Video: The Dread Realm
Hello again, Elf-friends,
Tonskillitis here again – I recently concluded my Mono-Tactics challenge against the Angmar Awakened cycle and I just wanted to share some general reflections with you about my experiences.
Firstly, I would like to say that the quests of the cycle all hit the mark for me in terms of theme and weren’t overly frustrating. Though I’m not a huge fan of the Wastes of Eriador, mostly because of its length, I find that the other quests have a lot of replay value and provide a healthy level of challenge.
For fun factor I would rate this cycle highly, though I could see the complexity of the mechanics and the number of triggers on side quests being a potential barrier for new players to the game.
Speaking as a Tactics player (wearing my Raven-winged helm – latest addition to the De Bono thinking hat system), I have enjoyed the deck building puzzle of playing Mono-Tactics for a whole cycle. After exploring Spirit and Lore decks in the past, with intricate, ten minute planning phases, it was refreshing to just slap down a few attachments and move onto the quest phase! Not to say, that there aren’t interesting choices to be made in Mono-tactics decks- I frequently found myself deliberating over which card to retrieve from Gather Information, or whether to retrieve Feint from my discard pile with Hama or to run the risk of defending and indulge in another Foe Hammer. But generally, I found that this more straightforward approach to the game was both satisfying and effective.
Okay, that sums up my sweeping impressions- now let’s get into some specifics:
-The ‘most powerful hero in the game’ (according to a recent Cardboard of the Rings poll – I think Brandon may have cast the deciding vote!) in the game keeps getting better. Boromir with Favor of the Valar or indeed with any other threat reduction effect is incredibly potent. I think I used this particular attachment on nearly every one of my adventures with my tactics decks, and the moment always feels fantastic – there is great flavour which really captures the excitement and epic nature of First Age battles. Other notable mentions go to recent cards such as Secret Vigil, which is a cheap and potentially powerful option given the number of 3/4 threat enemies in the recent cycle. I am also confident that Keen As Lances could be effectively built around in a Boromir deck.
-Hama is an underrated , versatile and surprisingly interesting hero. Often dismissed as a one trick pony for the notorious Hama-lock, the Rohan warrior can be a highly effective facilitator for a tactics player. Granted, I still used him predominantly for his attack cancelling effects throughout my campaign due to the undeniable power and reliability of these effects, but the ability to recycle Foe Hammer really makes the Mono-tactics deck function as an independent deck type. Also, as Ian noted in his recent article, Hama can be used to good effect as a problem solver – enabling access to a wide range of tactics tools which will hopefully help him to lose his reputation of being simply ‘The Guy Who Broke Shadow and Flame’.
– The single biggest obstacle to Mono-tactics play is the lack of in-sphere readying effects. While it is possible to muster solid willpower from the start with Tactics Theoden’s ability, obviously it is not ideal to be questing with all your heroes every round if you can’t ready them for combat. And aside from Boromir, Tactics doesn’t really have any options to help with this – while I have occasionally used the neutral event ‘The White Council’, obviously this is less reliable than repeatable spirit attachments such as Unexpected Courage and Snowmane. Wingfoot and Fast Hitch also came in handy over my campaign and enabled me to quest all my heroes and still have 3-4 characters ready to fight.
-The Merry/Aragorn partnership is one of the strongest pairings in the game. While I wasn’t overly reliant on it in the early stages of my campaign, when I reached the harder quests, (notably Carn Dum and the Dread Realm) then I decided to utilise the awesome board-wiping power of Merry-readying/Aragorn-engaging synergy. With my high starting threats, avoiding engagement was rarely an option, but if you have a means of keeping enemies in the staging area then the combination of effects can feel a bit overpowered- reducing the combat phase to a merciless orc massacre.
-Some core-set classics may never be eclipsed – the effectiveness of Feint and Thicket of Spears meant that, although I did try to include some of the shiny new valour events in my campaign playthroughs, time and time again, I found myself resorting to these staples to ensure that I could deal with the high attacking enemies. I never considered Tireless Hunters in the decks because of its similarity and general inferiority to Feint, though I could see it being situationally useful in a Dunedain deck.
Please check out my video of The Dread Realm to see how my heroes fared in their final adventure of the campaign which took them into the Catacombs of the Necromancer for a deadly confrontation with Daechanar.
Until we meet again, quest hard and may Great Ulmo grant you calm waters for your passage to the Havens,