intruders. Not a refined, final-form deck, but it got the job done.

Home Security
 
HeroesEowyn (The Flame of the West)
Haldir of Lorien (Trouble in Tharbad)
Treebeard (The Treason of Saruman)


Allies
Derndingle Warrior x3
Dunedain Hunter x2

Ghan-buri-Ghan x2
Ioreth x2
Master of the Forge x2
Quickbeam x1
Robin Smallburrow x1
Warden of Healing x1
Wellinghall Preserver x3
Gandalf (Core) x3

Attachments
Black Arrow x1
Bow of the Galadhrim x3
Ent Draught x3
Lembas x3
Song of Wisdom x1

Events
Feint x3
Foe-hamer x3
Daeron's Runes x3
Entmoot x3
Radagast's Cunning x3
Secret Paths x3

Side Quests
Gather Information x1

Decks Used
Core
Conflict at the Carrock
The Long Dark
Foundations of Stone
Shadow and Flame
Over Hill and Under Hill
on the Doorstep
Trouble in Tharbad
The Ninin-Eilph
The Lost Realm
The Treason of Saruman
Escape from Mount Gram
Across the Ettenmoors
The Drowned Ruins
The Flame of the West
A Storm on Cobas Haven

RingsDB Link


The Journey

Player Setup
Set starting threat to 31. Reduce to 28 (Eowyn).
Draw: Black Arrow, Warden of Healing, Secret Paths, Feint, Song of Wisdom, Derndingle Warrior

Encounter Set Up
Stage 1A. Take control of Iarion. Add Orc War Party to the staging area. Search encounter deck and add Rugged Country to the staging area. Shuffle (encounter). Flip to stage 1B.

Round 1
Resource Phase
Eowyn +1 (1), Haldir +1 (1), Treebeard +1 (1)
Draw: Ent Draught

Planning Phase
Play None


Quest Phase
Commit: Eowyn (4), Haldir (2), Iarion (1), Treebeard (2)
Total Willpower: 9
Reveal: Chetwood Forest

Total Threat: 8 (Orc War Party, Rugged Country, Chetwood Forest)
Play: Secret Paths (Haldir -1), choosing Chetwood Foret
Updated Threat: 5
Place 4 progress on stage 2B (4/30).

Travel Phase
Travel to Chetwood Forest. Choose and engage Orc War Party.

Encounter Phase
No engagements.

Combat Phase
Deal shadow card to Orc War Party.
Play: Feint (Eowyn -1). Choose Orc War Party.
Raise threat by 3 (31) to ready Eowyn and give her +9 attack.
Eowyn declares an attack on Orc War Pardy, destroying it.

Refresh Phase
Ready all.
Raise threat to 32.



Round 2
Resource Phase
Eowyn +1 (1), Haldir +1 (1), Treebeard +1 (2)
Draw: Lembas

Planning Phase
Play: Lembas (Treebeard -1). Attach to Treebard.
Play: Ent Draught (Treebeard -1). Attach to Treebeard.
Play: Black Arrow.Attach to Haldir.

Quest Phase
Commit: Treebeard (2), Eowyn (4), Iarion (1).
Total Willpower: 7
Reveal: Angmar Orc. Choose to reveal an additional encounter card.
Reveal: Lost in the Wilderness. Place hand face-down underneath Lost in the Wilderness. Ready Iarion.
Total Threat: 4 (Rugged Country, Angmar Orc)
Deal 6 damage to Treebeard to give him +6 willpower.
Updated Willpower: 13
Place 3 progress on Chetwood Forest, exploringit.
Place 6 progress on Stage 2B (10/30).

Travel Phase
Travel to Rugged Country.

Encounter Phase
No engagements.

Combat Phase
Haldir declares an attack against Agmar Orc. Add Black Arrow to the victory display (1) to give Haldir +5 attack. Agmar Orc is destroyed.

Refresh Phase
Ready all.
Raise threat to 33.


Round 3
Resource Phase
Eowyn +1 (2), Haldir +1 (2), Treebeard +1 (1)
Draw: Derndingle Warrior

Planning Phase
Play: Derndingle Warrior (Eowyn -2). Enters play exhausted.

Quest Phase
Commit: Eowyn (4), Haldir (2), Treebeard (2), Iarion (2)
Total Willpower: 10
Reveal: Weight of Responsibility. Reveal 2 extra encounter cards.
Reveal: Angmar Captain
Reveal: Chetwood Forest
Total Threat: 6 (Angmar Captain, Chetwood Forest)
Discard Lembas to ready Treebeard and heal 3 damage (3/7).
Deal 3 damage to Treebeard (6/7) to raise his willpower by 3.
Updated willpower: 13.
Place 3 progress on Rugged Country, exploring it.
Place 4 progress on stage 2B (14/30).

No travel, engagements, or combat.

Refresh Phase
Ready all.
Raise threat to 34.
Raise threat to 35 (stage 2B effect).


Round 4
Resource Phase
Eowyn +1 (1), Haldir +1 (3), Treebeard +1 (2)
Draw: Wellinghall Preserver

Planning Phase
Play: Wellinghall Preserver (Haldir -3).

Quest Phase
Commit: Eowyn (4), Haldir (2), Treebeard (2), Iarion (2).
Total Willpower: 10
Reveal: Shrouded Hills
Total Threat: 8 (Angmar Captain, Chetwood Forest, Shrouded Hills)
Place 2 progress on stage 2B (16/30).

Travel Phase
Travel to Chetwood Forest. Engage Angmar Captain.

Encounter Phase
No engagements.

Combat Phase
Deal shadow card to Angmar Captain. Attachs! Derndingle Warrior defends. Shadow: Surprising Speed (+1 attack). Deal 1 damage to Derndingle Warrior (1/3) to give him +3 defense. Derndingle Warrior takes 1 damage (2/3).

Refresh Phase
Ready all. Wellinghall Preserver: Heal 1 damage from Derndingle Warrior (1/3).
Raise threat to 36.

Round 5
Resource Phase
Eowyn +1 (2), Haldir +1 (1), Treebeard +1 (3)
Draw: Ioreth

Planning Phase
Play Ioreth.
Spend 1 resource from Treebeard (2) and exhaust Ioreth to heal 3 damage from Treebeard (3/7)

Quest Phase
Commit: Eowyn (4), Haldir (2), Treebeard (2), Iarion (2), Wellinghall Preserver (3)
Total Willpower: 13
Reveal: Borders of Bree-land
Total Threat: 4 (Shrouded Hills, Borders of Bree-land)
Place 3 progress on Chetwood Forest, exploring it.
Place 6 progres on stage 2B (22/30)

Travel Phase
Travel to Borders of Bree-land

Encounter Phase
No engagements.

Combat Phase
Deal shadow card to Angmar Captain. Attacks! Derndingle Warrior defends. Shadow: Orc Rearguard (no effect). Deal 1 damage to Derndingle Warrior (2/3) to give him +3 defense. No damage dealt.

Refresh Phase
Ready all. Wellinghall Preserver: Heal 1 damage from Derndingle Warrior (1/3).
Raise threat to 37.

Round 6
Resource Phase
Eowyn +1 (3), Haldir +1 (2), Treebeard +1 (3)
Draw: Daeron's Runes.

Planning Phase
Play: Daeron's Runes. Draw: Ioreth, Daeron's Runes. Discard Ioreth.
Play: Daeron's Runes. Draw: Wellinghall Preserver, Entmoot. Discard Entmoot.
Play: Wellinghall Preserver (Treebeard -3).
Spend 1 resource from Haldir (1) and exhaust Ioreth to heal 3 damage from Treebeard (0/7).

Quest Phase
Commit: Eowyn (4), Haldir (2), Treebeard (2), Iarion (2), Wellinghall Preserver (3)
Total Willpower: 13
Reveal: Angmar Orc. Discard (exhausted) Wellinghall Preserver.
Total Threat: 4 (Shrouded Hills, Angmar Orc)
Deal 3 damage to Treebeard (3/7) to give him +3 willpower.
Updated Willpower: 16
Place 4 progress on Borders of Bree-land, exploring it.
Place 8 progress on stage 2B, clearing it and winning the game!

Final Score
5 completed rounds: 50
Ending Threat: 37
Total Damage on Heroes: 3 (Treebeard)
Threat of Defeated Heroes: 0
Victory Display: -1 (Black Arrow)
Total Score: 89


The Recap

This was a fun, "relaxing" quest that still had some bite to it. I had it pretty easy in this final attempt with my revealed enemies and never had a case where that side-quest sitting around hurt me. Both situations could have been very different.

Along with The Old Forest, this is another quest I am noting down as a great way to test questing-focused decks (while also making sure they can take on enemies when needed). And, as also with The Old Forest, this is a quest I would be glad to go through with more players who want a casual, fun night adventuring in Middle-earth.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Campaign Catch-Up

For my own enjoyment and feeling of truly completing the campaign experience, I decided to re-play A Knife in the Dark through Journey in the Dark. These are all quests already beaten and will not be added to my tally of cumulative plays nor discussed in detail. Below is a quick summary of these recent attempts as well as any resulting campaign resolutions.

Previous Campaign Resolutions
Boon: Mr. Underhill attached to Frodo Baggins
Boon: Old Bogey-stories (added to starting hand)
Boon: Ho! Tom Bombadil! (added to starting hand)
Burden: Gandalf's Delay added to staging area

A Knife in the Dark

With greater knowledge of the need to dispatch Bill Ferny ASAP, this was a single run-through that survived a few twists of the encounter deck and saw my mighty Hobbits sweep a solid victory.

Campaign Resolutions
Boon: Noble Hero attached to Sam Gamgee


Flight to the Ford

One nail-biting race lost when The Enemy is Upon Us! stalled out my progress, leading to Frodo's death, and one non-nail biting race that was a clean sweep. Looking back at my write-up the first time around, I think I miss-read the thematic level of this one. It truly captures an urgent rush to get Frodo to Rivendell before he succumbs to the Witch-king's wound.

Campaign Resolutions
Burden: Panicked

The Ring Goes South
Took me a few more attempts than I'd like to admit, primarily due to my desire to use Gandalf, Aragorn, and Sam as my heroes. A lot of ground is covered in these three stages, taking you all the way from the safe haven of Rivendell to the battle against the Watcher in the Water at the Doors of Durin. The designers did well here and improved greatly over the Watcher in the Water quest.

Campaign Resolutions
Boon: Sting
Boon: Mithril Shirt
Boon: Glamdring
Boon: Anduril


Journey in the Dark

Really wanted to get a thematic win here by destroying the Balrog, but gave up on that dream after a few attempts. I decided to push through before he appeared and victory was mine with one damage token remaining on Doom, Doom, Doom.

Campaign Resolutions
Burden: Shadow of Fear
Burden: Overcome by Grief

And I'm all caught up again! POD saga quests are folded in and accounted for in my campaign pool and the quests are all fresh in my mind. Now time to beat the final quest in The Road Darkens.





Monday, January 9, 2017

Print on Demand 5: Fog on the Barrow-downs


Victory on the Third Attempt!

The Recap

After a peaceful round in the house of Tom Bombadil, Fog on the Barrow-downs has your heroes travel within sight of the Hollow Circle. This piece, despite being set in broad daylight, gives off a sinister feel and seems like something out of a colorized Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Maybe it's the muted tones. Maybe it's the birds for scale.

So there are thematic hits in the fifth Print-on-Demand* pack, but there are also slight misses when it comes to the wights themselves. I say "slight," because it does not feel thematic to be facing powerful wights right off the bat but we do not know what Sam, Merry, and Pippin faced when it came to the wights. Were they attacked directly? Were they lulled to sleep and then entombed? We meet them in the story after the fact and the only bit of wight we see is an arm. So as a direct relation of the novel there is a miss, but as a plausible "what if" there is no thematic issue. And I'm unsure about the strength of the wights, who are powerful and feared but basically keep to themselves. Enemy power vs. hero power is an issue that often comes up for me. Strong enemies do force players to put a lot of thought behind their deck and their decisions, which is a plus. 

*Note: I did not title this Fellowship 2014 simply because I was not able to attend that event. Thus this is either A) A passive sign of protest and resentment or B) The result of the fact that I simply have nothing to say about the event itself. 

Now a note on strategy. My second attempt was pretty close to a victory but repeated visits to Stage 4 stalled me out and allowed the high number of threat-increasing effects in this quest to do me in. While your deck may not be able to deal with revealing a Great Barrow during the quest stage, you can hold off the start of that chain by avoiding travel to the Standing Stones until you have 16 quest points on stage 3. This will greatly increase you chances of only 1-2 trips to stage 4.

Fog on the Barrow-downs is tough. This is to be expected for a Fellowship quest. Community gatherings such as GenCon and Fellowship events are going to attract a higher concentration of established players and those players are likely going to bring strong decks. This is not a pack to pick up if you are a casual player looking for a quest to try out a quirky deck idea. If you are looking for strong, but not crushing, challenge then you are looking in the right place.

Final Scoring
9 Completed Rounds x10: 90
Ending Threat:44
Total Damage on Heroes: 0
Threat of Defeated Heroes: 0
Victory Display: -12
Total Score: 122

Campaign Resolution
Boon: Ho! Tom Bombadil! (added to hand)

Previous Campaign Resolutions
Boon: Mr. Underhill attached to Frodo Baggins
Boon: Old Bogey-stories (added to hand)
Burden: Gandalf's Delay added to staging area


The Deck

Sometimes I'm happy with my deckbuilding skills and other times not so much. Part of the blame is not taking the time to dive into the wider community. People have been brewing up powerful decks for LotR since the game's inception and there are some fun interactions and combos I have been missing out on. Fog on the Barrow-downs seemed like a good starting point for exploring a few highly-rated decks.

The goal this time around was to stick with my campaign heroes of Sam, Merry, and Pippin. Looking at the RingsDB Hall of Fame, the second option on the list met what I was looking for: Sting Like a Bee by Tales from the Cards. At its heart, this deck is a pretty straightforward Black Riders hobbit build. The path taken here is to get out large allies ASAP while keeping a low threat. My only additions were my campaign boons & burden, along with Frodo Baggins (Land of Shadow).

In hindsight, this is a great deck but not the right one for this quest. Fog on the Barrow-downs is not friendly to amassing allies nor keeping a low threat. I realized this after my first attempt with the deck an was considering switching to Beorn's For the Shire! to get much-desired access to the spirit sphere. Threat reduction and Thror's Key would have been fantastic! I also considered adding in a little more card draw via Rod of the Steward or Frodo's Intuition. But I ultimately figured it was worth it to give the #2 another shot and I ended up walking away with a victory.

Sting Like a Bee is indeed a well-tuned take on the hobbit deck. Worth taking for a spin when you want to leave the Shire and hit the road.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Side Quest: Arkham Horror

Departing the realm of Middle-earth, I took a detour tonight into the world of H.P. Lovcraft's Cuthulu Mythos. Even before it's release, Arkham Horror: The Card Game was receiving positive press and speculation that it heralded the downfall of Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. The same designer (Nate French, along with Matthew Newman this time) took five years of lessons and combined them with a theme that is arguably more popular these days with the gaming crowd (at least publishers seem to think so). Now that is has been released, the word on the street is that Arkham Horror is indeed a strong contender for the title of best cooperative living card game published by Fantasy Flight Games.



My first impression? This is a fantastic game. The art does not appeal to me as much as LotR, and it has been years since I was into Lovecraft, but the gameplay itself was highly enjoyable. The designers directly state that they are looking to bring an RPG feel to the table and they succeeded. While not an open-world game, you are responsible for decisions that will not only impact the success or failure of the scenario but what that success or failure looks like. I found myself deciding between achieving a beneficial task or holding insanity at bay for my investigator. Either choice seemed positive and I had no idea which would have the bigger impact on future scenarios. That was exciting and refreshing: Having a list of available options that color the outcome of the quest instead of simply leading to a clean victory or defeat. Another positive was that the start deck I used was actually usable and able to defeat the introductory scenario (a sore point with LotR's own core set that frustrates 10/10 new players).

So has Lord of the Rings: the Card Game been made obsolete? No. I am not the first to state this, but Arkham and LotR are both very different types of games and neither should directly replace the other. Arkham does show lessons FFG has learned in designing living card game which would be great to see retroactively implemented in LotR. In fact, as has also been pointed out by others, you can see how different elements of Arkham were tested out in LotR over the past year (such as the travel mechanic of Temple of the Deceived and the how the ability on Galdor of the Havens is almost identical to the standard mulligan rule in Arkham). The basic fact in favor of LotR's continued existence is that, from what we hear, it is still making FFQ cold, hard cash. What I do think Arkham brings to the surface is the need for an LotR reboot. Five years of lessons can be used to make a smoother, more immersive experience. A way can be found to encourage more frequet social play (if not on a competitive front). And a re-boot allows new players an entry point into a game that has now grown very costly to complete.

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game and Arkham Horror: The Card Game are both very welcome parts of my game collection. After I take time to discover the full Arkham core set, I have a feeling I will be quickly adding this to my LCG subscription and begin spending my game time hopping between the rich lands of Middle-earth and the mysteries of realms beyond.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Fellowship 2016: The Siege of Annuminas

Victory on the fourth attempt!


11/11/16 @ The Wizard's Chest

For my first Fellowship Event this year, I headed down to The Wizard's Chest in Denver. The greater Denver area has a fairly consistent LotR scene, including a Friday meet up at the Wizard's Chest. Their attendance for last year's event went above and beyond the amount of kits they reserved (a problem they accounted for this year), so a good size group was likely this year. 15 players showed up, splitting into five different tables attempting the Standard Game Mode.

That's me in the (bottom right) corner, 
That's me in the camera glare
Loosing my ability to bounce elves



The Deck

My usual tendency is to go into a quest as fully blind as a I can. Being that this would be a multiplayer event with time for only a few attempts, I decided to take a few quick peeks and keep my ears open for community advice. The need for healing stood out so I started thinking along those lines. The interaction between Hero Elrond and Dunedain Remedy intrigued me and seemed to have a lot of possibility for multiplayer (spoiler: this was an all-star in both attempts). On a separate note, I had been playing with some Silvan bounce decks. It hit me that both archetypes could likely be merged, especially with Galadhrim Healer. Now I could bring the needed healing, but in what should be a fun shell that could  help with questing and (hopefully) taking out and enemy or two.

Silvan Bounce House of Healing

Heroes
Celeborn
Elrond (Shadow and Flame)
Galadriel (Celebrimbor's Secret)


Allies
Naith Guide x3
Orophin x1
Galadhrim Healer x3
Galadhrim Minstrel x3
Ioreth x1
Warden of Healing x2
Galadhrim Weaver x3
Defender of the Naith x2
Gandalf (Core) x2

Attachments
Dunedain Remedy x3
O Lorien! x2
A Burning Brand x1
Light of Valinor x1
Mirror of Galadriel x3
Unexpected Courage x1
Nenya x2

Events
A Very Good Tale x3
Feigned Voices x3
Sneak Attack x2
The Houses of Healing x1
The Tree People x3
A Test of Will x2
Dwarven Tomb x2
Fair and Perilous x2

RingsDB Link

Attempt #1

Knowing we were looking at over 12 people attending, I was hoping to get in a game of Epic Mode. How often are you going to have a chance to get 12 LotR players together at one time? But most tables were hesitant to take on what they anticipated would be a higher difficulty before they became familiar with the quest. I can understand and respect that. And if the Epic Mode is more intense than Standard Mode, we likely would not have had much of a chance. Our table barely got going on our first attempt before we threw in the towel. The main issue here were two decks misfiring, one of which was mine. Elves were very much not bouncing. I basically just contributed a Dunedain Remedy. We still gave it a valiant attempt, with one player defending just about everything the deck could throw at him. Once his defender bit the dust, that was our signal to re-start.

Attempt #2

Silvan's were firing on attempt two! Almost every round featured some level of elven shenanigans. In fact, everyone's decks seemed to be doing well. A little too well, actually. By decimating any enemies that showed their heads, we made traveling to the copies of Gate of Annuminas in the staging area impossible. Not a huge issue as long as enemies were decimated, but rough on the threat if we kept an enemy or two engaged and flipped a good number during the staging step. In the end, despite the strengths of our decks, threat is what did us in. The nice thing is we were able to handle any enemies the deck threw at us, which was satisfying. Once again, a very strong defender with action advantage was a crucial piece of the success we had (paired with other defenders and some strong attackers). But with that the event drew to a close and I barely had enough energy to drag my defeated bones back home.


11/29/16 @ Haunted Game Cafe

The Haunted Game Cafe up in Fort Collins, CO, is the store I began building my Lord of the Rings: the Card Game collection through. The very first LotR community event was a preview of The Hunt for Gollum which I played at Haunted Game Cafe back in the day. They then began a subscription service which is still going on. We were able to get three players together for another round of Standard Mode attempts!


The Deck

Healing was a definite need during the first two attempts. And we had some great success dispatching any enemies foolish enough to come across our path. But location lock was a problem, as were the unforgiving treacheries that popped up. My goal this time around was to focus on helping more with our location problems through questing and direct progress, while keeping the healing sub-theme and adding a few ways to deal with treachery cancellation. (Note: I totally missed that Halfing Bounder needed a completed side quest to trigger it's effect, but we actually had one towards the end of our winning trip, when the bounder did his best work).

Run

Heroes
Arwen Undomiel (The Dread Realm)
Eowyn (Core)
Erestor (The Treachery of Rhudar)

Allies
Ethir Swordsman x3
Glorfindel (Flight of the Stormcaller) x1
Lorien Guide x1
Rhovanion Outrider x2
The Riddermark's Finest x3
Ghan-buri-Ghan x2
Ioreth x1
Ithilien Tracker x1
Quickbeam x1
Robin Smalburrow x2
Warden of Healing x3
Wellinghall Preserver x2
Treebeard x1

Attachments
Silver Harp x3
Thrors Key x3
Windfola x1
Asfaloth x1
Explorer's Almanac x3
Thror's Map x1

Events
A Test of Will x3
Strength of Will x3
Will of the Wext x3
Secret Paths x3
The Evening Star x3

Sets Used 
Core Set
The Hills of Emyn Muil
The Long Dark
Foundations of Stone
Over Hill and Under Hill
Heirs of Numenor
On the Doorstep
The Steward's Fear
The Antlered Crown
The Treason of Saruman
Across the Ettenmoors
The Treachery of Rhudar
The Dread Realm
The Grey Havens
Flight of the Stormcaller
The Drowned Ruins
The Flame of the West
Temple of the Deceived
A Storm on Cobas Haven

RingsDB Link

Attempt #3

The first couple of rounds honestly had a feeling of "Not again; this quest is brutal." I guess the previous attempts left a mark! But things started looking up rather quickly. While not giving the city any extra defense the first round, we were able to keep up with only modest threat increases and continued making our way through the quest. Questing was rough, though, even with my deck contributing 20-23 willpower for most of the final half (not amazing, but decent enough). What got us here was city damage. We seriously only needed 2-3 more strength on the city to have a victory in the bag. Rough to get so close and fail, yet encouraging that the end had been just within sight. Our evaluation was that we needed one deck to stay dedicated to attack & defense with the other two questing with as much power as they can.


Attempt #4

Taking our analysis from the last attempt, one player opted to bring a dwarven army to the table. This would likely help with our questing needs, but also be able to provide some strong attack if needed. We quested for all we were worth right off the bat, allowing us to get some needed strength onto the city. The rest of the attempt proceeded in a similar positive fashion to the third one. The quest tried to throw it's usual bag of tricks at us, but we usually had an answer (thank you, Halfing Bounder) or were able to suck up the effect. When we were towards the end of stage 3, I was waiting for that sudden turn of fate that would signal another defeat. But we ended up in a "Do you want to kill that guy or want me to kill him?" position of strength and attempt #4 ended in a sweet victory!




The Recap
 
The Siege of Annuminas does not pull any punches. You need to quest hard, but your questing heroes can easily be damaged. Enemies are either huge, small with downsides (attacking instantly or surging), or mid-size with archery. Or huge with archery. And taking care of enemies is good (and needed), but location lock is very real here. In a sense, most quests end up sounding the same ("The locations are tough! The enemies are tough! The stages are tough!") and it can be hard to capture the nuances that truly make one quest a breeze and another a nightmare. Anuminas is definitely the latter. As for solo play? That is going to go on the far back burner!

But what about the fellowship? Grabbing a few other players and tackling a beast of a quest, trying to work out the puzzle of victory, is always a blast. Without a lot of multiplayer opportunities in my world, Fellowship Events are a welcome addition to my life no matter how punishing the quest is.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Deckbuilding: Let's Use Spirit Pippin!

Three weeks ago I began a fantastic, brand new job that involves an hour-long commute each way.  It has been years since I last listened to Rob Ingles' amazing unabridged reading of The Lord of the Rings. The last time was on a road trip and I remember how enhanced the scenery around me seemed as I listened to Tolkien's rich descriptions of Middle-earth. My knowledge of the trilogy has grown a bit rusty since then and this new commute seemed like the perfect time to dive back into the world of hobbits and goblins.

And what better time to re-start my saga campaign? It was almost two years ago that I first began working through The Black Riders and, despite 5/6 saga boxes being out yet, I still have not finished the final quest of The Road Darkens. I won't spend a whole lot of time going over fresh attempts at quests I have already written up (nor will I really keep track of the number of attempts it takes), but I will put up the decklists and any memorable moments. I am still deciding how to break this up, but I will likely go through a saga box and then alternate with a deluxe expansion or a cycle. That should keep me making progress on getting caught up with the current releases while helping my campaign
stay exciting for me.

(P.S.- This was also a great time to begin listening to The Grey Company's book club, which I do on the drive home, and I highly recommend the series for those working through the books, the saga quests, or both).

A Shadow of the Past

My goal going into A Shadow of the Past was to be as thematic as possible. No Bill, no daggers, no Gandalf, no Merry. And this was to be a pure sprint, with our heroes having no time and no interest in taking on the Black Riders. So who to call on when you do not want to engage everyone? Who can help save the day when you fail a hide test? Who do I have a hard time coming up with situations where I would ever want to use him? That's right! His time is here!

Let's Use Spirit Pippin!

Heroes
Pippin (Encounter at Amon Din)
Sam Gamgee (The Black Riders)
Frodo Baggins (The Land of Shadow)

Allies
Celduin Traveler x3
Elven Jewler x3
Escort from Edoras x3
Silvan Refugee x3
Farmir (Core) x3
Rivendell Scout x3

Attachments
Ancient Mathom x3
Unexpected Courage x3
Celebrian's Stone x3
Good Meal x3
Resourceful x3

Events 
Children of the Sea x2
Courage Awakened x2
Ride Them Down x2
Timely Aid x3
Frodo's Intuition x3
A Good Harvest x3
Hobbit-sense x3

Sets Used
Core
A Journey to Rhosgobel
The Redhorn Gate
The Watcher in the Water
The Steward's Fear
Th Druadan Forest
Encounter at Amon Din
The Black Riders
The Blood of Gondor
The Three Trials
Trouble in Tharbad
The Nin-in-Eilph
The Antlered Crown
Escape from Mount  Gram
The Land of Shadow

RingsDB Link

My first attempt with this deck was to build in all the hobbit shenanigans with Hobbit Pony (not the most thematic), Hobbit Pipe, Elevenses, and Smoke Rings. The goal was to portray our ill-equipped band strolling across the Shire and suddenly realizing their need to hide from the Black Riders. I also wanted to limit my allies to Noldor and a splash of Dunedain. It wasn't able to quite cut it, especially with 3-4 riders in the staging area. The next draft, above, featured some unthematic changes (Faramir, Celebrian's Stone, etc.) that still kept the general theme of the deck going and made it actually able to compete against the quest. Props to The Grey company for talking about Ride Them Down! in the context of The Black Riders. While it did not appear in my hand during this attempt, it was a solid addition to the deck and gave me a more thematic way of dealing with a Black Rider or two (meaning using willpower; not meaning the use of horses). The real all-star of this deck was the Celduin Traveler, though. Two of them coming down back-to-back in rounds 1 and 2 allowed me to quest just right to remain in the shire and get an early upper hand.

Hide tests really keep the game interesting. Even with overwhelming willpower, I still had to take a calculated risk on most rounds. Especially true for the round where I knew a Nazgul was coming up (thanks to the Timely Aid of the third Celduin Traveler), which would require a Hide 2 test, and yet I needed to make an additional Hide 3 test to get to Buckleberry Ferry.

Final Scoring
7 Completed Rounds x10: 70
Ending Threat: 28
Total Damage on Heroes: 0 (despite two copies of Have You Seen Baggins? out!)
Threat of Defeated Heroes: 0
Victory Display: 2 (Bag End, Mr. Underhill)
Total Score:100

Campaign Resolution
Choose Gandalf's Delay (burden)
Choose Mr. Underhill (boon) to stay attached to Frodo.



The Old Forest


My initial idea here was to use Spirit Pippin, Tactics Merry, and Frodo. Sam was going to be relegated to his ally form. This would allow me to get the martial benefits of tactics combined with secrecy benefits (and continue trying to make Spirit Pippin work). I was able to get to stage 3 and damage Old Man Willow enough, but the staging area soon got the best of me and it was a downhill battle from there. I played around with improving on this initial idea and ended up deciding to work on modifying Drop It Like It's Hobbit, the deck I used to first tackle The Old Forest. Spirit Merry was switched with his Tactics variant and Lore Pippin was swapped with Spirit. Lore cards were removed and a splash of Tactics cards were put in their place. This was just an initial draft, to be tested once and then refined, but it ended up making short work of The Old Forest.

Drop (Spirit Pippin) Like It's Hobbit!

Heroes
Merry (The Black Riders)
Pippin (Encounter at Amon Din)
Sam Gamgee (The Black Riders)
Frodo Baggins (The Land of Shadow)

Allies
Beorn (Core) x1
Derndingle Warrior x2
Legolas x1
Bilbo Baggins x1
Glorfindel x1
Imladris Stargazer x3
Kili x1
Zigil Miner x2
Bill the Pony x1
Faramir (Core) x1
Fili x1
Keen-eye Took x1
Ered Luin Miner x3
Gandalf (Over Hill and Under Hill) x2
Treebeard (The Antlered Crown) x1

Attachments
Dagger of Westernesse x3
Good Meal x3
Wizard Pipe x1

Events
Unseen Strike x3
Elven-light x3
A Very Good Tale x3
Timely Aid x3
Frodo's Intuition x3
A Good Harvest x3
Hidden Cache x3

Sets Used
Core
The Hills of Emyn Muil
Khazad-dum
The Redhorn Gate
Foundations of Stone
Over Hill and Under Hill
The Steward's Fear
Encounter at Amon Din
The Black Riders
The Morgul Vale
The Road Darkens
The Antlered Crown
The Treason of Saruman
Escape from Mount Gram
The Dread Realm
Flight of the Stormcaller
Temple of the Deceived


RingsDB Link

The decks performance this first time around could be due to its actual strength or just due to the luck of the draw.  Here is how the planning stage of round 1 went: Played A Good Harvest, picking Spirit. Played Kili from my hand, fetching Fili and putting him into play. Shuffled. Played Timely Aid and put Treebeard into play (exhausted). Shuffled. Played A Very Good Tale, exhausting Fili and Kili. Discarded Ered Luin Miner (putting him into play), Imladris Stargazer, and Derndingle Warrior (put both of them into play, with the warrior exhausted).The next two subsequent rounds saw Beorn and Gandalf joining the team.

Strength aside, there is obvious room for improvement. At least one more Wizard Pipe and/or the return of Gildor Inglorion is required to help with moving needed cards from my hand to the top of the deck. An Elven Jeweler or Steed of Imladris would help make use of any dead cards in my hand (which I had plenty of by the end of the game). But I am a "win more" type of player (thus Land of Shadow Frodo is my ringbearer of choice) and this playthrough scratched that itch.

Final Scoring
4 Completed Rounds x10: 40
Ending Threat:36
Total Damage on Heroes: 0
Threat of Defeated Heroes: 0
Victory Display: 4 (Withywindle, Mr. Underhill, Old Bogey-stories)
Total Score: 80

Campaign Resolution
Earned Old Bogey-stories (boon)

Previous Campaign Resolutions
Boon: Mr. Underhill attached to Frodo Baggins
Burden: Gandalf's Delay added to staging area


Spirit Pippin Evaluation

The basic summary is that Spirit Pippin is as bad as you think he is.In A Shadow of the Past, he simply served as an emergency button for failed hide tests. In The Old Forest, he was there just for his sphere and to keep at least my hero selection thematic. And that's about it. I made these decks with him just to see what it was like but this beautiful art will likely sit in my binder until some errantra comes along.

Up Next: Let's tackle some Barrow-wights! The next step in the campaign and a quest I have yet to attempt.