Peril in Pelargir: Strategy and Theme
Theme: The theme is strong with this one. In this quest, your heroes find themselves in the port city of Pelargir, immediately embroiled in a bar fight in order to protect some information they have been given. What immediately strikes me about this scenario is how refreshing and different it feels. After countless quests that have involved wilderness locations and fighting orcs, it feels very novel to deal with city locations instead and battle human enemies. While I usually associate seedy port cities and tavern rumbles with other fantasy settings and not Middle-Earth, exploring Pelargir doesn’t feel untrue to the source material. Rather, it feels like getting a chance to experience parts of Tolkien’s world that exist, but that we haven’t yet had the chance to see (other than in fleeting glimpses). While Gondor was featured in the books, it was mainly in the context of Minas Tirith and the climactic battles of the War of the Ring. I’m glad that this scenario instead gives us the chance to see a different part of Gondor, and experience Pelargir as a living, breathing (and dangerous) city. In terms of lore, Pelargir is one of the largest cities in Gondor, and also one of the most important. Situated on a triangular island, it is an important port and centrer of trade, and is also notable for a history of political strife. It is fitting that this would be a place where Sauron would be able to find recruits among the mercenaries and cutthroats of this city. For more info on the lore of Pelargir, read this highly detailed entry.
Theme Rating: ♦♦♦♦
Strategy: Ok, so how does one beat this particular quest? Like the other two quests in the Heirs of Numenor set, this is one of the more difficult challenges the game provides so far. You need to be thoughtful about constructing your deck, and not expect to just waltz through this quest with the builds you used before. There are some general strategies that are good for all three quests (which I examined in my last Heirs of Numenor article), but in this article I will focus on what I found effective for Peril in Pelargir specifically.
* Know how to battle, but prepare for a big push: The first two quest stages are battles, which means you need to include more attack strength than you might normally. If you are used to running a Lore or Spirit deck with lots of high Willpower/low Attack allies, ditch most of them out of your deck. Replace them with allies who can provide some amount of Attack instead. Any cards that can provide attack boosts, such as For Gondor, Khazad! Khazad!, etc., will be great for making progress during battles. Right now, Dwarves have the best attack-boosting cards and synergy, but even without Dwarves, you can utilize similar cards. Weapons become even more useful now as they help with questing and combat. On the other hand, be aware that the last stage requires traditional willpower questing, so if you are too imbalanced, you may fall down at the end. Include a few willpower boosting cards and hold them in your hand for the final push (Escort from Edoras, Gandalf, Faramir, Astonishing Speed, Longbeard Map-maker, etc.). By the time you are on the last quest stage, there probably is enough nasty stuff built up that you want to clear that last stage in a couple of turns at most.
* Hero choice can make the difference: The importance of battle (and the fact that you don’t have to worry about seige) means that choosing high-attack heroes can make a huge difference over the course of the quest. A hero who I haven’t used in a good long while made a return appearance: Gimli. He is an all-star in this scenario as he makes a great quester. He can soak up damage and then end up providing a huge chunk of progress each turn. If you throw an Unexpected Courage on him, he can do double duty and both quest and clean out one of the many enemies you will be faced with. Beorn is also a solid choice because of his starting Attack of 5, and also his high hit points allow him to take a lion’s share of damage. However, I found him a tad bit less useful than Gimli only because you can’t play attachments on him. Tactics Boromir can also come in handy because of his ability to both quest and attack in the same turn, while universal attack buffers like Dain and Leadership Boromir can be huge (but keep in mind that Dain will not be able to stay ready as much as usual and Leadermir will often be without a resource because of specific treachery and enemy effects in this quest designed to drain resources).
* Know when to hold it and when to fold it: Here I’m talking about Alcaron’s Scroll, which is the main objective of this quest, and is dropped by the hero holding it if he/she takes damage. My advice is: if you drop it, you don’t need to rush to pick it up. In fact, there are some cases where it is beneficial for it to just stay in the staging area. For example, quest stage 3 has an effect where the player holding the scroll is automatically attacked each turn by the first enemy revealed. Both quest stage 2 and 3 require you to have the scroll in hand to progress, but if you drop it along the way, go ahead and kill the enemy holding it and leave it in the staging area. Once you have enough progress tokens to quest out, only then exhaust a hero to grab the scroll and move forward.
* Be ready to cancel Collateral Damage: This is a particularly nasty treachery that requires you to discard cards from the deck, and add to your threat for every location drawn in this way. This is a card that can potentially cost you the game. Keep a Test of Will in hand for this at all times, and do not waste it on other effects, even if you are tempted. Some decks might even be justified in using Eleanor just to deal with this card, but this is not necessary.
* Clear the Leaping Fish on the first turn: This is the bar/tavern you start the game at, and it sits there as an active location with a particularly nasty effect, requiring you to discard cards off the deck, and putting them into play if they are enemies (in addition to the normal staging draw). With the high probability of drawing an enemy, if you leave the Leaping Fish in play for too long, you will find yourself swamped by enemies. The enemies in this scenario are not super high-powered (just wait until the Siege at Cair Andros), but they do have nasty effects when engaging a player. Clear this location on the first or second turn at most.
– Addendum: A reader reminded me of a clever trick that helped me to deal with the Leaping Fish more easily, especially during those play throughs when I wasn’t able to clear it right away. The effect of this location only comes into play if you have a hero with Alcaron’s Scroll attached (which happens as part of the set-up of the scenario). I’ll let the words of John S. sum up how to exploit this caveat: “I ALWAYS attach the Scroll to a hero with fewer than 3 defense and then INTENTIONALLY take a hit from the Harbor Thug on the first turn. The Scroll changes hands, and The Leaping Fish ceases to be an issue. Never more than one turn’s worth of extra cards.” In my case, I often drew at least one Southron Mercenaries card during staging, and I would place one token from the archery damage on the hero holding Alcaron’s Scroll, negating the effect of the Leaping Fish on future turns. This relates back to my point about knowing when to hold onto the scroll and when to get rid of it. To reiterate, for most of this scenario you want the scroll unattached, only picking it up when necessary to progress to the next stage.
* Bring out the Trackers!: This quest may take you off guard in that locations can pile up at times, and this hasn’t happened to me in a quest for awhile. Granted, it is not the biggest thing you will be worried about, but it is good to be prepared. Think about bringing back Northern Trackers into your deck (who also can contribute some attack for questing). Other options are using cards like Riddermark’s Finest or Ride to Rohan, as most of the locations in the deck only require 1 or 2 progress to clear.
* Plan for resource hate: Many enemy and shadow effects in this quest will drain your heroes’ resources. You should be prepared for this in multiple ways: include your standard resource generation cards (Steward of Gondor, Horn of Gondor, etc.), but also focus on including mostly 1 or 2 cost allies. Vassal of the Windlord and Defender of Ramas are your best friends!
* Strategically manage enemies: You don’t need to clear all the enemies from the table to be successful. Kill the ones that will do the most hurt to you, and drop some Ranger Spikes in the staging area (include 3 of these in your deck) to neutralize others. As long as you can maintain a balance of allies to enemies so that you are not overwhelmed, you should concentrate your attackers on questing, and not keep too many back for combat.
With these considerations in mind, you should be able to clear Peril in Pelargir after a few attempts. It is a fun, challenging, thematic quest that requires you to build a very balanced deck. It is also a good warm-up for the other two quests in the set. Keep an eye out for the Into Ithilien and Siege of Cair Andros strategy articles coming soon!
Readers, what strategies did you use for this quest? How successful were you and what tips would you give to those who are struggling with Peril in Pelargir?