Challenge of the Wainriders

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game has experimented a lot over the years with different formats for quests, which has contributed to keeping the game fresh and interesting. The setting has varied widely in terms of theme and quest structure, yet the base premise of the game has remained familiar: One (or more) quest cards, one encounter deck with locations, enemies, treacheries, and the occasional side quest or objective thrown into the mix. Some quests have decided to break that mold significantly. One of the more memorable exceptions was The Temple of the Deceived, which turned the location system into something new entirely. Rather than drawing locations from the encounter decks, players moved around on a map, where all the locations started into play, and you had to find the right one. Temple of the Deceived served as a prototype to the later released Arkham Horror: The card game that has a similar system for locations. However, for Lord of the Rings, the innovative location system was a one-time trick, a curiosity in a cycle beloved by its experimental style and flair. It was a wish for this author to see more quests that radically broke the frame of this game, and in the swan-song of the game, the designers decided to deliver. In Challenge of the Wainriders, we do not move around on a map of locations but on a map of quest cards, arranged as a race track. The players race against the wain riders in chariots, and the premise is simple: First to finish two circuits wins. The Wainriders themselves are an interesting addition to the LCG world, and they are mentioned briefly in the appendix of Return of the King: 

The third evil was the invasion of the Wainriders, which sapped the waning
strength of Gondor in wars that lasted for almost a hundred years. The
Wainriders were a people, or a confederacy of many peoples, that came from the
East; but they were stronger and better armed than any that had appeared before.
They journeyed in great wains, and their chieftains fought in chariots. Stirred
up, as was afterwards seen, by the emissaries of Sauron, they made a sudden
assault upon Gondor, and King Narmacil II was slain in battle with them beyond
Anduin in 1856. The people of eastern and southern Rhovanion were enslaved; and
the frontiers of Gondor were for that time withdrawn to the Anduin and the Emyn
Muil.
Appendix IV: GONDOR AND THE HEIRS OF ANÁRION

Hold your horses and let the VotP crew take the reigns as we guide you through the race. Remember, on the race track, one second can be the difference between life and death!

The Challenge of the Wainriders

  • Found in: The Vengeance of Mordor Cycle, Adventure Pack 3
  • Official Difficulty: 5
  • Community Difficulty: 6.9
  • Encounter Sets: Riders of Rhûn, Rolling Plains, Challenge of the Wainriders,
  • Quest cards: 6!
  • Play if: You want to race tribesmen in a chariot. You like atypical quests that turns the core mechanics of the game upside down. You were born with gasoline in your veins. You want to play a good all-round deck that can utilize several different stats on your heroes and allies.
  • What is different about this quest?: The quest cards form a freaking race track! You have to outpace the encounter deck. New Race-test mechanics.
  • Solo or multiplayer?: The quest has a higher pace in multiplayer, as much more damage potentially will be added to the wainriders quest stage if you reveal many enemies (see below). This author has only played it in true solo, and there the quest can become rather long (if you survive beyond the initial stages).
  • Can I run side-quests for this scenario?: The scenario has a very tight clock, and if you dally too long, you lose. So side quests are not ideal here. You don’t usually go off-track during races to go and gather some information. Double Back is probably the worst side-quest to play from a thematic stand-point.
  • What to look out for: Being runover by the encounter deck. Showing up with a deck that’s relying too much on a single stat. The traffic on the road.

The Quest

Setup

This quest has so much setup text that some of it had to be exiled to the adventure pack insert. The quest card instructs you to build “the circuit” according to the insert. You arrange the 6 quest cards on your table in the following pattern:


6A – 5A – 4A
1A – 2A – 3A


Next, you place the Wainriders (your opponents) and the challengers (yourself) on stage 1A. You then place the Wainrider champion in the staging area (What? You thought there wouldn’t be a staging area and the Wainriders would play fair? Grow up! What do you think you are playing?). Finally, each other player searches the encounter deck for a different location and adds them to the staging area. If you are a true solo player, this is not relevant for you. If you are playing multiplayer, you have to decide what to add. My first choice would always be Rolling Plains for its low threat, an irrelevant When Revealed effect, and a neglectable travel cost. My second choice would be Rocky Outcrop with 3 threat, a somewhat inconvenient effect that keeps you from readying characters, and a travel cost that you ideally can work around in multiplayer (though it can, of course, be inconvenient if you pay the travel cost and you get swarmed by enemies). As an alternative (or if you play four-player), I would recommend Narrow Pass that allows you to stall the Wainriders by attacking the Champion. This effectively allows you to buy yourself some time, but the reason I am reluctant about this location from the setup is that it might not be possible to take advantage of it right out of the gate. Of course, by picking it from the start, you ensure that it is there to be utilized later, which can be convenient. If you have a dedicated combat tactics deck, this could work to your advantage. After you have added your chosen locations, you shuffle the encounter deck.

Objectives

The two objectives added to the first stage represent the main victory/loss conditions of the scenario. The Wainriders have a forced effect that triggers at the end of the quest phase and places X damage on The Wainriders’ stage, where X is the total threat of each enemy in the staging area. The Wainrider champion has a threat of 2 per player and cannot leave the staging area, meaning that at least 2 damage per player will be added to the Wainriders stage each round. Furthermore, if The Wainriders’ stage has damage on it equal to or greater than the stage’s quest points, The Wainriders advances to the next stage. Any excess damage is placed on the new stage, so you cannot game the system by stalling their advancement.

The Challengers objective advances to the next stage whenever the players defeat a quest stage in the race circuit (this wording is chosen to keep away ambiguity from side quests). The challengers need to complete two circuits before the Wainriders to win. If the Wainriders complete two circuits first, the players lose. From these two dynamics, it becomes abundantly clear that this is a rush quest. If the players turtle, the Wainriders will leave them behind and make it impossible to keep up. Whenever the players keep up, they have a different problem to face: The Wainrider champion.

Wainrider Champion

When the Wainriders and the Challengers are at the same stage, Wainrider Champion is considered to be engaged with each player. Wainrider Champion is Indestructible, Immune to Players Card effects, and cannot leave the staging area. As mentioned above, they have X threat, and additionally 4 attack, X defense, and 5 hit points (though they technically do not matter because of Indestructible). The card text means that whenever the players catch up to the Wainriders, they will have to face repeated attacks that require either chump blockers or a strong defender. The Wainrider Champion also has a fun interaction with the Narrow Pass location, as mentioned above, meaning that you can use it to stall the Wainriders from advancing. So does this mean that you can simply win this quest by spamming willpower while sacrificing the odd chump blocker to the Champion? I wish it were that simple. Let me introduce you to the special keyword of this adventure pack: the Race Keyword (no, not that kind of race, what is wrong with you?)

Race keyword

Quest cards containing the Race Keywords cannot be defeated outside of the quest phase. That means no Legolas shenanigans for this quest. When a quest stage with the race keyword is defeated, all progress is removed from it at the end of the quest phase. The quest stages with the Race keyword all trigger a racing test when they advance. This is a forced ability and is tied to a specific attribute, either defense, attack, or willpower. A single character is exhausted by the first player, and X cards are discarded from the encounter deck, equal to the value of that character’s indicated attribute. Success is tied to discarding encounter cards with a specific keyword printed in the corner, either Straight, Turn, or Wild (counts as both). Hence, a race test could, for example, require a Straight result tied to the Attack attribute. Failure can range from the annoying (discard a random card) to the catastrophic (this stage is not defeated). We will go through the individual tests in detail and the consequences of failing them.


Quest stage 1: Wainrider Camp (4 quest points pr. player)

Following setup, the first quest card of the race track is flipped over to its 1B side. Interestingly, none of the other A-sides of the quest cards contains any game text but contains flavor text about the track and the race. Hence, for the remainder of the article, I will only refer to the B-sides. 1B gets +4 quest points per player, which means that the Wainriders will stay here 1-2 rounds before they advance to the next stage. The number of rounds is determined by what is revealed during the first quest phase. Remember, after the quest phase, a number of damage tokens are placed on the quest stage equal to the threat value of enemies in the staging area. The Wainrider Champion will place 2 per player, meaning that the Wainriders could advance if a 2+ threat enemy is revealed. The encounter deck contains 9 encounter cards that can cause the deck to advance out of a 40-cards deck, meaning that they will likely stay 2 rounds at the first stage. If you bring decks with a lot of willpower, you might be lucky and advance right out of the first stage. However, you still need to consider the Racing test if you advance (though this one is not so severe, as we will see in a moment). Advancing right out of the gate in true solo requires a lot of willpower. You begin the game with 4-5 threat in the staging area per player, so you need to quest for at least 8 each, plus whatever the encounter deck throws at you. If you play Noldor, Hobbits, or another high willpower setup, this might work just fine. Just remember to have a backup plan for if you cannot…

If you need a few rounds to clear the first stage, you need a plan for Wainrider Champion. The Champion will probably attack you at least once and will remain a nuisance throughout the game. The champion “only” attacks for 4, which means that you need a dedicated defender to take many hits, but by no means are you required to bring a Beregond full of attachments. A dedicated defender is a good idea, though, because you want a character with high Defense to pass race tests. You need a deck that can take repeated attacks but also quests consistently enough to keep a steady pace and avoid location lock. Whether you try to leave the Wainriders in the dust or try to brush off their repeated attacks depends on your deck strategy.

Once you made it past 1B, you are forced to make a Racing test for Defense Straight. The test requires 1 Straight result, plus one additional Straight for each stage the players have completed this round. The latter is mainly to prevent the players from blazing through with super high willpower. A good strategy for this first racing test is to keep your dedicated defender ready to take an attack from the Wainriders, or alternatively use him for this test if they fail to advance. If you succeed, additional progress from stage 1B is placed on stage 2B, which can be particularly helpful if you had to stay for two rounds. If you fail, you must discard a random card from your hand. While annoying, this is rarely the end of the world. I wouldn’t mind too much taking this first test on the chin in order to preserve your board state. Better to lose a random card than having to take an unblocked attack because you exhausted your defender.

Quest stage 2: First Sprint (4 quest points pr. player)

Stage 2B has 4 quest points per player and has no additional keywords beyond the Race keyword. When this stage is defeated, the first player must make a racing Attack test. If the players get 1 STRAIGHT result (plus 1 additional STRAIGHT result per stage they have completed this round), excess progress is placed on the next stage. If you fail, each character gets 1 damage. This can be absolutely fatal for Silvan decks, Hobbit decks, or other decks which rely on frail heroes and/or allies, so it is well worth preparing a strong attacker for this test. Luckily, an attacker can more often be kept in spare than a defender. Failing to have an attacker for the combat phase means an enemy will stay around for an additional round while failing to have a defender can mean the loss of a hero. If you play few characters and your other characters have many hit points, this is a test you can down prioritize. But you better clear it with the rest of the table before you do! The repeated tests at quest stages means that heroes that can quest without exhausting ( Radagast, an elf with Light of Valinor) or heroes with readying effects (Aragorn or a hobbit with Fast Hitch) can be very helpful to ensure that you have characters available for the racing tests. Keep that in mind when you select your lineup. 

Quest stage 3: The Turnaround (4 quest points pr. player)

Like the other stages, Stage 3 has 4 quest points per player. When this stage is defeated, the players need to make a Willpower Racing test. It can be tricky to hold back a sufficiently powerful willpower character to pass and still place enough progress, which is why it is crucial to clear locations as they appear in the previous stages. But if you made it this far and still feel like you have the chance in the race, you should have sufficient willpower. The racing test needs a TURN result, plus an additional TURN result for each stage you have completed this round. If the players pass the test, excess progress is placed on the next stage as usual. If the players fail, each player discards an ally they control. While this can cost you a key ally, I usually have a few allies that I’m happy to throw in front of a strong enemy or sacrifice to the encounter deck. Unless I’m really keen on placing progress on the next stage, I will not worry too much about this test.

Quest stage 4: The Farthest Edge (4 quest points pr. player)

At this point, you know the drill. When Stage 4 is defeated, the players need to make a racing Defense test for 1 STRAIGHT result (plus 1 additional pr. yadda yadda yadda…). If you succeed, you get to place additional progress on the next stage. If you fail, reveal the top card of the encounter deck or top-2 cards if there are 3 or more players. This is a test I would prioritize. Revealing encounter cards clogs up the staging area, making it harder to advance fast. You might need to block the Champion’s attack if you are at the same stage as the Wainriders, and for this reason, it is a good idea to have more than one defender in the deck. Some of the defensive allies like Winged Guardian or Defender of Rammas can come in really handy here.

Quest stage 5: Last Climb (4 quest points pr. player)

Last Climb requires a racing Willpower test. The advice for stage 3 applies here as well, keep a clean staging area so you can afford to save a character with high willpower for the test. Cirdan with Light of Valinor is a good option here. The test requires one STRAIGHT result (+1 for each previous stage you defeated this round), and if you pass, you get the usual bonus. If you fail, 2 damage per player is placed on the Wainriders stage, which might be a huge disadvantage. However, more often than not, I find that if I make it to this stage and the Wainriders haven’t left me in the dust, the additional damage might not matter too much. And unless the game is uncomfortably close, you should be able to take this on the chin without worrying too much. This is a decision that depends on your board state and on the race track.

Quest stage 6: Home Stretch (4 quest points pr. player)

You’ve made it this far! Now everything standing between you and your first lap (or finishing line if this is your second time around) is a racing Attack test. You need to find a TURN result plus an additional TURN for each stage you have completed this round. If you pass, you place progress on the next stage. If you fail, the stage is not defeated, and all progress is discarded. This can be an infuriating feel-bad moment. For this test alone, bring a strong attacker. I passed it using Giant Bear, so I could get as many cards discarded as possible. It is an easy trap to fall into to neglect attack power in this scenario, but this stage highlights why you must bring it. Luckily, your main attacker will rarely be one of your main questers, so you can plan for this stage and give it your best shot. If you have done exceptionally well, you might be well ahead of the Wainriders and can afford to spend a round here for a second attempt. This is especially true if this is your first lap. 

The Second Lap

If you make it through the test, you need to complete a second lap. I found the first one to be the toughest by far. If you made it this far, it means that you have things somewhat under control. You just need to maintain the pace and keep the encounter deck from snowballing. This quest benefits from heroes with strong single stats, such as Eowyn and Beregond, as they provide a better chance of passing the individual tests. In multiplayer, you can run into logistical nightmares of players being ill-suited to handle specific tests, so deckbuild with that in mind. This might be a risky one to bring your tactics-focused combat deck to. The game can cause some feel-bad moments when you discard 4+ cards and end up wiping the board with 1 damage to everyone because you didn’t get a pass. This is something you really cannot control. Try to bring healing and plenty of willpower to keep a steady pace. If you can manage to advance frequently and pass the relevant tests to place additional progress, you will cross the finishing line with your arms raised over your head!

Concerning Racing Tests

If I want to pass a racing test, how much should I commit to it? First of all, that depends on whether you have a STRAIGHT or a TURN test on your hands. The encounter deck for this scenario contains 39 cards on standard mode. 16 cards contain the STRAIGHT or WILD result, which means that you might pass with only a 3-score ability committed. TURN is more tricky, as only 9 cards will allow you to pass that one. It might be worth taking a look at the discard pile before taking that last Racing test for 6B. Hence, for the turn tests, you should commit a character with an ability score of 4+. For that reason, effects or attachments that boost ability scores can be very helpful. In my own solo playthrough, I used Support of the Eagles from the Eagles of the Misty Mountains to boost my combat stats prior to tests. Gondorian Fire and Blood of Numenor are also efficient ways to cheese the tests. Think outside the box to pass these tests.

The Encounter Deck

Global

  • The encounter deck is made up of 39 encounter cards in Normal mode, and 29 in Easy mode.
  • The chances of hitting a shadow effect are quite low in both modes, just 33-34%. So shadows aren’t that much of a worry in this quest.
  • The average threat on cards revealed is a bit difficult to calculate, as there are many cards with fluctuating threat. With the rules explained in the next paragraph, the average threat per card revealed is already pretty high, at 1.7 to 1.8 threat per card revealed. This is thanks to a lot of high threat enemies and locations.
  • Surge appears naturally on 2 treacheries, but if requirements aren’t met, up to 9 cards can surge! This is usually when the players are ahead of the Wainriders.
  • Doomed 1 appears on two treacheries. Compared to other quests in this cycle, threat is not really a major concern.
  • Archery is quite a common keyword, with 6 enemies having either Archery 1 or 2. This can lead to quite some direct damage heading your way.
  • Straight is the most common Race keyword, with 13 cards allowing you to pass the test in Normal mode. In easy mode, this is reduced to 10 cards.
  • Turn is much more rare, with only 6 cards having the keyword. In Easy mode, this is reduced to 4 cards, but the encounter deck is thinner to compensate for this.
  • Wild appears on 3 cards in Normal mode, and 2 in Easy mode.
  • Immunity
    • Veteran Wainrider cannot leave the staging area while the Challengers are ahead of the Wainriders.
    • While Rocky Outcrop is in the staging area, characters cannot be readied by player card effects.
    • Wainrider Champion is immune to player card effects, cannot leave the staging area, and is Indestructable.

These statistics do not count the two objectives and the Wainrider Champion, as these cards will never enter the encounter deck. Crowded Track is assumed to have 3 threat (rather low average, but it’s sort of a best-case scenario, in reality, this will be higher). Veteran Wainrider is assumed to have 2 threat (players are not ahead of the Wainriders), and the Rolling Plain is assumed to have 4 threat (will be 2 if the players cancel the When Revealed, but that will be an exception to the rule I think.

Enemies

  • We begin our analysis of the encounter deck enemies with a hard-hitter, the Easterling Captain. He has an engagement cost of 36, 3 threat, 6 attack, 3 defense, and 6 hit points. This HP/defense split makes him a prime target for an Eowyn Wack once his “armor” is broken. Eowyn is always good, but the combination of her one-time ability with the high willpower makes her especially useful during this scenario. But that is a tangent. The Easterling Captain comes packing as he fetches an Easterling treachery-attachment from the encounter deck when he enters play. This effect can be inconvenient as it might mill relevant racing results from the encounter deck. The Easterling Captain will stay around for a while, as he is protected by Easterling attachments. If he has any and takes damage, he will discard the treachery and cancel any damage. His high Defense essentially means that you must waste a 4 attack in order to peel his attachments away first. This often means that he will stick around for at least two rounds (if you can take him down in one go once his protection is peeled off), and in multiplayer, additional treacheries might be revealed next quest phase, making him very troublesome. His presence and the Wainrider Champion make it a very good idea to include a dedicated defender. The usual list is recommended: BeregondDáin, or one of the many other 3-defense heroes with defense bonuses. He is a proper mini-boss who can wreck your playthrough and divert your resources from making progress. Don’t be afraid to scoop if you face him early on. He has no shadow effect, so that’s where I prefer to see him. Luckily, the encounter deck only contains a single copy.
  • Rider of Rhûn has an engagement cost of 40, 2 threat, 5 attack, and 2 defense and 5 hit points. Looks like the Easterlings live a healthy life because this guy is beefy. He has archery 2 and gets a free Easterling horse from the encounter deck or discard pile. I prefer to pull one out of the encounter deck to remove as many cards without racing results from the deck as possible. He gets -10 engagement cost for each Easterling attachment he has, which is not too big a deal in this scenario, as they are rather sparse. His attack makes the point made above concerning defenders relevant. While his printed threat is only 2, keep in mind that he gets a free horsey which adds +2 threat. The horse also means that he gets -10 engagement cost right out of the gate, so he will very likely come down if you are above the famous hill troll threshold. The presence of this guy and the captain means that having some strong attackers around is a good idea. This will also make racing tests for attack easier. In multiplayer, a strong attacker with ranged can help muster the 7 attack needed to punch this sucker back to Rhûn. He’s a good target for your Great hunt. The encounter deck contains two copies on standard, and he has no shadow effect.
  • Aggressive Racer is another hard-hitting attacker that gains Surge if the players are ahead on the track. 1 threat, 4 attack (!), 2 defense and 3 hit points, and an engagement cost of 28 makes him a manageable threat. But his stats can really screw you over. If you get him at the same stage as the Wainriders, you might have to take an attack from him and the champion, meaning that you get two attacks at 4 you need to defend. He also has a Forced ability that places 2 damage on the Wainrider’s stage when he destroys a character, so try to avoid chump blocking him. Use your dedicated defender instead, and sacrifice a chump to the champion when necessary. He has no shadow effect, but since he has the coveted TURN result, it is not always preferable to see him in the combat phase….
  • The encounter deck also contains 3 chariot drivers, a beefy enemy that hits you for 5 right out of the gate! With an engagement cost of 38, he is a problem you can leave in the staging area for some time. But don’t be fooled because his forced effect says that when he is revealed, you must either place 3 damage on the Wainrider’s stage or take an immediate attack from him against the first player. In true solo, the damage effect is almost an entire stage for the Wainriders, and it can be devastating. Take the attack if you can by any means unless you are far ahead on the track. 3 threat, 5 attack, 1 defense, and 6 hit points mean that you can chip away at his hit points over time if needed, but you need a strong defender to handle his attack. His low Defense means that you can pull the old AragornStraight Shot combo on him. His shadow effect returns the attacking enemy to the staging area if the attack destroys a character. Did I tell you that bringing a strong defender is a good idea? Well, it is a good idea…
  • The final enemy of the encounter deck is the Veteran Wainrider, who apparently is the runt of the litter with 2 threat (unless the players are ahead on the track, which grants him +2 threat), 3 attack, 1 defense, and 4 hit points. In addition to the threat boost, he also cannot leave the staging area if the players are ahead. This means that if he gets revealed while you are ahead, there is no way to deal with him, and you have to quest over his 4 threat. And if he gets a Horse attachment, he gets +2 additional threat, which can be annoying… His 4 HP means that he can be G-slapped  out of his hiding spot. The encounter deck packs 3, so it is quite likely that you will see him. His shadow effect grants +2 attack if the players are ahead, which can be pretty brutal as many of the enemies have such a high attack power. Generally, the encounter deck contains few shadow effects, so shadow cancellation might not be worth it, but be aware of this effect if you take attacks while ahead.

Locations

  • Rolling Plains is a location that I usually consider a soft ball from the encounter deck, but it can really screw you over, especially in multiplayer. With 2 threat and 4 progress, it is one of the more benign locations the encounter deck can throw at you. The travel effect raises each player’s threat by 2, which shouldn’t really matter too much unless you play secrecy or are unlucky. However, the When Revealed effect could be problematic, as each copy of Rolling Plains gets +2 threat when a Rolling Plains is revealed. The encounter deck contains 4 copies, so in a 4-player game, you can risk accumulating a few of them in the staging area. In this quest, this can take up a lot of progress that you otherwise would be able to place on the quest. Radagast’s Cunning is a good sideboard card to keep as a backup to blank a copy that’s causing you trouble. Otherwise, I’m happy to see this one on the table. It contains no shadow effect, so it’s OK to see it as a shadow card too.
  • Rocky Outcrop is a location with 3 threat and 3 progress, which makes it a prime target for progress placement cards like Asfaloth. In this quest, Rocky Outcrop keeps you from power questing and tries to take away your characters for Defense and Racing tests. When Rocky Outcrop is in the staging area, characters cannot be readied by player card effects, and as a Travel cost, the first player must exhaust a hero. This really hurts Voltron builds and builds that rely on readying effects. You must think hard about whether you can spare the hero to travel to this location. It likely depends on what was revealed in the previous questing phase, as heroes might be needed for combat. Ideally, you clear this location through location management or after a questing phase where you reveal treacheries. The encounter deck contains 2 copies.
  • Narrow Pass is a 3 threat location requiring 5 progress to clear. The encounter deck contains 3 copies, and while Narrow Pass is the active location, it gains “Response: When damage would be placed on Wainrider Champion, remove an equal amount of damage from The Wainriders’ stage instead.” This presents you with an interesting option to stall the Wainriders. Deciding when to travel to the Narrow Pass can therefore present an interesting choice in the game. You might not want to travel there on a turn where you need your strongest attacker for a Racing Test or after a round where you reveal a lot of enemies during staging. Attacking the champion might also be a bit easier at lower player counts, as the Champion will have a very high defense in four-player games (2 per player). Of course, it might make sense to travel to the Narrow Pass in order to clear it from the staging area, but especially in multiplayer, you might have multiple options, allowing you to save the Narrow Pass for a round where you can maximize your damage output.
  • Crowded Track is a prime target for location blanking like Thror’s Key. It joins the ranks of locations from late in the game’s life that punished swarm decks by delivering a location with insanely high threat if your main strategy consists of vomiting allies on the table. Out of the box, Crowded Track has 0 threat and requires 6 progress to clear. However, Crowded Track gains +1 threat per character controlled by the first player. If the first player plays a Three Hunters deck, this might be a minor issue (though 3 threat is still not an easy location). If the first player plays dwarf swarm or Gondor, this could easily be +15 threat. This will most certainly cost you a round of progress, possibly netting you a nasty threat increase on top of it. There is no upper cap for this threat bonus. Furthermore, when Crowded Track becomes the active location, each player searches the encounter deck and discard pile for an enemy, and adds them to the staging area. So even if you quested over this location, it will still dump a bunch of enemies in the staging area. This is a nasty location, and the only time I’m happy to see it is as a shadow card or during a racing test. A standard encounter deck contains two copies. Ew. 
  • Ravine Ledge is a tough location but with a strong sense of theme. With 4 threat, this is a tough location in terms of questing. It only requires 4 progress to clear, bringing it within range of location control effects like Asfaloth or good ol’ Northern Tracker. You need to clear this location as soon as it appears, as while this location is in the staging area, racing tests require one additional result to pass. To travel there, players must make an attack Racing test, which requires one turn result (which is essentially two because of the effect on Ravine Ledge). If the players succeed, each player draws one card, while failure requires each player to discard a random card. This can, of course, be terribly annoying, but getting two-turn results requires a lot of luck and high attack power. Unless I have a strong attacker to spare (because, for example, no enemies were revealed this round), I won’t mind flunking this test. To leave could be very dangerous due to the varied punishments for failing racing tests. Of course, you might be able to deal with it through location management, as mentioned above. The encounter deck contains two copies.

Treacheries

  • Easterling Horse is one of two Easterling Attachment in this quest. When the Horse is revealed, it is attached to the Easterling enemy in play with the lowest engagement cost without the Horse attached and returns the enemy to the staging area. This means that the enemy will contribute its threat to the staging area, preventing the players from progressing; if no suitable enemy is in play, the card surges. This is a good reason to knock down enemies as they appear if you can handle the combat. While attached, it counts as a Mount attachment and grants the attached enemy +2 threat, and returns the enemy to the staging area at the end of the round. This makes every enemy with a horse a major priority, especially because of the threat it adds. The card contains no shadow effect. The encounter deck contains 3 copies.
  • Weary Lands has Doomed 1 and grants -1 willpower to each exhausted character until the end of the phase. This can halt your progress if you play ally swarms, but if you rely on a few high willpower characters to quest, this might be of minor significance. I solo; this is usually a card I’m OK with seeing. As a shadow card, it has the dreaded “deal 1 damage to the defending character,” which can ping a Defender of Rammas out of existence. Enemies in this scenario tend to have a rather high attack power, so an undefended attack resulting from this shadow effect can be potentially devastating. This is the kind of shadow effect you save cancellation for. The encounter deck contains 2 copies.
  • Painful Fatigue is a treachery that can potentially screw you over, but depending on the situation, it can be a treachery that is an easy pass. When revealed, each player exhausts a character and deals 1 damage to it. This can potentially kill a hero, take away a key ally, or exhaust a hero so they cannot contribute to a Racing test. It is an effect I rarely would bother cancelling unless you can see it would wreck your game. As a shadow effect, you must either exhaust a character you control or return the attacking enemy to the staging area. The first option is almost always the better one, as you want to keep the staging area as tidy as possible.
  • Wainrider Chariot is the second Easterling attachment and has Surge. When revealed, it is attached to a non-unique Easterling Enemy without a Wainrider Chariot attached. The non-unique clause means that it cannot be attached to the Wainrider Champion or the Easterling Captain. While attached, it counts as a weapon attachment that grants +1 attack and places excessive damage from attacks on the Wainriders stage, improving their chances of advancing. Hence, this attachment punishes chump blocking. Given the high attack power of enemies in this quest, this can be a very problematic attachment. If you cannot ( or choose not to) cancel it, you better take down that enemy quickly. Leaving them around can really hurt your chances of winning the race. Use your dedicated defender if you can, or use traps/attack cancellation to neuter the enemy’s attack power. The encounter deck contains two copies.
  • The Champion’s Cunning is a pesky treachery that can severely throw a wrench into your plans. When revealed, the Wainrider Champion makes an attack against each engaged player. This only triggers when the players are at the same stage as the Wainriders. This means that unless you or the Wainriders advance this round, you might have to take multiple attacks from the champion this turn. For this reason, it is a good idea to keep an ally at hand, ready to be thrown under the bus. Or have an emergency readying effect for your main defender, like Miruvor or Cram. If no attacks are made due to the above effect, damage is placed on the Wainrider’s stage equal to the Champion’s Threat. This means that the Wainriders will most likely advance if this card is revealed. It is, therefore, worth saving a cancel for. As a shadow card, Champion’s cunning grants +1 attack, and places 2 damage on the Wainrider’s stage if the attack destroys a character. This punishes decks relying on chump blocking, again supporting the dedicated defender approach. The encounter card contains 3 copies. The only time you are happy to see them are when they provide the wonderful “WILD” result during a racing test.

Side-quests

  • An Arduous Journey is the sole side quest of the deck and requires 6 progress to clear. As the clock on this quest is pretty tight, a side quest is an annoying inconvenience you would rather want to be without. While this side quest is in play, each player cannot ready more than 6 characters each round. Depending on your deck type, this might be crippling (if you play swarm decks), or it might not matter at all (if you play the three hunters, or even a deck where larger allies handle questing/combat). It does not have Surge, so revealing it can be a bit of a free-pass in true solo. When the quest is cleared, each player may ready a hero they control.

Tips and Tricks

  • It is easy to waste a lot of resources on passing racing tests for very little gain. At each stage, think really long and hard about how badly this stage actually will hurt you if you fail the racing test. It depends on the severity of the punishment for failure, but also on how hard you quested this round. If the price for failure is the discard of a random card or an ally from the table and the reward is to carry over 1 progress, is it really worth it to exhaust a bunch of characters to pass?
  • This is NOT a quest that enables turtling. You must bring a deck that can perform right out of the gate. Use all the tricks in the book, A Very Good Tale, Caldara, or whatever trick you prefer to get a fast advantage over the encounter deck. You need to be able to quest right out of the gate, making slow questers like some Dwarf decks suffer some disadvantages.
  • To maintain tempo and to prevent the Wainriders from advancing too fast, keep a clean staging area. It is very dangerous to get location locked as it hampers your steady progress by sponging away progress that could advance you in the race. Use location control if possible, and keep a steady questing speed.
  • While some decks will be capable of taking multiple stages in one questing phase, be very cautious about when you do so. Each stage you pass adds to the number of successes you need to get on subsequent tests this round, and some of the punishments for failing racing tests can be quite severe. I much prefer making steady progress each round rather than trying to blast through and take all the failed tests on the chin.
  • The nature of the racing tests means that this is a quest where heroes with strong single stats shine, as they allow you to reveal more cards for racing tests. A 2/2/2 hero might be versatile, but it doesn’t really help you in this particular quest. Use SarumanEowyn, or Beregond to increase your chances for success.
  • I’ve said it many times, so sorry for repeating myself, but you need a strategy for the Wainrider Champion. Using chump blockers means that you will potentially be chasing after the encounter deck to replenish the allies you lose during combat. The encounter deck contains some very beefy enemies with high attack power, so a dedicated defender is a good investment. It doesn’t need to be a hero. A boosted Eagles of the Misty Mountains or Guardian of Esgaroth can serve the role quite well.
  • Stat boosts are efficient ways to increase your chance of success for the racing tests. See if you can find some space in your deck for them. An attack boost is also a good way to kill off dangerous enemies, and defense bonuses are a nice insurance against taking damage from some of the tougher attacks.

Playthroughs

The only youtube playthrough I could find was made by Joseph from Three is Company, who played a Rohan Bond of Friendship deck against this quest.

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