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The Black Riders: Heroes Review

by on September 19, 2013

the black riders

The official release of The Black Riders is coming ever closer, and I know those of you out there who are waiting to get your hands on a copy are dying of anticipation. Fear not, as your patience will soon be well rewarded. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I will be devoting a lot of space in this blog to The Black Riders, including a multi-part review of the player cards and an in-depth exploration of Campaign Mode. This may be showing my hand a bit early, but I have to say that The Black Riders is, without a doubt, my favorite expansion that has yet been released for this game. It also happens to be a challenging experience, without being so frustrating that you want to build a pyre out of your collection. In this article, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at the four new Hobbit heroes that are included in the box, while in subsequent parts, we’ll review the allies, attachments, and events.

Before beginning our hero review in earnest, I do want to mention that there is a fifth Hobbit hero included in The Black Riders: a second version of Frodo hailing from the brand new Fellowship sphere. However, I’m not going to be giving him the review treatment that the other heroes are receiving because if you are playing the scenarios in this set, then you have to use Frodo, and if you’re not, then you can’t use him. This means that any rating or review of Frodo is a bit pointless. However, I will say that his ability, which allows him to completely cancel all effects on an encounter card, including “surged” and “doomed” keywords, is quite useful, especially given the challenges you will face in these three scenarios. Of course, you do have to draw a new card to replace the one you cancelled, but it will oftentimes be worth it. In fact, when Frodo’s ability was first spoiled, I felt certain that I wouldn’t use it that often, as it does require exhausting The One Ring, which is penalized by certain encounter card effects. However, the temptation to use it is quite strong, and I have certainly not been shy about slipping on the ring whenever it suited me!

With that said, let’s meet this band of conspirators!

HEROES

* Merry (Tactics Hero, 6 threat, 2 willpower, 0 attack, 1 defense, 2 hit points):

It’s difficult for me to remain objective about this card, because there’s so much I love about it. The artwork is amazing, the abilities are powerful, and the possibilities are intriguing. I really didn’t think I would see the day where a Tactics Hobbit would be in the game, not to mention one that can wreck enemies with the flick of a wrist, but I’m glad to be wrong. Let’s take a closer look at what Mr. Brandybuck offers:

Merry gets +1 attack for each Hobbit hero you control.

Response: After Merry participates in an attack that destroys an enemy, ready another character that participated in that attack.

The first ability obviously encourages you to use Merry in an all-Hobbit deck. With two other Hobbit heroes in tow, Merry has an impressive attack strength of 3, which is equal to such powerhouses as Legolas, Glorfindel, and Aragorn. Also, keep in mind that during turns where you control Frodo, if you are playing the Black Riders quests, or Bilbo, if you are running merrythrough the Hobbit scenarios, then he actually has 4 attack. When you add in the new weapon, Dagger of Westernesse, which is a match made in heaven for Merry, then he can attack for 5 or 6 when facing an enemy with a higher engagement cost that his controller’s current threat. To be honest, I would be happy with just this ability, and Merry would be worthy of inclusion even without his second effect.

However, Merry’s ability to ready another character that helps him destroy an enemy is the tasty cherry on top. It combines particularly well with ranged characters, such as Legolas, who can participate in an attack with Merry, then be readied to attack some other foe on the board. Obviously, ranged is not a requirement though, any character with a high attack strength can benefit from Merry’s readying effect (to cite just one example, imagine a powered-up Gimli being able to swing on multiple enemies). I feel obligated to mention that there is a potentially broken combination existing between Brand Son of Bain and Merry. Since both heroes can ready another character when destroying an enemy, they can ready each other, thus potentially enabling you to mow down everyone in your path. I expect at least one of these abilities will receive an errata in the near future, though I can’t say for sure.

Altogether, Merry’s two abilities, combined with a low, low threat, make Merry an indisputably strong hero. His biggest weakness is his vulnerability, as, like most Hobbits, he only has 2 hit points. This can be boosted through the use of such cards as Bill the Pony, Ring Mail, and Boots from Erebor, but it is an issue that requires some forethought. Most of the time, you probably won’t be defending with Merry, but quests with tons of archery and direct damage can make short work of Merry (and other Hobbits as well). Beyond his low number of hit points, Merry’s other limitation is that he loses value outside of an all-Hobbit hero deck. However, while having a Merry with an attack value of one vs. an attack value of three certainly makes a huge difference, I actually would be open to including him in a non-Hobbit deck. The reason why is because Merry is a low-threat Tactics hero, which is an extremely rare thing. Being able to have access to the Tactics sphere without boosting your threat, or adding him into a mono-Tactics deck to lower the overall starting threat, are both perfectly reasonable options. With all this in mind, I have nothing but the highest praise for this new hero.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦♦

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

* Pippin (Lore Hero, 6 threat, 2 willpower, 1 attack, 1 defense, 2 hit points):

We have our second Pippin in the space of a few months, and I have to say that I much prefer this edition. The stats are exactly the same between the two versions, so what we’re really looking for is a difference in abilities. While the Spirit version focuses on pushing enemies back to the staging area, Lore Pippin seeks to elude them, before bringing them down at the right moment to reap some cards out of the bargain:

Each enemy in play gets +1 engagement cost for each Hobbit hero you control.

Response: After you engage an enemy with a engagement cost higher than your threat, draw a card.

Pippin’s first ability is more useful than it perhaps appears at first glance, especially when you take into account how it interacts with other Hobbit cards. If you play this hero with two other Hobbit heroes, then each enemy in play adds 3 to their engagement cost, which may not seem crucial, but in real terms can buy you 3 extra turns before you have to face a pippinparticular foe (again, when playing Saga Expansions, when you control Bilbo/Frodo, this bonus becomes +4). However, the key is that this effect not only delays enemy engagements, which is crucial for overall Hobbit strategy (avoiding enemies and only taking them on when the moment is right), but it also enables other Hobbit abilities. For example, Samwise Gamgee, who we’ll discuss in a moment, readies and gains a stat boost when you pull down an enemy with a higher engagement cost than your threat. Lore Pippin allows this ability to trigger in situations when it wouldn’t normally because your threat has risen too high (or enemy engagement costs are too low). Other Hobbit cards, such as Hobbit Cloak and Dagger of Westernesse, are quite powerful but dependent on enemies’ engagement costs being higher than your threat, so Pippin serves as a quiet, but essential, part of Hobbit strategy and synergy.

Of course, our favorite fool of a Took also helps out himself, as his second ability is also tied to enemy engagement cost. Since, in a true Hobbit deck, you are going to be looking to optionally engage enemies one by one, usually at least one per turn, you can usually look to draw an extra card every turn or every other turn. It is not quite as reliable a source of card draw as the other Lore Hobbit hero, Bilbo, but Pippin’s starting threat is considerably lower, and this is a key reason why I prefer Pippin over Bilbo in a Hobbit deck. Also, keep in mind that when an encounter or quest card forces you to engage with enemies, and you end up engaging with several foes in one turn, you can end up drawing multiple cards in one turn.

As with Merry, Pippin can be used in non-Hobbit decks to contribute to a lower starting threat, although the benefit is not quite as marked, as there are a few other low threat Lore options, unlike with Tactics. You won’t get the full benefit of his boost to enemy engagement cost, but you can still reap the card draw if you engage enemies that are higher than your threat. This means that Pippin should be used in decks with a low starting threat, if you want to get the most out of him. Otherwise, he could simply be included as a body that can contribute to a low starting threat (similar to Mirlonde, but with weaker stats).

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

* Sam Gamgee (Leadership Hero, 8 threat, 3 willpower, 1 attack, 1 defense, 3 hit points):

I think it’s safe to say that Sam has been one of the most anticipated heroes since the game was first released. Fortunately, he has finally arrived and the result is certainly not a disappointment. Sam Gamgee plays on the theme of Hobbits gaining benefits when they strategically take on a foe:

Response: After you engage an enemy with a higher engagement cost than your threat, ready Sam Gamgee. He gets +1 willpower, +1 attack, and +1 defense until the end of the round.

This is an extraordinarily powerful effect, or rather, set of effects, even Just looking at the first part of the text. Sam is able to ready after questing when engaging with an enemy with a greater engagement cost. Like Prince Imrahil, Boromir, and Aragorn. Sam has a built-in readying effect that requires some sort of trigger or cost to activate. Imrahil’s readying comes at the cost of a sam gamgeecharacter leaving the table, although this may happen as a matter of course and is something that can be designed around. Still, it could be argued that engaging an enemy with a higher engagement cost is easier to pull off consistently than losing a character, and usually more beneficial. The Leadership version of Aragorn, like Sam, can ready after questing for the cost of just 1 resource, but his starting threat cost of 12 is substantially higher than Sam’s 8. Boromir can quickly boost your threat to uncomfortable levels if you over-use his ability, but then again, he has an advantage over Sam and Imrahil, in that he can use his at will, since it is not dependent on satisfying a condition that may be out of your control. Still, especially with Pippin’s boost to enemy engagement costs in play, Sam can consistently quest and engage in combat during many turns without needing any attachments to do so, and this is extremely useful, especially since he has the best willpower in the sphere (along with Thorin Oakenshield).

Of course, that’s not the whole story for Sam. He also gains a boost to attack, defense, and willpower on top of readying, meaning that he can contribute at least 2 attack or defense to combat. This means that Sam can give you more value in terms of stats than his starting threat might indicate. The willpower boost is nice but usually won’t matter much, since having extra points in this stat usually doesn’t count outside the questing phase (of course, certain quests will be an exception). It’s important to note that these attribute boosts do stack if you happen to engage with multiple enemies per turn (hello Hammer-stroke), which can lead to Sam hulking out. To give one example, when playing The Black Riders at Gen Con, I was controlling Sam, who engaged with four enemies at once thanks to an encounter card effect, meaning that he had 5 attack and 5 defense! Obviously, Fast Hitch is great to throw onto Sam (as well as all the Hobbit heroes), as he can quest, attack, and defend, all in the same round with strong stats.

Sam has the highest starting threat of the Hobbit heroes in this box, but he makes up for it with 3 willpower and a decent pool of hit points (3 against the usual 2 for Hobbits). This heartiness allows him to defend with a bit more confidence, and provide a bulwark against damage to protect your more fragile Hobbits. Since Sam doesn’t have any abilities that are tied to controlling other Hobbits, although obviously he synergizes well with the low threat approach of a Hobbit deck, he can fit into a wide variety of other decks quite easily. Like Merry and Pippin, he provides a relatively low threat option for his sphere, allowing you to bring in Leadership into a deck without messing up your starting threat, or keeping the threat of a mono-Leadership deck lower than it would be otherwise. The great thing is that the benefit Sam provides wouldn’t just be limited to his moderate threat, however, but also extends to his strong abilities. Obviously, though, you will want to include him in decks with a fairly low starting threat, although simply having a hero with 3 willpower around is worth the inclusion in a variety of contexts. I don’t want to overstate the case for Sam, as there will be times when you get caught with your metaphorical pants down (without stat boosts) and might be hard-pressed, but fortunately there are a few attachments available that make this hero even better.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦♦

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦♦

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

* Fatty Bolger (Spirit Hero, 7 threat, 1 willpower, 1 attack, 2 defense, 3 hit points):

There was much speculation as to who the fifth Hobbit hero in this expansion would be after the others were spoiled. The hot pick was Fatty Bolger, and such speculation has proved accurate. I have to be honest, when I first saw his ability, I was rather underwhelmed, and felt certain that he wouldn’t find much use in any of my decks. However, I have slowly warmed up to his unorthodox effect:

Action: Exhaust Fatty Bolger to choose an enemy in the staging area and raise your threat by that enemy’s threat strength. Until the end of the phase, that enemy does not contribute its threat strength. (Limit once per round.)

The first reaction to this ability may be to ask, “Why on Middle-earth would you raise your threat to cancel threat? Isn’t that just re-arranging deck chairs on Numenor?” Still, this subtle effect actually allows Hobbit decks, who will normally be running with low threat levels, to enable faster quest progress. This can be useful both in solo and multi-player games. For example, infatty bolger the former, you can raise your threat when you fall a bit short during an important quest push, say a few progress tokens shy of clearing out a crucial location or quest stage, thus moving you closer to victory. In the latter, a Hobbit deck with a low starting threat can take one for the team, preventing all players from failing questing or pushing everyone closer to where they need to be. It’s helpful to re-state this ability in different terms to really think about whether it’s useful or not. If Fatty Bolger instead said, “Action: Raise your threat by X to put X progress tokens on the quest,” would you view this as valuable? I’d have to say the answer is a clear yes, although Fatty’s ability doesn’t quite work this simply, as it is dependent on the threat strength of available enemies in the staging area, and this serves as an important limiting factor. Still, the point stands.

There is a weakness to Fatty’s ability, and this is what initially put me off him as a viable hero: he seemingly goes against the whole strategy of Hobbits. A good Hobbit deck will aim to keep its threat as low as possible at all times, in order to prevent swarms of enemies from engaging, and to allow effects, like those on Pippin and Sam, to activate as often as possible. Fatty Bolger, on the other hand, boosts the threat of a Hobbit deck, thus taking away some of its natural advantages (this was one of my main criticisms of the Spirit version of Pippin). This is certainly a real criticism of this hero, and a reason why I have mostly opted for a Sam/Lore Pippin/Merry configuration for my Hobbit deck. However, by including the threat reduction effects that are part of the Spirit sphere, you can allow Fatty to do his thing without ruining your Hobbit deck’s mojo. The Galadhrim’s Greeting can combine nicely with the Hobbit-centered cost reduction of Good Meal to provide a massive threat reduction of 6 for a cost of 1. In addition, the Smoke Rings that come in the Black Riders box itself can help to lower your threat as well. Altogether, while you certainly have to be very thoughtful in building a deck around Fatty and his ability, perhaps more so than with the other Hobbit heroes, you can reap some worthwhile rewards in the form of faster progress and less frequent questing failures.

As far as Fatty’s stats are concerned, he costs a bit more (7) than Merry and Pippin, in terms of threat. You do get the benefit of an extra hit point (similar to Sam). In addition, Fatty has 1 willpower instead of the 2  that Merry/Pippin possess, but you get an additional point of defense in return. This actually makes perfect sense, as you will probably not be questing with Fatty, because you want to keep him ready, in case you need to exhaust to use his ability. Then, if he is not needed for this purpose, he is available to defend. With a defense of 2 and 3 hit points, Fatty can be a serviceable defender, although you’ll probably want to boost his defense and/or hit points if you really want him to take on this role. As with the other Hobbits in this pack, Fatty can be inserted into non-Hobbit decks and still be useful, especially since his ability is not tied in any way to controlling other Hobbit heroes (obviously, you’ll want to still have plenty of threat reduction available, however). The problem here, though, is that the Spirit sphere has other heroes that have similarly low threat and have abilities that are equal to or more powerful than Fatty’s. Still, this is one Hobbit that you don’t necessarily want to count out without at least giving him a try or two.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦♦

Hobbit Power Rankings

Just for fun, I thought I’d rank our four new Hobbit heroes in terms of their overall power. Like all such exercises, this is obviously extremely subjective, as which hero is more powerful greatly depends on the scenario, what kind of deck you’re running, etc. That all being said, here’s my Hobbit power rankings:

1. Merry: This is perhaps a surprise choice, and I originally had Sam pencilled in for the top spot. However, I just can’t get over the value you get for an obscenely low starting threat of 6. Merry is a killing machine that also has decent questing potential for a Tactics hero.

2. Samwise Gamgee: You just can’t argue with a hero that not only has a built-in readying effect, but also the potential of hulking out as well. His stats are strong (his 3 willpower alone makes him worthy of this ranking) while still providing a fairly low starting threat.

3. Pippin: Similar to Merry, Pippin provides a low starting threat, along with card draw and an increase to enemy engagement costs. He comes in third because he doesn’t quite have the versatility of Sam and Merry, and his stats don’t have any built-in increases.

4. Fatty Bolger; I do like this hero, and his ability is deceptively useful, but he simply doesn’t fit into as many decks easily as the rest of the Hobbits do.

Conclusion

One thing I have to say about the heroes in this expansion, which might be clouded a bit by my power rankings: they are all worth the money! Sometimes you pick up a box like this, and maybe you get one or two heroes that leap out at you, and others that you know will be gathering dust in a box somewhere. This isn’t the case with The Black Riders.  Instead, you’re getting access to four heroes that are must-haves, not only because they are Hobbits, and provide the basis for an exciting new deck type, but because they are great in their own right. I really wasn’t sure what could be done to create Hobbit heroes that stayed true to their role in The Lord of the Rings while still being fun to play. My instinct was that we would be subjected to the dubious experience of having to sneak past enemies all day and never get to do anything exciting. Instead, these Hobbits can certainly take on foes and rise to the occasion, they just have to be strategic about it. Perhaps there is something a tad jarring about Merry and his ability to hew down Nazgul, especially when he gets some weapons attached to him, but I feel the essence of these characters is largely intact. More importantly, the Hobbit deck is one that is immensely fun to play, and feels substantially different from other deck types, while giving you a shot at victory.

Next time around, TftC’s multi-part review of The Black Riders continues with a look at the allies contained in this expansion!

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32 Comments
  1. Hmm, I’m starting to think of doing dual Hobbit decks. One with Sam, Merry, Pippen (lore) and the other with Frodo (dang can’t use him BR quests), Fatty and Bilbo. I don’t know. Seems like it could be fun.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I think it definitely would be worth a shot. The advantage of having some of the Spirit hobbits in play is that you can throw in those great questing allies to up the available willpower.

  2. Étienne permalink

    Can’t wait to put my hands on this box. These saga expansions ooze with theme, as far as I read so far.

  3. I think there’s a real potential for pairing Sam with Hirluin the Fair for a 16 threat Secrecy deck that includes a hero who is able to quest, ready, and then do something else until the Outlands engine gets going.

  4. Great write up! I love the comment about Fatty (“raise your threat by X for X progress tokens”); that’s a nice clarification. Fatty might pair well with Aragorn and Song of Earendil for a nice “threat eating” deck.

    One other thought: I’m already excited to pair Merry with Theoden! He would become an even better Tactics quester (in addition to his crazy attack) and it’s thematically appropriate.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Agreed. Merry and Theoden will be a great combo. Now if we can just get a Tactics version of Eowyn soon!

      • Action: Exhaust Éowyn to discard a Nazgûl from play.”

        Amirite?

      • TalesfromtheCards permalink

        Hehe, I like it. How about, “Response: If you are no man, discard a Nazgul from play.”

  5. Tiandes permalink

    Love the cards, but I got to admit that thematically I have a little problem with the fact that Sam and Merry can be as powerfull as the strongest heroes of Middle-Earth (aka Boromir, Aragorn, Glorfindel, etc.)

    Not sure I would have made the same design decisions for hobbits.

    Personaly I would have made the hobbits being able to defend with willpower (a “roguesque” ability) but with lower attack, meaning they need to “band” to defeat ennemies.

    That’s just my opinion, as for the games, those cards do make for a playable all hobbits deck.

    • I agree with some of what you say, and I also like the idea that hobbits could use multiple defenders, but at least the the hobbits’ strength is conditional. Merry doesn’t start with a monstrous attack strength like, say, Beorn, but it is fairly easy to build him up to a large and decidedly un-hobbity level of attack. This is especially true since the hobbit cards in this box mesh so well.

      The same could said for others: Sam, for example, has totally appropriate starting stats (even if his sphere is off) and then conditionally he gets beefed up to some seriously high numbers that might seem unlike his race. Just remember that hobbits can get rowdy in a pinch — Shelob had never, in all the ages, experienced such a foe as Sam when he was roused.

      • Shipwreck: I’d take some issue with your comment that Sam is “off-sphere.” In his interview with Team Covenant, Caleb Grace talked about how Leadership is much more than leading from the front. It also exemplifies the type of “let me build you up” servant style of leadership so prevalent among Tolkien’s greatest heroes. This style of leadership is exemplified by Faramir, the Leadership ally. The entire interview can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfT2Ws68xAI

      • Thanks for the link! I’d watched their interview with Feonix, and meant to watch Caleb’s, but plain ol’ forgot. His explanation helps me to understand: I was definitely thinking that a Leadership Sam should come later in the series, when Sam comes into his own, but at the beginning it’s Sam spirit (his encouragement and general willingness and optimism) that defines his role. The reason why I was thinking this way was because, if I’m not mistaken, in the spoiler article they justified Pippin’s Lore sphere by recognizing his knowledge of the Shire as the hobbits move from Hobbiton to Crickhollow. So, if Pippin’s sphere is taken from his role at the start, then so should Sam’s.

        But if they were thinking more long term, about Sam’s longevity and development, then Leadership makes sense.

        Ultimately it doesn’t matter because, as he says in the interview, there will most likely be a Spirit Sam in the future (and a Tactics and a Lore). That, and it’s just a card ;).

        -Derek

  6. Thomas permalink

    I am a bit surprise that one of the limitation about the hobbit was not mentioned.

    They need a Hobbit synergie to be really powerful. But they are all in a different sphere!

    So to really use them means a tri-color deck. I am a fairly new player, but it seems to me that tri-color deck are really hard to play. To be fair, I never tried it, because I am already struggling to make good bi-color deck.

    True, you could use the old Bilbo and Frodo (except Frodo can not be played in the Balck Riders scenarios), but it limits the possibilities.

    • Glowwyrm permalink

      Tri-color decks are tricky for sure. One of the things that will help with the hobbits is their low starting threat. In the first couple of turns, you might struggle to play cards, but if you can avoid engaging enemies this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. this gives you a turn or two to build up resources, so that you can have a big turn and get lots of cards down. Tri-color dwarf decks can have this problem too, when they start slow for a turn or two, then they are off to the races. I don’t have Black Riders yet, but I imagine that hobbits will play similarly.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s a good point you raise there, Thomas. I think in rating each Hobbit hero individually, I did overlook a mention of their strengths and weaknesses as a group. Tri-color decks can certainly be tricky, but having played a Hobbit deck (Merry/Pippin/Sam) a lot recently, it really hasn’t been as much of an issue as I originally anticipated. Glowwyrm is on the money that the low starting threat gives you time to build up your forces, and I will say that Hobbit decks are on the slower side. They are not as powerful out of the gate as other deck types, and this is certainly a limitation, but once they get going, they work well. However, as far as resources are concerned, I got around the issue by 1) Including songs and the Rivendell Minstrel to easily grab them, this enabled some resource smoothing between the heroes and 2) Including allies, attachments, and events that are almost all 1 or 2 cost. So far, I usually have available resources to play what I need to play.

  7. Traekos77 permalink

    The heroes in this expansion are excellent. But the heroes in the Hobbit expansions were quite good as well; I have found them all to be quite useful and compelling when picking hero combinations. I certainly wouldn’t categorize only 1 or 2 to be of use!

    In respect to Fatty Bolger, he is a bizarre hero. His ability is useful when enemies are present but his backup ability (i.e. defending, as you outlined) is only useful when enemies are present; quite poor on the versatility scale. At least Eleanor is useful in respect to two kinds of encounter cards and not just one.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I should clarify that the versatility rating reflects how many different decks a hero can fit within, rather than the versatility of their abilities. I don’t think Fatty is as versatile as Eleanor, but he is more useful than I thought at first glance, and more so than he is being given credit for.

      As for the Hobbit expansions, i do think the heroes were generally of good quality, but I’m not a huge Oin fan. Actually, when I wrote that comment, I was specifically thinking of the Heirs of Numenor box, where Beregond was a stud, but Boromir has yet to hit his stride.

  8. Legolas of Darkwood permalink

    If Fatty Bolger instead said, “Action: Raise your threat by X to put X progress tokens on the quest,” would you view this as valuable? I’d have to say the answer is a clear yes, although Fatty’s ability doesn’t quite work this simply, as it is dependent on the threat strength of available enemies in the staging area, and this serves as an important limiting factor. Still, the point stands.

    Good point. However your version of Fattys ability seems primarily better because it doesn’t require him to exhaust anymore…

    To me Sam, Merry and Pipin look great and powerfull (they all got very strong abilities, low threat, and effectiv stats) – actually they are far too strong for hobbits. Example: Being in a hobbit deck Merry has 3-4 attack BASE? Equal to (or even more) than exceptional fighters like Legolas, Aragorn or Boromir? Seriously? That is simply not in line with the story. To me they look like the result of planned power creap in order to sell more BR boxes…

    • Legolas of Darkwood permalink

      In Fatty’s defence I have to add that he has the best art of all the hobbit heroes in the box (imo)!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      My version of Fatty’s ability was really meant as a simplification to try to give a different perspective on his ability. It was helpful for me to conceptualize it that way, anyway, knowing of course that the actual Fatty has to exhaust and is dependent on enemies being in the staging area.

      I can see your point about the power of the Hobbit heroes, and it seems like several others agree with you, based on the comments. I think I’ve been enjoying playing them too much to worry about it at length, although when I had Merry dual-wielding Daggers and attacking for 7, it did give me pause. I think the alternative, say in the absence of Merry, would be a Hobbit type that would seek to sneak past enemies, shake and tank, and ultimately gang up on foes. This perhaps would be more thematic, but maybe not as fun? It’s a hard balance to keep. Perhaps we can think of Merry’s attack boost as representing his ability to organize Hobbits in battle, as he did during the Scouring of the Shire, rather than simply his personal skills as a warrior. That’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s something.

    • Pickles permalink

      Sometimes Fatty’s ability says “Action: tap Fatty to lower each other players threat by the threat of an enemy in the staging area”, when you are very out matched in questing. also good but in desperate circumstances, especially since he could have quested for 1.

      I agree about Merry. Sam is very strong but he is pretty much the hero of LoTR & his numbers are top level but not beyond. Pippin seems good but hobbity & probably too good for the dimwit of the movies but still in line with other heroes. Merry though is a complete badass, strongest warrior in the game in any likely deck & lowest Tactics threat cost too, hmm.

      These remind me of the Outlands in that you get a very strong set of synergies out of the box so they are designing our decks for us a little too much & the power level seems rather high too, which I am OK with, but is not what comes to mind when I think of the hobbits as they leave the Shire.

      • Legolas of Darkwood permalink

        Think about it: Now we are actually talking about Merry being the strongest warrior hero in the game (while still being the cheapest)? What else needs to be said? FFG, nerf please 😉

        Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have the BR box yet and it looks really good and thematic in general, but with the heroes (and we are only talking heroes right now) I am not very happy – especially Merry bothers me, because he seems to be out of proportion. I agree that Pippin and Sam are (very) good but somehow still in line with the story. I very much like the way Pippin has been designed. He is “hobbity” like you said. Not strong in comparison to the heroes of the elves, dwarfes or humans, but still very usefull in a unique way. That is how a Hobbit hero should be from my point of view.

        When it comes to Fatty, you can clearly see a real power gap between him and Merry, Sam, and Pippin.

      • “Sometimes Fatty’s ability says “Action: tap Fatty to lower each other players threat by the threat of an enemy in the staging area”, when you are very out matched in questing. also good but in desperate circumstances, especially since he could have quested for 1.”

        Excellent use for his ability! Fatty may prove a great choice in multiplayer games.

  9. Glowwyrm permalink

    I don’t have BR either yet, but Merry seems like he’s a thematic hit to me. In the right context, Merry is as powerful as any warrior on Middle-Earth: he struck the initial blow on the Witch King. In the game, in the right context, he rises to the challenge to become as powerful as any hero (even if he happens to rise to the challenge every round, instead of once or twice in his life). In other contexts, he is a low threat Tactics hero with solid will-power and a good readying ability, which is great, but not world beating. So I think that they hit the character just right. And outside of a hobbit deck, he won’t be replacing any of my favorite Tactics characters as my main attacker.

    Now Dunhere attacking the staging area with two daggers for 7….THAT needs a nerfing 😉

    • Legolas of Darkwood permalink

      You are right, Merry needs to be in a Hobbit deck – but that’s what he is going to be most of the time anyway. I don’t like the idea that Merry (even being in a Hobbit deck) and without any equipment or attachment is as strong an attacker (or even stronger) than Legolas (being in a elven deck, or whatever kind of deck), Aragorn (being in a dunedain, gondor, or whatever kind of deck), Boromir (being in a dunedain, gondor, or whatever kind of deck)…

      I just checked the wording on Dagger of Westernesse – that really looks like a perfect weapon on dunhere! Of course a lance/speer would be more thematic on him… maybe we will get one one day?!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Dunhere with two Daggers of Westernesse is absolutely amazing. Just imagine throwing Unexpected Courage on him as well. That’s a nasty, nasty combo.

  10. vilainn6 permalink

    I will do the advocate of the devil so dont bash me pls. forget the lore one moment and think game mechanic. hobbit heros are weak, low stat, low hit points. the designer needed a way to make hobbit deck a chance to win some quest. sure you can dodge enemy because of the low threat but if you dont engage enemy, at one moment in the game, staging area stack and you are enable to quest. if you engage enemy but have no way to kill them, they kill you eventually. so yes maybe Merry is broken and antithematic (the later can be discuss over and over) but I see him as an evil necessity for hobbit decks.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I think you definitely hit the nail on the head as far as how the designers must have gone about designing Merry in particular, with the need to give them some combat prowess. I remember at one point in a forum threat somewhere, someone suggested a mechanic where Hobbits could sneak past enemies and put progress tokens on them, getting rid of them through this alternative means. i thought that was a cool idea, but instead Merry reflects the Hobbit streak of standing up to even the most terrifying of dangers.

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