The Fortress of Nurn was the final Adventure Pack released by FFG before the hiatus. In this final pack, the players got one of the most popular contracts to play the game with, Bond of Friendship. This was the designers wishing that the community would proceed to forge their own bond of friendship with each other and the game in the years to come. The artwork also reflects this with the company of 4 Hobbits having an ale at the Green Dragon Inn after the war. While this is not the final contract released for the game, this was, in a sense, a farewell to the game by the designers. At least, for a while.
But let’s look at the contract itself. It is another single-sided contract that does not have an active ability. It only instructs you on how to build a deck around it. This comes with a few strict rules. First, your deck must contain exactly 50 cards, not counting the contract. While 50 cards are usually the minimum deck size, it is now also the maximum! This means that you are not allowed to bring more cards to the deck if you cannot decide what cards to cut. If you decide to bring the One Ring, that does count to your 50 card limit, so your deck will consist of 49 cards before setup.
The next rule for deckbuilding with the contract is also quite strict. You must include exactly 10 cards from each of the major spheres. You cannot go over or under the 10 card limit. This means that you will have 10 slots in your deck left for Neutral cards. If you are playing a Saga quest, you may also exchange Neutral card slots for Baggins or Fellowship sphere cards.
To further add variety to your deck, you are now no longer allowed to have 3 cards per title in your deck. That limit is now reduced to only 2 cards of the same title in the deck. These cards may still be different versions, but then you have just 1 copy of each version in your deck. This means you are restricted a bit more in what cards you are allowed to bring. No longer can you bring 3 copies of Gandalf and have 30% of your Neutral cards figured out. The same goes for the spheres; you cannot bring 3 copies of cantrips like We Are Not Idle or Daeron’s Runes, only 2 copies now. This makes the deck a bit less reliable but not as bad as a Council of the Wise deck yet.
In exchange for limiting your deck size and diversifying the contents of your deck, you are allowed to bring a fourth hero to your deck. This is optional, but there are no benefits to the contract if you ignore this. The only caveat here is that each hero you bring must belong to a different sphere of influence. So you are forced to play a quad-sphere deck, but with 1 hero generating resources per sphere, that’s not too bad. Usually, quad-sphere decks end up looking for resource matches with the sphere they don’t have on their starting heroes, but now that is not an issue anymore. Starting with 4 heroes has many benefits and a couple of negative aspects, which will be discussed in the following paragraphs.
The biggest draw for this contract is, of course, the fact that you start with an additional hero at the start of the game. This gets you more stats out of the gate and allows you to handle more demanding quests a little easier. A good example is Escape from Dol Guldur. Here, the players are instructed to capture a hero at the beginning of the game and are hurt in their action advantage by the fact that they cannot play more than 1 ally per round as a group. Starting with 4 heroes and having 1 captured negates the entire point of having a hero captured in the first place! Yes, you are unable to play a fifth of your deck, but you will eventually rescue that hero and get to play a lot more cards at that time.
The extra hero also allows some effects to be more powerful. Folco Boffin now gets -4 threat cost if you are running 4 Hobbits with this contract. Most of the mono-sphere cards would also be more powerful, but with the contract requiring that all heroes belong to different spheres, there isn’t much extra value in cards like Mirlonde, the Record attachments, or Mithrandir’s Advice.
The contract also opens up faster access to quad-sphere decks compared to traditional decks that need an additional card (Narvi’s Belt, sphere-granting Songs) or effect to get going (Oín, Amarthiúl). Having 4 heroes and a perfect split of your deck between all spheres should allow you to strike a good balance between the strengths of all of the spheres. You can now have everything in one deck without requiring as much setup as traditional quad-sphere decks would need.
The extra hero does come at a cost, though. Quite literally even, as you have to calculate the threat cost of all four heroes to the total at the beginning of the game. And unlike Saga heroes, these heroes will have a threat cost higher than 0. So while normal decks tend to start around 29 threat, your extra hero can put you towards 40 threat real quick! There are even combinations of heroes like Cirdan (12), Treebeard (13), Gwaihir (13), and Aragorn (12) that start the game at 50 threat and are immediately eliminated. So you will have to balance the strength of your heroes with the starting threat a lot more with this contract than with traditional decks.
Even if you survive setting up your game, you will likely start around 40 threat if you are not playing Hobbits or Spirit Glorfindel. This means that you will be engaging big enemies that usually take a few turns to set up for right from the start of the game. Even in the Core Set, you are going to be engaged by the Hill Troll and Hummerhorns a lot faster than other players. Because of this, it is paramount that you drop your threat quickly or find a way to stabilize it.
Another downside to this contract is one that plagues several other contracts as well: consistency. You are no longer able to have 3 copies of a card in your deck, which hurts your chances of seeing the card you need to get your deck going. The split between 4 spheres and Neutral being even can also lead to a situation where you haven’t seen any Tactics cards yet, and are stuck with expensive Lore cards without a way to pay for them any faster. The 10 Neutral cards help out a little if you are looking to spend resources, but if you are only drawing 1 card per round, you are going to leave it up to chance when you finally get to use someone’s resources. Card draw and scrying help with this, but unless the effect is on your heroes, you cannot rely on it 100% of the time.
Cards to include
With any quad-sphere deck, you will want some resource smoothing effects. This can come in many forms, but consider the following to include in your decks. Neutral cards like A Good Harvest and the Storm Comes will help you to play cards using resources from all your heroes to pay for cards of any sphere. Specific traits will also have dedicated cards for this, like Thranduil for Silvans, Tom Cotton for Hobbits, and Narvi’s Belt for Dwarves. Getting these cards in play quickly will help to afford more expensive cards later in the game, as you can draw resources from several heroes. You can also use the ability to move resources between heroes to afford expensive cards faster. Errand-runner and Bifur are examples of this, allowing you to move resources between different players as well.
With your starting threat being so high, thanks to 4 heroes counting their cost towards the value, some threat reduction will be required as well. You will likely be running 2 copies of Gandalf already, but also add in some threat reduction in your Spirit cards. Again, some traits may have an easier time lowering their threat, like Hobbits with their Shire-folk event. Remember that you may only include 2 copies of any card in your deck, so you should spread your threat reduction across several cards to ensure you don’t threat out quickly. Having threat reduction effects on your heroes will also help out a lot here! In case you are still struggling with threat reduction and have a spot open for a Neutral card, Favor of the Valar will be a life-saver.
Remember that you are going to be generating at least 4 resources per turn. This makes 4-cost Neutral cards playable on turn 1. Treebeard is the obvious pick here, as you get a fantastic ally on the table before the encounter deck can hurt you too much. Thalion is also great if you are running side-quests in the deck. Neutral attachments like Sword-thain and Resourceful can also be played turn 1, but there are better options out there. Being able to play Sword-thain at the start of any round is pretty huge, though. It allows you to get a fifth hero in play (6 if you also clear 3 side-quests with Thalion!).
With you generating more resources and your deck probably being made up from cheap player cards, you will be running out of cards rather soon. Adding some repeatable card draw to your deck will keep you going for longer. Gleowine, Beravor, and Galadriel are solid picks to keep your hand filled with cards. You can also run some card draw events since you have to include 10 Lore cards, which is good if the archetype you run does not have that many Lore cards (like Rohan).
A special mention also goes out to Free Peoples with this contract. Starting with 4 heroes, you can quickly get to 9 unique traits. Of course, if you are building a deck centered around a single trait, then maybe let this one pass by, but if you are only taking low-threat heroes from different archetypes and mashing them together, then the Free Peoples will get you a ton of action advantage as well as bonus willpower. Also, consider the other dual-trait and dual-sphere events from the Dream-chaser and Haradrim cycle. The chances are that you can easily include them in your deck!
Archetypes that work well
Most archetypes that draw from 4 spheres are a solid pick here. Just make sure that you have enough cards in all spheres to fill the required 10-card limit set by the contract. Good examples of this are Dwarves, Hobbits, Dale, Gondor, Silvan, and to an extent, Noldor (though Leadership and Tactics may be more of an issue to fill slots for). Being allowed just 50 cards in the deck and 2 copies per card shut down archetypes like Outlands, which would otherwise require a lot of Leadership cards anyway.
The next factor to consider is your starting threat. A Bond of Friendship Hobbit deck will be mid-to-high twenties in terms of starting threat, but a Dunedain deck might touch 40 threat pretty quickly! Because of this and the fact that Hobbits have plenty of threat reduction options, the Hobbit trait is often matched with this contract! Other traits that have decent starting threats include Silvan and Dwarves, though you have to be sure you have reliable threat reduction to make sure you do not engage too many enemies in the early game.
Dwarves deserve special mention here, as they now have the ability to start with 5 Dwarf characters from the start of the game! If you select Bombur (who counts for 2) as your Lore hero, you have 5 Dwarves, to begin with, allowing you to get all your discounts and enhanced abilities from turn 1. Allies like Gloin and Dwalin will be cheaper, and Thorin will generate 2 resources for you at the start of the game. Picking Bombur as your Lore hero does mean that you lock out other options like Bifur and Ori, who are also excellent in BoF Dwarf decks.
Traits like Gondor and Dale are also nice to include, as they have many ways to play cards without needing a resource match or have ways to pass along resources between heroes. King of Dale and Denethor’s ability come to mind. These traits also have great utility characters between all the spheres, allowing you to get a decent deck together within the limits of the contract. Both traits do struggle with threat reduction, though, so Gandalf may need to be used here.
Of course, you are not restricted to just 1 trait when deckbuilding (though it does help to limit the card pool a bit if you are new to building decks). For this contract, you are free to just throw together some strong heroes with low threat as your starting line-up and then fill the deck with some of the best cards in the respective sphere. Make sure to balance costs and stats so that you still have good willpower, utility, defense, and attack on the table, and I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time with your custom deck.
The following decks each have a different take on the Bond of Friendship contract. There are many variations, so I urge you to search for some decklists for yourself. These work well though, and will serve as a good stepping stone towards making your own BoF deck!
- Non-archetype based deck, just very powerful: https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/22463/thebesterdeck-1.0
- Hobbit deck: https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/17139/bofserieshobbits-1.0
- Ent deck: https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/16824/bofseriesent-1.0
- Rohan/Gondor/Dunedain mash-up: https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/18464/allianceofmen-1.0
- Silvan: https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/18863/hostofgaladhrimalldaylong-1.0
- Dwarves: https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/19099/bondofbrothers-1.0
This concludes the article on the last contract of the Vengeance of Mordor cycle. This is not the end of all contracts, though. I have outsourced the articles for Perilous Voyage and Into the West to other community members, who will try to finish it soon. These articles will go into more depth on the contracts, though, as the writers are specialists. So expect it will take a little longer before those articles are released. In the meantime, I will be pointing my nose towards the NM Against the Shadow cycle. I’d welcome anyone who wants to do an article on those NM scenarios, as I have little experience with them. But at least Peril in Pelargir shouldn’t be impossible to beat!