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Voice of Isengard: Heroes Review

by on February 25, 2014

The Voice of Isengard - Matt Stewart watermarked

The wait is over and the Voice of Isengard has finally arrived! One of the first articles I ever released here at Tales from the Cards was a review of the last deluxe expansion, Heirs of Numenor. Since then, my reviews have gotten a bit more long-winded and more detailed, but I’m pleased to have another deluxe box to analyze and another cycle to anticipate all the same. As with my most recent expansion reviews, I will be reviewing the Voice of Isengard player cards in separate articles based on card type, as this allows me to go into greater detail about each card (and maintains my sanity). In this first installment, we’ll be looking at the two heroes included in the Voice of Isengard: Eomer and Grima. How have these heroes affected the card pool (if at all)? What syngergies and combinations are possible? Most importantly, are you Team Grima or Team Eomer?


HEROES

* Eomer (Tactics Hero, 10 threat, 1 willpower, 3 attack, 2 defense, 4 hit points):

If you were to make a list of the most beloved and important Rohan characters in The Lord of the Rings, undoubtedly the top three would be Theoden, Eowyn, and Eomer. While we’ve had Eowyn since the Core Set, Theoden only arrived at the end of the Against the Shadow cycle, with many players feeling a bit underwhelmed by his eventual incarnation in the game. Now Eomer has made his appearance, and I think it’s safe to say that his reception will be far more favorable.

Eomer’s ability is simple yet powerful:

Response: After a character leaves play, Éomer gets +2  until the end of the round. (Limit once per round.) 

This means that you can potentially have a hero with 5 attack available without the aid of any weapons or attachments. Of course, you can add on attachments like Dunedain Mark, Dagger of ÉomerWesternesse, or Spear of the Mark to bump this attack strength up even further. To take one theoretical example, Eomer using his ability and attacking with two copies of Dagger of Westernesse against an enemy with a higher engagement cost would have an amazing attack strength of nine! Alternatively, you could use Forth Eorlingas! to allow Eomer to attack an enemy in the staging area with two copies of Spear of the Mark for nine as well. An intriguing synergy and possibility for attack boosting also exists with the rarely used Grave Cairn. Since a character must leave play to activate the ability anyway, Grave Cairn could allow you to add that character’s attack strength to Eomer. Of course, this means that the discarded or destroyed character would have to have a high enough attack to justify this combination. Using Vassal of the Windlord against one enemy before using Eomer to attack another is a possibility, as this ally would leave play, triggering both Eomer’s ability and Grave Cairn for a total attack boost of 5.

The overall valuation of Eomer’s worth ultimately depends on how often and how reliably his ability can be triggered. In turn, this all depends on how willing you are to deck build specifically for this purpose. There are an abundance of cheap chump blockers that can be included for the express purpose of sacrificing them to activate Eomer’s ability: Snowbourn Scout, Envoy of Pelargir, and Squire of the Citadel are some prime examples. The drawback to this approach is that it is dependent on drawing these allies and it also might clog up your deck with weak characters. Beyond sacrificing allies in defense, characters that pop in and out of play (or just out), and events that allow this to happen, are a potentially less wasteful trigger. Here I’m thinking of cards like Sneak Attack, Spirit Bofur, Escort from Edoras, Vassal of the Windlord, Winged Guardian, and more. Of course, many Rohan characters have abilities that are triggered by discarding them, such as Westfold Horse-Breaker, The Riddermark’s finest, and the new Westfold Outrider, and these provide a useful and thematic way to power up Eomer on a fairly consistent basis. Even better, since you can choose exactly when to discard these characters, you can have almost total control of the timing of the trigger. Westfold Horse-breaker in particular gets a new lease on life with the release of Eomer, as you can attack once with Eomer at an attack strength of 3 (or defend or quest), then discard the Horse-Breaker to not only ready Eomer but also boost his attack up to 5. If you pair this combination with Rohan Warhorse and a weapon, then Eomer can smash through a line of enemies almost single-handedly. Finally, it is worth noting that Emery could be included for the sole purpose of having her be discarded as a trigger. With all these characters leaving play and given the basis of Eomer’s ability, he is also perhaps the perfect fit for Horn of Gondor.

As some last points of consideration, we need to examine Eomer’s stats and his overall place in the pool of Tactics heroes. Ten threat is actually pretty reasonable and pegs him as average for the sphere (the spectrum pretty much runs from nine to eleven, with only a few outliers). Even better, his ability is essentially giving you a discount, as if you had to pay for his 5 attack, he would have a starting threat of twelve. He’s likely not going to be doing much questing due to his low willpower and high combat utility (Steed of the Mark is a possibility, but not worth the space and resources for a single point of willpower, or even two willpower with Theoden, unless you’re running a solo build). His attack is obviously awesome, but he can also serve as a decent defender, with two defense and four hit points.

Eomer perhaps suffers most in his value compared to other Tactics heroes, as his base attack of three is so common for the sphere that it’s unremarkable. Legolas and Hama both have three attack for one less point of starting threat, and the use of weapons could bump either up to Eomer’s boosted level of five while also allowing you to benefit from other abilities (like Legolas’ progress tokens or Hama’s event recycling). Still, there is something to be said for Eomer in that his attack boost is built into his card itself and is thus available from the first turn and doesn’t require the inclusion of any other attachments (this also means you don’t have to draw or pay for extra cards as well). Since Eomer has a built-in attack boost, he can find room in his “restricted” slot space for the amazing Rohan Warhorse (which will be covered in more depth in the attachments review), whereas other heroes might have to use those for weapons.

Therefore, while Eomer is not superior to other Tactics heroes, he definitely holds his own and provides yet another viable option for strong attack potential. Even better, he is part of an existing Rohan synergy that has seen its Tactics incarnation strengthened in both Voice of Isengard and The Morgul Vale. Of course, he’s quite versatile and can work outside Rohan, as strategies built around characters leaving play are quite popular and well-developed in the game, from Eagles to Eomer’s new best buddy Prince Imrahil to the upcoming Silvan. It’s worth mentioning that he gets even more powerful as you add more players, as the chances of at least one character leaving play each turn increases. With all that said, Eomer is undoubtedly my favorite hero of the last five or six expansions (leaving aside the awesome Hobbits from The Black Riders).

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

Possible Attachment Choices: Rohan Warhorse, Dagger of Westernesse, Steed of the Mark, Spear of the Mark, Dunedain Mark, Horn of Gondor

Grima (Lore Hero, 9 threat, 2 willpower, 1 attack, 2 defense, 3 hit points):

If Eomer is all flash and brute force, then Grima is his polar opposite, relying on a subtle “resource generation” through cost reduction ability rather than combat prowess. This is fitting, as they have quite divergent roles in Tolkien’s story (the noble warrior vs. the master manipulator), as well as divergent fates, with Eomer ending up as the King of Rohan while Grima died in ignominy as a traitor and villain. Now that I’ve given a pretty strong stamp of approval to Eomer, the verdict on Grima remains to be delivered.

Grima’s ability is certainly a useful one, helping to make up for the lack of resource generation in Lore by lowering the cost of cards:

Action: Lower the cost of the next card you play from your hand this round by 1. That card gains Doomed 1. (Limit once per round.) 

On the plus side, this is an extremely flexible cost reduction effect Grímathat can be applied to any card type and any sphere (the latter being valuable in a multi-sphere deck). Of course, there is a sizable drawback to this ability as well: the necessity of raising your threat (and the threat of all other players by one). Unlike Eomer, Grima’s value decreases with the addition of more players, as you are asking more and more players to pay the threat penalty for your benefit. Thus, Grima perhaps shines best in a pure solo deck, although he is viable in multiplayer games if you bring along substantial threat reduction.

Even just taken by itself, Grima’s ability is certainly powerful and the possibilities are nearly endless. For one, strong, expensive cards can be played for a lower cost, making them easier to get out early and often. As an example, imagine playing Gandalf or Gildor for four or Northern Tracker for three. Similarly, essential two-cost cards like Unexpected Courage or Asfaloth could be played for a single resource. Finally, key events such as A Test of Will or Radagast’s Cunning could be played for absolutely free, allowing you to pay for other cards without having to worry about keeping one back. Of course, keep in mind that you would need to activate Grima’s ability in advance of using a response effect like A Test of Will, as it is an action itself and couldn’t be triggered during staging.

Perhaps the biggest downside of Grima is that you really need to deck build specifically to compensate for the Doomed cost, which limits his versatility. The two best options are a Lore/Spirit build for access to threat reduction effects and/or pairing Grima with Lore Aragorn, who can essentially solve the whole problem all on his own. For the former, including either Arwen or Spirit Glorfindel (or both) will give you access to Elrond’s Counsel, a single copy of which can neutralize three rounds of using Grima’s ability. Even better, using Spirit Glorfindel will start you off with a low starting threat, which gives you more room to work with as well. The Galadhrim’s Greeting, assuming you use the Doomed cost to make it cheaper, can neutralize 5 rounds worth of Grima’s ability for only two resources. Of course, this means that you won’t be doing threat reduction so much as treading the water of threat, but it still makes things quite workable. Including Spirit recycling through Dwarven Tomb and/or Map of Earnil can make these options even more potent and reliable. If you’re going to be messing around with Doomed cards beyond Grima’s own ability, however, you’ll need something a bit more heavy duty, and this is where Lore Aragorn comes in to save the day, and if you use Desperate Alliance you can even let other players lower their threat as well to compensate for raising their threat, which is much better than a “sorry I made you threat out” greeting card. Another option for multiplayer is Song of Earendil combined with threat reduction to allow you to soak up the threat increases from Doomed taken on by other players.

Beyond just compensating for Grima’s ability, though, the real fun comes with trying to maximize its effectiveness. Master of Lore certainly finds new life in combination with Grima, as he can be put into play for only two resources using Grima’s effect. Once this initial set-up is complete, you can play Lore cards at a two resource discount every turn! Adding a Hobbit with Good Meal to the party would be a nice synergy as well, pushing the potential savings on one card up to four, or potentially working with non-Lore cards (as Master of Lore can’t affect those). As for the Voice of Isengard player cards, including Keys of Orthanc is an absolute no-brainer in a Grima deck. Once that attachment is on him, you can benefit from not only a one resource discount each turn but also an extra resource from the Keys as well. This is fantastically powerful. Even better, you don’t have to put the Keys on Grima; you could place them on a hero of another sphere as well or even a hero controlled by another player and they would benefit each turn you used Grima’s ability.

Leaving aside Grima’s card text for the moment, his stats are decent, if not spectacular. For the most part, you’ll probably be using him to quest more than anything else, as his two willpower is passable, while his attack strength won’t be scaring any orcs anytime soon. In terms of defense, his two defense is serviceable, but his three hit points make him too fragile to use reliably. If you really want to use him in that role, you could use A Burning Brand and Protector of Lorien, in conjunction with Lore’s card draw effects, to turn him into a tank. All things considered, Grima’s low stats are a positive in that he starts with a moderate threat of nine, rather than something higher (however, he does have one point of extra starting threat to compensate for the power of his ability).

Perhaps the most substantial knock against Grima is that there are more straightforward means of generating resources. However, while it’s true that simply throwing Steward of Gondor on a hero is easier and doesn’t come with any penalties, not every deck will include Leadership, and Lore has been begging for resource help for some time now. I’m not of the opinion that a strong existing effect necessitates throwing out all future effects in that same realm, as deck building in this game is and should be about options. While Steward of Gondor may indeed be the power option, creative deck builders will love the interesting possibilities provided by Grima in general and Doomed in particular, and his ability provides a level of flexibility that surpasses the Steward. However, it must be reiterated that Grima is much more powerful in solo (I would give him an efficiency rating of four or five in that setting), as while there are certainly tricks for countering Doomed in multiplayer (some of which I’ve listed here), it is often more difficult to pull off managing the threat of two, three, or four players in actual practice. It requires a substantial portion of your deck space to include threat reduction cards and event recycling effects in order to keep all players at a manageable level. Still, Grima remains a strong option for solo play and a decent option for multiplayer if you (and the other players) are willing to do careful planning around his ability.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦♦

Possible Attachment Choices: Keys of Orthanc, Song of Earendil (on an accompanying Spirit hero), A Burning Brand, Protector of Lorien

Conclusion

Choosing between Grima and Eomer may be a de facto personality test for players. What appeals to you more? The elegant simplicity and heroic force of Eomer that will make your enemies cower in fear? Or the cunning, behind-the-scenes power of Grima that is reliant on clever combinations and deck building skill? Of course, there’s no reason why one has to choose and you can surely enjoy both (as I do), but it’s more fun to set up a grand debate between Team Grima and Team Eomer. Where do your loyalties lie?

The heroes of this new expansion may have been prodded and poked and thoroughly analyzed, but the allies, attachments, and events of Voice of Isengard still remain. Look out for those reviews over the next couple of weeks, as well as an examination of the scenarios themselves. And as always, share your thoughts below on the great Grima/Eomer debate!

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68 Comments
  1. matthew permalink

    Eomer! 🙂

  2. Pretty much with any game, I prefer and want to use the tricky, intricate strategies to manipulate the game in backhanded ways (think of the quintessential Rogue or Enchanter). In reality, though, my brain leans towards the straightforward, kick-the-door down approach (like a Warrior).

    So I’m split between the two, but Eomer will undoubtedly get more play time.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Surprisingly, I think Eomer is going to get a lot more playtime on my table than Grima as well. Grima just requires a lot more planning.

  3. Glowwyrm permalink

    It’s funny, because going into Voice of Isengard I was looking forward to building a deck around Grima’s ability and playing with all the combos, but the first thing I ended up doing was building two decks around Eomer’s and Imrahil’s abilities. It was awesome to have Eomer avenge the deaths of the Snowborn Scouts and Westfold Horse Breeders, riding around on his warhorse smashing through Dunlandings and Orcs (I just ran away from the Huorns). I felt like they nailed the theme of his card.

    I’m looking forward to the rest of your player card reviews. I thought the expansion was great. It opened up some different play styles, and I’ve made good use of every player card (though some are admittedly more scenario dependent than others).

    • To divert the topic, did you try Might Prowess on Eomer? I forgot to include it in my Rohan deck.

      I have to think that, if you’re pumping him up enough to kill enemies and utilize his steed, and if most of the enemies are the same type (Dunlending/Orc), then you could do some serious damage.

      • Glowwyrm permalink

        For extra damage I used Gondorian Spearmen, who could chump block it I didn’t have a character to sacrifice, or finish off an enemy that Eomer didn’t quite kill last turn (which they did a few times). I like the idea of Mighty Prowess because it could help set up more kills, and it could damage enemies engaged with other players whose decks might not have as much attack power. I’ll have to try that out.

        I think my favorite feature of Eomer is that you don’t have to try and draw weapons to beef him up. Card draw is a big weakness for Tactics, so searching for something specific can be hard. But there are lots of cheap allies you can load your deck with that will keep him consistently deadly. Plus, all those allies can help handle all your defensive needs. Voice of Isengard was one of the first times in awhile I left Beregond out and felt comfortable with my defense. The question with Eomer isn’t “can I make him strong enough to do damage?” but “how can I best utilize his strength?”

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I was solidly Team Grima until the expansion was actually in my hands, and since then I’ve been using Eomer like crazy. I definitely want to try out things like Mighty Prowess on him and investigate his staging area attack applications. All in all, he’s just a ton of fun and I agree that his theme is perfect.

  4. Glowwyrm permalink

    If you couldn’t already tell, I’m team Eomer.

    Am I the only person who can’t have Grima and Eowyn on the table at the same time? It’s too creepy.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I’ve thought about throwing Eomer, Eowyn, and Grima into one deck to watch the sparks fly.

  5. Thaddeus permalink

    “Still, there is something to be said for Eomer in that his attack boost is built into his card itself and is thus available from the first turn and doesn’t require the inclusion of any other attachments (this also means you don’t have to draw or pay for extra cards as well).”
    Except that you do have to draw and pay for extra cards. You have to draw, pay, AND discard an ally. I’m not saying it’s a bad ability, but it reads to me as just “okay”. I do look forward to trying him out, though.
    Grima, provides some interesting queries for deck building. How do you build to take advantage of his ability but also compensate for it. It’s sorta fun to think about, but ultimately it feels kind of niche and I don’t especially like it when I feel forced to include particular cards just to make a Hero feel worthwhile. I might try him out eventually, but I’m not especially excited about it. (Part of that is also bias against the character, though.)

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I think the important difference is that players are going to be including, drawing, and paying for allies anyway as a normal part of the game (and characters are often leaving play), whereas weapons require special attention. You’re also far more likely to draw an ally than a weapon in most cases. It is true that you may not always be able to take advantage of Eomer’s ability if you can’t get any allies to the table (or at least ones that you are willing to discard or sacrifice) or can’t take advantage of any popping in/out effects, but generally I haven’t found it to be much of an issue with some minimal deck building.

      • chris permalink

        You say this like you need weapons for other Tactics Heroes to work. But imo unless if they are tailored for you, they often aren’t even worth the spot. But in fairness, I don’t see why you are presuming other Heroes need something special to be good, while Eomer doesn’t.

        If anything, I would say he’s the simplest and most prototypical of Tactics Heroes. Decent blocker. Good counter-attacker. Terrible quester. He’s about on-par with Bard in my eyes. Their powers do effectively the same thing, and both do them on fairly common conditions. Against the rest of the counter-attacker lot, I think what gives him the edge is that he has 2 defense and 4 hit points, whereas Legolas, Hama, and Brand are all weaker defenders at either 1 defense and 4 hit points or 2 defense and 3 hit points.

        However, I do think that Rohan Warhorse is a huge game changer for how we evaluate Tactics Heroes. 2x activations of Legolas, Hama, or Brand can be game-changing in a way that I do not believe that 2x Eomer can match.

        • TalesfromtheCards permalink

          I never said that Tactics heroes need weapons to work. I said that they need weapons to match the boosted attack strength of Eomer (minus Beorn, of course). I’m not arguing that Eomer is better than Hama and Legolas, what I was arguing in the article is that he is at least as useful as those heroes, and I was aiming to find the main positive of his ability. I think this quote from the article best exemplifies my position:

          “Therefore, while Eomer is not superior to other Tactics heroes, he definitely holds his own and provides yet another viable option for strong attack potential.”

          All in all, I still would pick Legolas as being superior to Eomer in many cases. I probably would say the same about Hama, except I don’t particularly enjoy the playstyles that revolve around Hama’s ability. My point was to show the relative advantage of Eomer over those heroes (not having to rely on an attachment for an attack boost), while the advantages other heroes have over Eomer should be obvious. At the end of the day, Eomer provides raw attack power quickly. Other Tactics heroes provide other effects.

          • tomtomiszcze permalink

            But at the end of the other day, the bottom line for every mono tactics lover is – pick Legolas over Eomer because he’s 9, not 10, gives quest progress and it’s easy to give him proper equipment. Two things exclude Eomer from power decks – wasted stats in form of 2 def and the wording on Rohan Warhorse. Let’s pretend he has 8 threat and Warhorse is eligible to Rohan heroes only – now we’re talking.
            One could bring Forth Eorlingas argument, but sad reality is that with Tactics heroes you rarely have a chance to attack anything really worth killing in staging area and it takes away the precious action necessary to take care of already engaged enemies.
            To sum up: fun, thematic Rohan deck – pick Eomer. Deck that can go II or SoCA – Legolas.
            I’m starting to think that Warhorse is incredible card. Imagine Legolas with it, Rivendell Blade and Support of The Eagles. 6 attack, -2 def, 2 attacks per round = 4 quest points. With UC or Miruvor that’s even more intriguing alternative to achieve questing progress.

            • TalesfromtheCards permalink

              Oh, I agree. Take a look at what I said above:

              “All in all, I still would pick Legolas as being superior to Eomer in many cases”.

              Nowhere have I argued that Eomer is generally superior to Legolas, Hama, or certain other Tactics heroes. If you notice, I gave him an “Efficiency” rating of 3, which is a measure of a card’s power relative to its cost (in this case, starting threat). That’s average-to-good, but not a 4 or 5, which is what I would give to Legolas, for example. Just because I give credit to a hero for a single advantage they have, it doesn’t mean that I think they are better in general. Every hero should have at least one advantage, otherwise there’s no point to them being in the game! I see my role in these reviews as pointing out those advantages (as well as disadvantages) as much as possible, so that players get a good sense of the card’s possibilities.

              While I agree that Legolas is better than Eomer, I don’t think that Eomer is completely banished from power decks. For one, another player may be using Legolas, and Eomer provides a valid option for a potential power deck. Two, his defense is wasted in some cases, but could be useful for siege questing and emergency defending. Three, in a non-Mono Tactics deck, he can provide a lot of solitary attack power to a deck that may be more focused generally on questing.

              Finally, your point about the Rohan Warhorse is spot on. As you’ll see once I do the attachments review, that’s pretty much my only gripe with the card: that it is accessible to all Tactics heroes. If it was restricted to just Rohan, that would have been a huge advantage for that trait. As it is now, it’s going to be an auto-include for many, many Tactics decks.

              • tomtomiszcze permalink

                Oh, I didn’t mean to argue, just wanted to emphasize your statement and point some annoying problem with tactics heroes with problem being Legolas himself – he’s the best in his sphere and every designers’ attempt to create any non-dwarf replacement fell short and it’s kinda boring. Bard is useful, but too threat expensive. Beorn – lots of fun, expensive, but that’s all. Theoden – give me a break. Eomer looks like legit contender, having trait with some actual syngeries (not some lousy Elven pu-pu platter) and possibility of building staging slaughters ultimate deck with Dunhere and Hama, but there comes significant stopgap in his 10 threat; because there’s really big difference between having 27 or 25 starting threat, especially when you want to prioritize staging area attack. I’ll build it of course once I get VoI, but I’m afraid that it would not be even close in terms of effectiveness to Legolas based deck.

                • TalesfromtheCards permalink

                  No worries. I didn’t take it as argument, just friendly debate and discussion, which is a great part of doing this blog. I feel like the problem you bring up is even worse with Spirit heroes. You have Glorfindel, who’s pretty much an auto-include with Spirit, Eowyn, who continues to be an all-star, and Frodo, who can be a good defensive solution for mono-Spirit. Beyond those three, there are certainly heroes who have their uses, but there’s a sizable drop-off (and a bunch of Dwarves. I’m really interested to see if we can get at least one good Spirit hero in this cycle, maybe an Elf?

                  • tomtomiszcze permalink

                    Glaring lack of choice among Spirit heroes becomes an asset when building mono deck – you can’t go wrong with picking those you mentioned 🙂 I wouldn’t mind to see Spirit version of Elrohir for two reasons: first, I could try to get rid of Glorfindel once more and second – the Brothers-based decks always seemed to be criminally underrated and one step away from being playable (as in “can beat HoN quests 4 times of 10”). The spoiler of certain nonsenical bench-warmer of Leadership sphere brings some hope for Spirit hero of more use than poor Celeborn.

              • As much as making Rohan Warhorse only work for Rohan heroes really strengthens the trait, it weakens Tactics in general, and I really think Tactics needs this kind of readying ability because often, Tactics decks are meant to handle the combat for multiple decks and it’s often difficult to handle all of the combat without some readying. I think that Rohan Warhorse working on all Tactics heroes makes it one of the best things to happen to Tactics. Allowing it to work with Rohan also is just a perk so Dunhere (and potentially future non-Tactics Rohan heroes) can be awesome too.

                I guess you may not be arguing that it should be limited to just Rohan heroes, so much as you are arguing that it would be better for the Rohan trait if it was, but either way… I had to get my voice out there 🙂

                • tomtomiszcze permalink

                  Right, it would be better for Rohan trait and for me, because I would get a chance at building Rohan deck without the voice inside my head, whispering “Eomer’s nice, but give the horse to Legolas and see what ‘awesome’ is”.

                • TalesfromtheCards permalink

                  I guess it all comes down to that big debate of whether it’s better to build up spheres or traits, and everyone kind of feels differently on that issue. I love Rohan Warhorse being Tactics from the point of view of wanting to smash everything. From a game balance perspective, I prefer each sphere’s limitations being kept intact (like Tactics not having readying), so that they remain distinct. The plus side is that the Rohan Warhorse is conditional readying based on destroying an enemy, so that’s a positive. It could have been made even more limited by restricting it to Rohan. Anyway you slice it, though, I’m looking forward to throwing Legolas onto that horse!

      • Yea, the first decks I built in this game (I came in right after Heirs of Numenor was released), I had Prince Imrahil, Eagles, Horn of Gondor, Sneak Attack, Rohan allies, etc. and it wasn’t infrequent to see allies leaving play, so Imrahil was quite useful and I got plenty of dual use out of him and a good chunk of resources from HoG. So, I feel like Eomer would quite well, especially with at least 2 players.

        My only issue is that I don’t really want to replace Legolas with Eomer. There are a lot of great attackers in Tactics and they each have great abilities too. It mostly depends on what you want most: Extra progress (really helpful when you have strong Tactics decks), event reuse (Lots of great events to reuse too!), or stronger attack to be more likely to kill enemies. Attachments can often make up for not having the abilities on a particular hero, so it’s mostly about choosing which ability you want from the start and which can wait until your attachments show up.

  6. Eomer! And: I’m looking forward to reading the furhter reviews to “Voice of Isengard” from TalesFromTheCards!!!

  7. Glowwyrm permalink

    Thaddeus,

    I’m just trying to make a point about the weakness of needing specific cards in the Tactics sphere. While it’s true you have to draw and pay for the allies, you aren’t drawing for a specific card. If I need a Rivendell blade to buff up Legolas, I’m hunting for three cards out of fifty in a sphere that is weak in card draw. If I’m playing Eomer and about half my deck is allies, most of which are cheap, I’m drawing a card I need to boost him every other turn at least plus solving some of my defensive needs (assuming I’m chump blocking and not going into some of the other combinations I could be using). I just think that Eomer is an answer to one of the sphere’s weaknesses.

    And, as Ian said, he just gets better with more players and more spheres added to the mix, because there are a lot of effects that have allies leaving play and a lot of potential for someone at the table to lose an ally.

    • chris permalink

      Again why does Legolas “need” Rivendell blade? To do as much damage as Eomer? So then isn’t it fair to say that Eomer “needs” something to compensate for Legolas’s ability?

      Given what Tactics is efficient in (attack damage) gaining 2 progress is much more rare than gaining 2 attack.

  8. anderslundqvist permalink

    I’ve recently been recording scores in the quest log. I noticed I use Lore in about 7% of all quests… I hope Grima is going to change that but I do love my Rohan spirit/tactics combos with a splash of Beregond on the side

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Grima definitely adds a new wrinkle to Lore, giving it another deck type, which may make it a bit more intriguing for some players.

  9. Team Eomer for me because I share many of the sentiments discussed in this post about Grima and perhaps Lore as a whole. Grima and many Lore cards sound quite appealing in concept, but they can often be tricky to put into play effectively during quests. A card that may seem really great and useful in planning may fall completely flat and feel entirely out of place when you’re “in the moment” during a heated quest.

    That’s why the more specifically defined role that Eomer brings is the winning factor for me. Similar to how Eowyn is almost always going to be a questing heroine, Eomer is always going to be trampling Orcs and Goblins beneath his noble steed. Some people argue that clearly defined roles for heroes makes them become boring, but I would disagree. I think it makes them all the more dependable for consistent use.

    Do I like Grima and think he is unique? Most definitely. I just don’t think he is as approachable for continual use like Eomer is. With all that said, however, I am still really excited to build my Doomed Domination Deck!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      “Approachable” is a great way to describe the difference between Grima and Eomer. Grima can be hugely powerful, but it requires a level of attention and deck building that Eomer simply doesn’t. I don’t think Grima will be as common in decks as Eomer in the long run, but I do anticipate that Grima will form the basis of a few power decks.

  10. Thematically, I love the idea that Grima is stronger in a solo game when there aren’t a bunch of other heroes around catching on to his machinations. While I’m more drawn towards #TeamGrima for my play style, I think that the first deck I’ll build is going to be Éomer and Imrahil with Snowbourn Scouts and Squires of the Citadel taking a beating.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s a good way of thinking about his ability. It’s also quite thematic that in multiplayer, the other players will want to strangle Grima!

  11. chris permalink

    TBH, I think people are overreacting to Grima’s cost, especially in multiplayer. While the price of Doomed scales up, I don’t feel like the ability scales that badly with more people. Yes, you don’t literally get more resources with more people, but often times the edge of getting ahead or behind the encounter deck remains the same thickness, i.e. it’s not about getting ahead a lot, it’s just about getting ahead.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      For me personally, the reason why I think Grima scales poorly is not because his ability diminishes in effectiveness, but because threat management becomes more difficult as you add more players that are continually raising their threat from Doomed. In solo, you can build in threat reduction effects and only have to worry about using them yourself, which makes managing Grima’s Doomed increases a piece of cake. In two player, the Grima player now has to worry about using those threat reduction effects to lower his own threat and that of the other player. This is still manageable, but when you add in three or four players, then you’re talking about three of four different players raising their threat by 2 each turn instead of 1 (assuming you use Grima’s ability every turn), and whose threat will have to be reduced or managed. Sure, other players other than Grima could include threat reduction effects, and that’s one way to get around the issue, but then you’re taking up deck space in other player’s decks as well.

      I think Lore Aragorn and Desperate Alliance is a nifty solution to this problem, but there is one drawback to Loragorn as solution: his ability is best used when a player’s threat is almost 50, so that you get the biggest bang for your buck, but then you’re talking quite a few turns of sky-high threat where enemies will be coming down. The problem with Grima in multiplayer is that he could bring decks up too quickly above enemy engagement costs. I’m thinking specifically of Nightmare Conflict at the Carrock, where 3 or 4 players would all be aiming to keep their threat under the troll engagement costs. It would be very difficult to manage the threat of all those players with Grima’s Doomed, more so than in 1 or even 2 players. Of course, that’s a drastic example, but it does need to be considered in other scenarios as well. I think there are certain ways around it, if players are willing to sit down and deck build very carefully to compensate for Grima, but that’s not something that will usually happen in a 3 or 4 player game.

  12. Thanks for the review! Grima is a super Johnny card to be sure.

    The chump synergy with Eomer is strong in pure/mostly Rohan themed decks as there are no really good defenders so you will end up routinely chump blocking 🙂

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Those Rohan really love throwing chumps to the wolves, don’t they? The one problem is so many quests nowadays include “If a character is destroyed…” shadow effects that Rohan will need to watch out for.

  13. Tracker1 permalink

    Not sure i can say what team i am on yet. Been experimenting with Grima solo. I have not tried the obvious Aragorn Grima deck yet, since I am trying to see how he works with different builds. I stumbled upon an odd couple. Grima and Nori and lots of 1 and 2 cost dwarf allies. Grima with Keys of Orthanc and and his ability can put 2 cost dwarf lore allies into play for free without a threat increase. With Legacy of Durin I’ll also he drawing a card. It’s kind of a neat combo and a way to keep threat down consistently rather than reseting or relying on other spirit cards. I’ve tried a few other heroes to complement them, spirit Glorfindel, Dwalin, Oin, Thalin, but I think the best fit is Dain with leadership access and dwarf buff. The thing I don’t like with Dain in the line up is that there are more efficient decks with Dain, I’m also not playing SoG, and relying more on Grima and Keys, which seems kind of a silly combo when you can play SoG for 1.
    Anyway, Grima/Nori is a kind of neat unthematic connection.

    • Thaddeus permalink

      Yeah, that sounds pretty potent. Nori often gets overlooked, but he’s almost as powerful for dwarves as Dain! My dwarf deck that uses him often has less threat than it started with. I was thinking of including some of those new player cards with Doomed in said deck, but hadn’t considered pairing him with Grima.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Funnily enough, when Grima was first spoiled, Brandon from Cardboard of the Rings was joking about finding a way to use his ability to cause all other players to threat out except for himself. I suggested using Nori with Grima, as then he could neutralize his own threat and screw everyone over! After that joke was over though, I completely and utterly forgot about that potential combo. I think it would work well not just in solo, but in 2 player as well, because since the Grima/Nori player would be ok in terms of threat, that person could focus on using threat reduction effects just on the other player or potentially even use Song of Earendil to soak up their threat for them (I suppose it’s the least you could do). The only gripe I have with the combo has nothing to do with gameplay, but just feeling like I want to use Grima’s ability to pay for stuff other than Dwarves once again, but I do think it could form the basis for a really, really strong Dwarf deck.

  14. Michael Healy permalink

    I’m still new to the game, and have not actually had a chance to play with Theoden, but my impression is that people are giving him a bad rap. Theoden with Steed of the Mark and Horn of Gondor could quest for 3 willpower, spend a resource, gain it back from a chump blocker, and then attack for 3 damage (or more with a weapon attachment). Why should that be sneered at? True, his ability isn’t game-changing, but if he had boosted all Tactics characters, he would have been overpowered and broken the game by making all the other spheres superfluous. And if he had boosted all Rohan characters, he could not have provided a boost to Merry, which would not have been thematically appropriate either. As it is, his ability to boost the willpower of warrior heroes is thematically appropriate in its own way. Just some thoughts.

    • tomtomiszcze permalink

      My personal rating of Theoden stands somewhere between “another lousy hero from AtS cycle” and “why not save some trees and not print that card at all”. First – there’s literally an army of high-threat good Tactics heroes, I don’t need another one. Second (originally this one occured at CoTR Podcast) – there’s a grand total of 2 Rohan allies that match the sphere of King of Rohan and about 0,4 of them make any sense. Third and most important – Tactics sucks at classic questing, that’s a fact and extra 2 or 3 WP won’t change it. Oh, there’s also fourth – using tactics heroes for questing means most of the time they will not be able to actually kill something, which is what they are supposed to do.
      Your hero lineup makes starting threat 32, which basically guarantees there will be enemies on the field, many of them. I had built many decks like that before, mainly because of the fact that everyone likes to use fancy handsome heroes, not some sneaky Bifurs or Theodreds and only one of them achieved desired level of usability (however not for long).
      Off topic – 42 comments. Ian, you’re the rising star of LoTR community 🙂

      • TalesfromtheCards permalink

        I must admit that I’m really quite pleased with both the frequency and level of discussion that’s taken place on this blog lately. It’s fun of course to write the articles themselves (otherwise I wouldn’t do it), but talking about the game with others and getting feedback and a variety of opinions is the real joy. As for the Theoden debate, I’m not touching that one again 😉

    • He’s definitely useful, and I like him a lot, I think people were just expecting more synergy form the King of the Mark. The Lord of Durin’s Folk (Dain) gets to buff all his people, so I think the popular wisdom said that Theoden should do something similar.

      I’m still convinced, though, that given the game’s internal timeline this is ‘young, heroic’ Theoden and we’ll soon see a Leadership version of ‘old, kingly’ Theoden. Just my opinion.

  15. Michael Healy permalink

    Or in a Mono-Tactics deck, you could use Elladan, Theoden, and Beregond, giving Elladan and Theodeon 3 willpower each, making Elladan your designated quester, and having Theoden help him when there are no enemies in the field, or attacking when there are, while Beregond handles defense.

  16. Michael Healy permalink

    A lower threat option for Mono-Tactics would be Elladan-Theoden-Merry. Elladan questing for 3 every turn, Theoden defending, Merry buffed with Dagger of Westernesse and Halfling Determination attacking. Or you could use Feint or Thicket of Spears to prevent the enemy from attacking and attack with Theoden and Merry.

    As to whether people expected more Rohan synergy from Theoden, that is undoubtedly the case.

    • Glowwyrm permalink

      I like Theoden, and think he’s a lot better than people give him credit for. I’ve built a couple of viable decks around his ability, and they work just fine on the easy to medium quests. All by himself he make mono-tactics a viable build, one that is more reliable than Hama Trained for War recycling. I was excited for him when he was spoiled, and I like using him. And I agree, that the readying effects that come with Spirit Rohan (and the new warhorse) are quite good for him too, because you can take advantage of his good stats multiple times.

      That being said (and to tie this back into the OP), Eomer is a perfect example of why people complain about Theoden. The identity of Rohan is characters rushing into and out of play and staging area attacks. Eomer receives a boost from characters leaving play, and has a reasonable starting threat for a tactics hero, which makes staging area attacks possible. Theoden only boosts Eomer and Hama, has nothing to do with characters leaving play, and makes staging area attacks more difficult because of his high threat. Even just changing his boost to “+1 willpower to each Rohan and Tactics hero” would have been better. But, as he is, he’s a little underwhelming for one of the most popular characters in the books.

      Give him a Snowmane attachment in this cycle or in the Two Towers saga box (please don’t make us wait until Return of the King), and maybe people will rethink.

      • Thaddeus permalink

        Snowmane will be a Treachery card in Return of the King.

        • TalesfromtheCards permalink

          “When Revealed: Choose one character with a unique Mount attachment and discard him immediately”

      • tomtomiszcze permalink

        You are completely right with “just fine on the easy to medium quests”, but easy to medium quests are beatable by almost any hero combination supported with any deck based on basic understanding of key game concepts.

        • Glowwyrm permalink

          I agree that is it underwhelming, but before Theoden, solo mono tactics typically got smashed by even the easy to medium quests. So, he is an upgrade in that if you are looking for a new way to play some old quests, he provides interesting deck building. It’s just too bad that he is the Theoden card. I feel like he would be a lot less polarizing if he were the same card, but some other character (or an FFG created one).

          • tomtomiszcze permalink

            Should have expected that you meant mono-solo-tactics. I agree that before Theoden they were destined to get smashed and with him they would be smashed a little bit less. Does it feel better to be torn to pieces in the third round instead of first one?

          • TalesfromtheCards permalink

            You’re definitely right that the idea behind this card (a solo mono-Tactics aid) was nice, but it should have been put on a different character. Everyone expects Theoden to be awesome, not just decent.

            • tomtomiszcze permalink

              Got you – you’ve finally touched that again 😀

      • Fouilloux permalink

        What I find surprising is this idea that you should never quest with your tactics hero/allies. But have you ever heard something like “you should not attack or defend with you Lore/Spirit/leadership hero”? Nope, it never occurs. I think there is kind of a flaw in that, because each other sphere as fighting characters. Why does Tactics have to beg for that?

        • Thaddeus Papke permalink

          Because a) more than the other spheres Tactics is specialized in combat and not questing and b) Tactics has the least going for it when it comes to readying effects. I can quest with Aragorn and then pay to ready him so he can can defend or attack; not an action I can duplicate with Theoden. Also Cram, Unexpected Courage, Fast Hitch, etc are all outside of Tactics. (They can be *given* to Tactics heroes, obviously, but since Tactics can’t buy them, we’re getting away from the notion of Tactics being able to handle questing and combat by themselves.)
          To my mind, this adds up to usually needing to dedicate one or more of your heroes to questing, and if you’re doing that, then why are you playing Tactics? You can get just as much willpower for lower starting threat by using other spheres.
          Granted, there are exceptions: Thalin being an obvious one. Also one of the decks I’m currently using has Merry because I wanted his low Threat cost and another Tactics hero for Thicket of Spears and Trained for War; I sometimes hold Merry back for combat to use his readying ability for another hero, but since his attack is only 1 and his Willpower is 2, he usually gets tossed in on the quest. Yeah, him and Theoden would together be bringing a nice amount of Willpower, but the purpose of the deck isn’t to be bringing Willpower, it’s to take the heat from enemies off of other players.
          I don’t really *want* Tactics to be better at questing (there’s too much sphere-bleeding as it is) I’d rather see them aid Questing in thematic ways. Legolas being the perfect example, getting two progress for killing an enemy; not directly useful to the questing phase (barring Hands Upon the Bow or other shennanigans), but still quite useful for your overall ability to make progress.

          • Fouilloux permalink

            I definetly agree with your conclusion (Even if I did not understood the sphere-bleeding part, guess that’s my english 😉 ). To make thing shorts, I would love Tactics to become playable in solo. Which bother me is that you could in theory make a deck with very little combat abilities ans succeed, which is impossible without questing. So yes, I would love a way for Tactics to succeed in the game without questing.

            • Fouilloux permalink

              By the way, are you Mathew from the grey company podcast? Because just after I read your omment, I was listening to the episode about Tactis and he uses exactly the same expression “sphere bleeding”. (I missed the first grey company podcast episode, so I guess the information is there)

              • Thaddeus Papke permalink

                I am not Mathew (none of the many with that name involved with the fan community). But I do listen to that podcast and may have picked up the term there. The idea of “sphere bleeding” is when you have things that particular spheres are known for doing that a different sphere is also able to do. For example, almost all card-draw effects are part of the Lore sphere, but when you start seeing non-Lore cards that give you card-draw, then something the Lore sphere is specializing in is “bleeding” into the other spheres.

                • Fouilloux permalink

                  Undestood, thanks!

                  I think I put the finger on what bothered me: There is a “sphere bleeding” of Tactics abilities on all the other sphere, but almost not the way around. And I do not understand why it would “break” the game.

            • Thaddeus Papke permalink

              Personally, I’m okay with questing mattering more than combat. To my sensibilities, in a game attempting to simulate Tolkien’s works, achieving noble objectives (usually represented by questing) should have precedent over being able to kill stuff.
              And, to be honest, there are at least a few quests that are beatable with solo mono Tactics (I beat most of the Heirs of Numenor quests on the first go with an eagles-heavy tactics deck) and as the cardpool increases, that is becoming more and more the case. I’ve gone back to a few of the older quests with mono Tactics decks and did just fine.

              • Michael Healy permalink

                I agree. Questing mattering more than combat is thematically appropriate to Tolkien’s works. Sauron was not defeated by force of arms, but by the destruction of the Ring. Morgoth would have been victorious if Earendil hadn’t sailed to Valinor and appealed to the Valar on behalf of Elves and Men. Combat is a big part of Tolkien’s works, but not the biggest part.

  17. Tracker1 permalink

    After playing To catch an Orc with Grima and various deck builds and losing almost Every time, I decided to try Eomer, and I can now say I am fully in the Eomer camp, and I am surprised, since I was thought the Grima deck build would have been my cup of tea, however it’s been giving me a deck building headache, since most of the decks i was creating were more focused on keeping threat low while using Grima to get cards into play for cheap, i lost sight of the importance of questing, attacking, and defending, since many cards were used just to make Grima work, which was a detriment to the deck. I don’t think I am a big fan of the doomed mechanic either.

    I decided to put Eomer, Eowyn, and Imrahil together as heroes and put together a quick deck of lots of chump blockers, and played To catch an Orc and am winning probably 70% of the time. i was a bit concerned with starting threat of 30, and little threat reduction, but it did not matter on this quest, since one dead chump gave me 8 attack with Imrahil readying and Eomer at 5 attack. I was now looking forward to engaging and destroying enemies rather than hiding from them with Grima.

    Nough said, Eomer all the way.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      You’ve pretty much summed up my experience with Grima and Eomer as well, except I used Eomer first, saving Grima for second. I was all about Team Grima and really expected to love him more as a Lore fan and someone who enjoys the tricksy elements, but you hit the nail on the head: I felt like I spent so much deck space and energy on mitigating Doomed that it undermined any power that the deck could have. I still think there is a future for Grima, but after playing Eomer, it just felt so tame and frustrating. I’m also not sure how much I’m loving the other Doomed cards, but time will tell.

      • Glowwyrm permalink

        I love the doomed cards, but I tend to favor an aggro play style that attacks the quest as quickly as possible. The doomed cards are great for one or two key plays a game (except for the Lore one, which is good all game), and can swing the tide from defeat to victory, or from at least from slow to fast. I like the design, and they open up lots of strategic options for players.

        I haven’t built a Grima deck because I’ve had too much fun with my Rohan/Gondor combo decks (and I prefer to play two-handed, which, as everybody else has said, Grima is better suited to solo). I think his best use won’t be with the other doomed cards, but accelerating resources for decks that struggle with resource generation. I want to use him in a tactics deck to draw cards and accelerate resources. With Keys of Orthanc, you would net one more resource a turn than you would otherwise, and you could draw a lot more cards to make your deck hum. I’ve considered a King’s Court deck of Theoden-Hama-Grima that would have tons of cards to fuel Hama’s ability. I think this deck would excel in combat heavy scenarios where questing isn’t a top priority. Or a mono-lore deck with Loragorn and plenty of the lore defensive characters and traps to deal with all the enemies that are going to engage me. I’ll be very interested to see what others in the community come up with.

        • TalesfromtheCards permalink

          Grima in Lore/Tactics would be interesting. The only problem would be the utter lack of threat reduction, aside from Gandalf.

          • Glowwyrm permalink

            Agreed. The goal would be to finish quickly before you threat out, but Tactics weakness at questing would make that difficult. I don’t mind starting and keeping a high threat with tactics because I want to engage the enemies, but it can be hard to finish fast enough with a solo tactics deck. I’m going to experiment with it when I’m tired of my current decks (which probably won’t be for awhile).

  18. sweetnesswhachacha permalink

    Thanks for the article!

    If you use Grima even solo, you could play galadhrims greeting for 3 to reduce your threat 6, for a net gain of 3 resources, not taking into account keys of orthanc. Not an overwhelming ability. Having to lower your threat (and pay for those effects, with resources and card space), seems counterproductive. To me, as much as I love the theme with mechanics, Grima does not seem like he is worth it at all. I may try to build a deck, and hopefully what doesn’t look good on paper will work in practice, but for now I feel doomed and secrecy are nice ideas that don’t make up for the “cost” I hope playing true solo with Lore Aragorn will make for a deck that can build up fast, be up and running quickly and then drop threat to face the scenario. But I’m doubtful….

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