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Race Across Harad: Hero Review

by on May 10, 2017

In The Mumakil Adventure Pack, we got our hands on Mumak mounts of our very own. The following Adventure Pack, Race Across Harad, sees our heroes putting those new mounts to use as a band of Orcs and Wargs is in hot pursuit! This quest takes the competing quest stage mechanic first unveiled in Flight of the Stormcaller and inverts it. This time we are the ones trying to advance through the quest stages before the pursuers can catch us. In terms of the quest itself, this is a challenging one but also one of the best of the cycle so far. But, of course, the inevitable question crops up: how are the player cards? First off, let’s take a look at a quite unique hero that is the first to enable and key off of the side quest mechanic. How well does Thurindir fare? Is he worth including or building a deck around? Read on to find out.

HERO

* Thurindir (Lore Hero, 8 threat, 2 willpower, 2 attack, 0 defense, 4 hit points):

Thurindir is the second FFG-created hero of the cycle. This time we get a bit of a throwback to the Angmar Awakened cycle, in that Thurindir is a Dunedain themed hero with a heavy focus on side quests. In addition, if you read the narrative for the character that is provided in the rules sheet, it actually takes place during the events of that cycle. That was a neat touch to not only add some flavor to this particular hero but also as a way to continue to build connections between the stories of these cycles.

In terms of mechanics, Thurindir helps you find and complete a side quest early. He also gets a bonus for each side quest completed:

Thurindir gets +1 for each side quest in the victory display.

Setup: Search your deck for a side quest and add it to your hand. Shuffle your deck.

As related by the narrative, Thurindir was supposedly the ranger that often worked alone and ahead of the rest, and this ties in well with the ability to go off and complete side quests. In many ways, it is the second ability that really defines this hero, with the first ability being some nice gravy. There are a few problems with player side quests that I have mentioned across several articles: the time it takes to complete them, the unsuitability for certain scenarios, and the inconsistency of finding and completing the side quest you want early enough in a game to make a difference. Thurindir is designed to help with the last of these issues. The inconsistency issue centers around the fact that side quests are really only worth the time it takes to complete them if you can get several rounds of benefit, which means you need to find and complete them early. However, the side quests we got in the Angmar Awakened cycle were limited to one per deck, which means it’s really just a matter of luck of the draw when or even if you ever see the one you want (barring the inclusion of fetch effects, of course). Even with the player side quests in this cycle that allow for three copies, it’s difficult to really build a strategy around these cards if you can’t be sure of getting them in your opening hand or within the first couple of rounds.

With Thurindir, this is no longer a problem, as he allows you to search your deck for a side quest and add it to your hand during setup. That means you are guaranteed to have a side quest of your choice in your opening hand. What does this mean? There are a few benefits. The first of course is that you are guaranteed to at least have the opportunity to complete that side quest in the first turn, gaining the positive effects of that quest for the whole rest of the game. The second benefit is that you have the chance at getting a side quest in the victory display right away, which turns on a bunch of other cards that we have already received in this cycle (and potentially others yet to come). This instantly elevates the status of the Halfling Bounder, for example. Now instead of worrying how long you will have to wait until the Halfling Bounder’s cancellation ability gets turned on, you can be confident of including a full set of three in your deck, knowing that you will have the benefit of their ability for most of a game. Similarly, the Vigilant Dunadan can actually be something that you build around. Investing deck space to help build that ally into a super defender might seem risky without a solid plan for completing a side quest early, but Thurindir makes it a guarantee.

So with all that being said, what are the best choices for Thurindir’s initial side quest? As with much in this game, it really depends on what you are trying to accomplish with your deck, but here are a few thoughts on the side quests we have so far:

  • Gather Information: A solid choice and one of the first you should consider. This is the right call if you really want to focus your deck around a particular piece, such as a key attachment or ally. For example, you could use Gather Information to grab a Vigilant Dunadan, whose ability would be immediately active from completing the side quest. There are all kinds of possibilities though.
  • Scout Ahead: This is one of my personal favorite choices, at least for solo. It has a low quest points threshold (at four), which is important. In solo, it allows you to have fantastic knowledge and control over the first few turns of a game, which are often the all-important turns. It also can facilitate victory display decks.
  • Double Back: A solid choice, again because of a low quest points threshold. Ideal for secrecy and low threat decks or quests where everyone needs to keep a low profile.
  • Delay the Enemy: This is one of the worst choices because it has an insanely high quest point threshold at eight and if you are planning on completing it first or second turn, that’s the period of time when you are least likely to have a bunch of engaged enemies around. The only times I could see choosing this one would be if you are taking it for the battle keyword so that high attack decks can clear it out quickly and overcome threat in the staging area, or if a quest happens to start with engaged enemies (or a ton of enemies in the staging area) out of the gate.
  • Send for Aid: This one is a bit on the higher side in terms of quest points (six), but it does have potential, especially in multiplayer, for accelerating how quickly everyone can get their boards established. A potentially solid choice, but only if you plan on having strong willpower out of the gate in order to clear it.
  • The Storm Comes: This is one of the better choices for opening side quest. It’s not too onerous in terms of quest points and will help resource smoothing for every player for the rest of the game. It doesn’t sound too sexy upon first read but, like all resource smoothing, it’s sneakily good.
  • Prepare for Battle: As with Send for Aid, I wish the quest point threshold was a bit lower on this one. It is a fantastic choice in terms of ability, as it essentially gives you a free hero Bilbo for the rest of the game without having to actually include him. Amazing for solo and great for multiplayer as well, but you need to make sure you have strong willpower from turn one.
  • Explore Secret Ways: This is one of the worst choices, with a relatively high quest point threshold at six and an ability that is useful but probably doesn’t justify choosing this one over the rest, with the possible exception of four player games.

The short version of this long list is that there are some choice side quests that can potentially get you off to a great start with Thurindir. I would venture that none of them so far are clearly strong enough that they will give you a clear leg up against most scenarios. However, the best ones do have subtly powerful effects that will make sure the rest of your deck functions well and/or allows you to get to the strongest pieces more quickly. Again, getting a side quest completed early also facilitates other side quest related abilities. So Thurindir’s second ability is a winner, but you do have to make some smart choices and build with it in mind.

As for Thurindir’s first ability, improving willpower based on the number of side quests is a neat bonus. He already starts with a decent willpower of 2. If you assume, given Thurindir’s second ability, that you are going to be completing a side quest on turn one or two, then he should be going through the rest of the game with at least 3 willpower. That’s great value for an 8 starting threat hero. If you are able to complete at least one other side quest, which is doable, then he bumps up to a staggering 4 willpower. Anything beyond that is likely getting a bit unrealistic, but the minimal cases are quite acceptable. The best aspect of this ability is that having higher willpower helps you complete more side quests, so it helps run the whole side quest engine that Thurindir is all about.

Beyond abilities, Thurindir has a solid set of stats. Perhaps the best aspect is that he foregoes defense completely, lowering his overall starting threat. He wouldn’t be much good at defending anyway with only 1 defense, so not having any defense at all is better. 2 willpower and 2 attack gives him some flexibility, and once his willpower gets bumped from completing side quests, he is a strong quester. In thematic terms, it is somewhat strange for him not to have any defense. In fact, Galadriel is the only other hero with 0 defense, and in her case it is justified by the fact that she can’t defend anyway. I suppose the story here is that Thurindir tends to go out so far on his own and is more of a lone operative/stealth assassin type that defense is pretty much something that he doesn’t care about. If he gets caught, he’s toast.

As far as attachments are concerned, the best choice is one that hasn’t even been released yet: Legacy Blade. I generally don’t talk about future cards in these reviews, but in this case Legacy Blade is made for Thurindir. With it, he will be able to gain the same advantage from completing side quests for his attack strength as his in-built ability gives him for willpower. So, for example, with Legacy Blade and a single side quest completed, you’ll have a 3 willpower, 3 attack hero for 8 starting threat in Lore. That’s not bad at all. Beyond Legacy Blade, Wingfoot is a great choice, allowing him to potentially get use out of both his willpower and attack, especially if they are indeed boosted. Steed of the North is an alternative that serves the same purpose. There are a few other attachment possibilities that are worth consideration. Since Thurindir focuses on side quests, The Long Defeat is worth looking at as a way to milk extra value out of those quests. Ranger Spear is a potential alternative to Legacy Blade, especially if you plan to include at least a few traps. Finally, The Road Goes Ever On might be worth a shot if you plan on completing more than one side quest in a game.

There are also a few events that are worth special consideration for Thurindir decks. Ravens of the Mountain is a card that doesn’t always get a ton of attention (beyond some decks designed to exploit it), but can work well with Thurindir and any decks focused on side quests, for that matter. During the quest phase,  while a side quest is the current quest, you can use Ravens of the Mountain to hopefully cheat some progress onto that side quest. This is particularly useful for those side quests that have a high quest point threshold. It also works well after staging if you can clearly see that you are going to fall short of completing the side quest. Dunedain Message might be worth including if you really want to complete two side quests early in a game. I suppose I should mention Dour-handed if you are going the side quest route, but I’m still not convinced that 1 resource for 2 points of direct damage is worth it given the alternatives available. A more interesting Tactics option might be Wait No Longer. This could give you better control over completing a side quest as you would know exactly how much willpower you need to commit and how many characters to hold back for combat against the enemy you have drawn. Finally, Tale of Tinuviel could be interesting if you include a solid Noldor target for it. With this event, you could have some potential quest insurance when tackling those side quests or have a way to ready Thurindir and make him a more effective attacker.

 

So with this review winding to a close, what is the final verdict on Thurindir? Overall, he’s a solid hero that does what he is meant to do quite well. The very nature of side quests means that he is not a hero that can fit into every quest, as there are certain scenarios where taking time for a side quest is just impossible. However, I wouldn’t let that scare you away from Thurindir as there are many, many quests where he (and side quests in general) can be effective. I’d go so far as to say that if you have any intention of side quests being a major part of your deck, then Thurindir is a must-include for consistency’s sake. He also brings solid stats (which can grow) for a low starting threat. The best part of Thurindir is that you don’t necessarily, in my opinion, have to go all-out with side quests to make his inclusion worthwhile. You could even simply run one main side quest, complete that as a way to get a leg up on a scenario, and then use Thurindir going forward as a 3 willpower, 2 attack hero for 8 starting threat. You also would have the option of sprinkling in various effects that trigger off of having a side quest in the victory display. On the other hand, Thurindir is also the best choice if you want to go heavier on side quests and maybe aim to complete two or three of them in a game. All in all, Thurindir is a great boon for player side quests and makes it far more likely that players will use them and be more successful with them. He won’t be an ever-present presence in decks because his niche is defined, but he definitely fills his role well.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦♦

Possible Attachment Choices: Legacy Blade, Wingfoot, Steed of the North, The Long Defeat, The Road Goes Ever On

Conclusion

The side quest mechanic gets its first true champion in Thurindir. The real question of course is how this mechanic will develop further in the rest of the cycle, and how much the next few scenarios will be welcoming to this approach. Unfortunately, Race Across Harad is an absolutely terrible match for Thurindir because it demands such a brisk pace, but other quests should be more forgiving. Next time, I’ll take a look at the rest of the cards in the pack and see which traits and archetypes they flesh out.

Readers, what are your thoughts on Thurindir? How do you feel about side quests? Do you use them? Do you find them useful in many quests?

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4 Comments
  1. Thurindir is also boosted by encounter side quests that have victory points (most of them), which makes him better against the scenarios that have them.

  2. I haven’t yet gotten a pack with a side quest in it, so I haven’t read the official rules on them, but do they essentially override whatever your current quest is? If so, couldn’t that actually help during quests that have troublesome triggers, allowing you just a little more time to get set up? *cough cough Battle of the Five Armies*

  3. Grimbeorn the Old permalink

    Based on his backstory, it seems surprising that he doesn’t also have the “Scout” trait?

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