Our first Snow mission takes us the same path as the Fellowship as we tackle the Misty Mountains, only this time we go the opposite direction. This quest is notorious for killing a lot of allies simply because they don’t have enough willpower. We have seen the return of needing a lot of willpower on characters during the Harad cycle. The Orc enemies there get worse as your characters have less willpower. In the early days, this quest was difficult as there wasn’t a lot of ways to increase willpower. These days, Dwarves and Gondor have plenty of global willpower buffs, making the quest easier. Think of Sword that was Broken, Faramir, Visionary Leadership, and Dain Ironfoot. However, Caradhras is not beaten that easily, let’s face the icy cold of:
The Redhorn Gate
- Found in The Redhorn Gate adventure pack, Dwarrowdelf cycle, pack 1
- Official Difficulty: 6
- Community Difficulty: 5.5
- Encounter sets: The Redhorn Gate, Misty Mountains
- Quest cards: 3
- Play if: You have forgotten all about this quest (like me), you want to test a questing deck that can handle willpower reduction, you want to have a fun game with your location control deck, you want to tech against a certain scenario.
- What is different about this quest?: Arwen ally, willpower reduction, 3 unique Mountains of Moria locations.
- Solo or Multiplayer?: While the quest requires a lot of willpower, I would not recommend you play this with 4 players, you are far more likely to reveal a Snowstorm, causing people to lose characters faster than in solo or 2p.
- Can I run Side-Quests for this scenario?: Yes, though I would advise to clear them before you pass the first stage. Rally the West is probably the side-quest you want to clear first, as it will help to keep your heroes alive a bit longer during the later stages.
The Setup of this quest has all players remove all copies of Snowstorm from the encounter deck. These will be shuffled back in later. Then, the players search for the unique Caradhras location and add it to the staging area. This starts your threat off with 3, but this will be increased later. While players can’t travel to Caradhras, they are able to put progress there. Don’t clear the location yet though, as it will return from the victory display at the end of stage 2.
Quest card 1: Up the Pass – 9 quest points
The B side of this quest card looks remarkably empty, so the developers decided to add their standard When Revealed effect to it. This will add 1 card per player to the staging area. There are a couple of really nasty effects that can trigger with this effect though. Revealing a Mountain Troll might be too early for most decks, and Fallen Stones will surge into 2 new cards (because there is no progress yet to remove). But the absolute worst card to reveal now is Avalanche! This card will ruin your chances of making progress during this turn. Avalanche will exhaust every ready character, making it hard for you to commit characters to the quest next phase. Cancelling this effect might seem a bit early, but is definitely worth it. There is only one copy of this card in the deck, so best to see it gone early. There is probably 1 card that is good to have revealed during this time: Black Uruks. Their When Revealed effect is pretty mild, and won’t discard a lot of attachments, even during the questing phase.
The rest of the stage is pretty mild, no real challenges have come up yet. This is the time where you want to clear your side-quests and assemble enough victory points by maybe clearing a couple of unique locations. The 9 progress tokens required to pass the stage should be easy enough, as there are no Snowstorms in the deck yet.
Quest card 2: Snowdrifts – 11 quest points
This is where the weather turns foul and you will start to struggle to make progress. Once players have flipped the quest card to stage 2B, they are instructed to shuffle X copies of Snowstorm into the encounter deck, with X being the number of players plus 1. This treachery will now become the bane of your questers, as you can very easily lose willpower at this point.
You should have cleared whatever side-quests you wanted to complete during the last stage, but if you are just a couple of progress short, you might be able to complete it at this stage. The 11 progress for this stage will be harder to place than you might think, especially if you are encountering some enemies at this point.
Once you manage to place the 11th progress token on the second stage, you immediately discard the active location and make Caradras the active location. Now here is where the wording is a bit odd, but in case you had a location with Victory Points on it (Fanuidhol, Dimrill Stair, etc) you do not collect those points as the location is discarded before it gets explored. Remember that quest card effect happen before the effects on the locations. Therefore, it is not a good idea to have a location worth victory points active once you clear the stage, try and clear them before or after the trigger on the quest card.
A short note here is that if you manage to clear Caradhras before you make it active, it will go to the victory display. However, the effect on stage 2 will retrieve the location from the victory display and make it active. It is a far better idea to have Caradhras at 8 progress tokens, making the next stage easier.
Quest card 3: The Mountains’ Peaks – 13 quest points
This is where things take a turn for the worst: the static effect on this quest stage will have you discard any character the moment their willpower is 0. This means that you will have to tech against this quest in order to not have to discard any heroes. Allies will definitely perish in the snow, making your combat phases harder. Offensive and defensive characters usually don’t have a lot of willpower, so you will either have to boost their willpower, or bring different characters.
Once this quest card is revealed, all Snowstorm cards that are in the discard pile, get shuffled back into the encounter deck. This will make it very likely that you will encounter some more Snowstorms during the following turns. These chances increase as you play the quest with more and more players. Committing characters after staging to the quest will be a good way to save some of those characters and still make progress on the quest. In order to make a lot more progress, you will have to clear Caradhras fast. You can do this with location control, or you can move it out of the active location slot to negate the Mountain’s debuff. Be sure to be able to clear it once you switch it for something else, as the 3 victory points might be crucial to your victory.
This brings us to the win conditions of this scenario. In order to win, players must have 13 progress tokens on this stage and own 5 victory points. Luckily, recent player cards will also count towards your victory score, making the scenario easier. Player side-quests and cards like Justice Shall Be Done are a good way to ensure you don’t have to wait until the encounter deck hands you a tough location. Once all these criteria have been met, and Arwen is still alive, the players have won the game and can now sink their teeth into the treacheries of the next adventure pack: Road to Rivendell.
The Encounter Deck
- There are 37 cards in Normal Mode, 28 in easy mode
- Shadow effects are on 54% of the cards, this means 1 in 2 attacks of Mountain Wargs will return them to the staging area.
- Average threat on cards revealed is 1.3 and 1.4 between Normal and Easy mode.
- Surge is only on Fell Voices if it doesn’t return 2 Snow treacheries.
- Doomed is not present on any cards.
- Caradhras is immune to effects that make it the active location, everything else is fair game.
There is quite an even distribution between the 3 types of cards you can reveal. This makes it hard to correctly guess with Wingfoot.
Arwen Undomiel has become a staple in many Spirit decks with her Hero and Ally version. This is the first time in the game we encounter her, this time as an objective ally. Note that you are not allowed to bring any other version of her to the quest (sorry Noldor players). Your objective will be to keep Arwen alive. While she may not get killed during combat, there are some combos in the encounter deck that can kill her on stage 3. This makes the quest quite frustrating so I would recommend boosting her willpower once you hit that stage. Even boosting it by 1 can make the difference between victory and an icy defeat. Think of effects like Faramir, Lords of the Eldar, and Sword that was Broken as ways to boost her willpower.
Arwen also has an effect that will have you commit her to the quest a lot. Every time she exhausts, she adds a resource to a hero’s resource pool. This will make it easier to fund your cards during the next planning phase. There are as of yet no other effects that can have you exhaust her without committing her to the quest or using her as a defender (why?) or as an attacker (again, why?). A card that I would definitely consider for Arwen is Late Adventurer. This will allow her to commit her 2 willpower to the quest after the Snowstorms have laid waste to your other questing characters. If you are on stage 3 and reveal 2 snowstorms, it is game over for everyone. Another strategy, to play it safe during the final stage, is to exhaust Arwen only during the attacking step of the combat phase. Sure, she can’t deal any damage on her own, but at least you gain a resource for the next round.
As you pass through the Redhorn Gate, there are a number of Mountain locations you can encounter. Some of these are the unique 3 peaks of Moria. Since most of the locations are Mountain traited, Dwarves will have a distinct advantage by playing effects like Ancestral Knowledge and Ever my Heart Rises!
- Rocky Crags: This is quite a lot of threat to reveal during staging. However, the 2 progress tokens required to clear this location opens up the possibility to clear it without having to travel. The travel effect may seem bad at first, but there are not many other direct damage effects in the game, so you should be able to survive taking 2 damage on a questing character for example. It is well worth to get that 4 threat out of the staging area by doing so.
- Warg Lair: This location is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you are allowed to draw a card once it is explored. However, when it is revealed, you are adding a copy of Mountain Warg to the staging area. This might be poorly timed, so cancelling the effect on this card might seem like a good idea. But don’t be tempted. Save your cancellation for treacheries and stomach the warg. Alternatively, you can try and put Mountain Wargs into the victory display in order to have this effect whiff. This turns it into a harmless 1 threat location that benefits players once it is explored.
- Caradras: Caradhras the Cruel is where this scenario derives its name from The Redhorn. It starts off in the staging area adding its 3 threat to the total. It is immune to effects that try and make the location active like West Road Traveller, but not immune to cards that place progress on it. However, the 9 quest points on the location will take a long time to clear. You don’t want to clear this location in the staging area, as the effect on stage 2B will pull it back from the victory display. Once it becomes active due to the quest card, it will lower the willpower of every questing character by 1. In combination with Snowstorm and stage 3, this can cause you to lose a lot of characters. My advice against this location is, therefore, to try and put up to 8 progress on it before it becomes active, and then use cards like Strength of Will to clear the location. This will allow for an easier passage through the Mountains and gives you 3 victory points out of the 5 required for the scenario.
- Celebdil: The Silvertine is also a unique location the will reward players with 2 victory points once it is explored. This location is harder to explore via location control cards, as it will remove 2 progress from it at the end of each turn. It is therefore advised to travel to Celebdil if you want to remove its 3 threat from the staging area. Once you have it active, it will still remove 2 progress from it every turn, so be sure to put more than 2 progress on there each turn in order to clear it.
- Fanuidhol: The final unique mountain location is quite tough. In order to count the willpower of heroes that are committed to the quest once Fanuidhol is active, players must spend a resource from that heroes pool. This can be really costly, as you might want to send a couple of high willpower heroes in order to clear the location. The strategy against this location is, therefore, to not travel to it, and clear its 7 quest points with cards like Rhovanion Outrider, Explorers Almanac, Hithlain, and Northern Tracker.
- The Dimrill Stair: This location is really unique, and by that I mean besides the unique symbol printed on it. Revealing this card in the late game can ensure that you keep a very low threat. This does come at a price though, you have to reshuffle all locations in the encounter discard pile ánd the victory display back into the deck. This might mean that you will have to acquire the 5 required victory points for stage 3 again, though the Dimrill Stair helps you with that. The benefit of this location is huge though; you get to remove all copies of the Freezing Cold treachery from the game. On top of that, each player may lower their threat by 11. 11!! This is probably the biggest threat reduction people can get outside Fall of Gil-Galad and Lore Aragorn. Note that you do not have to travel to the Dimrill Stair if you are afraid to face certain locations again, you also have the option to clear it in the staging area. This gets you a single victory point, which might be the last one you needed.
These treacheries are meant to illustrate how hard it is to traverse a snowy mountain pass. And man, do these treacheries suck. They will sap away your resources, add more cards to the deck and staging area, and above all: they reduce your willpower. There are quite a number of cards that are very much worth it to cancel in order to save resources or characters.
- Snowstorm: Let’s start off with the main treachery of this quest: Snowstorm. I have mentioned this treachery before, so by now, you should know that this card will reduce the willpower of every questing character by 1. This is bad on its own, but the effect can stack on top other copies of Snowstorm, Freezing Cold, and Caradhras. This will render your characters defenceless against the snow and might cost them their lives. This treachery is very much worth it to cancel. This will allow you to perhaps even make some progress on the quest this turn. It is also good to keep track of how many Snowstorms you have encountered so far. There can be up to 5 of these, so being able to know when to expect one is vital. They are also good targets for Out of the Wild, as they won’t get reshuffled during the final stage.
- Freezing Cold: I think a lot of people with beard can relate to this cards art during the colder seasons. This card will attach as a Condition attachment to one of your heroes. That hero gets -2 willpower and is unable to commit to the quest (this includes the effect of Avalanche, it will only get exhausted). I would advise putting this condition on a character that will be needed for combat, and has a willpower of 3 or higher, after calculating additional buffs. Come stage 3, it will be difficult to keep that hero alive. If ever the attached hero gains another copy of this treachery, that hero gets discarded anyway. So there is no point in sticking all of these attachments on a single hero. Fortunately, there are a couple effects that will remove condition attachments from characters. Even better, if you manage to pull off the trick with Dimrill Stair, you remove all copies of this treachery from the game.
- Fell Voices: This card will return the top 2 Snow cards in the discard pile to the TOP of the encounter deck. Note that they do not get reshuffled. There are a lot of cards with the Snow trait, so you might see some enemies again or worse, treacheries. Then, if the effect didn’t bring back 2 Snow Treacheries, this effect causes you to reveal the next card off of the top of the deck. With some planning, you can decide which card you will reveal. Also note that this card causes you to be careful of the arrangement of cards in the discard pile, especially when you discard shadow cards, and in what order.
- Fallen Stones: Either Surge 2 or remove all progress in the game. In a scenario where making progress is difficult, I would advise players to pick the 2 cards if you ever have to discard a lot of progress. Otherwise, you will have to spend an additional 3-4 turns to get back where you are now.
- Avalanche!: I’ll just say it, this card has cost me a couple of games. Not only will this card exhaust every ready character, but it will also commit them to the quest. Combine this with Caradhras as an active location, and perhaps a Snowstorm, and you have just discarded every character with 2 or less willpower (provided you are on stage 3). This will probably include Arwen, so everyone loses the game regardless. This treachery is the main reason you want to globally boost your willpower, as it can actually result in you making a lot of progress. Then again, all of your characters are now exhausted so combat will prove to be difficult unless you have some readying effects. There is only 1 copy of this card, so once you have seen it, there is no more threat of it being revealed (except if it gets shuffled with Fell Voices).
- Bitter Wind: If you were saving your resources for the next planning phase, bad luck. This treachery makes you discard 3 resources from EACH hero you control. In most cases, this will clear all your resources, turning off some of the Gondor synergy with Leadership Boromir and Visionary Leadership. My advice to counter this effect is to save your resource acceleration until the refresh phase, or the end of combat. The shadow effect on this card is slightly less punishing, but it is rare to have more than 2 resources on your heroes. Only after you have dealt with shadow effects, should you add resources to your heroes.
The passage over the mountains is home to a variety of enemies. Creatures, Orcs, and Trolls will make you want to keep up a couple of defenders after the questing phase. This encounter deck is also the first time that we use the Misty Mountains encounter set so I will cover the 2 enemies in there as well.
- Snow Warg: The first of 2 types of Warg found in this scenario, the Snow Warg is quite a pain to defend against. Not only are allies unable to, the defending hero is forced to take 1 point of damage. This reminds me a bit of Gondorian Spearman, but in reverse. Remember that you can also choose to have the attack go undefended, thereby having no defending character to take the point of damage. Killing the Snow Warg will not be very difficult, as you can easily the 5 attack strength to do so.
- Mountain Troll: These scenario’s in the early life of the game are really enjoying their trolls, so there is another one in the cold passes of the Misty Mountains. This Mountain Troll has a very beefy 5 defence, which will protect it against a lot of smaller attacks. you will have to commit fully to defeating this Troll in order to kill it. Defending the troll is also not a small task. The base 5 attack is high enough to kill some defenders, but on top of this, the Mountain Troll gets a +1 increase to its attack strength for each Mountain location in the Staging Area. During the first 2 stages, there will always be Caradhras that will boost the effect. And there are quite a number of other locations that you would not like to travel to. The way around this troll is therefore to try and chump block it with a character that wasn’t very useful, to begin with. Perhaps you might even have to discard that ally during the 3rd stage, so you might as well get a defence out of it. You can also opt to use Forest Snare on this Troll, and not bother with it ever again. The troll is not immune to player card effects or attachments, so traps are also a nice way to avoid this enemy.
- Mountain Goblin: Like the Mountain Troll, this Goblin gets an increase in attack strength for each Mountain location in the Staging Area. It also gets style points for that awesome wolf pelt it is wearing. The Goblin is not really a threat to most decks, though he can get out of hand if you are getting locked with locations.
- Mountain Warg: The Wargs from the previous cycle were such a hit, that the developers decided to beef them up a little and put them into this cycle too. This time, the enemies are hitting for 4 attack and will take an additional point of attack to kill. They will still bounce back to the staging area if their attack didn’t have a shadow effect.
A quick note on the shadow effects: A lot of show effects get worse if the active location is a Mountain location. This might have influence on whether or not you will travel, or clear the location in the staging area. The absolute worst Shadow effect on an encounter card is that of Snowstorm, which might discard your defender, causing you to take the attack undefended. This is a quick way to lose 2 heroes. Bring cancellation, or raise everyone’s willpower, so that these effects do not get the chance to trigger.
Tips and Tricks
- This is really a quest where you will have to build a deck against the scenario, not every deck will do. If you bring Beregond as a defender, and you don’t raise his willpower, stage 3 is going to kill him, if a Snowstorm Shadow card doesn’t do that first.
- Your defender must have 2 or more willpower in order to be able to defend an attack without the chance of having a Snowstorm discard him. Think about using Aragorn, Elrohir or Elrond as defenders over characters like Defender of Rammas or Beregond.
- Visionary Leadership is a good card to include because of its ability to raise willpower, but be careful that it might get turned off halfway through the quest phase with Bitter Wind. This can also lead to a board wipe of your allies, especially on stage 3. Consider stacking multiple willpower boosting effects, like Faramir, Sword that was Broken, and Dain Ironfoot.
- Clearing the side-quest Rally the West is a good way to ensure that your Heroes will have some extra willpower. This will keep them alive a bit longer and will make questing easier.
- Spirit Eowyn shines in this quest, having the ability to discard cards to make up for lost willpower will have your company plough through the snow a lot easier.
- Try to commit characters to the quest after you have finished staging. This can be done with Late Adventurer (extremely useful for Arwen), Nenya, Bofur, and Hobbit Pony. This will allow those characters to survive Snowstorms without having their willpower reduced by their effects. This can save you some characters in the final stage.
- Try and place 8 progress on Caradhras with your location control before you have to travel to it. This will make it easier to clear it once it becomes active, negating its willpower debuff. DO NOT CLEAR IT IN THE STAGING AREA! You will have to fish it out of the victory display at the end of stage 2 and will need to make an additional 9 progress.
- Try to use cards like Out of the Wild to get rid of copies of Snowstorm or Avalanche! This will also open up the possibility of using The Door is Closed to cancel another Snowstorm if it should come up. Bringing regular cancellation is also a good idea, as the treacheries in this scenario can be brutal and cause you to lose just like that.