The Shire brings forth one of the most enjoyable traits to play: Hobbits. These hairy-footed halflings got developed during the very first Saga box of the Lord of the Rings Saga but had a lot of love right from the start of the game. Bilbo Baggins was the very first Hero we received outside of the Core Set, and Frodo followed not far behind. Over the years, the Hobbit trait has been expanded upon and has even seen cards as recent as The Mountain of Fire, where 2 Hobbits play a major role in the narrative.
Who are the Hobbits?
If it is short but has no beard, you are probably looking at a Hobbit. The halflings hail from the Shire and used to reside on the Banks of the Anduin. The game only features Hobbits from the Shire and does not differentiate between Baggins, Tooks, Brandybucks, Proudfoots (Proudfeet!), or any other family. For more information about the lives of Hobbits, and the histories of the families, check the books.
Whilst developed during the Black Riders Saga expansion, the Hobbits have been around longer than you might think. Over the years there haven’t been cycles in which the trait got fully developed, but it settled over time with the continued release of more heroes, allies, and helpful abilities. There are a ton of packs that contain Hobbits, but prioritze the packs listed in bold.
- Core Set
- The Hunt for Gollum
- Conflict at the Carrock
- The Hills of Emyn Muil
- The Dead Marshes
- The Watcher in the Water
- The Long Dark
- Encounter at Amon Dîn
- Wastes of Eriador
- The Thing in the Depths
- The Drowned Ruins
- The Sands of Harad
- Beneath the Sands
- The Dungeons of Cirith Gurat
- The Crossings of Poros
- Mount Gundabad (Bilbo, Sting, Gaffer Gamgee, Shirefolk)
- The Fate of Wilderland
- A Shadow in the East (Frodo, ally Merry, ally Pippin)
- Wrath and Ruin
- Under the Ash Mountains
- The Land of Sorrow
- The Black Riders (Entire box is Hobbit themed)
- The Road Darkens
- The Land of Shadow
- The Mountain of Fire (Tom and Rosie Cotton, Raise the Shire)
The Hobbits span all 4 spheres of influence, with an equal amount of cards in all of them. However, they are not a very combat focused people, so Tactics often relies on support from other traits. The introduction of Tom Cotton and several allies has helped the Tactics side of the Hobbits a bit more, as Tom buffs your Hobbits in the round they enter play. Leadership doesn’t have a lot of Hobbit heroes, so a mono-Leadership Hobbit deck will be difficult to make. Mono-Lore and Mono-Spirit are viable, with enough heroes and enough cards to make a complete 50 card deck. However, mixing spheres in one deck is adviced, the strength of the Hobbits comes in their variety of spheres. You will want cards from Leadership (Bill the Pony, Rosie Cotton), Lore (Fast Hitch, Gaffer Gamgee), Spirit (Hobbit Pony, Hobbit Pipe), and Tactics (Tom Cotton, Raise the Shire). Neutral cards for Hobbits are also strong, getting easy threat reduction with the Shirefolk and cost reduction with Good Meal.
The Hobbits are a very secretive folk, and that is reflected in their low threat cost. Their threat cost is usually between 6 and 8, which makes them very good options to include as the third hero in a deck. However, the low threat cost is reflected in the Hobbit’s base stats. Mainly their hitpoints is a concern in many decks, as a 2 Hitpoint hero is not very reliable against quests that have a lot of direct damage and Archery. Finding ways to boost hitpoints on Hobbits is easy, Bill the Pony, Boots from Erebor, Spare Pipe, and Ring Mail should definitely help you if you find your heroes dying often.
The Hobbits often like the comfort of home and friends, so some abilities require you to play with 3 Hobbit Heroes. Since there are as of this moment no attachments which grant heroes the Hobbit trait, you will be forced to build a 3 Hobbit Hero deck. But don’t worry, the trait is developed enough that you can build some good decks with that restriction. You also get some great cards to benefit you when playing with only Hobbit heroes like Barliman Butterbur and Shirefolk.
The Hobbits first real synergy was the engagement of enemies with a higher engagement cost than your threat. With 3 hobbit heroes, you will find that your threat is often much lower than that of your enemies. Rangers support this synergy too, with effects like Take no Notice and In the Shadows. Attachments like Dagger of Westernesse and Hobbit Cloak become more efficient if you attack or defend against enemies with a higher engagement cost. Be careful though, if you find yourself in a long game (Ruins of Belegost) you may find that your late game will be harder, as your threat surpasses the engagement cost of most enemies after a while. Be also on the lookout for enemies with a very low engagement cost. Watcher in the Water is a quest that you don’t want to run a Hobbit deck against.
During the more recent cycles, the Hobbits gained more synergy with their Pipes, Songs, and Ponies. Most of these synergies focus on the questy nature of the Hobbits, with many ways to boost willpower and commit Hobbits to the quest outside the normal phase. This allows you to more easily quest with the exact amount of willpower that you need, which is useful during quests that require you to stall, like Conflict at the Carrock.
The final synergy that the Hobbits received, is a tendency to quickly play allies, and have a big first turn. This reminds me a lot of the Silvan archetype, but that one is far better developed. Several new Hobbit allies have effects that trigger when they enter play, like Odo Proudfoot and Curious Halfling. Combine this with the attackboost from Tom Cotton, and you can have a very aggresive Hobbit deck, that tries to play allies and get some big turns. The archetype isn’t fully developed in my opinion, but the building blocks are there.
Synergy with other traits
Besides their own kind, Hobbits like to team up with Rangers. Whether it is the Rangers of Ithilien that helped Frodo and Sam or the Rangers of the Dunedain that protected the borders of the Shire, Hobbits and Rangers share a couple of cards that help you raise the engagement cost of enemies, and effects that play off of that. It helps that the engagement synergy is shared between the two traits.
Hobbits and Ents are also a combination that is starting to be developed. This is to reflect Merry and Pippin taking on Isengard with the Ents. The Dam Bursts will require you to have two heroes with Hobbit and Ent traits. Ent Draught is also a very good attachment to put on your Hobbit heroes as it will raise their hitpoints. It is also a thematic win!
Bree cards are rare, but they do support the Hobbit trait. Barliman Butterbur is a good defensive option if you play with 3 Hobbits. However, beside him, this trait has not been developed yet.
Hobbits have a lot of cards to choose from, and many can fit different play styles. I find myself including Fast Hitch in a lot of Hobbit decks, as it is cheaper readying for Hobbits. It is also a Skill which makes it harder to lose in quests like Foundations of Stone or Dunland Trap as opposed to Items that ready heroes.
Bill the Pony is an auto-include in any deck that has Sam in it. Being able to buff hitpoints is vital to the survival of your Hobbits. The pony even has a point of attack power that may come in handy. He does often only quest, but he is a great ally to bring to the table when you are running Hobbits, as the extra hitpoint really makes a difference in some quests.
Rosie Cotton is a very good ally as she is able to buff the stats of other Hobbits with her willpower. You can even ready her after she has quested, and commit her willpower again to another Hobbit. If you buff her willpower, things can get out of hand quickly.
Some more recent staples include Gaffer Gamgee, who is usually a repeatable Feint for Hobbit decks that can keep their threat low. He does cost 2 resources, but low threat Hobbit decks can usually get away with playing an early game Resourceful, allowing them to pump out Gaffer Gamgee each round when he goes back to your hand. Combine him with engagement cost raising abilities, and he will continue to be useful in the later half of the game.
The Shirefolk is an amazing card for Hobbits, as it is free threat reduction on par with Elrond’s Counsel, but lowering the threat by and additional point, at the price of the willpower the Spirit event gives you. The fact that this card is Neutral makes it an auto include in any Hobbit deck, but does mean that it is difficult to repeat, as Record attachments cannot target it. This is a great card to draw, and can even allow you to stay in Secrecy for 4 additional rounds!
“Bad” Hobbit cards
Keen-eyed Took is considered a complete miss and a terrible card to include in your deck unless you really have no other choice. He does nothing to help your board state, other than peeking at the top card which might be useful for Dwarven Mining. In multiplayer he can be considered a grief card.
Fatty Bolger is often excluded from a lot of decks that use only the Black Riders box. He doesn’t synergise well with the low threat that Hobbit decks require unless you focus on threat reduction. Though he is not popular, he is still playable.
Hobbit-sense is also a card that got removed from most decks once better options were available. It requires you to play only Hobbit heroes, which isn’t impossible. However, the fact that you cannot declare attacks against enemies doesn’t help you at all. Note that you are also not allowed to declare Ranged attacks against other enemies. Enemies that are immune to player card effects will still attack even if you decide to ditch 2 resources for this event.
Spirit Pippin is another Hero that is rarely used. He requires you to have an all Hobbit line up of heroes before he does anything. Even if you do put him in a Hobbit deck, his effect is mediocre at best. You can engage an enemy and trigger your Higher engagement cost buffs, and then return him to the staging area for 3 threat. In my opinion, that is not worth it and you will find yourself playing his Lore version sooner.
What the archetype is missing
Hobbits are one of the traits with the most cards related to them, so there isn’t much that I could ask for. I would like to see some sort of damage cancellation effect that is thematic with Hobbits, as they currently only have Close Call, which isn’t a great synergy with their tendancy to want to keep a low threat. So if we can somehow get some more damage cancellation for Hobbits, we won’t have to rely on Loyal Hound or Honour Guard. The rest of the archetype is fleshed out pretty well, though Hobbits do lack the Ranged and Sentinel keywords. There is no thematic way to get those keywords, and only recently we got our first Hobbit ally with the Ranged keyword, the Hobbit Archer. I understand that there isn’t really a thematic point to Hobbits having the Sentinel keyword, but it would be something to add in the future perhaps.
There are a ton of Hobbit decks in the community right now, so I would encourage everyone to try finding a couple of fun decks on RingsDB. If you need some suggestions, here are a couple of decks that are worth looking at.