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Encounter Card Set Review: The Hunt For Gollum

by on June 19, 2013


After a bit of a break from our Encounter Card Set Reviews, we’re back in action with a look at The Hunt For Gollum set. While in retrospect, this particular quest (and the accompanying card set) is not necessarily the best or the most entertaining, there is a certain nostalgic value, as this was the first adventure after the Core Set. The encounter deck for the Hunt For Gollum scenario, the first Adventure Pack of the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle, consists of its own card set, combined with the Journey Along the Anduin and Sauron’s Reach sets.

Quests Included In:

The Hunt For Gollum

Card Breakdown (29 cards total):

2x The Old Ford

3x The Eaves of Mirkwood

2x River Ninglor

2x The East Bank

2x The West Bank

2x Goblintown Scavengers

5x Hunters From Mordor

2x False Lead

2x Flooding

3x Old Wives’ Tales

4x Signs of Gollum

Statistical Breakdown:

Locations: 38%

Enemies: 24%huntforgollum

Treacheries: 24%

Objectives: 14%

Cards With Shadow Effects: 52%

Average Threat of All Cards (Treacheries count as 0): 1.2*

Average Threat of Enemies and Locations: 1.9*

Average Attack Value of Enemies: 1.7*

Average Defense Value of Enemies: 1.0

Average Hit Points of Enemies: 5.1

Average Quest Progress of Locations: 2.7

* The Hunters from Mordor and The  Old Ford both have variable threat, while the Hunters also have variable attack.

Set Description: This is a fairly location-heavy set, which gives you an immediate clue as to the type of play this set encourages: location control, a deliberate pace, and a lighter combat focus. Out of 29 cards, only 7 are enemies, and 5 of those are copies of Hunters from Mordor. This means that preparing for Hunters from Mordor is pretty much your main combat consideration for this set. Overall, The Hunt for Gollum set is on the lower end of the difficulty set, as long as you bring enough willpower to quickly clear out locations, and have clear strategies for how to deal with potentially powered up Hunters. One notable aspect of this set is that it has a remarkably high frequency of shadow effects (over half), which is a clear signal to include shadow-cancellation effects as well.

Individual Card Breakdown:


* Goblintown Scavengers (1 threat, 1 attack, 0 defense, 3 hit points): As a body in combat, the Goblintown Scavengers are a non-issue. Their low attack of 1 means that you have a variety of defensive options, while only 3 damage is required to dispatch them, which can be a single blow from a 3-attack hero or ally. The main threat (pun intended) of the Scavengers is their “when revealed” effect, which causes each player to discard the top card of their deck, with the total cost of these discarded cards increasing this enemy’s threat by that amount. Because of the variable nature of this effect, it may be relatively inconsequential, with only 1 or 2 threat added to the Scavengers. On the other hand, a nasty draw may boost up the Scavengers to more troublesome levels (imagine 2 cards of 4 cost discarded in a 2-player game creating a 9 threat Scavengers during staging). A handy way to counter this effect, other than outright cancellation, is Radagast’s Cunning. Because the effect is worded to increase the threat of the Scavengers themselves, and Radagast’s Cunning cancels the entire threat of an enemy, the “when revealed” effect can be entirely neutralized. You could also technically build a deck so that it contains low-cost cards in order to minimize the effects of this enemy, but it’s not a big enough deal to warrant such work, not to mention that there are only 2 copies in the set.

Hunters from Mordor (2 threat, 2 attack, 2 defense, 6 hit points): With 5 copies in the set, the Hunters from Mordor are an almost unavoidable presence in this set. As a base enemy, without being powered up, the Hunters are solid, if not fiercely powerful. However, with one Clue card in play, a copy of Hunter from Mordor becomes a 4 threat, 4 attack enemy. With two ffg_hunters-from-mordor-thfgClue cards in play, they transform into an ungodly 6 threat, 6 attack foe. Keep in mind that with 5 copies in the encounter deck, there is a decent chance of multiple Hunters being on the table at the same time. So what are some possible strategies for overcoming this foe?

1) Kill Them Quickly: It sounds obvious and it is, but the best way of dealing with the Hunters from Mordor is to kill them in one or two turns. This way they are cleared off the table before Clues can enter play to boost their stats. If Clues are already in play, then it becomes even more imperative to destroy them before they are further strengthened and before they do too much damage. The longer a powered-up copy of Hunters remains in play, the more allies you will have to sacrifice in defense or the more damage your heroes will end up taking (it also increases the possibility of multiple copies of Hunters stacking up). With 2 defense and 6 hit points, you need 8 damage to swat the Hunters from Mordor aside. There are an array of options available in today’s card pool: Gimli with damage/weapons, Erebor Battle Master, Rivendell Blade + Straight Shot (the former reduces the Hunters’ defense to zero, while Straight Shot immediately discards a non-unique enemy with zero defense), ally swarms, stat-boosting events, etc.

2) Tanking: Since the Hunters from Mordor are the main combat threat, and there aren’t too many other enemies you’ll face in the set (and in the quest as a whole), it is a perfectly viable strategy to simply tank the Hunters and not worry about killing them. Of course, this is much more feasible in the current card pool than it was previously. A new card combination like Beregond holding a Gondorian Shield can provide an effective defense against Hunters that have 2 Clues in play. Even cheap allies like Defender of Rammas and Winged Guardian can soak up attacks from Hunters with 1 Clue in play. Keep in mind that even older card combinations, such as A Burning Brand and Protector of Lorien, can support the tanking strategy as well.

3) Avoidance: There also is the option of avoiding the Hunters from Mordor through various means, since destroying them is not a quest stage or victory condition. Forest Snares can lock down Hunters, but with 5 copies floating around, this 3-resource attachment is perhaps not the most cost-effective tool. Still, snaring a Hunter who pops up when you are not prepared could be useful. Ranger Spikes can also be effective, in that they can lock a copy of the Hunters in the staging area and take away 2 of their threat. Thus, a Hunters with 4 threat would only contribute a reasonable 2 threat. However, if they bump up to 6 threat, then this becomes a less valuable strategy. If you are running a deck with a heavy focus on avoiding combat, then O Elbereth! Gilthonial! can, at least temporarily, get rid of a Hunters from Mordor. Alternatively, a mono-sphere Tactics deck with Hama can continually recycle Thicket of Spears and lock down multiple copies of the Hunters. On the other hand, such a deck probably has enough combat power to eliminate the Hunters in a more straightforward fashion.


* The Old Ford (X threat, 2 progress): The Old Ford is a variable threat location, with its threat being equal to the number of ally cards in play at any given moment. Obviously, this means that this location becomes worse with each additional player (although more players also means more willpower to counteract this increase, at least in theory). Even for a singe player, if they happen to be running an ally-heavy swarm deck, like a classic Dwarf build, then The Old Ford can completely disrupt questing calculations for a turn. Fortunately, there are plenty of options for dealing with The Old Ford if it comes into the staging area with high threat, especially since it only takes 2 progress to clear it. Secret Paths can cancel the threat for a phase, no matter how high it is, while Strider’s Path/Thror’s Map can quickly move it out of the staging area into the active location spot (once you travel to it, The Old Ford loses its teeth). Asfaloth with Glorfindel can eat it for breakfast, as can The Riddermark’s Finest. All in all, there are so many options for dealing with The Old Ford, and you should really be bringing location control effects against The Hunt for Gollum set anyway, that only a truly ill-timed appearance that catches you with your pants down should dramatically impact the game.. If your location control is limited to disposable effects, you might want to keep at least 1 in hand as insurance against such an eventuality.

* The Eaves of Mirkwood (2 threat, 2 progress): The Eaves of Mirkwood is a fairly lightweight location that is only notable for the fact that it prevents you from canceling encounter card effects while it is the active location. Certainly this can be inconvenient, if not disastrous, if you happen to draw an effect that you need to cancel, but with only 2 progress needed to clear, usually The Eaves of Mirkwood should only be sitting in the active location spot for 1 round. The chances of that round being the one you absolutely need to cancel an effect are slim. Locations that have a similar ability to prevent cancellation at all times, rather than just when they are the active location, are far worse. If you really don’t want to take any chances, Asfaloth/Glorfindel, Northern Tracker, and The Riddermark’s Finest can clear it out of the staging area without ever having to ffg_river-ninglor-thfgmake it the active location. With only 2 threat, you can also just let it stay in the staging area until it is safe to clear it as well.

* River Ninglor (2 threat, 4 progress): With an unfavorable threat-to-progress ratio, and a progress-depleting effect while it is the active location (removes 1 threat from itself and the quest stage at the end of each round), there is plenty of reason to leave the River Ninglor in the staging area until you are ready to clear it out quickly. Its 4 progress makes it harder to explore in the staging area, though not impossible. Timing the moment of travel is important, as traveling to it at the wrong time, when it is not possible to fully explore it in one or two turns will set back overall quest progress a bit. However, overall the River Ninglor is not amongst the worst locations this game has to offer.

The East Bank/The West Bank (3 threat, 3 progress): I have to say that The East Bank, along with its sister waterway, The West Bank, is probably the worst of the locations. Paying an extra resource for allies may not seem too terrible, but for some decks, that may be the difference between being able to play an ally on a given turn or being forced to wait (the line between a 3 cost and 4 cost ally is huge, as is the one between a 2 cost and 3 cost ally for that matter). The same is true for the East Bank’s increase in cost for attachments and events (imagine having to pay 2 for A Test of Will or Feint, let alone 3 for Steward of Gondor). Still, since this effect only occurs when it is the active location (a common theme for this set), you can again time the moment of travel for when you don’t have a great need for or weren’t planning to play allies (or attachments/events for The West Bank). The 3 threat of these river banks does incentivize you to get them out of the staging area fairly quickly though, and they practically beg for a Legolas/Blade of Gondolin combination that can explore them during the same round they become an active location, minimizing the impact of the cost boost. With 3 progress needed to clear, it will likely take more than one location control effect to get rid of these locations, but it may be worth it to avoid the resource drain. A resource rich deck may also be able to effectively ignore these locations entirely.


* False Lead: The first treachery to be called False Lead in this game, but not the last (there was recently a False Lead released ffg_false-lead-thfgas part of The Steward’s Fear set), this encounter card forces you to shuffle a Clue card back into the encounter deck. How harmful this effect is all depends on how many Clue cards are in play and which quest stage you are currently facing. If one of the 2 copies of False Lead happen to emerge during the final quest stage, and takes away the one Clue card you are counting on to satisfy the victory condition, then this treachery will force you back an entire stage. However, in other cases, False Lead may simply get rid of an extra Clue card, which is actually beneficial in that takes away power from the Hunters from Mordor. Another possibility is that this treachery may take away the only Clue card in play during the early stages of a game, which can be annoying, but you still have plenty of chances to search for more. Beyond saving A Test for Will or Eleanor for a worst-case scenario reveal of False Lead, scrying and manipulation effects like Denethor and Risk Some Light can not only quickly bring Clue cards back into play after False Lead shows up, they can also prevent it from hitting at the wrong time in the first place.

* Flooding: This is a nasty card, not so much for its “when revealed” effect, but because of the presence of not only the dreaded “surge”, but “doomed 1” as well. This means that any impact the removal of progress from Riverland locations (The East Bank, The West Bank, The Old Ford, and River Ninglor all count for this purpose) has is simply a nasty bonus on top of gaining 1 threat, since you have to draw a replacement card anyway. Unfortunately, there are currently no options in the card pool for canceling “doomed” and “surge”, and the effect itself is probably not worth canceling. The main instance when Flooding might sting is if you are attempting to build up progress on a bunch of Riverland locations in the staging area using Northern Tracker. Otherwise, none of these locations has enough of a progress requirement that removing tokens is truly significant.

Old Wives’ Tales: Certainly the worst of the treacheries in this set, and possibly the worst overall, with the exception of the Hunters from Mordor. Discarding 1 resource from each hero’s pool is bad enough, with a 3 resource drain possible, but sapping action advantage is probably even worse if any of your heroes don’t have resources in their pool. If you happen to have spent all your resources on a given turn, you could be looking at all of your heroes exhausted going into the combat phase. Alternatively, you may have been saving up resources for a powerful card or two, and Old Wives’ Tales can seriously delay those plans by draining resources. There are a few ways of planning for or countering the 3 copies of this treachery. First, you can include plenty of readying effects, either the permanent kind like Unexpected Courage, or the more disposable variety, such as Cram and Miruvor. This way, you can spend resources freely, and have a way to ready any heroes hit by Old Wives’ Tales. Alternatively, you can take the opposite approach and either load up on resource generating effects or be more conscious about saving resources until all copies of Old Wives’ Tales are gone (of course, you still are suffering by losing out on resources you would’ve had otherwise). If all else fails, straight ahead treachery cancellation via A Test of Will or Eleanor is a viable option, and since the other treacheries are not too debilitating, it might be worth spending your cancellation effects on Old Wives’ Tales. One final note is that this effect rewards you for having resources spread out evenly amongst your heroes, so that all have at least one in their possession, instead of having them all hoarded by just one hero. Resource smoothing effects like the ever-useful Errand-rider can help with this, but also simply taking care as to which hero’s resources you spend when paying for cards, so as to avoid empty resource pools when possible, can go a long way towards minimizing this treachery.


Signs of Gollum: These objectives are the focus of the quest, as you need at least one hero to have a Sign attachedffg_signs-of-gollum-thfg in order to win (and any players who don’t possess at least one Sign can’t commit to the quest; in practice, this means that the player with the best questing potential takes the first Sign in case they need to finish off the quest by themselves). The Signs of Gollum come into play in the staging area, and it is up to you when you want to have one of your heroes claim it, with the sole condition being that you quested successfully. One well-balanced aspect of this quest is that there are actually benefits both to waiting to claim the Signs until you really need them (at the end of quest stage 2 and into quest stage 3), and having one attached. The Hunters from Mordor shadow effect deals damage to any heroes with a Sign attached, which encourages you to leave them in the staging area, while the East Bank and West Bank have harmful shadow effects if you haven’t claimed a Sign (returning the enemy to the staging area and doubling the enemy’s attack respectively). It’s hard to judge which is truly worse, as the probabilities of either situation taking place are roughly equal (5 copies of the Hunters from Mordor vs. 4 copies total of The West and East Banks). In general, I tend to simply claim the Signs when they emerge and make sure that they are placed on a hero who can take some damage (a 5 hit point hero or Frodo works well for this purpose). Avoiding undefended attacks, or having shadow cancellation, is also necessary as the Hunters from Mordor shadow effect becomes much worse in this circumstance.

Shadow Analysis: Over half of the cards in this set have shadow effects, which is an extremely high percentage. Prioritizing shadow effect cancellation is thus a smart move when encountering the Hunt for Gollum set. However, not all shadow effects are created equal, so determining how harmful the effects are in this set is essential.

The shadow effect on Flooding resolves its “when revealed” effect, which removes all progress from Riverland locations. This is a fairly harmless effect in most cases, and since you get to avoid the “doomed” and “surge” keywords, it is much better for this card to come up as a shadow then during staging. The River Ninglor shadow effect is also a progress remover, in this case taking 1 progress token away from the current quest (2 if undefended). The loss of 1 or 2 progress tokens on the quest is not really a big deal, especially since none of the quest stages in this scenario require tons of progress to clear.

The shadow effects that interact with the Signs of Gollum cards were discussed previously in that section of this review. The Hunters from Mordor do 1 damage to those holding a Clue objective (3 damage if the attack is undefended). This shadow effect provides a good reason to avoid undefended attacks while you possess a Signs of Gollum card, and attaching the Clues to high hit point heroes makes the most sense. The East Bank returns the attacking enemy to the staging area in a Warg-esque fashion after it attacks, if you don’t have at least 1 Clue card in your possession. This is always an annoying effect, so including cards that allow you attack the staging area, like Hands Upon the Bow, Great Yew Bow, and Dunhere, can counteract it. The West Bank doubles the enemy’s attack value if you don’t have a Clue card, and this can be potentially nasty if it combines with a powered up Hunters from Mordor, for example (imagine a 4 attack Hunters becoming an 8 attack enemy). This is a shadow effect that you might want to keep cancellation around for, and if you don’t have one, it might make sense to think twice about using a hero to defend if there are still copies of The West Bank in the deck and a doubling of the enemy’s attack would kill that hero.

Finally, The Old Ford also has a potentially horrifying shadow effect, as it forces you to discard all allies with a printed cost less than the number of Riverland locations in play. In practice, this is likely to have a better chance of bearing terrible fruit with more players in the game, as this means more locations coming into play at once. Usually, there will need to be at least 3 or 4 Riverland locations in play to really decimate your allies (discarding 2 cost enemies and below and 3 cost enemies and below respectively). If you have the location control tools available that I keep berating you to bring, then it shouldn’t get to a point where this shadow effect really matters (remember to focus on clearing out Riverland locations first). However, on the off chance that it does hit at the wrong moment, this is another effect you might want to keep cancellation around for. Minimizing low-cost allies in your deck(s) is also an option, but with only 2 copies of The Old Ford, this is probably overkill.

Final Verdict: The Hunt for Gollum set is in the moderate-to-low range as far as difficulty is concerned. It is a location heavy set that includes one notable enemy and a couple of harmful treachery and shadow effects. The greatest threats in this set are the Hunters from Mordor and Old Wives’ Tales. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the two areas you should emphasize when deck-building for this set and the accompanying quest are location control and shadow cancellation. Having a clear strategy for dealing with the Hunters from Mordor is also important. If you address these areas, the Hunt for Gollum set shouldn’t be too tricky. This set would be much more difficult if some of the locations penalized you for keeping them in the staging area, or in play, but most of them only become harmful when they become the active location. Later scenarios seemed to have learned from this design weakness. It will be intriguing to see how the Nightmare version of this scenario ups the ante.

Well, one AP set is down, it’s time to visit the stomping grounds of the Beornings next, as we tackle the Conflict at the Carrock set!

  1. Chris permalink

    Great read, lot of work for a so-so encounter deck(fun-wise). FFG released an article that gave a bit of a hint on the nightmare, where the Hunters go and claim the Clues if they are ever unattached, which basically makes them a requirement to kill. And if they ever have 4, you lose.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      “Great read, lot of work for a so-so encounter deck”
      Thanks! And only too true. I am extremely excited to see a Nightmare version of the quest, as I think it has potential, and I like that mechanic of Hunters being able to claim the Clues. Judging by past encounter sets, I know the locations will be monstrously nasty now as well.

  2. Thanks for the great article. I’ve been looking at this AP for awhile and wondering if I should pick it up. Good stuff

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks for reading! As a huge fan of this game, I even enjoy playing some of the weaker AP’s. There are probably other AP’s that you might want to pick up before this one, but ultimately the best way to experience the game is in order, so The Hunt for Gollum might be a good place to start in that respect.

  3. Glaurung permalink

    Im pretty sure the Nightmare HFG will be amazing quest! For now is to easy now to play real attention as before but nightmare will change it. Cannot wait to play this one.

  4. Traekos77 permalink

    Doesn’t Elfhelm effectively counter Doom 1? (Obviously not Surge though!)

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      In solo play, yes, he definitely is the go-to counter for Doom (although I always find him a little expensive). In multi-player, he only helps out the controlling player unfortunately.

  5. ChrisPL permalink

    Great job! However….Hmm, you wrote that there are 7 enemies in this set. On second thoughts you combine it with Journey Along the Anduin which has 3 Misty Mountain Goblins. That makes 10. Not much but when I play this scenario, I often (bad luck proly) happen to face enemies from Mordor who (with clues) are tough to deal with. Encounter card analysis is great, though. Looking forward to seeing more articles on it. What about an analysis of an entire scenario? I mean percentage of enemies, treacheries and locations included in a given combination of sets. This would definately help in deckbuilding 😉

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! The way I conceived of these reviews is just taking each set as-is, without looking at the accompanying sets. So, the Hunt for Gollum “set” only has 7 enemies, while the “quest”/”scenario” has 10. On the other hand, you’re right that it would probably make sense to incorporate some statistics on the whole quest, including all the sets in that quest, perhaps after taking a look at the individual set. I’ve had this series of articles on the back-burner for quite some time, as other features seemed to be more popular, but I hope to come back to them at some point.

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  1. Quest Profile 004: The Hunt for Gollum | Master of Lore

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