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Card Spotlight: Late Adventurer

by on August 6, 2013

The masses have spoken, and Card Spotlight easily captured the top spot in the recent poll of readers’ favorite TftC content! With that in mind, here’s another installment of this series for your reading enjoyment. Stepping up to the plate this time is Late Adventurer, a Spirit event released as part of the Over Hill and Under Hill Saga Expansion. As such, it hasn’t been in the card pool all that long, but I have yet to see it in any player’s deck builds thus far. This of course makes it a prime candidate for the Card Spotlight, as we seek to discover whether Late Adventurer deserves this neglect, or whether it has been unjustly relegated to obscurity. We’ll leave no stone unturned in the process, and when all has been said and done, we’ll know once and for all whether this card is a gem or a coaster.

Late Adventurer is a 0-cost event with the following card text:

Quest Action: Exhaust a character you control that is not committed to the quest to commit that character to the quest.

This event is clearly made to be played in the action window following staging and preceding quest resolution. The idea behind this card is that if you discover after staging that you have not committed enough willpower (or attack/defense power during a battle/siege stage) to the quest, you can exhaust a character you held back to cover the difference and prevent threat gain (and failing the quest). Alternatively, if no enemies emerged during staging, you can commit an extra character to the quest that you were holding back for combat, perhaps providing the extra progress tokens you need to clear a location or a quest stage. Late Adventurer thus gives you the option of being more conservative than usual in how many characters you commit to the quest on a given turn, knowing that you can always throw another character into the mix if you need it. At a cost of 0, this event is certainly affordable and can always be used (barring an encounter card effects that prevents the playing of events). The question is whether it warrants space in your deck over other powerful Spirit events and cards with similar effects.

Certainly, the decision of how many characters you should commit to a quest each turn is one of the most important choices you have to make throughout the course of a game. Any effects that can serve as an insurance policy in case you make a mistake or the encounter deck throws you some nasty surprises are quite useful. Thus, in order to determine whether Late Adventurer is a gem, we must compare its power, cost, and flexibility against its competitors in this department.

Protector of Lorien

The Protector of Lorien is a 1-cost Lore attachment that is placed on a hero and allows you to discard a card from your hand to boost that character’s willpower or defense by 1 until the end of the phase (with this being limited to a total bonus of 3). There are quite a few benefits to this approach to covering questing shortfalls. One is that you do not need to exhaust an additional character to add willpower, which is one of the main drawbacks of Late Adventurer. The latter card allows you to add to your questing power, but it detracts from overall action advantage by exhausting one of your characters. By contrast, the Protector of Lorien simply makes one of your already committed characters better. On the other hand, the Protector of Lorien does have an additional cost other than resources: it requires you to burn cards to fuel its ability. Is it worse to give up a character’s action for a turn or a card? This really depends on how much card draw you have and how many characters you have in play, as well as the composition of your deck and overall strategy, but usually it is better to discard a card, especially if you’re running the card-rich Lore sphere. The other advantage of Protector of Lorien is that it stays in play and is repeatable each turn, with the cost of 1 being quite reasonable. Finally, it is a divisible effect, meaning that you can grab just as much willpower as you need. This is generally not the case with Late Adventurer. If you have multiple characters in play with different amounts of willpower, then Late Adventurer does give you some flexibility in choosing which character to exhaust, but you may not always be so blessed with options.

–> Advantage: Protector of Lorien

Eowyn

Native to the Spirit sphere, Eowyn’s ability also covers some of the same ground as Late Adventurer. Similar to Protector of Lorien, you can boost a hero’s willpower (Eowyn in this case) at the price of discarding cards (with each player in the game having an opportunity to do this once per round). The nice thing about this ability is that since Eowyn will pretty much be committing to the quest every single turn, you can count on this effect to always be available without having to draw any card or pay any resources. The drawback is that taking up a hero slot is definitely a steep price, and you may not always want to run Eowyn in a deck. For these situations, Late Adventurer becomes more appealing. Also, in a 1-player game, you are looking at a maximum bonus of 1 extra willpower, which may not be enough to meet questing shortfalls and other willpower boosting needs.

–> Advantage: Eowyn

Faramir

The Leadership ally, Faramir, is potentially the most powerful of all of the “questing shortfall” effects. At the cost of exhausting Faramir, you can increase the willpower of every single questing character a player controls by 1. Obviously, the power of this effect is dependent on how many characters you have out on the table (and how many you have committed), but it can become quite substantial and possibly game-changing. You can use Faramir’s ability before staging, but it is often preferable to wait until afterwards if you think you may not need the extra willpower or possibly might need Faramir for combat. He thus becomes an important aid to pacing, as well as a means of making up any willpower deficit. The cost of exhausting a character (Faramir in this case) is similar to that of Late Adventurer, but in this case you have a dedicated ally who can repeat the effect each turn at a potentially higher level of power.

–> Advantage: Faramir

* Secret Paths/Radagast’s Cunning

Another option is using cards like Secret Paths and Radagast’s Cunning to cancel the threat of an enemy or location in the staging area just before quest resolution. This can allow you to make up ground during questing by canceling threat as opposed to boosting/adding willpower. Either way works out essentially the same in most cases, though there are subtle differences. Strider’s Path, which can pull a location and its threat out of the staging area can serve a similar function. These Lore events get the edge over Late Adventurer, in my opinion, as they cost 1 resource but don’t require exhausting a character. They also allow you to get maximum value out of the effect, by giving you the option of selecting the location or enemy with the highest threat, usually netting 3 or 4 points towards quest progress. The power of Late Adventurer, by contrast, is limited by the willpower of the characters you have that are ready and available to commit to the quest.

–> Advantage: Secret Paths/Radagast’s Cunning

While this list is not quite exhaustive, the picture doesn’t look good for Late Adventurer, as it clearly does not fare well in comparison to similar effects. [Note there are a few others that I did not mention in detail, because they are more narrow in scope: Astonishing Speed (which boosts all Rohan characters’ willpower, and is more of a “big quest push” type effect than one to cover a shortfall of willpower) and Durin’s Song (which is limited to Dwarves) are just a couple of examples.] It does have one, big advantage over its competitors though that I have not touched on yet: compatibility with battle and siege questing. Faramir, Protector of Lorien, and Eowyn all provide a boost to willpower, which does not help at all if the current quest is a battle or siege (although Protector of Lorien can boost defense during a siege stage). Since Late Adventurer commits a character to the quest rather than boosting a particular stat, it can be flexibly applied. This can come in particularly handy for battle/siege stages, since sacrificing a character with strong attack or defense is often a hard choice to make. Late Adventurer can allow you to hold such a character back, only committing him (or her) to the quest if absolutely necessary. Note that Lore threat-cancellation effects work for battle/siege purposes as well though.

Another use of Late Adventurer, other than covering for unexpected questing shortfalls, is to protect certain characters from treacheries and “when revealed” effects. There are encounter card effects that specifically punish characters that are committed to a quest, often via direct damage. Blocking Wargs, from the Into Ithilien encounter set, is the most notorious example, dealing 1 damage to each character currently committed to the quest. Oftentimes, you may be stuck in a situation where a strong questing character is only 1 point of damage away from death, and while you may not want to risk drawing a damage-dealing treachery, you also can’t afford to hold them back from questing. Late Adventurer provides a neat solution to this dilemma. You can hold the character back from questing, and then use Late Adventurer to commit them to the quest only after staging has passed and it is safe to do so.

Another example of a tricksy little use of Late Adventurer is to counter the potentially nasty effects of Lost Companion. This treachery from the Heirs of Numenor deluxe expansion causes each player to remove 1 character from the quest, with all characters being removed if any player is left with no characters committed. Late Adventurer can allow you to add a character to the quest to mitigate the effects of this card, or at least partially offset a massive threat gain if all characters are removed. Again, though, this is all dependent on having a character with high enough stats left in reserve to make a difference if they are added to the quest. That being said, there are several existing encounter card effects spread throughout the various expansions that harm characters committed to a quest and/or remove characters from the quest, so Late Adventurer can provide some value by dealing with these situations.

With the picture perhaps a bit clearer, it is now time to decide the fate of Late Adventurer. There are certain situations where I think that it definitely is surplus to requirements: when running Eowyn, when using Faramir, when having access to Lore (which has better options in Protector of Lorien and threat-cancelling effects), and when using Rohan or Dwarven decks. This does limit Late Adventurer’s utility quite a bit, but it still can justify a spot in other circumstances. Quests that feature battle and siege stages provide a perfect opportunity for Late Adventurer to shine (although attack and defense boosting effects can replace Late Adventurer just as willpower boosting effects do during traditional questing). Encounter decks that center around removing characters from quests and dealing damage to committed characters also provide a strong argument for Late Adventurer’s inclusion, probably the strongest it will find. The ultimate saving grace of this card is that it is 0-cost. On the other hand, the biggest drawback is that you have to exhaust a character, with sacrificing action advantage perhaps being one of the most significant costs in the game.

Still, that all being said and despite the significant evidence piled against it, I’m going to grant this card the surprising status of gem. Effects that allow you to plan, compensate for, and manipulate your questing power after staging are underrated and can provide a solid basis for eventual victory. I don’t believe that Late Adventurer is among the most powerful of these, but it does provide some unique benefits that can help deal with certain treacheries and scenarios. I won’t be throwing Late Adventurer into most of my decks, but I will surely give it more lengthy consideration and it will now actually have a chance of hitting my table. To me, Late Adventurer is a classic hidden gem in that it is not obviously powerful, and may be useless in certain situations, but it has more value than may be apparent on first glance.

Verdict: Gem

Readers, feel free to argue, agree or disagree with me below! Any thoughts on the surprising verdict?

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15 Comments
  1. Thaddeus permalink

    I was really excited when I first saw this card (all those times I wished I had quested with another character!), but I’ve never ended up using it once.

  2. Glaurung permalink

    100% dead card for now. And probably…..forever

  3. I’ve used the card in some older quests (Mirkwood) and worked pretty well, runned precisely with PoL on Denethor or Eleanor. I feel the card isn’t that good on some newer quests, because there are many strong Enemies that don’t allow players to risk undefended attacks.

    Also, is important to note that the card triggers Aragorn (core), Theodred, Lorien Guide and Northern Tracker abilities. (I think those are all the “is commited to the quest” abilities)

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I like the use to trigger Lorien Guide and Northern Tracker. That would definitely be a good way of maximizing Northern Tracker’s effectiveness especially, allowing him to affect those pesky locations that show up during staging. Generally, I’m always questing with Theodred anyway, but you could use Late Adventurer as a little trick to get around timing issues, where he can only throw his resource to characters that have already been committed to the quest. This way, he could throw it to any hero on the board, regardless of player order. Nice finds, heavykaragh!

  4. Vverian permalink

    Nice observation heavykaragh, this card would make a nice combo with northern tracker to remove locations requiring only 1 progress token after they are revealed.
    Or on Lorien Guide after the travel phase, if the active locaion has a nasty effect.
    Very situational though.

  5. Vverian, the travel phase is after the quest phase, so this card wouldn’t help because it’s a Quest Action.

    I also think that there was something missed in the comparison of Secret Paths and Radagast’s Cunning to Late Adventurer. Late Adventurer works no matter what cards are revealed from the encounter deck, whereas SP/RC only work on specific cards, so if the correct type of card doesn’t show up, they can’t be used (unless you have both cards in your hand, which means you used more card slots in your deck than you would have with just LA).

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      True, that is definitely a good point, and an advantage of Late Adventurer over those Lore events that I missed. I still would take Secret Paths/Radagast’s Cunning over Late Adventurer any day, as I rarely encounter a situation where they have no use for long, and in most cases, they’ll probably have a stronger effect.

  6. Casey permalink

    When I first got this card, I thought it could be very useful, but in practice I don’t think I’ve ever used it during a quest and therefor it hasn’t made any recent appearances in my decks of late.

    On the other hand, one card that I didn’t care for in the slightest at first was “A Very Good Tale.” I didn’t like the risk-taking nature of it; however, after building a Gondor/Outlands-themed deck comprised heavily of allies, this card has proved to be absolutely amazing and I use all three copies!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Oh, A Very Good Tale is such an amazing card. Every now and then I’ll whiff on it in a spectacular way, but it can be a real game changer.

      • Thaddeus permalink

        It’s one of the cards I was pretty so-so on. I don’t tend to make very ally-centric decks. It is just insanely good with an Outlands deck, though.

  7. Traekos77 permalink

    I’d love to see a card spotlight on ‘Taking Initiative’. I can’t seem to find a use for it (or even a situation where it will have a good chance of activating).

  8. Vladimir permalink

    Just a small nitpick – you have said that ” Faramir, Protector of Lorien, and Eowyn all provide a boost to willpower, which does not help at all if the current quest is a battle or siege.”, but PoL actually increases either willpower or defense, so it is usable in siege quests as well.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Good catch, I’ll go ahead and edit that.

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