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Surviving Into Ithilien

by on May 6, 2014

ithilien

If there is one quest that vexed me more than any other when it was first released, it has to be Into Ithilien. While I’ve been able to quickly beat certain quests that are regarded as some of the most difficult, this second scenario from the Heirs of Numenor deluxe expansion threw me for a loop more than any other had before or since, and ultimately it took about 10-15 tries before I notched my first victory. Funnily enough, I know that some players may have had an easier go of it, and it’s one of those interesting quirks about this game that difficulty can be so relative sometimes. With a larger card pool available since Heirs was released and another year and a half’s worth of game experience under my belt, I decided it was time to return to the forests of Ithilien and give it another go. Recently, I’ve been playing more pure solo games, and although I still maintain my affection for two-handed, I’ve regained some of my enjoyment of the “one-handed” game. With that in mind, I decided to tackle the Southron forces all by my lonesome.

Into Ithilien deals with the quest of the heroes to find Faramir. After leaving Pelargir, they run into a group of rangers led by Celador, who is busy laying a trap for a Southron army. If the heroes want to find Faramir, they are going to first have to help these Ithilien rangers ambush the Southrons.

Part 1 – General Strategies

I’ve already covered Into Ithilien strategy rather extensively in this article that was released around the time of Heirs of Numenor. Most of it as just as applicable as ever, so I won’t bother recapitulating it here. Rather, if you’re interesting in learning more about appropriate strategy for this quest, which works for both pure solo and two-handed play (as well as 3/4 player games), I would suggest taking a moment to read it.

However, there is one major way in which I’ll be differing from the strategy I previously mentioned: I’m going to let Celador die. This sounds cold-blooded and callous, but the unyielding gods of the game demand such sacrifices at times. The reason why I’m pursuing this course will become clear once I cover the deck I’m using, but it revolves around the different paths that are possible through the scenario. Keeping Celador alive means that I will face quest stage 3 after stage 1 is completed, which traps enemies in the staging area and requires traditional willpower questing. Since I’m using a mono-Tactics build with weak willpower potential, pursuing the path of stage 3 is tantamount to suicide. Rather, letting Celador die ensures that I will head to stage 2 instead, which is a siege stage with the added penalty of archery damage. However, since that damage is based on the number of players, this amounts to a negligible 1 point of archery damage each turn. While I still believe that stage 3 is a great choice if you’re using a more balanced deck, stage 2 is the clear path for a mono-Tactics build. Similarly, I will want to make sure my threat is 37 or higher for stage 4, so that I am facing siege instead of willpower questing. This can be easily accomplished with Boromir, if need be.

celador

Part 2 – The Deck

This deck is a mono-Tactics build that does pretty well against battle and siege quests. Obviously, it’s not one you want to take against most quests in the game, as it is short on willpower, as is true of most mono-Tactics decks. However, it is a good example of how Heirs of Numenor changed existing strategies and really required a whole new way of approaching deck building and gameplay decision-making as well. While some may have had their reservations about this mechanic, I for one am hoping that battle and siege do indeed return for future cycles.

 

Hero (3)
Boromir (TDM) x1
Beregond (HoN) x1
Legolas (Core) x1

There are an array of choices when choosing heroes for a mono-Tactics deck, as Tactics has perhaps the strongest hero selection around. Beregond is an auto-include here, as his titanic defensive strength (especially when boosted by Gondorian Shield) is great for not only defending against those tough Heirs of Numenor enemies, but also for siege questing, which I will face in stage 2 and stage 4 (stage 4 becomes siege questing if one’s threat is 37 or higher). Boromir is a great choice for these quests, as he can use his readying ability to participate in battle and siege questing while still being available for combat. Finally, the 2 progress tokens from Legolas when he destroys an enemy can be vital for a quest that often comes down to the wire like Into Ithilien. 

Ally (22)
Beorn (Core) x1
Bofur (OHaUH) x3
Defender of Rammas (HoN) x3
Knight of Minas Tirith (AoO) x3
Vassal of the Windlord (TDM) x3
Westfold Outrider (VoI) x3
Gandalf (Core) x3
Knights of the Swan (TSF) x3

The ally selection really begins with loading up on two cheap characters that can contribute to battle and siege questing respectively. Vassal of the Windlord is hands down the best battle quester around, contributing 3 attack for only 1 resource, and not having to leave play since he isn’t participating in an attack. Similarly, the Defender of Rammas, besides being a solid defender, brings 4 defense to the table for only 2 resources. Beyond that foundation, this deck brings some allies to the table that were not available when Heirs of Numenor was released, showing off some of the newer options that make mono-Tactics stronger. For example, the Knight of Minas Tirith, released in the Assualt on Osgiliath expansion, not only packs strong attack and hit points, he also can pull an enemy down from the staging area. This is potentially a very useful effect. The Westfold Outrider has a similar ability to grab enemies, but this can be used during the quest phase as well, while contributing 2 attack for only 2 resources. Bofur helps to fetch weapons and is just a strong ally all round. I chose Core Gandalf here over the Over Hill and Under Hill Gandalf mainly for threat reduction, as I know that this quest packs some nasty threat increasing effects, and Core Gandalf may be my only hope of salvation if misfortune strikes. I’ll throw in 1 copy of Beorn, as it’s actually feasible to play this strong but expensive ally straight from hand in mono-Tactics, but I don’t want to clog up my hand with redundant copies. Finally, Knights of the Swan can be a useful character for attack or battle quest purposes, but here I mostly am aiming to use them as cheap cannon fodder, which might be particularly important to get Celador out of play (he takes 1 damage whenever a character leaves play).

Attachment (18)
Black Arrow (OtD) x1
Book of Eldacar (EaAD) x3
Gondorian Shield (TSF) x3
Gondorian Fire (AoO) x3
Horn of Gondor (Core) x2
Rivendell Blade (RtR) x3
Spear of the Citadel (HoN) x3

The most important of these attachments is certainly Gondorian Shield, and it is worth taking a mulligan to try to draw it. This boosts Beregond up to 6 defense for combat and siege questing. Gondorian Fire is meant to be placed on Boromir, allowing him to get the most out of his readying and attack strength, while contributing this boost to battle questing when appropriate. This is facilitated by Horn of Gondor, which should also be placed on Boromir, for a nice thematic combination. Rivendell Blade turns Legolas into an even more fierce attacker, helping to ensure that he can destroy an enemy whenever possible and take advantage of those extra progress tokens. The Book of Eldacar is hard to pass up for a mono-Tactics deck, as it allows recycling of some of those highly useful events.

Event (12)
Behind Strong Walls (HoN) x3
Feint (Core) x3
Foe-hammer (OHaUH) x3
Hands Upon the Bow (SaF) x3

Behind Strong Walls is a great choice for a mono-Tactics Beregond deck, as it helps to make up for the lack of readying in the sphere. This event will allow Beregond to defend against multiple enemies in one turn. Feint is always an important card, but it really comes into its own against Into Ithilien and the other Heirs of Numenor quests. This is because it allows a player to commit strong defenders to siege questing, without having to worry about getting overrun by enemies since the best defenders will be exhausted. Feint is thus an invaluable resource here and can be potentially recycled with Book of Eldacar. Foe-hammer is a source of valuable card draw, and can be activated with either Rivendell Blade or Spear of the Citadel (if Beregond participates in the attack). Finally, Hands Upon the Bow can help deal some damage to wear down an enemy in the staging area or destroy it outright if it is weak enough.

Overall Strategy:

The most important card to see early on is Gondorian Shield, and is definitely worth a mulligan if it does not show up in the opening hand. Other than that crucial card, the rest of the deck is balanced enough that the overall strategy won’t be wrecked if certain cards aren’t drawn. Generally, Beregond is the defender, while Boromir quests and participates in combat if needed. Legolas can help with battle questing, but will usually be held back for attack in order to take advantage of those extra progress tokens. When the time comes for siege questing, Beregond will definitely be thrown into the fray, so by that point, either Feints or cheap allies should be able to cover for his defensive absence.

Part 3 – Session Report

This session was played solo, with the deck described above. 

Set-up

Starting Threat – 30

Starting Hand: Knight of Minas Tirith, Gandalf, Gondorian Shield, Westfold Outrider, Knights of the Swan, Behind Strong Walls

Thoughts: I see an early Gondorian Shield and that’s really all I need to know. However, there is a nice selection of allies to choose from as well, and my eyes are immediately drawn to Knight of Minas Tirith, who can pull that initial Southron Company out of the staging area right away.

ENCOUNTER DECK SET-UP

Card 1 – Ithilien Road (active location) (4 threat, 4 quest points): This location starts as the active location and reduces the engagement cost of all enemies to 0. This can be gruesome in multiplayer games, when there is a greater potential for a flood of enemies, but much more manageable in solo play. Still, there is danger here, although a mono-Tactics deck should be able to handle it.

Card 2 – Southron Company (34 engagement cost, 1 threat, 3 attack, 1 defense, 5 hit points): In their vanilla form, this Harad enemy isn’t too bad. However, it gains +2 threat and +2 attack when the current quest has either the battle or siege keyword. This transforms the Southron Company into a 3 threat, 3 attack beast that starts out in the staging area. Managing this early enemy quickly is key to eventual success.

Card 3 – Celador (2 willpower, 2 attack, 2 defense, 3 hit points): This Ranger objective starts in the staging area and is permanently committed to the quest while he is there. If I quest unsuccessfully or a character leaves play, then Celador is damaged. This is one of my goals, while benefiting from his quest support in the early game until he is destroyed.

Thoughts: With 3 threat in the staging area and at least one enemy to face during the first round, I’ll have to think carefully about who I commit to the quest and how aggressive I want to be out of the gate.

ROUND 1 (3 threat in staging area, 0/15 progress on 1B, 3/3 hit points for Celador, 0 victory points, Active Location – Ithilien Road [0/4 quest points])

Staging Area – Southron Company

DECK PREPARATION – 30 Threat

Resources: Beregond – 1, Boromir – 1, Legolas – 1

Draw: Vassal of the Windlord

New Hand: Knight of Minas Tirith, Gandalf, Gondorian Shield, Westfold Outrider, Knights of the Swan, Behind Strong Walls, Vassal of the Windlord

Planning: First, I will attach Gondorian Shield to Beregond for free using his special ability. Vassal of the Windlord is a tempting play for only 1 resource, but Knights of Minas Tirith is a better play here, as it will draw Southron Company out of the staging area, removing that 3 threat from consideration (and dealing 2 damage in the bargain). I also will have the benefit of a very strong ally for subsequent turns. Thus, I spend 3 resources to bring the Knight into play, which pulls down the Southron Company. It immediately attacks, with its 3 attack against the Company’s 1 defense, dealing 2 damage.

Resources After Planning: Beregond – 0, Boromir – 0, Legolas – 0

QUESTING:

Committing Characters: Oftentimes, it’s important to clear Ithilien Road during the first turn to avoid getting swamped with enemies. Here, however, while I do want to get it out of the way soon, I’m actually more concerned about leaving enough characters in reserve to deal with the Southron Company. Thus, I’ll leave Beregond and Legolas back for combat, and only commit Boromir (3 attack). He will combine with Celador to commit 5 attack against 0 threat in the staging area. This is the benefit of playing the Knight and removing that early threat.

Staging:

Card 1.1 – Blocking Wargs: This has traditionally been one of the most feared encounter cards in the set. The errata to remove its recursion possibilities removed a bit of its teeth, however. In this case, it will simply deal 1 damage to each committed character, which in this case is Boromir and Celador. This actually is more helpful than harmful, as it brings Celador closer to destruction. Blocking Wargs then surges.

Card 1.2Watcher in the Wood: This treachery is the real threat, as if anything will take me down in this quest, it will surely be threat increases. Watcher in the Wood raises a player’s threat by the number of characters committed to the quest. Fortunately, it has come up fairly early and only two characters are committed to the quest, which means a threat increase of 2 (now up to 32). Watcher in the Wood surges because the current quest has the battle keyword.

Card 1.3 – Secluded Glade (3 threat, 3 quest points): I’m happy to see this as the final result, as Secluded Glade is an innocuous location that is simply immune to player card effects.

Resolution:

My 5 attack strength against 3 threat leads to 2 progress tokens, which are placed on Ithilien Road. Thus, Ithilien Road will remain in play, but I’m already engaged with the only enemy currently on the board, so it’s not that big of a deal.

TRAVEL:

Unfortunately, the fact that I didn’t clear Ithilien Road means that I can’t travel to Secluded Glade and get that 3 threat out of the staging area, but keeping characters back to kill the Southron Company first turn was my priority.

ENCOUNTER:

There are no enemies in the staging area.

COMBAT:

Enemy Attack:

Beregond will defend against Southron Company. The shadow card is Forest Bat, which unfortunately is another threat raising effect! I have to increase my threat by the threat strength of the attacking enemy, which is 3 in this case. Thus, I am now already at 35 on turn one. On the bright side, Southron Company deals no damage to Beregond (5 attack – 6 defense = 0 damage).

Player Attack:

Boromir will ready (36 threat) and together with Legolas will destroy the Southron Company (6 attack – 1 defense = 5 damage). 2 progress is placed on Ithilien Road due to Legolas’ ability, clearing it out.

ROUND 2 (3 threat in staging area, 0/15 progress on 1B, 2/3 hit points for Celador, 0 victory points, Active Location – None)

Staging Area – Secluded Glade

DECK PREPARATION – 37 Threat

Resources: Beregond – 1, Boromir – 1, Legolas – 1

Draw: Feint

New Hand: Gandalf, Westfold Outrider, Knights of the Swan, Behind Strong Walls, Vassal of the Windlord, Feint

Planning: There are a few different choices I could make here, and seeking to quickly flood the board with allies would normally make sense. However, I’m really concerned with my sky high threat level so early in the game, so I’m going to prioritize saving up for Gandalf to drop my threat as soon as possible. So for this turn’s planning, I will simply pay 1 from Legolas for Vassal of the Windlord. This will provide a cheap dose of questing power.

Resources After Planning: Beregond – 1, Boromir – 1, Legolas – 0

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

I will commit Boromir (3 attack), Knight of Minas Tirith (3 attack) and Vassal of the Windlord (3 attack) to the quest, with Celador (2 attack) automatically committed. This is a total of 11 attack strength against 3 threat in the staging area.

Staging:

Card 1 – Southron Company (34 engagement cost, 3 threat, 5 attack, 1 defense, 5 hit points): The Southrons rise again, it seems. All things considered, it’s not the worst turn of events, as I should be able to dispatch this one as easily as the last one, barring a nasty shadow effect.

southron company

Resolution:

My 11 attack strength against 6 threat in the staging area yields 5 progress tokens, which are placed on 1B.

TRAVEL:

There’s really no reason not to clear Secluded Glade, so I will travel to it.

ENCOUNTER:

Southron Company engages me.

COMBAT:

Enemy Attack:

Beregond will defend against Southron Company. The shadow card is Ithilien Guardian, and a ranger comrade swoops in to ambush the Southrons, dealing 2 damage! Beregond suffers no damage from the attack (5 attack – 6 defense = 0 damage).

Player Attack:

Unfortunately, Legolas still doesn’t have enough attack strength to finish off the Southron Company by himself, even with the 2 points of damage dealt by the Guardian, so Boromir will have to ready to participate as well (38 threat). Together, they destroy the Southrons (6 attack – 1 defense = 5 damage). Unfortunately, Secluded Glade is immune to player card effects, so Legolas’ progress tokens can’t be placed.

ROUND 3 (0 threat in staging area, 5/15 progress on 1B, 2/3 hit points for Celador, 0 victory points, Active Location – Secluded Glade [0/3 quest points])

Staging Area – None

DECK PREPARATION – 39 Threat

Resources: Beregond – 2, Boromir – 2, Legolas – 1

Draw: Feint

New Hand: Gandalf, Westfold Outrider, Knights of the Swan, Behind Strong Walls, Feint, Feint

Planning: I want to drop my threat as soon as possible, in case more nasty threat raising effects lurk ahead, so I will pay 5 resources to play Gandalf, lowering my threat down to 34. This play also serves another purpose in that Celador will receive another point of damage when Gandalf leaves play at the end of the round. I’m happy to have a few copies of Feint in hand, as these open up the possibility of aggressive questing in the future.

Resources After Planning: Beregond – 0, Boromir – 0, Legolas – 0

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

I will commit Boromir (3 attack), Vassal of the Windlord (3 attack), and Gandalf (4 attack), along with Celador (2 attack), for a total of 12 attack strength. It is important to understand that even though I could commit more here, I need to avoid advancing to the next stage before Celador is destroyed. With 12 attack strength, I should make decent progress, but I’m guaranteed to not advance to the next stage even if no threat is added to the staging area. If I committed the Knight of Minas Tirith, I would be at 15 attack strength, which could actually cause me to advance if no threat is added.

Staging:

Card 1Southron Mercenaries (35 engagement cost, 2 threat, 3 attack, 2 defense, 4 hit points): This isn’t the worst draw in the world, as I have the combat strength to handle this enemy fairly easily. Its archery damage also scales with the number of players, so it’s only dealing out 1 damage per turn.

Resolution:

My total of 12 attack strength against 2 threat in the staging area leads to 10 progress tokens. 3 of these go to clearing out Secluded Glade, with the remaining 7 being placed on 1B.

TRAVEL:

There are no locations in play.

ENCOUNTER:

I will optionally engage the Southron Mercenaries to continue keeping the board clear.

COMBAT:

The 1 point of archery damage is assigned to Gandalf.

Enemy Attack:

Beregond will defend against Southron Mercenaries. The shadow card has no effect, and Beregond takes no damage (3 attack – 6 defense = 0 damage).

Player Attack:

I will attack with Legolas (3 attack) and Knight of Minas Tirith (3 attack), which destroys Southron Mercenaries (6 attack – 2 defense = 4 damage). I will choose not to use Legolas’ progress tokens here. I have a trick up my sleeve to get Celador out of play soon, but it won’t be helped by being close to the brink.

REFRESH:

Gandalf leaves play and Celador receives another point of damage.

ROUND 4 (0 threat in staging area, 12/15 progress on 1B, 1/3 hit points for Celador, 0 victory points, Active Location – None)

Staging Area – None

DECK PREPARATION – 35 Threat

Resources: Beregond – 1, Boromir – 1, Legolas – 1

Draw: Hands Upon the Bow

New Hand: Westfold Outrider, Knights of the Swan, Behind Strong Walls, Feint, Feint, Hands Upon the Bow

Planning: I will pay 3 resources total to play Westfold Outrider and Knights of the Swan. Normally, when having a Feint in hand, I like to keep 1 resource around in case I need to use it. However, I feel like I have a good enough board position and handle on combat that getting allies out onto the table is more important at the moment.

Resources After Planning: Beregond – 0, Boromir – 0, Legolas – 0

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

Success here really hangs on the edge of a knife. If I advance without Celador dying, then stage 3, which is a willpower quest, will surely defeat me. Thus, I will take the unconventional approach of choosing to unsuccessfully quest, which will lead to a damage placed on Celador, destroying him. This will lead to a threat increase as well, in all likelihood, but it’s worth that cost. Thus, I will not commit any characters to the quest, which leaves only Celador (2 attack). This shows the importance of not using Legolas’ progress tokens last turn, as even if no threat is added to the staging area and my unsuccessful questing tactic doesn’t work out, I still won’t advance to the next stage.

Staging:

Card 1Overgrown Trail (4 threat, 6 quest points): This location is a bit of a barrier, and I don’t have any Ranger characters to use its effect (a Ranger character can exhaust to place 3 progress tokens on Overgrown Trail). More importantly, however, this location fulfills my goal of questing unsuccessfully. I should have enough quest power to overcome it conventionally next turn.

overgrown trail

Resolution:

My 2 attack against 4 threat in the staging area causes a threat increase of 2 (37 threat). Due to questing unsuccessfully, Celador takes 1 last point of damage and is removed from play.

TRAVEL:

I will travel to the Overgrown Trail, as its 4 threat is too substantial to leave sitting in the staging area.

ENCOUNTER

There are no enemies in play.

COMBAT:

There are no enemies in play and thus no combat.

ROUND 5 (0 threat in staging area, 12/15 progress on 1B, Celador destroyed,  0 victory points, Active Location – Overgrown Trail [0/6 quest points])

Staging Area – None

DECK PREPARATION – 38 Threat

Resources: Beregond – 1, Boromir – 1, Legolas – 1

Draw: Beorn

New Hand: Behind Strong Walls, Feint, Feint, Hands Upon the Bow, Beorn

Planning: With Beorn in hand and several events, I’m going to go ahead and hold onto my resources. If I don’t end up needing to use a Feint or any of the other events, I should be able to play Beorn from hand next turn. His 3 defense will be particularly invaluable for the siege stages which lie ahead.

Resources After Planning: Beregond – 1, Boromir – 1, Legolas – 1

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

With Celador safely out of the way, I can now take a more aggressive approach to questing, as I try to blow through the last couple of stages of the quest before anything truly nasty emerges. Thus,  I will commit Boromir (3 attack), Vassal of the Windlord (3 attack), Knight of Minas Tirith (3 attack), Knight of the Swan (1 attack) and Westfold Outrider (2 attack), for a total of 12 attack strength against 0 threat in the staging area. I need 9 total progress to clear the stage (6 from Overgrown Trail and 3 on the stage itself).

Staging:

Card 1Morgul Spider (25 engagement cost, 3 threat, 4 attack, 1 defense, 5 hit points): This enemy is traditionally one of the most terrifying in the set, as it gains +1 attack for each character not committed to the quest. With its low engagement cost, the Morgul Spider can often come at players with ungodly attack strength. Fortunately, there are only 2 characters not committed to the quest, which means the Morgul Spider only bumps up to 6 attack strength, which should be manageable.

Resolution:

My 12 attack strength against 3 threat in the staging area yields 9 progress tokens. This clears out Overgrown Trail and advances the quest to stage 2B. I now will face 1 archery damage per turn and siege questing.

TRAVEL:

There are no locations in play.

ENCOUNTER:

The Morgul Spider comes down to engage with me.

COMBAT:

I will assign the single point of archery damage to Westfold Outrider. I generally try to avoid assigning damage to heroes when possible, as you never know when their crucial hit point pools will be needed for bigger problems.

Enemy Attack:

Beregond will defend against the Morgul Spider. The shadow card is Watcher in the Wood, which means I have to raise my threat by the number of enemies engaged with me (1). My threat thus increased to 39.  Beregond takes no damage from the attack (6 attack – 6 defense = 0 damage).

Player Attack:

I will ready Boromir (40 threat) and use him to attack in concert with Legolas. This destroys the Morgul Spider (6 attack – 1 attack = 5 damage). The 2 progress from Legolas’ ability are placed on stage 2B. This extra help from Legolas will be quite crucial for these tough siege stages, and demonstrates the importance of bringing along everyone’s favorite Elf for these tough Heirs of Numenor scenarios.

ROUND 6 (0 threat in staging area, 2/9 progress on 2B, Celador destroyed, 0 victory points, Active Location – None)

Staging Area – None

DECK PREPARATION – 41 Threat

Resources: Beregond – 2, Boromir – 2, Legolas – 2

Draw: Horn of Gondor

New Hand: Behind Strong Walls, Feint, Feint, Hands Upon the Bow, Beorn, Horn of Gondor

Planning: The Horn of Gondor is a bit of a luxury this late in the game, and there likely won’t be enough characters leaving play to justify attaching it to anyone. In fact, this is a card that could likely be replaced by something else in a future build of this deck. Instead, I will pay the 6 resources to put Beorn on the table. This fierce ally could prove critical in successfully completing this quest, thanks to his high defense.

Resources After Planning: Beregond – 0, Boromir – 0, Legolas – 0

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

The time has come for siege questing, which is a whole different beast. However, the Beregond/Gondorian Shield combination is not only great for combat, but is also a amazing for siege stages. I will thus commit Beregond (6 defense), Beorn (3 defense), and Boromir (2 defense) to the quest. Losing my primary defender to questing is not ideal, but I do have 2 Feints in hand to compensate. In total, I have 11 defense committed against 0 threat in the staging area.

Staging:

Card 1 – Southron Support: This treachery is on my top 3 list of most hated encounter cards of all time. It can get truly brutal in multiplayer, where multiple Harad enemies have to be pulled into play. Here, the main problem is not the 1 enemy, which I can easily dispatch, but the Doomed 3. This raises my threat to 44, and I’m now in real danger of threating out unless I can finish the quest quickly or find another Gandalf soon. As for the enemy, I will bring out a copy of Southron Mercenaries and add it to the staging area.

southron support

Resolution:

I have 11 defense against 2 threat in the staging area. This leads to 9 progress tokens. Stage 2B is cleared and I now move on to stage 4B.

TRAVEL:

There are no locations in play.

ENCOUNTER:

I will engage the Southron Mercenaries.

COMBAT:

I will assign the 1 point of archery damage from Southron Mercenaries to Beorn.

Enemy Attack:

With Beregond exhausted, I could use a Feint, but I will hold onto those for a dire emergency. Instead, I will use Knights of the Swan as a defender. With the current quest being a siege stage, I don’t have much need of the Knights’ attack strength, and so I can afford to use them as a chump blocker. The shadow card is Forest Bat, which is the worst possible shadow card. I have to raise my threat by the threat strength of the engaged enemy, which is 2. I’m now at 46 threat. This is a good example of a play mistake. Knowing the presence of threat raising shadow effects in the deck, I should have used a Feint against Southron Mercenaries. This is a great general point of strategy that all players should internalize: Sometimes the value of canceling an attack is in avoiding the shadow card, even if the enemy itself is not too dangerous. As it is, Knights of the Swan is destroyed.

Player Attack:

Knight of Minas Tirith and Legolas will combine to destroy the Southron Mercenaries (6 attack – 2 defense = 4 damage). Legolas’ ability places 2 progress tokens on stage 4B.

REFRESH

The forced effect of stage 4B causes each player to raise their threat by an additional 2 at the end of the round. This means that my threat now rockets up to 49. I only have 1 turn left to beat this quest.

ROUND 7 (0 threat in staging area, 2/15 progress on 4B, Celador destroyed, 0 victory points, Active Location – None)

Staging Area – None

DECK PREPARATION – 49 Threat

Resources: Beregond – 1, Boromir – 1, Legolas – 1

Draw: Knights of the Swan

New Hand: Behind Strong Walls, Feint, Feint, Hands Upon the Bow, Horn of Gondor, Knights of the Swan

Planning: I was hoping to draw one of my nice Defenders of Rammas for some extra siege support, but it looks like it’s not meant to be. I will pay 1 resource for Knights of the Swan to serve as a chump blocker, if nothing else.

Resources After Planning: Beregond – 1, Boromir – 1, Legolas – 0

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

It’s really a race against the encounter deck at this point, as I need to clear the scenario this turn to win. Unfortunately, I need 13 more progress tokens to do this. It’s unlikely that I’ll get this all through questing, but if I can get within 2 and draw an enemy, then Legolas can potentially finish the deed. Thus, I’ll commit every character that has at least 1 point of defense, except Legolas: Boromir (2 defense), Beregond (6 defense), Beorn (3 defense), Knight of Minas Tirith (1 defense), and Westfold Outrider (1 defense). This is a total of 13 defense against 0 threat in the staging area. A treachery that doesn’t threat me out or an enemy with 2 threat or lower should do the trick.

Staging:

Card 1 – Haradrim Elite (27 engagement cost, 3 threat, 4 attack, 3 defense, 3 hit points): I did draw an enemy, but I’m in a troubling situation now. First off, I have to deal with an immediate attack from the Haradrim Elite. I can’t use Feint and most of my characters are exhausted. Secondly, the Haradrim Elite has 3 threat. This means I will only make 10 progress, so that even if Legolas destroys this enemy, I will be left 1 progress token short of victory! Puzzle time, readers, do you see any way out of this quandary? How would you deal with the situation given the cards in your hand…

 

Everyone back? Here’s my solution. I will use Knights of the Swan to defend against Haradrim Elite and hope for a shadow card that doesn’t increase threat. The shadow card is Morgul Spider, which has no effect. Knights of the Swan is destroyed. I will then discard Westfold Outrider to engage Haradrim Elite. This removes 1 defense from the quest, but takes care of the 3 threat in the staging area, for a net gain of 2, which puts me in spitting distance of victory! Westfold Outrider deserves the MVP award indeed.

Resolution:

I have 12 defense against 0 threat in the staging area. This yields 12 progress tokens on stage 4B.

TRAVEL:

There are no locations in play.

ENCOUNTER:

I am already engaged with the Haradrim Elite.

COMBAT:

I’m not taking any chances, so I will pay 1 resource from Boromir for Feint to cancel the Haradrim Elite’s attack.

Player Attack:

Legolas and Vassal of the Windlord will combine to destroy the Haradrim Elite (6 attack – 3 defense = 3 damage). The 2 progress tokens from Legolas’ ability are placed on stage 4B and the game is won with only 1 point of threat to spare!

SCENARIO CONCLUSION:

Into Ithilien is still a very tough scenario, reaching its sweet spot in 2-player. I was able to pull off a quite thrilling victory, thanks to a successful deck build and a bit of luck at the end. The hero line-up was really quite well suited to the task, with Beregond serving as a steady defender against strong enemies, as well as an essential piece of siege questing. Boromir’s readying allowed him to participate in either siege or battle questing, while also being available to lend his 3 attack to Legolas’ for a consistent 6 attack strength each turn. This meant that I could keep the board clear of enemies, and no enemy stayed on the board for longer than one turn. Finally, the extra progress tokens provided by Legolas were absolutely crucial in securing the win. All told, one of the enjoyable aspects of the Heirs of Numenor scenarios is that mono-Tactics decks can do quite well against them in pure solo play. With a wider card pool and more experience, I actually find Into Ithilien now to be enjoyable and tense, rather than merely frustrating.

Readers, what are your worst/favorite memories of Into Ithilien?

 

 

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From → Strategy

19 Comments
  1. Scwont permalink

    I had a very similar experience with Into Ithilien. I ended up doing something I rarely do, which is browse through various online forums looking for strategy advice people had posted. I was surprised to find that people had found success with wildly different decks and strategies. I ended up building a Beorn/Gimli/Glorfindel(Spirit) deck that borrowed heavily from others and went for the strategy of clearing Ithilien Road on turn 1 and letting Celador live, but wasn’t a direct copy of any specific decklist that had been posted.

    Once I tried this I also found it became a very exciting, but still tough quest. My deck didn’t have answers to everything the encounter deck could throw at it, but it could muster a reasonable win rate against it.

    I can’t recall my exact reasoning behind adding a little bit of Spirit alongside Tactics, but I suspect A Test of Will was a large factor in that decision 🙂 I recall I also used both Ethir Swordsman and Knights of the Swan, and it had a strong Eagle ally presence. The deck’s big Achilles heel against this quest was the prevalence of 1-hit point allies.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      A Test of Will is definitely a welcome companion to cancel those really nasty treacheries. My original success against Into Ithilien was with a Dwarf deck, but despite the difficulty of the quest, you’re right that it’s possible to beat it with a quite a wide variety of builds, which is nice to see. It’s definitely true that this scenario can be unforgiving against 1 hit point allies, which is an important strategic consideration. In fact, if I would’ve chosen to play the Vassal first turn in this game instead of the Knight of Minas Tirith, I would’ve lost that poor eagle to the Blocking Wargs right off the bat.

  2. Nicholas DeWald permalink

    You mention pulling down an enemy at the beginning with knights of the swan. How are you accomplishing that?

    • Scwont permalink

      I presume he meant to say Knight of Minas Tirith (which was also in his hand).

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, that was a typo, it should have read Knight of Minas Tirith (I’ve fixed it now). So many Knights running around!

  3. I was really into the FFG Quest Log around the time that Heirs of Númenor came out and was even logging my failures for a time. Reading your post urged me to go back and browse my harrowing adventures Into Ithilien. This one from February 10, 2013 amused me most, trying a Boromir, Háma, and Spirit Glorfindel deck after I’d already logged a dozen losses and had yet to beat the scenario:

    Forest Bat.

    I was literally one Forest Bat away from making it into the fortress of Cair Andros and defeating the scenario.

    My threat stood at 49 and I quested every character on the table in a last ditch effort. I had defense 12 under siege. But the Forest Bat removed one character from the quest. I finished with 14 progress tokens. 1 threat from death. 1 progress from the fortress. 1 Forest Bat as an encounter card.

    This the latest in a number of close calls. Boromir with his Citadel Plate carried 8 wounds. Glorfindel had already been killed by a Southron Company that gained +2 attack after the shadow effect of Blocking Wargs bumped me just over the threshold for siege (37). If only the shadow effect of the Haradrim Elite’s automatic attack hadn’t wiped out my other Winged Guardian, I would be in.

    I was fortunate enough to have Light of Valinor and Horn of Gondor from the outset again. Also, the encounter deck gave me lots of enemies initially and none of the awful Blocking Wargs. If I never beat this quest solo, I can always remember that I got this close.

    Forest Bat!

    • Tonskillitis permalink

      Switch Hama for Thalin- bat problems solved. There was a time when I thought Thalin was a pre-requisite for victory in the quest. Maybe it was just psychological- you know there are some cards in the encounter deck which can’t hurt you- ‘Bat or Secluded Glade’ is the mantra!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Haha, awesome to look back on past musings. I should use the quest log for that purpose, if nothing else. Into Ithilien certainly has a knack for producing close games, whether they end in victory or defeat!

  4. bootagot permalink

    I love this quest, and can (now) beat it consistently solo. My best score solo is 62, with Boromir, Prince Imrahil and Theodred. The key is clearing that location first turn.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s an awesome score for this quest! I had good success with a Dwarf deck when the quest first came out, using Gimli and a bunch of Khazad Khazad! to get some insane battle quest numbers.

  5. Tonskillitis permalink

    I love that this quest is so intricate- there are so many different outcomes. I imagine it gets nearer to the impossible mark in 4 players (not tried it -does anyone have any Into Ithilien 4 player stories?- Southron Support!) .Still so challenging and so little leeway in that encounter deck. To link this to your ‘keeping the game fresh’ debate from the podcast, I think we need these challenging quests’ to keep the game alive because the deck needs to simulate a live opponent, it needs to keep you on your toes and out of the comfort zone otherwise it just isn’t exciting. Ithilien is like a maths puzzle for players to solve through a series of deck building trials. I mean most people enjoy a bit of problem solving but no-one wants to be stuck doing repetitive maths calculations even if it is in Middle Earth, which is how some of the easier or more simplistic quests can feel. Experienced players need these tests to keep up their adrenaline and interest levels.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I agree 100%. While I know some players were frustrated by Heirs of Numenor in general and Into Ithilien in particular, I for one really enjoy getting beat by a quest a bunch of times. I like having that challenge of having to really sit down and strategize to figure out how to achieve victory. While I know that they need to vary the difficulties, I really hope that the designers aren’t afraid to give us a few quests at the Into Ithilien level of difficulty each cycle. Blowing through a quest on the first try or after only a few tries kind of takes some of the air out of my sails. I.I. and Siege of Cair Andros are also continually engaging because of the multiple paths possible, and I hope that’s another aspect that they keep exploring.

  6. Alex permalink

    You seem to indicate that it was a mistake not to use feint on the enemy Because of the shadow effect but I seems to me that you had no resources at that point so you could not have played feint anyway and it would not be a play mistake. Great job!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Ah, you’re right. For some reason, I recalled having a resource at that moment, but looking back at the log, I didn’t.

  7. Joe permalink

    We have been trying to beat this quest in our 3 player group now for over a month. We are probably 0-25 at this point.

    Does anyone have some suggestions? It is extremely difficult in a 3 player game, and every deck we have tried (we have two full card pools available) have failed terribly on either stage 1 or stage 2. Starting with 3 southron companies is an absolute nightmare – after the first staging area there are usually at least 5 enemies and around 18 threat.

    Problem cards:
    Watcher in the Wood – this is so brutal in a 3 player game. It isn’t uncommon to raiser our threat by 8 or 9 due to the amount of questing characters needed.

    Southron Support – Usually a game ender.

    We have tried running this with Spirit for treachery cancels, but it honestly hasn’t made a difference. If the treachery doesn’t kill us, it’s the sheer amount of combat needed.

    Really not sure what to do other than skip it at this point.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      This is definitely a much tougher quest multiplayer than solo. The treacheries you mention (Southron Support and Watcher in the Wood) are particularly brutal and don’t scale very well. I’ll see if I can round up the rest of the Grey Company to maybe do a playthrough or do a strategy episode about this quest in multiplayer.

      • Joe permalink

        That would be awesome – we just…..are at a loss lol. I have played it two player a few times….and those attempts we get all the way to the final stage and lost right at the end. It’s hard but playable.

        Three player is our main group though, and we are stubborn. We don’t want to skip the quest and keep hacking away at it, but nothing seems to work.

        We have been trying to figure out the best hero setups. Right now we are using TWO mono tactics decks just to handle the combat, and then a Thorin company dwarf deck for more muscle.

        Is there maybe a Lore build with rangers that might work better? Ranger spikes seem fantastic on this quest, but there never seems time to get them out and set up…..right from the go you’re on your heels.

  8. When the lost realm comes out, do you think tactics aragorn would be a suitable replacement for tdm boromir?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s a good question. I do like Aragorn’s ability to reduce enemy defenses and he has good stats. On the other hand, Boromir’s readying is pretty key for the deck, as it allows him to participate in battle/siege questing and still be available for combat. The deck would definitely need some readying if it was to change out Boromir for Aragorn.

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