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Campaign Mode: The Ring Goes South (Part 2)

by on November 19, 2014

 ring goes south

The time has come to embark upon the second leg of the official TftC Campaign Mode playthrough, beginning with The Road Darkens. Last time around, I went over some basic strategy regarding the quest and outlined the changes to my decks, including the major addition of Gandalf to replace Eowyn. Now our brave heroes will have to face packs of ferocious Wargs and a nameless creature from some forgotten age. Will they all survive? Will one of them finally fall? Or will the Ring itself find its way into the hands of the Enemy to the utter ruin of Middle-earth?  Read on to find out!

Part 3 – Session Report

When last we left our brave heroes, they were engaged in a race against time as they rushed Frodo to Rivendell after he was wounded on Weathertop by a Morgul blade. Aragorn proved both his leadership and ranger skills by navigating the company through the Ettenmoors in an attempt to throw off the pursuit, while Gandalf continued to appear at the most opportune moments, only to disappear once more. Bill the Pony 2.0 unfortunately met a tragic end, but the Beorn doppleganger appeared to help the company fend off the Nine, including the fearsome Witch-king. Samwise Gamgee displayed his brave heart, standing between Frodo and the Witch-king, and he received a savage wound for his trouble. All seemed lost as the Nazgul closed in, but the company refused to lose hope, making one last mad dash to safety or ruin. Aragorn carried Frodo as his life seeped away from him, while Glorfindel slung the wounded Sam over his shoulder. As the company passed the Bruinen, the waters of the river, under the command of Elrond, swept the Witch-king away, and forced the rest of the Nine to flee, routing them for the moment. With their pursuers defeated, Sam and Frodo were whisked to the halls of Rivendell.

After several weeks of rest, the ring-bearer, Frodo, and his faithful companion, Sam, have been healed. The Ring cannot tarry forever in Rivendell, however, and Elrond has summoned a council of the various peoples of Middle-earth to decide its ultimate fate.

Set-upThe-Council-of-Elrond-1AThe-Council-of-Elrond-1A

 

The scenario begins with a special stage 1 in place to represent the Council of Elrond. The true set-up for the scenario will only take place at the conclusion of the first planning phase, when the quest automatically advances to stage 2. The boons Anduril, Sting, Mithril Shirt, and Glamdring have been earned, however, and can be added to my decks. Each player can choose one to add to their hand, while the remaining boons are shuffled into the first player’s deck. Deck One will take Anduril into hand, while Deck Two will take Glamdring into hand, with Mithril Shirt and Sting shuffled into Deck One’s deck.

* Note: Anytime during combat that I don’t mention the shadow card, it means that there was no effect.

DECK ONE (Starting Threat – 31)

Heroes: Gandalf, Glorfindel, Aragorn

Starting Hand: Flame of Anor, Unexpected Courage, Flame of Anor, Silvan Refugee, Dúnedain Watcher (1 fewer card drawn due to Gandalf’s Delay) – Silvan Refugee on top of deck

Mulligan: Unexpected Courage, Wizard Pipe, Light of Valinor, A Test of Will, West Road Traveller – Gandalf’s Staff on top of deck

Thoughts: My first hand wasn’t great. It did have 2 copies of the always useful Flame of Anor, along with more readying in the form of Unexpected Courage, but it was lacking balance in the form of more useful allies. It also didn’t have Light of Valinor, which is still crucial for this deck to function smoothly out of the gate, as well as Wizard Pipe. The mulligan, on the other hand, turned out perfectly, as I ended up with both Light of Valinor and Wizard Pipe, while still keeping Unexpected Courage. I also now have treachery cancellation through A Test of Will and a useful 2 willpower ally.

DECK TWO (Starting Threat – 20)

Heroes: Merry, Sam, Pippin

Starting Hand: Hobbit Cloak, Sneak Attack, Bill the Pony, Elf-stone, Radagast’s Cunning (1 fewer card drawn due to Gandalf’s Delay)

Thoughts: While not a perfect draw, I’m happy overall with this opening hand. Mainly, Hobbit Cloak is too valuable an early grab to chance losing through a mulligan, as it makes Sam a viable defender from the very first turn. Bill the Pony is a decent free ally, if not spectacular, while Sneak Attack and Elf-stone will hopefully yield fruit later, although aren’t very useful at the moment.

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

**Staging Area – None**

DECK ONE PREPARATION (First Player) – 31 Threat

Resources: Gandalf – 1, Glorfindel – 1, Aragorn – 1, Frodo – 1

Draw: Gandalf’s Staff

New Hand: Unexpected Courage, Wizard Pipe, Light of Valinor, A Test of Will, West Road Traveller, Anduril, Gandalf’s Staff – Elrond’s Counsel on top of deck

Planning: If Deck One can keep up this kind of opening hand for the rest of the campaign, I should be just fine! First off, I’ll spend 1 resource from Glorfindel to attach Light of Valinor to him. Then, I will pay 1 from Aragorn to attach Wizard Pipe to Gandalf. Finally, I will pay 1 each from Gandalf and Frodo to play Gandalf’s Staff onto Gandalf. I will exhaust Gandalf’s Staff to add 1 resource to Glorfindel, so that he can use A Test of Will, if needed.

Resources After Planning: Gandalf – 0, Glorfindel – 1, Aragorn – 0, Frodo – 0

The members of the Council of Elrond sat around a large table. Glorfindel was there, resplendent in some fine robes and sitting at Elrond’s side. He looked every bit the mighty Elf lord that he was and wisdom shined in his eyes. Gandalf sat on the other side of Elrond. He looked a more understated figure, with his usual grey robes and his face lined with age and worry. Yet as he sat puffing thoughtfully upon his pipe, his staff by his side, his power seemed not the lesser, if perhaps of a different kind. Aragorn was there, too, having traded his ranger’s robes for more lordly attire.

DECK TWO PREPARATION – 20 Threat

Resources: Merry – 1, Sam – 1, Pippin – 1

Draw: Elrond

New Hand: Hobbit Cloak, Sneak Attack, Bill the Pony, Elf-stone, Radagast’s Cunning, Glamdring, Elrond

Planning: First, I will play Bill of Pony for free, which is the no-brainer move. Then, I will pay 1 from Sam to attach the Hobbit Cloak to him, setting up my defense for Deck Two. Finally, Merry and Pippin will each pay 1 to attach Glamdring to Gandalf. Deck One looks to be quite formidable in combat now, with Gandalf hitting for 5, Glorfindel hitting for 4 (with Valiant Warrior), and Aragorn hitting for 3.

Resources After Planning: Merry – 0, Sam – 0, Pippin – 0

While Merry, Sam, and Pippin were not invited to the Council, they stood eavesdropping just within earshot. Sam was dressed in his travel cloak, looking set to leave at a moment’s notice. The Elves had kindly gifted Sam with a pony to replace the ones he had lost, and Bill the Pony 3.0 stood snorting, a layer of bags already packed on his back. Merry and Pippin were hopeful that they would soon be leaving to return to The Shire and home, but Sam had a strange feeling that their quest was not yet done…

At the end of planning, the stage 1B text is resolved. Each deck is required to place 1 card faceup until 4 cards total are revealed in this way. This reveals Elrond’s Counsel and Silvan Refugee from Deck One, and Hobbit Cloak and Fast Hitch from Deck Two. This isn’t the greatest yield from Elrond’s Council that I’ve ever had, but it will do. I will choose to put Fast Hitch into play, attached to Merry. This allows for him to commit some extra willpower while still being available for attack. I will discard Hobbit Cloak, as there’s not much benefit to having another in play. Deck One will take Elrond’s Counsel into hand, as extra threat reduction is always welcome for that deck, while I will shuffle Silvan Refugee into Deck One. The Refugee is useful but not essential at this point.

After endless hours of debate, the Council came to a decision: the Ring must be taken to Mordor and cast into the flames from which it was made. Frodo made the fateful choice to continue his destiny as ring-bearer, stepping forward to take this burden to journey’s end. The Council then had to decide who else would join the company. Aragorn and Gandalf immediately volunteered as natural leaders of the expedition.

“For the Elves, Glorfindel will go with you, as he is one of the few that can challenge the Enemy’s servants,” Elrond intoned. Glorfindel stood and nodded towards Frodo, who immediately felt a bit better knowing the powerful elf lord would continue with their little company.

A stranger from the land of Gondor also volunteered, a man known as Boromir. He came to Rivendell seeking answers to a dream regarding a halfling and a Ring. Here he had found answers, although he had advised the council to use the Ring to fight Sauron. To represent the Dwarves, a familiar face and old friend of Bilbo’s would join the company. Dori had traveled with Gloin to Rivendell, seeking answers about their lost companion, Balin, and he decided to undertake the journey and become the sixth member of the fellowship. Although Eowyn had been a valuable member of the company thus far, Gandalf had counseled her to return to Rohan, explaining that her father was in dire need of her presence, and she would understand when she arrived at Edoras. Although she was reluctant to leave Frodo and the others, she knew that their paths might yet cross in the future.

“Who else shall join this fellowship of the Ring?” asked Elrond.

With that, Merry, Pippin, and Sam burst into the council. 

“We’re coming along, no matter what!” Sam exclaimed and Merry and Pippin nodded furiously, if nervously, in agreement. Elrond looked bemused, but Gandalf smiled warmly at them. 

“Then it’s settled,” the old wizard said. “Nine Walkers to match the Nine Riders of the Enemy.”

The final bit of business is to decide upon shuffling the Lust for the Ring burden into the encounter deck or raising the threat of each player’s deck by 5. I will continue my strategy of seeking to minimize burdens at all costs, so I will raise Deck One’s threat to 36 and Deck Two’s threat to 25. Then, I will advance to stage 2 – The Nine Walkers, with Redhorn Pass (4 threat, 6 quest points) becoming the active location. I also need to reveal cards until 4 threat is added to the staging area (twice the number of players).

Card 1Hills of Hollin (2 threat, 4 quest points): This location increases enemy engagement costs while it is active, which is a benefit, but raises threat for each damage on it when it is explored. Overall, this isn’t the worst draw possible.

Card 2Weight of the Ring: This old burden attaches to the ring-bearer and forces a choice at the beginning of each quest phase: exhaust the One Ring or reveal an additional encounter card. I’d rather not deal with this throughout the quest, just in case I want to use the Ring, so I’ll pay 1 to play A Test of Will to cancel it.

Card 3Eaten Alive: The burdens are out to play already. This forces the first player to deal 2 damage among heroes he controls (the number of players). I will therefore put 2 damage on Glorfindel, as he generally won’t be doing much defending, so losing hit points isn’t the worst thing for him at the moment.

Card 4 – Hills of Hollin (2 threat, 4 quest points): There are now 2 of these to deal with, which may mean that threat will become an issue at some point, especially with Deck One sitting at 36 threat already. Still, we now have 4 threat in the staging area and can move to the quest phase.

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

With 4 threat in the staging area, and threat already an issue, it will be important to maintain a good questing pace, while leaving enough characters back for any wargs that appear. I only have 1 ally on the board at the moment (Bill the Pony), which is another factor to consider. Deck One will commit Glorfindel (3 willpower), Gandalf (3 willpower), and Frodo Baggins (2 willpower) for a total of 8. Deck Two will commit Sam (3 willpower), Merry (2 willpower, uses Fast Hitch to ready), and Pippin (2 willpower) for a total of 7. Together, the two decks have committed 15 willpower against 4 threat in the staging area.

Staging:

Card 1: Eregion (3 threat, 4 quest points) – This is probably the worst location in the deck, as it discards X allies from play when it is explored, with X being equal to the number of damage tokens on Eregion. I’ll likely be leaving this one in the staging area permanently, although I already need to be careful about location lock.

Eregion

Card 2: Eregion (3 threat, 4 quest points) – Just like that, there’s now 2 copies of Eregion in the staging area. This means that I probably won’t be able to leave both there, and will have to explore 1 of them sooner rather than later.

Resolution:

My 15 willpower against 10 threat in the staging area would be enough for 5 progress, which is 1 short of clearing Redhorn Pass. Deck One will play Elrond’s Counsel, lowering its threat to 33 and raising Gandalf’s willpower by 1. This gives me the 6 progress I need to explore Redhorn Pass, adding it to the victory display. No damage tokens are on it, so I don’t have to deal any damage to my characters for this exploration.

Gandalf’s initial plan was for the company to travel over the Misty Mountains using the Redhorn Pass. At first, they made good progress. However, a heavy storm soon engulfed them, covering all in deep layers of snow. Even Boromir, perhaps the strongest of them all, struggled to make way, and the Hobbits needed to be carried. It soon became obvious that the Pass would be their end if they continued. Dori suggested that they head underneath the mountains, meeting up with Balin’s colony on their way through Moria. However, Aragorn’s face darkened at the mention of the word, “Moria”, and he strongly protested against that course. Gandalf, however, argued that there was no other choice, none at least that didn’t involve going out of their way for hundreds of miles or take them too close to the traitor, Saruman or the Enemy’s spies. Finally, Aragorn relented, and the fellowship headed back down the pass and south to find the entrance to the Mines of Moria.

TRAVEL:

With 2 copies of Eregion in the staging area, each at 3 threat, I feel the need to travel to 1 of them before I have a bunch of meaningful allies on the table and damage can pile up on these locations.

Gandalf led the fellowship forward through what had been the ancient Elven realm of Eregion, Although Frodo felt a bit nervous and uneasy, as every howl in the distance or croaking of birds set him on edge, he did feel a bit better knowing that the wise wizard would be by his side every step of the way from now on.

ROUND 2 (7 threat in staging area, 0/8 progress on 2B – The Nine Walkers, 1 victory point, Active Location – Eregion [0/4 progress, 0 damage])

**Staging Area – Hills of Hollin, Hills of Hollin, Eregion**

DECK TWO PREPARATION (First Player) – 26 threat

Resources: Merry – 1, Sam – 1, Pippin – 1, Frodo – 1

Draw: Halfling Determination

New Hand: Sneak Attack, Elf-stone, Radagast’s Cunning, Elrond, Halfling Determination

Planning: Deck Two will stay put for the moment and not play anything.

Resources After Planning: Merry – 1, Sam – 1, Pippin – 1, Frodo – 1

DECK ONE PREPARATION – 27 threat

Resources: Gandalf – 1, Glorfindel – 1, Aragorn – 1

Draw: Flame of Anor

New Hand: Unexpected Courage, West Road Traveller, Anduril, Flame of Anor – Expert Treasure-hunter on top of deck

Planning: Expert Treasure-hunter is a fantastic card draw engine in a Gandalf deck and with it sitting on top of my deck, I can use Gandalf’s ability to play it, attaching it to Glorfindel (who will always be questing). Dunedain Watcher is now the new card on top of my deck. I will then exhaust Gandalf’s staff to add 1 resource to Glorfindel, paying 2 Spirit resources for Unexpected Courage on Gandalf. This makes me very happy as Gandalf can now quest and be available for defense each round.

Resources After Planning: Gandalf – 1, Glorfindel – 0, Aragorn – 1

Glorfindel seemed to have a bit of sad air about him as they traveled through a wilderness that had once been a home to many Elves. However, he soon took the lead, seeming at home in these lands so close to Rivendell, while Gandalf tried to keep the fellowship’s spirits up, having been temporarily defeated by the snow and mountains.

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

Deck Two will commit Sam (3 willpower), Merry (2 willpower, uses Fast Hitch to ready), and Pippin (2 willpower). Deck One will commit Gandalf (3 willpower, uses Unexpected Courage to ready), Glorfindel (3 willpower), Aragorn (2 willpower, and use a resource to ready) and Frodo Baggins (2 willpower). This is a total of 17 willpower committed against 7 threat in the staging area.

Staging:

Card 1.1: Hound of Sauron (50 engagement cost, 1 threat, 4 attack, 1 defense, 3 hit points) [Surge] – These enemies are quite annoying, mostly because they surge. They also have -5 for each enemy in the staging area, which means this one has 45 engagement cost at the moment.

Card 1.2: Hound of Sauron (50 engagement cost, 1 threat, 4 attack, 1 defense, 3 hit points) [Surge] – There is always a danger with the Hounds of Sauron that they will surge into each other, and this has happened here. It is thematically appropriate, if annoying. Each of the Hounds of Suaron now has an engagement cost of 40.

Hound-of-Sauron

Card 1.3: Storm of Howls [Peril] – This treachery forces players to choose between the Warg in the staging area with the highest engagement cost making an immediate attack against the first player or having each Warg enemy get -20 engagement cost until the end of the round. The wording of these “either” cards can sometimes be tricky, making it unclear whether it is meant to be a choice, but this seems like one where a choice is implied. In this case, I’d rather just give the 2 copies of Hound of Sauron -20 engagement cost each (now at 20), as I’d rather just engage and deal with them later this round rather than take an attack with no benefit.

Card 2: Bitter Cold – This treachery can really be painful later in a game when there are a ton of allies in play, as it forces each player to either discard all their allies or raise their threat by the number of allies they control. In this case, the only ally in play is Bill the Pony, controlled by Deck Two, so I’ll just have Deck Two raise its threat by 1 to 27.

Resolution:

Altogether, that’s wasn’t too painful a quest phase, and not much threat was added to the staging area. However, I do have 2 enemies to deal with in the staging area. I have 17 willpower against 9 threat in the staging area, which is a difference of 8. 4 progress clears out Eregion (with no damage on it meaning no allies have to be discarded!), while the remaining 4 are placed on stage 2B. Deck One will trigger Expert Treasure-hunter and draw Dunedain Watcher.

The company made good ground, even if Sam had to struggle a bit with Bill the Pony 3.0, who was moving sluggishly in the freezing wind that had come down from the mountains. However, the periodic howls they had been hearing suddenly erupted into a storm of howls in the distance. Gandalf confirmed their worst fears.

“There are Wargs on our trail,” he said gravely. “These hounds of Sauron will hunt us as long as we are on open ground. All the more reason to seek the dark of Moria.”

Glorfindel quickened the pace and they soon were running across the stones and dirt to keep up.

TRAVEL:

The quest card forces me to travel to a location, if able, so I will head to one of the copies of Hills of Hollin.

ENCOUNTER:

Each deck will take 1 copy of Hound of Sauron, which places 2 damage tokens on Hills of Hollin, as per the text of stage 2B. Unfortunately, the low engagement cost of the Hound of Sauron means that Sam doesn’t ready and Pippin can’t draw a card (play mistake: actually Hills of Hollin boosted its engagement cost above my threat, so I could have used these effects, but we’ll just say that I chose not to trigger the responses out of some masochistic need for punishment).

COMBAT:

Enemy Attack:

Merry will pay 1 resource for Feint against the Hound of Sauron engaged with Deck 2, since Sam is exhausted. Gandalf will defend against the Hound engaged with Deck One. The shadow card has no effect, so Gandalf takes 1 damage (4 attack – 3 defense = 1 damage).

Player Attack:

Merry will strike back with 4 attack, destroying the Hound of Sauron (4 attack – 1 defense = 3 damage). Glorfindel will do the same on the other side of the board (4 attack with Valiant Warrior – 1 defense = 3 damage). Who’s afraid of some Hounds?

The ground soon became more hilly, and it became impossible to see over the next rise. Fortunately, the howls had subsided for the moment at least. However, as the fellowship almost reached the crest of a hill, two ferocious Wargs came tearing over the ridge, large jaws slavering as they sought to close on the nearest stray limb. One sunk its teeth into Gandalf’s arm, but he flung it away with surprising strength, right into the whirling blades of Glorfindel, who struck it to the ground with blinding speed. The other seemed to head straight for Frodo, but Merry’s quick thinking saved the day, as he smacked its side with the hilt of his blade. This enraged the Warg and it came chasing after Merry. Before it could close its jaws upon him, Merry fell to his knees and buried his blade into the Warg’s belly. The small Hobbit emerged, covered in dirt and the spent blood of the Warg, but with a face wearing a sheepish grin. 

ROUND 3 (5 threat in staging area, 4/8 progress on 2B – The Nine Walkers, 1 victory point, Active Location – Hills of Hollin [0/4 progress, 2 damage])

**Staging Area – Hills of Hollin, Eregion**

DECK ONE PREPARATION (First Player) – 35 threat

Resources: Gandalf – 2, Glorfindel – 1, Aragorn – 1, Frodo 2

Draw: A Test of Will

New Hand: West Road Traveller, Anduril, Flame of Anor, Dunedain Watcher, A Test of Will – Arwen Undomiel on top of deck

Planning: I will take advantage of having control of Frodo to use 2 of those Fellowship resources and 1 resource from Gandalf to pay for Anduril. Aragorn now will be hitting for 4 (along with a +1 boost to willpower and defense), and Deck One is pretty much at full power now, at least in terms of heroes. Then, I will pay 1 resource from Gandalf and 1 from Glorfindel for Arwen Undomiel, with another copy of Expert Treasure-hunter now sitting on top of my deck. Finally, I will exhaust Gandalf’s Staff to give 1 resource to Glorfindel.

Andúril

Resources After Planning: Gandalf – 0, Glorfindel – 1, Aragorn – 1, Frodo – 0

As the fellowship gathered themselves after the Warg attack, Glorfindel spotted a hooded and cloaked figure approaching from behind. Aragorn drew his newly reforged sword, Anduril, from his scabbard ready to face this new foe. However, as the figure came closer, it removed its hood…revealing the beautiful countenance of Arwen Undomiel. Aragorn exhaled sharply and approached, leaving the others behind. Frodo could see that the two were engaged in a heated discussion, but could not hear the words. As the two returned to the rest of the group, it appeared that Arwen had won the day.

“I will accompany you, come what may,” she said simply, but her tone brooked no argument and no questions. 

Gandalf simply nodded, while Aragorn looked worried beyond measure. 

DECK TWO PREPARATION – 28 threat

Resources: Merry – 1, Sam – 2, Pippin – 2

Draw: Fast Hitch

New Hand: Sneak Attack, Elf-stone, Radagast’s Cunning, Elrond, Halfling Determination, Fast Hitch

Planning: Another copy of Fast Hitch can’t hurt, so I’ll pay 1 from Pippin to attach it to Sam. Although he has in-built readying, it is not a given in this scenario with the way in which enemy engagement costs can drop so quickly. Thus, Fast Hitch makes this a sure thing. While Deck One is really clicking at the moment, Deck Two has really stalled, which is a bit uncharacteristic of it.

Resources After Planning: Merry – 1, Sam – 2, Pippin – 1

Shaken by the close encounters with the Wargs, and worried that Bill the Pony would meet the fate of his predecessors, Sam attached a stronger rope to the beast and kept him close by at all times.

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

Deck One commits Glorfindel (3 willpower), Frodo (2 willpower), Arwen (2 willpower, with the bonuses given to Sam), Gandalf (3 willpower, using Unexpected Courage to ready), and Aragorn (3 willpower, using a resource to ready). This is a total of 13 willpower. Deck Two will commit Merry (2 willpower, using Fast Hitch to ready), Sam (3 willpower, using Fast Hitch to ready), and Pippin (2 willpower). This is a total of 7 willpower. Together, the decks are contributing 20 willpower against 5 threat in the staging area. I should be able to plow through to the next stage this round.

Staging:

Card 1: Redhorn Foothills (4 threat, 5 quest points) – This high threat location discards cards from players’ hands based on the damage it has, while lowering enemy engagement costs as the active location. Under the right circumstances, this total package can be nasty, but with Deck One’s willpower machine in full gear, I’m not too worried about locations of any kind at the moment.

Card 2: Crebain from Dunland (28 engagement cost, 3 threat, 1 attack, 1 defense, 2 hit points) [Peril] – The Crebain from Dunland will force Deck Two to engage it, unless it exhausts a hero. Either way, whenever the Crebain engages, it reveals the top card of the encounter deck. This is a piece of nasty business, but I’m in enough control of the situation at the moment that this shouldn’t be too terrible. In this case, since the Crebain will engage sometime this round anyway, I’ll just let it engage Deck Two (which gets to draw a card as a result, which is Halfling Determination). This adds a damage to Hills of Hollin (3 total) and reveals Snowdrifts. This treachery attaches to the active location and limits the amount of progress that can be placed on it to 3 per turn. Although this seems fairly harmless, it would actually force me to stay on this stage longer and probably mean more damage on Hills of Hollin as well, so I will pay 1 from Glorfindel to use A Test of Will to cancel it.

Resolution:

My 20 willpower against 9 threat yields 11 progress. 4 is enough to clear out Hills of Hollin, while the remaining 7 advance the quest to stage 3 – The Hunt is Up! Deck One will trigger Expert Treasure-hunter to draw another copy of Expert Treasure-hunter. With Hills of Hollin being explored, it raises each deck’s threat by 3 due to the 3 damage on it. This means that Deck One’s threat will go up to 38, while Deck Two’s threat will go up to 31. Stage 3 requires each deck to pull out one enemy and add it to the staging area, with one of them being the Great Warg Chief. I will thus add the Great Warg Chief to the staging area, along with a Hound of Sauron (this gets the Hound and its surge out of the encounter deck without having to resolve the surge).

The endless hills made for rugged hills and limited visibility. Although no more Wargs had attacked, there were clear howls in the distance, which seemed to grow in volume and close in distance over time. A evil-looking crow circled endlessly above them, and Frodo had the uncomfortable feeling that each of its cries was a message to their pursuers. Finally, as the fellowship reached the summit of a tall hill, Gandalf stopped them. 

“We must make our stand here,” he cried. “The hunt is up!”

The Hobbits seemed to be taken a bit by surprise by this exclamation, as they had no idea the situation was quite so dire. However, Glorfindel, Aragorn, and Gandalf made a protective circle around the edge of the summit, waiting for their hunters to arrive.

TRAVEL:

Since the Redhorn Foothills have the highest threat, I will travel there, keeping in mind the reduction in enemy engagement costs.

ENCOUNTER:

With several foes on the board, I need to handle engagements carefully, and avoid piling too much damage on the active location (although this is somewhat inevitable). Deck One will optionally engage the Great Warg Chief, as that is the biggest threat, which places 1 damage on the Redhorn Foothills. The Great Warg Chief also has a forced effect that means I have to discard cards from the encounter deck until a Warg enemy is discarded, putting that enemy into play engaged with the same player. After discarding a few cards, I hit upon Howling Warg, which engages Deck One as well (adding another damage to Redhorn Foothills). I will decline to engage the Hound of Sauron, as I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew.

A pack of Wargs slowly climbed the hill towards the fellowship, a stark contrast to the frenzied attack from before. The reason soon became clear: they were led by a huge Warg covered in countless scars, but with a wary cunning in its eyes. Clearly, it knew that the fellowship was no band of meek travelers to be easily preyed upon. It circled them slowly for several minutes, with a vicious looking Warg following just behind that would emit a piercing howl every so often, as if it wanted to intimidate the fellowship. Finally, heeding some silent signal, the two Wargs leapt forward, perhaps hoping to catch the guardians at the edge of the hill off guard during a lapse in concentration. Meanwhile, the circling crow came screaming down from the sky towards Frodo, its claws extended towards the Ring…

COMBAT:

Enemy Attack:

Gandalf will exhaust to defend against the Howling Warg (whose attack places 1 more damage on Redhorn Foothills). The shadow card has no effect, and Gandalf takes no damage (3 attack – 3 defense = 0 damage). Aragorn will defend against the Great Warg Chief . taking 2 damage (5 attack – 3 defense [+1 from Anduril] = 2 damage). Aragorn will then exhaust Anduril to strike back for 1 damage (4 attack – 3 defense = 1 damage). Meanwhile, Sam Gamgee will defend against the Crebain from Dunland, but takes no damage.

Player Attack:

It’s now time for some payback. Gandalf will exhaust Wizard Pipe, moving Bilbo Baggins to hand and placing Dunedain Watcher on top of Deck One. Deck One will then play Flame of Anor (with a resource from Aragorn), discarding Dunedain Watcher to ready Gandalf and give him a +3 bonus to attack. Gandalf will then attack the Great Warg Chief,  destroying him with a massive strike (3 attack + 3 attack from Flame of Anor + 2 attack from Glamdring – 3 defense = 5 damage). Glorfindel will then attack the Howling Warg, dealing 2 damage (4 attack – 2 defense = 2 damage). On the other side of the board, Merry will demolish the Crebain (3 attack – 1 defense = 2 damage).

Aragorn stood steadfast in the path of the Great Warg Chief, brandishing Anduril before him. The Warg and Man went down to the ground together, claws tearing and blade slashing, but both were back on their feet in the blink of an eye. Aragorn’s cloak was torn and blood ran down his arm, but a nasty gash had appeared across the maw of the Warg as well. Meanwhile, Gandalf had swatted the other Warg aside with his staff. As both Wargs moved for a second attack, a flash of blinding white light erupted from the staff. When the vision of those in the fellowship returned, they saw Gandalf standing over the motionless body of the Warg chief, Glamdring shining in the red glare of the setting sun. The other Warg launched an attack guided by savage fury, perhaps even grief, but Glorfindel’s blades sunk deep into its flesh. 

Meanwhile, the Crebain moved to grasp the Ring, but Merry was quicker, smashing his trusty blade into it, and the hateful bird fell lifeless to the ground.

ROUND 4 (6 threat in staging area, 0/12 progress on 3B – The Hunt Is Up!, 2 victory points, Active Location – Redhorn Foothills [0/5 progress, 3 damage])

**Staging Area – Hills of Hollin, Eregion, Hound of Sauron**

DECK TWO PREPARATION (First Player) – 32 threat

Resources: Merry – 2, Sam – 3, Pippin – 2, Frodo – 1

Draw: A Very Good Tale

New Hand: Sneak Attack, Elf-stone, Radagast’s Cunning, Elrond, Halfling Determination, Halfling Determination, A Very Good Tale

Planning: Deck One will simply play a copy of Elf-stone on the active location (Redhorn Foothills).

Resources After Planning: Merry – 2, Sam – 3, Pippin – 1, Frodo -1

Pippin kicked the lifeless body of the Crebain aside with distaste, but as he did so, he dislodged a piece of the ground, revealing a familiar green stone. At the sight of it, a wide smile began to form across Pippin’s face.

DECK ONE PREPARATION – 39 threat

Resources: Gandalf – 1, Glorfindel – 1, Aragorn – 1

Draw: Steward of Gondor

New Hand: West Road Traveller, Bilbo Baggins, Expert Treasure-hunter, Steward of Gondor – Elrond’s Counsel on top of deck

Planning: First, I will exhaust Wizard Pipe to take Elrond’s Counsel into hand and put Steward of Gondor on top of Deck One. Then, I will pay 1 resource from Gandalf and 1 from Aragorn for Steward of Gondor, which I will attach to Gandalf. I will then immediately exhaust the Steward to put 2 resources on Gandalf and then exhaust Gandalf’s Staff to put 1 resource on Glorfindel. Glorfindel will pay 2 resources for Bilbo Baggins. Although I already have my Pipe, I will use Bilbo’s effect to shuffle the deck, since Gandalf’s Staff is on top, which isn’t useful. After the shuffle, Hasty Stroke is now on top of the deck, which is definitely a good card to have available.

Resources After Planning: Gandalf – 2, Glorfindel – 0, Aragorn – 0

The fierce Warg, after having been wounded by Glorfindel and seeing his Chief defeated, retreated back with his fellows. The pack of Wargs spoke together in their evil-sounding language at the bottom of the hill. Aragorn was surprised to see a smile cross Gandalf’s face. The wizard noticed his puzzled look.

“I’m reminded of a moment long ago,” he answered the unspoken question. “When I found myself surrounded by another group of Wargs. And with another brave Hobbit on a hopeless quest.”

“Bilbo,” Aragorn said. “How did you escape that time?”

“Eagles of the Misty Mountains. We cannot rely on such fortune this time. But I’m reminded that hope can be found in the darkest of moments.”

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

Before committing characters, Deck Two will pay 1 from Sam to Sneak Attack Elrond into play. I want to make use of his willpower to fly through this stage as quickly as possible, now that threat is becoming a major issue for Deck One, and I can also use Elrond’s ability to heal all damage from Aragorn. After that’s completed, I will have Deck Two quest with Merry (2 willpower, use Fast Hitch to ready), Sam (3 willpower, use Fast Hitch to ready), Pippin (2 willpower), Frodo (2 willpower) and Elrond (3 willpower). Deck One will quest with Glorfindel (3 willpower), Arwen (2 willpower, give bonuses to Sam), Gandalf (3 willpower, use Unexpected Courage to ready) and Bilbo (2 willpower). This is a total of 22 willpower against 6 threat in the staging area.

Staging:

Card 1: Redhorn Foothills (4 threat, 5 quest points) – Another copy of this high threat location is on the table, but I’ll definitely take this over more enemies.

Card 2: Bitter Cold – The threat gain continues and Deck One could be in serious trouble soon. Deck Two will raise its threat by 2 to 34 for Bill the Pony and Elrond. Deck One will raise its threat by 2 to 41 for Arwen and Bilbo. In order to make up for this, I’ll have Deck One play Elrond’s Counsel to lower its threat by 3 down to 38. This also gives Gandalf +1 to his willpower.

Bitter-Cold (1)

Resolution:

No new enemies have emerged, which can be counted as a good quest phase overall. My 23 willpower against 10 threat in the staging area yields 13 progress. 6 go to clearing out Redhorn Foothills, which has Elf-stone attached, while the remaining 7 are placed on stage 3B. The 3 damage on the Foothills triggers, forcing each deck to discard 3 cards from hand at random. Deck One discards Expert Treasure-hunter and West Road Traveller, while Deck Two discards Radagast’s Cunning and both copies of Halfling Determination. More importantly, the Elf-stone triggers for Deck Two, and I’ll use this opportunity to put Gildor Inglorion into play for free. I will then exhaust Gildor and Bill the Pony to play A Very Good Tale, which allows me to put Boromir into play for free. Deck One will trigger Expert Treasure-hunter to draw Hasty Stoke, with A Test of Will replacing it as the new top card.

Suddenly, a rider appeared in the distance, tall and fair upon a white horse. Pippin held the green stone aloft as it to summon the rider, and shouted, “He lives!”

Sure enough, as the rider swept through the line of Wargs, who dodged aside to avoid being trampled, Frodo could see that it was indeed Gildor Inglorion. Even Gandalf seemed taken aback by his sudden appearance, as they had all seen him get cut down on Weathertop.

“An Elf’s life is not so easily ended,” he remarked and swung down from his horse with a wide grin. He spotted Pippin holding the stone aloft. “Ah, I see you found my little stone once again. These Wargs have been haunting this land for weeks, with more coming each day. We must fly before all is lost!”

TRAVEL:

The best bet at the moment is to keep clearing out the high threat locations, so I will travel to the new copy of Redhorn Foothills.

ENCOUNTER:

Deck Two will engage the Hound of Sauron (adding 1 damage to Redhorn Foothills), while Deck One remains engaged with the Howling Warg.

While the fellowship was distracted by the arrival of Gildor, a stealthy Warg had creeped up behind them on other side of the hill. It was joined by the Warg that had been wounded earlier. The first Warg headed straight for the Hobbits, while the latter seemed bent on enacting vengeance against Glorfindel.

COMBAT:

Enemy Attack:

Boromir will defend against the Hound of Sauron, taking 1 damage (4 attack – 3 defense due to enemy engagement cost), which readies him. For Deck One, Aragorn will defend against the Howling Warg (whose attack adds another damage to Redhorn Foothills), taking no damage (3 attack – 3 defense = 0 damage). He will then exhaust Anduril to make an immediate counter-attack, destroying the Howling Warg (4 attack – 2 defense = 2 damage).

Player Attack:

For Deck Two, Boromir and Merry will team up to destroy the Hound of Sauron (7 attack – 1 defense = 6 damage).

The wounded Warg was so focused on the sight of Glorfindel’s vulnerable back that it never saw the flash of Anduril, which cleaved through its body, rendering it still and lifeless. Meanwhile, Boromir leapt to the defense of the Hobbits, grabbing the other Warg in midair and wrestling it to the ground with brute force. The Warg snapped and tore at him with its jaws, tearing into his flesh several times, but not enough to deter him. Merry rushed over and plunged his blade into the Warg’s belly, which gave Boromir the opening to finish off the beast.

ROUND 5 (5 threat in staging area, 7/12 progress on 3B – The Hunt Is Up!, 2 victory points, Active Location – Redhorn Foothills [0/5 progress, 2 damage])

**Staging Area – Hills of Hollin, Eregion**

DECK ONE PREPARATION (First Player) – 39 threat

Resources: Gandalf – 5, Glorfindel – 1, Aragorn – 1, Frodo – 2

Draw: A Test of Will

New Hand: Hasty Stroke, A Test of Will- Blood of Numenor on top of deck

Planning: There’s no good reason not to play Blood of Numenor, so I will attach it to Gandalf. Normally, Aragorn is the recipient, but Gandalf has the Gondor trait, thanks to the Steward, and a pile of resources to use with the attachment.

Resources After Planning: Gandalf – 5, Glorfindel – 1, Aragorn – 1, Frodo – 2

DECK TWO PREPARATION – 35 threat

Resources: Merry – 3, Sam – 4, Pippin – 2

Draw: Haldir

New Hand: Haldir

Planning: There will be no planning for Deck Two this round.

Resources After Planning: Merry – 3, Sam – 4, Pippin – 2

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

Deck One will commit Gandalf (3 willpower, use Unexpected Courage to ready), Glorfindel (3 willpower), Aragorn (3 willpower, use a resource to ready), Arwen (2 willpower, give bonuses to Aragorn), and Bilbo (2 willpower) for a total of 13 willpower. Deck Two will commit Merry (2 willpower, use Fast Hitch to ready), Sam (3 willpower, use Fast Hitch to ready), and Pippin (2 willpower) for a total of 7 willpower. Altogether, both decks are committing 20 willpower against 5 threat.

Staging:

Card 1.1: Hound of Sauron (50 engagement cost, 1 threat, 4 attack, 1 defense, 3 hit points) [Surge] – Now that I’ve cleared the board of Wargs, there were bound to be more on the way…

Card 1.2: Eregion (3 threat, 4 quest points) – Another copy of Eregion to add to the staging area, but I have enough willpower going to compensate.

Card 2: Howling Warg (38 engagement cost, 2 threat, 3 attack, 2 defense, 4 hit points) – Another Warg has arrived to the party, which could put me under some pressure with The Watcher also on its way, but I feel fairly confident in being able to handle combat with Deck One fully operational.

Howling-Warg

Resolution:

20 willpower against 11 threat leads to 9 progress. 5 of these clear out Redhorn Foothills, while the remaining 4 are placed on stage 3, leaving me just 1 progress short of advancing to the next stage. This is actually fine with me, as it gives me a round to deal with the Wargs on the board before moving onto The Watcher. The 2 damage on Redhorn Foothills causes Deck One to discard A Test of Will and Hasty Stroke. This is unfortunate, as those are 2 vital cards, but there isn’t much I can about it. Deck Two discards Haldir.

The fellowship’s options were running out as the pack of Wargs around the hill was tightening the noose around them. They were tired and worn out from several days of walking and brutal combat with the Wargs, but they would have to summon the energy to break through the cordon.

TRAVEL:

I’m forced to travel to a location due to the stage 3 text, and I either have to choose the threat increase of Hills of Hollin or the ally discard of Eregion. I’ll choose to travel to Hills of Hollin and hope that I can finish the quest before the threat catches up to me.

ENCOUNTER:

Deck One will engage the Hound of Sauron, as it has a better defensive situation to handle the 4 attack, while Deck Two will engage with the Howling Warg. These 2 engagements place 2 damage on Hills of Hollin.

 Deciding to take the fight to the Wargs and break free, the fellowship charged down the hill with Gandalf, Glorfindel, and Aragorn leading the way. Several Wargs rushed forward ahead of the pack to meet them.

COMBAT:

Enemy Attack:

Deck One will exhaust Gandalf’s Staff to discard the shadow card from the Howling Warg. Aragorn will then exhaust to defend against the Hound of Sauron’s attack, taking no damage (4 attack – 4 defense with Arwen bonus). He will then exhaust Anduril to counter-attack, destroying the Hound (4 attack – 1 defense = 3 damage). On the other side of the board, with the shadow card out of the way, Boromir can safely defend against the Howling Warg, taking no damage (3 attack – 3 defense = 0 damage), but adding 1 damage to the active location.

Player Attack:

Merry (3 attack), Sam (2 attack), and Gildor (2 attack) will destroy the Howling Warg (7 attack – 2 defense = 5 damage).

One Warg jumped at Aragorn, but he coolly dodged the attack and felled the beast with a precise strike from Anduril. The other Warg sought to pick off the Hobbits, but Gandalf blinded it with a light from his staff, and Boromir struck it to the ground with a mighty blow. 

ROUND 6 (6 threat in staging area, 11/12 progress on 3B – The Hunt Is Up!, 2 victory points, Active Location – Hills of Hollin [0/4 progress, 3 damage])

**Staging Area – Eregion, Eregion**

DECK TWO PREPARATION (First Player) – 36 threat

Resources: Merry – 4, Sam – 5, Pippin – 3, Frodo – 3

Draw: Defender of Rammas

New Hand: Defender of Rammas

Planning: I’m just happy for Deck Two to play anything when it gets a chance, so I’ll pay 2 from Merry for Defender of Rammas.

Resources After Planning: Merry – 2, Sam – 5, Pippin – 3, Frodo – 3

A lone Gondorian soldier had been sent by Denethor to seek out his son and find out whether he had discovered the answers he had left to seek. Weary after a long journey through rough land, he was stopped short by the strange sight of a motley crew of Men, Elves, Dwarves, and Hobbits charging through a pack of Wargs. Even stranger, by some trick of fortune or destiny, Boromir was among them! Wasting no time, the soldier ran to join them.

DECK ONE PREPARATION – 40 threat

Resources: Gandalf – 8, Glorfindel – 2, Aragorn – 1

Draw: Galadriel

New Hand: Galadriel – Flame of Anor on top of deck

Planning: I will exhaust Wizard Pipe to exchange Flame of Anor with Galadriel, then I will pay 3 resources from Gandalf to play Galadriel. Looking through my top 5 cards, I could either put Sting or Fellowship of the Ring into play. Really, I just need a good willpower boost more than anything to blast through the rest of the quest, with combat being fairly sorted out, so I will play Fellowship of the Ring onto Frodo.

Resources After Planning: Gandalf – 5, Glorfindel – 1, Aragorn – 1

Even as the jaws of countless Wargs tore at their cloaks and skin, each member of the fellowship seemed to always dodge out of their way just in time, as if some higher forced protected them. And even as weariness assaulted their senses and tired limbs threatened to give way, the sense of unity and mission provided by the oath they had sworn to defend the Ring and its bearer drove them forward ever faster and ever stronger. After having seen so many of their fellows fall, the remaining Wargs decided to break off their pursuit and let the fellowship escape. There were more powerful servants of their master who could deal with them…and soon.

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

Deck Two will quest with Merry (3 willpower, use Fast Hitch to exhaust), Sam (4 willpower, use Fast Hitch to exhaust), and Frodo (3 willpower), with all heroes receiving a +1 willpower bonus from Fellowship of the Ring. Deck One will quest with Gandalf (4 willpower, use Unexpected Courage to ready), Glorfindel (4 willpower), Arwen (2 willpower, give bonuses to Aragorn), Galadriel (3 willpower), and Bilbo (2 willpower). This is a grand total of 25 willpower against 6 threat in the staging area. Obviously, this is a bit of overkill, but I have all essential characters that I will need for combat ready, and I have left a few characters back that don’t have readying effects, like Pippin, in order to deal with the Watcher.

Staging:

Card 1: Regiments of Crows – This treachery adds 3 damage to the active location, which is actually pretty terrible news, as the Hills of Hollin now has 6 damage on it, which means a massive threat raise. I might actually lose this quest, with Deck One being on the verge of threating out. If I still had my A Test of Will, I would definitely cancel this treachery, but unfortunately it was lost to the effect on Redhorn Foothills, illustrating how all of these location effects can work together in this quest.

Card 2: Redhorn Foothills (4 threat, 5 quest points) – Yet another Redhorn Foothills has arrived, but that doesn’t bother me too much, as I have the willpower to beat this quest if I can just do it before threat kills me.

Resolution:

25 willpower against 10 threat gives me 15 progress, which is more than enough to explore Hills of Hollin and advance to stage 4 – The Gates of Moria. With Hills of Hollin explored, each deck has to raise their threat by 6. This raises Deck One up to 46 and Deck Two up to 42. Doors of Durin is now the active location, while the Watcher in the Water is added to the staging area. All resources are removed from Frodo and he is placed facedown under the Watcher.

Having finally left the Wargs behind and with no sign of further pursuit, the fellowship could not rest for long. Gandalf did call them to a halt after several miles to catch their breath, but a large regiment of crows flying overhead reminded them that there would be no peace until they could find refuge away from these open, wild lands. 

After a hard march, the fellowship finally found their way to the Doors of Durin and the western entrance to Moria. A large pool of murky water sat motionless before the door, and it made Frodo feel distinctly uneasy. Unfortunately, there seemed to be no way to open the doors, just a cryptic directive to “Speak friend and enter!”. Gandalf stood examining every rune, while Glorfindel and Dori tried to help him figure out the secret password. The remaining members of the Fellowship took a moment to rest, all except Aragorn, who kept a stern watch towards the sunset for any sign of Wargs. However, it was not from that direction that danger arrived…

As the minutes passed, the Hobbits fell into a drowsy slumber, their bodies slouched together. A long tentacle snaked out of the water, slowly at first, and then when it was within striking distance, it wrapped around Frodo’s leg with a quick whip-like motion, dragging him to the ground and towards the water. He came to full consciousness with a yelp, and the whole fellowship roused to action.

TRAVEL:

I still have the requirement to travel to a location if I can, so I will make the Redhorn Foothills the 2nd active location.

When the fellowship had reached the Doors of Durin, some of their allies had been sent to find supplies before the trip to Moria, with this foraging party led by Gildor. As they roamed the foothills, they heard the cries of battle and the crashing of water off in the distance, back where they had left the others.

ENCOUNTER:

Fortunately, the Watcher in the Water is the only enemy in play, which means I can devote my full attention to it. It is considered to be engaged with each player.

Watcher-in-the-Water

COMBAT:

Enemy Attack:

Deck Two will use the Defender of Rammas to defend against the Watcher. This attack destroys the Defender (6 attack – 4 defense = 2 damage). Normally, this would discard Fellowship of the Ring, but since it is currently facedown along with Frodo, I interpret this to mean that it is out of play and its text is not active, so nothing happens. Deck One will use Gandalf to defend, spending 1 resource to activate Blood of Numenor, and he takes no damage (6 attack – 7 defense = 0 damage). In preparation for attack, Gandalf will then spend 1 resource for Flame of Anor, readying and discarding the top card of the deck (Dunedain Watcher) for a +3 bonus.

Player Attack:

Deck Two will attack with Merry (3 attack), Gildor (2 attack), Boromir (3 attack), Bill the Pony (1 attack), Sam (1 attack), and Pippin (1 attack) for a total of 11 attack. This is just enough to deal 6 damage to the Watcher and free Frodo (11 attack – 5 defense = 6 damage). Frodo comes under Deck Two’s control and is exhausted with 1 damage.

Deck One will attack with Gandalf (8 attack), Aragorn (4 attack), and Glorfindel (4 attack). This deals 11 damage to The Watcher (16 attack – 5 defense = 11 damage).

The brave Gondorian soldier was first to react and rush to Frodo’s aid. However, several tentacles seized him on each end of his body and tore him in two. Merry, Sam, and Pippin were able to avoid this grisly fate, using their Hobbit agility and small size to dodge the grasping tentacles, then using their blades to hack away at the one holding Frodo. Boromir took this opportunity to wade into the water, seeking out the body of the Watcher and hacking away at everything that came within reach. Meanwhile, Gildor had returned, running with a fleetness of foot that defied belief when he heard the battle. He jumped onto the tentacle holding Frodo and ran up it to a higher point, then sliced his sharp Elven blade straight through the skin and to the other side. The tentacle fell free from the Watcher, but still held its grip on Frodo. It was Bill the Pony 3.0, driven to madness or rage by the scene, that struck the freeing blow, smashing his hooves into the prone tentacle until it finally released its grip. Sam pulled Frodo to his feet and they quickly retreated towards the Doors.

Another group of tentacles came rushing towards those at the door. Gandalf knocked one aside with his staff, then unleashed a burst of light from his staff which seemed to shock the tentacles. Anduril, Glamdring, and Glorfindel’s twin blades were a sight to behold, and the Watcher lost several more appendages in a matter of mere seconds.

ROUND 7 (11 threat in staging area, 0/- progress on 4B – The Gates of Moria, 3 victory points, Active Location – Doors of Durin [0/9 progress, 0 damage] and Redhorn Foothills [0/5 progress, 0 damage])

**Staging Area – Eregion, Eregion, Watcher in the Water**

DECK ONE PREPARATION (First Player) – 47 threat

Resources: Gandalf – 6, Glorfindel – 2, Aragorn – 2, Frodo – 1

Draw: Sting

New Hand: Sting – Dunedain Watcher on top of deck

Planning: All I really need is just some willpower to finish off the quest, so I will pay 2 from Gandalf to play Sting, attaching it to Sam.

Resources After Planning: Gandalf – 4, Glorfindel – 1, Aragorn – 1, Frodo – 1

With Frodo injured, Sam took up the sword that Bilbo had given him, the one that Sam remember was called “Sting”. He brandished it threateningly at the thrashing tentacles.

DECK TWO PREPARATION – 43 threat

Resources: Merry – 3, Sam – 6, Pippin – 4

Draw: Dagger of Westernesse

New Hand: Dagger of Westernesse

Planning: I will attach Dagger of Westernesse to Merry, even though ideally I will win this game during the quest phase and avoid combat altogether.

Resources After Planning: Merry – 2, Sam – 6, Pippin – 4

Standing beside Sam, Merry held up his own blade, ready to defend his friend once more.

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

I can’t afford to cut this game any closer in terms of threat, so I’m aiming to win this game right now. Deck One will commit Glorfindel (4 willpower), Gandalf (4 willpower, use Unexpected Courage to ready), Aragorn (4 willpower, use a resource to ready), Arwen (2 willpower, give bonuses to Gandalf), and Bilbo (2 willpower) for a total of 16 willpower, with each hero gaining a bonus from Fellowship of the Ring. Deck Two will commit Merry (3 willpower, use Fast Hitch to ready), Sam (4 willpower, use Fast Hitch to ready), Pippin (3 willpower) and Gildor (3 willpower) for a total of 13 willpower. Altogether, I am committing 29 willpower against 11 threat in the staging area, and I need to make 14 progress to win. This means that if any more than 4 threat is revealed this round, I won’t have enough to clear both locations.

Staging:

Card 1.1: Storm of Howls [Peril] – This is simply going to surge as there are no Wargs in the staging area.

Card 1.2: Snowdrifts [Peril] – Now this truly terrible luck! This is going to attach to the active location, preventing more than 3 progress from being placed on it per round. Since there are 2 active locations, I have my choice of which to place it on, but attaching it to Doors of Durin would be a huge mistake, as it would then take 3 whole rounds to clear it. Instead, I’ll place it on the Redhorn Foothills. This will block my victory this round, and I’ll just have to hope I don’t threat out before then. It’s too bad I don’t have A Test of Will to cancel this treachery.

Snowdrifts

Card 2: Bitter Cold – This terrible treachery returns once more! Deck One will lose if I pick the threat option, so I will have to discard Arwen and Bilbo instead. Deck Two can afford a bit more threat, so I will keep Boromir, Gildor, and Bill and raise its threat by 3 up to 46 threat.

Resolution:

I have 25 willpower (with the loss of Arwen and Bilbo) against 11 threat in the staging area, but unfortunately Snowdrifts means that I can only place 3 progress on Redhorn Foothills.

Arwen had been part of Gildor’s foraging expedition and was following him back to the rest of the fellowship when a sudden storm hit the foothills around her, covering the land in several feet of snow in just a few minutes. The bitter cold seeped into her skin and she struggled to escape its unnatural grasp…

Meanwhile, as the others fought off the Watcher, Gandalf still struggled to open the Doors. He knew that time was rapidly running out, and despite their valiant struggle, the long march with no rest, the seemingly endless battles, and the earlier fight against the snow in the Redhorn Pass were all taking their toll. Time seemed to slow as Gandalf surveyed the scene. Even the arms of Aragorn and Glorfindel seemed to be failing and sagging even as they battled the Watcher. He needed to find a way in and soon.

COMBAT:

Enemy Attack:

The Watcher will now attack both decks once again.. Gandalf will defend against it, spending 1 resource to activate Blood of Numenor and taking no damage (6 attack – 7 defense = 0 damage). Deck Two will defend with Sam Gamgee who takes 2 damage (6 attack – 4 defense [Hobbit Cloak] = 2 damage).

Player Attack:

Although the Watcher is indestructible, I can’t resist piling on damage anyway. Deck One will attack with Aragorn (4 attack) and Glorfindel (4 attack) for 3 more damage (8 attack – 5 defense = 3 damage).

After the initial attack, Gandalf had returned to trying to uncover the puzzle. As if sensing that Gandalf was the key to cracking open the Doors, a large tentacle swung towards the old wizard. However, Gandalf seemed to sense it, even if he did not see it, and he dodged aside just in time for it to smash harmlessly into the wall next to him. Glorfindel and Aragorn quickly attacked the tentacle, cleaving though it and driving the other tentacles into even more of a frenzy. 

ROUND 8 (11 threat in staging area, 0/- progress on 4B – The Gates of Moria, 3 victory points, Active Location – Doors of Durin [0/9 progress, 0 damage] and Redhorn Foothills [3/5 progress, 0 damage])

**Staging Area – Eregion, Eregion, Watcher in the Water**

DECK TWO PREPARATION (First Player) – 47 threat

Resources: Merry – 3, Sam – 7, Pippin – 5, Frodo – 2

Draw: A Very Good Tale

New Hand: A Very Good Tale

Planning: At the moment, I need questing power more than combat power, so I will exhaust Bill the Pony and Boromir to play A Very Good Tale. This nets me Bofur and Erebor Hammersmith. That’s not too bad a draw with Bofur’s 2 willpower and the Hammersmith’s 1 willpower giving me 3 willpower. All in all, A Very Good Tale has been this deck’s salvation this game.

Resources After Planning: Merry – 3, Sam – 7, Pippin – 5, Frodo – 2

Dori had been a relatively silent and innocuous member of their fellowship so far, but suddenly he seemed to remember something in the middle of the fray.

“Gandalf, I remember something!” he shouted. “A tale Bofur and another Dwarf once told me.”

“This is no time for stories, Dori!” Gandalf shouted back.

“There is for this one!”

DECK ONE PREPARATION – 48 threat

Resources: Gandalf – 6, Glorfindel – 2, Aragorn – 1

Draw: Dunedain Watcher

New Hand: Dunedain Watcher – Gandalf’s Staff on top of deck

Planning: There’s really no great plays here, and I feel confident I can finish out the quest with what I have on the table.

Resources After Planning: Gandalf – 6, Glorfindel – 2, Aragorn – 1

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

It’s really time for the big push, and as long as I don’t draw another Snowdrifts, I should be fine. Deck Two will commit Sam (4 willpower, use Fast Hitch to ready), Merry (3 willpower, use Fast Hitch to ready), Pippin (3 willpower), Gildor (3 willpower), Frodo (3 willpower) and Bofur (2 willpower) for a total of 18. Deck One will commit Gandalf (4 willpower, use Unexpected Courage to ready), Aragorn (4 willpower, use a resource to ready) and Glorfindel (4 willpower) for a total of 12. This is a total of 30 willpower against 11 threat in the staging area.

Staging:

Card 1: Regiments of Crows – This places 3 damage on both The Redhorn Foothills and Doors of Durin. Fortunately, the Hills of Hollin is not an active location or this treachery would have threated me out during resolution (although I would have won the game by that point as well).

Card 2: Crebain from Dunland [Peril] – Right now, my main concern is just to stop the Crebain from engaging me so that it doesn’t reveal another encounter card that will end up in a defeat (like Snowdrifts). Thus, I’ll exhaust Glorfindel to stop the Crebain from engaging.

Resolution:

My 30 willpower against 14 willpower yields 16 progress. This is enough to explore the Redhorn Foothills and the Doors of Durin, winning the game!

“The story was about an Elf who called everyone ‘friend’ in Elvish,” Dori said to Gandalf. “Until a Dwarf took it as an insult and…”

“What is the point of this story, Dori?!” Gandalf shouted.

“The point is that…” Dori’s reply was cut off by a loud squawking. A large regiment of crows, perhaps the one from before, flew overhead, their caws drowning out all other sound. It seemed that they had been tracked once more and the Enemy would know they went into Moria.

A large crow at the head of the regiment began to fly off into the distance, perhaps to report back. Glorfindel pulled out a long, sharp dagger from his back and flung it through the air. With incredible force, it flew through the air and sliced straight through the crow, bringing it to the ground. The rest of the crows flew in every direction in a chaotic jumble, lost without their leader’s direction.

In this time, realization dawned on Gandalf.

“Dori, you wise old Dwarf!” the wizard exclaimed with glee. “Mellon.”

With the Elvish word for “friend” spoken, the Doors swung open. 

“Into the Mines, all of you!” Gandalf cried. Frodo and the Hobbits were ushered in first, followed closely by Dori, with Aragorn, Gildor, Glorfindel, and Boromir holding off the tentacles. Finally, they all rushed in, all except Aragorn and Gandalf. 

“Arwen has not returned, Gandalf,” Aragorn said simply as Gandalf met his eye. “I will not leave her out here.”

“If you value what she is fighting for and the oath you swore to protect the Ringbearer, you will,” Gandalf replied. 

As if to answer Gandalf’s words, the tentacles seized upon the walls itself and began to tear huge chunks of stone away, bringing them down to the ground. Aragorn was forced to flee into the darkness alongside Gandalf, and there was a loud crash as the Doors were buried in endless tons of solid rock. A light slowly began to gleam in the dark, emitting from Gandalf’s staff.

“Well, that is that,” he said.  “The only way out is forward.”

SCENARIO CONCLUSION:

Well, that was a lot closer than I thought it would be, as I’ve had some pretty comfortable victories over this scenario previously. I have to say that Deck Two really underperformed this time around, not drawing some of the key attachments, like the Dagger of Westernesse until the end of the game, and not really pulling a ton of great cards. However, A Very Good Tale was a real all-star, allowing me to bring in Boromir at a key moment, as well as Bofur for the final quest push. It’s also worth mentioning that the substantial card hate from Redhorn Foothills really put a damper on that deck’s ability to get cards out as well. Deck One, on the other hand, got going rather quickly, and was able to pull most of the weight both in terms of questing and combat. Fortunately, Deck Two was also able to get the job done, even with only putting a few cards into play throughout the course of the game. It was only really threat that proved to be the main danger, and I might consider putting in some more threat reduction for the upcoming quests. Fellowship of the Ring proved to be an outstanding contributor, really bumping up the available willpower for the big pushes at the end, so much so that it just may be worth it to add in a few more copies of that attachment. All in all, it’ll be interesting to see how these decks due against the much greater test of Journey in the Dark. Since Lust for the Ring is not attached to a hero, I don’t earn that burden, and I’ll be able to draw upon Anduril, Sting, Mithril Shirt, and Glamdring in my future adventures.

Until then, though, I hope you’ve enjoyed this Campaign Mode installment. See you next time!

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From → Strategy

14 Comments
  1. Robin Munn permalink

    Very nice! I enjoyed the mix of narrative and game-mechanics sections, and I look forward to reading the third installment at some future date.

    One comment: you have two copies of the Council of Elrond 1A image in the post. I assume the second one was supposed to be 1B.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it! And thanks for the catch as well!

  2. Just a question. Is there an errata with Watcher in the water? The card reads “is considered to be engaged with each player”, and you played like being engaged with first player only.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Ah, I see what happened here. In my original playthrough, I played it with the correct text “engaged with each player”. When writing up the report, I saw that Hall of Beorn had the text, “engaged with the first player”, so I figured I somehow read the card wrong and went back and played that portion of the quest that way. My mistake for not reading the cards better. But the engaged with each player text is the correct one. I’ve gone back in and added my original report for that section. I’m glad, as this means you get to see the epic beat down that Deck One unleashed on The Watcher!

  3. Luis Fernández permalink

    I think you should use Fast Hitch with Sam so quick, I think you should wait the encounter phase, because if you can use the ability of Sam you get the opportunity to give three actions for Sam.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, you’re right. That’s actually how I play it, but for writing the report, it’s easier just to put all the readying under the quest phase, if that makes sense.

  4. These write-ups are always some of my favorite reads online.
    Definitely felt your pain when the Snowdrifts hit.

    I just gave it my first playthrough with an attempt at a Gandalf deck… I went with Glorfindel and finally decided on Legolas… but instead of exploring my various Elven attachments, allies, and events I loaded the deck with Eagles (and the Rohan Warhorse).

    Typical moth-whispering Gandalf move.

    I’ll be playing again two-player over the holiday with a brother, so we’ll see how the challenge rises with more encounter cards staging.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Glad you enjoy them! The Gandalf/Eagles combination seems like a great move

  5. Tony F permalink

    Great post! I’m really enjoying your trip through campaign mode! One question, though: in round 4, where did Gildor come from? He wasn’t listed as a card in your hand at any point before that.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Hi Tony. Some of the hand information from Deck Two didn’t save properly for the early rounds so I had to reconstruct them from memory. Everything else saved OK though. So I know Gildor was definitely there and I played him but one of the other cards in my hand that didn’t get used and was later discarded must have been incorrect.

  6. Enjoying following your campaign – I was wondering if you keep a Burden like Gandalf’s Delay beyond the quests in the first Saga box? Do you continue to use Burdens from Box 1 for Box 2 quests? In the case of Gandalf’s delay it obviously feels thematically wrong, at least to a degree.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yes, all the burdens and boons carry over between Saga boxes. I think with Gandalf’s Delay, we can imagine that his delay is still affecting the quest, because they could have set out from Rivendell earlier, for example.

  7. Lord Rahl permalink

    I don’t know if you’ll read this because I’m commenting a couple of years later, but why didn’t you decide to take Sting during the setup instead of Glamdring. I know being able to hit for +2 is nice, but putting Sting on Sam gets you +1 to questing & shields every turn & can deal direct damage to enemies he defends. That seems a lot more valuable.

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