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Thorin and Company: A Thematic Journey Through The Hobbit

by on December 27, 2013


Hi, I’m Estel Edain, a long-time player of the Lord of the Rings LCG and a fan of the Tales from the Cards blog and the surrounding community (including The Grey Company, Hall of Beorn, and Master of Lore). I love the themes of Tolkien’s fiction, including friendship and perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds. (I chose the name Estel Edain, “Hope for men,” together with a picture of Frodo and Sam on the plains of Gorgoroth for my comments avatar, because I love Gandalf’s folly in sending the Ring defenceless into Mordor and the eucatastrophic conclusion.)

By FFG’s classification of player types, I’m definitely a Bilbo player, since I want my decks to fit thematically with the lore. I’m also a Boromir player, who wants to win consistently with these thematic decks. The card pool is now large enough to allow me to often do this, including for The Hobbit Saga expansions. I was inspired by the Campaign Mode articles on this blog to do a write-up of my adventures through the Hobbit, and I’m grateful to Tales from the Cards for hosting these articles and preparing them for web publication.

My goal is to thematically recreate the journey through The Hobbit, staying as close to Tolkien’s story as possible while succeeding at the quests. Since Thorin’s company didn’t change much throughout the book, I decided to design one deck for all the Hobbit scenarios, with thematically appropriate attachments and events. For allies, I wanted to include each member of the company, and only members of the company. Since five of the dwarves from Thorin’s company have only appeared in Hero form, I would be missing two members in my deck. I decided to choose two thematically appropriate generic dwarves and play them as if they were unique, representing the last two members of the company. My deck isn’t designed for a specific scenario, so it needs to be fairly versatile. One general design principle I followed was to try to maximize cards of the same sphere, type, and cost (and different combinations of these) to help with the riddles and burgle attempts from the third and fifth quests. This deck can be constructed with only one core set.

Text in italics is focused on thematic considerations, not strategy.

Heroes (4)

Thorin Oakenshield (OHaUH) x1

Balin (OtD) x1

Ori (OHaUH) x1

Bilbo Baggins (OHaUH/OtD) x1

Since I wanted as many unique members of the company as possible, I was choosing my heroes from the five members who haven’t appeared in ally form: Thorin, Balin, Nori, Oin, and Ori. As leader of the company, Thorin was an obvious choice. Ori is the only Lore hero on the list, and several of the allies I want to include are Lore, so he’s also in. They both have powerful abilities that depend on controlling five dwarves, and neither of them is a defender. Oin’s not a defender, so he’s out. Between Balin and Nori, I chose Balin because being evenly tri-sphere would make it harder for me to quickly reach five dwarves, and would make it harder for me to deal with riddles and burgle attempts. Balin also has a nice ability, and I don’t need Nori since I can reduce threat through Gandalf and Sneak Attack. Leadership will be the main focus of the deck, with a significant Lore minority, and splashes of Spirit and Tactics. A starting threat of 29 doesn’t give me much breathing room, but is reasonable.

Allies (24)

Gloin (OtD) x2

Oin [represented by Longbeard Elder, treated as unique] (FoS) x2

Fili (OHaUH) x3

Kili (OHaUH) x2

Dwalin (OtD) x2

Bofur (OHaUH) x2

Bifur (OtD) x2

Bombur (RtR) x2

Dori (OHaUH) x2

Nori [represented by Longbeard Map-Maker, treated as unique] (CatC) x2

Gandalf (Core) x3

All the unique members of Thorin’s company cost three and have fairly balanced stats. I wanted the generic allies I chose to represent Oin and Nori to cost three to help with the riddles. Longbeard Elder, since he’s Leadership, is an obvious choice. Longbeard Map-Maker is Lore, and can be very powerful in questing with the resources this deck can generate. All my allies are unique, but I have two copies of each ally to get the full company into play sooner. I have three copies of Fili since he’s the best way to quickly control five dwarves. I have two copies of Kili to avoid drawing all copies of Kili before playing Fili.

The members of Thorin’s company at the beginning of The Hobbit came from the Blue Mountains, not Erebor, were Longbeards (Durin’s Folk), and were not trained warriors. Longbeard Elder represents Oin, who was 167 when he set out on the quest of Erebor, just 11 years younger than Balin (the oldest member aside from Thorin). My deck doesn’t include Thror’s Map or Thror’s Key, since both are situational, so Longbeard Map-Maker is a good choice as Nori to represent the help that the company had from the map and from their determination to reach the Lonely Mountain.

Since this deck isn’t tweaked between quests, Gandalf is included for Flies and Spiders and The Lonely Mountain, but in those quests I don’t use him to attack or to deal damage. Questing, threat reduction and card draw can represent how Gandalf is contributing from behind the scenes or how he inspires Bilbo. Defending is a little trickier to explain, but can represent luck in escaping an attack; a chance meeting of Gandalf and Thorin led to the quest of Erebor, and Gandalf had an intuition that there’s more to Bilbo than meets the eye.

Attachments (13)

Narvi’s Belt (KD) x2

King Under the Mountain (OtD) x3

Unexpected Courage (Core) x1

Dwarrowdelf Axe (KD) x1

Ring Mail (TLD) x1

Self Preservation (Core) x1

Healing Herbs (FoS) x1

Legacy of Durin (TWitW) x1

Fast Hitch (TDM) x1

Song of Travel (THoEM) x1

There are many cards with only one copy, but there’s a great deal of card draw in this deck. Also, multiple cards serve similar purposes, so I can manage regardless of which I draw first. The unique attachments go on Thorin. Ring Mail and Self Preservation go on the primary defender, who can be either Balin or Bilbo with Sting. Song of Travel normally goes on Balin, who tends to save a resource for his ability or for A Test of Will. Depending on the quest, it could instead go on Bilbo. Narvi’s Belt can be used in the planning phase, or for Spirit or Lore (for Nori) in the quest phase. Unexpected Courage usually goes on Thorin, but can go on Balin when he’s the primary defender. Once I have the treasures, Orcrist goes on Thorin, Glamdring on Ori, and Dwarrowdelf Axe might go on Bifur. (I don’t add Glamdring to my deck for Flies and Spiders and The Lonely Mountain, since Gandalf is absent for these quests. I don’t add Orcrist to my deck for The Lonely Mountain, since it was confiscated by the Elvenking when Thorin was captive.)

Events (14)

We Are Not Idle (SaF) x3

Lure of Moria (RtR) x2

Durin’s Song (KD) x1

Sneak Attack (Core) x2

Dawn Take You All (RtM) x1

A Test of Will (Core) x2

Will of the West (Core) x1

Dwarven Tomb (Core) x1

A Good Harvest (TSF) x1

These are mostly straight-forward. If I already control five dwarves, I’ll often delay using We Are Not Idle until I have Lure of Moria or until I can afford to exhaust many dwarves. Dawn Take You All is surprisingly worth including because it reduces one of the biggest dangers in The Lonely Mountain: for one turn, it guarantees that Smaug the Magnificent won’t attack many times. In other quests, it guarantees that I can defend dangerously with a hero and survive (Balin’s ability helps, but there’s no guarantee). If I have A Test of Will but no Song of Travel and I want to avoid a potentially devastating treachery, I can exhaust Narvi’s Belt for Spirit after committing characters to the quest, or I can even use the response of Oin (Longbeard Elder) to find out if the treachery is coming, and then play A Good Harvest for Spirit before staging. Will of the West is important in Dungeons Deep and Caverns Dim to avoid running out of my deck before answering all the riddles; Dwarven Tomb can let me retrieve it if it gets discarded.

The attachments are all pretty thematic, but some events aren’t obvious. Thematically, Lure of Moria is really Lure of Erebor. Will of the West seems a bit harder to justify, but fits with Gandalf’s purpose in arranging the quest of Erebor at the same time as the attack on the Necromancer. Dwarven Tomb might recall those who died when Smaug attacked the Lonely Mountain, or the pyres after the battle of Azanulbizar (or Nanduhirion) with the Orcs. A Good Harvest represents the different sources of food the company received on their journey (from Elrond, Beorn, and Lake-town).

Total: 51 cards

Deck notes: I try to play two dwarves as soon as posssible, and I will normally mulligan if I don’t have King Under the Mountain or a way to play two dwarves by turn two (Fili, or sometimes We Are Not Idle or A Good Harvest). I don’t have any cards that allow me to benefit from discarding duplicate unique cards (Protector of Lorien doesn’t fit thematically), but King Under the Mountain allows me to quickly go through my deck and find the cards I need, often while discarding duplicates. The card draw usually gets me some resource mangement early (even Gloin, who can tranfer resources to Lore). If I haven’t drawn Narvi’s Belt, I sometimes save A Good Harvest to get multiple Tactics or Spirit cards into play. This is a deck that takes a little while to get fully set up, so I often go slowly during the first stage of the quest. The dwarves can handle themselves, though, in the combat-heavy first stage of Dungeons Deep and Caverns Dim.

I try to have all the members of Thorin’s company in play at the end of each scenario. I generally avoid chump blocking, which feels contrary to theme, but I’ll do it when necessary and later play another copy of that ally (who is now recovered from a blow that left him stunned).

Deck analysis for riddles and burgle attempts: Card draw is probably the most important factor for successful burgle attempts, and this deck has plenty of card draw. It also doesn’t have many cards that are “alone” in combinations of sphere and type, sphere and cost, or type and cost. Most cards have several similar cards. Riddles don’t rely on card draw, and it can be challenging to get 9 progress on stage 2B of Dungeons Deep and Caverns Dim. However, with the exception of The Warg’s Glade (which has you discard only one card to get the right sphere), this deck generally does well against riddles. As the deck gets smaller from King Under the Mountain, it becomes easier to predict a good answer to a riddle. Below is a list of the best and second-best guesses for each riddle, with the corresponding number of cards in the complete deck.

Sphere: Leadership (21), Lore (12)

Type: Ally (24), Event (14)

Cost: 3 (24), 1 (11)

Sphere/Type: Leadership Event (9), Lore Ally (8)

Sphere/Cost: Leadership 3 (9), Lore 3 (9)

Type/Cost: Ally 3 (21), Attachment 2 (7), Event 1 (7)

Sphere/Type/Cost: Lore Ally 3 (8), Leadership Ally 3 (7)

Thorin and company are ready to set out on the quest of Erebor. Look soon for a posting of their first adventure, involving trolls, sacks, and hopefully treasures. Until then, I wish you all merry Yule-tide holidays. May you enjoy times of friendship and feasting, like Bilbo at Beorn’s house:

“By mid-winter Gandalf and Bilbo had come all the way back, along both edges of the Forest, to the doors of Beorn’s house; and there for a while they both stayed. Yule-tide was warm and merry there; and men came from far and wide to feast at Beorn’s bidding.”

The Hobbit, “The Return Journey”


From → Strategy

  1. Bootagot permalink

    Lol, after watching the hobbit I had the exact same idea. Looking forward to see how you go

  2. Goblin King permalink

    Great minds think alike. I’ve been doing the same thing! However, after my first couple plays, it became apparent I could not make it through many scenarios without some support from non-theme dwarf followers. Erebor Battle Master is the only way through the trolls. Erebor Record Keeper is also vital and one or two Erebor Hammersmith and Miner of the Iron Hills are very handy. I still have at least one of each dwarf ally from The Hobbit in my deck. I plan to post my deck and a play-by-play of each scenario when I finish them.

  3. Goblin King permalink

    The Hobbit Challenge
    Play the scenarios in order using one deck. The Heroes of the deck must be Thorin Oakenshield and two other dwarves in his party (in other words no Dain). Also, the playing deck must include at least one of every dwarf in Thorin’s party that is not one of your three heroes.

    My Hobbit Challenge Deck
    Thorin Oakenshield
    Gandalf x2 core
    Gandalf (not core)
    2x Boots of Eredor
    Thror’s Axe
    Thror’s Hunting Bow
    Bilbo’s Magic Ring

    Erebor Battle Master x3
    Khazad! Khazad!

    Erebor Hammersmithx2
    Erebor Record Keeperx2
    Miner of the Iron Hills
    A Burning Brandx2
    Healing Herbsx2
    Legacy of Durinx2

    Thror’s Key
    Untroubled by Darknessx3
    A Test of Willx3

    Longbeard Elder
    King Under the Mountainx3
    Narvi’s Belt x3
    A Very Good Tale
    Lure of Moria x2
    We are Not Idlex3
    Sneak Attack

    Over the Misty Mountains Grim
    Initial Hand:
    Lure of Moria, King Under the Moutain, A Test of Will x2, Fili, Dori and A Burning Brand
    Initial Staging Area: Stone Giant and Cave Entrance
    Turn 1
    Draw: Boots of Erebor
    Thorin 1, Oin 1, Bombur 1, Bilbo 1
    Play Boots on Bombur
    Quest with Thorin Oin, Bilbo (6W)
    Add Suspicious Crow to the Staging Area (6T)

    Travel to Cave Entrance

    Engage Crows
    Bombur Defends Crows 0D

    Threat = 29

    Turn 2
    Draw: Khazad! Khazad!
    Thorin 2, Oin 2, Bombur 2, Bilbo 2


    Quest with Bilbo and Thorin (4W)
    Add Wind-Whipped Rain to the Staging Area (4T)
    0P to Quest 2B (0)
    Bombur defend Crow (0Damage)
    Oin attacks Crows and kills them.

    Threat = 30

    Turn 3
    Draw: Erebor Hammersmith
    Thorin 2, Oin 3 Bombur 1, Bilbo 3
    KUtM for Erebor Record Keeper
    Play Erebor Record Keeper (Bombur 0)
    Quest with Bilbo, Oin ERK (4W)
    Add Dreary Hills (3T)
    1P on Cave Entrance

    Threat = 34

    Turn 4
    Draw: Legacy of Durin
    Thorin 4, Oin 4, Bombur 1, Bilbo 4
    KUtM for Boots of Erebor
    Play Boots of Erebor on Bombur
    Play Legacy of Durin on Oin (Bombur 0)
    Play Gloin (Thornin 1) add 2R to Thorin (Thorin 3) and Draw Dwalin
    Play Fili (Thorin 0) and Kili and Fili and draw Miner of the Iron Hills
    Play A Very Good Tale Exhaust Gloin & Bifur to play Bofur x2
    Play Dwalin (Oin 3) and draw Erebor Battle Master
    Quest with Bofurx2, Oin, Thorin (9W)
    Add Lone Lands to Staging Area (5T)
    3P to Cave Entrance and discard
    1P to Quest 1B (3)

    Travel to Dreary Hills


    Threat = 35

    Turn 5
    Draw: KUtM
    Thorin 3, Oin 4, Bombur 1, Bilbo 5
    Play Erebor Battle Master (Oin1) and draw We are Not Idle
    Play We are Not Idle exhausting 9 allies to add 9R to Thorin (12) and Draw Untroubled by Darkness
    Play Narvi’s Belt (Thorin 10)
    Play Burning Brand on Bombur (Thorin 8)
    KUtM for a Test of Will
    Quest with Thorin, Oin, Bilbo (6W)
    Add Troll Camp to staging area (5T)
    1P to Dreary Hills and Discard Untroubled

    Threat = 36

    Turn 6
    Draw: A test of Will
    Thorin 10, Oin 2, Bomur 2, Bilbo 7
    KUtM for Longbeard Elder
    Play Longbeard Elder (Thorin 7) and Draw healing Herb
    Play Healing Herb on Bombur
    Quest with a whole not of dwarves (18W)
    Add Hungry Troll and Hobbit Land to staging area (6T)
    Add 2P to Dreary Hills and discard (Bilbo 8)
    Add 10P to Stage 1B (13)
    Reveal 2A and add Trolls and Troll Cave to the Staging area
    Travel to Lone Lands
    Engage Bert and Tom
    Attach Foul Sack to Bombur and Deep Sack to Thorin
    Bilbo removes sack from Bombur (Bilbo 7)
    Lure of Moria (Thorin (4)
    Bombur defends Tom (Bombur 3W) and Bofur defends Bert (Bofur KIA) and Bilbo 6R to cancel Lots or None at All
    Battle Master attacks Bert for 12 which kills him.
    Erebor Record Keeper ready Battle Master (Bombur1)
    Battle Master attacks Tom for 12 + Khazad! to kill him.

    Threat = 37

    Turn 7
    Draw: Battle Master
    Thorin 6, Oin 2, Bombur 2, Bilbo 7
    Exhaust Bilbo to remove Thorin from Sac (Bilbo 6)
    Play Erebor Hammersmith (Bombur 0) and Draw Lure of Moria
    Add Thoror’s Key to hand
    Quest with 11 dwarves (15W)
    Add Troll Purse to William (10T)
    3P to Lone Lands (Oin 2) and discard.
    Hobbit Lands
    Play Lure of Moria (Thorin 1)
    Engage William
    Worn Sack on Oin
    Smelly Sack on Fili
    Heal Bombur
    Erebor Record Keeper readies Bombur (Thorin 0)
    Bombur defends William (3W)
    Battle Master Attacks for 12 (10W)
    Keep William Engaged (38)

    Threat = 39

    Turn 8
    Draw: Narvi’s Belt
    Thorin 2, Bombur 1, Oin 4, Bilbo 7
    Play Battle Master (Oin 1) and draw A Burning Brand
    KUtM for Gandalf
    Remove Worn Sack from Oin (Bilbo 6)
    Quest with 4dwarf allies (7W)
    Add Roast Em or Boil Em to staging area. Test of Will (Oin 0) (5T)
    1P on Hobbit Lands and Draw Sneak Attack
    Travel to Troll Camp
    no engagement
    Erebor Hammersmith will defend William and die.
    Keep William Engaged (40T)
    Threat = 41

    Turn 9
    Draw: Fili
    Thorin 4, Bombur 2, Oin 1, Bilbo 8
    Play Fili (Thorin 1) play Kili and draw Legacy of Durin
    Quest with Gloin, Bofur and Longbeard Elder (6W)
    Add Suspicious Crow and Wind-Whipped Rain to staging area. A test of Will (Oin 0) (3T)
    2P on Troll Camp
    Engage none
    Fili defends William and dies
    Dwalin defends Crow
    Battle Master kills crow
    Keep William Engaged 42
    Threat = 43

    Turn 10
    Draw: Erebor Record Keeper
    Thorin 6, Bombur 3, Oin 1, Bilbo 9
    Play Erebor Record Keeper and draw Boots of Erebor
    Play Boots on Bilbo
    Quest with Bofur and Longbeard Elder (4W)
    Add Hobbit Land to staging area (3T), and 1P to 2B and 1P to Troll Camp (discarded)
    Hobbit Lands
    Engage none
    Kili defends William and dies Bilbo avoids sack from Lots or None at All (Bilbo 8)
    Keep William Engaged (44 T)

    Threat = 45

    Turn 11
    Draw: Healing Herbs
    Thorin 8, Bombur 4, Oin 2, Bilbo 9
    Play Healing Herbs on Bombur
    Heal Bombur
    Quest with Long Beard Elder and Bofur (4W)
    Add Roast Em Boil Em to staging area. Test of Will (Oin 1)
    1P to Hobbit Lands and draw Battle Master
    Engage none

    Kili blocks William and Dies
    Keep William Engaged 46T
    Threat = 47

    Turn 12
    Draw: Dwalin
    Thorin 10, Bombur 5, Oin 2, Bilbo 10
    Play Battle Master (Thorin 7 and draw Narvi’s Belt
    Play Dwalin (oin 1) and draw Erebor Hammersmith and I’m out of deck
    Play Hammersmith Thorin 5
    Quest with Bofur and Longbeard (4W)
    Add Troll Camp to staging area (5T)
    Threat =48
    Troll Camp
    Engage none
    Bombur blocks William 3W
    Battle Master kills William Bilbo takes purse (Bilbo 9)

  4. David permalink

    Can you expand this single deck into two thematic decks so that both my wife and I can play through all of the Hobbit quests with them and stay as close to the theme as possible? Thanks!

    • Estel Edain permalink

      Hi David,

      You might want to take a look at
      This pair of decks aren’t necessarily designed for the riddle and burgle tests, but they’re thematic and they look like good decks that should do pretty well against the Hobbit quests. Once you have two decks, you can’t limit yourself to thirteen dwarves on the table. That’s part of why I chose to build a solo deck instead of two decks. Of course, that takes out the fun of playing with someone else. I hope you and your wife enjoy the journey!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Thorin and Company: We Must Away, Ere Break of Day | Tales from the Cards
  2. Thorin and Company: Over the Misty Mountains Grim | Tales from the Cards
  3. Thorin and Company: Dungeons Deep and Caverns Dim | Tales from the Cards
  4. Thorin and Company: Flies and Spiders | Tales from the Cards
  5. Thorin and Company: The Lonely Mountain | Tales from the Cards

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