With the Core Set covered, it is now time to dip into the first cycle of adventure packs. This pack was for most of the original players their first purchase and holds some sentimental value because of that. And a good thing too, because this quest can be considered quite a doddle when taking modern decks up against it.
The Hunt for Gollum will kick off this cycle in which your group of adventurers are to track down Gollum and capture him. This is one of the instances where the game borrows its story from the books. There, Aragorn has this same adventure and eventually captures the creature. Let’s see how you can try and follow in his footsteps.
The Hunt for Gollum
- Found in: The Hunt for Gollum Adventure Pack, Shadows of Mirkwood cycle, pack 1
- Official difficulty: 4
- Community difficulty rating: 4.1
- Encounter sets: Journey along the Anduin, Sauron’s Reach, the Hunt for Gollum
- Quest cards: 3
- Play if: you want to feel nostalgic about playing the first AP ever, play if you haven’t beaten it (in a while)
- What is different about this quest?: Objectives, resetting quest cards, enemies scale with the number of Clues
- Solo or Multiplayer?: I will recommend playing this Solo, or with as few players as possible. This will have you reveal fewer clues and makes stage 3 a lot easier.
- Can I run Side Quests for this scenario?: Yes, if you are passing through these stages faster than you are revealing clues, it is a good idea to explore some side quests instead of resetting the quest deck over and over again.
The setup for this quest is not as complicated as previous quests. Each player reveals the top card of the encounter deck and adds it to the staging area. Keep in mind that triggers like surge and Doomed still go off during setup. The only really punishing card that you can reveal during setup is Old Wives’ Tales. Since none of your heroes has resources at this point (first resource phase hasn’t kicked in yet) you will have to exhaust all of your heroes (with the exception of Leadership Denethor). This is usually enough to scoop before the quest has started proper. Having readying effects that you can play from your hand or from the abilities of heroes is recommended to counter this. Think of Cram and Tactics Boromir to have at least a few characters ready. The other way to get past this is to accept you are playing this quest in sleazy mode. To those of you who are unknown with this, sleazy mode has the same number of cards in the encounter decks, but your heroes start off the game with an additional resource during setup. This is the resource you will lose due to Old Wives’ Tales. Besides this treachery, there are not many terrible cards you can reveal. You will probably encounter some locations, hopefully, a clue objective, and maybe an enemy.
Quest card 1: The Hunt Begins – 8 quest points
This part of the quest is fairly easy, just make 8 progress to pass the quest. This shouldn’t take too long. The only thing different from a regular quest is that this stage will have look at the top 3 cards of the encounter deck if you quest successfully. The first player may then choose and reveal one of the 3 cards. The other 2 cards are discarded. This is a good way to find the objectives and avoid the nasty enemies and treacheries. If you do reveal a clue, be sure to guard it with the next card on the encounter deck. This kind of scrying will make sure that it will not be long before you reveal the first clue.
Quest card 2: A New Terror Abroad – 10 quest points
This stage is almost identical to the previous one. However, you need to reveal these cards before staging instead of afterwards. This will result in a bit more threat in the staging area, so bring enough willpower. This stage also requires you take to make 2 more progress, for a total of 10. The scrying effect from the previous stage is also tweaked so that you can only choose between the top 2 cards of the encounter deck instead of the top 3. This will make you less likely to find any clues, but at this point, you should already have encountered one.
Quest card 3: On the Trail – 8 quest points
This is a more interesting stage, as this requires the players to have found enough clues about Gollum. Any player that has no clue attached to a hero they control, are unable to commit characters to the quest. This is where a smaller number of players really helps, as you only need to find fewer clues in order to commit everyone to the quest. WIth 4 players, you will have to find all 4 in order to commit everyone to the quest. Fewer clues also benefit you against the Hunters. However, if there are ever no clues attached to heroes, the stage is failed and everyone is forced back to Stage 2. If there is enough progress on the quest, and there is at least 1 clue card in play, the players have won the quest. It is not required that every player controls an objective, 1 is enough to win.
The encounter deck
- There are 48 encounter cards that can be revealed in Normal Mode, 34 in Easy mode
- There is a 50/50 chance that your enemy will have a Shadow effect, be on the lookout for that! This holds true for Easy mode as well
- The average threat that you reveal percard is around 1.2 for each mode. However, there is plenty of surges, and some cards gain a threat boost based on the number of allies in play.
- Seven cards have the surge keyword. However, there are a lot of cards that add more cards to the staging area without having surge. Massing at Night is such a card.
- Only Flooding has the Doomed keyword. There are some other effects that will have raise your threat, so be sure to have at least some threat reduction.
- None of the cards are immune to player card effects on their own. However, while Eaves of Mirkwood is in play, encounter card effects cannot be cancelled. Be sure to clear this location in order to cancel Treacheries.
The encounter deck is very heavy on locations and treacheries. The enemies included are usually not a problem for even a mono-spirit deck. The chances of finding more clues in easy mode are higher, so be prepared for a heavier hitting Hunters from Mordor.
The Signs of Gollum are 4 objective cards that are in the encounter deck. It is the goal of the quest to make sure that you find at least 1 clue. They are not harmful objectives like those found in Escape from Dol Guldur, but they are harder to keep a hold of. The objectives get discarded when the attached hero is damaged or killed. This returns them to the top of the encounter deck. You will probably see them again during the next turn. However, their Guarded Keyword will go off again so you will have to kill the enemy or explore the location to claim them again.
The clues can only be claimed by heroes that have committed to the quest, keep this in mind when distributing the clues between players. Be sure to put the clue on a hero with preferably more than 3 hitpoints. The Shadow effect of the Hunters from Mordor could kill that hero if the attack goes undefended.
There are a couple of effects that will have people discard the clues. Having them in the discard pile is bad, as you won’t find them again for a long time. Use cards like The End Comes (wait, what?) or Shadow of the Past to return those clues to the encounter deck. This also works if you ever reveal a clue as a shadow card.
Lots of locations in this quest again. Most of them do have the same Riverland trait, which comes in handy for some decks. The locations do really punish you for playing cards from your hand.
- The Old Ford: We have come to know Forest Battleground from Attack on Dol Guldur, but this is the root of that evil. The Old Ford has X threat, where X is the number of allies in play. This can be devastating in a lot of later game reveals. If you and your fellow players have set up an army of Outlands or Dwarf allies, this location can become a 20+ threat immediately. The tech to cancel this? Asfaloth or The Evening Star. The location has only got 2 quest points, which means that you can clear it before you tally up the total threat in the staging area. There are 2 copies of this location in the deck, but the chances of you revealing both are slim, good luck if you do though! The Shadow effect on this location is also a tough one to swallow, you need to discard all allies with a cost lower than the number of Riverland locations in play. Since there are not many 0-cost allies, 1 location is not too bad. It gets worse if you have 2 or 3 locations, meaning you’ll have to discard all your allies up to a cost of 2. Bring a Hasty Stroke to disregard this effect.
- The West Bank/The East Bank: These two Banks of the Anduin can really screw with your plans to play cards from your hand. In my opinion, the West Bank is worse, as you need to pay an additional resource for both events and attachments. This makes A Test of Will or Feint more expensive, and you will have to look at other options to help your board state. It helps to communicate closely on where you want to travel since it will probably limit your Planning Phase next turn.
Alongside the enemies from the Journey of the Anduin quest (besides the nastiest ones), there are just two new enemies in the encounter deck.
- Hunters from Mordor: These guys are on the same mission as you are, finding Gollum. As you gather signs, they become stronger. Their attack and threat values can get out of control if you reveal a lot of those clues in the early game. Note that they don’t require the clues to be claimed by you, they just have to be in play. This includes them if they are in the staging area, even when they are Guarded. The 2 defence on the Hunters do not get boosted, and their 6 hitpoints aren’t increasing either. Bring some characters that can handle combat to deal with these enemies.
- Goblintown Scavengers: These Orcs are pretty harmless in combat, but can be a threat when they are revealed. Every player will have to discard the top card of your deck (Dwarves rejoice). They gain +X threat, where X is the total cost of the cards discarded this way. The increase in threat depends greatly on your deck, if you play a lot of 0 cost events, you should be fine. However, Murphy’s Law dictates that you can, and will, discard a copy of Gandalf. Their low engagement cost can also be a problem for Hobbit and Secrecy decks, as they will have to engage the enemy without getting bonuses.
The developers have come up with some nasty treacheries to aid the Hunters for Mordor in their search.
- Flooding: Thinking on bringing a Location Control deck, well be sure to pack some Tests of Will for this one then. It will remove all progress on Riverland locations ánd surge ánd add a point of threat on your threat meter. In order to make full use of your location control cards, wait after staging to clear locations, or only do it if you are sure it will clear a nasty location.
- False Lead: In any game where you must find objectives, there is always a card like this. It will shuffle one of your collected clue cards into the encounter deck, making you search for it again. However, it also makes Hunters from Mordor less powerful, so silver linings I guess. If you draw this early enough before you have any clues, it just replaces itself with Surge.
- Old Wives’ Tales: It feels like this one should be in Druadan Forest, but it isn’t. This treachery will remove one resource from every hero that can. If they can’t, they get exhausted. Readying effects are important here, as you can send just every hero to the quest that doesn’t have a resource on them. That way you win some willpower and don’t have to exhaust them halfway through staging. Having enough resources on heroes is also a way to avoid this, though you normally want to use those resources for the inflated prices for your cards due to the West/East bank locations.
Tips and Tricks
- Distribute the clues between the players, try and make sure that as many players have a hero with a clue objective attached. This will allow as many people as possible to commit to the quest.
- In order to make sure that each clue stays attached to the hero, do not put the clues on your defender. Your questing heroes will be less likely to take damage or be killed. If you do not have a dedicated quester, use your main attacking hero.
- Be careful in bringing swarm decks, the Old Ford can really become a big threat if you don’t clear it directly. If multiple people are bringing swarm decks, the location can quickly rise to 20 threat or higher.
- Location control is quite useful in this quest, but be prepared for Flooding. This will have you waste your progress on locations. Only trigger these effects after Staging, or if you are sure you can clear a location.