During the tournament in 2018 that determined the community’s favourite quests at that moment, Journey along the Anduin ended in fifth place. This Core Set classic has always been a community darling, since it was the first proper challenge that we collectively faced. While the Nightmare version did increase the difficulty of the quest, the old mechanics were still in placed. Well, no longer. In this first quest in the Ered Mithrin cycle, the adventurers travel back up this river and will encounter enemies and locations from the old Core Set days. But new mechanics and the new encounter cards put a different spin on this classic quest. And to good effect too, since this quest ranked in joined 6th place during that very same tournament. So today, let’s go back up the Anduin and face the Hill Troll again. Let’s show him how much our decks have grown over the course of all those many cycles since our last encounter.
Journey Up the Anduin
- Found in: Wilds of Rhovanion Deluxe, scenario 1
- Official difficulty: 5
- Community difficulty: 6.3
- Encounter sets: Journey Up the Anduin, Lost in Wilderland, Grey Mountain Goblins, Hills of Wilderland, [Core Set: Journey Along the Anduin, Wilderlands (Only enemies)]
- Quest cards: 3
- Play if: You want to revisit the classic JatA quest but with updated mechanics, you are starting your adventure through the Ered Mithrin cycle in order, you want to show your friends that a side-quest deck has a lot of power if given the chance to clear some quests, you want a modern quest where you face the Hill Troll yet again!
- What’s different about this quest?: Haldan objective ally, Evil Creature deck, Core Set cards included in this encounter deck, Evil Creature enemies do not go into the victory display.
- Solo or multiplayer?: There may be a bit too many enemies in this scenario for you to handle by yourself while also making progress. I will argue that 2-3 players works best for this quest, as you can have decks that are designed to clear enemies in the staging area while others try to clear locations and make progress on the quests.
- Can I run side-quests in this scenario?: Yes, in fact, I will advise that you bring a couple of side-quests and Thurindir for this quest. The first stage allows you to stall for a long time, and making progress on the main quest is not something you want to do. Instead, clearing out several side-quests will give you a much-needed edge over the encounter deck during the early rounds of the quest. Keep Watch, Double Back, and Gather Information are all excellent side-quests for this scenario, but you can include more side-quests if you want to stall a little longer. More people with more side-quests in their decks will be a good thing.
- What to look out for: Enemy swarm, location lock, more enemies entering play through the Evil Creatures deck, double Goblin Sniper lock, swarm deck punishment.
To start the game, you remove the two unique locations from the encounter deck. The Old Ford and the Woodmen Village will be used in later stages, so set them aside for now. If you cannot find the Woodmen Village, it is the flip-side of Haldan, so set that card aside, out of play. Next up, you create the Evil Creatures deck by removing any locations and treacheries from the Wilderlands encounter set so that you only have the enemies left over. These form the Evil Creatures deck, which will be quite thin. The other cards of the Wilderlands encounter set are NOT shuffled into the encounter deck, but are instead removed from play. This means that you will never see the East Bight or the Brown Lands location during your playthrough.
A note on this Evil Creatures deck is that it prevents enemies that originate from this deck to enter the victory display if they are killed. This includes both copies of Hill Troll and the Marsh Adder who normally go into the victory display upon defeat. Not in this scenario though. Both types of enemies go into the seperate discard pile for the Evil Creatures deck once they are defeated. Once the Evil Creatures deck runs out of cards, its discard pile is shuffled back into the deck. This can happen at any point during the round, not just during the quest phase like with the regular encounter deck. This means that you may end up encountering the Hill Troll several times during this scenario, especially in higher player counts. It is no longer limitted to just 2 encounters, so be prepared to deal with the Troll.
After the second deck has been created, you can shuffle the encounter deck and discard cards until you discard X locations, where X is the number of players in the game. These locations don’t have to be different ones, so you can end up with an easy starting staging area if you get a bunch of Banks of the Anduin through this effect. This part of setup can also help to filter out some tough treacheries and enemies and put them in the discard pile for a while, making the early game somewhat easier. Once each discarded location is added to the staging area, you can flip this encounter card and move on to the first round.
Quest card 1: Travelling North – 10 quest points
This first quest stage is probably where you will spend the majority of the scenario building up before advancing to stages 2 and 3 in quick succesion. The quest stage only has 10 quest points, but there are a few things that you need to take into account when making progress at this stage. Whenever progress is placed on Travelling North, a resource token is placed on the quest. Then, at the beginning of the encounter phase, the resource is removed and the top card of the Evil Creatures deck is added to the staging area before engagement checks are made. This can result in an extra enemy per round, which can be a little too much to deal with for some decks. Especially if that enemy turns out to be a Hill Troll or Marsh Adder.
Instead, players might want to stall at this stage and quest against side-quests that they brought in their decks. There are no encounter side-quests in this scenario (or any in this cycle save for Fire in the Night) so you will have to bring some of your own. Questing against these side-quests won’t place a resource on the main quest, causing you to avoid the enemies in the Evil Creatures deck through the quest card’s effect. They can still come out though, as locations like the Wooded Riverbank and treacheries like Frenzied Creature can draw out those enemies. Since these effects otherwise stack on top of the main quest, it is in your best interest to prevent making progress on the main quest for a while. Side-quests are the best counter for this, providing you with helpful buffs as well.
If you are not playing a side-quest deck, then you will have to plan your questing phase a little more carefully. If you don’t want to make progress, you will have to equal the amount of threat in the staging area with your willpower. This results in no progress being made, but you also won’t have to raise your threat for questing unsuccesfully. Knowing what is coming off the encounter deck will help with this. Scrying the encounter deck in lower player counts can set up a round or two where you know all the cards that will be revealed. This allows you to match the threat in the staging area with your willpower. The Banks of the Anduin location will help with this as well, as this 1 threat location will put itself on top of the encounter deck whenever it is explored. You will have to do some careful scrying this way, but it is not impossible. Not making progress will lower the pressure of the quest by 1 enemy each round, which gives you time to set up your boardstate and prepare for the next few rounds.
During this stage, you will have to start clearing locations out of the staging area. This quest loves locations, and you might need some tools in order to prevent a location lock. This isn’t helped by the Hills of Wilderland location, which can punish a swarm-style deck by having X/X stats, where X is the number of characters controlled by the player with the most characters. This starts off at 3 for most decks, but can quickly become a terrible location to reveal. Thror’s Key is amazing for this location, but you can also do tricks with Strider’s Path or The Hidden Way to keep it out of the staging area. The golden rule at this stage is to at least travel every round and make sure you clear the active location. This puts you in a better position when questing. In higher player counts, I will suggest players run location control cards, as those can very easily get rid of some nasty locations.
The 10 quest points on this first stage should ideally be completed in a single round, since that means that the players advance before the encounter phase, causing the quest card’s effect to go to waste and no new Evil Creature is revealed. However, placing 10 progress on the quest is not the only requirement to advancing the stage. The players must also make sure that there are no enemies from the Evil Creatures deck in play. This can be difficult if there are Goblin Snipers in the staging area. But if a player is engaged with a Hill Troll, then it too must die before the players can advance to the next stage. This sets up a possible scenario where it becomes nearly impossible to win the scenario if there are two Goblin Snipers in the staging area, both with the Frenzied Creature treachery attached to them. This makes them immune to player card effects, meaning that they cannot be attacked in the staging area or dealt damage through card effects. And since they cannot be optionally engaged because there is another enemy in the staging area, a player will have to get to 48 threat in order to draw them down to advance. This can take several turns and that player is likely eliminated 2 turns later due to them threating out. It is not a likely scenario, but it could prevent players from seeing stage 2 at all. If this happens, just reset and start again, it will likely be faster than waiting to get up to 48 threat.
Once the players have made the 10 progress required on the main quest, and there are no enemies from the Evil Creatures deck in play, they advance to stage 2.
Quest card 2: Woodmen under attack – 5 quest points
Now that you are properly set up for this scenario and have hopefully cleared some side-quests as well, it is time to rush through these next two stages. It starts off with the raid on the Woodmen village. When this stage is revealed, the first player adds Woodmen Village to the staging area. Each other player must reveal an encounter card. In true solo, you know exactly what you are up against, but in higher player counts, you might just reveal some more cards on top of those that you revealed for the quest phase this round. Be ready for a lot of enemies/locations at this point and have cancellation ready for treacheries like Massing at Night. Once the Woodmen Village is added to the staging area and all other players have revealed their cards, you may flip this quest card to stage 2B.
In order to furthr try to cause a location lock, this quest card prevents players from placing more than 1 progress on each location in the staging area per round. This means that one player can send a single Northern Tracker to the quest, and that is all the progress you are going to get on locations in the staging area. Other effects that place more progress can instead start to target the active location, since that is not protected by this rule. This can help you to advance this quest stage more quickly.
I mentioned that during the last stage you should try and travel each round, and that’s because this stage will start to punish you for travelling to a location. Whenever the players travel to a location at this stage, they must add the top card of the Evil Creatures deck to the staging area. If there are more locations in the staging area that can now no longer be explored as quickly in the staging area, players may end up revealing more enemies from the Evil Creatures deck this way. A sneaky way around this is to not travel to locations, but instead making them the active location through player card effects. South Away does not cause you to travel to the location, so the quest card’s effect does not trigger. This does require you to play an attachment on the target location first though. Otherwise you will have to just take the extra enemy if you are doing well with your combat phase.
Regardless of this added travel cost to locations, you will have to start this stage by travelling to the Woodmen Village. This location is immune to player card effects, so you cannot explore it in the staging area and will just have to travel to this location. There is no travel cost, but remember that you have to add the top enemy from the Evil Creatures deck to the staging area to travel here. The goal here is to clear this location in the next turn, triggering its Forced effect. This adds the top card of the Evil Creatures deck to the staging area, after which you flip Woodmen Village to Haldan. Attach Haldan to the just-added enemy as a a guarded objective. You are again free to travel after this, but your goals now shift to rescuing Haldan.
Controlling Haldan is a requirement for advancing this stage, so you will have to focus your attention on the enemy that is guarding him. Hopefully the enemy is a weak one, but there is a significant chance of it turning out to be a Hill Troll. Regardless, the enemy doesn’t get any immunities or stat buffs for guarding Haldan, so you should be able to deal with whatever is attached to him. Once Haldan is free of encounters, the first player gains control of Haldan as an objective ally, and a pretty useful one as well.
Besides controlling Haldan, the players must also make 5 progress on the main quest. There is no penalty for making progress on this stage like with the first stage, so if you cannot place all progress in one turn, there is not much to worry about, except that the quest will take a turn longer to finish. Ideally, you will be through this stage in 2 turns, in which you travel to the Village in the first one, and then clear it in the second one, place 5 progress on the quest while you are at it, and rescuing Haldan in the following combat phase. However, if you need to take longer to meet all requirements, there is not much stopping you. Locations will start to pile up though, and travelling still comes at the cost of more enemies.
When you are ready to advance to stage 3, be sure to have killed as many enemies as you can. The next stage will bring out more enemies which will be making attacks from the staging area at some point. Engage what you can and try to kill enemies in the staging area through Ranged or Rohan techniques. Once the 5 points of progress are on the main quest and Haldan is rescued, the players advance to stage 3.
Quest card 3: The Passage of the Ford – 5 quest points
Your quest now takes you to the Old Ford, where Grimbeorn the Old is keeping the enemy at bay. You won’t be getting a Grimbeorn ally in this scenario, so feel free to run the hero in this scenario. When this stage is revealed, the first player adds the Old Ford location to the staging area and each other player adds the top card of the Evil Creatures deck to the staging area. This can end up revealing a bunch of enemies, so hopefully you have cleared the board somewhat before you advanced. Once the location and any enemies have been added to the staging area, the quest card flips and the players start the final stage of this quest.
Let’s skip ahead to your victory conditions at this stage. All you have to do, is to clear the Old Ford location that is currently sitting in the staging area. You do not need to have all 5 points of progress on the main quest when you happen to explore the location, so you are protected somewhat from the Misty Mountain Goblins once the Old Ford is the active location. However, you do still need to make the 5 progress in order to travel there. This will be your first task at this stage: Make 5 progress so that you can travel to the Old Ford.
This may sound easy, but lower player counts will start to struggle here. You just added a 5 threat location to the staging area and you may have added more threat through another enemy or 2 that got added when you advanced the stage. On top of that, you are likely facing more locations and enemies from previous rounds in the staging area, meaning that there is a lot of threat already up there. So there is a chance you might not make all 5 points of progress in one shot. Still, start to clear out some threat so that you are able to make more progress. There is no longer a limit on how much progress can be placed on locations in the staging area each round, so that should help clear out some threat if you brought some location control.
The threat issue isn’t helped by a Forced ability on this quest card. At the beginning of the quest phase, you have to add the top card of the Evil Creatures deck to the staging area. This gives you one enemy for certain each round, which might be tough to deal with in lower player counts. Not killing that enemy in the same round might cause an enemy swarm to defeat you close to the finish.
When your team has made 5 progress on the main quest, you can travel to the Old Ford during the next travel phase. This location has 5 threat, so it will be quite a relief to have it out of the staging area, meaning you can start to make progress again. However, this location isn’t a push-over. It has 5 quest points, but gains 5 extra quest points per enemy in play. This means that if you have been trapping enemies all game long, it is time to kill them in order to make it easier to win the scenario. There is another, nastier ability on the Old Ford that will be making the life of the first player more difficult. When the Old Ford becomes the active location, each enemy in the staging area makes an immediate attack against the first player. Since the quest card forces you to add an enemy from the Evil Creatures deck at the beginning of the quest phase, you are bound to have at least one enemy attack you. But with Goblins not engaging often, and with Wargs returning to the staging area, you are likely to face a lot of attacks in the travel phase. A good counter for this would be to use an ally or hero that does not exhaust to defend attacks. Beorn, Greenwood Defender, and Vigilant Dunedan come to mind. These allies can tank a lot of the weaker 2 attack enemies without much risk, before taking on the heavy hitters. You can also chump or rely on fellow players to use Sentinel characters, but be ready for a lot of attacks when travelling to the Old Ford.
Clearing the Old Ford is all you have to worry about at this point. Clear enemies so that its quest points are lowered, and then quest hard against the location in the next few rounds. You might end up spending a few rounds here if you keep revealing more enemies, but eventually you should be able to clear the location. With the Old Ford occupying the active location slot for the majority of this stage, you might want to invest in some location control cards to clear any other locations you reveal. You won’t be able to travel to any of them, so this is the only way to get rid of some high-threat locations. Upon exploring the Old Ford, you win the game, regardless of how much progress you have on the main stage. This protects you from Misty Mountain Goblins in rare cases. With this quest defeated, you now face the vastness of Mirkwood yet again. Familiar threats lie within, but new evil has taken root there as well, as you will encounter in the next scenario of this Deluxe box, Lost in Mirkwood.
The Encounter Deck
- The encounter deck has 35 cards in it on Normal difficulty. This slims down to 22 in Easy mode, which is a significant cut. Note that the Evil Creatures deck adds 8 enemies to the quest.
- The chances of hitting a shadow card is roughly 60% in both modes. This is important for the Wargs, meaning that 40% of the time, they return to the staging area.
- The average threat of cards revealed is around 1.4 threat. Note that this does not take the Hills of Wilderland locations into account, as they have variable threat. They can easily reach 10+ threat per location, so the average threat will be skewed to more threat per card revealed.
- 3 cards in this encounter deck have the printed surge keyword. This is pushed to 6 cards if the effect of Dangerous Crossing does not deal more than 3 damage. Also note that other cards can draw out more encounter cards and cards from the Evil Creatures deck.
- The Doomed keyword is only on the two copies of Ruined Supplies. There aren’t many other threat raising cards in this encounter deck, though effects like Marsh Adder and Gladden Fields will accelerate your threat if not dealt with immediately.
- Woodmen Village is immune to player card effects
- The Old Ford is immune to player card effects and can only be travelled to if there are at least 5 progress points on the main quest.
- Lost in the Wild cannot be discarded from your hand by player card abilities
- Any enemy with Frenzied Creature attached is immune to player card effects
- Stray Goblin cannot be optionally engaged
- Goblin Sniper can only be optionally engaged if there are no other enemies in the staging area.
- Goblin Troop cannot have player card attachments
- While at stage 2, locations in the staging area can only receive 1 progress per round
There seems to be a roughly equal distribution between encounter card types. However, remember that there are several effects that will add cards from the Evil Creatures deck. This skews the distribution more in favour of enemies. Locations will start to pile up thanks to the setup of the game and the many quest points some might have. The added restriction on progress while at stage 2 will cause these locations to remain a threat in the staging area for longer than might appear from the spread.
The only objective in this scenario is the version of Haldan with his shirt on. The stats of Haldan are identical to his hero version, but keep in mind that you are not able to run his hero version in this scenario due to the uniqueness rule. Upon clearing the Woodmen Village, it is flipped over to Haldan who is then guarded by the top enemy in the Evil Creatures deck. When that enemy is defeated, the first player gain control of Haldan and the players are able to move on to stage 3. Haldan is quite a useful ally, since he does not exhaust to quest when there is an active location. This means that he can use both his 2 points of willpower, and some of his combat stats. Of these, you will want to use his 3 attack more often than using his defence. Haldan isn’t meant to be a defender, since the players will lose when Haldan leaves play.
The great thing about Haldan is the fact that he can use attachments and other card effects like a regular ally. This can in turn make him a more powerful attacker if given a weapon. You can also turn Haldan into a more capable defender, but try to avoid this. A Squire’s Helm on Haldan is nice though, boosting his hitpoints to 6 in case you need to take a lot of direct damage.
But the main role of Haldan will be to quest without exhausting and then attack back for 3 during the combat phase. He can one-shot smaller enemies like the Wolf Rider and the Stray Goblin, or team up with other characters to take down a tougher opponent. A very useful objective ally to have, especially when you need to kill some enemies at stage 3. Remember to keep him alive and that he moves with the first player, and you should be ok.
Not all enemies in this scenario are added to the Evil Creatures deck, there are also several that are shuffled into the encounter deck. These range from very weak Goblins, to terrifying Wargs that will be tough to face. Try to kill these enemies as quickly as you can, before their ranks are increased with enemies from the Evil Creatures deck.
- Misty Mountain Goblins: These small Goblin enemies are a remnant of the old Journey Along the Anduin quest and will serve as roadblocks on your way to beat this quest. The stats on the Misty Mountain Goblins aren’t amazing, with them just taking 4 attack to be killed. However, there are a few things about them that can make them nasty enough to worry about. First of all, their engagement cost of 15. This will mess with Hobbit/Secrecy decks, as they might have a threat higher than this, which means that the Goblins will not trigger any of the benefits that those archetypes have. The Goblins also have an ability where they remove a single point of progress from the current quest (which is always the main quest in this case) whenever they attack. This can prevent you from going to the Old Ford at stage 3 if you lose your fifth progress point, but since you are likely to place enough progress in a single round, it is not that big of a deal. Note that you can still win the scenario without having 5 progress on the final stage. The players only win when the Old Ford is in the Victory Display, no matter the progress on the main quest. During combat, these Goblins aren’t much of a pain unless you are also engaged with a Goblin Troop. Then their stats will increase to a more problematic level. But 3 hitpoints means that even then, direct damage can bring these guys down without too much trouble.
- Goblin Troop: These guys are trouble, and will probably be the worst enemy to reveal from the standard encounter deck. The Goblin Troop has amazing stats, but they will hopefully not come down directly thanks to their engagement cost of 35. Still, they will contribute 3 threat to the staging area before players engage this enemy. The Goblin Troop cannot have player card attachments, which prevents it from being trapped. However, it also prevents them from guarding player guarded cards, causing them to be discarded if the players do end up using those sort of cards. When engaged, the Goblin Troop have a nasty 5 attack before being dealt a shadow card. This requires a dedicated defender or a chump, but it will do a good deal of damage either way. The biggest threat of the Goblin Troop however, is that it will boost other engaged Goblin enemies with a +1 to both attack and defence. It will not target itself, but if you happen to also draw a Stray Goblin down from the staging area, they will get boosted, which is troublesome. This means that the Goblin Troop will have a high priority on your kill-list, but it will take some effort to bring them down. The 4 defence and 6 hitpoints makes it extremely tough against single attacking heroes and allies, meaning you will either have to dedicate several attackers to this enemy, or rely on Ranged support from your fellow players. While the Troop is immune to attachments, it is not immune to events or effects from heroes and allies. This can cause you to deal some more damage or to for instance discard the Troop with Straight Shot once two Rivendell Blades or two Marksmen of Lorien lower the defence value to 0. There are numerous tricks around this enemy, but remember that you will have to get rid of it quickly, before a swarm of Goblins engages you and gains buffs. There are two copies of this enemy in the encounter deck, and their buffs do stack on other Goblins! Engaging two at the same time is likely a game-over for you, unless you came prepared.
- Stray Goblin: A good old swarm-style Goblin enemy that will bring great joy to Dunedain players, but will cause problems if left unchecked. The Stray Goblin has pathetic stats, unless the player is also engaged with a Goblin Troop. However, it will surge into another encounter card and will sit in the staging area until another enemy is engaged. This means that if you have nothing but Stray Goblins and Goblin Snipers in the staging area, you cannot engage anything that round. Whenever you do engage another enemy, all copies of Stray Goblin will also engage you afterwards. This can mess with your plans of taking out a weak enemy by itself when you are suddenly engaged with up to 3 other enemies as well. Luckily, the Stray Goblin only hits for 2, meaning you can take their attack undefended if you are feeling brave enough. Killing the Stray Goblins is also really easy, since they only have 3 hitpoints and no defence. However, killing them will add them to the encounter deck again eventually, where their surge will reveal more encounter cards. So if you can, try to keep these Goblins engaged with you and slap a trap like Outmatched or Forest Snare on them. They are not a big threat by themselves, but will cause trouble if they gang up on you.
- Pack of Wargs: Other than the Goblin Troop, this is the enemy in the encounter deck that you have got to watch out for. The stats on these Wargs are pretty high, meaning your Goblin-killing strategy might not be enough for this enemy. However, with an engagement cost of 40, this Creature enemy doesn’t have to come down directly. But you will want to remove the 4 threat out of the staging area, so the sooner you deal with this pack, the better. When engaged, the Pack of Wargs will hit for 4, which can be problematic, but you should have some defenders ready at least. And I say some defenders, because the Pack of Wargs has the tendancy to attack multiple times. Like the unpacked version of Wargs, this enemy will do a nasty thing if it is dealt a shadow card with no effect. The enemy won’t return to the staging area, but will instead make an additional attack against you. This attack does not get a shadow card, so you won’t fall into an infinite loop like in the Morgul Vale, but 2 attacks of 4 still hurt. You should have a secondary defender ready in case the Pack of Wargs does make an additional attack, or you can chump the second attack safely. For the second defender, I would suggest someone who can also dish out some good damage in case the second defence isn’t needed. Heroes like Grimbeorn come to mind as characters who can deal good damage even when not defending. And you will need the attack power, since the Pack of Wargs will take a total of 8 attack to fully destroy. Direct damage won’t cut it, unless you spend a lot of effects on this Creature, so you will have to either chip away at this enemy over a few turns, or straight up kill it with some powerful attackers. The high printed threat on the Pack of Wargs makes it a perfect target for cards like Proud Hunters, Spirit Merry, and Secret Vigil, so use those for this enemy if you want to make the most out of them! You can also get past the double attack on the Pack of Wargs by discarding the facedown shadow card. Since the card does not flip over, the Pack of Wargs can’t decide if it had a shadow effect or not. As a result, the Forced effect won’t trigger. This makes cards like Jubayr or Gandalf’s Staff excellent counters to the enemy. Be sure to keep the shadow card facedown though.
These 5 types of enemies can only be encountered from the Evil Creature decks. It has been a while since you’ve seen these enemies, so it is time to show them how much you’ve grown as a player since your last encounter with these enemies.
- Wolf Rider: This is by far the weakest enemy in the Evil Creatures deck and doesn’t pose much of a challenge, even with the Frenzied Creature treachery attached to it. The Wolf Rider has the lowest stats in the deck and is even outclassed by the Stray Goblin. The Wolf Rider has a low engagement cost of 10, which can pose a problem for Secrecy and Hobbit decks if they have other enemies they want to engage as well. However, in combat, the Wolf Rider only hits for 2 and takes just 2 attack to defeat, which really isn’t much. The textbox of the Wolf Rider is built around being revealed from the encounter deck. Its surge is meant to cause the Wolf Rider to be an enemy on top of another encounter card. However, the enemy is in the Evil Creatures deck, and those cards are only added to the staging area. So the surge keyword doesn’t trigger there. The shadow effect of the Wolf Rider is rather unique, but is also of no concern, since this enemy will never be a shadow card in this scenario. This enemy can be left engaged with a player for the majority of the game and it won’t be doing much. You can kill it through a myriad of effects before the Wolf Rider ever becomes dangerous. A great reveal in the early game!
- Hill Troll: Ah, the Hill Troll, we meet again. This enemy was the main antagonist during the first stage of the original Journey Along the Anduin quest and was the first real enemy that caused some players to rethink their strategy concerning combat. The Hill Troll is most feared for its base of 6 attack, which can one-shot some heroes and will take down even strong defensive allies like Jubayr in one hit. To make matters worse, any access damage dealt beyond the hitpoints of the defender must be used to raise the engaged player’s threat. This can be a big problem in the early game. However, since Journey Along the Anduin, we have gotten a bunch of tools to help with dealing with the Hill Troll. Just listen back to podcast episodes or videos discussing new player cards and how often the Hill Troll is mentioned. Heroes like the new Dain Ironfoot or Beregond with a Gondorian Shield can take care of the 6 attack pretty early in the game, providing you with a powerful counter to this enemy. However, killing the Hill Troll is still a challenge, and will take either one-time effects like Black Arrow or Tactics Eowyn to pull off, or a team of dedicated attackers. The 9 hitpoints will absorb a lot of damage before the Troll goes down, but try and prioritize the Troll because of his high attack. There are two copies of the Troll in the Evil Creatures deck, and you might encounter more than 2 trolls in your entire playthough. This is because the Victory points on the card do not matter for this quest. Upon defeat, the Hill Troll will be placed in the discard pile of the Evil Creatures deck, so that it can be reshuffled when the deck is empty. This means that one of the better strategies is to leave the Hill Trolls engaged with players once you pass stage 1 of the quest. Be sure to play a Forest Snare on both copies, so that they won’t be able to attack anymore. When you are ready to win the quest at stage 3, kill both Trolls in order to lower the quest point value of the location by 10, and hopefully you won’t be revealing a new Troll afterwards. Getting Frenzied Creature on this enemy is probably the worst combo, since the Troll now hits for 7 and will take more effort to kill. On top of that, the Forest Snare technique no longer works because of the immunity to player card effects.
- Goblin Sniper: While the stats of the Goblin Sniper aren’t much, its textbox provides the main reason why this enemy is a dangerous reveal from the Evil Creatures deck. The Sniper has just 2 threat, but with a 48 threat engagement cost, you will probably not engage this enemy naturally in your game (except when playing a Valour deck, but even then 48 is living on the edge). Optional engagements seem like the logical solution, but the textbox on the Sniper prevents players from optionally engaging this enemy while there are other enemies in the staging area. This is not a line of text that is unique to just one enemy though, since there are 2 copies of the Sniper and the Stray Goblins cannot be optionally engaged either. This means that there is a real chance that there will be a Sniper in the staging area for a long time unless the players can counter it. A double Goblin Sniper in the staging area locks both versions down, with the one preventing the other from engaging. This is bad, because not only do these enemies add threat to the staging area and boost the quest points on Old Ford, but they also deal 1 point of damage to a character of each player at the end of the round while they are in the staging area. A natural counter to these enemies is direct damage effects like Arrows from the Trees, Hail of Stones, or Galadhon Archer. Stacking these effects will get through the 2 hitpoints of the Sniper in no-time, clearing the board of the menace. Players being able to attack into the staging area is also a great tool to have. Haldir of Lorien, Hands Upon the Bow, or the Rohan synergy of attacking the staging area will clear these enemies out as well. The real trouble begins when a Sniper is locked down in the staging area with Frenzied Creature on top of it. It is now immune to player card effects, so all mentioned strategies go out the window. Target other enemies in the staging area so that it is the only one left. If you have passed stage 1 at the point that this combo takes place, then you can also just soak the damage and carry on. A single Warden of Healing will take care of the damage of both Snipers, you only have to deal with the threat.
- Marsh Adder: A one-of enemy from the Core Set days that will only be in the Evil Creatures deck if you are playing in Normal mode. This enemy is removed for Easy mode since it takes quite a lot to bring down. In regard to modern enemies, the Adder is pretty average, but in the Core Set days it was quite powerful. The 3 threat is high enough that you will be wanting to engage the Adder at some point, even though its engagement cost is 40. You will then have to start defending its 4 attack and the added penalty of raising your threat each time that the Marsh Adder attacks you. To prevent this, you can cancel its attacks with cards like Feint and Grimbold, which saves you a point of threat. Whether or not that is worth it, is up to you. Killing the Adder will take some effort since it has 7 hitpoints. However, it is easy to do damage to the Adder thanks to its low defence, so several characters working together will take down this enemy. When defeated, note that the Marsh Adder will go to the Evil Creatures discard pile instead of the Victory Display. This means that the enemy may very well be revealed again at a later stage in the scenario.
- Wargs: Remember the days that Wargs were one of the nastiest enemies to pull out of the encounter deck? Those were the days before the numbers 4 and 5 started to appear more often on generic enemies. Still, these Wargs will be an annoying enemy that keeps engaging you if you are unlucky. The Wargs have a low engagement cost of 20, meaning that they will likely engage a player during the engagement phase. However, you will likely be returning the Wargs to the staging area often, so their 2 threat isn’t negligable, unlike the Wolf Rider. The Wargs will run back after they attack and were dealt a shadow card with no effect. There isn’t much you can do, as discarding the shadow card won’t stop them from retreating if the discarded shadow didn’t have a shadow effect. However, you can prevent the Wargs from attacking through effects like Feint, Grimbold, and Feigned Voices. Since they never attacked, their shadow card doesn’t matter and they stay engaged. Killing the Wargs doesn’t take a lot, since they only have 3 hitpoints. This means that if you cannot cancel the attack of the Wargs, you might want to use some direct damage tools like Gondorian Spearman and Spear of the Citadel to deal damage while defending. The damage will eventually kill the Wargs, even if they return to the staging area.
The locations around the Anduin river haven’t changed much, with still some Core Set classics in this encounter deck. However, the roster is expanded with a series of locations that try to lock you down with locations. Some high threat locations in here as well, so better bring some location control to this quest.
- Woodmen Village: Since this location is important to the progression of the quest, I have already covered the Woodmen Village during the scenario analysis. The general strategy is to go to this location when you first make it to stage 2, and try to clear it as fast as possible. While this location will draw out several enemies (due to quest card effects), you need to explore this location in order to claim Haldan which is on the other side.
- The Old Ford: Again, I covered this location during the scenario analysis. Try to make 5 progress on stage 3 as soon as you can before travelling to this location. If possible, try to use cards like Hands Upon the Bow or Charge into Battle to clear the staging area of enemies before you travel here. This will lower the number of enemies in the staging area that make an attack against the first player upon travelling here. Remember that the location gains 5 quest points for each enemy in play, and exploring it will immediately win you the game.
- Lonely Lands: The thing about location lock is that if some locations are left unchecked for too long, they become a threat beyond what you can deal with. Such is the case with the Lonely Lands location, which at first is just your average run-of-the-mill location with 2 threat and 5 quest points. However, while it is in the staging area, it will force players to place their event card underneath the location whenever an event is played in the quest phase. Examples of these are for instance Sneak Attack to send Gandalf to the quest or A Test of Will to cancel a treachery that just got revealed. All these played events go underneath a copy of Lonely Lands, giving it a +2 to its threat per card underneath the location. This means that you are either locked out of playing events in the quest phase, or you have to deal with the extra threat on the location. Travelling to the Lonely Lands is therefore pretty important, as the location is tough to explore in the staging area thanks to its 5 quest points. Keep in mind that while the location doesn’t stack more events underneath it while active, it does still have its increased threat. This becomes a problem if Dangerous Crossing turns up in the next round. Explore this location as soon as possible to minimize risk. Or just don’t play events in the quest phase.
- Hills of Wilderland: This is hands down the worst location to reveal in most cases thanks to its annoying X/X stat line. The Hills of Wilderland took a look at Desolate Land from Crossings of Poros, and thought that it might as well boost the quest points as well. This results in a location that has as much threat as the number of characters controlled by the player with the most characters. So unless you are playing a true solo Grey Wanderer deck, this will be a 3 threat location from the start of the game. Even worse, the location blows up to a 10+ location if any player thought it wise to bring a swarm style deck, causing them to have a ton of allies. Luckily, the location gives the players a chance to lower its threat a little in case they got overwhelmed by the reveal of this location. As a quest action, the first player only may exhaust characters to lower the threat of that copy of Hills of Wilderland by 1 per character. This can be a useful tool in case no enemies were revealed and you need to make some more progress. The real strategy for this location is to never have it sit in the staging area with such a high threat. Thror’s Key will blank the textbox, causing it to have 0 quest points, exploring it immediately. You can also do tricks with Strider’s Path and Mariner’s Compass to get rid of the location if you cannot travel to it directly. This is also one of the few times I will encourage players to complete the Explore Secret Ways side-quest, as that means that the second copy of this location won’t have any threat if the first one is active. That can get rid of a ton of threat by just travelling to a location. There are a number of methods to deal with this location, but know that it exists and that it will probably appear at some point in your playthrough.
- Wooded Riverbank: A classic location lock encounter card that boasts a high threat, but a low quest point value. While usually these sort of locations are immune to player card effects, the Wooded Riverbank is not. Instead, it will drag out an enemy from the Evil Creatures deck when it is explored. Since you will want to avoid enemies, you leave this location alone, causing it to boost the threat in the staging area. There are a few ways around this location, which can save you revealing an additional enemy. First, blanking the textbox with Thror’s Key will get around the added enemy, so that is a fine use for it. However, with Hills of Wilderland in the encounter deck, you might want to save the key for that location. Second, you can wait until all Evil Creatures are in play and then explore all copies of this location. This is only viable in higher player counts towards the second half of the scenario, but is a great way to avoid revealing more enemies, since all of them are already in play. Third, you can discard the location with effects like Heirs of Earendil for just 1 threat. This does not explore the location, so the Forced effect does not trigger. The dangerous part of this location is actually its shadow effect, which deals one damage to the defending character. If this knocks out a chump blocker or an ally like Defender of Rammas before the attack resolves, you might have to take the attack undefended. And with Hill Trolls in the game, that can cause you to lose a hero. Be careful when chumping and bring shadow cancellation for this sort of shadow card.
- Gladden Fields: Another card that may look familiar to players is this location. The Gladden Fields has 3 threat and 3 questpoints, making it a good target for progress placing player cards to clear out some threat in the staging area. I say this, because I rarely travel to the Gladden Fields unless I have no other option. This is due to the effect where you have to raise your threat by and additional point at the end of the round. This may not be much, but I prefer to avoid raising my threat when I can, especially early game when you are avoiding Hill Trolls. The location can easily be explored and will go into the victory display once you place the final point of progress here. Since this is not a card from the Evil Creatures deck, the standard Victory Display rules apply, so you can thin the deck a little bit by getting rid of this location early. Not a terrible location to reveal, and you should have had enough training against this location in other quests to know how it works.
- Banks of the Anduin: Out of the entire encounter deck, this is probably the best card to reveal during your staging step. The Banks of the Anduin is another location that makes a comeback from the first cycle, with actually beneficial gametext. The 1 threat and 3 quest points make it a rather easy location to reveal, since it won’t be doing much while in the staging area. You can even clear it in the staging area without too much trouble, if you have the right tools for it. You do want to be clearing this location though, as clearing it will return the Banks of the Anduin to the top of the encounter deck. This means that you either get a blank shadow effect (watch out if you want to engage Wargs!), or you get the location back for the next round of staging. In true solo, this location might stick around for a long time, making the quest stage very easy. This is also one of the best ways to start the game with, as your starting threat in the staging area will be much lower than with other locations.
Much like the original quest, travelling up the Anduin brings a lot of hazards with it. Since only one treachery in this encounter deck is from the Core Set, we have a lot of new threats to discuss.
- Massing at Night: This is the only treachery that made it over from the Core Set, as the ones from the Wilderlands encounter set are not included in the scenario. Massing at Night is a nasty treachery of which there is just one copy, which is removed for Easy mode. The treachery serves as an additional staging step for the encounter deck, as it will force players to reveal one encounter card per player. In true solo, this means that it simply surges without anything else happening. However, higher player counts will see a lot more encounter cards that quest phase, making it difficult to recover. Cancel this treachery if possible in higher player counts, as you will otherwise cycle through the encounter deck much faster. The shadow effect on this treachery is also pretty nasty, as more shadow cards can mean that the attacking enemy will receive several buffs to its attack. Cancelling that effect can be worth it, though there are worse shadow effects out there.
- Frenzied Creature: In most cases, this will be the worst treachery to reveal unless you hit Massing in the Night in 4 players which resulted in you revealing this treachery. Regardless, this is a painful treachery if it hits the wrong enemy and can end up costing you the game. When Frenzied Creature is revealed, the top card of the Evil Creatures deck is added to the staging area and gets this treachery as an attachment. The attachment grants the enemy a +1 to all stats except hitpoints, and gives it immunity to player card effects. The immunity is the dangerous part here, as many players will need tricks to deal with the tougher enemies in this scenario. Hitting a Hill Troll or the Marsh Adder with this treachery will make it a tougher combat phase, but getting this treachery on a Goblin Sniper also complicates things. Now the Sniper is immune to player card effects, meaning that you can only damage it by engaging it when there are no other enemies in the staging area (or you have a threat of 48). The shadow effect of this treachery will also make it possible for the Goblin Troop to get these buffs, making it a much tougher target. Unless you know that the top enemy of the Evil Creatures deck is a Wolf Rider, I would advise cancelling this treachery. It will also drag out an Evil Creature, meaning that you might not advance stage 1 when you wanted.
- Dangerous Crossing: Without any Archery in this scenario and in most of the cycle really, the encounter deck needed some ways to deal more direct damage than just the occasional Goblin Sniper. This treachery fills that roll, forcing each player to deal damage to their characters. The amount of damage per player must be the same as the threat of the active location, which in most cases isn’t too bad. Only if players have a Hills of Wilderland or a boosted Lonely Lands as the active location, does this treachery become a problem. The damage can be healed off and cancelled through various means, but if you are about to take a lot of damage, then it might be worth to cancel this treachery. In most cases though, this treachery will deal between 0 and 3 damage to each player, which can be soaked up. If however, the threat of the active location is less than 3 (or if there is no active location), then Dangerous Crossing surges. Note that the treachery does not specify printed threat (in order to make Hills of Wilderland a terrible combo). This does allow players to take less damage by throwing a Power in the Earth or Guarded Ceaselessly on the active location. This lowers the total damage taken by the group, and can spare some allies in case players are playing archetypes with less hitpoints like Silvan or Hobbits.
- Ruined Supplies: On top of the Doomed 1 that each player has to take for this treachery, the treachery also gives each player a choice. Either they raise their threat by 1 for each ally they control, or they must deal 1 damage to each ally they control. Note that this only targets allies, not heroes. The choice is a tough one, and punishes swarm style decks. The correct option varies between situation, but I tend to increase threat for this effect more often. Certain swarm decks are more vulnerable to the damage than others. Having a lot of Silvans in play will encourage you to choose the threat over the damage, while Outlands with several Anfalas Herdsmen out might go for the damage. Getting these back-to-back often results in either a board-wipe, or a player ending up with a higher threat than that they are comfortable with. This treachery isn’t too bad in the early game though, and if you are at a high threat, you should have a decent army to deal with whatever enemies engage you.
- Lost in the Wild: This is a more unique treachery that we don’t see a lot of. Whenever Lost in the Wild is revealed, the players count the number of cards in their hand. Then, the player with the most cards who doesn’t have a copy of this treachery in his hand already, takes the treachery to his hand. The treachery can now no longer be discarded by player card effects (sorry Noldor players), and will have new text. Whenever the controlling player plays a card from their hand, they must discard all other cards. Hopefully your hand is full of trash and duplicates, but you will still have the chance to play one card from your hand before ditching the rest. This can become a tough choice, especially in the early game. But there are no other options than to cancel this treachery when it gets revealed. I would suggest playing a lot of static card draw options like Beravor and Gleowine to refill your hand. If you are playing true solo and get the second copy while the first is in your hand, then the second one fizzles and you get a free encounter card, which is nice.
- Weighed Down: The final treachery on this list counters the strategy of building up your heroes with a ton of attachments. I can see players who go for a Forth, the Three Hunters! contract deck will want to cancel this card above all others. When Weighed Down is revealed, it attaches to the hero with the most attachments that does not already have the other copy of Weighed Down attached to it. While attached, the treachery turns into a Condition attachment that will discard an attachment other than Weighed Down whenever the attached hero readies. This means that you will slowly start to lose your precious attachments until only Weighed Down remains. If you ready when it is the only attachment left, you get to discard it. Since it is a Condition attachment, it can be discarded through various means, which may well be worth it. You can also keep playing cheap attachments on the hero to discard afterwards, so that you get to keep your most valuable attachments. Otherwise you either have to make sure that the hero does not exhaust, or you have to wait until you run out of attachments and then start again. In the meantime, you can save other attachments for that hero in your hand, hoping that Lost in the Wild doesn’t hit. This treachery is best seen in the early game, when heroes don’t have that many attachments yet.
Tips and Tricks
- In order to counter the double Goblin Sniper combo that the Wild Creatures deck can dish up, be sure to pack some cards that can attack into the staging area. Rohan has several dedicated cards for this, but Great Yew Bow and Hands Upon the Bow will also work. Direct damage is of course also a viable option if you can target the Snipers with that. Be sure to knock them out once they set up their combo, else you will be taking a lot of extra damage.
- I will say again that side-quests are nearly essential for the early game unless you are very good in making exactly enough progress. Clearing side-quests gives you a nice boost in the early game while also setting up useful tools like Thalion, Legacy Blade, and Dour-handed.
- If you are not going the side-quest route, then plan your questing accordingly so that you only send enough willpower to match the threat in the staging area. Scrying is great for this, though that does get harder in higher player counts. Far-sighted will help with this in higher player counts, though you can also play the Scout Ahead side-quest to know what you are up against. There are also cards that can let you adjust willpower post-staging, like Don’t Be Hasty and Late Adventurer. These cards aren’t ideal, but can help out if you really don’t want to use side-quests.
- Since Haldan is an objective ally in this scenario, you cannot run his hero version for this quest. You will have to replace him before you begin or discard him when the objective ally is revealed.
- A viable strategy would be to use Trap/Dunedain style decks to keep all Evil Creatures in play after advancing to stage 2. This makes stage 3 easier as you won’t have to reveal the top card of the Evil Creatures deck anymore, since the deck is empty. This strategy is advised for 3-4 players, as it will take quite some effort to keep all enemies engaged with a player without actually killing it. When deploying this strategy, do try to damage up some of the enemies so that you can kill them in a single round in order to lower the quest points on The Old Ford.
- Chumping is not advised. There are several shadow effects that will deal damage to the defending character, causing you to lose the character before the attack resolves. This makes the attack go through undefended, which can cause you to lose a hero. Be sure that your defenders have at least 2 hitpoints remaining at all times.
- If you are unable to find the Haldan objective ally or the Woodmen Village location for setup, remember that they are the same card and have to be flipped to reveal the other part. This is missed more often than you might think.
- Possibly the most dangerous part of this quest is travelling to the Old Ford. This causes all enemies in the staging area to attack the first player, which is often enough to kill that player. Try to lower the number of enemies in the staging area through either dealing damage to them directly (Arrows from the Trees), attacking them in the staging area (Hands Upon the Bow), or engaging more enemies before you travel (Mablung).
- Fun fact, this scenario can set up a nasty chain of encounter cards that will cause an automatic KO in most cases. Consider revealing all three copies of Stray Goblin back-to-back, each surging into another, and the last one surging into a Massing at Night. This then reveals up to 4 more cards, which turn out to be 3 copies of Dangerous Crossing which damages for 2 each, causing them to surge. You then reveal 2 Hills of Wilderland back-to-back, raising the threat in the staging area by a ton if your fellow players are playing a swarm deck, and then you reveal 2 copies of Frenzied Creature which each pull out a Hill Troll. And that was just one card for staging! This is a theoretical worst-case scenario, but it does show you the value of Minas Tirith Lamwright a little.
Much like the spiritual ancestor to this quest, Journey Up the Anduin has a lot of playthroughs logged in video format. The community likes this quest to test more combat-focused decks, but also a variety of other decks. Check this list for some playthroughs to help you understand this quest some more.
- 2 player: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2N8NN1nPqNY
- True solo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mKOOq9t-7w
- 3 player: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wUGzKW1TDM
- 2 handed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JI0bWdoOD7w
- 2 player: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmszTchaLSg
- True solo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jf1Koi3OB0U
With the end of this article, we are already one-ninth through the Ered Mithrin cycle. Next time, we will go through the forest of Mirkwood again, though this quest has a lot more moving parts than the original Passage through Mirkwood. Be on the lookout for that article somewhere this month or at the start of the next one.