After you have been captured by the Dunlendings during the events of the Dunland Trap, you must now recover an ancient artefact for the Boar Clan chief in order for him to let you go. But getting the artefact won’t be easy, you need to gather 3 keys, each guarded by a deadly spirit.
This scenario is one of the more challenging ones in true solo, as it features 3 boss level enemies that continue to bother you throughout the game. On top of that, 3 unique Barrow locations will make it even harder for you to get your board set up while you are undergoing the Three Trials. Location lock is also a problem if the players don’t build for it, and with 3 different stage to clear, not everyone makes it past all three trials. Scared yet? Well, let’s see if you should be when we take a look at:
The Three Trials
(or TTT for short)
- Found in: The Three Trials, AP 2 of the Ringmaker cycle
- Official Difficulty: 5
- Community Difficulty: 7.2
- Encounter sets: The Three Trials, Ancient Forest
- Quest cards: 5, with 3 of them dedicated to a specific trial
- Play if: You want a fun quest to play with your friends that takes you through 3 different stages in search of 3 objectives, you enjoy higher level enemies and are up for a challenge, you want to play a quest that is highly replayable and not too easy.
- What is different about this quest?: 3 different Stage 2 quest cards that all have to be cleared, 3 unique Guardian enemies that have the time keyword on them, next to no other enemies in the encounter deck, many different paths to take.
- Solo or multiplayer?: Definitely avoid this quest in true solo. Having to deal with each Guardian separately is already tough enough, but having to engage all 3 at the same time will absolutely wreck your board unless you find a good way around it. This quest scales best for 3 players, and becomes a little too easy in 4 players, as there will be a player who is not engaging enemies.
- Can I run side-quests for this scenario?: That depends on what Trial you are at. For the Trial of Strength and the Trial of Perseverance, the quest stages do not require progress, so you are allowed to run side-quests there. The Trial of Intuition will require you to dig through the encounter deck to find the Key, but making progress on the main quest will help with this. If you do not want to advance this Trial too quickly, definitely try out running some side-quests for this one.
- What to look out for?: Location lock, boss enemy swarm, Barrow locations with nasty effects when in play, troublesome final stage, different paths make it either easy or difficult for players, a lot of random hurting combos.
For setting up this scenario, a lot of cards get removed from the encounter deck. The players will put aside all 3 Guardians, all 3 of the Key objectives, the 3 Barrow locations, and the unique Hallowed Circle location. All of these cards will come into play during the trials or right after them. This thins the encounter deck significantly, making it easier for players to find player encounter cards of their own, like Wind from the Sea, Ranger of the North, and Eagle of the North. Since the Keys, Barrows, and Guardians have to be chosen randomly for each Trial, the players can either use a 3 or 6 sided die to pick the cards at random or flip them upside down in order to not know for sure what you will be facing. When the cards have been removed from the encounter deck, the players can immediately flip the stage over to its 1B side.
Quest card 1: The Trials Begin
When this stage is revealed, the players will automatically advance to a stage 2 of their choice. There is not much to say about this stage, so let me quickly show you the options you have for the Trials and what order I tend to work best for myself. Your opinions may differ, if you feel like your route is better, please explain in the comments below.
For your first few rounds, you will want to build up a force that can take down the Guardians. You will need to kill at least one Guardian at the Trial of Strength, but also at the Trial of Intuition if you wish to apply the stall tactic described below. You will not want to go to the Trial of Strength first, as you will likely not be ready to handle the Guardian right from the start. Instead, I will advise to go to the Trial of Intuition first. This Trial will shuffle the key into the bottom of the encounter deck, but this allows you to stall a little bit and get your board set up for the later trials. It requires some more progress than the Trial of Perseverance, but this Trial will allow you to wait a little longer before having to advance to other stages. If you can manage to kill the Guardian and clear the location, you can keep the board under control and keep advancement to a minimum. The Trial of Perseverance is a good choice for the next Trial (or have it the other way around), as that only requires you to explore the Barrow location. By this time, you have enough willpower to quest through most locations, claiming the Key soon after. After those two Trials have been accomplished, the Trial of Strength will only require you to kill the Guardian who is holding the Key. At this point, you hopefully have your heroes ready for combat and have amassed some allies to help you in support. Furthermore, if you advance after the trial of Perseverance or Intuition, you will have to face an immediate round of combat against all three guardians. If you advance after the trial of Strength they will not attack the round of advancement. Postponing combat per round may be preferable, especially in true solo.
The choice is up to you though, through Trial and Error, you may find a path that suits you better. This is part of the appeal of the Three trials – your experience will vary, depending on the combination of Guardian and location. I will handle the Trials separately, starting in no particular order with the Trial of Intuition.
Quest card 2: The Trial of Intuition
The Trial of Intuition is one where you will have to mill the encounter deck for the Key objective. You start this trial off by randomly choosing 1 set aside Guardian enemy and 1 Barrow location. You do not get to choose these yourself! After you added the randomly chosen cards to the staging area, you must shuffle the encounter discard pile into the encounter deck (if this is your first stage, ignore this as there is no discard pile yet). Players must then find the Key belonging to the Guardian in the staging area and shuffle that Key into the bottom 10 cards of the encounter deck. Players will now have to start digging for the Key and hope they find it in time. Luckily, the Key has some text on it that prevent it from being discarded as a shadow effect or thanks to the players. Importantly, you CAN attack the guardian at this stage. Killing the Guardian as soon as possible is a preferable strategy – otherwise, the Time effects of the Guardians will likely trigger multiple times. Having a strategy to deal with the first guardian will allow you to “camp” on this stage, allowing you to play your powerful allies and attachments. Having super defenders, such as a Beregond with Gondorian Shield will allow you to take the attacks. You can then chump block or defend against each attack while questing like crazy to get to the bottom of the encounter deck. This is obviously easier in multiplayer, as the Guardian engages the first player. Once you find the Key, both Barrow and Guardian will go to the victory display. But as we will learn below, both Guardians and the Barrows can have quite nasty effects…
Killing the guardians is no easy matter. They both have high defence and high HP. One solution is to plan by sneak attacking classics such as Gandalf or Beorn. But building a super attacker (such as Eomer with Guthwine and Firefoot) can also be very helpful, as you will probably need to kill multiple of the Guardians throughout the quest. Attack boosters, such as TacEowyn or Khazad! Khazad! are always good too. Throughout this quest, Good ol’ Feint will do you wonders. Once the Guardian is down, you can essentially slow-quest as much as you like. The only danger here is drawing a Guardian’s Fury which will pull the guardian back from the victory display. Keep those Test of Will’s handy! Otherwise, just build up your board state (but without too many allies if Cave Barrow hasn’t been in play yet. At some point, the key will be discovered, and you can advance. Technically the key can be revealed during staging – as far as I understand, this will cause the quest to advance before questing resolves, which may change how much threat is in the staging area. But most likely, the key will be discarded.
Quest card 2: The Trial of Perseverance
At this stage, you draw a random barrow and attaches a random key to it. You then find the Guardian matching the key drawn, and put it into play. It engages the first player. This Guardian cannot be attacked, so it is all about defending. However, if this is your second stage 2 (which is rather confusing terminology) then you now control a key. This means that all the shadow cards, granting +X attack where X is the number of keys will suddenly begin to matter. This is worth considering, as shadow cards have a nasty habit of chaining through Wild tenacity. But besides blocking the guardian, you just need to concentrate on clearing the Barrow location, which again means you need to produce progress. Location control is also helpful to take care of locations appearing in the staging area. Location lock is a real threat, especially if Ancient Forest makes an appearance, granting +1 threat to all Forests (which makes up all, but one of the locations in the deck). Otherwise, when you clear the barrow, you advance.
Quest card 2: The Trial of Strength
At the Trial of Strength, you pick a random enemy, add the matching key to it, and pick a random Barrow. Barrows cannot be the active location and are immune to player card effects, so you just have to take the Barrow effect on the chin until you can defeat the Guardian. If this is your third test, you should be set up for this. Block the Guardian and finish him in a turn or two. If this is your third trial, you know have two keys, making blocking even more dangerous. Hence, chump blocking is preferable. Also, ally recursion such as Stand and Fight is very practical to recur cheap allies to throw in front of the Guardian. You risk gaining additional attacks or to remove time counters when characters are destroyed, but it is better than losing your powered up Beregond. Once the guardian is down, as described for the Trial of Intuition, you will claim the key and advance. Another perk of finishing with Trial of Strength is that you will enter stage 3 after the combat phase is over. Things are about to get pretty intense…
Quest card 3: The Antlered Crown – 1 quest point
When you enter stage 3A you might have to read the text twice. Add the Hallowed Circle to the staging area is no problem. It is immune to player card effects, requires quite a lot of quest points (12), and requires you to exhaust three keys to travel here. Oh, and when you travel here each Guardian attacks. But wait, aren’t they in the victory display? PSYCH! Each Guardian returns and engages the player with their respective keys. In a 3- and 4-player game, this may be manageable – you have built up your board state, get 1 or 2 guardians and have to deal with them. But in true solo, you have to deal with all three yourself. It seems like the balance was thrown out the window when this stage was designed!
Each guardian is revealed, so Time counters are added as well. So you better hurry and kill them… If you come from the Trial of Strength, the combat phase is over. But if you come from the others, you have to face all of them in combat right away. Also remember that you have 3 keys now, meaning all the Spirits of the Wild will be buffed to the max (see below) and Guardians risk getting +3 attack several times if shadow cards chain. Maybe you should think twice before letting Beregond take that attack? Pull out your Burning Brand or Silver Lamp to make sure the shadow effects do not destroy you. Good ol’ Feint and its offspring (Grimbold and the rest of the combat control cards) will do wonders to prevent the guardians from knocking you over. If you somehow can take two attacks from each (one for travel, one for combat phase) AND quest through Hallowed Circle next turn, great. Otherwise, you probably need to kill the guardians once again. By now, you should have the offensive capacity for it, so it is all about holding your ground until all of them are down. Chump block, shadow cancel and feint until all of them are down. Hour of Wrath definitely has a place here. It is also a good idea to save a Test of Will to deal with some of the treacheries. The Time effects can be nasty, so make sure to keep an eye on them. In my recent solo playthrough, I most often went for Boar –> Wolf –> Raven but you may have good arguments for another sequence. Once the guardians are gone, it is easy to travel to the circle, quest through it, and place 1 progress on stage 3B.
Congratulations. You have earned it! The players are now released by the Boar Clan and can continue their way to Tharbad, where new Evil waits for them. And his name is Nalir!
The Encounter deck
- As mentioned before, this scenario has a thin encounter deck of only 26 cards in Normal mode and just 18 in Easy mode.
- Shadow effects are on a majority of cards, 77% in Normal mode, and 72% in Easy mode. Shadow effects trigger mostly on Guardian enemies and can scale to the number of Keys the players’ control.
- Average threat on cards revealed is very low at 0.88 threat/card in Normal mode, and 1 threat/card in Easy mode. This does not take into account any buffs.
- The only card in this encounter deck that can surge is when Curse of the Wild Men hits when the players control all 3 Key objectives.
- Doomed 2 on the Grim Foothills is the only Doomed trigger in the scenario, but players will have to watch their threat when Stone Barrow is in play.
- Time can be removed from enemies by multiple effects including Wild Tenacity, Turned Around, and the shadow effect on Cursed Forest.
- The immunity of Barrow locations and Guardian enemies depends on the current Trial. Check the quest card for more details.
- Hallowed Circle is immune to player card effects.
The statistics do not count the 10 cards that are removed from the encounter deck at the start of the game. The X of the Grim Foothills is counted as 0 but will scale to the number of players in the game. Forest locations can boost the threat, making the actual threat revealed slightly higher.
The three key objectives are all similar, so I will discuss them in the same paragraph. The three Keys are earned through each of the three Trials and are important in the final stage. The Keys symbolise the three clans of Dunland and have a Guardian spirit that matches the Key. The Keys themselves do not do much once they have been attached to a hero. Acquiring the Key is done differently, depending on the Trial you are at. You either have to clear a location, kill an enemy or find the Key in the encounter deck. Once the Keys are unattached, the first player must claim the Key and attach it to a hero he controls. There is no option to leave the Key in the staging area.
The Keys also have some extra text that is important for the Trial of Intuition, where they are added to the encounter deck. If the Key is ever discarded from the encounter deck, it gets added to the staging area without anything attached. If the Key is revealed as a shadow card, it gets shuffled back into the encounter deck. This was a big problem during the Dead Marshes, where objectives could get discarded and players would have to dig for it again. Luckily, this got fixed. Would it have been so hard to do it in Nightmare Dead Marshes too?
The only time the Keys come into play again after they have been claimed is on stage 3. Here, each Guardian of that Key will engage the player who has that Key attached to a hero of his. This allows players to decide beforehand what enemy is engaging which player. Since the first player will always claim the Key if it becomes unattached, extra copies of Follow Me! will help in distributing the Keys evenly among players. This can otherwise be problematic in a multiplayer game, as all keys could end up with the same player, forcing an epic beating in stage 3B. You should, therefore, plan around who gets the keys if you can.
Besides the three Guardian spirits, there is only 1 other type of enemy in the encounter deck, including the Ancient Forest encounter set. This makes the scenario very combat light in multiplayer decks.
- Wolf’s Guardian: The most hard-hitting of the guardians, Wolf has an attack of 5. His Time 3 effect causes him to make another attack, which will likely cost you a blocker. In combination with Hill Barrow, he is particularly nasty, as more shadow cards means increased risk for a second attack. He takes a lot to take down (12 HP) but with only 3 defence, you can do some damage over time.
- Boar’s Guardian: Boar is the middle child of the bunch. He has a decent attack power (4, so in the early stages, Beregond can take him without risk) and a very conditional time 2 effect, forcing the engaged player to discard an ally. With only two time counters, it will trigger often if you do not deal with him. Discarding a Snowborn Scout is annoying, as you lose a chump blocker. Discarding Beorn can be catastrophic. You shouldn’t let Boar linger around for that very reason. You hope to see Boar with the Stone Barrow, as he only has a threat of 1, reducing the major threat increase of that location.
- Raven’s Guardian: It is very thematic that Raven is the most tricky of the Guardians. Only 3 attack means that a lot of characters can take him with no damage. Time 4 means you have time to deal with him (though it can get ugly if he triggers – 1 damage to each character). He only has 8 HP so the good ol’ Gandalf bomb can bring you a long way. However, he has a high defense of 5, meaning damage has to be placed in big loads. He also packs a threat of 3, meaning that in combination with Stone Barrow, your threat may easily go up 6 in a round if he attacks you twice from The Guardian’s Fury. Even so, I still hope to see him in the first Trial, as his low attack is more manageable.
- Spirit of the Wild: This Spirit enemy (do enemies have spheres now?) is the only other enemy that you will face in this scenario besides the Guardians. The Spirit cannot have attachments (how do you snare a ghost?) and has mediocre stats, to begin with. The Spirit of the Wild will get stronger over time, as you gather more of the Key objectives. He starts off as a 1/1/2/4 but gets +1 to threat and +1 to attack for each Key objective that is controlled by the players. This means that through Stage one, he will only deal a single point of damage (as all shadow effects granting attack bonuses gives it based on the number of keys). You can therefore safely take attacks undefended so you can deal with guardians, or save characters for attacking. However, this ability also makes him a problematic 4/4/2/4 in the final stage of the game. You will have bigger things to worry about by that time so I would advise getting rid of as many of these ghosts as you can before you advance to stage 3. With an engagement cost of 28, it won’t be long before these Spirits start haunting you. I will advise players who are not the first player to engage and deal with this spirit. The first player will be occupied with the Guardian, so giving him some support is the best way for everyone to survive. Having some Sentinel characters on the board will also be helpful, though only really needed for the end of the game. Another reason to get rid of the spirit is due to his very annoying shadow effect, which can wreck your game in the later stages (granting a +2 or +3 attack to the Guardian. Bye bye Beregond!)
Apart from the 4 special locations, there are two other locations in the encounter deck that can make it harder for you to overcome the threat in the staging area. The Ancient Forest will buff locations so that it will become harder for you to quest over the location lock that might happen in a multiplayer game, and Tangled woods will make you exhaust characters to travel to forest locations, which is all, but one of the locations in the deck.
- Cave Barrow: is mostly a counter to swarm decks, such as Outlands or dwarves in solo, but in multiplayer, you want this as your first location. Basically, the cave forces the players to discard down to 5 allies. Absolutely brutal in 4-player…As your first location, you can work to clear it. It is the only real advantage of true solo, so enjoy your moment of respite… Getting this location last in a 4 player game is interesting though, as a big debate fill flare up in which players will have to pick 5 allies and discard the rest.
- Stone Barrow: causes your threat to be raised by X whenever a guardian attacks, where x is the guardian’s threat. As mentioned above, if this appears with Raven your threat can sky-rocket very quickly. Bringing your preferred method of threat reduction can greatly help here.
- Hill Barrow: can be nasty, especially if you get it late, where you have two keys. It causes an additional shadow card to be dealt to the Guardian, increasing your chance of multiple attacks, removal of time counters, multiple shadow cards, and attack bonuses. It might be worth to save a Feint for then Hill Barrow is the active location. It is particularly nasty with Wolf, as he is the most dangerous Guardian in combat.
- Hallowed Circle: is discussed above. Its travel effect is tricky, and timing is key. be sure you can take the attacks if you go there before the Guardians are down!
- Cursed Forest: 3 threat and 3 quest points mean that you want to clear cursed forest from the staging area. However, the travel effect requires caution, as you need to fetch a Spirit of the Wild from the encounter deck or discard pile. Always go fot the encounter deck if possible. This effect is merely annoying early game and can be deadly late game due to the buff the spirits get from the keys. Clear them as soon as possible, unless it is very late in the game.
- Grim Foothills: this is another card easier in solo, as it has threat X, where X is numbe of players. It has Doomed 2 (you will see it a few times, so bring threat reduction!) and when in the staging area, it will take up progress before it can be placed on the active location. This is annoying when you want to clear a barrow or the hallowed circle. Most of the time, this one is not too bad. This also acts as a sponge for any progress you place on the active location via location control. Maps of Rhovanion will first target the Foothills before you clear the active location. This is actually quite welcome, as this can potentially clear the location from the staging area.
There aren’t a lot of treacheries in the encounter deck, but those that you may encounter will be remembered for a while. The encounter deck starts to hate on non-unique characters, so take that into account when building your deck for this scenario.
- Curse of the Wild Men: Adds one damage to all non-unique characters, which can decimate an early Outlands deck and remove all your chump blockers. Even so, I would not necessarily recommend cancelling it, as the other two can be so nasty.
- Wild Tenacity: removes X time counters from each enemy with time counters, where X is the number of players. In multiplayer, this means that Time effects WILL trigger (and in 3B this may mean all guardians) but in solo, this can wreck you too. You often plan around disposing Guardians before their abilities trigger, and this one can wreck those plans. Depending on the context, this could be material for a test of will.
- The Guardian’s Fury: makes each guardian attack, and if there are no guardians in play, it fetches a random one from the victory display. This can be absolutely game-ending in many circumstances, as you often plan for one (maybe two) attacks pr. round. Fetching a guardian when you camp at the Trial of Intuition can also make you scoop. This is definitely a Test of Will treachery.
- Turned Around forces you to either remove a time counter (triggering all sorts of nasty business) or return the active location to the staging area, possibly buffing other locations (if Ancient Forest/Tangled Woods) or cause you to fetch out another Spirit enemy (if Cursed Forest). It could also make you endure another attack for all the guardians. Usually, it is more annoying than game ending. Also, don’t get Total Eclipse of the Heart in your head when this treachery hits, that can get annoying quick :p
Tips and Tricks
- Bring unique characters. This is especially important for utility characters like healing and card draw allies. Ioreth will survive a lot longer than a Warden of Healing against Curse of the Wild Men. Gleowine can be used to draw cards, and Bofur can be used as a replacement for Master of the Forge in case you were looking for Weapons. If not, Leadership Galadriel will be a great ally to bring. Dwarven decks and Rohan decks tend to have a lot of unique characters, so these decks fair pretty well against effects that damage non-unique characters.
- This is a terrible quest to bring your Trap decks to, as no enemy can have attachments. Stick to other archetypes that will suit you better for this quest.
- Location control will be important for this quest, as you will quickly find yourself having some locations in play that synergize well with each other. Grim Foothills will be absorbing a lot of progress, so getting rid of that one will help to clear the active location. Having Explorer’s Almanac out will help you to clear more locations with your regular questing. Also, keep in mind that Backtrack will be very important if you are finding yourself making a bunch of progress on the main quest.
- During the trials of Strength and Perseverance, you are free to clear as many side-quests as you can bring. This will help you to clear the board a little, and provide helpful boosts to your characters and board state. Stalling for a bit can really help you, but remember the Time counters on the enemies will continuously tick down.
- Time playing your allies wisely to avoid the Cave Barrow’s effect. Especially in multiplayer, this location can shut down your ally swarms if it comes up during the final trial. Outlands and Dwarves will likely have to be discarded by the dozens, while a Harad deck can survive easily with just the big 3 allies.
- In order to find the Key during the Trial of Intuition faster if you just reshuffled the encounter discard pile into the encounter deck, players can play a copy of Dunedain Hunter or the Dunedain Pathfinder to shuffle the encounter deck. Chances are that the Key will now be found earlier, allowing the players to move on sooner.
- With the Guardians having an engagement cost of 50, it is quite easy to get a Ranger/Hobbit deck going, since you will be engaged with enemies who have an engagement cost higher than your threat. Hobbit Cloak, Dagger of Westernesse, and Staff of Lebethron are great tools to help you deal with the Guardian’s attacks.
There haven’t been many attempts at this quest via streams, so these are all the English streams I could find. I will, of course, update the list should there be more playthroughs appear in the future.
- 2 player, progression style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cG7nBqE2cYg
- 2 player, progression style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LSluFqf02c
The final scenario of the Ringmaker cycle, the Nin-in-Eilph, will follow shortly. This will end another cycle and lets us progress to the Angmar Awakened cycle. I will be taking drafts for those scenarios as well, so hopefully, we can finish that cycle before the end of September.