Passage through Mirkwood: There and Back again

“The Greenwood is sick Gandalf!  A darkness has fallen over it. Nothing grows anymore – at least nothing good.”

Welcome to the fourth ‘There & Back Again’ article in my progression series for the solo player, and this time I’m actually playing through a quest! I have a HUGE fondness for this quest as it is naturally the first one that I played through and the quest that started my love of this terrific game. I can also beat it!

I’m going to have 4 goes at each Quest (more if I have the time), tweaking my deck each time and if I succeed at the quest then I’ll add in the Stronghold. For each quest, I’ll then list my favourite deck.

I know that this is a very easy quest, so to give it a little punch, I made tweaks to 2 cards in the Encounter deck:

Chieftain Uftak (Dol Guldur Orcs): Becomes Unique.

(So he’s not affected by my wounding non-unique enemies rule and so he can be used when I play the quest with my ‘Dol Guldur’ Stronghold.)

Ungoliant’s Spawn (Spiders of Mirkwood): Becomes Unique.

(Again, so it’s not affected by my wounding non-unique enemies rule as befits a ‘boss’ enemy.)

My first deck was a Spirit/Leadership that fully embraced Rohan cards with Eowyn, Dunhere and Theodred and a huge army of allies. Starting attachments were Song of Kings on Eowyn, Song of Battle on Dunhere (there are NO good Spirit attachments in the available card pool and I had put in 2 Horseback Archer Tactics allies), and Dunedain Mark on Theodred. For the fun of it, I used Edoras as a Haven (thinking I could also put Gleowine in my deck and use the Haven resources to pay for him. My starting Threat (including Edoras) was 27.

The haven used in this first and second attempt

I had a very reasonable first hand that included Agent of Rohan which is my ‘thematic’ reimagining of Steward of Gondor that attaches to a Rohan Hero instead (and gives 2 extra resources), so I didn’t Mulligan.

My first attempt was an absolute breeze with plenty of resources (even though Eowyn got Caught in a Web) and a load of playable allies that simply rode through Mirkwood. It also helped that I got to travel down ‘Beorn’s Path’ for Quest 3b and played We Do Not Sleep to get 18 Willpower for questing to escape Mirkwood on Turn 7.

For my second attempt, I retained the same deck and all the same Rohan heroes, and added Dol Guldur as a Stronghold. It was a slightly tougher affair this time around, although still not a killer. My ‘power’ cards remained in the deck, but the encounter deck was also much more lenient. I took the wrong turn in Mirkwood and had to kill Ungoliant’s Spawn to win but fortunately it had just hit the table and after it killed a few allies, Gandalf showed up and squished it! We then had to take out Chieftain Uftak as he was a ‘boss’ created by the Dol Guldur Stronghold, but that didn’t prove too much of a problem as I had a lot of Rohan allies.

The Stronghold for this quest

For variety, I totally changed my deck and had Legolas and Glorfindel join up with Beravor for a Tactics/Lore deck this time. For starting attachments I put Blade of Gondolin on Legolas as my questing power was now lower, Song of Kings on Beravor and Song of Travel on Glorfindel. Having the Songs made sure that I could have really thematic cards from all 4 Spheres. Since I have Legolas, I can test my ‘Ranged’ mod for solo play and also use Rivendell as my Haven, although this meant my starting Threat is 34! I didn’t use the Dol Guldur stronghold.

Second Haven used

The game went really smoothly. Rivendell was useful as a Haven (and which enabled me to get Gildor Inglorion out first turn using all the resources on it, but I paid a few back from Legolas as the game went on which enabled me to play a Rivendell Minstrel – nicely thematic) and the Ranged tweak that came in very handy, although to maintain theme, even though Legolas was armed with a Blade of Gondolin, I didn’t use either the +1 ATK or extra progress token if he made a Ranged attack. I managed to get the nice path again and successfully completed my quest, even though my final Threat was a high 45.

My last game kept the same deck, but added back in Dol Guldur.  Again it went smoothly, although after the joy of pulling Henamarth Riversong in my opening hand I then scryed for Necromancer’s Reach which then promptly killed him! I went down the wrong path again so ended up having to face off with both Ungoliant’s Spawn and Chieftain Uftak on the last quest card (both of which were slightly enhanced by Dol Guldur as a Stronghold). Fortunately I had just played The Galadhrim’s Greeting so I kept my Threat low and could optionally engage them one at a time. Not one sign of Gandalf in that game either!

Both decks that I played were highly enjoyable and thematic. I don’t think I’ve ever played ‘true’ Rohan before however and so some cards I included in the deck I don’t think have ever seen play before, but it was a really thematic experience of the horses riding through Mirkwood, so this is the one I’ll share:

Rohan Decklist:

Favourite card combo: A regular feature that I want to include in these articles is card combos that I have discovered whilst playing through the quests. They might not be the most powerful ever found but they are new to me and were fun to discover. The first is from the Leadership Sphere:

Snowbourn Scout and Rear Guard:  Great value for a combined 2 Cost to get a both a Progress token on any Location plus up to 3 Willpower for your quest this turn.

A Hero’s story: Another regular feature discussing the possible ‘story’ behind the abilities given to Hero cards by the game designers, particularly those designed by FFG for the game. The first is one of my favourites:

Beravor: I see her ability to draw 2 cards for any player as an indication of her resourcefulness and her ability as a Ranger of the North to turn her hand to almost any skill, be it explorer, diplomat, scout or warrior. She also might have some old friends to call on or have the quick-wits to come up with helpful ideas.

Overall this was a great start to my adventures where I got to test my Story Mode rules, use 2 of the 3 Havens and my Stronghold card. All seemed to work well, add to the theme of the game (particularly the Dol Guldur Stronghold), and not be over-powered. ‘Passage Through Mirkwood’ was a fun, easy quest to start my adventures through Middle-earth. It was a good adventure to include in the Core Set so that players could find their feet.

Next time my journey continues along the Anduin River and I can see something big standing in the way…

‘The Road Goes Ever On…’

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