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Bard the Bowman: Where did he get these wonderful toys?

by on February 11, 2013

hobbit on the doorstep

The second Saga Expansion, Hobbit: On the Doorstep, is due to be released sometime this month. Recently, lead designer Caleb Grace wrote an article spoiling two of the new heroes: Bombur and Bard the Bowman. In this piece, I will focus on Bard the Bowman and evaluating his potential utility in the game. Such a discussion cannot be complete without discussing some of the wonderful toys that he will be able to use, also included in this upcoming expansion.

Bard’s stats are great (2 willpower, 3 attack, 2 defense), putting him on the same level as an Aragorn. He has 1 less hit point than the heir of Isildur, but still boasts a sturdybard-the-bowman tally of 4. Possibly of more importance is the fact that he joins the only 2 other heroes that have the ranged ability: Legolas and his grandson, Brand son of Bain. Will Bard find his way into more decks than his oft-maligned descendant?

Bard’s ability revolves around his ranged ability, as when he makes a ranged attack, the targeted enemy gets -2 to its defense for the rest of the phase. Thus, he basically has an in-built Rivendell Blade that only applies when making a ranged attack. When the enemy has a defense value of 2 or more, this amounts to an equivalent of a +2 bonus to attack, giving him a Beorn-like value of 5 when using ranged. In most cases, the fact that the enemy’s defense is lowered for the whole phase doesn’t come into play,  but see my previous article on Rivendell Blade for an explanation of the exceptions.

Overall, Bard has a solid set of stats and a useful ability, however Tactics already has an impressive stable of heroes with abilities that are arguably stronger (Gimli, Legolas, and Hama leap to mind right off the bat). Bard’s threat level of 11 is also on the high end. If you compare Bard to Legolas, for example, you are essentially paying for 1 extra willpower and 1 extra defense. In order for Bard to be worth the cost then, you need to have plans for using Bard for both questing and attack or defense and attack (I’m assuming he’s always going to be primarily an attacker, since his ability revolves around that role). His willpower can be useful for a Tactics sphere that is often willpower-poor, but again, you better include a consistent means for readying Bard if you want to take advantage. If you don’t, then you might as well use Legolas along with a Rivendell Blade. In general, it seems that Bard will be most useful if a player is willing to build a deck or set of decks around his ability.

This brings us to a couple of new cards that might help players bring Bard to the next level. The Great Yew Bow is an addition to the game’s arsenal, with an impressive ability. It allows the attached hero to exhaust to make an attack on an enemy in the great-yew-bowstaging area, with the caveat that no other heroes may contribute. There are a few aspects of the card that are noteworthy. One is that the Great Yew Bow can only be attached to a character with the printed ranged keyword. That means you can’t throw ranged onto a character using Dunedain Cache and then have them use the Great Yew Bow; your only options are Legolas, Brand, and Bard. The second matter of note is that the Great Yew Bow acts a repeatable Hands Upon the Bow, except without the +1 bonus and it can only be used during the combat phase (Hands Upon the Bow can be used during any action window). While we could compare the 2 cards all day, just imagine the possibilities if you include both in a ranged-focused deck! According to the rules, each player can only declare an attack against a certain enemy once. However, this only applies to the normal opportunity to declare an attack during the combat phase, you can attack that same enemy using a card effect during a different phase. That means you could use Hands Upon the Bow to attack an enemy in the staging area during a previous phase of a round, and then use the Great Yew Bow to attack that same enemy a second time during the combat phase. This could be a powerful way to destroy a fearsome enemy before it ever even engages a player. Another combination with a lot of potential is to have one Great Yew Bow deck paired with another deck that is using Dunhere. Bard attacks an enemy in the staging area using the Great Yew Bow, lowering its defense by 2. When Dunhere attacks on his player’s turn, he will benefit from that lowered defense, essentially gaining a double bonus from Bard’s ability, while assuring that both character’s conditions of attacking alone are met.

There was also another card, another “toy” for Bard, spoiled that hasn’t been talked about much so far: the Black Arrow. As those familiar with The Hobbit storyline know, Bard the Bowman used the Black Arrow to slay Smaug. I find it very exciting and black arrowthematic that FFG have given Bard not only his bow, but his arrow as well in this next expansion. The text of the Black Arrow is partially obscured in the product description of On the Doorstep, but it can be deciphered: “Limit 1 per deck. Attach to a hero with Ranged. After attached hero declares an attack, add Black Arrow to the victory display to give the attached hero +5 for this attack.” This is a very thematic card, as the limit of 1 per deck represents the one-of-a-kind nature of the Black Arrow (and limits the gameplay power as well). It is clearly designed to help heroes destroy the toughest enemies in the game, and will surely be satisfying to use. It is the first player card to have a victory point value, and be placed in the victory display when used, which is something that I hope is utilized more in the future. Not only does it give players something to strive for, and a bonus for pulling off a particular maneuver, but also destroys dreams of bringing back this attachment over and over using Erebor Hammersmith or Second Breakfast. The Black Arrow will not be useful in every scenario or situation, but for those quests that feature big, nasty foes (like the troll quest in the first Hobbit Box that prevented more than one character from attacking the trolls at time), it might be worth including along with a Word of Command to fetch it.

Now that we have talked a bit about Bard and his wonderful toys, we are left with the big question: Is it better to use Bard the Bowman or Legolas and a Rivendell Blade? It really comes down to a tale of the tape. With Bard, you are paying 2 extra threat for an additional point of willpower and defense, along with a built-in Rivendell Blade (which only works with ranged attacks). Legolas, by contrast, comes in at a lower threat but will pretty much only contribute to attacking. His ability gives you something Bard can’t (unless you give him a Blade of Gondolin or 2), but you will need to make deck space for the Rivendell Blade and pay 2 resources to make Legolas a Bard equivalent. In my opinion, Legolas, because of his lower threat cost, will probably make it into more decks than Bard. However, I don’t think Bard is bad value for his cost. If you are willing to build a deck around him, he could be quite effective, and his extra willpower and defense make him quite versatile if you can get him an Unexpected Courage (or a pack full of Cram). Finally, for those archery-lovers out there, why not build a deck with both Bard and Legolas?


That’s it for now, hopefully soon I will be able to review The Hobbit: On the Doorstep, whenever it hits stores. Until then, I’ll be busy building some Bard decks and keeping my quiver well-stocked with arrows. What do you all think of Bard, the Great Yew Bow, and the Black Arrow? Feel free to weigh in on the Bard vs. Legolas debate as well.

**While I was putting the finishing touches on this article, FFG released the final spoiler article about On the Doorstep. Looks like we’re getting Balin as our newest Leadership hero, and looks like it’s due to hit stores next week!**


From → Spoilers

  1. I would say that Bard’s stats put him on the same level as Imrahil. They are identical.

  2. Thaddeus permalink

    I agree with your assessment. Bard is great, much better than his grandson, but ultimately will still see less play than Legolas. Bard getting the built in affect of Rivendell blade is Awesome, but Rivendell Blade only costs one and then Legolas still gets his own very nice power to boot. Plus those two points of lower starting threat do make a difference, especially for Tactics, where the Heroes tend to have a high Threat and no way of lowering it. I’ll definitely make a deck with both of them sometime though. Include some Yew Bows and “Hands on the Bow” cards and some Descendants of Throndor and just try to kill everything in the staging area 🙂

    Balin looks like lots of fun too!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, the staging area clearing deck is going to be very real very soon. I may actually find a reason to include A Light in the Dark.

  3. legolas18 permalink

    I’m really excited about On the Doorstep! It looks like we’ll be getting a lot of ally versions of the dwarves in the hobbit, and the only possibility left is that we’ll get Oin as the spirit hero. I’m going to make a deck with Brand, Bard, and Legolas, just to kill everything. And then I’ll pair it with a questing deck so they can just focus on… like I said, killing everything. And then, I’ll include a couple of super defenders in the questing deck so that all three of the heroes can use ranged at the same time, for a stunning 9 attack -2 defense. Amazing.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I’m really excited for it too! While I enjoyed the first Hobbit Box, it didn’t blow me away. However, the three scenarios in this one look very creative and fun, and the player cards that have been spoiled so far have a lot of potential. Bring on next week!

  4. What about a two Hero deck with Legolas and Bard the Bowman? That would put you at 20 starting threat. This will ensure that the other players will get all of the enemies instead of you. You can then proceed to rain arrows from across the table. A deck like this should include allies with the sentinel and ranged keywords. The possibility of secrecy on turn 1 will allow you to play secrecy cards a
    t a reasonable price early in the game. This is a multiplayer deck, so if your friend can lower your threat on your side of the table, you can then return the favor and sniping enemies engaged with them from afar. I dubbed this particular deck: “The Snipe Deck”.

    Oh, and Brand son of Bain combos with the new Merry Hero. They both attack an enemy and they ready each other. They can then proceed to continue to dispatch all of the other enemies engaged with the player who controls Merry.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s an interesting deck idea, Kalin, and might actually work well in a 3 or 4 player game, as the other players can help out with questing and defense. We just need to get some more Tactics secrecy cards, which might come in this cycle hopefully.

      Brand and Merry are definitely an awesome combination, and if you add in the new Rohan Warhorse, things can get truly nuts!

  5. tomtomiszcze permalink

    Hi Kalin,
    Good idea, but you must take the following into consideration: the other deck would have to quest like hell and defend like hell. The second condition practically excludes mono-Spirit, because there are no good defenders there and there’s not enough card draw to chump block. Oh, and you want your allies to help in questing, not to die in vain. So you might switch to some Spirit/Lore combination, after couple of games you might notice that it quests ok and even defends fairly well if your Lore hero happens to be Elrond, but the lack of cash is outrageous and the next step is splashing some Leadership, obviously and then you’re right on the doorstep of creating ultimate tri-sphere support deck for mono-Tactics. Enjoy 🙂

  6. Sweetness Whachacha permalink

    Great article! Bard the bowman, art looks awesome! Great character, very exciting attachments both from a thematic and a game play standpoint! I love Dunhere’s power, although running a dual sphere deck to boost him makes him less attractive, so I like the yew bow! Better to play a tactics version on Dunhere. Black arrow sounds awesome but I doubt with it’a one per deck limitation it will see much play. Can’t wait to try it!

  7. Sweetness Whachacha permalink

    Just one more note, as you said Legalos has that 2 less threat advantage, I think they inflate some of these stats to give the character a higher threat, because a character is mostly better when they are good at one thing. It is good utility to be able to use a character for multiple things butthis character will mostly be fighting, especially with ranged, so his extra willpower and defense are wasted threat

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