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New Player Buying Guide (Updated March 2017)

by on September 13, 2013

lotr box

One of the questions many new players ask when first getting involved with LOTR LCG is which expansions they should buy first. Hopefully, this guide will be useful for those who want to move past the core set but are unsure how to proceed. Initial disclaimer: My best suggestion is to simply buy the Adventure Packs and Deluxe Expansions in the order they were released, as this allows you to best avoid any gaps in your player card pool for deck-building, and to get the most out of the progression of scenarios and theme. However, in some cases new players only have a limited amount of cash and want to maximize their money. So with that in mind, here’s the official Tales From the Cards buying guide, with ratings for player card strength, theme, and scenario fun factor provided in order of release. Deck Support will let you know what types of decks receive cards in each expansion, in case you are interested in Dwarves or Elves specifically, for example.

* If you are looking for Nightmare buying advice, you’ll want to look at the separate Nightmare Buying Guide.

Update: As of July 2013, the buying guide has undergone a huge update. It now includes additional ratings for challenge (a higher rating means more difficulty), playtime length and the degree to which cards in a given expansion are self-contained (this rating gives you an indication of how well player cards stand on their own, a low rating means they are more dependent on other cards in the cycle). I also expanded the ratings from four stars to five stars to give a better sense of the distinction between different packs. Finally, I made some changes to the notable cards section, including separating out heroes, and I also expanded upon most of the summaries. The challenge rating was perhaps the hardest to pin down, as it all depends upon what cards you have available. In general, I tried to give a fair rating based upon the perspective of a newer player to the game. 

CONTENTS

Basic Information
Shadows of Mirkwood
Dwarrowdelf
Against the Shadow
Ring-maker
Angmar Awakened
Dream-chaser
Haradrim
Saga Expansions
Print on Demand
Overall Buying Advice

 

BASIC INFORMATION

– The game is released in cycles. A cycle consists of a deluxe expansion, which is a larger box expansion consisting of 150-170 cards, and six Adventure Packs, which are smaller expansions of about 60 cards. Each deluxe expansion contains 2 heroes and 3 new quests, while each Adventure Pack contains 1 hero and 1 new quest. Note that you must have the deluxe expansion of a cycle to play the Adventure Packs of that cycle. The exception is the first cycle, Shadows of Mirkwood, where the Core Set allows you to play the 6 Adventure Packs of that cycle. However, each Adventure Pack in a cycle is separate from the others and only requires the deluxe expansion to play, not the other Adventure Packs. Both types of expansion include both player cards and encounter cards. The cycles cover events taking place during the 17 years between Bilbo’s birthday party and Frodo setting out from The Shire.

* You need the Core  Set to play the 6 Adventure Packs of Shadows of Mirkwood

* You need the Core Set and Khazad-Dum to play the 6 Adventure Packs of Dwarrowdelf

* You need the Core Set and Heirs of Numenor to play the 6 Adventure Packs of Against the Shadow

* You need the Core Set and Voice of Isengard to play the 6 Adventure Packs of Ring-maker

– The Saga Expansions are separate from the cycles. They cover the actual events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Each Saga Expansion is a larger box expansion, similar to a deluxe expansion, containing 3 new quests, over 100 cards, including both player and encounter cards, and from 1-4 new heroes, as well as a special hero that can only be used for that particular expansion. Each Saga Expansion stands alone, and requires only the Core Set to play, although the story does build between the expansions for each book. In addition, the Lord of the Rings Saga Expansions include a Campaign Mode, where you earn special boon and burden cards that carry over between expansions (this mode is optional). The two Hobbit expansions include special treasure cards that also carry over from the first box to the second box.

– The Print on Demand scenarios are special quests that are released once a year during the large gaming convention, Gen Con, in August. Generally, they are released for the general public about a month or two after Gen Con. These quests only contain encounter cards, and don’t have any player cards.

SHADOWS OF MIRKWOOD CYCLE

Note: You need just the Core Set to play the Adventure Packs in this cycle.

Hunt For Gollum (Adventure Pack)

Player Cards     ♦♦◊◊◊

Self-Contained     ♦♦♦◊◊

Challenge     ♦♦◊◊◊

Theme     ♦♦◊◊◊

Length     ♦♦♦◊◊

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦◊◊◊

Hero: Bilbo Baggins

Notable Cards: Rivendell Minstrel, Winged Guardian, Dunedain Mark, Song of Kings

Deck Support: Eagles, Rohan, Hobbit, Noldor

Buy it first if… You are a completist and are aiming to buy the packs in order. You love Bilbo Baggins. You want a good, cheap defender (Winged Guardian).

Overall Thoughts: This was the first AP, and so it has nostalgic value. In retrospect, the quest is a bit “meh”. The focus is mainly on clearing out locations, with some flavor added in by having to search for clues about Gollum in the encounter deck. The most memorable part of this scenario is the Hunters from Mordor, who have their threat and attack boosted by each clue objective in play. If you are able to devise a strategy for dealing with the Hunters, and bring a deck or decks that can handle locations, victory should be attainable in most cases. There are cases where you can get stuck in a slog through the encounter deck, looking for the clue objectives (even though the quest cards try to help you in this task by revealing additional cards), and that doesn’t necessarily lead to gripping or entertaining play.

Conflict at the Carrock (Adventure Pack)

Player Cards     ♦♦♦◊◊

Self-Contained     ♦♦♦♦◊

Challenge     ♦♦♦◊◊     (Solo Challenge – ♦♦♦♦◊)

Theme     ♦♦♦♦◊

Length     ♦♦◊◊◊

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦◊

Hero: Frodo Baggins

Notable Cards: Dunedain Warning, Longbeard Map Maker, A Burning Brand, Song of Wisdom

Deck Support: Rohan, Hobbit, Beorning (not a viable deck yet), Dwarf

Buy it first if… You are excited by the challenge of fighting boss-type enemies (trolls). You love Frodo Baggins. You are a fan of Lore.

Overall Thoughts: In terms of player cards, there are a couple of duds in this pack (Nor am I a Stranger, Beorning Beekeper). However, there are also some important player cards here that still play an important part in current decks. The presence of A Burning Brand alone justifies this pack’s rating for player cards. The scenario itself is challenging, especially for new players with a limited card pool and in terms of pure solo play. I remember bashing my head against the trolls many, many times before I beat it, though the difficulty lessens with the addition of more players. Fighting the trolls is fun and thematic, and winning is rarely anti-climactic, but victory can be sometimes be overly dependent on the luck of the draw. In my opinion, the best scenario of the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle.

A Journey to Rhosgobel (Adventure Pack)

Player Cards     ♦♦◊◊◊

Self-Contained     ♦♦♦◊◊

Challenge     ♦♦♦◊◊

Theme     ♦♦♦♦♦

Length     ♦♦♦◊◊

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦◊◊

Hero: Prince Imrahil

Notable Cards: Ancient Mathom, Haldir of Lorien, Radagast, Landroval

Deck Support: Gondor, Eagle, Rohan, Silvan

Buy it first if… You are big fan of unique characters like Haldir, Radagast and Landroval. You think escort quests in games are fun. You are a fan of Spirit.

Overall Thoughts: This is a very unique quest, where the heroes are escorting a wounded eagle and trying to keep it alive. The scenario itself is highly thematic, as you search for Athelas to heal the eagle and have to race against the clock. There is still nothing quite like it. However, I have found that players either really love this quest, because of its theme and uniqueness, or hate it because it requires you to do very specific deck building. The player cards in this pack are a mixed bag. If you really love Gondor heroes, Prince Imrahil is a great pick-up. If you prefer unique characters to generic allies, then popular characters like Haldir and Radagast are here. However, if you are trying to quickly obtain the most powerful cards to build better decks, then you are better off looking elsewhere.

The Hills of Emyn Muil (Adventure Pack)

Player Cards     ♦♦◊◊◊

Self-Contained     ♦♦♦◊◊

Challenge     ♦◊◊◊◊

Theme     ♦♦♦◊◊

Length     ♦♦♦♦◊

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦◊◊◊

Hero: Brand son of Bain

Notable Cards: Descendant of Thorondor, Gildor Inglorion, Gildor’s Counsel, The Riddermark’s Finest

Deck Support: Eagle, Dale (not a viable deck yet), Hobbit, Rohan, Noldor

Buy it first if… You really enjoy exploring locations. You want a great direct damage effect (Descendant of Thorondor). You are a Gildor Inglorion fan.

Overall Thoughts: I’ll be blunt, this quest is widely regarded as the weakest of all the LOTR LCG scenarios, and I would have to concur. It pretty much consists of clearing out locations and that’s about it, so if that’s your kind of thing, then you might enjoy it. It is also notable for including one of the weaker heroes, Brand Son of Bain, who is the butt of endless jokes among the player community (though perhaps not all of it is entirely deserved). The player cards as a whole are also not strong. However, it does include one of my favorite cards in the entire game, Descendant of Thorondor, as well an ally of heroic proportions in the form of Gildor Inglorion. The Lore event, Gildor’s Counsel, is also a very useful card as well. If there is a redeeming quality to this quest, it’s the theme, most of which is conveyed through some absolutely fantastic artwork on the locations.

The Dead Marshes (Adventure Pack)

Player Cards     ♦♦♦◊◊

Self-Contained     ♦♦♦♦◊

Challenge     ♦◊◊◊◊

Theme     ♦♦♦◊◊

Length     ♦♦◊◊◊

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦◊◊◊

Hero: Boromir

Notable Cards: Vassal of the Windlord, Elfhelm, Fast Hitch, Dunedain Watcher

Deck Support: Gondor, Dunedain, Eagle, Rohan, Silvan

Buy it first if… You live, breathe, and eat Boromir. You want a cheap, powerful attacker (Vassal of the Windlord). You love Gollum as a character.

Overall Thoughts: If for nothing else, this pack is worth the purchase for an awesome hero, Boromir, and a couple of other cards that are quite useful (Vassal of the Windlord, for example, is a very strong card if you end up playing the Heirs of Numenor quests, as well as the packs from the Against the Shadow cycle). The quest itself is memorable mainly because you get to interact with Gollum directly, but out of the two Gollum quests, Return to Mirkwood is better. I say this mainly because it is possible to blow through this quest in a couple of rounds and feel a bit underwhelmed. Alternatively, Gollum may escape into the encounter deck and you are forced to wait endlessly for him to re-appear. That being said, the escape mechanic, where you have to keep some heroes back to use their willpower (or attack) to prevent Gollum from escaping adds a nice strategic wrinkle to the normal flow of play. The unique setting of The Dead Marshes is also conveyed well through the encounter cards.

Return to Mirkwood (Adventure Pack)

Player Cards     ♦♦♦♦◊

Self-Contained     ♦◊◊◊◊

Challenge     ♦♦♦◊◊     (Solo Challenge – ♦♦♦♦♦)

Theme     ♦♦♦◊◊

Length     ♦♦♦◊◊

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦◊◊

Hero: Dain Ironfoot

Notable Cards: Eagles of the Misty Mountains, Support of the Eagles, Rumour from the Earth, West Road Traveller

Deck Support: Dwarf, Eagle, Rohan, Silvan

Buy it first if… You want to build Dwarf decks. You are planning on buying the other Shadows of Mirkwood packs soon for Eagles or Rohan. You want to build the power of your card pool quickly.

Overall Thoughts: If you are interested, or think you might be interested in building Dwarf decks, then this pack is a must-buy for Dain Ironfoot alone, who is the cornerstone of Dwarven synergy. That is to say, if you are hoping to quickly get to the point of having a fighting chance against the most difficult scenarios, then Dwarves are one of the best routes of getting there, and buying Return to Mirkwood, along with Khazad-Dum, should probably be your first step. Beyond Dwarves, ff you are a fan of Eagles, then the two Eagles cards in this pack are must haves for that kind of deck as well. The quest itself is quite challenging, and full of nasty treacheries that represent Gollum’s attempts to escape. However, it is not balanced well for solo play with one deck, and usually requires at least two players (or one player using two decks) to beat.

Best Buys of the Cycle:

For the scenario: Conflict at the Carrock

For the player cardsReturn to Mirkwood

DWARROWDELF CYCLE

Note: You need the Khazad-Dum expansion to play the Adventure Packs in this cycle.

Khazad-Dum (Deluxe Expansion)

Player Cards     ♦♦♦◊◊

Self-Contained     ♦♦♦♦◊

Challenge     ♦♦♦◊◊

Theme     ♦♦♦◊◊

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦◊◊

Heroes: Bifur, Dwalin

Notable Cards: Khazad! Khazad!, Zigil Miner, Durin’s Song, Erebor Record Keeper

Deck Support: Dwarf (heavy focus)

Buy it first if… You want to pursue Dwarven synergy. You love the setting of the Mines of Moria. You enjoy battling hordes of orcs.

Overall Thoughts: The Khazad-Dum deluxe expansion is often the logical next purchase after the Core Set because you need this expansion to play the Dwarrowdelf Adventure Packs (which are generally high quality and lots of fun). If you are at all interested in building Dwarf decks, which are some of the most powerful currently in the game, then this is a must-have. There are three quests in this box. The first two are fairly similar to each other, mostly involving fighting hordes of orcs, while the third is my favorite, with the heroes having to find a way out of the Mines of Moria by exploring randomly drawn quest stages. The quests do a great job of making you feel like you are truly being swarmed by tons of disposable, yet annoying, enemies, and the play experience is often fast and furious. If there is a downside to this expansion, it’s that the quests, taken as a whole, can sometimes feel too similar to each other, and not distinctive enough in comparison to some of the other existing scenarios.

The Redhorn Gate (Adventure Pack)

Player Cards     ♦◊◊◊◊

Self-Contained     ♦♦♦◊◊

Challenge     ♦♦◊◊◊

Theme     ♦♦♦♦♦

Length     ♦♦♦◊◊

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦◊

Hero: Elrohir

Notable Cards: Bofur, Keeping Count, Good Meal, Timely Aid

Deck Support: Noldor, Dwarf, Dale, Hobbit, Secrecy

Buy it first if… You want to explore secrecy. You are interested in building a deck around Elrond’s sons. You like a quest with a heavy focus on questing and locations, but with more flair than The Hills of Emyn Muil.

Overall Thoughts: The Redhorn Gate is one of the more memorable quests, as the heroes plow through the snow attempting to make it across the Misty Mountains. This is also the first appearance of Arwen in the game, though only as an objective ally at this point (albeit a useful one). The player cards in this one haven’t held up well, mainly because many of them are part of the secrecy mechanic, which isn’t well-supported so far. However, the quest itself is very thematic and fun to play. You feel like you are struggling to survive the cold, and will feel relieved when you make it over to the other side. Buy this one for the experience, not to make your decks stronger. If you are interested in experimenting with the secrecy mechanic, where if your threat is below 20, you get a discount on certain cards, then you will need this pack, but it is not a deck type to pursue if you are looking to power game.

Road to Rivendell (Adventure Pack)

Player Cards     ♦♦◊◊◊

Self-Contained     ♦♦◊◊◊

Challenge     ♦♦♦◊◊

Theme     ♦♦♦◊◊

Length     ♦♦♦♦◊

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦◊◊

Hero: Elladan

Notable Cards: Lure of Moria, Rivendell Blade, Hail of Stones, Rider of the Mark

Deck Support: Noldor, Dunedain, Rohan, Dwarf, Secrecy

Buy it first if… You want to explore secrecy. You are interested in building a deck around Elrond’s sons. You like the challenge of an escort quest.

Overall Thoughts: Again, you are tasked with escorting Arwen, who is in the form of an objective. This AP is notable for some notoriously nasty treacheries and shadow effects. Overall, the quest gives you a good sense of fighting off myriad dangers on the way to Rivendell, and the ambush mechanic, where enemies can engage with you as soon as they are revealed, helps to put pressure on players. I will say that the difficulty of this scenario can be a bit more random than others, fluctuating each time you play based on the luck (or lack of luck) of the draw. You may find yourself playing a smart and strategic game, only to be undone by a single card, which can be frustrating. The player cards are actually pretty strong, but I’m only giving them a mediocre rating because some of the other cards that come in this cycle are way more powerful in comparison. Note: The hero in this pack (Elladan) has a direct synergy with the hero in the previous pack, Elrohir, so if you buy one, you probably want to buy the other.

The Watcher in the Water (Adventure Pack)

Player Cards     ♦♦♦♦◊

Self-Contained     ♦♦♦◊◊

Challenge     ♦♦♦◊◊

Theme     ♦♦♦♦♦

Length     ♦♦◊◊◊

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦♦

Hero: Aragorn (Lore Version)

Notable Cards: Sword That Was Broken, Arwen Undomiel, Elrond’s Counsel, Legacy of Durin

Deck Support: Dunedain, Noldor, Dwarf, Secrecy

Buy it first if… You are a fan of Aragorn in his Strider incarnation. You enjoy a big boss battle. You are looking to grab some Noldor cards, including Arwen herself.

Overall Thoughts: As you can see from my ratings, I quite enjoyed this particular pack. In fact, I can safely say it is my favorite of all the Adventure Packs released so far (along with Foundations of Stone). That means I am a bit biased, but I’ll try to explain it objectively. This pack contain some great player cards: Lore Aragorn (a.k.a. Loragorn) is one of the best heroes currently in the game, with a powerful threat-reduction ability. If that wasn’t enough, Arwen is one of the best allies currently in the game as well. In addition, cards like Elrond’s Counsel and Legacy of Durin are key supports to include in a Noldor or Dwarf deck. The quest itself feels epic as you spend your time focusing on battling the Watcher in the Water. You have your choice of trying to open the Doors of Durin or killing the Watcher itself in order to win the quest, and it feels like a true boss fight, as you must first clear tentacles off the board before you can face the final foe. The quest has extra replay value because of these different ways to win, as well as the enjoyment of battling a formidable foe. If I had to say anything bad about this pack, it’s that there are probably a couple of better packs to buy first if you are solely concerned with getting your hands on one of the power deck types. However, if you can only buy a few packs for this game right now, I would still put this towards the top of your list.

The Long Dark (Adventure Pack)

Player Cards     ♦♦♦◊◊

Self-Contained     ♦◊◊◊◊

Challenge     ♦◊◊◊◊     (Multiplayer Challenge – ♦♦♦◊◊)

Theme     ♦♦◊◊◊

Length     ♦◊◊◊◊

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦◊◊◊

Hero: Hama

Notable Cards: Erebor Battle Master, Ring Mail, Warden of Healing, Erestor

Deck Support: Rohan, Noldor, Dwarf, Gondor, Secrecy

Buy it first if… You want one of the most powerful attacking allies around (Erebor Battle Master). You are a fan of the world’s most famous doorman (Hama). You didn’t get enough of Moria in Khazad-Dum.

Overall Thoughts: This AP sees the heroes delving into Moria once again, a la Khazad-Dum. For that reason, if you are buying just Khazad-Dum and a couple of AP’s, you might want to get something that is a little bit different. The player cards include one of the strongest Dwarf cards (Erebor Battle Master), and a Gondor card (Warden of Healing) that is one of the best healign cards around. Hama is a fascinating hero that forms the basis of many intriguing and creative deck types. The quest includes a lost mechanic that can sometimes be challenging and fun, especially in multiplayer. However, other times you can simply breeze through the quest in the blink of an eye. Overall, I feel that there was a bit of a lost (no pun intended) opportunity here to really replicate the trials and tribulations of navigating through Moria. In my opinion, this is the weakest of the Dwarrowdelf packs.

Foundations of Stone (Adventure Pack)

Player Cards     ♦♦♦♦♦

Self-Contained     ♦♦♦♦◊

Challenge     ♦♦♦♦◊

Theme     ♦♦♦♦◊

Length     ♦♦♦◊◊

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦♦

Hero: Glorfindel (Spirit Version)

Notable Cards: Imladris Stargazer, Light of Valinor, Asfaloth, Daeron’s Runes

Deck Support: Noldor, Dwarf, Silvan

Buy it first if… You want a powerful, largely self-contained set of player cards. You are a fan of Glorfindel. You were intrigued by Gandalf’s talk about nameless things gnawing at the roots of the mountains.

Overall Thoughts: Another of my favorite Adventure Packs, Foundations of Stone can also be thought of as the “Glorfindel Pack”, as it introduces the Spirit version of one of the most powerful characters in Middle-earth. Appropriately, this is also one of the most, if not the most, powerful and useful heroes in the game at the moment, with an amazingly low threat of 5 and superb stats. You also get his horse (Asfaloth), which is probably the best location management tool around, and an attachment (Light of Valinor) that not only nullifies Spirit Glorfindel’s weakness, but makes him available for both questing and combat each turn. Beyond Glorfindel and his toys, Imladris Stargazer is an ally that facilitates a lot of other combos and play-styles in this game, while Daeron’s Runes is a cheap, powerful form of card draw. If you want to quickly obtain powerful cards, and don’t want to go the Dwarf route, Foundations of Stone should be one of your first purchases. The player cards are almost enough to make one forget about the quest itself, but this is a mistake, as the scenario is unique, challenging, and a blast to play. Players find themselves separated at one point in the depths below Moria, and have to fight their way through some nameless horrors at the bottom of the world to be reunited once more. The only downside to this mechanic is that it loses its flavor with only one player/one deck. Still, this is pretty much a must-have.

Shadow and Flame (Adventure Pack)

Player Cards     ♦♦♦♦♦

Self-Contained     ♦♦♦◊◊

Challenge     ♦♦♦♦◊

Theme     ♦♦♦♦◊

Length     ♦♦♦◊◊

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦◊

Hero: Elrond

Notable Cards: Vilya, We Are Not Idle, Hands Upon the Bow, Hardy Leadership

Deck Support: Noldor, Dwarf, Secrecy

Buy it first if… You have always dreamed of battling Durin’s Bane. You want a powerful alternative to Dwarf decks. You want a way to attack enemies in the staging area (Hands Upon the Bow).

Overall Thoughts: You get Elrond and his ring and battle a Balrog. How much more do you need to know? Elrond and Vilya is possibly THE most powerful pair of cards in the entire game. Much as Foundations of Stone was the “Glorfindel pack”, this is the “Elrond pack”, as you get his ring, and Master of the Forge to help fetch it. These cards can help you quickly build a strong deck without resorting to Dwarves. However, this AP also includes some nice support cards if you are a Dwarf fan. The fight with Durin’s Bane is very thematic, as you suffer the wrath of a powerful being armed with flaming weapons and counter-spells. This is one of the ultimate boss fights currently in the game, and there is nothing more satisfying than piling damage tokens on the Balrog. For my money, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Foundations of Stone and The Watcher in the Water, but I still would count it as one of the handful of packs to buy first.

*UPDATE: The newest FAQ released by FFG (1.4) has changed Feint and Thicket of Spears so that they only prevent an enemy from attacking one player. Previously, these events could be used to completely stop an enemy from attacking at all, and it was possible to recycle them with Hama using his ability, completely neutering Durin’s Bane. However, this is not possible with the newest errata, so I have bumped up the scenario fun factor to reflect this, as I think it will be a more challenging and enjoyable quest now.

Best Buys of the Cycle:

– For the scenario: The Watcher in the Water

– For the player cardsFoundations of Stone

AGAINST THE SHADOW CYCLE

Note: You need the Heirs of Numenor expansion to play the Adventure Packs in this cycle.

Heirs of Numenor (Deluxe Expansion)

Player Cards     ♦♦♦♦◊

Self-Contained     ♦♦♦◊◊

Challenge     ♦♦♦♦♦

Theme     ♦♦♦♦♦

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦◊

Heroes: Beregond, Boromir (Leadership)

Notable Cards: Defender of Rammas, Errand-rider, Master of Lore, Spear of the Citadel, Ranger Spikes, Ithilien Tracker

Deck Support: Gondor, Outlands

Buy it first if… You really enjoy a challenge. You are a Gondor fanboy or fangirl. You enjoy combat more than any other aspect of the game.

Overall Thoughts: First things first, I have to let you know that this is a difficult expansion. Do not just buy a Core Set and Heirs of Numenor or you will be in a world of pain and not be able to fully enjoy what it offers (the advent of Easy Mode may or may not have changed this, I have yet to test it). This box takes players to a new location, Gondor, and begins to provide substantial support for that trait. As of this version of the Buying Guide, Gondor decks are nowhere near the level of Dwarves, but this expansion begins to provide the groundwork. There are some great player cards that have already become mainstays in many players’ decks (some of which are listed under “Notable Cards”). With the conclusion of the Against the Shadow cycle, it has become apparent that this set of cards has done plenty to boost the strength of the card pool all by itself. However, many of these are utility and “glue” cards, and aren’t as flashily powerful as some of the other options out there. The scenarios themselves are incredibly thematic, introducing new types of questing: battles and sieges, which require attack and defense respectively instead of willpower to make progress. The first quest sees the heroes engaged in a brawl through the city of Pelargir, while the second involves a battle in the woods of Ithilien. The third scenario is probably the most balanced, and is an entertaining representation of defending a major stronghold against a siege. I will say that this expansion has divided players, with some feeling that the difficulty is too high, and others enjoying the challenge. Despite some very real moments of frustration, I overall find Heirs of Numenor to be well worth the money and some of the most fun I’ve had playing the game. However, how much you enjoy it will depend on how much you like banging your head into a brick wall until you eventually break through (I’m mostly kidding…mostly). Just remember, this is something that you buy after purchasing some of the other expansions, and once you have a decently-sized card pool.

The Steward’s Fear

Player Cards     ♦♦♦♦♦

Self-Contained     ♦♦♦♦♦

Challenge     ♦♦♦◊◊

Theme     ♦♦♦♦◊

Length     ♦♦♦♦◊

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦◊

Hero: Hirluin the Fair

Notable Cards: Gondorian Shield, Mithrandir’s Advice, Outlands Allies, Ring of Barahir

Deck Support: Outlands (heavy), Gondor, Mono-Lore

Buy it first if… You want a powerful deck type available all in one box (Outlands). You enjoy mechanics that alter that normal flow of play. You like quests with alternate victory conditions and lots of replay value.

Overall Thoughts: The first pack of the Against the Shadow Cycle comes out swinging. It is perhaps most notable for providing the essential elements of an entire synergy/deck type (Outlands) in one place. With the cards in this pack, along with the Heirs of Numenor collection and Core Set, you can build a deck that has a fighting chance against most scenarios, as the Outlands synergy is quite powerful. That being said, if you are not interested in the Outlands trait, then there is not too much here for you, although even the non-Outlands cards, like Gondorian Shield and Mithrandir’s Advice are quality. As for the scenario itself, Denethor asks the heroes to investigate a possible conspiracy within Gondor itself. There are three different villains and plots, and you will end up randomly selecting one of each during every game, so there is a great deal of replay value to be found in this quest, as each plot/villain combination plays slightly differently. There also is an underworld mechanic, which brings enemies and possibly clues into play after certain locations are explored. The scenario overall is highly thematic, and forces you to change your usual strategies about questing and travelling in a way that feels fresh. You should know, however, that this is definitely one of the more lengthy scenarios in terms of time commitment and is probably the most fiddly in terms of set-up.

The Druadan Forest

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Hero: Mirlonde

Notable Cards: Forlong, Trained for War, Against the Shadow, White Tower Watchman

Deck Support: Mono-sphere (heavy), Outlands, Gondor, Silvan, Noldor

Buy it first if… You really enjoy mono-sphere decks. You are looking for a different type of enemy to fight. You enjoy being faced with tough decision about when to spend resources.

Overall Thoughts: This pack has a solid set of player cards that may not immediately reach out and grab your attention, but possess useful abilities that can not only provide solid value now but will probably grow in power as more cards are released. However, if you are in the early stages of building your card pool, then other packs and expansions will probably provide better value. There is a particular focus on supporting mono-sphere play here, with four events that work only in those situations (as well as a hero that can be used outside mono-sphere but loses some impact if you choose to go that route). The trick here, is that you will probably need to have a decent-sized quest pool beyond this pack to make mono-sphere functional. The quest itself has great artwork, and is thoroughly unique in that your foes are not Orcs or Trolls or Harad but Woses. In terms of strategy, The Druadan Forest feels quite rewarding, as the prowl mechanic, which forces you to discard resources, completely alters your usual decision-making about playing cards, while the heaps of archery damage you face requires special consideration. In many ways, The Steward’s Fear, the first pack of the cycle, is the polar opposite of this quest. While that pack was focused on investigation and a measured pace, The Druadan Forest is a breathless and relatively action-packed race through the quest stages. There also is an interesting and thematically satisfying twist to how you battle enemies at the end of the scenario. The main reason why it doesn’t receive full marks for theme and fun factor is that it is perhaps too straightforward in some ways, and as the game progresses, it becomes more and more important to clearly distinguish each scenario. I also would say that the quest is a bit vulnerable to the fickle fortune of the encounter deck, as you can draw cards that give you no chance of winning, or alternatively have a smooth path thanks to a fortunate sequence. Still, a very solid buy for those looking for a challenging quest with unique enemies.

Encounter at Amon Dîn

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Hero: Pippin (Spirit)

Notable Cards: Book of Eldacar, Lord of Morthond, Denethor, Ithilien Pit

Deck Support: Hobbits, Gondor, Ranger, Outlands, and Mono-sphere

Buy it first if… You like the idea of a Ranger and/or trap deck. You want to build a Hobbit deck. You want an easier quest, with a strong thematic flavor.

Overall Thoughts: This pack has a set of player cards that are fun, thematic, and intriguing, but not necessarily the most powerful. The strongest focus is on Hobbits, with a brand new Hobbit hero in the form of Pippin, and a couple of cards that support this trait as well. One of these is the magnificently entertaining Small Target, which allows you to potentially redirect an enemy attack onto another foe. However, it should be said that the Hobbit cards in The Black Riders expansion are much more powerful and integral to building a viable deck of this type. Beyond Hobbits, the most powerful card is probably Lord of Morthond, which is a must-include attachment for Outlands decks, as it provides valuable card draw. Denethor makes an appearance in ally form, but he is ultimately a bit disappointing. Finally, Ranger decks get support in the form of a new ally and trap. Overall, if you’re on a limited budget, the Encounter at Amon Dîn pack is probably not one of the first ones you should buy if you’re interested in quickly acquiring powerful players card. This is one you grab later to fill out your collection, perhaps earlier if you’re a huge Hobbit fan. On the other hand, the quest itself is absolutely perfect for newer players. It is one of the easier quests around (unless you play it with 3 or 4 players, which ups the difficulty a bit), and while this may be a bit disappointing for those looking for a tougher challenge, it can provide a nice change of pace and an opportunity to try out different deck types. The theme is quite strong, as the central mechanic, which revolves around saving villagers from burning farmhouses and rampaging orcs adds a fun twist to normal play. I would have liked to see a tad more interaction with these villagers from the encounter deck, but that is a matter of personal opinion.

Assault on Osgiliath

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Hero: Faramir

Notable Cards: Palantir, Men of the West, Ranger Bow, Knight of Minas Tirith

Deck Support: Ranger, Gondor, Outlands, and Mono-sphere

Buy it first if… You like the idea of a Ranger and/or trap deck. You are a fan of Outlands decks and want to make them even better. You play multiplayer often and like the idea of an epic battle.

Overall Thoughts: I had extremely high hopes for this pack, and while it is enjoyable in many ways, there are a few missteps that prevent it from attaining top marks. In particular, it is my opinion that this quest is much better in multiplayer than it is solo. This is related to the victory condition for this scenario, which requires you to control all Osgiliath locations in play (control is gained through exploration, and can be taken away through various encounter card effects). The problem is that since there is no minimum set as to how many locations you have to take over, randomness plays a huge factor in victory, as well as the length of the scenario. In solo play, it is not uncommon to win in the first one or two turns, especially if you use Tactics Boromir to nuke a location that allows you to place progress on it by exhausting a hero. Leaving aside these unpleasant aspects, there is much to enjoy here. The quest puts a large focus on combat, and includes some of the worst (in the sense of a good challenge) enemies from this cycle. In multiplayer games, it is easy to get quickly swamped with foes, leading to epic battles and potentially lengthy games that can swing back and forth. Regarding the player cards, many buyers will want to pick up this pack simply because it includes one of the most popular characters around, Faramir, as well as some extra Ranger support. Assault on Osgiliath also gives you access to the Palantir, which while not the most straightforwardly powerful card around, is certainly one of the most intriguing. One of the most notable cards here is Men of the West, which takes away the main weakness of Outlands decks, which is the possibility that valuable Outlands allies could end up in the discard pile. Therefore, if you happen to be a fan of Outlands, Rangers, or multiplayer games, this pack is a must-buy.

The Blood of Gondor

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Hero: Caldara

Notable Cards: Anborn, Poisoned Stakes, Tome of Atanatar, Emery, Guthlaf

Deck Support: Ranger, Gondor, Dwarf, Silvan/Noldor, Rohan and Mono-sphere

Buy it first if… You want to further develop a Ranger and/or trap deck. You really want to make a Gondor deck work and want another couple of pieces for it. You want a relatively quick, combat-focused quest.

Overall Thoughts: I try not to let my subjective feelings completely rule my opinion in the context of a semi-objective buying guide. However, I fear that my lukewarm feelings towards The Blood of Gondor might be coloring my judgement. I will try, though, to give an overview of this pack’s strengths and weaknesses so you can make up your mind. This quest centers around the heroes being ambushed, and introduces a “hidden card” mechanic, whereby encounter cards can be placed facedown in front of you to be revealed later on through various means. You also have the aid of two objective allies, Lord Alcaron and Faramir, who add a few wrinkles to a fairly straightforward quest. In many ways, this quest is similar to Assault on Osgiliath, in that it is combat-focused and is usually more engaging and fun in multiplayer than solo. In terms of the player cards provided, perhaps the biggest acquisition here is Anborn, a strong ally for Ranger trap decks, along with Poisoned Stakes, which is a fun new addition to the trap collection. Beyond that, there are some solid cards here that provide support for a variety of archetypes, but nothing that is essential for newer players looking to build on the Core Set. One card of note though is Tome of Atanatar, which can work wonderfully to continually recycle the Sneak Attack/Gandalf combination, which might be useful for new players struggling with the game.

The Morgul Vale

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Hero: Theoden

Notable Cards: Visionary Leadership, Spear of the Mark, Forth Eorlingas!, Scroll of Isildur, Hidden Cache

Deck Support: Rohan, Gondor, Dwarf and Mono-sphere

Buy it first if… You want to explore the martial (Tactics) side of Rohan. You really want to make a Gondor deck work and want an essential element for this archetype (Visionary Leadership). You enjoy “boss fight”-type quests.

Overall Thoughts: The Morgul Vale finishes off the Against the Shadow cycle in a highly satisfying manner. Players that really want to flesh out the Rohan trait and/or love the idea of building decks that attack the staging area will want to pick up this up pack for sure. This expansion also introduces Visionary Leadership, which is an important component of a viable Gondor deck. Theoden King makes an appearance, but as of this writing still needs further support to be a mainstay of player decks. Beyond the player cards, the real star of the show is the quest itself, which forces players to confront three different captains in succession. Progression is not contingent on questing, as it is with most quests, but rather on the defeat of each captain. As such, this is another quest that features combat, but the captains introduce some unique challenges that help to differentiate the theme and gameplay of this scenario from the preceding two AP’s. While this AP might be a bit of a challenge for new players buying expansions right after the Core Set, it is not in the top-tier of challenging scenarios either, so a player with a moderately-sized collection should have a decent chance against it and should enjoy the experience.

Best Buys of the Cycle:

– For the scenario: The Morgul Vale

– For the player cardsThe Steward’s Fear

RING-MAKER CYCLE

Note: You need the Voice of Isengard expansion to play the Adventure Packs in this cycle.

Voice of Isengard (Deluxe Expansion)

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Heroes: Eomer, Grima

Notable Cards: Westfold Outrider, Saruman, Legacy of Numenor, Deep Knowledge, Rohan Warhorse, Silver Lamp, Keys of Orthanc

Deck Support: Rohan, Isengard, Doomed, Istari

Buy it first if… You enjoy theme and narrative. You want to experiment with Doomed decks. You are a fan of the more martial side of Rohan.

Overall Thoughts: The Voice of Isengard picks up on the expanded narrative focus established in the Against the Shadow cycle and really runs with it. Here, players find themselves in an uncomfortable alliance with Saruman himself, thanks to the persuasive power of his voice and personality. The darker themes of corruption and temptation are on full display in this expansion, and extend to many of the new player cards themselves. which feature the Doomed keyword. That’s right, players gain access to powerful cards that are free (0-cost) but raise all player’s threat instead to represent the corruption and danger they represent. Other player cards key off of Doomed, with the new hero, Grima, perhaps best symbolizing the double-edged nature of this new deck type. Players who are just coming into the game might find these cards a bit advanced in terms of the deck building they require, but the new Tactics Rohan cards that are included are strong and straightforward. Overall, this is a solid set of player cards, but this is not necessarily the expansion to buy if you are mainly interested in making your decks markedly stronger right away (that would be Khazad-dum for Dwarves or Heirs of Numenor for Beregond). However, the quests themselves are varied, thematic, and feature innovative mechanics, as players find their hands under siege, search for an orc named Mugash, and ultimately battle against angry Huorns in Fangorn forest. As far as difficulty is concerned, this expansion is far more accessible to new players than Heirs of Numenor, although it will still pose quite a challenge for those with a limited card pool. The third quest might be a bit easy for more experienced players, but overall there is a good balanced challenge to be found here. More than anything else, those who love this game for theme and story can’t afford to miss this expansion.

The Dunland Trap

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Hero: Celeborn

Notable Cards: Naith Guide, Firefoot, Ithilien Lookout, The Tree People, The White Council

Deck Support: Silvan, Secrecy, Rohan, Dwarf, Ranger

Buy it first if… You want to dive into Silvan decks. You relish the thought of battling the Dunlendings. You want unique quest mechanics.

Overall Thoughts: The Dunland Trap begins the narrative arc of the Ring-maker cycle, picking up on the story started in the Voice of Isengard expansion. In terms of player cards, this Adventure Pack will undoubtedly become one of the core purchases for those looking to construct a Silvan deck, as it contains Celeborn, a hero that provides a crucial boost to the trait in a similar way to Dain Ironfoot and Dwarves. In addition, there is an ally, Naith Guide, that works well for Silvan synergy as well, along with a near-essential event for the archetype: The Tree People. Beyond the Silvan cards, those who really enjoyed using Eomer from the Voice of Isengard expansion will want to pick up this AP to accompany it, as his trusty steed, Firefoot, turns his power level further up. Rounding out the player cards are an eclectic mix of cards that fit a variety of deck styles. Overall, this is a solid set of player cards, although not quite reaching the heights of some of the most powerful. In fact, the higher player card rating here mostly anticipates The Dunland Trap’s status as an essential purchase for Silvan decks. As for the quest itself, this is a scenario that packs a few surprises along the way and rewards those who don’t spoil the encounter cards for themselves beforehand. In some ways, it is similar to the Fords of Isen quest from Voice of Isengard, and so those who enjoyed that particular scenario and the Dunland enemies will doubtless enjoy this one. Although there is some gorgeous location art and innovative quest mechanics, the flavor of the quest does not quite hit the thematic heights of some of my favorite quests, although your mileage may vary. It is quite a fun quest though, especially for those who love the combat side of the quest and want to be able to cut their way through a swarm of enemies. A final point to note is that this scenario is more difficult in multiplayer than solo, and the pure solo challenge rating would be lower.

The Three Trials

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Hero: Idraen

Notable Cards: Rumil, Leaf Brooch, Warden of Arnor, Feigned Voices, Elven Mail

Deck Support: Silvan, Noldor, Scout, Dunedain, Secrecy

Buy it first if… You want to add more support for Silvan or Secrecy decks. You want a unique thematic experience. You want a quest with a robust challenge, especially for solo play.

Overall Thoughts: The theme of The Three Trials immediately caught my attention, as it is so different than what has come before. In this Adventure Pack, the heroes have to take on three Guardian spirits in order to recover three mystical keys. This has a very RPG flavor to it, and it is an idea that is implemented well through the scenario mechanics. Each trial encompasses a different quest stage, and each plays out a bit differently. There is a nice element of replay value to the quest in that the Guardian spirit and unique location that you face in each trial is randomly selected each time, although I will say that it is not quite as replayable as The Steward’s Fear, in that you can select your path through the scenario, and there is definitely one optimal course. Still, there’s enough variety here that multiple plays can feel different from each other. The Three Trials is certainly a difficult scenario, and it is at its most challenging in solo play with one deck, where the pressure to muster defense against high attack enemies all falls on one player. In 3 or 4 player games, this difficulty does diminish. In terms of player cards, there are three main reasons to be interested in this pack. The first is to get access to some more key Silvan cards for your Silvan deck, including Rumil and a form of attack cancellation (Feigned Voices). The second reason would be to get a brand new Dunedain hero, Idraen, along with an attachment built just for her (Warden of Arnor). The final reason would be to add some more support for Secrecy decks through Leaf Brooch (which lowers the cost of events) and Rivendell Scout (a free ally for Secrecy). If you’re not interested in any of these deck types, then the player cards may not interest you that much, although I would recommend this pack anyway just for the quest alone, which is truly one of the standouts of the Ring-maker cycle.

Trouble in Tharbad

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Hero: Haldir of Lorien

Notable Cards: O Lorien!, Lembas, Gwaihir, Galadhrim Minstrel, Herald of Anorien

Deck Support: Silvan, Noldor, Eagle, Secrecy

Buy it first if… You want to play a Silvan deck. You want an easier scenario that has some flavor and interesting mechanics. You want to build the most powerful Eagle deck possible.

Overall Thoughts: Trouble in Tharbad takes players on a chase through the ruined city of Tharbad, with an interesting quest mechanic that actually has players lower their threat by making progress in order to simulate the heroes’ attempt to lose their pursuers. I really like this idea, and the setting will especially appeal to those who like the idea of exploring lost cities, rather than traversing yet another forest. However, this is one of the easier scenarios in the game. For those who are hoping to have some fun with friends and family without too much stress, this makes it a great early purchase. On the other hand, if you want to really dig your teeth into something challenging with extensive replay value, then this is probably not the right buy for you. When it comes to player cards, Trouble in Tharbad is an absolute must-buy if you are interested in building Silvan decks. It gives you a great new Silvan hero, Haldir, a key attachment for Silvan decks, O Lorien!, and some readying and healing through Lembas (along with a Silvan ally that fetches events). If you’re not interested in Silvan, then this is probably not the best buy for your needs, unless you are an Eagle fan, as this is the pack where Gwaihir finally makes his appearance!

The Nin-in-Eilph

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Hero: Mablung

Notable Cards: Wingfoot, Galadhon Archer, Bow of the Galadhrim, Tighten Our Belts, Island Amid Perils

Deck Support: Silvan, Secrecy, Ranger, Gondor,

Buy it first if… You want to play a Silvan deck. You want a more challenging scenario with a bit of replayability. You are a huge Lore fan and are looking for readying/action advantage.

Overall Thoughts: The Nin-in-Eilph provides a different setting than most other scenarios in the game, bringing players into the depths of a putrid swampland. Instead of Orcs or evil Men, the enemies consist of ancient snakes and annoying Neekerbreekers. This scenario is one of the more challenging scenarios in the cycle and can be particularly difficult (even frustrating) as you add more players. The quest stages are designed to hate on player strategies by draining cards and resources, representing the effect of the swamp on the heroes as time goes on, and this certainly helps to convey the theme. Your mileage may vary as to whether you enjoy this experience or not. Some players feel that this constant hate and the way in which the quest forces you to cycle repeatedly through random quest stages if you take too long and “get lost” to be annoying, but I personally enjoy the challenge of this quest. With a very tight encounter deck, perhaps the main knock is that it can sometimes feel a bit repetitive. In terms of player cards, this one feels slightly weaker than the rest of the cycle, with a few cards that are of questionable utility. However, Ranger fans get an interesting hero in Mablung and Lore/Ranger fans get a must-include card in Wingfoot, which provides much-needed readying for the sphere. This is also one to buy if you are looking to fill out your Silvan deck, with a new weapon (Bow of the Galadhrim), new ally (Galadhon Archer), and new event (Island Amid Perils). The Bow makes this pack a good potential combo buy with Trouble in Tharbad, which has Haldir.

Celebrimbor’s Secret

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Hero: Galadriel

Notable Cards: Orophin, Heir of Mardil, Mirror of Galadriel, Nenya, Wandering Ent, Cloak of Lorien

Deck Support: Silvan, Noldor, Rohan, Ent, Gondor

Buy it first if… You have any interest in Galadriel as a character or hero. You want to start building an Ent deck. You want to fill out your Silvan deck.

Overall Thoughts: First things first, this is essentially the “Galadriel pack”. If you have any interest in Galadriel as a character or as a card, then you should buy this pack. Not only do you get the hero, you also get her ring and mirror, gaining all the essential pieces to make a Galadriel deck function. While she works well in a Silvan deck, she can also fit into other deck types as well. Beyond Galadriel, the other player cards are on the strong side, with some great new Silvan cards (Cloak of Lorien, Galadriel’s Handmaiden) and the first appearance of an Ent! As for the quest itself, many have likened it to Raiders of the Lost Ark, as the heroes must rush to discover a lost forge before it is discovered by a pack of Orcs who are busy digging furiously. This is represented by a Scour mechanic, which punishes players when enough damage is placed on a location by various effects to remove it from play. In solo and two player games, I find this quest to be rich with theme and fun, although perhaps a bit easy when playing pure solo (the pure solo challenge rating would only be a two out of five). In three and four player games, however, there is a tendency towards frustration due to the location-heavy nature of the scenario and the difficulty in removing locations quickly as you add more players. This can detract from the experience quite a bit and requires some careful deck building, so your experience may depend on how many players you normally have when playing the game, and I’ve penalized the fun factor accordingly. Still, there are no real duds in the Ring-maker cycle and this is actually a strong pack overall.

The Antlered Crown

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Hero: Erkenbrand

Notable Cards: Treebeard, The Day’s Rising, Captain of Gondor, Booming Ent, Ride Them Down

Deck Support: Rohan, Ent

Buy it first if… You want to build a deck focused around Ents. You are a Spirit player and want another way to deal with enemies. You enjoy the Dunland theme and want to experience the resolution to this story.

Overall Thoughts: The Antlered Crown wraps up the Ring-maker cycle by returning to the Dunland narrative introduced in the Voice of Isengard and The Dunland Trap. Like some of the other cycle-ending Adventure Packs, this one focuses on a final showdown, this time with the Raven Clan and their chief. In solo and two player, this scenario is not perhaps as challenging for its time as Return to Mirkwood, Shadow and Flame, or The Morgul Vale were, but that is not to say that it is a walk in the park either. Three and four player games definitely up the ante, as the time mechanic that has been present throughout the cycle is everywhere in this quest, not just on the quest cards, but on locations as well, and effects that remove time counters come up more often as you add more players. Overall, the theme and mechanics definitely give the sense of traveling through an area torn by war and taking part in large Dunlending battles. However, this is not quite as distinctive or compelling a setting as Tharbad or the swamps of The Nin-in-Eilph (although personal tastes certainly play a part here). Still, this feels like an appropriate end to the cycle and is a good mix of challenge, fun, and theme. This is also an incredibly strong collection of player cards. Ent fans get Treebeard, who is an amazing ally for almost any deck type and one of the strongest allies ever seen in in the game. Versatile attachments like The Day’s Rising and Captain of Gondor can help support many decks, and this is one of the strengths of these player cards: they are fairly self-contained and could be picked up by new players to round out their decks without access to a bunch of other expansions. Finally, Ride Them Down is a must-have for Spirit fans who have been looking for a way to deal with enemies through willpower.

Best Buys of the Cycle:

For the scenario: The Three Trials

For the player cardsCelebrimbor’s Secret

ANGMAR AWAKENED CYCLE

Note: You need The Lost Realm expansion to play the Adventure Packs in this cycle.

The Lost Realm (Deluxe Expansion)

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Heroes: Aragorn, Halbarad

Notable Cards: Dunedain Hunter, Ranger of the North/Ranger Summons, Gather Information, Secret Vigil, Athelas, Sarn Ford Sentry, Weather Hills Watchman

Deck Support: Dunedain, Noldor

Buy it first if… You enjoy theme and narrative. You want to explore Dunedain decks. You prefer multiplayer games.

Overall Thoughts: The Lost Realm continues the narrative begun in the Against the Shadow cycle and carried through the Ring-maker cycle. As with all the deluxe expansions, though, this box begins a story that is self-contained. In terms of player cards, The Lost Realm focuses heavily on providing a foundation for Dunedain decks. The good news is that since this trait has not been heavily developed in past cycles, you can pick up The Lost Realm and a Core Set and pretty much have what you need to build a Dunedain deck. On the other hand, it’s important to understand that the cards in this expansion and Dunedain decks in general tend to skew more towards multiplayer than solo play. This is not an absolute rule but something to be aware of if you are interested in the player cards. Generally, the player cards are entertaining, solid and useful without real duds, but this also isn’t an expansion that you’ll buy if you’re mainly concerned with quickly growing the power of the cards available to you. It is worthy of note that The Lost Realm introduces a brand new player card type: side quests. This card type adds a new wrinkle to deck building by allowing players to gain benefits by placing progress towards a side quest rather than the main quest. When it comes to the quests in this expansion, this is perhaps the most well-balanced set of quests of all the deluxe expansions. What I mean by this statement is that some deluxe expansions have one quest that is not as good as the others or one quest that stands head-and-shoulders above the rest. The Lost Realm, by contrast, features three quests that are well put together, challenging without being too frustrating, and filled with mechanics that build on each other to create a consistent and cohesive experience. It is worth noting that the quests perhaps reach their full potential in multiplayer games, and the difficulty ramps up as you add more players as well. The main new twist that the scenarios of The Lost Realm bring is encounter side quests. These are the counterpart to player side quests, and introduce punishing conditions and obstacles that can only be eradicated by completing them, thus diverting players from the main quest. In practice, these side quests add a sense of replay value and “branching paths” to quests, while also forcing interesting decisions upon players. In terms of overall quest design, these scenarios don’t quite break as much ground as some others out there, but they do represent a maturity in the design of the game as it has developed over time. As such, it is one of the best deluxe expansions around and worth the investment, although new players might find the experience a bit challenging, particularly if they only have the Core Set. This is especially true for multiplayer games.

The Wastes of Eriador

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Hero: Merry (Spirit)

Notable Cards: Honour Guard, Raven-winged Helm, Hobbit Pony, Scout Ahead, Ingold

Deck Support: Hobbit, Gondor, Dunedain

Buy it first if… You want to explore the unique Night/Day mechanic. You want damage cancellation options. You want a good low threat hero.

Overall Thoughts: The Wastes of Eriador continues some of the new mechanics introduced by The Lost Realm deluxe expansion, including side quests and the Dunedain archetype. As far as player cards are concerned, the hero, Spirit Merry, is a great choice for players with a more limited card pool. This is because he is a very low threat hero (6 threat), which is rare, and provides a great, consistent threat reduction option. Spirit Merry can fit into a wide variety of decks because of these characteristics. The pack includes an attachment, Hobbit Pony, that allows him to get the most out of his ability, but also is generally useful for certain other Hobbit heroes as well. Beyond the hero, damage cancellation is a major theme, with both Honour Guard and Raven-winged Helm serving this function. If you are looking for options in that regard, whether to support a super defender or a specialized deck focused on the ability. In terms of the quest, The Wastes of Eriador focuses on a unique Night and Day mechanic, which centers around the idea that the pack of Wargs hunting the heroes becomes more dangerous when night falls, while the journey can only be carried forward during the daytime. There is a double-sided objective, with a Daybreak and Nighfall side, that flips back and forth to represent this passage of time, and many of the encounter cards key off of which side is currently faceup. This is certainly a challenging quest and starts off the quest on a tough note. It’s not unbeatable by any means, and there are some quests in this cycle that are probably more difficult, but newer players with a limited card pool might struggle. What makes things particularly tough is the way in which multiple encounter cards can be revealed in a chain due to surge or certain other encounter card effects. This aspect can lead to a bit of a swing in difficulty from game to game, which detracts a bit from the fun factor. Overall, though, this is a really solid and unique quest that offers a challenge and starts off the cycle in a satisfying fashion.

Escape from Mount Gram

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Hero: Rossiel

Notable Cards: Derndingle Warrior, Descendants of Kings, Boomed and Trumpeted, Leave No Trace

Deck Support: Gondor, Valour, Ent, Dunedain, Noldor, victory display

Buy it first if… You want to have access to a really unique hero. You want a fun, one-of-a-kind quest that isn’t too difficult. You want to build an Ent or Dunedain deck.

Overall Thoughts: In many RPG’s, both paper and digital, there comes a time when the heroes are captured and all of their powerful gear is taken away. Then, they have to find a way to break out, recover their equipment, and make the final flight to freedom. Escape from Mount Gram is modeled after just this kind of experience, and does a fantastic job recreating the enjoyable aspects of this mission type. In this quest, you start off with only hero, while your other heroes, along with the items and allies in your deck, are placed in a separate captured deck. Throughout the course of the scenario, you will have the opportunity to rescue these cards so that they can be used. What all this amounts to is a quest that is unlike any other and is rich with theme. When you play Escape from Mount Gram, you feel like you’re actually trying to break out of a goblin dungeon. It is also one of the best quests around in terms of pure fun factor. Now, there are some downsides to this scenario that are important to consider. The first is that the difficulty is a bit on the easy side, which might actually not be a flaw if you are a newer player and/or are looking for a quest that you can pull out when you are not looking to get beat down. But if you are player that always wants a tough challenge, then this might not satisfy your needs. The other downside is that, because of the unique mechanics, the setup for the quest is quite complex and takes awhile to complete. Still, all told, I feel like this is a good choice among the later quests for a newer player, as it’s exciting, different, and not too difficult. As far as player cards go, they are as innovative as the quest. The new hero, an FFG-created Silvan Elf named Rossiel, keys off of a victory display mechanic, where enemies and locations can be added to the victory display to facilitate other effects. Rossiel is not the most new player friendly hero, in that she does need some subtlety and finesse to use well, but she definitely offers something unique. The other player cards offer a smattering of support for Ents, Dunedain, and Noldor. This means that you’ll probably need to combine this pack with a few others if you are interested in fleshing out those deck types. The Derndingle Warrior, though, is a good defensive option for any deck if you are struggling with handling enemies.

Across the Ettenmoors

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Hero: Dori

Notable Cards: Longbeard Sentry, Wellinghall Preserver, Ranger Provisions, Steed of Imladris, Fair and Perilous

Deck Support: Dwarf, Ent, Noldor, valour, victory display

Buy it first if… You want to have another piece of a Dwarf deck. You want a quest that focuses around big enemies. You want to build a Noldor deck.

Overall Thoughts: First things first, Dori isn’t the most useful hero around, especially if you have a more limited card pool are or just getting started with the game. Since heroes are so important, some of your early buying decisions might be heavily influenced by which hero comes in a certain pack (and justifiably so). By that criteria, Across the Ettenmoors is not an ideal early purchase. As for the rest of the player cards, Longbeard Sentry is a strong defensive ally that can help players who are struggling defensively. Many of the other cards, however, support specific deck types, like Ent or valour or Noldor, so you’ll want to combine this pack with packs that support those traits. In particular, if you are interested in Rossiel, the hero from Escape from Mount Gram, the previous Adventure Pack, then you’ll definitely want to pick this one up too, as None Return, which adds an enemy to the victory display, is essential to making her work. The scenario features huge enemies, such as giants and trolls, that players can either try to fight or avoid since their engagement costs are high. The real innovative mechanic in this quest is the inclusion of objective safe locations that represent safe havens where the heroes can rest and take a breather. While a safe location is the active location, “when revealed” effects on treacheries have no effect, enemies don’t make engagement checks, and more. Deciding when to travel to a safe location becomes the real strategy of the quest. While some of the other scenarios in the cycle are better in terms of challenge, breaking new ground, or pure fun, this is a solid quest from an amazing cycle.

The Treachery of Rhudaur

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Hero: Erestor

Notable Cards: Galdor of the Havens, Elven Spear, Silver Harp, Elf-friend, The Door Is Closed

Deck Support: Noldor, Silvan, valour, victory display

Buy it first if… You want to build a Noldor deck. You want to fully experience the encounter side quest mechanic. You want a challenge that is not too punishing.

Overall Thoughts: The Treachery of Rhudaur is the first of the three quests that end the cycle and feel very much linked in terms of gameplay and story. This particular scenario, like the other three, heavily features undead enemies. The unique mechanic that it brings to the table is three encounter side quests that start play in the staging area, and each one has a clue objective on the back that can be earned if you complete the side quest on the front. These clues provide bonuses and also come into play later in the quest. What I find appealing about this quest is that it is relatively straightforward in terms of mechanics, one of the most straightforward of the cycle, which makes it easy to set up and get onto the table. It is also challenging enough to support repeated plays without being so difficult that it requires intensive deck building. The side quest mechanic, introduced in this cycle, reaches perhaps its highest point here, as the initial side quests are really the stars of the show. I will say that solo players will have a rougher time completing even one of the initial side quests due to the quest setup, but it’s definitely not an insurmountable obstacle, and the difficulty seems pretty well balanced for all player numbers. As for player cards, Erestor is a very unique hero whose power revolves around drawing extra cards, but also discarding all cards from hand at the end of the round. This is designed to work with the Noldor deck type, which is based on discarding cards from hand for beneficial effects. On the one hand, players that like tricky mechanics will absolutely love Erestor. On the other hand, Erestor requires a player to have some experience and skill in deck building, as well as in strategic decision-making, to best make use of his ability. He also needs some help from several other expansion packs beyond the Core Set. If you are fine with those caveats, then Erestor is a great hero choice. The rest of the player cards are heavily weighted towards Noldor support, such as the Silver Harp, Elven Spear, and Galdor of the Havens. The Door Is Closed is a must-buy if you are also planning on buying Escape from Mount Gram and using Rossiel.

The Battle of Carn Dum

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Challenge     ♦♦♦♦♦

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Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦◊

Hero: Amarthiul

Notable Cards: Beechbone, Lindir, Guardian of Arnor, Favor of the Valar, Lords of the Eldar, Quick Ears

Deck Support: Dunedain, Ent, Noldor, valour

Buy it first if… You want to build a Dunedain or Noldor deck. You want a meaty challenge on the level of a Nightmare experience. You want a battle against a fearsome boss.

Overall Thoughts: The first thing you should know is that The Battle of Carn Dum is an extremely difficult scenario. If it manages to challenge experienced players, then newer players with a limited card pool will likely end up feeling extreme frustration if they pick up this pack as one of their early purchases, and they are better off looking elsewhere until they can expand their options a bit and gain more experience. That being said, I am a huge fan of this scenario when you have reached a level that you feel you are ready for the difficulty. It definitely provides the epic feel of being involved in a huge battle, and the primary antagonist, Thaurdir, is particularly memorably. He makes things tough not through having a million hit points or being immune to player card effects, but through other effects that put consistent pressure on players. When you beat The Battle of Carn Dum, you feel like you have truly achieved something. In terms of scaling, this one is likely extremely difficult at the 3 and 4-player end of the scale. I would give this quest a full five star rating in terms of fun factor if I were just judging for myself, but given that some players do not like this quest at all due to the difficulty, and have been outspoken about it, I’ve taken those opinions into account by taking off one point. The player cards in this pack are a bit of a mixed bag. You’ll probably want to pick this one up if you are at all interested in building the Dunedain deck type introduced in The Lost Realm. Amarthiul is a brand new Dunedain hero who helps the deck type function and Guardian of Arnor is pretty much essential to provide a Dunedain defensive option. Quick Ears can also help to filter out the nastier enemies. There is also support for Ents, in the form of Beechbone, and Noldor through Lindir and Lords of the Eldar. The latter are helpful for the Noldor but not 100% essential. All in all, this is a great purchase for those looking for a worthy challenge or for those wanting to build Dunedain decks. If you are a newer player, however, you might want to work your way up to this one, unless you have a taste for pain.

The Dread Realm

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Self-Contained     ♦♦◊◊◊

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Theme     ♦♦♦♦♦

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦♦

Hero: Arwen Undomiel

Notable Cards: Eothain, Fornost Bowman, Galadhrim Healer, Sword-thain, Elven-light, Tale of Tinuviel

Deck Support: Noldor, Rohan, Dunedain, Silvan, valour

Buy it first if… You want to build a Noldor or Dunedain deck. You want to face a challenging quest with unique “zombie” mechanics. You want a useful hero that can help out many deck types.

Overall Thoughts: The Dread Realm closes out the cycle with a bang. Certain quests just feel cinematic, as the mechanics help you to picture the events unfolding in your head. This is one such quest. The central mechanic is the idea of “reanimation”, as destroyed allies and cards from your deck and hand can be destroyed and brought back as undead enemies. Other encounter cards toy with unique effects, such as “possessing” an ally or enemies that become annoying attachments when they are destroyed. All of this works together to force players to constantly make meaningful decisions throughout the course of a game. The Dread Realm is a challenging scenario without being quite as punishing as The Battle of Carn Dum. In addition, the pace of the quest is intriguing, as it starts out somewhat slow, then builds to a unique boss battle, followed by a desperate escape. Put together, this is perhaps my favorite quest of the cycle. As far as player cards are concerned, the final packs of a cycle often feature an especially powerful or useful hero, and The Dread Realm is no exception. Arwen is a Spirit hero that not only is a strong quester, but can also help many different deck types with resources, as long as they use at least one Noldor hero or Aragorn (keep in mind that she can always give the resource to herself, which makes her even more flexible). Cards like Elven-light and Tale of Tinuviel really bring Arwen to an even higher level, although such cards can be useful even without her, which is a nice touch. Some of the other cards are a bit less obviously powerful or useful, and some are a bit niche, but none are outright duds. One card that is of particular note is Sword-thain, an attachment that actually allows you to turn a unique ally into a hero. It’s expensive, and not overpowered, but in terms of pure fun and creativity, it’s hard to beat this card if you love unique deck building. Overall, The Dread Realm is a fantastic purchase, but as with many other quests in this cycle, you’ll want to be somewhat ready with a decent card pool before you take the plunge.

Best Buys of the Cycle:

For the scenario: The Dread Realm

For the player cardsThe Treachery of Rhudaur

DREAM-CHASER CYCLE

Note: You need The Grey Havens expansion to play the Adventure Packs in this cycle.

The Grey Havens (Deluxe Expansion)

Player Cards     ♦♦♦♦◊

Self-Contained     ♦♦♦◊◊

Challenge     ♦♦♦◊◊

Theme     ♦♦♦♦♦

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦♦

Heroes: Cirdan the Shipwright, Galdor of the Havens

Notable Cards: Narya, To the Sea, to the Sea!, Grappling Hook, Mariner’s Compass, Skyward Volley, The Evening Star, Sailor of Lune

Deck Support: Noldor, Gandalf, location management

Buy it first if… You want maximum theme, narrative, and adventure. You want to build Noldor decks. You want a solution to location lock for multiplayer games.

Overall Thoughts: First things first, this is my favorite deluxe expansion. Full stop. It is in contention for my favorite expansion for the game ever. Those are lofty words, and ultimately such opinions are subjective, so what do you need to know if you are trying to decide to buy this expansion? First off, in terms of player cards, it is primarily focused on fleshing out the Noldor deck type. To do full justice to that type, you’ll need some help from other expansions, especially in the Angmar Awakened cycle, but what’s here is definitely strong. You also get Narya, an incredibly strong attachment (it is a ring after all) that can be used with hero Gandalf decks as well as Noldor. The final piece of note as far as player cards are concerned is that this expansion provides several options for dealing with locations, in fact this is probably the most any set has ever focused on location management. In general, the problem of location lock and hte need for location management effects is most acute in three- and four-player games, so there are a few cards in here that are mostly for multiplayer use (but not exclusively). Overall, a very solid set of player cards, but there are better initial buys for player cards. What you really want The Grey Havens for are the quests. This deluxe expansion introduces ships and a new set of sailing rules to use these ships, which are immediately put to use in the first scenario, while the second quest uses double-sided locations to simulate the experience of exploring an uncharted island, and the third quest forces you to fend off corsairs before ship locations burn to ash. As you can see, The Grey Havens is all about innovative mechanics, quests dripping with theme, and trying to bring players to places they have never been before, both geographically and in terms of gameplay. It also has a good balance of difficulty for newer players, moreso than some other deluxe expansions, and also scales fairly well between numbers of players. This is a good place to start if you want to jump into the newer end of the pool.

Flight of the Stormcaller

Player Cards     ♦♦♦♦◊

Self-Contained     ♦♦♦♦◊

Challenge     ♦♦♦◊◊

Theme     ♦♦♦♦♦

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦♦

Hero: Denethor

Notable Cards: Rod of the Steward, Azain Silverbeard, Glorfindel, Heed the Dream, Vanish from Sight

Deck Support: Gondor, Noldor, Secrecy

Buy it first if… You want to experience the apex of the sailing mechanic. You want to build Noldor or Gondor decks. You want a versatile hero that can be splashed into many decks.

Overall Thoughts: This pack starts off the cycle with a real bang. In terms of player cards, the Leadership version of Gondor is an incredibly strong hero because he helps decks get set up quickly thanks to his extra starting resources. The pack also contains support cards that make him even better, such as Rod of the Steward (which grants card draw by spending resources) and In Service of the Steward (which gives others the Gondor trait). Beyond the hero, Heed the Dream is one of the best cards in the entire cycle, and one of the best card draw effects in the entire game. This pack focuses on not only fleshing out Noldor decks a bit more, but also developing one of the cycle’s major player card focuses, which is a set of cards that provides a normal benefit, but also an additional benefit if you spend resources from another sphere. Heed the Dream, for example, is a Lore card that lets you pick a card from your top five but also lets any player spend three Leadership resources to allow you to search your entire deck. As far as the scenario is concerned, this is the best sailing quest in the cycle. Although sailing pops up a few more times, this is where it is at its most fun as a mechanic. The story revoles around chasing down a ship, and you end up having to successfully sail, as well as make progress, in order t catch up with it. This other ship is meanwhile advancing through its own quest stages. The combination of these mechanics makes for an unforgettable and just plain fun experience, as you can physically see your quarry getting away, or getting agonizingly within reach. If you buy The Grey Havens, I recommend picking up this pack as well as your first purchase within the cycle, even if you are planning on jumping around afterwards.

The Thing in the Depths

Player Cards     ♦♦♦◊◊

Self-Contained     ♦♦♦◊◊

Challenge     ♦♦♦◊◊

Theme     ♦♦♦♦♦

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦♦

Hero: Lanwyn

Notable Cards: Captain’s Wisdom, Raiment of War, Sam Gamgee, Elevenses, Mirkwood Explorer

Deck Support: Scout, Dunedain, Noble, Warrior, Hobbit

Buy it first if… You enjoy fighting tentacles. You want to fill out your Hobbit decks. You want a hero that others might not claim right away.

Overall Thoughts: This pack could be subtitled “The Watcher at Sea”, as it features lots of tentacles once more, but this time aboard a ship. The scenario is actually divided into two parts, with the first being a battle against corsairs and the second being a fight against a strange sea monster. The quest does a superb job of conveying the narrative of “enemies becoming friends by necessity” by switching between different encounter sets. The only knock against the quest would be to say that it sometimes can go a little longer, particularly in solo, as you hunt for tentacles to destroy, but this would mainly be an issue if you don’t enjoy games that are on the longer side. In terms of player cards, Lanwyn is the first hero to interact with the surge keyword, which is exciting. She isn’t necessarily in the top tier, so I wouldn’t say she’s a hero you seek out with your first purchases, but she can definitely hold her own if you are looking to grab a hero that won’t often conflict with others as far as uniqueness is concerned. The rest of the player cards are somewhat of a mixed bag, with a few being of more niche or limited utility. The highlights are Captain’s Wisdom, which is a fantastic new form of resource generation for noble heroes, and Raiment of War, which is a great tool for boosting the attack, defense, and hit points of allies (as well as heroes) all at once. Hobbit fans will also want to grab this one for the ally version of Sam Gamgee and the event card Elevenses.

Temple of the Deceived

Player Cards     ♦♦♦◊◊

Self-Contained     ♦♦♦◊◊

Challenge     ♦♦◊◊◊

Theme     ♦♦♦♦♦

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦♦

Hero: Elfhelm

Notable Cards: Ceorl, Armored Destrier, Deorwine, Revealed in Wrath, Entangling Nets

Deck Support: Rohan, Noldor, Scout, Trap, Dwarf

Buy it first if… You want to experience one of the most unique quests in the game. You want to build a deck focused around mounts. You want to fill out your Rohan deck.

Overall Thoughts: Some of the recent cycles have featured one particular quest that is not too challenging, but features an incredibly fun mechanic that turns the game on its head, with Trouble in Tharbad being an example from the Ring-maker cycle and Escape from Mount Gram being an example from the Angmar Awakened cycle. Templed of the Deceived is such a scenario for the Dream-chaser cycle. It provides one of the most unique experiences in the entire history of LOTR LCG, as it removes locations from the encounter deck and instead places them in a map-like grid at the beginning of the game. Players then travel through this map, tracking their location on the map using a resource token. This gives a physicality and sense of investment in travel and locations that is sometimes the weak point of this game. As such, it is a quest that you absolutely must experience, and if you are looking for a scenario that provides pure fun factor, then this should be one of your early buys (I would give it higher than 5 for fun factor if I could). The only point of pause is just that the nature of the scenario means that it entails more setup time than other quests and possibly a longer playtime as well, but it’s well worth it, in my opinion. As far as player cards, there is a strong focus on Rohan, particularly the development of mounts as a tool for boosting stats, which is what the hero Elfhelm is all about. Beyond that aspect, there is a set of relatively strong cards in their respective niches, such as Entangling Nets, which is one of the best traps, and Revealed in Wrath, which lets players turn the table on the encounter deck by blanking the text boxes of enemies. It’s not necessarily the strongest set of player cards from a purely new player perspective, so this is a pack that you pick up for the quest, and it’s thankfully one that newer players can get something out of without having to worry about getting smashed remorselessly.

The Drowned Ruins

Player Cards     ♦♦♦◊◊

Self-Contained     ♦♦♦♦◊

Challenge     ♦♦♦◊◊

Theme     ♦♦♦♦♦

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦◊

Hero: Argalad

Notable Cards: Dwarven Sellsword, Dunedain Remedy, Marksman of Lorien, Robin Smallburrow, Strider

Deck Support: Silvan, Dwarf, Hobbit, Secrecy

Buy it first if… You want to build two hero decks. You want to fill out your Silvan deck with interesting ranged attackers. You want to have a way to heal outside of the Lore sphere.

Overall Thoughts: The highlight of The Drowned Ruins pack is probably its hero: Argalad. This hero falls into that “fun and also effective” category that inspires entertaining decks to built. He isn’t necessarily a power hero that will elevate the strength of your deck all by himself, but he is one to look for if you are the kind of player that highly values shenanigans and fun factor over raw min/maxing. If you are a fan of the Silvan persuasion, you’ll also want to pick up this pack early, as there are several Silvan cards in this pack, including the Marksman of Lorien, who provides ranged attack and helps to lower enemy defenses. Beyond the hero and Silvan support, perhaps the most notable player card here is Strider, which provides a bonus to decks that use only two heroes. While I wouldn’t recommend two hero decks to newer players, if you are interested in exploring that route, than Strider is a must-have. As for the scenario itself, it is a fun jaunt through underwater caverns that focuses heavily on willpower and questing as a means to simulate swimming for long periods of time without respite. I would say that it doesn’t necessarily hit the highs for me that the rest of the packs in this cycle do, but that isn’t to say that it is bad by any means, as the cycle itself sets an extremely high bar. A benefit of this quest is that it is probably one of the more straightforward scenarios in the cycle, so that could be a point in its favor if you are looking for a place to dive in.

A Storm on Cobas Haven

Player Cards     ♦♦◊◊◊

Self-Contained     ♦♦♦◊◊

Challenge     ♦♦♦♦♦

Theme     ♦♦♦♦♦

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦♦

Hero: Na’asiyah

Notable Cards: Rune-master, Windfola, Ioreth, The Houses of Healing, Justice Shall Be Done

Deck Support: Signal, Noldor, Beorn

Buy it first if… You want a challenging experience. You want to experience an epic battle at sea. You want to add healing to your decks.

Overall Thoughts: Just as cycles often have a quest that rests on the thematic/easier side of the equation, cycles often also include a quest that sits on the opposite side of the spectrum. A Storm on Cobas Haven is the challenging/punishing scenario in question for the Dream-chaser cycle. While previous sailing quests in the cycle have allowed players to either pursue a questing approach or a combat approach, A Storm on Cobas Haven forces you to do both while also managing the sailing keyword as well. This is because it seeks to simulate a battle at sea. So this quest is not a good fit for those just starting out due to issues of difficulty, and such players might want to build up their collection at first. I happen to really enjoy this quest, as it has some amazingly creative and fun mechanics, such as the opportunity to capture enemy ships and use them against their former brethren or the possibility of rallying objectives ships to your cause! However, other players, who don’t particularly enjoy intense deck building or punishing challenges might not like this pack as much. It does favor certain types of decks (those that can swarm allies quickly), but it is perhaps not quite as demanding as The Battle of Carn Dum. In terms of player cards, I have to say that this is one of the weaker sets available in the cycle. The hero is one of my favorites in terms of story (and gameplay) and there are some unique cards in the pack, but the issue is just that they tend to be more nice or marginal than those included in other packs. Of particular interest, I will point out Ioreth as a powerful form of healing and Vigilant Guard and The Houses of Healing as must-adds for those who love hero Beorn and want to build a deck around him. Other than that, A Storm on Cobas Haven is not a great buy for brand new players in terms of quest difficulty and player cards, but those who crave pain with a healthy dose of fun should check this one out.

The City of Corsairs

Player Cards     ♦♦♦◊◊

Self-Contained     ♦♦◊◊◊

Challenge     ♦♦♦♦◊

Theme     ♦♦♦♦♦

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦♦

Hero: Prince Imrahil (Tactics)

Notable Cards: Knight of the White Tower, Sulien, Ranger Spear, Prince of Dol Amroth

Deck Support: Traps, Outlands, Gondor, Dunedain

Buy it first if… You want to experience a climactic battle. You want to fill out a Gondor or Outlands deck. You want to add cards to a traps deck.

Overall Thoughts: The City of Corsairs brings the Dream-chaser cycle to a thrilling conclusion. It is not quite as difficult as the previous pack, but it is on the more challenging side. The unique aspect of this scenario compared to the rest of the cycle is that it actually transitions from the sailing mechanic and a sea battle to fighting on the land. Overall, this quest is a fitting end to the story and mechanics of the cycle and sets up a satisfying boss battle with the main antagonist. It is perhaps not the best pack of the cycle to start with if you are mostly interested in the narrative and quest, as it would be essentially jumping to the end of the story without experiencing the earlier chapters, and it is a bit on the difficult side. In terms of player cards, the main attraction is probably the hero: a new Tactics version of Prince Imrahil. This Imrahil has a unique ability that cheats allies into play. He isn’t necessarily a must-buy in terms of upping the power of your deck if you are a newer player, but he is a Tactics hero with a highly entertaining ability and is highly recommended in that respect. The rest of the player cards are of average power, and mostly concern players who are wanting to fill out their traps deck with a specially suited weapon and a new ally, or Outlands/Gondor players that want to take advantage of the new hero. Overall, this cycle was amazing and The City of Corsairs does a great job of bringing it to a close.

THE HARADRIM CYCLE

Note: You need The Sands of Harad expansion to play the Adventure Packs in this cycle.

The Sands of Harad (Deluxe Expansion)

Player Cards     ♦♦♦◊◊

Self-Contained     ♦♦♦◊◊

Challenge     ♦♦♦◊◊

Theme     ♦♦♦♦♦

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦◊

Hero: Legolas (Spirit) and Gimli (Leadership)

Notable Cards: Greenwood Archer, Halfling Bounder, Unlikely Friendship, Dwarven Shield, Mirkwood Long-knife, The Storm Comes

Deck Support: Dwarf, Silvan, Dunedain, Hobbit, Noble, Scout, side quest

Buy it first if… You want a good starting place later in the life of the game. You want to experiment with side quests. You want to build the ultimate Legolas/Gimli buddy duo deck.

Overall Thoughts: The Sands of Harad brings LOTR LCG to an area of Middle-earth that was barely detailed by Tolkien: the lands of Harad. This means that it explores types of environments that we haven’t seen before and that might not spring to mind when you first think of The Lord of the Rings, such as deserts and jungles. In terms of quests, I would argue that this is a good place for newer players to jump in if they want to taste more recent material. While I absolutely adore the Angmar Awakened and Dream-chaser cycles, which precede the Haradrim cycle, they both use some complex mechanics and quite difficult scenarios that can act as barriers to entry. I don’t think these are insurmountable, and the quests in The Sands of Harad aren’t necessarily pushovers, yet this box seems like a better starting point. There are some creative mechanics to be found here but nothing that is terribly confusing or intense in terms of board state. I’ll say that each scenario here is quite different from the rest, which makes for some nice variety, and takes the heroes on a journey through an enemy city, an endless desert, and making new allies in unexpected places. They are all quite entertaining, though the second and third are my clear favorites. In terms of player cards, the new versions of Legolas and Gimli, which are designed to work in tandem this time, are definitely the stars of the show. They aren’t necessarily top-tier heroes quite yet, but they can hold their own, and you should have the pieces in this box to build a deck around them without the deck building itself. The rest of the player cards are solid, with maybe only one or two true duds, that flesh out a wide variety of traits. What I will mention is that side quests return in this cycle after being introduced in Angmar Awakened and taking a break in the Dream-chaser cycle, so if you are interested in pursuing that avenue, this is a good place to jump in as well. Overall, if you are waiting on reprints of some of the earlier cycles, then you could do worse than The Sands of Harad as your starting place.

SAGA EXPANSIONS

Note: These expansions are separate from the main storyline of the game, and follow the events of the books instead. They need only the Core Set to play.

The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill

Player Cards     ♦♦♦♦♦

Self-Contained     ♦♦♦◊◊

Challenge     ♦♦♦◊◊

Theme     ♦♦♦♦◊

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦◊◊

Heroes: Thorin Oakenshield, Nori, Ori, Beorn

Notable Cards: Kili/Fili, Bofur, Dori, Gandalf (new version), Foe-hammer, Thror’s Map, Cram

Deck Support: Dwarf (heavy), Beorning

Buy it first if… You are a huge fan of The Hobbit. You want to quickly grab a chunk of powerful Dwarf cards. You are planning on also investing in Khazad-Dum and/or Return to Mirkwood.

Overall Thoughts: This is yet another expansion that provides a lot of support for Dwarf decks. This box follows the story of the first half of The Hobbit. It includes a new version of Bilbo and some treasure cards (a new mechanic for the game) that are great fun but can only be used in this set of quests. Note that this expansion does include four new heroes to play with, which is great value for your money. The player cards as a whole are pretty astounding in their quality, and the first version of this Buying Guide definitely undervalued them. Cards like A Very Good Tale and Foe-hammer pop up in all manner of decks nowadays, while the Dwarven characters that are included are essential to contemporary Dwarf builds. You can build a pretty good Dwarf deck with just this expansion and a Core Set. However, if you really want it to reach its potential, then you’ll need to also invest in a few of the other packs and expansions that have Dwarven support. I have to say that the three quests included are hit-and-miss. The battle with the trolls is very well done, perhaps one of the best scenarios so far, but the second and third quests (battling giants/trolls and a depiction of the riddle game with Gollum), while enjoyable, fall just short of greatness. Since this box is separate from the Adventure Packs and other expansions, it may be something you add to your collection after you investigate the regular cycles more thoroughly first. However, there are so many essential and powerful cards here that you might want to pick it up sooner rather than later if you are not planning on avoiding Dwarves altogether.

The Hobbit: On the Doorstep

Player Cards     ♦♦♦♦◊

Self-Contained     ♦♦♦◊◊

Challenge     ♦♦♦♦◊

Theme     ♦♦♦♦◊

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦♦

Heroes: Balin, Bard the Bowman, Bombur, Oin

Notable Cards: Great Yew Bow, Black Arrow, King Under the Mountain, Gloin (ally), Bifur (ally), Dwalin (ally), Expert Treasure-hunter

Deck Support: Dwarf (heavy), Dale

Buy it first if… You are a fan of the second half of The Hobbit. You are looking for the best overall value for your money (three great quests and four heroes in one box). You are planning on investing in other Dwarf expansions/packs fairly soon.

Overall Thoughts: This Saga Expansion offers three scenarios that cover the events of the second half of The Hobbit. Specifically, you will find yourself trying to escape from spiders in Mirkwood, attempting to steal treasures from under Smaug’s nose, and finally doing battle against a horde of orcs in the Battle of Five Armies. As wtih the first Saga Expansion, the player cards mostly provide support for Dwarf decks, strengthening them to quite ridiculous levels. I will say that if you already have most of the expansions, then On the Doorstep will further add to Dwarven synergy, but I would stop short of saying that the player cards are essential. In other words, they make what is already awesome even more awesome, but aren’t foundational. In my opinion, this is a box you buy for the challenge and fun of experiencing new quests, not necessarily to simply add to your card pool. This is not to say that there aren’t useful cards, just that other expansions pack a more potent punch in that department. Overall, the quests feel extremely thematic and offer creative new mechanics, and I would give it the edge over the first Hobbit expansion in this regard. I did take a point off theme, as the Battle of Five Armies feels a bit lacking for me in truly representing the epicness of this legendary event, mainly because I would’ve liked to see more objectives in play to represent the other armies. However, this is admittedly a small quibble, as it is not a bad quest by any means, and does offer an innovation in that multiple quest stages are in play at once. Some players have also taken exception to the randomness of the second quest, where Smaug can suddenly decimate your entire company. However, on the whole this is a solid buy and provides some memorable gaming moments (Bilbo fending off spiders and reviving his comrades is a notable example).

The Black Riders

Player Cards     ♦♦♦♦♦

Self-Contained     ♦♦♦♦♦

Challenge     ♦♦♦♦◊

Theme     ♦♦♦♦♦

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦♦

Heroes: Sam Gamgee, Fatty Bolger, Pippin, Merry

Notable Cards: Elf-stone, Barliman Butterbur, Farmer Maggot, Dagger of Westernesse, Hobbit Cloak, Bill the Pony

Deck Support: Hobbit, Bree, Ranger

Buy it first if… You are a fan of the first half of The Fellowship of the Ring. You are looking for great value for your money (four new heroes, a nearly complete Hobbit archetype, and three fantastic quests). You are interested in building Hobbit decks.

Overall Thoughts: This is an absolutely amazing expansion, and a nearly flawless release. The Black Riders provides three new quests covering the events of the first half of The Fellowship of the Ring. You will hide from Nazgul in the Shire, escape from Bree to Weathertop, and finally rush to get a wounded Frodo to Rivendell before it is too late. As far as player cards are concerned, the new Hobbit heroes in this box are very strong. On top of that, most of them can actually function quite well outside Hobbit decks, and Sam Gamgee might be worth the price of admission alone. Aside from the heroes, there are some powerful attachments, such as Elf-stone and Dagger of Westernesse, that are great for Hobbit decks but also facilitate a wide variety of other deck types as well. The scenarios are generally some of the most well-designed in the game so far and are oozing theme from every pore. While there are a few small gripes you could have if you’re really searching (the second quest can drag on a little long and the first quest might leave you swimming in location limbo), these aren’t enough to detract from an expansion that provides an array of meaningful decisions to make and challenging situations to face. Note that The Black Riders also introduces Campaign Mode, which allows players to play a longer campaign through all of the Saga Expansions covering the events of The Lord of the Rings. I will say that new players might find this expansion a bit challenging and possibly even frustrating, which makes me hesitant to recommend this expansion for those who fit into that category. However, if you aren’t opposed to using Easy mode to get your bearings, then you should be fine, and you will get a nearly complete deck type that is ready to go.

The Road Darkens

Player Cards     ♦♦♦♦♦

Self-Contained     ♦♦♦♦♦

Challenge     ♦♦♦♦◊

Theme     ♦♦♦♦♦

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦◊

Hero: Gandalf

Notable Cards: Galadriel, Boromir, Elrond, Gandalf’s Staff, Wizard Pipe, Flame of Anor, Bilbo Baggins

Deck Support: Gandalf, Hobbit

Buy it first if… You are a fan of the second half of The Fellowship of the Ring. You are looking to build a deck centered around a Gandalf hero. You want to further explore Campaign Mode.

Overall Thoughts: Given that The Black Riders is one of my favorite expansions ever released for this game, described elsewhere in this guide as a “nearly flawless release”, I’ll admit to being a bit skeptical regarding whether The Road Darkens could match up to this level of quality. Fortunately, it does, which is to say that this is one of the best releases available for the game, falling just achingly short of The Black Riders.  In terms of player cards, The Road Darkens departs from previous Saga Expansions by only including one hero instead of four. However, this hero is Gandalf, an incredibly strong new hero with a game-changing ability. The Road Darkens also includes a set of cards that are designed to work with him, including his staff, pipe, and the Flame of Anor event. This expansion also brings forth ally versions of some of the most memorable characters from The Lord of the Rings, including Elrond, who serves the vital role of removing condition attachments, Galadriel, who can play attachments for free, and Boromir, who works incredibly well with Hobbit decks. The one weakness here is that there are far fewer player cards in The Road Darkens than is normal for a large expansion, in order to make room for a whole set of boon cards that play a part in Campaign Mode. Speaking of Campaign Mode, the story continues in this expansion in a big way, with a whole set of new boons and burdens fleshing out campaigns in a meaningful fashion. The quests are highly thematic, continuing the trend set in The Black Riders of artwork and mechanics that appropriately convey the spirit of Tolkien’s story. They do vary greatly in difficulty, though. The Ring Goes South aims to cover everything from the Council of Elrond to the battle with the Watcher. It is generally on the easier side. Journey on the Dark is the most punishing in the box and focuses on the trip through Moria and the fight with the Balrog. Finally, Breaking of the Fellowship divides players up into different stages as they seek to help the Ring-bearer make his decision and escape, and this one varies in difficulty based on number of players and a bit of luck. Overall, the quests are a bit more uneven than The Black Riders, which is why I feel that The Road Darkens falls just short of matching its predecessor, but Journey in the Dark is worth the price of admission alone, and jumps directly into my top five favorite scenarios ever, possibly contending for the top spot. The tension that builds throughout the scenario is gripping, and the choices built into the showdown against The Balrog often lead to heart-stopping finales. The other two quests are also strong, if not quite reaching the same heights. Overall, The Road Darkens deserves to fall somewhere towards the top of your shopping list, and could make a good pair with The Black Riders.

The Treason of Saruman

Player Cards     ♦♦♦♦♦

Self-Contained     ♦♦♦◊◊

Challenge     ♦♦♦♦◊

Theme     ♦♦♦♦♦

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦♦

Hero: Theoden (Spirit) and Treebeard

Notable Cards: Legolas, Gimli, Shadowfax, Hama, Quickbeam, Herugrim, Ent Draught

Deck Support: Rohan, Ent, Gandalf

Buy it first if… You are dying to experience Helm’s Deep. You are looking to further expand your Rohan or Ent deck. You want to further explore Campaign Mode.

Overall Thoughts: The first two Saga Expansions telling the story of The Lord of the Rings set an extremely high bar for the rest to follow, which meant that The Treason of Saruman would have to be spectacular to hold a candle to them. If that wasn’t enough, this expansion also had an added burden of expectation because it would bring to the table one of the signature events of the books: the Battle of Helm’s Deep. Since the game first began, people have been dreaming about what a Helm’s Deep scenario would be like, and so the designers faced a tall task of trying to make these dreams come to life. Thankfully, the result was a smashing success. Helm’s Deep is easily one of the best quests ever produced for this game, as it introduces an innovative “defense” keyword that reverses the normal dynamic of the game by forcing players to stop the encounter deck from making progress. This mechanic brilliantly imparts the feel of trying to hold against the tide of the enemy by the skin of your teeth. I will say that it is also one of the more difficult scenarios as well, so players should go into this expansion with their eyes open to that fact, but if they can get past that aspect, there’s a ton of fun to be had. The other two scenarios, The Uruk-hai and Road to Isengard, are not quite as difficult, though they can be challenging in their own right. Both are quite entertaining in their own right, though perhaps falling short of the raw drama of Helm’s Deep. Although it is hard for any expansion, Saga or otherwise, to top The Black Riders in terms of quests, The Treason of Saruman gives it a real run for its money. In terms of player cards, the box mostly focuses on supporting the Rohan and Ent traits. Spirit Theoden is the hero that Rohan has been waiting for, serving as a real centerpiece of the trait, so anyone who loves Rohan decks should seek out this expansion. The Treebeard hero can work both on his own and as part of Ent decks, while Ent Draught and Quickbeam similarly can function within their respective trait as well as outside of it. Taken as a group, Quickbeam, Legolas, and Gimli are fantastic allies that are well worth buying. There is no real dud in terms of player cards in the box, although Arod is admittedly a bit limited in scope. All in all, this box is one of the best values you can get for your money. The only downside is that if you are interested in campaign mode, you’ll need to pick up the first two boxes first.

The Land of Shadow

Player Cards     ♦♦♦♦◊

Self-Contained     ♦♦♦◊◊

Challenge     ♦♦♦♦◊

Theme     ♦♦♦♦◊

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦◊

Hero: Faramir (Leadership) and Damrod

Notable Cards: Anborn, Skinbark, Mablung, Gamling, Snowmane, Staff of Lebethron, Ambush, Taste It Again!

Deck Support: Hobbit, Trap, Gondor, Rohan, Ent

Buy it first if… You want to take your trap decks to another level. You want to add some useful pieces to your Rohan or Hobbit deck. You want to further explore Campaign Mode.

Overall Thoughts: The Land of Shadow takes on the other portion of The Two Towers: Frodo and Sam’s exploits as they inch closer towards Mordor. In my opinion, this poses a much stiffer design challenge, as while the Aragorn-centric quests represented in The Treason of Saruman expansion center around some of the flashiest moments in the books, such as the Battle of Helm’s Deep, this box has slightly less sexier material to deal with. Frodo and Sam’s journey is all about inner conflict, mastering oneself, battling the environment around them, and dealing with Gollum. This is a bit more difficult to model in both thematic and mechanical terms given the way this game works, with its heavy focus on combat and pumping out ally armies. It is for this reason that I have knocked some marks off the ratings for The Land of Shadow. For example, it sometimes feels a bit incongruous in the Passage of the Marshes, the first quest, to battle undead enemy after undead enemy, when there is no such combat in the story. Or, to take another example, it may feel strange to muster a large army to take on Shelob, while it is much more difficult to try to replicate Sam’s lone heroics. Again, I should emphasize that these are just necessities given how the game is designed, and not necessarily the fault of any design choices made. And, overall, I would stress that the scenarios overall are still highly enjoyable. Without the other Saga Expansions to compare The Land of Shadow to, it might get higher ratings. Journey to the Crossroads is a tough and rewarding scenario focused on the heroes trying to prevent an army of Haradrim from making it to Mordor, with those enemies that make it through noted down on the campaign log, meaning that they will play a role in the future, which is an amazing new twist to campaign mode. Shelob herself provides an interesting boss battle, substituting constant attacks, poison, and damage cancellation for the usual huge attack value or pool of hit points. In terms of player cards, the main focus is providing support for trap decks, with the Damrod hero and Ambush trap especially useful for this purpose. The new Leadership Faramir hero is objectively better than the Lore version, and can fit into a wide variety of decks. This expansion should be of special note for Rohan fans, as Gamling and Snowmane are both key pieces for that trait. So if you’re interested in Rohan, you should definitely pick up The Treason of Saruman and The Land of Shadow. Hobbit decks also get some important cards, such as Taste It Again!, Anborn, and Staff of Lebethron.

PRINT ON DEMAND

Note: Each year, Fantasy Flight Games creates a special scenario for Gen Con. These scenarios are designed to be especially challenging. Eventually, they are released as print on demand expansions. They contain only encounter cards (no player cards), and need only the Core Set to play. 

The Massing at Osgiliath

Player Cards     N/A

Self-Contained     N/A

Challenge     ♦♦♦♦♦

Theme     ♦♦♦♦◊

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦◊

Heroes: N/A

Notable Cards: N/A

Deck Support: N/A

Buy it first if… You want a new scenario and don’t care about player cards. You want a challenging quest, but aren’t quite ready for something like Battle of Lake-town. You relish the thought of taking on the Witch-king.

Overall Thoughts: This is the first of the Gen Con quests, and it is still a fun and challenging scenario, even for those players with the entire card pool available. Because the Gen Con scenarios are completely self-contained, and don’t use encounter sets from the Core Set or deluxe expansions, they tend to be more thematic and consistent than the average quest. The Massing at Osgiliath dumps players right into the lap of the Enemy, who has gathered forces at the ruined city. It starts off extremely quickly, with a “massing” of enemies starting off in the staging area from the very beginning. The progression of the scenario involves escaping from the east bank of the Anduin river (which runs through the middle of Osgiliath) to the west bank and the safety of Gondor. This situation is cleverly represented by each location having either the West Bank or East Bank trait, which have different effects depending on whether you have “crossed” the Anduin yet. The crossing itself takes place during a particular stage, and, I won’t spoil too much here, but making it to the other side of the river involves tough decision and epic sacrifices. Overall, I highly recommend this scenario, but it might be too challenging for players with just a Core Set. Most players should probably pick up at least a few expansions before they buy this quest. For those looking to buy things in the order of release, The Massing at Osgiliath was made available to the public after A Journey to Rhosgobel and before The Dead Marshes.

The Battle of Lake-town

Player Cards     N/A

Self-Contained     N/A

Challenge     ♦♦♦♦♦

Theme     ♦♦♦♦♦

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦♦

Heroes: N/A

Notable Cards: N/A

Deck Support: N/A

Buy it first if… You want a new scenario and don’t care about player cards. You want one of the biggest challenges available in the game. You’ve dreamed of taking on Smaug.

Overall Thoughts: This scenario is legendary for being one of the most difficult quests around. Don’t let this completely deter you, though, as this is also one of the most enjoyable and thematic scenarios as well. The entire quest revolves around fighting Smaug, and puts players directly in the midst of Lake-town during the fateful battle. An innovative burn mechanic represents the damage done to Lake-town, and your ultimate victory depends upon both defeating Smaug and preventing the entire town from going up in flames. The main downside of The Battle of Lake-town is that it requires very specific and focused deck building to be successful, and this is not something that appeals to every player. It also, as was already mentioned, is quite a challenge, so new players should take some time to build up their card pool and experience before tackling this one. However, if you feel up to the challenge, this scenario is definitely a must-own at some point. This is the boss fight to end all boss fights, and it really gives you the feeling of taking on a mighty and dangerous foe more than any other quest. Every moment feels tense and you can practically feel the flames heating the air around you. For those looking to buy things in the order of release, The Battle of Lake-town came out after Shadow and Flame and The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill and before Heirs of Numenor.

The Stone of Erech

Player Cards     N/A

Self-Contained     N/A

Challenge     ♦♦♦♦◊

Theme     ♦♦♦♦♦

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦◊

Heroes: N/A

Notable Cards: N/A

Deck Support: N/A

Buy it first if… You want a new scenario and don’t care about player cards. You don’t mind a challenge, and want a fun quest with unique mechanics. You want a little horror with your Tolkien.

Overall Thoughts: The Stone of Erech pits players against the Oathbreakers, the undead spirits that were eventually rallied to a good cause by Aragorn. Here, however, they are strictly enemies, and must be battled with willpower instead of attack strength to represent their incorporeal nature. An innovative mechanic that uses objectives to represent the passage of time imparts a sense of dread as the clock ticks closer to midnight. It is in the darkest of night when the encounter deck becomes nastiest, as is only fitting, and this quest slowly builds up the difficulty as it goes, rather than slamming you from the beginning. Make no mistake: this quest is challenging, but it is more immediately accessible than the other print on demand scenarios. Thus, players that are contemplating buying one of these Gen Con quests, but are unsure about their ability to manage the difficulty, might want to start with The Stone of Erech. For those looking to buy things in the order of release, The Stone of Erech came out after The Blood of Gondor and before The Morgul Vale.

The Old Forest

Player Cards     N/A

Self-Contained     N/A

Challenge     ♦♦♦◊◊

Theme     ♦♦♦♦♦

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦◊◊

Heroes: N/A

Notable Cards: N/A

Deck Support: N/A

Buy it first if… You want a new scenario and don’t care about player cards. You are a fan of Tom Bombadil and the Old Forest section of the story. You want to fill in your campaign experience.

Overall Thoughts: The Old Forest aims to fill in the gaps in narrative in The Black Riders expansion between the escape of Frodo from the Shire and his arrival in Bree. Specifically, it takes players through the Old Forest, as the malevolent Old Man Willow seeks to keep the heroes hopelessly lost and ultimately desires their destruction. This quest is definitely heavy on locations, as is appropriate for the story, and advancement to the final showdown with Old Man Willow means exploring a certain number of them. This has fallen flat in the past, as with The Hills of Emyn Muil, but the cycling of random quest stages, each with unique effects, to represent getting lost in the forest, along with some nasty enemies and a big boss makes this one actually interesting. It tends towards the easier side for solo players, especially for a Gen Con quest, but gets more difficult in three or four player games. This one has added value as it can be included as part of your Campaign Mode adventures with a new boon to be earned.

Fog on the Barrow-downs

Player Cards     N/A

Self-Contained     N/A

Challenge     ♦♦♦♦◊

Theme     ♦♦♦♦♦

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦♦

Heroes: N/A

Notable Cards: N/A

Deck Support: N/A

Buy it first if… You want a new scenario and don’t care about player cards. You are a fan of Tom Bombadil and the Barrow-downs section of the story. You want to fill in your campaign experience.

Overall Thoughts: Fog on the Barrow-downs aims to fill in the gaps in narrative in The Black Riders expansion between the escape of Frodo from the Shire and his arrival in Bree. Specifically, it takes players through the section of the story where the Hobbits are captured by wights in the Barrow-downs and almost meet their end. This quest starts out innocently enough, with a brief respite at Tom Bombadil’s house and a fairly normal jaunt through the Barrow-downs. However, things become more interesting as the quest progresses and players are separated into different barrows where they must fight their way out or perish. This quest is ripe with the kind of thematic connections that can be found in the Saga Expansions, with one location, for example, capturing allies in a barrow until they can be rescued. If you don’t care about player cards at all, Fog on the Barrow-downs is one of the better quests out there, especially if you enjoy the undead aspect of Tolkien’s world. As with The Old Forest, this can be added to your Campaign Mode experience with a brand new boon available.

The Ruins of Belegost

Player Cards     N/A

Self-Contained     N/A

Challenge     ♦♦♦♦♦

Theme     ♦♦♦♦♦

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦◊

Heroes: N/A

Notable Cards: N/A

Deck Support: N/A

Buy it first if… You want a new scenario and don’t care about player cards. You are a fan of treasure-hunting and shiny things. You like First Age references and battling dragons.

Overall Thoughts: The Ruins of Belegost is probably the closest this game gets to a true, old-fashioned dungeon-delving experience. There’s loot to be had, a dragon to be fought, and dank dungeons to be explored. The quest really centers around acquiring unique pieces of loot, all with special powers, and there are branching paths depending on which loot you acquire. For someone like me, who loves First Age references (the quest is set in the ancient lost Dwarven stronghold of Belegost) and gathering shiny stuff, this quest is ideal. However, this quest is HARD! It is especially difficult solo, but with pretty much any number of players, it packs a punch, so this isn’t the best early purchase. It also can be subject to the fickle hand of random fate, as which loot you earn at what time is often random, yet this determine your path and often your ultimate success, so I took a bit off the fun factor for that reason.That being said, when you’re ready, this is a must-own in terms of a unique experience.

Murder at the Prancing Pony

Player Cards     N/A

Self-Contained     N/A

Challenge     ♦♦♦♦◊

Theme     ♦♦♦♦♦

Scenario Fun Factor     ♦♦♦♦♦

Heroes: N/A

Notable Cards: N/A

Deck Support: N/A

Buy it first if… You want a new scenario and don’t care about player cards. You are a fan of murder mysteries. You want a quest with a high replay factor and that you can enjoy playing with friends.

Overall Thoughts: If you imagine the classic game of Clue distilled into an LOTR LCG scenario, you have some idea of what Murder at the Prancing Pony is all about. In this quest, you are trying to narrow down a list of possible suspects and hideouts so that you can identify the culprit and where he is located. You do this by peeking into an “investigation deck” when you explore a location with the proper keyword. Overall, this is an extremely fun and, like most of the other print on demand quest, unique quest that is worth purchasing on that basis. It is especially entertaining with a group of friends where you can have that experience of solving a mystery together. It is on the challenging side for newer players, but manageable once you have some experience and a decent card pool to draw from.

Postscript: Ok, ok, thanks for the buying guide, but I only have around $45-$60 to spend. Just tell me what to buy!

If you are looking for strong cards and like Dwarves then… buy The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill and Return to Mirkwood. Then when you have enough, buy Khazad-Dum.

If you are looking for strong cards and like Noldor Elves then… buy The Lost Realm, The Treachery of Rhudaur, and The Dread Realm.

If you are looking for strong cards and like Silvan Elves then… buy Voice of Isengard, The Dunland Trap, and Trouble in Tharbad.

If you are looking for strong cards and like Rohan then… buy Voice of Isengard, one of the Shadows of Mirkwood Adventure Packs, and The Treason of Saruman/The Land of Shadow.

If you are looking for strong cards and like Gondor/Outlands then… buy Heirs of Numenor, The Steward’s Fear, and possibly Assault on Osgiliath.

If you are looking for strong cards and like Hobbits then… buy The Black Riders and The Dead Marshes.

If you are looking for strong cards and like Ents then… buy Voice of Isengard, The Antlered Crown, and The Treason of Saruman.

If you are looking for strong cards and like Dunedain then… buy The Lost Realm, The Wastes of Eriador, and The Battle of Carn Dum.

If you are looking for a quick boost of strong cards and don’t care about theme then… buy Khazad-dum, Foundations of Stone and The Watcher in the Water.

If you are looking for fun quests to play then… buy Khazad Dum, The Watcher in the Water, and Foundations of Stone. Alternatively, buy the two Hobbit boxes or The Black Riders and The Road Darkens.

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From → New Players, Reviews

157 Comments
  1. Mr D permalink

    Thanks a lot for posting this! A friend of mine bought this game used with a mixed bag of expansion packs that don’t all fit well together. We’ve been looking for certain heros, allies and decks types. Now we can slowly add the pieces we want/need in a nice more particular order.

  2. Flavio permalink

    And what do you think of the treason of saruman expansion?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      It hasn’t arrived yet, but as soon as it does, I’m sure you will hear all about it!

  3. Stellar permalink

    This is such an amazing resource! Thank you!

    I’m trying to avoid a huge monetary investment, so as of now I have a couple from Mirkwood (Rhosgobel and Return to Mirkwood), Massing at Osgiliath (I know it’s hard but it sounds so cool), Black Riders and The Road Darkens.

    I’m thinking of picking up Khazad-dum next with a couple of packs from the Dwarrowdelf cycle (sounds like they’re great!).

    If I were to add one more Mirkwood, I was thinking either Conflict at the Carrock, or Dead Marshes (with nightmare deck so I can sample that aspect of the line, and you mention it isn’t ridiculously challenging). Any suggestions?

    I’m really tempted to get The Lost Realm, though that would mean skipping two whole cycles, which may make it nearly impossible. Any thoughts?

    Thanks again for a wonderful article!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! Glad you found it helpful. Khazad-dum plus a couple of packs from Dwarrowdelf is a good bet. As far as choosing between Conflict and Dead Marshes, that’s a tough one. Without NIghtmare involved, Conflict is a much better quest. Nightmare Dead Marshes is quite fun though. In terms of player cards, both have some key ones. Dead Marshes has Fast Hitch (great for those Hobbit heroes from Black Riders) and an amazing hero in Boromir. Conflict has the best shadow cancellation in A Burning Brand and Frodo hero. I might lean towards Dead Marshes just because I like using the Boromir hero so much.

      As for Lost Realm, it’s really hard to say how challenging it will be until it is released. It looks like it’s going to be an amazing expansion, though.

      • stellar permalink

        Thanks so much for the feedback! I was debating whether to get the Hobbit boxes or Khazad-dum with a few packs. Glad you think Khazad-dum is a good bet.
        I see Conflict at the Carrock is rated highly, but my worry was that I won’t be able to use Frodo in the LotR saga expansions (they give you a Frodo, I think), and I thought Dead Marshes with Nightmare would be a fun way to sample. Plus, I hear Boromir is an awesome hero to use. So thanks for the input!
        Lost Realm does look awesome…I might just take a chance on it.
        Thanks again!

  4. Amazing blog, although I not a new player, the reviews on these expansions are spot on and help guide me on what to purchase next.

  5. Created a printer-friendly condensed PDF checklist of this list (plus more info from the FFG site) for people who like to keep a checklist in their box.

    http://www.start.ofitall.com/lotr-lcg.php

  6. Stellar permalink

    Back with another question! Hope that’s okay.

    What are your thoughts on Heirs of Numenor and/or Treason Of Saruman with limited card pools (2-3 packs from first two cycles, so not everything released prior). Are they do-able or too tough that way?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      It’s tough to say, but my intuition is that Treason of Saruman is probably a bit more do-able overall than Heirs of Numenor with a limited card pool.

      • Stellar permalink

        Thanks! It’s so hard because so many packs sound so interesting. I wish I could have it all!

  7. You forgot to mention that Khazad-Dum deluxe expansion’s “Misty Mountains” encounter cards is used only with either the first (Redhorn Gate) or the 2nd (Road to Rivendell) adventure packs. So, if you don’t get either AP, you will not be able to experience the “Misty Mountains” cards. That’s why I bought the 2nd AP for Dwarrowdelf.

  8. Zac permalink

    If I bought an expansion and wanted to play a scenario that requires it with a friend who doesn’t have the expansion, is that possible?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yes. Each expansion contains all the cards you’ll need to play that scenario for 1-4 players.

  9. Sharru Nada permalink

    I’m sorry if this is obvious, but I can’t find this answer anywhere. I see variations of the following:

    “You must have the deluxe expansion in order to play the adventure packs of the cycle.”

    Why is this? Do the deluxe expansions have some of the encounter cards for the APs? What keeps me for example from buying watcher in the water and playing its quest without buying Khazadum?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      The quest in each AP is built using the cards in that AP plus one or two of the encounter sets from the associated deluxe box. So basically you can’t play the quest in an AP without the corresponding deluxe. If you are just interested in the player cards, then there’s nothing stopping you from taking those and using them right away.

      • I have the Core Set. Correct me if I am wrong:

        1) I can buy ANY deluxe/saga expansion OR adventure pack and use the heroes/attachments/events/allies (that I like) in those cards and integrate them into my personal deck?

        For example, I get an ally card from the Sands of Harad, an attachment from The Drowned Ruins, a hero from Across the Ettenmoors, an event from The Druadan Forest and just INSERT them into my basic core set deck and play the 3 core set scenarios (and so on and so forth)?

  10. Dan permalink

    Thanks for the great guide! I’m a new player and just picked up the black riders and the road darkens based on this guide. Can’t wait to get them in the mail!

    I just wanted to say that I think the quest difficulty in HoN is a little over exaggerated. I wad able to complete all of the scenarios with only the base set with some difficulty, but building decks tailored to the scenario is part of what makes it so fun!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Glad it was helpful! In retrospect, HoN can be managed by very careful deck building and adapting oneself to the unique peculiarities of battle and siege. However, I based my rating on the reactions to HoN at the time it was released, which consisted of many players commenting on the extreme difficulty. In many ways, HoN represented a quantitative leap in difficulty from the cycles before it, and that trend has largely continued (although not entirely). It was even to the point where some players were threatening to quit the game or expressing dire frustration because they found HoN so difficult. I am glad to hear that HoN can be managed with only the base set though.

  11. Jonny358 permalink

    Thank you so much for this incredibly valuable resource! I got the core set recently and am trying to decide how to expand. Khazad and Dwarodelf Cycle looks like a solid first choice, expecially with awesome APS like Shadow and Flame, The Watcher in the Water, and Foundations of Stone. However, I love the first half of The Two Towers and am considering trying Treason of Saruman. I am also interested in Black Riders and Voice of Saruman. What do you think is the most enjoyable expansion for a beginner (who isn’t overly fond of dwarves)? Will I be able to win solo games consistently against the ToS or BR scenarios with my limited card pool? Thanks!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Glad it was helpful. To answer your question, define “consistently”. :p More seriously, the saga expansions are tested with just the core set card pool, so it is possible to beat them this way, although it may be a challenge, especially as you are getting used to the game. Dwarrowdelf would probably be the easier entry point, but if you really love the source material and want to recreate it, then go the saga route. I’ll say that with The Black Riders and a limited card pool, you’ll probably be building Hobbit decks early on, so keep that in mind.

  12. Dan permalink

    Great article. Us it usually really hard to find the Return to Mirkwood adventure pack online?

  13. The third quest in Voice of Isenguard may be easy for experienced players? Ok I must be a doofus then as this quest gave me nightmares when I came across it (though I don’t tend to build heavy combat solo decks). Must be doing something very wrong then! 😛

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Don’t worry, I’ve found that difficulty is sometimes in the eye of the beholder with this game. Some quests that others find difficult I breeze through, and then I’ll have trouble with a quest that others find easy. For the third quests, I think the ease is in not having to worry about defensive pressure as much as you do with most scenarios.

      • Define “defensive pressure” – i mean those tree things hurt you a ton when they get engaged with you per their effects and they’re tough as nails to hurt?

        Had the same thing with The Three Trials – I find that quest impossible as a solo player, but then I used my same deck against Trouble in Tharbad straight after to continue the story and breezed through it!

        • TalesfromtheCards permalink

          I mean in terms of not having to worry about conventional attacks and shadow effects, this allows your characters to focus more on questing and attack. It’s certainly not an “auto-win” by any means, just easier than some of the other scenarios out there. Again, though, this often depends on play-style more than anything else.

          The Three Trials is very difficult for solo play, and much easier with more players. Other quests are the exact opposite. Judging difficulty in this game is one of the most difficult tasks around!

  14. Tophern permalink

    Have to ask a noob question. Apologies up front… I just purchased The Road Darkens and was wondering if the boons, such as Anduril, could be used as part of my 50 card deck? Thanks in advance for the help!

  15. Tophern permalink

    Never mind found the answer.

  16. When’s the next update going to be?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Hopefully soon. By the end of this month is my goal!

  17. Kasper permalink

    This guide has helped me sooo much, hoping for an update soon!

  18. Reli thanks for your great effort! I am a new player from HK and plan to build a elf deck.
    With ref to your guide (Reli comprehensive!), I should buy some expansions related to “Voice of Isengard”. However, is it a bit difficult for me to play with the “Voice of Isengard” cycle with just the core set (I just have the core set right now)? I like elves, but I amafraid I cannot play well with the quest in VOI. Should I buy some Aventure pack from SHADOWS OF MIRKWOOD CYCLE?

    Thanks!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      If you like Elves, but want something a bit more manageable in terms of difficulty, you could get Khazad-dum plus some of the packs in the Dwarrowdelf cycle. That cycle isn’t too difficult with a core set and gives you elven heroes like Elladan, Elrohir, Glorfindel, and Elrond.

  19. Dan permalink

    Hi, I’m looking to build an elven deck (noldor or silvian) and I’m looking to only buy one or two more expansions. I already have khazad dum and heirs of numenor. What is your recommendation?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      If you want to build Silvan, that is mostly in the Ring-maker cycle. So you’d probably have to buy Voice of Isengard and a few of the packs in that cycle. Since you already have Khazad-dum, I’d recommend getting Foundations of Stone and Shadow and Flame. This will give you Glorfindel and Elrond, which is a great place to start. You could also get Redhorn Gate and Road to Rivendell if you want the twins Elladan and Elrohir instead.

  20. Hi, I’m new to this game. I just bought the core set and the expansion Khazad-Dum and I would like some advices. I like to play just for fun and I am not interested in building the best deck possible. It is better to buy more “normal” expansion, or to buy the saga expansions?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s a good question. Both are great options. I guess it really comes down to whether you want to recreate the events of the books or you want to explore parts of Middle-earth that weren’t really covered by the actual stories. Since you already have Khazad-dum, you could buy some of the Dwarrowdelf packs, which is a good place to start in terms of difficulty and getting used to the game.

  21. kirbf permalink

    Just wanted to say thank you for putting this together! Haven’t even purchased the game yet but found it immensely helpful.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      You’re welcome! Glad it was helpful!

  22. I would not have suggested buying Heirs of Numenor even if they really like Gondor. I should probably be your last purchase.

  23. Jonas Vanschooren permalink

    Thnx alot for your great work.
    It’s a great help in finding fun cards that would help in building nice decks.
    My gf is a big fan of dwarves and Hobbits so now I can find some extra cards for her to use.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Glad to help!

      • Gotta admit that this blog has me all excited and bogged down in buying all the expansions and AP’s in release order and play them as well. I am held up at Heirs of Numenor because I am waiting for the reprint which should be in a boutique 3 to 4 months. What expansion do you recommend I continue with till I get my mitts on Heirs of Numenor and the complete Against the Shadow cycle? Thx.

        • TalesfromtheCards permalink

          Have you started with the Saga Expansions yet? That might be a good place to tide you over until Heirs is reprinted. Either the Hobbit boxes or starting off with The Black Riders for the LOTR set would be good.

  24. Martin Opsanger permalink

    Hei
    A geat list!
    but i have never played the game, and my brother wants it for christmas.
    and want to buy him the core set, and som extra to the game.
    as he is new to it, is it best to just start from the start with the expansion, or is it some is a must buy expansion that i need to know about?

  25. Nomad permalink

    Awesome blog. Very helpful too. I already bought several expansions based on these reviews and they all worked. Are you going to review some of the newer packs as well? (e.g.:dream chaser decks, Sands of Harad…etc.) thank you for the great work so far.

  26. Steven permalink

    A deep and genuine thank you for writing all this out. I’ve just discovered this wonderful game and this has been a great read =]

    Hail Theoden!

  27. meta3 permalink

    Hi,

    Is ANGMAR AWAKENED CYCLE any good for solo? I want to play solo and build Noldor deck.

    Best regards

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Indeed! Like other cycles, its solo suitability can vary from quest to quest, but overall, it’s a valid choice for solo play.

      • Klemen Hrovat permalink

        Would it be any good with just core or should I rather get khazad dum for elf deck?

  28. Most awesome buying guide I’ve ever seen for any product! The amount of work you put into this blog is simply amazing.
    I see you haven’t changed the Postscript on the March 2017 update. Does that mean the Dream-chaser expansions actually aren’t the best buys for any kind of player/trait? Do you plan on adding anything about that on future updates?

  29. Andibandit permalink

    Im currently playing through the quests in the core set with a friend.
    Since my friend has the core set, and I want to build my own deck, do I have to also buy the core set to get access to those cards, or are the cards available as standalone?

    • If it’s just the two of you playing, and the “cards” you are referring to are part of the Core set itself, then no, you don’t have to buy a separate core set in order to build a separate deck. The number of card copies in the core set are sufficient. The requirement of having another core set only comes in when there are more than two players because you start running out of copies of cards then, esp. the neutral cards, you need more doom trackers, tokens, etc.

  30. Noi permalink

    Talking on behalf a new player who managed to get almost the whole collection released in a relatively short time.

    I absolutely don’t share this love for Khazad and Hobbit boxes. I found them both very boring and no fun. On the other hand why people hate Shadows of Mirkwood? They are meant for starting players with Core only, don’t ignore them. These quests are really enjoyable, I wish I had them first but they were not available at my store. So I had to go for later boxes (Angmar, Hobbit, Black Riders, both Isengard) which I could not even play for the long time until I gathered almost the whole collection.

    If I had the chance to acquire Core with all 6 Shadows of Mirkwood at start, my experience would be a lot more enjoyable, without head banging on harder quests like Intruders in Chetwood and trying to devise a deck out of non synergizable cards with far more complicated mechanics than needed for my noobie level. Not to mention it is not interesting to start playing the story from the middle.

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