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Card Spotlight: Keeping Count

by on April 16, 2013


In this edition of Card Spotlight, I’ll be dissecting a card that is rich in theme but perhaps lacking in power: Keeping Count. For those of you relatively new to Tales from the Cards, I tend to pick cards to spotlight that are not traditionally considered to be among the most powerful in the game. Instead, I look for those that remain in the shadows or collecting dust in boxes and binders, seeking out the answer to that all-important question: Is this a coaster or a gem? Onto the card of the moment!

I really wanted to love Keeping Count from the first moment I laid eyes on it. Who hasn’t wanted to recreate Gimli and Legolas’ contest of one-upmanship in the field of baddie destruction? This card existskeeping count to satisfy that desire. In thematic terms, it’s right on the money. Keeping Count is a Tactics attachment that has the following card text:

Attached hero gets +1 attack for each resource token on another copy of Keeping Count that is above the current number of resource tokens on this card. Forced: After attached hero attacks and destroys an enemy, place 1 resource token on this card.

The idea behind this effect is that the hero who is behind in terms of how many enemies they have destroyed will gain a boost in attack strength, perhaps to represent the added determination and power given by wanting to win the contest. So, if say Gimli has 4 resources on his copy of Keeping Count because he has killed 4 enemies, and Legolas has only 1 resource on his copy of Keeping Counting because he has only felled a single foe, our intrepid Silvan (technically Sindar) hero would gain +3 to his attack (the difference between 4 and 1). Of course, the moment he kills a second monster, he would gain a 2nd resource token, thus reducing his attack bonus to +2. Again, thinking only about theme, I feel like this makes perfect sense and I love it in that respect.

However, this game is not won through theme alone. How does Keeping Count hold up as a player card, as an aid to victory? In order to answer that question, we have to cut through the tangle of text and boil this card down to its essence, comparing it to cards with similar effects currently in the card pool. Keeping Count is an attack-boosting card (what I sometimes refer to as an attack/hulking effect, because it causes a character to “hulk” out), albeit based on a unique mechanic. Once we look past this novelty, it becomes clear that the issue with this card is that there are an array of other effects that can boost attack far more consistently and with far less effort. For example, if you are running Dwarves, the 0-cost Tactics event, Khazad! Khazad!, can provide a +3 attack boost for free with no other cards required. There also are an array of weapons in the Tactics sphere that can consistently bolster a character’s attack without any dependency on what other characters are doing or how many enemies they’ve killed: Rivendell Blade, Dwarven Axe, Dwarrowdelf Axe, etc. These are essentially “plug and play” effects, whereas Keeping Count is more of a “plug, do a bunch of other stuff, then eventually play” effect. Beyond weapons, there’s also the option of the Leadership attachment Dunedain Mark, which gives you 1 attack for 1 resource). Beyond that, there’s the trio of events, For Gondor!, Blade Mastery, and Durin’s Song, that can provide a temporary attack boost (which is often what Keeping Count ends up being anyway).

I see at least three major problems with Keeping Count:

1) In order to be effective, it requires you to draw 2 copies, get both into play, and have one character kill a bunch of enemies. This all requires the luck of the draw and time. Of course, you can make your own luck by including plenty of card draw alongside Keeping Count, but the issue of time still remains. By the time you’ve gotten the Keeping Count machine rolling, the game may be almost over, and thus the utility of the card minimized. Ideally, you want your card effects getting into action as quickly as possible, thus increasing your power and improving your position within the first few turns, while Keeping Count requires you to increase your power and improve your position in order to get into action. In this way, it is a bit backwards. Just imagine this scenario: Boromir is tearing through enemies, and has killed 3 so far; it’s too bad your first copy of Keeping Count just showed up after those foes are already dead! Before I move past this particular point, I should also mention that luck of the draw applies to the encounter deck as well, because if you don’t draw enemies that can be quickly destroyed, then you won’t be able to accumulate tokens on Keeping Count.

2) It’s in the wrong sphere. Part of what makes Keeping Count feel a tad useless is that it is part of the Tactics sphere, which, as I already mentioned, has plenty of other options for attack boosting. Just imagine if Keeping Count was part of the Spirit or Lore sphere instead, which could benefit from any attack  boosting effect, however convoluted. Granted, this would not make that much thematic sense, as both Gimli and Legolas, the inspirations for this effect, are part of Tactics, and the theme of the card revolves around killing enemies. Still, players might be willing to overlook the clunkiness of getting Keeping Count to work if it was the only game in town for their deck/sphere in terms of bolstering attack. It also makes sense as far as how the designers have approached the game so far, with cards that give a sphere access to effects that are usually the domain of other spheres having some substantial in-built limitations.

3) It doesn’t fit well into established roles and gameplay strategies. Of course, this is not an indictment in and of itself, as a well-designed card that messes with the ways players approach the game can be quite fun and interesting. However, Keeping Count just feels like a square orc fitting into a round cave. This is because ideally you’ll be throwing one copy of this card onto a hero who never kills enemies, likely one of your questers or defenders, and another copy on your primary attacker in order to maximize the bonus. Then you may eventually have a nice bonus on your questing/defending hero, but that character is probably one with a low starting attack (which is probably one of the reasons why it’s in that role in the first place), and can only be used once or twice at most, before it loses most of its value. How able you will be to use that attack windfall will depend on how able you are to do without that hero’s participation in its given role of questing or defending, which is thus dependent on readying effects, a solid stable of allies, or a penchant for risk-taking. There also is the additional problem, again having to do with time, that this bonus will probably be only be functional for this unlikely attacker towards the end of a game, when your position is either already so good that the boost from Keeping Count is marginal or so desperate that you will probably need that hero for their given role. Given this reality, Keeping Count is probably most useful for those quests that require a certain enemy to be destroyed, when you will just devote everyone to a huge attack at the end and every extra point of attack might be welcome.

Tallying up the balance sheet, the case for Keeping Count looks quite grim. The jury seems decided and the executioner is sharpening his axe. But wait, I believe that there is one possible use for Keeping Count, and it is the Heirs of Numenor expansion and the coming Against the Shadow cycle that have thrown it a possible lifeline. With the new battle mechanic that has been introduced, forcing players to quest with attack power instead of willpower (this also makes an appearance in the On the Doorstep expansion as well), there is a reason to boost a character’s attack that has nothing to do with combat or killing enemies. If you are facing a quest stage with battle, now it would make perfect sense to have a questing hero and an attacking hero paired together with Keeping Count, with the questing hero now benefitting from added attack strength in order to make progress. This means that Keeping Count could help them in their role, rather than distract them from it. Of course, if you are facing a quest that features battle, wouldn’t you just have a bunch of heroes with high attack strength anyway, thus rendering Keeping Count nice to have, but not necessary? Sure, this is possible, but many of the newest quests interchange battle stages with more traditional willpower stages (as well as siege stages). Having a collection of heroes with balanced stats is important, and Keeping Count may allow your traditional high willpower questing hero to excel at battle questing as well. For example, what if you put one copy of Keeping Count on Thalin and one copy on Bard the Bowman? Bard is always killing enemies, and happily piles up 3 tokens, while Thalin quests every single turn and has 0 token on his copy of Keeping Count. Suddenly, Thalin would be able to quest during battle stages for 5 instead of 2! Even better, one of the positives of Keeping Count that I haven’t mentioned, and I should emphasize in the interest of fairness, is that the bonus doesn’t just abruptly appear, it gradually strengthens with every enemy killed. This is a use of Keeping Count that I think is begging for some experimentation by brave souls.

Still, Tales from the Cards does not equivocate when it comes to our Card Spotlight verdicts, and there can be no middle ground. Unfortunately, I must relegate Keeping Count to the fate of protecting tables from condensation and frosty mugs containing refreshing beverages. In a Living Card Game, time will only tell if Keeping Count can reverse this fate one day. For the time being, there are just too many other cards that provide attack/hulking effects in a more consistent and timely fashion, and Keeping Count doesn’t do enough to justify being included over them. For that reason, I fear that it will only find its way into the decks of the most thematic-minded players.

Verdict: Coaster


What have your experiences with Keeping Count been, readers? Is there anyone out there who swears by this card? Any Keeping Count decks? Sound off below!


From → Card Spotlight

  1. Keeping Count is, in my opinion, the worst card in the game. This is not an attempt at hyperbole; even with 3 copies of this card in your deck, the odds that it actually is of any use in a game are almost zero. If it had a response effect like “After you play Keeping Count from your hand search your deck for another copy of Keeping Count and add it to your hand” then it would *almost* be usable. As it is, the cost to play this card is simply too high, and the benefit derived from playing it is non-existent. I appreciate the theme that the designers were going for, but this card just does not work as intended.

  2. Steve permalink

    Easy house rule/errata would be to eliminate the 2 copy requirement and just have it attach to a hero, and choose another hero. Needing two copies out is a bit ridiculous.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, the 2 copy requirement is definitely part of the problem with this card. I think Beorn’s idea of having 1 copy be able to search for another would have solved that particular issue in a tidy way.

  3. gaudyls permalink

    the three copies effect makes this card from little use to zero-use, i’ve always think is unusefull so i really thouthg i was missing anything in it. It could be useful in a battle quest but, the need of having two of them in play is very hard.

  4. I think the card still has major merit for use in a multi-player environment. If you look at this card from a solo player stand point it is probably not the best choice and could really have the case made for it being a coaster. But in multi-player environment, especially if two players are running three copies then this card can really escalate. I have seen it happen. Especially if placed on a character such as Boromir (tactics) who might attack and kill multiple enemies in a turn.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      You’re right to bring up the multi-player applications. Generally, I tend to think of cards in terms of 1 or 2 players, which is my primary focus, and in those terms this card is quite limited. If we’re thinking of 3 or 4 players, then I could see your point that it should be much faster to get the first copy out, and the odds of getting a second copy out would increase. I still wonder whether it is worthwhile, because the multiple copies and killing requirement makes it more swingy than other attack boosters you could include. I’m tempted to give it a go with 3 or 4 players sometime soon though.

  5. shipprekk permalink

    I like Hastur’s idea in the context of Battle questin’. If you really tune the decks to very specific roles, and leave the Tactics deck with KC to just killing, then an attached KC could make, say, a Spirit deck actually work for Battle questin’ once the count is kept.

    The issue is that there are just easier and more effective ways of doing that apart from KC.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, the number one issue is the existence of other more consistent attack-boosters in Tactics. If KC was in another sphere or there weren’t as many options in Tactics, it would have fared much better in this spotlight.

  6. grandspleen permalink

    I tried running KC for awhile, but never got use out of it. I couldn’t get 2 copies out fast enough. Since then, however, there have been many more options released to speed up card draw (King Under the Mountain, Ori, Legacy of Durin, Goblin-cleaver, etc). You can now distribute these options across a couple of decks and still have 2 players with decent card draw.

    KC now has potential, especially as mentioned in the blog: Battle quests. And think of the upcoming card: Trained for War. You will be able to turn a standard questing phase into a Battle quest. Potentially a good combo. KC is still the slowest card in the game, though, requiring an inordinate amount of time to power it up. If you play fast (ending games in 5 turns), this card will never be for you.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      You bring up some good points here. The slowness of KC is definitely maddening. I think maybe it might find the best home in those epic slog quests that tend to take a long time to complete. Hopefully if the last stage is a battle, it might give you just the boost you need to finish off a particularly difficult scenario. With the upcoming AP’s likely featuring a lot of battle, I’ll be tempted to try KC a few times to see how it performs, particularly with a couple of Dwarf decks featuring Thalin and some of that sweet Dwarven card draw you mentioned.

  7. grandspleen permalink

    (oops, meant “Foe-hammer”) above.

  8. legolas18 permalink

    That multiplayer comment caught my attention… If you had 4 players, and had somehow gotten three copies of KC in play, each on a different hero, would it add up? Meaning, if you had two out of the three copies on attackers, and they had both killed 3 enemies each, then would the hero that hadn’t killed anybody get +6 attack? Or does it only work with two copies? (Hope that question made sense)

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      An interesting question. I’m not aware of an official ruling on this. My interpretation, based on the wording of the card text, is that an attacker should be able to benefit from all other copies in play. Whether or not this was the designer intention, I’m not sure.

    • “each resource token on another copy”, not “each resource token on each copy”.
      But every KC may get the attack bonus from the KC with most resources.
      Some time I used KC solo in a fanmade quest of 42 stages (Las Minas de Moria, only available in Spanish). There was usefull.
      The link to the megaquest:

      • TalesfromtheCards permalink

        Hmm, I think you may be right here. The wording is still pretty vague, but I think that you have to choose one other copy to get the bonus from. On a side note…42 stages! That’s insane. I think I’m going to give my Spanish some practice and play that quest.

  9. Gobliin permalink

    In a 4 players game where each player use 3, each keeping count can get the bonus from the Highest one. Maybe in that scenario it would be playable but I’m not sure.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, I believe you and heavykaragh are right. The highest card provides the bonus for all other copies in play.

  10. Matt permalink

    I’ve been experimenting with solo mono-sphere decks lately, and I can definately see potential with a solo tactics deck taking on HoN quest, that must include a willpower hero for the normal quest stage. If you can get 1 copy out somewhat early on a heavy attacker, than you might be able to gamble with a large attack boost from the WP in a questing push. The problem here is that it seems the Battle stages tend to be at the beginning when it is hard to get useful, and the willpower questing towards the last stages when it is likely to be primed up. Maybe in Battle of 5 Armies this could have application.

    I also like the idea of slapping it on Legolas, allow him to slaughter, than stick the second copy on a wounded Gimli, who you could also play a khazad khazad on for ridiculous damage at 0 resource input, and maybe even get a heavy stroke to double it all and produce enough damage to finish any enemy in the game. The good thing is that Keeping Count is an attachment and will boost (again for 0 resources) until the kill count catches up. The bad thing, again, is how most quests are set up. The big bad guys that require this much damage are typically located in quests with very few to no “chump” enemies to boost it up… So therefore it could never be really used against Smaug, or Durin’s Bane, where you most need this kind of damage. Maybe it has potential to kill the Witch King in Massing, or Watcher in WitW using this strategy?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, that’s really the issue with KC, the uses are there, but the dynamics of existing quests don’t really support how it works. Sometimes it’s just too slow. Other times, and you’re hitting the nail on the head here, it doesn’t match up with when battle stages occur or it’s going against a quest with one big enemy and lots of small fries. My only hope for this card is that things will change in the future. With most of the coming AP’s probably having battle stages, the chances are that at least some will have them towards the end of a quest.

  11. As said above the card is interesting and might be useful on occasion….if it was one card. However needing to play two of them for anything to happen is simply terrible. Only in a 3-4 player game can I see this card pulling its weight (albeit if all players were planning on using this it could be OP) I think the errata suggested above about searching your deck and drawing another copy when played is an outstanding idea and should be suggested to FFG. I am sure many players like me would love to use this card for the fun factor, and that errata would not make it overly powerful in 1-2 player games.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, it’s truly a shame that Keeping Count doesn’t see much use, as I love the theme. I would welcome a reason to include it in my decks.

  12. It’s been mentioned that this card is potentially better in a multiplayer format. I see it’s value not as a booster for a “killer” character, but to turn a non combatant over the table into a reasonable threat without the cost of resources – someone you wouldn’t usually want to invest weapons buffing

    Obvious example: You throw your first on Legolas, who will rack up kills. Later on throw the second on Your allies Fast-Hitched Bilbo, he’s been questing and doing that Burning brand defender thing; now and again adds a point to an attack. Suddenly he goes to attack 3 or 4 which is very handy – the effect doesn’t diminish much as he’s not planning to get a lot of kills, but is very useful for that player.

    Also combining it on Ranged heroes lets them participate in the same attack, preventing one hero from outpacing the other.

    Anyway I’ll give something like this a go and see if it is a worthwhile little addition or not.

  13. Tracker1 permalink

    Ian sure this link to the following deck will not remove KC from under a frosty beverage, but i put together this whacky deck to try somethig different. But now my coffee table is stained.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Haha, awesome. I always enjoy the decks you come up with, and I’m going to give this one a try. Every good coaster deserves its day in the sun!

      • Tracker1 permalink

        I made a few edits to the deck if you do put it together which I posted in the original deck list.
        Lay of Nimrodel work real nice with this resource hoarding strategy.
        It’s not an amazing deck, but it certainly is interesting if you like attachment heavy decks.

        • TalesfromtheCards permalink

          I’m actually starting to warm up to Keeping Count a bit. I still think that it suffers from being outclassed by more consistent attack-boosting attachments, but I think if you view it almost as an event (for the late game), similar to Khazad! Khazad!, but not trait restricted and potentially more powerful, then it could be effective. Of course, you have to draw the first copy early and get the second one and…. Anyway, instead of writing the article again, I’ll just say that I look forward to trying out your modified Boromir’s Fire deck, and throwing Keeping Count into some of my decks for the heck of it.

  14. For a deck with 2 attackers, surely this can work well if you put one on your most-used attacker, then add the other. If they team up then the bonus stays the same and could end up being a permanent +3 attack bonus. Or if they are both getting equal use, then the effect is the same.

    I can imagine this doesn’t come up much in solo but in multiplayer I have a ranged Theodred/Bard/Legolas deck which pairs with a Lore/Spirit defensive deck. With Yew Bows they can seriously rip a new one while the other deck engages enemies. Provided one comes out early, and you wait to apply the 2nd, then 2 equally matched attackers will get a permanent bonus. You could end up with Legolas getting a permanent +3 attack bonus which is more than any other card.

    But as an investment of 3 cards I would agree this seems a bit of a gamble, if the 2nd copy is buried then all 3 cards are worthless baggage, though when the 2nd card did come out it would bring some serious pain.

    Also I would love to use it in a thematic deck for the battle of helms deep, Minas Tirith etc where Gimli and Legolas were competing in the story.

    • Sorry, forgot to subscribe!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      The biggest problem with this card has always been the consistency, especially in a sphere without much card draw. However, I do think you’re right that it has a place, and my love for the theme of this card always keep it in the back of my mind as something to get working in solo play one day. Perhaps a Lore/Spirit deck with card draw and Master of the Forge to help fetch it is the best bet.

  15. legofiddler permalink

    I personally don’t see why everyone doesn’t like this card. One it’s major perks along side other attachments is that it isn’t restricted and it doesn’t have a required sphere when you play it on a hero. We played a game last night, I put one on Bard and started “charging up.” Then dripped one on my Legolas and a buddy’s Dunhere a few rounds later. Dunhere is suddenly hitting for 5 or 6 in the staging area, and I can use other attachments on top of Keeping count to accelerate the Dunhere bonus. Encounter deck just got served. It really isn’t any harder to get 2 copies than any other card. That’s my experience. Drop one copy and wait. People try to get both copies down too soon I think. Thanks though, good article.

  16. sweetnesswhachacha permalink

    I too had thought of sticking this on Thalin for battle quests. I absolutely love the theming of this card, and was so excited when I first saw it. However I agree, it doesn’t see any play. Whenever I’ve stuck it in I either don’t draw the other or draw it too late, or draw the first after killing a bunch of enemies (as you pointed out). I really wish this card had gotten eratta haha, I’d have made it a cost of one and had you be able to pull the second copy out like with fili and kili. Then I’m sure this would be a gem!

    Thanks as always

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