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Thorin and Company: The Lonely Mountain

by on July 30, 2014

There-He-Lay-by-Justin-Gerard With apologies for another hiatus, the journey continues. After Bilbo rescued his companions from giant spiders, the Wood-elves of Mirkwood captured the dwarves for trespassing. With the help of some luck and his invisibility-granting magic ring, Bilbo was able to rescue the dwarves from the Elvenking’s cells, and packed them into empty barrels ready to be sent down the Forest River to the men of Lake-town. Bilbo bobbed up and down on a barrel, wearing his ring, as the unsuspecting elves made a raft from the barrels and steered south-east. In Lake-town Thorin revealed himself as the rightful King under the Mountain, and was welcomed with songs and feasting. After recovering from their waterlogged journey and being resupplied, Thorin and Company set off for the final stage of their quest, determined to recover the treasure stolen by Smaug.

After a relatively mild battle with the spiders, I think this session report is the most thrilling of the quests in my journey through the Hobbit so far. The quest is played with a 53-card deck: the original deck (using the Burglar version of Bilbo), plus Sting and Bilbo’s Magic Ring. Orcrist is not added, since it was confiscated by the Elvenking while Thorin was his prisoner. Glamdring is not added, since Gandalf is not there, and I will not use Gandalf to deal damage or to attack during this quest. Since Gandalf confidently told Bilbo that there was more to him than anyone expects, his other abilities represent extraordinary moments of Bilbo’s resourcefulness (card draw), stealthiness (threat reduction), determination (willpower), and luck (defense).

GENERAL STRATEGIES

Smaug and the treasures he guards are what define this quest. Smaug is almost the only enemy in this quest, though two versions of him present different challenges. After a round of preparation (stage one), Smaug the Golden is the mostly sleeping dragon guarding the treasures. Whenever the players quest successfully at stage two, Smaug starts to wake up (by getting a progress token), and the first player tries to burgle a treasure by discarding cards that match the type, cost, and/or sphere of a random card from his deck. If the burgle attempt is unsuccessful, Smaug the Golden attacks the first player. If it’s successful, the first player gets one of the five Erebor treasures, but two threat get added to the staging area. Then comes a brilliant design decision: players can decide to stay at stage two for more treasures, facing mounting threat and increased likelihood that Smaug will awake, or can advance to stage three in an attempt to complete the quest and secure whatever treasure they’ve gotten so far. While it seems unthematic to restrict players in the next quest to the treasure discovered before Smaug was killed, it’s a great way to build tension in this quest. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by threat and end up dead because you wanted to try for one more treasure.

If Smaug ever has six progress tokens, Smaug wakes up furious. The players advance to stage four and replace Smaug the Golden with Smaug the Magnificent,Thieves-Fire-Murder-B who has a chance of killing all of the first player’s heroes. If Smaug the Magnificent is dealt a shadow card with a burgle effect (which are 60% of the cards in the encounter deck), then Smaug makes another attack, and is dealt a new shadow card for that attack. With a full encounter deck, Smaug has a 20% chance of attacking at least four times in a row and a 6% chance of attacking at least six times. This is the most controversial element of the quest, since shadow cancellation doesn’t stop Smaug from attacking again, and bad luck could result in a loss from Bilbo’s death. Much of the criticism of this quest, like Dungeons Deep and Caverns Dim, focuses on the possibility of losing due to bad luck, but in both quests there are opportunities to significantly limit the role of chance. If stage four is completed, the players return to stage two with Smaug sleeping again, and must burgle a treasure to advance to stage three. Stage three also has the deadlier version of Smaug, although it’s possible to lower his defense with the objective A Bare Patch. Smaug the Magnificent leaves play after the players place a combined total of 21 damage or progress tokens on him and 3B, enabling both combat-focused and questing-focused decks to reach victory. Here are some of my tactics to maximize burgled treasures and minimize attacks by Smaug:

Break even on questing while building up willpower: Questing successfully during stage two results in a progress token on Smaug the Golden, and either an attack by Smaug or increased threat in the staging area. Since Smaug the Golden effectively reduces each (non-Burglar) character’s willpower by one, only characters with two or more willpower can help to counteract that increased threat. In this deck, Glóin, Óin (Longbeard Elder), Bofur and potentially Nori (Longbeard Map-Maker) are the allies who can contribute willpower in stage two, with Gandalf providing a temporary boost. Until I have most of them to increase my available willpower, I want to quest successfully only when I need to clear a location, and then clear it that turn. Breaking even on questing is ideal, but questing unsuccessfully is not a serious problem since Gandalf can lower threat. I typically commit to the quest willpower equal to the threat already in the staging area, plus Óin and Nori if available. Óin can use his ability to ensure that I don’t quest successfully, but he counteracts some threat if a location is revealed. Nori will be the star of the quest after most of the company is in play and I have We Are Not Idle and Lure of Moria. Early on, though, there may be more valuable uses for Lore resources than avoiding a threat increase. My favourite dwarf to play early, perhaps surprisingly, is Bombur. He can be used after staging to avoid or limit a threat increase, and he’s insurance against the underground Great Hall, the highest threat location in the quest.

Be prepared for some nasty treacheries: This is one of the rare quests that has more treacheries than locations or enemies in the encounter card deck, and they can be quite dangerous. Fighting Among Friends and especially Weighed Down can significantly reduce willpower committed to the quest, possibly resulting in a large threat increase or in failing to clear a location and becoming location-locked. Committing Leadership characters to the quest usually limits the damage of Fighting Among Friends, but the only counters to Weighed Down in stage two are A Test of Will or boosting Nori’s willpower significantly. When possible, however, I prefer to save A Test of Will for Dragon-Spell, which can deprive me of needed willpower and resources. If Dragon-Spell attaches to one of my heroes, I need healing to counteract it. Self Preservation on that hero will eventually nullify Dragon-Spell, although Thorin may also need Healing Herbs or Dori to regain his willpower. It’s important to keep an available defender in case Smaug attacks from Belching Fire. Finally, it’s good to build up some of Bilbo’s resources to avoid advancing to stage four from Pretending to Sleep, which normally results in Smaug the Magnificent attacking.

Collect cards and Baggins resources before burgling: Card draw is the most important factor in succeeding at burgle attempts, and this deck has plenty of it. It was also built with riddles and burgle attempts in mind, so most cards in it have several other cards that they share some combination of type, sphere and cost with. When using King Under the Mountain, I might keep a card because it rounds out the distribution of cards in my hand. I also won’t play cards that provide only minor benefits, instead keeping them available to discard. If I don’t have enough matches in my hand for the revealed card, then Bilbo can spend two resources to draw the card and reveal the next one. Bilbo’s Magic Ring can provide resources for burgling when it isn’t needed for defense. My goal is to have a pretty full hand and a few resources on Bilbo before questing successfully. With so much card draw, Will of the West ensures that I always have cards in my deck for a burgle attempt, and can recycle key cards. If I realize after questing successfully that there’s too much threat in the staging area, it might be worth failing the burgle attempt instead of adding threat to the staging area, provided I can handle Smaug’s attack.

Avoid spending time at stage four: Sometimes I have enough willpower for the threat in the staging area and I want to burgle another treasure, but there are too many progress tokens on Smaug the Golden. Then I want to advance to stage four and clear it quickly so that I can burgle again. If I know that I’ll want to do this, then it’s better to advance to stage four before burgling a third (or at least fourth) treasure, so that there’s less threat in the staging area while I clear stage four. Ideally I’ll quest heavily enough (and boost Nori’s willpower) to complete stage four without being attacked by Smaug the Magnificent. If I advance to stage four from the forced effect of Great Hall, from Pretending to Sleep, or from Croaking Crows and a location, then Smaug the Magnificent will replace Smaug the Golden before quest resolution. This is normally beneficial, since then my 1-willpower allies are helpful if committed to the quest. I need a contingency plan, however, in case I don’t complete the stage immediately and Smaug the Magnificent attacks.

Have a way to survive Smaug’s attacks: Smaug the Golden, with 6 attack, will normally kill any defender when he attacks from Belching Fire or an unsuccessful burgle attempt. Aside from chump blocking, I can defend with Bilbo and cancel the damage using Bilbo’s Magic Ring. Since Bilbo’s willpower is important for questing, however, Fast Hitch is very helpful. If I draw Unexpected Courage before Fast Hitch, I’ll play it on Bilbo. If Bilbo has Sting and Ring Mail or Mithril Shirt, he can survive one attack from Smaug the Golden without using his ring, though Balin should have a resource available for his ability: 5 of the 35 cards in the encounter deck have shadow effects that would kill Bilbo. Of course, the more serious danger is attacks by Smaug the Magnificent. Bilbo can defend against one attack using his ring, but the only cards in the current card pool that can prevent a potential chain of Smaug attacks are Rider of the Mark (not thematic, and restricted to multiplayer) and Dawn Take You All. This is one of the most important cards in my deck for this quest. I want to draw it fairly early, and use it if I need to spend a combat phase at stage four. If I use it during stage four, then I want to recycle it with Will of the West and draw it before advancing to stage three. Ideally I’ll have enough willpower and resources for Nori that I can complete stage three in one round. (I don’t like attacking Smaug for thematic reasons.) If I know that Smaug the Magnificent will attack me and I don’t have Dawn Take You All, then I try to have several allies available to block if necessary.

Note: The text in green is purely thematic. It describes what happened each round according to the cards, but with the underlying influence (and some of the words) of Tolkien’s text. There’s a lot that happens in the story for this quest, so it can be lengthy.

SESSION REPORT

Heroes: Thorin Oakenshield, Balin, Ori, Bilbo Baggins

Starting Threat: 29

Starting Hand: Glóin, Bifur, Bombur, Nori (Longbeard Map-Maker), Fast Hitch, We Are Not Idle

Thoughts: This is an excellent hand for this quest. It allows me to control five dwarves by round two, and provides some card draw with Bifur and We Are Not Idle. Bombur and Nori allow me to adjust threat or willpower after staging,The-Lonely-Mountain-Location meaning I can avoid questing successfully early on without a large threat penalty. Glóin provides me with willpower and resource smoothing, and Fast Hitch lets Bilbo quest and then defend with his ring against Smaug if necessary.

Encounter Deck Setup: I add Smaug the Golden (X threat, where X is the number of non-Burglar characters committed to the quest) and The Lonely Mountain (12 threat, 4 quest points) to the staging area. I shuffle the five Erebor treasures and place them under The Lonely Mountain. The Lonely Mountain gets -2 threat for each treasure under it, so it currently has 2 threat.

ROUND 1 (2 threat in staging area, 0/- progress on 1B, Active Location – None, 29 threat)

PREPARATION

Resources: Thorin Oakenshield – 1, Balin – 1, Ori – 1, Bilbo Baggins – 1

Draw: Durin’s Song

New Hand: Glóin, Bifur, Bombur, Nori (Longbeard Map-Maker), Fast Hitch, We Are Not Idle, Durin’s Song

Planning: I spend Bilbo’s resource to search my deck for Bilbo’s Magic Ring and play it on Bilbo. I exhaust Bilbo’s Magic Ring and raise my threat by 1 to give Bilbo a resource. I then spend that resource, searching my deck for Sting and playing it on Bilbo. I then play We Are Not Idle, exhausting Thorin, Balin and Ori to give Ori three resources and drawing Óin (Longbeard Elder). What I’m looking for now is sustained card draw from King Under the Mountain or Legacy of Durin, and A Test of Will (with access to Spirit resources) or Self Preservation for Dragon-Spell.

Resources after Planning: Thorin Oakenshield – 1, Balin – 1, Ori – 4, Bilbo Baggins – 0

Dwarves in play: 3. Skipping the Quest phase, I cannot travel or engage an enemy, so I proceed to Refresh and raise my threat to 31. At the end of the round, I advance to stage two.

The Lonely Mountain towered grimly ahead of Bilbo as he disembarked from one of the boats that the men of Lake-town had provided for Thorin’s company. Thorin, Balin and Ori worked with the rowers to unload their provisions, but Bilbo gazed gloomily ahead. His magic ring and elven blade had shown themselves useful, but they seemed insignificant when he remembered the tales he’d heard of the dragon ahead. As soon as the provisions were unloaded, the rowers hurried back into their boats, eager to leave the Mountain behind them, and were quickly carried by the River Running’s current down to the Long Lake. Bilbo watched the boats recede in the distance, and then helped to load the ponies’ saddlebags for the final stage of their journey.

ROUND 2 (2 threat in staging area, 0 progress tokens on Smaug the Golden, 5 treasures under The Lonely Mountain, Active Location – None, 31 threat)

PREPARATION

Resources: Thorin Oakenshield – 2, Balin – 2, Ori – 5, Bilbo Baggins – 1

Draw: Dwalin New Hand: Glóin, Óin (Longbeard Elder), Dwalin, Bifur, Bombur, Nori (Longbeard Map-Maker), Fast Hitch, Durin’s Song

Planning: I play Bombur. I then play Glóin, saving a resource on Balin and giving Ori two resources. I play Bifur, drawing Glóin and King Under the Mountain. I play Fast Hitch on Bilbo. Resources after Planning: Thorin Oakenshield – 0, Balin – 1, Ori – 0, Bilbo Baggins – 1

Dwarves in play: 6

QUESTING

Commit Characters: I commit Bilbo (2 willpower) to the quest and ready him with Fast Hitch.

Staging: Western Slopes (2 threat, 5 quest points). I exhaust Bombur to lower Western Slopes’ threat by one.

Resolution: I have 2 willpower committed against 3 threat, so I raise my threat by one, to 32. Western Slopes is harmless to leave in the staging area, and I don’t want to burgle yet, so I don’t travel this round. I proceed to Refresh, raising my threat to 33.

Mounted on a small pony with a handy coil of rope tied to his saddle, Bilbo rode northwards close to Thorin, Balin, Ori, Glóin, Bifur and Bombur. Spirits were low as the company travelled quietly and stealthily. The land around them was empty and barren, and in the distance ahead Bilbo could see smoke rising from the Front Gate, where the River Running flowed out of the Mountain. “So Smaug is at home,” he thought unhappily.

ROUND 3 (4 threat in staging area, 0 progress tokens on Smaug the Golden, 5 treasures under The Lonely Mountain, Active Location – None, 33 threat)

PREPARATION

Resources: Thorin Oakenshield – 2, Balin – 2, Ori – 1, Bilbo Baggins – 2

Draw: Narvi’s Belt, A Test of Will New Hand: Glóin, Óin (Longbeard Elder), Dwalin, Nori (Longbeard Map-Maker), Narvi’s Belt, King Under the Mountain, Durin’s Song, A Test of Will

Planning: If I played Narvi’s Belt to enable cancelling Dragon-Spell this turn, I’d have to wait to play King Under the Mountain. I spend Balin’s resources to play King Under the Mountain on Thorin and use it, keeping Dawn Take You All and (unfortunately) discarding Sneak Attack.

Resources after Planning: Thorin Oakenshield – 2, Balin – 0, Ori – 1, Bilbo Baggins – 2

Dwarves in play: 6

QUESTING

Commit Characters: I commit Bilbo and Thorin to the quest, for a total of 5 willpower, and ready Bilbo with Fast Hitch. Smaug now has 1 threat.

Staging: Known to an Ounce. I randomly discard Dwalin and Durin’s Song, increasing Smaug’s threat by 1. Fortunately, none of my most important cards were discarded. I exhaust Bombur, lowering Western Slopes’ threat by one.

Resolution: I have 5 willpower committed against 5 threat, so I break even on questing. I don’t have much threat in the staging area, so I’ll wait to travel. I proceed to refresh, raising my threat to 34.

The company drew close to the Mountain and began looking for a path that would lead them to the secret entrance shown in Thrór’s Map. “I have returned to my kingdom on Durin’s Day,” Thorin said to Bilbo, “and soon you shall see the riches it held in my grandfather’s reign.” After much fruitless searching, Bilbo spotted behind a boulder what looked like rough steps and then traces of a narrow track. Excitedly, he followed it with Thorin, reaching a narrower ledge along the Mountain’s face. They carefully went along the ledge in single file until it reached an opening in the Mountain’s side. There they turned into a small grassy bay, with a smooth upright stone wall at the inner end of the bay. They had found the secret door, but now needed a way to open it.

ROUND 4 (4 threat in staging area, 0 progress tokens on Smaug the Golden, 5 treasures under The Lonely Mountain, Active Location – None, 34 threat)

PREPARATION

Resources: Thorin Oakenshield – 4, Balin – 1, Ori – 2, Bilbo Baggins – 3

Draw: Narvi’s Belt, Unexpected Courage. I use King Under the Mountain, keeping Sneak Attack and discarding Fili.

New Hand: Glóin, Óin (Longbeard Elder), Nori (Longbeard Map-Maker), Narvi’s Belt x2, Unexpected Courage, Sneak Attack, Dawn Take You All, A Test of Will

Planning: I spend two of Thorin’s resources to play Narvi’s Belt on Thorin. I save my other resources for now. I’d like to have more cards in my hand and more willpower available for questing, but I’m mostly ready to start burgling.

Resources after Planning: Thorin Oakenshield – 2, Balin – 1, Ori – 2, Bilbo Baggins – 3

Dwarves in play: 6

QUESTING

Western-SlopesCommit Characters: I commit Bilbo and Thorin to the quest, for a total of 5 willpower, and ready Bilbo with Fast Hitch. Smaug now has 1 threat. I exhaust Narvi’s Belt and choose Spirit.

Staging: Dark Bats (2 threat). I exhaust Bombur, lowering Western Slopes’ threat by one.

Resolution: I have 5 willpower committed against 6 threat, so I raise my threat by one.

TRAVEL

I travel to Western Slopes. I have a good chance of clearing it next turn. I proceed to combat with Dark Bats, which engage me.

COMBAT

Enemy attack: Bilbo (2 defense) defends against Dark Bats (2 attack). I use Sting’s response to discard Belching Fire, which does not hurt the bats. The shadow card, Western Slopes, has no effect and Bilbo is unharmed.

Player attack: Glóin (1 attack) kills Dark Bats (0 defense, 1 hit point). I exhaust Bilbo’s Magic Ring and raise my threat by one to give Bilbo a resource. I then Refresh, raising my threat to 37.

The company set up a camp on the grassy western slopes below the secret door, and lowered ropes from the bay to draw up tools. Thorin eagerly took a pick and struck it against where the door seemed to be, but the steel tip bent without denting the smooth rock surface. The clang echoed noisily, and a bat flew out of a crevice at Bilbo. Startled, Bilbo ducked, and Glóin knocked it down with a shovel. Bilbo sat down next to a large grey stone in the middle of the bay, thinking, “Tools don’t seem likely to open that door.” Just then an enormous black thrush with a snail in its beak flew up to the stone and knocked the snail’s shell against it repeatedly. Bilbo suddenly remembered the message in moon-letters that Elrond had found on Thrór’s map: “Stand by the grey stone when the thrush knocks, and the setting sun with the last light of Durin’s Day will shine upon the keyhole.” “Look!” he called to the dwarves, pointing to the thrush and to the setting sun on the horizon. The sun went behind a cloud, and after a seemingly interminable wait, a red ray of light escaped through a rent in the cloud and fell on the rock face. A hole appeared in that gleam, and Thorin took Thrór’s key from the chain around his neck, placed it the hole, and turned. There was a loud click. The outline of a small door appeared in the rock, and Thorin pushed it open to reveal complete darkness.

ROUND 5 (2 threat in staging area, 0 progress tokens on Smaug the Golden, 5 treasures under The Lonely Mountain, Active Location – Western Slopes, 37 threat)

PREPARATION

Resources: Thorin Oakenshield – 4, Balin – 2, Ori – 3, Bilbo Baggins – 5

Draw: Bofur, Dwalin. I use King Under the Mountain, keeping Lure of Moria and discarding Ring Mail.

New Hand: Glóin, Óin (Longbeard Elder), Dwalin, Bofur, Nori (Longbeard Map-Maker), Narvi’s Belt, Unexpected Courage, Lure of Moria, Sneak Attack, Dawn Take You All, A Test of Will

Planning: I use Balin’s resources and one of Thorin’s to play Óin (Longbeard Elder). I also play Nori (Longbeard Map-Maker). I’ll use Óin’s ability and then use Narvi’s Belt, choosing Spirit if I need to cancel a treachery or Lore if I need to increase Nori’s willpower to clear Western Slopes.

Resources after Planning: Thorin Oakenshield – 3, Balin – 0, Ori – 0, Bilbo Baggins – 5

Dwarves in play: 8.

QUESTING

Commit Characters: I commit Bilbo, Thorin, Balin, Ori, Nori, Glóin and Óin to the quest, for a total of 14 willpower. Smaug now has 6 threat. I use Óin’s response, looking at Dark Bats on top of the encounter deck. Óin gets -1 willpower. I exhaust Narvi’s Belt and choose Lore, and I ready Bilbo with Fast Hitch.

Staging: Dark Bats (2 threat). I spend two of Thorin’s resources to increase Nori’s willpower by two.

Smaug-the-GoldenResolution: I have 15 willpower committed against 10 threat. I quest successfully, so I put a progress token on Smaug the Golden and I make a burgle attempt, discarding Weighed Down, Secret Entrance, and finally Great Hall: I’ll have to discard three cards that match the revealed card’s type. I shuffle my deck and reveal Gandalf. I discard all three allies in my hand (Glóin, Dwalin, and Bofur), and the burgle attempt is successful. I take Mithril Shirt into my hand and remain at stage two. I clear Western Slopes, drawing two copies of Gandalf. Removing progress from Smaug would have been nice, but my hand is relatively empty. Great Hall is the toughest burgle effect, and it did some damage. Bofur would have added to my total willpower, and now both copies of Dwalin are in my discard pile. To have the full company in play, I’ll need to use Dwarven Tomb or Will of the West. I proceed to combat with Dark Bats that engage me.

COMBAT

Enemy attack: Bilbo (2 defense) defends against Dark Bats (2 attack). I use Sting’s response to discard Croaking Crows, killing Dark Bats. (The shadow card, Fighting Among Friends, is discarded: if Sting hadn’t killed the bats, they would have damaged Bilbo and attached to him. I should have saved one resource on Balin when I played Óin, since I wouldn’t have needed to boost Nori more than two.) Since I don’t have many cards in my hand and I can reduce threat with Gandalf, I exhaust Bilbo’s Magic Ring and raise my threat by one to give Bilbo a resource. I then Refresh, raising my threat to 39.

Oin and Nori, who were in the camp below, heard the excitement above and signalled to be hauled up the ropes. Thorin, meanwhile, spoke up: “Now is the time for our esteemed Mr. Baggins, who has proved full of courage, resource and luck far exceeding his size, to earn his reward.” Bilbo, a bit annoyed, replied, “I rescued you from the spiders and the Wood-elves, so I think I am already owed some reward. I have begun to trust my luck more than I used to, however, so I will take a peep down the passage.” Balin volunteered to accompany Bilbo for the first bit, and the two of them entered the Mountain. Balin stopped where he could faintly see the outline of the door, wishing Bilbo good luck, and Bilbo continued stealthily down the pitch-black passage. After a while he began to sweat, as the tunnel grew ever warmer. Ahead, Bilbo saw a red glow and heard the gurgling rumble of a vast animal snoring. He stopped, saying to himself, “Now you’re in for it at last, Bilbo Baggins,” but after a short halt he found the courage to continue on. A large black bat flew at him as reached the end of the passage, and in the red light Bilbo struck it down with Sting. He put on his ring, and stepped out of the passage into an enormous hall. Ahead lay the vast red-golden dragon sleeping on a mound of treasure, but near Bilbo was a small coat of mail hanging on the wall, gleaming red-stained silver in the dragon’s light. Bilbo noiselessly took it down and, holding it triumphantly, thought, “I’ve done it!”

ROUND 6 (4 threat in staging area, 1 progress token on Smaug the Golden, 4 treasures under The Lonely Mountain, Active Location – None, 39 threat)

PREPARATION

Resources: Thorin Oakenshield – 3, Balin – 1, Ori – 1, Bilbo Baggins – 7

Draw: King Under the Mountain, King Under the Mountain. I use King Under the Mountain, keeping Song of Travel and unfortunately discarding We Are Not Idle.

New Hand: Gandalf x2, Narvi’s Belt, King Under the Mountain x2, Unexpected Courage, Song of Travel, Mithril Shirt, Lure of Moria, Sneak Attack, Dawn Take You All, A Test of Will

Planning: For thematic reasons, I don’t intend to play Mithril Shirt until I’ve burgled another treasure (since it was given to Bilbo as a payment towards his share of the recovered treasure). I use one of Thorin’s resources to play Song of Travel on Balin. I save my other resources for now. I need time to build up more allies and more willpower, so I won’t quest successfully this turn.

Resources after Planning: Thorin Oakenshield – 2, Balin – 1, Ori – 1, Bilbo Baggins – 7

Dwarves in play: 8

QUESTING

Commit Characters: I commit Bilbo, Balin, Glóin, Óin and Nori to the quest, for a total of 9 willpower. Smaug now has 4 threat. I use Óin’s response, looking at Dragon-Spell on top of the encounter deck. Óin gets -1 willpower.

Staging: Dragon-Spell. I cancel it with A Test of Will.

Resolution: I have 8 willpower committed against 8 threat, so I break even. I proceed to Refresh, raising my threat to 40.

The coat of mail was surprisingly light, so Bilbo could hold it with one hand. He turned to look more closely towards Smaug’s mound, seeking another treasure to burgle. The splendour of the dragon hoard staggered him, with its enormous quantity of gold and countless precious gems. As he gazed at it motionless, his heart was pierced with enchantment and the desire of the dwarves. Meanwhile, Balin, while waiting for Bilbo in the tunnel, sang softly: “The wind went on from West to East… / It passed the lonely Mountain bare / and swept above the dragon’s lair: / there black and dark lay boulders stark / and flying smoke was in the air.” By a trick of echoes in the tunnel, Bilbo heard the song faintly, and shook his head to clear it of the dragon’s vapours. He had a job to do, and he would do it.

ROUND 7 (4 threat in staging area, 1 progress token on Smaug the Golden, 4 treasures under The Lonely Mountain, Active Location – None, 40 threat)

PREPARATION

Resources: Thorin Oakenshield – 4, Balin – 1, Ori – 2, Bilbo Baggins – 8

Draw: Gandalf, Kili. I use King Under the Mountain, keeping We Are Not Idle and discarding Healing Herbs.

New Hand: Kili, Gandalf x3, Narvi’s Belt, King Under the Mountain x2, Unexpected Courage, Mithril Shirt, We Are Not Idle, Lure of Moria, Sneak Attack, Dawn Take You All

Planning: I exhaust Narvi’s Belt and choose Spirit, using resources from Thorin to play Kili. I search my deck for Fili and put him into play. I play We Are Not Idle, exhausting all the dwarves and adding 10 resources to Thorin’s resource pool. I then play Lure of Moria, readying all dwarves. With plenty of resources for Nori and multiple copies of Gandalf, I have enough available willpower that I can continue burgling. Since I now don’t have A Test of Will, I need to be prepared to lose willpower from Weighed Down or Fighting Among Friends.

Resources after Planning: Thorin Oakenshield – 8, Balin – 1, Ori – 2, Bilbo Baggins – 8

Dwarves in play: 10

QUESTING

Dragon-SpellCommit Characters: I commit Bilbo, Thorin, Balin, Ori, Nori, Glóin and Óin to the quest, for a total of 14 willpower. Smaug now has 6 threat. Bilbo readies with Fast Hitch.

Staging: Dragon-Spell. I attach it to Thorin, who now has 0 willpower. This is unfortunate, though thematic. I could have attached it to Bilbo, but that would make burgle attempts tricky, besides being unthematic. I now cannot greatly boost Nori’s willpower. Self Preservation is now important so that I can consistently use Thorin’s resources.

Resolution: I have 11 willpower committed against 10 threat. I quest successfully, so I put a progress token on Smaug the Golden and I make a burgle attempt, discarding Weighed Down and then Pretending to Sleep: I have to discard two cards that match the revealed card’s type. I shuffle my deck and reveal A Test of Will. I don’t want to discard Sneak Attack and Dawn Take You All, so I spend two Baggins resources to take A Test of Will into my hand, and reveal Legacy of Durin. I discard two copies of King Under the Mountain, and the burgle attempt is successful. I take Thrór’s Battle Axe into my hand and remain at stage two. I proceed to Refresh, raising my threat to 41.

Bilbo crept stealthily towards the nearest edge of the treasure mound. He saw a magnificent silver-hafted axe there, and took it with his free hand. Smaug stirred in his sleep, opening a claw, and Bilbo fled back to the tunnel. In a few minutes, Balin was overjoyed to see Bilbo safely returning. In his delight he carried Bilbo outside, where Fili and Kili had just been hauled up from the camp below. All the dwarves were excited that the secret door was open, and they had been hauling up some supplies. When they saw Bilbo bringing back treasure, their exuberance was boundless. They crowded around the treasures, admiring them and praising Bilbo. Thorin’s eyes lit up as he examined the axe closely, saying, “My grandfather bore this! Now I have begun to recover what is my own.”

ROUND 8 (6 threat in staging area, 2 progress tokens on Smaug the Golden, 3 treasures under The Lonely Mountain, Active Location – None, 41 threat)

PREPARATION

Resources: Thorin Oakenshield – 10, Balin – 2, Ori – 3, Bilbo Baggins – 7

Draw: Legacy of Durin, Bombur. I use King Under the Mountain, keeping Dori and discarding A Good Harvest.

New Hand: Bombur, Dori, Gandalf x3, Narvi’s Belt, Unexpected Courage, Legacy of Durin, Thrór’s Battle Axe, Mithril Shirt, Sneak Attack, Dawn Take You All, A Test of Will

Planning: I play Mithril Shirt on Bilbo. I don’t play anything else now, since I want Lore resources for boosting Nori or for Self Preservation more than I want Dori. Unexpected Courage, Legacy of Durin, and Thrór’s Battle Axe are currently more valuable to me as potential discards in burgle attempts than in play. I’ll wait a round before burgling again, to draw more cards and get more resources. From the twelve cards currently in my deck, I most want Self Preservation and Bofur. I’m also interested in Will of the West to recycle my discard pile, especially We Are Not Idle.

Resources after Planning: Thorin Oakenshield – 10, Balin – 2, Ori – 3, Bilbo Baggins – 7

Dwarves in play: 10; Thorin has Dragon-Spell attached.

QUESTING

Commit Characters: I commit Bilbo, Balin, Ori, Nori, Glóin and Óin to the quest, for a total of 11 willpower. Smaug now has 5 threat. Bilbo readies with Fast Hitch.

Staging: Desolation of Smaug (3 threat, 3 quest points). I exhaust Bombur to lower its threat by one. I don’t want to spend resources on Nori at this point: they’ll be more valuable when I need to clear a location.

Resolution: I have 11 willpower committed against 13 threat, so I raise my threat by two.

TRAVEL

I travel to Desolation of Smaug. I then proceed to Refresh, raising my threat to 44.

Looking at the coat of mail that Bilbo had recovered, Balin said, “This is too small for us dwarves, but it would fit Bilbo.” Thorin’s lips tightened for a moment, but then he said grandly, “Mr. Baggins! You have given valuable service during our journey, and here is the first payment of your reward. You will find mithril light to wear, and it may provide some protection against Smaug’s steaming vapours as you burgle.” By the light of the stars Bilbo could see some charred tree stumps on the ground below, and decided that he did not want to test how much protection it provided. He was grateful, however, and thanked Thorin. Putting on the mithril shirt, he said, “Smaug seems fast asleep, so I will see what else I can burgle down that tunnel.”

ROUND 9 (6 threat in staging area, 2 progress tokens on Smaug the Golden, 3 treasures under The Lonely Mountain, Active Location – Desolation of Smaug, 44 threat)

PREPARATION

Resources: Thorin Oakenshield – 12, Balin – 3, Ori – 4, Bilbo Baggins – 8

Draw: Self Preservation, Fili. I use King Under the Mountain, keeping Bofur and discarding Dori. This certainly helps.

New Hand: Fili, Bofur, Bombur, Dori, Gandalf x3, Narvi’s Belt, Unexpected Courage, Self Preservation, Legacy of Durin, Thrór’s Battle Axe, Sneak Attack, Dawn Take You All, A Test of Will

Planning: I play Self Preservation on Thorin. I exhaust Narvi’s Belt, choose Tactics, and play Bofur, taking three damage on Thorin. I heal two damage with Self Preservation. I’ll sneak attack Gandalf for the quest, and I will likely clear Desolation of Smaug this round.

Resources after Planning: Thorin Oakenshield – 9, Balin – 3, Ori – 1, Bilbo Baggins – 8

Dwarves in play: 11; Thorin has 1 damage and Dragon-Spell attached.

QUESTING

Pretending-to-Sleep-Belching-FireCommit Characters: I spend one of Balin’s resources to sneak attack Gandalf, lowering my threat to 39. I commit Bilbo, Balin, Ori, Nori, Glóin, Óin, Bofur and Gandalf to the quest, for a total of 17 willpower. Smaug now has 7 threat. Bilbo readies with Fast Hitch.

Staging: Pretending to Sleep. I add a progress token to Smaug the Golden and spend 3 Baggins resources. Pretending to Sleep surges into another Pretending to Sleep: I add a progress token to Smaug the Golden and spend 4 Baggins resources. The second Pretending to Sleep surges into Croaking Crows (1 threat), which surges into Hidden Path (3 threat, 1 quest point). Because of Croaking Crows’ forced effect, I place a fifth progress token on Smaug the Golden. Because of Desolation of Smaug’s effect, the first Pretending to Sleep has another surge, Belching Fire. Bilbo (3 defense, 4 hit points) defends against Smaug (6 attack). Bilbo takes three damage (1 hit point remaining). That was intense! I can’t clear Desolation of Smaug this round. If I use Bombur’s ability on Hidden Path, then I will quest successfully and immediately advance to stage four. I’d prefer to do that when I have more willpower committed to the quest, so I don’t use Bombur’s ability.

Resolution: I have 17 willpower committed against 17 threat, breaking even. At the end of the phase, Gandalf returns to my hand. I proceed to combat with Croaking Crows that engage me.

COMBAT

Enemy attack: Bombur (1 defense) defends against Croaking Crows (1 attack). The shadow card, Desolation of Smaug, has no effect and Bombur is unharmed.

Player attack: Bifur (2 attack) and Kili (1 defense, 2 hit points) together kill Croaking Crows. I exhaust Bilbo’s Magic Ring and raise my threat by 1 to give Bilbo a resource. I then Refresh, raising my threat to 41.

As Bilbo headed back into the tunnel, Thorin looked pained to see the mithril shirt disappear into darkness, but he quickly recovered. Bifur finished hauling up his cousin Bofur, leaving only Dori and Dwalin in the camp below to guard the ponies and supplies. Just then a crow flew at Bombur with a loud ominous croak, prompting Bifur and Kili to knock it lifeless with well-aimed stones. Bilbo, meanwhile, was more confident as he invisibly and silently made his way down the tunnel again. Reaching the end of the tunnel, he peeped out. Smaug lay still, as he had earlier, and Bilbo was about to step out of the tunnel when he noticed a piercing ray of red coming from under Smaug’s left eyelid. He jumped back with a start, and Smaug’s eyes flashed open in fury. “I hear you and I smell you, thief! You’ve taken a mail shirt and an axe, but you won’t get any treasure far. Not much use on the mountain-side, is it, without safe delivery back home?” Terrified, Bilbo, turned and fled up the tunnel as Smaug leaped forward, belching flames. Soon Smaug had his nostrils pressed against the opening, and they spouted forth fiery vapours which scorched Bilbo. Nearly overcome, he stumbled blindly on in pain, until he finally came out of the tunnel and collapsed in front of the dwarves.

ROUND 10 (9 threat in staging area, 5 progress tokens on Smaug the Golden, 3 treasures under The Lonely Mountain, Active Location – Desolation of Smaug, 41 threat)

PREPARATION

Resources: Thorin Oakenshield – 11, Balin – 3, Ori – 2, Bilbo Baggins – 3

Draw: Óin (Longbeard Elder), Kili. I use King Under the Mountain, keeping Will of the West and discarding Lure of Moria.

New Hand: Óin (Longbeard Elder), Fili, Kili, Bofur, Bombur, Dori, Gandalf x3, Narvi’s Belt, Unexpected Courage, Self Preservation, Legacy of Durin, Thrór’s Battle Axe, Dawn Take You All, A Test of Will, Will of the West

Planning: Questing successfully means I’ll advance to stage four and face Smaug the Magnificent, but I need to clear Desolation of Smaug and avoid becoming location-locked. I’ll use Dawn Take You All to prevent Smaug from attacking multiple times, and I’ll have Bilbo defend and use his ring. Once I’ve played Dawn Take You All I’ll play Will of the West, since all copies of We Are Not Idle and Lure of Moria are in my discard pile, and I’ll need them for resources to boost Nori. I spend one of Bilbo’s resources, three of Thorin’s and one of Balin’s to play Gandalf, lowering my threat to 36. Thorin takes three damage, and I exhaust Self Preservation to remove two damage.

Resources after Planning: Thorin Oakenshield – 8, Balin – 2, Ori – 2, Bilbo Baggins – 2

Dwarves in play: 11; Thorin has 2 damage and Dragon-Spell attached. Bilbo has 3 damage.

QUESTING

Commit Characters: I commit everyone except for Thorin and Bombur to the quest (in case encounter cards advance me to stage four before quest resolution), for a total of 20 willpower. Smaug now has 10 threat. I ready Bilbo with Fast Hitch.

Staging: Hidden Path (3 threat, 1 quest point). I exhaust Bombur to lower its threat by one. I exhaust Narvi’s Belt, choose Lore, and pay two resources each from Thorin and Ori to boost Nori’s willpower to 5. Thorin takes 2 more damage and has 1 hit point remaining.

Resolution: I have 24 willpower committed against 21 threat, so I quest successfully. I put the sixth progress token on Smaug the Golden and immediately advance to stage four, removing all progress tokens from Smaug the Golden, removing him from play, and adding Smaug the Magnificent (6 threat) to the staging area. I then clear Desolation of Smaug, and I have 0/7 progress on 4B.

TRAVEL

Smaug-the-MagnificentI spend 2 Baggins resources to travel to one copy of Hidden Path. I then proceed to combat with Smaug the Magnificent, who is engaged with me.

COMBAT

Enemy attack: I spend Balin’s resources to play Dawn Take You All, discarding Smaug’s shadow card, Hidden Path. Bilbo (3 defense, 1 hit point remaining) defends against Smaug (8 attack). I exhaust Bilbo’s Magic Ring and raise my threat by 3 to cancel all damage from the attack. I don’t have any resources left to play Will of the West, so I’ll wait until next round. I then proceed to Refresh, raising my threat to 40. I exhaust Self Preservation, healing 2 damage from Thorin. At the end of the round, Gandalf leaves play.

Ori helped Bilbo back to his feet. He improvised some bandages for Bilbo’s burns, saying to Thorin, “The mithril shirt protected him from worse, and likely saved his life.” Just then they all heard a tremendous bellow of rage as Smaug flew out the Front Gate, seeking to roast and trample the thief. The dwarves froze in terror, but Bilbo said, “Quick! To the tunnel: it’s no good here.” Balin cried out, “My brother Dwalin and Dori are in the camp below!” “They will be slain; we can do nothing,” several dwarves moaned. “Nonsense!” said Thorin, rushing to the ropes. They heard the dragon’s roar getting nearer, and Bilbo said, “I don’t think we’ll have time to haul them both up before Smaug arrives, but when we set up camp below I saw a hidden path leading to a small cave.” Thorin shouted Bilbo’s directions down to Dori and Dwalin, and they soon disappeared into the hidden cave. Thorin then unfastened the ropes and let them fall, so that Smaug couldn’t use them to find the door. With Bilbo he hurried to join the others in the tunnel. The sky was beginning to brighten with the first light of dawn as they went through the door, closing it except for a crack. At that moment Smaug came around the mountain, and a blast of flame shrivelled the grass where Bilbo had been standing a few seconds earlier.

ROUND 11 (13 threat in staging area, 0/7 progress on 4B, Active Location – Hidden Path, 40 threat)

PREPARATION

Resources: Thorin Oakenshield – 8, Balin – 1, Ori – 1, Bilbo Baggins – 1

Draw: Nori (Longbeard Map-Maker), Dwarven Tomb. I play Will of the West, shuffling my 22 card discard pile into my 2 card deck. I then use King Under the Mountain, keeping We Are Not Idle and discarding Dori.

New Hand: Óin (Longbeard Elder), Fili, Kili, Bombur, Dori, Nori (Longbeard Map-Maker), Gandalf x2, Narvi’s Belt, Unexpected Courage, Legacy of Durin, Thrór’s Battle Axe, We Are Not Idle, A Test of Will, Dwarven Tomb

Planning: I don’t play anything. I can’t afford to play Gandalf, so I won’t be able to clear stage four this round. To complete it next round, it would really help if I cleared Hidden Path and travelled to the other copy of Hidden Path. I just hope that Smaug doesn’t attack often: 8 out of the 11 cards in the encounter deck have burgle effects.

Resources after Planning: Thorin Oakenshield – 8, Balin – 0, Ori – 1, Bilbo Baggins – 1

Dwarves in play: 11; Thorin has 2 damage and Dragon-Spell attached. Bilbo has 3 damage.

QUESTING

Commit Characters: I commit Bilbo, Balin, Ori, Nori, Glóin, Óin, Bifur and Bofur to the quest (keeping Thorin, Fili, Kili and Bombur back for combat) for a total of 14 willpower. I ready Bilbo with Fast Hitch. I could exhaust Narvi’s Belt for Spirit to enable A Test of Will, but I might need Thorin’s resources for Nori to clear Hidden Path. Based on what’s left in the encounter deck, I should clear it as long as I don’t get Fighting Among Friends.

Staging: Croaking Crows (1 threat), which surges into Belching Fire. Kili (1 defense, 2 hit points) defends against Smaug (8 attack) and dies. I want to keep Bombur ready as a possible defender, so I spend Ori’s resource to boost Nori’s willpower.

Resolution: I have 15 willpower committed against 14 threat, so I clear Hidden Path.

TRAVEL

I exhaust Bilbo’s Magic Ring and raise my threat by one to give Bilbo a resource. This means Bilbo won’t be able to defend against Smaug, but I need to travel to Hidden Path if I want to complete stage four next turn. I spend 2 Baggins resources to travel to Hidden Path. I then proceed to combat with Smaug and the Croaking Crows that engage me. I can afford two attacks by Smaug, sacrificing Fili and Bombur. A third attack would kill a hero.

COMBAT

Enemy attacks: Fili (1 defense, 2 hit points) defends against Smaug (8 attack). The shadow card, Dark Bats, attaches to Fili and Fili is destroyed. Fortunately, Smaug only attacks once. Bilbo (3 defense, 1 remaining hit point) defends against Croaking Crows (1 attack). There’s no reason to use Sting, since no shadow card left in the encounter deck would harm me, and I’d prefer to delay recycling cards like Weighed Down and Dragon-Spell from the encounter discard pile. The shadow card, Fighting among Friends, increases their attack to 2 and Bilbo is unharmed.

Player attack: Thorin (3 attack) kills Croaking Crows (1 defense, 2 hitpoints). I then Refresh, raising my threat to 42. I exhaust Self Preservation, healing 2 damage from Thorin. He now has no damage.

Smaug did not see the almost-shut hidden door, but he could guess from the tunnel’s direction roughly where the secret entrance must be, and was licking the nearby mountain-side with flame. Huddled in the tunnel with the dwarves, Bilbo thought back to Gandalf telling him, on the border of Mirkwood, “You will have to look after these dwarves for me.” Another image came to him, unbidden: the night of the unexpected party in Bag End, Gandalf had said to them, “The dragon and the Mountain are more than big enough tasks for you.” Bilbo had no idea how to accomplish these tasks, but he found some confidence in knowing that Gandalf had chosen him for them. At that moment a blast of fire struck the door, and Kili, who was near the crack, was singed and jumped back. In his rage and frustration, Smaug smote the mountain-side with his massive tail, and the walls of the tunnel trembled. A stone dislodged from the tunnel ceiling, and it fell on Fili and Kili, knocking them both unconscious. Just then Smaug saw the ponies, which had broken free of their ropes in the camp below and were fleeing in terror. He left the mountain-side and swooped down to hunt them. Ori tended to Fili and Kili as Bilbo waited by the crack, listening. After a few minutes he opened the crack wider. Smaug was nowhere in sight, but a sinister-looking crow flew at Bilbo before Thorin angrily struck it down.

ROUND 12 (11 threat in staging area, 0/7 progress on 4B, Active Location – Hidden Path, 42 threat)

PREPARATION

Resources: Thorin Oakenshield – 10, Balin – 1, Ori – 1, Bilbo Baggins – 1

Draw: Healing Herbs, Sneak Attack. I use King Under the Mountain, keeping We Are Not Idle and discarding Bofur.

New Hand: Óin (Longbeard Elder), Fili, Kili, Bombur, Dori, Nori (Longbeard Map-Maker), Gandalf x2, Narvi’s Belt, Unexpected Courage, Healing Herbs, Legacy of Durin, Thrór’s Battle Axe, We Are Not Idle x2, Sneak Attack, A Test of Will, Dwarven Tomb

Planning: Luck is favouring me, both in Smaug’s shadow cards and in my draws. If I draw Lure of Moria soon, I’ll have a decent chance of getting more treasures. I exhaust Narvi’s Belt, choose Spirit, and play Kili, searching my deck for Fili and putting him into play. Thorin takes 3 damage. I play Healing Herbs on Ori. When I can afford to use them, Thorin will be able to have some willpower again. I should be able to complete stage four this round.

Resources after Planning: Thorin Oakenshield – 7, Balin – 1, Ori – 1, Bilbo Baggins – 1

Dwarves in play: 11; Thorin has 3 damage and Dragon-Spell attached. Bilbo has 3 damage.

QUESTING

Commit Characters: I spend a resource from Thorin to sneak attack Gandalf, drawing Durin’s Song, Sneak Atack, and A Good Harvest. Thorin takes a damage. I then commit everyone except for Thorin and Bombur to the quest, for a total of 20 willpower. Bilbo readies using Fast Hitch.

Desolation-of-SmaugStaging: Desolation of Smaug (3 threat, 3 quest points). Hidden Path lowers its threat to 2. I exhaust Bombur, lowering its threat to 1.

Resolution: I have 20 willpower committed against 12 threat, so I clear Hidden Path and complete stage four. I remove Smaug the Magnificent from play and add Smaug the Golden (X threat) to the staging area, resetting the quest deck to 2B. At the end of the phase, Gandalf returns to my hand.

TRAVEL

I travel to Desolation of Smaug. I exhaust Bilbo’s Magic Ring and raise my threat by one to give Bilbo a resource. I then proceed to Refresh, raising my threat to 44. I exhaust Self Preservation, healing 2 damage from Thorin.

Ori searched the supplies, looking for something to treat Fili and Kili, but the only herb he found was some pipeweed. Thorin bent over his nephews, and was relieved when they finally regained consciousness, healthy except for headaches. Bilbo, meanwhile, had slipped on his ring and left the tunnel to look around outside. Dragon fire had destroyed all visible life around him, but there was no sign of Smaug. He called down to Dori and Dwalin, and was pleased to hear that they were safe. They let Bilbo know that they would make their way up to the narrow ledge and rejoin the company, so Bilbo went back into the tunnel. The dwarves were debating how to deal with Smaug. They could not think of a way to get rid of him, and began to grumble at Bilbo for stirring up Smaug’s wrath. “What else do you suppose a burglar is to do?” asked Bilbo angrily. “I was not engaged to kill dragonsthat is warrior’s workbut to steal treasure. Smaug, by the way, pointed out that treasure is useless without safe delivery home, and Bag End is a long and dangerous road away.” The dwarves quickly apologized, and Thorin said, “We are more than grateful to you, and you shall choose your own fourteenth of the treasure. I am sorry if you are worried about transport, but we will do whatever we can for you.” He looked distressed, and Bilbo could not be sure whether that was because he had offended Bilbo or because he had offered Bilbo first choice of the treasure.

ROUND 13 (6 threat in staging area, 0 progress tokens on Smaug the Golden, 3 treasures under The Lonely Mountain, Active Location – Desolation of Smaug, 44 threat)

PREPARATION

Resources: Thorin Oakenshield – 8, Balin – 2, Ori – 2, Bilbo Baggins – 3

Draw: King Under the Mountain, Ring Mail. I use King Under the Mountain, keeping A Test of Will and discarding Dwalin. There’s another copy of Dwalin in my deck, or I can use Dwarven Tomb to retrieve him.

New Hand: Óin (Longbeard Elder), Fili, Bombur, Dori, Nori (Longbeard Map-Maker), Gandalf x2, Narvi’s Belt, King Under the Mountain, Unexpected Courage, Ring Mail, Legacy of Durin, Thrór’s Battle Axe, We Are Not Idle x2, Durin’s Song, Sneak Attack, A Test of Will x2, Dwarven Tomb, A Good Harvest

Planning: I’ll wait a round for Lure of Moria before burgling again. I currently don’t need Gandalf’s willpower to quest successfully, but that will change after I get another treasure. I exhaust Narvi’s Belt, choose Lore, and spend 2 resources from Thorin and 1 from Ori to play Dori. Thorin takes 2 damage.

Resources after Planning: Thorin Oakenshield – 6, Balin – 2, Ori – 1, Bilbo Baggins – 3

Dwarves in play: 12; Thorin has 4 damage and Dragon-Spell attached. Bilbo has 3 damage.

QUESTING

Commit Characters: I commit Bilbo, Balin, Ori, Nori, Glóin, Óin, and Bofur to the quest, for a total of 13 willpower. Smaug now has 6 threat. I use Óin’s response, looking at Belching Fire. Óin gets -1 willpower. Bilbo readies with Fast Hitch.

Staging: Belching Fire. Bilbo (3 defense, 1 hit point remaining) defends against Smaug (6 attack). I exhaust Bilbo’s Magic Ring and raise my threat by 3 to cancel all damage from the attack. Belching Fire gains surge from Desolation of Smaug’s effect, and I reveal Great Hall (4 threat, 4 quest points). Bombur exhausts, nullifying Great Hall’s threat.

Resolution: I have 12 willpower committed against 12 threat, so I break even. I proceed to Refresh, raising my threat to 48. I exhaust Self Preservation, healing 2 damage from Thorin.

I will make you an offer,” Bilbo said to the dwarves, who were at a loss for what to do next. “In a few hours Smaug ought to be napping, and I will creep down, perhaps burgle, and see what turns up. ‘Every worm has his weak spot,’ my father used to say, though not from personal experience.” The dwarves were happy to accept, and Bilbo decided to rest before heading down. As he dozed off, he heard Thorin murmuring in a mesmerized voice, “The Arkenstone, Heart of the Mountain! It was like a globe with a thousand facets; it shone like silver in the firelight, like water in the sun, like snow under the stars, like rain upon the Moon!” Bilbo awoke when Dori arrived in the early afternoon. Dori had brought some supplies along the ledge, and Dwalin was following with more food. Bilbo’s burns were still painful, but he felt ready to head back down. The dwarves wished him luck, and for the third time he travelled stealthily down the tunnel. When he reached the end of the tunnel, wearing his ring, he looked at Smaug snoring and waited a long while before moving. When he was sure that Smaug’s eye was fully closed, he crept into the hall. Suddenly Smaug belched in his sleep, and a ball of fire (with a faint smell of ponies) jetted towards Bilbo. He jumped behind a nearby pillar, and the fire missed him. He stayed behind the pillar for a short while, and then peeped out. Smaug was still asleep, snoring.

ROUND 14 (10 threat in staging area, 0 progress tokens on Smaug the Golden, 3 treasures under The Lonely Mountain, Active Location – Desolation of Smaug, 48 threat)

PREPARATION

Resources: Thorin Oakenshield – 8, Balin – 3, Ori – 2, Bilbo Baggins – 4

Draw: Glóin, Lure of Moria. I use King Under the Mountain, keeping Lure of Moria and discarding Bifur. Excellent!

New Hand: Glóin, Óin (Longbeard Elder), Fili, Bombur, Nori (Longbeard Map-Maker), Gandalf x2, Narvi’s Belt, King Under the Mountain, Unexpected Courage, Ring Mail, Legacy of Durin, Thrór’s Battle Axe, We Are Not Idle x2, Lure of Moria x2, Durin’s Song, Sneak Attack, A Test of Will x2, Dwarven Tomb, A Good Harvest

Planning: I play We Are Not Idle and exhaust all dwarves to give Ori 12 resources, drawing Dwarrowdelf Axe. I spend 2 resources from Thorin and 1 from Balin to play Lure of Moria, readying all dwarves. Thorin takes 2 damage (1 hit point remaining). I discard Healing Herbs and exhaust Ori to heal Thorin completely. I play We Are Not Idle and exhaust all the other dwarves to give Ori 11 resources, drawing Gandalf. I spend 2 resources from Thorin and 1 from Balin to play Lure of Moria. Thorin takes 2 damage. I’m now in a good position to get all the treasures.

Resources after Planning: Thorin Oakenshield – 4, Balin – 1, Ori – 25, Bilbo Baggins – 4 Dwarves in play: 12; Thorin has 2 damage and Dragon-Spell attached. Bilbo has 3 damage.

QUESTING

Commit Characters: I use one of Thorin’s resources to sneak attack Gandalf, lowering my threat to 43. Dori exhausts to take the damage that Thorin would have taken (2 hit points remaining). I commit Bilbo, Balin, Ori, Nori, Glóin, Óin, Bofur and Gandalf to the quest, for a total of 17 willpower. Smaug now has 7 threat. Looking through the encounter discard pile, I calculate that three out of the four remaining cards in the encounter deck are locations. I use Óin’s response, looking at Known to an Ounce. Óin gets -1 willpower. Bilbo readies with Fast Hitch.

Staging: Known to an Ounce. I randomly discard Óin (Longbeard Elder) and Legacy of Durin. Known to an Ounce gains surge from Desolation of Smaug’s effect, and I reveal Great Hall (4 threat, 4 quest points). Bombur exhausts, nullifying the threat from one copy of Great Hall. I spend four of Ori’s resources to boost Nori’s willpower.

Resolution: I have 20 willpower committed against 17 threat. I quest successfully, so I put a progress token on Smaug the Golden and I make a burgle attempt, discarding Western Slopes:Great-Hall I have to discard two cards that match the revealed card’s sphere. I shuffle my deck and reveal Dwalin. I discard Unexpected Courage and a copy of A Test of Will, and the burgle attempt is successful. I take The Arkenstone into my hand and remain at stage two. I clear Desolation of Smaug. At the end of the phase, Gandalf returns to my hand.

TRAVEL

I travel to one copy of Great Hall. I proceed to Refresh, raising my threat to 44. I exhaust Self Preservation, healing 2 damage from Thorin. At the end of the round, Great Hall’s forced effect has me put a second progress token on Smaug.

At the top of the tunnel, Thorin was tense and scowling, muttering about treasure, Bilbo, destruction and Smaug. Working with the other dwarves, Ori took the supplies they had managed to save from dragon-fire out of the tunnel and organized them. Dori found a pipe they had received in Lake-town, and Ori offered it to Thorin with the pipeweed. Thorin lit it, and after blowing a few smoke-rings he relaxed a bit. “The map, the key and luck have brought us this far,” he said, looking at his grandfather’s axe. “We may find a way to beat Smaug yet.” Bilbo, meanwhile, noiselessly crept towards the great mound of treasure and Smaug. Smaug’s scales seemed impenetrably hard and thick, but Bilbo was hoping to get a good look at his under-covering, where he’d glimpsed that there were no scales. Bilbo reached the treasure mound, and suddenly a great white gem caught his eye. It had its own inner light, silvery in Smaug’s glow, and yet it captured the golden-red light that fell upon it and changed it into ten thousand sparks of white radiance, shot with glints of the rainbow. Bilbo realized from Thorin’s description that this marvellous globe was the Arkenstone. He stood motionless, almost transfixed, and part of him wondered whether Smaug would sense the theft and awake if he took it. Suddenly he reached out, took it, and put it in his deepest pocket. The rumble of Smaug’s snoring changed its note, and he stirred slightly. “Now I am a burglar indeed!” thought Bilbo. “I must tell the dwarves about it some time, but Thorin said I could choose my share. I would choose this, if they took all the rest!”

ROUND 15 (12 threat in staging area, 2 progress tokens on Smaug the Golden, 2 treasures under The Lonely Mountain, Active Location – Great Hall, 44 threat)

PREPARATION

Resources: Thorin Oakenshield – 5, Balin – 2, Ori – 22, Bilbo Baggins – 5

Draw: Dwalin, We Are Not Idle. I use King Under the Mountain, keeping Dawn Take You All and discarding King Under the Mountain. My deck is now empty, so I need to play Will of the West to be able to burgle.

New Hand: Glóin, Fili, Dwalin, Bombur, Nori (Longbeard Map-Maker), Gandalf x3, Narvi’s Belt, King Under the Mountain, Dwarrowdelf Axe, Ring Mail, Thrór’s Battle Axe, The Arkenstone, We Are Not Idle, Durin’s Song, Dawn Take You All, A Test of Will, Dwarven Tomb, A Good Harvest

Planning: I exhaust Narvi’s Belt and choose Spirit. I use a resource from Thorin to play Dwalin, completing the company. Dori exhausts to take the damage that Thorin would have taken (1 hit point remaining). I play Dwarven Tomb, retrieving Will of the West, and then Will of the West, shuffling my 19 card discard pile into my deck. Thorin takes 2 damage. I then use 2 resources from Thorin, 1 from Balin, and 2 from Ori to play Gandalf, lowering my threat to 39. Thorin takes two more damage (1 hit point remaining, 3 willpower!).

Resources after Planning: Thorin Oakenshield – 0, Balin – 1, Ori – 20, Bilbo Baggins – 5

Dwarves in play: 13! Thorin has 4 damage and Dragon-Spell attached. Dori has 2 damage and Bilbo has 3 damage.

QUESTING

Commit Characters: I commit Bilbo, Thorin, Balin, Ori, Nori, Glóin, Óin, Bofur and Gandalf to the quest, for a total of 20 willpower. Smaug now has 8 threat. Since I know the last card in the encounter deck is a location, I use Óin’s response, looking at Secret Entrance. I place 1 progress token on Great Hall. Bilbo readies with Fast Hitch.

Staging: Secret Entrance (1 threat, 1 quest point). The encounter discard pile is shuffled into a new encounter deck. Bombur exhausts to nullify the threat of Great Hall.

Resolution: I have 20 willpower committed against 17 threat. I quest successfully, so I put a third progress token on Smaug the Golden and I make a burgle attempt, discarding Dragon-Spell and then Thrór's-Golden-CupPretending to Sleep: I have to discard two cards that match the revealed card’s type. I shuffle my deck and reveal Sneak Attack. I discard We Are Not Idle and A Good Harvest, and the burgle attempt is successful. I take Thrór’s Golden Cup into my hand and remain at stage two. I clear Great Hall.

TRAVEL

I exhaust Bilbo and choose location in an attempt to travel to Secret Entrance. I usually don’t attempt travelling to Secret Entrance, but I have A Test of Will in case a nasty treachery appears. There are slightly more treacheries than locations in the encounter deck. If I chose treachery and a location were revealed, however, I would add to the total threat in the staging area. I reveal Hidden Path (3 threat, 1 quest point), add it to the staging area, and successfully travel to Secret Entrance. The Lonely Mountain’s threat is now 5. I then proceed to Refresh, raising my threat to 40. I exhaust Self Preservation, healing 2 damage from Thorin.

Bilbo looked up at Smaug. Smaug had shifted slightly when Bilbo had taken the Arkenstone, and now his under-covering was fully hidden by treasures. Disappointed, Bilbo looked around, and then noticed a blackened dwarf skeleton in a corner of the hall. He remembered Thorin’s description of Smaug’s ruinous attack on the Lonely Mountain and Dale, and seeing the unburied bones of one of the many who perished that day kindled his anger against Smaug. Even if it seemed hopeless, he would look for something that could help to defeat Smaug. He waited for a good while, hoping that Smaug would move in his sleep and expose his under-covering, but Smaug lay still. Finally he realized that the dwarves must be worried about him. He decided to burgle something magnificent for the dwarves before coming back, especially since he uncomfortably felt that Thorin’s offer to choose his own share was not meant to include the Arkenstone. He took a two-handled jewel-encrusted golden cup, as heavy as he could carry, and quietly hurried back up the tunnel. When he reached the secret door, he saw that Dwalin had arrived with food, and Dori had prepared a simple meal for Thorin and the full company. The dwarves were delighted to see Bilbo and the cup, although Bilbo said, “Thank you for dinner, but we won’t be safe until we do something about Smaug. I haven’t found a weak spot yet, but he’s sleeping soundly, so I must head back down.”

ROUND 16 (12 threat in staging area, 3 progress tokens on Smaug the Golden, 1 treasure under The Lonely Mountain, Active Location – Secret Entrance, 40 threat)

PREPARATION

Resources: Thorin Oakenshield – 2, Balin – 2, Ori – 21, Bilbo Baggins – 6

Draw: Sneak Attack, Legacy of Durin. I use King Under the Mountain, keeping Unexpected Courage and discarding Bifur.

New Hand: Glóin, Fili, Bombur, Nori (Longbeard Map-Maker), Gandalf x2, Narvi’s Belt, King Under the Mountain, Unexpected Courage, Dwarrowdelf Axe, Ring Mail, Legacy of Durin, Thrór’s Battle Axe, The Arkenstone, Thrór’s Golden Cup, Durin’s Song, Sneak Attack, Dawn Take You All, A Test of Will

Planning: I play Thrór’s Golden Cup on Thorin and add it to the victory display, drawing Kili, We Are Not Idle and Dwarven Tomb. I use 2 resources from Bilbo, 1 from Thorin and 2 from Ori to play Gandalf, lowering my threat to 35. Thorin takes 1 damage, and I have enough resources left to play A Test of Will (if needed) and Dawn Take You All. I’m ready to complete stage two.

Resources after Planning: Thorin Oakenshield – 1, Balin – 2, Ori – 19, Bilbo Baggins – 4

Dwarves in play: 13; Thorin has 3 damage and Dragon-Spell attached. Dori has 2 damage and Bilbo has 3 damage.

QUESTING

Commit Characters: I commit Bilbo, Thorin, Balin, Ori, Nori, Glóin, Óin, Bofur and Gandalf to the quest, for a total of 19 willpower. Smaug now has 8 threat. Bilbo readies with Fast Hitch.

Staging: Known to an Ounce. I don’t want to risk losing Dawn Take You All, so I cancel it with A Test of Will. Bombur exhausts to nullify the threat of Great Hall.

Resolution: I have 19 willpower committed against 16 threat. I quest successfully, so I put a fourth progress token on Smaug the Golden and I make a burgle attempt, discarding Western Slopes: I have to discard two cards that match the revealed card’s sphere. I shuffle my deck and reveal Fili. I discard King Under the Mountain and Glóin, and the burgle attempt is successful. I take Thrór’s Hunting Bow into my hand and advance to 3A, adding Smaug the Magnificent (6 threat) and A Bare Patch to the staging area. I clear Secret Entrance and place 2 progress tokens on 3B, for a total of 2/20.

TRAVEL

I travel to The Lonely Mountain, which can leave the staging area because there are no longer treasures under it. I proceed to combat with Smaug the Magnificent, who is engaged with me.

COMBAT

I use Thorin and Balin’s resources to play Dawn Take You All, discarding Smaug’s shadow card, Belching Fire. Thorin takes a damage (1 hit point remaining). Bilbo (3 defense, 1 remaining hit point) defends against Smaug (8 attack). I exhaust Bilbo’s Magic Ring and raise my threat by 3 to cancel all damage from the attack. I then proceed to Refresh, raising my threat to 39. I exhaust Self Preservation, healing 2 damage from Thorin. At the end of the round, Gandalf leaves play.

After giving the cup to Thorin, who became absorbed in admiring the cup’s detailed carvings, Bilbo retraced his steps down the tunnel. When he reached its end he warily looked out: Smaug lay as he had before, with his under-covering hidden. Bilbo saw a great bow of horn hanging high on the wall nearby, and it ocurred to him that a bow might serve as a deperate last defence if Smaug attacked the company. He crept over to the bow and stretched out his arms to take it down, but the string caught on the hook and twanged as he pulled it down. Immediately Smaug’s eyes flew open. He noticed the missing bow and shot a jet of flame in that direction. Bilbo, however, had invisibly dashed back to the opening, spurred on by the cool breeze and bright sun he knew were at the tunnel’s other end.

Then Smaug spoke: “Well, thief! Stealing my treasure is a dangerous business.” Bilbo had an idea, and said, “O Smaug the Tremendous, treasure is nothing compared to seeing you, who far surpass what the tales say.” Somewhat flattered, Smaug said, “You have nice manners for a thief, but I don’t seem to remember smelling you before. Who are you, and where do you come from?” Warming to the occasion, Bilbo answered, “I come from under the hill, and under hills and over the hills my paths led. I am he that walks unseen, the stinging fly. I am Ringwinner and Luckwearer; and I am Barrel-rider.” “Lovely titles!” sneered Smaug, thinking of Lake-town’s trade in barrels and resolving to punish them for involvement in the theft. “Maybe Barrel was your pony’s name, but from the taste of their ponies, your friends are dwarves. I suppose they are skulking outside, while your job is to do all the dangerous work, and then you’ll get a fair share of gold? Don’t you believe it!” Bilbo now felt really uncomfortable, and whenever Smaug’s roving eye flashed across him, an unaccountable desire seized hold of him to rush out and reveal himself. Plucking up courage, however, he said, “Not gold alone brought us hither, O Smaug the Mighty.”

ROUND 17 (13 threat in staging area, 2/20 progress on 3B, Active Location – The Lonely Mountain, 39 threat)

PREPARATION

Resources: Thorin Oakenshield – 2, Balin – 1, Ori – 20, Bilbo Baggins – 5

Draw: Fili, Bofur. I use King Under the Mountain, keeping Lure of Moria and discarding Lure of Moria. I use Balin’s resource to sneak attack Gandalf during the resource phase, lowering my threat to 34.

New Hand: Filix2, Kili, Bofur, Bombur, Nori (Longbeard Map-Maker), Gandalf, Narvi’s Belt, Unexpected Courage, Dwarrowdelf Axe, Ring Mail, Legacy of Durin, Thror’s Battle Axe, The Arkenstone, Thrór’s Hunting Bow, We Are Not Idle, Lure of Moria, Durin’s Song, Dwarven Tomb

Planning: I play We Are Not Idle and exhaust all dwarves to give Balin 13 resources, drawing King Under the Mountain. I spend 3 of Balin’s resources to play Lure of Moria. I then spend 5 of Balin’s resources to play Gandalf, lowering my threat to my starting level of 29. I play Dwarven Tomb, retrieving A Test of Will from my discard pile.

Resources after Planning: Thorin Oakenshield – 2, Balin – 4, Ori – 20, Bilbo Baggins – 5

Dwarves in play: 13; Thorin has 2 damage and Dragon-Spell attached. Dori has 2 damage and Bilbo has 3 damage.

QUESTING

Commit Characters: I exhaust Narvi’s Belt and choose Lore, and Thorin spends 2 resources to boost Nori’s willpower. Thorin takes 2 damage (1 hit point remaining) and has 3 willpower. I commit everyone to the quest except for Bombur, who exhausts to nullify Great Hall’s threat. I have a total of 27 willpower committed to the quest. Bilbo readies with Fast Hitch.

Staging: Western Slopes (2 threat, 5 quest points). Ori spends 5 resources to boost Nori’s willpower and I play Durin’s Song on Thorin.

A-Bare-PatchResolution: I have 34 willpower committed against 11 threat, so I quest successfully. In response to questing successfully, I use the ability of A Bare Patch to make a burgle attempt. I discard Belching Fire: I have to discard 1 card that matches the revealed card’s sphere and cost. I shuffle my deck and reveal We Are Not Idle. I use The Lonely Mountain’s ability, spending 2 Baggins resources to draw We Are Not Idle and reveal Dwalin. I discard Kili, and the burgle attempt is successful. I attach A Bare Patch to Smaug the Magnificent (now 5 defense). I clear The Lonely Mountain, adding it to my victory display, and place 19 progress on 3B, for a total of 21/20. Smaug the Magnificent has less than 21 hit points, so the Forced effect on 3B removes Smaug from play. I complete this stage, winning the game.

Indeed,” Bilbo continued determinedly, “gold was only an afterthought with us. We came over hill and under hill, by wave and wind, for Revenge. Surely you must realize that your success has made you some bitter enemies?” Smaug laughed, a devastating sound that shook Bilbo to the ground. “Revenge!” he snorted. “The King under the Mountain and Girion, Lord of Dale, are dead, and where are their kin that dare approach me? I kill where I wish and none dare resist. My armour is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!” “I have always understood,” said Bilbo in a frightened squeak, “that dragons were softer underneath.” “Your information is antiquated,” Smaug snapped. “I am armoured above and below with iron scales and hard gems. No blade can pierce me.” “There is no equal to Smaug the Impenetrable,” said Bilbo, hoping to finally get a closer view of the dragon’s chest. “What magnificence to possess a waistcoat of fine diamonds!” “Yes, it is rare and wonderful, indeed,” said Smaug, absurdly pleased as he rolled over. “Look! What do you say to that?” “Flawless! Staggering!” exclaimed Bilbo, while noticing a large bare patch in the hollow of his left breast. As quickly and quietly as he could manage, he stole back up the tunnel, and was soon beyond the reach of Smaug’s flames.

When Bilbo reached the dwarves, who had now placed their organized supplies safely in the upper part of the tunnel, they added the bow to their growing pile of treasure, hoping to recover all the rest. They had heard Smaug’s laugh, and wanted to know how Bilbo had escaped. Remembering his conversation with Smaug, Bilbo uncomfortably felt that he had said too much. The thrush who had knocked against the stone earlier was perched nearby with his head cocked, and Bilbo said crossly, “I believe the dratted bird is listening to us.” “Leave him alone,” said Thorin. “This may be one of the ancient breed of friendly and magical thrushes, used by the men of Dale as messengers to the men of the Lake.” Bilbo told the dwarves about the dragon’s bare patch, but confessed a nasty feeling that Smaug might have guessed from “Barrel-rider” that they had been helped in Lake-town.The thrush flew off as the sun set.

Bilbo felt a mounting tension as they all moved into the tunnel to stay hidden, and closed the door except for a crack. After a while, with everything quiet outside, Bilbo said to Thorin, “I fear that dragon in my marrow. I like this silence far less than the uproar of last night. Shut the door before it is too late!” Something in his voice made Thorin uneasy, and he slowly stood and pushed the door, which snapped shut. No trace of the keyhole remained; with the dragon’s lair below, the mountain might become their tomb. But Thorin had closed it just in time. A few moments later, a thunderous blow smote the side of the mountain, and stones fell from the top of the tunnel. Nori led the company hurrying down the tunnel as Smaug smashed the cliffs with his tail, creating an avalanche of rubble near the door, both outside and inside the tunnel. Óin lit a torch, and Bilbo looked around: aside from a few bruises, everyone had escaped the attack unharmed. Thorin stood before his grandfather’s cup, axe and bow, and had a strangely regal air for the circumstances. The smashing had stopped, and as Smaug flew towards Lake-town, the dwarves sang, “Under the Mountain dark and tall / The King has come unto his hall!”

CONCLUSION

There were several tense moments in this quest, especially around when I was at stage four. I had an excellent start, with key attachments and all of my questing allies (except Bofur) in play by round five. Dragon-Spell on Thorin slowed me down, and round 9 was exciting with four surges. They ended up being beneficial, since they resulted in The Lonely Mountain being only a manageable 6 threat when I was at stage four. (Stage four is almost impossible to avoid when aiming for all the treasures, which this deck can often get by boosting Nori.) I made a significant mistake when I killed Croaking Crows in round 9. If I had let them live, then Hidden Path (or any location) in round 10 would have made me advance to stage four before quest resolution. With the lower threat of Smaug the Magnificent, I could have cleared Desolation of Smaug without boosting Nori, and ultimately I could have completed stage four a round earlier, avoiding the risk of multiple attacks by Smaug in round 11. As it was, there was a 41.67% chance (6 in 9 encounter cards, times 5 in 8) of Smaug attacking at least three times and killing a hero, so luck definitely helped. There were a few rounds when I had access to just enough resources to clear the active location and avoid potential location lock. Will of the West was important in recycling powerful events, which helped me to regain control of the game. Dawn Take You All was effective insurance, and it prevented at least three additional attacks by Smaug in round 16. Fili and Kili were briefly sacrificed, but I finished the quest with the full company in play. Smaug in all his fury is headed to give battle to Lake-town, but the old thrush carries Bilbo’s crucial information to the heir of Girion, Bard the Bowman.

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From → Strategy

2 Comments
  1. lordofchance permalink

    That was a fine tale. The insert of the imagined text from the books brings like to the narative hinted at in the cards. Loved it. I do not recall my playthrough of this quest, but I know that it would have taken a better deck than mine to get all the treasures.

    Question : Do you write as you play? If so, do you employ a custom shorthand so as to minimize the impact on your involvement in the playthrough?

  2. Thanks for sharing. And showing the secret to getting the treasures. 17 rounds is intense I don’t think I’ve ever played a game past 12.

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