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Surviving The Stone of Erech

by on January 16, 2014

Army of the Dead ReDo Final

Several months ago, I published the first in what is meant to be a series of strategy guides devoted to the hardest quests in the game. In response to a reader request, I started out with Battle of Lake-town, a true beast of a scenario. Now I’ll be stepping forward to tackle The Stone of Erech, the third Gen Con quest, which was first revealed to the world back in August. While The Stone of Erech is perhaps the most manageable of the three print on demand scenarios, it can still pack a punch and still requires careful strategic play. Eventually, this series will cover The Massing at Osgiliath, as well as the Nightmare scenarios. Here at TtfC, I try to cover the needs of a wide range of players, so whereas the Deck Building 101 series is meant for newer players, the “Surviving” series is meant for moderate to advanced players, although there’s nothing that says a new player can’t tackle one of these difficult scenarios!

The Stone of Erech takes players and forces them to confront the Dead Men of Dunharrow. This is the first time we’ve encountered undead enemies, and not only is this a nice break from the usual gallery of foes, but it also is a welcome chance to relive a unique part of The Lord of the Rings story, albeit in a different form. The heroes in this case are tasked with saving Derufin, the son of the lord of Morthond, who has wandered off right into the arms of the Oathbreakers [as a side note, Derufin will later lead archers to the Battle of Pelennor Fields, where he will be trampled to death by oliphaunts, so you are saving him for quite a joyful fate]. The Stone of Erech uses some innovative mechanics, including the use of Night objectives to track the passage of time, and the Spectral keyword, which requires you to attack enemies with willpower instead of attack. I have to say that this scenario is one of my all-time favorites, and has amazing theme, creative gameplay, and a gripping feeling of tension. It can, however, completely destroy you if you’re not prepared. So with that in mind, let’s explore how to survive The Stone of Erech!

Part 1 – General Strategies

1) Don’t Let It Reach Midnight

There are three special Night objectives in this quest: Eventide, duskDusk, and Midnight. Each represents a certain time of day, and at the end of each round, a token is placed on the current Night objective to represent the passage of time. When 4 tokens are placed on the current Night objective, the next one is put into play. This is significant because many encounter cards become worse as the time creeps closer to Midnight. Once you hit that fateful time of day, things become quite nasty, and generally this is where your game will go downhill, unless you are on the verge of winning. For this reason, most of my successful plays have ended sometime during Dusk. If you can prevent extra tokens from being placed on the current Night objective, I would suggest taking this opportunity, but the best way to prevent Midnight from occurring is to pursue the next strategy below…

2) Pile On The Willpower

Most quests require a great deal of willpower in order to successfully quest, and The Stone of Erech is no different. Indeed, there are some high threat locations that require some equivalent questing power on your end: Blackroot Graves (4 threat), Tarlang’s Neck (3 threat), and The Stone of Erech (threat is twice the number of players) are good examples of this. In addition, because encounter card effects get worse as the time of day progresses from Eventide to Dusk to Midnight, you will want enough willpower available that you can blow through the quest stages as quickly as possible. However, questing is not the only reason why you need large amounts of willpower. The Spectral keyword, which requires you to use willpower to attack enemies, also necessitates the inclusion of heroes and allies with strong willpower values. This is one reason why Mono-Spirit and Spirit-heavy decks tend to do well against The Stone of Erech.

3) Load Up on A Test of Will and Miner of the Iron Hills

 I could realistically give the advice of “load up on cancellation” for any quest. However, there are certain scenarios where you can getdriven away with leaving out cancellation effects. This is not one of them. Taking a look at Exhibit A, Driven By Fear, this nasty condition attachment reduces a character’s willpower to 0 AND renders its text box blank. In many ways, this effectively knocks a hero out of the game, removing the most important stat for this particular quest and taking away its special ability at the same time. You can either use A Test of Will to cancel this treachery or include Miner of the Iron Hills to remove it once it is placed. Keep in mind that there are several encounter card effects that interact with the willpower of characters, making this effect even worse. For example, The Dead Ride Behind deals 1 damage to a character if they have less than 2 willpower. The Stone of Erech, when it is the active location, prevents characters with less than 2 willpower from readying.

Beyond Driven by Fear, Groping Horror is another innovative yet nasty treachery that causes each player to pass their hand to the player on their left! This can be absolutely devastating, as you may end up with a hand of cards that you cannot play at all due to a lack of resource matches (and the more neurotic amongst us may also have to deal with the “groping horror” of watching someone else handle our cards). “But I’m a solo player!”, I hear you cry. That’s fine with Groping Horror, as it will simply discard your entire hand. The positive aspect of this card is that you can completely negate these effects if you choose to skip the travel phase. However, in my experience, at least outside of pure solo play, you usually need to travel to a location each turn if you want to win, as location lock is a very real possibility in this quest. A Test of Will can provide a handy way to avoid this decision altogether.

There are other treacheries beyond these, including the typical offender that forces each player to retrieve an enemy with the Undead trait from the encounter deck/discard pile (Midnight Throng). This means that it may be smart to combine A Test of Will with Dwarven Tomb and Map of Earnil (to recycle Dwarven Tomb) for maximum cancellation.

4) Load Up on Location Management

Unlike cancellation, location management is something that can be excluded from many quests because it just isn’t that necessary. However, The Stone of Erech is not one of those, and you’ll be very thankful if you take this advice and bring along some location management effects. In fact, one aspect of the more difficult quests that is sometimes overlooked is the role that locations play in making players’ lives harder. The enemies and treacheries in a difficult quest are obviously nasty, but locations, and how well you manage them, can often make the difference between victory and defeat. Let’s take a look at the prime offenders and how to manage them:

Blackroot Graves (4 threat, 1 quest point): This nasty location returns the topmost Undead enemy from the discard pile when it is explored. The evil part is that you need to explore it as quickly as possible, because of its high threat, but will have to face a returned enemy if you do so. Thror’s Key can easily solve this quandary. You’ll notice that Blackroot Graves also has a single quest point, so including Asfaloth (or The Riddermark’s Finest, Snowbourn Scout, Ride to Ruin, etc.) can allow you to nuke it out of the staging area, if need be, although you’ll have to face the effect.

Haunted Valley (2 threat, 3 quest points): This unimaginably terrible location removes all resource icons from ready heroes. It then gives you the option of exhausting a hero during planning to avoid this effect, which is damn diabolical, if you ask me. Again, Thror’s Key can completely neutralize this effect. Including a bunch of readying effects is another possible approach (did I mention Spirit is essential to this quest?). Taking advantage of location management effects that can quickly put progress tokens on a location in the staging area is yet another way to remove the pain of Haunted Valley, which is perhaps the worst location in the entire set (perhaps one of the worst locations ever).

Vale of Shadows (1 threat, 3 quest points): This one won’t devastate you by itself, but it does force you to switch itself with the active location. In some cases, this has no effect, but many times it completely wrecks your plans of getting rid of a certain location, perhaps even the ones that are necessary to clear (i.e. Tarlang’s Neck and The Stone of Erech). You can cancel this effect with A Test of Will, but usually you’ll want to save your cancellation for something more dire. Using Sneak Attack to bring in West Road Traveller is not an option to reverse this effect after staging, because that ally has to be played from hand for its effect to trigger. Thror’s Map would have worked pre-FAQ but can no longer help in this regard. Generally, the best approach again is to include effects that place progress tokens directly on locations. This way, you can still hopefully clear out the location that was switched from the active location spot, even if you can’t do it through questing.

In summary, Asfaloth, Thror’s Key, and some combination of Ride to Ruin, The Riddermark’s Finest, and Snowbourn Scout will serve you well in this quest. Keep in mind that the only location that is “immune to player card effects” is The Stone of Erech itself, so the rest are fair game.

5) Manage Terror of the Dead Wisely

One of the things I really enjoy about this quest, and many of the newer quests in general, is how many choices are built into the terrorofthedeadencounter cards. Usually, the choices are between two nasty effects, but I like the fact that you are essentially digging your own grave (or possibly smartly plotting a path to victory). Stage 2 of The Stone of Erech, Terror of the Dead, is representative of this characteristic of the quest. It forces players, at the beginning of each round, to choose whether to skip the planning phase or to miss out on collecting resources during the resource phase. This is a difficult decision to make between two essential elements of the game: playing cards or gathering resources. Fortunately, Terror of the Dead only has 8 quest points, but successfully managing your choices during the time it is on the table can go a long way towards victory. Including resource generation and resource transfer is handy for getting around this restriction, as heroes only are prevented from collecting resources during the resource phase, not globally. So you could still trigger the Steward of Gondor outside the resource phase, and collect at least 2 resources. Bringing along effects that allow you to play cards outside of the planning phase is also another trick (A Very Good Tale, Sneak Attack, Elf-stone, etc.) for getting around Terror of the Dead. Generally, though, you’ll have to alternate between playing cards and collecting resources, and it’s probably a good idea to get as many cards on the table during stage 1 as possible, so you don’t feel as pressed during stage 2. I advised a brisk pace earlier, but you should spend a bit of time building up your forces during stage 1, as you will have no time to breathe during stages 2 and 3 (imagine your ideal pace as a roller coaster, slowly building up during the opening rounds, and then flying through the last two stages).

6) Defeat Enemies Quickly

The enemies in this quest, in general, have moderate threat strength, moderate-to-high attack, and weak defense. This means restlessdeadthat you will need to have at least one strong defender available. More importantly, you will want to defeat enemies quickly, as several effects throughout this quest either bring out new enemies from the discard pile/encounter deck, or resurrect old ones that have been destroyed. This means that you may be sitting pretty one moment with a clear board, and quickly drowning in a flood of enemies the next. A prime example of this thematic, yet frustrating, effect is the enemy, Restless Dead, which has a “when revealed” effect that returns the topmost Undead adversary from the discard pile to the staging area. This means that quickly destroying enemies is the best way to prevent this flood from completely overwhelming you. Of course, this becomes difficult as you will want to commit high willpower characters to the quest so that you can make progress in a timely fashion, but then you may not have enough firepower to kill engaged enemies. This is a tightrope that you must walk throughout the scenario. It is reasonable to forego destroying enemies if it means advancing through the quest more quickly, but keep in mind that stage 3 brings out a host of enemies, including the intimidating  The Lord of the Dead. If you have been tanking enemies for awhile, it is a smart move to take the time to dispatch them before you move to quest stage 3 or you’ll live to regret it.

During my first encounter with The Stone of Erech at Gen Con, my partner and I (shout-out to David V.) were doing quite well until the final stage overwhelmed us with enemies, and part of the reason is because we were already dealing with a bunch of foes. What all this means is that readying effects (Unexpected Courage, Light of Valinor, Miruvor, Cram, Tactics Boromir, Prince Imrahil, etc.) are practically a must, as they allow you to use high willpower characters for both questing and the destruction of enemies. Willpower boosting effects, like Faramir, Sword that was Broken, and Lay of Nimrodel (to name just a few), are also extremely useful and can make the difference between getting rid of an enemy in a single turn and being forced to keep them around for longer. I want to give a special mention to The Lord of the Dead, which blanks out the text boxes of all your characters, and should be dispatched in one turn, if possible. Any longer than that, and you risk being severely handicapped to the point of defeat.

7) Be Prepared for “Battle” During Quest Stage 3

So far, I have stressed the importance of willpower. However, you need to be prepared for a sudden and jarring shift to battle questing during stage 3. The first time I played the quest, the battle keyword played a large part in my defeat, and it can definitely throw a wrench in your plans. This means that characters that are strong in both willpower and attack, such as Spirit Glorfindel and Aragorn, are extremely valuable. It also means that throwing in a few allies that have at least 1 point of attack, if not more, can make the difference between defeating the quest and stalling out on the last leg. I wouldn’t go too far with this, as attack is really only useful for this quest during stage 3, as you don’t use it for combat at all, but completely ignoring the stat altogether can be disastrous. As a side note, the decision to make the final stage a battle is a nice touch, as otherwise the scenario would just be a straightforward willpower-fest.

Part 2 – The Decks

DECK ONE

Hero (3)
Frodo Baggins (CatC) x1
Glorfindel (FoS) x1
Eowyn (Core) x1

This is a pretty standard trio for my mono-Spirit decks these days. Frodo serves as a part-time quester and part-time defender, allowing me to soak up even the biggest enemy attacks if need be. Glorfindel and Eowyn both have high willpower, which is essential to the quest. Eowyn’s ability can be used during either questing or combat, which is perfect, while Glorfindel has access to “readying” through Light of Valinor. Best of all, this line-up starts with a pleasingly low threat of 21.

Ally (25)
Escort from Edoras (AJtR) x3
Emery (TBoG) x2
West Road Traveller (RtM) x3
Pelargir Shipwright (AoO) x3
Silvan Refugee (TDF) x3
Arwen Undomiel (TWitW) x2
Ethir Swordsman (TSF) x3
Gandalf (Core) x3
Northern Tracker (Core) x3

The ally selection is all pretty straightforward here. I’ve loaded up on cheap allies with strong willpower, and this will help me immensely in questing and combat. Arwen helps to boost Frodo’s defense and give him sentinel, while Northern Tracker and West Road Traveller provide some location management.

Attachment (11)
Light of Valinor (FoS) x3
Unexpected Courage (Core) x2
Thror’s Key (OtD) x3
Ancient Mathom (AJtR) x3

The ever-useful Ancient Mathom provides much-needed card draw to this deck. Light of Valinor and Unexpected Courage are both crucial, especially given the importance of readying for this particular scenario. Thror’s Key is also essential, allowing me to neutralize those locations that have debilitating effects.

Event (14)
Hasty Stroke (Core) x3
Dwarven Tomb (Core) x2
Elrond’s Counsel (TWitW) x3
A Test of Will (Core) x3
The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core) x3

Cancellation is maximized through Hasty Stroke, A Test of Will, and Dwarven Tomb, and I feel as secure as can be with this safety net. Elrond’s Counsel and The Galadhrim’s Greeting will help to provide threat management (as well as willpower boosting in the case of Elrond’s Counsel), which will be handy in a general sense, as well as to compensate for any threat incurred by Frodo’s ability.

Overall Strategy:

Light of Valinor goes on Glorfindel, and is probably worth a mulligan if you don’t get it in your opening hand, given the need for willpower for combat. Unexpected Courage can go on Eowyn to allow her to use that amazing 4 willpower to attack enemies, or it can be placed on Frodo to give him the flexibility of defending twice (or questing and defending). The general strategy is quite simple: pump out allies, and split them between questing and combat duties based on the particular board situation on any given turn. Always keep at least 1 Spirit resource available for A Test of Will, assuming you have a copy available. In fact, I might be tempted to mulligan if I did not get a copy of A Test of Will in my opening hand.

DECK TWO

Hero (3)
Prince Imrahil (AJtR) x1
Aragorn (Core) x1
Theodred (Core) x1

This is my preferred mono-Leadership trio, although I have recently taken to substituting in Sam for Theodred. Aragorn and Imrahil can usually both quest and engage in combat, which again is extremely useful for this quest. Theodred is mostly devoted to questing, but does provide that additional resource, which can be especially helpful during quest stage 2.

Ally (25)
Dunedain Watcher (TDM) x3
Envoy of Pelargir (HON) x3
Erestor (TLD) x2
Faramir (Core) x2
Longbeard Elder (FoS) x3
Snowbourn Scout (Core) x3
Fili (OHaUH) x2
Gandalf (Core) x3
White Tower Watchman (TDF) x3
Kili (OHaUH) x1

Each ally plays a particular role here. Faramir is perhaps the most important, providing a global willpower boost that can be used for either questing or combat. Erestor brings in card draw, along with decent willpower. Dunedain Watcher cancels shadows, Snowbourn Scout deals with locations (slightly), White Tower Watchman provides some defensive options, and Fili/Kili allow for bringing in two bodies quickly.

Attachment (14)
Celebrian’s Stone (Core) x2
Cram (OHaUH) x3
Dunedain Warning (CatC) x3
Sword that was Broken (TWitW) x3
Steward of Gondor (Core) x3

Sword that was Broken and Celebrian’s Stone are extremely important, as they are the attachments that take this deck to the next level. The difference in willpower they provide is key to questing and combat in The Stone of Erech. Cram is included for readying, while Dunedain Warning helps to turn Aragorn into a stronger defender.

Event (11)
A Very Good Tale (OHaUH) x3
Fresh Tracks (TLD) x2
Sneak Attack (Core) x3
Strength of Arms (TDF) x3

Strength of Arms is an amazing and underrated card for mono-Leadership decks, readying all allies. Once I have an ally swarm in play, they can contribute their willpower to questing, and then turn around and use their willpower to attack enemies. This can be crucial in the final few rounds. A Very Good Tale allows for getting allies out quickly, and will be especially helpful during stage 2, when I can’t play cards normally during certain rounds. Fresh Tracks helps to deal with situations where too many enemies hit the staging area at once, providing some breathing room through stopping one enemy from attacking.

Overall Strategy:

Usually, all three heroes will commit to the quest, with Aragorn using the resource from Theodred to immediately ready and be available for defense. If the situation calls for it, I will play a cheap chump blocker so that Prince Imrahil can be readied, if necessary, as well. In my opening hand, I am looking for either the Steward of Gondor or Celebrian’s Stone/Sword that was Broken. All three of those attachments go on Aragorn, and they are what enable the deck to start humming.

Part 3 – Session Report

This session was played solo, with the two decks described above. 

Set-up

DECK ONE (Starting Threat – 21)

Starting Hand: Silvan Refugee, Northern Tracker, Thror’s Key, Gandalf, Light of Valinor, The Galadhrim’s Greeting

Thoughts: I’m happy with Light of Valinor alone. Besides that crucial attachment, Silvan Refugee provides a cheap quester, while Thror’s Key can help protect against a dangerous location that pops up early. I’ll definitely keep this hand, even though I am a bit nervous to not have A Test of Will.

DECK TWO (Starting Threat – 31)

Starting Hand: Sword that was Broken, Fresh Tracks, Fili, Gandalf, Steward of Gondor, Dunedain Watcher

Thoughts: Again, I’ve drawn a key attachment (Steward of Gondor), and this is enough to keep the hand. Sword that was Broken is also present, which will be a must-play once I have enough resources available. Fili provides access to a nice cheap set of allies for the early game.

ENCOUNTER DECK SET-UP

Card 1 – Driven By Fear: I will choose to attach this to Frodo, as I can’t afford to lose the willpower of either Glorfindel or Eowyn. Frodo’s willpower will now be reduced to 0, and I won’t be able to use his damage soaking ability. In essence, Frodo has been almost completely neutered.

Card 2 – Murmurs of Dread: This treachery reduces the willpower of all characters by 1 until the end of the round, which means that it will be in effect for the first round.

Thoughts: It’s difficult for me to imagine a worse set of opening cards, and victory already looks fairly uncertain. Losing this much willpower this early is devastating. The one positive is that I’ve drawn two treacheries, which means the staging area is clear, while Tarlang’s Neck is automatically the active location.

ROUND 1 (0 progress on Eventide, 0 threat in staging area, 0/6 progress on 1B, 0 victory points, Active Location – Tarlang’s Neck [0/6 quest points])

Staging Area – None

DECK ONE PREPARATION (First Player) – 21 Threat

Resources: Frodo – 1, Glorfindel – 1, Eowyn – 1

Draw: Ethir Swordsman

New Hand: Silvan Refugee, Northern Tracker, Thror’s Key, Gandalf, Light of Valinor, The Galadhrim’s Greeting, Ethir Swordsman

Planning: First things first, I will play Light of Valinor on Glorfindel. Next, I will pay 1 resource for Silvan Refugee, who will help to bring in some willpower early in the game. Finally, since I have no A Test of Will in hand to save a resource for, I will spend my last resource to attach Thror’s Key to Eowyn.

Resources After Planning: Frodo – 0, Glorfindel – 0, Eowyn – 0

DECK TWO PREPARATION – 31 Threat

Resources: Aragorn – 1, Imrahil – 1, Theodred – 1

Draw: A Very Good Tale

New Hand: Sword that was Broken, Fresh Tracks, Kili, Gandalf, Steward of Gondor, Dunedain Watcher, A Very Good Tale

Planning: First, I will attach Steward of Gondor to Aragorn, and then immediately exhaust it to pay for itself. Next, I will pay 3 resources to play Fili, which brings in Kili. I will now complete one of my favorite combinations by playing A Very Good Tale, exhausting Fili and Kili to shuffle my deck and search my top 5 cards for an ally to play. I’m able to put Faramir into play for free, which is a fantastic coup here. Sometimes this move doesn’t quite pan out, and I may have ended up with two exhausted allies and nothing to show for it, but it was worth the risk, given my perilous position, and it paid off.

Resources After Planning: Aragorn – 0, Imrahil – 0, Theodred – 0

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

Murmurs of Dread is in effect, reducing all characters’ willpower by 1. Deck One will commit Eowyn (3 willpower), Glorfindel (2 willpower), and Silvan Refugee (1 willpower). Deck One will commit Aragorn (1 willpower), Theodred (0 willpower), and Prince Imrahil (1 willpower). Aragorn will use Theodred’s resource to immediately ready. Faramir will exhaust to raise all of Deck Two’s characters’ willpower by 1, which essentially cancels out Murmurs for them. A total of 11 willpower is committed against 0 threat in the staging area.

Staging:

Card 1 – Murmurs of Dread: This is nearing on a sick joke at this point. My total willpower is brutally reduced to 5.

Card 2Vale of Shadows (1 threat, 3 quest points): [Insert expletive here] This location becomes active, moving Tarlang’s Neck down to the staging area, which dumps 3 threat in my way.

Resolution:

5 willpower against 3 threat nets 2 progress. Deck Two will ditch Fresh Tracks to raise Eowyn’s willpower by 1 so that I can make 3 progress. This gives me just enough to clear out the active location, which is necessary to get Tarlang’s Neck out of the staging area.

TRAVEL:tarlang

I will travel to Tarlang’s Neck. This location is intriguing in that, while it is the active location, it forces players to either immediately end the encounter phase, keeping all enemies in the staging area, or send all enemies to the first player, regardless of threat. At times, this can be difficult, but fortunately there are no enemies to worry about at the moment.

ROUND 2 (1 progress on Eventide, 0 threat in staging area, 0/6 progress on 1B, 0 victory points, Active Location – Tarlang’s Neck [0/6 quest points])

Staging Area – None

DECK TWO PREPARATION (First Player) – 32 threat

Resources: Aragorn – 3, Imrahil – 1, Theodred – 1

Draw: White Tower Watchman

New Hand: Sword that was Broken, Gandalf, Dunedain Watcher, White Tower Watchman

Planning: The next piece of the puzzle will fall into place as I play Sword that was Broken.

Resources After Planning: Aragorn – 2, Imrahil – 0, Theodred – 0

DECK ONE PREPARATION – 22 threat

Resources: Frodo – 1, Glorfindel – 1, Eowyn – 1

Draw: Hasty Stroke

New Hand: Northern Tracker, Gandalf, The Galadhrim’s Greeting, Ethir Swordsman, Hasty Stroke

Planning: With questing and willpower still the immediate priority, I will spend 2 resources to put Ethir Swordsman into play.

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

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

With those pesky Murmurs now out of play, and with some key attachments and allies in play, I’m feeling a bit more confident. Deck Two will commit Aragorn (3 willpower), Theodred (2 willpower), and Imrahil (3 willpower). Aragorn will immediately ready, using Theodred’s resource. Deck One will commit Eowyn (4 willpower), Glorfindel (3 willpower), and Silvan Refugee (2 willpower). This leads to a pleasing total of 17.

Staging:

Card 1Whisperer (35 engagement cost, 2 threat, 2 attack, 2 defense, 4 hit points): This is the least fearsome of the enemies in this scenario, at least until Dusk and Midnight boosts its threat.

Card 2Vale of Shadows (1 threat, 3 quest points): I absolutely hate this location, and pulling it twice in subsequent rounds is annoying, especially as it is preventing me from clearing out Tarlang’s Neck, which is moved to the staging area (contributing its 3 threat to the staging area).

Resolution:

My 17 willpower against the 5 threat in the staging area yields 12 progress. This clears out the Vale of Shadows (3 progress), with the remaining 9 progress tokens placed on the quest stage. Sadly, this is enough to clear the stage, but I can’t move on until Tarlang’s Neck is explored, which keeps being prevented by those pesky copies of Vale of Shadows.

TRAVEL:

I will travel once more to Tarlang’s Neck.

ENCOUNTER:

Tarlang’s Neck’s effect doesn’t really matter here, as there’s only one enemy in the staging area, except that only the first player (Deck Two) can engage it. Deck Two will take this on, as I seek to keep the board clear of enemies when possible, and bring down the Whisperer.

COMBAT:

Enemy Attack:whisperer

I will use Faramir to defend against the Whisperer. The shadow card is another Whisperer, which has no effect. The Whisperer’s 2 attack against Faramir’s 2 defense causes no damage.

Player Attack:

I will attack with Aragorn (3 willpower), Fili (2 willpower), and Kili (2 willpower). 7 willpower against 2 defense leads to 5 damage, which is enough to kill the Whisperer. Keeping Fili and Kili back from questing proved to be crucial for combat purposes.

ROUND 3 (2 progress on Eventide, 0 threat in staging area, 9/6 progress on 1B, 0 victory points, Active Location – Tarlang’s Neck [0/6 quest points])

Staging Area – None

DECK ONE PREPARATION (First Player) – 23 threat

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

Draw: Elrond’s Counsel

New Hand: Northern Tracker, Gandalf, The Galadhrim’s Greeting, Hasty Stroke, Elrond’s Counsel

Planning: I could play Northern Tracker, but at this point, I’m in a good position, and it is often important to save your money so that you can react better to changing situations. I also have stage 2 in mind, when I may not be able to collect resources during certain turns.

Resources After Planning: Frodo – 2, Glorfindel – 1, Eowyn – 1

DECK TWO PREPARATION – 33 threat

Resources: Aragorn – 5, Imrahil – 1, Theodred – 1

Draw: Celebrian’s Stone

New Hand: Gandalf, Dunedain Watcher, White Tower Watchman, Celebrian’s Stone

Planning: I will spend 3 for White Tower Watchman, which takes some of the defensive responsibilities away from Faramir, who is needed for more important tasks. I will also play Celebrian’s Stone on Aragorn for even more willpower.

Resources After Planning: Aragorn – 2, Imrahil – 0, Theodred – 0

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

Deck One will commit Glorfindel (3 willpower), Eowyn (4 willpower), and Silvan Refugee (2 willpower). Deck Two will commit Imrahil (3 willpower), Theodred (2 willpower), and Aragorn (5 willpower). Aragorn will use Theodred’s ability to immediately ready. This is a grand total of 19, and should ensure passage to the next stage this turn.

Staging:

Card 1Shadow of Dwimorberg (1 threat, 4 quest points): This location is a welcome sight at the moment. Once it hits Dusk and Midnight, its threat will rapidly increase, and it will turn nasty.

Card 2Whisperer (35 engagement cost, 2 threat, 2 attack, 2 defense, 4 hit points): I’ll take another one of these minions all day.

Resolution:

My total of 19 willpower against 3 threat yields 16 progress. 6 of these tokens clear out Tarlang’s Neck to the victory display. The remaining 10 are placed on stage 1B to absolutely obliterate it. I now move on to stage 2, adding The Stone of Erech (4 threat, 6 quest points) and Derufin to the staging area.

TRAVEL:stone

I will travel to the Stone of Erech, which exhausts all characters that have less than 2 willpower. Fortunately, this only applies to Frodo (0 willpower), and he is exhausted. Here we can see one of the advantages of running decks with high willpower: effects like those on The Stone of Erech are rendered harmless. The first player (Deck One) takes control of Derufin.

ENCOUNTER:

With Tarlang’s Neck gone, normal engagement rules now apply once more. I will have Deck Two optionally engage the Whisperer.

COMBAT:

Enemy Attack:

The White Tower Watchman defends. The shadow card is Shadow Host Captain (no shadow effect), and I’m glad to see that enemy go as a shadow. The 2 attack of the Whisperer against the White Tower Watchman’s 2 defense yields no damage.

Player Attack:

Aragorn (5 willpower) and Faramir (3 willpower) combine for 8 willpower against the Whisperer’s 2 defense, causing 6 damage. The Whisperer is destroyed.

REFRESH:

Frodo cannot ready, due to the Stone of Erech’s effect. Sword that was Broken is key here, boosting allies with 1 willpower, like Fili, Kili, and White Tower Watchman, so that they are not affected.

ROUND 4 (3 progress on Eventide, 1 threat in staging area, 0/8 progress on 2B, 1 victory point, Active Location – The Stone of Erech [0/6 quest points])

Staging Area – Shadow of Dwimorberg

I will choose to skip resource collection this round, in the hopes that I will draw some good cards and be able to play them.

DECK TWO PREPARATION (First Player) – 34 threat

Resources: Aragorn – 2, Imrahil – 0, Theodred – 0

Draw: White Tower Watchman

New Hand: Gandalf, Dunedain Watcher, White Tower Watchman

Planning: It is not worth playing anything in my hand at the moment. I will, however, exhaust Steward of Gondor to collect at least some resources.

Resources After Planning: Aragorn – 4, Imrahil – 0, Theodred – 0

DECK ONE PREPARATION – 24 threat

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

Draw: Light of Valinor

New Hand: Northern Tracker, Gandalf, The Galadhrim’s Greeting, Hasty Stroke, Elrond’s Counsel, Light of Valinor

Planning: There is nothing worth playing here either, and my decision at the beginning of the round to take the planning phase seems to have backfired.

Resources After Planning: Frodo – 2, Glorfindel – 1, Eowyn – 1

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

Deck Two will commit Aragorn (5 willpower), Theodred (2 willpower), and Prince Imrahil (3 willpower). Aragorn will use Theodred’s resource to immediately ready. Deck One will commit Glorfindel (3 willpower), Silvan Refugee (2 willpower), and Derufin (3 willpower). My questing total is an impressive 18 against 1 threat in the staging area. I am holding back Eowyn for combat needs, confident that I will likely advance to the next stage this turn without her, and will be in need of willpower on the battlefront.

Staging:

Card 1Midnight Throng: Each deck has to search the encounter deck and discard pile for an undead enemy and put it into the staging area. I will grab 2 Whisperers, as they are the weakest enemy.

Card 2The Dead Ride Behind – 1 damage is dealt to each character with less than 2 willpower. Against, this only applies to Frodo, who takes 1 damage. He has no damage soaking ability, and will die if another copy of this treachery comes up, but he is a non-entity at this point anyway, aside from collecting resources. This treachery is another example of the strength of running high willpower decks against this quest. Even in the absence of A Test of Will, I’m able to ride out some of these encounter card effects.

 Resolution:

My total of 18 goes against 5 threat in the staging area (2 Whisperers and Shadow of Dwimorberg). That leads to 13 progress. 6 progress tokens explore The Stone of Erech and add it to the victory display. The remaining 7 tokens are placed on quest 2B, leaving me 1 shy of advancement. I will play Elrond’s Counsel, lowering Deck One’s threat by 3 (21 threat) and adding 1 willpower to the Silvan Refugee, which means that I will advance to stage 3. The Lord of Dead (30 engagement cost, 5 threat, 6 attack, 3 defense, 9 hit points) is now added to the staging area, and each player must search for 1 Oathbreaker and reveal and add it to the staging area (Deck One will add 1 Whisperer and Deck Two will add 1 Shadow-man). The Shadow-man’s “when revealed” effect prevents me from playing events until the end of the round. Suddenly, the board is filled with enemies, and I’m glad I cleared out the previous ones.

TRAVEL:

I will travel to Shadow of Dwimorberg, as its threat is about to boost soon with the coming of Dusk.

ENCOUNTER:

I want to clear out the staging area as much as possible, so that I can blow through stage 3. Both decks will optionally engage one Whisperer, which leaves 1 in the staging area. This means that The Lord of the Dead (30 engagement cost) will engage Deck Two (34 threat). All of Deck Two’s characters now have a blank text box, as a result of The Lord of the Dead’s effect. Shadow-man (27 engagement cost) will engage Deck Two as well. The last Whisperer (35 engagement cost) stays in the staging area.

COMBAT:

Enemy Attack: 

Deck Two – White Tower Watchman will defend against the Whisperer. The shadow card is Banks of Morthond, which doesn’tlord apply, as the character will not be destroyed. The 2 attack of the Whisperer against the 2 defense of the White Tower Watchman yields no damage. Kili will bravely defend against The Lord of the Dead. The shadow is Banks of Morthond, and this will trigger this time, since Kili will be destroyed. Thus, 1 progress is added to the current Night objective, meaning that it is now Dusk! Kili is destroyed (6 attack – 1 defense = 5 damage). The Silvan Refugee leaves play as a result, but Prince Imrahil readies. Prince Imrahil defends against the Shadow-man. The shadow card has no effect, so Prince Imrahil will take 2 damage (4 attack – 2 defense = 2 damage).

Deck One – I will take the Whisperer attack undefended, so that I can kill some enemies. This is a bit risky, but I can always destroy the useless Frodo, if need be. The Whisperer’s shadow card has no effect, and I will place 2 damage on Glorfindel (3/5 hit points remaining).

Player Attack:

Deck Two: Aragorn (5 willpower), Faramir (3 willpower), and Fili (2 willpower) combine for 10 willpower against The Lord of the Dead’s 3 defense. This leads to 7 damage, and this tough foe only has 2 hit points remaining.

Deck One: Glorfindel (3 willpower) and Eowyn (4 willpower) will attack the Whisperer. 7 willpower minus 2 defense is 5 damage, and the Whisperer is destroyed. Deck One is now sitting free and clear, while Deck Two is in trouble.

ROUND 5 (1 progress on Dusk, 3 threat in staging area, 0/14 progress on 3B, 6 victory points, Active Location – Shadow of Dwimorberg [0/4 quest points])

Staging Area – Whisperer (now at 3 threat)

DECK ONE PREPARATION (First Player) – 22 threat

Resources: Frodo – 3, Glorfindel – 2, Eowyn – 2

Draw: Elrond’s Counsel

New Hand: Northern Tracker, Gandalf, The Galadhrim’s Greeting, Hasty Stroke, Light of Valinor, Elrond’s Counsel

Planning: I will play Gandalf, dropping 4 damage on The Lord of the Dead to destroy it. It is crucial that Deck One plays our Istari friend, because if Deck Two played him, his text box would be blanked out by The Lord of the Dead, and I wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the direct damage. Besides killing off a key enemy, Gandalf will be extremely helpful for the battle questing that is required by quest stage 3.

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

DECK TWO PREPARATION – 35 threat

Resources: Aragorn – 7, Imrahil – 1, Theodred – 1

Draw: Fresh Tracks

New Hand: Gandalf, Dunedain Watcher, White Tower Watchman, Fresh Tracks

Planning: I will spend some of my surplus of resources to put White Tower Watchman and Dunedain Watcher into play. Every little bit helps with battle questing (Dunedain Watcher), and the White Tower Watchman is a great safety valve.

Resources After Planning: Aragorn – 2, Imrahil – 1, Theodred – 0

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

Deck One will commit Gandalf (4 attack), Glorfindel (3 attack), Frodo (1 attack), Ethir Swordsman (1 attack) and Derufin (1 attack).  Obviously, I’m committing pretty boldly here, but the enemies are starting to pile up, and I need every bit of attack power to finish off this quest before things get too nasty. Deck One will commit Prince Imrahil (3 attack), Theodred (2 attack), Aragorn (3 attack), Dunedain Watcher (1 attack), and Fili (1 attack). Aragorn is doing fine on resources with Steward of Gondor, so I will give Theodred’s resource to Glorfindel this time, and Aragorn will pay 1 to ready. This is a total of 20 against 3 in the staging area.

Staging:

Card 1Restless Dead (12 engagement cost, 2 threat, 3 attack, 0 defense, 2 hit points): This enemy is not too fearsome on its own, but its terrible, terrible effect brings back the topmost Undead enemy, which is The [insert expletive here] Lord of the Dead. This is where Fresh Tracks proves its quality, as I will use it to put 1 damage on The Lord of the Dead. More importantly, it won’t make engagement checks this turn.

Card 2Shadow-man (27 engagement cost, 2 threat, 4 attack, 1 defense, 5 hit points): The enemy party continues, and I’m starting to get a bit nervous. Time is definitely of the essence, and I need to finish off the game next round. The Shadow-man prevents me from playing events for the rest of the turn.

Resolution:

My 20 attack against 12 threat in the staging area yields 8 progress. 4 tokens are enough to clear out Shadow of Dwimorberg, while the remaining 4 progress are placed on stage 3B (10 quest points remaining).

TRAVEL:

There are no locations in play, so there is no travel.

ENCOUNTER:

Deck Two will optionally engage with the Shadow-man. The Whisperer engages with Deck Two. The Restless Dead engages Deck One. The Lord of the Dead is thankfully trapped in the staging area, for this turn at least.

COMBAT:

Here we go! This is going to get a bit hairy.

Enemy Attack:

Deck Two – One copy of the White Tower Watchman defends against the first Whisperer. The shadow card is Blackroot Graves, shadowwhich deals 2 damage to the defending character if it has 0 willpower. Fortunately, this isn’t the case. The White Tower Watchman’s 2 defense cancels out the 2 attack of the Whisperer. The second White Tower Watchman defends against Whisperer #2. The shadow card has no effect, and this White Tower Watchman is unscathed as well. I will take the first Shadow-man’s attack undefended. The shadow card yields 2 additional shadow cards, which makes my heart stop, but fortunately nothing harmful is drawn. The White Tower Watchman takes the undefended damage and is destroyed, which readies Imrahil. Faramir will defend against the second Shadow-man. The shadow card deals 2 damage to a character with 0 willpower, which definitely doesn’t affect him either. Faramir will take 2 damage (4 attack – 2 defense = 2 damage).

Deck One – Sadly, I think it’s time to sacrifice Frodo for the greater good. I will let the Restless Dead’s attack go undefended, the shadow card has no effect, and Frodo is destroyed.

Player Attack:

Deck Two – Aragorn (5 willpower) and Imrahil (3 willpower) will attack the Shadow-man for 7 damage (8 willpower – 1 defense = 7 damage). The Shadow-man is destroyed.

Deck One – Glorfindel (3 willpower) will attack the Restless Dead, which has a defense of 0, and destroy it.

ROUND 6 (2 progress on Dusk, 5 threat in staging area, 4/14 progress on 3B, 6 victory points, Active Location -None)

Staging Area – The Lord of the Dead

DECK TWO PREPARATION (First Player) – 36 threat

Resources: Aragorn – 3, Imrahil – 2, Theodred – 1

Draw: Cram

New Hand: Gandalf, Cram

Planning: I will attach Cram to Aragorn, so that he can defend, quest, and attack, if necessary. I will play Gandalf, using 4 damage to destroy the remaining Shadow-man. I’m starting to breathe easier, but The Lord of the Dead lurks on the horizon.

Resources After Planning: Aragorn – 2, Imrahil – 0, Theodred – 0

DECK ONE PREPARATION – 23 threat

Resources: Glorfindel – 3, Eowyn – 2

Draw: Thror’s Key

New Hand: Northern Tracker, The Galadhrim’s Greeting, Elrond’s Counsel, Thror’s Key

Planning: I will pay 4 for Northern Tracker, who will definitely help out with battle questing.

Resources After Planning: Glorfindel – 1, Eowyn – 1

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

It’s time for me to go all out in a bid to finish this quest. Deck Two will commit Prince Imrahil (3 attack), Theodred (2 attack), Aragorn (3 attack), Gandalf (4 attack), Fili (1 attack), Dunedain Watcher (1 attack), and Faramir (1 attack). Aragorn will use Theodred’s resource to immediately ready. Deck One will commit Glorfindel (3 attack), Eowyn (1 attack), Derufin (1 attack), Northern Tracker (2 attack) and Ethir Swordsman (1 attack). This is a total of 23 attack against 5 threat in the staging area. I need 10 progress to clear the quest, which means that no more than 8 threat can be added to the staging area during questing. Let’s see what happens!

Staging:

Card 1 – Blackroot Graves (4 threat, 1 quest point): I will finally make use of Thror’s Key and attach it to Blackroot Graves, so that it won’t bring back any enemies if the quest continues and I need to explore it. Victory seems to be in sight, though, and as long as I don’t draw anything with more than 4 threat for the next card, I should be fine.

Card 2 – Restless Dead (2 threat, 3 attack, 0 defense, 2 hit points): This returns the topmost Undead enemy from the discard pile, which happens to be a Shadow-man (2 threat, 4 attack, 1 defense, 5 hit points). This is going to be achingly close.

Resolution:

I have 23 attack against 13 in the staging area. This yields 10 progress, which is exactly enough to finish the quest. Victory is mine! Phew!

SCENARIO CONCLUSION:

As you can see from this session report, The Stone of Erech can often lull you into a false sense of security in the early rounds. After you’ve built up a nice set of allies and attachments, you might start feeling secure, but things can quickly get ugly once you reach the third stage. The combination of 3 enemies hitting the staging area at once (with one of them being The Lord of the Dead), just after I had pulled a Midnight Throng (which brought out 2 enemies), resulted in a 5 enemy swing that nearly buried me. Those pesky Restless Dead kept popping up to return destroyed enemies as well, including The Lord of the Dead himself. If that all wasn’t enough, the transition to battle questing can be a bit rough for willpower-heavy decks like these, but including some characters with strong attack saved the day. This was definitely a fun and tense experience, and I’m amazed that I was able to make it through without a single copy of A Test of Will showing its face.

Readers, I’m glad you joined me and shared in my experience of (barely) surviving The Stone of Erech. Soon, we will be tackling the Nightmare quests. For now, please stop and share your own favorite The Stone of Erech experiences below.

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From → Strategy

24 Comments
  1. matthew permalink

    no love for Cavern Guardian (and his/her Undead-ness)! 😉

    http://www.lotrlcg.com/Card/Focus/1103

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Ugh, I don’t count that guy. He’s a Dunharrow reject.

  2. I played this for the first time this week with Glaurung and my playing partner. We did it in around 4 or 5 turns using a Dwarf + Hobbit decks. My Hobbit deck was the same heroes as yours, but replace Eowyn with Sam. The adventure didn’t put much pressure on us until the end, but I guess that’s normal for the quest. Sam, Frodo and Glordindel were great for facing the Lord of the Undead at the end.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Awesome. Yeah, this quest is really pretty unique in the way it starts off slow, and then heaps pressure on you at the end. Most quests tend to do the opposite.

  3. Should read “Glaurung as my playing partner.” That’s his handle on the FFG forums.

  4. Nice write up! I played this solo recently with a mono-Spirit deck and absolutely crushed it…until I got to stage 3.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That stage 3 is nasty. Sometimes the “battle” keyword is actually the worst part, especially with a mono-Spirit build.

  5. bootagot permalink

    Sweet article, I always enjoy these write ups. Rules question, on setup Murmurs of the Dead: wouldn’t that resolve affecting only the characters in play at the time, so when you play Refugee he/she still has 2 willpower. That’s how I play am I wrong?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! That’s a great question, actually, and it could be read in two ways. I read it as the effect being continuous throughout the round, so any new characters coming in would be affected, but you could also read it as only impacting the characters in play when it’s revealed. I may submit this one for rules clarification, and I’ll post the results here.

  6. anderslundqvist permalink

    Nice playthrough. Tips for solo one-handed deck?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      As is so often the case, I think Spirit Glorfindel is a must for this quest, with high willpower and Light of Valinor to allow him to use it for both questing and combat. His attack will also be handy for stage 3. Eowyn is also amazing. From there, since you’re playing one-handed, you can go Mono Spirit, but you also might want to throw in a second sphere with your third hero. The ideal third hero has decent willpower and a strong attack to help with stage 3 (you’re sitting at 14 threat with Glorfindel and Eowyn, so you have a ton of options). Leadership could give you resource generation (someone like Aragorn or Prince Imrahil is great), Tactics give you some Feint, but I like Lore for the third hero here, for card draw alone, as well as location management. You can throw in Lore Aragorn, Elrond, or even Faramir, who can be a strong battle quester for stage 3.

      • anderslundqvist permalink

        Sounds good might dabble with Lore. Interestingly I’m playing through all quests with two Spirit heroes (Eowyn, Dunhere or Glorfindel) and one Tactics hero, usually (Beregond or Legolas). *I have adapted a bit more for HoN, AtS and JTR. Once I beat all other quests I will allow myself to tackle Erech and Lake-Town.

  7. Mike Courchevel permalink

    Round 4 : Enemy attack against deck 2
    Why does Prince Imrahil readies when Kili dies ? Isn’t its text box blank ?

    Great report anyway.
    Mike

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Good catch. I find that The Lord of the Dead’s effect is easy to forget. I would’ve had to defend with my other characters, but should’ve been able to still pull off the victory in the same way.

  8. Trey permalink

    Great article!

    I was able to beat this my first try but it was the closest I have ever come to losing a game that I ended up winning.

    I was playing with Loreagorn, Glorifindel, and Elrond (my generic solo player deck). Everything was going smoothly until I hit two Regretful Shades (surge) followed up by a Restless Dead which brought back a Shadow Host Captain (was a shadow card from an enemy I hadn’t killed yet). I had to purposely fail at questing twice to handle the enemies. Even after using Loreagorns ability, my threat still got up pretty high (Especially since I heavily used the OHaUH Gandalf). It was a real struggle after that.

    I was on midnight on the last phase with only a few progress tokens left to make on the final quest. There was enough threat in the staging area that I was not sure I was going to make it the next round. After threat for midnight and during the refresh phase, I would be at 49 threat so I had to quest successfully to win the next quest phase or I had lost! I was to kill off The Lord of The Undead and then discard my Gandalf (OHaUH), but then I realized that there was no penalty for keeping him around because of The Lord of The Undead (this also boosts up Derufin and Glorifindel). This allowed me to narrowly get my winning progress token placed

    Protector of Lorien should really be called out as a great card here. With some readying you can easily boost Glorifindel to one shot multiple enemies at the cost of a card (since the boost lasts all phase). I think The Favor of the Lady is actually playable here as well, but I didn’t include it.

    I ended up learning that trapping the powerful specters (with Forrest Snare or Ranger Spikes) is a really good choice because it means they wont be coming back from a Restless Dead.

    Anyway, thanks for the read. It was very entertaining

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That playthrough sounds pretty exciting! I love those last minute wins where you barely pull it out. Protector of Lorien is definitely a great choice here, thanks for birnging that up!

  9. Figo3434 permalink

    “For this reason, most of my successful plays have ended sometime during Dusk.”
    Doesn’t the third quest card have the key word “midnight”, meaning every successful play includes facing this period?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Indeed. I meant that my successful plays have ended without the objectives moving to Midnight. Generally, if the objectives hit Midnight before that last phase, then I have lost. If I make it to the last phase without hitting midnight, then I tend to win because I can quest out quickly before midnight really does damage.

  10. Alex permalink

    Great play through. I’m going mono spirit to try.

    Quick question regarding stage 3b. My copy says

    Midnight. Battle.

    Does this mean thst the quest card only gains battle if it’s midnignt or is it always battle?

    Thanks

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Hi Alex. I’ve always interpreted this as meaning that the quest grants both midnight and battle, but I’ve recently been swayed by the idea that if it is midnight, then the quest gains battle. It probably needs some official clarification.

  11. Lee permalink

    Hi, in the general strategy section you mention that West Road Traveller’s ability won’t work with sneak attack because the card has to be played from hand but Sneak Attack’s wording is “Put 1 ally card into play from your hand…” So West Road Traveller is effectively played from hand with sneak atack, is it not?

    Great article by the way.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! There is a subtle distinction in the game between played a card from hand and putting one into play from hand. According to the rules, playing from hand only occurs when you pay resources for it normally during the planning phase. Putting into play does not count for triggering anything regarding playing from hand.

  12. Gwaihir the Windlord permalink

    I just played Stone of Erech two-player for the first time today and found it surprisingly easy. After reading this article, I thought it would be extremely difficult. I suppose my friend and I got lucky on what we drew, as there were no enemies in play when we got around to The Lord of the Dead. Next time I fear will not be so easy. I am very proud of myself on one point though: neither of us used Spirit Glorfindel.
    Thanks for the tips on this quest. It definitely helped in deck-building.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I’m glad it was helpful. I’ve heard this one has been easy for many players, but I’ve found most of my playthroughs to be tense affairs. I’m not sure if it’s a matter of bad luck or maybe my playstyle doesn’t fit well with the scenario. One of the cool things about this game is the way in which different players experience quests in very different ways sometimes!

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