Intro to the Mirkwood cycle

“A shadow has fallen over the Greenwood. ‘Mirkwood’ now men call it…”

Welcome to the third ‘There & Back Again’ article in my progression series for the solo player.

This time I’m going to be giving details of the tweaks I’ve used on the Player cards in the Core Set and ‘Shadows of Mirkwood’ cycle to make them a bit more solo friendly, as well as the reasons for those decisions, plus the card texts on my first Haven and Stronghold cards. The tweaks on Encounter cards I’ll leave until I reach the quests that use them.

I should say again that I made a rule NOT to design any Dream cards. The card pool as it stands is HUGE so doesn’t need any of my efforts. My ONLY exceptions to this are Havens and Strongholds which represent a different card-type, much like Side Quests were when they started in ‘The Lost Realm’.

I also want to avoid rewording cards as far as possible as I don’t want to consult endless lists of tweaks and changes. The changes here are either because the card as it stands does nothing for the solo player (which I feel is wrong) or is unbalanced for the solo player. I’m going to keep my tweaks to a real minimum though!

Core Set Cards

Steward of Gondor: Attach to a Gondor Hero.

(Originally a terrible example of poor theme for such a staple card in the Core set, this tweak makes it a bit less universal. If you want different versions of the card for themed Noldor, Dunedain, Silvan or Rohan decks then look here:

Wandering Took: Forced: When Wandering Took enters play, raise your threat by 1. Action: At the end of a round, shuffle Wandering Took back into your draw deck and reduce your threat by 3.

(The rationale is that the little fellow draws some attention when he’s about and it’s quieter when he’s gone.)

Only 2 Player card tweaks in the whole Core Set – lovely! So now we come to:

Shadow of Mirkwood Cycle Cards

Bilbo Baggins: Threat 7

(As much as I am thrilled to use Bilbo in quests, and with a great ability for solo play too, I still can’t see how his threat is SO high. I can only think that back in the early life of the game designers thought that the extra card draw was so powerful, they ramped the threat up accordingly. But even now with a load of available Heroes we have never seen this kind of inflation again)

Campfire Tales: Each player draws a card. If the number of allies controlled by a player is greater than 3, that player draws 2 cards.

(Another card that is useless in solo play, so I figured that when telling stories, a bigger audience is better)

Burning Brand: Attach to a Character. Restricted. Exhaust Burning Brand to cancel a Shadow attack just triggered during attack in which attached character is defending

(This is the new ‘errata’ version of the card that is causing a bit of a stir at the moment but which I quite like as it’s more thematic, can be attached to non-Lore characters and is less open to abuse).

Born Aloft/ To the Eyrie/ Meneldor’s Flight: All gain the keyword ‘Eagle

(Seems strange that this was not added to the cards since they clearly have this theme)

Brand, Son of Bain: After Brand, son of Bain attacks and damages an enemy with a Ranged attack, choose and ready another Hero you control.

(This means his ability is useful in solo play)

Gildor’s Counsel: Remove the (to a minimum of 1)

(Now useful in solo play as a ‘camp down’ card and befits the high cost of the card. This change was also made for the Designer challenge for A Shadow of the Past.)


Let’s now discuss Havens and Strongholds and how I see their development in my solo adventures. For clarification on how these cards work, see the previous article.

I’m going to develop these as if they were included in the release of the game at the time and also try to be as thematic as possible using some foresight in how some of the various trait mechanics, such as Silvan or Noldor, were developed. There will be 3 Havens and 1 Stronghold available to me from the Core Set/Mirkwood cycle and I’ll design more of them as I move onto new cycles of quests.

In deciding upon the initial Havens, I looked at ‘Thranduil’s Halls’ and ‘Lothlorien’, as these both tie into the themes of the Quests included in the Core Set. But there were so few Silvan or Noldor heroes available then that those Havens really weren’t going to be used much. Looking at the initial existing Hero pool, the most common Trait was Noble, with 11 of the 18 Heroes possessing it, then Dwarf (with 4) and Gondor (also with 4) and Rohan (with 3 all in the Core set).

With this in mind, I used Noble, Dwarf and Rohan as inspiration to create the 3 Havens of ‘Rivendell’, ‘Erebor’ and ‘Edoras’. I could have done Minas Tirith but I’ll save that for ‘Heirs of Numenor’ and besides which, there are Rohan allies in the ‘Mirkwood’ cycle, but not a single Gondor one. And Rohan is closer than Gondor, so are more likely to send heroes delivering messages for Thranduil!

Another issue that is partly addressed by including Havens is that resources there can be spent on cards from any Sphere that have the shared Trait. This gives a bit of resource ‘smoothing’ which would have been very important in the early life of the game where the card pool is small so trying to build a thematic deck would have been difficult. For example, the only Silvan Hero available was Legolas, a Tactics Hero. But the Silvan allies available were Henamarth Riversong (Lore), Silverlode Archer (Leadership), Lorien Guide (Spirit) and Daughter of Nimrodel (Lore). By using Haven resources these Allies can enter play and we get around this problem.

So here’s my text for the Havens:

Rivendell                           Resources: 5.   Threat: 3.
Set Up: 2 Noldor or Noble Heroes OR Elrond    
Resources: Noldor player cards.  
Actions: Spend 1 resource here and exhaust Elrond or 2 Noldor allies to either: Add the WPR or ATK or DEF of an ally you exhausted to a hero until the end of round OR look at the top card of your deck or the encounter deck.    

(Of course, Rivendell had to be the first, almost automatic, Haven to be included and I have used the Noble Trait to power it alongside Noldor, as Elrond would welcome those of dignity into the Last Homely House, so this means that you can have a wide variety of Heroes and still use Rivendell. It also has a big resource boost at the start of the game but also a high Threat increase.)

Erebor                Resources: 3.     Threat: 2
Set Up: All Heroes must have the Dwarf trait.
Silvan traited cards +1 Cost.
Resources: Dwarf player cards.
Actions: Spend 1 resource here and exhaust 2 Dwarf allies to either: Take any Item attachment from your discard pile into your hand OR ready a Dwarf Hero you control OR draw a card.

(Trying to reflect the suspicious nature of dwarves, all your Heroes have to be Dwarf and you take a hit if you try to play Silvan cards. Erebor is good for rallying, getting those lovely items back, or just a card draw engine.)

Edoras                    Resources: 3.     Threat: 2
Set Up: 2 Rohan Heroes OR Theoden.                  
Resources: Rohan player cards.
Actions: Spend 1 resource here and exhaust 2 Rohan allies or Theoden to either: Search the top 4 cards of your draw deck and take any 1 Mount or 1 Rohan ally into your hand OR draw a card.

(Edoras is the first Haven for Men and can help in getting their beloved Mounts in play or drawing cards.)


Choosing the first Stronghold was no choice at all as it featured heavily in the quests of the Core Set:

Dol Guldur                        Danger: 2.           Threat: -3.    
Set Up: Remove a unique Dol Guldur enemy from the encounter deck. When you reveal the final Quest card, place the enemy in the staging area. The Quest cannot be completed unless the enemy is defeated. For each Quest card completed, Spider and Dol Guldur Enemies are +1 Threat and -1 Engagement cost.      

(Dol Guldur as a Stronghold gives a final ‘boss’ enemy fight plus some enhancement to Dol Guldur enemies.)

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my new rules. Any comments on them would be gratefully appreciated!

Next time I’ll be strapping on my adventure boots, sharing my deck-list and letting everyone know how I get on as I explore a ‘Passage through Mirkwood’

‘The Road Goes Ever On…’

2 thoughts on “Intro to the Mirkwood cycle

    1. Thanks for the kind words – you’re very welcome. Hope you try them out too and keep in touch how they work for you. More to be developed with each cycle.


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