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The Steward’s Fear: Player Cards Review

by on May 21, 2013

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It’s been a looong time since I’ve held a new Adventure Pack in my hands. It was way back in August of last year that Shadow and Flame, the last AP of the Dwarrowdelf cycle, was released. We’ve had plenty to occupy us since then, with the release of Heirs of Numenor and The Hobbit: On the Doorstep, but this is the first opportunity for a TftC Adventure Pack review! Since there is less to cover here than in one of the big boxes, I’m going to be squeezing everything into two articles: a review of the player cards and a review of the quest itself. Alright, folks, Denethor has summoned us, let’s not keep him waiting!

PLAYER CARDS

By far the most exciting part of taking a new AP home is breaking it open and checking out the player cards. Some scenarios are remembered long for being enjoyable and challenging while others are quickly forgotten, but it is the player cards that live on forever. So how does The Steward’s Fear rate in terms of providing powerful new options for your decks?

Hirluin the Fair (Leadership Hero, 8 threat, 1 willpower, 1 attack, 1 defense, 4 hit points):

Hirluin is the newest hero, and I can’t say that many predicted his arrival. However, he arrives hirluin-the-fairto usher in the era of Outlands. Hirluin has extremely low starting stats, but this is all according to design. As more and more Outlands allies come into play, boosting the willpower, attack, defense, and hit points of Outlands characters, this has the effect of boosting Hirluin up to a potentially Gandalf-like level of power. As for Hirluin’s ability, he can use his resources to pay for an Outlands character no matter what sphere they happen to belong to, which allows for the quick build-up of the Outlands synergy. With all this said, my feelings about Hirluin are mixed. I love that he facilitates a new deck type that can be immediately viable, something new to play with other than Dwarves and Elrond/Glorfindel. For use in an Outlands deck, Hirluin is absolutely fantastic. However, there are a few drawbacks to this hero. For one, it requires time to build him up to reasonable levels, which might be problematic in quests that have a brutal beginning. Second, Hirluin is not a versatile hero, in that he will not find much use outside of Outlands decks. Three, I’m not sure how I feel about the theme of this card (and Outlands in general). They feel very “game-y”, in that their synergy makes perfect sense in game terms, but I’m not sure how the presence of all these random Outlands factions would cause Hirluin to hulk out until he could practically stand in for Gandalf!

Rating: ♦♦♦◊

The Outlands Allies

– Warrior of Lossarnach (Leadership ally, 2 cost, 1 willpower, 1 attack, 1 defense, 1 hit point): + 1 defense to all Outlands characters you control

– Knights of the Swan (Tactics ally, 1 cost, 0 willpower, 0 attack, 0 defense, 1 hit point): +1 attack to all Outlands characters you control

– Ethir Swordsman (Spirit ally, 2 cost, 1 willpower, 1 attack, 1 defense, 1 hit point): +1 willpower to all Outlands characters you control

– Anfalas Herdsman (Lore ally, 1 cost, 0 willpower, 0 attack, 0 defense, 1 hit point): +1 hit points to all Outlands characters you control

I’m reviewing all of the Outlands allies as one big group, as it makes little sense to separate them, and is nigh impossible to rate them in isolation. These allies are designed to work in synergy, boosting each other’s stats (and that of Hirluin) until they reach formidable levels. The question really comes down to whether Outlands is worth building a deck around, as there is little point, in my opinion, to just throwing a few of these into a deck. Granted, they all either cost only 1 or 2 resources to play, which potentially makes them valuable as cannon fodder in a non-Outlands deck, or a decent ally stats-wise in the case of the Ethir Swordsman and Warrior of Lossarnach. Still, there are enough alternative options for cheap allies that I’m going to assume that these guys will find their place almost exclusively in Outlands decks. So the real question is whether an Outlands deck is worth running. The short answer is a resounding yes. With enough of the Outlands allies in play, you can be looking at a Hirluin with 3’s and 4’s for every stat .That would be impressive enough, but you also can eventually have an army of allies with 3’s and 4’s for every stat as well. Needless to say, an Outlands deck that gets running can equal the questing and combat capabilities of almost any other deck type.

However, there are some limitations to the Outlands synergy, which is welcome, as they would be potentially too powerful otherwise. The biggest drawback is that it takes time to build up the deck’s power, and in the meantime you are left with anfalas-herdsmanvery weak characters, including an underwhelming hero. This is especially apparent in The Steward’s Fear quest itself, where the Zealous Traitor (deals 1 damage to each ally when it engages) can make short work of your Outlands characters, since they possess a measly 1 hit point. This low level of starting hit points is in fact their Achilles heel, their exhaust port if you will, as it makes the Outlands allies themselves, who are the lynchpins of this deck, quite vulnerable. This is the reason why the Anfalas Herdsman is surely the most important of all the Outlands allies, and the one you want to get out as soon as possible. In fact, I would be tempted to also include several copies of Imladris Stargazer in most, if not all, Outlands decks, just to make sure that I got some warrior shepherds out quickly (tons of card draw is welcome as well). Another limitation of the Outlands synergy, related to the first, is that it really does not work well with strategies based around chump blocking. You really don’t want to give up any Outlands ally willingly to an enemy attack, as that equates to losing a stat point for multiple characters, undermining the basis of the deck. Instead, you’ll have to either bring along a hero who can defend for a few rounds, until the Outlands’ own defensive capabilities are raised to sufficient levels, or bring along some other cheap allies to serve as human (or non-human) shields. The final limitation of the Outlands synergy is that the very nature of how it works makes it a tad unpredictable. Because you can’t necessarily control which Outlands allies will pop up first, and which will come out in the most numbers, the questing and combat power of your deck will look different from game to game. This is not an insurmountable difficulty but something to be aware of for those players that like more consistency and predictability in their decks.

All in all, Outlands is a deck type that has risen from obscurity to potency overnight. Despite some drawbacks, a well-built Outlands deck has a strong chance against many quests, which is quite high praise. It is not for those players who prefer a stronger starting position for their decks (I would probably count myself amongst that number), but rather for those who have the patience to slowly build up their strength to an irresistible level. These allies are very much the basis for this deck type, and any cards that can get them out more quickly are essential (A Very Good Tale is dynamite for this purpose).

Rating: ♦♦♦◊

Gaining Strength (Leadership event, 0 cost): This is an odd little event that accomplishes what Leadership does best: gathering resources. Gaining Strength allows you to pay 2 resources to gain 3 resources, for a net gain of 1. Why not just grant 1 resource to a hero of your choice? The purpose of this seemingly convoluted card text is to build in a natural limitation to this 0-cost event by requiring you to first build up 2 resources on a given hero before you can gain the additional resource. In terms of actual gameplay, this often equates to being able to play a card one round earlier than you would otherwise be able to, and that can truly be a lifesaver in some instances. The question is whether Gaining Strength provides enough of an advantage to justify its inclusion, particularly in a sphere that already is so resource-rich. The verdict seems mixed. For example, Wealth of Gondor accomplishes basically the same effect (adding 1 resource) but can only be applied to Gondor heroes. Of course, you could simply give the Steward of Gondor to a hero to give them the Gondor trait, and then they could benefit from the Wealth of Gondor, but there’s no guarantee that you would want all your resources on that particular hero. Theodred can certainly add an additional resource, not just once but every turn, without taking up any deck space (although you are “spending” a hero slot). Errand-riders can move resources from the haves to the have-nots, not necessarily generating resources but smoothing them out, which can often be just as effective. Taking all of this into account, I have to say that Gaining Strength finds a place in a limited set of decks, namely those that are multi-sphere and need extra resources to pay for fairly expensive cards. In that case, it can work well, but I find its utility value too easily replaceable. In 3 or 4 player games, where key resource generation cards like Steward of Gondor and Horn of Gondor are limited to only a couple of players due to the unique rule, this card becomes far more valuable.

Rating: ♦◊◊◊ [♦♦♦◊ in 3/4 player games]

Gondorian Shield (Tactics attachment, 1 cost): This card is amazing…Next! Ok, ok, I’ll give you a bit more than that. For a low, low cost of 1, you can add 1 defense to a hero, which is equivalent in cost and effect to Dunedain Warning. However, where this piece of armor really shines is when you attach it to a Gondor hero, because it then provides an extra 2 defense! For the record, the heroes with the printed Gondor trait are Eleanor, Denethor, Prince Imrahil, Beregond, and Boromir. All of these heroes offer intriguing possibilities. Eleanor, who usually has trouble finding a role outside of treachery cancellation, can suddenly becomes Beregond-like with 4 defense. Denethor can make use of A Burning Brand and defend for an amazing 5 while disregarding shadows entirely. Beregond can attach the Shield for free and become an immovable wall with 6 defense! Tactics Boromir can defend against multiple enemies with 4 defense using his readying ability. Outside of these options, you can also make use of Steward of Gondor as a handy trick to give a hero the Gondor trait and enable them to use the Shield. Another possibility is to use Mutual Accord to temporarily give a non-Gondor hero with the Shield the +2 bonus temporarily. All in all, there are very few drawbacks to this card, and the extra defense is endlessly useful. Don’t forget that this boost can help out for siege questing as well. The only time the Gondorian Shield would not be useful and not justify a place is when you are facing a quest that is light on combat or that features enemies with fairly low attack values.

Rating: ♦♦♦♦

Ring of Barahir (Spirit attachment, 1 cost): Oh Aragorn, the other heroes must be so jealous, what with you having so many toys to play with that are made just for you. This card grants 1 extra hit point for each Artifact a hero has attached (this includes itself), and when given to Aragorn, he also gains the Lore icon. This means that Aragorn, when partnered with all of his toys, can gain access to all spheres except for Tactics. Looking at the hit point boost, it can be quite substantial, possibly bringing someone like Aragorn up to 8 hit points if he can get a couple more attachments in play. The attachments in the current card pool that have the Artifact trait are Celebrian’s Stone, Horn of Gondor, Sword that was Broken, Vilya, Thror’s Map, and Black Arrow. The most logical deck choice for Ring of Barahir is to combine it with Aragorn, Celebrian’s Stone, and Sword that was Broken to form an Aragorn attachment superman build. Beyond that, popping Ring of Barahir into an Elrond/Vilya deck could bump the master of Rivendell up to the magical 5 hit point number. Another useful possibility is to include it in your Hobbit saga adventures, as the treasure cards have the Artifact trait. However, I imagine that mostly this card will end up in Super Aragorn decks. While there was a period of time in the game’s development when extra hit points didn’t seem as necessary (I remember passing through much of the  Dwarrowdelf cycle without worrying about damage too much), Heirs of Numenor and its high attack enemies and archery keyword has once again put a premium on hardiness. Thus, the usefulness of the Ring of Barahir and its extra hit points will vary from quest to quest, while the importance of the Lore icon will really depend on if you’re using Core Aragorn and wanting to splash Lore cards. It does however provide an alternative to songs and Narvi’s Belt as a means to splash.

Rating: ♦♦♦◊

* Mithrandir’s Advice (Lore event, 1 cost): I’ll try to take off my Lore fanboy glasses for this one, and remain objective about this card that is built for mono-Lore. For a low, low cost of 1, this event lets you draw an extra card for each Lore hero you control. This means three cards for 1 resource in a mono-Lore deck, which is nuts. I will be including Mithrandir’s Advice in every mono-Lore deck I build from now on. Even in a deck with 2 heroes, 1 resource for 2 cards is a good deal. Let’s compare this event to the other card draw possibilities in the Lore sphere to see if it is truly worth inclusion. Lorien’s Wealth is 3 resources for 3 cards, which is nowhere near as cost-effective (compare to Mithrandir’s Advice with 3 Lore heroes, which is 1/3 resource per card, or with 2 Lore heroes which is 1/2 resource per card). Beravor provides 2 cards for free, but you do have to “pay” in terms of exhausting a hero. Bilbo grants an extra card per turn, but you have to be willing to build around his weaknesses stat-wise. The main competitor would have to be Daeron’s Runes, which gives you 2 cards for free, although you have to discard 1 from your hand. In my mind, it is Daeron’s Runes that is the main competitor to Mithrandir’s Advice, as it is hard to argue with cards for free. However, Mithrandir’s Advice is a strong choice as well, with such a low cost, and no requirement to discard any cards. I would have to say that Mithrandir’s Advice gets the nod in a mono-Lore deck, the battle is probably even in a 2 Lore hero deck, and Daeron’s Runes is probably better in any other situations. Include both for impressive card draw. One last important thing to remember about Mithrandir’s Advice is that its card draw is limited to the controlling player, while other Lore card draw effects can be granted to other players.

Rating: ♦♦♦◊

* A Good Harvest (Neutral event, 0 cost): A Neutral event that lets you convert any and all of your resources to a given sphere for the duration of a phase, A Good Harvest undoubtedly has its uses. Most significantly, it could allow you to include more expensive cards than usual in a dual or tri-sphere deck, secure in the knowledge that A Good Harvest can allow all of your heroes to pay for them. Another way to use A Good Harvest is as a utility card, like a more potent yet disposable Errand-rider or Bifur effect. I have to say that in most cases, the latter effects are probably more powerful, in that they are repeatable. However, I would definitely consider A Good Harvest when building tri-sphere decks, as using the resources from all 3 heroes to pay for whatever particular sphere you need on a given turn provides a large measure of flexibility, whereas Errand-rider and Bifur can only move 1 resource at a time.

Rating: ♦♦◊◊ [♦♦♦◊ in tri-sphere decks]

 

Conclusion

While I expected this pack to continue the pattern of new cycles starting out with less powerful player cards, then steadily building up in potency, The Steward’s Fear bucks that trend. What you get in this AP is practically a whole deck type in a box, and that in itself, in my opinion, justifies the high overall rating that I’m giving this pack for its player cards. Beyond that, you also get support for another evolving deck type, the Aragorn and His Wonderful Toys build, through the inclusion of the Ring of Barahir. The other player cards in the AP, particularly Gondorian Shield and Mithrandir’s Advice, really shine as well, and I have no hesitation in recommending this pack for just the player cards themselves.

Overall Rating: ♦♦♦♦

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21 Comments
  1. I absolutely agree that Outlands, while powerful, seems a bit off when it comes to theme. I have been seeing comments on the forums from people who have built 2 and even 1 hero decks around this trait, which is impressive. I like that this will allow new players to field powerful decks without going back an purchasing hundreds of dollars worth of cards, I just wish the choice of hero matched the story a bit better. It seems kind of absurd that some random guy from S. Gondor who is mentioned for all of two sentences in the books can easily become more powerful than Aragorn, Elrond, Glorfindel, Gimli, Legolas, et. al. In any case, I am glad to see that Hirluin is pushing people to design different decks, including a resurgence of Secrecy. I am just not personally very interested in this particular strategy as it feels somewhat odd in the context of the game as whole.

  2. I will add that Gondorian Shield is absolutely amazing, and one of my favorite cards right now. I hope that subsequent adventure packs continue to add more weapons and armor attachments of the non-Dwarf variety.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Me too, more weapon and armor goodness is always welcome. I’m planning on building an Eleanor + Shield deck. Operation Make Eleanor Relevant is a go!

  3. scwont permalink

    Hirluin and Outlands allies:
    I’m keen to try out a Secrecy build with Hirluin + Glorfindel (or possibly another low-threat hero, e.g. Bifur). That gives access to Timely Aid, which seems like an ideal means of digging for the right Outlands ally for your current situation (e.g. the Herdsman early on, like you said) and getting it into play, all in one card.

    Mithrandir’s Advice:
    outstanding in mono-Lore, like you said. Bye-bye Lorien’s Wealth! I don’t see it as a direct competitor to Daeron’s Runes: rather MA gives you quantity, DR gives you quality.

    Other cards:
    Agree with your assessments.

    An outstanding pack for player cards, like you said. Can’t wait for my own copy to arrive!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, Lorien’s Wealth has definitely been sidelined in a big way. I haven’t yet tried Hirluin in a Secrecy deck yet, but he definitely is the best thing to happen to secrecy in a long, long time.

  4. Tracker1 permalink

    Yes, I’m the one who has posted many of the outland deck builds for 3 to 1 hero builds with the outland trait. I recently have been posting videos of my deck in action at the BGG site. I’m having alot of fun with them, and the deck im using has beaten everything available except Dol Guldur. I must agree that the theme seems a little off with the outlands, playing with a bunch of characters i know almost nothing about. I was a bit shocked designers came out with this trait so strong, but i can list many reasons why they did. From my experience it catapults the outland trait to dwarf status, which is kind of wierd, but im happy to use the tools given to me, and it has reinspired some new deck building, and playing cards i ve never played before like Peace and Thought. To deal with some of the issues you mentioned about not wanting to use them as chump blockers is absoulutely correct, so my deck includes 9 other traditional chumps for this purpose.

    I really like the gaining strength card and it works nice with Hurluin, since that one extra resource can easily pay for another important ally like the herdsmen and another 2 cost ally.

    They are pretty powerful now can’t imagine what they will be like with more support cards.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I expected Outlands to be built up over the course of the cycle. For them to be a force in the very first pack was definitely unexpected. However, I actually like that approach, in that it allows people who are not buying every pack to pick up the Outlands in one fell swoop if they so desire, and it leaves the rest of the cycle free to focus on other traits. As I said in the review, I don’t feel the theme really fits, and I don’t like Outlands in a thematic sense, but I’m overall happy with their presence in the game. It gives players something new to build decks around overnight, and that’s enough to justify the four star rating I gave the player cards in this pack.

      I like your suggestion of Peace and Thought. Generally it is a card I avoid, as do most players, but I can definitely see an Outlands deck as being one place where exhausting 2 heroes would actually be worth the cost. An extra draw of 5 cards can certainly get an Outlands deck up and running a whole lot faster. I’m going to definitely try it out.

  5. Thaddeus permalink

    I went ahead and tossed together an Outlands deck (really over 1/2 the deck builds itself). I included A Good Harvest and Gaining Strength and those both synergized really well to help ensure that I could always pay for my Outlands allies.

  6. Landroval permalink

    Gaining Strength is a disappointing card. It should have been ‘replace three resources for every two resources discarded’ i.e. you can pay 4 for 6, 6 for 9 etc.

    I don’t like the idae of ‘finding’ resources in the player deck, unless it is doen in some kind of interestinbg or exponential way.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That would’ve been an interesting variation, I would’ve been much more interested in that version.

  7. Tiandes permalink

    I build myself a Outlands/Secrecy deck with Hirluin and Bifur.

    Starting threat of 15… WouHou!

    Allies (22):
    I put 3x of all the new Oulanders plus Hunter fo Lamedon, Gleowine, 2x Warden of Healing, Faramir and 3x Gandalf.

    Attachment (8):
    I put 2x Steward, 3x Resourceful, 2x Cram and Dark Knowledge

    Events (20):
    3x Sneak attack, 3x A very good tale, 3x Peace and tought, 3x Risk some Light, 3x Daeron’S rune, 2x Out of the wild and 3x We are not Idle (even if it means exhausting Bifur I can easily play this card since the Outlanders do pretty much all the work)

    This deck works amazingly fast and become quickly a juggernut!

    The secrecy event lore cards are so good early on, enabling you to mess with the encounter deck to keep the threat of the staging area low early on.

    I have a lot of funs and it’s very satisfying to get rid of all the big guys popping one at a time and not knowing they are doom…

    Feels like the Battle of Pelargir… Those guys get hit fast and strong and still ask themself what happen!

    Pretty thematic…

    • Tiandes permalink

      I forgot event cards Timely Aid…I’m at work don’t have access to my cards.. sorry.

      So it’s 3x Timely aid and 1 less card of A Very Good Tale, Peace and Tought and We Are Not Idle.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks for posting your deck! I like your idea of gaining access to and using those Lore secrecy cards. That definitely is a good way to protect an Outlands deck when it is most fragile: the first few rounds.

      • Tiandes permalink

        After playing some scenarios, I can tell that Bifur is really the perfect companion to Hirluin for this deck.

        Aside the fact that is 7 threat is so low, he has great defense stats, a pretty good 2 quest that is really handy first round and his ability is amazing to pay for all the lure cards once Hirluin start pumping resources (Steward and Resourceful).

        Plus, his dwarf traits enables me to use We Are not idle that is pretty good early on with that extra resource and the card draw.

        Also, so far, I can easily adjust the deck with just a couple of cards swap to fit a giving quest, like taking out the Warden and putting 2x Lore of Imladris for Journey to Rhogsobel or putting some Ancestral Knowledge (Dwarf trait) in The Hills of Emyn Muil.

        Plus, Dark Knowledge is very powerful in that setup, since my low threat I usually pick up only one ennemy at a time, meaning I can manage my defense knowing what the shadow card will be.

        I really look forward Shadow and Flame… This one might be my waterloo.

  8. Carlos Matos permalink

    I don’t agree with your thought of A Good Harvest being compared to Bifur or Errand-rider.

    I see it more as an one time Elrond for every card and not just allies

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      It is similar in that Bifur and Errand-rider allow you to transfer a resource from one hero to another, essentially transforming it from one sphere to another. A Good Harvest also allows you to convert resources from one sphere to another, however it is more potent, in that you can convert multiple resources at once, but also more disposable, in that it is not repeatable like Bifur/Errand-rider, and that is the important distinction I want to make.

      • Carlos Matos permalink

        Now i understand your point.

        So you could compare it to Narvi’s Belt?

      • TalesfromtheCards permalink

        Yeah, Narvi’s Belt is definitely a fair comparison. Essentially all your heroes get Narvi’s Belt for a phase, but have to name the same sphere.

  9. sweetnesswhachacha permalink

    Good article !

    Yeah, I actually like the Outlands better than the dwarf builds, as most synergy is gained from 5 or more dwarves in play, especially in the opening rounds having some of the specialized allies in hand that require the 5 dwarves, you don’t get all of their utility. The outlands as you say need time to build, and in my experience you are correct to get the hit point buffer out first, but I find I like it better than the 5 dwarf magic number, less stressful. When I play dwarves I am constantly worried about that magic number and with Outlanda I am just going with the flow. I’ve been using them in a deck with faramir (ally) and aragon with the sword that was broken for some insane questing. I use the readying event for leadership to swing big for combat afterwards. Very strong these Outland cards.

    I’m hoping they get away from these builds though, where essentially you are getting mobs of characters who buff each other or are buffed through Dain. I’d like to see more unusual synergies than these and I hop that’s where they go in the future

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