The Hobbit: On the Doorstep Review (Attachments and Treasures)
Finishing up TftC’s review of the player cards from The Hobbit: On the Doorstep, this article will rate the attachments and treasures found in this Saga Expansion. Let’s face it, a primary motivation behind Thorin’s quest was to recover those sweet goodies stolen and hoarded by Smaug. Are they truly worth such an epic adventure? Let’s find out.
Player Card Ratings
* Black Arrow – Tactics (0 cost, Artifact, Item)
This 0-cost attachment is limited to only 1 per deck. Thematically, it represents the arrow that Bard used to fell Smaug. As such, you expect this card to have a pretty powerful effect, and all in all, it does not disappoint. Once attached to a hero, the Black Arrow can be used at any time to boost that hero’s attack by 5. This is surely nothing to sneeze at, and can help to destroy most enemies in one hit. The big limitation is that the Black Arrow can only be attached to a hero with ranged, although this does not have to be “printed”, so if you give a hero ranged with some other card effect, they can use it. As far as natural ranged heroes are concerned, your only options are Bard, Legolas, and Brand son of Bain. Fittingly, Bard can probably gain the most powerful effect from the Black Arrow, because as long as he is making a ranged attack, the targeted enemy will have -2 to its defense (giving you an effective net bonus of 7!). For the most part, you probably want to save the Black Arrow for those big baddies, as it would be a shame to snipe some random goblin with this artifact of pure awesomeness. Is this card worth including in a deck? Overall, I would have to say yes. Since you can only include 1 anyway, it doesn’t take up much deck space. The Black Arrow is kind of an odd card in that it is not one that you necessarily plan for and build a deck around, but one that is a bonus when it shows up (and at 0-cost, it’s easy to throw onto the table and use when it’s really needed). This doesn’t mean you can’t include tricks to access this artifact if you are playing against a boss-type enemy that you will really need help against. Master of the Forge can help in grabbing it, and Gandalf/Radagast + Word of Command can fetch it when needed (note that Tactics Bofur cannot work for this purpose as the Black Arrow does not count as a weapon). Even as just a bonus, though, the Black Arrow can help swing the tide and for this reason it is a memorable card.
* Expert Treasure Hunter – Lore (0 cost, Skill)
Spoiler alert: I love this card! When the hero that Expert Treasure Hunter is attached to quests successfully, the controlling player can name a card type and discard the top card of their deck. If they gues correctly, they can pull that card into their hand; if they are wrong, they have to discard it. Essentially, this is a form of card draw wrapped up in a gambling mechanic. While this may seem an inconsistent and unreliable effect, and thus surplus to requirements when there are plenty of other card draw possibilities in the Lore sphere, there are plenty of reasons why you should include it in a deck. For one, you don’t have to do anything to get it to activate each turn other than quest successfully (which in most cases, you should be doing every turn anyway, unless things are going terribly wrong for you). This means no worrying about having to exhaust a character or whether to spend resources or not, instead you can count on this effect activating every single turn at virtually no cost. Second, it doesn’t really matter whether you guess correctly or not. If you do happen to make the right call, then you get a free card in your hand, and thus some cost-effective card draw. If you get it wrong, then you discard a card, but that can be just as valuable as a form of what is known as deck-thinning (deck-thinning refers to effects that cause you to discard or move cards out of your draw pile, thus making your deck “thinner” and at least theoretically more consistent). Finally, since this card is not unique, you can put multiple copies in play on different heroes, allowing you to have substantial card draw/deck-thinning possibilities each turn. As a word of advice before I move on, the card type I choose to guess each turn is either 1) always “ally”, because I know that is the most common type of card in most decks I choose to build (usually about half) or 2) whatever card I am most looking to draw at the moment (i.e. I will say “attachment” so that if that Steward of Gondor I want pops up then I won’t have to discard it).
* Great Yew Bow – Tactics (2 cost, Item, Weapon)
A new weapon for the heroes to play with, what’s not to love about the Great Yet Bow? Well…there are a few major drawbacks to this weapon. When I first saw the Great Yew Bow spoiled, I was stupidly excited about the possibilities of this attachment, which when exhausted allows the attached hero to make a ranged attack against an enemy in the staging area. Anything that allows you to potentially destroy enemies in the staging area before they can ever engage with you is theoretically very powerful. In addition, as anyone who has read my long-winded investigations of the weapons and armor in the game can attest, I am firmly a weapons fanboy when it comes to LOTR LCG. However, there are some significant limitations to the Great Yew Bow. The first is that it can only be used during the combat phase, so sniping enemies during the quest phase to remove their threat before quest resolution is not an option (if this is what you’re interested in, Hands Upon the Bow + Hama recycling is your ticket). The second limitation (which is connected to the first) is that since the Great Yew Bow can only be used during the combat phase, if your threat is high enough to bring all enemies down from the staging area, then it is rendered completely useless. This means that you need to run Great Yew Bow in a deck with relatively low starting threat, threat reduction effects, and/or A Light in the Dark (or Pippin when he comes out) to push enemies back to the staging area. In addition, in a multi-player game, this means that all players need to run low-threat decks, otherwise the same situation will occur with the staging area being cleared out of enemies. One card that can be quite useful in conjunction with the Great Yew Bow is Fresh Tracks, which prevents an enemy from engaging you for at least one turn, no matter its engagement cost. Still, with most Tactics-heavy decks having a high starting threat, the Great Yew Bow often feels of limited utility with not enough targets to justify its inclusion. The final drawback to this card is that since this attachment can only be placed on a hero with the printed “ranged” keyword, there are only 3 current candidates: Bard, Legolas, and Brand, although 2 of them are quite suited for this use (Bard gets to use his -2 to defense of an enemy, while Legolas gets his 2 progress tokens). This is not to say that it is not possible to design a deck that can use Great Yew Bow effectively (indeed, lead designer Caleb Grace recently shared his own deck build around this theme), but the 2 star rating of this attachment reflects that there are only a limited selection of deck designs that can currently get extensive use out of it (i.e. Spirit Glorfindel usually needs to be included in all such decks because of his low starting threat of 5). It seems that many enemies have fairly low engagement costs, often in the 10’s or 20’s, which really exacerbates this issue.
* King Under the Mountain – Leadership (2 cost, Title)
This attachment must be placed on a Dwarf hero, and can exhaust during any action window to allow you to look at the top 2 cards of your deck, discarding 1 and keeping the other. King Under the Mountain is another card that I just can’t say enough good things about. For a one-time cost of 2 resources, this card essentially allows you to draw 1 extra card per turn. To put it another way, this is essentially the same effect as that granted by Bilbo, but in this case comes in attachment form and can be put on any (Dwarf) hero. While at first glance, the fact that you have to discard 1 of the 2 cards you look at might seem like a drawback, this is not true at all. In fact, this effect actually works out better than Bilbo’s (although Bilbo does spread his power around the table in a multi-player game) in the sense that you get 2 chances to grab the card you really want. Yes, you have to discard 1, but this is actually better than just drawing and having to take what you get. In many ways, this attachment is the card draw analogue to Steward of Gondor, in that it grants a title and provides a repeatable means of gaining one of the essential elements of the game (cards). The only limitation is that it can only be used by Dwarf heroes, and Dwarves already have some pretty nifty means of gaining card draw through Ori and Legacy of Durin. It is only for that reason that I will dock one point, and give it 3 stars.
* Thror’s Key – Spirit (1 cost, Artifact, Item)
Thror’s Key, just like Thror’s Map, provides a means of managing locations. In this case, Thror’s Key has a bit of an odd effect, so I will quote the card text verbatim:
Response: After a location is added to the staging area, attach Thror’s Key to that location. While attached to a location, Thror’s Key gains: “Treat attached location’s printed text box as blank, except for traits.”
This is a nice effect in that it lets you do something that no other card does: completely neutralize the card text of a location. Other cards allow you to put progress on a location and clear it out, move it between the staging area and active location, or cancel its threat, but Thror’s Key allows you to actually transform that location into a null card except for traits and threat. There are a few caveats to note about this ability though. First, note that you can only move Thror’s Key onto a location if and when it is added to the staging area. This means that special locations that start out in the staging area during set-up, or move directly to the active location position, can’t be affected by this attachment. Also, more and more locations are featuring the “immune to player card effects”, which mean that they can’t be affected by Thror’s Key (oddly you can still attach it to such locations, but it wouldn’t do anything). However, this still leaves a wide variety of locations that could be valuable targets for Thror’s Key. It is especially useful against those that have harmful effects while in play or in the staging area, as those whose effects are tied to being the active location can be strategically managed and cleared out quickly when possible without the help of this attachment. There is no way to give an exhaustive list of locations that you might want to use Thror’s Key against, but here’s a few off the top of my head:
– Captured Watchtower (Massing at Osgiliath): It is tempting to leave this location in the staging area because it only has 1 threat, but it bulks up to 4 threat when you cross the Anduin. Throw Thror’s Key on it and it will stay at 1 threat forever. (Actually this attachment is great for Massing in Osgiliath in general, with all the nasty location effects in that quest.)
– Goblin Tunnels (Khazad Dum): This location is annoying because with only 2 threat, but 7 progress, you would much rather leave it in the staging area. However, if you do that, it will continually remove progress from the quest with every goblin revealed. Thror’s Key eliminates this problem.
– East Pier (Battle of Lake-town): This is a nasty location that prevents “when revealed” effects from being cancelled. In the Battle of Lake-town quest, you want to be able to cancel treacheries at all times, so being able to nullify this effect is extremely valuable.
As I said, this is by no means an exhaustive list, but a small sampling of possibilities. The one downside to Thror’s Key is that there are so many other ways of dealing with locations already in the game, and when thinking about what warrants valuable deck space, location management often plays third fiddle to treacheries and combat. In my mind, this is a card that is heavily scenario-dependent. It will be highly effective against scenarios that feature locations with extremely harmful effects, such as the aforementioned Massing at Osgiliath. However, against many scenarios, Thror’s Key may seem rather lackluster when you draw it into your hand compared to other possibilities. As such, the 2 star rating may seem to downplay the pivotal impact this card can have during certain quests, but it really is an indication of the scenario-dependency of Thror’s Key.
* Note: I mentioned that there are certain locations that Thror’s Key can’t affect, because they never get added to the staging area during play. However, if such locations are not immune to player card effects and aren’t restricted from moving between the active location and staging area, then you could use an effect like Thror’s Map to move them into the staging area (or into the active location spot and then back to the staging area). Whether this counts as being “added” to the staging area, and thus eligible for Thror’s Key, is a matter of debate. I would argue that this movement doesn’t count as being “added”, and thus shouldn’t trigger it, not only because of the wording, but also because it could completely break certain scenarios. For example, I saw a post where someone described attaching Thror’s Key to one of the locations in the Siege of Cair Andros, preventing it from ever being discarded from play and thus enabling it to serve as a permanent undefended damage sponge. I anticipate that this will be clarified in a FAQ eventually.
Rating – ♦♦◊◊
1) Thror’s Battle Axe: Giving +2 to attack is awesome on it’s own, however I particularly love the response effect which allows you to put 1 damage on another enemy engaged with you after destroying an enemy. In thematic terms, this represents the huge swing of the axe as it cleaves through one foe and into another. In game terms, this effect can combine in all kinds of delicious ways with other direct damage effects to possibly destroy 2 enemies at once.
2) Thror’s Golden Cup: Being able to draw 3 cards for free is absolutely nuts. By rights this should be #1, but I’m a sucker for weapons.
3) Thror’s Hunting Bow: Despite being #3, this is the treasure that I have been able to acquire most often and have used the most. It gives a hero ranged and +2 to attack when making a ranged attack. Obviously, this is nearly useless in pure solo play. However, I had great joy attaching this to Gimli and watching him savage enemies on the other side of the board.
4) The Arkenstone: This is actually a pretty decent ability. By raising your threat by X amount, you can reduce the cost of the next ally you play by X (although it must match the attached hero’s sphere). So, for example, you could theoretically take a 5 threat hit to play Gildor Inglorion for free. Obviously, this can come in handy when you need to get allies out quickly or are running low on resources, and a deck that is built around threat reduction could definitely get quite a bit of mileage out of The Arkenstone. Still, unlike the other treasures, there is a built-in cost to this one that reduces its ranking.
5) Mithril Shirt: A handy little treasure that gives a +1 to hit points and defense. Unfortunately, it can only be attached to Bilbo Baggins, which is why it comes in at #5 on this list. This is not to say that it is useless, far from it, just that it is limited. Indeed, one of the most fun aspects of playing through the On the Doorstep quests has been loading up Bilbo with attachments and watching him go from zero to hero. At one point during a Battle of Five Armies play-through, I had attached to him Sting, the Mithril Shirt, a Dunedain Warning, and his Magic Ring. He was defending at 4, could counter-attack with Sting to possibly kill the attacker outright, and had defense-cancellation as a last resort. Bilbo actually took out quite a few orcs and was a key part to victory for me. More importantly, the transition from Bilbo feeling like a bit of a nuisance in the first Saga Expansion to a genuine hero in the second hits the thematic nail straight on the head.
Again, this list is entirely subjective. I didn’t include Bilbo’s Magic Ring, as that wasn’t one of the Erebor treasures, but it is an essential component in defeating the Flies and Spiders quest in particular. The ability to raise threat to gain a Baggins resource is absolutely clutch in bringing back characters as fast as possible once they are rendered unconscious by the third quest stage. Its ability to cancel damage is not one that I used too often, as Sting was terribly effective in killing off attackers, but it is invaluable as piece of mind.
Well, that’s it folks. My review of the On the Doorstep player cards is complete. Now we must all exercise some patience, as we wait for the Against the Shadow cycle to being in earnest. In a few week’s time, I should be reviewing The Steward’s Fear!
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