After regaining his trail in the hills of Emyn Muil, the heroes have tracked Gollum to The Dead Marshes, into which he has fled in a last ditch effort to avoid pursuit. Feeling that the hunt is coming to a close, the heroes enter the treacherous marshlands, ready to capture the creature alive.
Tired by the long march through the various locations from The Hills of Emyn Muil you enter an absolutely different environment – The Dead Marshes. Here you smell the scent of Gollum, whose distance from you was rapidly reduced, but you have to pay attention. Even though Gollum is within reach, he can vanish in these marshes as suddenly as you spot him. Your vigilance will be tested by the Escape tests. If you succeed, Gollum will finally fall into your hands. But if you fail… you may search for Gollum in these marshes forever, slowly dying by exhaustion and haunted by the thought that you fail just before the goal.
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.
We just put up with the presence of Tactic hero Brand son of Bain, but we are still staying in the Tactics sphere. Like it wouldn’t be enough, The Dead Marshes brings another Tactics hero. Who else should supplement our ranks of mighty Middle-earth’s heroes than one of the Fellowship member? Welcome Boromir among us!
Boromir, son of Denethor, has a quite high 11 starting threat – same as Gimli. We then should expect quality stats and/or quality ability. Obviously, Boromir won’t fulfill the role of quester – he has only 1 Willpower and his ability doesn’t concern the questing. As the experienced Warrior, 3 Attack is a very good, but not surprising stat. Boromir, in short, is able to deal hard damage, as a true fearless hero. And what about his Defense quality? Not bad at all – 2 Defense is standardly good amount of Defense against the average enemies. In reserve, he owns 5 Hit Points that protects him from death. He belongs to the few heroes, which can survive the non-boosted attack of Hill Troll. And if you still doubt about his qualities, don’t overlook his trait Gondor, which will be developed in the relatively near future.
!SPOILER! However, with Leadership Boromir arrival, Tactics Boromir will be moved to the side line.
What makes Boromir very special hero are his 2 Actions. Yes, you hear well – Boromir controls 2 Actions, where each of them is independent on each other. I’ll start with the first Action. With this first action, you can ready Boromir at the cost of raising your threat by 1. And I immediately add the errata text: it’s limited once per phase. Repetitive readying of Boromir for raising just 1 threat is really powerful action – probably one of the strongest we have seen so far. Imagine the situation, where Boromir gives away the death and destruction among enemies. With attached Dúnedain Mark, Blade of Gondolin and other Attack-adjusting attachments you gain the merciless killing machine, in some way more deadly than boosted Gimli, because Boromir can ready himself, whereas Gimli would have to rely on the presence of Unexpected Courage. No wonder that he has been errata’ed. The balance of the game could be seriously weakened.
You surely feel that Boromir needs special support, or your threat will grow up really quickly, especially if you begin with overall high starting threat. The basic support appears perhaps in every deck, no matter what you have built: Gandalf. Reducing the threat by 5 is always welcomed. But you can build a more specific strategy around this hero. And who is a better specialist in reducing threat than the Spirit sphere? Exactly – in order to avoid too fast increasing threat, the Spirit sphere may offer you a good supportive card: The Galadhrim’s Greeting. With it, you needn’t hesitate to use Boromir’s first ability – reducing 6 threat is a perfect help. And of course, there are other Spirit cards in future, which reduce the threat, so Boromir can make a combo with them.
There is also the second Action, which is used far less often than the first Action. Maybe you don’t use that Action at all. Boromir is able to deal 2 damage to every enemy engaged with the chosen player (you are allowed to choose yourself). It costs Boromir’s life. I estimate that in 99 % you don’t ever use this ability. An ability, which needs the sacrifice of your hero, is just too expensive and I can’t imagine the situation, in which this ability could help you. Thematically, it makes sense – didn’t Boromir sacrifice to save the two hobbits, Pippin and Merry? But in a game, you deal 2 damage to every enemy (which probably will survive, if they are not on the edge of death) and then move Boromir to discard pile, where he can be saved only by Fortune or Fate. Don’t think about Landroval, he cannot save “discarded” character, only “destroyed” character. Discarding the hero is so significant negative milestone in the game that you should protect your hero by any means, not sacrifice him voluntarily and so get rid of the strong warrior. You don’t want to lose your game voluntarily, don’t you?
I can’t remember the game, where I include Boromir to my deck. Maybe it’s just because of my fear of too much increasing threat, which I couldn’t control. Or more probably, I fear of the ruined scoring (I measure my success by the classic LOTR LCG scoring). I am the weirdo in this case, but don’t look at me at this time. Boromir is a really good, strong and quality hero, able to attack more than once during the single-phase and you don’t need Unexpected Courage at all.
Just the second non-Core Leadership ally attempts to gain our attention, but all her stats cause only raised eyebrows. Questing for 1 Willpower, attacking for 1 Attack and defending for 1 Defense and 2 Hit Points – these are stats of 2 cost ally. But Dúnedain Watcher costs 3. A tiny help in any effort for 3 cost? That’s not good. Note that Erebor Hammersmith has almost same stats (with additional 1 point in Hit Points) and you will pay for him just 2 resources. Don’t understand it that I’m a scrooge. After all, the Leadership sphere has the least problem with resources. Still… 1 Willpower for 3 resources? 1 Attack for 3 resources? 1 Defense and 2 Hit Points for 3 resources? Nothing from that worth for it.
We should move to Dúnedain Watcher’s ability because the analysis would be very brief. When you reveal some really bad shadow card, this ally can help you a lot. She has a Response, which causes cancellation of the revealed shadow effect. Precisely like the master in this discipline, Hasty Stroke from the Spirit sphere. Other than the fact that you have to discard Dúnedain Watcher for that action. Unfortunately, you read and heard well – you actually throw away 3 resources for the single usage of this ability. This part reminds now Beorning Beekeeper. Here I consider discarding for inappropriate cost, considering his 3 cost and bad stats.
The appearance of Dúnedain Watcher in The Dead Marshes isn’t clear for me too much. This adventure pack lacks any new shadow cards, so we can meet shadow cards only from Sauron’s Reach and Wilderlands. And there you won’t find any crucial shadow effect, which would be able to ruin your game. If this ally would come in A Journey to Rhosgobel, where you suffer from shadow effects like Exhaustion, Festering Wounds or Swarming Insects, then her benefit would be greater. In The Dead Marshes, Dúnedain Watcher is coming “after the battle”. Of course, in the non-progression style of playing, enjoy her ability in any pre-The Dead Marshes scenarios with many troublesome shadow cards.
I appreciate much that Leadership sphere tries to be independent on the presence of other spheres. A Test of Will is replaced for Dúnedain Watcher. Lórien’s Wealth reminds Campfire Tales or Valiant Sacrifice. And combat attachments and events from Tactic sphere are represented in the Leadership sphere by For Gondor!. Leadership sphere wants to be independent – but results are sometimes only poor imitations of true masters in the field. To be honest, there are not many reasons, why to leave the free place for Dúnedain Watcher in your deck. Except for the desired effect, which prevents shadow cards to surprise you in the unsuitable moment, she doesn’t help significantly in any effort. And that’s exactly what we should expect from the ally with 3 cost.
After the short pause, we are returning back to “Dúnedain attachments”. Though Dúnedain Cache lacks Signal trait (it’s just Item), I still consider it for the “member of Dúnedain family”. The question is: what else can Dúnedain Cache adjust when all types of stats (excluding Hit Points) were already adjusted by previous “Dúnedain attachments”? Prepare for adding keywords – in this case, Ranged. It will cost you 2 resources.
Like each of previous “Dúnedain attachments”, Dúnedain Cache can be attached only to a hero and you may use its Action, which enables you to move it from attached hero to another. You also must pay 1 resource from the attached hero’s pool. It brings the desired versatility. When one hero stops to be the suitable target for coveted adjustment, you just “promote” another hero of any player. It’s a simple, but effective magic of “Dúnedain attachments”.
Ranged – when you see this keyword printed on character, it gladdens your heart. Dealing damage over the whole battlefield brings you an indisputable advantage against the enemies. Because of that, Legolas, Brand son of Bain or Haldir of Lórien are desired helpers at your side. They may attack during your Combat phase, just as during the Combat phase of other players, where it is called participating. It’s an elegant way, how to bypass the general rule “attack the same enemy only once each round” (see FAQ version 1.7, (1.11) Limitations on Attacks). In other words, you can legally attack the same enemy, which is engaged with another player, twice in a round – during your turn as well as during the turn of that player.
I will show you few suitable targets for attaching Dúnedain Cache. The first, which comes to my mind immediately, is Gimli. Having a high-tonnage slayer, which can spread the destruction everywhere, is simply brutal and effective. No one can hide before the terrifying axes of Gimli. Boosted Gimli can get rid of many enemies in a single round by just a single smash. Amazing vision! Another very interesting choice for Dúnedain Cache would be Aragorn, which additionally has Sentinel. Defend and attack everywhere? The possibilities with this combo are just unlimited, you have to admit. I would also proclaim Glorfindel, Prince Imrahil and Boromir as excellent targets for this attachment.
We have got another good “Dúnedain attachment”, which you may utilize in decks with the strong non-Ranged hero(es). Dealing damage wherever you want belongs to a great weapon and advantage in any scenario. The reason, why I don’t use this attachment very often, may hide in its cost, which isn’t exaggerated, but also it’s not for free (meaning for 1 cost). I just think that 1 cost would fit to Dúnedain Cache better.
Vassal of the Windlord
Fast like an arrow, light like a feather, elusive like wind and deadly like lightning bolt. What am I describing? The new Eagle ally with a name like for a nobleman, Vassal of the Windlord.
I cannot help myself, but when I’m looking at this card, I immediately recall the specific ability from Magic the Gathering (=MTG). I absolutely wouldn’t wonder, if designers draw inspiration from there. It’s called Haste and it describes the situation, when a creature comes to a play, make quick havoc and then leave the play. In MTG it belongs to a very useful keyword because unlike characters of LOTR LCG, creatures of MTG suffer the “summoning sickness” = they can’t be used in the same round when they were summoned. Haste bypasses this “sickness” and enables creatures to attack in the first round. Okay, why am I telling you this tale? Don’t worry, I’m not teaching you the rules of MTG. Creatures with Haste are cheap and simultaneously perfect attackers, who blow in like a fast storm and then quickly disappear (means, they are discarded). It precisely fits the description of Vassal of the Windlord. He costs just 1 resource, so you won’t have a problem to get him on the board at all. Stats are pretty indicative about his role – with no Willpower or Defense, 1 Hit Point and 3 Attack he is created for attacking and dealing damage. And finally, he has Forced effect, which commands you to discard him from play after resolving his attack. As I said… fly in, hit the target and fly out.
Let’s leave MTG aside and sing the hymn about this Eagle a little bit longer. We get into our hands the strongest attacker in proportion to the cost. 3 Attack for 1 cost? I borrow the words from the review of Escort from Edoras, where I was enthusing about 2 cost for 4 Willpower – “we haven’t seen such an advantageous exchange yet”. In the case of Vassal of the Windlord, it is doubly true. Who else could show off such strength for such cost? Until now, nobody could. 3 Attack is a good value, which commonly goes through the Defense of average enemies. To make matters more exciting, this Eagle controls Ranged keyword. Not only he can hit harshly, but he also can hit in any engagement area.
It’s a matter of course that there must exist some limitation, which could keep such “missile” back. The cost lies, like in the case of Winged Guardian, in one-off effect. You have to discard him immediately after you resolve his Attack. However, unlike Winged Guardian, you can’t save him by paying 1 resource. When he attacks, he will be gone. And there isn’t any chance to keep him “alive” (or better said “available”) for other attacks. Only cards, which are working with discard pile, like Stand and Fight, can return him to the new action.
!UPDATE! According to the update of rules, Vassal of the Windlord may be returned by the effect of Meneldor’s Flight, because “There is an action window after damage is applied and before the attack ends.” (source: https://community.fantasyflightgames.com/topic/296981-saving-the-eagles/)
About Vassal of the Windlord, I have to complain a bit – it’s a pity that he doesn’t appear earlier. We certainly utilize his great talent in previous adventures with problematic enemies, for example in Conflict at the Carrock or in A Journey to Rhosgobel. Otherwise, any Tactic deck shouldn’t be without this Eagle, and it doesn’t matter if you build or not Eagle deck. Keeping aside such cheap, strong and “omnipresent” attacker would be a bad sin. I assure you – you won’t find many such quality allies with the same cost and with such potential.
Song of Mocking
Song of Mocking belongs to the kind of cards, where during the first reading you don’t exactly know, what you should think about it. You spot the benefit of this card, but how to utilize it at the best?
If you want to include Song of Mocking to your deck, you have to customize a bit specific deck accordingly to it. And what does it do? For 1 cost you attach it to a hero, who gains new Action: “Exhaust Song of Mocking to choose another hero. Until the end of the phase, the attached hero takes all damage assigned to the chosen hero.” I would call its effect for “self-mutilating.” In short, the attached hero will have assigned damage instead of the chosen hero. The specific mechanism of this attachment urges you to protect the weakest. Truly, the damaging of such fragile heroes like Éowyn, Eleanor, Bilbo or Denethor (who is protected by 3 Defense, but behind it, you must pay attention to 3 Hit Points) won’t please you. The omnipresent treacheries like The Necromancer’s Reach, Evil Storm, from packs of Shadow of Mirkwood Swarming Insects, Exhaustion or Rockslide, force you to be in incessant attention. Tactic sphere doesn’t contain any healing card, or at least at this moment. But you have got into your hand the new option, how to resolve the dealing of potential damage to heroes, where you actually don’t need it.
Song of Mocking can’t hold any hero. Either he must have a good reserve of Hit Points, and/or must have a special ability, which turns the damage into something useful. To the first group, we generally can include every hero with 5 and more Hit Points – Aragorn, Boromir or Glorfindel. 5 Hit Points are enough for good survivability, so these heroes would hold such “burden”. Of course, they should be supported by healing effects at the best. However, I think that Song of Mocking is primarily created for these heroes: Gimli, Glóin and Frodo. Both Dwarves are quite a logic choice: each point of damage increases Attack of Gimli, while Glóin generates resources. And if you have few occasions to hit them in a common way, you may deal them damage through the effect of Song Mocking. Why I also mention Frodo, who has only 2 Hit Points and thus he seems very inappropriate for carrying Song of Mocking? Because he can transform damage to the threat and so in overall 2 characters can escape unhurt that phase. Just don’t forget that Frodo can’t be already hurt that phase, or he would get the full damage.
Well, we now know, who should be protected and who should be the target for this attachment. But we also need to know, WHEN the best time to use it is. Because Song of Mocking has an Action, we hardly can protect our heroes from treacheries, which deal damage suddenly and without warning due to “When revealed” effects. So if you don’t know, what next encounter card comes, or you don’t protect some hero preventively, Song of Mocking won’t help you. The real usage of this attachment awaits you, not surprisingly, in the Combat phase. If you were driven to the corner and you are forced to defend with someone inappropriate, then Song of Mocking may bail you out. Until the end of the Combat phase, the chosen hero is bravely protected by your champion with Song of Mocking. Just don’t underrate the proper calculations, or your brave hero can easily become a dead hero.
My personal experiences with this card are dismal, so I approach this review in a far more theoretic way. I haven’t dared to use this card in practice yet. For me the reason is obvious: I’ll rather defend directly with a proper hero than complicate things through the attachment, which I don’t actually need it. Here my explanation ends as same as my willingness to play this card.
If we remember Spirit allies as “light” characters with low cost and quite low stats (Wandering Took, Westfold Horse-Breaker, The Riddermark’s Finest) or with a quite high cost and low stats at the same time (Lórien’s Guide, Éomund), then next ally somehow breaks ranks. Elfhelm doesn’t belong to a weak person. On the contrary, this unique ally reminds a heavy warrior we would more likely look for in a military Tactic sphere than in a peaceful Spirit sphere.
And I consider it for a good step. Spheres should have been independent to some extent. Good warrior in the service of quest masters comes always handy; you at least don’t have to rely on the presence of warriors of other spheres and you may rely on the help from own sphere of influence. Truly, the stats of Elfhelm don’t indicate he is the part of Spirit sphere. How else can you explain 1 Willpower, 2 Attack, 2 Defense and 3 Hit Points? These stats copy another extraordinary ally from Core set, Northern Tracker, including 4 cost. Still, we have found out that thanks to his ability he is suitable for questing more than for attacking or defending, despite his stats. Stats weren’t much compatible with the ability, what I consider for the waste of talent.
But this isn’t the case of Elfhelm, thank God. You won’t be pressed to quest with him, because while he is ready, he gains the Response: “After your threat is raised as the result of questing unsuccessfully, or by an encounter or quest card effect, reduce your threat by 1.” He draws the strength from being ready – so if you commit him to a quest (though he hasn’t a good value of Willpower) and won’t ready him by some effect (for example by the new event We Do Not Sleep), then you forfeit the nice advantage. If he is ready, then you may reduce the currently raised threat by 1 during several occasions:
1) If you quest unsuccessfully. This is the most common occasion when you raise your threat. Bad calculations or unpredictable revealing of some bad encounter card can ruin your questing effort. You just mustn’t forget that even if you won’t raise threat at all (due to Elfhelm’s ability), the negative consequences arising from unsuccessfully questing are still valid and you must trigger the potential effects.
!SPOILER! Now I can remember on The Long Dark, where due to the unsuccessfully questing you have to trigger all “Lost” effects in play.
2) If you reveal encounter card with Doomed keyword. Good to know, that in non-progression mode, Cavern Guardian and Endless Caverns won’t raise your threat at all.
3) If Marsh Adder or Hill Troll attack you. Yes, Elfhelm’s ability influences even the ability of enemies, which force you to raise threat.
4) If treacheries are revealed and command you to raise threat. Elfhelm can at least slightly reduce the impact of such feared treacheries like A Frightened Beast and Pursued by Shadow.
5) If you have attached Gandalf’s Map. You shouldn’t forget that even objectives can be parts of encounter decks.
Probably, I didn’t mention all the occasions, which can occur, but it isn’t the main point. Elfhelm can influence the amount of increasing threat to some extent and he isn’t limited in this activity at all. Each single “raising-threat effect” may Elfhelm reduce by 1. And as the reward, you can utilize his attacking or defending potential during the Combat phase.
Though he belongs to the caste of Rohan characters, he doesn’t make synergy with many cards. It’s mainly because of that Elfhelm isn’t created for questing. The only suitable card with Rohan-synergy is Mustering the Rohirrim at this moment.
Elfhelm reminds the general, who awaits in the back lines, encouraging the morale of soldiers and prepared to intervene, if something is going wrong. He is the perfect commander and good Warrior, who would deserve to be promoted to a hero rank. Such high Attack and Defense values you don’t see in Spirit sphere very frequently. Be happy we have got such quality ally because you will search for the possible competitor with difficulties.
We Do Not Sleep
The dark picture with the army of mysterious riders reminds more some encounter card than Spirit event. Take a good look at the scenery on We Do Not Sleep. Most likely you won’t encounter this card in your decks too often, if at all.
It isn’t possible to overlook its high cost, which reaches the extraordinary value – 5. Fortune or Fate costs also 5 and it has a powerful effect, which revives one fallen hero from a discard pile. We Do Not Sleep causes the following: Rohan characters won’t exhaust during questing until the end of the phase. In practice, you play this card at the beginning of the Quest phase, so each Rohan character, which is committed to a quest, stays ready. It looks good and at the first sight powerful as well. Nobody would damn the effect, which would let characters ready for other actions. It’s something like Aragorn’s ability in a big performance.
Unfortunately, the beauty of We Do Not Sleep makes ugly two key issues: its terrible cost and the existence of Grim Resolve from the Leadership sphere. 5 cost for readying characters with a specific trait looks like a bad joke. Grim Resolve doesn’t target some concrete characters, it even doesn’t specify, when it has to be played. You can ready every character in a game and whenever you want. For that, I gladly spend 5 resources. But We Do Not Sleep isn’t nearly as versatile as the Leadership event. In comparison with Grim Resolve, We Do Not Sleep looks like a poor Spirit surrogate.
It doesn’t also help you that this event aims at Rohan characters, which excel in questing but lag behind in everything else. Well, “excel” is a little bit strong word in some cases, just remember on Théodred, Gléowine, Westfold Horse-Breaker or The Riddermark’s Finest. They are Rohans, which we consider mainly for questing characters (now I ignore their specific abilities), but they have only 1 Willpower. It doesn’t remind powerful and effective questers. In some cases, we can silently admire the high quality in questing abilities (Escort from Edoras, Éowyn). But most of these Rohan don’t show any significant fighting talent. If We Do Not Sleep prevents Rohan characters from exhausting, how else can you use them? Except for Théodred, all of the mentioned characters have 0-1 Attack, that’s not satisfying at all. And chump blocking with Rohans like Gléowine or The Riddermark’s Finest smells like wasting of good abilities, and resources as well. Only Elfhelm seems to be a good and suitable target for this event. I doubt about Éomund because 1 Attack and 1 Defense and 2 Hit Points don’t look too temptingly. By the way, Éomund’s ability is the exact copy of We Do Not Sleep with the difference, it’s just “side-effect”, and what is more important – it has only 3 cost.
Our newest event, which tries to use synergy with Rohan and tries to look like very powerfully, loses any meaning aside of cards like Grim Resolve or even Éomund. 5 cost is reprehensible value for such a specific effect. Ready Rohans mostly won’t help you in the Combat phase, because they don’t belong to good attackers or defenders. All these facts foreshadow, which player card from The Dead Marshes I consider for the biggest weakness.
Shadows of Mirkwood isn’t very rich on the presence of elves (in LOTR LCG they are called Silvan), but after Haldir of Lórien (and a couple of Silvan characters from Core set), Silvan Tracker approached to us very quietly, like a panther on the hunt.
If you want to play this new Lore ally, prepare for him 3 Lore resources. He rewards you with the following statistics: 1 Willpower, 1 Attack, 1 Defense and 3 Hit Points. We have seen the same stats earlier: in the form of Erebor Hammersmith. He just costs 1 resource less. It proves that Silvan Tracker is a bit expensive, while at Erebor Hammersmith we are still persuaded about his quality and extraordinary status among other similar allies.
But this analysis is not about Erebor Hammersmith. Silvan Tracker can do everything, but only very moderately. I would emphasize his 3 Hit Points protected by 1 Defense, which means Silvan Tracker doesn’t belong among easy prey for enemies – he normally survives one average attack at least. But even losing ally for 3 cost in 2-3 rounds isn’t very wise “resource management”, especially if he is the Lore character.
The ability of Silvan Tracker forces us to keep him alive as long as possible. His Response says, that if during the Refresh phase some Silvan character readies, you can heal 1 damage from that character. Note there is no limitation – nothing like “choose one Silvan”, “Silvan you control”, “once per game” etc. During each Refresh phase, every exhausted and then ready again Silvan of any player removes from himself 1 damage token. This effect impresses me pretty much. Instant healing, without spending resources or “discard/exhaust” cost is definitely something that pleases any player and it deserves your full attention. Well… if you have someone to heal. Core set offers overall 5 Silvan characters, but only 2 of them may become the target of Silvan Tracker. Others have just tiny 1 Hit Point, so they will die earlier before you can use Silvan Tracker’s ability on them. Legolas and Lórien Guide, which have more than 1 Hit Point, will hardly have some damage because nobody from them is born for defending. You would defend with them only in the case of the highest emergency, so the only possible source of damage should come from damaging treacheries.
Other Silvan characters could use the ability of Silvan Tracker. But there are too few Silvans in Shadow of Mirkwood, we have met just Haldir of Lórien and now Silvan Tracker himself.
!SPOILER! In the last adventure pack, we will encounter the third Silvan, Mirkwood Runner. However, I don’t consider him for the defending ally, so he hardly would have some damage, except damage coming from treacheries. And if you want to encounter some other Silvan characters, you must wait until a very distant cycle from Shadows of Mirkwood, The Ring-maker.
So to be more open to you: Silvan Tracker has an interesting ability, but you haven’t many characters, which you could target. Silvan characters have mainly 1 Hit Points, so they are absolutely unusable for Silvan Tracker’s ability. Because of that, I can’t recommend you to play this ally – you will probably get a “dead ability” into your game.
Inconspicuous but useful – by these two words could be Fast Hitch, the new 1-cost Lore attachment, described. It’s a while we met the last Lore attachment (A Burning Brand from Conflict at the Carrock), so the discovery of the new one comes in handy.
After exhausting Fast Hitch you can ready attached character. But that character must be Hobbit. So we encounter Hobbit-version of unbeatable Unexpected Courage. Players welcome any readying effect, but the important question is: who can be the proper target for Fast Hitch?
At this point, overall 4 Hobbits may be attached by Fast Hitch: from heroes, Frodo Baggins and Bilbo Baggins, from allies Wandering Took and Keen-eyed Took. Let’s firstly look at the Frodo: he owns 2 Willpower, 2 Defense with 2 Hit Points and a very useful ability, which absorbs extra damage and turns it into the threat. He is the best candidate for attaching Fast Hitch; he can quest, then defend some strong enemy, which otherwise would seriously hurt or kill some ally or even hero. This can be done in a just single round due to the effect of this Hobbit attachment. Not bad, what next? Bilbo has 2 Defense with 2 Hit Points – the highest stats he owns. To be honest, he is pretty weak, so attaching him by Fast Hitch doesn’t seem like a good idea at first sight. However, Bilbo is the Lore hero. Why do I mention such triviality? Because with the help of mighty A Burning Brand he may become a relatively reliable wall against enemy’s attack.
!SPOILER! Certainly, the best way, how to promote Bilbo to being a solid defender, lies in the enhancement of his defending stats. However, you have to wait until the Dwarrowdelf cycle, when The Long Dark brings the Tactic attachment called Ring Mail.
Now only Wandering Took and Keen-eyed Took remain. I think that both Hobbits shouldn’t keep Fast Hitch, because it’s a waste of good attachment. Their lives tend to last for the short time, so except them, Fast Hitch would travel into the discard pile as well. I rather attach the second (or third) Fast Hitch to the mentioned Hobbit heroes and utilize the absence of any limitation (unique symbol, one attachment per Hobbit, etc.).
I think that this quite short analysis summarizes obvious several advantages of Fast Hitch. It’s a very cheap (almost for free in the Lore environment) readying attachment for Hobbits and without any limitation. We know that Hobbits have generally modest stats, which don’t dazzle us. On the other hand, they have an exceptionally low starting threat and can surprise with strong abilities.
!SPOILER! Like Sam Gamgee, Merry or Pippin from The Black Riders, or already mentioned Frodo Baggins. All of them are suitable targets for Fast Hitch.
Song of Battle
Song of Battle 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 Glorfindel who belongs to the Lore sphere. Attach him Song of Battle and you may pay the Tactic cards from him as well. It’s like you gain another Tactic 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.
We have finally met the last Song attachment, which adds the new sphere resource icon to attached hero. When you inspect the Tactic cards from Shadow of Mirkwood, you have to admit that the number of resources influences the size of your army very significantly, perhaps more than in the Lore sphere. Events and attachments have almost symbolic cost, but the different song is regard to allies: Landroval, Descendant of Thorondor, Beorning Beekeeper, eventually Radagast, who on 99 % appears in Tactic deck. They all cost 4+ resources, that’s a huge amount, where even Horn of Gondor needn’t help you. You have to rely on the presence of Steward of Gondor OR include some Song of Battle into your deck, and thus make all 3 heroes able to pay with Tactic resources. From my point of view, when I run Tactic deck, where Tactic has a dominant role, I make it a monosphere Tactic deck. Thus 3 Tactic heroes exclude the option of including Song of Battle to a deck because its presence would be superfluous. And of course, 3 Tactic heroes in a game is a simpler and faster way to pay expensive Tactic cards, then wait on the drawing Song of Battle, respectively Rivendell Minstrel.
However, realize that I play in two-handed mode, so to a monosphere deck I add some support deck. Without it, I would hardly make a progress through the game, because it’s commonly known that Tactic sphere doesn’t abound with Willpower strength (and Legolas can’t do it all by himself). In solo, Song of Battle could find a place in your deck, but in multiplayer I recommend to make one pure Tactic deck.
After Brand son of Bain, Tactic sphere brings us immediately another Tactic hero (and not just any hero) – Boromir. His stats belong to the strongest we have seen yet. Only Aragorn, Gimli or Glorfindel could compete with him in the sense of pure stats-strength. You will surely appreciate his attacking (3) and defending (2+5) talent. For maximizing his strong points, he controls the useful readying ability, which allows you to ready him for increasing 1 threat in exchange. If you don’t care about final scoring, his ability brings you remarkable advantage toward the enemies. But you all players, who count final score and try to have as lowest score as possible, you need to arm with reducing-threat cards and use his ability only in the necessary cases. Boromir’s second ability offers may be grandiose, but needless leaving from play.
As usual, this adventure pack gives us a good variety of allies – about some you will speak highly, while others you will try to forget. Vassal of the Windlord belongs to the first group. I use him almost in every Tactic deck because there aren’t much 1-cost Tactic allies with such attacking talent (it would be fair to say that there aren’t much 1-cost Tactic allies in general). He is a one-time solution, just hit as hard as possible and then fly away. But certainly, you may time his attack at the moment you need it at most. Among the Spirit allies went someone like a captain – Elfhelm. Except for Northern Tracker, Elfhelm’s stats elude the common strength of common Spirit allies. It’s also confirmed by stats distributions – 1-2-2-3 seems like stats of Tactic ally than the Spirit one. Moreover, his ability draws the strength from “being ready” in order to decrease the eventually increasing threat by 1. So if you need some real warrior with nice utility within the Spirit deck, the unique Elfhelm serves you well.
The other two allies have a little bit “schizophrenic” nature – their abilities are undoubtedly useful, but their stats, cost and/or the practical usage play against them. And so we have to admit that Dúnedain Watcher cancels a shadow effect (like amazing A Test of Will), but his stats, terrible cost and the fact you must discard Dúnedain Watcher for using his ability, makes from him an expensive joke. The similar issue concerns Silvan Tracker, but in this case, his ability often hasn’t any suitable target for healing – many Silvan characters can show off only 1 Hit Point. In other words, he has nobody to heal.
If we consider that The Dead Marshes shows us only 1 new enemy Giant Marsh Worm (however, pretty tough), this adventure pack offers quite a strong set of allies. But the combat doesn’t belong to the main activity in The Dead Marshes. You should rather arm with allies, events, and attachments aiming for Willpower and boosting Willpower because of Escape tests. Unfortunately, the abilities and stats of allies don’t correspond with the scenario. However, you surely use them in other (previous or next) scenarios.
We Do Not Sleep, the only event of The Dead Marshes, has failed completely, thus we can’t say anything positive about events of this adventure pack. Judge for yourself – 5 cost for not exhausting of Rohan characters during questing. Rohan characters are generally known for making-progress abilities and the strength of Willpower than for anything else. In combat, they are usually unusable. So the effect of We Do Not Sleep seems pretty odd, but the requirement of 5 cost? That’s pure foolishness, if not impudence.
The Dead Marshes offers a quite rich choice of attachments, though we won’t find here anything super-strong. Only Dúnedain Cache and Fast Hitch withstand the severe criticism because the effects of these attachments are simple and practical simultaneously. However, I can imagine the deck without them; instead of Dúnedain Cache I would add some Ranged characters and Fast Hitch I would play only in a heavy Hobbit deck. And Hobbits are not my specialty.
Song of Mocking works only with specific heroes, who draw the strength from being damaged. So if you won’t use Frodo, Glóin or Gimli, this Tactic attachment shouldn’t see the light of day. The last Song adding resource icon, Song of Battle, could be used for example in dualsphere or trisphere decks, if you plan to play some expensive allies. Otherwise, if Tactic sphere in a deck fills the role of support (through adding some attachment and events, which are commonly cheap in this sphere), then you should do without this Song well.
I think that attachments of The Dead Marshes don’t excel in anything. Most of them I encounter only if I inspect the whole cardpool due to deckbuilding. I remind their effects, but then I admit I have no use for them. However, it needn’t be your case. If you want to try any of these attachments, just do it.;)
The main task of The Dead Marshes lies in making progress and being successful in Escape tests. Both activities demand Willpower. And when you examine the whole set of player cards of The Dead Marshes, you won’t find anything really beneficial, what could help you to improve or boost Willpower. The player cards miss some unifying concept, every card aims at something else and every card is useful in different decks. Almost every card.
One player card you actually may use in every deck with Tactic sphere included and that card is Vassal of the Windlord. His 3 Attack, Ranged keyword and perfect 1 cost makes from this card TOP CARD of The Dead Marshes. Vassal of the Windlord has extraordinary status among other Tactic allies because 1-cost ally with such brilliant Attack doesn’t occur much. Even if he reminds one-time event than a long-life ally, still his attacking talent, connected with the speed you get him into a game, shouldn’t be simply ignored.
Other characters of The Dead Marshes are not hopeless either (Boromir, Elfhelm). But it wouldn’t be the right adventure pack without some pointless cards, which add a variety of usefulness. SHEEP CARD we could search among all attachments – if I said about attachments that “we won’t find here anything super-strong”, I mean, in fact, we have got a very weak choice. However, the true SHEEP CARD belongs among events – We Do Not Sleep. The cost alone should scare off us. Add the useful effect for unsuitable characters and you have got the useless mixture with the terrible cost. What I would answer to the title of this event? Please Go To Sleep.:)
The unofficial king of MOST ENRICHED SPHERE, Lore sphere, which won this category three times, has to finally give a scepter to another sphere. Silvan Tracker and Fast Hitch don’t astonish us too much, so we have to look after another suitable candidate. And I think that most of the player will agree with me if I see Tactic sphere as the MOST ENRICHED SPHERE of The Dead Marshes. Except for under-average Song of Mocking, Vassal of the Windlord and Boromir stand out above the others. Both characters are really helpful in your attacking efforts and enrich your ranks of warriors to a great extent.
I want to mention one card, which deserves some attention – Elfhelm. Though I give my preference to the Vassal of the Windlord, the significant status holds this unique ally. I admire his offensive- and defensive-tuned stats, which aren’t peculiar for the Spirit sphere. You are at least a little bit less dependent on the help of other spheres, which must provide Spirit sphere some combat power.
The Dead Marshes may show as the scenario with the high ratio of frustration. Forever escaping Gollum can cause you genuine rage if he disappears in the encounter deck and then he slips out near you like the shadow card. Nope, I don’t want to describe my losses in this scenario – I write analysis and overall evaluation, not my The Dead Marshes walkthrough. But if I hadn’t wanted to play this scenario, I surely would have bought this pack because of the player cards, namely Vassal of the Windlord, Elfhelm, and Boromir. Without others, I can live.
VASSAL OF THE WINDLORD
WE DO NOT SLEEP
MOST ENRICHED SPHERE
TACTIC SPHERE (BOROMIR + VASSAL OF THE WINDLORD + SONG OF MOCKING)