The Hobbit: On the Doorstep Review (Allies and Events)
Continuing TftC’s review of The Hobbit: On the Doorstep, this article will rate the new allies and events found in this Saga Expansion (following my analysis of the heroes last time). So far, I’ve been enjoying getting to grips with these new toys, separating the game-changers from the also-rans. Hopefully, this discussion can help you in that process as well. Following this article, the third part of the review will examine the attachments, as well as the precious, precious treasures that can be won with blood and courage during the course of these three quests. Onwards!
Player Card Ratings
* Gloin – Leadership (3 cost, 2 willpower, 1 attack, 1 defense, 3 hit points)
Gloin is one of several Dwarf allies contained in this expansion that play on the “when you control 5 Dwarf characters” dynamic and represent new versions of characters that were previously incarnated as heroes. When you do control 5 Dwarf characters and play Gloin, he provides 2 resources that can be placed on any hero. Overall, Gloin is a useful ally whose power can be looked at in one of two ways. On the one hand, you can put the 2 resources back on one of your Leadership heroes, essentially making Gloin a 1-cost ally, which is fantastic value for his high willpower and healthy bank of hit points. On the other hand, you can use Gloin as a means of providing resources to other spheres or other players’ heroes. This type of resource manipulation or resource transfer is a fantastically useful and sometimes underrated ability. On top of all that, even if you don’t control 5 Dwarf characters, I still would consider Gloin to be worth the 3 resources, because of his strong stats. The one downside of Gloin is the fact that he is unique, so you need him to leave play in order to get multiple uses out of his ability. Also, because he is an ally version of a hero, you obviously can’t use him if hero Gloin is sitting on the table.
* Bifur – Lore (3 cost, 1 willpower, 2 attack, 1 defense, 3 hit points)
Bifur is in the same boat as Gloin as far as having a “5 Dwarf character” special ability and being a hero-turned-ally. In Bifur’s case, when you play him and control 5 Dwarf characters, you can draw 2 cards. One difference from Gloin is that this bonus can only be used by the player who plays Bifur, and can’t be given to another player in order to allow them to draw 2 cards. However, a free 2 cards, especially when combined with Ori’s card-drawing ability (also based on controlling 5 Dwarf characters), is nothing to sneeze at, and can help increase the pace of your Dwarf deck. As with Gloin, the only limitation of Bifur is that he is unique and could possibly conflict with any hero versions that players might want to use. One thing I find interesting is that this version of Bifur is thematically different from his hero form, boasting a relatively high attack value versus the previously more bookish incarnation. Ally Bifur’s stats are impressive, especially with Dain in play (and c’mon, why wouldn’t you play Dain?), as he becomes a 2 willpower, 3 attack ally with that buff. Now that is some serious value.
* Dwalin – Spirit (3 cost, 1 willpower, 1 attack, 2 defense, 3 hit points)
The final member of the trio of heroes-turned-allies contained in this box, Dwalin has sentinel and only costs 1 (instead of 3) resources to play when you control 5 Dwarf characters. With such a power and a respectable defense value of 2, this is an ally that is definitely intended to serve as a defender. For other spheres, this overall package might not be that impressive, but a 2-defense ally for Spirit is definitely valuable, and even more so if he only costs 1! To give you a frame of reference, the only other Spirit allies with a defense of 2 are Damrod, Elfhelm, and Northern Tracker, all of whom cost 4 resources (and that you’ll probably be wanting to use for other functions other than defense). All this makes Dwalin a no-brainer for Dwarf decks including Spirit. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll say again that the only drawback to this ally is being unique and conflicting with the hero version of Dwalin, although in this case it is not as much of an issue, as he is one of the lesser-used heroes.
* Straight Shot – Tactics (0 cost)
“Action: Exhaust a Weapon attachment to choose a non-unique enemy with 0 Defense. Discard the chosen enemy.”
I’m of two minds about this event. On the one hand, there are definitely some things to like about Straight Shot. Being able to straight up discard an enemy from play without worrying about attacking or damage is wonderful. The fact that you can do this to any enemy in play, including those in the staging area, is even better, and since this is not a combat action, you could do it after staging and right before questing resolution, thus clearing out some threat. On the other hand, those enemies with 0 defense will tend to be the weaker ones anyway, and this is a natural limitation of the card. One way to maximize the effectiveness of Straight Shot is to combo it with Rivendell Blade or Bard’s ability. Both of those effects reduce the defense value of an enemy by 2 until the end of the phase, so if you use them on an enemy with 1 or 2 defense, that would allow you to discard them using Straight Shot. At the end of the day, there are many great Tactics events currently in the card pool, some of which can quickly take care of an enemy through dealing direct damage, which makes it difficult to recommend Straight Shot with no reservations. To me, this is a situational card, rather than universally useful. While some people use the word “situational” as a negative term, to me it just indicates a card that is more useful in certain situations than others, which means that it does have uses and can be effective in the right circumstances, but is not an auto-include. To give one specific example, Straight Shot can be greatly effective in The Watcher in the Water quest, where tentacle enemies are tough to deal with because of their inconvenient effects but have 0 defense, rendering them vulnerable to this event. All in all, Straight Shot is a welcome addition to the card pool, if not overly powerful.
* Desperate Alliance – Spirit (o cost)
“Action: Choose a hero you control. Until the end of the phase, give control of that hero and all resources in that hero’s resource pool to another player (Limit 1 per phase).”
This card has future errata written all over it, if only because the very dynamics of this card open it up to possibly unforeseen uses in the future. One aspect that has already been officially clarified is that if you have only 1 hero left, and “loan” that hero to another player, that would not eliminate you from the game. So one possible use for Desperate Alliance, if you were in a drastic situation and engaged with enemies, would be to give your last remaining hero to another player at the beginning of the combat phase, which would mean you would face undefended attacks but the damage would vanish into thin air because you would have no heroes to put the damage on! However, I don’t imagine this situation actually playing out too often. What are some other possible uses for Desperate Alliance? Here is a short list of possibilities, but keep in mind that this is not exhaustive:
– Loan a hero and his/her resources to another player during the planning phase, essentially using Desperate Alliance as a form of resource transfer.
– Loan a hero to another player during the combat phase so that they can have an extra attacker and/or defender.
– Loan a hero to another player so that they can make use of that hero’s ability (i.e. Ori’s card draw, Elrond/Vilya’s playing from deck, Lore Aragorn’s threat reduction, etc.)
As you can see, there are clearly a variety of uses for Desperate Alliance, and I imagine that it is the kind of event that would both benefit from advanced planning and also provide fodder for those “Captain Kirk” moments when you are scanning your hand for any possible way out of a tight jam. On the other hand, if your decks are functioning as they should, Desperate Alliance may end up simply sitting idle. I feel like it will take time for a true verdict to emerge for this card.
* Ravens of the Mountain – Lore (1 cost)
“Action: Exhaust a hero you control to shuffle the encounter deck and reveal its top card. Place progress tokens on the current quest equal to the revealed card’s Threat. Then, put that card back on the top of the encounter deck.”
This is a bit of an oddball card that allows you to gamble to try to put some progress on a quest. Ravens of the Mountain would be far more effective and useful if it didn’t require you to shuffle the encounter deck before you reveal the top card. If that was the case, then you could use scrying effects like Denethor or Henamarth Riversong to make sure that the card wouldn’t miss. However, the card as it is written means that it is a complete crap shoot. With most encounter cards having an average of 2-3 threat, Ravens of the Mountain can possibly give you an extra 2-3 progress. On the other hand, you may completely miss and instead hit a treachery, giving you no progress at all, and wasting 1 resource in the process. Also of vital importance is the wording of this event, which states that you must “reveal” the top card of the encounter deck. That means if this top encounter card has a “when revealed” effect, not only will it activate, but it will go back on top of the encounter deck afterwards as well, possibly to be activated a second time on a further reveal. This could be absolutely disastrous. I suppose you could say that a secondary benefit of Ravens of the Mountain is that it lets you know exactly what card will be on top of the encounter deck, but this is definitely a risky proposition. I see this event as a “hail mary”, a trick you pull out when you are struggling to quest and absolutely need to put some progress down. Since Ravens of the Mountain is an event, it does allow you to make progress outside of the quest phase, which might allow you to pull off some neat timing tricks, but at the end of the day, it’s hard for me to imagine including this card in one of my decks.
* To Me! O My Kinsfolk! – Leadership (1 cost)
“Action: If you control at least 1 Dwarf hero, put a Dwarf ally from your discard pile into play under your control. Put that ally on the bottom of your deck at the end of the phase.”
As if there wasn’t enough ways to get Dwarf allies into play quickly to reap those Dwarf bonuses, To Me! O My Kinsfolk! gives you yet another. However, there are a few limitations to this card. One is that it obviously is only a temporary use, as the Dwarf ally you summon goes to the bottom of your deck at the end the phase. Second, this effect counts as putting the ally into play but not as playing from your hand. This means that Dwarf effects that trigger when playing from hand, like Fili/Kili, Nori (with the new errata), Legacy of Durin, etc., would not work with To Me! O My Kinsfolk! This reduces the effectiveness of this card, and means that it is mainly useful for providing an emergency body for questing or combat. With other options available for getting Dwarf allies into play (Sneak Attack, Stand and Fight, Spirit Bofur, etc.), this card has an uphill battle ahead of it to find its way into decks.
How do your ratings compare against mine? Sound off below!