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Encounter Card Set Review: Passage Through Mirkwood

by on April 18, 2013

Folks, it’s time for another TftC Encounter Card Set Review, and this time we’ll be looking at Passage Through Mirkwood. When journeying through the forest once known as Greenwood the Great, not all of us are blessed with a sled drawn by Rhosgobel rabbits unfortunately. This leaves us vulnerable to the dangers of the dark woods. Never fear, however, this review will help you keep to the path and avoid ending up as a spider smoothie!

Quests Included In:

Passage Through Mirkwood

Card Breakdown (10 cards total):

4x Forest Spider

1x East Bight Patrol

1x Black Forest Bats

2x Old Forest Road

2x Forest Gate

Statistical Breakdown:

Locations: 40%

Enemies: 60%passagethroughmirkwood

Treacheries: 0%

Cards With Shadow Effects: 50%

Average Threat of All Cards (Treacheries count as 0): 1.8

Average Threat of Enemies and Locations: 1.8

Average Attack Value of Enemies: 2.0

Average Defense Value of Enemies: 0.8

Average Hit Points of Enemies: 3.3

Average Quest Progress of Locations: 3.5

Set Description: As with the Journey Along the Anduin set, this titular collection is fairly innocuous as far as encounter sets are concerned. It also only makes an appearance in the actual Passage Through Mirkwood quest, considered to be the easiest of existing scenarios, which means that for most players, this set will not be high on their list of strategic priorities. Still, in the interest of completeness, we will give this set its due, and hope that important lessons can be gleaned from even the humblest of encounter cards. One thing that is immediately striking about the Passage Through Mirkwood set is that there are no treacheries. This is an enemy-heavy set, with a couple of locations thrown in for good measure. Even in terms of enemies, this collection is heavily dominated by one particular foe (Forest Spider), which boasts 4 copies compared to only 1 copy of the other 2 enemies. This is quite fitting for a Mirkwood set, and countering the Forest Spider will thus be one of our primary concerns.

Individual Card Breakdown:


* Forest Spider (2 threat, 2 attack, 1 defense, 4 hit points): This is the garden variety (forest variety?) Mirkwood spider. As enemies are concerned, the Forest Spider falls into that category of “ok to come off forest spiderthe encounter deck”, meaning that I’ll feel content revealing this card compared to other possible draws. I might even crack a smile. This is not to say that the Forest Spider is toothless or should be treated lightly. Its attack value of 2 is enough to make taking an undefended attack risky, so in most cases it will require one character to be tied up as a defender. In addition, the Forest Spider’s forced effect temporarily boosts its attack to 3, which can cause some pain, particularly if one is caught unprepared. What really sticks out to me about the Forest Spider is its relatively high hit points of 4, which when combined with a defense of 1, means that it takes 5 damage to destroy the spider. While perhaps in today’s card pool, this does not seem as daunting, when even the combat-lite Spirit sphere has Glorfindel to swat spiders, in earlier times, and for those with a more limited collection, the Forest Spider can still be a pest in that it is difficult to kill it in on the same turn that it appears. A 3-attack hero cannot kill it on his own, which means either that 2 characters will be need to be left free for attack in order to destroy it immediately or it will stick around for subsequent rounds. This, to me, is the biggest concern posed by the Forest Spider: its relative resilience.

East Bight Patrol (3 threat, 3 attack, 1 defense, 2 hit points): The empty effect box of East Bight Patrol makes me a bit sad. This poor featureless orc (group of orcs) has no distinguishing characteristics, other than its high threat. That threat is high indeed for a low-level enemy, but makes perfect sense if this is truly a patrol that could raise the alarm or surround careless heroes. More than likely, you will be engaging with East Bight Patrol right away, either optionally in order to clear out the 3 threat, or because you have no choice with the absurdly low engagement cost of 5. The East Bight Patrol’s attack value lies in that danger zone of 3 or more, which can destroy many allies and usually removes undefended attacks from the menu. However, the good news is that it only takes 3 damage to kill the East Bight Patrol, which means that a 3-attack character like Legolas or Glorfindel can destroy it all alone. Finally, keep in mind that there is only 1 copy of East Bight Patrol in the set, which means many times it will end up as a shadow rather than a staging reveal. Threat-canceling or reducing cards like Ranger Spikes and Radagast’s Cunning can help to mitigate the 3 threat the East Bight Patrol poses when it comes up during questing.

Black Forest Bats (1 threat, 1 attack, 0 defense, 2 hit points): Bats in this game are pretty much cut from the same cloth: weak in combat, but usually boasting some unpleasant “when revealed” or “forced” forest bats In this case, the Black Forest Bats force each player to remove one character from the quest, thus losing their willpower contribution. How harmful this ends up being depends on who you have committed to a quest and how many characters are participating (as well how much threat is in the staging area). If you only have Eowyn questing, then being forced to lose her 4 willpower will obviously have a larger impact than if you can remove a 1 willpower ally instead. To this end, one possible strategy to counter the Black Forest Bats is to always quest with at least 1 low willpower ally in addition to your regular questers, so that they can be chosen as the target for this effect. With only 1 copy of the Black Forest Bats in the encounter deck, this level of planning is probably not necessary, and in most cases you can probably shrug it off. One annoying aspect of these particular bats is that they have 2 hit points, rather than the usual 1, meaning that Thalin can’t kill them off as they reveal and prevent their effect from triggering. Once they have engaged with a player, their paltry attack of 1 and absence of defense means that they can be easily dispatched.


* Old Forest Road (1 threat, 3 progress): There’s not much to say about the Old Forest Road other than that it is one of the few helpful locations in the game, as it allows the first player to ready 1 character after you travel to it. Even better, 1 of the 2 copies starts out immediately in the staging area, so you can benefit from the Old Forest Road on the very first turn. This is a kindness provided to players in what is essentially a training scenario. Obviously, the best use of the Old Forest Road is to commit more characters than you normally would to the quest, knowing that 1 of them can be readied once you travel. The ratio of threat to progress would normally mean that this location would be the last one you would choose for the active location, as with only 1 threat and 3 progress needed for clearance, it actually is a larger barrier to progress in that state than when it sits in the staging area. However, the action advantage forest gategiven by the travel effect makes this temporary progress buffer well worth it. Thematic note: The Old Forest Road represents the main road that leads through Mirkwood Forest, not the path pointed out to Bilbo and company by Beorn (“Beorn’s Path”).

* Forest Gate (2 threat, 4 progress): This is another beneficial location in the same vein as Old Forest Road. Instead of providing action advantage through readying, the Forest Gate allows the first player to draw 2 cards after traveling to it. This is quite a bonus, as I would be content with drawing just 1 card. Heck, I’m content when the encounter deck refrains from stabbing me in the gut and pushing me over a cliff! Again, this is a case of the designers providing a helpful hand in the first scenario that players face. Similar to Old Forest Road, the threat to progress ratio means that it acts as more of a progress buffer when it is the active location than when it sits in the staging area, but you’d have to be crazy to pass up free card draw. Thematic note: This location represents a “gate” at the edge of the forest, being an area of Mirkwood that is perhaps more benign than the deeper areas.

Shadow Analysis: Only Forest Spider and the East Bight Patrol have shadow effects, but because of the distribution of copies, the set overall has a very high shadow percentage of 50%. Most of this is due to shadows being on the 4 copies of Forest Spider. So what does the pesky spider have in store for us during combat? It forces the defending player to choose and discard 1 attachment he or she controls. Note that it has to be one you control, so no you can’t throw out a condition attachment like Caught in a Web. Generally, these kind of encounter card effects are supremely annoying, as attachments are often key parts of your deck strategy as you strive to build an enduring advantage over the encounter deck. Having to discard an Unexpected Courage or Steward of Gondor can harm your quest for action advantage and resource generation, while discarding a Citadel Plate on a damage-laden Gimli or Gloin might kill that character outright! On the other hand, there are attachments that are more disposable or less essential that might not be quite as painful to lose. So one effective counter to this particular shadow effect is to make sure that you always have one “throw-away” attachment in play to serve as a buffer to protect your more important ones. Of course, no-frills shadow cancellation like that provided by Hasty Stroke or A Burning Brand is always welcome as well. With 4 copies of the Forest Spider in the encounter deck, it is likely that you will come across this card as a shadow at least once, so be prepared for attachment hate in the Passage Through Mirkwood scenario. If you do end up losing an attachment, including an Erebor Hammersmith or Second Breakfast in your deck to retrieve it can remedy the situation.

The second shadow effect, found on East Bight Patrol, grants the attacking enemy +1 to their attack. In addition, if the attack is undefended, the defending player must raise their threat by 3. This attack boosting, which I sometimes refer to as the “gold standard” of shadow effects, is present in many, if not most, scenarios, and so it always behooves you to expect that the attacker’s strength may increase and take this into account when making your choice of defender. Attachments that allow you to be reactive and increase a character’s defense in response to shadow effects, such as Protector of Lorien or Blood of Numenor, are great ways to buy some peace mind in the absence of shadow cancellation (or as alternative forms of it). Defense boosting events, such as For Gondor! or Durin’s Song can also be used in a similar fashion. As for the undefended effect, raising your threat by 3 is never welcome, but you should always be well prepared for nastiness when taking an undefended attack. I myself often choose to take undefended attacks, and knowing when to do this is a key part of strategy, but I usually have some shadow cancellation available or am in a “roll the dice” type situation.

Final Verdict: As with the Journey Along the Anduin set, the Passage Through Mirkwood collection is not the most exciting or challenging on around. In fact, the 2 locations in the set are gifts provided to you by the game. However, this all should make sense in the context of this being the set that goes along with the “beginner’s scenario”. The greatest threat in this set are the Forest Spiders.  While as enemies, they are not the most fearsome around, the fact that there are so many of them could lead to swarming situations. Their shadow effect can also be frustrating, as I absolutely hate to lose any attachments (don’t mess with my toys!). Taking on Passage Through Mirkwood means that you should bring shadow cancellation, semi-disposable attachments, and/or attachment-retrieving effects in order to neutralize the Forest Spider’s shadow effect. Also, bringing at least one character with 3 attack is helpful in dealing with the enemies in this set.

Next time, we will finally close out the Core Set encounter collections with a look at Escape from Dol Guldur!

  1. shamanix permalink

    I like your encounter deck reviews. Keep going on with them. I’m already looking forward to the more advanced decks being analyzed.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks, I appreciate it! I too am looking forward to making it to some of the newer sets (although it is fun to relive some of the older ones)

  2. I might have fumbled the set-up (begginer player from Brazil here!), but I thought that there ARE treacheries in Passage Through Mirkwood, like Eyes of The Forest (#79), The Necromancer’s Reach (#93) and Caught in a Web (#80), to name a few. Have I missed something?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Nope, you’re definitely correct that the Passage Through Mirkwood quest has treacheries. However, this review only deals with the Passage Through Mirkwood set (cards with the little tree icon). The treacheries in the quest come from the Spiders of MIrkwood (spider icon) and Dol Guldur Orcs (orc face icon) sets, which I also have reviews for currently as well, if you check up in the Encounter Card Set Reviews tab. Glad you’re getting into the game, it’s well rewarding!

  3. Saul Oliveira permalink

    About Old Forrest Road Card. You must ready the character when you decide to travel to it or when you finish with it after you put on it all necessary progress tokens?. The “after”

    Great job

  4. Saul Oliveira permalink


    about Old Forrest Road card: “After travel to…” means I should ready the character immediately when I get Old Forrest Road out of the staging area or when I finish travelling there (when I got all progress tokens on the card).

    Thanks and great job


    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      You ready the character once you travel to Old Forest Road and make it the active location. Hope that helps!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Encounter Card Set Review: Escape from Dol Guldur | Tales from the Cards
  2. Thematic Playthrough #4 – Hobbit Spirit in Mirkwood | Master of Lore

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