It’s been a looong time since I’ve held a new Adventure Pack in my hands. It was way back in August of last year that Shadow and Flame, the last AP of the Dwarrowdelf cycle, was released. We’ve had plenty to occupy us since then, with the release of Heirs of Numenor and The Hobbit: On the Doorstep, but this is the first opportunity for a TftC Adventure Pack review! Since there is less to cover here than in one of the big boxes, I’m going to be squeezing everything into two articles: a review of the player cards and a review of the quest itself. Alright, folks, Denethor has summoned us, let’s not keep him waiting!
By far the most exciting part of taking a new AP home is breaking it open and checking out the player cards. Some scenarios are remembered long for being enjoyable and challenging while others are quickly forgotten, but it is the player cards that live on forever. So how does The Steward’s Fear rate in terms of providing powerful new options for your decks?
* Hirluin the Fair (Leadership Hero, 8 threat, 1 willpower, 1 attack, 1 defense, 4 hit points):
Hirluin is the newest hero, and I can’t say that many predicted his arrival. However, he arrives to usher in the era of Outlands. Hirluin has extremely low starting stats, but this is all according to design. As more and more Outlands allies come into play, boosting the willpower, attack, defense, and hit points of Outlands characters, this has the effect of boosting Hirluin up to a potentially Gandalf-like level of power. As for Hirluin’s ability, he can use his resources to pay for an Outlands character no matter what sphere they happen to belong to, which allows for the quick build-up of the Outlands synergy. With all this said, my feelings about Hirluin are mixed. I love that he facilitates a new deck type that can be immediately viable, something new to play with other than Dwarves and Elrond/Glorfindel. For use in an Outlands deck, Hirluin is absolutely fantastic. However, there are a few drawbacks to this hero. For one, it requires time to build him up to reasonable levels, which might be problematic in quests that have a brutal beginning. Second, Hirluin is not a versatile hero, in that he will not find much use outside of Outlands decks. Three, I’m not sure how I feel about the theme of this card (and Outlands in general). They feel very “game-y”, in that their synergy makes perfect sense in game terms, but I’m not sure how the presence of all these random Outlands factions would cause Hirluin to hulk out until he could practically stand in for Gandalf!
I’m positively giddy with the massive news being issued from FFG yesterday that there will be a brand new Saga Expansion, titled The Black Riders, released later this year, and it will cover the events of the first half of The Fellowship of the Ring. Obviously this means that further Saga Expansions will be released, and one day, in the near future, we will get to take part in the battles at Helm’s Deep and Pelennor Fields, among other memorable moments. Since it’s always fun to pine and ponder over upcoming releases, here are my own personal thoughts, highlights and questions about The Black Riders.
On the Black Rider card that was spoiled, we can see a brand new keyword, “Hide”, and the forced effect declares that a failed hide test will lead to an attack from this particular Nazgul. So the question is how exactly will this hide test work? In the past, we’ve had the escape test in The Dead Marshes scenario, which involved exhausting characters and comparing their willpower to the escape values on cards drawn from the encounter deck. We’ve also had a locate test in The Long Dark, which required you to discard cards from your hand in order to discard cards from the encounter deck in search of a “PASS” keyword. However, both The Dead Marshes and The Long Dark are often seen as being some of the weaker scenarios that have been released. Is this a coincidence or a direct result of mechanics that don’t quite resonate? More recent test attempts, like the riddle and burgle mechanics, have met mixed reviews as well. Hopefully, the hide tests in The Black Riders expansion end up being more fulfilling. What hampered those previous mechanics is that they added an extra layer of randomness that could only be controlled by players to a satisfying degree by building decks specifically to achieve success on those tests. It will be interesting to see how hiding plays out, and how the designers tackle this challenge.
One of the accepted truisms among players of LOTR LCG, including myself, is that locations are at the bottom of the encounter deck nastiness totem pole. Enemies are problematic for obvious reasons, while treacheries often contain some of the worst effects in a given scenario. Locations, by contrast, are often far more benign. Still, this does not mean that a player should totally ignore locations altogether. Failing to deal with locations can lead to “location lock”, where the threat in the staging area becomes so high that it becomes impossible to clear out the active location, thus leading to threat spiraling out of control and eventual defeat. Locations can also set you on a path away from victory in a more subtle way: by preventing quick quest progress and stretching out games so that you end up being swamped with enemies and treacheries that ultimately kill you.
With this in mind, a valuable skill for players to develop is sharp decision-making regarding locations. More specifically, a player should hone a strong sense of when it is appropriate to travel to a location and when it is better to leave it in the staging area. This also includes being able to decide between several locations and determine the best travel candidate on a given round. Because locations are often viewed as the least worrisome of encounter cards, the travel phase can sometimes become an afterthought, eclipsed by the quest and combat phases. This is appropriate, but it’s important to remember that even the smallest edge can increase your success rate. Therefore, this shortish(?) article will seek to provide a few tips and suggestions for determining the best travel strategy when dealing with various locations. Before I begin, I will give a short caveat and say that there is no iron-clad rule or set of rules that you can follow and always make the right choice when it comes to travelling and locations. There are too many variables for this sort of thing, and I’m thankful for that, as such predictability can render a game boring. That being said, hopefully these general pointers can guide you in a positive direction. Here we go then, a travel guide in five parts:
The poll for favorite Tactics hero has closed, and to be honest, it was never a close race. Legolas, son of Thranduil, dominated the competition with 30% of the vote. Despite being one of the original Core Set heroes, he was not eclipsed by any of the newer faces. There’s a lot to love about Legolas: his low threat of 9, the “ranged” keyword which allows for Hands Upon the Bow goodness, and his response ability that gives Tactics the chance to gain progress through combat. It is this package that likely gave him the top spot. One of the great things about Legolas is that he is focused on one role (attack); there are no unnecessary points of defense or willpower that would increase his threat. This allows him to fit into a wide variety of decks.
After the top spot, the race was far closer. Here’s how the rest of the field turned out:
2nd: Gimli – 14.17%
3rd: Boromir – 13.33%
4th: Hama – 11.67%
5th: Beregond – 9.17%
6th: Bard the Bowman – 7.5%
7th: Beorn – 5%
8th: Thalin – 4.17%
9th: Brand Son of Bain – 3.33%
10th: Elladan – 2%
I was definitely surprised that Brand Son of Bain did not come in dead last. It was one of Elrond’s sons, Elladan, who ended up occupying that dubious spot. Undoubtedly, he was harmed by being part of a duo, which means that he doesn’t stick out as an individual. My own vote would probably go for Legolas’ BFF, Gimli. Despite the existence of the Erebor Battle Master, who can replicate much of what Gimli does, I still find the son of Gloin quite useful. There is nothing quite as satisfying as bumping him up to 9 or 10 attack with attachments, events, and other buffs, and watching as he absolutely clobbers a big baddie.
With that said, it’s now time to move on and vote for your favorite Leadership hero!
The Core Set will soon be left behind for good, as TftC’s Encounter Card Set Reviews finally tackes Escape from Dol Guldur. While sweet freedom may be in sight, first we need to escape the clutches of the Enemy and ensure that we don’t spend the rest of our days rotting away in some forgotten dungeon. The third Core Set scenario became notorious for its difficulty soon after release, and it is still not a cake-walk, especially for pure solo players. Will the accompanying encounter set prove responsible for this difficulty, or is it much ado about nothing? Read on and find out!
Quests Included In:
Escape from Dol Guldur
Card Breakdown (15 cards total):
2x Tower Gate
This very special edition of the Card Spotlight comes at the request of TftC reader, OnkelZorni. His suggestion to put the spotlight on The End Comes is a great choice, as this is one of the few cards in the existing pool that I have not included in a single deck. It is quite an odd card with an ominous sounding name and evocative artwork. Most have consigned it to the junk pile, but as always, the Card Spotlight will shine through the thickest cobwebs and into the mustiest corners in search of truth, justice, and the TftC way. At the end of the article, we must decide: Is The End Comes a gem or a coaster?
Response: After a Dwarf character leaves play, shuffle the encounter discard pile back into the encounter deck.
This is essentially a form of encounter deck manipulation, in that it allows you to reshape the composition of the encounter deck. There are a few aspects of this card that strike me as strange:
1) It requires a Dwarf character to leave play. I realize that this is related to the theme of the card, with flavor text and art connected to the discovery by the Fellowship of Balin’s tomb. In this regard, it makes complete sense, but it does limit when exactly you can play it. For a card that already has a fairly limited set of occasions when it is useful, this additional limitation does not help its case. Granted, in Dwarf decks, there often will be Dwarf characters leaving play anyway, but what if you’re not running a Dwarf deck? What if you would like to play this card at a time of your choice rather than when a Dwarf character leaves play, which is likely to be during combat (or perhaps after using an event like Sneak Attack or To Me! O My Kinsfolk!)?