Encounter Set Review: Sauron’s Reach

The eye of Our lord Sauron sees everything. He knows about everything that happens in Middle-earth, no matter how far from Mordor, because His omnipresent servants and dark magic provide to Our lord all information about Our enemies. Hide, Players, and hope you won’t get into Our way. For Sauron!

Summary review

Enemies

Treacheries


Enemies

Eastern Crows

Small, fast, flying and clever… an enemy with such characteristics is predestined for perfect espionage. Orcs can be fast, but they are also too wild, raged, disorganized and oftentimes dull. Sauron calls up to such task Eastern Crows loyal servants, who fulfil the requirement of flawless spy weapon.

When Players firstly spot Eastern Crows, they will tend to undervalue them. 1 Threat Strength, 1 Attack, 0 Defense and 1 Hit Point? Easy prey! The Player really don’t have to make any effort to kill them. But wait… what is Surge? This is the first enemy, which owns it. And Players really quickly learn to hate this keyword. Surge forces Players to reveal another Encounter card and add it to the staging area, thus naturally the probability for revealing something powerful increases. This is an evident consequence of Surge, but it increases the overall Threat Strength in the staging area as well (if the revealed card is enemy or location).

Eastern Crows controls Forced effect, which says: “After Eastern Crows is defeated, shuffle it back into the encounter deck.” It means the clear message for Players: you won’t get rid of them easily. Killing them won’t help you, because this Creature will surely appear again. The only way how to get rid of them is to discard them as a shadow effect. Then, they remain in the Encounter discard pile.

Eastern Crows has one archenemy: Thalin. This coward deals during questing 1 damage to each revealed enemy. So when Eastern Crows appears, Thalin hits them and this enemy goes straight to the Encounter discard pile. No Surge will happen, though the Forced effect still triggers. If Eastern Crows is the last Encounter card and Encounter deck is now empty, Eastern Crows will be after death “shuffled” and creates Encounter deck, which contains only this enemy. In other words, Players won’t shuffle Eastern Crows together with the whole Encounter discard pile but shuffle only Eastern Crows. Anyway, Thalin in the game is a true nemesis for Our minion.  

Shadow effect

Its importunate nature is reflected in shadow effect as well. Eastern Crows adds +1 Attack to an enemy and +2 Attack, if the threat is equal or above 35. Even small boosting of Attack can mean the difference between a character’s life and death. The good thing is that the second part of the shadow effect doesn’t depend on defence. It’s rather a rarity because the majority of shadow effects have a stronger effect if the attack is undefended. Here the determinative factor is threat level. The chance for +2 Attack boost increases with the game advancement, or with Player’s inability to reduce the threat level.

Journey Along the Anduin:

This scenario is made for Eastern Crows from several reasons: 1) its Surge may bring to the game strong cards like Hill Troll, Wargs, or The Brown Lands, 2) namely Hill Troll may profit from the shadow effect of Eastern Crows (+1 Attack is enough to destroy any hero without Citadel Plate), 3) the stage 2B – Anduin Passage combined with Surge of Eastern Crows may bring to the game more Encounter cards than usual. Players thus will face more locations/enemies or they must deal with treacheries.

The Hunt for Gollum:

Like Massing at Night, Eastern Crows may reveal Hunters from Mordor, who are a real threat in this scenario, no matter if like enemy or shadow effect.

The Hills of Emyn Muil:

As one of few enemies in this scenario, Eastern Crows can evade the potential attack of Player by dealing shadow effect of Rauros Falls, The Shores of Nen Hithoel or The Outer Ridge. Anyway, its Surge may bring to the game more location with victory points and so unintentionally help Players in game progress.

In The Dead Marshes:

While the combo with Hill Troll persists, Eastern Crows may reveal treacheries, which force Players to do Escape test. A Wisp of Pale Sheen, Nightfall, Through the Mist and The Lights of the Dead belongs to the best cards that Surge may summon. 

Danger level

Shadow level


Treacheries

Evil Storm

When are Players too bold, Sauron is angry and send Evil Storm on them. His rage will be felt by every character of every Player who has 35 and above threat, by dealing 1 damage. The mass damage comes in handy in the advanced stage of the game, when characters have dealt some damage already. Some of them may be close to death. Our Evil Storm will end their suffer and clean the board from characters, who endanger Our servants. We always hope in destroying fragile heroes like Éowyn or Denethor, who are very vulnerable to dealing-damage treacheries.

The storm, however, thunders only above Players with 35 and more threat. In the early game, it is almost impossible to deal damage to characters, because Players used to have under 35 threat. Only due to some Our masterful move could some Players be affected by Evil Storm during first rounds. Otherwise, Evil Storm has no effect and that’s the biggest weakness of this treachery – its unpredictability. Luckily, 3 copies of Evil Storm circle in Encounter deck, so if one early Evil Storm doesn’t hit targets, the other two might fix it. All depends on the phase of game progress and Our ability to accelerate the Player’s threat – Pursued by Shadow cooperates with Evil Storm very well.

Journey Along the Anduin:

Hill Troll, Marsh Adder and Gladden Fields are Our great assistants, because they may increase and accelerate the threat and so Evil Storm may deal damage to characters earlier than usual.

The Hunt for Gollum:

Evil Storm here cooperates with Hunter from Mordor’s shadow effect, but there must be some basic conditions for this combo: 1) Players would have to have 35 and more threat, 2) only heroes with attached Clue will get damage. So in general, only a few characters will experience the impact of this combo.

The Hills of Emyn Muil:

The real purge will bring the combo Evil Storm and Rockslide. We love to hear the screams of the fallen questing characters, who are dying by an astonishing 3 damage, dealt by both treacheries.

The Dead Marshes:

Except for cooperation with Hill Troll and Marsh Adder, known already from Journey Along the Anduin, the successful strike of Evil Storm is increased by raising-threat treacheries Nightfall, Through the Mist and The Lights of the Dead.

Danger level


Pursued by Shadow

As if Players should have any chance against Us, they often send some characters to a quest and keep the other characters in reserve for possible combat duties. Pursued by Shadow shows them that keeping some characters in reserve doesn’t pay off. 

When Players reveal this treachery, they have to raise their threat by 1 for each character which wasn’t committed to the quest. This effect is devastating in wartime when Players face or they expect to face many enemies, so they must keep many characters for battle purpose. OR if Players send to a quest only one or few very capable questers (like Éowyn), it makes them vulnerable against this treachery. The threat will increase enormously (for “enormously” We consider increasing by 4 and more threat). Furthermore, the increased threat means the far greater chance to engage enemies with quite high Engagement cost, so Pursued by Shadow may cause that Players will engage more and stronger enemies. So actually, this treachery influences not only the level of threat but also engagement and combat.

Pursued by Shadow can act selectively. In multiplayer games, when one Player is specialised for quest and the other one for combat, then the “questing Player” will be probably spared of the effect of this treachery, while the “fighting Player” will feel the impact of Pursued by Shadow very intensively. The “fighting Player” will get under the big pressure, because many enemies will want to fight with him. Situations like this show that the specializing for one task can cruelly recoil on Players.

Shadow effect

Shadow effect continues in the spirit of the main effect of Pursued by Shadow and shows that defending with one ally doesn’t pay off. The Player must return one already exhausted ally he controls to his hand. When 2 or more allies are already exhausted, Player will logically choose the ally, which doesn’t defend the enemy with this shadow effect. But if defending ally is the only Player’s exhausted ally at the same time? Then the ally must leave and let the enemy’s attack undefended. The stronger enemy has got this shadow effect, the more damage one hero must obtain. That may result in the death of a hero. Additionally, Player will be forced to pay repeatedly for a returned ally, so We throw a spanner in the works to Player’s resource management. The shadow effect counts with the possibility that Player wouldn’t be able to return any exhausted ally. He then must raise threat by 3. It isn’t a remarkable effect, but it can move Player towards more dangerous enemies, which might face during the next Engagement checks.

Journey Along the Anduin:

At the beginning of the game, Pursued by Shadow may thwart Player’s plans to hold over the fight with Hill Troll as much as possible. Hill Troll then might catch unprepared Players off guard and cause them massive harm. Otherwise, Pursued by Shadow works in any phase of the game. The good boost of raised threat may be reached by revealing this treachery and Driven by Shadow. If Players just send to the quest only several characters from all, then both revealed treacheries may shoot the threat level sharply up.

The Hunt for Gollum:

No special combo with Pursued by Shadow here, this treachery works only as a standalone card without the support of the other Encounter cards.

The Hills of Emyn Muil:

Except for Driven by Shadow, this treachery is not supported here by creating any combo. Threat acceleration isn’t an issue in The Hills of Emyn Muil, so Players will probably forget about the effect of Pursued by Shadow quickly.

The Dead Marshes:

Pursued by Shadow works in symbiosis with encounter cards like The LIghts of the Dead and Nightfall, which raise the threat level. Together, and with constantly escaping Gollum, Players may be sentenced to hit 50 threat.

Danger level

Shadow level


Treacherous Fog

When Players have a marked path, Treacherous Fog can cover it and cause that Players will get lost. Each location in the staging area gets +1 Threat Strength until the end of the phase. If staging isn’t done, the possible new revealed locations still may get +1 Threat Strength. This is the difference from Driven by Shadow, where +1 Threat Strength get only currently revealed Encounter cards. 

It is clear that We are happiest when many locations sit in the staging area and Treacherous Fog arrives. If Players face location lock, Treacherous Fog is their final K.O. Combined with Pursued by Shadow, the threat level may shoot sharply up.

In addition, each Player with 35 threat and above must choose one card from hand and discard it. It’s a surely likeable bonus, especially if Players have very limited choice. But like Evil Storm, Players used to reach 35 threat rather in latter phases than earlier phases of the game. So in scenarios, where raising threat isn’t Our main goal, Players needn’t discard any card at all. And even if they do… discarding one chosen usually doesn’t matter and doesn’t make any difference in the game.

Journey Along the Anduin:

With Driven by Shadow, this treachery can temporarily increase the overall Threat Strength in the staging area by a very interesting value, and so cause Players to quest unsuccessfully. Such kind of effects loves Encounter cards with Surge (like Wolf Rider, Eastern Crows), which may bring more locations to the game, thus more Threat Strength.

The Hunt for Gollum:

Treacherous For is able to boost locations, which already have quite high Threat Strength (The Old Ford, The East Bank, The West Bank etc.).

The Hills of Emyn Muil:

The best moment for Treacherous Fog happens in The Hills of Emyn Muil, the scenario full of locations. The chance for the presence of the great number of locations, which leads to location lock, is unusually high. Incoming Treacherous Fog would then raise the Threat Strength by a great value.

The Dead Marshes:

No special significance has Treacherous Fog in The Dead Marshes, which is at the same time the last scenario, where Player encounters this treachery.

Danger level


Summary review

Enemies

The only, small and to damage very vulnerable Eastern Crows annoys Players due to their almost indestructible and intrusive nature. It brings to the game another Encounter card due to Surge keyword and if Player engages it and defeats it, Eastern Crows returns to the Encounter deck, as if nothing was happening. Such a small creature can quite nicely torment Players.

Danger level


Locations

Sauron’s Reach doesn’t offer any location.

Danger level – NONE


Treacheries

All three treacheries work to some extent with a threat. One directly raises the threat (Pursued by Shadow), two remaining trigger their effect, if the threat is above the given threshold (Evil Storm, Treacherous Fog). While Pursued by Shadow can cause decent harm in any moment and in any phase of the game, Evil Storm and Treacherous Fog hit Player fully if the threat is 35 and above. It suggests that they come in handy most likely in the mid or late game. At least, the first part of Treacherous Fog’s effect triggers no matter what threat level Players have.
Anyway, despite the superiority of treacheries in this Encounter set, in general, they don’t belong to the very powerful treacheries We would like to see.

Danger level

!UPDATE!
Shadow effects

We like the unyieldingness of shadow effects of this scenario. Eastern Crows can boost 1 damage, but also 2 damage, no matter if the attack is undefended – it depends on the threat level of the Player. From this view, Eastern Crows owns very uncommon shadow effect.

Pursued by Shadow can remove exhausted ally, even if that ally just defends. From that may follow for Players nasty consequences. And if no ally is present, then it at least raises the threat of the Player.

As We said… shadow effects from Sauron’s Reach can harm the Player significantly, no matter if he dutifully defends every attack.

Danger level


Overall evaluation

Sauron’s Reach introduces one quite treacherous, but weak enemy, and 3 treacheries, where only one is worth attention. It is maybe a little bit stronger Encounter set than Journey Along the Anduin, which utilize the moment of surprise and tries to catch Players unprepared. We are good with it. But Sauron’s Reach can’t stand it on its own – either it needs the support from cards of other Encounter sets or quests (aimed on increasing threat), or it works in the later phase of the game. Of course, except for Pursued by Shadow, which has an exceptionally strong position within this Encounter set. 

Overall Danger level of the set


YOUR NIGHTMARE

Eastern Crows may bring to the game another, far stronger Encounter card than Eastern Crows itself. But except for that, this enemy won’t prepare for Players too hot moments. On the other hand, Pursued by Shadow may drive Players into a quite uncomfortable situation – the increasing threat isn’t just danger itself, but it may call enemies with a higher threat to the combat earlier than Players expect. It’s a useful weapon against Players with just few specialized questers / Players who are specialized in questing.


GOBLIN CARD

+1 to each location in the staging area isn’t bad. But Treacherous Fog can fully fail Us under certain circumstances – if the staging area lacks enough locations and/or if the Player’s threat is below 35. Even with 35 and more threat, the effect of discarding one card from the hand doesn’t excite Us. Our Lord asks for more.




SHADOW HORROR

The adjustment of Attack can often cause the death of ally or even hero. But removing an ally from the play, when he defends an enemy, will certainly cause the problem because a hero is injured and can die. Shadow effect of Pursued by Shadow doesn’t guarantee it will happen – either Player may return to hands another exhausted ally, if possible, or if no ally is present, Player instead of it increase his threat. Still, the possibility of dealing damage to the hero directly can terrify Players.

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