On a cold day of November like today, I’m happy to not have to go outside in the Biting Wind and instead can Make Camp in my armchair, playing some Lord of the Rings and continue this deckbuilding series… and imagine how my heroes are out there in the cold of the Weather Hills, fighting Orcs and facing the challenges of the Foul Weather.
As you can see, I like the theme of The Weather Hills. I find it interesting that our heroes have to deal with the brutality of nature for once instead of just the bad guys. Also the attempt to pass the Redhorn Gate is one of my favorite parts of Fellowship of the Ring and I like the concept that Sauron can use the Weather for his advantage.
But aside from the theme, I like the mechanics of the scenario as well. Stage 1 gives you an interesting dilemma to deal with, especially in solo play: Either you quest hard to clear the active location, which forces you to likely deal with an enemy for that you than have not so many characters ready, or do you stall for a turn and risk getting location locked?
A strategy that can work quite well is to switch between those strategies every other turn. Quest hard and just defend the enemy you get and then keep some characters back next turn to kill it. For this strategy to work we need location control (cause we can only travel every other round) and balanced characters with strong combat and questing potential, in additon to the healing to deal with the Weather Treacheries.
Thinking about these requirements, I was immediately drawn to a hero I don’t often makes use of: good old Lore Glorfindel. He has inbuild healing with a large pool of hitpoints, high willpower and attack and with Asfaloth access to the best location management in the game. By choosing him I also quickly found my second hero in Elrond. The ability to double healing effects makes Glorfindel’s action really useful. He can also compensate for Glorfindels one lacking stat and work as our main defender, we don’t want to chump block and risk running into an attack chain from Angmar Captain. Our trio will be completed by Mirlonde to compensate for the hight threat of our other heroes and a third Lore hero will give us access to even more healing.
The ally selection includes in Ioreth and Warden of Healing the best healing allies, together with most efficient questers and attacks in Lore (and we can even splash in some Ethir Swordsman with Elrond). Firyal can get rid of the surging Weather treachery. East Road Rangers can help us dealing with the encounter side-quests and Eryn Galen Settler with locations. Master of the Forge is mainly here to dig for Asfaloth. The other attachments are nice to have but not really key for our heroes to work. The events are card draw and some more location control with the Evening Star.
In my first 3 runs, a lot of things worked as I hoped as long as I could found my key pieces: Asfaloth and Warden of Healing. With an early Asfaloth the “two-turn-strategy” worked out well, I was able to keep the staging area clear of locations. Ranger Spikes were amazing for this as well, essentially given me a free turn to explore a location without having to deal with an enemy. The East Road Rangers were even better than I hoped, because you want the willpower to clear side-quests as soon as they show up, but in other rounds you’re happy of the two attack. Still, in one game I couldn’t find Asfaloth for several turns, I ended up location locked.
Warden turned out to be essential for healing, also because of the existence of Cold from Angmar. It shuts down Glorfindel from healing himself (you really need to make use of his 5 hitpoints early on) and also limits Elrond. It also prevents you from stacking damage on your Anfalas Herdsmen who will die in a single swing if their textboxes are blanked. I could make it to stage 2 without a Warden, but damage was so spread around my characters that I lost almost half my willpower. There was no way I could quest throught before the objective ran out of time counters.
So I ended up only wining the one of my three games where I could find both key cards early on. I realized that I would have the deck would either need to find them more consistently or include more similar effects. However, I lost none of my games because my threat went to high. So I decided to make a larger change by switching out a hero. I drop Mirlonde and add more consitency in form of Galdor of the Havens. He is great when you look for multiple cards early on, keeping the ones you need and discarding the others. While I normally try to stick with my hero line-up and find other tech options, in this case I felt that I wasn’t changing the nature of the deck to much. They have almost identical stats and both abilties kick in during setup, so after that the deck doesn’t play much different.
I also included some discard effects to make use of Galdor’s second effect in form of Protector of Lorien and Imladris Caregivers. The were 3 other things I wanted to include: Henamarth Riversong to help me know for what I can quest without clearing the active location, Cloak of Lorien to boost Elrond’s defense (and I just forgot it existed during the first draft) and Wellinghall Preserver for more healing and because I realized I could sacrifice some willpower early on to have more at stage 2. I cut some utility allies to make room for them. I will name this final deck “Healers of the Noldor” and it can be found on RingsDB.
In the following three games I could always find my key pieces and won all of them. There was a moments where a single card effect changed the game in my favor. Once an Angmar Marauder who had been shuffled in the encounter deck showed up asa shadow card in the late game and would have given +10 attack or so for all my allies, resulting in a dead Elrond. But luckily he was wielding A Burning Brand to cancel it. Who would have guessed that fire could be that useful in the cold?
My threat ended up at 41, 45 and 48, so without Mirlonde it was getting close. However in the 48 threat game I couldn’t find a single Woodmen’s Clearing despite having out a Master of the Forge since turn 1. So I guess this deck should be fine if you draw a bit luckier than me.
That’s it for The Weather Hills. I enjoyed this quest a lot, altough at this point I have seen enough of it. I liked the predictability of the mechanics to know when you get an enemy, so the quest isn’t that random and you have more control, but for the same reason the replayability isn’t that great.
Considering general deckbuilding, I want to emphasize how important it is to realize why you lose a game so you can make the correct adjustments. I could only improve my deck because I saw that threat wasn’t the problem but the consistency of my deck. In other cases you might need more combat strength, a better balance of card draw and ressource generation or a stronger early game. Like so often in life, also in this LCG is understanding a problem that first step to solve it.