The Crossings of Poros is to me a legendary quest for more than one reason. Release was incredibly delayed in Europe, and we had to wait months to get the pack compared to our friends in the Americas. It had a spectacular misprint, forgetting to add a unique symbol to the hero of the pack (Quickbeam), setting the stage for a series of misprints in the Ered Mithrin cycle. And it is a very hard quest that takes some unexpected turns based on luck. However, even in the best case, it is punishing. This author has beaten it once, at the skin of his teeth. I will however do my very best in guiding you, dear reader, through this beast of a finale to the Harad cycle.
The Crossings of Poros
- Found in: The Crossings of Poros Adventure pack, Harad cycle 6
- Official Difficulty: 5 (…)
- Community Rating: 8,1
- Encounter sets: The Crossings of Poros, Mountains of Shadow (also found in the pack!), Desert Sands, Desert Creatures, Harad Soldiers, Mordor Orcs
- Quest Cards: 7 (though only 4 will be used each game)
- Play if: You want a hectic chase culminating in a final battle. You like quests with a variable setup. You enjoy randomness in your games. You like objective allies. You want a challenge.
- What is different about this quest? Encounter sets are added at random. Encounter sets from out of play affects the encounter deck and the final battle. Variable quest stages.
- Solo or multiplayer?: No matter what, it is a tough quest. Multiplayer increases the odds of seeing nasty effects adding enemies from out of play, making the final battle harder. As always, multiplayer allows for more focused deckbuilding, which might ease the task a little.
- Can I run side quests in this scenario? You might, but I found the tempo of this one to be quite high. Stage 2 and 3 will punish you for playing allies or engaging enemies, so you have to work to keep up with the encounter deck. I would only really recommend a cheeky Gather Information, or to run a very quest heavy deck if you insist on running side quests.
- What to look out for?: If possible, do NOT add enemies from out of play to the encounter deck! To quote Admiral Ackbar: “It’s a trap!”. They will show up and make the final battle all the more difficult. Work hard to keep up with the encounter deck. It is hard to establish a board state early on, as stage 2 punishes ally play.
Setup and Quest Card 1: Flight to Gondor (- Quest Points)
Quest Card 1A is busy. First, you have to set the Poros Garrison aside, out of play. We will not talk about those yet, as they won’t be relevant for quite a while. Next we set the following encounter sets out of play: Mountains of Shadow, Desert Sands, Desert Creatures, Harad Soldiers, and Mordor Orcs. This leaves us with the Crossings of Poros set for now, consisting of 17 cards. For a full overview of the encounter sets, check this list. The remaning encounter sets will be added, depending on the path our heroes choose to go. The Black Serpent is hot on our heels and not too thrilled about that we stole his flag and his clothes, so he is naturally added to the staging area. He has an engagement cost of 50, with 0 threat, 2 attack, 1 defense and 8 hit points. He gets +X threat, attack and defense, where X is the stage number. He cannot leave the staging area or take any damage. At the end of the encounter phase, the players must either remove X progress from the main quest, or he makes an immediate attack against the first player. This is no trivial matter. From the get go, stage 2 punishes ally play, making it hard to keep back chump blockers or heroes for defense. He is an ever looming threat, representing quite nicely that the players need to keep moving. Each other player reveals an encounter card, meaning that the staging area can get quite busy. Quest stage 1B is fairly straight forward. It states that allies enter play exhausted, making it very difficult to deal with potential threats right out of the gate. It also prevents A very good tale strategies. At the end of the planning phase, you will advance to a random stage 2, choosing either to cross the desert or the mountains. This will have huge consequences for the composition of the encounter deck. For this analysis, I will analyze the individual encounter sets as they are added to the stage. We therefore deviate a bit from the usual format. As the setup encounter cards will be from the Poros encounter set if you play two or more players, I feel that is a natural place to start.
The Crossings of Poros
The Crossings of Poros encounter set consists of 15 cards. As mentioned above, unless you play true solo, you will see one of these cards after setup. First, we have 4 copies of the Harondor Waste. This location has 2 threat and 3 quest points, which is not terrible. However, the forced effect is nasty – choose one enemy from one of the set aside encounter sets with the most cards remaining, add it to the discard pile, and shuffle the discard pile into the encounter deck. As I stated above, you do not want to add the cards from set aside encounter decks if it can be helped. Therefore, location control is a major benefit. Use effects like Northern Tracker, the Evenstar or Asfaloth to bypass the need to travel to it. Alternatively, you can blank it with Thror’s Key. Note that the effect is not a travel effect, and it therefore can’t be bypassed by cards like Thror’s Map or West Road Traveler. As a shadow card, it is also annoying, returning the attacking enemy to the staging area after the attack. Annoying, but not game ending. Which brings us to the next card in the set…
Desolate Land is a far more annoying location. It has X threat, where X is the number of characters controlled by the player with most characters. Unless you play Folco or some secret Strider deck that the rest of us doesn’t know about, this number will likely be 3 or more. It requires 4 quest points to clear, requiring a double Asfaloth. This means that the X threat will stay around for at least one round. Desolate Land with X threat has become quite common at this point in the game, and it is never really a type of location I am happy to see. It is a piece of anti-swarm must-deal-with tech that risks location locking you in both late and early game, possibly causing a reset. It is too blunt in my opinion, and a prime target for Thror’s Key or other location control measures. You will be happy about your Secret Paths if you draw this one. While the X threat is bad, the Forced effect is outright terrible. After Desolate Land becomes the active location, you choose a card from the set aside encounter set with most cards remaining, and reveal it. This is never nice, and can be terrible (if it is an enemy) or just inconvenient (if it is a location or a treachery). Hope to see this as a shadow card. Or pray that you have some location control to neutralize this threat.
Danger Close Behind is the sole treachery of the set, though it comes in 3 copies. It simply replaces itself with a card from the set aside encounter set with most cards, which potentially adds more enemies for the final battle. It also has Doomed 1, just to make things worse. It is a good target for A Test of Will. I cannot stress this enough, you do not want to add enemies from other encounter sets to the encounter deck if it can be avoided!
The Crossings of Poros encounter set also comes with three enemies, just to make matters worse. Each enemy draws in encounter cards from the set aside encounter sets, meaning that you have to work hard to avoid adding more cards to the encounter deck. First, we have the Southron Outrider that comes in two copies. He has an engagement cost of 28, meaning that most decks that are not in secrecy will have to deal with him early on. His stats are not too bad, 2 threat, 3 attack, 1 defense and 4 hit points means that he can be blocked safely by most dedicated blockers, and can be damaged easily due to his low defense. However, he has an annoying Forced ability. When you engage him, you must either add a random enemy from the Harad Soldiers encounter set to the Encounter discard pile, or give him +3 attack for the remainder of the round, taking him to Nazgul levels of attack power. This is bad, and unless you run Beregond or some decent healing, you will likely have to chump block him. However, remember that early on your allies enter play exhausted, meaning that it is seriously difficuly to have chump blockers available. If you get this guy on turn 1, you might have to take the extra card in the encounter deck to avoid things from going out of control right away. His shadow effect causes you to exhaust a character you control, which most likely causes a setback for your attack plans. Not the worst shadow effect, but it can be a big tempo loss.
Next, we have the Uruk Prowler, also present in two copies. He has a much higher engagement cost of 45, meaning that you can leave him in the staging area until you are ready to deal with him. However, he contributes 3 threat and swings for 4 attack, making him a nuisance. He has 2 defence and 5 hit points, making him harder to deal with than the outrider. However, while the Outrider punishes you for engaging him, the Prowler rains on your parade with his very presence. When he is revealed, you either place a random enemy from the Mordor Orcs encounter set in the encounter discard pile, or he makes an immediate attack against you. 4 attack + shadow is no laughing matter. A dedicated defender like Beregond can really make a difference here, otherwise you need a chump blocker. This effect is a potential A Test of Will target. If you can quest over his threat, it might be a good idea to leave him in the staging area for a while. However, 7 damage is not an easy feat in the early game. He could be a good target for the Great Hunt. His shadow effect causes you to discard a random card from your hand which can be annoying, but rarely game breaking.
Finally we have the Desert Warg that finishes off the enemy trifecta of the Crossings of Poros Encounter set enemies. With a threat of 34, it is unlikely that you have to deal with it first turn. It swings for 5, which is once again stepping into Beregond/chump territory. With a defense of 2 with 3 hit points, it doesn’t require that much attack power to deal with. Like the Uruk Prowler, it has a When revealed ability: Either add a random enemy from the Desert Creatures set to the encounter discard pile (sense a theme?), or Desert Warg gains surge. I usually go for surge. The Desert Creatures set is in my experience the easiest of the three, but it still potentially means more enemies for the final battle. It is not an effect that is bad enough to cancel, though it might surge into something worse. If you have a chump blocker or a strong defender, he is not the worst enemy of the three. As a shadow card it has the dreaded “attacking enemy makes an additional attack after this one” which you are never happy to see. Bring shadow cancellation!
After the first planning phase, you will advance to a random stage 2, where the quest really begins. Khaliel will either decide that the best path is through the desert, or through the mountains. His choice (which I must stress is random) will determine the composition of the encounter deck for the first quest phase. This author definetely prefers the Desert Path, for reasons I will outline below. However, this is beyond your control, which can be a pretty frustrating aspect of this quest. I will go through the quest cards individually.
Quest Card 2: The Desert Path (10 quest points)
Khaliel decides that his tribesfolk are too weary to climb the Ephel Duath and that you will have a better chance by crossing the desert yet again. When the quest card is revealed, the Desert Sands encounter set from the Harad deluxe is shuffled into the encounter deck, adding ten cards. This encounter set has some bad effects, but is in this author’s opinion the easier route. Side 2B states that you must place 10 progress to advance, and that when an ally enters play you must either exhaust it, or deal it 1 damage. This can be a serious tempo loss if you play 1 HP allies, but for allies with two or more hit points, it is usually worth taking some damage. This makes Warden of Healing or other healing effects quite valuable. Otherwise try to place at least two progress to avoid attacks from the Black serpent, and keep a steady pace so you refrain from just treading water. Beware of location lock, and that locations can prevent you from placing progress needed to keep the serpent at bay. Otherwise, this stage is fairly harmless.
Find Water is a relatively benign side quest, requiring 6 quest points to clear. While Find Water is in play, characters cannot be readied by player card effects. It can be annoying for decks relying on readying (decks playing unexpected courage, voltron decks or Boromir decks) but is usually not that much of a problem. When it is cleared, each player readies one hero he or she controls. Unless readying is a key part of your strategy, I quite like seeing this card, as it doesn’t surge. Usually I will clear it, but I might allow it to stay around for some turns.
Towering Dunes is probably the worst card in this particular set, and comes in three copies. It has 3 threat which can be tough due to ally exhaustion of Stage 2b. It requires 4 progress to clear, making it beyond most location control. Furthermore, it misdirects location control effects, as progress cannot be placed on locations not named Towering Dunes while it is in play. Additionally it has a Forced effect: After towering dunes become the active location, you must reveal the top card of the encounter deck, meaning that you might suddenly have an enemy to deal with, or more threat in the staging area than you can handle. It is a brutal first draw and a very good target for Thror’s key. Keep in mind that the Forced effect cannot be bypassed with Thror’s map.
Desert Oasis is the kind of location that can win you a game in true solo. it can grant you a much needed moment of respite, which is on par themewise. 2 threat means that it rarely messes up your questing, and 2 quest points means that it is easy enough to clear once it becomes active. The main challenge is the “traveling cost” forced effect. Each player must exhaust a character he or she controls once Desert oasis becomes the active location. This can be inconvenient if you have enemies ready to fight you, but unless it is the first turn, I find that is rarely an issue in true solo. Usually you hold a hero or ally back in case the encounter deck reveals an enemy, so usually you can afford to exhaust a single character. Once Desert Oasis is explored as the active location, it heals 4 damage from among characters in play, which can be a huge boon because of the effect from quest card 2b. To see this late in the game is absolute jackpot.
Sandstorm is a treachery that punishes draw decks. When it is revealed each player must either discard their hand or assign X damage among characters where X is the number of cards in your hand. Unless you are doing Seastananigans or have a massive draw engine, this is usually not too bad if your deck is focused and you play on curve. For lore decks or decks like the Woodsmen archetype, this can be a major blow, and discarding your hand might be the better option. It might be worth canceling if you have a full hand with a test of will. As a shadow card you must either discard your most expensive attachment or deal X damage among characters you control where X is the number of attachments you control. This can hurt (particularly for Dale decks or Voltron builds). Unless it targets your key combo piece or wipes your board, it is usually ok to let it resolve.
Finally we have Heat exhaustion which is a fairly benign treachery unless it shows up at an inconvenient time. It causes you to exhaust a character and deal it one damage. This can cost you an expensive ally (particularly if you dealt it 1 damage as it entered play) or if you are unlucky, cost you a hero late game. Usually I hold back a hero with the intent of either fighting or blocking, dependent on what the encounter deck throws at me, meaning that this is inconvenient, but rarely game breaking. It can mess up your tempo, as it might mean you can’t kill a particularly enemy this turn. Or it might exhaust your sole blocker meaning that you have to take an undefended attack from the Serpent this turn! Isn’t this game fun sometimes? Cancel it if your life depends on it, or exhaust a character that is not needed for this round, and praise the Valar that you got off so easily this round. As a shadow card it exhausts a character you control, which can be inconvenient (if it exhaust something you planned to attack with) or deadly (if it exhausts your blocker).
Quest Card 2: The Ephel Duath (10 quest points)
This quest card is the second option for stage 2. If this quest card is revealed, Kahliel decides that the desert is too open, and that his people instead will hide in the foothills of Gondor, sneaking around Mordor in the process. I don’t know what Kahliel has been smoking in this version, because the encounter set is much worse than the Desert Crossing! This quest card adds the Mountain of Shadow encounter set (from the Poros pack, not the Deluxe encounter sets) to the encounter deck. The same general rules apply – keep a steady pace, make sure to add some progress so you don’t have to deal with the Serpent every round. Similarly to the desert crossing, the stage punishes you for playing allies. Instead of damage, this stage causes you to either exhaust allies as they enter play, or raise your threat by one. Depending on your deck and your game state, this might only be a minor inconvenience or something that gives you pause. At this point in the game, normal threat management should be able to handle such a minor inconvenience… It is not the Forced effect but the cards in this set that makes this author tremble a bit…
We begin in the soft end with the Foothills of Mordor. This location is not too bad and you get three of them. 3 threat, 3 progress, which causes “when revealed” effects to be immune to cancellation effects. Classic anti-test of will tech that is fairly common in the game at this point. It also has a Forced effect: After Foothills becomes the active location, each player’s threat is raised by 2. You might already start to suspect a theme here. You are sneaking around Mordor, the risk of catching the attention of something nasty is not trivial. If threat is not handled, this can spiral out of control. Besides that, if you can travel to Foothills right away, it shouldn’t cause you too much trouble.
Shadowy vale is a location that can become very dangerous very fast. It has 2 threat and requires 5 progress, and you get two copies in the encounter deck. However, if ANY player’s threat is 35 or higher, it gets +3 threat, making it a stunning 5/5. And as you can see from the Forced effect on the agenda and the effect on Foothills, it is a very likely scenario that your threat will climb above 35. To make matters even worse, it has a forced effect, causing an encounter card to be revealed when it becomes the active location. It is a very good target for Thror’s key. The 5 progress also means that it is likely that you won’t place progress on the main quest this round, unless you use tricks like Woodsmen’s Path. It is a nasty location that you should avoid if possible.
Mountains of Shadow is a treachery that can cause your threat to skyrocket, as it increases your threat by the printed quest points of the active location (printed meaning that you can’t nerf it with Woodsmen’s Path). It will likely raise your threat between 3 and 5, which is a quite severe effect. If you have no active location, it simply surges. It also has a shadow effect, granting +1 attack while raising your threat by 2 if the blocker dies. As you can see, this encounter set really wants to raise your threat. Ally Elfhelm is a good way to prevent the threat from going too much out of control. The threat might not in itself be a problem. If you win the game, it doesn’t matter if your threat is 20 or 49. But it does increase your risk of threating out, and it means that you might not have an option on whether you need to face an enemy or not. Especially enemies with mid-range threat, like the Desert Warg, will be much more likely to come down if you get this encounter set. Bring a blocker, chump or dedicated, just in case.
Lastly, we have the side quest Find the way down. This quest surges (which in my opinion makes it strictly worse than Find water) and it makes you unable to decrease your threat. It requires 6 progress to clear, and when you do it lowers your threat by 3. It is annoying and can be devastating late game if your threat approaches 50. Don’t prioritize this over keeping the Serpent in check! Loragorn is a good solution for this encounter set, but beware of this side quest if you choose to use him!
If you manage to clear one of the two Stage 2’s in play, then you move on to another random stage 3. You have 3 to pick from, adding either orcs, southrons and desert creatures to the encounter deck. As with stage 2, this author believes there is a best case scenario, and that is the Creatures set. The enemies in that scenario are generally easier to handle. However, if you have shuffled a lot of enemies from one specific encounter set into the encounter, it is pretty good if you get that encounter set so they don’t come out in stage 4. However, this is once again a situation where you have 0% control over what happens. Which can be rather infuriating. All three sets are recurring sets from previous scenarios. For the same of completion, I will go through each of them in order, starting with the Desert Creatures.
Quest Card 3: Deadly Creatures (15 quest points)
This quest card tells you to set the remaining stage 3s aside, and shuffle the discard pile plus the Desert Creatures encounter set into the encounter deck. This means that all enemies you have added to the discard pile before this point will now potentially come out to play. Then, each player reveals an encounter card, which can be absolutely brutal if you already got a lot of enemies or locations in the staging area. On side 3B it is further revealed that enemies in the staging area cannot take damage, and that every time you engage an enemy, you have to deal one damage to a hero you control. For this reason, having some healing is a good idea. This encounter set is the smallest, meaning that you will likely have added few cards from it to the discard pile previously. It contains six cards that we will go through:
Craft Remedy is a side quest that also reveals why healing is a good idea in this scenario. I would recommend bringing a Warden of Healing. This side quest blanks the text box of each damaged character, which will be a problem due to the effect of Card 3B. It is a must answer side quest if it appears. A nice thing about it is that it doesn’t have surge, and therefore can grant you some breathing room if it appears at the right time. It requires 6 progress to clear, and heals 1 damage from each character when it is cleared. Not the worst to see.
We also get two Sand Vipers, which is a design this author personally enjoys. With 4 threat, it can mess uo your questing plans a bit, potentially denying you of progress to sacrifice to the Serpent (the black one, not the snake). It attacks for 1,has 1 defense, and only 3 hit points. However, you have to take the attack undefended, as blockers cannot be declared. After you travel to a location, the sand viper engages the first player. With an engagement cost of 44, this is the most likely way you will engage it, unless the Ephel Duath encounter set really ramped up your threat. Remember that if this 3B is the active one, the viper cannot be G-slapped!
Finally, we have 3 copies of the Giant Scorpion, with 3 threat, 3 attack, 2 defense and 4 hit points. If the scorpion damages a character, this character cannot ready until the end of the round. This is also the shadow effect on this card, which potentially combos well with the Sand Viper. However, with 3 attack your dedicated blocker should be able to handle the scorpion most of the time, and unless you run a Boromir build with Fire and Blood, this limitation should not cause you too much trouble. It is not a particularly tough enemy.
All in all, this is my favorite quest stage 3 to get. It doesn’t have a mini boss, the side quest is not terrible, and the enemies you can handle. If you manage to get to this stage without too many enemies from the other two encounter set, you have a decent chance of winning. Keep a good pace, take care of the Serpent (remember, his attacks ramp up with each quest stage!) and race for the finish. However, you might not be so lucky, and instead get one of the other two encounter sets….
Stage 3B: Southron Pursuit (15 quest points)
This version of stage 3 causes you to shuffle the Harad Soldiers encounter set into the encounter deck, along with the discard pile. Then, each player reveals an encounter card. This stage is very combat centered, as the stage gives -10 engagement cost to each enemy. Keep in mind that the Serpent does not engage as a result of this effect, as he cannot leave the staging area. After an enemy engages a player, one progress is removed from this stage, which can cause surprise attacks from the Black Serpent. The reduction in engagement cost means that you will have to engage most of the revealed enemies, unless you are very low on threat. You must be ready for combat at this stage, and be able to keep a good questing pace. In this author’s opinion, this stage 3 is the most difficult. Especially because of a legendary side quest…
Southron Champion was voted the most difficult side quest by Cardboard of the Rings awards 2018. It is a 4 quest point side quest that causes the players to discard cards from the encounter deck until a Harad enemys is discarded. This enemy is then added to the staging area with a resource token, indicating that this is the Southron champion. The champion gets +2 to threat, attack, and defense, and becomes immune to player card effects. While this stage is in play, the main stage cannot be defeated. Furthermore, the champion cannot be damaged unless this stage has 4 progress, and this stage cannot be defeated while the Champion is in play. This side quest is problematic for a number of reasons. The -10 engagement from Stage 3B means that you will likely have to deal with him right away. The “immune to player card effects” makes it very hard to deal with the Champion unless you chump block. A dedicated defender like Beregond might be enough to survive the attack, but he needs to be powered up with the right tools. The increased defense means that you might need a lot of additonal attack power to deal the final blow. Finally, the demand for 4 progress before you can kill the champion, means that you have to have to neglect the main quest, increasing the risk for an attack from the Serpent. And the increased threat means that it is harder to add progress. This can seriously wreck your board state. The only good thing about this quest is that it doesn’t have surge. Beware of this one.
The Southron Captain is probably the worst Champion you can get, as his stats are quite beefy without any buffs. 2 threat, 5 attack, 3 defense and 6 hit points means that he is a challenge in his own right. His engagement cost is 40, but remember that the quest stage in reality makes it 30. As we all remember from our initial Journeys down the Anduin, 30 is the magic number for starting threat, but as this guy likely shows up late in the game, you will likely have to face him right away. The high demand for progress placement often means that it is hard to leave attackers behind, and to deal 9 damage in one go can be a difficult feat. Furthermore, he buffs other Harad enemies, making him a larger threat, particularly in multiplayer. When he is in the staging area, each other Harad enemy gets +1 threat, which can eat up your progress, causing you an attack from the Serpent in addition to having to deal with the Captain. When he is engaged with you, he grants +1 attack to all Harad enemies which can be very problematic as you likely have to block his attack with your dedicated defender, which means that loss of allies or potentially heroes seem very likely. The only time I am happy to see this card is as a shadow card. Luckily there is only one copy in the deck.
The Southron Soldier is perhaps the card from this encounter set that I find most manegeable. The encounter set has 3 copies, and he has 3 threat, 3 attack, 2 defense and 5 hp. When he engages you, you have to remove 2 progress from the main stage or he makes an immediate attack. Removing progress might mean that you might have to take an attack form the black Serpent after engaging him, so unless you have piled up progress, this will likely give you an additional attack no matter what. This can once again drain your allies and makes it hard to have enough blockers to succesfully deal with the enemies. However, this enemy normally attacks for 3, which means that he can often be blocked without too many problems by a 2 defense ally or hero. The extra attack might mean that you don’t have enough attack power to kill him the same round, but I find that he is one of the easier enemies in the set. As a shadow card he can be more problematic, as he forces you to engage an enemy from the staging area, dealing this enemy a shadow card. In this particular scenario, this effect is not as problematic as the engagement cost of all enemies are lowered and it is more unlikely that you have enemies lingering. It can arrive at an inopportune moment though, depending on your threat.
While the soldier is an enemy this author does not mind seeing, the Southron Archer spells trouble. 2 threat, 4 attack, 3 defense and 4 hit points means that his attacks are more dangerous, and it takes more to damage him, making him harder to kill over time if you can’t do it in one go. He has archery 2, which can be an issue if you have allowed your heroes to take some undefended attacks from the Serpent. And with an engagement cost of 36, you likely have to engage him right away if you draw him during stage 3. And he has a nasty forced effect: When you engage him, you either have to remove 2 progress from the main stage or discard an ally. This might be incredibly taxing, especially if you draw him right after revealing stage 3 before you have any progress to discard. This enemy can be particularly brutal if he becomes the Southron champion, or if he gets a buff from the Captain. You will be happiest to see him as a shadow card. If you are forced to fight him, he is a good target for Feint effects, or for a dedicated blocker. He comes in 4 copies, so it is likely that you will see him.
Nowhere to hide is the sole treachery of the set. When it is revealed, the first player discards cards until an enemy is discarded, and puts that enemy into play engaged with him. This will trigger the forced effects on both the Archer and the Soldier, so this can be a pretty punishing effect. It is a good target for cancellation, as this essentially saves you a round of combat. But as mentioned above, the low engagement cost of enemies means that you will likely have to engage enemies no matter what in the turn they appear. It is mostly problematic because it might force you to engage an enemy during staging, and because the Soldier and Archer have forced effects that can only be averted by removing progress, it might cost you allies from attacks or discarding. As a shadow card it grants +1 attack or +2 if you engaged the enemy this round. This means that it is quite dangerous as a shadow card, and well worth bringing shadow cancelation for. It comes in three copies.
Stage 3B: Orc Patrols (15 quest points)
If you reveal this stage, you shuffle in the Mordor Orcs encounter set and causes each player to reveal a card. While the encounter set is pretty brutal, the stage itself is not too bad. It gets +2 quest points for each enemy in the staging area, which means that if you allow enemies to accumulate, it delays your progress. Furthermore, after you engage an enemy it raises yor threat by 1. As you likely want to keep your staging area neat and tidy, this effect shouldn’t cause you too many problems. And unless it shows up with Ephel Duath, one additional threat pr. enemy shouldn’t cause you too many problems. It is well worth it to bring some threat management for that encounter set alone, and that goes for this stage as well.
As with the other encounter sets from stage 3, this set comes with a side quest, the Uruks of the Eye. This side quest surges, which is always terrible. This side quest requires 5 progress to clear, and grants each orc enemy -5 engagement cost, granting +1 threat to each orc enemy engaged with a player. While the latter effect seems rather innocent, it can cause some issues for reasons we will see below. The -5 engagement quest shouln’t be too much of an issue, but can cause you to engage an enemy at an inopportune moment. As for the other side quests, the main problem with the side quests in this scenario is that it diverts your resources from the main quest, making it hard to keep the Serpent at bay. But if you can quest through it in one round, it might be worth it to clear it.
The Uruk Chieftain is the mini boss of this encounter set, returning from the Long Arm of Mordor, the Race across Harad, and the Dungeons of Cirith Gurat. With an engagement cost of 50 he will trigger from a lot of Hobbit-related abilites, but it doesn’t matter for engagement purposes, as he engages the player engaged with most non-unique orc enemies at the end of the encounter phase. So you have to deal with him when he appears. He has 4 threat, 5 attack, 3 defense and 6 hp. He cannot have player card attachments or be optionally engaged, and while the player is engaged with another orc enemy, he cannot take damage. He is a major threat that must be dealt with immediately. Keep in mind that he is only immune to attachments – he can be feinted or targeted by effects such as Gaffer Gamgee. See if you can deal with him right away if he appears, or he will make things very difficult for you.
The Uruk of Mordor is an enemy that looks rather innocent at first glance, but which can cause you serious problems. With 2 threat, 4 attack, 2 defense and 4 hit points, it requires a good blocker, but the low defense and hit points most often means that you should be able to deal with it in one go if you got your board set up. He has an engagement cost of 35, which means that you will likely have to engage him right away mid- to late-game. However, he has an important piece of game text, stating that allies with willpower lower than the Uruk’s threat cannot block him. This can be devastating if you rely on allies such as Defender of Rammas or Jubayr for defense. 4 attack is no easy feat for the more fragile allies. If he gets the +1 threat bonus from the Uruks of the Eye side quest, he is even harder to block. This means that you have to be careful about this enemy. Again, dedicated blockers like Beregond are good for this kind of enemy. As a shadow card this enemy grants +1 attack, or +2 if the defending character has lower willpower than the attacker’s threat. This can be devastating if it is applied to the wrong kind of enemy, meaning that Shadow cancellation is a good idea. This enemy comes in three copies.
The Uruk Warg Rider is another enemy punishing you for blocking with characters with lower willpower. This enemy has 40 engagement cost, which means that you might get to choose when to engage it. Remember that Uruks of the eye is in the deck if you leave it in the staging area. It has 3 threat, 3 attack, 1 defense and 5 hit points, and gets +X attack where X is the difference between this enemy’s threat and the defenders willpower. as dedicated defenders tend to have low willpower, this can easily escalate to a 5 or 6 attack. This gets further buffed by Uruks of the eye, as orcs get +1 threat. His low defense means that if you can block him, then you can attack him over multiple rounds if you don’t have enough attack power to kill him right away. It comes in two copies. As a shadow card it returns attacking enemy to the staging area, which can seriously hamper your plans and set back your tempo.
Mordor Warg is an enemy that can work as an attachment. It has an engagement cost of 20, with 2 threat, 2 attack, 2 defense and 2 hit points. When it is revealed, it is attached to an orc enemy in play, and provides it’s own stats as a bonus to that enemy. This can make an Uruk warg rider or an Uruk of Mordor a serious force to be reckoned with – remember how they benefit form +2 threat. Once you manage to kill that enemy, the Mordor warg is added to the staging area. It is well worth to save a Test of Will for this enemy. It comes in two copies.
Finally we have the Fear of Mordor treachery. This treachery grants -1 willpower, defense and attack to each ally in play until the end of the round. This buffs the orc enemies further, and likely impairs how much progress can be placed for the round, likely resulting in an attack from the Serpent. in true solo, this has not been too much of a problem, as it does not surge, so this is the only card you get. But in multiplayer this can wreck havoc. As a shadow card it grants an additional attack after this one if the attacker has higher threat than the willpower of the defender. It comes in two copies, but whether it is worth a cancellation effect definetely depends on the situation.
Stage 4: Battle at the Crossings (20 quest points)
If you manage to quest through your stage 3, you arrive at stage 4 and the final battle. However, you will need to survive to place the 20 progress required for winning. It is a tough feat, as you have to search through the encounter deck and discard pile, and add each enemy from the other two stage 3’s than the one you drew. Hence, if you got the Southron pursuit, you have to find ALL enemies from the Mordor orcs and desert creatures sets. Yikes. Depending on the choices you made along the way and how many enemies you had to add, this can either be a tough battle or outright impossible. You are not completely on your own, however. You have reached Gondor, and hence the first player gains control of The Poros Garrison. They have 3 willpower, 4 attack, 3 defense and 6 hit points, and they are immune to player card effects. The first player earns control of them, and they will therefore take turns helping around the table. The Garrison also allows you to engage one more enemy optionally during the engagement phase, granting you more liberty regarding who to engage. If the garrison leaves play, the players lose.
The stage also punishes chump blockers. Whenever a character is destroyed, it removes X progress where X is the threat cost of the attacking character. The stage can only be won at the end of the combat phase, meaning that there’s no easy way to outrun the pursuers. But if this stage is defeated, the players win the game. This stage is all about the choices you made along the way. If you added a lot of enemies, you have to be ready to face them. If you get to stage 4, your board state is likely pretty good. You have demonstrated to have decent quest power, and you have had enough characters to handle combat. But it is a delicate balance, because if you need to block six attackers when you arrive at this state, it can cost you a lot of characters. You also need to keep this in mind before you yolo quest in stage 3b to advance – you need to be able to handle the attacks. If you survive that initial combat round, you are in a pretty good position. Fight back, and resist the urge to use your questers as chump blockers – it will eat away your hard earned progress and potentially lock you to this phase. See if you can reclaim control of the board, and remember to use the Garrison tactically to distribute the enemies between you. But keep in mind that the best way to handle the enemies is to make sure there are so few as them as possible, so don’t add enemies from the set aside decks until you have absolutely no choice. This quest can be frustrating, particularly because you have no control over the events. But it succeeds in making a thrilling chase and an epic final battle. You will feel very satisfied when you finally lay down your arms at the Poros Garrison.
Tips and tricks
- If there is a recurring theme throughout the different encounter sets, it is that a dedicated blocker is an absolute necessity. Preferably you want a Beregond with a Gondorian Shield. Spirit Beregond is particularly well-suited for this, as he helps with threat management.
- Remember, this is a tough quest. I struggled with it for quite a while, and in the end beat it with a Caldara deck. Jubayr was key in that regard to remove shadow card effects, as was ally Glorfindel and Cirdan with Narya. Don’t be ashamed to use a power deck here.
- Recently the card pool has been expanded with some fantastic options for enemy management. Gaffer Gamgee, The Ruling Ring and The Great Hunt all offer new ways to handle enemies and enemy attacks outside of tactics, and the card pool has never been more open for creative solutions to enemy problems. Look through the card pool see if you can find some new ways to approach this quest.
- This quest is a great example for the importance of pacing. Whereas pacing is always important, here you need to place progress every round if you want to avoid having to deal with the Black Serpent. It is therefore highly important to establish a board state quickly, and to be capable of questing for a lot right out of the gate.
- While we have mostly focused on the enemies in the latter part of the article, don’t neglect the risk of location lock. Bring your location management tools of choice. If you get location locked, you can’t place any progress.
- Beorn wrote that this quest is hard to plan against, because the random nature means that you can’t really know what to expect. Your deck(s) therefore have to strike a healthy balance between questing, combat, healing (for desert and archery), threat management (for Ephet Duath and the Orcs) and location management.
There is not a lot of playthrough videos of this quest, but a quick search did dig up a few:
- Cardboard of the Rings did a playthrough video with host Chad and editor Fishbaugh (who unfortunately were not playing one of his signature Bombur or Dori decks at the time).
- Wandering Took did a Gencan’t video this year two-handed, where he also demonstrates how good decks can go head to head with this quest.
This concludes the Haradrim cycle, though 3 more scenarios are to be covered by the blog. We will hopefully release most of them next month before we move on to the Ered Mithrin cycle. If you want to write an article on any of the quests in that cycle, reach out to us and we will get you sorted!