No rest awaits you after fierce fighting Woses in Drúadan forests. You approach the burned village near Amon Din. Everywhere you see dead bodies, both Orcs and humans. The remaining survivors call for help – Orcs plunder their village and kill everyone who crosses their path. Your mission is not simple – apart from fighting Orcs, you have to take care of remaining survivors and bring them to safety. Fight and protect. Can you do both at once? You have no time to think because the biggest and most ugly Orc, Ghulat, is taking the life of villagers with each swipe of the sword. Back to work…
We are getting more and more cards with Hobbit synergy, despite in the previous cycle we only got 2 Hobbit heroes: Bilbo Baggins and Frodo Baggins. You probably don’t even remember Bilbo Baggins because he doesn’t offer too much other than his drawing-card ability. Frodo Baggins is still reasonable if you can deal with increasing threat. And… that’s it. Just now new Hobbit hero arrives, the member of the Fellowship of the Ring, Peregrin Took. Ehm, here named Pippin. “Great! Where are we going?”
If Pippin is your favourite guy from the LOTR franchise, in LOTR LCG, you will find out very soon that he is absolutely… well, let’s not jump ahead.:) Pippin belongs to the Spirit sphere; he has 6 starting threat and stats 2-1-1-2. Very low and promising starting threat can make Pippin part of your Secrecy deck. Moreover, he doesn’t penalize you for low starting threat like Spirit Glorfindel, who increases your threat every time he quests. The stats are not good, but since he has 6 starting threat, I can understand it. As Hobbit, he can use some synergy cards we have already got: Fast Hitch, Boots from Erebor, Good Meal, Ring Mail, Shortcut, and from this adventure pack, the newest Small Target, and Hobbit-sense. So there is no problem giving him some Hobbit attachments, improving his stats a little bit, and doing some specific actions. Until now, not good, not bad.
However, if you expect that the ability will be the decisive factor that will make you add him to the deck, you will be pleasantly surprised. His ability says: “If each hero you control has the Hobbit trait, Pippin gains: “Response: After an enemy engages you, raise your threat by 3 to return it to the staging area. Until the end of the round, that enemy cannot engage you.” Okay, I understand that the majority of players would end here with the simple statement: he sucks. Period. Let’s firstly do some brainstorming, where Pippin could be useful. In certain moments, you don’t have any (usable) ally. Your heroes are damaged or fragile. Now you have to engage an enemy with so high Attack (Gulat, Orc Vanguard, Mumak, etc.) that you cannot avoid it anyhow. The result of the attack would be a dead hero. Pippin offers the emergency solution: he returns the enemy back to the staging area and provides you one round for good. He can also return enemies who can engage you on the basis of some ability outside of the Encounter phase (like Harbor Thug). That’s the concept of Pippin, his real job.
There are two things I don’t like about him mainly. Firstly, you must “pay” for the ability by increasing your threat by 3. That’s quite a big portion of threat for just returning an enemy to the staging area. Within Against the Shadow cycle, threat used to be an issue in almost every scenario, so that each additional increase in threat will hurt you. I don’t have to underline that you will engage more enemies with higher threat, with higher Engagement cost more likely. Only Elrond’s Counsel can completely cancel this cost. Also, the necessity of controlling only Hobbit heroes can be considered for the second major payment.
Secondly, the Response triggers after an enemy engages you. I have a problem even with that; it is a Response, not an Action. Imagine the ability would say: “Action: Raise your threat by 3 and return the engaged enemy to the staging area.” The ability could be used for at least one interesting combo. If any unattached Trap (Ranger Spikes, Ithilien Pit) occupied the staging area, Pippin would push the enemy right into the Trap. You would have to first play the Trap and then use the Pippin’s Action.
Unfortunately, Pippin’s ability just responds to the situation. He won’t save you from the abilities of Zealous Traitor, Lossarnach Bandit, and Umbar Assasin. You raise your threat. You must play with only Hobbit heroes. He has miserable default stats. Can you make up any reason why you should put him into the deck?
With that, I must say that the Hobbit synergy cannot be fully explored and fully played until you get the Saga expansion of The Lord of the Rings (especially The Black Riders), which is full of Hobbits.
The character Denethor is not anything new to players – we have already met (and I believe some of you are still playing) the Lore hero Denethor, with his excellent Defense and scrying ability. I consider Denethor a quality hero these days, so I was surprised when I first saw his unique Leadership ally alter-ego.
This version of Denethor still looks like a hero, despite being categorized into an ally’s rank. 3 Willpower, 1 Attack, 2 Defense, and 3 Hit Points show he excels in questing (that is very demanded within Leadership sphere) and can something defend. Since he is Gondor, you can improve his Attack (Leadership Boromir) and Defense (For Gondor!, Behind Strong Walls). You can cancel 2 damage assigned to him (Gondorian Discipline).
!SPOILER! He can even become an Outlands ally by attaching Sword of Morthond to him and using all advantages connected with this trait. Therefore, you raise up a very buffed ally that can easily surpass any hero.
Even though he costs 4 resources within the Leadership sphere and cards like Steward of Gondor, Wealth of Gondor, or Gaining Strength, you won’t have a problem accelerate his summoning.
But there is one catch. Denethor is not the type of ally for whom you pay resources, and you are done. Do you remember my review of Silvan Refugee from The Drúadan Forest? I used the term “passive self-destruction,” which means you can use the ally without limits until certain conditions happen, forcing you to discard him. The condition for discarding Denethor is a bit complex. He leaves play after his Willpower decreases to 0. How could that happen? Read further: he gets -1 Willpower for each damaged hero you control. Thankfully, not each damaged hero in the game, so you don’t have to be afraid that Denethor would be totally useless in a multiplayer game.
If all of your 3 heroes are damaged, you discard Denethor. That’s the uncompromising fact. The difficulty of keeping heroes as much healthy as possible depends mainly on these circumstances:
1) Hero composition. The existence of Denethor is affected by the (non-)presence of a quality defender. If one of your heroes can assure defending all by himself, Denethor is almost protected from discarding. It differs when you rely on Beregond, who has 4 Defense and attached Gondorian Shield, and when you rely on more not-so-good defenders. By that, I want to say – Beregond, as a tank, can defend without the help of other heroes (for most situations). He will hardly take any damage through his defense, so he can probably defend forever, with minimal damage on him. And if you need help, Winged Guardian, Defender of Rammas, or some chump blocker can give a helping hand. On the other hand, hero-defenders with worse Defenses will have a greater problem with keeping them healthy. Keeping heroes alive is your priority; since damage spread over all heroes will save their lives, you instead discard Denethor. If you can’t play top a hero-defender, then you must rely on:
2) Healing cards. Damaged heroes can be saved by some healing spells (Lore Glorfindel, Warden of Healing, etc.). Thus, you will be able to protect Denethor from discarding more successfully. However, no hero composition or healing cards will save you if you play improperly:
3) Scenario. Treacheries, which spread damage across the board or among your heroes, will instantly send Denethor into the discard pile. And if you can’t cancel the effect by A Test of Will, there is nothing you can do. Pay attention to the encounter deck composition and get to know every treachery, every effect of enemies and locations, and every shadow effect. That’s the basic advice for those who would like to try Denethor in their decks.
Denethor is a perfect ally within the above described suitable decks: with one strong tank and/or with healing spells. Also, decks with less than 3 heroes win: Denethor won’t ever leave the game on the basis of his ability. So, Secrecy decks will get a very quality ally, who can literally deputize for a hero. There is a real risk in other decks that you will waste 4 resources for an ally, who will leave the game very soon. Enemies of Against the Shadow are very strong, so you can be sure that you won’t avoid many damage tokens spread over your heroes unless Beregond or another super-defender stands by your side.
After The Drúadan Forest, which has introduced us to four events for monosphere decks, Encounter at Amon Din comes with Lord of Morthond – the Leadership attachment designed for mono-Lore decks.
I always sit up and take notice when a unique attachment appears. Though they don’t belong among rare cards (until now, we explored 11 unique attachments), they can fundamentally improve the attached hero and change the course of the game. Steward of Gondor, Light of Valinor, Asfaloth, Vilya…should I continue? Lord of Morthond costs a single Leadership resource and can be attached only to Gondor or Outlands hero. Right here, we can infer that this attachment will be suitable in Gondor, alternatively Outlands decks. Next precondition commands we have to control heroes only with printed Leadership sphere, so that’s why Lord of Morthond belongs to mono-Leadership decks. No Songs and “add-resource-icon” effects are allowed for playing Lord of Morthond; your heroes must belong to the Leadership sphere from birth. Maybe some of you will stop to read further because you are not interested in mono-Leadership decks. Please, consider your stance.;) Like very powerful Strength of Arms, Lord of Morthond can persuade you that a mono-Leadership deck isn’t a bad idea at all. It can give you reliable support, and it even substitutes the Lore sphere to a lesser extent. In what meaning? After you play any non-Leadership ally (it does not include Neutral allies, however), you draw 1 card. After reading, you might say: the effect looks quite useful, but why should I play or include it in the deck with non-Leadership allies when I am only allowed to use it with just Leadership heroes? Doesn’t it contradict itself? That means you still need some Songs (Song of Battle, Song of Travel, Song of Kings), Dwarf heroes like Glóin or Dáin Ironfoot who can hold Narvi’s Belt or rely on a one-time event, A Good Harvest. Oh wait, none of the Dwarf heroes are either Gondor or Outlands :), so you have only 2 options mentioned. This card isn’t worth it; it is complete trash…or not?
Lord of Morthond was designed primarily for one hero, who belongs to his tool like Thor to Mjöllnir or like Sauron to One Ring. That hero is Hirluin the Fair. The reason why you include Hirluin the Fair in your deck is clearly because of Outlands synergy – from his resource pool, you can play Outlands allies from any sphere. It also answered your question about getting allies from different spheres within a mono-Lore deck into the game. Hirluin the Fair ensures the supply of Outlands allies from all spheres, without the necessity of Songs or A Good Harvest. You, however, must accelerate his resource generation to be able to get all these Outlands into play at all. So Steward of Gondor or Resourceful on Hirluin the Fair is another must-have if you plan to try Lord of Morthond and create a reasonable deck.
The main effect of Lord of Morthond accelerates your draw-efficiency. Thus, logically, with more cards, you also get more Outlands allies into your hand, and you can cheerfully build a swarm-Outlands army. It also increases the chance that Forlong gains his ready-ability much faster. Feel free to combine Outlands synergy with Gondor synergy and make the “super-deck,” where except for Outlands, you can build a Gondor army, strengthened by Leadership Boromir’s ability. Add Strength of Arms as well. As you see, around Lord of Morthond, you can build a very interesting deck full of combos and synergies. You can build a swarm-army with boosted stats, with minimal resources, time, and effort, just within a single sphere.
All that seems like a nice promotion of a very narrowed card, which shines under certain circumstances. Exactly, outside a mono-Leadership deck and without Hirluin the Fair and other supporting cards, Lord of Morthond can be completely forgotten. But if you try it and build around it the whole deck, you won’t regret your decision.
The first Record of Against the Shadow cycle appears in the Tactics sphere with the name Book of Eldacar.
!SPOILER! Each sphere will get its own Record with the exact same effect.
This unique attachment has 4 cost and can be attached only to a Tactics hero. You can, however, get this Record into the game at a lower cost because each controlled Tactics hero reduces the cost by 1. Logically, Book of Eldacar mainly targets a mono-Tactics deck since, in such an environment, you pay for it with only a single resource. That’s quite a significant reduction, isn’t it? It tries to convince you to play Tactics sphere as a monosphere deck. In single-player, you have no chance for building a reasonable mono-Tactics deck because you will bleed through the insufficient Willpower and inability to quest (if you don’t rely on keywords Battle and Siege on quest cards or on Trained for Battle).
!SPOILER! This will change with incoming Théoden from the last adventure pack Morgul Vale. He is actually the only option, how to play a mono-Tactics deck within single-player games.
Nevertheless, Tactics decks excel in multiplayer games – you just determine it as the main fighting force, which will face the fiercest and most dangerous enemies in the game. Other decks will serve as supporters and questing forces.
I still haven’t revealed the main effect of Book of Eldacar. When you discard this Record, you may play any Tactics event located in your discard pile as if it were in your hands. Then you move the played event to the bottom of your deck. How this effect is actually useful may be clearer after a few important clarifications, which can confuse the new players. The first and most crucial thing about Book of Eldacar is that the played Tactics event is not for free. The card doesn’t say anything about “play it for free,” or “for no cost,” etc. You will pay for that card at the full cost, no matter if you choose Feint or Thicket of Spears. Keep that in mind.
The second thing may not be evident at first sight, but since Book of Eldacar’s effect is an Action, you cannot use it as a Response. It is hard to illustrate some specific examples because, according to quick reference, Action windows are quite extended across the Combat phase, so there are only minimal occasions when Book of Eldacar doesn’t work. One example coming to my mind concerns Gondorian Discipline, where you react to obtained damage by reducing that damage by 2. Here, Book of Eldacar won’t help you. But anytime you need to “knock out” enemies from the Combat phase by using discarded Feint or Thicket of Spears, you can use the Book of Eldacar’s effect. Both events are the main target for Book of Eldacar because controlling the battlefield is definitely the most important aspect of any Combat phase. You need to control your fights. Feint and Thicket of Spears provide you the solution, and Book of Eldacar returns this solution back into the game even from the discard pile.
Before some time, Book of Eldacar was overshadowed by one hero, who was reviving Tactics events – Háma. Yes, once quite a favourite and strong hero who became “the victim” of controversial errata. You bet that some players can’t get over it these days. However, since Háma can use his ability (return Tactics ability from the discard pile to the hand) only three times per game, for many players, this limitation meant the end of Háma’s popularity. On the other hand, it extended the scope of activity for Book of Eldacar, whose time has finally come. Some of you could be thinking of combining the power of Háma and Book of Eldacar. It works, definitely, because you get access to almost unlimited usage of Feint and Thicket of Spears.
If you want to play a mono-Tactics deck with Feint and Thicket of Spears, Book of Eldacar should be the firm part of your arsenal.
If you were missing any card connected with Gondor synergy from previous The Drúadan Forest, heads up now: Tactics event Gondorian Discipline should make you really happy. The magic of Gondorian Discipline lies in its new kind of effect, which we haven’t seen yet – the cancellation of damage dealt to characters. Its Response is simple: you can cancel up to 2 damage, which should be dealt to your Gondor character. I wonder why this kind of effect hasn’t come in the Core set already. We have got cancellation of When revealed effects aka treacheries (A Test of Will, Eleanor) and cancellation of shadow effects (Hasty Stroke, A Burning Brand). Cancellation of damage was shown only by Frodo Baggins – he can completely cancel damage dealt to him but for the cost of increased threat. That’s not a very effective “cancellation-damage” effect, I think. Therefore, I consider Gondorian Discipline as the true “first” of its kind. I imagine that the strategy based on damage cancellation could be a viable alternative to a healing strategy represented by the Lore sphere.
You can cancel 2 damage aimed at Gondor characters for free – 0 cost, no other precondition. It might not be evident at first sight, but cancellation of 2 damage can save you a lot. It can save your character from direct death, or it can reduce the amount of incoming damage. Enemies of Against the Shadow cycle hit very hard, and you will still be solving the problem with seriously damaged characters, namely thanks to enemies with Archery (Orc Arbalesters, Southron Mercenaries). Every none-dealt, cancelled damage gives you a big advantage.
I was speaking about Gondor characters, but I guess you will use Gondorian Discipline primarily on Gondor heroes. The most efficient defender, Beregond, will improve his enormous defender potential even more. His 4 Defense, Sentinel, attached Gondorian Shield and Spear of the Citadel and Gondorian Discipline (alternatively with Behind Strong Walls) creates the most impenetrable Defense you can reach in LOTR LCG (at least what I know :)). Despite that, some enemies will appear who can hurt Beregond even through this defensive wall (with the help of shadow effects); 90% of enemies will attempt to scratch Beregond vainly. Using Gondorian Discipline on Beregond means, you try to maintain his defensive skills in the greatest shape. Denethor can be a suitable target for Gondorian Discipline as well. 3 Defense is a good base, though 3 Hit Points behind it looks vulnerable. Because of that, Denethor should control A Burning Brand so that no shadow effect will surprise you. And if you see that even without a shadow effect, Denethor is going to be hurt, Gondorian Discipline can reduce the amount of dealt damage. Other heroes can use Gondorian Discipline occasionally, according to the situation – Eleanor, Prince Imrahil, and both versions of Boromir.
The newest ally of the Spirit sphere should be proud of his very long name: Minas Tirith Lampwright. For 1 cost you can’t expect much: no Willpower and no Attack, 1 Defense and 1 Hit Point means he can serve as one-time chump blocker at best. His Gondor trait might be a gate for improving his stats to some extent, but still he won’t become the main impetus of any effort.
This ally is a specialist on encounter cards with the dreaded keyword Surge. The protection against Surge does not exist in practice, so Minas Tirith Lampwright is the first pioneer of this discipline. After you revealed the encounter card with Surge, you name one kind of card: enemy, location, or treachery (thus, objectives are not allowed to name). If the next revealed card is the named type of card, you discard it without resolving any effect written on that card. Yes, it also includes any keywords like Surge or Doomed, any Forced, and When Revealedeffects… nothing will be resolved. That’s big news. The dark side of this ability is that you have to discard Minas Tirith Lampwright after that.
We see that with the new cycle, the amount of cards with Surge has increased. Many encounter cards work in that way; they will gain Surge if the main effect couldn’t trigger or it had only a minimal impact (for example, Trapped Inside, Panicked!). Thus, dealing with the Surge keyword is a very current topic and needs some solution. Minas Tirith Lampwright tries to help us in this matter by discarding the right named card revealed after Surge-card. But the chance for failure is high. You lose one “defending body” for nothing if you miss your trip. I cannot recommend such a card with doubtful results unless you try to maximize your chances of success. You have to scry the encounter deck and gain the knowledge, what follows after the Surge-card. Forget about Denethor, Henamarth Riversong, or Rumour from the Earth – these cards don’t see beyond the potential Surge-card on the top of the encounter deck. Neither Needful to Know would help you because you must shuffle the encounter deck after its effect. The only card, which can save the reputation of Minas Tirith Lampwright, is Risk Some Light. One card you move to the bottom of the encounter deck, two other cards you can return to the top of the encounter deck in any order. So you actually gain the knowledge + you can actively manipulate with the order of encounter cards. Then you can use Minas Tirith Lampwright’s ability with 100% certainty.
Still, the severe addiction on the single card (moreover from a different sphere) makes this Gondor ally a very unreliable companion, whose ability can have no effect. It’s good you don’t have to pay more than 1 resource, but I can spend that 1 resource much more meaningfully somewhere else…
While we are exploring the magic of Gondor and Outlands synergies and monosphere decks, Small Target diverts the attention elsewhere – to Hobbits. I don’t know if it tries to engage the newest Hobbit hero Pippin to the game more, but Pippin himself is a very bad hero – any attempts, which should persuade me about his usefulness, I consider as ridiculous. But still, we have Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, other possible targets for Small Target.
If you decide to defend an enemy with a Hobbit, you can use this event. You need at least 2 enemies engaged with you. If the enemy, which is attacking a Hobbit, gains a shadow card with no shadow effect, it hits the chosen enemy, the other enemy engaged with you. Otherwise, if it gains shadow effect, you have to resolve the attack in a common way. And of course, for this effect, you will pay 1 Spirit resource.
Thematically, I can’t say anything bad about it. When you use Small Target, you really feel how a Hobbit evades the attack and how the enemy accidentally hits his enemy-ally. Great idea! However, the practice is much worse. You easily find out that the effect is so overcomplicated that it isn’t worth it. You need 1) Hobbit hero, 2) two engaged enemies with you, and 3) a shadow card without a shadow effect. With the exception of Secrecy decks, there is no serious reason to play Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins, or Pippin unless you want to reduce your starting threat as much as possible. Good Hobbit heroes will come in the future (Saga expansions), but now playing with Hobbit heroes costs you the precious hero spots. So, focusing on some Hobbit synergy, I consider useless. When you decide to play Hobbit heroes, I can tell you what is not your goal: combat. Small Target relies on combat; you even have to be engaged with 2 enemies. That shouldn’t happen within the Hobbit environment. It’s the same issue as with Hobbit-sense – it prevents enemies from attacking you. But why should you be engaged with enemies in the first place when Hobbits are weak in battle? Okay, enemies can have extremely low Engagement costs. Or the game has advanced considerably, and your threat is increased. Still, Hobbits and combat don’t belong together. And Small Target works only with Hobbit hero and in the middle of battle.
If you don’t want to use the event blindly, you must get some shadow-card-scrying effects. The worst thing that could happen is to fulfill all preconditions just to miss the effect (=reveal shadow card with shadow effect). It seems that Dark Knowledge will experience comeback.:) Using this attachment is logical step, because you get the knowledge about shadow card. It gives you 100% certainty that Small Target will do its job successfully. The result? The enemy attacks another enemy and maybe it deals damage.
Exactly, all this complicated mechanism results in “doing some damage to another enemy, maybe.” That sounds like advertising for keeping Small Target as far as possible from your deck.
For 3 cost, we are getting the fresh new Lore Gondor ally, Ithilien Archer. His stats are not bad: 1 Willpower, 2 Attack, 1 Defense, 2 Hit Points, and the Ranged keyword makes him an appropriate attacker. Gondor’s trait makes him open for additional boosts, like from Leadership Boromir’s ability, which gives +1 Attack.
His Response says that after Ithilien Archer attacks and damages an enemy, you return that enemy back into the staging area. The ability can remind you of A Light in the Dark or more current Pippin. I have mentioned it in reviews of both cards, and I don’t forget to repeat it here as well: the major weakness of this kind of effect is the unforced increase of Threat Strength in the staging area. That’s something that is difficult to compensate. In the current cycle, you are fighting with high Threat Strength in the staging area and simultaneously generating enough Willpower. You can rarely afford such a luxury to increase the overall Threat Strength voluntarily. Unless you are still keeping the fastest solutions, Secret Paths, or Radagast’s Cunning in your deck, or explore locations through Asfaloth or Northern Tracker, unforced increasing Threat Strength doesn’t look like a good idea in general.
There are situations or even strategies where returning enemies to the staging area makes sense. When you have to engage an enemy, which is beyond your power, or you don’t want to engage him for any reason, returning him to the staging area can be stepping on the emergency brake. You don’t look at the Threat Strength of the enemy at that moment; you need to save your heroes from imminent mortal danger. However, it seems that’s not the main mission of Ithilien Archer, who won’t save you from the engaged enemy. He returns the enemy to the staging area after he attacks and damages the enemy. The “defending sub-phase” has already happened, so you had to survive the attack of the enemy already. Therefore, for what is Ithilien Archer’s ability good?
I can tell you (a little spoiler here :)) that Against the Shadow develops the strategy based on returning enemies back into the staging area. Enemies from there can give you certain bonuses; alternatively, it offers new options for some combos. When you realize it, the odd cards Damrod, Advanced Warning, and even Pippin will start to make sense. Still, we are missing the card, which hugely profits from the enemies in the staging area.
!SPOILER! You can’t understand it until you’ll meet Faramir from the next adventure pack. Faramir gains Attack based on the enemies present in the staging area. Thus, you logically try to hold as many enemies in the staging area as much Threat Strength you can afford to keep there. Also, cards Forth Eorlingas! and Spear of the Mark (which “resurrects” Dúnhere) show you other possibilities of how to interact with the staging area.
It would have been better if I could make the review of Ithilien Archer later when some cards from the future appear. Nevertheless, with regard to incoming cards from the next adventure packs, this Lore ally is good when you need to fulfill the spot for Lore attacker / Ranged character. 3 cost is not cheap, but you at least gain the viable attacker with Ranged keyword (then the right question is if it isn’t better to pay extra resources for something better like Haldir of Lórien). Considering his ability – personally, returning enemies into the staging area is not my cup of tea; I don’t like avoiding enemies by returning them to the staging area. As an emergency break, it can surely work, but it’s quite situational. As part of the long-term strategy, Ithilien Archer might benefit the deck with such specialization.
The trait Trap of the attachments starts to be a thing in Against the Shadow. In the beginning, the Trap was a very rare and insignificant trait, which held only Forest Snare from the Core Set. That is a quite useful attachment but also quite expensive. Now we have the “new generation” of Traps. They are thrown into the staging area, where they lurk for the next available prey. After all, why should the prey be only you? You can hunt and ambush enemies as well! And after Ranger Spikes, our collection of Traps expands by Ithilien Pit.
You put this very cheap attachment for 1 cost into the staging area, where it is lurking for its victim. Any enemy entering the staging area (entering not only from the encounter deck but even sent from the engagement area by some ability or effect, like Ithilien Archer) will fall into the pit = Ithilien Pit attaches that enemy. And what happens next? Any character in play can target and attack the attached enemy.
It doesn’t sound as well as previous Ranger Spikes, which adds -2 Threat Strength and sticks the enemy in the staging area. Ithilien Pit just makes the enemy the marked target for any character on the board. In multiplayer games, any player can target the enemy with the attached Ithilien Pit. The biggest advantage of this is that you don’t have to bother with a few Ranged characters. Characters of any player can descend upon the enemy like ants on their prey. It doesn’t matter if you attack the enemy in the staging area or in the engagement area of any player – feel free to attack the enemy wherever it is located.
However, I miss any additional negative effects for the enemy. It’s nice that any character can attack the attached enemy, but it doesn’t penalize the enemy itself, like giving some negative bonus. Besides, you can catch into the Trap an enemy, which you would engage and attack in any case so that Ithilien Pit would be wasted.
As with other Traps, Ithilien Pit works well with some cards from the Lore sphere, namely Master of the Forge (who searches for attachments) and Erebor Hammersmith (who recycles attachments) alternatively, a bit forgotten Second Breakfast.
Nevertheless, I often skip Ithilien Pit even in decks aimed at Traps, because for me, it is more crucial to get Ranger Spikes…
!SPOILER!… and Poisoned Stakes from The Blood of Gondor.
The advantage of being able to attack an enemy in the staging area could be useful only for those enemies who you would like to not engage (typically Brigands). Yes, I think Ithilien Pit was originally meant for this kind of enemy, who penalize you when they encounter players. But this kind of enemy is not common – in this cycle, you, on the contrary, try to deal with the enemies earlier than they start to swarm and overcome you. Ithilien Pit can help you with it, meaning all players can call whichever ally against the attached enemy wherever it is located. But in practice, it doesn’t have such a big impact as it might look at first sight. Because of that, I commonly don’t play this Trap because the spots in your decks are precious, and you can’t afford to add some average attachment.
For any player who doesn’t own any Saga expansion, namely The Lord of the Rings, which contains tons of Hobbit heroes, the Neutral event Hobbit-sense might not make any sense. For odd effect, you need to control only Hobbit heroes, who are not competitive (Frodo Baggins can be a good-support hero, but not the main leader). But let’s start from the beginning, and let’s have a look at the effect, which Hobbit-sense offers. For playing this card, you need 1) 2 resources of any sphere and 2) to control only Hobbit heroes. In progression style of playing, this means the only possible composition: Frodo Baggins, Bilbo Baggins, and Pippin (alternatively, you can play with only 2 heroes, or even 1, if you are aiming at a Secrecy-tactic). The Combat Action says that enemies engaged with you don’t see you. In the “game language,” they cannot attack you. But the effect continues – you are not allowed to attack enemies as well. Or, more precisely, you can’t declare attacks this round (so it means that Ranged characters of other players can freely attack enemies engaged with you).
I don’t like this card from many perspectives, for many reasons, and I explain to you why. Firstly, the usage of this card depends on the presence of just Hobbit heroes. That’s a huge issue with this card because there is no reason to build a pure Hobbit deck, at least at this moment. It could have one positive: a very low starting threat (22). But for that, you would pay too high a cost in terms of competitiveness. In the default state, Hobbits are not good for any action unless you boost them by some events or attachments (like “Dúnedain” attachments from Shadows of Mirkwood). From the trio, I evaluate Frodo Baggins as the best one because he can become partially immortal, but for the cost of increased threat.
Next: the prevention against attacks of enemies sounds very promising. But why the hell it penalizes you, the player? Why shouldn’t you be able to attack enemies when you have a perfect opportunity to do that? That’s ridiculous and nonsense. It actually doesn’t give you any advantage; it only delays the inevitable. Of course, unless you would play some effect, which would thwart the Attack of engaged enemies in the next round (for example, if you attach Forest Snare to the enemy, or destroy it by summoned Gandalf). Okay, these situations can justify the delay reached by playing Hobbit-sense. But in 90% of situations, delay caused by Hobbit-sense doesn’t solve anything, especially if you are not allowed to attack that round.
Thirdly: it’s Combat Action, not a common Action. In other words, you cannot use this event even in situations when enemies attack you outside of the Combat phase. I bet you know Haradrim Elite very well and that his revealing belongs among very, very nasty events. Though Hobbit-sense would work very situationally, if it had Action and not Combat Action, you would have an ace in the sleeve against such bastards. Alas, Hobbit-sense doesn’t count with that, and so it won’t help you.
Why would you put this event into your deck when you can resolve bothersome situations by playing 1-cost Feint or 3-cost Thicket of Spears? To be honest, I wouldn’t consider this card even for no cost. 2 cost crowns the pointlessness of this card. Isn’t Hobbit-sense by accident the greatest SHEEP CARD of the whole cycle? Well, let’s wait for the Against the Shadow cycle conclusion.;)
I can’t remember a worse hero of the LOTR LCG than Pippin. Not even Brand son of Bain, who at least has reasonable stats and the Ranged keyword. Seriously, miserable stats combined with miserable ability? Why should you return the engaged enemy to the staging area for an increased 3 threat? It won’t protect you from any negative effects connected with engagement (like Brigands). Moreover, for those who would like to try his ability, you must control only Hobbit heroes. In other words, the kind of heroes who are not a good “main force” of any deck (at this moment). I’m sorry, but I don’t see anything useful or positive on this hero, except for the very low starting threat (which won’t help you if you plan to use his ability). If there had existed the category or rank of the worst hero of LOTR LCG, I would have crowned Pippin without hesitation.
A good reinforcement is the Leadership ally-version of Denethor, whose stats arouse respect. Yet, his presence in your Leadership deck is conditional to heroes you control. Damaged heroes can send Denethor right into the discard pile, so you should take care of their health. If I had to choose between Lore Denethor-hero and Leadership Denethor-ally, I would definitely prefer Denethor-hero. He cannot quest reasonably, but he is a quality defender and the main candidate for A Burning Brand. Moreover, I love his scrying ability.
Ithilien Archer and Minas Tirith Lampwright belong among weaker allies, with minimal usability. Both allies have the Gondor trait, so feel free to use them and boost them in Gondor decks if you rely on a swarm deck (where the quantity, not quality, is a thing). But in a default state, both would occupy spots in deck pointlessly.
Only Gondorian Discipline stands out from the events of Encounter at Amon Din and might be used in any deck with a Gondor hero. Cancellation of 2 damage comes in handy in any situation when enemies could surprise you with increased Attacks. Ultimately, you will extend the hero’s lifetime.
What should I tell you more about the rest of the odd events, Small Target and Hobbit-sense? Both events aim at synergy with Hobbits; both fail in a tragic way. They won’t persuade me to play with Hobbit hero because their effects are very, very impractical and with doubtful results. Maybe future Hobbit heroes would change my mind if they could create some interesting combos with these events, but currently, I would rather forget these events even exist.
At least, attachments of this adventure pack brought me some joy, though the usefulness of Ithilien Pit is doubtful at best.
Lord of Morthond is a specialist in mono-Lore decks, where you are able to play allies from other spheres. In short, Lord of Morthond creates a special combo with Hirluin the Fair, who is a specialist in Outlands deck. I like the idea of card draw based on played allies – you won’t have trouble with not enough cards in hands, which is a common problem in late-game. Yet, for a narrow usage, this attachment can fall into oblivion for players who don’t like the idea of Leadership monosphere decks.
Book of Eldacar can revive the key events of the Tactics sphere, Feint, and Thicket of Spears. Those events are so powerful and significant in the game that the idea of their circulation fascinates me. Honestly, those events were often the line between victory and defeat. Enemies in this cycle have overpowered Attack, so in many cases, Feint and Thicket of Spears are the only solutions how to survive the Combat phase. Book of Eldacar experiences “boom” after Háma’s errata. I don’t have a problem playing this attachment even within a non-monosphere Tactics deck.
From wishy-washy cards of Encounter at Amon Din are only a few distinctive cards. For the better part, Gondorian Discipline, Book of Eldacar, Denethor, and Lord of Morthond. Denethor and Lord of Morthond are strong, but you must adapt your deck composition for playing them correctly. In an inappropriate deck, their luster fades significantly. Book of Eldacar is an excellent attachment, but for “revived” events, you have to pay the full cost – it doesn’t give you anything for free. On the other hand, Gondorian Discipline works for free. And not only that, it cancels some damage, which should be assigned to Gondor characters. It’s a perfect “shield” against boosted Attacks from shadow effects. I cannot count how many times this event saved the life of my Gondor hero (meaning Beregond). I have no doubts about the TOP CARD of this adventure pack.
Unfortunately, the rest (majority) of cards have low quality. Many of them you will forget very soon because adding them into a deck will cause more harm than good. But from all 1-star cards, one has a special spot – Hobbit-sense. This Neutral event overcomes many bad-designed cards we have already met (and that we have met a lot of them). If I could, I would pair Hobbit-sense with Pippin; the worst hero LOTR LCG has offered us. Yet, Pippin has at least a low starting threat and bad stats, which some cards can boost. Hobbit-sense can’t interest you at all. It does honor all SHEEP CARDS.
I am mostly satisfied with the Tactics sphere, which misses miserable/situational cards as other spheres. Thus the rank of MOST ENRICHED SPHERE is well-deserved.
The overall quality of cards from Encounter at Amon Din is very poor. Combined with scenarios, which belong to the weakest (in terms of fun) scenarios we have encountered from the times of The Hills of Emyn Muil / The Long Dark, this adventure pack won’t be your favourite one, I guess. If you are choosing packs on the basis of cards-quality… just skip it. Otherwise, you will get at least Gondorian Discipline and Book of Eldacar, which I can highly recommend.