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

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Let's Build It: Three Hunters

Surprise! I am a mediocre deck builder.

On one hand, I hope that is an encouragement to others that you can get really far in this game without having amazing deck building chops. I could realistically finish up the remainder of my quest backlog without significantly changing the types of decks I bring to the table. But I want to see my skills improve and I want to take advantage of new cards in ways that will lead to new strategies in my play. This has led to my recent adoption of playing through top decks on RingsDB. I can see how those decks work and experience what exactly about them gives a greater advantage over a quest vs. the mid-range decks I gravitate towards.

But this time I would like your help.

Many of the deluxe boxes have been coming with a "Hey, you should build this deck" pool of player cards (The Black Riders, The Land of Shadow, The Flame of the West, The Lost Realm, The Sands of Harad).  I've taken a crack at a Three Hunters version of the player cards included with The Sands of Harad. It's a passable deck that I would be happy to give a spin. But could it be significantly better? That's where you come in.

Let me know (here or @RingsDB):
  • What improvements you would suggest and what cards would you remove to make room?
  • What quest in Angmar Awakened, Dream-chaser, or Haradrim you would like to see this ran agains?
 And now onto my first draft...

TEMBD Three Hunters v.1

Heroes
Aragorn (Core)
Gimli (Sands of Harad)
Legolas (Sands of Harad)

Allies
Faramir (Core) x1
Fili x1
Galadriel (The Road Darkens) x3
Arwen Undomiel (Watcher in the Water) x3
Dunedain Pathfinder x2
Kili x1
Gandalf (Core) x3


Attachments
Celebrian's Stone x2
Dunedain Mark x3
Dunedain Warning x3
Dwarven Shield x2
Roheryn x1
Steward of Gondor x3
Sword that was Broken x1
Mirkwood Long-knife x2
Unexpected Courage x3
Strider x2


Events
Sneak Attack x3
Unlikely Friendship x3
A Test of Will x3
Elven-light x3
Inspiring Presence x2

Sets Used
Core
The Hunt for Gollum
Conflict at the Carrock
The Watcher in the Water
Over Hill and Under Hill
The Road Darkens
The Dread Realm
The Drowned Ruins
The Flame of the West
The City of Corsairs
The Sands of Harad
Race Across Harad

RingsDB Link

I called this version 1, but there were a few adjustments made as I went along. Originally there were two copies each of Dwarven Sellsword and Weather Hills Watchman. I wanted a cheap ally and the ability to pull more signals in my deck. These went out in favor of Galadriel, who can give me a one-turn ally and get my attachments equipped faster. Her higher cost combines with the free attachment to be a net value in my mind, especially considering Voltron is a goal of this deck. The forth spot went to the one-off of Roheryn.

Before publishing both this post and deck, I decided to do a quick search on RingsDB to make sure there was no obvious archetype utilizing these three hunters that I was missing. Only a handful of decks came up and most of them had the same essential framework listed. A few notable additions among different versions would be King Under the Mountain and Envoy from Pelargir, both great ideas to consider (although it would be an interesting move for me to not include Envoy for once). A notable exclusion from the other decks was Inspiring Presence. Yes, it is pricey to get the full use out of it, but giving Gimli +2 defense and Legolas +2 attack in a crucial round is nothing to lightly pass up. But that's the trick for me in deckbuilding: It is not hard to find good cards for a deck, but hard to determine which good cards to leave out and which to keep. Captains Wisdom, Dunedain Remedy, and many other cards could have made the cut. I want to hear from you which ones actually should have.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Looking Back: The Lost Realm

Good hype about this box had made its way to my ears since its release and that was not proved unfounded. Intruders in Chetwood is a great entry-level quest for the current cardpool. The Weather Hills, while taking me quite a while to conquer as I tried to make a certain deck work,  presents a unique challenge that takes some thinking to work around (or it took me that at least). Deadmen's Dike is a solid, challenging quest. All-in-all, The Lost Realm is a fantastic box that I highly recommend. Unsure how just a Core + this one would fair beyond the initial quest, but there are some solid Core-only decks out there and this gives the pool you need for a decent Duendain archetype (although I have yet to really explore that path myself).

My biggest regret is spreading out this box over months and not really getting into the thematic mindset, which feels like it could be really rich with this one. Blame my Xbox and Arkham Horror for that. Also, looking over some of the quests while writing this, I'm realizing the encounter deck played it pretty easy with me on some of these. Most notably Deadmen's Dike, where I faced down zero side quests and any of the three would have posed serious problems to me in that final play through.

Let's go back to the player cards. Too often I open a new box, add the cards to my pile, and realize down the line that some of these have been fully untouched. That is exactly the case here. While I played with, and loved, Secret Vigil right of the box, most of the cards are semi-known and never seen in my decks. But there are some awesome contributions pulling you towards an interesting enemy engagement strategy. Now I want to dive into the Dunedain archetype and see if I can wreak some face in this cycle.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Quest 39: Deadmen's Dike

Victory on the Second Attempt!


The Deck


Anytime a strong, high-costed Spirit ally is released I automatically think about throwing that in a Caldara deck some day. Fortunately, Beorn has done that work for me and has been tweaking and adjusting his Agro Caldara deck throughout the years. A big ramp in the deck's performance came with the new Prince Imrahil ally, but even some of the most recent packs have had contributions to make.

Agro Caldara v3

Heroes
Arwen Undomiel (The Dread Realm)
Caldara
Cirdan the Shipwright

Allies
Elfhelm (The Dead Marshes) x1
Emery x3
Escort from Edoras x1
Gamling x1
Glorfindel (Foundations of Stone) x1
Hama (The Treason of Saruman) x1
Imladris Stargazer x3
Jubayr x1
Lindir x1
Northern Tracker x3
Pelargir Shipwright x3
Prince Imrahil (The Flame of the West) x3
Rhovanion Outrider x1
Sulien x1
Westfold Horse-Breaker x1
Zigil Miner x3


Attachments
Light of Valinor x2
Map of Earnil x2
Narya x2
Sword-thain x3


Events
A Test of Will x3
Dwarven Tomb x2
Elven-light x3
Fortune or Fate x3
Hidden Cache x2


RingsDB Link


I am definitely not a skilled pro at piloting this deck, but it only takes a cursory knowledge of the basic strategy to succeed: Get strong allies into your discard pile, retrieve them with Caldara, then find a way to get her back so you can repeat.


The Journey

Even a strong deck played poorly can loose spectacularly. I found that out during my first attempt when I advanced to stage 2 before properly establishing my board state. The result was a massacre.

Opening hand for attempt #2: Fortune or Fate, Prince Imrahil, Gamling, Hama, Elfhelm, Imladrist Stargazer. Definitely worth keeping! Fornost Square in the staging area, Baleful Shade engaged with me, and we are ready to rock and roll.

Round 1

A Map of Ernil is added to my hand, increasing my anticipation of future Caldara shenanigans. I add another location to the staging area (Haunted Keep) nick away at the Baleful Shade with Prince Imrahil (who found his way to the table).


Round 2

I'm intentionally conservative in my questing this round, hoping to build up a sizable army before making my way to stage 2. Caldara heads over to the discard pile and the Rohan trio of Gamling, Elfhelm, and Hama are now in play.

Round 3

Fortune, or possibly Fate, brings Caldara back to the team with the plan of having her help out with some light questing and then fetch more allies to join the crowd. The encounter deck had the same idea, revealing a Cursed Dead and fetching two more from the discard pile. At least I was able to get this out of the way early, instead of right at the end like my first attempt.

Round 4

Hey, it's Caldara again! And there she goes again, fetching more allies. The remaining members of the amy dispatch the Cursed Dead. 

Round 5

My board is pretty well established now and the staging area is in good enough shape to move onto stage 2. Flipping Cursed Dead at this point, with an inadequate ally pool, is what did me in during attempt 1. This time I get a Haunted Keep and sacrifice an Imladris Stargazer to Thaurdir. 

Round 6

 Thaurdir makes an attack on Hama after a Heavy Curse is revealed, but I still make progress on stage 2 and feel well prepared for a final push.

Round 7

Needed to do one round of power questing, then one round keeping everyone ready to dispatch Thaurdir.  The finish line is in sight! And the reveal during the quest phase is...Cursed Dead! Shoot. How many are in the discard pile already? Four. That gives me five of them + Thaurdir to take on this round. I end up making it through the combat phase only in better shape than I thought I would be. 

Round 8

Now came the time to 1) quest small and take a significant threat increase, 2) get decimated by Cursed Dead, 3) wreak Thaurdir's undead face. I am glad to say that everything went as planned (except for the threat increase, which ended up being minor). Nothing was guaranteed here and a bad reveal off the encounter deck or as a shadow would be the end of me. As it was, Arwen remained the only hero who lived to tale the tale of Deadman's Dike.

Final Scoring
7 Completed Rounds x10: 70
Ending Threat: 39
Total Damage on Heroes: 0
Threat of Defeated Heroes: -20 (Cirdan the Shipwright, Caldara)
Victory Display: 0
Total Score: 119



The Recap

Did I mention I only had a few cards in my deck by the end of the quest? Well, I did. The discard mechanic functions as a soft Time X mechanic. Soft in the sense that you can make the choice to add cards into your deck (Will of the West being the prime example) to mitigate this source of attack. Also worth pointing out here that when I came back to the game after a long break I was under the impression you would loose the game if your player deck was emptied. Found out quickly I was wrong, but now it turns out I was  narrowly right.

This was a challenging quest, as is to be expected from the final quest in a deluxe box. My second attempt felt a bit demoralizing, with the initial batch of Cursed Dead, and I was about to chalk this up as one of the ridiculously hard quests that are out there. It ended up being a fun play through. Although, to be fair, that could have been mainly due to the deck.

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.