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Lost in the Fog: LOTR LCG Fellowship Event 2014 Report

by on October 13, 2014

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After several seasons of focusing organized play for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game exclusively around Nightmare quests, Fantasy Flight Games decided to change it up a bit by creating a special Fellowship event centered around a brand new quest, Fog on the Barrow-Downs. We’ve seen scenarios created for special events at the past four instances of Gen Con, but this is the first time we’ve seen a quest created just for a special event outside of Gen Con. While The Old Forest event was unveiled at Gen Con this past August, the Fellowship 2014 event, held this past weekend, October 10-12, at stores around the country and the world, continued the story with a trip through the Barrow Downs. Both of these quests can be integrated into the Campaign Mode introduced by The Black Riders, and it’s great to see the designers fill in the gaps of the story found in The Lord of the Rings and usually left out of game portrayals. Fortunately, my local game store, Games of Berkeley, was able to participate in the event, and 7 of us gathered to take on fierce wights in the chill fog of the Barrow Downs. I thought I’d share some of my experiences from the event, as well as some of the specific cards that make up the scenario. Warning: If you want to go into the quest with no knowledge of the quest, turn from the path now!

First off, let me say that this quest is quite challenging, at least in 3-player and 4-player. I’ll have to reserve my judgement on its solo difficulty until I can get to grips with it, but having played The Old Forest and this one, I have to say that Fog on the Barrow-Downs definitely gets the nod as the more challenging of the two and can be quite brutal. My impression is that with some very specific deck building, it should be possible to take it on and master it, but each group at the event played it twice and lost both games. So how does the quest itself work? Well, it starts out quite innocently and idyllically at the house of Tom Bombadil, where players are given a whole free turn to simply play cards and ignore the quest phase.

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While this is quite thematic and welcome, we all gave each other nervous looks when we saw that the first stage was freebie. When this game is nice to you, that always means it’s about to beat you over the head and dump you in the gutter. The next stage begins your quest through the Barrow-downs, which starts off innocently enough with all players questing together like normal, but it’s during quest stage 3 when things really start to get interesting…

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You might notice the stage mention something about a “Great Barrow”. This is one of the key locations in the game, as the 5 copies of the Great Barrow are shuffled into the deck during stage 3, and can emerge to separate players from one another as they get lost in the fog…

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We’ve seen quests before where players are separated into their own staging areas, from Foundations of Stone to Flies and Spiders to the brand new Breaking of the Fellowship. However, this is the first time we’ve seen this mechanic used as the result of an encounter card effect rather than a quest card effect. This is a subtle difference that may seem inconsequential but it actually ends us making the separation idea feel different and fresh. Each draw from the encounter deck felt absolutely tense during stage 3 because it represented the chance that a Great Barrow would be pulled. With 5 copies in the deck, it’s extremely likely that at least one Great Barrow will be revealed in multiplayer, but you never know who will be separated and when this will happen. I really enjoyed how this played out in practice, and when I was stranded and separated from my fellows, it really felt like I had been locked up in a barrow far away from hope and help.

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This is intensified by the actual text of the stage 4 that you move to after drawing a Great Barrow, which pulls out a Wight and discards some of your help in the form of allies. At a crucial point during our second game, I revealed a Great Barrow, which not only removed my characters and their willpower from the quest that everyone else was engaged in, but also added another wight to the two that were already engaged with me. Cut off from the others, facing three Wights, and left without allies due to another location which I’ll talk about in a second, all seemed lost for me (and indeed it was). Tom Bombadil did pop in….as a shadow, meaning he did the game equivalent of popping in to say hello while the Wights were busy dismembering me and popped out so they could finish their work in peace. I really hate that guy…

But moving on from flaky elder beings, I did mention a location that can take away your allies. The Great Barrow is not the only barrow in town:

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The Ancient Barrow steals an ally from each player and places them underneath itself. Fortunately, these allies can be rescued by exploring the location, but you do lose them for that time, and especially in multiplayer, these barrows can really hurt if more than one hits in a row. In our 3-player game, we got one of these each round for three rounds in a row, undermining our board position in a big way. I have to say that I absolutely love the theme of this location, though, and how it plays out through the mechanics. The idea of your faithful allies getting taken by the wights and trapped in a barrow, but with the opportunity to have your own Bombadil moment and rescue them, is amazing. Of course, if it’s just an old Snowbourn Scout stuck in there, he just might be out of luck. I’ll be sipping ale at The Prancing Pony while the Scout is still waiting for rescue.

I’ve talked a ton about wights so far, but haven’t showed any yet.

 

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Truth be told, these aren’t necessarily the toughest enemies we’ve seen in the game, although they do tend to have a healthy number of hit points. However, there are a few factors that make them rather formidable. First, there seem to be an unending supply of them in the encounter deck, and encounter card and quest card effects seem to be constantly pulling more out as well, making it difficult to really get control of the situation, at least in 3 or 4-player games. Second, these enemies are really not forgiving of a chump blocking strategy. I intentionally went into this scenario as blind as possible so that I could enjoy any surprises, and so my mono-Leadership deck based around sacrificing allies to ready Imrahil and gain cards and resources through characters leaving play, did not work out quite as well as I hoped. Each wight punishes you in a different way for destroying a character, from discarding resources to discarding cards to raising threat. The last effect is the worst of them all, as threat gain is perhaps the biggest obstacle in this scenario. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt a quest really put substantial pressure on the threat dial, so it was nice, in a masochistic way, to have to worry about this once more. Thematically, I can understand this as the heroes gradually losing their way and the wights pulling them more and more under their control until all is completely lost. The third factor that makes the wights challenging is that your normal plans for defense might suddenly be thrown out the window.

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In The Stone of Erech, undead enemies had the Spectral keyword, which required players to attack using willpower instead of attack. There was some speculation before this event that since wights are also undead, that this keyword might return. This ended up not being the case, as wights are apparently a bit more substantial than the oathbreakers of Erech, and can be destroyed through conventional means, but there is a twist on the Spectral idea here, with the North Downs forcing characters to defend with willpower instead of defense while it is in the staging area. While this worked out well for the mono-Spirit player at our table, who suddenly could use Eowyn with Favor of the Lady as a 5 willpower tank, the mono-Tactics deck I used for our first game was not so pleased. My Defender of Rammas and Winged Guardian could only look on in complete futility before being fed to the wights. Fortunately, the location can be explored to get rid of this effect, but it can create some interesting strategic decisions. I also like the idea of the characters having to resist the wights using their willpower rather than conventional defense.

Finally, this brings us to some horrible, horrible treacheries.

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The Chill Fog discards all resources in play. Since this happens during staging, this may or may not be harmful depending upon your tendency and ability to stockpile cash between rounds. However, the more damaging part of this effect is that players have to raise their threat by the number of resources discarded. We did have a couple of instances where only 1 resource was discarded, meaning that we all only had to raise our threat by 1, which was just enough to prevent Chill Fog from surging, but harmless enough to make us all smile. In another case, though, this would’ve raised all our threat dials by more than 10! Fortunately, we were able to Eleanor this treachery away in that case, but the potential is definitely there.

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Frozen by Fear was a treachery that we scoffed at the first time it appeared, as it happened early enough in the game that losing the ability to trigger Action or Response effects was not that big a deal. However, we soon learned just how dreadful this card could really be, from blocking crucial readying effects (say goodbye to Imrahil and Sam’s help!)  to stopping resource generation to almost everything else under the sun, except for passive effects. Frozen by Fear essentially cuts the legs out under most decks for the duration of a round, and this can be completely devastating if it hits at the wrong time.

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Our final spoiler is Dreadful Song. A difficult quest wouldn’t be complete without a terrible Condition attachment. This one reduces an attached hero’s willpower to 0, which combines nastily with North Downs. The worst part of this is that it attaches to a questing hero, which means it will probably be going on a hero with at least decent willpower, but if you are only questing with a strong character like Eowyn, can be completely infuriating. If this wasn’t enough, it also forces you to raise your threat by an additional 1 at the end of each round for each wight engaged with you. This is perhaps the worst part of this treachery, and when combined with other effects, makes threating out the real danger in this scenario.

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As for the event itself, this was the first official LOTR LCG event in the Bay Area that I’m aware of (I could be wrong on this point, let me know if I am!), which is staggering considering the population of the area. The group was a mix of experienced players and newer players, some with access to only a limited card pool. However, the atmosphere was all about cooperation and community, and all worked together to try to conquer the scenario. Although we were all thoroughly victimized, plenty of laughs and good times were had, which is the most important part. I did not spoil every single card in this report, but for those who are interested, I’ll post the rest up in various forums/places. I hope that all get to experience an event like this in the future, and I sincerely hope that this Fellowship model of organized play becomes a new norm for the game. A sincere thanks to those who attended, Games of Berkeley for hosting, and Matt and Caleb for designing a fantastic scenario!

 

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28 Comments
  1. Luis Fernández permalink

    Any boon or burden for campaing mode in this pack?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      There’s a boon you can earn, Ho! Tom Bombadil!, which is a song that is essentially a one-time use A Test of Will (it cancels the “when revealed” effects of an encounter card and is then removed from the campaign pool).

  2. Hey do me hearty!

  3. Great article! I couldn’t make it to the event in my area unfortunately. Looks like a great quest! Very thematic 🙂

  4. The Fellowship Event in Washington DC at Labyrinth Games was a blast. We had about 12 players I think. Mix of experience levels. Most of the attempts at Fog on the Barrow-Downs failed, definitely a difficult adventure! But the theme and mechanics as described in this article were very well captured and conveyed to the players.

    We did have one 4 player game beat it though!

    Many thanks to all of those involved in making an event like this available to the players. Looking forward to the next one.

  5. Joe permalink

    I was at the event at FFG in Minnesota.

    Chill fog hurt us too, but I think each player resolves it based on the number of resources they lose. I don’t think it’s a cumulative amount.

    We made a couple mistakes too, and we still died (threated out) One our players had a imrahil/eomer deck that was great for killing wights, but the chump strategy was painful.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Ah yes, you’re right, careful reading is a faithful friend! One of the issues in this quest is that once one player threats out, it pretty much ends it for everyone due to the clause on 3B.

  6. Having played this both four player and solo, I would say that solo it is not difficult at all, as long as your heroes have enough native willpower to get out of Great Barrows. If most of your willpower comes from allies, when you go to the Barrow you will be forced to discard most/all of them. I won with a Sam/Merry/Pippin deck that uses card draw + Protector of Lorien + Celebrian’s Stone to boost Sam’s willpower up pretty high.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Hmm, interesting. I’m definitely hoping to give it a try solo sometime soon. I can see how this quest would be much more difficult multiplayer than solo, just based on how everything scales. I will say that this is definitely a quest that favors building up heroes over relying on allies too much.

      • I would think it would be a relative cakewalk with one deck. Solo decks are always isolated, and less wights in play means fewer global effects, and fewer treacheries. This one is probably best with 2-3 players. 4 was incredible hard.

  7. How do you get rid of Great Barrow? Or is it stuck in the staging area for ever?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      When a player finishes stage 4 and escapes from the Barrow, then they get to place a progress token on a Great Barrow back at stage 3 to represent them escaping and clearing it. Pretty cool mechanic.

  8. Good time at my FLGS The Wandering Dragon in Palinfield, IL. We had one 4-player session and then a 3-player session on Easy.Never got past 2B either time. Tough!

  9. Psychorocka permalink

    Wow this quest looks amazing, and the art looks even better!!!!
    Thanks so much for the spoilers and review =)

  10. Jeremy permalink

    I will rant for the last time. I really think FFG dropped the ball big time on this event. I feel like LOTR is growing very nicely and the community is amazing. With that, the GenCon event and this one went hand in hand and to not promote this event was a great disservice IMHO. I have only been playing for about 4 months or so, but I feel like I’ve already seen this game growing in both interest and people coming out of solo play to join the community and this event could have pushed it further. So i’m not understanding why FFG left it to the community to promote the event. I can’t imagine it would have been that difficult to post a thread giving the locations. Love the game, and I think Matt and Caleb are doing an amazing job, just feel like the ball was dropped, stabbed, thrown into the fires of Mount Doom big time on this one.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks for sharing this perspective. You’re definitely not the only person I’ve heard this from, and I agree that this event seemed like the perfect opportunity to promote the game in a major way. Although I love the nightmare quests, I’ve shared elsewhere (on the Grey Company ‘cast) that I don’t think Nightmare is necessarily the best way to create organized play for this game. A special event/quest like the Fellowship is more like it, and I’d like to see some special campaign mode kits as well. While everything worked out for my particular region, I do think you’re right that the ball was dropped somewhere along the way. It’s a shame as Matt and Caleb really created a fantastic quest, and this could’ve been a nice springboard to further promotion of the game.

  11. Silver Swan permalink

    Noone’s mentioned that this quest can be played in Easy mode, and that takes out some of the nastier cards, leaving only three copies of Great Barrow, one copy of Dreadful Song, etc. Since this quest is so hard multiplayer that would have helped new players get into the game without being completely overwhelmed.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s true. To be honest, I tend to forget about Easy mode since I’ve never played it, but I think it’s definitely an option. Fortunately, everyone seemed to have a good time despite losing, perhaps because the quest gave a feeling like we had a chance before it all went south.

  12. Mauziz permalink

    Speaking as one of those “new players” who joined in at Games of Berkeley last weekend, I thought this scenario was a blast! Very enjoyable, and I really hope that FFG continues to make these sorts of events (in place of or in addition to the nightmare events). Thanks for organizing this, it was great fun!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks for coming! I do hope that we get more Fellowship events in the future.

  13. Bleh! I didn’t really realize this was going on 😦 was there no such event in the Boston++ area?
    Is this quest obtainable, by purchase, from somewhere?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I’m not sure about Boston. Unfortunately, there was never an official list published. The quest isn’t available for purchase yet, but it will be available in the future (no release date yet). The folks over at the Cardboard of the Rings podcast are doing a giveaway of the quest sometime soon, so check out their Facebook page for more details!

  14. ShadowGhost permalink

    Please help me! I need some rule clarification on this awesome quest.
    What happens to the encounter cards, if the only player left in stage 3 is eliminated, while the other players are at their own separate stage 4?
    What happens if a quest or encounter card instructs me to search for a Wight enemy and put it into play, but all the Wights are already in play?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Hmm, your first question is quite an interesting one. I’m tempted to say that the encounter cards would simply stay at stage 3 until the other players can rejoin, but this one probably needs official clarification.

      As to the second question, if all Wights are in play, then you’re not able to put another one into play, so the effect simply fizzles out.

  15. Julianna permalink

    So I have a question about this since the 2015 Fellowship event is coming up and I’m intending to participate. I’m a newish player, limited card pool to just core + mirkwood cycle, and from reading this it seems that it is ok to be that newish player with limits. What I really want to know is what should we come prepared with to the event? Should we already have decks made and then try to mesh them with other people? Bring our collection and make decks right there? Since you went last year, I feel like you would have a good handle on what should be brought and how it generally ends up working.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Hi Julianna. Good question. The answer slightly depends on the group at the event you’ll be attending, but a safe bet is to build maybe 2 decks so you can choose the one that fits best with whoever you play with. Since your collection isn’t too large, you could bring along the rest of your cards in case you need to switch a hero out, or maybe just bring your heroes and a set of cards that you might want to add in at the last minute. Hope this helps!

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