The Battle of Carn Dum: Attachments Review
The Angmar Awakened cycle has come to a close in terms of actual releases, with The Dread Realm now having been out for a bit of time. My mission now is to catch up with these player card reviews (with the help of contributor Glowwyrm), and give the final TftC take on the cards that haven’t yet been ruthlessly scrutinized to within an inch of their life (or irresponsibly praised, depending on your point of view). Hopefully, by the time Grey Havens comes out, we’ll be all caught up and ready to hop aboard the first ship. Still, let’s keep our minds in the present for the moment as we turn our gaze towards the attachments that are found in The Battle of Carn Dum Adventure Pack. There are only two of them, but they both break new ground in terms of what exactly an attachment can interact with and how it can impact the game. In that way, they are surely exciting and definitely intriguing…but are they any good? Read on to find out!
* The Long Defeat (Lore Attachment, 1 cost):
The Long Defeat is notable not only because its title can be spun into many fine jokes, but also because it is the first player card that can attach to a quest card. We’ve seen encounter cards pull off this nifty (and annoying) trick, but now us players can be part of the fun as well. Player attachments have long been confined to heroes and allies (with Power from the Earth/Forest Snare being early hints that more was possible) until further traps started to open up the possibilities and now this pack is expanding upon that even more. But beyond being a novelty, what exactly does The Long Defeat do once it is attached to a quest card. It provides a dose of card draw or healing to players, which are two of Lore’s specialties:
Attach to a quest card in play. Limit 1 per quest.
Response: After attached quest card is defeated, each player either draws 2 cards or heals up to 5 damage from among characters he controls.
The first thing that is probably apparent is that the power and applicability of The Long Defeat definitely depends on the quest you are playing. For example, if you are playing The Hills of Emyn Muil, or another quest with only a single quest stage, then there isn’t much reason to play The Long Defeat, as it only triggers when the quest is defeated, at which point you’ve won the game! If there are only two quest stages, then you may end up only drawing The Long Defeat after the first quest stage has already been taken care of, although Lore does have the card draw to mitigate this inconsistency a bit. However, with three quest stages (or more), which seems to be the most common number, The Long Defeat should be able to be used at some point. This discussion all comes with an important caveat though: side quests. Note that The Long Defeat can be attached to any quest card in play, not just a “main” quest card, so it can be attached to any side quests in play as well, including player side quests. With this in mind, it is possible to have much more control over The Long Defeat by including player side quests in your deck as well, or by adding The Long Defeat to a deck that is already using side quests. In this way, The Long Defeat can almost be seen as a side quest “enhancement”, as you can gain any bonuses from the side quest in question, as well as card draw/healing from The Long Defeat.
The actual effect of the card is quite strong. Drawing 2 cards for 1 resource in solo, for example, isn’t bad, although there are better options in Lore. However, having each player draw 2 cards in multiplayer is fantastic! The healing is quite good for the cost, covering 5 points of damage for only 1 resource. What I really like about it is that it can be applied to any characters you control, however you want to divide it, which gives you exactly the flexibility you need that is sometimes lacking in other healing options. Perhaps the best aspect of The Long Defeat though is that each player gets to choose between the two, taking whatever they need the most.
Now for the less positive. Attachments that are placed on a location, such as Elf-stone and Ancient Mathom, have powerful effects that are mitigated by the fact that they cannot always be relied to trigger upon when you want or need them to. Many players can probably attest to times when they thought they were going to get those cards from Mathom or the ally from Elf-stone and then the encounter deck conspired to prevent this from happening. If this is true for attachments on locations, then it is applies as well to The Long Defeat. In fact, since quests in general tend to have more quest points than locations, and there are fewer ways to “cheat” progress onto quests than locations, this lack of reliability is even more pronounced. Long story short: the card draw and/or healing from this card might not always fall into your lap when it’s needed/expected. All it takes is for your questing calculations to be off or for an encounter card effect to disrupt questing, or switch the current quest to a different quest, and the game is up.
Still, The Long Defeat doesn’t strike me as a card that is meant to be a core component of your deck. There are card draw and healing effects that do serve this purpose, ones that can be played at any time and do not depend on a certain trigger. However, not every card in your deck needs to be essential or part of your core strategy. The Long Defeat is one of those cards that can fill out the edges of your deck and provide a needed boost during the midgame. Although this card is not an auto-include or staple, I can see it being useful when…
- You are playing multiplayer. The card draw for everyone alone makes the card worth a look.
- You are playing against a quest with heavy direct damage. The large does of healing could win a game against such scenarios.
- You plan to rely heavily on side quests.
With that in mind, The Long Defeat is a fine addition to the card pool, but it comes with some limitations.
* Favor of the Valar (Neutral Attachment, 3 cost):
First off, I nearly lost my mind with excitement when this card was first spoiled, simply because of the name, art, and theme. I didn’t expect the Valar to ever be name-dropped in this game, as they are very much beings of the First Age (and played a large part in the Second Age as well), while they have mostly faded into myth during the Third Age and are barely mentioned throughout The Lord of the Rings. (For those who are wondering, the word “Valar” is used a few times throughout the text, which makes it fair game for LOTR LCG). If The Long Defeat seems innovative for attaching to a quest card, Favor of the Valar seems positively revolutionary by attaching itself to a player’s threat dial! This is unlike anything we have ever seen before. As is only appropriate, Favor of the Valar then has a direct effect on how the threat dial works:
Attach to a player’s threat dial. Limit 1 per player.
Forced: When you would be eliminated by reaching your threat elimination level, instead discard Favor of the Valar and reduce your threat to 5 less than your threat elimination level. You are not eliminated.
This attachment is a way of saving your sweet, crispy bacon when you would otherwise be toast (mixed breakfast metaphors are the tastiest kind). We can all probably think of cases when this card might have saved or even won a game, preventing loss through threat elimination. The real question, though, is, despite its sexy new mechanic of attaching to a threat dial, how exactly does this card differ from traditional threat reduction and does it provide anything genuinely different beyond the shiny exterior?
The answer to this question is “mostly yes” with a touch of “no”. The biggest strength of this card is that it is neutral. Favor of the Valar is a fantastic way for spheres like Leadership and Tactics to bring in threat reduction without having to include Spirit or Lore Aragorn. Being neutral also makes the 3 cost easier to pay for, no matter who your heroes are, and Neutral cards often feel “cheaper” for this reason. The cost-to-power ratio is also roughly equivalent to The Galadhrim’s Greeting, which can reduce threat by 6 for 3 resources. Another point in this card’s favor is that it can be attached to any player’s threat dial, not just your own, which gives it added flexibility in multiplayer.
There is an important distinction from other threat reduction effects that is a disadvantage in certain cases, but potentially an advantage in others. This is the fact that a standard threat reduction effect will help to keep you beneath enemy engagement costs, while Favor of the Valar will only trigger when you hit 50, meaning you will still be at a high level of 45. Therefore, if you are interested in trying to stay below a certain level or to avoid enemies, then standard threat reduction effects are a better bet. However, decks that want to engage in combat won’t mind the difference and might actually prefer Favor’s approach so that they can take on more enemies. Keep in mind that this is the same cycle that introduced valour effects, and this is the perfect form of threat reduction for such decks, as it keeps them above 40 while buying some time and avoiding elimination. For these reasons, Favor of the Valar seems like the threat reduction option of choice for combat-heavy Leadership and Tactics decks, but Spirit decks will likely choose other options.
Some final things to note about Favor of the Valar are that it is an attachment and that it still uses the “reduce” phrasing. The former is important in that cards like Master of the Forge can fetch it. The latter is significant because encounter card effects that prevent players from reducing their threat will also bar Favor of the Valar from triggering, as my compatriots and I learned to our sorrow against the latest Fellowship quest. When it comes down to it, this card is a great addition to the card pool as a threat reduction option for non-Spirit decks and combat/valour decks. Most importantly of it all, I will be using it as often as possible as a callback to the First Age, as I imagine the Valar riding in to save the day!
The Battle of Carn Dum player cards review is almost complete! While neither of the attachments in this pack can be considered staples or “power cards”, they both are useful in the right deck. Most importantly, they are important trailblazers, showing new possibilities for what player cards can do and generating interest that would not be present if they were more conventional.
Readers, what are your thoughts on the attachments in this pack? What are the best uses/stories you have found thus far?