Arwen wishes to visit her father Elrond, and Celeborn has bid the heroes to escort her over the Misty Mountains and safely to Rivendell. But the season grows late, and a sudden chill has descended on the three peaks that guard the Redhorn pass.
Ready for hard climbing and severe frost in the middle of wild mountains? You should be. You will face a hard test of will and determination to beat the peak of Caradhras. But you won’t be alone for this task. Arwen Undómiel will lead you through Misty Mountains, she knows the path to Rivendell, to her father Elrond. And you can also rely on Dwarves, who are in high mountains at home. But will be it enough? Will you transport Arwen safely to her homeland? Or will Misty Mountains the last place you ever see?
!UPDATE! Because I missed some facts about right playing of Bofur, I decide to adjust the review about him (including the change of his Final rating) and the chapters Allies and Overall evaluation, where he is also appearing.
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.
The first hero of the Dwarrowdelf cycle isn’t special only by missing the trait Dwarf.
!SPOILER! To be honest, we will never meet any Dwarf hero within the Dwarrowdelf cycle again.
Elrohir brings to LOTR LCG something unique we haven’t seen yet – the part of his (passive) ability triggers only if one concrete hero is present.
But let’s first analyze his stats. 10 starting threat, 2 Willpower, 2 Attack, 1 Defense and 4 Hit Points – one starting threat less and we have got the copy of Glóin, who has the same stats. Well, 10 starting threat doesn’t belong to the lowest, either to the highest values. With 2 Willpower, I wouldn’t hesitate to send him on a quest, 2 Attack is fair value and 1 Defense with 4 Hit Points doesn’t show much quality of his defensive skills. At least, at first sight. When we read his passive ability, we understand his true role. In fact, Elrohir is the defender. He gains +2 Defense if Elladan is in play. But who exactly is Elladan, we don’t know now, because he will arrive in one of the future pack. I won’t introduce his colleague deeper, because then I would write half of the review as a spoiler.
Elrohir’s passive effect is followed by Response: “After Elrohir is declared as a defender, pay 1 resource from his resource pool to ready him.” This reminds me a bit of Boromir from The Dead Marshes, who can become ready after you raise threat by 1. The mechanism is the same, the difference lies in a term of cost (paying 1 resource vs. raising 1 threat). If I should choose, which cost is better for me personally, then I say “paying 1 cost”. Why? Because Elrohir is a hero from the Leadership sphere, where resources aren’t scarce as at other spheres, and because raising threat impairs my final scoring, which I have to forcibly reduce by cards like Gandalf or The Galadhrim’s Greetings. From this point of view, I rather pay 1 resource from his resource pool to ready him for another action. At the same time, Elrohir hasn’t got any errata (as Boromir) “limit once per phase/round”. So you can ready him as many times as resources are available. That’s really great. Imagine all possible combos with Elrohir. Steward of Gondor attached to him offers you almost unlimited options from the view of defending. If Elrohir has 3 resources and you face 3 enemies, you can defend all of them just by him (if he survives all of these encounters, of course :)). With Dúnedain Signal you can also defend others and block every weak spot.
!SPOILER! Considering his trait Noldor, Elrohir can be a spectacular defender as well as a decent attacker. When you defend the last enemy and ready Elrohir, he may get involved in attacking duty. Rivendell Bow and Rivendell Blade attached to him makes from him feared opponent for enemies. And Light of Valinor can make from him even a decent quester without losing him to other actions. This guy can be really multifunctional and you can adjust him to your strategy.
With 3 Defense and 4 Hit Points and “multi-readying” ability, Elrohir can become your top 1 defender. You just need good access to resources and, what is most important: you need Elladan. Without him, Elrohir is not even half. This precondition can discourage some players from him and it’s fully understandable. Making free place not for one, but for two heroes in your deck will logically limit you during the choice of heroes and overall deck composition. The situation is far more favourable if you play with more players (because Elrohir’s ability doesn’t say anything about controlling Elladan; he just must be present in the play, no matter who controls him).
Why we should wait on the action of the encounter deck when we can take initiative and strike as first? This tries to tell us a 0-cost Leadership event, Taking Initiative. Card, which needs to be present in your opening hand and with the fewest characters, you are able to have in play. No, I didn’t make a mistake, you read it well – you must have the fewest number of characters in play if you want to think about playing this card.
It is a quite odd precondition, isn’t it? Well, Taking Initiative works in this way: firstly, you have to discard the top card from your deck. If the cost of the discarded card is equal or higher than the number of characters you control, you do 2 things: draw 2 cards and deal 2 damage to any enemy. At first sight, it’s a very useful utility for free. Draw 2 cards? More options you will obtain. 2 damage to any enemy? Stylish welcome to an incoming enemy, no matter if he waits in the staging area or engagement area of any player. It is the end for many enemies: Black Uruks, Goblin Archer, Goblin Scout, and others. Killing such an enemy in the staging area reduces the overall Threat Strength and killing in the engagement area saves you one defender.
So in what lies the trick of this card? Discarding a card from your deck to trigger some ability can be tricky itself. We have already realized that due to Zigil Miner’s ability, here it isn’t a different thing. In the best case, you should rely on cards like Gandalf’s Search or Gildor Inglorion or other, incoming cards. If you discard a card blindly, you have to reconcile with the possibility you discard it absolutely uselessly.
This mishap is even intensified by the second, more limiting precondition: the cost of the discarded card must be equal or higher than the number of characters you control. In the opening hands and with the common deck with 3 heroes it means you must discard a card with 3 and more cost to make this card work. Any joy you felt will probably become bitter, when you realize this, unfortunately. A card for free may become unusable if there are too many preconditions (see Strength of Will). And I haven’t spoken anything about enemies yet, which should be already present in the game (revealed during the scenario first setup at best).
If you begin to play with 3 heroes, then you must discard a 3-cost card from the deck to Taking Initiative triggers its effect. Let aside the absurd option to lose your hero intentionally and see, if you couldn’t somehow improve this card or at least reduce the possibility you throw away your card needlessly. We are used to always play with 3 heroes. Rules say that “each player chooses 1-3 hero cards and starts the game with them in play.” What if we won’t begin with 3 heroes, but with 2 heroes? Discarding card with 2 and more cost doesn’t seem like such “roulette” as before, it seems more realistic that the effect of this card will happen. But why we should play with less than 3 heroes? The answer is: Secrecy deck. I won’t analyze keyword Secrecy deeper: you should read another article about this (see https://visionofthepalantir.com/2018/06/21/secrecy/). But although Taking Initiative lacks this keyword, it is predestined to be played in Secrecy deck, where fewer heroes mean lower overall starting threat – and we try to achieve that within Secrecy decks.
In this context, we better understand the functioning of this event. Within Secrecy decks, with 2 and fewer heroes (though 1 hero is quite extreme), Taking Initiative makes a sense. Still, you either have to play it blindly…
!SPOILER! …or wait on the arrival of Imladris Stargazer, who is most effective from cards with “scry-own-deck” effect. However, when she comes to a play, you again control at least 3 characters, so you must again discard a card with 3 and more cost.
Playing this card contains many difficulties. Personally, I play this card frequently within Secrecy decks and use it blindly. Not the best option, but when Taking Initiative is “for free” (without losing a single resource, with losing a single card), then why not? Objectively, this event won’t win the contest of the best card of the whole universe.
Second Leadership card from The Redhorn Gate, second event… and no ally at all. To be honest, it was very disappointing to me at this moment, because nor Khazad-Dum, nor the first adventure pack of Dwarrowdelf doesn’t introduce any ally. And so we must make do with allies from the first cycle. I don’t know why LOTR LCG creators are still keeping us in suspense. What is certain is that the new Leadership card, called Timely Aid, holds also a new keyword – Secrecy.
As I said in the previous review (Taking Initiative), the aim of our reviews isn’t deep analyzing of traits, keywords, and game mechanics. If you want to go deeper into Secrecy mechanism, I will refer you to a more detailed article (https://visionofthepalantir.com/2018/06/21/secrecy/). For the purpose of this analysis, it is enough to say that with 20 and less threat you can reduce the full cost of the card by X (Secrecy X). In the case of Timely Aid, you pay only 1 cost for this card if you have 20 and less threat (4 full cost minus 3 “Secrecy cost”). Every card with this keyword works in two modes: “normal” mode and “Secrecy” mode. While in “normal” mode cards generally don’t worth it (because they are just too expensive), in “Secrecy” mode they cost far cheaper and bring very advantageous effects in the early game (or until the moment you can hold your threat under 20).
Okay, let’s return from the “Secrecy trip” to Timely Aid. Its Action allows us to reveal the first 5 cards from our deck. If we discover some ally among these revealed cards, we can put it into play and shuffle other revealed cards back into our deck. In other words: you get into a play an ally for free, no matter, if you reveal Snowbourn Scout, Faramir, Beorn, Vassal of the Windlord, Gildor Inglorion or Gandalf. Of course, when you use Timely Aid and reveal more allies with different costs, you should choose the most expensive (if the situation on the board doesn’t force you to decide in another way). When you put some high-cost ally during the early game (where you are primarily consolidating your position), it gives you a huge advantage – expensive allies used to be strong questers/defenders/attackers/have powerful abilities. You then gain a big head start and also save many resources, which you utilize elsewhere.
It’s probably useless to repeat that Timely Aid works perfectly with “scrying” cards like Gandalf’s Search or Gildor Inglorion (as any other card, which reveals cards from a deck). To be honest, how often this happens in practice? Both cards are pretty expensive, so I rather use it blindly than wait for playing these cards. Revealing 5 cards gives you a quite decent chance you discover some ally. Of course, I am still talking about Timely Aid for its Secrecy cost. I would never use Timely Aid for its full cost and blindly at the same time (if I use Timely Aid for the full cost at all).
Look, choose, put in play and shuffle deck – that’s, in short, the effect of Timely Aid, one of the best cards within Secrecy deck. This card could persuade you to think about the building of Secrecy deck. Except for you don’t already own heroes from other expansions, it means, in practice, you will begin to play with only 2 heroes (seriously, I don’t recommend you to begin with 3 heroes and rely on the arrival of cards with threat reduction like Gandalf or Galadhrim’s Greetings). You then will be in shortage with characters from the very beginning. Timely Aid can help you right this initial disadvantage and fulfill the “empty place” by some strong ally. And what is most important – for only 1 cost. That is the greatest strength of Timely Aid at all.
We recently absorbed the presence of excellent Tactic event Khazad! Khazad! from Khazad-Dum and now we encounter a card with similar characteristics. Unseen Strike, however, works in different situations, although both cards have the same boost…
Another Tactic event, the same cost – 0. You certainly won’t have anything against it. The Action of Unseen Strike is saying: “Choose a character you control. Until the end of the phase, that character gets +3 Attack while attaching an enemy with a higher engagement cost than your threat.” Now, search 3 differences between this card and Khazad! Khazad!.
Firstly: Dwarf trait in the text is missing. Unlike Khazad! Khazad!, Unseen Strike can be used in any deck, on Dwarf-trait independently. From this view, Unseen Strike is more universal. Secondly, you may choose a character you control. The versatility is reduced by this precondition. So in multiplayer games, Unseen Strike won’t help another player, it just concentrates on you. I remember that this limitation has frequently annoyed me because the next part of this card prods you into using it on the character of another player. How? The character gets +3 Attack if the attacking enemy has a higher engagement cost. How can you face and attack an enemy with a higher engagement cost than is your threat? If you voluntarily choose an enemy during the Encounter phase (Player engagement). Logically, the lower threat means the bigger choice. Players with Secrecy decks then can choose from a wide offer of enemies. However, Secrecy decks tend to lack Tactic cards.
!SPOILER! All Secrecy cards from the Dwarrowdelf cycle are from Spirit, Lore and Leadership spheres. No Tactic card has Secrecy.
After all, the meaning of Secrecy decks is to keep yourself in secret, not to draw attention to yourself and avoid combat for the most time. If you want or need to join to battle, you should choose your enemy yourself. Alas, this is not the meaning of the Tactic sphere – it “despises” caution and don’t care about secrecy. Tactic sphere needs fight. Because the Tactic sphere is something like “tank” in LOTR LCG, it should protect other spheres (decks) by higher threat – the enemies then encounter Tactic deck, not other non-combat/supportive/questing decks. But this is completely against the meaning of Unseen Strike, which relies on the wide offer of enemies.
Within classic Tactic decks, Unseen Strike won’t find a place. Except for some enemies with high engagement cost (read higher than 35; add to that enemies like Goblin Scout or Goblin Archer you can’t engage optionally), the majority of enemies will engage you during Engagement checks due to their lower engagement cost, because Tactic decks tend to have high threat. From this follows that the necessity of aiming own character hurts the practical usage of Unseen Strike. In multiplayer, I would automatically add this event to support characters of Secrecy deck, because +3 Attack sounds really good. But in this case, Unseen Strike didn’t fulfill expectations and the real potential it undoubtedly has.
The next card should remind us of the scene in LOTR movies, where Gimli and Legolas count the number of killed enemies. Keeping Count reflects their friendly rivalry and tries to get it also onto the board.
Attachment for 0 cost sounds engaging, though the last 0-cost Tactic attachment didn’t worth it (Born Aloft). Attach Keeping Count to a hero and count with that you may attach to a single hero only 1 copy of this attachment (like Boots from Erebor). I’ll skip the longer part of the effect and go directly to the Forced effect, which says: “After attached hero attacks and destroys an enemy, place 1 resource token on this card.” The resource token should provide some advantage, but now we don’t know what advantage. We only know, that the hero should be an attacker, who is able to contribute by his Attack to destroying enemies.
The next part may not be clear immediately, I was resolving it a bit longer when I have met this card first time. We must have at least 2 copies of Keeping Count in game. The difference in the number of resource tokens between these two copies means +1 Attack for each resource token. Simply, if one Keeping Count has 4 resource tokens and another Keeping Count has 1 resource token, then the final boost of Attack will be 3. And who gains this +3 Attack? A hero, whose copy of Keeping Count has the least number of resource tokens. Is it confusing? If it is, you may welcome the official text on the card: “Attached hero gets +1 Attack for each resource token on another copy of Keeping Count that is above the current number of resource tokens on this card.”
To be honest, I couldn’t understand the full effect of this card unless I have examined some forums. It appears to me a lot bizarre…the whole concept of Keeping Count is very complicated and, unfortunately, impractical. Let’s hold the example of Gimli and Legolas, competing with each other. Both are good attackers, but Gimli is a high-tonnage attacker, whose Attack can reach very high values. He very easily destroys any enemy (even alone), but Gimli doesn’t gain any reward for his hard work. Legolas will gain all Attack boost – more enemies will Gimli destroy, his Keeping Count will obtain more resource tokens and that means more Attack for Legolas. Let’s keep aside the issue that you have to firstly draw 2 copies of Keeping Count (haven’t I already said that Keeping Count is impractical?), and let’s see what will happen next. With increasing Attack boost Legolas will be becoming stronger and stronger. +3, +4, +5 Attack… Now Legolas reaches in overall 8 Attack. And for what it is? If Legolas begins to kill enemies with his impressive Attack, his Keeping Count will be collecting resource tokens, the difference in the number of resource tokens begins to be smaller… and Legolas will be losing his Attack boost. +5, +4, +3 Attack…
Why we should bother with Keeping Count and tries to create the suitable (complicated) conditions to work it when we can just use more effective and straightforward cards? Khazad! Khazad!, Blade Mastery, Dúnedain Mark, even Unseen Strike are far more effective than Keeping Count, which relies on the competition between heroes. But LOTR LCG isn’t a competitive game, it is a cooperative game, where heroes and allies must join their forces to beat the scenario. However, Keeping Count works against this concept and so I would skip this attachment in decks completely.
Bofur, one of the companions of Bilbo Baggins, Thorin Oakenshield and other dwarves, traveling to Lonely Mountains, came into Spirit sphere as a unique ally for 3 cost. 2 Willpower (3 with Dáin Ironfoot in the game) is a default value, which should have any proper Spirit character, who specializes in questing, at least for 3 cost. 1 Attack (2 with Dáin), 1 Defense and 3 Hit Points are other stats of Bofur. We can summarize that questing will be the primary task while attacking and defending won’t belong to frequent activity (although 1 Defense and 3 Hit Points can sometimes come in handy).
This prediction is confirmed by Quest Action, which allows you to play Bofur for only 1 cost under certain conditions. Bofur will come to the game exhausted and committed to a quest, so no other action than questing with him is allowed. He then can stay on the board and not return to hand… if you quest unsuccessfully.
!UPDATE! OR if your overall Willpower is equal to overall threat in the staging area, thus you don’t raise the threat as well as you don’t make the progression.
That’s a quite fair exchange: if you want to play Bofur for just only 1 cost, it will cost you another price.
So, how to use Bofur at best? If you really want to push through the quest, you may use him as a cheap 1-cost 2-Willpower ally, who will help you to quest successfully… but at the cost of returning Bofur to your hand. In short, you surely can use him as a one-time ally: quickly there and back again. This would be useful during location lock, or if you need to get rid of the active location/current quest. This won’t pay over a long period. If you pay 1 cost for Bofur more than twice, then it is less economically advantageous than if you play him for his full cost.
If it is at least a bit possible – play Bofur for 1 cost in that way he could stay in-game. Here, the update was needed, because you don’t need to play Bofur before the staging. That’s a very important note. If you had could use Quest Action only just before staging, you wouldn’t know how high threat you would have to expect unless you use some card with scrying effect (Denethor, Henamarth Riversong). However, in a multiplayer game, you still don’t have an idea, what awaits you under the top encounter card. So using Bofur’s ability blindly before the staging would mean the great risk you will raise the threat. If you had been too wrong, you would have been endangered by increasing threat. Fortunately, Bofur’s ability doesn’t demand to be played before the staging – the action window occurs even after the staging. So in practice, you can play Bofur for 1 cost at the end of staging, when everything from the encounter deck is set, thus no additional threat will surprise you. That’s a big strength and the main reason, why to play Bofur in any Dwarf deck and you should even consider to include him outside of Dwarf deck if you need permanent +2 Willpower on the board. And it’s also the reason, why I had played Bofur incorrectly.:)
The flexible aspect of Bofur offers interesting tactical options. For the full cost, this Spirit Dwarf could find a place in your Dwarf decks, but he wouldn’t be a very sought-after ally. In short, you could find a better alternative. Bofur’s ability, however, can bring you very good stats for an amazing cost. Everything is about right timing – the certainty and usefulness arise from the action window within Quest Phase you decide to play Bofur.
Because LOTR LCG is a cooperative game, the cooperation among players is natural and oftentimes necessary for beating scenario. Paradoxically, we haven’t owned many altruistic cards, which would aim at help for others. Cards like Dáin Ironfoot or For Gondor! can globally help to all players, but they are “impersonal”. Then we have cards with effect or abilities, which can target any player you choose: for example Faramir. Another player can benefit from Faramir’s ability… if you want. But you can also prefer to help yourself. Everything depends on your goodwill to help others. Only a few cards are “specialized” in helping others. Brand son of Bain can serve as the classic example of a card with altruistic ability – he won’t do anything useful in solo games, but within multiplayer games, other players will thank you for his presence on the board. Brand son of Bain will ready their characters and that’s definitely the reason for happiness. And another example of a card with such effect is coming right now – the Spirit event Renewed Friendship.
You won’t pay anything for this event. To play this card you must wait until the moment another player attaches an attachment to your own hero. Then you can reward that player and choose from three options: 1) he readies 1 hero, 2) he draws 1 card, or 3) he decreases 2 threat. This is very nice and satisfying thanks, isn’t it? The effect of this card clearly shows that you can utilize in only in multiplayer games. In the solo game, you are not allowed to target yourself. So you have to firstly rely on the help of another player, which attaches to your hero an attachment. It’s a first and essential precondition, which you can’t avoid. I will shortly return to this at the end, but now it’s enough if I say that it will influence at least two decks: your and another player. YOUR deck must contain a hero, suitable for targeting of attachment. A deck of ANOTHER player must contain an attachment, suitable for your hero. Take some example: you have Bifur, for which some attachment with boosting Willpower would come in handy. Another player must draw such attachment (like Celebrían’s Stone), he must have a sufficient number of resources and he must attach it to your Bifur. Then, you must have Renewed Friendship in hand. Too many preconditions must happen, you see. In addition, you can’t play Renewed Friendship anytime, because attachments can be played only during the Planning phase. It prevents to use Renewed Friendship effectively, or at least one of its effect: readying 1 hero. Because during Planning phase heroes won’t have the opportunity to quest/defend/attack, they will exhaust only if they use the ability, which has such a cost. This option then seems quite useless, if another player didn’t own and use Denethor or Beravor, for example. The other two options are okay: drawing 1 card or reducing threat by 2 will please everyone, namely players, who lack such effects within their decks.
To be honest, Renewed Friendship would have been a very useful card, if it had missed the first part of the game text. Just playing this event without waiting on the attachment of another player would do good. Unfortunately, this precondition limits you and the card itself – readying of a hero during the Planning phase is useful for a narrow group of heroes. Instead of it, gaining 1 resource would be better, but you know… we don’t live in the ideal world. And Renewed Friendship isn’t an ideal card, though it may find use in multiplayer games in well-built decks, which are prepared for the presence of this card.
The next card is Lore ally for 3 cost, called Ravenhill Scout. For 3 cost we have to stand quite low stats: 0 Willpower, 1 Attack, 1 Defense and 3 Hit Points. Like Bofur, Ravenhill Scout could face an enemy with his not bad defensive potential, but you won’t use him for defending duty – not for 3 cost. Let’s read Action: “Exhaust Ravenhill Scout to move up to 2 progress tokens from 1 location to another location.” Our new ally is able to manipulate with progress tokens across the board, between any 2 locations. I like this ability – it helps you to distribute progress tokens wherever you need. Ravenhill Scout then can be used mainly in two cases: 1) if the active location has 2 and more progress tokens, or 2) if any location in the staging area has 2 and more progress tokens.
The easiest way is, of course, to move progress tokens from the active location, where progress tokens are naturally gathered at most. In The Redhorn Gate, Mountain locations like Caradhras or Celebdil tend to stay as the active location for more than 1 round (because their effect makes questing harder). If you dare to move precious progress tokens from these Mountains on other locations, you can target locations like Rocky Crags or Turbulent Waters, which own high Threat Strength, which you don’t wish to keep within the staging area. Alternatively, active location with high Quest Points (Dreadful Gap) can also serve as the generous donor of progress tokens for other, bothersome locations.
Nevertheless, I would rather move progress tokens from a location, located in the staging area. It doesn’t matter, if the targeted location, receiving progress tokens, will be an active location or another location in the staging area – the current situation will give you the right clue, where to place the progress tokens. Ravenhill Scout may create a good combo with other cards generating progress tokens; for example Snowbourn Scout, Northern Tracker or Ancestral Knowledge. From these cards, Northern Tracker appears as the best friend for Ravenhill Scout, because he is generating progress tokens in the great quantity. During 2 rounds, every location in the staging area will carry at least 2 progress tokens and you can use Ravenhill Scout’s ability to further relocate them across the board.
!SPOILER! However, when Asfaloth will come among us, he substitutes Northern Tracker as the best companion for Ravenhill Scout.
Ravenhill Scout then can play the key role during the cleansing of the staging area from locations, respectively reducing overall Threat Strength.
The reason, why Ravenhill Scout doesn’t show frequently in player decks, I see in 3 cost. Generally, I have a problem with expensive allies with abilities, which demand exhaustion. If I play an expensive ally, I expect an ally with very good stats, which I can utilize during questing/defending/attacking. The expensive ally, whose main mission is using his ability, would have to own a really good ability to force me to spend many resources. And relocating 2 progress tokens for 3 cost isn’t good enough, I suppose. Again, you would have to adapt your strategy to effectively use Ravenhill Scout’s ability, or you would cry over the earnings. Northern Tracker is the natural companion of Ravenhill Scout, however, he costs 4 Spirit resources and that isn’t negligible cost. From my point of view, Ravenhill Scout rather sounds better “on the paper” than he is in reality.
We are encountering just a second card with Secrecy keyword. It might not be enough to build a full-blown Secrecy deck. However, Needful to Know is one of the few Secrecy cards, which you can utilize without hesitation in the non-Secrecy deck. 2 cost for this event is acceptable cost, but paying no cost, if you have under 20 threat, is of course totally superb. Now the Action; you raise your threat by 1 and look at the top card from the encounter deck. You reduce your threat by X, where X is the threat of revealed card.
So firstly, if you want to use Needful to Know as effective as possible, you won’t do without a card, which can scry the encounter deck. In the Lore sphere, we, fortunately, have some options, which will ease the use of this event. I immediately recall Denethor, the master of scrying of the encounter deck. He has only 8 starting threat, so including him into Secrecy deck wouldn’t be a bad idea. But you may decide for another hero – what other options we have? In my point of view, the best companion of Needful to Know is Henamarth Riversong. He costs only 1 resource, he has very simple Action, which enables you to look at the first encounter card, and so he creates a very effective, cheap and simple combo with Needful to Know. You certainly can look around another scrying card, such as Rumour from the Earth (which is, by the way, also a decent option), or do scrying in a bit different way, with Shadow of the Past, where you actually don’t scry, but just return the topmost discarded encounter card back on the top of the encounter deck.
We have invented some combos with Needful to Know – but how actually good is its effect? Without any helper, which would give you a clue what hides as the top encounter card, the effect may not pay off. The reason is the existence of treacheries, which don’t own any threat. If you reveal treachery, then you increase threat by 1 totally in vain. In Secrecy deck, any additionally increased threat means setback. As you read, I really recommend you to include scrying card as the partner of Needful to Know. On the other hand, if you reveal any other encounter card with Threat Strength, it won’t hurt you at all. At most, your threat remains the same as before using Needful to Know (you raise threat by 1, then reduce threat by 1). Well, if you are not too unlucky and you won’t reveal encounter card with X threat, where “unless specified by a card effect, or granted player choice, the letter “X” is equal to 0.” (LOTR FAQ). Everything with 2 threat and above will improve your threat. The best you can do is wait on an encounter deck with a really high threat. Lightless Passage, Zigil Mineshaft, Rocky Crags decrease your threat by a very significant value. But even encounter cards with 3 Threat Strength worth it.
As I said at the beginning, Needful to Know comes in handy even in non-Secrecy decks and that cannot be said about each card with Secrecy keyword. Reducing threat belongs to an important mechanism, no matter what deck you build. Some scenarios (you surely remember well Return to Mirkwood, where Gollum was increasing your threat by 3 each round) have really deadly threat acceleration able to beat you in few rounds. 3 copies of Needful to Know (with other supportive reducing-threat cards) will help you to face such scenarios.
Every fan of LOTR LCG knows that Hobbits have a strong sense for a good meal. Good Meal is also the name of our new Neutral attachment, illustrating that full Hobbit is useful Hobbit.
Like Boots from Erebor, you won’t spend any resource for this attachment, which you may attach only to Hobbit heroes. In the context of Dwarrowdelf cycle, focusing on non-Dwarf trait can seem quite surprising. Especially focusing on Hobbit trait – after all, until now we have met only 2 Hobbit heroes, Bilbo Baggins and Frodo Baggins. Why we should run decks with any of these Hobbits when Dwarf-decks are experiencing the golden times now? The reason might be Hobbits have generally very low starting threat, thus they are damn good in any Secrecy deck. And Secrecy decks are, except for Dwarves, a very interesting theme that is still waiting for its right time. But you may run the deck with Hobbits also because of Good Meal. This attachment must be discarded from the Hobbit hero to trigger its Action. When you do it, you lower the cost of the next played event, which matches the sphere of the attached hero, by 2.
The worst part of this Action is discarding itself, but what would you want from the 0-cost card, right? On the other hand, the best part of this action saves you 2 resources at a minimum. If you have attached Bilbo, you may reduce the cost of Lore events, if you have attached Frodo, then reduce the cost of Spirit events. Attaching Song of Battle or Song of Kings allows reducing the cost of events from the Tactic and Leadership sphere likewise. It cannot be said, which sphere would welcome Good Meal at most – every sphere has own set of expensive cards. Perhaps except for Tactic sphere, where the most expensive card is 3-cost Thicket of Spears from the Core set, while the majority of Tactic events cost 1 and fewer resources. It’s also a truth that the most expensive cards from sphere we have (Fortune or Fate, Beorn’s Hospitality, We Do Not Sleep) you probably won’t play at all, thus you will reduce the cost of this events by Good Meal very, very rarely.
So the best target of Good Meal are frequently used events with 2 and more cost. Within Spirit sphere, you should save the Good Meal for events like The Galadhrim’s Greetings, Stand and Fight (if X is 2 and above), Untroubled by Darkness, maybe Astonishing Speed, if your deck contains Rohan characters. Within the Lore sphere, the choice is wider because there is a greater concentration of expensive events: Lore of Imladris, Lórien’s Wealth, Gandalf’s Search (if X is 2 and above), Gildor’s Council, or Needful to Know (if you have above 20 threat). Certainly, there isn’t written anywhere you couldn’t use Good Meal on events for 1 cost. If you lack resources for playing A Test of Will and you need to defend yourself against some nasty treachery, then using Good Meal is very good, if not necessary, idea.
Still, Good Meal needs Hobbit heroes and events for 2 and more resources. The offer of Hobbits isn’t wide and/or famous, there are many reasons to replace them with stronger heroes. And so Good Meal still must wait at its right time, with more Hobbits in offer.
To play Elrohir correctly, you have to also play with Elladan, who is still not present in this moment. Within LOTR LCG, it’s a rarity – hero needs another hero to make a strong combo, which empowers both. I admire such an idea, it brings something fresh and original in ranks of heroes. Elrohir, boosted by the presence of Elladan, is a very capable defender if we consider also his ability, which enables Elrohir to defend multiple times. He is totally suitable for Dúnedain Signal. I would say that it is MUST attachment for Elrohir, he will then become the omnipresent rough wall, hard to overcome. Someone could see his essential cooperation with Elladan as a weakness because we then have to find a place not for one, but for two heroes. I see it as an original feature, not necessarily restricting.
Only the Spirit and Lore sphere offer new allies – Bofur and Ravenhill Scout. The unique Bofur for 3 cost engages our attention by extremely tempting ability, which allows him to play for just 1 cost.
!UPDATE! You just need good timing and calculation of Willpower vs. Threat (they should end equal at best, so you wouldn’t raise your threat at all).
While Bofur is very viable in any Spirit-Dwarf deck, Ravenhill Scout may interest you with ability, but discourage you by stats. 0-1-1-3 for 3 cost doesn’t make from him an ideal ally. His ability can sound well, but practically you won’t have many opportunities to relocate 2 progress tokens onto a more troublesome location. Situational ability at low-quality ally lowers the probability he appears in your deck frequently.
Almost each of the introduced event has something to do with keeping threat as low as possible, namely first Secrecy cards, Timely Aid and Needful to Know. Both events work perfectly if you keep your threat below 20 – then Timely Aid costs only 1 resource and Needful to Know is even for free. Both cards are great additions in Secrecy decks due to their effect – putting an ally for free into the game or reducing threat by the value of topmost encounter card belongs to attractive game mechanics.
Other events don’t look so good. Taking Initiative won’t work well without effects scrying own deck and if you play with the full number of heroes. Unseen Strike would be useful if it hadn’t aimed players with a lower threat, or if you could aim the character of any player. And Renewed Friendship could help you and others more if you hadn’t need to wait on the attachment of other players. Just helping others for free, without some preconditions, would be better, in my point of view.
Though The Redhorn Gate shows the rich set of events, only a few of them you utilize in practice. 3 of them don’t fulfill their real potential.
What positive I could say about Keeping Count? Maybe that it doesn’t bother us to spend any resource for such…failure. The effect of this attachment is so senselessly complicated that it doesn’t worth it to try to think up some combo with it.
If you go with Hobbits, you want to have own Good Meal. The cost of expensive events can be significantly reduced, so you save resources, which you can use elsewhere. The problem is we don’t have a wide choice among Hobbits now, and also many reasons and motivation to run Hobbit deck – we lack the sufficient number of cards with Hobbit-synergy.
The attachments of The Redhorn Gate belong to a weaker kind of cards because there are several reasons to play Good Meal and no reason to play Keeping Count. So let’s hope the next adventure pack is going to bring more useful attachments.
The Redhorn Gate will test your ability to make progress to the extreme. Even decks, full-packed with Dwarves, haven’t the success guaranteed. When Freezing Cold or Snowstorm strikes the board, even the courage and determination of Dwarves may waver. The peak of Caradhras isn’t for weak characters (read: with low Willpower).
I would expect many cards aimed at making progress, generating progress tokens, boosting Willpower and overall characters with strong Willpower. Unless The Hills of Emyn Muil, which has given us cards corresponding with the main task of scenario, The Redhorn Gate offers just two cards (both allies), which concern making progress: Bofur and Ravenhill Scout. While Ravenhill Scout won’t probably become frequently used ally (although his ability may be useful in certain situations), Bofur will find a way to your Dwarf decks definitely.
!UPDATE! It would be a shame to not use his ability, which allows us to play him for just 1 cost. If you play him correctly, then you gain ally with 2 Willpower (3 with Dáin Ironfoot) for 1 cost and without raising threat. It’s so useful and amazing ability (which saves your resources)! For this reason, I claim Bofur as TOP CARD, because it has wider usage than the card I see as the second-best card – Timely Aid. This event shouldn’t miss in any Secrecy deck, because playing any ally “for free” provides you a big advantage, especially if you start with only 2 heroes. Timely Aid attempts to “seal the hole”, which will emerge after leaving out a hero. It’s one of the best cards you can get into the opening hand. However, the certain degree of insecurity, which accompanies this card, and disputable usefulness in non-Secrecy deck causes that Timely Aid is losing the crown of TOP CARD in favor of Bofur.
In Khazad-Dum, I couldn’t find a proper SHEEP CARD, because each card has something positive and no card was downright bad. Now the situation has turned around – I have to choose one SHEEP CARD from a quite wide set of useless cards, what I see as shame. Some cards (Unseen Strike, Renewed Friendship, Ravenhill Scout) just didn’t fulfill their real potential, so they are weaker than they could be. But the effect of Keeping Count hasn’t a good potential at all. One of the worst cards of the whole Dwarrowdelf cycle shouldn’t find a free place in your decks unless you want to test it at all cost. Overcomplicated and useless is the deadly combo, which forces us to forget on this card as fast as possible.
Because of the rich offer of “weak cards” within The Redhorn Gate, it is hard to choose THE MOST ENRICHED SPHERE. Alas, each sphere contains a low-quality card at a minimum. And so I decide to choose the Leadership sphere as THE MOST ENRICHED SPHERE because here we meet two very good cards – Elrohir and Timely Aid. But I realize that both cards will find the usage in the near future, not now. Elrohir needs his brother Elladan and Timely Aid needs more Secrecy cards in order to you could play full-blown Secrecy deck.
There aren’t many reasons to be interested in The Redhorn Gate from the view of player cards. And that’s definitely a pity because I evaluate this scenario as well-done. You will have to rely on cards from the previous expansion and cards Shadows of Mirkwood cycle.
LEADERSHIP SPHERE (ELROHIR + TAKING INITIATIVE + TIMELY AID)