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Campaign Mode: Road to Isengard (Part 1)

by on April 12, 2016

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In a battle for the ages that will be sung about for generations, our brave heroes fended off a seemingly limitless army of Orcs and Hillmen sent against the fortification at Helm’s Deep by the treacherous Saruman. Despite all his devilry, the people of Rohan prevailed, aided by the timely support of Ents led by Treebeard. Now it falls to the heroes, Rohan’s triumphant king, and the Ents to deal with Saruman once and for all, before they can turn their attention back to the Enemy in the east for the final conflict.

In Part 1 of Road to Isengard, I will detail some strategies that I have used against this scenario, as well as changes I have made to my decks in preparation for this wizard-themed showdown. While Helm’s Deep rightly gets all the attention, I’m actually a big fan of Road to Isengard and it can be challenging in its own right. Figuring out a way to replicate a battle with a wizard, rather than a huge Balrog or dragon, is actually a hefty design challenge, as you can’t simply give him huge attack strength and hit point values, as is the case with those other boss enemies. Instead, the designers found a unique way to give him some teeth, by keying in on multiple attacks, self-healing, and special wizardry effects. This approach to a boss battle has actually found its way into more recent quests, and it’s generally a positive development. But commentary on game design can wait for another time, I hear the stomping of heavy feet, the Ents are marching to Isengard!


Part 1 – Strategy

After besting the hefty challenge of Helm’s Deep, players might be forgiven for relaxing a bit and coasting into the final scenario of The Treason of Scenario with a sense of overconfidence. That would be a mistake, however, as Road to Isengard can easily beat you up, call you names, and take your lunch money if you’re not careful (I heard Saruman gives a mean wedgie). How can you best navigate your way to Orthanc, avoid the many-colored wizard’s spells and live to smoke his pipeweed?

* Figure out the ideal number of Ents you need for your deck and make it happen

Ent-of-Fangorn

I’m referring of course to the Ent of Fangorn objectives that are part of this scenario, and not any Ent player cards you include in your deck, although that is certainly valid and even encouraged. The beginning of the quest is essentially a minigame where you are trying to recruit the Ents by exhausting heroes and comparing their willpower to the threat of a discarded encounter card. These objective Ents have great stats, as you might imagine, but also can help to move past the second stage by placing progress on locations (exploring locations represents breaking down parts of Isengard, which puts damage on the quest stage). On the other hand, the more time you spend trying to recruit the Ents of Fangorn, the more encounter cards you have to reveal when you leave stage one. In general, I like to only spend one round acquiring Ents. This is because the staging area is already pretty crowded, and you are looking at 6 threat already with just Saruman and Orthanc. In solo, if you reveal an additional encounter card, you could easily stare down the barrel of 8 threat or more to begin, unless you draw a treachery. Obviously, with more players, the ratio of additional encounter cards from waiting to the number of players is more favorable, so you might be able to wait longer. The biggest point here is just know before you play how many Ents you need to be effective, and don’t get tempted to waiting longer than you planned. If your deck is strong enough to handle questing and combat on its own for the first few rounds, don’t place a high priority on the Ents. Of course, you can go with high willpower heroes (or Boromir) if you want the best chance of recruitment.

* Bring location management along

Advancing past stage two requires exploring a certain number of locations, so anything that can help with this process is useful. As previously mentioned, the threat in the staging area starts off high and can get out of control if you’re not bringing high willpower and/or location management along. None of the locations are truly crippling by themselves in terms of effects, although these effects may stack over time. The worst is probably Steaming Vent, which deals damage while it is in the staging area and when it is explored. It’s probably not worth it to include effects that substitute or replace locations with others (Mariner’s Compass, Distant Stars, etc.), but a copy of Thror’s Key could work for the Vent in particular. In general, most of the locations have only 3 or 4 quest points, so a few effects that can put progress on locations should be all you need to gain a sizable advantage over this quest.

* Have a defensive plan for Saruman

Saruman

If you can make it to the last stage, you’ll need to be able to defeat Saruman to win. In practice, this means each player will need to be able to defend an attack of 6 strength each round, as he attacks at the beginning of the turn when each player draws a card (he also attacks when players draw a card for any other reason, but this can simply be avoided). Once you travel to Orthanc, the first player will also need to withstand a normal attack during combat from Saruman. Standard strategies apply here: beef up a hero or throw chump blockers under the bus (although at this point in my particular campaign, there are a couple of burdens that punish chump blocking, so I’ll be avoiding that approach for the rest of the way). Thankfully, while 6 attack is substantial, it’s fairly easy to achieve 6 defense in the modern card pool. What makes Saruman a bit trickier is that standard shadow cancellation doesn’t apply as he triggers special wizardry effects when they appear on his shadow cards in addition to triggering regular shadow effects. None of these wizardry effects actually boost the attack strength of Saruman, so that is something you can calculate with confidence (there are shadow effects in the quest that boost attack, however), but they do deal damage to your characters, discard cards from hand, and even discard allies. Chump blocking is not the best strategy, as there is a shadow that deals a damage to the defending character, which can lead to an undefended attack if you are not careful. There is also a wizardry effect that forces each player to discard an ally, so if you are chump blocking with your only ally, you could be in for a world of hurt. In general, if you bring along healing and some amount of card draw, you should be able to deal with wizardry effects, both those triggered by Saruman and by exploring locations. The card draw component is key in that you lose during the final round if your hand is ever empty.

* Have enough willpower and attack/defense strength

This particular point is pretty much the case for every quest these days. There was a time when quests would be slanted towards questing or combat, but most scenarios now force you to do well in both areas. While the demands in this regard for Road to Isengard are not quite as high as Helm’s Deep, you still will need strong willpower to keep pace with the encounter deck and keep clearing locations, as well as combat power to handle the enemies that are thrown out. As previously mentioned, the starting threat tends to be high, so a strong set of heroes in terms of willpower can help greatly, or alternatively a deck that can spit out allies quickly enough to keep.

Part 2 – Decks

I’m locked into the heroes I used against Helm’s Deep (unless I want to take a threat penalty), but I can make some changes to the decks.

Green represents card that have been added to the deck.

DECK ONE

After a bit of tweaking, it was a tried-and-true combination of Glorfindel and Boromir that saw me through Helm’s Deep. With those two able to handle most of combat, Eowyn slotted in to give that needed dose of extra willpower. With the heroes set, the question is what do I need to change to meet the specific needs of this quest?

Hero (3)
Glorfindel (FoS) x1
Eowyn (Core) x1
Boromir (TDM) x1

The hero lineup is set for now.

Ally (21)
2x Arwen Undómiel (The Watcher in the Water)
2x Curious Brandybuck (The Wastes of Eriador)
3x Escort from Edoras (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
3x Ethir Swordsman (The Steward’s Fear)
3x Galadriel’s Handmaiden (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
2x Háma (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Honour Guard (The Wastes of Eriador)
3x Westfold Horse-Breaker (The Hunt for Gollum)

Removed:

Westfold Outrider (VoI) x3

With the ally lineup performing so well last time around against a very difficult quest, I’ve only made one small change, which is to swap out the Westfold Outrider for 3 copies of Honour Guard. This is no slight against the Outrider, it’s more just the fact that the Honour Guard has quickly become one of my favorite Tactics allies. In this deck, he can help guard against damage that seeps through against Boromir, and he also helps to soak archery and direct damage either through his ability or healthy pool of 3 hit points.

Attachment (13)

1x Captain of Gondor (The Antlered Crown)
3x Gondorian Shield (The Steward’s Fear)
3x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)
2x Rivendell Blade (Road to Rivendell)
2x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
1x Anduril (The Road Darkens)
1x Glamdring (The Road Darkens)

Removed:

Horn of Gondor (Core) x2

I made just another minor adjustment here. With several burdens around that punish me for chump blocking, there just aren’t enough characters leaving play often enough to justify Horn of Gondor. Instead, I’ll swap in Rivendell Blade so that Glorfindel can be even more effective in combat.

Event (17)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Elrond’s Counsel (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Feint (Core Set)
2x Gondorian Discipline (Encounter at Amon Dîn)
3x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)
3x The White Council (The Dunland Trap)Event (18)

I left everything intact here, as this is a pretty solid events package for the deck. Of particular note is the continued inclusion of The White Council, which is a bit of an underrated card, and serves a perfect toolbox role, providing readying, card draw, or resources, as needed.

Player Side Quest (1)
1x Double Back (Escape from Mount Gram)

Perhaps one of the more exciting changes is the inclusion of a side quest. Double Back can help provide extra threat reduction against those quests that really put the pressure on, and Boromir can often make the threat game a bit dice-y if he needs to pull a lot of the combat weight (as he did against Helm’s Deep). 

FINAL DECK SIZE: 52 (50 without the boons)

DECK TWO

Deck Two has seemed to finally find a stable lineup after the original Hobbit trio was broken up. Of course, I can’t change heroes without penalty at this point anyway, but I was very pleased how the lineup of Gandalf, Beravor, and Merry performed against Helm’s Deep, so I’ll look to keeping it intact going forward. Of course, things may always change depending on the shape of future quests and player cards that are released!

Hero (3)
Gandalf (RD) x1
Beravor (Core) x1
Merry (TBR) x1

The hero lineup is set for now.

Ally (18)
3x Booming Ent (The Antlered Crown)
3x Derndingle Warrior (Escape from Mount Gram)
2x Elrond (The Road Darkens)
2x Quickbeam (The Treason of Saruman)
2x Treebeard (The Antlered Crown)
3x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)
3x Wellinghall Preserver (Across the Ettenmoors)

Removed:

Wandering Ent (CS) x3
Honour Guard (TWoE) x3

I decided to pursue the Ent theme for this deck that I developed last time around even further, which makes sense storywise given that the next scenario deals with marching on Isengard. I replaced the Wandering Ent with the Wellinghall Preserver. The latter is slightly more expensive, but has fantastic stats and a useful ability to heal Ents. Finally, I removed the Honour Guard (transferred over to Deck One) in favor of the Derndingle Warrior, which is a great defensive Ent ally that will provide extra defensive cover.

Attachment (21)
2x A Burning Brand (Conflict at the Carrock)
2x Asfaloth (Foundations of Stone)
2x Dagger of Westernesse (The Black Riders)
2x Gandalf’s Staff (The Road Darkens)
3x Secret Vigil (The Lost Realm)
3x Shadowfax (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
3x Wizard Pipe (The Road Darkens)
1x Sting (The Road Darkens)

The attachment package remains the same here. It’s basically a standard assortment of Gandalf’s toys, along with Daggers for Merry and Asfaloth for Glorfindel on the other side. I briefly considered replacing Secret Vigil with Favor of the Valar, but I’ll keep going with the cheaper alternative for now (and the one that can help both decks) and see how it plays out.

Event (12)
2x A Good Harvest (The Steward’s Fear)
2x Boomed and Trumpeted (Escape from Mount Gram)
3x Entmoot (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Flame of Anor (The Road Darkens)
2x The Three Hunters (The Treason of Saruman)

Removed:
Daeron’s Runes (FoS) x3
Halfling Determination (TBR) x2

As previously mentioned, I’m going all in on the Ents here so they can have their big moment. So I’ve replaced Daeron’s Runes with Entmoot. This is essentially card draw for card draw, with Entmoot having a higher ceiling but also the potential for whiffing. I’ve taken out Halfling Determination, even though it’s a favorite of mine, in favor of Boomed and Trumpeted. Here, it’s just a matter of number of targets, with there being a lot more Ents included than Hobbits at the moment.

FINAL DECK SIZE: 51 (50 without the boons)

The final decks look like this (not including the boons):

Deck #1

Hero (3)
Boromir (The Dead Marshes)
Éowyn (Core Set)
Glorfindel (Foundations of Stone)

Ally (21)
2x Arwen Undómiel (The Watcher in the Water)
2x Curious Brandybuck (The Wastes of Eriador)
3x Escort from Edoras (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
3x Ethir Swordsman (The Steward’s Fear)
3x Galadriel’s Handmaiden (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
2x Háma (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Honour Guard (The Wastes of Eriador)
3x Westfold Horse-Breaker (The Hunt for Gollum)

Attachment (11)
1x Captain of Gondor (The Antlered Crown)
3x Gondorian Shield (The Steward’s Fear)
3x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)
2x Rivendell Blade (Road to Rivendell)
2x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)

Event (17)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Elrond’s Counsel (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Feint (Core Set)
2x Gondorian Discipline (Encounter at Amon Dîn)
3x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)
3x The White Council (The Dunland Trap)

Player Side Quest (1)
1x Double Back (Escape from Mount Gram)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to Escape from Mount Gram

 

http://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/776/official-tftc-campaign-deck-1-treason-of-saruman-1.0

Deck #2

Hero (3)
Beravor (Core Set)
Gandalf (The Road Darkens)
Merry (The Black Riders)

Ally (18)
3x Booming Ent (The Antlered Crown)
3x Derndingle Warrior (Escape from Mount Gram)
2x Elrond (The Road Darkens)
2x Quickbeam (The Treason of Saruman)
2x Treebeard (The Antlered Crown)
3x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)
3x Wellinghall Preserver (Across the Ettenmoors)

Attachment (20)
2x A Burning Brand (Conflict at the Carrock)
2x Asfaloth (Foundations of Stone)
2x Dagger of Westernesse (The Black Riders)
2x Gandalf’s Staff (The Road Darkens)
3x Secret Vigil (The Lost Realm)
3x Shadowfax (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
3x Wizard Pipe (The Road Darkens)

Event (12)
2x A Good Harvest (The Steward’s Fear)
2x Boomed and Trumpeted (Escape from Mount Gram)
3x Entmoot (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Flame of Anor (The Road Darkens)
2x The Three Hunters (The Treason of Saruman)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to Across the Ettenmoors

http://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/777/official-tftc-campaign-deck-2-treason-of-saruman-1.0

 

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

That about does it for now. Stay tuned as these decks will march into Isengard soon, but will the voice of Saruman prove too enticing for our heroes to resist? Will the Ents of Fangorn defend their home or will they fall to the metal and wheels of Isengard? And will the beloved Grima make an appearance? Find out soon!

From → Strategy

8 Comments
  1. Glowwyrm permalink

    Strategy Tip: Don’t play Erestor. 😀

    • anonim permalink

      Why?

      • ecthelionthethird permalink

        Because you instantly die at stage 3.

        • Glowwyrm permalink

          Yes, stage three has a forced effect at the bottom that says is any player has 0 cards in his hand, he is eliminated from the game. Since Erestor forces you to discard your hand (and you must discard a card before it can be rescued, Silver Harp doesn’t prevent this), you would automatically be eliminated at the end of the round (and I believe that it’s impossible to finish stage 3 in one go).

  2. anonim permalink

    I had an idea: why not make a Nightmare Campaign? We have already Nightmare The Black Riders and Nightmare The Road Darkens and you can explore even more narrative options now that there is more card pool like putting Spirit Merry or ally Sam or Robin Swallburrow in The Black Riders.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Not a bad idea. Once I catch up with the existing campaign, and if I have some free time, I could start delving into the nightmare versions.

  3. Jeff permalink

    OK, so I managed to beat this quest on my first try (Solo, got lots of Ents, then lucky/smart with my sequence of questing and engaging with Saruman in the last phase). And lo, I’ve earned the Palantir of Orthanc.

    What good is that thing? It attaches to Fellowship Aragorn, but we’ll be switching to a different fellowship hero in the next expansion phase of the adventure. Have I missed something?

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  1. Campaign Mode: Road to Isengard (Part 2) | Tales from the Cards

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