Encounter Set Review: Passage Through Mirkwood

Flies and spiders… that’s the name of the very stage of Passage Through Mirkwood scenario… and it quite fits one of the first Encounter set, which We would call as “practice”. Of course, the Player doesn’t play with each encounter set separately – each scenario consists of more encounter sets. But Passage Through Mirkwood set doesn’t exert any pressure on the Player. It probably contains the most Player-friendly encounter cards in the whole LOTR LCG. 

Summary review

Enemies

Locations


Enemies

Forest Spider

We can’t scare off new Players immediately at the beginning of the journey, can’t we? Players then could get scared too soon, refuse to play and then no game would ever happen. But WE like to play games. Just like Forest Spider, the very first enemy players will encounter in Passage Through Mirkwood set.

Our most common Spider resides close to the border of Mirkwood forests. It is kind of like worker in the spider world, not strong, but dangerous in the swarm. It’s highly probable Forest Spider encounter Players during the very first round (if some of these nasty Players don’t begin with Éowyn, Dúnhere, and Eleanor, that means with 24 starting threat) due to 25 Engagement cost – so players should rather prepare for defending or Forest Spider badly bites them.

Our Spider has an average, unexceptional value of Threat Strength – 2. It can attack Player’s characters, Our main foes, with 2 Attack, so again, nothing from what would have Players headache. Finally, 1 Defense and 4 Hit Points is a decent defending potential. Forest Spider is fortunately not easy to kill, so it will probably survive more than one round in the engagement area of the Player. However, Forest Spider should take care of mass attacks of stronger heroes, like AragornGimli or Legolas.   

What Forest Spider is missing on strength, it compensates by fierceness and sense for the moment of surprise. It’s not worth it for Players to absolutely ignore Our Forest Spider because when it engages Player, it gets +1 Attack until the end of the round. We call it “poison bite” – when a Player doesn’t pay attention, Forest Spider will come closer, jump and bite the poor character. If the bitten character hasn’t 3 and more Defense (like that Gondor coward Denethor), he will suffer the injury. Many cheap, weak and average allies won’t survive such sudden ambush, that’s definitely good. However, in the next round Forest Spider loses the moment of surprise. And when the Players finds out that it is common Mirkwood Spider, strong in the swarm and weak as an individual, the Players will lose the fright and respect. The only thing, with which Players will struggle, is the number of Hit Points.

Shadow effect:

How it looks when the enemy is supported by the help of Forest Spider in the form of a shadow card? In what Forest Spider is excellent, it well utilizes as the shadow card – the moment of surprise. He causes the loss of attachment the Player is controlling. Forest Spider as the shadow card may arouse the greater respect than as the enemy. Players don’t like discarding attachments, because they are precious to them. The best situation occurs when the Player controls just Steward of Gondor or Celebrían’s Stone. We love the anger arising in Player when he must discard his sweetheart. We then feel… satisfaction.

In Passage Through Mirkwood:

The first scenario is also the only one (for a long time), where Players will encounter Forest Spider. We could say Forest Spider is quite endangered Mirkwood species. As we have pointed out, Spiders work in a swarm at best. And when King Spider or Dol Guldur Orcs distract Players, Forest Spider, thanks to its quite low Engagement cost, can attack suddenly and hard. However, Players will be used to sense Forest Spider as the most welcomed enemy they can encounter. After the opening attack, it will probably just deflect the troublesome attacks of heroes and allies, and then from Our poor Spider remains the tangle of eyes and legs.

In Lost in Mirkwood:

The great return will experience Forest Spider (as other Encounter cards from Passage Through Mirkwood set) in many, many expansions later. While its position of common “Spider worker” won’t change, it can cause to Players trouble in the second stage of this scenario, Spiders of Mirkwood – as Spider, it may gain Surge and so it may call for its brothers and sisters. Within the same stage, when Forest Spider hits a character, that character cannot ready until the end of the turn.

Danger level

Shadow level


East Bight Patrol

From east are coming the silent enemies, which patrol around and deep inside Mirkwood forests. Nothing escapes from the sight of East Bight Patrol

East Bight Patrol consists of Goblins and Orcs. For Players it’s impossible to avoid them – it has 5 Engagement cost, so they surely encounter them. Why? Because they always spot the Players, no matter how deep in forests they occur. East Bight Patrol consists of well-trained scouts, which can feel the fear and blood.

When East Bight Patrol enters the staging area, the Players must deal with 3 Threat Strength. Because they move quickly and in great numbers, it means a serious threat to Players. The great numbers also mean the great attack, so East Bight Patrol has 3 Attack – enough to overcome defenses of many Player’s characters. Unfortunately, when Player strikes back and attack East Bight Patrol, they easily surrender – it shows 1 Defense and 2 Hit Points. The Player can massacre many Goblins and weak Orcs of East Bight Patrol without troubles, the rest of the squad will flee back to the east, from where they came.

Because East Bight Patrol fights simply, without any tactics or hesitation, it doesn’t own any ability. It can remind the Guard of the Citadel, the foe from the Leadership sphere, who also misses any ability. In the potential clash, East Bight Patrol would win. 

Shadow effect:

Simple shadow effect for the simple enemy. The numerous superiority of enemies causes that the attacking enemy will be boosted by +1 Attack. It’s fine when Players don’t count with such a boost. However, +1 Attack in the majority of cases doesn’t kill a hero, maybe only some careless ally. The better situation occurs when some Player undergoes some enemy and East Bight Patrol strikes as the shadow effect. On the contrary of Dol Guldur Orcs, who adds +3 Attack if undefended, East Bight Patrol still adds just +1 Attack AND raises the threat of Player by 3. It’s not much – but raising a threat can cause that Player will encounter more enemies the next round. 

In Passage Through Mirkwood:

East Bight Patrol would be better… if we could send more copies of it to the game. More copies of East Bight Patrol in the staging area could increase the overall Threat Strength in the staging area to the extent that Players could have serious trouble. Moreover, thanks to low Engagement cost all of them could encounter Player at once. And many enemies with 3 Attack could cause considerable harm. Alas, only 1 East Bight Patrol awaits on Players, thus they will completely forget they have ever met this enemy.

In Lost in Mirkwood:

As Forest Spider, the position of East Bight Patrol won’t change, apart from revealing it in the third stage, Dol Guldur Orcs, where it gains Surge and it may discard a card from the Player.

Danger level

Shadow level


Black Forest Bats

If Players are sufficiently careless, they may wake up the flock of bats, black like the night and annoying like wasps. From deep forests of Mirkwood, Players may disturb Black Forest Bats

These Creatures are sleeping for most of the Player’s adventure. That’s why Players will engage them very rarely. But on the other hand, it’s not hard to wake them – Players won’t avoid 15 Engagement cost they have. Bodies of Black Forest Bats are huge, black and maybe terrifying… but they, unfortunately, aren’t a big threat for nasty Players. Only 1 Threat Strength won’t raise the overall Threat Strength in the staging area too much, rather Players won’t register such increasing. These Creatures are in overall weak – 1 Attack won’t even scratch the majority of characters and without Defense, the poor 2 Hit Points will be early on zero. Black Forest Bats don’t belong among fighters or strong Creatures, just one average attack of the character will disperse them.

However, Black Forest Bats can at least scare the Players. When Black Forest Bats are revealed from our encounter deck, each Player must choose 1 character sent to quest and remove that character from the quest. We love when too arrogant Player sends to the quest only 1 character, like Éowyn, falsely convinced he will succeed. The number of Players doesn’t play a role – if each of them sends only 1 character, nobody would be sent to a quest, thus they had to raise the threat by the value of overall Threat Strength in the staging area. More Players mean bigger detriment and so Black Forest Bats can complicate their progression through the game. Of course, if each Player sends to a quest more characters, the effect is lesser. Well, at least the chosen characters won’t ready again, so Players can’t use them for that round.

In Passage Through Mirkwood: 

From the view combat, Black Forest Bats can’t measure with Player’s heroes, nor allies. But We don’t send Black Forest Bats for combat duties, for that We have other servants. Their task lies in reducing or eliminating success during questing. In a multiplayer environment, the best combo Black Forest Bats can make is with Driven by Shadow, which adds +1 Threat Strength to all already revealed encounter cards. This combination will complicate the progress, if more characters of each Player are sent to a quest, and will completely ruin their progression if each Player sent only one character. The nice complication will also bring the revealing of Ungoliant’s Spawn, which reduces the Willpower of each character committed to a quest by 1.

However, for Black Forest Bats is valid the same thing as for East Bight Patrol – 1 copy of this enemy won’t scare Players too much, thus the chance of doing some nice and deadly combo is relatively slight.

In Lost in Mirkwood:

These little Creatures can cause such chaos that Players can enter the dangerous zone, from where is no escape. When Black Forest Bats is revealed with Unseen Danger, two characters of each Player in total are removed from the quest. We would be surprised if Players were successful in questing, rather We expect a solid increase of their threat.

Danger level


Locations

Old Forest Road

The very first location the Players will encounter is Old Forest Road. It’s because the setup of the first stage forces Players to add this location and one Forest Spider to the staging area. Old Forest Road rather helps Players than harms them. After one of them travels to this location, the First Player may choose 1 character he controls and ready that character.

Well, if it mattered to Us, We would prepare to Players better (that means more deadly) location, which would make their journey harder. Alas, Beorn has shown them the secret path, which provides to Players temporary safety. But during their adventure, We are going to reveal more deadly and dangerous locations anyway. Old Forest Road is too short to keep them real safe, so let the Players keep in naive confidence they have everything in own hands. It will lead them deeper to Mirkwood forests… where lurk Our minions, SpidersOrcs and other Creatures

Anyway, Old Forest Road has just 1 Threat Strength and 3 Quest Points. For Players it doesn’t pose any problem, on the contrary – it’s a location with a positive effect for them, so they will be searching for this location in order to the First Player could ready one of his nasty servants. Thus he will gain the advantage against Us. He gains one character, able to defend or attack or use some ability, so We must survive this bad time and be ready for the next round.

In Passage Through Mirkwood:

From the Player’s view, Old Forest Road is the way, how to cope with Our nice Encounter cards like the mentioned King Spider, Caught in a Web or Great Forest Web, which means effects causing exhaustion.

But as We have said earlier, Old Forest Road can serve to Our cause. It may appease the Players and convince them everything is okay. Players can even think We are cooperating with them. But that’s a false faith, for which We will punish them!

In Lost in Mirkwood:

The only Encounter card somehow adjusting the dangerousness of Old Forest Road is Vastness of Mirkwood, which can add +1 Threat Strength (or +2 Threat Strength, if it has a progress token(s) already) to it. However, 2 or 3 Threat Strength of Old Forest Road adds another reason to travel there, besides its positive Response. Another possible combo can create Dark Black Woods, which didn’t change Old Forest Road itself, but it makes more difficult to explore it. 

Danger level


Forest Gate

The second and the last location simultaneously of Passage Through Mirkwood set is called Forest Gate. It is a small, natural hole created by trunks and treetops, which leads Player’s characters deep into Mirkwood forests. Threat Strength of this location reaches 2, which is the quite average value in Passage Through Mirkwood scenario. Players may or may not travel here to reduce the overall Threat Strength in the staging area. If they decide for traveling there, then 4 Quest Points await them… again it’s a quite average value. Purely from the view of location stats, Forest Gate is a better location than Old Forest Road, which has only 1 Threat Strength and 3 Quest Points. Like Forest Gate was the herald of danger that lurks on the Players. Do they know at all, how many eyes watch at them?

Unfortunately, Players will be generally glad for traveling into Forest Gate. When they do it, the First Player will draw 2 cards. At least, this effect doesn’t influence every Player in the game, but still… drawing 2 cards provides the First Player more options to sabotage Our effort – that means Player should get lost in Mirkwood forests, surrounded and killed by Our pets. He may draw new allies, new events, and new attachments, everything ready for annoying Us. It’s good that Forest Gate is only in 2 copies, so Players will utilize this location very rarely.

In Passage Through Mirkwood:

We sense the attempt of good forces to help new Players in their first journey. Old Forest Road, with 1 Threat Strength and only 3 Quest Points, was able to ready 1 character of the First Player. We don’t like this advantage. Now We must reconcile with another location with a positive effect for Players. That’s in summary 2 locations in Passage Through Mirkwood with positive effects for Players. The last location with the positive effect is Mountains of Mirkwood, but it at least reveals one more Encounter card.

Yeah, We don’t want to scare the new Players, We like the games. So We could make up the situation, where the effect of Forest Gate would be neutralized, though it won’t happen very frequently. If Player draws 2 cards, 2 events more precisely, which he won’t utilize immediately in the current round, We can send on him treachery called Eyes of the Forest. It discards all events from the hands of each Player, thus the last benefit from Forest Gate can be defiled. Of course, if Player won’t play one of his disgusting spells like A Test of Will, which would ruin Our little joy. Anyway, Forest Gate is far more beneficial for Players than for Our matter. But We know other ways how to make the adventure for Players uncomfortable…

In Lost in Mirkwood:

Like Old Forest Road, Forest Gate may cooperate only with Vastness of Mirkwood (so it would have 3 or 4 Threat Strength) or Dark Black Woods, which doesn’t allow to put more than 1 progress token onto it.

Danger level


Summary review

Enemies

This Encounter set shows, what types of endemics live in Mirkwood forests. Players don’t meet them ever again, so it’s interesting to recall these rare Creatures. The most common Creature and Spider at the same time is Forest Spider. Unfortunately, it won’t hurt the Players significantly, but the first time when it engages Player it gains +1 Attack boost. It can catch unprepared Players off-guard. It also might be dangerous when some Player faces more enemies and his attention is distracted. However, from all Spiders Players can meet, this one he likes to see at most. 

From OrcsEast Bight Patrol fulfills the role of vanguard. In Passage Through Mirkwood, We send on Players some really talented Orcs, but East Bight Patrol doesn’t belong to them – it consists of the weakest Orcs at all. They compensate their imperfection by great number – that’s why East Bight Patrol has 3 Threat Strength and 3 Attack, what Players can’t surely ignore. On the other hand, they won’t hold too long – 1 Defense and 2 Hit Points is proof of that. 

Mirkwood forests also inhabit Black Forest Bats, the rare Creature Players can meet. While it is not the challenge for Players from the view of combat skills, it may astonish Players in an inappropriate moment. Its sudden raid scares characters to the extent, that 1 character of each Player is removed from questing. Simultaneously, characters remain exhausted, so they cannot contribute to any activity whole round. Despite its vulnerability, Black Forest Bats is our favourite pet of the whole set. 

If Players want to judge Our power according to the enemies of this Encounter set than they might be pleased. Or disappointed, matter what Players stands against Us. It’s true that they belong to the weakest of the weakest, nobody from them could challenge Players in a straight fight. But Passage Through Mirkwood scenario doesn’t consist only from Passage Through Mirkwood set and so Players won’t meet only these weak clowns. 

Danger level


Locations

Alas, We must admit that locations of this set don’t pose any threat to Players, on the contrary – traveling there has a positive effect for them. Like Old Forest Road – the opening location doesn’t punish Players at all, it just makes ready 1 character of the First Player. This location Players will try to utilize at most because they gain an advantage. Cheeky brats! 

Forest Gate enables Players to draw 2 cards, that’s another location with positive effect. While it has 1 more Threat Strength and 1 more Quest Point, still the Players will voluntarily (and gladly) choose this location as an active location.

We are disappointed with the choice of locations, no real threat awaits on Players. The easiest way to Player’s victory is, the greater anger and grudged We have against Player.

Danger level


Treacheries

In Passage Through Mirkwood is missing any treachery and We regret it. We can imagine some introductory treachery, like “When revealed: Destroy all characters of all players,” but it would be enough something like “Deal 2 damage to 1 character,” at least.

Danger level – NONE

!UPDATE!
Shadow effects

Like enemies and locations are not so terrifying, shadow effects won’t terrify Players either. One discarding attachment and one boosting Attack (with the possibility to raise threat) are not… too much great shadow effects. We know better. 

Danger level


Overall evaluation

Passage Through Mirkwood fulfills the role of really “opening Encounter set for beginners”. Players won’t meet here anything really dangerous or “hardcore” or challenging here. For that, We own other Encounter sets.

Overall Danger level of the set


YOUR NIGHTMARE

To speak about YOUR NIGHTMARE is really excessive because no card from this Encounter set would deserve such honor. But We don’t want to leave out this title. If We should choose one card, which could give the Players a hard time a little bit, We will point at Black Forest Bats. Removing characters from questing seems like a quite useful effect able to ruin one Player’s Quest Phase at least. And if the Players face location lock or they also reveal Ungoliant’s Spawn, We must mischievously smile!


GOBLIN CARD

Nah, almost every card of this set could be GOBLIN CARD. But the most irritating card for Us is Old Forest Road. The reason is clear: it doesn’t help Us, but it helps Players. We don’t like such Encounter cards. Also from Forest Gate Players can profit, but it at least has 2 Threat Strength and 4 Quest Points. The only positive We see in these locations is that Players could think and be persuaded they have everything under the control and that even Encounter deck is on their side. But nothing could be further from reality…



SHADOW HORROR

While Encounter cards of Passage Through Mirkwood set doesn’t worth too much, We have found the passion for the shadow effect of Forest Spider. Players in general hate “discarding attachments” effects and Forest Spider owns such an effect. If defending Player controls one attachment, no matter how precious for him it is, he must say goodbye to it. We think that this can be viewed as the best thing on this Encounter set.

5 thoughts on “Encounter Set Review: Passage Through Mirkwood

  1. Amusing read; thanks for the article! I’m looking forward to reading the reviews of the less forgiving encounter sets in tue future. As a suggestion: you could comment in specific tech/sideboard option on how to deal with the worst (or ‘best’?) of encounter cards (rating of 5 or 6 skulls).

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    1. Hi Gibby, thanks for your support, glad you enjoyed the article! It’s hard to somehow indicate (from the encounter view), how to beat the encounter cards, because the Sauron servants would be against themselves. 🙂 But sometimes I try to say, what is the greatest danger for the given encounter card (= how to beat the encounter card at best, from the player’s view). Wait until the next encounter set analysis, maybe you find here what you suggest. 😉

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