Going into the Dream-chaser cycle will see us facing a new mechanic in the game, unique to this cycle: Sailing tests. I wanted to explain a bit more about them in a separate article, as they are relevant for several quests during this cycle. Since this cycle also introduces us to Ship objectives and Ship enemies, I will cover those here as well, as they are radically different from what we have seen before. I’ll be refering to this article in any upcoming article where these mechanics are used, here is the list:
- Voyage Across Belegaer
- Flight of the Stormcaller
- A Storm on Cobas Haven
- The City of Corsairs (first stage only)
This is the first (and up to now only) cycle in which Sailing tests are performed. These tests will determine whether or not you as a group are on course. Being on course has several benefits, like having enemy ships being less powerful, or having beneficial locations. Many quest stages will require you to be on course, so it is vital that you stay on course for the majority of the game.
The first thing to understand about sailing tests is your heading. This is the compass card that was included in your Grey Havens box. This card shows you four types of weather symbols: Sunny, partially clouded, rainy, and a lightning bolt. If the heading is on the sunny symbol, the players are on course. This is the optimal heading that the players can be at and the heading does not rotate any more anti-clockwise from this point.
The partially cloudy and rainy symbols indicate that you are slightly off course. Some encounter cards will start to hurt more if you cannot escape from this setting, though this is not the worst setting. Should you ever advance from a sailing test with the heading at the lightning bolt symbol, then you are properly off-course. This is the worst setting and will start to make even bigger impacts on encounter cards, such as not being able to cancel effects. As this is the worst setting, your course cannot move any further off-course and the card cannot be turned further clockwise from this setting.
The way in which you improve your heading is by successfully doing a sailing test. At the beginning of each questing phase, the players will have to shift their heading 90 degrees off course (sunny to partially clouded and so on). After the heading is turned off course, the first player may commit characters to the sailing test. This is done by simply exhausting any number of characters. Remember that you will also have to quest and potentially do combat this round as well, so be careful to leave enough characters ready for those parts of the game. The characters can only be committed by the first player, with the sole exception being the Dream-chaser. This ship can always be committed to the sailing test and will count as two characters. After the first player has committed characters to the test, they count the number of characters and discard the same number of encounter cards from the encounter deck. Some of the cards in the encounter deck will have the ship’s wheel symbol. For each wheel symbol that is discarded this way, the players may shift their heading on course by one step. This means that players must reveal 3 of these icons in order to go from the worst heading to being on course.
Should the players reveal no symbols of this sort (remember that they are in the bottom left of the encounter card), then nothing changes about the heading and you will be one setting worse off than during the previous round. This might have consequences later in the scenario, so try to have the setting on course whenever you can. You start the game on course, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to go back on course provided that the players can swarm their allies a little. The Lindon Navigator is a great ally for these tests, as she can commit to the test and to the quest after the sailing test as well. Other good cards involve readying effects for allies like Narya, Ever Vigilant, or Grim Resolve. Players will have the ability to use Action effects before and after the sailing test, but not during the test itself. This means that you cannot commit a character to the test twice by readying it during the test. You can ready a character after the test to commit it to the quest. Since the stats on the allies do not matter for this test, 0 and 1 cost allies can help in the early game. In the later half of the playthrough, you can exhaust utility allies like Imladris Stargazer and Master of the Forge for the test. They don’t quest well, and if you don’t need their effects anymore, you might as well use them to sail.
To help you on your journey, your fellowship is given control over a fleet of 4 ships. Two of these are Elven ships, the other two are Gondorian. At the beginning of a quest where Sailing tests are involved, the players are instructed to prepare their fleet. They do this by each picking one of the four ships. The Dream-chaser must always be one of the chosen ships. If you are playing the game in true solo, then you may pick one other ship besides the Dream-chaser. This gives you the advantage of having an extra character at the start of the game, despite only revealing one encounter card during staging. This is why Sailing quests tend to be a bit easier in true solo, provided you can have enough allies on the table from the start. After having chosen their ships, the players remove any other ship-objective from the game.
The Ship-objectives count as characters and allies, just like regular player cards. There are 2 differences though between these ships and regular ally cards. The first is that Ship-objectives can only attack ship-enemies. It is not possible for your ship to target one specific Corsair enemy for example. The cannons on board (or Archers/Ballistae to more exact) can only be pointed at other ships. The second restriction is that ship-objectives are unable to defend attacks by regular enemies, only ship-enemies. This is much the same as the first restriction and will require you to have other defenders ready to deal with the attacks from Corsairs. If you remember that ship-objectives can only interact with ship-enemies, then you should be ok.
All four ship-objectives have incrediable stats, but also share some features with themselves. All ships are immune to player card effects for example. This will prevent you from triggering any event or player card effect on the ships. This will mostly become a problem when dealing with healing and readying your ships, it cannot be done. You will have to keep your ship alive with the hitpoints you are given at the beginning of the game. Should your ship ever have damage equal to its hitpoints, then the ship is destroyed and the controlling player is defeated. It is custom for players to first yell to the Corsairs: “You have sunken my battleship” before leaving the other players to finish the scenario. Another feature of the ships is that they all have the Sentinel keyword. This helps in defending ship-enemies engaged with other players who either quested or sailed with their ship. Remember that undefended attacks made by ship enemies will redirect all damage to your ship, instead of a hero you control. This will make it harder for you to keep your ship alive, but luckily, your ships are strong and can hold out for a while.
This is the flagship of your fleet and must always be on the table during the scenario. This means that one player will be stuck with this ship, but that is not a burden at all. The Dream-chaser has the highest stats of any player ship, except in defence. It makes for an excellent quester in the early game, as it has a base of 5 willpower. 4 attack and defence is also nice to have when dealing with enemy ships. The Dream-chaser also has the highest printed hit points of any ship in the fleet and for good reason. If ever the Dream-chaser is destroyed, not only does the controlling player get eliminated, but also the rest of the fellowship. This makes it so that the Dream-chaser should be under control of a questing player who tends to avoid combat. Remember that other player’s ships can defend for any ships engaged with you if needed. The strength of the Dream-chaser lies in its ability to always be able to commit to Sailing tests. When committed, the Dream-chaser even counts as two characters, which helps a lot in the early game as people are getting their characters on the table. This ability combined with the high willpower makes the Dream-chaser a solid questing ship, though its combat stats will help in a pinch as well.
This is another ship made by the Elves of Lindon and is a popular choice among players after the Dream-chaser has been picked. The Narelenya has the highest defence stat of the objective-ships and a decent pool of 16 hitpoints. This makes the ship perfect for blocking enemy ships, even across the table with its Sentinel keyword. The biggest draw for the Narelenya is its ability though. The controlling player can reduce the cost of the first ally they play by one. This is without a limit, so 1 cost allies become free as long as they are the first to enter play. Stack this with other cost-reducing effects to make the Narelenya a nice way to save resources and pump out a lot of allies during the game. Besides the cost reduction on allies, the Narelenya fulfills a defensive roll in the fleet, and will likely be relied on to handle the biggest ship enemies in the scenario.
This is the personal ship of Calphon and is the first of two Gondorian ships. While the Gondor trait might not do much for the ship, it does have the nice quirk that it lowers the cost to play the Citadel Custodian by 1. This helps Gondor players to get their swarm going faster. For any other effects, the Dawn Star is still immune to player card effects. When you take control of the Dawn Star, you must raise your threat by 3. This can put you in reach of some enemies depending on your deck, but luckily the Dawn Star has good defensive stats, allowing you to defend the enemy ship reliably. The unique power of the Dawn Star is that the controlling player may draw an additional card during the resource phase. This helps players to draw into their combos earlier, and can potentially fuel the Noldor synergy as well. For the rest, the ship is mediocre, not bad, but it doesn’t do anything special besides drawing you that additional card per round. In my eyes, this is the weakest ship of the fleet, but it is versatile enough to handle any role that needs to be filled during the scenario.
This is the fastest ship that the Amrothian Navy has at its disposal and is great for players who want to stay in Secrecy for a bit longer. Besides having the Sentinel keyword like other ships, the Silver Wing also has the Ranged keyword. This makes the ship able to attack enemy ships engaged with other players as well. With a base 4 attack stat, that turns this ship into a very respectable attacker. On the defensive part, the Silver Wing is a bit lacking. Having only 2 points of defence and 14 hitpoints (the lowest overall) makes the ship quite fragile. This ship is best used as a Ranged attacker or relying on other ships to defend for it. The special ability that the Silver Wing provides is a +1 attack bonus to each hero you control. This passive bonus is great for Tactics players, but it is a welcome boost to any deck. This ability will allow heroes like Quickbeam to come swinging for 5 attack right out of the gate. Remember that Beorn is immune to player card effects, and the Silver Wing is regarded as an ally so it cannot boost Beorn to 6 attack, unfortunately. All in all, the Silver Wing is a good offensive based ship that helps the team to kill more enemies across the board. Combine this with a Ranged deck for extra effectiveness at a low risk if you can manage to avoid the enemy ships.
Besides the ships you control, there are also enemy ships from the Corsairs of Umbar. These ships will be shuffled into the encounter deck and will mostly serve as regular enemies like in any other scenario. However, things change when you start engaging these ships. First of all, most Ship enemies have the Boarding X keyword. This keyword symbolises the Corsair enemies boarding your ship. This means that you will have more than just the ship to worry about when engaging the enemy ship. The Boarding keyword will put X enemies engaged with a player from a separate Corsair deck, which tends to exist completely out of Corsair enemies. These enemies are put into play with you, so you will have to have some defenders up in order to not become overwhelmed.
The ship enemies also tend to be immune to player attachments. It is difficult to use an Entangling Net over an entire ship, so it is not allowed. This puts Trap decks at a disadvantage, though traps like Followed and Outmatched can still attach to Corsair enemies that engage you. Lore traps are mostly useless, as Corsairs tend to avoid the staging area (unless you bring effects that push them back). Besides this immunity, a fair amount of ship enemies also has the Archery keyword and a high engagement cost, making you able to engage the ships on your own terms but having to take the constant damage over time.
When engaged, the Ship enemies really start to differ from regular enemies. Their high attack can only be defended by objective ships that the players control. Remember that all ships have the Sentinel keyword, so players can defend for each other if needed. If the players let the attack go through undefended, they must deal the damage to their ship instead of to a hero they control. This can start to damage your ships quickly, so try to have your ship defend the attacks if possible. Attacking the enemy ship back can be done by all characters you control. This includes your own ship, and your heroes and allies. While your own player cards can’t defend the enemy ship, they can damage it with each other. Using combined attacks can quickly sink the enemy ships, clearing your board state and allowing your own ship to do other things next round.
And that ends this quick manual on how to deal with Ships and Sailing tests. I hope this helps going forward into this new cycle. If you feel that I have missed any crucial information, feel free to let me know and I will include it as soon as I can. For more information, you can also check the rulebook included in your Grey Havens expansion. The first scenario of that expansion, Voyage Across Belegaer, will be up next, kicking off this exciting new cycle!