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Campaign Mode: Helm’s Deep (Part 2)

by on September 4, 2015

art-lotr-nasmith-riders-of-rohan

Boromir and Merry have been saved from captivity, escaping the cruel fate that awaited them in Isengard. Now, Aragorn makes his way to Edoras alongside Theoden, King of Rohan. There, they plan their next move as the War of the Ring is set to begin. In Part 1 of this article, I explained the changes I made to my decks to prepare for a truly challenging scenario and one of the most epic scenarios of all time: Helm’s Deep!

Part 3 – Session Report

Aragorn and Glorfindel led a group in pursuit of the Uruk-hai, hoping to free Boromir and Merry from captivity. Their pursuit took them into the land of Rohan, where they encountered Theoden, King of Rohan, who proclaimed that he had been sent to find them by Gandalf. This was strange news as Gandalf had fallen in Moria, but there was no time to pursue the matter further as the Uruk-hai continued their inexorable march towards Isengard. Matters were made more difficult when their horses, provided by Theoden, were shot from under them by ambushing Orcs and they were left to continue the chase on foot. Fortunately, the hunters proved swift, despite the obstacle of strange enchantments, and some of Theoden’s riders helped to harry the Uruk-hai, which allowed the gap to finally be closed. A pitched battle ensued, with some of the Orcs fleeing while others stood their ground, although Merry and Boromir were nowhere to be found. Aragorn pushed through the horde into Fangorn Forest, meeting Sam in a strange reunion along with the mysterious Ent known as Treebeard. Sam had traveled back across the river to replenish valuable supplies Frodo and himself had lost in the river, but he had been turned around and ended up in the forest. Still, the captives were nowhere to be found. Theoden, however, spotted Grishnakh the Orc dragging Boromir away and gave chase. Grishnakh fled and met his end at the hands of Treebeard. With Boromir rescued, all that was left was to find Merry. A desperate search ensued, and the little Hobbit was finally found hiding under a mass of bodies and clothes. Finally reunited, the group heard from Treebeard that Sam had left once more to rejoin Frodo on his journey towards Mordor. For their part, they traveled to Edoras to learn the truth about the wizard claiming to be Gandalf. Despite their fears, they learned that Gandalf had indeed returned from death as Gandalf the White, and he claimed that they were just in time for the turn of the tide.

Set-up 

Assault-on-Helm's-Deep-2B

The quest begins at stage 1 – The King of the Golden Hall. Here, I have to make the decision between shuffling 1 copy of the burden Poisoned Counsels into each deck, which discards a player’s hand when it is drawn, or advancing immediately to stage 2. Taking the burden gives each deck the chance to play a free ally, along with a free round of no questing and combat. However, I am going to continue following my policy of avoiding burdens when possible, despite the help I would gain against a tough quest. I might be able to survive Poisoned Counsels this scenario but don’t want to have to worry about it in the future. Therefore, I’ll skip stage 1 and advance to stage 2.

Stage 2 – Assault on Helm’s Deep – adds The Defense of Helm’s Deep objective to the staging area along with 2 copies of Soldier of Isengard (39 engagement cost, 4 threat, 4 attack, 1 defense, 4 hit points)[Toughness 1. Archery 1.]. Deeping Wall (4 threat, 4 quest points) becomes the active location. Remember that the scenario is won by surviving until 8 resource tokens are placed on The Defense of Helm’s Deep (1 is placed at the end of each round) and then completing stage 5. The final bit of setup is to reveal 1 encounter card per player.  Deck One draws Reckless Hate, which causes the enemy with the highest attack to make an immediate attack against the player that draws this treachery. This is a really tough draw to begin the game. Boromir will defend against the attack from one of the Soldiers of Isengard, taking 1 damage thanks to the boost from Deeping Wall (4 attack – 3 defense = 1 damage). I am not getting off to a good start here. Deck Two draws Wild Hillman (24 engagement cost, 3 threat, 3 attack, 2 defense, 3 hit points).

In terms of campaign mode, Mr. Underhill has been removed from the campaign pool. On the plus side, the Gandalf’s Delay, Weight of the Ring, and Eaten Alive! burdens are removed for this scenario.

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

* Each deck has a starting penalty of +2 due to the loss of Gandalf and Pippin.

Meeting in Meduseld, Gandalf convinced Theoden that he should ride west to take care of the threat of Saruman before it was too late. While the women and children were sent to the refuge of Helm’s Deep, all able-bodied men rode forth under the king’s banner. The group of heroes, led by Gandalf, joined them. However, a rider met the host on the road to Isengard, bringing the grave news that the Fords of Isen had been lost to a great host the likes of which had never been seen. Gandalf sent the rider on an unknown errand, as the host turned south towards Helm’s Deep to prepare for battle with Saruman’s horde.

Boromir stood upon the Deeping Wall, watching as the great grassy plain below turned dark as it was covered with the Uruk-hai and Dunlendings under the treacherous white wizard’s command. He had wanted Aragorn and the others to join with him in riding towards Minas Tirith immediately, but Gandalf’s plan was a sensible one. It would do no good for Rohan to be overrun and Gondor to be taken from both sides. Still, the outlook was grim.

“This is folly, we are outnumbered ten to one,” he remarked, wounds still bandaged from his ordeal at the hands of the Orcs of the White Hand.

“If you’d like, we can return you to them,” Aragorn replied.

“At your own peril! The men of Gondor are used to long odds. Without my aid, this fortress would fall in mere minutes!”

Glorfindel said nothing, standing at their side and reflecting on wars of long ages past.

Meanwhile, Merry had been sent to the caves along with the women, children, and those too wounded or old to fight. Although he wanted to join the others, Theoden had insisted that such a battle was no place for him. His gloom, however, was pierced by the sight of a face marked by familiarity. Eowyn, kin of Theoden, who had accompanied them on their journey from the Shire to Rivendell, was there! She, too, seemed miserable, though from worry or doubt or some other feeling Merry could not say. 

As Merry sat in a corner, worrying for his friends, suddenly the familiar voice of Eowyn was in his ear.

“Come with me!”

DECK ONE (Starting Threat – 27)

Heroes: Glorfindel, Boromir, Eowyn

Starting Hand: Curious Brandybuck, Ethir Swordsman, Feint, Galadriel’s Handmaiden, The White Council, The White Council

Mulligan: Hama, Light of Valinor, Escort from Edoras, A Test of Will, Gondorian Shield, Westfold Horse-breaker

Thoughts: The first hand was pretty poor, lacking any of the important attachments for this deck. While Light of Valinor is always key for a Glorfindel deck, it is absolutely essential for this quest, which places such a high demand on both willpower and combat prowess right from the start. The mulligan hand is pretty much perfect, hitting on Light of Valinor, but also Gondorian Shield for Boromir, action advantage through Westfold Horse-breaker, and A Test of Will to cancel Devilry of Saruman.

DECK TWO (Starting Threat – 32)

Heroes: Gandalf, Merry, Beravor

Starting Hand: Asfaloth, The Three Hunters, A Good Harvest, Elrond, Steward of Gondor, Dagger of Westernesse

Mulligan: Dagger of Westernesse, Booming Ent, Honour Guard, Booming Ent, A Good Harvest, Flame of Anor

Thoughts: The first starting hand is pretty fantastic, with the A Good Harvest/Steward of Gondor combination immediately available, along with a Dagger for Merry and Asfaloth for Glorfindel. However, Shadowfax is as necessary for this deck as Light of Valinor is for Deck One, so I will dabble in a bit of insanity and take a mulligan here. Unfortunately, the new hand is not as good. I have a bunch of Tactics cards, A Good Harvest without Steward, and no Shadowfax. Thankfully, I at least have Flame of Anor to help Gandalf with readying until his horse shows up.

ROUND 1 (11 threat in staging area, 0/8 progress on 2B, 0 victory points, Active Location – Deeping Wall [0/4 quest points], The Defense of Helm’s Deep – 0/8)

**Staging Area – Soldier of Isengard, Soldier of Isengard, Wild Hillman**

DECK ONE PREPARATION (First Player) – 27 Threat

Resources: Glorfindel – 1, Boromir – 1, Eowyn – 1, Aragorn – 1

Draw: Westfold Horse-breaker

New Hand: Hama, Light of Valinor, Escort from Edoras, A Test of Will, Gondorian Shield, Westfold Horse-breaker, Westfold Horse-breaker

Planning: As usual, the first order of business is to play Light of Valinor onto Glorfindel. I will then play Gondorian Shield onto Boromir. I’m missing Theoden’s cost reduction a bit here, but I’m hoping Eowyn’s questing contribution will make up for it.

Resources: Glorfindel – 0, Boromir – 0, Eowyn – 1, Aragorn – 1

As it neared midnight, and the defenders stood massed on the walls, the storm finally broke. Bursts of lightning illuminated the night, the white light showing a dark tide of black shapes surging towards them. Boromir held his shield aloft as arrows began to fly over the battlements. The assault on Helm’s Deep had begun.

DECK TWO PREPARATION – 32 Threat

Resources: Gandalf – 1, Merry – 1, Beravor – 1

Draw: Booming Ent

New Hand: Dagger of Westernesse, Booming Ent, Honour Guard, Booming Ent, A Good Harvest, Flame of Anor, Booming Ent

Planning: Yet another Booming Ent, and I’m certainly flush with them at the moment, but they’re not necessarily what I need. Fortunately, Gandalf’s Staff is on top of my deck, and I’ll use Gandalf’s ability, paying 1 from Beravor and 1 from Gandalf to attach the Staff. I’ll save Merry’s resource for the variety of Tactics cards in my hand (Quickbeam is now on top of my deck).

Resources: Gandalf – 0, Merry – 1, Beravor – 0

Gandalf finished with some final words to Theoden inside the Hornburg, then rushed to the Deeping Wall, holding his staff in one hand and a sword in the other.

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

This quest starts off rough. In this case, there is already 11 threat in the staging area before staging. It’s likely that I will quest unsuccessfully this round, as I just don’t have enough willpower yet, but my goal is to minimize the progress placed. With that in mind, I need to place a heavy priority on questing, even over combat needs. Deck One will commit Eowyn (4 willpower), Aragorn (2 willpower), and Glorfindel (3 willpower) for a total of 9 willpower. Deck Two will commit Gandalf (4 willpower) and Merry (2 willpower) for a total of 6 willpower. This is a total of 15 willpower against 11 threat in the staging area.

Staging:

Card 1: Devilry of Saruman – This is an ugly treachery to hit so early. It could actually be worse later on, but if I want to deal with enemies, I can’t afford to have my characters’ text boxes blanked. I hate to use A Test of Will early, but I have no choice.

Devilry-of-Saruman

Card 2: Soldier of Isengard (39 engagement cost, 4 threat, 4 attack, 1 defense, 4 hit points)[Toughness 1. Archery 1.] – Another Soldier has taken the field. It will take a bit of time to clear them out.

Resolution:

My 15 willpower is pitted against 15 threat. This means I won’t have to place any progress, which is a better outcome than I was expecting. Keeping the Deeping Wall in place as the active location will definitely help with early defending, as it grants a defense boost to all heroes.

Uruk-hai tried to climb the walls with ladders and ropes, but were felled with rocks and arrows. However, for every one that fell, two more would take its place. Another group of Orcs marched onto the causeway with a large ram, seeking to gain access to the gates of the Hornburg. Meanwhile, two large Uruk-hai rushed forward towards a culvert in the wall, holding a strange device between them. Before Aragorn could shout orders for arrows to be loosed at them, he noticed a strange sight. A bowman with a slight frame and a mask covering his face took aim. The first arrow fell uselessly into the mud at the feet of the Orcs, but the second and third found their marks, taking down each of them in turn. As they fell, the device fell into the mud and was quenched with water and mire.

ENCOUNTER:

There are four enemies in the staging area. The Wild Hillman must come down, while the Soldiers of Isengard can remain. However, I do want to clear some threat out of the staging area. Deck One will optionally engage a copy of Soldier of Isengard while Deck Two will optionally engage the Wild Hillman. I could have taken on one other enemy by doing the engagements differently, but I prefer to leave two in the staging area so that the forced effect on stage 2B does not trigger at the end of the combat phase. This does mean some progress will be placed on the quest at the end of the round from the other forced effect, but this seems the better option at the moment.

A large Orc managed to make it to the top of the wall and hurled itself over the battlements. Boromir stood ready, with Glorfindel at his side. Meanwhile, Gandalf made it to the other end of the wall, his white robes fluttering in the wind, just as an angry wild hillman leaped into his path. 

COMBAT:

There are 3 points of archery to deal, 1 from each copy of Soldier of Isengard. I will put this damage on Glorfindel (2/5 hit points remaining).

Enemy Attack:

Deck One will ready Boromir (raising threat to 28) to defend against the Soldier of Isengard. He takes no damage from this attack (4 attack – 5 defense = 0 damage). Deck One will use Beravor to defend against the Wild Hillman. The shadow effect places a progress on Deeping Wall (1/4 quest points) and boosts the Hillman’s attack by 1. She takes 1 damage from this attack because of the defense boost from Deeping Wall (4 attack – 3 defense = 1 damage). The Wild Hillman adds 1 more progress to the active location because of his ability (2/4 quest points).

Player Attack:

I will ready Boromir again (raising threat to 29) and he will attack with Glorfindel to destroy the Soldier of Isengard (7 attack – 1 defense = 6 damage, reduced to 5 by toughness). It’s imperative to get rid of the Wild Hillman, as he will keep adding progress to the active location every time he attacks. I will thus pay 1 from Merry for Flame of Anor, discarding Quickbeam from the top of my deck, readying Gandalf and giving him +2 attack in addition to the +1 bonus from Beyond All Hope. He will destroy the Wild Hillman (6 attack – 2 defense = 4 damage). Steward of Gondor is now on top of my deck. I will use Gandalf’s Staff to have Deck Two draw Steward, as I want to get to Shadowfax as quickly as possible. The next card on top of my deck is The Three Hunters.

As the Orc charged forward, three arrows found their mark in Glorfindel’s chest, knocking him heavily into the ground. The triumphant Orc moved to take advantage, but Boromir turned the blow aside with his shield and shoved the creature to the ground. To his surprise, Glorfindel was at his side once more to finish off the Orc, pointing to his gleaming, Rivendell-forged armor as the explanation. 

“One to both of us,” he stated.

“You are mistaken,” Boromir cried. “Two to me for saving your skin!”

Meanwhile, the hillman swung a massive axe at Gandalf’s head. The wizard was surprisingly agile and dodged the blow, but was hard-pressed. A woman in a green cloak intervened, using a quarterstaff to disarm the attacker. However, the hillman was crafty and unveiled a dagger, slashing unexpectedly and biting the flesh of the woman’s arm. Gandalf stepped forward with a flash of light from his staff, blinding the man for a moment, with his sword following to finish the deed. 

“Beravor,” the woman introduced herself.

She was terse of word, but Gandalf now recognized her as one of the Dunedain of the north, who had met them in Edoras after completing errands for Aragorn in the wild.

REFRESH

2 progress is placed on stage 2B from the 2 enemies in the staging area. A resource is added to The Defense of Helm’s Deep.

ROUND 2 (9 threat in staging area, 2/8 progress on 2B, 1 victory point, Active Location – Deeping Wall [2/4 quest points], The Defense of Helm’s Deep – 1/8)

**Staging Area – Soldier of Isengard, Soldier of Isengard**

DECK TWO PREPARATION (First Player) – 33 Threat

Resources: Gandalf – 1, Merry – 1, Beravor – 1, Aragorn – 2

Draw: The Three Hunters

New Hand: Dagger of Westernesse, Booming Ent, Honour Guard, Booming Ent, A Good Harvest, Booming Ent, Steward of Gondor, The Three Hunters

Planning: I will play A Good Harvest, naming “Leadership” as the desired sphere. I will then pay 1 from Merry and 1 from Beravor to play Steward of Gondor on Gandalf. I will then exhaust Steward of Gondor to add 2 resources to Gandalf’s pool. I will then finish Deck Two’s planning by paying 3 from Gandalf’s pool for the top card of the deck, which is Elrond, triggering Elrond’s healing to remove all damage from Glorfindel. This should give me more breathing room in terms of archery.

Resources: Gandalf – 0, Merry – 0, Beravor – 0, Aragorn – 2

Gandalf battled forth across the wall, finally reaching Boromir and Glorfindel. The Elf was battling on bravely, a match for any Orc or Man, but he was clearly struggling through some hidden wound. The wizard pulled him aside for a moment, ignoring his protests, and held a hand over his chest. Drawing on the wisdom and healing lore he had learned from Elrond, Gandalf was able to ease some of Glorfindel’s discomfort.

DECK ONE PREPARATION – 30 Threat

Resources: Glorfindel – 1, Boromir – 1, Eowyn – 1

Draw: Escort from Edoras

New Hand: Hama, Escort from Edoras, Westfold Horse-breaker, Westfold Horse-breaker, Escort from Edoras

Planning: Maximum willpower is the main order of the day, even if it is of the temporary variety. Therefore, I’ll pay 1 from Eowyn and Glorfindel to play one of the copies of Escort from Edoras.

Resources: Glorfindel – 0, Boromir – 1, Eowyn – 0

Eowyn stared resolutely into the night, trying to spot enemies scaling the wall below her as the raindrops fell into the visor of her helm. Merry stood at her side, much more difficult to disguise, but no one paid any attention to him in the midst of the brutal battle for survival. Eowyn noted that the ranks at her side were thin, but they stood bravely against the tide all the same. If any thought of breaking, they were perhaps halted by the knowledge that there was no way out but to stand firm. 

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

It’s a good sign that the threat in the staging area is actually lower than last round. Let’s see if this state of affairs can be maintained. Deck Two will commit Elrond (3 willpower), Aragorn (2 willpower), and Merry (2 willpower) for a total of 7 willpower. Gandalf will be held back for combat duties. Deck One will commit Eowyn (4 willpower), Escort from Edoras (4 willpower), and Glorfindel (3 willpower) for a total of 11 willpower. This is a total of 18 willpower against 9 in the staging area. I will also exhaust Beravor to have Deck One draw 2 cards, which turn out to be Galadriel’s Handmaiden and The White Council.

Staging:

Card 1: Postern Door (3 threat, 2 quest points) – One of the trickier locations around because of its effect when it is explored, which prevents players from declaring attacks.

Postern-Door

Card 2: The Hornburg (3 threat, 3 quest points) – A potentially useful location as it helps to soak up archery, although it deals damage of its own when it is explored.

Resolution:

This round has not revealed any new enemies, which is a plus on the one hand, but having two locations in the staging area to deal with does mean that there is threat there that I cannot deal with easily. My 18 willpower against 15 threat means that no progress is placed once again. Escort from Edoras is discarded from play after quest resolution. Meanwhile, before resolution, I will exhaust Gandalf’s Staff to have Deck Two draw Wandering Ent, revealing Elrond as the new top card of the deck. Shadowfax is still nowhere to be found.

While the main thrust of the attack was directed towards the Deeping Wall, Aragorn noted with concern that the group of Orcs on the causeway had made substantial progress and were preparing to use a huge battering ram against the gates of the Hornburg. There was a small postern door that could be used to waylay them, but doing so would mean taking his attention away from the furious main assault.

ENCOUNTER:

There are two copies of Soldier of Isengard in the staging area, neither of which need to come down based on threat. I could leave them there, adding more progress to the quest stage in order to avoid the extra reveal at the end of the combat phase. However, with the two locations added this round, I want to keep the threat in the staging area under control, so removing two cards, while adding one through the quest stage’s forced effect, seems a good deal. Therefore, each deck will engage one of the Soldiers.

Aragorn began to make his way towards the Hornburg, with Gandalf and Beravor at his side, and Boromir and Glorfindel trailing just behind. However, a group of Orcs made it over the wall and rushed towards the group from the front and back.

COMBAT:

There are 2 points of archery to deal, 1 from each copy of Soldier of Isengard. I will make use of Erond’s temporary nature and put the damage on him.

Enemy Attack:

Gandalf will defend against the Soldier of Isengard, taking no damage (4 attack – 5 defense = 0 damage). Boromir will defend for Deck One, taking no damage (4 attack – 5 defense = 0 damage). However, the shadow effect causes the Soldier to attack again. I will ready Boromir (raising threat to 31) to defend again. The Soldier’s attack is boosted by one from the shadow effect, but it isn’t enough to deal damage thanks to that glorious Deeping Wall (5 attack – 5 defense = 0 damage)!

Player Attack:

Deck Two unfortunately doesn’t have a means of destroying the Soldier engaged with it. Deck One, however, will ready Boromir (raising threat to 32) and use him in conjunction with Glorfindel to destroy the Soldier of Isengard engaged with it (7 attack – 1 defense = 6 damage, reduced to 5 by toughness).

Gandalf held off the Orc in front of him, using his staff to knock it against the ramparts. Meanwhile, Boromir used his shield to block the Orcs to their rear, using an opportunity to attack the one in the lead. Glorfindel had the same idea, and their blades met as one in the thick of its neck. 

“Two for us both!” sang the Elf.

REFRESH:

I trigger the quest card effect at the end of the combat phase for having fewer enemies in the staging area than the number of players, revealing an encounter card. This turns out to be yet another Soldier of Isengard (39 engagement cost, 4 threat, 4 attack, 1 defense, 4 hit points)[Toughness 1. Archery 1.]. I then trigger the other quest card effect at the end of the round, adding another progress to the quest stage for the Soldier just added to the staging area (3/8 progress). 1 more resource is then added to The Defense of Helm’s Deep (2/8).

ROUND 3 (12 threat in staging area, 3/8 progress on 2B, 1 victory point, Active Location – Deeping Wall [2/4 quest points], The Defense of Helm’s Deep – 2/8)

**Staging Area – Postern Door, The Hornburg, Soldier of Isengard**

DECK ONE PREPARATION (First Player) – 33 Threat

Resources: Glorfindel – 1, Boromir – 2, Eowyn – 1, Aragorn – 3

Draw: Unexpected Courage

New Hand: Hama, Westfold Horse-breaker, Westfold Horse-breaker, Escort from Edoras, Galadriel’s Handmaiden, The White Council, Unexpected Courage

Planning: It might be a good idea to get a permanent questing ally out, like Galadriel’s Handmaiden. However, I really need raw questing power at the moment so I will play my other copy of Escort from Edoras.

Resources: Glorfindel – 0, Boromir – 2, Eowyn – 0, Aragorn – 3

Several men of Rohan rallied around their position, seeking to defend the area of the wall from a concentrated Orc assault.

DECK TWO PREPARATION – 34 Threat

Resources: Gandalf – 3, Merry – 1, Beravor – 1 (includes Steward of Gondor)

Draw: Elrond

New Hand: Dagger of Westernesse, Booming Ent, Honour Guard, Booming Ent, Booming Ent, The Three Hunters, Wandering Ent, Elrond

Planning: Steward of Gondor sits on top of my deck, which is useless, and I am still looking for Shadowfax. Therefore, I will use Gandalf’s Staff to draw Steward, showing Sting as the new top card. I will pay 2 from Gandalf to play Sting on Merry (Honour Guard is now on top of the deck). I will then pay 1 from Merry to attach Dagger of Westernesse to him.

Resources: Gandalf – 1, Merry – 0, Beravor – 1

For much of the initial rush, Merry had stood paralyzed with fear by Eowyn’s side. He had endured fear and hardship already on the journey, but nothing could prepare him for the raw chaos and terror of battle. However, the hardy Hobbit regained his senses as Orcs began to climb the walls near his position, and pulled two long daggers forth, ready to meet whatever should come his way.

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

Deck One will commit Eowyn (4 willpower), Escort from Edoras (4 willpower), Aragorn (2 willpower) and Glorfindel (3 willpower) for a total of 13 willpower. Deck Two will commit only Merry (3 willpower), since Gandalf has to be held back in the absence of readying effects. I have 16 willpower committed against 12 in the staging area. This isn’t ideal, but I can’t risk over-committing at this point. It might also not be a bad thing if the active location is explored, despite the threat increase, allowing me to move a location out of the staging area.

Staging:

Card 1: Warrior of Dunland (44 engagement cost, 4 threat, 5 attack, 1 defense, 5 hit points)[Peril. Archery 1.] – This is probably the worst enemy in the deck, as he has high stats and makes an immediate attack when he is revealed. Boromir will defend, taking no damage (5 attack – 5 defense = 0 damage).

Warrior-of-Dunland

Card 2: Helm’s Gate (5 threat, 3 quest points) – Now I’ve drawn probably the worst location. Helm’s Gate has an absurdly high threat of 5 and terrible effects both while it is the active location and when it is explored. This has not been a kind staging.

Resolution:

The threat in the staging area is now a terrifying 21 against my paltry 16. Each deck will discard a card to boost Eowyn (Deck One will discard Westfold Horse-breaker and Deck Two will discard the duplicate Steward of Gondor), taking my willpower to 18. This means 3 progress will be placed. 2 is enough to finish exploring Deeping Wall, while 1 more progress is placed on stage 2B (3/8 progress remaining). Each deck has to raise its threat by 4 since Deeping Wall was explored, raising Deck One to 37 and Deck Two to 38. Escort from Edoras is discarded from play.

The danger to the Hornburg was dire, as the battering ram was repeatedly slammed into the gates, and the wood began to splinter and budge. Meanwhile, Aragorn’s charge to its rescue continued to be halted as more and more enemies made it over the walls, as the defenders were outnumbered, and grew ever more so as they were cut down. A huge Man suddenly stood atop the wall near Boromir, a Dunlending warrior, and he dove onto the Gondor champion’s back, attempting to wrestle him to the ground.

TRAVEL:

I will travel to The Hornburg to help reduce some of the archery damage that will be forthcoming.

Boromir shook off the Dunlending warrior with a stunning violence, and the company cut their way through the hordes overrunning the Deeping Wall, finally reaching the Hornburg.

ENCOUNTER:

Deck One will engage the Soldier of Isengard, but I will leave the Warrior of Dunland where he is for the moment to avoid being overwhelmed.

Orcs closed in on them once more, coming from the wall just behind.

COMBAT:

Archery is currently at 3, 1 each from the enemies on the board. Thankfully, The Hornburg reduces this by 2, so I only have to place 1 point of damage. I will place it on Glorfindel (4/5 hit points remaining).

Enemy Attack:

Boromir will ready (increasing threat to 38) to defend against the Soldier of Isengard, taking no damage (4 attack – 4 defense = 0 damage). Unfortunately, the shadow card forces an attachment to be discarded. Both Gondorian Shield and Light of Valinor are incredibly important, and I can ill afford to lose either, but I need the Shield to have a hope at defending over the long run, so I will discard Light of Valinor. On the other side, Gandalf will defend against the Soldier engaged with Deck Two, taking no damage (4 attack – 4 defense = 0 damage). The shadow card though is Pursued By The Enemy, which means the Soldier will attack again, which ruins my plans a bit. Deck One will play The White Council, using 2 resources from Boromir. Deck One will take card draw, in hopes of finding another copy of Light of Valinor, but draws Curious Brandybuck instead. Deck Two will ready Gandalf, which was the main point of playing this event. Gandalf will defend against the additional attack, taking no damage once again (4 attack – 4 defense = 0 damage).

Player Attack:

Boromir will ready (increasing threat to 39) and aid Glorfindel in destroying the Soldier of Isengard (7 attack – 1 defense = 6 damage, reduced to 5 by toughness). Theoden (3 attack) and Glorfindel (4 attack) will combine to destroy the Uruk-hai Fighter (7 attack – 2 defense = 5 damage, reduced to 3 damage by toughness). Unfortunately, Deck Two will have to keep its Soldier around once again. I will now use Beravor to have Deck One draw 2 cards, in the hopes of finding Light of Valinor. It draws Ethir Swordsman and Elrond’s Counsel.

Arrows flew overhead but bounced harmlessly off the sturdy stone of the Hornburg. Boromir turned to ward off the blow from the lead Orc, but a pressing mass of others surged forward, cornering Glorfindel. Another Orc launched savage attacks at Gandalf, who was able to block them with sword and staff, but could not move to counter the blows. Glorfindel spun out of the crowd and combined with Boromir to down the foe in front of him.

“Three!” he cried.

“Four for me still,” Boromir retorted.

Meanwhile, Beravor sought a way to lead them forward away from the pursuit so that they could reach the gates in time.

REFRESH:

Since there are fewer enemies in the staging area than the number of players, I have to reveal a card at the end of the combat phase. This turns out to be Isengard Uruk (34 engagement cost, 2 threat, 3 attack, 1 defense, 4 hit points)[Peril. Toughness 1. Archery 2.], which deals 3 damage to Deck One (I’m not going to take another encounter card). I will deal this damage to Glorfindel (1/5 hit points remaining). I then trigger the other quest card effect at the end of round, placing 2 more progress on stage 2B for the 2 enemies now in the staging area (5/8 progress). 1 more resource is added to The Defense of Helm’s Deep (3/8).

ROUND 4 (17 threat in staging area, 5/8 progress on 2B, 1 victory point, Active Location – Hornburg [0/3 quest points], The Defense of Helm’s Deep – 3/8)

**Staging Area – Postern Door, Warrior of Dunland, Helm’s Gate, Isengard Uruk**

DECK TWO PREPARATION (First Player) – 39 Threat

Resources: Gandalf – 4, Merry – 1, Beravor – 2, Aragorn – 4 (includes Steward of Gondor)

Draw: Honour Guard

New Hand: Booming Ent, Honour Guard, Booming Ent, Booming Ent, The Three Hunters, Wandering Ent, Elrond, Honour Guard

Planning: Currently, Flame of Anor is on top of my deck. I will once again use Gandalf’s Staff to draw in the hopes of reaching Shadowfax. Flame of Anor enters my hand…and Shadowfax is now the top card! I will pay 3 from Gandalf to attach his mount to him (Treebeard is now on top of the deck). I will also pay 2 from Beravor for Wandering Ent, which will enter play exhausted. I could save up for Elrond, but I really need to start building a solid, permanent board presence if I hope to keep up with the encounter deck.

Resources: Gandalf – 1, Merry – 1, Beravor – 0, Aragorn – 4

Gandalf held his staff high, shining a light, and sent a whistle through the clamor of battle. Suddenly, there was the sound of hooves pounding on stone, and a gleaming white horse charged to his side. It was Shadowfax, lord of horses, gifted to Gandalf by Theoden as a reward for freeing the king from Saruman’s influence.   

DECK ONE PREPARATION – 40 Threat

Resources: Glorfindel – 1, Boromir – 1, Eowyn – 1

Draw: Horn of Gondor

New Hand: Hama, Westfold Horse-breaker, Galadriel’s Handmaiden, Unexpected Courage, Curious Brandybuck, Ethir Swordsman, Elrond’s Counsel, Horn of Gondor

Planning: I’m facing down a metric ton of threat in the staging area and don’t have anymore Escorts to play, so I will play Galadriel’s Handmaiden instead, which will also help shave off a bit of threat (reducing threat to 39). Unfortunately, there’s no Light of Valinor to be found. Boromir will also use a resource to attach Horn of Gondor.

Resources: Glorfindel – 0, Boromir – 0, Eowyn – 0

Glorfindel moved forward into the fray, once again remembering elder days, seeking to draw attention away from Gandalf’s ride towards the gates. 

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

There is 17 threat in the staging area, which means my back is up against the wall here and things are admittedly looking a bit dire if I don’t hold out long enough to get enough willpower onto the table. I also don’t have Light of Valinor on Glorfindel. Fortunately, I do have The Three Hunters, which will be a huge help this round for both questing and combat. Deck Two will commit Gandalf (4 willpower, readies with Shadowfax), Merry (3 willpower), and Aragorn (2 willpower) for a total of 9 willpower. Deck One will commit Eowyn (4 willpower), Galadriel’s Handmaiden (2 willpower), and Glorfindel (3 willpower, increases threat back to 40) for a total of 9 willpower.  I will then play The Three Hunters, readying Merry, Aragorn, and Glorfindel and giving them all +1 willpower. This is a grand total of 21 willpower against 17 threat.

Staging

Card 1: Deeping Culvert (X threat, 2 quest points, X = 1 more than number of allies controlled by the first player) – Deeping Culvert can be an absolute nightmare when you’ve built up a nice army of allies. Fortunately, Deck Two (the first player) only has 1 ally, the Wandering Ent, which means this location will only have 2 threat. However, it will be a limiting force on how quickly I get allies out, and it’s a good bit of card design in that respect.

Deeping-Culvert

Card 2: Deeping Wall (4 threat, 4 quest points) – Another high threat location in the staging area will make things difficult. This could help me with defending if I make it the active location at some point, but my threat is too high at this point to suffer another threat increase when it is explored.

Resolution:

21 willpower against 23 threat is not as bad a scenario as I feared. Deck One will play Elrond’s Counsel to lower its threat to 37 and add 1 willpower to Eowyn. Deck Two will discard Booming Ent from hand to add another point of willpower to Eowyn. This is a new grand total of 23 willpower against 23 threat, which means I break even. I’ve held off the storm for yet another round, but I’m running out of tricks.

Meanwhile, Eowyn, disguised in her helm, sought to rally the defenders left on the wall against the onslaught. She called a group together and they formed a temporary block of resistance against the Orcs surging over the wall. Merry stood by her side, doing what he could to slash and thrust against the legs and torsos of any foes that fell within his reach. Gradually, they too were pushed from their section of the wall and forced to retreat. Merry found himself separated from Eowyn, blindly searching for her or any of his friends in the chaos.

Aragorn, Boromir and Glorfindel held back the Orcs near the Hornburg, seeking to protect the fortress from those Orcs who had made it past the wall as Gandalf charged to the aid of the gates.

Unbeknownst to all, though, a small group of Orcs moved towards the culvert under the wall, holding another of the strange devices of Saruman…

ENCOUNTER:

I need to clear as much threat out of the staging area as possible, so Deck Two will optionally engage the Isengard Uruk, while Deck One will optionally engage the Warrior of Dunland.

The large Dunlending warrior that had tackled Boromir earlier suddenly strode through the pack of Orcs, pointing his axe at him in a clear sign of a challenge. Meanwhile, a large Uruk sought to grab Gandalf as he rode past.

COMBAT:

The archery total is at 4 this round, reduced to 2 by The Hornburg. I will put this damage on the Wandering Ent (1/3 hit points remaining).

Enemy Attack:

Gandalf will defend against the Soldier of Isengard, taking no damage (4 attack – 4 defense = 0 damage). The shadow card forces Deck Two to discard an attachment, so I will get rid of the Dagger of Westernesse on Merry. This definitely hampers my attacking plans. Aragorn will defend against the Isengard Uruk, taking no damage thanks to the boost from The Three Hunters (3 attack – 3 defense = 0 damage). Boromir will defend against the Warrior of Dunland, taking 2 damage because the shadow card boosts the enemy’s attack by 1 (6 attack – 4 defense = 2 damage). He is left with 2 hit points.

Player Attack:

I will spend a resource from Gandalf to play Flame of Anor, discarding Treebeard from the top of the deck, while increasing Gandalf’s attack by 4 and readying him. He will then attack with Merry to obliterate the Soldier of Isengard (10 attack – 1 defense = 9 damage, reduced to 8 by toughness). Merry will use his ability to ready Gandalf, who will then attack to destroy the Isengard Uruk (8 attack – 1 defense = 7 damage, reduced to 6 by toughness). On the other side, Boromir will ready (increasing threat to 38) and combine with Glorfindel to destroy the Warrior of Dunland (7 attack – 1 defense = 6 damage). Beravor will exhaust to allow Deck One to draw once more, and it pulls Westfold Outrider and Curious Brandybuck.


Boromir stepped forward to meet the challenge. The large Dunlending swung a huge axe at Boromir, who was able to just bring his shield to bear in time. Yet the strength of the Man was such that it smote into the shield and knocked Boromir backward. A second savage swing cut into flesh. The warrior advanced once more, lifting the axe high over head. Boromir pushed forward with the shield to knock the warrior off balance, then buried his sword into his torso. Driven forward by rage and determination, the warrior ripped the sword from his innards and moved forward once more, but Glorfindel’s sword flashed through the night and took the Man’s head from his shoulders.

Meanwhile, Gandalf used his staff to knock back the Orc looking to pull him from the back of Shadowfax. It was then that he saw a small shape, child-like in stature, about to be cut down from behind by a huge Uruk. The wizard rode forth and turned aside the blade with his own, causing Merry to whip around in surprise, snapping out of his daze. The Hobbit acted instinctively, stabbing into the Orc’s legs with both of his daggers. Shouting in pain, the Uruk staggered right into Gandalf’s waiting blade. 

“Gandalf, look out!” cried the familiar voice of Merry.

The wizard whipped Shadowfax around and met the assault of the Orc who had originally tried to bring him down. This time he was accompanied by a crowd of others. Gandalf held his staff aloft and a bright light sallied forth, sending strange fires into the flesh of his foes. Some of them fell to the ground as if hit by a blow. The first of them was left standing, but Gandalf soon remedied this with a skillful slash. He pulled Merry into the saddle in front of him and spurred Shadowfax onward.

“Fool of a Brandybuck!” he scolded. “It was safer for you in the caverns.”

But his tone softened.

“Still, you have done well to make it this far when so many have fallen. A fool, but a brave fool you are.”

REFRESH:

With no enemies in the staging area, a card is revealed at the end of the combat phase. It is another Warrior of Dunland (44 engagement cost, 4 threat, 5 attack, 1 defense, 5 hit points)[Peril. Archery 1.]! This is the worst possible draw, as peril means that Deck Two will have to face the immediate attack and all of its heroes are exhausted with no readying effects in sight, while Deck One has no sentinel available. Essentially, this would mean the death of one of Deck Two’s heroes, and I can’t afford to add yet another hit to my starting threat, with 2 fallen heroes already in the campaign. There is only one way out, and it means using up Leaf-wrapped Lembas to ready all heroes in play. This is a big waste of this one-time use boon, but it’s the only solution here that doesn’t involve the loss of a hero. I will add Leaf-warrped Lembas to the victory display to ready all heroes. Now that everyone is ready, I will defend with Gandalf, who takes 1 damage (5 attack – 4 defense = 1 damage).

At the end of the round, another progress will be placed on stage 2B due to the Warrior of Dunland being present in the staging area (6/8 progress). I will also place the 4th token on The Defense of Helm’s Deep, meaning that I have reached the halfway point of the battle.

As Gandalf and Merry rode on, a Dunlending warrior launched a spear directly at them. It was only the clear head given him by rest and sustenance from the rations of Lorien before the battle that allowed him to see it in time, turning Shadowfax aside just enough for the weapon to graze his robes.

ROUND 5 (22 threat in staging area, 6/8 progress on 2B, 5 victory points, Active Location – Hornburg [0/3 quest points], The Defense of Helm’s Deep – 4/8)

**Staging Area – Postern Door, Helm’s Gate, Deeping Culvert, Deeping Wall, Warrior of Dunland**

DECK ONE PREPARATION (First Player) – 39 Threat

Resources: Glorfindel – 1, Boromir – 1, Eowyn – 1, Aragorn – 2

Draw: The White Council

New Hand: Hama, Westfold Horse-breaker, Unexpected Courage, Curious Brandybuck, Ethir Swordsman, Westfold Outrider, Curious Brandybuck, The White Council

Planning: The threat situation is only getting worse, but some friendly neighborhood Outlanders in the form of the Ethir Swordsman provides a potential solution. Therefore, I’ll pay 2 to get him onto the table.

Resources: Glorfindel – 0, Boromir – 1, Eowyn – 0, Aragorn – 2

A few of the Men of Gondor that had accompanied the fellowship on their earlier journey began to rally around Boromir.

DECK TWO PREPARATION – 40 Threat

Resources: Gandalf – 3, Merry – 2, Beravor – 1 (includes Steward of Gondor)

Draw: Steward of Gondor

New Hand: Booming Ent, Honour Guard, Booming Ent, Elrond, Honour Guard, Steward of Gondor

Planning: Asfaloth is sitting on top of my deck, which could be a huge help in managing the staging area, although it would have been better if it showed up earlier. I will pay 2 from Gandalf to attach Asfaloth to Glorfindel (Halfling Determination is now on top of the deck). I will also pay 2 from Merry to play Honour Guard. Beravor will exhaust to have Deck One draw cards, netting Gondorian Discipline and Elrond’s Counsel.

Resources: Gandalf – 1, Merry – 0, Beravor – 1

Not to be outdone by the White Rider and Boromir with his Gondorian entourage, Glorfindel whistled for his own mount, who trampled down a few Orcs along the way to his master. The Elf leaped onto the horse in one smooth motion.

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

Facing down a mammoth amount of threat in the staging area, I’m actually going to try something a bit unconventional. I’m going to quest lightly and allow the stage to be explored. It is on the verge of being advanced anyway, and I might benefit more by having characters back for combat. The forced progress and reveal effects on stage 2 are also brutal, and without them I might have a better shot at victory. Even if I lose by a ton, it won’t matter, as progress doesn’t spill over to the next stage. Therefore, Deck One will commit Eowyn (4 willpower), while Deck Two will commit no one. This is a total of 4 willpower against 23 threat in the staging area.

Staging:

Card 1: Devilry of Saruman – Well, damn. My plan had one humongous, colossal hole in it, one that you, astute reader, might have seen in advance. I totally blanked on the fact that Devilry of Saruman could advance the quest during staging, which would mean that resolution (and progress token placement) would happen on stage 3B, which would also mean that my intentionally failed questing would lead to not one stage being advanced, but two! This was truly the bonehead move of all bonehead moves, especially without A Test of Will available. From a thematic standpoint, I like it, though, as it truly represents a miscalculation on the part of our heroes as well.

Devilry of Saruman places 3 tokens on stage 2B, advancing the quest to stage 3B. Another copy of Helm’s Gate (5 threat, 3 quest points) is brought out and becomes the active location, pushing The Hornburg back to the staging area. The text boxes of all characters will also be blanked until the end of the round. And there’s still one more card to go!

Card 2: Deeping Wall (4 threat, 4 quest points) – Sure, why not? Add to the party!

Card 3: Postern Door (3 threat, 2 quest points) – An extra card is revealed from Helm’s Gate since there are players with no enemies engaged.

Resolution:

I’m looking at 4 willpower against 33 threat in the staging area. This is 29 progress, which obliterates the active location (Helm’s Gate). All enemies will have +2 attack and -20 engagement cost until the end of the round. The quest then advances to stage 4 – The Wall Is Breached!, the final stage before defeat. I have to discard cards until 2 enemies are added to the staging area, which ends up being Isengard Uruk (34 engagement cost, 2 threat, 3 attack, 1 defense, 4 hit points)[Peril. Toughness 1. Archery 2.] and Soldier of Isengard (39 engagement cost, 4 threat, 4 attack, 1 defense, 4 hit points)[Toughness 1. Archery 1.]. For those keeping track at home, I’ve gone from having a good handle on the quest to jumping all the way to stage 4, facing down 3 enemies all with boosted attack and with all character text boxes being blanked. I would do well to just survive this round, let alone win the game.

The-Wall-is-Breached-4B

Seeing that the defenders left on the wall continued to be pushed back or cut down by the Orcs and Men that reached the top, Aragorn rushed back towards them to sound the retreat.

“Fall back!” he cried. “Fall back to the Hornburg!”

Many heard the order and began to abandon the wall as quickly as they could without exposing themselves to blows. Eowyn, however, spotted something below that filled her with dread. A group of Orcs emerged from the culvert underneath the wall. She could not be certain of their purpose there, but knew it was sure to be some form of dark mischief. With a sudden clench of her stomach, she remembered the strange device that she had halted earlier. Before she could even move to shout a warning, the world around her exploded. 

Huge chunks of stone and debris flew into the air as a whole section of the Deeping Wall was torn away by the explosion. Those unfortunate enough to be just above the culvert were sent into the air only to crash horribly to the ground far below. Her ears ringing and her vision blurred, Eowyn struggled to her feet.

Aragorn and the others heard the blast and saw the flash of light as the wall burst. After the dust settled, they saw an even worse sight: the hordes of Saruman’s army free to charge through the gaping hole left in the wall. While the tide of enemies had before been somewhat staunched by the need to first scale the walls and make it past any defenders, now the way was completely free. If that were not enough, at the same time, the foes at the gates of The Hornburg smashed through a whole section of the door, and Orcs began to stream into the fortress. Faced with overwhelming numbers, it seemed only a matter of time before all was lost.

TRAVEL:

Curious-Brandybuck

I will travel to the Deeping Wall. The extra threat increase if this location is explored could sink me in the long run, but I desperately need the defense boost to survive this round. Since I’ve traveled to a location, I can put both copies of Curious Brandybuck into play. This is a much-needed infusion of manpower (Hobbit-power?). Note that this move is legal as the text on Curious Brandybuck is not blanked by Devilry of Saruman while it is in hand. I will exhaust Asfaloth to place 2 progress on Helm’s Gate (in the staging area).

Aragorn rallied the others to his side. 

“To the breach!” he called. “We must stem the tide and give those at the gates a chance to hold without being caught from the rear.”

ENCOUNTER:

Deck One will optionally engage the Soldier of Isengard, while Deck Two will optionally engage the Warrior of Dunland. The Isengard Uruk will then come down on its own to Deck One. Fortunately, there now will be no penalty for having no enemies in the staging area.

Gandalf and Merry finally made it to the gates, with the ranger, Beravor, trailing just behind. They were just in time to meet the rush of enemies. Meanwhile, Aragorn had gathered a continent around him and led the remaining defenders of the wall in a mad headlong charge into the maw of the enemy.

COMBAT:

Archery currently stands at 4. I will place 1 on each copy of Curious Brandybuck, and the remaining 2 on Honour Guard. There is great value in allies that can soak damage!

Enemy Attack:

Boromir will defend against the Isengard Uruk, taking no damage (5 attack – 5 defense = 0 damage). Gandalf will use his staff to discard the shadow card from the Soldier of Isengard, which will be defended by Aragorn. He will take 3 damage (6 attack – 3 defense = 3 damage), leaving him with 2 hit points. Finally, Gandalf will defend against the Warrior of Dunland, taking 2 damage (7 attack – 5 defense = 2 damage), leaving him with 2 hit points. The shadow effect places 1 progress on Deeping Wall (1/4).

Player Attack:

I will pay 1 from Boromir and Aragorn to play The White Council, since I can’t access Aragorn’s readying effect because his text box is blanked. Deck One will ready Aragorn, while Deck Two will add a resource to Beravor. Aragorn and Glorfindel will team up to kill the Isengard Uruk (7 attack – 1 defense = 6 damage, reduced to 5 by toughness). Gandalf will ready with Shadowfax. He will attack the Warrior of Dunland, along with Wandering Ent, destroying this foe (6 attack – 1 defense = 5 damage). I’ve managed to survive the round and actually draw some blood as well.

At the breach, Boromir clashed with one foe, and they fell into a heap in the wet mud. Aragorn cut down several foes, but then was taken unawares by an Orc to his side, as they were pressed all about by the superior numbers of the opposing army. The weapon cut into his flesh and sent pain radiating through his body. Aragorn clenched his teeth and spun around, disarming the Orc with one smooth motion, leaving it to be finished by Glorfindel, charging forward on his horse. There was no time to tend to his wound, and he knew he would have to carry on through it.

Several Dunlending warriors poured through the opening in the gate and surrounded Gandalf, striking him with great force and sending him off his horse to the ground. Merry cried out in despair. However, the wizard was on his feet in moment, pressing them back with his sword. The largest of the warriors was sent back through the gate with a crash. Then, Gandalf saw a miraculous sight. A huge Ent had marched up the causeway, swatting aside those in his path. It grabbed the fallen warrior and tossed him through the air.

REFRESH

After everything readies, I will exhaust Asfaloth to explore the copy of Helm’s Gate in the staging area. Its forced effect will trigger, but has no effect since it fizzles at the end of the round. The 5th token is placed on The Defense of Helm’s Deep.

Glorfindel roamed the battlefield on his mount, relieving pressure wherever he was needed.

ROUND 6 (21 threat in staging area, 0/8 progress on 4B, 5 victory points, Active Location – Deeping Wall [1/4 quest points], The Defense of Helm’s Deep – 5/8)

**Staging Area – Postern Door, Deeping Culvert, The Hornburg, Deeping Wall, Postern Door **

DECK TWO PREPARATION (First Player) – 41 Threat

Resources: Gandalf – 4, Merry – 1, Beravor – 3, Aragorn – 2 (includes Steward of Gondor)

Draw: Halfling Determination

New Hand: Booming Ent, Honour Guard, Booming Ent, Elrond, Steward of Gondor, Halfling Determination

Planning: I will pay 2 from Gandalf to play Warden of Healing from the top of my deck (another Warden of Healing replaces it on top of the deck). Beravor will pay 3 for Elrond, using him to remove all damage from Boromir. I will exhaust the Warden to remove 1 damage each from Gandalf and Aragorn. Getting some healing in play could be key to staying alive long enough to win.

Resources: Gandalf – 2, Merry – 1, Beravor – 0, Aragorn – 2

A few healers among the Rohirrim and Gondorian contingent tried to run onto the field to tend to the wounded, but they themselves were in mortal danger.

DECK ONE PREPARATION – 40 Threat

Resources: Glorfindel – 1, Boromir – 1, Eowyn – 1

Draw: The White Council

New Hand: Hama, Westfold Horse-breaker, Unexpected Courage, Westfold Outrider, Gondorian Discipline, Elrond’s Counsel, Elrond’s Counsel, The White Council

Planning: I will pay 2 for Unexpected Courage on Beravor, which should allow me to keep drawing cards while having her actually participate as well (where is that Light of Valinor?!). I will immediately take advantage to have Beravor exhaust so that Deck One can draw 2 cards, which are Gondorian Discipline and The Galadhrim’s Greeting. I have a whole horseload of threat reduction now, but am still missing the all-important attachment-that-shall-not-be-named.

Resources: Glorfindel – 0, Boromir – 1, Eowyn – 0

At the gates, Beravor proved herself to be remarkably adept, wielding her quarterstaff with a skill that surprised all of those around her, if they had time to think about such matters in the midst of combat. It was her insight into the ways and habits of the enemy that gave her the real advantage though.

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

Deck Two will commit Elrond (3 willpower), Gandalf (4 willpower, exhaust Shadowfax to ready), Aragorn (2 willpower), Wandering Ent (2 willpower), and Merry (3 willpower) for a total of 14 willpower.  Deck One will commit Eowyn (4 willpower), Ethir Swordsman (2 willpower), Curious Brandybuck #1 (2 willpower), Curious Brandybuck #2 (2 willpower) and Galadriel’s Handmaiden (2 willpower) for a total of 12 willpower. This is a total of 26 willpower against 23 threat in the staging area. Hopefully this will be enough to avoid disaster, with the potential aid of some willpower boosting effects.

Staging:

Card 1: Night Without End (Doomed 2.) – The last thing I need is to prolong this affair, along with more threat. I could take 2 extra encounter cards, but that would be tantamount to suicide, so I’ll remove a token from The Defense of Helm’s Deep instead (4/8). Deck One increases to 42 threat while Deck Two increases to 43 threat. At least this does remove a point of threat from the staging area.

Night-Without-End

Card 2: Deeping Wall (4 threat, 4 quest points) – I don’t love to see another location, but it’s not the worst draw.

Resolution:

My 26 willpower against 26 threat will be enough to stop any progress this round. Night Without End was certainly annoying, and I am perilously close to defeat, but if I can keep this willpower level up, I just might be able to pull this off. Guess Curious Brandybuck isn’t too bad a card after all!

As Aragorn battled against the overwhelming tide of enemies at the breach, feeling weariness creep into his limbs and the wound at his side sting, it felt like the night would never end and the dawn would never come…

COMBAT:

I need to assign 1 point of archery damage from the Soldier of Isengard engaged with Deck One. I will place it on Elrond.

Enemy Attack:

Boromir will defend against the Soldier of Isengard, taking no damage (4 attack – 5 defense = 0 damage). Unfortunately, the shadow card causes a second attack. Boromir will ready (increasing threat to 43) and defend again, taking no damage. However, the shadow card forces me to exhaust a character, so I will exhaust Glorfindel.

Player Attack:

I need Glorfindel’s attack power, so I will pay 2 from Aragorn to use his ability to ready the Elf. Glorfindel and Boromir (readying and increasing threat to 44) will destroy the Soldier of Isengard (7 attack – 1 defense = 6 damage, reduced to 5 by toughness). I will use Gandalf’s Staff to add a resource to Glorfindel.

A savage Orc cut his way through several brave soldiers of Rohan, before running into Boromir, who stood before him like a stone before the storm. The Orc swung his axe again and again, not seeming to tire or lessen in strength. Glorfindel tried to interrupt his strikes, but the Orc smashed the Elf with the hilt of his sword, knocking him to the ground. Aragorn came along, helping Glorfindel to his feet, who then rushed at the Orc. Boromir saw the timing of his charge and threw his shoulder into the Orc as he reeled back for another strike, knocking his foe directly on the waiting swords of Glorfindel.

REFRESH:

After Asfaloth readies, I will exhaust it again to explore one of the copies of Postern Door in the staging area. Again, the harmful effect triggers but has no meaning since the round is about to end (players not being able to declare attacks). The 5th resource token is once again added to The Defense of Helm’s Deep. Elrond is discarded from play.

ROUND 7 (24 threat in staging area, 0/8 progress on 4B, 5 victory points, Active Location – Deeping Wall [1/4 quest points], The Defense of Helm’s Deep – 5/8)

**Staging Area – Deeping Culvert, The Hornburg, Deeping Wall, Postern Door, Deeping Wall**

DECK ONE PREPARATION (First Player) – 45 Threat

Resources: Glorfindel – 2, Boromir – 2, Eowyn – 1, Aragorn – 1

Draw: Westfold Outrider

New Hand: Hama, Westfold Horse-breaker, Westfold Outrider, Gondorian Discipline, Elrond’s Counsel, Elrond’s Counsel, The White Council, Gondorian Discipline, The Galadhrim’s Greeting, Westfold Outrider

Planning: Deck Two will exhaust Beravor (readying with Unexpected Courage) to draw more cards for Deck One, finally hitting upon Light of Valinor (along with another Unexpected Courage)! I do need to reduce my threat soon, so I will pay 1 for Light of Valinor on Glorfindel and save the other 2 resources potentially for The Galadhrim’s Greeting next round. I could play Westfold Outrider, but I don’t want to add more threat to Deeping Culvert without adding willpower.

Resources: Glorfindel – 1, Boromir – 2, Eowyn – 1, Aragorn – 1

As the force at the breach began to retreat steadily towards the Hornburg, pressed back and overwhelmed by the surge army at the breach, Glorfindel cut down countless foes, the light from his spirit seeming to exude through his body and terrifying his foes.

DECK TWO PREPARATION – 44 Threat

Resources: Gandalf – 5, Merry – 2, Beravor – 1 (includes Steward of Gondor)

Draw: Warden of Healing

New Hand: Booming Ent, Honour Guard, Booming Ent, Steward of Gondor, Halfling Determination, Warden of Healing

Planning: I will exhaust Warden of Healing to remove 1 damage each from Gandalf and Aragorn once again. I will then pay 2 from Merry for a copy of Booming Ent, which enters play exhausted.

Resources: Gandalf – 5, Merry – 0, Beravor – 1

The army of Orcs on the causeway surrounded and harried the Ent, but one of his fellows could be seen slowly making his way across the battlefield below towards Helm’s Deep, booming as he went along, while those around him tried desperately to stop his advance.

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

Deck One will commit Eowyn (4 willpower), Glorfindel (3 willpower), Aragorn (2 willpower) Ethir Swordsman (2 willpower), Curious Brandybuck #1 (2 willpower), Curious Brandybuck #2 (2 willpower) and Galadriel’s Handmaiden (2 willpower) for a total of 17 willpower. Deck Two will commit Gandalf (4 willpower, exhaust Shadowfax to ready), Beravor (2 willpower), Wandering Ent (2 willpower), and Merry (3 willpower) for a total of 9 willpower.  This is a total of 28 willpower against 24 threat in the staging area. Again, this is cutting close, but I should have some options.

Staging:

Card 1.1: Scaling Ladders [Surge.] – This attaches to the active location, giving enemies +1 threat. There are no enemies at the moment to benefit, but this could quickly become nasty.

Scaling-Ladders

Card 1.2: Postern Door (3 threat, 2 quest points) – Asfaloth fodder.

Card 2: Warrior of Dunland (44 engagement cost, 4 threat, 5 attack, 1 defense, 5 hit points)[Peril. Archery 1.] – This guy is seriously the bane of my existence. Deck One is already flirting with a high threat as it is, so using up more Boromir actions is dangerous. In addition, with Scaling Ladders, this guy boasts 5 threat. Boromir will defend of course, taking no damage (5 attack – 5 defense = 0 damage).

Resolution:

There is 32 threat in the staging area and I only have 28 committed. Deck One will play both copies of Elrond’s Counsel to boost Eowyn’s willpower by 2 and lowering its threat down to 38. Deck Two will then discard Steward of Gondor and Deck One will discard Hama to boost her willpower 2 additional points. I now have a total of 32 to nullify the threat of 32.

While Orcs and Men continued to stream slowly through the gap in the Hornburg gates, others on the causeway began to throw up scaling ladders, trying to take the fortress from above as well.

A Dunlending warrior led a large group of his fellows against Aragorn’s position. He locked swords with Boromir in a savage clash of arms. They all were threatened with destruction as the enemies who had passed through the breach threatened to surround and destroy them. At that moment, a slight warrior in a full helm led a force of Rohan soldiers against the advancing forces from the side. These were men who had been thrown away by the blast and survived or those who had been cut off by the explosion, but who had been rallied by the disguised Eowyn.

ENCOUNTER:

Deck One will optionally engage the Warrior of Dunland.

COMBAT:

I will assign the 1 point of archery damage from Warrior of Dunland to Booming Ent.

Enemy Attack:

Boromir will ready (increasing threat to 40) and defend against the Warrior of Dunland, taking no damage (5 attack – 5 defense = 0 damage).

Player Attack:

Glorfindel and Boromir (readies, increasing threat to 41) combine to destroy the Warrior of Dunland (7 attack – 1 defense = 6 damage). I will exhaust Gandalf’s Staff to give a resource to Glorfindel.

Boromir took advantage of the suddenly panicked group of Dunlendings. He pulled down some, knocking others aside with his shield, and cutting down the unlucky with his sword, using raw strength to push forward. Their leader tried to rally them by battling Boromir, but Gondor’s captain came through victorious, again with the help of Glorfindel at his side.

REFRESH:

The 6th token is added to The Defense of Helm’s Deep. Asfaloth will exhaust to explore one of the copies of Postern Door.

ROUND 8 (25 threat in staging area, 0/8 progress on 4B, 5 victory points, Active Location – Deeping Wall [1/4 quest points], The Defense of Helm’s Deep – 6/8)

**Staging Area – Deeping Culvert, The Hornburg, Deeping Wall, Postern Door, Deeping Wall**

DECK TWO PREPARATION (First Player) – 45 Threat

Resources: Gandalf – 8, Merry – 1, Beravor – 2, Aragorn – 2 (includes Steward of Gondor)

Draw: Shadowfax

New Hand: Booming Ent, Honour Guard, Halfling Determination, Warden of Healing, Shadowfax

Planning: With not many great options, I will now use Beravor to have Deck Two draw 2 cards, which are Secret Vigil and Wizard Pipe (Beravor readies with Unexpected Courage). I will pay 1 from Gandalf to attach Wizard Pipe to him. Then, I will play Daeron’s Runes from the top of the deck, drawing Quickbeam and Daeron’s Runes, discarding Shadowfax. I will play this second copy of Daeron’s Runes, drawing Treebeard and Honour Guard, discarding Honour Guard. I will then pay 4 from Gandalf for Treebeard, who will enter play exhausted.

Resources: Gandalf – 3, Merry – 1, Beravor – 2, Aragorn – 2

Spurred by the arrival of the two Ents, Gandalf climbed to the top of the Hornburg gates to get a better view of the situation. From that vantage point, he saw a magnificent sight, beyond the battlefield before the wall and beyond the dike beyond it was a dark line of trees that had appeared as from nowhere. Emerging from them was an Ent with a familiar shape. It appeared to be Treebeard himself, and there were doubtless other Ents behind. It appeared that his encounter with Orcs earlier, along with hearing the stories of Sam and Aragorn, had convinced the Ents to go to war!

“Do not despair!” Gandalf shouted, his voice carrying through the battlefield. “Help is at hand!”

DECK ONE PREPARATION – 42 Threat

Resources: Glorfindel – 3, Boromir – 3, Eowyn – 2

Draw: Captain of Gondor

New Hand: Westfold Horse-breaker, Westfold Outrider, Gondorian Discipline, The White Council, Gondorian Discipline, The Galadhrim’s Greeting, Westfold Outrider, Unexpected Courage, Captain of Gondor

Planning: Deck One will play Captain of Gondor on Boromir. It’s now time to really push on towards victory, getting as many cards and tricks on the table as possible to try to seal the win here. I will pay another 2 from Boromir for Westfold Outrider, who could help with the threat in the staging area. If an enemy is revealed, it would be boosted by Scaling Ladders, but Westfold Outrider could pull that enemy down before quest resolution. I will then play The Galadhrim’s Greeting, lowering Deck One’s threat by 6 to 36. This should give me more breathing room to use Boromir. Finally, I will pay 2 from Eowyn for Unexpected Courage, attaching it to Merry and giving Deck Two some more combat flexibility.

Resources: Glorfindel – 0, Boromir – 0, Eowyn – 0

Aragorn, Boromir, and Eowyn heard the shout, though they could not see the arriving Ents from their position. Boromir inspired the Gondorian contingent as a true captain of Gondor, calling on them to hold the breach at all costs. Eowyn did the same for the Rohan warriors by her side. Aragorn led them all, summoning a new layer of resolve, buoyed by Gandalf’s words and believing at last that dawn might yet come.

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

26 threat in the staging area is a tall task, but I just need to survive this round and the next. Deck Two will commit Gandalf (4 willpower, exhaust Shadowfax to ready), Beravor (2 willpower), Merry (3 willpower, exhausting Unexpected Courage to ready), Wandering Ent (2 willpower), and Aragorn (2 willpower) for a total of 13 willpower.Deck One will commit Eowyn (4 willpower), Glorfindel (3 willpower), Ethir Swordsman (2 willpower), Curious Brandybuck #1 (2 willpower), Curious Brandybuck #2 (2 willpower) and Galadriel’s Handmaiden (2 willpower) for a total of 15 willpower.   This is a total of 28 willpower against 26 threat in the staging area. Cross your fingers!

Staging:

Card 1: The Hornburg (3 threat, 3 quest points) – More threat, but potentially better than an enemy.

Card 2.1: Reckless Hate – There are no enemies in the staging area, so this surges.

Card 2.2: Scaling Ladders – A second copy of Scaling Ladders attaches to Deeping Wall, which means each enemy will have +2 threat. Yikes!

Card 2.3: Soldier of Isengard (39 engagement cost, 4 threat, 4 attack, 1 defense, 4 hit points)[Toughness 1. Archery 1.] – Speaking of which…this guy has 6 threat with the ladders.

Resolution:

There is 35 threat in the staging area and I only have 28 willpower. This is where the Westfolder Outrider can shine, as I will discard it to pull the Soldier down to Deck One, removing 6 threat from the staging area. Now that is a huge move. This puts the threat at 29 against 28 willpower. I can then discard Westfold Horse-breaker from Deck One’s hand to boost Eowyn’s willpower by 1, bringing my willpower up to 29.

Another ladder was thrown atop the Hornburg, as the attacking army sought to attack Helm’s Deep from every angle. Meanwhile, a contingent of Orcs broke off from the main body at the breach and began to march towards the Hornburg itself while the defenders were occupied. A group of Rohan riders mounted on horses saw this happening began harrying this block, driving them back towards the main battle and preventing disaster.

COMBAT:

I will assign the 1 point of archery damage from Soldier of Isengard to Treebeard.

Enemy Attack:

Boromir will defend against the Soldier of Isengard, taking no damage, even though the shadow card gives it +1 attack (5 attack – 5 defense = 0 damage).

Player Attack:

Boromir will ready (increasing threat to 37) and team up with Glorfindel yet again to destroy the Soldier of Isengard (7 attack – 1 defense = 6 damage, reduced to 5 by toughness). I will exhaust Gandalf’s Staff to give a resource to Glorfindel.

Some of the Orcs with bows vainly tried to launch arrows at the advancing Treebeard, but the Ent seemed to hardly feel it. Meanwhile, as word seemed to spread through Saruman’s army of the enemies at their backs, some of them began to hesitate or even flee. The contingent of Orcs shepherded by the riders was far more resolute, however, and they drove into the block of defenders. Several were hewed down before Boromir held the line against the biggest of them. When Boromir and Glorfindel felled the leaders of the pack of Uruks, even they began to doubt.

REFRESH:

The 7th token is added to The Defense of Helm’s Deep. One more turn to go! Asfaloth will exhaust to explore the Postern Door.

ROUND 9 (26 threat in staging area, 0/8 progress on 4B, 5 victory points, Active Location – Deeping Wall [1/4 quest points], The Defense of Helm’s Deep – 7/8)

**Staging Area – Deeping Culvert, The Hornburg, Deeping Wall, Deeping Wall, The Hornburg**

DECK ONE PREPARATION (First Player) – 38 Threat

Resources: Glorfindel – 1, Boromir – 1, Eowyn – 1, Aragorn – 3

Draw: Westfold Horse-breaker

New Hand: Westfold Outrider, Gondorian Discipline, The White Council, Gondorian Discipline, Westfold Horse-breaker

Planning: At this point, I’m really close to victory, but a poorly timed treachery or “when revealed” effect could ruin everything, so I will have Beravor exhaust to draw 2 cards (she readies with Unexpected Courage). I get exactly what I’m looking for, which is A Test of Will, along with Anduril. I’m now in good shape to see this game out, although one can never totally rest against this scenario.

Resources: Glorfindel – 2, Boromir – 1, Eowyn – 1, Aragorn – 3

DECK TWO PREPARATION – 46 Threat

Resources: Gandalf – 6, Merry – 2, Beravor – 3, Treebeard – 1 (includes Steward of Gondor)

Draw: Shadowfax

New Hand: Booming Ent, Honour Guard, Halfling Determination, Warden of Healing, Secret Vigil, Quickbeam, Shadowfax

Planning: A Burning Brand is the top card of my deck, so I will take advantage of that fact to pay 2 from Gandalf to attach the Brand to him. This give me an extra measure of safety in the closing rounds of the game, to guard against unforeseen game-ending shadow effects. I will pay 1 from Beravor and 1 from Treebeard for Quickbeam, immediately placing a damage on the Ent to ready him. Finally, I will exhaust Warden of Healing to remove a point of damage from Glorfindel and Aragorn.

Resources: Gandalf – 4, Merry – 2, Beravor – 2, Treebeard – 0

Gandalf held a torch in the air, lighting it with some unseen fire. Even as the rain continued to fall from above, the light on the torch would not go out. He began setting fire to the ladders pressed against the top of the Hornburg gates, and they quickly were consumed, sending the Orcs and Men on them hurtling screaming to the ground below. From the tree line behind Treebeard, another Ent rushed forward, unnaturally hasty for his kind.

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

26 threat in the worst yet, but a light is at the end of the tunnel. I just need to avoid completely getting crushed on questing, and avoiding another Night Without End.  Deck One will commit Eowyn (4 willpower), Aragorn (2 willpower), Glorfindel (3 willpower), Ethir Swordsman (2 willpower), Curious Brandybuck #1 (2 willpower), Curious Brandybuck #2 (2 willpower) and Galadriel’s Handmaiden (2 willpower) for a total of 17 willpower. Deck Two will commit Gandalf (4 willpower, exhaust Shadowfax to ready), Beravor (2 willpower), Merry (3 willpower, exhausting Unexpected Courage to ready), Wandering Ent (2 willpower), Treebeard (2 willpower) and Quickbeam (2 willpower) for a total of 15 willpower. I have 32 willpower against 26 in the staging area. Here goes nothing!

Staging:

Card 1: Devilry of Saruman – I am ecstatic that I drew for A Test of Will and got it. This card would have explored the active location, raising each player’s threat by 4, which would have knocked Deck Two out of the game. Note that this would have meant that all 3 heroes would have been considered fallen heroes, which would have been disastrous for the campaign. Instead, I will pay 1 from Glorfindel for A Test of Will.

Card 2.1: Night Without End [Doomed 2.] – This game is seriously trolling me at this point. I just had to use up my A Test of Will, which means I can’t cancel this treachery, which will set me back a round once again. However, I do have the option of taking 2 encounter cards instead. Since I’ve draw only treacheries thus far, this would be the same as starting staging all over again, since I haven’t actually added any threat to the staging area. I would rather do this than prolong matters another turn, and I’m feeling lucky. So I will raise each deck’s threat by 2 for the doomed, with Deck One going up to 40 and Deck Two going up to 48. I will need to end the game next round and avoid any more threat to give Deck Two a chance.

Card 2.2: Fighting Uruk-hai [Peril.] – This is Deck Two’s card, so it will have to find an Uruk-hai enemy, reveal it, and engage it. I will choose an Uruk-hai Fighter (29 engagement cost, 3 threat, 3 attack, 2 defense, 3 hit points)[Toughness 2.], since it doesn’t have a harmful “when revealed” effect. This enemy’s threat will count for quest resolution.

Fighting-Uruk-hai

Card 2.3: Uruk-hai Fighter (29 engagement cost, 3 threat, 3 attack, 2 defense, 3 hit points)[Toughness 2.] – The second card is another Uruk-hai Figther. The good news is that I didn’t hit anything with doomed or any nasty effects. However, with two Scaling Ladders on the active location, each of these guys is contributing 5 threat! Remember, if Deeping Wall is explored, Deck Two is eliminated!

Resolution:

There is 36 threat against 32 willpower, so I have some work to do. Deck One will discard Westfold Horse-breaker and Deck Two will discard Shadowfax to boost Eowyn. This takes me to 34 willpower.  Merry will pay 1 for Halfling Determination, boosting the total to 36 willpower. This is just enough to hold off the encounter deck one more.

As Gandalf stood atop the gates, Beravor noticed something strange on the causeway. Most of the Orcs and Men there were furiously keeping the Ent at bay, while a pair of Orcs charged forward, carrying another device of Saruman in their hands. The crafty ranger instantly realized that it was probably another like it that had caused the breach in the Deeping Wall. She called loudly for aid, as there seemed to be no way for her to fight through the rabble in time to stop the device from destroying the entire gate to the Hornburg, which would leave it completely open to destruction. There would be no way back from such an event.

Glorfindel’s Elven ears heard the faint cry of warning. He leaped atop Asfaloth once more and rode with a blinding speed from the battle before the breach towards the gates. Any who stood before him was trampled down or felled. He did not stop as the gates approached, but sent his mount leaping through the hole in the gates, soaring overhead Orcs and Dunlendings. His sword swung from one side to the other, scattering all foes. Finally, the Orcs carrying the device stood before him. Steeling his will, he continued the mad charge, bowling over the creatures, but also sending himself and Asfaloth tumbling forward. The Orcs were knocked over the edge of the causeway, and the device wavered before falling over as well. Glorfindel rolled over and could not stop himself, and he plummeted off the causeway as well, but he reached out his hands to hold on just in time, pulling himself back up with every last bit of his strength.

With the Ents arriving, the Uruk-hai, sterner and craftier than regular Orcs, knew their only chance lay in taking the fortress before it was too late. They marched ahead, both at the gates and through the breach in the wall, forming solid blocks of fighting Uruk-hai. 

ENCOUNTER:

Deck One will optionally engage the other Uruk-hai Fighter, and Boromir will exhaust Captain of Gondor to gain +1 to attack and defense.

COMBAT:

Enemy Attack:

Boromir will defend against the Uruk-hai Fighter, taking no damage (3 attack – 6 defense = 0 damage). Gandalf defends against the Uruk-hai Fighter engaged with Deck Two, taking no damage (3 attack – 5 defense = 0 damage). The shadow effect would have raised the enemy’s attack by 2 and given it toughness 2, but fortunately A Burning Brand has something to say about that and the effect is canceled.

Player Attack:

Boromir will ready (increasing threat to 41) and team up with Glorfindel yet again to destroy the Uruk-hai Fighter (7 attack – 2 defense = 5 damage, reduced to 3 by toughness). Merry (2 attack) and the Booming Ent (5 attack) will combine to kill the other Uruk-hai Fighter (7 attack – 2 defense = 5 damage, reduced to 3 by toughness).

Aragorn and Boromir led the charge into the block of Uruk-hai fighters. The battle was tough and vicious, with many falling on both sides. It was Glorfindel who proved decisive, arriving on his horse to join them once more, looking slightly worn and filthy, but none the worse for wear. His charge broke the ranks of the Uruk-hai.

Meanwhile, Gandalf hurried back down from the top of the gates, recognizing how close they had all come to disaster. He led the defense against the Uruk-hai marching up the causeway in a determined effect to take the Hornburg at last. Merry saw the Ent being distracted by the lesser forces and tried to get the Ent’s attention.

“Hey, you!” he called high above. “Don’t worry about those ones! Look to them!”

He pointed to the Uruk-hai formation. The Ent wasn’t sure what the strange creature was shouting about at first, but gradually came to realize what was happening. Enraged by the arrows sticking out of him and the thought of those trees that might have been felled by these very creatures, he charged forward stepping over Gandalf and onto the Uruk-hai ranks. His legs and arms swung to and fro, sending dozens of Orcs over the causeway with each movement.

REFRESH:

The 8th token is added to The Defense of Helm’s Deep. This objective is now removed and the stage advances to stage 5 – The King Rides Out. Cards are discarded from the encounter deck until 2 enemies are added to the staging area. These turn out to be Uruk-hai Fighter (29 engagement cost, 3 threat, 3 attack, 2 defense, 3 hit points)[Toughness 2.] and Warrior of Dunland (44 engagement cost, 4 threat, 5 attack, 1 defense, 5 hit points)[Peril. Archery 1.]. Fortunately, the Warrior’s “when revealed” effect doesn’t trigger, since it is merely added to the staging area. Now, the quest phase will be skipped, and I will win when both of these enemies are destroyed, leaving no enemies on the board. Let’s get to it!

Still, despite all their efforts, the endless army drove inexorably forward, always replacing instantly those that had fallen. However, at that moment, two things happened. One was that a mighty shout was heard from within the Hornburg, as Theoden King made himself known on the battlefield, riding forth at the head of a group of riders, resplendent in his golden armor.

“We must give our allies time to act! We must take the fight to the enemy! And protect our people! Forward! Ride! March! Fight!”

With the last, he spurred on his horse once more, heading through the gates and down the causeway. Gandalf leaped onto the back of Shadowfax and followed the king, bringing Merry into the saddle. Other riders joined, any who could find mounts as well, and a wedge of horses and Men drove through the ranks of Orcs on the causeway, destroying all who stood in their way.

At the same time, the sun broke over the horizon, and as it did so, it gleamed off the armor of an army of riders that appeared on the ridge. It was Erkenbrand, come to lend his aid, summoned by the message sent to him by Gandalf. Erkenbrand led his riders charging down the hill, and they took the invading army by surprise, a shockwave that reverberated through the enemy ranks.

ROUND 10 (26 threat in staging area, 0/- progress on 5B, 5 victory points, Active Location – Deeping Wall [1/4 quest points], The Defense of Helm’s Deep – 8/8)

**Staging Area – Deeping Culvert, The Hornburg, Deeping Wall, Deeping Wall, The Hornburg, Uruk-hai Fighter, Warrior of Dunland**

DECK TWO PREPARATION – 49 Threat

Resources: Gandalf – 7, Merry – 2, Beravor – 3, Aragorn – 4, Treebeard – 1 (includes Steward of Gondor)

Draw: Secret Vigil

New Hand: Booming Ent, Honour Guard, Warden of Healing, Secret Vigil, Secret Vigil

Planning: I will pay 1 to play Dagger of Westernesse, which is the top card of my deck, on Merry. The Three Hunters is now the top card. I will then pay 1 from Treebeard and Merry to play another Booming Ent, which enters play exhausted. Increasing the threat of Deeping Culvert doesn’t matter anymore since there is no quest phase.

Resources: Gandalf – 7, Merry – 0, Beravor – 3, Aragorn – 4, Treebeard – 0

Saruman’s army was now caught between the Theoden’s charge on one side, Erkenbrand’s riders on the other, and the steadily advancing Ents behind them.

DECK ONE PREPARATION – 42 Threat

Resources: Glorfindel – 2, Boromir – 2, Eowyn – 2

Draw: Arwen Undomiel

New Hand: Westfold Outrider, Gondorian Discipline, The White Council, Gondorian Discipline, Anduril, Arwen Undomiel

Planning: Now Arwen decides to show up! I will pay 2 from Glorfindel to play her. Then, I will pay 2 from Boromir for the Westfold Outrider.

Resources: Glorfindel – 0, Boromir – 0, Eowyn – 2

As many of the Orcs turned and fled back through the breach and the clouds parted, Aragorn was surprised to find Arwen by his side. He began to protest her presence, but she shook her head and held up her hands.

“The sun has come, and night has melted away.”

ENCOUNTER:

Deck Two will optionally engage the Warrior of Dunland, while Deck One will pass on its optional engagement. This will allow the Uruk-hai Fighter to come down to Deck Two as well. I want Gandalf to do all the defending, so that his A Burning Brand can nullify any last shadow effects that could ruin this ending.

The-King-Rides-Out-5B

COMBAT:

Archery 1 from the Warrior of Dunland will be placed on the new Booming Ent.

Enemy Attack:

Gandalf will defend against the Warrior, taking no damage (5 attack – 5 defense = 0 damage). He will then ready with Shadowfax and defend against the Uruk-hai Fighter, taking no damage (3 attack – 5 defense = 0 damage).

Player Attack:

Merry, Treebeard and the Booming Ent will combine to destroy the Warrior of Dunland (13 attack – 1 defense = 12 damage). Merry will then ready with Unexpected Courage and ready the Booming Ent. Those two will kill the Uruk-hai Fighter (9 attack – 2 defense = 7 damage, reduced to 5 by toughness), winning the game!

The remaining Orcs and Men of Saruman’s army tried to fight back, but the Ents began to tear into their ranks from the rear. A few Uruk-hai attempted to pull Theoden and Gandalf from their saddles, but the Ent from the causeway had followed the charge, and tore them asunder. Ranks upon ranks of the remaining Orcs and Men began to flee in mass, running past the Ents and into the waiting line of trees. Cries were heard and then silence. None ever returned.

In the bright light of day, many rejoiced and tended their wounds, but others did not have the luxury of rest and met in council instead.

“Victory is ours, against all odds,” Gandalf stated. “Yet the war is far from won.”

“Saruman remains in Isengard,” Aragorn added. “He will be a danger as long as he remains there, though the bulk of his army has been destroyed.”

“And the hammer will soon fall on Gondor,” Boromir said. “We must ride to her aid.”

Theoden pondered thoughtfully. 

“Hmph, hmph,” boomed Treebeard. “It seems to me that it’s hard to fight when there is still an enemy at your back. I cannot decide or say what is best for you, but the Ents will march on Isengard!”

“There is wisdom in those words,” Aragorn agreed. “Let us deal with Saruman, and then you and me shall ride to Gondor!”

He addressed the latter to Boromir, and they clasped arms, eliciting shouts from the men assembled around.

SCENARIO CONCLUSION:

That was a truly epic game. Helm’s Deep has to be one of my favorite scenarios for the game, as many times the end result is tense and satisfying, whether it is a victory or defeat. In this case, the result was in doubt until the last couple of rounds, and even then, I came close to losing Deck Two to threat. The ill-timed arrival of Devilry of Saruman during the round I decided to intentionally fail questing nearly cost me the game. However, the advancement to stage 4, which was seemingly disastrous at the time, actually might have helped me win. Avoiding the nasty forced effects of stage 2 was a huge advantage. I thought the decks overall worked quite well. The Boromir/Glorfindel/Eowyn combination can handle both questing and combat quite well, while Deck Two makes use of Gandalf’s raw power, strong Ents, and Merry’s readying to pull its own weight as well. I do have to give a special shout out to two underrated cards. One is The White Council, which was a late addition to Deck One, but proved quite useful in the early part of the game for extra readying, along with resources/cards. The other is Curious Brandybuck, which is a fantastic ally for this scenario. I was able to get 4 willpower out of the 2 copies I had, and they never left play because I was able to hold back the encounter deck, in large part with the help of their contribution. I will never say another ill word about the Curious Brandybuck as long as I live.

The conclusion to The Treason of Saruman is just around the corner, as our heroes must march to Isengard and face down the treacherous wizard himself. Woe to those who underestimate one of the Istari! How will the final showdown with the master of Isengard unfold?

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From → Strategy

14 Comments
  1. I always enjoy these tremendously.
    In our three player campaign, we took the Poisoned Counsels as two of us had some pricey allies in hand we felt worth getting on the board early (as we had no healing, we needed targets for the archery damage)… fortunately we avoided earning the burdens!

    • Steven A permalink

      …no you didn’t. If you took Poisoned Counsels, you earned it: “Resolution: Each player with a copy of Poisoned Counsels in his hand, deck or discard pile has earned that burden. Add the earned cards to the campaign pool.”

    • Mike Prime permalink

      I really enjoy the write ups for your games, and having recently played this quest with a four player group, I can definitely appreciate the difficulty it can bring (particularly when it isn’t hard to end up with over 50 threat in staging). This particular playthrough definitely got me on the edge of my seat when Saruman’s Devilry pushed you through two stages of the quest in phase. That turned it into quite a nailbiter! Well done.

      • TalesfromtheCards permalink

        Thanks! I’m really glad you enjoyed it. It was a ton of fun to play and write up. The nice thing about this quest is it can really surprise you just when you think you have it under control.

  2. Also, glad to see the Curious Brandybuck earn your respect.
    Just as the Hobbit heroes of the literature earned the respect of others.

  3. Steven A permalink

    Quite the nail-biter. As impressed as I am though, I have to point out that tokens are added to The Defense of Helm’s Deep at the end of the quest phase, not the end of the round. So you should’ve had all four enemies in the round before you won… Not sure how that would have influenced the outcome, I wasn’t entirely keeping track of what characters you had ready at any given moment.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Huh. I could’ve sworn it was the end of the round, but you’re right. I think it would’ve meant that I won a round earlier basically. I had a ton of ready characters and readying options.

  4. Gwaihir the Windord permalink

    Tense game! Helm’s Deep is my personal favorite scenario from Treason of Saruman. In my campaign, I found location control (namely Ride to Ruin) to be immensely useful; clearing locations in, say, the refresh phase circumvents most of the consequences of exploration in this particular quest. Another great session report; I especially enjoyed the competition between Glorfy and Boromir. On to Isengard!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! Yeah, location control could be easily ignored against this scenario, but I usually find it to be a real difference-maker. I probably would have lost here without Asfaloth.

  5. Wow, that was tense! Bravo, sir, bravo!

    And as per usual, my favorite part was the thematic write-up of everything. It’s a shame there wasn’t a sentence or two explaining how the Curious Brandybucks ended up randomly showing up and saving the day… 😛

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! As I imagined it, the Curious Brandybucks embodied the spirit of Merry, but I toyed with the idea of having some random Hobbits show up and just start annihilating Orcs left and right!

  6. Tony F permalink

    Another excellent entry into your campaign! My favorite part had to be your thematic description of your cancellation of that last Devilry of Saruman. I really appreciated how you took the time to acknowledge something you could have easily skipped over, but was really an important part of your victory. If I had one critique of the flavor text, it would be Theoden’s lack of involvement, which is certainly understandable considering you weren’t using him in the scenario. If it were me, I think I may have written it in such a way that he was the one who went off to convince the wayward Rohirrim to return. That’s not a perfect solution either as it’s hard to imagine Theoden leaving his people on the eve of battle, but if he was convinced that only his personally seeking out the Rohirrim could bring them back, he might have been persuaded to go. In any case, it’s a tough thing to write around, and didn’t detract from the story you told.

    One gameplay thing I am curious about is that there were a couple of rounds near the end where you used Boromir to both attack and defend when it seemed like you had Gandalf ready and could have used him to do one of those things instead, saving you a few points of threat. Was he not actually ready, or did you forget that he had Ranged and Sentinel from Shadowfax? Or did you choose to use Boromir to play up the competition with Glorfy? 😛

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! That specific cancel of Devilry was so important, I felt I needed to do something with it, and Glorfindel can always use more bada** moments. I get what you’re saying about Theoden and I agree. I really wan’t sure what to do with him, and wanted to include some more scenes with him, even if it was preparing for battle or pondering strategy, but just didn’t find time for it. I’m sure he will pop up again later!

      As for the Shadowfax/Gandalf situation, I would like to say it was some grand thematic/gameplay reason, but unfortunately it was just a case of forgetting that Gandalf gets ranged and sentinel from the horse. I continually forget that fact almost every single time I use Shadowfax, just focusing on the readying, and it was actually right after the last round that I realized I could have used ranged and sentinel a few times throughout the game! Oh well, hopefully I’ll start remembering in the future.

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