Much like the Core Set, the third scenario in the Heirs of Numenor expansion is a tough nut to crack. The Siege of Cair Andros is rated as the fifth hardest scenario by the community (link). Though this list hasn’t been updated, it does show that players shouldn’t underestimate this scenario. This quest has been a roadblock to many progression style players with a juicy reward once they have beaten the Siege in the form of the Stewards Fear player cards (Outlands…). This quest is unique as it will require players to clear a couple of locations that will remove certain quest stages if they are explored by the players. Meanwhile, the enemy forces will try their best to put damage on the locations, forcing players to go to the stages.
This quest is also what forced many players to build mono-sphere decks, cards like The Master’s Malice, Orc Vanguard, and Orc Arbalesters will force your decks being made out of as few spheres as possible.
This scenario is also notorious for having 1 encounter card that will shuffle the Battleground locations into the encounter deck, making the quest that much harder as players are unable to remove the stages and are forced to endure all 5 of them in a single playthrough. It is because of this single treachery that many players have lost the scenario and it has earned its way to #2 on the list of the most hated treacheries: (link)
But the without going on with a rant on how awful this scenario is, here is:
The Siege of Cair Andros
- Found in Heirs of Numenor Deluxe box, quest 3
- Official Difficulty: 7
- Community Difficulty: 8.2
- Encounter Sets: The Siege of Cair Andros, Mordor Elite, Ravaging Orcs, Southrons
- Quest cards: 5 but players have the option to remove 3 of these stages
- Play if: You don’t really play this quest other than if you haven’t beaten it at some point in time. This is not a quest to just pick up and have a go at. You will also have to build your deck with the thought that this scenario punishes multi-sphere decks.
- What is different about this quest?: Battleground locations, removing quest stages, Archery, Battle, Siege, forced mono-sphere deckbuilding
- Solo or Multiplayer?: With a lot of things going on at once, I do not really know which player count is best. Having more players will allow you to use more location control on the Battleground locations and have enough progress to burst through the quest stages. However, more players also means more encounter cards which deal damage to the locations, potentially defeating them before the players can. I would not recommend you run this solo, as some enemies are just too brutal to handle. Try to find your own balance with this scenario.
- Can I run side-quests for this scenario?: Err, no. You will be glad to finish this quest with as little stages in play as possible, so don’t be distracted and bring more side-quests to the game. I will say that players could use the effect of Delay the Enemy again to relieve players from certain enemies. But you really have to move fast in order to beat the scenario before it beats you. If you want to play side-quests, play them at stage 1 if you are questing faster than you clear out the Battleground locations. Keep Watch will be your best bet with a lot of enemies in play that will otherwise get a lot of attack strength.
- What to look out for: Heavy hitting enemies, both Battle and Siege quests on top of regular willpower questing, losing stats on all characters, long game if you lose locations.
The quest starts you off by finding the three Battleground locations and adding them to the staging area. This provides you with your main objectives for this quest and a hefty 6 threat in the staging area to start off with. While players aren’t required to add any more encounter cards to the staging area at this point, 6 threat may be a lot to overcome for a solo player on turn 1. After the 3 locations have been found, the encounter deck is shuffled and the first planning phase begins.
Quest card 1: The Defense – 9 quest points, Siege
This quest card has the Siege keyword on it, so players are forced to quest with defence instead of willpower. This will influence your planning phase. Players should prioritize getting out allies like Winged Guardian and Defender of Rammas. These allies will be able to carry a lot of the weight during questing. Heroes like Leadership Aragorn and Tactics Boromir (with Gondorian Shield) will also be good characters to send to the quest as they have the ability to ready themselves. Siege can be a tricky keyword on a stage as not many Swarm archetypes boost defence. Dain Ironfoot only boosts willpower and attack. Gondor Swarms get the same buffs but have a higher defence stat on most allies compared to Dwarves.
This stage is where players will want to stall for a while and clear the locations in the staging area. This will prevent them from having to go to stages 2, 3 or 4. It is crucial that you don’t make the 9 progress on this stage while any of the locations are in play, that would force you to an additional stage. Try to make as little progress as possible or make progress on side-quests if you want.
During this stage players will want to decide what locations to focus all of their location control on, and what locations can get destroyed by the encounter deck. Any “regular” player will want to have all of these locations explored before the stage is defeated. To do so, I would recommend players to travel to The Banks on turn 1 so that they can clear it during the next travel phase. You could also potentially clear it if you have played a Rhovanion Outrider during planning, placing its progress on the Banks and using Strength of Will to clear the Banks once you travelled to it. This is just one of many shenanigans you can pull off. Another favourite card to play on turn 1 is Explorer’s Almanac on the Banks. This can clear them immediately on the first turn. The other Battleground locations are also good targets for this attachment. The Banks removes Stage 2 if it is explored.
The Banks is the most fragile of all locations, so it takes priority over the other two locations. However, it is possible that players reveal cards like Siege Raft or Orc Scramblers during staging that busts the Banks open. If this should happen, try to clear the Approach next. This should take the encounter deck a while longer to destroy. The Approach removes Stage 3 when it is explored.
The Citadel can stay in the staging area until the Approach is cleared. If players are using cards like Rhovanion Outrider or Northern Tracker, they can chip away at the Citadel in order to make it less of a questing barrier when you travel to it. The Citadel removes Stage 4 when it is explored.
When all 3 Battleground locations have been cleared, players immediately advance to the next stage. Remember to remove stages if players explore a Battleground location. If the locations were destroyed by the encounter deck, they also leave play but are not added to the victory display. You will also not discard the accompanying quest stage if the location is destroyed.
Quest card 2: Reinforce the Banks – 9 quest points
Well, you must have been very unlucky to have discarded the Banks during your first few turns. Or perhaps you have deliberately allowed it to be destroyed in order to clear the other two locations. Perhaps you have quested a bit too hard and passed stage 1 too soon. Regardless, you will now have to deal with this second stage where you reinforce the banks. This stage might not be the worst to have to go to, but it can be quite a jump from a Siege quest to a regular willpower quest. To make matters more difficult, players are forced to reveal an additional encounter card while they are at this stage. In solo, this is a bit harder than if you were to play the scenario with 4 players.
If players are yet to clear any Battleground locations, I would highly suggest they do it at this stage in order to not have to go to either stage 3 or 4. With 9 quest points required to proceed to the next stage, this should be time enough. Players may have to regroup their deck in order to be able to send enough willpower to the quest. This will leave them with plenty of defenders left, as they didn’t have to commit to the quest this round. Try to tackle some enemies in the staging area at this point, there are bound to be some in the staging area. Note that this is the only time during the Siege of Cair Andros where players quest with their willpower, so don’t bring too much, as it will be useless in later stages. Note that Orc Assault will not reduce your questing capabilities, but will make the next combat phase tricky. When this stage is cleared, players proceed to the next stage that hasn’t been removed from the quest deck.
Quest card 3: Breakthrough at the Approach – 7 quest points, Battle
This stage will be where the players find themselves if they have had the Approach destroyed or if they haven’t cleared it already. This stage forces players to commit their attack strength instead of willpower or defence to the quest. This makes it hard to kill any enemies during the combat phase unless you are leaving some characters behind or are using direct damage.
This stage does not add any extra enemies to the mix but does provide players with the forced effect on the quest card. This text forces players to discard 1 character each if players should ever quest unsuccessfully. They do not have to raise their threat like you usually would. Having to discard a chump instead of having to raise your threat by a lot, provides the players with a bit of relief for a turn. This can force them to focus their attack strength on the enemies for a turn, drawing them down from the staging area. Be careful though, communicate with players to have the allies to discard to this effect. If they don’t and players quest unsuccessfully, they have to discard a hero instead. Players can also use characters for this effect that are brought in with Sneak Attack. Snowbourn Scout might be a good option for this if you can put a progress somewhere.
The 7 progress tokens on the stage will be hard to come by, as you might need your attack strength to deal with enemies. Try using characters that can ready to have them commit to both the quest and the counterattack. Once players have assembled enough progress tokens, they immediately advance to stage 4 if it is in play, otherwise to stage 5.
Quest card 4: Breakthrough at the Citadel – 5 quest points, Siege
You failed to overcome the 11 progress tokens on the Citadel before the encounter deck could destroy it, too bad. But if this is the second stage after 1B, you are in luck. This stage also forces players to Siege quest so there will be no problem in committing characters to the quest at this point. You can double down on the defence strength and overcome this stage with ease.
To make things just a little more difficult, stage 4B will add a constant 5 Threat to the staging area. This cannot be avoided and players will have to remember this effect. Often it is overlooked. In multiplayer, this 5 threat is not too much, but in solo, the threat will be a bit more difficult to overcome. Especially if you have a lot of enemies piling up in the staging area. However, the stage only requires 5 progress tokens to clear. With probably no locations in play at this point, these quest points should be managed quite easily. After the final progress token has been placed on the stage, the players immediately advance to the final stage.
Quest card 5: The Last Battle – 15 quest points, Siege/Battle
Whatever your road may have been, you’ve ended up here. Perhaps you have cleared all locations in time and this is your second stage. Or maybe you have been pounded by the encounter deck during 4 stages but still managed to end up here. Regardless of your path, this is the final battle of the scenario where you will have to drive the invaders from the island. The stage is a Siege quest if players haven’t been adding cards to the victory display. There are plenty of cards that will allow players to get the 4 victory points required to swap the Siege keyword for Battle. Not only the 3 Battleground locations but also some enemies or side-quests if you were daft enough to explore those.
When this stage is revealed, each player has to reveal a card from the top of the encounter deck and place it in the staging area. By this time, some when revealed effects on enemies won’t trigger since there are no more Battleground locations in play. But with these extra cards, your situation will have become a bit worse probably. You will have collected a fair few enemies in the staging area alongside those that are still engaged with players. Since you will be needing your attack strength or defence strength for this quest, you might not be able to kill every enemy during the next few rounds but try to thin them out a little.
The stage will require 15 progress tokens in order for the players to win against this scenario. This is quite a lot, as players will have to hold back their attack or defence to handle enemies. However, as I would normally advise players to YOLO their way through the next stage, an untimely Orc Assault might put you in a bad spot. Take your time with this quest if you can until somebody has treachery cancellation in hand and the resources to pay for it. You can also scry the deck with the Palantir (calling enemy) in a 3 player game to see if you would win if you were to quest with every character you own. A copy of For Gondor! might be a fitting end to this scenario.
And then, after the last progress token has been obtained, the players have won the quest. I am aware that this quest can be brutal at times, but that makes a victory all the more sweeter. For you progression players, this was the last hurdle to the amazing Outlands cards you will be able to use in the next scenario: The Stewards Fear.
The Encounter deck
- The encounter deck gets a lot smaller with Easy mode: 37 cards in Normal, 22 in Easy mode
- Shadow effects are a big threat to 81% of cards in Normal mode and 91% in Easy mode having shadow effects
- Average threat on cards revealed is 1.8 and 1.7 between the two modes
- Surge is only on the Orc Scramblers
- A total of Doomed 15 is in the encounter deck, with most cases being a rise in threat of 2 or 3.
- Archery is represented by 6 enemies with Archery X, where X is either the number of players in the game or the different spheres on heroes in play
- Mûmak cannot take more than 3 damage a turn and is immune to attachments
- The Power of Mordor is immune, so no cancelling all your Battlegrounds getting lost
- Lieutenant of Mordor‘s When Revealed effect cannot be cancelled
- Orc War Camp is immune to progress while in the staging area if there is an Orc enemy in play
As is obvious from the pie-chart above, this encounter deck is really heavy on enemies. A lot of these enemies have solid attack stats and will get boosted by a lot of Shadow cards. A Burning Brand is vital to the survival of your heroes. Archery will also become a problem, so bring enough healing to support your allies.
Locations really aren’t the focus of this encounter deck. Besides the 3 Battleground locations, the encounter deck only brings you an Orc Warcamp. Try to clear as many locations in the staging area as possible though. Travelling to Battleground locations can help too, but make the locations vulnerable to more shadow effects or encounter card effects. Try to have cards like Explorers Almanac in play to put on the Battleground locations in the staging area. This will save you some turns trying to get the locations active. Not having the Battlegrounds as the active location will also protect them from encounter card effects.
- The Banks: I have kind of discussed how to tackle this weakest Battleground location in the quest review, but I will repeat myself as this is often the first location to leave play. Try to travel to the Banks at all cost during round 1 to prevent it from getting destroyed right away. I will also add that players might explore the 3 quest points of this location with the use of Northern Trackers, Asfaloth, and Rhovanion Outriders before the first encounter card is revealed. Players might also be able to explore it if they play a copy of Strength of Will. Having Legolas kill an enemy and having him equipped with a Blade of Gondolin will also clear this location rapidly, though you will have to suffer a round of shadow effects that could potentially damage the location.
- The Approach: This location takes a while longer to get destroyed, so players will have a while longer to mass progress tokens on this location. Try to travel to it when the Banks have left play. This one is a bit hardier so it will stand up to damage a bit better. Players can also decide to travel to the Citadel instead and clear this one in the staging area with Northern Trackers and Rhovanion Outriders. This will make it easier to clear all locations in 2-4 turns.
- The Citadel: The biggest location of them all is the Citadel. Travelling to this one might seem like a big buffer for the quest card, but that is OK. You don’t want to advance the stages anyway. People may argue to travel to this one instead of the Approach, so try to find what is the strategy that suits you best. Having this location active might cause you (especially in low player counts) to only make a few points of progress and not clear it in 1 go. Again, try to use cards like Legolas and Blade of Gondolin to make progress on it outside the quest phase.
- Orc War Camp: This is the only other location in the encounter deck beside the Battleground locations. This 5 threat location will be targetable for Warden of Arnor, though that attachment is pretty much wasted on this quest. The Orc War Camp is protected from any other type of progress placing player cards that you have used to make progress on the Battleground locations. However, this is only the case while it is in the staging area. It is a perfect target to travel to once the Battlegrounds have been explored or perhaps even before that. Since the Battlegrounds can be explored in the staging area, I might advise you to travel to the War Camp if it is a possibility. Once active, the camp loses its protection from progress and become an easy location to explore. The other strategy would involve getting lucky with your enemies and not having any Orcs in play. There are a number of non-orc enemies that you can draw instead. If this is the case, players may want to use Asfaloth to get rid of 5 threat in the staging area.
There are a ton of enemies in this quest so I won’t cover the Southrons as I would be repeating myself from the Into Ithilien analysis. I will also save some of the generic Orcs for future analyses to save some time. Watch out for Archery and that damned Mûmak. The rest of the enemies in this encounter deck are mostly Orcs and Siege equipment that will try to deal damage to the Battleground locations.
- Siege Raft: This Besieger enemy will try to destroy the Banks location as soon as possible. When you reveal this card on turn 1, it will almost immediately destroy the Banks by putting 2 damage on it. If Siege Raft is turned over as a shadow card, it will either damage the Banks or give the enemy +2 attack. Having just two of these enemies revealed in one turn or alongside Orc Scramblers it will destroy the Banks and force players to go to stage 2 after they have beaten the first stage. When engaged with a player, the Siege Raft can be a pain. Though the base 4 attack is nothing compared to other enemies in this quest, the 6 hitpoints can take a while to chew through. The Raft does only have 1 defence, so by now you should understand the great tools to handle enemies like it (Tactics Aragorn + a weapon + Straight Shot)
- Battering Ram: This enemy is linked to the Approach and can be a lot more difficult to deal with than the Siege Raft. Sure, it has fewer hitpoints, but a base attack of 7 is on par with a Mûmak. Revealing this enemy during staging will deal 3 damage to the active location if it is a Battleground, and it will raise everyone’s threat by 2. To minimize the damage from this Battering Ram, I would suggest not travelling to a Battleground location (especially the Banks) if you know this enemy is coming out soon. If you can clear the locations in the staging area and travel instead to Orc War Camp, you will disregard the when revealed effect on this enemy. If you happen to have a Battleground as an active location, you can cancel the When Revealed effect with a Test of Will or Dunedain Lookout, though there are better things to cancel. When engaged with a player, this piece of Siege equipment will tear through your defenders. I would suggest tossing a chump before the heaving Ram in order to defend it. With a potential surge train of shadow effects, it is not advised to use your big beefy defender against this one. Cancelling the attack with Feint is also a great tool around that hefty 7 attack.
- Orc Scramblers: As big and bad the previous two enemies may have been, the Scramblers reminds us of the good old days when stats on enemies weren’t 3’s or 4’s across the board. These Orcs are a lot like Goblin enemies as they will tend to surge into each other. This makes them a nuisance, but their attack of 2 is pretty manageable for any deck that is low on defensive characters. This Orc enemy will tend to come down and engage players soon, as they only have 15 engagement cost (beware ye Secrecy players). When these guys are revealed, they deal 1 damage to all Battleground locations in play, including any active location. This damage tends to build upon the Citadel as it is often the last to be explored. The Scramblers will also deal damage to the Citadel with their shadow effect if it is in play. Direct damage is often the best way to deal with these enemies. Have them all engage one player who can then play effects like Pursuing the Enemy and Rain of Arrows.
- Lieutenant of Mordor: Though non-unique, this enemy represents the commanding officer of the assaulting forces. Though his stats may not seem overwhelming compared to the Orc Vanguard or even the Battering Ram, the Lieutenant will be a challenge to overcome. When he gets revealed, players must resolve the top treachery in the encounter deck again. This can be brutal if you have already resolved that treachery during staging this round. Orc Assault and Southron Support will be fatal to many multiplayer games. This effect is also immune to all cancellation and will resolve, whether you like it or not. On top of this all, the Lieutenant cannot be defended by allies. This throws your chumping strategies out the window. However, as the Lieutenant is non-unique and also not immune to player card effects, it can be targeted with effects like Revealed in Wrath that would blank his textbox. This allows you to defend with an ally, keeping your heroes back for other defences or the counter-attack. With 2 defence and 5 hitpoints, the Lieutenant is usually dispatched off quite easily if you have held back some attackers. He is also the only other card besides the Battleground locations that will be added to the Victory Display once it has been defeated. This helps out on stage 5 to turn the Siege into a Battle. The Lieutenant isn’t all bad, his when revealed will only trigger once you have a treachery in the discard pile, drawing him in the early game can ease the pain.
- Orc Arbalesters: With their attack stats not being great, these Orcs like to be left alone in the staging area where they can easily reach Archery 4 in a multiplayer game. Note that the text on the Arbalesters doesn’t say printed resource icon (unlike other cards in this cycle) so any resource icons gained by Songs or Artifacts will count towards the total number of spheres in play. A mono-sphere deck is best suited for these guys, as Archery 1 is easy to overcome. Still, it is a good idea to draw these guys down if you can muster enough attack strength to break their 5 hitpoints.
- Orc Vanguard: Now here is an enemy nobody was asking for. There are 2 copies of this insane enemy who not only has more attack strength than a Mûmak, but will also have to come down to players in order to have them spend their Spirit, Lore, and Leadership resources. If you are playing a Mono-Tactics deck, you may be less bothered by these guys and might decide to take on other enemies instead. There are very few enemies that get an attack stat of 8 or higher so this may be the hardest hitting enemy you have yet encountered before dealing it any shadow cards. Either pin this enemy in a trap, chump block or try to cancel its attack before attacking back.
While there are not many treacheries in the encounter deck, some may prove to be game-breaking. Note that Southron Support is not on this list, but should definitely be cancelled if it ever pops up.
- Orc Assault: A flat out middle finger to your questing force if you were Siege or Battle questing. Not only that but having your attack strength and defence strength reduced by 2 for the rest of the round will turn the combat phase into a bloodbath. Now your enemies will likely survive another round and can potentially kill a hero if you don’t have any chump blockers left standing. Note that characters that enter play after this effect triggered will not receive the -2/-2 penalty to their stats. Sneak Attack, Tactics Imrahil, and Hirgon (though it is unlikely you quest successfully) can all bring new characters into play to help you out in a pinch. There are two copies of this treachery in the encounter deck that are really worth to cancel. If you draw this back-to-back, may Eru help you.
- The Master’s Malice: This is probably the card most people think about when recalling their experiences of the Against the Shadow cycle. This card alone will force players into a mono-sphere deck to prevent them from discarding half of their board. Don’t bother bringing a quad-sphere Dwarf Swarm (or Hobbits) to this scenario, as this treachery will deal damage to any character not belonging to a chosen sphere. This also includes Neutral characters. Again, this card is really worth cancelling unless all players have mono-sphere decks or enough healing to prevent this treachery from killing a hero.
- The Power of Mordor: Ah yes, this card. What to say about this treachery? It completely breaks the scenario if players draw this on turn 1 or 2. This will force players to discard the Battleground locations in play and shuffle them into the encounter deck. While this will remove all damage on them, they will not appear for a long time. On top of this, Stage 1 will now be immediately explored, giving the players no chance to remove any of the other stages. Revealing this treachery in this way will cause players to scoop more often than not as they don’t want to slog through the remaining 4 stages. Oh, and if you were thinking on cancelling this effect, you can’t. Luckily this treachery got removed in the Nightmare edition of this quest to balance the game a little. This treachery will also break the game next time it pops up at Assault on Osgiliath. Oh, by the way, don’t forget the Doomed 3 on here as well. For more info on this card, check this video (link).
- Scourge of Mordor: Honestly the least terrible treachery in the encounter deck. You just have to discard the top card of your deck and raise the total threat in the staging area by the cost of all cards discarded this way. Dwarves and Noldor may want this effect to happen, and frankly, this treachery tends to be a bit underwhelming compared to any of its brethren. Not that that is a bad thing, sometimes players deserve a break.
Tips and Tricks
- Clear the locations. It sounds so simple, but this will greatly help you in defeating this stage. Just having some Northern Trackers in play will allow you to chip away at the quest points of the Approach and the Citadel. Using cards like Asfaloth and Strength of Will should help you explore the Banks. If all Battleground locations are explored, some of the enemies lose their abilities, and players immediately advance to the final stage. This makes the quest less of a slog and might make it easier to pass through.
- Try to limit your deck to 1 sphere. This greatly nullifies some encounter cards like The Master’s Malice. Though this makes your deck a bit boring, you will be able to pay for more expensive cards easier. Going Mono-Tactics is the best thing you can do, as Orc Vanguard can shut down any other mono-sphere deck.
- Play Easy mode if you really can’t beat the scenario. This removes quite a lot of nasty enemies and allows you to play a bit more relaxed. Fair warning though, do not expect to win that easily against this quest in easy mode. It still packs a decent punch and can still cause you to lose.
- It is extremely unlikely that you progress to a quest stage while the location of that quest stage is still in play. But if you do and players have explored the location, they immediately progress to the next stage as the current quest card is removed from the encounter deck.
- With so many shadow effects surging into each other, it is advisable to either cancel the attack with things like Feint or to use a chump to block the attack. This will keep your heroes alive longer. Also, try to add shadow cancellation or effects like Tides of Fate to increase your defensive capabilities if the attacker gains an increase in attack strength.
- Since there will be a lot of attacking enemies and you have to send some defensive characters to the Siege quests, it may be useful to have some sort of attack cancellation for some players. Feint, Feigned Voices or Thicket of Spears will allow players to preserve their defenders for the quest or help out if the players revealed Orc Assault this round.
- Be very careful with undefended attacks, shadow effects tend to surge into each other in a long chain which can make a whimpy 2 attack enemy deal up to 5 or 6 damage in a blink of an eye. Try to defend all attacks for the least damage and run some shadow cancellation if things get out of hand.
- With a lot of enemies having 5+ hitpoints, bringing a Sword of Numenor might not be a terrible idea. The +1 to a hero’s attack stat will help out greatly, and the resource is just icing on the cake. Try it out sometimes if you are building against this scenario and have some side-board space open.
- With so many enemies in the encounter deck, it may be a good idea to run a copy of the Gimli ally. He will allow you to get some consistant questing power along all kinds of questing and he is sure to ready to deal with any enemies during combat.
(yes I know the art on this page is Nordinbad and not Cair Andros, turns out there isn’t much art on the Island Fortress)
So ends the Heirs of Numenor scenario’s. While not the easiest scenario’s out there, the quests did introduce the players to the higher difficulty standards for future quests. The quests also introduced a lot of new keywords that will definitely return during the cycle. Next time, I will bring you the first adventure pack: The Stewards Fear. This is one of the most thematic and replayable scenarios in the cycle, so be on the lookout for that. We are currently also looking to bring you the analyses on the Saga quests, which may prove useful to all you campaign players out there.