“So the Company went on their long way, down the wide hurrying waters, borne ever southwards.”
After the gentleness of ‘Passage Through Mirkwood’, this adventure is a big step upwards in terms of difficulty. I think it was a good idea of the game designers to put this one into the Core set as it teaches a player some elements of deck design and the fact that sometimes you have to tune a deck to overcome certain obstacles – and here it was, of course, the Hill Troll.
The card is not only strong in terms of Attack/Defense but is well designed (albeit unfairly and unthematically) so that you can’t just throw a hapless 1 cost ally to the Troll whilst the rest of your heroes jump on it unless you want your Threat to rocket upwards. In addition, the Troll’s engagement threat at 30 is so low that many groups of heroes have to deal with it off the bat, and haven’t got time to build a group of allies or cards to help. The alternative is to use lower threat heroes who often are weaker. So you can see the problems and have to find a solution by tuning your deck to accommodate it or die fairly quickly. There are also several ways to overcome the troll, the favourite being Forest Snare, so it forces decisions to be made. Different spheres can handle it differently too which, when you start to explore them, shows their strengths and weaknesses. Very clever!
I’m in a bit of a better position than a new player with just the Core set as I have the ‘Shadows of Mirkwood’ Cycle player cards in the card pool, but it still took thought.
For theme and continuity, I can’t really return to my Rohan deck as a journey down the river seems odd if we have all the Rohirrim on their horses, so I have kept my most recent team of Legolas, Glorfindel and Beravor. Since their starting Threat is 31 however – which means ‘instant Troll time’ – I have also added the Dol Guldur Stronghold. This means that the starting Threat is now 28 and is still thematically appropriate as the ‘Dol Guldur Orcs’ encounter set is in this quest. I certainly can’t include Rivendell (with a raised Threat of 3) this time and I did tweak my deck, most importantly to include some Forest Snare cards for that lovely Troll. For Starting Attachments I put Song of Wisdom on Legolas, Song of Kings on Beravor and Song of Travel on Glorfindel. Having the Songs made sure I could make the most of my resources have thematic cards from all 4 Spheres.
I had a great opening hand including cards to take out the Troll like Feint and Forest Snare, plus Unexpected Courage and Galadhrim’s Greeting too. I managed to dispatch the Troll but not having this played this quest in a while, forgot the nasty effect of the next Quest card that pushes out more encounter cards each turn. Unless you have huge questing power you are soon overwhelmed by cards and your Threat maxes out.
My next attempt kept the same starting Heroes and Attachments and was an absolutely epic game that I won by the skin of my teeth with a massive battle at the end of the game – including a second Hill Troll just at the wrong moment and a nasty Shadow effect on a Dol Guldur Beastmaster that robbed Beravor of her Defense and killed her in the round before we managed to take all the enemies down. The deck-list for this is shown below.
My third attempt on the quest saw me try a Spirit/Lore deck with a splash of Tactics too (my favourite type at the moment) as Threat reduction and questing are so important early on, and then I need a Forest Snare for that lovely Troll! So my Heroes were Eowyn, Dunhere (he’s riding on the shoreline…) and Beravor (my absolute favourite Hero from Core – she’s SO useful) for a starting Threat of 27. My starting Attachments were Song of Battle for Dunhere, Song of Travel for Beravor and Song of Wisdom for Eowyn. I’m only eligible to use Edoras as my Haven but due to the fact I need to keep my threat low, I didn’t think having a raised threat of 2 would be a good idea… I didn’t play the Dol Guldur Stronghold this time, which will make the last quest card a bit easier.
I managed to get Galadhrim’s Greeting out on the first round, reduced my Threat and so could slowly build up some allies. No sign of any Forest Snare, so I handled the Troll with a Feint and Gandalf. The rest of the quest went smoothly, but I got trapped on the boat and didn’t quite complete the stage in one go as I had planned with a Rohan push. Unfortunately, a poorly timed Necromancer’s Reach killed off Eowyn and then with a lack of resources, Locations built up in the staging area that I just couldn’t clear and my Threat maxed out. It was SO close, just a bad draw from the encounter deck at just the wrong time.
My final attempt kept the same deck as before with no changes at all. I had to have a number of attempts that usually failed at the last minute with a bad Treachery card (usually Necromancer’s Reach or Evil Storm wiping out allies at the wrong time), a massing of enemies (including another Hill Troll or the Marsh Adder), or loads of Locations. However, I did eventually beat the quest quite comfortably. And did I feel good!!
Favourite card: Not a combo this time but from the Leadership Sphere again and just the sheer value of Ever Vigilant when you have high-cost allies like Gildor Inglorion or Gandalf who can then multi-task for a round.
A Hero’s story – Eleanor: Another FFG original from the Core Set and a noble-woman of Gondor. I believe that her ability to cancel Treachery cards comes from her knowledge of the land and peoples. She is carrying a scroll and stands upon some battlements, so perhaps she is part of a noble family defending Gondor from Sauron?
I really enjoyed the storyline the quest presented and I think the quest cards did a god job of keeping the theme with the boat ride along the river as enemies pursue you along the banks, massing to attack. This is definitely a quest that you need to tune your deck to beat I think – threat management, good questing power and a way to beat the troll all have to be included.
So 2 quests down, and my heroes have reached Lorien. Talking with the Lady Galadriel, she wants us to take a look at the fell Hill of Sorcery – Dol Guldur. I can’t help thinking that things might take a turn for the worse…
“The Road Goes Ever On…”