As the first scenario of a new cycle, the quest is meant to introduce new mechanics in a slightly easier format to give players a solid quest to beat without it taking a million attempts. Especially in this Vengeance of Mordor cycle, the River Running strikes me as the easiest quest of the entire cycle, but can still kick ass in higher player counts as the enemies in this quest come out quickly and hit very hard if you are not careful. The quest has you pursued by Easterlings as you try to make your way to Dorwinion. But in the open lands along the river, there is very little cover and you have to quest hard to get to the end of your journey. This quest is a good introduction to the cycle’s mechanics and works pretty well as a decktesting quest for solo players, much like Escape from Umbar.
The River Running
- Found in: A Shadow in the East Deluxe box, scenario 1
- Official Difficulty: 6
- Community Difficulty: 7.1
- Encounter Sets: The River Running, Easterling Raiders, Riders of Rhûn, Rolling Plains
- Quest cards: 2
- Play if: You are starting the Vengeance of Mordor cycle, you want to test your deck in solo against a tough but beatable quest, you want to fight Easterling enemies but feel that the other quests featuring them are too difficult.
- What’s different about this quest?: Enemies receive encounter attachments, side-quests make a return, Objective brings out more enemies, more players means a tougher first stage.
- Solo or multiplayer: I recommend that players approach this quest in solo or with another player. Higher player counts really start to suffer from the many cards that surge. More players also means that there are more chances of placing resource tokens on the objective, and that the objective brings out more enemies when tokens are removed. Lower player counts can complete this quest faster in my experience.
- Can I bring side-quests to this quest?: You can, but really ask yourself if it is necessary. The quest demands quite a lot of progress that you have to place, and the encounter deck also features two side-quests for you to complete. Delaying your progress won’t have any direct negative impact on the game, but will cause the enemies to pile up. I will suggest leaving your side-quests in the binder for this one, and focus on completing the main quest as quickly as you can. This is a pursuit after all, no time to pick flowers during side-quests.
- What to look out for: Enemies overwhelming you, locations getting sudden threat boosts, enemies gaining attachments, encounter side-quests, lack of readying opportunities
The setup portion of this quest isn’t too bad. The players have to find the Warriors of the East side-quest and put it out of play. This will prevent them revealing it and potentially clearing it during the first stage. It will come in at the second stage of the quest, but that is of no concern yet. The players also add the Easterling Pursuit objective to the staging area where it will be receiving resource tokens each round. The players must also find one copy of the River Running location and add it to the staging area. This will prevent players from optionally engaging enemies unless they decide to travel here. Lastly, each player adds one different Easterling enemy to the staging area before starting the game. There are five different Easterling enemies, so there is a bit of choice in any player count. Personally, for solo players I would recommend starting with the Easterling Outrider first. This circumvents its Surge and the enemy is the weakest of them all. The low engagement cost of 24 is maybe a concern, but the stats really aren’t anything to be worried about if the Outrider has no attachments.
For two players, I would add the Easterling Raider. This enemy does start you off with Archery, but isn’t as big of a threat as the other enemies left over. Kill it before it gets attachments and starts to become dangerous. Three player games will probably start with those two and the Warrior of Rhûn, who won’t be able to get more attachments from the discard pile if you engage him early. His stats are higher than the previous two enemies, but you should be able to take care of him in a few turns. Four player games have the option between the Captain and the Rider of Rhûn. Both start with high attack values and will get attachments quickly. I will suggest the Rider for 4-player games, since the When Revealed doesn’t go off. You will have to take care of the Archery for a while, but it is the lesser of two evils, since the Captain is much more dangerous to start the game with. After all players have selected their one enemy and added them to the staging area, they flip the quest card to side 1B and start the first round.
Quest card 1: Chased by Easterlings – 5 quest points (+5 per player)
The first stage of this quest will be to introduce you to the new mechanics of the Easterling enemies by keeping up the pressure with more enemies every other turn (on average). The biggest threat here is to get swarmed with enemies early on, and having no way to get out of that situation. The solution to this problem is two-fold: Have you defence down early, and kill everything that engages as quickly as you can. Proper heroes that can handle defence (and attack) will be necessary in your lineup. Sneaky Hobbit decks, or willpower focussed decks will get too many enemies in the staging area, and will get pinged with Archery every round as well. You will have to face your enemies sooner rather than later, and you have to be ready for this.
The quest card itself has nothing of note, except that the quest stage will get more quest points depending on the number of players that are in the game. For solo players, this quest stage will only take 10 progress, which shouldn’t take too long. Multiplayer games will struggle a little more with placing progress, as more threat will pile up in the staging area and you have a higher chance of revealing nasty treacheries like Weary Lands that lower your willpower significantly. While this stage can be rushed, you do have to make sure that you are ready for some extra enemies when you advance. Don’t go too quickly, else the progression to stage two will see you in a lot of trouble. Players should also not move too slowly, as that gives the encounter deck plenty of time to set up enemies with attachments. Once you feel like you can clear the board, advance to the next stage, and you should be ok. Probably the best way to advance is through effects like Tactics Legolas and Blade of Gondolin clearing the quest card through killing enemies, as that ensures that you can clear the second phase with ease. Advancing during the quest phase will ensure a tough round of combat next, so be careful with that.
The other thing that the quest card mentions, is that the Easterling Pursuit objective in the staging area will get 1 threat for every resource on it. This generally doesn’t get higher than 3-4, but can make a difference if you forget about it. Also remember to recalculate its threat if more resources are placed during the quest phase through effects like Enemies Close Behind. It’s easy to forget this threat, so keep an eye on the objective when calculating how much progress you make each round.
The objective’s main purpose is to restock the staging area with enemies whenever it has 3 or more resources on it. These resources are placed at the end of each round, but this can be accelerated by shadow effects, treacheries, and enemies. The objective can receive more than 3 resources, in which case 3 are still removed at the end of the round in exchange for every player discarding cards from a newly reshuffled encounter deck, and adding the top enemy to the staging area. If you didn’t kill all your enemies this round, or some went back to the staging area, you will be up for a lot of threat during the next quest phase.
The best way you can live through this stage is to clear as many enemies as possible and try to keep the staging area as empty as possible. This will help your transition to the second stage a lot. Location control can help to clear locations faster than normal, preventing them from adding more unnecessary threat in the staging area. Since the objective and quest effects only pull out enemies, you can quickly get to a situation where you will only have one location in the staging area for you to travel to, which is ideal.
After placing enough progress on the main quest card, the players immediately advance to the next stage. No other requirements have to be met for this stage, but try and have as few resources on the objective as possible, to prevent the encounter deck from getting out even more enemies when you end the current round on top of the enemies you get from advancing the stage (and possibly enemies you revealed during staging).
Quest card 2: The Crossing of Araw – 15 quest points
You are close to a point where you can cross the river into Dorwinion, but a lot of enemies stand in your way. Even worse, these enemies seem to be better equipped thanks to a new side-quest that gets added to the staging area at the first moment that you advance to this stage. The Warriors of the East side-quest gets added, but not revealed, so the surge keyword won’t go off. The Forced effect on the side-quest will matter though, as it will attach the top Easterling treachery in the discard pile to an enemy as it is revealed from the encounter deck. The quest card tries to set this up by shuffling the encounter discard pile back into the encounter deck and then discarding cards until X enemies are discarded, where X is the number of players in the game. All enemies are added to the staging area, where they will get the topmost Easterling attachment from the side-quest, if any got discarded.
The second stage will be pretty brutal with combat, and will force the players to kill a lot of engaged enemies in order to advance quickly. To help you engage enemies more quickly, the quest card gives all enemies -10 engagement cost while they are in the staging area. This means that Hobbit players can still get their bonuses while the enemies are engaged with them, but enemies will engage more quickly. This does negate the effect of River Running for most enemies, making that location less of a priority.
The biggest issue with this quest card is the transition, as that can suddenly get a lot of enemies in play, many with attachments as well. If you time this transition poorly, you will get the enemies from the previous quest phase on top of the enemies you got from stage 2A. If during this time you get up to 3 resources on the objective, you will get yet another round of discarding enemies for each player, and then you will have another round of staging before you can attack again. This is problematic, and also a reason why direct damage decks might do well in this scenario. Being able to get rid of enemies outside the combat phase will lighten the load on your attackers and defenders in the combat phase. Destroyed enemies will likely come back again, but only in higher player counts would it be worth it to keep all enemies alive so that the objective does nothing.
The second extra rule on this quest card is that the players are unable to make more than 5 progress on the main quest while at least one player is engaged with an enemy. This means that players will either have to take at least 3 turns to clear this stage, or manage to kill all engaged enemies and make a bunch more progress in the next quest phase. If players don’t manage to make more than 5 progress during the round, then it will take a little longer to clear the quest, unless they manage to kill all enemies each round. There aren’t any effects from the encounter deck that put enemies engaged with players anymore, so as long as you don’t have somebody playing Wait No Longer or Dunedain Hunter, you should be able to make as much progress as you want when there are no engaged enemies.
The victory condition for this final stage is that you just clear the 15 quest points on the main quest. You are not required to kill all (engaged) enemies like in Escape from Umbar, nor are you required to clear the Warriors of the East side-quest. Clearing the side-quest will help you out though, as enemies won’t get as many attachments as quickly anymore. But if you do not want to waste any time on this second stage, then you can clear it as quickly as a single round, providing you clear all engaged enemies and that you have enough willpower. After the final point of progress has been made, the players win the game and have escaped the Easterlings. They now come to the capital of Dorwinion, where their next quest awaits.
The Encounter deck
- The encounter deck is of average size, counting 36 cards in Normal mode, and 26 in Easy mode. Do note that the encounter deck will be shuffled together with the discard pile nearly every round, so the encounter deck will usually be stocked.
- Shadow chances are low, at just 42% in both modes.
- The average threat on cards revealed from the encounter deck is 1.4 in Normal mode, and 1.34 in Easy mode. This assumes that the When Revealed on Rolling Plains is cancelled. If not, then you can have a sudden increase in threat of 10 with just one card if all other copies are already in the staging area. It also assumes that Easterling Horse has no target, else it adds 2 threat to the staging area or to an engaged enemy.
- Surge is a common keyword in this encounter deck, with 7 encounter cards having the keyword, and 3 encounter cards having it if their effect doesn’t go off (Easterling Horse).
- The Doomed keyword is a lot more rare in this scenario, with only Wearly Lands raising your threat. The Rolling Plains will also raise your threat when you travel to them, but other than that, the quest doesn’t focus a lot on threat increases. Do be careful with raising your threat with your own abilities though, as you might end up engaging more enemies that way.
- The Archery keyword makes its return in this cycle, and many of the Easterlings have a bow and will be sure to ping you with damage at the start of the combat phase. 5 enemies have Archery, for a total of 7 Archery if they are all in play. The Archery value can be increased by enemies getting the Recurve Bow, which gives the attached enemy Archery 2.
- While River Running is in the staging area, enemies cannot be optionally engaged.
- If an Arduous Journey is in play, players cannot ready more than 6 characters during the refresh phase
- While Rocky Outcrop is in the staging area, characters cannot ready by player card effects
- If at least one enemy is engaged with a player at stage 2, no more than 5 progress can be placed on the main quest.
As you can tell, the statistics have a lot of exceptions and special cases. This makes it a rather unpredictable encounter deck. The statistics above did not account for the Warriors of the East side-quest, which gets added during stage 2. The encounter deck is spread with a slight preference towards treacheries, especially in Easy mode. This makes it more likely to get the Easterling attachments on the enemies.
Easterling Pursuit is the only objective in this quest and will serve as a sort of time counter and extra rulesheet throughout the scenario. It is also the biggest “gimmick” of the quest that is unique to it, since the enemies in future scenarios in this quest also get their own attachments.
The objective is used as a way to bring out more enemies at a regular interval, much like the Time mechanic from the Ringmaker cycle. The objective accumulates resources through encounter card effects and one at the end of each round. Then, if there are 3 or more resources on the objective, 3 resources are removed, the encounter discard pile gets shuffled back into the encounter deck, and each player discards cards from the encounter deck until they get an enemy. That enemy is then added to the staging area. Aside from this extra enemy, the objective will also add threat to the total in the staging area during stage 1, and will supply the brought in enemies with attachments during stage 2 together with Warriors of the East. This makes it tricky to get ahead of this quest, as it often resets the encounter deck and discard pile, making scrying less optimal. The extra enemy can also be difficult to deal with, and players should prioritize keeping their boardstate as clear as possible in anticipation for this objective to trigger every now and then.
In higher player counts, this objective starts to really get annoying. Potentially 4 new enemies (with attachments) before you reveal a card for the staging step during the quest phase can be a recipe for disaster. That’s why I would recommend to actually keep all enemies in play if you are going to this quest with 4 players. Keeping enemies in play and not killing them will shut down this objective, and will get rid of those extra cards. You can then also take any number of resources on the objective without it making much of a difference. Only do this in 4p though, as you will need a few decks to at least defend the attacks that the enemies make. Forest Snares and the Dunedain archetypes will help out a lot, allowing you to survive while having all 12 enemies engaged. Do note that this means that you will have a lot of Archery to deal with, and you should bring plenty of damage cancellation and/or healing. This is a risky strategy, but would at least even the odds if you can manage to keep every enemy in check.
Lastly, it is important to remember that this objective is in the staging area each round and receives resources at the end of each round. This can sometimes be forgotten. The constant effect of stage 1 where the objective adds threat to the staging area is also one that is constantly forgotten by myself when calculating total threat, so keep an eye on it.
With the Creatures and Orcs of the Grey Mountains behind us, we once again turn to human enemies like we did in past cycles. This time we are faced with Sauron’s eastern armies, the Easterlings of Rhûn. These people control much of the land that we are travelling through and have their own synergy. That synergy has everything to do with controlling attachments of their own that boost their stats and give them additional abilities. This can cause the Easterlings to grow in power if you leave them alive for long. Killing them quickly is the way to go with these enemies.
- Easterling Outrider: Being the only scenario-exclusive enemy, the Easterling Outrider is the only enemy that interacts with the Easterling Pursuit objective directly. The Outrider is quite weak compared to the other enemies in this encounter set, but remember that the new Easterling attachments can buff the stats of this enemy to make it pretty dangerous. Being the lowest engagment cost enemy in the deck as well, you will be fighting this enemy quite a lot. When the Outrider is revealed during staging, it will surge, which is quite annoying, as that means you can potentially reveal 2 enemies in quick succession. Chaining all three copies of this enemy is also usually game over during the early game, unless your threat is below 24. The Outrider becomes more interesting when it engages a player. It will then either make an attack against that player, or place one resource on the objective. I advise to take the attack, since he only attacks for 2, unless he received the Sword of Rhûn early on. You really want to minimize the rate at which resources accumulate on the objective, so the attack is the better option. If you have Grimbeorn in your lineup, he can even kill this enemy with his ability during the encounter phase. Killing the Outrider really isn’t difficult, and he is a good target for Tactics Legolas, as it is an easy 2 progress without needing any attachments on him. Should you have other enemies engaged with you, you can leave the Outrider engaged without having to fear a lot. However, do make sure most copies of Easterling Horse are in play if you do, because that attachment will go onto the Outrider if it is revealed, and will return it to the staging area. You will have to engage it again, meaning either another attack, or another resource on the objective. It doesn’t take much to kill this enemy, so you shouldn’t have too many trouble with it. If you do, consider running direct damage, as the Outrider is killed very quickly through effects like Swift Strike.
- Warrior of Rhûn: With a 3 for all his regular stats, you know that the Warrior of Rhûn is going to be troublesome and that you’ll have to deal with him quite quickly. 3 threat is quite significant to leave in the staging area, and with an engagement cost of 34, you will have a few rounds before you have to engage this enemy. The Forced effect on the Warrior is quite interesting, as it can sometimes whiff, but at other times it can boost his stats significantly. Whenever the Warrior attacks, you have to find the top Easterling treachery in the discard pile and attach it to the Warrior of Rhûn. This bypasses the regular restriction of the attachments, which are one per enemy. Since this is a part of the When Revealed effect, it does not trigger when the Warrior of Rhûn attacks. This means that he can equip 2 Swords of Rhûn, making him attack for 7! Other attachments can also double up, but getting the Sword on him through his ability is the worst case scenario. The key here is that the Warrior only gets these attachments when he attacks, meaning that if you manage to cancel his attack through cards like Feint, then he won’t fish out the top treachery and attach it to himself. Alternatively, the Warrior’s effect can also whiff if there are no Easterling treacheries in the discard pile at that time. This can happen quite often, as the encounter discard pile is shuffled a lot in this quest. The shadow effect of the Warrior of Rhûn also deserves special mention, as it can mess up your calculations by a lot. If for instance the Easterling Captain or the Easterling Raider receive another attachment this way, their abilities trigger again, either preventing more damage being dealt to them, or boosting their stats even more. It is one of the shadow effects worth cancelling in this scenario.
- Easterling Raider: While the stats on this enemy might not seem that troublesome, this enemy can become a powerful foe to have to deal with. The engagement cost of 28 is low enough that you hace to engage this enemy early on, which is a good way to get rid of his Archery 1 quickly. During combat, the Raider will attack and defend for 2, but will receive buffs to each attribute for each Easterling attachment on him. Note that Guarded attachments and Traps do not raise his attack and defence, only Easterling treacheries. This does mean that if you reveal Sword of Rhûn at any point, and it goes onto the Raider, it will boost its attack by 3 instead of 2, which can cause him to grow a lot faster than other enemies in this encounter deck. The extra defence is quite annoying, as 2 defence is easy to get around, but a maximum of 5 defence is quite tricky to defeat. Again, direct damage is your friend here, since this enemy only has 3 hitpoints. That way you don’t have to deal with his high stats if he got a lot of attachments. It can also get around the constant Archery damage that this enemy dishes out. The enemy is quite generic for this cycle, and you will have to be able to deal with him early, before he grows to a 4/7/5/3 with Archery 3 if he receives a single copy of all attachments. Hitpoints is his weakest stat, so make use out of that.
- Easterling Captain: Without attachments, this is the biggest enemy in the encounter deck. With attachments, he is even bigger! The unique Easterling Captain enemy can be revealed as early as round 1, and will be quite tough to kill. A base attack of 6 is high enough to give later game decks problems, and killing the Captain isn’t as straightforward as it might sound. When the Easterling Captain enters play, you discard cards from the top of the encounter deck until an Easterling treachery is discarded. You then add that treachery to the Captain. This not only boosts its stats or gives it new abilities, but will also provide the Captain with a shield against your first attack. When the Captain would take damage for any reason, the players discard an Easterling attachment from him instead. The damage is cancelled afterwards. This means that the Captain can take quite long to take down, especially if Warriors of the East adds more attachments to it or more come out of the encounter deck. However, there are ways to get rid of these attachments before you deal the bulk of your damage. The Captain isn’t immune to player card effects, and thus, can take damage from direct damage effects. The best in my opinion, is the Bow of Yew, which you can trigger before dealing the rest of your damage. If the Captain has several attachments, it will be more difficult to remove those, but not impossible if you bring enough direct damage. If you didn’t bring any, then the Captain will sit engaged for a while, during which you need to make sure you avoid taking too many attacks. The good thing is that you can select what attachment to discard if there are multiple. I prioritize the Horse most of the time, so that the Captain doesn’t go back to the staging area and add 5 threat there next round. The Sword can also be nasty, making the Captain an 8 attack. But remember that Feint and such will work on this enemy. When the Captain is finally defeated, it is added to the Victory Display.
- Rider of Rhûn: The final enemy in this encounter deck is the one that I have the most trouble with. The Rider of Rhûn has a lot going on, so lets tackle this bit by bit. Starting with the regular stats, the Rider of Rhûn has the highest engagement cost of the encounter deck, and a 2/5/2/5 stat line. This gives it quite a high starting attack strength, and enough hitpoints to survive a Gandalf-bomb. The Rider also has Archery 2, and will get -10 engagement cost for each Easterling attachment that it has. It will receive these attachments through various means, but even with an empty staging area, it will start with an attachment. That’s because the Rider of Rhûn has a When Revealed effect that fetches an Easterling Horse from the discard pile or encounter deck, and attaches it to the Rider. This boosts the threat of the Rider, and will make it return to the staging area at the end of the round. The high attack of this enemy stands out to me, as there are 2 copies of this enemy in the encounter deck. It is tough to defend a 5 attack enemy early on, and even in the late game, you will need a plan for this enemy when you are also engaged with others. The constant Archery 2 will make this enemy a priority over the others. 2 defences does mean that some trickery can be used with Rivendell Blade and Straight Shot if you really want to cheese this enemy. Remember the lower engagement cost of this enemy thanks to its attachments and during stage 2. Hobbit decks will struggle against this enemy.
The narritive of the game takes us to the open plains and riverbanks of Rhûn. These empty lands makes for relatively easy travel, but are endless and offer little cover from the enemies. While location lock might not be a big problem in this quest, the locations can be difficult to clear if they start to pile up, so keep travelling when possible. All locations have negative travel costs, so investing in a way to get around those would help you a lot.
- The River Running: The titular location of this scenario has several copies, but one of them starts in the staging area during setup. The stats on this locations aren’t that bad, though the 5 quest points will make it tough to clear in the staging area. The real benefit of travelling here is that you get around the passive ability that is active while the River Running is in the staging area. This prevents optional engagements, causing all players to engage enemies as normal. This also prevents enemies with higher engagement costs than your threat from being engaged early to remove threat from the staging area. If one player has a high threat while the rest of the players are at a low threat, then this can cause the majority of enemies engaging the same player without the others being able to prevent this. The inability to optionally engage enemies might not seem that bad in theory, but in practice it does screw up with your calculations on who engages what during the round. This is more of an issue in multiplayer than solo, but solo players with a low enough threat might have a situation where they are unable to engage enemies, while this is something you will want to do in this scenario. So travelling will be the best way to get around this issue. The travel cost for this location is that the first player engages the enemy in the staging area with the highest engagement cost. Since this will likely be the first location you travel to, it is important to have a combat-capable first player ready to take on a big enemy. This again can screw with the discussion on who takes which enemy, so cards like South Away and Thror’s Map can help out by ignoring the travel cost of this location. It will be important to clear the River Running whenever you can, since multiple copies will cause a hard lock to be set on optional engagements, which is rather dangerous in this scenario. Either one player is overwhelmed by enemies, or the enemies continue to add threat to the staging area without the players able to engage them.
- Exposed Riverbank: This location is notorious for its high threat, but it is often better to reveal this location during staging than a copy of Rolling Plains. The 4 threat on this location is constant though, making it absorb a lot of willpower if left in the staging area. The location also adds a passive to the staging area that will start to add more resources to the objective, accelerating the rate at which enemies are added to the staging area. The Riverbank will add 1 resource to the objective each time that a “when revealed” effect is cancelled. If you are not bringing any cancellation to your game, then this passive ability is nothing to worry about. But chances are that at least somebody brought A Test of Will or even Eleanor. These will add more resources to the objective, but I would suggest that some effects in this quest are worth cancelling. The fourth copy of Rolling Plains is a good example of this, which would otherwise add a ton of threat to the staging area. Do note that added resources during stage 1 will add threat to the staging area, as the resources are worth 1 threat each during that stage. In order to be able to cancel “when revealed” effects again, you can clear this location in the staging area, which isn’t impossible with cards like Asfaloth and Evening Star. Players can also travel to this location, but this comes at the cost of one resource on Easterling Pursuit. Again, there are some cards that can ignore the Travel cost of this location that might be worth it, but I would not recommend sacrificing Ghan-buri-Ghan for this one. If you leave him alive, he will gain 4 willpower while the Exposed Riverbank is the active location, which is worth keeping him around for. Use some other effects or just suck up the resource if you can.
- Rolling Plains: It is not often that I recommend cancelling When Revealed effects on locations, but the Rolling Plains will be an exception. This 2/4 location might seem innocent at first, but if you keep copies of this location in the staging area for too long, they might suddenly grow in threat beyond what you can handle. Each time a copy of Rolling Plains is revealed from the encounter deck, all copies of Rolling Plains get +2 threat until the end of the phase. This means that all copies in the staging area, the active location, and even the one you just revealed will be 4 threat. Even worse, if you reveal multiple copies in the same phase, their threat boosts will stack, raising each location to 6 threat. With 4 copies in the encounter deck (3 in Easy mode), this can stack up a lot of threat in the early game if you don’t clear the locations quickly. However, if you somehow manage to survive and get all four copies in the staging area at the same time, then I wouldn’t recommend travelling to any of them. Travelling will cause each player to raise their threat by 2 anyways, and clearing them from the active location slot or by location control cards will just recycle them in the encounter deck. If you have only one copy and are playing in true solo (or 2 player perhaps), then I would suggest travelling. But higher player counts should either cancel the when revealed effect, or just suck up the threat for the phase and keep the locations in the staging area where they won’t cause any more harm. To decrease the threat of keeping these locations in the staging area, use Familar Lands, Power in the Earth, or Guarded Ceaslessly.
- Rocky Outcrop: This is an annoying location that would be best to clear in the staging area as quickly as you can. The Outcrop has 3 threat and only 3 quest points, making it a good target for progress-placing cards. The biggest reason why you would want the Outcrop to disappear is that it adds a passive effect while in the staging area where players cannot ready their characters with player card effects. This prevents players from using effects like Unexpected Courage, Tactics Boromir, Armored Destrier, and a host of other readying effects. This sort of action advantage is important in this quest that demands you to do well in both questing and combat. So being able to ready characters and use them again in nearly mandatory, causing this location to be quite the obstacle. Be sure to ready any questing characters before the staging step of the quest phase for this reason, as you might not get the chance if one or more copies of this location appear. The players will be able to travel here if the first player has a hero to exhaust. If this is the only Rocky Outcrop in play, then you will be able to ready that hero through player card effects again, but it can be quite a steep cost for some decks. Clear this location in the staging area if possible, or bypass the Travel cost with Thror’s Map and South Away.
The Vengeance of Mordor cycle introduces a group of treacheries that will attach themselves to enemies and serve as Weapons or Mounts. These boost their stats or give them new abilities to watch out for. Aside from these treacheries, the scenario also tries to accelerate you placing resources on Easterling Pursuit through treacheries in the encounter deck.
- Recurve Bow: The first of three Easterling attachments in this scenario, meaning that it can be brought back from the discard pile through effects like Warriors of the East and Warrior of Rhûn. When players reveal the Recurve Bow during staging, the bow will first surge. It will then attach itself to the highest engagement cost Easterling enemy, without a copy of Recurve Bow attached. This is put into place to prevent one enemy getting all the attachments if they surge into one another. If you cannot attach the bow to an enemy (if there are no enemies in play or the ones in play already have a bow), then the bow goes into the discard pile. When the Recurve Bow is attached to an enemy, it counts as a Weapon attachment and the attached enemy gains Archery 2. If the enemy already had the archery keyword, the value is instead raised by 2, as such keywords can stack on top of each other. All the attachment does is add this archery, and in my opinion, it is the best attachment out of the three in this scenario that you can have in play on an enemy. The fact that this bow attaches to the highest engagement enemy in play does mean that there might be a case where you won’t be able to engage the enemy if the River Running location is in the staging area. This means that you will have to suffer the Archery damage for a few extra rounds before you can attack the enemy. The Bow will deal constant damage to your characters each round, so keep an eye on the total Archery value. Once the attached enemy has been defeated, the Bow goes to the encounter discard pile with it.
- Sword of Rhûn: For enemies that like to fight up close and personal, the Sword of Rhûn would be a better option to get. This Easterling treachery also attaches to an Easterling enemy when it is revealed, and will surge, much like the Bow. The only difference is that the Sword of Rhûn attaches to the enemy with the lowest attack without a Sword of Rhûn attached. Again, if this cannot be done, the Sword goes to the discard pile. If the Sword does attach to an enemy, that enemy gets a powerup of +2 attack strength, which can be quite deadly on the wrong enemy. On Easterling Raider, the Sword of Rhûn even boosts attack by 3 because of the enemy’s effect. The base upgrade to damage makes the enemy more dangerous to deal with during combat, and the enemy should therefore be dealt with before you have to engage it if possible. Direct damage effects like Faramir and Gandalf can be enough to deal with this enemy before it becomes a problem. This saves your defender to deal with any of the other enemies that will be coming down. The Sword of Rhûn is not to be underestimated, and can be very dangerous if it is added to the enemy through the Warrior of Rhûn‘s shadow effect.
- Painful Fatigue: Every time a treachery does not add an attachment to an enemy, it is a good card to reveal. The Painful Fatigue treachery is quite easy and I feel like it is missing the surge keyword with how straightforward this When Revealed effect is. When the players reveal Painful Fatigue, they must each exhaust a character they control and deal a damage to it. This hurts more in the early game, where you don’t have that many characters, causing this exhaustion to disturb your plans for the combat phase. However, with more characters on the table, this treachery is very easy to survive by most decks. The damage does hurt you if you can only exhaust characters with one remaining hitpoint, causing you to lose a character. But compared to other treacheries in this deck, it isn’t too bad as long as you have enough characters in play. The shadow effect can be nasty, especially if you only have exactly enough characters ready to kill the attacking enemy. You must either return it to the staging area or exhaust a character. In my experience, I tend to exhaust a character, unless the attacking enemy has an Easterling Horse and I can’t kill it this round. It is almost always better to do a little more damage to the enemy than sending it to the staging area where you can’t touch it outside of a specific Rohan deck with Dúnhere and Éomer.
- Weary Lands: First of all, each player must raise their threat by 1 when this treachery is revealed. Each player then has to do some recaclulations of their willpower, as this treachery reduces the willpower of all exhausted characters by 1. The easiest way to counter this is to have a player ready up all exhausted characters with things like Free Peoples, Strength of Arms, and Grim Resolve before revealing any player cards. This treachery can hinder your progress by quite a lot, as all 1-willpower allies and heroes no longer contribute anything to the quest. Cancellation can save you from another round if you were hoping to make a big push towards the quest this round. Alternatively, players can also use Leadership ally Faramir to have one player ignore the effects of this treachery. Also note that this only targets exhausted characters. Characters that do not exhaust to quest won’t have their willpower reduced. Stacking this treachery on top of another copy can be the end of you though, as you will likely not make a lot of progress. The shadow effect also has a reputation for ending games as people would defend with 1 HP defenders (either damaged up defenders or allies like Defender of Rammas and Winged Guardian). This shadow effect would then kill the defender and cause the attack to be undefended, which can easily destroy a hero. This shadow effect is worth cancelling, as it can destroy characters quite easily and will soften up the survivors for the damage they’ll take from the attack.
- Easterling Horse: I find this treachery to be the most annoying one of the bunch, as it doesn’t take long to appear in any game and will be a constant threat until you deal with it. Like the sword and the bow, the Easterling Horse will attach itself to an Easterling enemy in play when it is revealed. This time it goes to the lowest engagement cost enemy in play without a copy of Easterling Horse attached. If that enemy was engaged with a player, it is returned to the staging area. This means that the horse can add enemies back to the staging area, where they add their threat to the total. This threat is increased by 2 from the Horse. The Easterling Horse also gives the enemy a new Forced effect where they are returned to the staging area at the end of each round. So if you didn’t kill the attached enemy, they will go back to the staging area and will continue to add their threat. To make it worse, the enemy will almost surely engage again next round, as it has the lowest engagement cost at the time. This makes the Easterling Outrider quite dangerous, as it will add a lot more resources to the objective or will make more attacks. The Rider of Rhûn will also fish out this horse when it enters play, causing its threat to go up to 4 and its engagement cost down by 10. Luckily, the Horse has no shadow effect, and if no eligible enemies are in play when the Horse is revealed, it is discarded and will surge. Try to lock down the enemies with horses and kill them first, so that they cannot return to the staging area at the end of the round.
- Enemies Close Behind: Out of all treacheries, I think this one is the least punishing. The treachery will add 1 resource to the objective, and will then raise each player’s threat by 1 for each resource on the objective. Best case scenario: You had no resources on the objective and now have to take 1 threat. With the card not surging or doing anything else, that isn’t the worst thing you could have revealed. The problems really begin when this pushes you to 3 resources at the end of the round, where you normally wouldn’t have had that. This means that more enemies are coming down next round, so you have to kill the ones that engage this round as soon as you can to avoid being overrun. Getting this treachery over and over again can also be annoying, and might be worth a cancel if your threat is starting to become an issue. Note that cancelling this while Exposed Riverbank is in the staging area won’t get rid of the resource, as the location will place one instead of the treachery. The shadow effect on this treachery will also place more resources on the objective, but only if the attack kills a character. To help with this, the attacking enemy gets +1 attack, which can cause you to just lose your character. To prevent this, make sure that you defend with at least 2 points of defence of HP to spare.
The encounter side-quests make a return from the Haradrim and Angmar Awakened cycle. They are on an on-off schedule with these cycles, and in the Vengeance of Mordor cycle, several encounter sets will again feature side-quests. This quest only has two encounter side-quests, one of which is added as the players advance to stage 2.
- Warriors of the East:During setup, this side-quest is removed from the game and will only be added to the staging area once players advance to stage 2. Note that it is added instead of revealed, so the Surge won’t go off. While the Warriors in the East side-quest is in play, it will give every Easterling enemy that enters play the topmost Easterling attachment from the discard pile. This can sometimes whiff, especially if the encounter discard pile just got shuffled back into the deck, but the side-quest will also stack with abilities like the one on the Easterling Captain and the Rider of Rhûn. This can give those enemies additional attachments, which can be very dangerous. Note that this also does not satisfy their Forced/When Revealed effects, so you must resolve those first and then do the Forced effect on this side-quest. The extra attachments will be very annoying to get on the enemies, making combat harder. However, this side-quest does not have to be cleared if you don’t want to. Since you will only need 15 progress on the main quest when this card enters play, you can prioritize that instead of this side-quest. In other scenarios, this side-quest will again be rather annoying, as different treacheries will attach to enemies in those. When players have had enough of this side-quest, they can choose to go there and hopefully explore it in one go. It will take some effort, as the side-quest has 8 quest points, which is tough to deal with in lower player counts. Besides this, whenever Warrior of the East is selected as the current quest, the highest attack Easterling enemy in the staging area will make an attack against the first player. If there is no Easterling enemy in the staging area, then the Forced effect won’t do anything. This isn’t a cost to select this stage, just a result of you choosing it. This means that the attack can be cancelled and you can still go to this side-quest.
- An Arduous Journey: The second side-quest that you will encounter in this scenario will start the game in the encounter deck and can pop up at any time. The side-quest isn’t that bad in the early game, but during the late game, some swarm decks will not be happy to reveal this side-quest. The side-quest removes the ability to ready during the refresh phase from all but six characters per player. If you have six or fewer characters, this side-quest does absolutely nothing for you, but in higher character count decks, this will start to become a problem. You won’t be able to ready everyone for the next round, so you will have to make some decisions on who to leave exhausted. Note that this side-quest does not shut down the ability to ready your characters by using player card effects, so you can still ready everyone through those (assuming Rocky Outcrop is not in the staging area). The six quest points on this side-quest isn’t too much to overcome, and the players should be able to explore this side-quest during the first stage if they want to. Players can also choose to ignore this side-quest if their deck relies on fewer than 6 characters. If the players do clear this side-quest, then they may each ready a hero they control. This isn’t a big reward, but can still be useful during the combat phase to have some extra attack strength depending on who you ready.
Tips and Tricks
- The enemies in this quest will get bigger the longer they are in the game. Kill them quickly, preferably in the round they enter play. This will keep the board clear of enemies when the objective brings in more, so you aren’t overwhelmed. This advice can be ignored for 4 player games, where a different strategy can be more lucrative.
- Direct damage is a wonderful way of dealing with most enemies in the staging area. This prevents the Outriders from placing resources, kills the annoying enemies with Easterling Horses, and prevents the Warrior of Rhûn from retrieving attachments. You will need some dedicated direct damage effects, as most enemies have quite a lot of HP, but it is not impossible to kill several in the staging area.
- Willpower is key in this quest, and you should try and quest as hard as possible in order to beat the game before enemies overwhelm you. Stage 2 should be beaten in 3 rounds if possible, preferably less if players manage to kill all engaged enemies before the end of the round.
- Find a way to get an automatic encounter deck shuffler or something, since this quest will have you reshuffle the encounter discard pile very often. This will be a theme throughout the cycle actually. OCTGN players will have an easier time, but players with physical cards will need to have someone on shuffle-duty for this quest.
- It can be tricky to pull off successfully, but keeping all enemies in play and not killing them will prevent the objective and some encounter cards from bringing out even more cards during the game. The objective will fizzle if no enemies are in the encounter deck or discard pile, and you can easily take more resources on the objective without it mattering too much. Do bring enough healing and some decks that do well with defending so many enemies at once.
- Healing in general is pretty important, as some of these enemies can hit really hard once they get their attachments. Combine this with constant damage from Archery, and your characters will quickly be low on hitpoints. Healing and damage prevention will be important here!
- With so many enemies receiving attachments, Valour of the North is a very powerful card in this scenario (as well as the rest of the cycle). This event can boost attack or defence of your character by 3, which will certainly be enough to block most attacks and will deal more damage to enemies with attachments. This helps to kill enemies with Easterling Horses before they return to the staging area. Certainly worth a second look for this cycle.
- Other cards that deal with enemies having attachments, like Ranger Spear and Lore Faramir ally are also very much worth a look. You can get more damage or better stats against these enemies if you include the cards in your deck.
- Keep an eye out for when it is allowed to give enemies two of the same attachment. Cards like Warrior of Rhûn, Easterling Captain, and Warriors of the East don’t interact with the When Revealed of the treacheries, which is the part that prevents you from having an enemy with 2 of the same attachment. This can cause problems if one enemy starts collecting all the swords, boosting its attack.
The downside with these modern quests is that there are very few playthrough videos to be found of them online. Still, here is at least one video to show you how the quest works. More videos will be added if they are ever uploaded by other content creators.
So concludes our first quest analysis of the Vengeance of Mordor cycle. It has probably been the easiest quest of them all, so the following articles will sure be a lot longer than usual in order to cover everything. But I will try my best and continue the cycle in the coming months. With the final quest still needing to be released, I won’t go through this cycle as quickly, but other authors might drop in and cover some quests here and there.