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Encounter Card Set Review: Wilderlands

by on March 7, 2013

Moving forward with TftC’s Encounter Card Set Reviews, we’ll tackle yet another collection from the Core Set. Prepare to go wild, it’s time for the Wilderlands!

Quests Included In:

Journey Along the Anduin

Conflict at the Carrock

Dead Marshes

Return to Mirkwood

Card Breakdown (14 cards total):

1x Wolf Rider

2x Hill Troll

2x Goblin Sniper

1x Marsh Adder

2x Wargs

2x Despair

2x The Brown Lands

2x The East Bight

Statistical Breakdown:

Locations: 29%

Enemies: 57%wilderlands

Treacheries: 14%

Cards With Shadow Effects: 36%

Average Threat of All Cards (Treacheries count as 0): 1.9

Average Threat of Enemies and Locations: 2.2

Average Attack Value of Enemies: 3.5

Average Defense Value of Enemies: 1.1

Average Hit Points of Enemies: 4.6

Average Quest Progress of Locations: 3.5

Set Description:

Thematically, Wilderlands represents the dangers that the heroes of Middle-Earth might encounter when travelling in the wild, specifically the area around the Anduin, Mirkwood, and the Dead Marshes. As such, there are a variety of “wild” enemies included, from trolls to wargs to adders to wolf-riding orcs. There are also a couple of locations that are part of this set, both of which represent wasted and dead lands that provide little shelter for adventurers. Finally, there is one treachery that represents the despair that might overtake those who are stuck in the wild for too long. Overall, this is one of the more difficult encounter sets contained in the Core Set. Definitely the enemies far surpass those found in Sauron’s Reach and Dol Guldur Orcs. Beware!

Individual Card Breakdown:


Hill Troll (1 threat, 6 attack, 3 defense, 9 hit point): Hill Trolls are the tool that this game uses to break-in and haze new players. As defeating at least one is a pre-requisite to beating the Journey Along the Anduin scenario, this big baddie is the first real taste of the nasty foes that LOTR LCG can serve up. hill trollAt 6 attack, the Hill Troll can kill most allies and heroes with a single swing of his giant axe. While this would be bad enough, what really distinguishes the Hill Troll is that excess damage beyond a defender’s hit points has to be soaked up as an increase to threat. What this does is it limits the effectiveness of chump-blocking, which would otherwise be the easiest way of dealing with the Hill Troll (well, second easiest, I’ll get to that in a moment). If you throw that Snowbourn Scout in the Hill Troll’s path, it will mean a quite substantial threat gain of 4 (6 – 1 defense and 1 hit point). This means that you either have to sacrifice more hearty allies, which will tend to be the better ones that you want to keep around, or defend with heroes, who can probably take only one swing at most without the aid of something like a Citadel Plate. By far the most popular way of dealing with a Hill Troll has been to throw a Forest Snare on it, rendering it completely toothless. This is definitely anti-climactic, and it can be defeated by more conventional means, but with 3 defense and 9 hit points, it takes a grand total of 12 damage to send it to the victory display. Gimli, a swarming strategy, sneaking in Gandalf, or piling on attachments are all viable ways of dealing with this enemy, but it is no small matter to deal with a Hill Troll, which is as it should be. I should say, however, that with traps like the aforementioned Forest Snare or the relatively new Ranger Spikes, the Hill Troll becomes far easier to deal with, and FFG has learned their lesson on this. You will see newer enemies with the phrase “cannot have attachments” to prevent this type of approach.

Goblin Sniper (2 threat, 2 attack, 0 defense, 2 hit points): The Goblin Sniper is a weak enemy that can be dispatched with ease (taking only 2 damage to destroy). However, the problem is that the Goblin Sniper can only be optionally engaged if it is the only enemy in the staging area. With a threat level of 48, it will likely not be coming down on its own either. Besides its threat of 2, the other issue with this enemy remaining in the staging area is that each player has to deal 1 damage to a character while it sits there. This is not too terrible, and I would almost venture that having extra threat in the staging area that you can’t get rid of is worse, but such damage could prove worrisome if you end up being swarmed by other, more fearsome enemies. There are a few ways of getting rid of the Goblin Sniper:

– Gandalf’s direct damage (although this seems like quite a waste)

Son of Arnor can pull it down to be dispatched

Thalin questing + Longbeard Orc Slayer entering play

– Direct damage effects like Hail of Stones, Descendant of Thorondor, Infighting, etc.

– Effects that let you attack enemies in the staging area (Dunhere, Great Yew Bow, Hands Upon the Bow)

Despite being annoying, I would still rather draw the Goblin Sniper than any of the other enemies in this set.

Marsh Adder (3 threat, 4 attack, 1 defense, 7 hit points): Yet another heavy-hitter in this set, thankfully there is only 1 copy to be found, which means that it often ends up being discarded as a shadow instead of coming into play. 4 attack is less fearsome now than it was in the days of the Core Set, thanks to the wealth of options for increasing defense presently available, yet it still can hurt. Like the Hill Troll, the Marsh Adder also raises threat, although in this case it is just 1 point of threat every time it attacks. Over time this can add up if you don’t kill the Marsh Adder quickly. The fact that it has 7 hit points makes this difficult, but a defense of 1 means it is slightly more manageable to reach the 8 damage total it takes to send this adder back into the marshes from whence it came. One of the aspects of the Marsh Adder that is most troublesome is the 3 threat, and despite its high engagement level of 40, this means that you will want to bring it down as soon as possible.

Wolf Rider (1 threat, 2 attack, 0 defense, 2 hit points): The Wolf Rider is immensely annoying. As an enemy, it can be killed with only 2 damage, and can be defended against fairly easily as well. What makes it a pest is that it surges, which is never a keyword you want to see. In addition, the really nasty thing about the Wolf Rider is its shadow effect, which causes it to attack the defending player as an enemy and then hop on top of the encounter deck to be revealed next round. Because of this, I would be happy to see the Wolf Rider revealed normally if only because it meant that the Wolf Rider would not appear as a shadow.

Wargs (2 threat, 3 attack, 1 defense, 3 hit points): If you have played even one quest with the Wilderlands set, you know that there is a special place in hell reserved for them. They boast fairly average stats, but have just wargsenough attack (3) to make defense a tricky affair. The problem is that while it takes only 4 damage to kill a Warg, they have one of the most infuriating forced effects of all time. When they are dealt a shadow card with no effect, which would usually be a joyous occasion, instead this causes them to return to the staging area. This has two negative effects: 1) it means that its threat will be sitting in the staging area for next turn’s questing, and 2) it prevents you from killing it. You can easily get stuck in a situation where Wargs continually jump away from your waiting blades to haunt your questing and tie up a defender over the course of many turns (and with an engagement level of 20, they will usually always be coming down). The best way to deal with Wargs is killing them in the staging area using the same techniques I mentioned in the Goblin Sniper entry. The other option is to use Dawn Take You All, which allows you to discard a facedown shadow card from play. Since the shadow card is never technically revealed, even if there is no shadow effect on it, the Wargs’ forced effect cannot trigger. You can then grin evilly as you smash the Wargs. Note that cards that allow you to cancel a shadow effect have no power here, as the only thing that matters is that there was a shadow card dealt with no effect. Dawn Takes You All works because it allows you to discard a shadow card before it is ever revealed.


The East Bight (1 threat, 6 progress): This card represents a long expanse of wasteland that takes a long time to travel through. When revealed from the encounter deck, the East Bight is fairly benign. With only 1 threat, it will probably even be a welcome sight. However, as with most locations that have such a low threat, there is a nasty effect lurking nearby. In this case, The East Bight forces you to travel to it if there is no active location. This basically forces you to add its substantial 6 progress on top of whatever you have to achieve for the quest stage itself. That being said, in the grand scheme of locations, I would probably feel ok with revealing this card, however it all depends on what particular stage you are on. If you happen to be on a quest stage that you really need to travel through quickly, and that punishes a slow pace (like say quest 2 of Journey Along the Anduin), then The East Bight can certainly turn the tide against you. However, in the vast majority of case, you should be able to deal with it without too much trouble.

The Brown Lands (5 threat, 1 progress): Another wasteland, I assume that the flavor of this card is that while it can be travelled through quickly, this location retains the evil memories of fell deeds of the past,brown lands as well as that the heroes are exposed to the eyes of the enemy. In many ways, The Brown Lands are essentially the mirror image of The East Bight. While the latter has low threat and high progress, The Brown Lands have extremely high threat but can be explored simply by travelling there. Which is worse? For my money, The Brown Lands hurts more, simply because it messes with your questing calculations. Most of the time you are expecting an average of 2 or 3 threat from each card revealed from the encounter deck. However, when The Brown Lands are revealed, successful questing can turn into questing unsuccessfully in the blink of an eye. You can think about The Brown Lands as basically a treachery that adds 5 to the threat in the staging area. Hopefully, this only messes you up for one questing phase at most, before it disappears. However, you are in real trouble if you already have an active location, and The Brown Lands prevents you from getting enough progress to clear it out. Then The Brown Lands can sit around for future rounds, standing in the way of questing and possibly leading to a further piling up of locations and eventual defeat. Therefore, if you are facing the Wilderlands set, you should include some means to put progress on locations in the staging area. With only 1 progress needed, this can be accomplished fairly easily, as long as you have included some of these effects. A simple Snowbourn Scout works, as does Asfaloth, Northern Tracker, and The Riddermark’s Finest. You can also make sure to include Secret Paths to eliminate the threat from an ill-timed Brown Lands.


* Despair: Despair removes 4 progress tokens from the quest, or removes all progress tokens if there are less than 4 currently on the stage. Unlike some treacheries, if this has no effect because there are no progress tokens on the current quest, then it does not surge. This is the most ideal situation, and I’ve found that this is often the case with this particular treachery. Note that this card does not remove progress from the active location, only from the quest stage itself. Even if there is progress for Despair to remove, 4 is not a high enough number to really cause major difficulties, unless the quest is hanging on the edge of the knife. Overall, I would say that this is a fairly innocuous treachery that I would be happy to see be revealed compare to most other possible encounter cards (especially since this means that it won’t come up as a shadow, see the Shadow Analysis section).

Shadow Analysis:

Only 5 cards out of the 14 included in this set have a shadow effect, which means that Wilderlands tends to lower the overall shadow frequency for a quest. However, a couple of the shadow effects that are included are downright nasty. First, the 2 copies of Despair include an absolutely insane shadow effect that causes the defending character to ignore its defense value completely. This can easily lead to hero death when that 3 or 4 defense that you were counting on to soak up an enemy attack vanishes into thin air. It is amazing how terrible this shadow effect is compared with the normal “when revealed” effect of Despair. This is the kind of shadow you should keep a copy of Hasty Stroke around for (or another equivalent shadow-cancellation effect). If you are facing a scenario with Wilderlands in it, and you don’t have any means of shadow-cancellation available, know that Despair can come up as a shadow and take that into account when choosing your defender. If there are 2 copies of Despair sitting in the discard pile already, then you can breathe a bit easier.

I previously discussed the Wolf Rider shadow effect. It basically makes the Wolf Rider come into play for the current combat phase to wage an attack of its own, and then sends it back to the encounter deck at the end of combat. This is potentially harmful because most of the time players have made careful plans for how to deal with engagement and combat based on the number of characters they have in play and the number of enemies present, and the surprise attack of the Wolf Rider can ruin everything (use up a defender that you were counting on using, lead to an undefended attack if you don’t have enough characters, etc.). Note that it does stay around until the end of combat, so you can kill it before it returns to the encounter deck, but this means that you are using up an attacker that you would’ve had free otherwise.

Finally, there is the more traditional shadow effect found on the Wargs that gives a +1 attack boost to the enemy attack (+2 if the attack is undefended). With this being a common shadow effect, you should always be prepared in any quest for enemy attack values to be boosted, and you can know this for sure if you are facing the Wilderlands. With the Wargs being so annoying, I would almost rather have them show up as shadows then be revealed from the encounter deck.

Final Verdict:

After analyzing the fairly manageable Sauron’s Reach and Dol Guldur Orcs sets, it is nice to tackle one with more teeth. While the locations and treacheries are not too out of control in terms of power, the enemies are a mix of brute strength and pests that are hard to get to grips with and smash. By far, the greatest threats found in this set are The Brown Lands, Hill Trolls, Wargs, and the Despair shadow effect.  Seeing the paw of the Wilderlands means that you need to include a decent amount of attack power, tricks for dealing direct damage, and shadow-cancellation (as well as some location-management effects to deal with The Brown Lands).

  1. For me, the biggest concern with this deck is the fact that there are two Hill Trolls. With the Spider encounter set, you only have the one big baddie. With the Wilderlands, you have two. I’ve actually given up on Journey Down The Anduin when you have the one Troll and a second one shows up on the first turn. I always have plans in my head taking on the one troll for that quest, but they never work when two of them show up. Especially when my son uses his 32-threat hero deck!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Agreed. Having two Hill Trolls makes this set far more dangerous and unpredictable than it would be otherwise.

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