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Building your Fellowship: Location Control

by on May 30, 2016

Rangers_of_the_North_by_WF74 Hey guys, welcome back to Building your Fellowship. In this article I am going to highlight what is arguably the most important type of deck to play in a 3 or 4 player game, and that is the location control deck. Exploration is a huge part of both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. So it isn’t a surprise that locations take such a prominent role in this game. Now, whether or not you think that the way locations work within the mechanics of the game is executed well is a topic for another article and has been a heated discussion point in the community. What I want to focus on today is how to most effectively deal with them.

Within the mechanics of the game, the threat that the location adds to the staging area represents the dangers that our heroes may face as they are travelling through their adventure, much like how enemies contribute threat to the staging. Why I think location control is more important than combat is that we are only able to deal with one location per round, according to the standard rules of the game (travelling). So if we are playing a three or four player game, and we are only travelling to one location a turn, our threat can stack up pretty fast. And if we aren’t able to clear that active location during the next questing phase, we can become location locked fairly quickly. So the first thing we need to address is “How do we eliminate more than one location per turn?” Luckily, we have been given one of the most powerful tools for location control in the Core Set, which is the Northern Tracker. ffg_northern-tracker-core The cost is steep at four resources, but the effect is well worth it. The one willpower is meager, but the ability to place direct progress on locations in the staging area is a powerful effect. In three to four players, where you can potentially reveal up to four locations in a turn, he becomes invaluable. Not only does the Tracker allow you to eliminate locations from the staging area, it allows you to ignore nasty Travel effects that trigger when travelling to locations. Snowbourn Scout has a similar effect, but it is a one shot effect and not nearly as consistent as the Tracker. In Spirit, we also have the Lorien Guide and Steed of Imladris, but these cards only place progress on the active location. For the money, Northern Tracker is the better effect. If you couple the Tracker with the next card, your location control deck can make short work of locations.Asfaloth

The interesting thing about the Dwarrowdelf cycle is just how powerful the cards were considering how young the game was at that point. There are a lot of staples in this cycle, including Elrond, Vilya, The Sword that was Broken, and Warden of Healing. However, the hero that is still marred in controversy is Glorfindel. During this time in the meta, the turtle strategy (low starting threat, build up your forces, and overwhelm the encounter deck) was one of the top tier decks, and Glorfindel was a cornerstone of that archetype, giving you a low threat hero that could quest and attack well.What I think makes Glorfindel powerful is not the low threat or the stats (which are good, no doubt) but his suite of cards that were included in the Foundations of Stone Adventure Pack. Asfaloth, in particular, is so powerful that you can see the reaction of the designers in the card design for cycles after, which included a lot of locations with 3+ quest points, and a lot of “Immune to player card effects” text. However, with a location control build, Asfaloth and Glorfindel are key to implementing the strategy.

Although high threat is a primary consideration for travelling to locations, another thing to consider is the Travel effect (this triggers when travelling to a location), what effect the card has while sitting in the staging area, and what effect the card has as the active location. There are a few ways to get around these effects. Cards like Thror’s Map and West Road Traveller let you switch the active location with a location in the staging area, ignoring any nasty Travel effects that can trigger during the Travel phase. Thror’s Key neuters the effects of a location altogether, leaving just the threat and quest points on the card.

As far as heroes are concerned, a location control deck wants to clear as many locations a round as possible, so you need high willpower heroes that are more than likely in Spirit or Lore. However, there are two heroes in particular that I think really fit in to this archetype, each providing a unique ability.

Idraen

Idraen is a great hero to build a location control deck around due to her ability and solid stats. She gives you access to arguably the most powerful sphere in the game, and has built-in readying that should trigger almost every round of the game. In the same Adventure Pack, she came with Warden of Arnor. In certain quests this card could be okay, but I think overall there are better cards that can take up the slot (Explorer’s Almanac and The Evening Star from the recent deluxe expansion are better fits with her, but more on that during the deck analysis). Her three attack is on par with Glorfindel, and her decent defense and hit point pool make her an option for defense. The real skill in piloting her is to get her ability to trigger more than once during a round. Asfaloth, The Evening Star, and Legolas can help facilitate this, which can open up your copies of Unexpected Courage to other characters with similar stats.

Rossiel is another hero that has an ability directly tied to locations. AlthRossielough the ability may seem kind of niche, upon further inspection, almost all locations in a given quest share the same Trait. In a multiplayer game, it is almost guaranteed that you will have an active location, giving Rossiel willpower on par with Cirdan and Eowyn. Aside from that, Leave No Trace and The Door Is Closed! let you decide which locations will or will not enter play.

As far as building a location control deck, I focus on high willpower heroes, a low starting threat, and the Spirit and Lore spheres. Here is the current location control deck that I ran with Derek and Matthew of The Grey Company, along with Chris (The Mirkwood Runner).

Eriador’s Finest Travel Agency

Heroes:
Idraen
Glorfindel (FoS)
Bifur

Allies(22):
Erebor Hammersmith(3)
Northern Tracker(2)
Gleowine(1)
West Road Traveller(3)
Zigil Miner(3)
Quickbeam(2)
Master of the Forge(2)
Escort from Edoras(2)
Warden of Healing(2)
Imladris Stargazer(2)

Attachments(12):
Light of Valinor(2)
Asfaloth(3)
Unexpected Courage(2)
Thror’s Map(1)
Thror’s Key(1)
Explorer’s Almanac(3)

Events(16):
A Test of Will(3)
The Evening Star(3)
Elrond’s Counsel(3)
Daeron’s Runes(3)
Dwarven Tomb(2)
Hidden Cache(2)

Total Cards:50

Deck Analysis:
This one is still in the early stages, but I think that it will do quite well with the right types of decks around it. The deck comes straight out of the gate questing for seven, and you should be looking for LoV or Asfaloth in your starting hand. With the exception of Northern Tracker, nothing is more expensive than two, so you should be able to drop an ally or two (depending if your partners are willing to give Bifur a resource) a turn. Card draw shouldn’t be an issue with Daeron’s Runes, Master of the Forge, and Gleowine, but if you feel like you don’t have enough draw, you can substitute Peace and Though, Elven Light, or Deep Knowledge in place of Hidden Cache. We can use Zigil Miner along with the Stargazer to get The Evening Star in our discard pile (along with triggering the ability of Hidden Cache for extra resources). I will typically use Erebor Hammersmith to recur Explorer’s Almanac into my hand (or Thror’s Key, depending on how nasty the location effects are in the quest). When playing the deck, remember that both The Evening Star and Asfaloth are actions, so if you find yourself engaged with a couple of enemies, you can use those abilities to explore locations and get more actions out of Idraen. This deck will be able to show you what it can do most effectively in a 3 or 4 player game.

With the current cycle into the second AP, and judging from the spoilers, there will be a few more cards added to the pool that can deal with locations, so this deck will look a bit different by the time this cycle comes to a close. What cards would you add, or take out, that could make this deck more effective? What thoughts do you have on locations in the game, and this archetype in general? Please comment below if you have any feedback. Until next time, so long!

 

 

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9 Comments
  1. Strategian permalink

    What is the controversy about how locations work within the mechanics of the game all about?

    • fifthranger permalink

      It isn’t possible to deal with more than one location per round within the confines of the rules. This isn’t a big deal in solo or two player, but in three or four player you can become location locked very quickly, and it isn’t an exciting way to lose the game. In my opinion, if the game were to be redesigned, I think that there would be a complete overhaul of the travel phase and the role of locations in the game. Maybe something akin to how locations work in the Stewards Fear (where travelling to a location brings enemies and objectives into play), or how they work in the Warhammer Adventure card game. The bottom line is that travelling seems like more of a chore than it is fun, which is a shame, because of how rich the locales are in Middle Earth.

  2. Newbie permalink

    @Strategian I think it’s just that there’s the opinion that due to location lock in multiplayer and some harsh location effects, locations are imbalanced by default. I think this article proves otherwise, that as long as you prepare your deck you’ll be able to face the challenge. It’s not like you can’t lose frequently by other game elements anyway.

  3. My wife and I have been playing through the quest “progression-style” recently and I’m thankful this aspect of the was fleshed out so quickly. The Redhorn Gate would be a lot harder without some Ancestral Knowledge and a few Northern Trackers.

  4. anonim permalink

    Another location management card: Ent of Fangorn during Stage 2b of Road to Isengard. I will not stop until we have more campaign mode!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Andrew Burgoyne permalink

    I love running Thror’s Map in my dwarf deck! Seems to bail me out of a jam at least once a game.

    • fifthranger permalink

      The ability to manipulate the active location AND bypass those nasty travel effects is one of the keys to successful adventuring in Middle Earth.

  6. Andrew Burgoyne permalink

    What is the verdict on Expert Trackers event? I want to like it, but thus far have been underwhelmed. Perhaps in a deck that is heavy on rangers and scouts.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I liked it initially, but I always find myself cutting it. It might be best in 3/4 player games, where you really need that extra dose of progress, but I think there are some better options.

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