Player card review: The Long Dark

The Mines of Moria are a dark labyrinth of narrow tunnels and wide passages, natural caves and impressive caverns of Dwarven workmanship. The heroes must make their way eastward, discovering what they can about the Orcs, and perhaps even meeting up with Balin for more information. But it is easy to get lost in the darkness…

After the mortal combat with Tentacles, you plunge into the darkness. The scream and rattling of weapons were replaced by a terrifying silence. You light the torch and look around you. The way is divided into several, dark tunnels and you are thinking, which way you should choose. Where is the safe way and where the Orcs and other dark things lurk? You must continue with caution – because if you get lost here, nothing good awaits you.

!UPDATE! After some new information from the community (at least, new for me) I decide to adjust and update these sections: Warden of Healing, Word of Command, Allies, Events and Overall evaluation.

I also re-made the final rating in these sections and announce the new TOP CARD and MOST ENRICHED SPHERE. The main reason, why I have decided to that, is that the updated information, given from the community, directly influences the usefulness of Warden of Healing and Word of Command, which I couldn’t ignore. Thus it inevitably influences other sections and final ratings. Each new adjustment is properly highlighted as !UPDATE!.

Summary review

Hero

Leadership sphere

Tactic sphere

Spirit sphere

Lore sphere


Hero

Háma

When we are speaking about Háma, some of you will surely utter a sigh unhappily. The story behind Háma is a bit miserable because originally a very good and strong hero was affected by merciless errata. Was it justified? Was Háma so much powerful that he could break the fragile balance? Or did designers unjustly harm him? Each of you may take a stand on the basis of this analysis, where I describe some potential issues with his ability.

The Tactic hero Háma may become very sympathetic to us from the view of the starting threat. Just 9 starting threat in Tactic sphere I would consider for very nice value. If you remind well, the last heroes with 9 starting threat we have met a long time ago – in the Core set (Legolas and Thalin). The combat and questing skills, however, aren’t so remarkable. Or exceptional. Well, 1 Willpower is a standard at tactic heroes, so no surprise should arise from that. 3 Attack belongs also to Tactic standard. And 1 Defense with 4 Hit Points indicates that Háma isn’t born to defending duties. He rather likes to wear a sword than a shield. If I should choose among Tactic heroes, available at this moment, I wouldn’t see Háma as a serious candidate to my deck. There are heroes with far better stats (Boromir, Gimli, Elladan). 

Háma can show off very interesting and wow, very useful ability. After you declare Háma as an attacker, you choose one discarded Tactic event from your discard pile, return it to your hands and then discard another card from your hand. So you just exchange one Tactic event in the discard pile for any card in your hand. Now you are surely thinking about many scenarios, how to utilize this ability at best. It’s something like instant and permanent Dwarven Tomb from the Spirit sphere. The most obvious and (I think) powerful is the combination of Háma’s ability with Feint. This very favourite and cheap event can at the right time decide about your victory or loss when you prevent some very dangerous enemy to attack. You then can concentrate on other things, for example questing or attacking. 3 copies of Feint should be the firm part of any Tactic deck… but what if you could use Feint even more than three times? It sounds too well, but with Háma it is possible to reach something like perfect prevention against troublesome enemies. Many deficiencies in defending you can fully ignore. The higher level poses Thicket of Spears, a 3-cost event that stops from attacking all enemies engaged with one player. It can completely neutralize the effort of encounter deck to beat you.

You must admit that Háma is too good. Because of that, designers created the restriction for this ability. Now you may use Háma’s ability only three times per game for the group. The errata has fallen on players like an uncompromising hammer. Every possible supercombos were completely destroyed. The endless returning of many strong events, like FeintThicket of SpearsSwift Strike or Quick Strike works now only in limited operation, so it’s absolutely evident that this errata has touched Háma to a great extent,

And my question is: was it the right decision? It’s not an easy question, harder is even to answer. I think that repetitive, unlimited returning of strong events may weaken the healthy balance of the game. Take Feint and Thicket of Spears as examples: enemies wouldn’t have almost any chance to even touch you. This can be alarming. But what about Steward of Gondor or Unexpected Courage? Or Northern Tracker? Do they deserve also the errata? They are also very powerful and they may significantly change the progression of the whole game. If Háma was errata’d… then what about other overpowered player cards?

Even if using Háma’s ability only three times isn’t so bad and you still can make up some temporary solutions to the most pressing troubles, you can’t build on him the long-term strategy… and therefore Háma loses much of his power.

Final rating


Leadership sphere

Erestor

Is Erestor another attempt, how to delude us? We have just experienced that new Leadership ally may not be the salvation. Like Dúnedain Wanderer, who is a great ally… but only within the Secrecy deck. Otherwise, he is too expensive for playing him outside of the non-Secrecy deck. So… is Erestor real contribution to Leadership decks, or does he carry some negative or restricted aspect?

We should pay our attention to the unique symbol at first. It means, that only one copy of him currently may stay on the board. That’s the first restriction. Someone could also look at Erestor with displeasure due to his 4 cost connected with 2-0-1-3. Okay, 2 Willpower in the Leadership sphere will worth it, but for 4 cost? What Erestor can do else? When you activate his action, you choose and discard 1 card from your hand. Instead of this card, you draw 1 card. You can do it only once per round. Have you noticed anything interesting? I’m not talking about what is written, but actually about what is not written – no exhaustion for triggering this Action is needed. It’s a quite important detail. Many, many abilities of heroes and allies need exhaustion, just remind the abilities of Beravor, Eleanor, Faramir, Zigil Miner, Ravenhill Scout, and others. You then needn’t solve the dilemma, if you should use an ability or use him for another action – you just can do both. You can send him to a quest (for that he is suitable) and simultaneously use his ability. Cool, appreciate such a comfort.:)

Now, let’s back to the ability itself. Someone could understand it that you gain 1 additional card (like at the ability of Gléowine). However, you don’t get an additional card – you just replace one card for another. The number of cards you hold doesn’t change. It’s important to realize it with regard to strategies, based on drawing cards, or with regard to attempts to neutralize some encounter cards (Cave Spider). Erestor won’t help you with that. But he can help you replace the unusable card for something more precious. The good result isn’t guaranteed, however. It’s a lottery bet. Of course, if you include some scrying cards like Gandalf’s Search or Gildor Inglorion, then you utilize Erestor’s ability at maximum. But it would need access to another sphere and moreover many Lore resources to pay these expensive cards.

!SPOILER! The better situation occurs in Foundations of Stone when Imladris Stargazer will come to the scene. The scrying of your own deck will be much easier from that moment.

To summarize it, Erestor belongs to Leadership allies with some limits. 4 cost, unique symbol and ability which may (not) help you pushes him away from the main decks to sideboard decks, if at all. At least, at this moment. In the very near future, however, the situation will change a bit, so Erestor may finally use his ability more effectively.

Final rating


Fresh Tracks

Tracking enemies can be viewed as a very dangerous and risky action, but what if you could hurt the enemy without retaliation? It may seem tempting. Fresh Tracks can do such thing… and it doesn’t belong to the Tactic sphere, which specializes in dealing direct damage. It just confirms the prediction about the versatility of Leadership sphere, where Fresh Tracks belongs.

The right moment, when you play this event, comes during revealing the enemy. More precisely, after you add that enemy into the staging area. From that implies a few important details, but about them, I will speak after a while. The Response enables you to deal 1 damage to the enemy, which was just added to the staging area. Moreover, that enemy cannot engage you during engagement checks this round (still, you are able to engage enemies voluntarily). Firstly, I really appreciate dealing 1 damage to the enemy. The effect itself may not be enough for killing some enemy (Goblin Archer and Orc Drummer are rather the exceptions), but I definitely recommend you to combine Fresh Tracks with Thalin. He will also deal 1 damage, so dealing 2 damage in total will eliminate more enemies (Goblin Enemies, Goblin Spearman, Goblin Swordsman, etc.). It’s just a good weapon against swarm-Orc encounter decks, where you encounter many low-Hit Points enemies. If you seriously want to play a dealing-direct-damage strategy, you can make a combo with other cards and trigger real massacre within ranks of enemies. I like very much the combo Fresh Tracks + Thalin + Gondorian Spearman. It’s not so hard to put this combo into the practice, even if it looks hard to combine 3 cards together. This combo enables you to deal 3! damage to the single enemy and send enemies like Mountain Goblin, Crebain, Rock Adder or Tentacles right to the encounter discard pile. You can also try the combo Fresh Tracks + Thalin + Hail of Stones, where Hail of Stones, supported by a good amount of unexhausted characters, can take down even sturdier enemies. 

Now it’s important to clear one thing: will Fresh Tracks trigger before or after all “When revealed” effects, SurgeDoom and other effects? The answer is short and simple: no. It’s because of the formulation “after an enemy is added to the staging area…” After each effect is triggered, Fresh Tracks deals 1 damage. It’s a great difference as opposed to Thalin, who deals damage to the enemy “…as it is revealed by the encounter deck,” confirmed also by FAQ “Thalin’s ability resolves before any keyword or “When Revealed” card effects on the encounter card.” I consider it for a big shame and wasted opportunity that Fresh Tracks doesn’t work identically. It would completely neutralize abilities and keywords of any enemy, so it would provide you a great advantage. Alas, you must do without it and trigger each ability an enemy has got.

The most specific part, which characterizes this event, we should discuss as well. Ignoring wounded enemy during engagement checks sounds a very interesting aspect of this event, which you may (not) utilize. It’s not universally useful in any case… that’s important to mention to avoid some misunderstanding. I’m going to name some situations, in which this part of effect can help you a lot: 1) (in the early game) when you are not ready for engaging the given enemy, 2) (in the late game) when you reach a high threat and you want to avoid some strong enemy with high engagement cost, 3) if you want to hold some enemy in the staging area for some specific purpose, like for Dúnhere’s attack. In mid game

and actually anytime you are ready to fight enemies, the ignoring enemy during engagement check lacks the importance. You should want to engage the enemy because you reduce the overall Threat Strength in the staging area, thus the questing is more comfortable for you. Fortunately, the effect of Fresh Tracks doesn’t say anything about completely ignoring the enemy. You still may engage the enemy optionally.

Fresh Tracks worth it anytime you play it with other dealing-direct-damage cards. It makes your job to destroy the enemy easier. If you need to prepare for combat, ignoring the enemy during engagement checks also comes in handy. However, the biggest negative I see in the impossibility to prevent yourself before all the nasty effects of just revealed enemies. 

Final rating


Tactic sphere

Erebor Battle Master

The whole Dwarrowdelf cycle should be the celebration of Dwarves. Except for Khazad-Dum, we have got only a few of these little, sturdy humanoids. We would expect from them first-rate combat skills, but only Veteran of Nanduhirion is capable of bold fighting within battle turmoil. And to be honest, this Dwarf doesn’t belong to the most popular and useful. That’s why Erebor Battle Master picked up his two-hand axe, joined to our ranks and with a battle cry he charged enemies.

He costs 1 resource less than mentioned Veteran of Nanduhirion. His default stats are, on the first sight, worse than stats of excellent Veteran Axehand. With 0-1-1-2 Erebor Battle Master looks like a smug and overpriced weakling. And he truly is, IF he is the single Dwarf ally the player controls. But the situation is changing with more Dwarf allies on the board because he gets +1 Attack for each of them. According to the last FAQ, the boost has set limit up to +4 Attack at most. 

Under your hands, the furious berserker is growing. It reminds Gimli, whose Attack is increasing with the number of damage tokens. While Gimli can become “the beast” in a short moment (like during the single round), Erebor Battle Master rather needs more time for building his offensive. It’s because resources are far more limited than to simply get the damage, and so during the single round, you oftentimes pay for maybe 1-2 ally, not more (if you haven’t somehow boosted the resource generation). It’s good to notice it: you should count that Erebor Battle Master is a rather long-term investment than immediate support. Of course, when you call him in the mid and late game when you are owning more Dwarf allies already, then he is coming as “finished product”, ready to act. But in several first rounds, he needs to develop his offensive. As you surely know, more Dwarf allies in the deck make boosting Attack easier. I think that Erebor Battle Master won’t make do without the support of other spheres because Tactic sphere offers just Veteran Axehand and Veteran of Nanduhirion. That’s no more than 6 Dwarf allies on the board in the given time. Considering Veteran of Nanduhirion costs 4 resources, it’s a very limited number of Dwarves. But add Dwarves of other spheres and Attack of Battle Erebor Master will grow by itself. Cheaper Dwarves (like Zigil Miner, Erebor Record Keeper) will put a lesser strain on resource management than more expensive Dwarves (Bofur, Bombur), thus you will reach the limit of +4 Attack earlier.

5 Attack for 3 cost of the single Erebor Battle Master may help you in offensive a lot, especially in boss fights. You can just concentrate on the building of a defensive wall, while Erebor Battle Master will manage the offensive duties. But not always was this Tactic ally restricted. More precisely, he doesn’t own any limits. The original Erebor Battle Master was getting +1 Attack for each Dwarf character you controlled. That meant even Dwarf heroes were counting (so with 3 Dwarf heroes he was instantly boosted by +3 Attack). This was changed to each Dwarf ally you control. The final limitation of +4 Attack per one Erebor Battle Master came after that. In overall, two erratas were applied on Erebor Battle Master, which makes this card very unique.

Erebor Battle Master is just created for swarm-Dwarf decks. He enjoys the company of other Dwarf allies to such extent that he may become the killing machine, able to stand in the fight all alone. You will use his services in really tough and wild fights with powerful enemies. The limitation +4 Attack doesn’t hurt him considerably, especially when you get more copies of him on the board. You should secure the sufficient number of resources for paying other Dwarf allies – this makes Erebor Battle Master useful. 

Final rating


Ring Mail

All players with Dwarf and Hobbit characters pay attention now! The new Tactic attachment Ring Mail aiming at characters with these traits is coming. It has 2 cost and Restricted keyword and because it aims at all Dwarf and Hobbit characters, you are free to attach it even to allies. Everyone, who needs boost the defensive skills of their darlings, will surely include this card to the decks – it gives +1 Defense and +1 Hit Point to the attached character.

Well, it looks like the upgrade of Boots from Erebor, which we have got in Khazad-Dum already. However, while Dwarf and Hobbit character may wear only one copy of Boots from Erebor, in the case of Ring Mail you may attach to the single Dwarf and Hobbit character up to two copies (because of Restricted keyword). The main upgrade lies in stats, where Ring Mail adds also +1 Defense. That’s a nice permanent defensive boost – not merely you gain just 1 Hit Point, which moves your character away from death a little bit, but also you get the higher chance that the character won’t be hurt at all. That’s the core idea of increasing Defense – to absorb as much damage as possible. I see 2 cost for such permanent effect as appropriate.

However, when I’m inspecting the ranks of Dwarves and Hobbits: who is actually the best target for Ring Mail? Hobbit heroes naturally lack hardness, so defending with them is more than unwise – you seriously risk their lives. Of course, it depends on what they own for ability. Such Frodo Baggins has 2 Defense and 2 Hit Points, but defending with him isn’t unwise. He absorbs damage and converts it to the threat. However, +1 Defense from Ring Mail will come in handy for him. His Defense then may absorb more damage, thus the less damage you have to convert to the threat. Bilbo Baggins combined with A Burning Brand would be useful defender, IF he had at least more Defense or Hit Points (as reserve). Ring Mail gives him both – better ability to defend and a bigger reserve, if something will go wrong (for example due to revealing some damaging treacheries).

And what about Dwarf heroes? It might look a bit weird, but they are not so the perfect target for Ring Mail, as you might think. Look at Gimli: +1 Defense will make harder to boost his Attack because he will become tougher. So you would have to choose really strong enemies to hurt him. +1 Defense is therefore counterproductive for him (even if +1 Hit Point would be useful). The absolutely same thing is valid for Glóin: you want to let him hurt to generate resources. +1 Defense means bigger and counterproductive obstacle in resource generation. Dáin Ironfoot – well, he would become really resistant king, almost unable to bleed. However, remember that if he defends, each other Dwarf loses the passive effect of +1 Willpower and mainly +1 Attack. Dwalin fulfills the role of attacker and Thalin fulfills the role of a quester, so attaching them Ring Mail wouldn’t make the sense. The only Dwarf hero, which could use Ring Mail without any issue, is Bifur. With 3 Attack, 4 Hit Points and in combination with A Burning Brand you could get very quality defender, which won’t be surprised by any shadow effect. I won’t concern with Dwarf and Hobbit allies, because in my point of view they are not the best target for attaching Ring Mail due to worse vitality.

I have experienced many times that I automatically and without thought added Ring Mail to the Dwarf deck with some Dwarf heroes, but in the game I realized that actually no Dwarf would utilize it perfectly. Gimli or Glóin, my most used Dwarves, would welcome +1 Hit Point, but +1 Defense makes the useless obstacle to fully develop their abilities. About the others I wrote above. I see Ring Mail as a great attachment for Hobbit heroes, who are really glad for any defending booster. And as for Dwarves… at this moment, only Bifur and maybe Dáin Ironfoot (with Unexpected Courage at best) could become solid and useful walls – for that role they own the best preconditions.

Final rating


Spirit sphere

Out of Sight

Spirit sphere is, after Lore and Leadership, another sphere, which is enriched by the Secrecy mechanism. Out of Sight attracts attention not only by the presence of Secrecy keyword, or very mysterious and gripping illustration. 5 cost in Spirit environment shows very rarely. Fortune or Fate and We Do Not Sleep share this cost, but I couldn’t say they are frequently used (in the case of We Do Not Sleep it’s rather not at all). Does Out of Sight deviate from the previous 5-cost Spirit cards?

Everything depends on the strength and usefulness of the Out of Sight’s effect. It causes that enemies engaged with you can’t attack you this phase. It’s like Thicket of Spears but in the Spirit version. In the time of distress, when you face the numerically superior or some overpowered enemy, this card can save your life. Or at least it can buy you more time to finding a proper solution. I can imagine that Secrecy decks, specializing in playing within a “low threat environment”, could need such a “backup” card. 

However, this contradicts itself. Just because you play the Secrecy deck, you assume that you will avoid the majority of enemies. So the situation with facing many or strong enemies shouldn’t even occur, should it? Yes, this is the main requirement of the Secrecy deck. So I think that Out of Sight works well but in an absolutely wrong environment. If you want to try this event outside of non-Secrecy deck, I will disappoint you: spend 5 resources for this effect would be a huge waste of resources. Only under 20 threat it costs quite sympathetic 2 cost, but again… do you really believe that with the Secrecy deck you will need this effect?

Even when I cast doubts upon Out of Sight, we can put it against Thicket of Spears. The Tactic version costs 3 resources and you moreover need to pay for this card from the resource pool of every Tactic hero. This precondition Out of Sight misses, still, Thicket of Spears is a more reliable event. It is also caused by the fact that you may choose the player, who won’t be attacked. Out of Sight targets only his holder, so about any versatility can’t be even spoken.

Out of Sight is the victim of good effect within the wrong environment. While I understand that the holder of Secrecy deck wishes to avoid enemies as much as possible, it’s just the low threat mechanism, which protects him from engaging strong enemies or great numbers of enemies. Of course, above 20 threat the necessity of this card is increasing, but for that you won’t pay 2 cost, but 5 cost. That’s really too much for a one-time effect, which protects you only for the single phase.

Final rating


Ever My Heart Rises

The next Spirit attachment carries a very poetic name, beautiful illustration… and thematic effect. Ever My Heart Rises delights all fans of Dwarf decks. But this attachment needs specific scenarios to work at all…

For Ever My Heart Rises you won’t pay any resources. It doesn’t have to say anything about the quality of the card – after all, we have 0-cost good quality cards (Elrond’s Counsel) or bad quality cards (Keeping Count) or even very, very bad quality cards (The End Comes). I suppose that Ever My Heart Rises belongs to the own quality-category of 0-cost cards, where it shines only in certain scenarios. Let’s check it: after you attach it to any Dwarf character (hero or ally, yours or others) you will wait until the moment you travel to the Mountain or Underground location. When you do that, you 1) ready the attached Dwarf, and 2) reduce your threat by 1. 

I’ll analyze this attachment piecewise, and I’ll begin from the end: reducing your threat by 1. Such effect will surely excel in Secrecy decks. If you somehow assure that each round you will travel to Mountain or Underground location, then you actually “neutralize” the increased threat by 1 during Refresh phase – and you will get stuck on the certain threat level (of course, if we don’t count other “increasing-threat” effects). This is a fantastic dream for any Secrecy deck. Of course, in reality, you hardly assure that you will travel to Mountain or Underground location each round – you would have to fully explore location each round and rely on the encounter deck, which would have to produce these locations during each staging. And it isn’t too much probable. However, reducing threat, even irregular, will come in handy in any type of the deck after all. 

Ready attached Dwarf belongs to a very powerful effect. Attached Dwarf would have to be already exhausted, which means sent to the quest (in most cases). So which Dwarves are good questers and at the same time would be useful after the Quest phase? We have some options. The hot candidate is Thalin: good for questing, due to his ability, but his 2 Attack, 2 Defense and 4 Hit Points could be also utilized in the Combat phase. After all, if Thalin doesn’t own his dealing-damage ability, I would send him to the combat immediately, with Dáin Ironfoot on the board he could attack even for 3. Ever My Heart Rises can fulfill your dream about fighting Thalin. It’s more available than Unexpected Courage for 2 cost, additionally, present only in one copy in each Core set. It would be the first time you could attach Thalin explicitly combat attachments, like Dwarrowdelf AxeRing Mail, etc. Another good choice I see in Bifur. He has 2 Willpower, so he is able to quest well, but with A Burning Brand he might serve as a reliable defender (with Ring Mail attached at best). But attaching other Dwarves wouldn’t be also the step aside: Gimli or Glóin are also very suitable targets.

So we have an attachment, which combines reducing threat by 1 and readying Dwarf character. For 0 cost it sounds like a fairy-tale. However, you must ensure the delivery of Mountain and Underground locations – and that’s the most restricted aspect of Ever My Heart Rises. Well, in Dwarrowdelf cycle, almost every location owns one of these traits, so it doesn’t make for you any problem. But what about other cycles? As you know, not every scenario contains Mountain or Underground locations, not at all. During your journey within Dwarrowdelf cycle, I wouldn’t be afraid of adding Ever My Heart Rises to the deck, but outside of this cycle, you would have to know well, what locations await you. Without locations with these traits, including Ever My Heart Rises doesn’t make any sense. 

Final rating


Lore sphere

Warden of Healing

As I have examined, Warden of Healing is a quite famous healer among players. Because this ally doesn’t appear often in my decks, I decide to look closer at him and try to find out, why he is so popular.

Stats don’t give you any hints about the quality of this ally. 2 cost is fair, 1-0-1-1 indicates that Warden of Healing doesn’t specialize in any common activities. His Action says: “Exhaust Warden of Healing to heal 1 damage on up to 2 different characters. Then, you may pay 2 Lore resources to ready Warden of Healing.” His healing skill works a bit differently than we were used to until now. The major difference lies in the number of targets – while other healing cards aim at the single character, Warden of Healing can heal 2 characters at the same time. The only exception is Beorn’s Hospitality, which heals all damage from each hero of one player. Such a massive healing effect is, however, redeemed by a very high cost, hardly accessible in the Lore sphere. How much useful is healing 2 different characters? Well, to players it provides very decent versatility, especially after you reveal some damaging encounter card, which aims more targets (Dark and Dreadful, Foul Air). You then will welcome Warden of Healing, who may heal 1 damage from characters, who need that at most. Somebody could say that healing 1 damage won’t resolve anything and that it would be better to heal 2 damage from 1 character than 1 damage from 2 characters – the effect is then spread out. I would answer that we already own cards able to heal 2 (or more) damage – Daughter of Nimrodel, Lore of Imladris, Self Preservation. I agree with the variability of healing effects, because in each situation you may need something different – sometimes you need strong, concentrated heal and sometimes you need to heal more characters. I suppose that healing 1 damage from 2 characters for 2 cost isn’t a disadvantageous exchange.

!SPOILER! Warden of Healing is one of the best targets for Elrond’s ability, who adds another point of healing. So in overall, you heal 2 damage from 2 characters. No wonder that players love this combo – it provides them an amazing portion of healed damage for a very good price. 

The cost for his ability is, however, a little bit specific. Forget about exhaustion – you have to pay 2 Lore resources to ready him again. 

!UPDATE! Aaand here I must stop myself. This is the moment, where I must confess I have played Warden of Healing incorrectly all the time. His ability doesn’t say anything about that he must stay exhausted UNTIL you pay 2 Lore resources to ready him. That’s not actually true. His ability allows you to ready him more times during the single phase. So you may use his Action as long as you are willing to pay resources. However, Warden of Healing will ready in the Refresh phase. He is not “locked”, as I originally thought. That’s why I have viewed Warden of Healing with the mistrust. That’s why I was overlooking him. And finally, that’s why I was avoiding him intentionally. Now, after I have clarified this mistake (thanks to the watchful community :)), let’s continue with the review… 

Because Lore is traditionally connected with a scarce of resources, every additional spending of resources hurts. This is partially resolved by arriving Bifur, who can move resources from another hero onto him. It’s not the final solution, but it makes your life with the Lore sphere more comfortable. The importance of Bifur’s ability increases right now, in The Long Dark, with Warden of Healing appearance. Bifur may earn you resources during the single turn for repetitive readying Warden of Healing. In the time of crisis, when your characters are seriously bleeding, Warden of Healing’s ability may pose the difference between life and death. 

How do I evaluate Warden of Healing after this analysis? Should I change my stance towards him and try to use him more frequently? 

!UPDATE! Well, in the light of my newly acquired knowledge about Warden of Healing, I must admit he is the best permanent healer we have ever met. He costs only 2 resources, each round he may heal a bit 2 different characters, and if you wish, you may repeat his healing power more than once during the single round. Who offers you that? It’s an ally who can save the life of other characters.

Final rating


Word of Command

1-cost Lore event Word of Command belongs to cards, where you think “wow, that’s an amazing effect, I could use it… but it has quite an uncomfortable precondition.” Yeah, when you look at its Action, which enables you to search for any card in your deck and put it to your hands (and then shuffle the deck), then you must nod approvingly. Do you really need some card, which may pull you out of the mess? Word of Command will find for you anything you need: A Test of Will, Hasty Stroke, Steward of Gondor, Unexpected Courage, A Burning Brand, everything you wish…

It’s something else than we have met until now. Gildor Inglorion, Gandalf’s Search, but also The Eagles Are Coming!, Mustering the Rohirrim – any of these cards has limited reach and possibilities. Either they can dig for only a few top cards, or they aim for cards with certain traits. Then we have cards like Dwarven Tomb or Stand and Fight, which may have a wider scope (based on sphere or type of cards), but they work only with discarded cards. So Word of Command is from this view the most universal and most powerful “search-card” we have got.

But it’s not for free, of course. To play this event you must exhaust Istari character. It may look like a banality, but how many Istari characters you know? Until now, only two have arrived: allies Gandalf and Radagast. We all know the mighty power of Gandalf: when you summon him – dealing 4 damage, reducing threat by 5 or drawing 3 cards can change the course of game dramatically in your favour. Moreover, his stats 4-4-4-4 predestine him to participate in questing, defending or attacking. However, Gandalf won’t be able to do these basic activities, if you apply to him the effect of Word of Command, that is if you exhaust him. 

!UPDATE! And here I have to stop myself again. Everything until now is valid IF you decide to use Word of Command whenever between Resource phase and Combat phase. Gandalf would then stay exhausted, unable to do anything else. But there exists a solution: play Word of Command on Gandalf during the Refresh phase. You 1) ready all cards, 2) raise threat, 3) pass the token for the first player, and finally 4) you can utilize the action window, which occurs right after all these steps. Practically, only here Gandalf gets ready and before he leaves the game, you can play on him Word of Command. You gain everything: Gandalf’s entering ability, Gandalf’s great stats, ready to use, and any card you wish due to Word of Command. In this manner should be Gandalf played.

Another option is to exhaust Radagast. The good point is that Radagast won’t leave the game at the end of the turn – so you can use Word of Command anytime. But to be honest… how often do you include Radagast in your decks? I guess that if you don’t run Eagle deck, then you are not playing him at all (the main reason is too close interconnection between Radagast and Eagles, respectively Creatures). So playing Word of Command in synergy with Radagast will occur very, very rarely. And I don’t even mention that Eagle decks haven’t a tendency to pair with Lore sphere, where Word of Command belongs. Only in multiplayer games it could worth it… but again, you would have to rely on the deck of another player. I am quite skeptical about Radagast-Word of Command synergy.

!SPOILER! And Word of Command won’t be too useful until the time you gain Istari hero. Gandalf hero from The Road Darkens will finally become a suitable (and probably only) target for this event. So if you play with Gandalf hero, then Word of Command makes a sense.

!UPDATE! By not realizing that there exists action window during the Refresh phase, in which you can exhaust Gandalf again before he leaves the game, I have completely missed the good synergy between this event and Gandalf. It’s a totally legal way, how to acquire anything you take into your head. 

Final rating


Love of Tales

Surprisingly, instead of Neutral card, we are getting the third card from the Lore sphere. Love of Tales is a 0-cost attachment, which you can attach only to Lore heroes. One hero may carry only 1 copy of Love of Tales. Now to effect, which may surprise you again: after you play any Song card, you exhaust Love of Tales (this was added in FAQ 1.8) and add 1 resource to the attached hero.

Well, the Lore sphere attempts to come up with own solution of resource generation. After Bifur (who wasn’t actually “resource generator”, because he just moves resources between some hero and him) it’s the second time that some Lore card tries to fix the common shortage of resources in the Lore sphere. Is it doing well? I don’t want to lie to you, but I think that the way of resource generation isn’t well solved. The main issue lies in Songs themselves. How often do you include Songs in your decks? Well, I believe many of you play with Durin’s Song, a very good event for boosting Dwarves. So do I. BUT… does anybody from you have a deck built on the Song trait? I guess that nobody would answer “yes”. The reason, why we don’t build Song decks, lies in the nature of Song cards we have at our disposal. 4 Songs aim at adding sphere icon: Song of Kings, Song of Wisdom, Song of Battle and Song of Travel. These Songs are great if we play with multisphere decks (trisphere decks at most). But in practice, we get into the game no more than 1-2 of these Songs. In the majority of cases, it suffices when one hero has attached one Song from the problematic sphere. Then you better cover the cost of cards from the given sphere. There aren’t many reasons for attaching 2-3 copies of one Song to different heroes or attach to one hero more different Songs. When we look at other Songs, I’m not persuaded about their frequent usage as well. Song of Mocking – it’s for very specific heroes, so you probably won’t play more than one copy during the single game. Song of Eärendil – it’s for very specific situations and special strategies. 3 copies of it in one game could be the desired aim, however. Durin’s Song is the only Song, which has a bit universal usage (within Dwarf decks, of course) and adding 3 copies of it isn’t useless.

All in all, in practice there are not many reasons to play Songs massively. Songs just don’t offer such effects, which would induce you to build a special Song deck. But if you really wish to try Song deck, where you could generate resources via Love of Tales, there is a certain way, which may ease your effort. Still remember Rivendell Minstrel, who searches for one Song in our deck? Now she may become an important catalyst for resource generation. You just find your desired Song, play it and generate 1 resource.

However, why to devise such a complicated strategy and why to subordinate whole game to one attachment? Moreover, the attachment which actually doesn’t earn you resources? It’s a trick – Love of Tales isn’t a real resource generator, in fact. Every Song costs 1 resource. You spend 1 resource for Song to gain 1 resource. The total earning equals 0. Strictly speaking and from the view of resource generation, it doesn’t differ from that if you will do nothing. It isn’t like Steward of Gondor or Resourceful, where from the long-term point of view you really gain new resources. Making resources on the basis of paying cards with certain traits just can’t work… and about resource generation or clever resource management can’t be even spoken.

Final rating


Summary review

Hero

Háma is the first hero, who was really seriously harmed by uncompromising errata. Boromir’s errata can’t be compared to this – he is still very strong and useful, even if he readies by raising threat only once per phase. Háma’s ability is working only three times per whole game, per group. So you may return in overall just 3 Tactic events, then Háma becomes the common mortal, useful only in attacking activities. On the other side… repetitive reanimating Feint or Thicket of Spears smells by destroying fragile balance.

I think that the usefulness of Háma would be fairly increased by obtaining another ability, for example, some passive ability, which Háma couldn’t lose. You would at least gain another reason, why to make from Háma the reliable, core hero within your party.

Final rating


Allies

Leadership sphere rarely introduces new ally. So we can be glad for Erestor’s arrival, though he owns a unique symbol. He provides you a nice possibility to change some useless card in your hand for something more useful, by drawing 1 card from your deck. But without any scrying card, this ability works randomly – you get the chance, not the certainty. So, unfortunately, Erestor doesn’t belong to oftentimes used allies, although we would need such ally in the Leadership sphere at most.

!UPDATE! While Erestor will improve his performance in the near future, Warden of Healing can be used right now. Anytime you consider some healing effect, Warden of Healing should be your choice number 1. He is cheap, permanent and can heal 2 characters at once. At once, you heal from them just 1 damage, but the ability enables you to use his healing talent repetitively during the single turn. 

Erebor Battle Master is the only ally of The Long Dark, who doesn’t have to wait on any future support. You may send him into the battle right now, with all Dwarves you have and he will reward you by spectacular (for an ally) attack. Errata limits his potential, but it didn’t kill it.

!UPDATE! As I see allies from The Long Dark, one just waits for their best performance, and second and third are strong and useful right at this moment. I regret, that the Leadership sphere didn’t bring us cheap and at least a bit universal ally, which we could play in any deck. But on the other hand, I applaud for one of the best Lore ally of the whole Dwarrowdelf cycle, and of the key card of any healing strategy.

Final rating


Events

New events don’t offer anything remarkable, what would astonish us. Well, Fresh Tracks is, according to me, the best event we have got in this adventure pack (though I understand that other players don’t see even this event as useful). I am a fan of direct damaging because it eases your effort to destroy the enemy. The second part of the ability enables you to keep the damaged enemy in the staging area if you want to. But you still can engage the enemy optionally. It’s nice, when you can choose, what is best for you in the given moment.

Word of Command offers a very powerful and straightforward ability. 

!UPDATE! Targeting Gandalf and playing this event during the Refresh phase assure you will get the maximum potential from Gandalf and Word of Command as well. Radagast appears only in Eagle decks, if at all… So you rather see Word of Command in synergy with Gandalf than with rarely used Radagast. 

And as for Out of Sight – the issue with facing the mass of enemies doesn’t apply to Secrecy decks, and paying full cost for this event in non-Secrecy decks is blasphemy.

Final rating


Attachments

Let’s begin from the least popular attachment of this adventure pack, Love of Tales. In short, Song-synergy may sound like a nice and interesting idea, but in practice, it doesn’t work. And even “resource generation”, based on Song cards, wouldn’t persuade me about reassessment of my attitude.

The tale of Ring Mail is a little bit funny and odd – we have got good attachment, with good boost, good cost and on the first sight good targets – Dwarves are the main celebrities in this cycle, and Hobbits would need some boost because they are fragile from nature. Nevertheless, for only a few Dwarves the boosting of Defense and Hit Points will have real usage, like Bifur or Dáin Ironfoot. Other Dwarves either don’t belong to the talented defenders, or their abilities actually make from them unsuitable targets for boosting Defense (Gimli, Glóin). Funny thing is, that all Hobbit heroes (Bilbo Baggins and Frodo Baggins) will welcome boosting both stats really warmly: Defense and Hit Points. And both Hobbits even don’t belong to the Tactic sphere.

On the other hand, Ever My Heart Rises embraces any Dwarf. It gives you only advantages and you needn’t do anything special for it. You just travel to Mountain or Underground location and as a reward you ready attached Dwarf and reduce threat by 1. It’s a perfect effect for its owner.

Final rating


Overall evaluation

This adventure pack has produced many trait-dependent cards. Dwarves, Hobbits, Songs, Mountains and Underground… fans of trait-synergies can choose their own darlings. However, should TOP CARD be the best universal and most independent card, or should it be a more specialized, but powerful card? It all depends on the ratio of impact within your decks – strong universal cards and strong specialized cards have the same starting position, but the “impact ratio” can differ. And so we can meditate: Warden of Healing or Erebor Battle MasterEven My Heart Rises or Fresh Tracks? All 4 cards excel in something else and in different environments. In my point of view, Fresh Tracks offers great utility, which doesn’t force you in anything – you can choose if you engage some enemy now or later… and by the way, you deal 1 damage to that enemy. Dealing damage always ease your job as for destroying enemies. Add Thalin and you deal 2 damage without any effort. 

!UPDATE! But I must change my original opinion. I won’t evaluate Fresh Tracks as TOP CARD of The Long Dark – this title belongs to Warden of Healing, undoubtedly. You expect many damage dealt to your heroes and allies? This ally is the right answer. To be honest, Fresh Tracks would be third in the order as for TOP CARD. The second best card of this adventure pack is Word of Command. Although Istari belongs to the very rare traits, which have very few representatives, with Gandalf you may gain any card you wish and you need.

In total 2 cards have disappointed me a lot – Out of Sight and Love of Tales. Out of Sight shows the strong effect, actually it is the Spirit version of very useful Thicket of Spears. But the cost and Secrecy keyword kills the potential of this card, seriously. But Love of Tales doesn’t show nor useful effect (it does not really resource generation card, even if it looks like on the first sight), nor it has good preconditions. Song-trait isn’t very practical for making synergies… at least not in the way Love of Tales attempts to show. So SHEEP CARD in The Long Dark is Love of Tales.

The Leadership sphere introduces a very good event and not a bad ally. The Tactic sphere introduces the weakened hero, good ally and not bad attachment. Which one is the MOST ENRICHED SPHERE?

!UPDATE! Neither one of them. Even Love of Tales is the worst card of this adventure pack, Word of Command and Warden of Healing fully compensate the power of the Lore sphere. Originally, I announced the Leadership sphere, but after the update, this honor belongs to the Lore sphere.

Final rating

TOP CARD

WARDEN OF HEALING

SHEEP CARD

LOVE OF TALES

THE MOST ENRICHED SPHERE

LORE SPHERE (WARDEN OF HEALING + WORD OF COMMAND + LOVE OF TALES)

3 thoughts on “Player card review: The Long Dark

  1. Great revision of cards, as always. I really like your series. I have just a tiny problem with this review, where I maybe misunderstood your words. You aren´t forced to pay for Warden of healing´s ability. You may just left him exhausted after he does his job. In my opinion, that´s far more effective, and, as you said, for me he is top card of this AP.
    Second small difference I found is with Word of Command. At the end of round, before Gandalf leaves play, all the cards in play are readied, and then there is an action window, where you may exhaust Gandalf for this card. So, in fact, you may use Gandalf amazing stats and this card in one round.

    Like

    1. Hi Lindir,
      thanks for your response! I was already notified that both cards works a little bit differently than I originally thought. I update the reviews about Warden of Healing (because he normally gets ready during Refresh phase) and Word of Command (because there is a safe action window for using Word of Command on Gandalf). To be honest, now I see Warden of Healing as TOP CARD, because until now I have played him incorrectly.

      Like

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