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Encounter Card Set Review: Sauron’s Reach

by on February 26, 2013

Welcome to another edition of TftC’s Encounter Card Set Reviews. Last time I introduced the purpose of these articles, and analyzed the Dol Guldur Orcs set in-depth. This time we’ll be looking at another set included with the base game: Sauron’s Reach.

Quests Included In:

Journey Along the Anduin

Hunt for Gollum

Hills of Emyn Muil

Dead Marshes

Card Breakdown (10 cards total):

3x Eastern Crows

3x Evil Storm

2x Pursued by Shadow

2x Treacherous Fog

Statistical Breakdown:

Locations: 0%

Enemies: 30%saurons reach

Treacheries: 70%

Cards With Shadow Effects: 50%

Average Threat of All Cards (Treacheries count as 0): 0.3

Average Threat of Enemies and Locations: 1.0

Average Attack Value of Enemies: 1.0

Average Defense Value of Enemies: 0.0

Average Hit Points of Enemies: 1.0

Average Quest Progress of Locations: N/A

Set Description:

Sauron’s Reach is designed to reflect, as one might guess from the name, the ability of Sauron to exert his influence through manipulating the weather, environment, and those pesky crows. It is one of the smaller encounter sets, consisting of only ten cards. With only one type of enemy included, and no locations, this set is all about treacheries. Due to its small size, Sauron’s Reach does not dramatically affect the threat average of an encounter deck. Instead, it adds some unpredictability, plays off other encounter sets, and, particularly through Evil Storm, provides a nasty bit of direct damage.

Individual Card Breakdown:


Eastern Crows (1 threat, 1 attack, 0 defense, 1 hit point): Eastern Crows are annoying for one reason and one reason only: surge. Taken just as an enemy, they are one of the eastern crowsweakest foes in the entire game. A Gondorian Spearman can eliminate the Crows just by defending, while any character that has at least one attack can fell them with a single swat. They also have a very low attack value, which means that most characters can defend against them without too much concern, and it is even possible to let their attacks go through undefended. With an engagement level of 30 and contributing only 1 threat, I have found it useful at times to let the Eastern Crows sit in the staging area for awhile. Their most notable effect, other than surging, is that they are shuffled back into the encounter deck when killed, and, at the end of the day, that’s what this enemy is all about. It pops in, provides one threat and the danger that a shadow effect might boost its attack, and then it replaces itself. This is definitely annoying, but there are more frustrating effects to be found in other encounter sets. Still, the best way to counter the Crows is with Thalin, whose ability kills them before they can surge.


* Evil Storm: How evil is this storm? Evil enough to deal 1 damage to each character controlled by a player whose threat is 35 or higher. With this card, Sauron summons a evil stormstorm to attack the heroes and their allies, but it appears that this only occurs if the players have done enough to attract his attention. The worst aspect of this card is that, unlike some other damage-dealing treacheries, it affects all characters, not just those that are exhausted. So you can’t avoid it by keeping 1-hit point characters ready. The only way to truly counter its effects are Eleanor/A Test of Will or keeping your threat below 35. The reaction to drawing this card can range from terror to joy. If you have a bunch of 1-hit point allies sitting around or, even worse, a hero or two that is 1 damage away from death, Evil Storm can sap willpower from a quest by killing characters and even destroy your heroes. On the other hand, if you are below 35 threat, this card does absolutely nothing and does not surge if it has no effect, as most treacheries do in later encounter sets. This means you are facing the equivalent of 1 less card revealed during staging. It is the worst of the treacheries included in the set, but, like a storm, can be rather unpredictable. The main piece of advice I would give is that if you are playing against a quest that includes Sauron’s Reach, and your threat hits 35, keep Evil Storm in mind at all times. If you’re below 35, wish for this card to show up.

* Pursued by Shadow: A fairly straightforward threat-increasing effect, each player must raise their threat by 1 for each character not committed to the quest. This tends to lead to at least a gain of 1, as most of the time you are not questing with every single character (although sometimes this does happen, especially early on). In general, this is a treachery, like Evil Storm, that hurts more in the later stages of a game, when you have more characters on the board, than in the first few rounds. You could plan around it by committing more characters than you normally would until you see the 2 copies of Pursued by Shadow get discarded, but in most cases I don’t think this is necessary. That being said, if you are up to 45 threat or so, then you would definitely need to take Pursued by Shadow into account to prevent inadvertently threating out.

Treacherous Fog: Not content with hurling storms at you, Sauron can also summon a fog with ill intentions as well. This treachery gives each location currently in the staging area +1 threat until the end of the phase (which basically means that this will treacherous fogaffect quest resolution). It also has the added penalty of causing any player with 35 threat or higher (there’s that number again!) to discard 1 card. As treachery cards go, this is not the worst fog in town. Note that Treacherous Fog gives +1 only to those locations in the staging area when it is revealed, not to locations that are drawn afterwards during the staging step. If you have a bunch of locations piled up in the staging area, then Treacherous Fog can definitely hurt. However, in most cases, I would rather draw this card than most others that can be found in an encounter deck. On average, maybe you are looking at an additional 1-3 threat in the staging area, but you might have drawn an enemy or location with 1-3 threat anyway instead of this card, and it would have lingered around for you to deal with later. In this case, some extra threat gets added and Treacherous Fog drifts off to the discard pile. I will take that all day, every day. The added penalty of discarding a card may hurt a bit, but it gives you the benefit of being able to choose which card is thrown away instead of having to do it at random, which is far worse.

Shadow Analysis:

5 cards out of 10 have a shadow effect in this set. The 3 Eastern Crows have a shadow effect that grants 1 additional point of attack to enemies, which is the gold standard of shadows. It also has the added wrinkle that this boost increases to 2 if the player’s threat is 35 or higher. With that said, it definitely behooves you to keep your threat below 35 when facing Sauron’s Reach, or face the wrath of Evil Storm, Treacherous Fog, and Eastern Crow shadow effects! Still, there is nothing too terrible about this effect, compared to shadows that can boost attack by 3 or more. However, keep in mind that because Eastern Crows keep getting shuffled back into the encounter deck, this particular shadow effect will come up quite often, meaning that you should always assume that an attacking enemy will have 1-2 points of attack greater than what they have printed. However, the benefit of the Crows coming up as a shadow effect is that this is a way to get rid of them (semi-) permanently.

The other shadow effect is found on the 2 copies of Pursued by Shadow. This effect forces the defending player to choose and return 1 exhausted ally back to his or her hand. If there are no exhausted allies, then the defending player has to raise his or her threat by 3. The first effect, which returns an exhausted ally, is not too terrible in some cases. It doesn’t discard the ally, merely returns it to your hand, so you can play it on a subsequent turn. This is a bit of a resource drain, but it would be far worse if it simply discarded the ally outright as with some shadow effects. It even could be a possible benefit, if it allows you to play an ally again that has a beneficial effect when it enters play. However, the situation when this shadow can really hurt is if the only exhausted ally you control is the one defending the attack. You would then be forced to return it to your hand, causing the attack to become undefended. This kind of shadow effect that can turn attacks into undefended ones is one of the main ways that heroes are inadvertently destroyed. As such, this is the kind of shadow that you save a Hasty Stroke for in order to save your bacon. Of course, this effect has a disproportionate effect on players that have less allies out on the table, as swarm-spawning decks (Dwarves, I’m looking at you) can easily deal with it. The alternative effect, if you control no exhausted allies, of increasing threat by 3 is not insubstantial. All in all, Pursued by Shadow is an unwelcome sight as a shadow effect, which is pretty fitting given its title.

Final Verdict:

As with Dol Guldur Orcs, this encounter set won’t give you too many nightmares. In fact, I would overall rank it below Dol Guldur Orcs in terms of difficulty level. The primary threat is Evil Storm and the shadow effect of Pursued by Shadow. Everything else you should be able to deal with, in most cases at least. What this encounter set does do is reward those players who can keep their threat low. Fortunately, the quests that Sauron’s Reach is included in (Journey Along the Anduin, Hunt for Gollum, Hills of Emyn Muil, and Dead Marshes) all happen to be quests that practically demand a Spirit-heavy, threat-managing approach anyway. And if you really get tired of dealing with Crows, you can always bring Thalin along for the adventure.

  1. gaudyls permalink

    faq 1.4 has changed Treacherous Fog. Now, it has a contiunous effect, so the locations after it also get the +1

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, I’m glad they changed/clarified it. I had a feeling that was originally their intent, but the way they phrased it didn’t lead in that direction.

    • That’s funny, I didn’t know about the errata but that’s how I always used it since I thought that was the main intention of the card anyway.

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