The Hunt for Gollum: There and Back Again

“The wood was full of the rumour of him, dreadful tales even among beasts and birds. The Woodmen said that there was some new terror abroad, a ghost that drank blood.”

Welcome to the latest article of this series for the solo player with theme very much in mind and my new Story Mode rules turned on. We’ve completed the quests from the Core Set so now we’re embarking on the first set of individual Adventure packs first released in 2012 – the ‘Shadows of Mirkwood’ cycle.

Since I’ve already been using the player cards from this cycle in my games, they won’t be anything new. Although I have to again say that using ALL the player cards from a cycle at the START of a cycle (is this called ‘Pool’ Progression?) is much more satisfying than trying it  in ‘true Progression’ as you appreciate the themes and combos the designers were trying to achieve. It is nice to see a new Encounter deck and cards added to the game however, and I don’t think I need (unlike a later quest in this cycle…) to tweak it at all. 

Favourite Player card: From this adventure pack it has to be our first Eagle ally – Winged Guardian. He’s a great defender, costs only 2 resources and has lovely art. What’s not to like?

Trying to really keep to theme, it was Aragorn that Gandalf sent on this quest so I reasoned that Legolas and Beravor would be his companions. So it was another tri-Sphere deck with Aragorn (my first time using this very tough and important Hero), Legolas and Beravor, and with starting attachments of Song of Wisdom, Blade of Gondolin and Song of Travel respectively. I didn’t use a Haven so my starting Threat was 31 and the Dol Guldur Stronghold wouldn’t fit in this quest. I’m also trying to stick to theme, so since I’ve included Leadership cards in my deck I’m using a re-theme of Steward of Gondor that attaches to either a (Leadership or Noble) Dunedain Hero and is called Agent of the North. Look here for other versions of these cards:

First time out and after 3 turns I had 3 Hunters of Mordor on the table, a Sign of Gollum (that increased their Attack) and no allies. Needless to say I didn’t last long! Second time out was very similar although I lasted a little longer and tweaked my deck a little which seemed to do the trick as the third time was successful.

I have to say though that his is a fairly easy quest – almost as easy as ‘Passage Through Mirkwood’. The only things to watch out for were a few nasty Treachery cards, the new Hunters of Mordor enemy and lots of locations – so a good questing ability was vital as was getting rid of all the Locations in the staging area – so it was very handy when another Dunedain showed up and the Northern Tracker made short work of them.  

Beravor and Legolas continue to be great Heroes but Aragorn is really good too and fills a multitude of roles. I put my usual staple Spirit cards in my deck too of course. No surprises what they are…

Favourite card combo: Celebrian’s Stone is just terrific on Aragorn and boosts his questing to Eowyn standard. Gaining a Spirit resource icon for Aragorn in solo play is not to be overlooked either.

A Hero’s Story – Bilbo: We all, of course, know Bilbo’s story! But why did the game designers decide that his ability should be drawing an extra card? I believe that it is because this version of Bilbo is ‘Uncle Bilbo’ that tells stories to the younger Hobbits about his adventures – after ‘The Hobbit’, but before ‘Fellowship of the Ring’. This makes sense as this is the time period when the game is supposed to be set. It also accounts for his inflated Threat too. He’s travelled a bit, knows a few things and might just have an old friend he can count on, but has drawn the attention of Sauron. Unfortunately in game terms, this inflated Threat of 9 means that as a Hero, this version of Bilbo has serious problems and won’t see much play (and is why I reduced it to 7 – see Introduction to the Mirkwood Cycle). The recently-released ‘Mount Gundabad’ Bilbo, although having the same Threat and Stats, has an ability that is SO much better. 

I thoroughly enjoyed playing through this quest, the first time I had done so in years. It always surprises me how much the game can be so incredibly rich in theme and the artwork on the various cards is lovely – particularly some of the River Location cards. With 1 quest down I’m not any closer to catching that elusive Gollum though. Can you smell troll??

 “The Road Goes Ever On…”

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