Skip to content

Surviving The Battle of Lake-Town

by on July 11, 2013

Artwork is by Jared Shear. Check out his website here: http://jaredshear.com/portfolio/digital/esgaroth-laketown-shear-042910/

There is no doubt that one of the most epic moments in Tolkien’s stories is the Battle of Lake-town. Smaug, a terrible dragon that is nigh invincible, descends upon an unsuspecting town and is only felled by a fateful arrow from Bard the Bowman (with the help of the Old Thrush, of course). It pleases me to no end that LOTR LCG’s recreation of this battle rises to the necessary level of drama, and creates a play experience that will have you gasping for breath by the end of it. Created for GenCon 2012, the Battle of Lake-town is not for the faint of heart, and it is certainly one of the most difficult scenarios that the game offers. However, if you look past the difficulty, there is an amazing scenario behind it, and it is definitely in my top 3 of quests.

Recently, though, a TftC reader contacted me and asked me for advice and possible strategies for defeating this quest. I felt inspired by her question to create an in-depth strategy guide for saving Lake-town and casting Smaug into the chill waters of Esgaroth. Hopefully, this can help players that decide to take on this unique challenge, as well as those who perhaps have given up on victory. In the first part of this article, I will outline some general tips to beating the scenario. In the second part, I will introduce and explain two decks that I have used to great success against this quest, and in the third part I will include an in-depth session report. The latter, I think, is quite important, as sometimes the best way to really understand how to beat a scenario is to see someone actually play through it (in this case, you get to read about it). Other players certainly have found other decks and other ways to attain victory, but this article can certainly serve as a starting point.

Part 1 – General Strategies

* Uber-defenders are necessary: It is possible to use a chump blocker strategy against Smaug, but it’s not advisable. There are a few shadow effects that penalize you if Smaug’s attack destroys a character, and others that can possibly kill your defender, leading to an undefended attack and probably the death of a hero. There is also a treachery that prevents allies from defending against Smaug at all. Therefore, it is best for each deck to have one hero that can be built up as an uber-defender and can survive Smaug’s attacks consistently without dying. Frodo is a great choice for this purpose (you’ll have to put aside your thematic qualms here), as he can safely defend against Smaug from the very beginning, in exchange for sizable threat increases. Other options are Beregond (particularly with the new Gondorian Shield) or Dain Ironfoot. Defense-boosting attachments and effects are a must, and you should have some form of healing available to deal with direct damage caused by treacheries/shadow effects, as well as Smaug’s attack itself. You’ll also probably need some readying effects to defend against Smaug the Mighty, who attacks during questing, as well as during combat (if he’s engaged with you).

* Choose carefully when to engage with Smaug: At the beginning of the quest stage, the first player can either declare the staging area or his own play area as the destination for the version of Smaug that will be revealed that turn. This decision, which has to be done blindly, before you know which Smaug you will have to face, is one of the key elements of a winning strategy. In general, you will want to put Smaug in the staging area. Despite his high threat, you probably won’t have built up your defenders up to a high enough level to deal with him in the first few rounds. This is especially true if you draw Smaug the Mighty, who will end up attacking the first player twice. Especially during quest stage 2, it makes more sense to engage Smaug, so that you can make more questing progress and take more progress off Lake-town (during stage 2b, you can exchange progress tokens on the quest for removing damage tokens from Lake-town). However, your choice all really depends on the balance of threat in the staging area, availability of suitable defenders, and questing power you are able to muster. If there are a bunch of locations in the staging area, you might have to take on Smaug to make questing progress. Alternatively, if the staging area is relatively clear, and you have strong questing power, you can throw him into the staging area without too much worry. Also, it is important to keep track of how many of each Smaug version has come out already, and what the probabilities are of drawing each Smaug type from the cards that are left. As the Smaug deck gets thinner, obviously your chances of guessing correctly are greater. In general, Smaug the Mighty is best to engage because he has the lowest attack (5), and highest threat (7), however the first player must be able to defend twice against him. Smaug the Magnificent is the best to put in the staging area, as he has the highest attack (8), and lowest threat (5). Finally, Smaug the Terrible could go either way with an attack of 7, and a threat of 6. It is important to know, though, that he is the best version to engage when you want to attack Smaug, as this one has the lowest defense (7) of all the versions. The last very important point is to keep in mind the engagement costs of each Smaug incarnation: Smaug the Mighty’s is at 40, Smaug the Terrible’s is at 35, and Smaug the Magnificent’s is at 30. Even if you put Smaug in the staging area, he may still come down to engage with you, so it is important to keep that in mind and/or manage your threat carefully.

* Don’t attack Smaug until the end: There’s really no point to waste your time attacking Smaug until the quest moves to its conclusion. Smaug the Magnificent moves damage from himself to Lake-Town when he is revealed, nullifying some of the hard-earned damage you put on him, and making victory ultimately more difficult by adding to the burn damage. There also is a location, Master’s Manor, that moves all damage from Smaug to Lake-Town. Finally, the first two quest stages limit the amount of damage that can be placed on Smaug anyway. In general, I’m aiming to attack Smaug twice, killing him in the space of two combat rounds, if possible (three at the most). The best way to go is to do one big attack right before you progress from stage 2b to 3b, and then finish him off on the following turn, limiting the amount of time you spend in this last stage, which forces you to reveal an extra encounter card during staging. Obviously, you’ll need plenty of attack power, either through swarms of allies or attack-boosting effects (or both) to make this happen.

* Keep it simple and bring questing power to the table: There are no other enemies, so your job in this quest is actually fairly simple: quest like hell, soak up the occasional Smaug attack, and eventually lay down an epic beating. There are no other enemies in this quest, and thankfully no treacheries that allow Smaug to attack out of sequence (although there is one, Town-baiting, that makes him attack Lake-Town, and you can choose to defend against it; there also are a couple of shadow effects that allow him to make an extra attack), so if you haven’t had to defend against Smaug the Mighty, and don’t need characters for attacking or defending, then they can safely be committed to the quest. This allows you to muster some substantial questing power, and you’ll need it. Locations can pile up threat in the staging area, while Smaug himself provides a lot of threat in all his incarnations. You should bring willpower-boosting effects and strong questing characters to this quest if you want to be successful.

* Location management is surprisingly useful: With no enemies around, other than Smaug, you’ll be facing a ton of locations, a couple of which have very high threat. This means that key location management tools, like Asfaloth, Northern Tracker, Secret Paths, Thror’s Map, and The Riddermark’s Finest come in really handy here. Quickly clearing out locations not only gets rid of threat, and increases quest progress, it also adds victory points that are essential to ultimately defeating the quest. There also are locations with particularly nasty or annoying effects that you will want to be able to eliminate as soon as possible. The East Pier, for example, prevents you from canceling “when revealed” effects, which can be disastrous in a quest that features truly nasty treacheries (and locations with some horrible “when revealed” effects as well).

* Treachery and shadow cancellation is essential: Do not come to this quest without bringing along treachery and shadow cancellation effects. Just don’t. It’s possible that you could win without them, but you would have to be very lucky along the way, and we’re looking for consistency here. A Test of Will is a must-have to battle against the excruciating “when revealed” effects that can and will pop up to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Conserving your copies of A Test of Will is important, so do not use them against an effect unless it is truly crippling or game-ending. Some examples of effects you might want to save your A Test of Will for are: Close to the Flame (deals 1 damage to every character), Great Bridge (discards cards from your deck equal to the amount of damage on Lake-town; this once forced me to discard my entire deck and ended my chances of victory, although obviously if there’s very little damage then this doesn’t apply), and The Master’s Manor (moves all damage from Smaug to Lake-town, could be fatal if it happens towards the end of a game). Similarly, the shadow effects can be brutal. Close to the Flame deals 1 damage to every character in play. Esgaroth Wharf not only boosts Smaug’s attack, but allows him to attack again. Hasty Stroke is obviously a great answer to this dilemma, but other shadow cancellation effects like Dunedain Watcher, Rider of the Mark, and A Burning Brand can also save the day. I’ve also found Balin to be invaluable for this purpose, as you’ll see in the decks that I use for this quest.

* Let it burn: Burn damage will pile up on Lake-Town. I’m here to say don’t worry about it, at least in the early game. Worry about keeping your characters alive and making quest progress, and be thankful that damage is being piled on Lake-Town and not on your heroes and allies. Once you get to quest stage 2B, you can make a few massive quest pushes and take most of that damage off. Obviously, don’t let it get to the point that you lose the game, but I’ve had the damage on Lake-Town pile up to 35 or 40 tokens, and still won. So I say again, don’t worry about it. If Smaug attacks it, don’t bother defending it, and if “when revealed” effects resolve burn damage, don’t bother canceling it, unless this will lead to certain defeat. (The only caveat is obviously you need to get your burn damage below your victory point total before you defeat Smaug, and leave yourself a cushion against unforeseen burn effects that crop up just before you land the killing blow).

Part 2 – The Decks

DECK ONE

Hero (3)
Frodo Baggins (CatC) x1
Glorfindel (FoS) x1
Aragorn (TWitW) x1

This hero load-out is designed to meet the unique challenges of this scenario, although it is a trio that can be successful against a wide range of quests as well. Frodo is the uber-defender that will soak up most of Smaug’s attacks, for both decks. Glorfindel will provide some attacking teeth to Deck One, as well as strong questing power. Aragorn’s main function is to drop this deck’s threat back down to compensate for the massive amount of threat that Frodo will be soaking up.

Ally (21)
Arwen Undomiel (TWitW) x3
Dori (OHaUH) x3
Escort from Edoras (AJtR) x3
Gandalf (OHaUH) x3
Northern Tracker (Core) x3
The Riddermark’s Finest (THoEM) x3
Warden of Healing (TLD) x3

Arwen is one of the key components of this deck, as she grants Frodo sentinel, allowing him to defend for both decks, as well as an additional point of defense. Northern Tracker helps to deal with the many locations in this quest, as does The Riddermark’s Finest. The Over Hill and Under Hill version of Gandalf is preferred, as he can both quest and participate in combat, not to mention that Core Gandalf cannot deal damage to Smaug. Escort from Edoras provides a disposable dose of willpower, while Dori contributes extra attack power, as well as an insurance policy against undefended attacks.

Attachment (13)
Fast Hitch (TDM) x3
Light of Valinor (FoS) x3
Unexpected Courage (Core) x2
A Burning Brand (CatC) x3
Asfaloth (FoS) x2

Fast Hitch is the key attachment here, enabling Frodo to have multiple actions per turn. Light of Valinor prevents Glorfindel from adding to the deck’s threat gain, while Unexpected Courage can go to Dain so that he can defend and still ready to provide his global boost to Dwarves. Asfaloth can be extremely handy to deal with locations. A Burning Brand is not as essential here, but can be used to turn Aragorn into a one-time defender or put on a Lore ally to allow for emergency chump-blocking without fear of shadow effects that punish that strategy.

Event (18)
A Test of Will (Core) x3
Elrond’s Counsel (TWitW) x3
Hasty Stroke (Core) x3
Lore of Imladris (Core) x3
Secret Paths (Core) x3
The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core) x3

There’s nothing too fancy here: Elrond’s Counsel and The Galadhrim’s Greeting for threat reduction, Hasty Stroke and A Test of Will for shadow/”when revealed” cancellation, Lore of Imladris for healing, and Secret Paths to neutralize excess threat from a location in the staging area (note that Radagast’s Cunning cannot be used to cancel Smaug’s threat).

Overall Strategy:

Frodo/Fast Hitch/Arwen is the core of this deck, and you should look to grab either Fast Hitch and Arwen in your opening hand. Take a mulligan otherwise. Use Frodo to defend against Smaug whenever possible, and then Aragorn can hit the reset button when necessary. The threat reduction events allow for even more use of Frodo’s ability, and for managing when Smaug can come down and engage with the players. This deck will be taking on much of the questing and location management responsibility, and will really hum along if Deck Two can attach Sword that was Broken to Aragorn.

DECK TWO

Hero (3)
Dain Ironfoot (RtM) x1
Gimli (Core) x1
Balin (OtD) x1

Dain Ironfoot provides his ever-useful global boost to Dwarves, allowing for strong questing and combat potential. Gimli is key to break through Smaug’s defenses and deal enough damage to fell the dragon. Balin will mostly be questing, but his more important role is to guard against shadow effects.

Ally (18)
Beorn (Core) x1
Defender of Rammas (HON) x3
Dunedain Watcher (TDM) x3
Faramir (Core) x2
Longbeard Elder (FoS) x3
Snowbourn Scout (Core) x3
Vassal of the Windlord (TDM) x3

Beorn is here to combine with Sneak Attack, allowing for a massive dose of attack power at a crucial moment. Defender of Rammas and the Snowbourn Scout are the resident chump blockers. Although I have warned against this strategy, there still may be times when extra bodies are needed, and Balin can guard against any chump-punishing shadow effects (as can the Dunedain Watcher). The Longbeard Elder and Farmir provide questing support, while the Vassal of the Windlord will participate in the final attack(s) against Smaug.

Attachment (23)
Celebrian’s Stone (Core) x2
Cram (OHaUH) x3
Dunedain Warning (CatC) x3
Dwarven Axe (Core) x3
Hardy Leadership (SaF) x3
Ring Mail (TLD) x3
Steward of Gondor (Core) x3
Sword that was Broken (TWitW) x3

This is a fairly attachment-heavy deck, but a few of these are meant for Deck One. Specifically, Celebrian’s Stone and Sword that was Broken are designed to be given to Aragorn, enhancing Deck One’s questing power. Dunedain Warning, Ring Mail, and Hardy Leadership enhance Dain’s hardiness and allow him to take on the role of uber-defender (Ring Mail can also be used on Frodo, while Hardy Leadership helps all Dwarves weather direct damage from the encounter deck). The Dwarven Axe goes straight to Gimli, powering him up for the final battle. Steward of Gondor usually goes to Balin, to ensure that he always has resources available for his power, but I have used it on Gimli as well, depending on the balance between Tactics and Leadership options in my hand. Cram allows for additional readying, and is extremely useful in case Fast Hitch and Unexpected Courage are taking their time to emerge from Deck One.

Event (9)
Durin’s Song (KD) x3
Khazad! Khazad! (KD) x3
Sneak Attack (Core) x3

Only a few events here, and they are all geared towards use in the final battle against Smaug. Durin’s Song and Khazad! Khazad! can be used to boost Gimli to insane levels, while Sneak Attack is mostly here to bring Beorn into play for only 1 resource. However, Sneak Attack can also be used in a flexible way to bring in an extra body cheaply for questing or combat purposes.

Overall Strategy:

Deck Two’s main role is to build up enough damage-dealing potential that Smaug can be defeated. Along the way, this deck is expected to supplement Deck One’s questing power. Gimli should defend an attack against Smaug during the first few turns so that he can take 3 or 4 points of damage and thus add to his attack power. The main card that you are looking for in your opening hand is Steward of Gondor, which allows for fast powering up of this deck’s combat potential. How much effort you need to put into transforming Dain into an uber-defender depends on how quickly Deck One can get Arwen, Frodo, and Fast Hitch into play. If that defensive trio is on the board early, then Dain won’t be called upon as often to defend. However, if Deck One is struggling to find Arwen, then Dain will need attention quickly.

Part 3 – Session Report

This is the first time I’ve done a session report at TftC, and I was fairly excited about the experience. I was also extremely anxious at the thought that I might play through the quest, taking copious notes along the way, only to be defeated and have to do it all over again. Fortunately, I was able to defeat The Battle of Lake-Town on the first attempt. This session was played solo, with he two decks described above, using OCTGN. I found this quite handy to take notes while I played, and to easily add and subtract damage from Lake-Town and Smaug. Without further ado, here’s my play experience, and I hope it provides a window into my thought process and the decisions that can lead to possible victory.

Set-up

DECK ONE (Starting Threat – 24)

Heroes: Frodo, Aragorn, Glorfindel (Spirit)

Starting Hand: Secret Paths, Fast Hitch, A Test of Will, The Riderrmark’s Finest, Arwen Undomiel, A Test of Will

Thoughts: This is quite honestly an amazing starting hand for this deck, quite close to perfection. Two copies of A Test of Will give me substantial protection against “when revealed” effects, while Secret Paths can allow me to cancel a high threat location in the staging area. Frodo can assume his uber-defender role right away, with A Fast Hitch providing good insurance against Smaug the Mighty by allowing Frodo to defend twice in one turn (as well as giving him the flexibility to quest and defend in the same turn as well), while Arwen gives him sentinel and an extra point of defense. If I chose to mulligan here, I should be banned from ever playing this game again.

DECK TWO (Starting Threat – 31)

Heroes: Dain, Balin, Gimli

Starting Hand: Khazad! Khazad!, Steward of Gondor, Durin’s Song, Defender of Rammas, Dunedain Watcher, Longbeard Elder

Thoughts: This is another pretty awesome starting hand, though not quite as good as the other deck’s. I’m mainly looking for Steward of Gondor here, to fund cards but also Balin’s ability, and to have it right away is all I could ask for. Khazad! Khazad! and Durin’s Song will help later in dealing damage to Smaug. Dunedain Watcher provides another layer of shadow protection, while Longbeard Elder is a great starting ally, since he’ll be questing for 3 with Dain’s help. My only big disappointment is a lack of Dunedain Warning to boost Dain’s defense.

ENCOUNTER DECK SET-UP

First Card: Fisherman’s Dock (2 threat, 2 quest points, 2 victory points)

Second Card: Dire Magnificence – Since neither deck has allies to discard, Lake-town will have to take 2 damage for each player.

Progress to Quest Stage 1B – The text on this quest stage adds 1 damage per player to Lake-town

Thoughts: Definitely a decent beginning here, with a low-threat location and a treachery that merely adds damage to Lake-town.

ROUND 1 (6 damage on Lake-town, 2 threat in staging area, 0 progress on 1B, 0 victory points, 0 damage on Smaug)

DECK ONE PREPARATION (First Player) – 24 Threat

Resources: Frodo – 1, Glorfindel – 1, Aragorn – 1

Draw: The Galadhrim’s Greeting

New Hand: Secret Paths, Fast Hitch, A Test of Will, The Riderrmark’s Finest, Arwen Undomiel, A Test of Will, The Galadhrim’s Greeting

Planning: I spend 1 Lore resource for Fast Hitch, and place it on Frodo. The first order of business in this quest is to get your uber-defenders up and running, and I have already taken an important step in this process with this move. It is tempting to spend 2 Spirit resources for Arwen Undomiel to get the other piece of my defensive strategy into play, as well as a strong quester, but that would leave me with no resources to pay for A Test of Will. I’m not comfortable with being vulnerable, especially this early in the game, so I’ll save up my Spirit resources for now.

Resources After Planning: Frodo – 1, Glorfindel – 1, Aragorn – 0

DECK TWO PREPARATION – 31 Threat

Resources: Dain – 1, Balin – 1, Gimli – 1

Draw: Sword that was Broken

New Hand: Khazad! Khazad!, Steward of Gondor, Durin’s Song, Defender of Rammas, Dunedain Watcher, Longbeard Elder, Sword that was Broken

Planning: I spend 2 Leadership resources for Steward of Gondor, and place it on Balin. This is the obvious first move to get my resource generation engine going, and to make sure Balin has resources available for shadow cancellation from the very beginning. I immediately exhaust the Steward to pay for itself and add 2 resources to Balin’s pool. There is nothing else that I can pay for at the moment, except for the two stat-boosting events, which I’m saving up for attacking Smaug later.

Resources After Planning: Dain – 0, Balin – 2, Gimli – 1

QUESTING:

Smaug Deck:

Since it’s early in the game, I’ll put Smaug in the staging area. Frodo could soak up his attack(s), but I don’t want to start gaining a ton of threat until it’s truly necessary, and there isn’t much threat in the staging area right now. I draw Smaug the Mighty, which makes an immediate attack upon both players. This is definitely not the Smaug I wanted to see, with its high threat and its ability to attack Deck Two, which is not as defensively sound as Deck One yet. Note that I can’t use Frodo to defend for it, as he only gains sentinel once Arwen exhausts to commit to the quest, which hasn’t happened yet.

I declare Frodo as the defender for Deck One and exhaust him. The shadow card is revealed and it has no effect. Smaug the Mighty’s 5 damage against Frodo’s 2 defense leads to 3 damage. I activate Frodo’s ability to cancel this damage, boosting Deck One’s threat by 3 to a new level of 27.

For Deck Two, I declare Gimli as the defender and exhaust him, as I want him to gain some damage so he can be a more effective attacker later, and I am looking for Dain to be ready to boost the Dwarves’ questing power. If a nasty shadow effect pops up, Balin can save the day. The shadow card is revealed, and it is indeed one of the worst ones around, Esgaroth Wharf. Smaug gains 2 attack, which puts him at 7, and he gets to attack again. This will not only kill Gimli on turn one, but force me to exhaust Dain as a defender as well. I pay 1 resource and activate Balin’s ability, discarding this shadow card and drawing a new one, which is Scorching Blast. This resolves all burn damage in play, which is conveniently just the “burn 1” on Fisherman’s Dock. Lake-town now has 7 damage on it. Smaug’s 5 attack against Gimli’s 2 defense means Gimli takes 3 damage. I pat Balin on the back and promise to buy him some ale later.

Committing Characters:

Currently, there is 9 threat in the staging area, with 7 coming from Smaug and 2 from the Fisherman’s Dock. For Deck One, I will commit Glorfindel (3 willpower) to the quest, raising this deck’s threat to 28. I’m hoping that Light of Valinor will come up soon to prevent my threat from spiraling out of control too quickly. I will also commit Aragorn (2 willpower), and Frodo (2 willpower). I will then use Fast Hitch to immediately ready Frodo. This is a total willpower commitment of 7 for Deck One.

For Deck Two, Gimli is exhausted, and I want to keep Dain ready to boost Balin’s willpower (actually, the total would be the same if I exhausted Dain and committed him, or if I leave him ready and only send Balin, so I might as well keep him ready). So I’ll only commit Balin (3 willpower).

Between both decks, I’m committing 10 willpower against the 9 threat in the staging area. This is not ideal, obviously, but the best I can do at the moment.

Staging:

For the first encounter card, I draw Great House (6 threat, 6 quest points, 6 victory points). This makes me audibly groan, as this location has a whopping 6 threat, which means I’m definitely going to be failing the quest and gaining some threat in the process. It also resolves all burn damage in play, which includes its own “burn 3” and the “burn 1” on Fisherman’s Dock, for a total of 4. Lake-town now has 11 damage on it.

For the second encounter card, I draw Dire Magnificence once again. With no allies in play, it again deals 2 damage per player to Lake-town. Lake-town now has 15 damage on it. There is 15 threat total in the staging. I’m none too pleased at the threat level, but am happy that the worst the second card did was to add some damage to Lake-town. Things could’ve been so much worse if another high-threat location emerged.

Resolution:

My 10 willpower against the 15 threat in the staging area means that I lose by 5. This is a pretty harsh opening round, as I wasn’t looking to boost my threat so quickly. Deck One does have a bunch of threat reduction, including Aragorn himself, but also relies on taking on threat constantly through Frodo, as well as Glorfindel until I can get him the Light of Valinor. Deck Two is starting at a high threat and doesn’t have as many options for reducing it quickly. Still, there’s nothing I can do at this point but raise Deck One’s threat to 33, and Deck Two’s threat to 36. Things are not looking good after some promising opening hands.

TRAVEL:

Without hesitation, I travel to the Great House, in order to gets its 6 threat out of the staging area. I also exhaust Dain to activate the effect on the Fisherman’s Dock , which allows a player to exhaust a hero in order to travel to this location as a second active location. This will clear out the staging area for next turn, and hopefully prevent a repeat of this turn’s failure.

ENCOUNTER:

Fortunately, Smaug the Mighty has an engagement cost of 40 and remains in the staging area.

COMBAT:

None

ROUND 2 (15 damage on Lake-town, 0 threat in staging area, 0 progress on 1B, 0 victory points, 0 damage on Smaug)

DECK TWO PREPARATION (First Player) – 37 threat

Resources: Dain – 1, Gimli – 2, Balin 4 (Steward)

Damage: 3 damage on Gimli

Draw: Hardy Leadership

New Hand: Khazad! Khazad!, Durin’s Song, Defender of Rammas, Dunedain Watcher, Longbeard Elder, Sword that was Broken, Hardy Leadership

Planning: I pay 3 Leadership resources for Longbeard Elder. After last turn’s debacle, I want to bring some more questing power, and 3 resources for 3 willpower is a great deal. I also will pay 2 Tactics resources for Defender of Rammas. Although I’m not necessarily planning on using him, because of the dangers of chump blocking in this quest, I’ll play him anyway as a emergency back-up.

Resources After Planning: Dain – 0, Gimli – 0, Balin – 2

DECK ONE PREPARATION – 34 threat

Resources: Frodo – 2, Glorfindel – 2, Aragorn – 1

Draw: Lore of Imladris

New Hand: Secret Paths, A Test of Will, The Riderrmark’s Finest, Arwen Undomiel, A Test of Will, The Galadhrim’s Greeting, Lore of Imladris

Planning: I will pay 2 Spirit resources for Arwen. I need her willpower, and she gives Frodo an extra point of defense and allows him to defend for Deck Two if necessary. This time around, there’s no dilemma in paying the cost, as I’ll still have 2 Spirit resources left to pay for A Test of Will if necessary. With both decks’ threat creeping up, I might want to pay The Galadhrim’s Greeting soon, but Arwen takes priority for now. Still no luck in drawing a Light of Valinor, which will further increase the threat pressure.

Resources After Planning: Frodo – 0, Glorfindel – 2, Aragorn – 1

QUESTING:

Smaug Deck:

With no threat in the staging area, and Dain not quite reaching his defensive potential with no Dunedain Warning or Ring Mail in sight, I’ll put Smaug in the staging area. Granted, Frodo could defend for Deck Two during combat using Arwen’s ability, but after last turn’s threat gain, I’m not looking to take on more. This time I draw Smaug the Magnificent, which is perfect. He only contributes 5 threat, and there’s no damage to move from him to Lake-town. Unfortunately, he does have an engagement cost of 30, which means he will come down to party with the first player this turn.

Committing Characters:

With no combat worries, both decks can go all out to make some quest progress. Deck Two will commit Gimli (3 willpower), Balin (3 willpower), and the Longbeard Elder (3 willpower), for a total of 9. This is already much better than last turn. Deck One will commit Aragorn (2 willpower), Frodo (2 willpower), Glorfindel (3 willpower), and Arwen (2 willpower), for a total of 9. Glorfindel boosts Deck One’s threat to 35, while Arwen grants sentinel and an extra point of defense to Frodo, who readies with Fast Hitch. The total willpower of all committed characters is 18, against 5 in the staging area. I’m feeling pretty confident here.

Staging:

For the first encounter card, I draw Reckless in His Rage, which boosts Smaug’s attack and threat by 2, while lowering his defense by 2. This raises the threat in the staging area to 7, but isn’t too bad of an effect as I don’t have to worry about his boosted attack or the fact that allies can’t be declared as defenders since he’s sitting in the staging area. The decision to put him in the staging area is looking great at the moment, as otherwise he would be attacking Deck Two for 10 this turn.

For the second encounter card, I draw the West Pier (2 threat, 2 quest points, 2 victory points), which grants “burn 1” to all locations in play. This raises the total threat in the staging area to 9. Altogether, staging has been pretty kind to me this turn.

Resolution:

My 18 willpower against the 9 in the staging area results in 9 progress. 6 of these progress tokens clears out the Great House, earning me 6 victory points. 3 progress tokens explores Fisherman’s Dock, adding another 2 victory points to my total. Finally, 1 progress goes on quest stage 1B itself.

TRAVEL:

With only one location in play, I’ll travel to the West Pier.

ENCOUNTER:

I will have Deck One optionally engage Smaug the Magnificent, as he would otherwise engage with Deck Two. Frodo could defend either way, but I’ll keep things simple.

COMBAT:

Enemy Attack:

Frodo exhausts to defend against Smaug the Magnificent. The shadow card is Reckless in His Rage, which resolves all burn damage if the attack destroys a character. This doesn’t apply to this situation, and Smaug’s attack of 8 against Frodo’s defense of 3 leads to 5 damage. Frodo takes this on as threat, raising Deck One to 39.

ROUND 3 (15 damage on Lake-town, 0 threat in staging area, 1 progress on 1B, 8 victory points, 0 damage on Smaug)

DECK ONE PREPARATION (First Player) – 39 threat

Resources: Frodo – 1, Glorfindel – 3, Aragorn – 2

Draw: The Galadhrim’s Greeting

New Hand: Secret Paths, A Test of Will, The Riderrmark’s Finest, A Test of Will, The Galadhrim’s Greeting, Lore of Imladris, The Galadhrim’s Greeting

Planning: I am still looking for Light of Valinor to slow down this rapid threat gain, as I can’t afford to hold back Glorfindel from questing. Unfortunately, it has yet to show up; perhaps Ungoliant herself has stolen into my deck and spirited it away. Fortunately, I do have some threat reduction available via 2 copies of The Galadhrim’s Greeting. I’ll pay 3 Spirit resources to play one copy right now, lowering Deck Two’s threat by 6. While Deck One always has the option of a massive threat reset thanks to Aragorn, Deck Two has no such luxury, so lowering its threat first takes priority. Deck Two’s threat is now 32.

Resources After Planning: Frodo – 1, Glorfindel – 0, Aragorn – 2

DECK TWO PREPARATION – 38 threat (lowered to 32 by The Galadhrim’s Greeting)

Resources: Dain – 1, Gimli – 1, Balin 5 (Steward)

Damage: 3 damage on Gimli

Draw: Dwarven Axe

New Hand: Khazad! Khazad!, Durin’s Song, Dunedain Watcher, Sword that was Broken, Hardy Leadership, Dwarven Axe

Planning: My concern right now is to make progress as quickly as possible, so I will pay 3 Leadership resources for Sword that was Broken, attaching it to Deck One’s Aragorn. With both decks now having a global willpower boost (Dain on one side, Aragorn on the other), questing should be a breeze. I will also pay 2 Leadership resources for Hardy Leadership, attaching it to Dain. The main purpose of this is to give Gimli a buffer in case he gets hit by direct damage effects, allowing him to hold onto damage for attack-boosting purposes without being in danger of death. Of course, this also makes my Dwarven allies sturdier as well. Balin still has a resource available for resource-cancellation.

Resources After Planning: Dain – 0, Gimli – 1, Balin – 1

QUESTING:

Smaug Deck:

With no threat in the staging area and plenty of questing power available, I’ll put Smaug into the staging area once again. Why not engage with him, allowing for even more quest progress to be made? Surely Frodo could handle his attack? While it is true that I could probably soak up Smaug’s attack, I want to only take him on when necessary, as this will allow me to minimize the number of shadow effects I have to face over the course of the quest. Balin may provide some protection, but since a new shadow effect has to be drawn, it is not a sure thing. Of course, Smaug can still engage on his own, which is likely given the high threat of both decks, but if I draw Smaug the Mighty, then I can avoid this situation. However, I draw Smaug the Terrible, who resolves all burn damage in play, which currently just consists of the “burn 1” on the West Pier. Lake-town now has 16 damage on it, while Smaug the Terrible is contributing 6 threat.

Committing Characters:

Deck One will commit Aragorn (3 willpower), Frodo (3 willpower), Glorfindel (4 willpower), and Arwen (3 willpower) for a total of 13. Remember that the Sword that was Broken is boosting all characters’ willpower by 1. Glorfindel boosts Deck One’s threat to 40 (I could have held him back to hold my threat below 40 if Smaug the Mighty was on the table, but that’s a moot point now), while Arwen raises Frodo’s defense to 3, who immediately readies using Fast Hitch. Deck Two will commit Gimli (3 willpower), Balin (3 willpower), and the Longbeard Elder (3 willpower), for a total of 9. The total willpower committed is a fantastic 22 against 6 in the staging area.

Staging:

The first encounter card drawn this turn is Town-Baiting. This treachery forces Smaug to make an attack against Lake-town, with the last player (Deck Two) having the option of defending against it. This effect cannot be cancelled, but I probably would not do so anyway, as damage on Lake-town is not a big concern at this early stage of the game. However, I will have to deal with a shadow card. I choose to let the attack go unblocked, and there is no shadow effect, and Lake-Town takes 7 damage from Smaug the Terrible. Lake-town now has 23 damage on it.

The second encounter card is Close to the Flame. This is a nasty treachery that deals 1 damage to every single character in play. The Defender of Rammas will be immediately destroyed, although all other characters will survive.  Although it would be possible to use A Test of Will to cancel this effect, I’m going to follow one of my general strategies for this quest, which is to only cancel effects that are truly crippling. Losing the Defender is not that big a deal, so I’ll let it slide.

Resolution:

My combined willpower of 22 against 6 in the staging area leads to 16 progress. 2 tokens go to clearing out the West Pier, thus earning 2 victory points. The remaining 14 are placed on stage 1B, which means that I now get to progress to stage 2B. During this stage, I will be able to remove damage from Lake-town instead of putting progress tokens on the quest.

TRAVEL:

None

ENCOUNTER:

Smaug the Terrible will come down to engage with Deck One.

COMBAT:

Frodo, the punching bag, is up to bat once more, and he exhausts to defend against the attack. The shadow card is Merchant’s District, which deals 1 damage to Lake-town, bringing the total up to 24. Smaug’s 7 attack against Frodo’s 3 defense results in 4 damage, cancelled in exchanged for 4 more threat for Deck One, for a new total of 44.

REFRESH:

Deck One’s threat is now at a perilous level. Therefore, during the action window at the very end of the round, I use Aragorn’s ability to reset this back down to 24. Groovy.

ROUND 4 (24 damage on Lake-town, 0 threat in staging area, 0 progress on 2B, 10 victory points, 0 damage on Smaug)

DECK TWO PREPARATION (First Player) – 33 threat

Resources: Dain – 1, Gimli – 2, Balin 4 (Steward)

Damage: 1 damage on all characters, 4 damage on Gimli

Draw: Sneak Attack

New Hand: Khazad! Khazad!, Durin’s Song, Dunedain Watcher, Dwarven Axe, Sneak Attack

Planning: My only two real options at this point are Dunedain Watcher and Dwarven Axe, and I’ll gladly put both into play. With 3 Leadership resources, I put Dunedain Watcher on the table, and this will allow for outright shadow cancellation and an emergency back-up if Balin’s ability happens to draw a second shadow that is as bad or worse than the first one. I absolutely love this underrated card, as she can participate in questing and still be available to cancel a shadow, as the only requirement is for her to be discarded, so she doesn’t need to be ready. Paying 2 Tactics resources for the Dwarven Axe and attaching it to Gimli means that he will be now swinging for 8 damage (base 2 + 1 from Dain + 2 from the Axe + 3 from damage), which will be invaluable when it comes time to attack Smaug.

Resources After Planning: Dain – 0, Gimli – 0, Balin – 2

DECK ONE PREPARATION – 24 threat

Resources: Frodo – 2, Glorfindel – 1, Aragorn – 3

Damage: 1 damage on all characters

Draw: Northern Tracker

New Hand: Secret Paths, A Test of Will, The Riderrmark’s Finest, A Test of Will, The Galadhrim’s Greeting, Lore of Imladris, Northern Tracker

Planning: Northern Tracker was a good draw, as he can be a key ally in this quest when locations start to pile up in the staging area. I don’t have enough resources for him now, but that could be a possible future play. The Riddermark’s Finest is available, but there are no locations in play at the moment. Sometimes the best course of action is to stand pat, saving up your resources so you can respond to new challenges with as much flexibility as possible. That’s what I will do here.

Resources After Planning: Frodo – 2, Glorfindel – 1, Aragorn – 3

QUESTING:

Smaug Deck:

Once again I will put Smaug in the staging area. Questing has been a breeze the past couple of rounds, even with Smaug contributing threat, and this time around I am looking to not only make progress but remove damage from Lake-town as well. It’s not worth taking on Smaug and a shadow card in these circumstances, if it can be at all avoided (drawing Smaug the Mighty with his 40 engagement or Smaug the Terrible with 35 engagement). I draw Smaug the Magnificent, who contributes 5 threat. His effect misses, as he has no damage on him at the moment. Unfortunately, he also has the lowest engagement cost, which will be bringing him down once again, even with the threat reset.

Committing Characters:

Deck One will commit Frodo (3 willpower), Aragorn (3 willpower), Glorfindel (4 willpower) and Arwen (3 willpower) for a total of 13. Deck One’s threat increases to 25. Arwen raises Frodo’s defense to 3, and he readies using Fast Hitch. Deck Two commits its usual trio of Gimli (3 willpower), Balin (3 willpower), and the Longbeard Elder (3 willpower), also for a total of 9. Together, the two decks are committing 22 willpower against 5 in the staging area.

Staging:

The first encounter deck draw this turn is the East Pier (2 threat, 2 quest points, 2 victory points). This is probably the location that I fear the most in this scenario, as it prevents “when revealed” effects from being cancelled while it is in play. The East Pier leaves me completely defenseless against treacheries, and my two A Test of Wills would just have to sit there as spectators if an effect emerges to roast my characters alive. I need to get rid of this thing as soon as possible.

Holding my breath, I draw the second encounter card……..which is another location! I’m very thankful that no “when revealed” effects have come up. This one is the South Pier (1 threat, 4 quest points, 4 victory points), and it forces players to travel to it before other locations. This throws a wrench in my plans, as I wanted to travel to and get rid of the East Pier next turn, so that I could be free to cancel “when revealed” effects again. Fortunately, I have a trick up my sleeve…

Resolution:

My total willpower of 22 against the 8 threat in the staging area yields 14 progress. I will put 9 of those tokens onto stage 2B, bringing me within 1 of advancement. However, I don’t want to move to the next stage yet, as I want to first put some damage on Smaug, earn some more victory points, and remove damage from Lake-town. To that end, I will use the remaining 5 progress tokens to lower the damage on Lake-town from 24 to 19.

TRAVEL:

I have no choice, and must travel to the South Pier.

ENCOUNTER:

Deck One will optionally engage Smaug the Magnificent.

COMBAT:

You know the drill, Frodo exhausts to defend against Smaug. The shadow card is Close to the Flame, which deals 1 damage to each character in play. I will pay 1 resource from Balin to cancel this damage, which would kill Arwen outright, and there is no shadow effect on the re-draw. Smaug’s 8 attack against Frodo’s 3 defense translates to 5 damage (a.k.a. threat), raising Deck One to 30. It is a good thing that I reset this deck’s threat.

ROUND 5 (19 damage on Lake-town, 2 threat in staging area, 9 progress on 2B, 10 victory points, 0 damage on Smaug)

DECK ONE PREPARATION (First Player) – 31 threat

Resources: Frodo – 3, Glorfindel – 2, Aragorn – 4

Damage: 1 damage on all characters

Draw: Arwen Undomiel

New Hand: Secret Paths, A Test of Will, The Riderrmark’s Finest, A Test of Will, The Galadhrim’s Greeting, Lore of Imladris, Northern Tracker, Arwen Undomiel

Planning: Here’s where the card up my sleeve comes into my play. I’m going to get rid of the East Pier right now before another staging occurs, making my copies of A Test of Will mean something again. To this end, I’ll pay 2 Spirit resources for The Riddermark’s Finest. I’ll exhaust and discard it to place 2 progress tokens on the East Pier, immediately exploring it and earning 2 victory points (bringing me to a total of 12 victory points). This also clears out the staging area once more.

Resources After Planning: Frodo – 1, Glorfindel – 2, Aragorn – 4

DECK TWO PREPARATION – 34 threat

Resources: Dain – 1, Gimli – 1, Balin 4 (Steward)

Damage: 4 damage on Gimli, 1 damage on all other characters except Dunedain Watcher

Draw: Sword that was Broken

New Hand: Khazad! Khazad!, Durin’s Song, Sneak Attack, Sword that was Broken

Planning: The draw does me no favors here, as I already have played Sword that was Broken. I’m left with events that have no use at the moment. So Deck Two will forego planning this turn.

Resources After Planning: Dain – 1, Gimli – 1, Balin – 4

QUESTING:

Smaug Deck:

I’m getting close to the point of making my attacks on Smaug, but I need to get rid of most of the damage that is currently on Lake-town. Second, and earn a few more victory points. I am within 1 or 2 progress tokens of advancing to the next stage, which is where I want to be. This way I can attack Smaug on one turn, and then progress to the third stage and finish him on the next. This will mean I will only have to endure one staging step with an extra encounter card. That all being said, I will put Smaug into the staging area once again, as I continue to try to avoid shadow cards as much as possible, although fortune has not favored me in that department, as he continues to engage with me. I draw Smaug the Terrible, who contributes 6 threat and resolves the “burn 1” that is on the one location in play. Lake-town now has 20 damage on it. More crucially, his engagement cost of 35 means that I can finally avoid him this turn.

Committing Characters:

Deck One will commit Arwen (3 willpower), Frodo (3 willpower), Aragorn (3 willpower), and Glorfindel (4 willpower) for a total of 13. Frodo’s defense is raised to 3, and he will immediately ready using Fast Hitch, while Glorfindel will raise this deck’s threat to 32. Deck Two will commit Balin (3 willpower), Gimli (3 willpower), Dunedain Watcher (1 willpower) and the Longbeard Elder(3 willpower) for a total of 10. This is a combined total willpower of 23.

Staging:

The first encounter card drawn this turn is The Old Thrush! This is a fortuitous draw, as it will allow Deck One, which is lacking in attack power, to more easily penetrate Smaug’s hide. Of course, The Old Thrush is guarded, in this case by Catching Fire. This treachery shuffles one pier location from the victory display back into the encounter deck, depriving me of crucial victory points. However, I want to hold onto my copies of A Test of Will. I choose to shuffle the West Pier back into the encounter deck, as it would be the one I would least mind seeing re-emerge. I lose 2 victory points as a result, taking me back down to 10. The second encounter card is Merchant’s District (4 threat, 3 quest points, 3 victory points). This location provides the option during the travel phase of dealing 2 damage to it per player to immediately add it to the victory display.

Resolution:

My total willpower of 23 easily exceeds the 10 threat in the staging area. I now have 13 progress tokens to spread around. 4 of those go to clearing out the South Pier, earning 4 victory points along the way. I then will use the remaining 9 tokens to bring the damage on Lake-town down to 11 from 20.

TRAVEL:

I will travel to the Merchant’s District, as I should be able to clear it out easily next turn without resorting to adding more damage to Lake-town at this crucial late-game stage.

COMBAT:

None (Sit tight folks, the real bloodshed will begin soon)

ROUND 6 (11 damage on Lake-town, 0 threat in staging area, 9 progress on 2B, 14 victory points, 0 damage on Smaug)

DECK TWO PREPARATION (First Player) – 35 threat

Resources: Dain – 2, Gimli – 2, Balin 7 (Steward)

Damage: 4 damage on Gimli, 1 damage on all other characters except Dunedain Watcher

Draw: Beorn

New Hand: Khazad! Khazad!, Durin’s Song, Sneak Attack, Sword that was Broken, Beorn

Planning: Beorn is here! I’m absolutely ecstatic to see this card emerge just in tine for me to finally take on Smaug. Sneak Attack will allow me to drop Beorn into play for only 1 resource, and he will be contributing an amazing 8 attack power to the battle against the dragon. This will be absolutely essential to my strategy. Without him, I probably would have to either take some more time to build up enough attack power to take out Smaug quickly or fight him over the course of 3 or 4 rounds instead of 2. For the planning phase, Deck Two will stay put.

Resources After Planning: Dain – 2, Gimli – 2, Balin – 7

DECK ONE PREPARATION – 33 threat

Resources: Frodo – 2, Glorfindel – 3, Aragorn – 5

Damage: 1 damage on all characters

Draw: Hasty Stroke

New Hand: Secret Paths, A Test of Will, A Test of Will, The Galadhrim’s Greeting, Lore of Imladris, Arwen Undomiel, Northern Tracker, Hasty Stroke

Planning: I’ve been blasting through locations so far, and starting every turn with nothing or almost nothing in the staging area. This is ideal for this scenario, but there is no guarantee that this success will continue. I also want Deck One to have some added attack power, so that it can place some damage on Smaug as well, allowing for a one-two punch knockout. Thus, I will pay 4 Spirit resources for a Northern Tracker. His 2 attack could be key, and he’ll help put progress on locations as well. I still will have 1 Spirit resource left for A Test of Will.

Resources After Planning: Frodo – 1, Glorfindel – 0, Aragorn – 5

QUESTING:

Smaug Deck:

The time has come, patient readers! Smaug so far has been dodged by Frodo’s disappearing act; now the heroes must face their fear, sharpen their blades, and dare to face down a dragon. This turn I will have Smaug engage the first player, and it works out perfectly that Deck Two, the combat specialist, is in that role. If Deck One was the first player this round, I would probably delay engagement. I’m hoping that I will draw Smaug the Terrible, which has the lowest defense of all the incarnations. However, I draw Smaug the Magnificent, which has the highest attack value and second highest defense. Still, the battle is set and the die has been cast. On the plus side, his 5 threat will be out of the staging area, which will allow for more damage to be cleared off of Lake-town.

Committing Characters:

Deck Two will not be committing characters to the quest, as I will be throwing everything I have at Smaug. Deck One will commit Arwen (3 willpower), Frodo (3 willpower), Aragorn (3 willpower), Glorfindel (4 willpower), and the Northern Tracker (2 willpower) for a total of 15. Glorfindel raises Deck One’s threat to 34. However, I should be able to have Frodo soak up Smaug’s attack (using sentinel from Arwen), and still not hit 50. Speaking of Frodo, our heroic hobbit will once again have a defense of 3 from Arwen and immediately ready using Fast Hitch. For this quest phase, I will only have a total willpower of 15, but there’s 0 threat in the staging area.

Staging:

The first encounter card this turn is Esgaroth Wharf (3 threat, 4 quest points, 4 victory points). This location makes all locations immune to player card effects, which will neutralize the Northern Tracker. The second encounter card is a second copy of Esgaroth Wharf, bringing the total threat in the staging area to 6. That’s not too bad, all things considered.

Resolution:

The 15 willpower I have mustered compare favorably against the 6 threat in the staging area. 3 progress tokens clear out the Merchant’s District, bringing my victory point total up to 17. I will use 5 to remove more damage from Lake-town, bringing the total down to 6. Now I’m faced with a crucial decision. I can either:

A) Use the final progress token to remove another point of damage from Lake-town. The purpose of this would be to delay advancing to quest stage 3B, so that during the next quest phase, I still would not have to reveal an extra encounter card during staging. The drawback of this choice is that I would still be on stage 2B, which stipulates that Smaug cannot have more than 12 damage tokens on him. This means that Deck Two would not be able to reap the full rewards of unleashing its full wrath on Smaug, and Deck One probably won’t have enough strength to make up the difference when it does the fighting next turn.

B) Use the final progress token to advance to stage 3B. This means I will have to face an extra encounter card during staging next turn, but I will be able to put unlimited damage on Smaug this turn.

I decide to go for broke and aim for the quick destruction of Smaug. With Beorn in my hand, I smell blood in the water, and 2 copies of A Test of Will should provide some insurance against the 3 encounter cards I will face next turn. So I place the final progress token on 2B, and advance to the next stage.

TRAVEL:

I travel to one of the copies of the Esgaroth Wharf.

COMBAT:

It’s time for Deck Two to show its quality. I’m practically salivating at the thought of the epic beat-down I’m about to unleash.

Enemy Attack:

Smaug the Magnificent has a ferocious attack of 8. Fortunately, Frodo has sentinel from Arwen, and can be declared as a defender, which allows all of my Deck Two characters to remain ready and available for combat (while Dain can stay ready to provide his crucial attack boost to Dwarves). I exhaust Frodo, and prepare to reveal the shadow. I do have Hasty Stroke and Balin as options to cancel any nastiness, with the Dunedain Watcher serving as the last resort. The shadow effect states that if the attack destroys a character, then Smaug will engage the next player and attack them. Fortunately, this has no effect here. Smaug’s attack of 8 against Frodo’s defense of 3 results in 5 damage. Frodo cancels this damage, and Deck One’s threat skyrockets to 38.

Player Attack:

Smaug the Magnificent boasts 8 defense and 20 hit points, so it’s going to take quite a few savage swipes to bring him down. I use Sneak Attack to bring Beorn into the mix. He laughs in the face of the mighty dragon and throws down 8 attack. Balin (2 attack), the Longbeard Elder (2 attack), and the Dunedain Watcher (1 attack) rush fearlessly into the battle, adding a total of 5 to the attack. Finally Gimli (7 attack) yells “Khazad! Khazad!” (+3 attack) and hums Durin’s Song (+2 attack), as he bring his Dwarven Axe (+2 attack) crashing down in a merciless blow. The total attack power of 27 minus Smaug’s defense of 8 means that he suffers 19 damage! He lets out a loud bellow as he reels back, bleeding profusely, but he is still clinging onto life with a mere 1 hit point remaining. I double-check my hand and the cards on the table to make sure there is no way to inflict that final damage and take him out this turn, but alas, it looks like we are all set for a dramatic finale next turn, that is if Deck One can muster enough attack power to finish the job.

REFRESH

Frodo and Fast Hitch are now readied, but before the round ends, I will exhaust him to claim The Old Thrush. I believe that this objective will be essential in lowering Smaug’s defense to the point that combat-lite Deck One can inflict that final point of damage. I will then exhaust Fast Hitch to immediately ready Frodo. He will only be able to take one action next turn, but that should be enough.

ROUND 7 (6 damage on Lake-town, 3 threat in staging area, 0 progress on 3B, 17 victory points, 19 damage on Smaug)

DECK ONE PREPARATION (First Player) – 38 threat

Resources: Frodo – 2, Glorfindel – 1, Aragorn – 6

Damage: 1 damage on all characters except the Northern Tracker

Draw: The Riddermark’s Finest

New Hand: Secret Paths, A Test of Will, The Galadhrim’s Greeting, Lore of Imladris, Arwen Undomiel, Hasty Stroke, The Riddermark’s Finest

Planning: This should be the final round of the game, as hopefully Deck One will put down Smaug once and for all. Aragorn is also sitting on a heap of resources. I will thus make a bit of an unorthodox choice and pay 2 Lore resources for Lore of Imladris, using it to heal all damage from Gimli. The logic here is that the game will be over, and Gimli won’t be needed to attack again, and removing damage from him will improve my overall score.

Resources After Planning: Frodo – 2, Glorfindel – 1, Aragorn – 4

DECK TWO PREPARATION – 36 threat

Resources: Dain – 1, Gimli – 3, Balin 8 (Steward)

Damage: 4 damage on Gimli, 1 damage on all other characters except the Dunedain Watcher

Draw: Defender of Rammas

New Hand: Sword that was Broken, Beorn, Defender of Rammas

Planning: There isn’t really much meaningful for Deck Two to do this turn, other than quest enough to prevent a threat increase. There’s nothing here that can really help with that, and I don’t have enough resources to put Beorn into play, so I’ll settle for paying 2 Tactics resources to put Defender of Rammas into play.

Resources After Planning: Dain – 1, Gimli – 1, Balin – 8

QUESTING:

Smaug Deck:

There’s no real hard thinking required here; Deck One must engage Smaug and kill him to win the game. I draw Smaug the Terrible, and there are no locations in play, so no burn damage is triggered. His relatively low defense of 7 is ideal for bringing him down once and for all. No Smaug in the staging area means that there is 0 threat there to worry about.

Committing Characters:

Deck One needs to focus all its efforts on combat, so only Arwen, who has no attack power, will commit to questing (3 willpower). Deck Two will commit Gimli (3 willpower), Balin (3 willpower), and the Longbeard Elder (3 willpower) for a total of 9. Together, the two decks are contributing 12 willpower. All I need to do this turn is match the threat in the staging area and prevent a threat increase.

Staging:

There will be three encounter cards drawn this turn, and if I can survive this onslaught with my characters intact, and with Lake-town having less damage than my victory points, than victory should be assured.

The first encounter card drawn is yet another Esgaroth Wharf (3 threat, 4 quest points, 4 victory points). The second encounter card is Town-Baiting, brings Smaug’s 7 attack down on Lake-town. I will not block this attack, as there is enough of a buffer between my victory points and the damage on Lake-town that I should be safe. The shadow effect resolves all burn damage in play, which is 1 each from the 3 copies of Esgaroth Wharf in play. Altogether, Lake-town’s damage will increase from 6 to 16, only 1 beneath my victory points. Hopefully, the final encounter card will not do any more burning.

If I can survive the third draw, then victory should be all but assured. The final encounter card is…Catching Fire. This would take another pier from the victory display, depriving me of victory points, and actually bringing the total below the level of damage on Lake-town. This is unacceptable, and I will pay 1 Spirit resource to cancel this effect with one of my copies of A Test of Will. It certainly pays to save your cancellation!

Resolution:

My 12 willpower against the 6 threat in the staging area leads to 6 progress. This clears out the Esgaroth Wharf, adding a handy 4 victory points to my total.

TRAVEL:

I will again travel to one of the ever-popular Esgaroth Wharfs.

COMBAT:

Here comes the moment of truth. Brace yourselves.

Enemy Attack:

I might have had to take an undefended attack here and a sizable threat increase, since Frodo only has one action this turn and must choose between attacking and defending. If I would have drawn one of the copies of Smaug that have a higher defense, then I would have had to use Frodo in attack, so that I could activate The Old Thrush. However, Smaug’s defense is low enough that this won’t be necessary. I will exhaust Frodo and declare him as the defender instead. The shadow effect is revealed, which adds the Fisherman’s Dock to the staging area. This is harmless, and I will let the effect trigger. Frodo’s 3 defense against Smaug’s 7 attack leads to 4 damage, which is soaked up as threat. Deck One’s threat increases to 42.

Player Attack:

Aragorn (3 attack), Glorfindel (3 attack), and the Northern Tracker (2 attack) seize the moment and charge in to land the killing blow on Smaug. Their 8 attack is exactly 1 more than Smaug’s 7 defense, which is just enough to kill the dragon and end the quest. Smaug is dead!

SCENARIO CONCLUSION:

Comparing the 21 victory points I have earned against the 16 damage on Lake-town, it is clear that I have satisfied the victory conditions, and successfully defeated this quest. My final score for the scenario is 143.

To be h0nest, I feel that I benefited quite a bit from a fortunate set of opening hands, and encounter draws that were on the kinder side. However, these decks as a whole have a fairly high success rate against what is definitely a difficult quest, and the most typical outcome in my experience is a victory in round 10 or 11. What I believe allows for this consistent success is a set of fail-safes and multiple options for dealing with the biggest challenges of this quest: defense, treachery/shadow cancellation, attack power, and questing strength. The idea is that if one option does not emerge quickly enough, others can take their place. These decks do not necessarily achieve the best scores against this scenario, but I tend to prioritize a deliberate pace and consistency.

With that, the fight against Smaug has ended. Readers, I hope that you find this strategy guide useful, and good luck with your epic battles against Smaug! If you would like to request a strategy guide for a specific quest, use the Contact TftC link above or leave a comment below.

Advertisements
25 Comments
  1. Steve permalink

    ‘ If I chose to mulligan here, I should be banned from ever playing this game again.’ I lol’ed at that one haha. Awesome, awesome article. I might try and buy this pack now

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! It’s definitely worth the money, in my opinion. You don’t get player cards, but the quest is great fun.

  2. Thaddeus permalink

    As someone who hasn’t ever played that quest, I especially enjoyed the play report.

    While this quest does look very difficult, it looks less frustrating than the Lonely Mountain quest from On the Doorstep where Smaug can end up making (seemingly) infinite attacks.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I like the Lonely Mountain quest, but I would say that Battle of Lake-town is better. While there is always a measure of luck to these quests, it has less of an impact here than it does in the Lonely Mountain quest, because, as you said, whether or not Smaug ends up making infinite attacks pretty much determines success. Here, I feel that you are rewarded more for strategic thinking and good planning.

  3. Steve permalink

    I may be mistaken, but doesn’t stage 3 have a refresh action of going back to stage 2? So you can only be on it for one turn, and it looked like you stayed on it for longer.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      You are correct, stage 3 has that refresh action clause. However, it is an “action”, and not a “forced” effect, so it is optional. You do not have to reset back to stage 2 during the refresh phase, but players do have that option if they see that the damage on Lake-town is exceeding their victory points, and they need to go back to 2B to take some of that damage off via questing before they kill Smaug.

      • Steve permalink

        Ahhhh. I tried this once on OCTGN way back, and got there and was just like, well nope, never gonna beat that. Got it now, thanks!

  4. Thaddeus permalink

    One of the things that actually really bugs me about Lonely Mountain and Battle for Laketown is that Bard’s ability is useless. It seems like such a thematic ability for him, on account of him having found the chink in Smaug’s otherwise impenetrable hide, but he doesn’t actually get to do that against Smaug. Bah!
    I get that they didn’t want to make Smaug easy to defeat and that -2 defense, even when Smaug’s engaged with the other player, is probably too buff, but I’d have really liked it if Bard was somehow especially useful against the dragon.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I agree, it is strange that the actual Smaug slayer cannot use his ability against Smaug! I wonder if it was an issue of the designers feeling it would be too strong, or if they just needed to throw “immune to player card effects” on Smaug, and Bard’s ability just happens to fall under that umbrella. My hunch is that it might be the latter, but of course they could have thrown in a “Bard can use his ability against Smaug” somewhere in a FAQ or something. At least the Black Arrow can be used.

  5. Steve permalink

    Who is the artist on the main image? Blown away

  6. Payton's mom permalink

    Thanks so much for posting your strategy! Makes a ton of sense. We were close but we need toake some changes to our decks. Wish us luck!
    Christy

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Good luck! It feels good when you finally vanquish Smaug.

  7. hilariouslijah permalink

    Is it possible to win this scenario with only 1 set of heroes? I would like that.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yes, it is certainly possible. What makes it challenging is that you have to create a deck that can do a bunch of things at once: quest well, have enough attack to kill Smaug, and be able to cancel treacheries and shadows. My gut would be to run a Tactics/Spirit combo, something like Frodo/Glorfindel/Gimli. Another possibility would be to run an extremely potent Dwarf deck, such as Dain/Thorin/Ori, and you’d have to rely on pumping Dain up to be a strong defender. It might be worth splashing Tactics into such a deck, so you could have access to Erebor Battle Master and some of the attack-boosting cards you would need to damage Smaug (Narvi’s Belt could be helpful for this purpose). These are just a few thoughts off the top of my head; I hope they’re helpful!

      • hilariouslijah permalink

        Thanks for the help, could certainly be useful.

  8. Emilius permalink

    Fantastic report! 🙂
    Just a question:
    But Great House’s burn damage doesn’t take effect during its when revealed effect, right?
    Why do you have triggered its “when revealed” effect with 4 burn damage and not one, the only other location in play?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! Hmm, that is a good point, I interpreted the designer’s idea to be that the Great House’s burn damage would be part of the when revealed, but it has been ruled elsewhere that locations and enemies are in a kind of limbo state until such effects take place. This one probably needs an official ruling.

  9. Emilius permalink

    Another question, I have a doubt:
    In round 1 you travel first in the Great House and then in the Fisherman’s Dock in the same Travel phase.
    But i think you can’t travel towards two location in the same round.
    The Travel cost of this location is valid if there is already an Active location from the previous round; the rulesbook says that “The players can only travel to one location at a time”.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      This is another good question. I interpreted the travel cost as overriding the rule regarding only traveling to one location per turn, but I suspect that you may be correct on this one.

  10. Lee permalink

    Quick question – in round one after Frodo exhausts to defend against Smaug, how do you ready him in time for him to commit to quest?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      It’s been ages since I played this, but it looks like I had Fast Hitch on Frodo, so I would have used Fast Hitch to ready him so that he could commit to the quest.

  11. sweetnesswhachacha permalink

    Great article!.

    I would agree, Laketown is one of the most interesting and thematic quests out there, very cool! I also have a Lore Aragorn, Frodo, and Glorfindel deck I used in conjunction with a sword that was broken Faramir deck! Great minds eh?

    I think it’s really cool that you can build decks specific to a quest, as you did here, and it’s interesting to see your approach to dealing with the challenges of the quest. I like your analytical approach. I often make decks with a plan, but never seem to draw it or keep things alive long enough or draw my test of wills when I need them ect. I take looser synergies.

    I agree I never attack Smaug until the end preferring to heal lake town, bring the quest 2 to 1 or 2 points of completion , the next round have less questers and concentrate on the main attack. Somehow I won my second game of this, my draw was great and the encounter deck draw was optimal. Although subsequent games have been more difficult of course

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Campaign Mode: Shadow of the Past | Tales from the Cards
  2. Surviving The Stone of Erech | Tales from the Cards

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: