Let’s just start off with why everyone remembers this quest: Sleeping Sentry. It is widely regarded to be the worst treachery in the game for at least the first 4/5 cycles. But besides this treachery, Road to Rivendell brings a new mechanic to the table: Ambush. The quest will certainly be memorable to everyone who attempts it. It is again an escort mission like the previous Redhorn Gate, though I tend to find this quest much more manageable.
Road to Rivendell
(Or Return to Rivendell, as I mistake it with constantly)
- Found in: Dwarrowdelf Adventure Pack 2
- Official Difficulty: 4
- Community Difficulty: 5.3
- Encounter Sets: Road to Rivendell, Misty Mountains, Plundering Goblins
- Quest Cards: 3
- Play if: You want to test your decks against enemies that engage immediately, you want to face off the terrible treacheries.
- What is special about this quest?: Arwen Objective ally, very punishing treacheries, Ambush mechanic.
- Solo or multiplayer?: The quest cards will require a lot of progress, so having at least more than 1 player will be beneficial. However, having a lot of players might trigger the Ambush mechanic a lot on a player that might not be prepared for multiple enemies. I would advise playing this with 3 players, with everyone packing cancellation for the treacheries.
- Can I run side-quests for this scenario?: You can, but there are a lot of progress tokens required to pass the stages. You may find that you won’t quest against your side-quests too often. If I would advise a side-quest, it would be Keep Watch, as enemies will make a lot of attacks, so having them hit for less will be worthwhile. There are also a lot of other quests you could attempt to complete.
Be afraid, Be very afraid!
Just like the previous scenario, the players are instructed to find Arwen and put her into play under the control of the first player. She will switch between players during the game as the first player swaps. This will allow everybody to benefit from her ability when she exhausts. Players will then have to reveal 1 encounter card per player. While this might add some threat to the staging area, it can also cause some players to be engaged with enemies from the very beginning of the game. Dunedain decks will love this, as they will be able to trigger multiple abilities off of this.
Quest card 1: Along the Misty Mountains – 20 quest points
The first stage of the game doesn’t have any text, besides some flavour. The 20 quest points might take a while to obtain, especially if you have trouble getting your deck to quest successfully, or if you are playing solo. Try to get your healing out at this stage, as you will not be able to use it during the final stage.
Quest card 2: Orc Outpost – 7 quest points
From the flavour text on this card, it is clear that you have made the same mistake as the company of Thorin Oakenshield. The cave in which you took shelter turns out to be a Goblin colony. This means that players will have much more combat to take care off in this stage. When you flip the stage, you search the encounter deck and discard pile for the Goblin Gate location. This shouldn’t be hard, as the art features some very bright colours in contrast to the other encounter cards. You will add the location to the staging area and make it the active location if there is no other active location. Chances are that there is no other active location, so you should be able to avoid the 5 threat on the location.
Besides this when revealed effect, there are no other triggers or conditions that have to be met. Players will have to make the 7 progress on the quest card after which they will immediately advance to the next stage.
Quest card 3: Approaching Rivendell – 13 quest points
Now you are on the final stretch to Imladris, however, the encounter deck will try extra hard now to make sure you don’t make it home. They start off by revealing another card per player from the encounter deck. This (basically) second staging step will mean that there will be enough cards in the staging area so that there are plenty of locations to travel to. But the real danger in this When Revealed effect are the treacheries again. Since you have already survived a staging step where you made enough progress to proceed to this step, you will be punished even harder by a Sleeping Sentry or an Orc Ambush. Orc Ambush at this time will surely cause some engagements. If not, it will return a vast amount of Orc enemies from the staging area.
To top it all off, this stage doesn’t allow characters to be healed. This is particularly dangerous, as Arwen is quite vulnerable to direct damage. However, the tactics sphere allows for some help in this regard. Cards like Honour Guard, Close Call, and Vigilant Guard will either redirect or cancel the damage that either Arwen or another hero would have taken. This is not healing and is therefore allowed by the quest. I would advise trying to hang on to these effects for really game-ending scenario’s during your playthrough and not waste it if you are losing a few unimportant allies.
Willpower is key during this stage, so I would try and put all your eggs in one basket and rushing the questing during the next turn. Try and remove as much threat out of the staging area to make sure you can get 13 progress on the stage that round. Having cards like Legolas putting some progress on the quest during combat will also be nice. There is plenty to kill in this quest, and that would make it easier to pass the stage next round. Once players place the final progress on the stage, they immediately win.
The Encounter deck
- This encounter deck consists of 56 cards in normal mode, and 45 in Easy mode
- Shadow effects are abundant in this quest, with over 60% of cards having some Shadow effect
- Average threat on cards revealed is 1.4 and 1.6 between Normal and Easy mode. This does not count the threat taken out of the staging area due to Ambush on some enemies.
- Doomed is not present in this quest, and there are not a lot of other effects that raise your threat.
- Surge is present on 8 cards, either printed directly or if you choose to damage characters with Followed by Night
- Encounter cards can become Immune to player card effects if Crebain is in the staging area. Try to engage or kill these enemies in order to cancel treacheries or other cards.
This encounter deck has quite a lot of Shadow effects, so the Mountain Wargs should stay engaged often. The encounter deck brings a lot of enemies to the game, so be prepared for combat. The amount of treacheries is greatly reduced in Easy mode, so cancellation of When Revealed effects are less of a priority at that point.
Let me just put a quick note here on the new mechanic. I personally very much like the Ambush mechanic, as it feels very thematic. You will have little to no time to respond to any of these engagements. The Ambush mechanic will cause any enemy with the Ambush keyword to make engagement checks with the players, just like during the engagement phase. Then, if the engagement cost of the enemy is lower than the threat of that player, the enemy engages that player. Most of the enemies will then trigger an effect that will damage characters, discard attachments, or make an immediate attack. If no engagements were made this way, the enemy just gets added to the staging area. The nice thing about this keyword is that the enemy doesn’t contribute its threat to the staging area if it engages. This makes making progress a bit easier.
To counter this keyword, players can use several tricks to avoid the engagements or to benefit from the keyword. The first option players have, is to raise the engagement cost of enemies. This can be done with cards like Take No Notice or Lore Pippin. Hobbits, in general, are a good archetype to bring, since they usually start with lower threat than most engagement costs. However, be careful, as Hobbits are quite vulnerable to direct damage effects from the encounter deck. Rangers will also allow easy access to Traps. While the regular Staging Area traps will be less useful (but not useless!), the traps you will want to use are Followed and Forest Snare. This will making questing even easier and will cause the engaged enemy to be no longer a threat.
Another way to exploit the Ambush mechanic is to make use of the Dunedain archetype. They focus on having enemies engaged with you. Having enemies engage out of the regular engagement phase can work in favour of the Dunedain. This can cause Amarthiul to get a Tactics resource icon, and perhaps an extra resource during the resource phase. Other cards that will be wanting enemies engaged with you are the Halbarad ally, Heir of Valandil, Fornost Bowman, and many more.
Arwen is still being escorted by our company, so using her ally or hero version will be illegal. Don’t worry, this is the last quest that restricts you this way. She has remained unchanged from her Redhorn Gate version. She still has the effect that players can add a resource to a hero’s resource pool when she exhausts.
While Arwen won’t be as vulnerable to being discarded from having too little willpower like in Redhorn Gate, she is vulnerable to a host of other effects that might cause you to damage her. With stage 3 restricting you to heal her, this can cause her to die before you reach the end of the quest. Be careful in committing her to the quest, and be sure to heal her if you can. Effects like: Followed by Night, Sleeping Sentry and the shadow effect on Pathless Country will try and kill her. Be sure to cancel these effects, especially during the final stage, as you won’t be able to heal her anymore.
There are quite a number of enemies in this scenario, so you should be ready to deal with them from the start of the game. Some of these newer enemies will feature the new Ambush mechanic, and there will also be quite some Goblins that will swarm you if you don’t kill them soon. Direct damage will be a good way to deal with most of these enemies. Consider bringing Thalin and/or Argalad in order to minimize combat.
- Black Uruks: I haven’t covered these enemies in the previous article so I will give them a quick analysis here. The Uruks are pretty harmless with their (shadow) effect, the chances that it will go off are quite small. However, losing attachments really sucks, especially if you have to discard important cards from your heroes. I would advise playing some attachments on questing heroes that you can lose. Think of some of the Signal attachments, Dunedain Remedy is probably your best bet. You can also choose to not have any attachments on questing characters so that the effect whiffs.
- Crebain: Now this enemy is interesting. First of all, it will surge into another card, so that is unfortunate. The static effect on Crebain is horrible though, not being able to cancel encounter card effects will render your Test of Will useless. You should definitely engage these birds whenever you can. I would advise not killing the Crebain once they have engaged you. Try to use effects like Followed and Forest Snare on these birds to prevent them from going back into the deck when you run out of encounter cards. This strategy is best used by Dunedain decks, so consider using some cards from that archetype. If you reveal a treachery while the Crebain are in the staging area, perhaps you surged into one, consider using Revealed in Wrath to clear their text box, and then cancel the treachery. This only works if you have 1 copy of Crebain in the staging area.
- Goblin Taskmaster: The first of the enemy cards with the Ambush keyword. At 27 engagement cost, the Taskmaster will likely engage most decks during the starting rounds of the game. His forced effect when he engages you is that you will have to deal 2 damage to a character you control. This could be fatal, as this scenario will deal a lot of direct damage to characters. Consider adding some healing to decks in order to prevent taking losses.
- Orc Raiders: These Orcs have a lower engagement cost at 21 so they will engage everything but a Secrecy deck. These Orcs are weaker than the Taskmaster but have a very nasty effect when they engage a player. That player will have to discard 2 attachments he controls. This can be horrifying for any deck that relies on a few key attachments. You will find that you might discard traps from enemies, causing them to attack again. You will also no longer to enjoy the riches with Steward of Gondor or Resourceful. Your defenders will get stripped of their armour, and your attacking characters might lose some weapons. There are 2 ways around this effect:
- Don’t run attachments. This might seem hard at the beginning, but this does open up deck space for more allies, events, and side quests. However, you must absolutely commit to this strategy, you cannot run just 1 or 2 attachments on the side. These will still be able to be targeted by the Raiders.
- Spam the attachments: 2 attachments might seem a lot, but you might be able to fill the board with a couple less important attachments. With the new Dale synergy, this might become even easier. Good options are any of the free attachments, like Dunedain Remedy and Spare Hood and Cloak.
- Wild Bear: The Bear is on the higher end of the engagement spectrum when it comes to Ambush. This might mean that you won’t have to engage it for a while. Staying under 34 threat will allow you to put the bear in the staging area, where it won’t increase the threat. During the later stages of the game, the Bear will come down to play. Whenever the Wild Bear engages a player, he makes an immediate attack. While the base attack of 2 might not be so hard to block, you will lose a defender for the combat phase. During combat, the bear will make another attack, so be sure to have at least more than 1 defender on the board.
This is the meat of the scenario, the treacheries are a big step up from what we have seen before. These treacheries are all very well worth it to cancel if you can. Be aware that there are effects like Crebain that will protect these treacheries from being cancelled.
- Sleeping Sentry: This treachery has taken the spot at the number 1 treachery card in the game (see the top 10 list here). This is because this nasty treachery not only has a terrible when revealed effect, but also a nasty shadow effect. On top of this, there are 2 copies of this treachery in the encounter deck (0 in easy mode). The effect will cause you to take 1 damage on every exhausted character. This is nothing new, and we have seen it before during the Deluxe box (Dark and Dreadful) and the first cycle (Necromancer’s Reach). However, Sleeping Sentry ups the ante by exhausting every ready character afterwards. This will leave you with nobody to defend or attack during the combat phase and makes every character vulnerable to the second copy of Sleeping Sentry. While this exhaustion effect was also in Redhorn Gate (Avalanche!) at least you got some more willpower out of that, as each exhausted character was committed to the quest. This really is the card to cancel, no matter how much resources it will cost. Now the shadow effect of this card makes it even worse. You will not get lucky by drawing Sleeping Sentry as a Shadow card without an effect like Necromancer’s Reach, no sir. This shadow effect will discard ALL exhausted characters from play that the defending player controls. This is usually the defender itself (unless you are using Beorn), all of your questers, everyone that exhausted to trigger an ability, and anyone who got exhausted by an Encounter card effect (again, Sleeping Sentry). The shadow effect also deserves to be cancelled, use cards like Hasty Stroke or Buring Brand. You can also try to use global readying effects if you know that this shadow effect is coming up (thanks to Silver Lamp or scrying). Cards like Grim Resolve, Lure of Moria, and The Free Peoples will make sure you lose as few characters as possible. This card has ruined countless games for everyone. It is also the card that people remember the quest by, Road to Rivendell is “That quest with Sleeping Sentry“. But hey, at least it doesn’t surge!
- Orc Ambush: On the same list that Sleeping Sentry placed first on, Orc Ambush managed to get third place. So you will know that this treachery isn’t going to play nice either. The card will have every Orc enemy in the staging area engage the first player. Now, there are quite some enemies that could come down this way, especially if this is the final card revealed during the staging step. This treachery can cause the first player to take 5 or more enemies from the staging area. This will mess with the plans that the group might have on engaging the enemies equally. However, if players are doing well, and there are no Orc enemies in the staging area (because they engaged players with the Ambush mechanic), this card will try and find some. In case the first effect whiffs, Orc Ambush will return every Orc enemy in the discard pile to the staging area. This can cause a great increase in threat and a lot of problems during combat. Orc enemies have a low engagement cost in this quest, so they will come down and try to destroy every player. The Surge on this card hurts, even more, you will get additional cards from the encounter deck after either filling the staging area with enemies or if one person just took them all out of the staging area. This card can be mild though, if only 1 Orc enemy is in the staging area, or if you haven’t killed any Orcs yet. But you will find yourself cancelling this card a lot as well, especially in multiplayer. On the bright side, this card can come up as a Shadow card, where it will not do anything.
- Followed by Night: Now this treachery might not be of the same calibre as the previous two, but it can still hurt players during their quest. The first player must decide whether to deal 1 damage to every ally in play (including Arwen) and the card gains Surge or every engaged enemy makes an immediate attack. With the Ambush mechanic causing enemies to engage players a lot, an extra attack might not be desirable, especially since this would cause the Wild Bear to attack 3 times in 1 round. So I would recommend the first player to make the decision carefully. If you are able to defend the attacks with ease, go for it. If you have enough healing or damage redirection, try that instead.
Ultimately I would recommend you play this scenario in Easy mode if you find that the Treacheries are too rough on your decks. There is no shame and still a lot of challenge and fun in playing the scenario this way.
To make up for some of the very nasty enemies and the horrible treacheries, the scenario features a couple of beneficial locations. These locations will allow the players to catch their breath a little but can be few and far between.
- Turbulent Waters: I didn’t cover this location last time, as that quest didn’t have a lot of combat, so this location was pretty useless there. Not so in Road to Rivendell, with over half the encounter deck being enemies. Turbulent Waters will restrict players to only forced engagements (and Ambush). This might screw up your planning so you will have to consider who takes what enemy before you decided to travel to this location.
- Knees of the Mountains: Well, crap, all of the enemies that engage players while it is in the staging area will gain a buff to their attack. Combine this with Plundered Armoury, and suddenly your engaged enemies got a lot worse. These locations make Ambush all the more dangerous and should definitely be travelled to. If you can, try and clear the location in the staging area to avoid the buff during the combat phase in case you have multiple copies of this location in play.
- Barren Hills: This location gives the players a bit of relief while it is active. Players will ignore the Ambush keyword during the next round (or longer if they fail to explore the location). This effect will add all enemies with the Ambush keyword to the staging area, resulting in a higher threat there. This will also just delay the inevitable, as the enemies will still make engagement checks during the encounter phase, and might still engage the same players than they would have if Ambush wasn’t ignored.
- Goblin Gate: This one-off location is easily spotted in the encounter deck because of the very bright colours. Don’t be fooled into security though, Goblin Gate has the highest printed threat of any encounter card in this scenario and might hinder your progress. When it becomes active, players will treat every first enemy revealed by the encounter deck each round as if it had the Ambush keyword. When any of enemies would engage a player due to Ambush, that enemy makes an immediate attack. This effect will stack with any other effect on enemies with the Ambush keyword. This would mean that the Wild Bear makes 2 attacks when it engages, and 1 regular attack during combat. You will be facing this location due to the effect on stage 2, so you better prepare yourself for the additional attacks. This could for instance cause you to engage Chieftain of the Pit with his When Revealed effect and having him attack twice for 7 attack (at least) during that round. Tip: you could just send Goblin Gate to the Victory Display if you encounter it early, or scry it out the deck. Stage 2 will not add the location if it isn’t in the deck or the discard pile.
- Pathless Country: I have struggled against this location a lot because it is very well protected against regular location control cards. I would recommend travelling to it, getting the 3 threat out of the staging area. It will require 6 progress in one go to clear if you do want to explore it. The other reason why this location is so horrible is its Shadow effect. This might cause you to lose some allies, especially if you were unable to get your healing up in time. Be careful with Arwen around this shadow card.
- Ruined Road: This final location is another beneficial one. After you travel to it, you may ready a hero or place 2 progress on that location. I find myself readying a hero more often, as they tend to exhaust due to Sleeping Sentry. It is good to have at least some readying in the encounter deck itself. Still, the progress on the location can also be nice, as it allows you to make more progress on the quest during the next turn (if you quest successfully).
Tips and Tricks
- BRING CANCELLATION! Sleeping Sentry and Orc Ambush can and will ruin your game if they are left unchecked. You can either use A Test of Will and/or Eleanor in Spirit to cancel them or put everything into the Victory Display with Out of the Wild and The Door is Closed! in Lore. Having Balin and Hasty Stroke in play to cancel shadow effects is also a good idea. These shadow effects can also bring you a lot of trouble. Sleeping Sentry will hurt in both forms, so cancelling it will make your playthrough a lot more relaxed.
- Since the Ambush keyword is coupled to the engagement cost of enemies, raising this engagement cost might have you dodging some untimely engagements. Hobbits and Rangers specialize in this field. Using Lore Pippin, and Take No Notice will greatly increase the engagement cost of the enemies, which will likely put them in the staging area, rather than engaged with a player.
- Be careful with your attachments, there are effects out there that will discard multiple attachments you control. Placing extra copies of Blood of Numenor or Gondorian Fire is a good way to have attachments to discard. You can also choose to not have any attachments in your deck, though this might make things harder.
- While stage 3 doesn’t allow characters to be healed, it does allow damage to be redirected, cancelled or taken as threat. This type of tactics-healing will prove to be very useful in keeping Arwen alive up to that point. Other forms of healing are also crucial during the first stages of the game. If you lose a lot of your allies due to direct damage early, you might struggle to turn the tables on this scenario.
- Readying effects will be very important in this quest, as there are plenty of cards that will try and exhaust your characters. To handle combat effectively, a Sentinel hero with readying effects might save a player who got Ambushed by an enemy. Global readying effects will save your characters from the shadow effect on Sleeping Sentry.
- This quest has a lot of ally hate. A lot of the cards will deal damage to either exhausted characters, or allies in general. To avoid having to discard your allies, play with archetypes that can withstand some punishment before dying. Ents, Dwarves, and to a certain extend Gondor can survive this quest longer than Silvans.
- Play Easy mode if you don’t manage to win it at first. Try to get a hang of the Ambush mechanic in this way and add the treacheries later. This will keep you engaged with the game a bit longer.
- Three players, decks from that cycle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcM0zi5LCMc (headphones warning)
- Two players, progression style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vp7MLcnEA6E
- True solo, progression style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avoub3EA-4s
So ends this memorable scenario’s review. While I can’t stress it enough, cancelling some of the effects on the encounter cards can really save your game. I would really like the Ambush mechanic to make a return at some point, but rarely are keywords used in multiple quests (besides the generic Surge, Doomed, and Archery). I will have a lot of free time this week, so expect a bit more content over the next few days. Next scenario will be The Long Dark, as I like it better than the Watcher in the Water (heresy I know, but I make the rules around here). I will do Watcher in the Water before the cycle ends, or if someone offers to do it themselves.