While searching for Gollum along the banks of the Anduin, the heroes hear rumours of a group of Trolls that have come to the Carrock, bringing chaos and strife to the valley. The Beornings, led by Grimbeorn the Old, are known as the peacekeepers in the area, so the heroes set out to find Grimbeorn and assist him in driving the intrusive Trolls back to the mountains from which they came.
The searching for Gollum brought you to dreadful Trolls. The brutal, merciless power in the form of Louis, Morris, Rupert, and Stuart is going to endanger you to such extent that you must gather all strength to beat them at the top of the Carrock. The new adventure called Conflict at the Carrock should help you and equip you with strong cards. You have never faced such a pompous force. I hope we find the support not only for a brutal fight but also for making progress. The questing will play no less important role.
Before we will hit the road, for each of adventure pack or expansion I announce these categories of cards:
- TOP CARD – the best card, which really is a success and you should try to include it to your decks
- SHEEP CARD – the opposite of TOP CARD. The weakest card, which really isn’t a success and you should try to avoid it
- MOST ENRICHED SPHERE – sphere, which profits from the new set of cards at most. Heroes are not included in this category.
After one Hobbit hero, Bilbo Baggins, we meet another and at the same time the most famous Hobbit in the whole LOTR universe, Frodo Baggins (shortly “Frodo”). The wearer and destroyer of the One Ring – he must be a powerful hero in some way. But how exactly can this little fellow help us in our efforts to beat evil forces?
As we know, the Spirit sphere is showing us heroes with the least amount of starting threat. And Frodo isn’t an exception. On the contrary, this little guy has only 7 starting threat, same as Eleanor, and 2 less than Bilbo. That’s a really perfect and useful starting threat. But what about stats? We know that Bilbo has relatively low starting threat, but at the cost of very poor stats (1-1-2-2). Frodo is a little bit better quester (2 Willpower), the weak attacker (1 Attack) and vulnerable defender (2 Defense and 2 Hit Points). Considering overall stat strength (=OSS), Frodo with 2-1-2-2 for 7 starting threat beats Bilbo with 1-1-2-2 for 9 starting threat. In other words, I would have rather picked up Frodo to my party than Bilbo, if I had decided only on the base of stats. It’s a matter of course that both Hobbits belong to different spheres, so the choice of right hero will take place among the heroes of the same sphere rather than across the different spheres.
Everyone who has the read books or has watched the movies knows that Frodo was able to “disappear” by wearing the One Ring in extremely dangerous situations. Of course, for the cost of that Sauron’s eye has seen him. Frodo’s response well represents this ability (and its consequence): “After Frodo Baggins is damaged, cancel the damage and instead raise your threat by the amount of damage he would have been dealt. (Limit once per phase.)” Thematically, it fits perfectly; instead of dealing damage Frodo puts on the Ring, disappears from the enemy, but for the cost of raising threat (Sauron is feeling him). From the view of game and rules, if the damage is dealt to a Frodo, you can decide to completely cancel it and raise the threat by the amount of damage he would get. A simple example: if non-boosted Marsh Adder with 4 Attack strikes Frodo, 2 damage is absorbed by Frodo’s Defense and remaining 2 damage is “transformed” to 2 threat above.
This ability is highly recommended for decks with overall low starting threat or decks with threat-decreasing cards (The Galadhrim’s Greeting). In the worst-case scenario, Gandalf with threat-decreasing ability may help as well. That’s because if you fight with a threat, Frodo will hasten the increasing of a threat to a great extent.
!SPOILER! I wouldn’t recommend Frodo to a party with Boromir, for example. They don’t cooperate very well, same as in the movie or book.:)
From this ability, few facts arise, which you shouldn’t forget. First, you can use Frodo’s ability even in the case of undefended attack. Instead of dealing damage to some hero, Frodo can transform damage to the same amount of threat, and so save the life of your hero. Second, it’s a limited ability. So don’t count with Frodo attached by Unexpected Courage, who will transform damage from more enemies to threat. Once you use the ability, from Frodo becomes “common mortal Hobbit” until the end of the phase. So be careful about that. Third and the most important (and complicated as well) is the case when Frodo should be hit by a greater amount of damage, which exceeds his Defense and Hit Points. For a long time, I was searching through discussions and forums for finding the answer to this crucial question. In the normal case, when Hit Points falls to 0, the character is dead and you are not solving the problem with “exceeding damage”. Another damage is gone, you are not dealing (usually) the remaining damage to other characters. But in case of Frodo, he absorbs all damage (minus his Defense) and converts it to a threat. The classic example is Frodo vs. Hill Troll: this enemy attack for 6 Attack and non-boosted Frodo defends him. 2 damage is absorbed by Frodo’s Defense and 4 damage Frodo should get. Without using his ability, only 2 damage is enough to kill Frodo and the rest of the damage (2) is transformed to threat (due to Hill Troll’s ability). With using Frodo’s ability, 4 damage is fully absorbed and you raise your threat by 4. And finally, the undefended strike of Hill Troll for 6 can Frodo convert to 6 threat.
As you see, the using of Frodo’s ability needs some knowledge of rules and experience. The game text is poorly described here, I think. From my experience, I was convinced for a long time, that Frodo absorbs only the amount of damage equal to his Hit Points. That would be a great mistake. But after understanding this remarkable ability you realize, what a great character Conflict at the Carrock brings to us. From some point of view, we have got an invincible hero. Damage from not only enemies, but also from treacheries can be transformed to threat, saving the life of Frodo, or even the life of another hero, if you don’t defend an enemy at all. If you can manage increasing threat and you need a hero with low starting threat, Frodo is a high-quality choice.
The group of Leadership attachments is slowly but constantly expanding, thanks to the entry of another attachment from Signal family. Dúnedain Warning is the Leadership attachment number 4, ready to undergo this analysis.
Like its predecessor, it costs 1 resource, you can attach it a hero and you can enjoy the missing of Restricted keyword. The action, which allows you to move this attachment to another hero for 1 resource is preserved here as well. The only difference between Dúnedain Warning and Dúnedain Mark lies in the stat, which is boosted. In this case, it is Defense. I’m shortly stating once more that 1 resource for 1 stat is a fair exchange. But personally, I see Dúnedain Warning as more desired and necessary attachment in comparison with Dúnedain Mark. I’ll explain to you why.
When you move to the Combat phase, the first thing you have to solve is defending. Defending precedes attacking. From this simple sight, you should agree that surviving characters is a necessary condition for any attacking. Without living characters, you could hardly strike enemies back. So your first mission during the combat consists of the effective defending. From the Core set and Hunt For Gollum, we have got just one really strong defender, Denethor with 3 Defense. Other heroes can show us only 1-2 Defense. 2 Defense is somehow good against average and under-average enemies with 2 and less Attack. But if you stand against stronger enemy with 3 Attack and higher, Hit Points begins to rapidly disappear. And if you don’t control any healing cards from the Lore sphere, the situation about the vitality of your heroes is going to be serious (often leading to a hero’s death). Citadel Plate could be one solution, but the best way, how to protect your hero, is prevention in the form of higher Defense. Protector of Lórien is the first attachment, which serves to increase your Defense. However, the effect is only one-time and for cost of discarding other cards. Dúnedain Warning shows us the boost without other costs and conditions. Just pay 1 resource for this Leadership attachment and your hero can rejoice from higher Defense.
And for which heroes is Dúnedain Warning useful at most? As always, it depends on the situation on board, your available heroes and the strength of the hostile army. But I can definitely recommend this attachment for Aragorn, who has great defending potential thanks to Sentinel keyword. It’s a pleasure to defend with Aragorn, who has got 3 instead of 2 Defense. You then can make do without the ability of Dúnedain Warning, because Aragorn suffices to cover whole board practically. For other heroes, the usefulness of this attachment is purely situational. The boosting of Denethor’s Defense can even stop the great part of massive blows of Trolls from Conflict at the Carrock. It’s actually very good news that Dúnedain Warning comes with adventure pack, where defending and fighting, in general, is the pivotal theme of the whole scenario.
Dúnedain Warning has undoubtedly its own price, which you can utilize to slightly increase Defense. But on the contrary of boosting Attack, where the “strength of mass” often decides, even small boosting of Defense can save the valuable Hit Points of heroes. Shortly, attacking is more a quantity stat, while Defense is rather a quality stat. It is also due to that one character defends a single enemy, while the mass of your characters is able to attack a single enemy. Therefore, +1 Defense has a more valuable price for me than +1 Attack.
You may believe me or not, but I was looking forward to writing the review about this card, though I haven’t played with it yet. The usage of Second Breakfast isn’t much obvious, so I consider it as a challenge for me to find some value of this strange event. Yes, you hear well – Conflict at the Carrock didn’t come with any Leadership ally again, thus Leadership sphere became the only sphere, which can’t boast of some new ally.
Instead of an ally comes the event Second Breakfast for 1 cost and confirms the common cheapness of Leadership events. And in what exactly is this event specialized? Every player returns the topmost attachment from own discard piles to hands. After returning allies (Stand and Fight), heroes (Fortune or Fate) or cards from the given sphere (Dwarven Tomb) we encounter another type of card working with our discard piles, now aiming for attachments.
I won’t lie you – the usefulness of Second Breakfast is very limited. But before counting negatives, let’s mention at least some positives and cases, in which this event could come in handy. One benefit I have mentioned already – it’s a cheap card and that’s a good starting point. The effect, influencing every player in a game, belongs to very favourite one (same as at Campfire Tales from Hunt for Gollum). The returning cards from discard piles gives you a hope that loss of some good card doesn’t have to be a permanent state and you can, with a little fortune, return it back to the game. And finally… it’s almost only card to this moment, which interacts with attachments (however, it’s not the first one, but I will talk about it later).
It’s a matter of course, that discard pile mainly consist of allies (after destroying) and events (after using). When attachments travel to our discard piles (excluding situations, where we must discard cards randomly or voluntarily)? Due to effects of shadow cards (Cavern Guardian, Driven by Shadow) and due to destroying the character attached by attachments.
!SPOILER! Later we encounter cards, which influence and discard attachments directly, not only through their shadow effects. For example, Whip Lash, Black Uruks or Hidden Threat.
The shadow cards discarding attachments are not very frequent. Yet. But it may happen that you are forced to throw away attachments like Unexpected Courage or Steward of Gondor. The loss of these cards can make you angry and so Second Breakfast can save “Your Precious.”:) If you lose an attachment during the loss of a hero (because there are scarce of attachments for allies), I think that you regret more the death of a hero than a loss of attachments.
The possible uses of Second Breakfast, mentioned above, wouldn’t persuade me to include it to my deck. But there exists one type of deck, which would welcome the presence of Second Breakfast, I would even say it could play a key role there – the “attachment deck”, where you aim to “cripple” the encounter cards. Such Forest Snare or Power in the Earth (oh my lord, did I really mention this card? :)) affects the encounter cards (enemies or locations) as a “debuff”. After destroying an enemy or exploring a location the attachment goes to the discard pile. I’d like to use Forest Snare once again, especially in Conflict at the Carrock, where you could be surrounded by many Trolls. And Second Breakfast could return Forest Snare from discard pile to your hand.
One card, however, belittles the existence of Second Breakfast and takes over the role of this attachment. It’s nobody else than Erebor Hammersmith. For 2 cost you get an amazing cheap ally, a good defender and good “returner” of attachments in one person. It also returns the topmost attachment, even though not from every discard pile, but from discard pile you choose. I think that Erebor Hammersmith can stand in Second Breakfast completely. Second Breakfast specializes only in this action, whereas the ability of Erebor Hammersmith is something like a very positive side-effect. And because losing or returning attachments doesn’t belong to my main strategy, I see this new Leadership attachment as a sideboard card at best.
To fight with Trolls comes to help another Tactic ally with a quite peaceful name, Beorning Beekeeper. It’s a much weaker cousin of mighty Beorn from Core set, but with similar high cost, which we must invest to call this guy into a game. After gathering and paying 4 Tactic resources you get the ally with 1 Willpower, 2 Attack, 1 Defense and 3 Hit Points. Almost the same stats we have already seen at Longbeard Orc Slayer from the Leadership sphere (only the amount of Willpower differs). To be honest, I would rather move the stat point from Willpower to Attack (because there is a minimal chance you would use Beorning Beekeeper for questing duties). But in this form look his stats somehow wishy-washy. And above-average amount of Hit Points is covered by mere 1 Defense, so I wouldn’t recommend him as a defender – he’s too much expensive for simple chump blocking. Finally, 2 Attack won’t accelerate your heartbeat.
From the view of stats, Beorning Beekeeper won’t amaze you, considering his 4 cost. Good ability can easily fix the bad reputation. Is it the case of Beorning Beekeeper? I didn’t mention Longbeard Orc Slayer just for fun, because the similarity between him and this Beorning is bigger than you would say. Except for similar stats, both allies share also similar abilities, aiming at direct damage to enemies. While Longbeard Orc Slayer hits every Orc in a game, Beorning Beekeeper deals 1 damage to each enemy, which is located in the staging area. That wouldn’t be bad at all. Hitting every enemy in the staging area would work with other damaging cards like Thalin or Gondorian Spearman in a great combo. For reaching that, however, you have to discard Beorning Beekeeper. Yeah, you read well. After paying 4 cost for the ally with terrible stats you must discard him to use his action, which deals only 1 damage to all enemies in the staging area. What a fail, I must say. 1 damage won’t help you to the great extent, even in the cooperation with mentioned Thalin – the amount of Hit Points of the majority enemies begins on the value of 3. So don’t count with “massive cleansing” of enemies from the staging area and thus decreasing the overall Threat Strength. I admit you have a better starting position in combat, but… 1 damage for discarding ally with 4 cost? Are you serious about it? I wouldn’t have said any word if the damage had been increased to the value of 2. I would accept that condition because 2 damage to the whole group of enemies in the staging area would be devastating. Especially in combo with Thalin.
I know that letting out bees for 2 damage for every enemy would seem very oddly and exaggeratedly. Still, I won’t be satisfied with 4 cost for bad distribution of stats and for absurd ability, which demands the sacrifice of this ally for only 1 damage. I haven’t used Beorning Beekeeper in my deck, maybe in training and testing games. Against Beorning Beekeeper is also the fact he lacks some usable trait. Longbeard Orc Slayer belongs to expensive allies with deficient of stats as well. But he is the Dwarf and thanks to Dwarf-synergies he has potential in the future games. I don’t know about some real Beorning-synergies until these days. Because of that, Beorning Beekeeper becomes a very dead card from the very beginning, where everything went the worst as it could.
Born Aloft is the name of the new Tactic attachment, special in some way. Based on the picture we could estimate that we meet another Eagle card. However, this card lacks Eagle trait and has a quite unusable trait Condition.
!SPOILER! I can’t skip one interesting point here – Conflict at the Carrock is the only adventure pack from Shadows of Mirkwood cycle, where no card with Eagle trait appears.
If you watch closely at the card, you notice it focuses on allies, not heroes. That’s the uncommon attribute of attachments. Another interesting characteristic lies in the cost for this card – it’s definitely free like perfect The Eagles Are Coming! from the previous adventure pack. Did we get a good card for free again? Have a look at the action: if you discard Born Aloft, you may return attached ally back to your hand. I remember my first encounter with this card. I scratched my head and had a think about it: in which cases I can benefit from returning ally to my hands? Of course, damaged, valuable allies with a bunch of Hit Points (like Beorn) would be a good target for Born Aloft. Before death, I could simply pull an ally out from the board and then play him again for full cost without any injury. But what about the other allies, like Gondorian Spearman, Guard of the Citadel, Veteran Axehand, Gléowine… would they worth it for Born Aloft? I guess not, even it’s a free attachment. Either the allies die earlier than you could save them, or it would be considered for the waste of this attachment – I can’t imagine such Guard of the Citadel with Born Aloft. I don’t much care about this weak chump blocker (sorry, man ;)).
But there exists one card, which is born for Born Aloft and you know him very well – Gandalf. You play him, use one from his strong ability and finally send him to a quest, block some enemy or attack with him. At last, he must leave the play. Or not? Born Aloft causes that you can return Gandalf back to your hands and play him one round later (if you have a sufficient amount of resources). It’s a Tactic analog of Sneak Attack with the difference that Gandalf remains during the whole round, instead of one concrete phase. However, from Born Aloft profits also allies with abilities, which trigger after allies enter the play or leave the play. From Core set, I mention Snowbourn Scout, Longbeard Orc Slayer, Erebor Hammersmith or Miner of the Iron Hills.
I appreciate that attachments begin to work also with allies and that not only with heroes. Excluding Self-Preservation, Born Aloft is the first attachment, which targets an ally. From my sight… eh, I can imagine playing without Born Aloft in my deck completely. It doesn’t provide me some extra benefit, which I would urgently need. I know that Gandalf can profit from this attachment and some other allies as well. But from the view of practicality, Sneak Attack fits more to my deck, because with it I can play an ally anytime. I needn’t to wait until the Planning phase, where it is the only time I can play and attach Born Aloft to some ally. For me, this card is superfluous and too “clumsy”
After Westfold Horse-Breaker, Spirit sphere is enriched by another ally, which is very beneficial and necessary. Éomund comes to a scene, prepared to join our small Spirit army. However, the first negative you will notice very quickly – his uniqueness won’t allow you to use 2 or 3 copies of this ally simultaneously. Only single Éomund can fight by your side. It’s the truth that the Spirit sphere has got its first unique ally, so on the other side, I understand the presence of the unique symbol of this Rohan.
Éomund costs 3 resources and his stats are the following: 2 Willpower, 1 Attack, 1 Defense and 2 Hit Points. I’m glad we haven’t got another version of Lórien Guide, where stats in relation to cost were tragic. My modest nature celebrates also another milestone – we finally have Spirit ally with more than 1 Willpower. Until now, nobody from allies could boast of 2 Willpower (though the ability of Lórien Guide replaces 1 Willpower in a certain sense). Éomund belongs to the first ally able to quest at an acceptable level. Attacking and defending isn’t the main domain of Éomund, but it doesn’t matter – for fighting we have other spheres.
But for a unique character, these stats wouldn’t be enough. Éomund controls the response, which focuses on Rohan: after he leaves the play, you may ready all Rohan characters in a play. The “leaving” doesn’t mean only destroying here (as in the case of Horn of Gondor), but it is legal to ready every Rohan after Éomund returns to your hand (for example by Born Aloft), or if he is discarded from the play by some effect.
The “mass preparation” sounds like a very strong effect and according to the ability, I guess that readying of Rohan should be something very reasonable. Without Éomund we can choose from 7 different Rohan from all spheres at this moment. Excluding some exceptions (Dúnhere, Horseback Archer) Rohan characters are commonly used during the questing because most of them you rather send them to a quest than to an attack. So let’s assume that you exhaust all of Rohan characters during Quest phase because of their questing potential. The most common time, when characters are leaving play, happens during the questing (due to the effect of damaging treacheries) or of course during the battle. Destroying Éomund within the battle doesn’t belong to a very probable cause of his leaving from play. So let’s think that he leaves the play due to revealing of some nasty treachery like Necromancer’s Reach during Quest phase. Now, it is time to ready all exhausted Rohan characters. For what it should be good? You can’t commit characters to a quest more than once in a single phase, because you count their Willpower contribution just once. They will be ready for Combat phase, but as I said, Rohan characters don’t excel in the battle. Only Théodred, Dúnhere and Horseback Archer have some fighting potential. Others fill the role as chump blocker at best. And lose questers just thoughtlessly doesn’t seem like a wise tactic. I know that various situations can force you to defend with all you have got and you may be glad for any ready ally. However, it’s not a primary task for most of Rohan characters. And I think it won’t change with the following adventure packs and expansions with new Rohan characters.
Éomund’s stats won’t amaze his users, but he can make us happy through 2 Willpower. Combination of uniqueness and very disputable ability, which creates the synergy with Rohan characters, didn’t persuade me to call this ally as “favourite” or “useful”. Although I have other serious candidates for replacing as fast as possible, he belongs to the “hot candidate” for changing.
Nor am I a Stranger is the name of the new Spirit attachment, which is characterized by the synergy with Rohan characters. More precisely, it creates Rohan character. For 1 cost you attach this card to any character, who will obtain Rohan trait. After Hunt for Gollum and Conflict at the Carrock, it is clear, which way will Spirit sphere set out and what will focus on. Westfold Horse-Breaker, Mustering the Rohirrim and Éomund – each of these cards is somehow connected with Rohan. And I appreciate it, because I like trait synergies.
The question is, how beneficial would be the “transformation” to Rohan character? What this trait can offer us, what choices we have? When I analyzed Éomund, I pointed out that Rohan characters excel in questing. Or at least, they are better questers than fighters.
!SPOILER! The theory of “better quester” can be confirmed by the entry of other cards connected with Rohan and simultaneously with questing or making the progress in a game. Astonishing Speed boosts Willpower, Ride to Ruin generates progress tokens and We Do Not Sleep works in a way like Éomund – prevents characters to exhaust when they are committed to a quest. Escort From Edoras is brilliant quester as well as West Road Traveller. Even in Core set, we find excellent questers – just remember for Éowyn, the queen of questing. Or Théodred, which has only 1 Willpower, but for sending him to a quest you generate a resource. All of these cards have one common denominator – connection with Rohan.
Logically, when you are choosing, who is going to become Rohan, you should search among the good questers. Aragorn, Glorfindel, Faramir, Rivendell Minstrel… they could be a good target for Nor am I a Stranger. It’s not a coincidence that this attachment has come with Éomund, who prepares Rohan characters. Like you would be instigated to attach Nor am I a Stranger in order to make the combo with Éomund’s ability. However, making the combo in this way seems to me very complicatedly. You must “dub” a character to Rohan, get Éomund to the game and later let him leave from the play in order to ready all Rohan characters? Isn’t is kind of silly? Count also with Born Aloft, which appears in the same adventure pack. So additionally, you should attach Born Aloft to Éomund. Why? Because then you can gain maximally controlled combo – Nor am I a Stranger + Éomund + Born Aloft. Everything just for single preparation of Rohan characters, which additionally haven’t any other good use in next phases, perhaps unless the chump blocking.
I’m not a fan of this terribly complicated combo. For other possible combos, we must wait for other adventure packs. But still… what do you do when you want to build a Rohan deck? Add Rohan characters or add an attachment, which creates a Rohan character? Naturally, the first choice is far comfortable, because it is a far easier way. And you save valuable 3 places in your deck for better cards than for Nor am I a Stranger.
When I’m going through the player cards of Conflict at the Carrock, I have to honestly tell you that more than half cards I don’t use at all, or very exceptionally. The reason lies in totally unusability, or very situational usage. Longbeard Map-Maker acts as if it doesn’t concern him. With the cocky cost of 3, he shows very average values of stats and he isn’t ashamed by that – 1 Willpower, 1 Attack and 1 Defense with 3 Hit Points. I don’t know if 3 cost is for 3 Hit Points or the summary of values of Willpower, Attack, and Defense, but I know one thing sure – Lore sphere has a problem with expensive cards. And Longbeard Map-Maker belongs to expensive Lore cards, moreover with unsatisfactory stats. Lore allies are short of the sufficient quality in any of common actions because nobody (except relatively new Rivendell Minstrel) owns more than 1 value in Willpower, Attack or Defense. Everything saves the ability of allies, if at all. Longbeard Map-Maker doesn’t confirm the increasing quality in stats value, which has begun with the entry of mentioned Rivendell Minstrel from Hunt for Gollum.
“Hey, but nobody says that I can’t show you better stats than are my default stats!” could this Dwarf protest against my critics.
“Oh really? So convince me that you have got some talent in some action!” I say.
“Read my ability, moron!” Longbeard Map-Maker is being furious about me.
I’m sorry for this scene – it’s between me and this old (and unusable :P) Dwarf. Well, he has the truth about one thing – he can increase its Willpower! But for what cost? For every spent 1 resource you may boost his Willpower by 1. So spend 3 resources for his action and you get +3 Willpower until the end of the phase. Boosting ability by spending resources is a unique skill, considering all spheres and within the environment of Core set, Hunt for Gollum and Conflict at the Carrock. After all, this ally is specialized in questing (because Willpower is primarily stat for questing). And you can get so much Willpower you can afford.
But that’s exactly the problem of Longbeard Map-Maker – you often can’t afford to spend Lore redundant resources, because you haven’t any redundant resources. On the contrary – you try to save Lore resources for all these expensive cards as much as possible. And this ally dares to demand other resources for one-time increasing of Willpower! For me, it is unacceptable and foolish cost. I could imagine that the cost would lie in spending cards. Simply, 1 discarded card from hand = 1 additional Willpower, like at Protector of Lórien. You rather have redundant or dead cards in your hands than resources. Moreover, this ability could be supported by the existence of cards like Lórien’s Wealth, Gandalf’s Search, Beravor or Gléowine. Then I would say that 3 cost for this ally is justified. And we would get pretty nice quester.
No, Longbeard Map-Maker, you truly don’t convince me about your beneficial effect, no matter how high Willpower you can generate. You demand resources, but I can’t give you more resources. What about Forest Snare, Self-Preservation, Rivendell Minstrel… they also need 3 resources and are more valuable for me than you.
Paradoxically, I use you more often as a defender than a quester, because 1 Defense with 3 Hit Points holds weak enemies for some time. Same is valid for Erebor Hammersmith – but he costs 1 less resource and has identical stats. Additionally, you can return the top attachment from a discard pile for free. For the ability of Longbeard Map-Maker, you must pay. Cheeky Dwarf!
You know the situation well; dreaded enemy stands against you, hungry for blood and flesh. You must send some purposeful defender to block his attack. You choose the right character with right stats, enough for neutralizing of enemy’s attack. But you have certain doubts. That dealt shadow card attached to foe – what mighty power hides there? Is it a shadow card without a shadow effect? Or is it possessed by the evil forces? Will it cost your character’s life? These troublesome questions are resolved by one attachment, which quits the uncertainty. You just have to find branch and light the fire! Meet A Burning Brand.
The “shadow-card-eliminator” has 2 cost. You attach it to Lore character, which gains this ability: “While attached character is defending, cancel any shadow effects on cards dealt to the attacking enemy.” In other words, your character will become completely immune to shadow cards without any exceptions. Only limit you must face is the presence of some Lore character (yeah, not only heroes as I often thought). And how it looks in practice when you defend with attached A Burning Brand? The enemy gets own shadow card – that’s the unchanging condition. But you know that whatever shadow effect does, doesn’t affect you at all. No +1 Attack, no discarding attachment, no removing progress tokens, and no many other possible effects will bother you more if you defend with A Burning Brand. It’s a matter of course, that shadow effects from undefended attack will count normally.
A Burning Brand can attach heroes as well as allies. But I see as the best target for this attachment Denethor. The reason is simple – 3 Defense is the impassable wall against most of the enemies. And if you adjust Defense by something like Dúnedain Warning, even stronger enemy must bow in front of you. However, sometimes the questions could arise from the view of rules. The demonstrative example is defending Wargs, which has the nasty ability – if this enemy has dealt the shadow card without any effect, it returns to the staging area after the attack. What if you defend Wargs with A Burning Brand? Try to remember this rule: if you cancel the shadow effect (A Burning Brand, Hasty Stroke), it is still considered the enemyhas dealt shadow effect. Then you must trigger the effect of the given enemy according to its ability (so Wargs can remain in front of you, but it can also return to the staging area after the attack). If you discard the shadow card or prevent the enemy from attack (Feint, Thicket of Spears), it is considered the enemy has never dealt shadow card with or without shadow effect. Thus its ability never triggers (so Wargs stay in front of you in every case). A Burning Brand won’t stop Wargs from returning back to the staging area, same as Nazgúl of Dol Guldur can discard one of your characters – it purely depends on the presence/absence of the shadow effect.
The existence of A Burning Brand is the reason for Dark Knowledge downfall. From now, you needn’t to know anything about the shadow card. You just cancel its effect, what is far more useful. More words are not necessary.
One more question: is it legal to attach A Burning Brand to primarily not Lore character? For example, if Gimli has Song of Wisdom? Don’t worry: in this case, A Burning Brand can be attached to Tactic Gimli, because he has also Lore resource icon. And even after you lose Song of Wisdom and Gimli becomes the pure Tactic hero again, it won’t discard A Burning Brand from him. It’s because it is attached already.
I think that the Lore sphere gets own very valuable card, comparable to Steward of Gondor from the Leadership sphere, Unexpected Courage and A Test of Will from the Spirit sphere and Feint from Tactic sphere. A Burning Brand should be automatically included if you run the deck with at least a bit capable defender (Bilbo Baggins, Beravor). This card can change the course of the game rapidly because it is able to prevent the loss of heroes. Such a card you shouldn’t miss.
Okay, here I make the exception. In what and why? Because through Shadows of Mirkwood cycle we will get 4 almost identical cards, which belong to a neutral sphere. The difference between them is about one word (or symbol, more precisely). It’s not like the difference between Secret Paths and Radagast’s Cunning, or among the Leadership “Dúnedain attachments” coming in Shadows of Mirkwood cycle (sorry for that little unmarked spoiler :)), where the difference in the text could be minimal, but with considerable dissimilar impact on the game. I couldn’t make up 4 unique reviews for 4 nearly identical cards, so I wrote 4 identical reviews for each Song card (except the very last block with own part of review). I hope you won’t consider it for the deficiency of my inventiveness.;)
Song of Wisdom is the neutral card. That means you don’t have to take into consideration the sphere of influence. You can pay its 1 resource from the pool of any hero. For this price, you get an attachment, which changes the sphere of influence of the attached hero. Or more precisely, the attached hero gains another sphere of influence. A hero can pay for cards from its original sphere of influence, but also for cards from the sphere of influence written on the attachment. Let’s explain it on the example. You control Legolas who belongs to the Tactic sphere. Attach him Song of Wisdom and you may pay the Lore cards from him as well. It’s like you gain another Lore hero with the difference that you are free to decide, if you pay for Lore or Tactic cards, from a single hero. Suddenly you realize that the common problem with “not enough resources” within some sphere you can at least partially resolve by this kind of effect. It’s cheap, it’s simple and it’s an effective way, how to deal with the lack of resources of some sphere. It’s the matter of course that “discarding attachments” effect of some encounter cards means great menace for every Song attachment. So I recommend you to include to your deck more copies of this card.
For this kind of cards is just Rivendell Minstrel created. You don’t have to wait for the drawing of this Song. If Rivendell Minstrel is present at your hand, her ability helps you to dig through the deck for the desired Song card and add it to your hand. Then you can profit from its effect.
Song of Wisdom belongs to Song, which you see most like. It’s not a secret that the Lore sphere has a huge problem with scarce of resources. Everything costs so much that you don’t know, what you should prefer – building an army, improving present characters, saving for unexpected situations? Song of Wisdom can partially resolve your troubles. You don’t have to own 3 Lore heroes to maximize the income of Lore resources, but you can mix heroes from different spheres and wait for appearing of Song of Wisdom. It’s also the truth that sometimes even 3 Lore heroes aren’t enough for comfortable resource management. I was convinced about that in many Lore monosphere games. Still, for me personally, this Song belongs to the most used, because Lore sphere needs resources at most.
The next enriched sphere with the non-Core hero is Spirit. I appreciate that – Spirit sphere needs own alternative to very disputable Eleanor and almost unusable Dúnhere. Frodo Baggins is from Hobbit-family as well as Bilbo Baggins. But he doesn’t follow his “uncle”. Despite its size, he has reasonable stats and ability. Mainly that interesting ability will tempt you to include him to your decks because he is capable to save himself or another hero before death. You just need to… use the One Ring.:)
To be honest, so much unusable allies in one pack I haven’t seen yet. It concerns all spheres without Leadership (where no new ally appears). Instead of decent counterweight against Trolls, we have got a decent group of losers.
The least loser from allies is Éomund. Despite his odd and almost unusable ability he can at least quests well. 2 Willpower I gladly see at the ally. Though I feel at the same time, that the good questing skills were “exchanged” for the unique symbol, which forbids you to play more copies of him simultaneously. That’s a pity.
If Éomund has the use in at least one action, be sure that Beorning Beekeeper won’t help you in any action. Perhaps except for the spending of many resources. I pretend that I haven’t seen 4 cost for 1-2-1-3 and I should do the same for terrible ability, which deals 1 damage to each enemy in the staging area. I miss the nature of getting rid off expensive cards for one weak effect. Maybe if his ability would mean the destroying of 3 and more enemies at the same time, then I would use it. But the theoretical benefit will hardly happen in real.
And Longbeard Map-Maker? I suspect him from the intentional sabotage of the Lore sphere. Sphere, where every resource has the price of gold. This ally dares to demand more resources for a one-time boost of Willpower. He alone doesn’t offer good stats or cheap cost. Everything about him is bad.
If I evaluate allies from Conflict at the Carrock as trouble, I won’t be far from the truth. You have to make do with allies from the previous pack and Core set because present allies won’t provide you the sufficient quality.
It’s interesting that Conflict at the Carrock shows us only one event, Second Breakfast. The Leadership event confirms the overall cheapness of the Leadership sphere, but that’s all I could say positive about it. The practicality equals to zero if you don’t play the scenario with many encounter cards discarding attachments. Maybe you can consider this event as the part of a sideboard deck, but I have never used Second Breakfast and its absence didn’t restrict me in any way.
The choice of attachments is uncommonly rich – 5 attachments have arrived with Conflict at the Carrock. I’ll begin progressively. Dúnedain Warning gives us the important adjusting of Defense. Same as Dúnedain Mark, you can move this Signal among your heroes, how you currently need it. And because I see Defense as a more valuable stat than Attack, I evaluate the appearance of Dúnedain Warning only in a positive meaning. Born Aloft from Tactic sphere hasn’t… amazed me. Though I understand its benefits, too few allies can profit from being returned back to hands. Only Gandalf wouldn’t agree with me. Nor am I a Stranger goes in a different way – it competes for the most useless cards created in LOTR LCG. Gaining Rohan trait by itself won’t bring you any benefit. Only cards specialized in Rohan synergy will improve Rohan characters in some way. But if I need more Rohan, I get more Rohan – not substitutes for Rohan. On the other hand, A Burning Brand arises like the ultimate attachment and true help in combats. Canceling shadow effects can’t be just overlooked or ignored. It must be the part of your Lore decks because it significantly affects combats. More precisely, you decide which enemy won’t be boosted by shadow effects. What a weapon! Neutral sphere gives us another Song, Song of Wisdom. It is my most used Song ever because the scarce of Lore resources often persuade me to include it to my dual- and tri-sphere decks with present Lore cards.
The attachments offer us interesting variability. You may boost Defense, cancel shadow effects, return allies back to your hands or adjust the resource icon. You can also adjust the trait, but in this case, I don’t see it very much beneficial. I’m generally satisfied with the attachment selection.
Conflict at the Carrock still doesn’t mean great freedom in deckbuilding. At best you throw away 1-2 kind of cards, but about deckbuilding can’t be talked. However, it is at least clearer, which way did particular sphere start out.
I feel embarrassed that the new adventure pack didn’t come with many useful cards. Allies disappoint us completely, the only event disappoints us as well, just among attachments we can search some hidden jewels. For me, A Burning Brand is the TOP CARD. Permanent canceling shadow effects moves other good Lore cards on a siding. With a good defender, you can do miracles.
But among attachments we, unfortunately, find the SHEEP CARD – Nor am I a Stranger wins the category quite without difficulty (even though Beorning Beekeeper and Longbeard Map-Maker could also reach that). Maybe I don’t understand this card fully and I haven’t given it a chance in Rohan decks. To be honest, I have no motivation for doing that. For me, such a weak card would easily win over the previous SHEEP CARD, Bilbo Baggins, who at least can do something well.
I almost forgot about the hero of Conflict at the Carrock, Frodo Baggins. Without the existence of A Burning Brand, I would knight Frodo as the TOP CARD. Though his style of playing won’t sit to everyone, in a well-built deck the troubles with defending partially stop to bother you. You just have to deal with acceleration of threat.
I was thinking deeply about the MOST ENRICHED SPHERE. I haven’t considered the Spirit sphere or Tactic sphere, because both spheres don’t bring us something valuable or useful, at best (in the worst case, it damages the reputation of these spheres). Leadership sphere has a good Dúnedain Warning, but it’s too few – bad Second Breakfast made a balance. The same is valid for the Lore sphere, even though I have great temptation to point at the Lore sphere as the MOST ENRICHED SPHERE. The unsympathetic Longbeard Map-Maker just prevents me from saying that, because as a whole Lore sphere has the average profit (one ultimate card and one foolish card). So the only sphere, which remains, is the Neutral sphere. Song of Wisdom is a good card – and the only card in this given sphere. It deserves it also because Neutral sphere consists of just 2 cards – Gandalf and Song of Kings. And Song of Wisdom fills its thin rows by own and good quality.
If you search for reasonable allies – skip this pack. If you search for reasonable events – skip this pack. If you search for a reasonable hero – consider this pack. And if you search a Burning Brand – buy this pack immediately.
A BURNING BRAND
NOR AM I A STRANGER
MOST ENRICHED SPHERE
NEUTRAL (SONG OF WISDOM)